Ringing in the Year.

By Melissa Good

The office was very quiet, as a late afternoon sun filtered inside, dusting the maroon carpet with soft, golden motes. It was empty, as though waiting for something to happen, the PC on the desk showing slowly pacing panthers, and a small tank on the wooden surface holding two Siamese fighting fish circling each other.

The door slammed open, breaking the silence, and a tall, dark haired woman strode in, carrying a stack of printouts which she tossed on the desk, circling it and claiming the chair with an air of impatient disgust. "Stupid pieces of half assed useless…"

It had been a tough day. Two meetings, and the last one had been mostly her yelling, at a table full of glum looking department heads who were weeks behind in closing their budgets.

"Excuse me, Dar?" A polite, Hispanic voice interrupted her dark muttering.

Dar Roberts lifted pale blue eyes to the door and slumped into her chair. "Sorry… what is it?" She propped her head up on one fist and sighed. It was late, and she was tired, and admittedly cranky.

Maria gave her an understanding smile. "Kerrisita left a message for you.. she said she was leaving, and was going to how you say.. the Bayside.. and the shopping."

Rats. Dar rubbed her eyes and nodded. "Yeah.. I was supposed to… ah, I mean I got stuck in that meeting longer than I thought." She stared at the stack of reports. "Listen.. why don't you get out of here? " The day before New Years Eve.. nothing was going to get done anyway, she reasoned.

"You too, should go home, Dar." Maria chided her. "Is late… so many people are gone."

Dar sighed, and leaned back in her chair. She had a stack of things left undone in her inbox, and a half dozen matters still up in the air. But Maria was right.. getting things done when the rest of the world was on vacation sucked. "Yeah.. I.." A pressure around her wrist made her look down. "Oh.. that's what I was supposed to do… damn it.. I have to get this fixed." She stood up. "All right.. that's it.. I'm out of here. This stuff can wait until next year." She flipped off her pc and stood, grabbing her car keys and thumping the stack of reports into her inbox.

They walked out together, and Dar got in her car with a strange feeling of freedom. An afternoon free was a rare occurrence for her, and she stretched as she settled into the leather seat, adjusting the rearview mirror before starting the Lexus, and puling out of the parking lot.

Well, she considered, as she caught the entrance ramp to the interstate. "At least no one'll be Christmas shopping."  She turned on the CD Player, and let the cool tones of an Enya CD calm her as she navigated the traffic.


"God.. did you see that sale?" Colleen tugged Kerry's sleeve, as they wandered through Bayside. "Cept what would I do with men's Speedos?"

Kerry grinned, stretching her arms out in the sun and exhaling. "What a weird week…I'm glad we've got the long weekend off now."

"Hmm…. " Colleen studied her friend. "You staying out at the Island for the weekend? Like I have to ask?"

Kerry looked down at the ground, then visibly inhaled. "Yeah.. I… " She turned and looked at Colleen. "I was hoping you'd help me move some of my stuff."

The redhead gazed at her. "Oh.. wow." Glancing around, she steered Kerry to a table at the small café they'd just been passing. "Here.. siddown.. "

They looked at each other. "So.. you're doing it, then." Colleen murmured. "I thought you were going to see how it worked out."

The blond woman toyed with the table tent. "I did.. I mean…" She glanced up the perky waitress who approached. "Lemonade, please."

"Same." Colleen added, absently, shooing the woman off. "Kerry.. "

"I know.. I .. know." Kerry rested her arms on the table, and turned her head, gazing out over Biscayne Bay. "I said I wanted time.. I said I didn't want to rush into anything… "

"And? So what's this then?" Her friend asked.

Kerry propped her chin up on her fists and produced a wry smile. "Colleen.. I really like being with her.. around her… I'm miserable on the days we're not together." She accepted the glass form the waitress and poked her straw in, slurping up a bit before she went on. "We talked the other day… and she gave me my resident's decal.. she told me she'd been missing me too, on those days."

