"So, what are you guys doing?"
Kerry looked up from her computer, pausing in mid-click as she blinked a few times. "What are we doing what?" She asked, with a little frown.
Mark looked quickly around the office, then back at her, a tiny flush of embarrassment coloring his face. "You know.. like, for the big V."
"The big V?" Kerry sat back and folded her arms. "Mark, what the heck are you talking about?" She asked. "Whats a big V?"
"Uh." The MIS manager started backing out of the room. "No biggie. I was just wondering uh gotta go. My pagers ringing." He escaped from Kerrys office, and closed the door, leaving his boss to gaze bemusedly at the now empty space.
After a moment, Kerry chuckled and went back to her typing. After a moment, her phone buzzed. She leaned an elbow on her desk and answered it. "Yes?"
"Hey, Col." She answered amiably. "Whats up?"
"Thats what Im asking.. what are you and the dark and dangerous doing tonight?"
"Working." Kerry replied. "Going home why?"
There was a long, long pause. "On Valentines day?"
"We dont celebrate Valentines day, Col." Kerry responded.
Colleen cleared her throat. "Oh. Well okay. I was just wondering hey, maybe we can do dinner this week.. later?"
Kerry smiled at the phone. "Sure. Give me a call." She answered. "You doing anything tonight?"
"Nah. Me? Im not the head over heels in love one of us, me deerie." Collen said. "Im renting a movie and Ive got a keg of popcorn waiting for me." She continued. "Well, talk to you later."
"Bye." Kerry waggled her fingers at the phone, then hung it up.
"Jefe?" Maria paused, in the midst of taking dictation. "Have you sent Kerrisita flowers?"
Dar scribbled on a sheet of paper with her vicious purple pen. "She doesnt like flowers." She answered absently. "Why would I send them to her? The office smell bad or something?"
"No, Jefe.. but it is a special day, no?"
Dar looked up. It is?" She seemed to notice for the first time the small posy pinned to her secretarys shoulder. "Oh, you mean Valentines day?"
"Si." Maria nodded.
"We dont celebrate Valentines day." Dar went back to her scribbling. "Tell Jose Im sending back his entire budget, so hed better plan on staying late to amend it. "She added. "Im not okaying any new expenditure for IT in his department until he justifies why his toenail clippers need new laptops." She shoved the paper shed been writing on across the table towards Maria. "Next?"
Maria took the paper and added it to her stack. "I will do that, jefe, but I am thinking Mr. Jose has already left."
"What?" Dar frowned.
"Si." Maria delicately arranged her papers. "He was taking his senora to dinner tonight."
Dar rolled her eyes. "Great." She leaned back in her seat. "Page him."
"Page his ass." Dar replied, unrepentantly. "This is bullshit. That budget was due to Alastair two weeks ago."
"Jefe." Maria gave her a soulful look. "It is so late."
"I dont give a damn." Dar shot back. "Not my fault he screwed this up."
Maria sighed. Dar glared at her for a moment, then sat back. "Ah. He probably wont answer the damn thing anyway. Put it on his desk with a big red sticker and tell him if its not back to me by tomorrow lunchtime its going in at zero."
"Si, Dar. I will do that." Maria smiled at her. "Is it not time for you to leave as well?"
"No." Dar glowered. "But you can if you want." She relented. "Ive got things to get done before I leave."
Maria quietly gathered her things up and stood. "I will do so. My Tomas is also making the plans for us to go outside." She gazed at Dar. "Will you and Kerrisita be leaving soon also?"
Dar shrugged. "Depends when we finish."
Maria sighed again. "Have a good night, jefe." She turned and left her office. Dar watched the door close, then she picked up her pencil and tapped it on her desk. It hit three taps, then she dropped it onto the desk again and stood, removing her jacket from the back of her chair and sliding it over her shoulders. With a twitch, she pulled the fabric straight and buttoned it, then glanced at her reflection in her monitor, flicking her hair into order with a pass of her fingers through it.
Then she picked up her laptop case and slung it over her shoulder. She waited for the outer door to the office to close, then she walked to the inner one and passed through it.
Kerry gently blew out the match she was holding, then she stepped back to survey the results. The candle shed lit fluttered gently in the warm breeze, and she caught the warm, sweet scent of it as it washed over her.
The sound of the water nearby rushed in a mindless pattern, and she looked out over it just as the moon came out from behind the clouds and painted a silver path right to her doorstep.
She put a hand on the balcony and breathed in the perfection of the night, turning then as a nameless knowledge pricked at her to find Dar framed in the doorway, the light from the condo outlining her tall form as she leaned against the jamb with her arms casually crossed.
Kerry held a hand out, and watched as Dar unfolded herself from the door and crossed to the balcony, taking her hand and kissing it with easy grace. Their fingers then clasped together and Kerry pulled her closer, trading a kiss on the hand for a kiss on the lips that lasted until the moon dipped behind the clouds and threw shadows back over them.
"Hi." Dar rubbed noses with her playfully. "The Valentines day killers home."
Kerry chuckled. "You ogre, you." She scolded. "Just for that, you have to suffer me giving you this."
Dar looked down, to find Kerrys fingers nimbly pinning something to her lapel. She ducked her head for a better look, and inhaled in wonder, at the jeweled, faceted fish that winked back at her. "Wow."
"I had it made for you." Kerry acknowledged, with a peaceful smile. "Its as close to what the real thing is like that I could come up with."
"Mmhm." Dar pulled her other hand out of her pocket and set a small box down on the rail. With her index finger, she nudged it towards Kerry. "Gwan."
Kerry picked up the box and touched its velvet surface with one finger, before she opened it. The candlelight reflected off a shiny, dappled surface and she leaned closer to the table to get a better look. "Oo.. Dar, thats so pretty!"
"Mm." Dar leaned her chin on Kerrys shoulder and peered at it. "Im not in the habit of giving you ugly things to wear around your neck, Ker. Just a quirk of mine."
It was a piece of jade, carved into an intricate twisting design. Kerry lifted it from the box and held it up to the light, admiring it. "Put it on me?"
Dar obligingly opened the necklace and slid it around Kerrys neck, fastening the chain at the back. She turned her partner around and studied the result, then smiled. "Nice."
"Very." Kerrys eyes twinkled at her. She took Dars hands and leaned towards her, as Dar ducked her head and they kissed again.
"I love the fish." Dar whispered. "I cant wait to wear it."
A soft chuckle. "And give everyone blank looks when they ask if its a Valentines day present?"
"Me, too." Kerry looked down at her jade piece, its swirling patterns reminding her just a little of her own eyes. "I love it." She studied it intently, then looked up into Dars eyes. "It means something, doesnt it?"
Dar nodded. "Eternity." She smiled at Kerrys visible delight. "Happy anniversary."
Kerry gentle laugh was answered by echoes from the sea, a rippling of the ages that faded out into the moons renewed silver outline. She picked up the glasses of already poured wine and handed Dar hers, touching their edges with a light clink. "And heres to a thousand more just like it."
Their arms intertwined, and they drank from each others cups, celebrating the joining of two souls as the never changing sea looked on, placidly chuckling.
Written at Rotorua, New Zealand, February 15th, 2003