Love and thanks to Clawkit and Rusty for their encouragement and assistance.  And thank you to Frank Sinatra for sounding so damned good in every generation. Ring-a-ding-ding.

YEAR AFTER YEAR

By Hedeia


How do you keep the music playing?
How do you make it last
How do you keep the song from fading too fast

How do you lose yourself to someone
And never lose your way
How do you not run out of new things to say

And since you know we're always changing
How can it be the same
And tell me how year after year
You're sure your heart will fall apart
Each time you hear his name…


I stared into the mirror, thinking of "High Fidelity." 

"Are you a romantic, emotional sap because you listen to sentimental big-band music?" I asked my reflection.  "Or do you listen to sentimental big-band music because you're a romantic, emotional sap?" 

I wiggled my eyebrows a few times, watching Tris-in-the-mirror do the same thing.

I like to mix it up with my morning radio wakeup call.  Last week had been Top 40, but for whatever reason, this week was Big Band.  It's early February.  People are in mushy moods.  And no one feeds a mushy mood like Frank Sinatra.

I picked up the big, round brush I'd been using to blow-dry my hair.  "Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from the Upper West Side, Tris Cates!"  I paused for a standing ovation.  "Thank you, thank you."  I snapped the fingers of my free hand.  You can't come in too early, or it kills the whole piece.  You have to wait…for just…the right…moment…  "
Fly me to the moon," I crooned.  "Let me play among the stars.  Let me see what spring is like on…ah-Jupiter and Mars.  In other words…hoooold my haaand."  I twirled once for emphasis.  "Fill my heart with song and let me sing forevermooore."  I stopped.

"You're just a romantic, emotional sap either way," I told my reflection gently, shaking my head.  Tris-in-the-mirror shook his head sympathetically.  His hair was a little mussed.

"Talking to yourself is one of the top five signs of insanity," John called from the bedroom.

I jumped.  "You made that up!"  I called back, leaning around the doorjamb.  John was standing in front of the bedroom mirror, adjusting his tie.  Which was perfect.  So a less generous man than I might say he was actually just admiring himself.

I strolled over to help him out.

"You look gorgeous," I said, dropping a kiss on the side of his very delicious-smelling neck.  "Is fixing an already-fixed tie another of the top five signs?"

"Hope not," John said cheerfully, tipping me backward until I shrieked, then kissing me deeply.

Mmm. Nothing like the taste of insanity in the mornings.

* *

That
voice.  It woke me up again the next morning.  John was already in the shower.

"
How do you keep the music playing? How do you make it last?  How do you keep the song from fading…too fast?"

I stretched to my feet slowly, shed my pajama top and pulled the comforter up from the bottom of the bed.

I'm a kicker.

John and I passed expertly outside the bathroom like two ships in the bright morning glare, which was pouring ceaselessly in from the full-length windows in the living room. (No, we still didn't have a bedroom door.  We got used to it, okay?  Natural light is good for your health.)  John handed me the towel from around his waist to hang up. 

"Thanks," he said lightly.  I paused in the doorway to admire the view.  You have to admire a man who can dry off that quickly and look that good from behind.

In the shower I threw my head back under the warm spray.  The acoustics in there? Rock.

"
And tell me how, year after year, you think your heart will fall apart each time you hear…each time you hear…his naaaame."  I paused for a breath and a mint shampoo.  "I know…the way I feel for you is now or never," I belted out.  "The more I love, the more that I'm afraid…that in your eyes I may not see forever…forever."  My wet hair flopped into my eyes.  "Forever…" I crooned, getting a mouthful of water. 

New York City: Best water in the world. 

* *

I checked my winter coat (summer is just cheaper that way, don't you think?) at the door and dropped into a window table to wait for Mel. 

Outside an older couple walked hesitantly past, holding on to each other.  I ducked my head, not wanting to be rude, but my eyes were drawn irresistibly to their gnarled hands, wrapped trustingly around each other's.

"What's so interesting out there?"  Mel slipped into the chair opposite mine.

"Eternal love," I sighed.  "How are you?"