Colleen sighed. "Ker.. I'm glad for that, honest I am."

A little silence fell. "But you think I'm making a mistake." The blond woman stated softly. "Don’t' you?"

Her friend sipped at her drink for a moment. "You're really stuck on her, aren't you?"

Kerry sucked in a breath of the cool, salty air. "Yeah.. I sure am." She admitted. "I feel really comfortable around her, too… the other night we just sat out on the porch, with our arms around each other, and made patterns out of the stars." She paused, thoughtfully. "It's like I've known her all my life."

Colleen sighed. "Well, I'm gonna miss you." She gave Kerry a wry smile. "And for the record, no.. I don't think you're making a mistake.. I just worry about you isolating yourself out there. "

Kerry considered that, acknowledging that it would be very easy to do. "You're right.. I need to make sure I get out and do things with other people… that place does tend to suck you in." She smiled at Colleen. "Hey.. maybe I can change Dar from being a recluse, to a party animal.. what do you think?"

The redhead rolled her eyes, then chuckled. "Well, that Christmas party was a lot of fun.. maybe you can." She finished her lemonade and pointed. "C'mon… I want some of those candles."


The parking lot was surprisingly empty, Dar mused, as she parked near the entrance to Penney's, and walked in the back entrance, making straight for the watch repair department. She stood quietly and waited until the desk clerk was free, then stepped forward and unstrapped the watch from her wrist. "Need to see if someone can do something with this."

The man accepted it, after giving her a friendly smile, and peered at it. "Oh.. you got it wet, huh?"

"Mm." Dar agreed, having rescued the watch from the bottom of Chino's water bowl. "I know it's supposed to be water resistant, but it was in there a while." Not to mention, the puppy had been digging in the water furiously after it, sending a wash of liquid all over the kitchen.

"Okay.. I can have the technician take it apart and clean the movement…see if anything need replacing." He carefully attached a tag to the watch, then glanced behind him. "We're not busy.. I'll give it to him now."

Urk. "How long?" Dar inquired.

"Hour, maybe… is that all right?" He looked behind her. "You can finish your shopping, and it'll be done, if you like."

My shopping was finished. Dar sighed inwardly. Oh well, at least it was an interest….oo. They had a Ben and Jerry's. "Sure.. that sounds great." She gave them man a charming smile. "Be back in an hour."

She headed out of the store and got her bearings, realizing her goal was at the far opposite end of the place. "Figures." Dar sighed, then reflected that at least they'd been under casual dress code for the holiday week, and she wasn't wearing a wool suit. She started out along the upper floor, casting a casually curious eye on the passing stores.


"What do you think of these?" Kerry inquired, running a hand over a soft, silky piece of fabric.

Colleen peered over her shoulder. "I think it's a kite, kiddo… where are you gonna fly it?"

"Oh. .I don't know.. " Kerry held out the beautiful construct, a shimmering rainbow of colors that fluttered in the breeze coming off the water. "We've got that golf course in the center of the island.. I bet I could fly it in there." She grinned recklessly, and folded the item up, handing it to the stall's owner along with her credit card. "You going over to your mom's house for New Years?"

"Ehhh.. I don't know… I'm still deciding." Colleen sighed. "They're having a party at the complex.. but Ramon's bragging he's making the drinks, and you know what happened the last time he did that… what about you? I didn't hear your plans."

"Ah.. well, the company's having a get together out at the Sonesta Beach, on the Key… it's a formal dance kinda thing." Kerry explained. "Neither of us really want to go, but Dar says if she doesn’t' show up for at least a while, she'll get all kinds of grief."

"Oooo….a formal? You got a dress?" Colleen asked, then plucked Kerry's crisply pressed cotton shirt. "One that fits you now?"

Kerry blinked, then chewed her lip. "Holy crap…. Well, yeah, I've got two or three I could get away with…." She almost slapped herself. "I can't believe I didn't think of that, though… wow…well, I'll figure out something tonight, I guess."

