I updated my Facebook status before the concert started. The following day there was a comment from a guy I know from work. He's Craig, an engineer who works for a supplier. I don't have any business with him directly; he deals with the IT group, but I got called into a meeting with him, six months or so ago? Somewhere around there, anyway, as there were questions about an issue I'd helped to resolve.

Since then I've invited myself to a couple of his presentations, because he's fun to heckle. Well, okay, because he's intelligent and fun and flirts with me. Just a little. We traded Facebook addresses a couple of months back, and I occasionally leave a rude remark about his status.

So he left a comment saying that he had been at the concert and was sorry he'd missed me. I hadn't seen him, either. I'd definitely have introduced him to the twins if I'd seen him. Or - come to think of it - maybe I wouldn't :). But I'd have liked to have said hello.

I asked him what he thought to the concert, and where he'd been sitting. Turns out he was in a section far from us.

Since I first met him and began trading barbs and jokes with him, I've been certain that he was married. Something he said - I thought. I don't recall what it was, now, and apparently I misunderstood. He's been divorced for over four years, and was alone at the concert.

After I told him I'd seen the orchestra a few times now, and always enjoyed it, he asked me (moving the thread from my public status to private Facebook mail) if he could take me to the fundraiser that's happening next month. He had wanted to go, but it's a Valentine's event, and he couldn't really go alone.

But since it is a Valentine's event - and an expensive one - that might be pushing the envelope for a casual acquaintance. Even if I do like him.

I saw that he was still logged in, so I clicked the chat window. (No, this isn't verbatim, it's more-or-less what I remember...)

Helen: Hello
Craig: Hi!
Helen: Saw you were online. Thought this would be better than email
Craig: That sounds ominous
Helen: No. well, maybe - I don't know
Craig: About?
Helen: The fundraiser. It's Valentine's
Craig: Yes
Helen: It's *Valentine's*
Craig: I'm an engineer. You might have to use small words.
Helen: Is being an engineer why you're an ass?
Craig: Pretty much.
Craig: So yeah, I guess I see the problem. But I can't change the event.
Craig: and I thought it would be something you'd like.
Helen: Yeah. I think I would. But a Valentine's dance is about, you know, romance and stuff.
Craig: You heard her. She said it was okay to come alone. It's just a fundraiser dinner that happens to be at Valentine's.
Helen: Riiight...
Helen: I guess... if you were asking me out on a regular date, you know, dinner or a movie, well, I'd say yes, to be honest
Helen: but I'm not sure if I'd feel comfortable with this
Craig: So I should ask you out for dinner now, and then you'll be okay with it?
Helen: That's not what I said
Helen: but... yeah, maybe.
Helen: except
Helen: if you're buying tickets to the fundraiser, I'm asking you out instead
Craig: I can go for that. Where are you taking me? Braums? Mickey-Dees?
Helen: You're being an ass again.
Craig: Of course
Craig: So shall I get the tickets?
Helen: Give me a day to think about it?
Craig: If you insist.
Helen: Do you even dance?
Craig: Eh, not really
Helen: Maybe I should find a *real* partner?
Craig: Hey, now!
Helen: Saturday for dinner?
Craig: Sure. Where?
Helen: I'll surprise you
Helen: Does McDonald's take reservations?

And then, after I'd signed off, it started to occur to me that I was being pretty stupid. If I'd come up with the idea, and I'd known he was interested, I'd have suggested exactly the same thing. I would set my own expectations, whatever the implications would be.

I really have a bad problem with double-standards when it comes to what I allow myself, and what I'm willing to accept from others. When I recognize it, I try to resolve the difference. But often I'm completely unaware of my reaction until it's too late. So, maybe Craig's inviting me to an expensive event with romantic connections is a little excessive for a first date, but I'd do the same if I were in that position. And if I were sufficiently interested in the guy I was inviting.

Helen: Still around?
Craig: Yep?
Helen: I changed my mind.
Craig: From? To? Should I know?
Helen: I would love to be your date at the fundraiser.
Craig: That's called "deciding," not "changing your mind." Unless you'd already decided not?
Helen: No, it's changing my mind, because I decided that there was no decision to make. Not about the nature of the event. Only "do I want to?"
Helen: and the answer to that is "yes."
Craig: I think I'm confused
Helen: I'm sure you're familiar with the feeling?
Craig: Not really. I try to avoid anything that doesn't make sense.
Craig: It would interfere with my sense of greatness.
Helen: I hope your delusions don't keep you from deciding what to wear.
Craig: I hadn't given it much thought.
Helen: I know. You're a man. We can talk about it on Saturday.
Craig: Oh, wonderful. Our date turned into a working dinner.
Helen: Believe it.

And then... it looks like it's shaping up to be a busy weekend. As if it isn't going to be busy enough with all the traffic from the Superbowl just down the road.

Last night I got a text from Amy. She's going to be up in this area on Friday, and wanted to know if I could join her for a drink.

I asked her if she wanted me to call the twins. She said "I'd really like to talk to you without them around." So, I don't know what that's about. I guess I'll find out on Friday.

And driving today was horrible. The freeways were mostly stationary all day long, and the side roads were a half inch of solid ice, without even a thin layer of snow for traction. I'm a Texan. I wasn't designed to drive in conditions like this, and neither were most of the people around me.


Yolanda called this afternoon to tell me a co-worker is giving away kittens. There's a printed picture of them on the noticeboard, which Yolanda snapped with her cell and sent it to me. From that I can tell that there are five, or maybe seven, little objects which might be kittens, puppies, martians or trolls. They have blurry edges, so I assume they're fluffy...

But yes, I'd like to see them. I was going to look at rescue cats, but kittens who need a home would be just fine. So I asked Yolanda to put me in touch with her co-worker.