"Maybe a little less mushy than you.  Not much.  But February'll do that."

We ordered and caught up on gossip.  A pair of young women walked by the window, giggling and carrying candy-striped Victoria's Secret bags.

"Presents for their boyfriends or for their bosses' wives?" Mel asked, spearing a forkful of tuna nicoise. 

"Maybe their girlfriends.  Don't be so heterocentrist."

Mel grinned.  "Forgive me.  So what are you and John doing next week - is he off on Monday? I thought we could…Tris? Hello?"

"Sorry, what?"

"What are you thinking about?"  

"Nine years in the fall."  I took a long draw of Perrier.  "I'm just thinking.  Since you have two years on me, do you know how to... keep the music playing?"

"Depends," Mel said thoughtfully.  "I mean, keeping the music playing, that's individual. But, um, playing the music? There I might be able to help.  See, that can be…researched."

"Researched?"

"Elementary, my dear Tris."  Mel rummaged in her briefcase for a minute before emerging triumphantly.  "Here."

"Cosmo?"

"British Cosmo," Mel corrected.  "A little more expensive and a whole lot raunchier.  Look at page 82."

I flipped open the magazine.  "'How to Prevent Thrush'?"

"Page 83!" Mel interrupted hastily.  "Sorry."

"Ah.  That's better.  I never sit around in wet bathing suits anyway, not since -- whoa."  I broke off at page 83.  "Is that legal?"

"Forget legal, is it even possible?"

I squinted.  "Maybe models are more flexible."

"Or Brits are."

"Now that's not true."  I grinned. "Trust me on that one."

"Anyway, I recommend #72," Mel said, business-like as she pointed out the picture.

"The 'Reverse Scooter-Python'?"  I turned the magazine a couple times, trying to sort out which limbs belonged to whom.  Huh. "Y'know, Mel, I really could have lived without knowing that about you…"

Mel snatched the magazine back.  "Beggars can't be sexually unadventurous," she snapped. 

"Mel?"

"Yeah."  She appeared to be immersed in #29 ('Triangle/Windmill III")

"Do you ever worry about getting tired of Josh?"

Her head shot up.  "Is that a hint?"

"No, no," I reassured her as quickly as I could.  Damn, but my assessment of Josh as "Interesting as a wood plank, but somehow less engaging," what, seven years ago? sure had come back to haunt me.  Whatever.  We got along much better these days.  Baby-bonding -- you know.  "Just a general question."

Mel pursed her lips, tongue pressing slightly at the corner of her mouth.  It was one of those moments that caught me off guard at the shape and scope of my own sentimentality.  It probably wouldn't have surprised John.  I knew exactly what Mel was doing.  The thinking-mouth.  I recognized it down to the direction of the tongue-flick.  I'd seen it a thousand times in a hundred places.

"I'm not worried," Mel said and the exact time I said "Never mind."

"Buy me a Coke," I added.

"We didn't say the same thing!"

I took one last slug of Perrier and stood up.  "Yeah we did."

"Did you know Kit left Larry?"

I sat back down.

"What?"

* * *

"You're joking, right?  You're not considering running this?"

John laughed.  "Give me a shred of credit, darling.  Of course not.  I am however looking forward to writing the rejection letter personally."

"Well, reactionary is the new revolutionary, I suppose.  John, you KNOW I have a weak stomach," I added, flipping through the offending piece.

"I'll take that back then."  He tugged the article gently. 

"Just promise me if I ever get that self-absorbed you'll shoot me as an act of mercy."

"Darling, you could be in a persistent vegetative state and still find it impossible to be that self-absorbed.  Now.  How about being a sweetheart and getting me a spare red pen from the little room?  I seem to be running low on ink for some reason…"

Cosmo had a quiz, a fill-in-the-blank thing. "Romance is…"

There wasn't enough space to pencil in "…lying on the couch in sweats paying bills, writing rejection letters, watching the 10 o'clock news and playing a bit of footsie." 

Damned straitlaced quizzes.