"Nu uh.. c'mon.. Castellano's is right over there, honey.. let's get you a snazzy Cuban dress to wear to y our dance…you gonna dance with Dar?" The redhead teased.

"Uh." Kerry blushed ."No.. I …that would be a little too much, I think." She gave her friend a wry look. "But you know, a new dress isn't a bad idea… maybe they'll have something more up to date than what I wore to that Viscaya  thing last year."

Colleen made a face. "Kerry, you make darn near everything look good, child, but that.. that you had to really work at, ya know?" She put a hand on Kerry's back and steered her towards the store, an understated place which disgorged the smell of silk, and starch, and money out as they opened the door and entered.


Dar strolled around the inside of Sharper Image, peering with interest at the myriad of gadgets the store held. "Electric nose hair trimmer." She picked it up and looked at it, then put it down. "Hope I don't need one of those any time soon." She chuckled softly, and circled the full size massage chairs, gazing at them.

"Nope.. got something better than that." She told the item cheerfully, finding a slightly giddy smile crossing her face, remembering the loving rubdown she'd gotten the night before from Kerry after they'd come back from the island gym.

While they'd discussed Kerry's moving in permanently.

Dar exhaled, then shook her head silently, and moved on to the next row of gadgets, then reluctantly moved on, deciding Kerry probably didn't need a personal electric clock that displayed on the ceiling.

Out in the mall, she stopped and got some cinnamon roasted nuts, and nibbled them as she walked, eyeing the trendy fashions with a jaundiced eye. "Bellbottoms… never liked those the first time around." She muttered disapprovingly, noting that the passing teenagers were dressed in them, along with elevator sneakers and thin, pastel tank tops.

"Yech." Dar preferred her navy polo, tucked into pressed dockers. "My father would have lassoed me before I could have left the house looking like that." She went over the words in her head, then chuckled ruefully. "Dar, you're getting old."  Her eyes flicked to the right, then she slowed, to study the baubles in the window of Mayor's jewelers. "Mm… nice."

A voice sounded behind her. "Ah.. Ms. Roberts! Been a long time."

Dar stopped, and turned. "Hello, Richard.. yes it has." She politely greeted the salesman. "How've you been?"

"Fine, fine thanks.. you're looking well." The tall, immaculately dressed man smiled at her. "I've got some nice earrings.. can I show them to you?"

Dar sighed, then figured she had plenty of time, and she'd just lost one half of a favorite pair of studs anyway.. "Sure." She agreed, following him inside the marble lined doorway and into the jewelry shop.


"Let's see." Colleen held out a long dress with frilly lace twirls near the neckline, and a bustle. "What do you think?"

Kerry burst into laughter. "I'd look like Carmen Miranda, is what I think.. get out of here, Col." She shook her head, and browsed the selection, moving more towards some understated, sedately dark gowns with conservative necklines. "This is more the company's speed, I think."

"Oh god." Colleen rolled her eyes. "What's Dar wearing?"

"Um.. " Kerrys' brows knit. "A strapless black thing…very simple.. very drapy… made me drool… why?"

Colleen giggled. "Oh." She gave her friend a look. "She's certainly loosened you up in some ways."

"Huh?" Kerry peered at her, then blushed badly. "Oh… um.. eyah.. I guess she has."

She distracted herself by burrowing deeper in the racks of dresses, then stopped, as her hands touched a soft, deep green silken one. "Ooo."

Colleen was immediately there, peering over her shoulder. "Mmm….. " She lifted the gown out and examined it. It had one shoulder, leaving the other bare, and most of the back and one side was cut out, with a soft gathering at the hip then a straight fall to an uneven, edgy hem. "That's nice, Ker." She nudged her friend. "Try it on."

Kerry hesitated, then grinned. "Okay." She smiled at the hovering attendant, and followed them obediently into a fitting room, closing the door and hanging the dress up as she stripped out of her slacks and shirt.