I nudged John's foot with mine anyway, and noticed he was looking at me, spare red pen tucked behind his ear, the cap in his mouth.  I swear, he's going to run out of orifices one of these days and have to buy a pencil holder or something.

"What?"

He stood up and stretched a little.  The arch in his back was painfully familiar.  "Poland Spring for your thoughts."

"I'll have forgotten them by the time you get to the fridge," I pointed out.

"Come with me then."  He held out a hand.  I slipped one of mine into it and he pulled me off the couch and into his arms.

"Mmm."  I inhaled his neck, but in a less vampiric way than that sounds.

"Mmm? That's your thought?"  He ran a hand up the back of my hair, ruffling it.  "I'm not sure that's worth a whole Poland---oh.  Well. Oh."  He shifted.  "Now, that might be worth …oh.  …Tris…worth something else…entirely… You know how I feel about changing the subject…oh."

* * *

"What are you doing up so early?"

I shrugged.  "I fancied a run in the park before work."

"You 'fancied'…what?"  John sat up straight now, and shook his head as if to clear it.  I remember him doing that a lot when I first started working at the Sun.

"A run.  In the park," I said cheerfully. 

John closed his eyes briefly.  "I don't remember watching 'Colombo' last night…then again, I may be getting senile…oh," he groaned.  "British Cosmo, Tris?"

"I didn't hear you complaining last night…" I offered mildly.

"Well. I'll admit the 'Double-Arc Upside-down Twist' was more enjoyable than I thought it would be."

"That's an understatement," I snorted.  "You coming?"

"Give me two minutes to change."

He stopped me in the doorway.  "Is something wrong, darling?"

"No.  What do you mean? Jogging is my life." I took my keys off the hook by the front door and slipped them into the pocket of my windbreaker.  "Everything's fine."

John put a hand on my shoulder.  "No subject changing, no distracting rounds of…British Cosmo.  What's going on?"

"Nothing.  Really!" I kissed him.  "Anyway, daylight's burning, poppet.  Are we going?"

John swatted me lightly and pulled open the front door.  "Only if you never call me that again."

**

I shut the door behind me on Friday and paused in the foyer.  "Uh-oh" was palpable in the air.

"Tris."  It was all he said, but he didn't have to say anything else, since he was holding a very familiar envelope.

"I meant to mail that the other day."

"The maintenance is rather important if we want to keep the apartment, darling," John said mildly.

"So?"  It wasn't belligerence, not exactly, but…

"So I don't think all our furniture will fit on the stoop."

"That's not funny."

"No? Neither is your playing fast and loose with the co-op board."

"Okay, sorry."

"Glad to hear it.  Come here."

"I got it, John.  I'll give it to him in person tomorrow. I know how it goes."

"Do you?"

"It's not a big deal," I scowled.

"It wasn't a big deal," John said agreeably.  "It would have been over in ten minutes, tops.  But you're rapidly painting yourself into a corner, aren't you?"

I was, and I knew it.  I met John's eyes and he held my gaze, steady.  "What do you want me to do," I whispered, not quite managing a question mark.

John stretched out a hand to me.  "Let me help you out."

I slipped my hand into his.

*

"I asked you what was going on.  Two days in a row."  John rested his hand on my exposed skin, the weight of it warm and familiar.

"I know, I heard," I mumbled into the couch.  John swatted me twice in response.

"I'm not sure you did hear properly," John observed.  "That's all right.  You can hear it here," he punctuated the word with a smack to the middle of my rear, "if you don't hear it here."  The same hand drifted up to give my ear a very gentle tug. 

"I meant to mail it," I whimpered, more upset than a few smacks really entitled me to be.

John stopped and stroked the back of my head.  "Tris.  If you think what I'm really concerned about right now is the check, then you're still not listening."

"I am listening."  I scrubbed at my face, which was incredibly awkward in this position. 

"I want to know what's going on with you, Tris.  I asked you yesterday and I asked you the day before.  Now I'm telling you.  I want to know.  Right now."

"It's not…ow."  I winced as he swatted me again, several times. 

"Tris, do you think I don't know you?"

I started to cry in earnest.  "I know you know me."

"Okay.  Good.  Then you know that I know that when you get stressed, little things fall by the wayside.  I'm here, Tris.  I want to know when something's upsetting you.  If you can't tell me before it manifests itself in carelessness, then you'll tell me in this position.  Talk to me."

I rubbed my face on my forearm.  "I'm not sure this is really conducive to a heart-to-heart…ow," I said again, pitifully.  "Can you stop that for a sec?"

"Are you confused about who calls the shots right now?" John asked above me.

I shook my head vigorously.

"Thank you."  He'd worked his way around his intended target another time before he spoke again.

"What's going on?"

"Why can't I just be careless?" I asked….carelessly.

"Tris.  You're a responsible, professional adult.  You handle far more exacting and crucial tasks every than mailing in a check.   So when you forget something this simple, it's usually because you're using up too much mental space worrying about something else.  You're sending a signal."  He rubbed me gently where I was already starting to feel sore.  "Just call me a lighthouse."

Anthropomorphic beacons of light.  Even I knew when I was beat. 

"Ktnlryfmsngetnavorce," I mumbled into the couch cushions.

"Kit and Larry from the Sun are getting a divorce?"

Oh damn.  John and his fluency in Mumble.

"Tris?"

"Yeah.  Mel told me on Tuesday.  Fuckers," I added into the couch and John swatted me hard.  "Ow."

"I'm sorry, Tris," he said quietly, continuing the spanking regardless.  "That's hard."

"It's stupid."  I'd stopped crying a few minutes before but I started up again now.  "It's screwed up.  I hate people," I blurted out.  The heat that build up in my nether regions was just on the edge of bearable.  "Ow," I said pathetically again, sobbing into the couch before I could stop myself.

John rubbed my back.  "I understand."

"You don't!  You don't get nervous about things like that!" 

He continued to rub my back.  "No," he said.  "I don't.  I'm very confident in your love, darling." 

"You should be," I said through my tears.  "It's stupid, it's just…I'm scared."

"It's not stupid."  He pulled me up gently, settled me with most of my weight on him. "I'm scared," I admitted again, tears running down my cheeks.  "I'm scared of things changing and I'm scared of it not being the same and I don't want to die," I said suddenly.

"Oh, Tris."  He thumbed the tears off my cheeks with the gentlest of gestures.  "Where is this coming from?"

"Divorces and old people," I sniffed.  "I don't know."  I could feel the knot in my stomach starting to unfurl.  "Things just seem to be happening fast."

I felt John's nod against me.  "I'm here," was all he said, quietly. 

"I know," I said.  The tears came in spite of, or maybe because of, his uncanny ability to read me.  I closed my eyes and he brushed the hair off the back of my neck, blowing gently on the overheated skin.  It was such a familiar gesture that I cried harder.  He kissed one damp cheek and pressed my head to him, waiting for me to calm down. 

"We've talked about this before," he said eventually, looping an arm around me.  I leaned heavily, enjoying the rise and fall of his chest behind me.  We're all animals, you know.  Pheromones and heartbeats and body heat.  Some days I'm amazed we bother to walk upright at all.  "Other people's relationships are just that: other people's relationships.  If they make you feel insecure for whatever reason, it's your job to vocalize that, Tris.  I'll reassure you in whatever way you need.  But until you accept that other people's breakups and breakdowns and anything else have nothing to do with our commitment to each other, you're going to have to take responsibility for telling me when you feel this way.  It's okay that it bothers you, darling.  Letting it fester until it gets in the way of your responsibilities…that's not okay."

"I know."  I turned and spoke into his chest.  "I didn't mean to."

He kissed the top of my head.  "Of course you didn't.  I know that.  You're completely entitled to feel however you want, and I want to hear it all.  But I can't read your mind.  And I'm entitled to show you my…displeasure…when you let this kind of insecurity seep into your actions."

Now that I knew.  And John's always been very effective at communicating everything, including his displeasure.

"You're a communicator above all, Tris."  (And he says he can't read my mind! Hello! Is someone getting this down?)  He pushed my hair off my forehead.  "Why do you think you're finding it hard to talk about this?"