"Okay." She reviewed herself in the mirror for a moment, then took the dress off the hanger and slipped into it, allowing the silky folds to warm against her skin as she adjusted the fabric. "Hmm."

She blinked, turning a little, and watching the gown's conspicuous gaps reveal her toned body. "Oo… not bad, Stuart… not bad at all." She grinned for a  moment, with an unrepentant smirk at herself, then she exhaled and opened the door, assuming  a more serious expression. "What do you think, Col?"

Colleen looked up from where she was leafing through a catalog, and stared, letting a low whistle escape. "Holy Mary, mother of God, Kerry." She chortled. "That looks fantastic…you should wear your hair up, too."

Obligingly, Kerry lifted her pale locks, and pulled them back, exposing the line of her neck. "Think so?" She glanced sideways, and caught her reflection in the mirror, surprised at it's sophistication. "Mm.. I think you're right."

The redhead closed in, and adjusted the shoulder a bit. "Definitely, a good choice… you can wear that old, silver necklace you've got… the one with the emerald?"

Kerry nodded. "Yeah… that'd go perfect… okay." She gave the salesman a nod. "I'll take it.. thanks."  She ducked back into the fitting room and carefully removed the dress, pulling her shirt and pants back on. "Think you'll like that, Dar?" She murmured to her reflection, whose eyes twinkled mischievously back at her.


"Here… they're blue diamonds."

Dar took the black display pad, and examined them. "Huh… never seen any like that before." She studied the earrings, lacy platinum surrounding a carat size diamond, in a conspicuous blue shade. "Nice."

"Mm.. I thought of you when I saw them.. they come close to matching your eyes." The salesman smiled. "I was going to call you… but it's been so busy."

Dar nodded, debating with herself. They were expensive, but.. how often did she ever buy stuff like this for herself? She imagined Kerry's reaction to them, and that put a grin on her face. "I'll take em." She pushed the pad back towards the delighted salesman, then let her eyes roam around the display case. "Box em up.. in fact, I've got a company event I have to go to tomorrow night.. that'll work."

She got up and roamed around as he processed the purchase, and found herself looking down at a neat display of rings.

Rings. She wasn't fond of rings, really… she'd tried wearing one or two on occasion, but with her typing all the time, they tended to annoy her, making her take them off, and promptly lose them.

"Would you like to see anything, ma'am?" The girl behind the counter asked, politely. "We've got some new ones in.. they just arrived."

Before Dar could answer, she disappeared, and came back with a velvet lined box, which she opened on top of the counter and turned around, to face Dar. "We haven't even had time to really catalog these, but.."

Dar found her eyes drawn to the center of the box, where a brilliant stone was winking. She leaned over, and blinked, then gently picked the small rest the ring was on up, and lifted it.

It gathered the light in, and twinkled at her, a brilliant cut diamond at least two carats that had a definite hint of rose to it. The setting was appropriate, an exquisite tracing of rich gold shaped into a nest of rose petals that cradled the stone, and two smaller stones on either side.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" The woman asked hesitantly.

"Yes, it is." Dar murmured, suddenly grabbed with an insane impulse. "I'll take it."

Dead silence.

Dar looked up, to see the clerk's jaw hanging open. "I'ts for sale, right?"

"Uh.. yes.. um.. um.. " She looked over to her boss, who was busy at the register. "Richard?? Mr. Ellis?"

"Just a moment, Judy." The manager murmured, holding a finger up.

The girl licked her lips. "We can.. um.. I think the jeweler is here now, we can have it sized.. is it for you, ma'am?"

Dar shook her head absently, still gazing at the ring. "No. it's for someone who's about a different from me as you can be and still be a human being."

As if she'd ever, ever have the guts to give it to her, right. Dar exhaled quietly. It didn't really matter.. just by her getting this, she'd know, in her own heart, what it meant, even if she never gathered up the courage to admit that to Kerry.