I swallowed an "I don't know," which I did know wouldn't go over well.  "I'm nervous, I guess.  I don't like feeling this way.  And embarrassed," I admitted.  "I know this isn't about us.  I know it!  But…it makes me nervous anyway."

John pulled me closer.  "Okay."

"I wish I could make everyone do what I want them to do.  I know!" I cut him off.  "I know.  But I do.  I'm frustrated." 

He held me quietly for a moment.  "You feel for other people.  That's a good thing."

"I know you love me.  I know it has nothing to do with us.  I just wish some people didn't suck so much."

"I hear you." 

I knew he did.  My hand found his and our fingers laced together. 

"I feel lucky…and then I feel guilty."

John nodded.  "Admittedly there's an element of chance in everything.  How people meet.  What they face.  Where they go.  But if chance turns you in a certain direction, it's work that keeps you going there.  A relationship is work.  Every day.  There are amazing rewards, but it requires a lot of effort.  You have to be willing to work."

If we can try with every day to make it better as it grows….

"I'm willing to work."

"I know you are, darling."  John kissed me.  "And for what it's worth, I'm the lucky one."

We sat in silence for a moment; I felt the familiar weight of John's arms around me, the feel of his body next to and slightly underneath mine.  The length of his leg pressing against mine, the curve of his shoulder…their familiarity made me hurt.

But in a good way.

I felt the weight slide off my chest, so abruptly physical I almost gasped.  I was lighter than I'd been in days. 

"I love how much you feel for other people."  John kissed the top of my head.  "It's one of the many wonderful things about you.  And it's a good thing, period.  It's only when the empathy distracts you from living your life that it can be destructive."

"Do you think I'm destructive?"

"You, Tris Cates, are a positive force."  John took my face in his hands.  "It's not only true, but the highest of compliments."

My eyes filled with tears again.

But this time they felt good.

*

"I guess that breakup was to be expected, anyway," I said later that evening, my back to John as I unloaded the dishwasher. My voice sounded lighter even to my own ears.  "I mean, this is a couple that played 'Every Breath You Take' and 'You Belong to Me' at their wedding."

I could hear John smiling as he closed the cabinet.  "What am I missing, Tris?"

"They're creepy songs," I explained patiently.  "You know, just a step below 'Possession' on the Stalker Scale."

"'Possession'?"

"Remember? She wrote it about a crazed fan who was stalking her…and it turned into this love song and…what?" I asked defensively.  "I read E!Online.  I'm only human."

"Okay, but what makes those songs creepy?"

I considered it.  "They're a little too subject-object for me."

"Subject-object?"

"Yeah. Singer as subject? 'Romantic' partner as object?"  I shuddered.

John considered it.  "Actually it seems like the romantic partner is the subject and the singer is the indirect object."

I rolled my eyes.  "A technicality.  You know what I mean."  I paused.  "I don't belong to you - you know that, right?  Caveman?"

"Does this mean I can't drag you around by the hair anymore?"

I poked him. "Seriously."

"Seriously, I'm well aware this isn't the antebellum South."

"But we can still play Cade Calvert and the Tarleton Twins," I reassured him hastily.  He looked relieved.

"Is it the preposition, darling?" He asked.  "You belong with me.  How's that?  And I belong with you."

"Better," I said.  "Much better.  But I like my songs a bit more active.  Making a life together…for this long…is about doing things together.  Being together.  Actively.  You know what I mean?"

"I think so…."

"Like 'Fly Me to the Moon'." 

"You want to fly to the moon?"

"It's an extended metaphor! '
In other words….baby, kiss me'…not you, John, it's just the song…." I trailed off and kissed him back for a while.

"And the best song of all. 'More.'  Now that's a title I can get behind," I explained.

"Short?"

"Adjectival."

I kissed him again.  It's really one of my favorite pastimes.  Like baseball-except that for this particular pastime, wearing a protective cup would really get in the way.

"Now do you see what I mean?" I asked, leaning against the counter to survey him.

"Yes.  You like grammar.  And kissing."