But wait. "Um.. size…"  Dar chewed her lip, then dug out her cell phone and dialed. It rang three times, then was answered. "Hey."

"Oh. Hey!" Kerry's voice sounded surprised. "Where are you? I just tried to call the office, but I got the voice mail."

"I left early.. had to go get my watch fixed." Dar told her. "And I met .. ah…I met up with that guy who's doing the new handheld inventory counter for the warehouses.. you remember I told you about it?"

There was a pause. "Oh.. oh, right.. yes, I do…they wear it on their hands and just click.. yeah." Kerry answered. "So?"

"Oh..well, we were just spec'ing it out here.. he needs a size range to give the engineers.. and…ah…well, my hand's not a good example for the women.. what ring size are you?"

Dead silence. "Uh.. oh, yeah.. that's true.. yeah.. um… mine's a seven… a bunch smaller than yours, huh?" Kerry told her.

"About three sizes." Dar acknowledge wryly. "Great.. thanks, Ker…. Where are you, anyway?"

"Bayside… I… Col and I are just browsing.. I got a kite, and something to wear tomorrow night."

"Oh yeah? Can't wait to see it." The executive replied blithely. "Thanks, Kerry.. .talk to you later." She disconnected, and looked up at the bemused clerk. "Tell him a size seven."

The manager walked over, and peered over the clerk's shoulder. "What do we have here?"

"She's .. um.. she bought this." The clerk squeaked.

Richard took the ring, and cradled it in one hand. "Um.. Dar… I um.. well, that's spectacular… I'm thrilled, but um. This is a unique cut stone, and I.."

"Shh." Dar held up a hand. "Don’t' tell me how much it is. I don’t' care." She handed over a different card. "This'll cover it, wont' it?"

The manager took the platinum American Express card and glanced at it. "Well, I had someone put a Jaguar on one the other day, so I suppose it will.." He cleared his throat. "Let me have Michael come out and size it for you.. I.."

"She wants it done a seven." The clerk supplied promptly.

"Can I get something engraved on it, while he' sat it?" Dar asked, suddenly. "Will that take long?" She brought out a scrap of paper and scribbled on it, then handed it to him.

He stared at the words, then at her. "No.. no.. a few minutes, certainly.. Dar, can I get you a cup of coffee or something, while you wait?" Richard asked, anxiously.

Blue eyes glanced up. "No.. not unless the coffee shop has double chocolate chunk ice cream.. that's where I was headed."

The manager gave the clerk a significant look, then shooed her towards the door with an almost frantic gesture. "Well, let me just go get Michael to take care of this for you right away.." He disappeared, along with the clerk, leaving Dar completely alone in the store. 

She rested her chin on her fist, and regarded her reflection in the small mirror resting on the counter, watching the tiny tugs of emotion at the corners of her lips.


"That was weird." Kerry leaned back in her seat, and watched Colleen try on shoes.

"What was?" The redhead asked, looking up from her pink and green sneakers. "Dar calling you? She does that all the time, Kerry.. I think she's got your number plastered on the inside of those snazzy shades of hers."

Kerry chuckled, then glanced behind her. "Oo.. I'll be right back, Col… "

"Oh no.. not another jewelry store." Colleen sighed, rolling her eyes. "Jeez, you'd think you were shopping for the crown jewels of England, Kerry." She sighed. "You didn't find anything you liked in the last six ones we've been in, what makes you think this is the one?"

"Tch.. I'll never know if I don't try." Kerry scolded her. "Is it so bad I want to find Dar a nice present? It has to be just right for her." She got up and trotted out, heading across the mall breezeway to a small, rustic looking store just opposite.

The door tinkled gently as she entered, and a small, gray haired man behind a wooden counter looked up. "Allo." His voice was accented, but not one she readily recognized.

"Hi.." Kerry pushed her hair back off her forehead as she advanced, glancing around. There were wooden trees snaking sinuously about, draped with gold and silver jewelry, and she smiled, liking the place for it's informal air. "I'm looking for something.. um… for a gift..I. "

"Ah." The man got up and spread his arms. "That covers bout everything in here, m'dear.. take yer choice. Anything in particular? Is it a man, or a woman?"

"A woman." Kerry answered, decisively. "Only I'm not sure… she doesn't wear much jewelry, so I don't really know what she likes."

"Mm." Faded gray eyes twinkled a bit. "Them's who doesn't wear much, are usually real particular… I've got some real nice necklaces here.. " He drew her attention to a huge abalone, lined in soft, dark blue cloth with pretty golden chains resting on it. "That there's polished mother o pearl as a setting.. see.."

Kerry leaned on the counter, gazing at the piece. It was a conch shell formed from the abalone's surface, with a double pearl set inside, one black, and one white. "Wow.. that is unusual." The entire thing was mounted on a thin cup of gold, which curled over the edges of the abalone in outline.

Would Dar like it? Kerry cocked her head to one side, and regarded the necklace. Yeah.. I think she would. "Okay.. I'll take it." She grinned at the man. "That was easy, huh?"

He chuckled, and removed the necklace gently, taking back behind the counter and preparing it for her. "Good choice.. it's a local artist.. all this stuff is. I sells it on commission for em.. they do one of a kind pieces, not like what ye find in the big stores."

"Mm." Kerry was scanning the rest of the jewelry, admiring the unique designs. "Yeah.. these are different." She touched a set of earrings made of tiny, dried starfish. "Not sure I'd want to wear those, though."

"Stinks, they do.. ifn they were bigger." The man commented. "But folks like em.. I've got sundials that bitty too."

The blond woman moved on, leaning on the counter to gaze down through the glass. Below her were rings, in all shapes and sizes, and one fanciful oyster shell lined in silk that contained….

Kerry blinked. "Boy.. that's a nice ring." She breathed, startled when the shopkeeper appeared at her elbow. It was a delicate  pale gold ring, with interlacing that formed an intricate Celtic knot. Nestled in the center was a square cut diamond that seemed to gather in the surrounding light and bury it deep in the center of the stone, producing a visible glow.

"Thanks." The man answered quietly. "That un's my work."

She looked up at him. "It's beautiful." And before she could stop herself. "I'd like to buy it."

He looked profoundly surprised. "Well.. all right, then lass…it's a little pricey though.. you might want to.."

"Nope." Kerry made the decision before she could stop and think it out. She pulled out a card and handed it to him. "Go for it."

A delighted chuckle. "Will do… hang on a bit, and I'll measure you for it."

"What size is it now?" Kerry inquired.

"It's a ten.. a bit big, but I wanted to keep the right perspective and I.."

"That's perfect." The blond woman assured him. "Absolutely perfect….thanks."


"Here you go, ma'am… all ready." The watch clerk handed Dar her watch back. "We had a heck of a time with it.. what was in that water?"

"Puppy saliva." Dar responded, straight faced, as she took the package. "Thanks." She left the store, and headed for her car, feeling the pavement under her shoes oddly far away.

The doors unlocked at a touch of her remote, and she slid into the leather seat, setting her packages down on the other seat and starting the car. Then she sat there for a long moment, letting the air conditioning blow against her face, and considering what she'd just done.

Heck. It was just a ring. Just a piece of metal and stone, with a couple of words engraved in it.

And yet, in a way, it stood for something far more profound, to her. It was, even if in her own mind only, crossing the line into a commitment she'd once promised herself she'd never again allow. She took out the ring and opened the box, staring at the glittering stone that winked back at her.

Then she removed it, and studied the words, feeling an unexpected sting of tears as she considered their meaning, understanding the truth of them, regardless of whether or not Kerry felt the same of her.

Forever Yours.  