I considered that for a moment.  All in all it wasn't a bad epitaph.  Rather fitting, in fact.

"I just prefer things a little more 'I really love this guy' than 'I want to brand your thigh'….Hey.  I'm a poet," I preened a bit.  "Rhymes are back, you know.  I wonder if I can start some sort of rhyming section in the Tribune…expand my journalistic horizons a bit."

"That's a great idea," John said.  "Maybe you can write it for the Travel section."

"The Travel section?"

"Yeah, You know, like, "I know a hotel in Nantucket…"'

Throwing a dishtowel at him did very little to muffle his laughter, so I kissed him again instead, which helped quite a bit.  In more ways than one. 

*

"What are you doing for V-day?"  I juggled my cell phone and assorted bags as I crossed Broadway.

"Going to a benefit production of the 'Vagina Monologues'," Mel said.  "An old college friend is involved in the fundraising.  And Josh is happy because it involves the word-oh, hold on a sec, Tris, I have another call."

I tucked my cell into the crook of my neck and shifted my work bag.  On hold. On hoooooold.  Whatever happened to Muzak?

"Hey, sorry.  So what are you guys going to do?"

"I don't know.  It's such a stupid faux-holiday, but then I get drawn into….hang on," I said, trying to maneuver around a massive, filthy pile of snow, and thanking Columbia for the thousandth time for the tire-tread stickiness of my winter boots.  "Yeah. So I don't know.  How'd you find a baby-sitter anyway?"

"Dana and Guy said they'd watch the kids.  Actually, Josh bribed them with tickets to 'The Producers'.  Client of a client," she explained.  "And it's no skin off their social life.  They're nuts.  They wouldn't have started their evening 'til past our bedtime anyway; they're just going to go out afterward."

"Is Guy actually allowed out that late?"

Mel laughed.  "You said you'd lay off."

"I said I'd think about it."  If you ask me, Dana deserved everything he got for dating a practically-underage swimmer.  I mean, what is this, porn?  Still, he was pretty good-natured about our ribbing, even laughing a little when Mel and I burst into a chorus of "Baby Boy" on 86th street.

"Does there come a time when one is too old to listen to Z-100?" he'd asked pointedly.  "And he's twenty.  Almost twenty.  Oh, shut up, both of you."

"Maybe I'll cook," I mused, back in the present.

"Ooh, there are some great recipes in British Cosmo!" Mel said excitedly.  "They're in the 'Eating Out' section….oh, stop laughing…you have SUCH a dirty mind."

* * *

I woke up with a start and slapped the light on.

"John!"

He sat up.  "What, what?"

I grabbed him and checked him over anxiously.  "You're okay."

"Of course I am.  What's wrong?"  He caught my hand as I ran it down his back.  "Tris. What's going on?"

"I dreamed we were old. Ancient. Eighty!"

"Ah."  He put his hands on my shoulders.  "Was it such a bad dream?"

"YES!"

"I mean, consider the alternative, darling."

"Not funny."  I snuggled back into his arms, deciding to be pampered a bit.  "It was hideous."

"I'll bet it was," John indulged, kissing my temple.  "Tell me more, sweetheart."

"We were old and wrinkled.  We were just…uch."  I shuddered.  "Let's talk about something nicer."

"Tell me about the dream first."  He wrapped his arms more securely around me.

"Okay," I said uncertainly.  "It was…we were old."

"I heard that part, darling.  What were we doing?"

"Walking down Broadway," I said.  "Toward the apartment.  We couldn't walk that well and we were sort of holding each other up, and…well, that was it."  I noticed him looking closely at me.  "What?"

"Forgive me, Tris, but doesn't sound that terrible," John said gently.  "We were walking around.  In our eighties.  Together.  Living at home.  It sounds all right to me."

"I guess if you put it that way…"  I shrugged a little against him.  Huh.  He had a point.

As usual.

I let him rock me a little.  Being indulged in the middle of the night is a fair reward for John's cold feet, anyway.

"Sing to me," I suggested.

"Close your eyes then."