She hoped so. She hoped she'd have the guts, someday, to hand it to Kerry, and find out. But for now, she merely tucked it back into it's box, and put it away, taking a deep breath and putting her sunglasses on, as she put the car into gear, and negotiated the parking lot.

By the time she hit the ferry, she'd relaxed, and started looking forward to the evening. Kerry had promised a new recipe she was trying out for the first time, and they'd decided to go to the movie theatre afterward. The aggravations of the day had faded completely, and she stretched as the island ramp clanked down, finding a smile on her face as she headed the car towards the condo.

A smile which grew broader as she spotted the green Mustang nestled into the spot next to hers, and she almost started whistling as she got out, and trotted up the stairs two at a time, keying in her code at the door and slipping through into the hallway with a sense of anticipation.

"Woo woo!" Chino scrambled across the polished marble towards her, soft ears flopping comically.

"Hey girl.." Dar laughed, and knelt down, scooping up the puppy and cuddling her to her chest as she stood.

"Argrrrr" Chino chewed at her chin happily, and Dar managed to avoid being eaten by looking up and spotting Kerry leaning in the kitchen doorway, watching her.

"Hey." She greeted the blond woman, who was dressed in a bathing suit and apron, and holding a mixing spoon. "How'd your shopping go?"

"Great." Kerry told her. "You get your watch fixed?"

"Yep. Sure did." Dar set the puppy down, and brushed the tiny soft hairs off her shirt. "I'm gonna go change." She paused, and regarded her lover. "You know.. that's a really cute outfit you've got on there."

The green eyes warmed, and sparkled, as Kerry tugged at the bottom hem of the apron. "Thanks…I figured I"d get this put up, and we could go for a swim.. how about it?"

"Mm." Dar sauntered over, brushing up against her and gazing into those wonderful eyes. "I got a better idea.. how portable is it?"

Blinking, pale lashes fluttered. "Porta…why?" She inquired, intrigued.

Dar captured the spoon she was holding and sucked the end, then released it. "Picnic basket, boat, ocean, you, me.. ?"

"Oo." Kerry smiled broadly. "For that, I'd make it portable even if it were crepes suzette." She leaned forward and kissed Dar, then bumped her with one hip. "Go change."


The stars stretched wide overhead, in a night sky so clear even the usual shimmering seemed subdued. The sounds of the city were far behind them, and only the soft clanking of the boat's rigging, and the soft lap of the water against the hull broke it.

Dar propped a bare foot up against the padded seat, and leaned back, glad of the soft cushions under her on the boat deck. She tipped her head up and gazed at the stars, then looked down as Kerry returned, and snuggled up against her, wrapping an arm around her stomach and letting out a deeply satisfied sigh.

"That was great." Dar told her. "I liked that.. the fish stuff in those pita pockets.. that was a great idea." She wiggled her toes and half closed her eyes in contentment.

"Mm.. thanks." Kerry replied happily. "I was going to put it over pasta, but I think this worked out better." She gazed up at the stars. "They're so pretty tonight."

Dar rested her head against her lover's. "Yeah." She remembered the small box tucked in the dresser drawer and nibbled the inside of her lip. It seemed like a good time to maybe, gently, see if Kerry was at all receptive t the idea.

They sat there in silence for a bit, then Kerry stirred. "I can't believe it's almost the new year." She murmured softly. "It sure doesn't feel like the last week of the year out here."

Dar gazed out over the timeless sea. "No… though if it were summer, the air wouldn't be this clear.. and that breeze would be a little warmer." She exhaled. "Must be a little strange for you though.. not very traditional." She asked, cautiously.

Kerry considered the statement. "No.. it's not…I'm used to the week between Christmas, and New Years being one big round of celebrations…parties… it's cold, snowing usually…we'd have eggnog, and huge roast hams, and lots of champagne."

"Hm." Dar mumbled a sound. "That does sound very traditional." She hesitated, then tangled her fingers with the blond woman's. "Do you… I mean, are you really a traditional kind of person, Ker?"