"Yeah, yeah."  I closed them and turned my head slightly, catching my cheek against the fabric of his t-shirt.  It'd been washed so many times, it was soft as skin.  He flicked the light off, wrapping us both in warm darkness.

John sang quietly, "
How do you keep the music playing? How do you make it last…."

"John!"  My eyes flew open.  "That song's been going through my head all week.  How did you…"

"I do sleep right in the next room from the shower, darling."

"Ah. Right."  I closed my eyes again.  "Sing it, John."

"Yes, Tris."

"I'm not tired, you know."

"Yes, Tris."

And he sang.

And I wasn't…tired…

* * *

There's no hiding the first warm days of late winter. 

Okay, maybe warm is something of an overstatement.  But still…Spring had sprung!  It was clear that afternoon, when I left work early to run long, lazy errands in the crisp February air.

I stopped by a fruit stand - they just appear when the sun starts shining! Hizzoner should really look into that - on the way back to the apartment.  I can't eat a lot of it, but the colors were so vivid I couldn't resist.  I bought a couple of shiny apples for us and some more exotic pieces for Mrs. Eisner. 

And, to my credit, I resisted skipping home.

There's just something about these first Spring-ish days.  Maybe it was how long the winter had been this year, snowstorms and sleet and gray slush piling up everywhere.  Or the way you can be just standing around your apartment, cooking dinner or reading the paper, and suddenly you notice outside your window that it's not velvety black anymore the way it was before Christmas.  Pale dusk casts a surprisingly bright shadow in the early evening.  There's just so much day.

Which is why when the sun finally breaks through the cold wind, no one on the street can miss the trumpet call. 
We're back, it shouts! 

So that afternoon I shed my gloves, turned my face up to the light and walked into the wind.

* * *

The "Eating Out" section proved fruitful, and I sighed with olfactory pleasure as I adjusted the steamer and whisked the pots around the burners.  Mmm.

Page 187: "Daring Dishes to Drive Your Bloke Mad".  I hoped John would be surprised.  I lit a few candles, praying the super wouldn't drop by unannounced.  I'd encouraged John to drop by the office a few hours ago, which had given me all the time I needed to prepare an Aphrodisiac Tea.  In the sense of a meal. 

I really, really had to get back to reading American magazines.

And there was my bloke, turning the key in the lock. 

"Tris? I have a surprise for you."

I met him at the door. "I have a surprise for you!"

"It smells incredible in here."  John set his bag down. 

"I cooked you a romantic dinner," I said.

"I got a reservation at Le Cirque," John said at the same time.

I blinked, briefly wondering if the muted candlelight was indeed "casting a lust-coloured glow guaranteed to do the work of ten raw oysters and a massage." 

"Well, this is rather O. Henry, isn't it?"  I slipped off the red satin oven mitt. 

"Indeed."  John shrugged out of his coat.

"So much for keeping the spontaneity in our lives,"

"Don't be discouraged.  There has to be a solution."  John folded his scarf neatly.  It wasn't nearly as chilly out as it had been recently, but the chocolate-colored scarf looks fabulous with his camel-colored coat.  Say what you will for his rigidity, but the man can accessorize.

"You're the one with the logical solutions," I pointed out.

"And you're the one with the creative solutions," he countered.

"All right."  John cast a glance at the wall clock.  "Logically speaking, we have one hour and twelve minutes until our dinner reservation."

"Okay."  I glanced at the oven.  "Creatively speaking, we can sample the Passion Souffle and Steamed Aphro-fish-iac in fifteen minutes, tops.  Twenty minutes to Le Cirque.  Which leaves, oh, about thirty-seven minutes to…er….play the music.  What do you say?"

"I say you're as deviously brilliant as the day I met you." John raised one of the slender flutes of pink champagne.  "Here's to creative solutions."

END.


…If we can be the best of lovers
Yet be the best of friends
If we can try with every day
To make it better as it grows
With any luck then I suppose
The music never end
s.






"How Do You Keep the Music Playing" lyrics by Legrand/Berman.
"Fly Me to the Moon" lyrics by Howard.
Used without permission, but with great respect
.