Kerry glanced up at her curiously. "Well.. I never really thought about it… all that stuff never really meant anything to me, so.. I don't know.. maybe not." She looked forward at the dark horizon. "I never really thought.. that just because everyone did something, that made it good."

"Oh." Dar chewed her lip. "Well, some traditions are good… I mean, I think so, anyway."

"Really?" Kerry blinked up at her. "Like what?"

Dar thought furiously, trying to come up with something innocuous. "Uh.. Thanksgiving." She finally muttered. "That's a good tradition, right? Turkey, and stuffing, and all that?"

"Well.. yeah, I suppose." Kerry admitted. "Except here, we tend to have roast pig and yucca, but yeah." She paused. "Ours were usually used as an excuse to criticize everyone, though."

Dar rolled her eyes, feeling the soft breath against her chest. "Right…um..well, ours were never really successful either.. Dad was usually on duty somewhere.. mom never did get the hang of cooking a turkey. Mostly I ended up with Froot Loops and a bowl of mashed potatoes."

"Augh.. Dar." Kerry winced.

"Yeah, well." The older woman shrugged. "Okay.. okay.. what about.. uh.. well, hey.. all those high school things.. you know, yearbooks, and tassels.. and um.. well, how about class rings?"

Kerry was silent for a moment. "I never got one of those." She shrugged. "It didn't really mean anything to me."

"Oh." Dar murmured. "Sorry."

"High school wasn't a really great experience for me." Kerry went on, quietly. "They had this little competition going.. all that mattered was how much money your parents had, and what kind of sneakers you bought.. I just didn't buy into it.. especially those rings. It was all, 'mines better than yours, a bigger stone, a better cut' ..So I didn't get one at all, and I decided if I ever did get a ring.. it would just be because I liked it, not because it 'meant' anything."


"And then, my parents of course.. I mean, that's all I'd hear from my mother, about whoever it was I was going out with..'just what kind of ring do you think he's going to afford you?'." The blond woman shrugged. "I have a problem with that" She looked up at Dar's profile. "I don’t need a piece of metal to prove anything to me."

"Oh." Dar exhaled. "Well.. sure.. I.. I got a high school ring, but I lost it."

"Mm… it fell off?" Kerry inquired.

"No.. I lost it in a poker game." Dar related, with a faint blush. "I just told everyone I lost it underwater diving."

"Ah." Kerry gave her a tolerant look. "You could have gotten another one."

"I could have, yes." Dar admitted. "But I'd moved past that…seemed silly to me to wear that while I was in college.. and no one there wore anything like that, so.." She sighed. "I guess I'm not very traditional after all."

"I guess I'm not either." Kerry confessed. "I never really believed in symbols."

"Oh." Dar exhaled softly, as she studied a particularity bright star near the horizon. Scratch that idea. "I guess I sort of feel that way too."

"You do?"

"Well, sure.. I.." Dar cleared her throat. "I grew up military… all I used to hear was tradition, tradition, tradition… good grief, there was a traditional way to go to the latrine, if you could believe it." She shrugged. "So me being… well, who I am… I just kinda threw all that out. Don’t believe in it."

"Oh." Kerry seemed pensive.  "Well, you know, Dar…we could make our own traditions."

The long arms settled around her comfortably. "Like what?"

"Well, like spending the night before New Year's Eve out on the water." The blond woman smiled. "Or greeting Christmas Day by watching the sun rise on the beach." She looked up. "In fact, you know, I think I'd like to create new traditions with you."

Dar smiled back. "Would you?"

Kerry nodded. "And who knows.. maybe we'll develop a taste for some older ones."

An unseen grin split the dim light. "Oh yeah?"


Far off in the distance, a horn sounded, and the horizon's line was broken by a cruise ship, it's lit decks flickering off the waves, and scattering a faint, broken dash of noise across the water.