Later she forwarded me the original of the image from the noticeboard, and now I wish I could take more than two. I want all five :). The co-worker wants to keep them until they're twelve weeks old, which means just over a week before I can have them, but she'll let me go see them this weekend.

Power cuts this morning. Apparently the local power company isn't able to keep up with demand. Thirteen degrees, down to minus two with wind chill. Ugh.

And the drive home seemed even worse than into the office. Although the wind has dried out most of the streets, the parts that were still icy were like glass. Fortunately most sane people are staying home, so traffic has been very light.


I wrote about half of this on Saturday, but then I got distracted and it's now almost a week later (2/11). Still, I'll post a couple of entries under their appropriate days rather than one huge tedious post.

As scheduled, I met Amy last night for drinks and dinner. I was surprised that she didn't cancel, because the weather was foul. But she really had to meet a customer in the late afternoon. By then the roads were at least passable, but she told me it had still been a nerve-wracking drive of almost two hours.

We talked about work for a while. She seemed a bit ill at ease, but became less so after a time.

We were working on our second - and last - glass of wine each.

"So, what's up?" I asked. "I'm glad you called me, but I'm a bit puzzled about why you wouldn't want me to bring Laurel and Yolanda."

"Yeah," she said. "I wanted to talk to you about them. It's complicated."

"It's always complicated with those two," I said. "What is it?"

"I guess I don't really know where I stand with them," she said. "When I met Laurel... when we met in Fort Worth, I thought, you know, there was something there. And then the texts... I knew she was involved with someone, they were both inviting me. I figured I'd like to get to know them, at least. They sounded like fun."

"They are," I agreed.

She frowned. "Then when I came over, I didn't know what was going on."

"How's that?"

"Well, Yolanda - she doesn't seem to like me much."

It was my turn to frown. "I don't see why you'd think that," I said. "I didn't get that feeling at all."

"No?" she asked. "She wasn't rude to me, directly. She seemed - distant, and not very interested in what I had to say."

"It was so long ago, now," I said. "I'm trying to think - I don't know. You might be right. Or you might even have picked up a vibe that was more between them than towards you. A lot of the time they seem so close that I feel like I'm oblivious to what's going on. But I guess I wasn't really paying attention to the dynamics. I was more interested in talking to you."

"Yeah, well, that was the other thing," she said. She seemed reluctant to go on.

"What was that?" I asked.

"Well... I wasn't sure why I was there. I mean, there were four of us, and they're a couple, and though they'd invited me, were they trying to set me up with you?"

That was a surprise. I shook my head. "Oh," I said. "No, that wasn't it. I guess... I can see why you'd think that, now. It hadn't crossed my mind."

"Yeah, I just didn't know. When you didn't come to the New Year party I thought maybe I'd offended you?"

"Not at all," I said. "I really was sick."

"Yeah, Laurel said. I was almost sure I believed her. Okay, I'm glad you weren't pissed at me."

"I guess..." I said, "If it adds clarity, I could say - if Laurel and Yolanda had been trying to set me up with someone, it wouldn't have been with a girl, even one as delightful as you."

She looked down at the table. "Ah, I see." I think she was blushing slightly.

I leaned close and whispered, "Disappointed?"

Amy looked up and grinned. "May... be? So, is there a guy in your life?"

"Not right now," I said. "Not for a while. I have a date, though. Tomorrow."

"I really did think," she said, with a penetrating look, "from what vibe I did get, that you were somehow involved with the other two."

It was my turn to blush. I stole her word. "May... be? Once in a while, perhaps? But it's just them. I'm pretty conventional otherwise."

"Yeah, you know, I really don't think I believe that," she said.

I shrugged and grinned.

"So, I'm glad you cleared that up, but I still don't know where I am with them. Or where I want to be, I guess. If Laurel was single I'd be all over her."

"Oh, she'd like that," I interjected.

"So would I," Amy sighed. "But both... even if Yolanda doesn't hate me, I don't know if I really want to see where that goes."

"I think I understand better than you know," I said. "Better than I'm willing to admit to, perhaps."

"Look," she said. "I'd like to invite you all to my place again. Maybe in a couple of weeks? You could bring your date. I'd like you to be there."

I laughed. "As chaperone?"

"Yeah, maybe," she agreed. "Mostly because I hope we can be friends."

"Oh yeah, so do I," I nodded. "I'd like that."

We went to eat at a salad restaurant. Amy wanted to avoid heavy food, and I'm going out for dinner today.

I checked Google on my phone when we were done, and all of the freeways were red. "Okay, look," I said. "I know you were planning to go back tonight, but I want you to come home with me. Go back tomorrow after the roads clear up."

"Oh, yeah?" Amy gave me a sly look.

"No, not that," I said. "I promise not to molest you."

"Well, sheeit," she said, "then what would be the point?"

"That you wouldn't have another two or three hour drive in the dark on icy roads surrounded by Superbowl drunks. I have a spare room, and I'm worried about you."

She was reluctant. She didn't want to impose, but I pretty much insisted, and she followed me home and helped me kill a few gin-and-tonics.

The roads were much better when she left at ten this morning. I asked her to call me anyway to let me know she'd gotten home, and she did, barely an hour later.

When I flushed out the coffee pot to make us coffee this morning, I heard the sound of water spilling, and discovered the drain of my kitchen sink pouring all over. This wasn't something I wanted to postpone until I could get a plumber (or pay a weekend / emergency call out fee for), so after Amy left I dismantled the drain myself, discovering that the garbage disposal's drain washer had crumbled to blackened cake.

After I'd bought replacement parts at the hardware story I reassembled everything - and for a moment I thought I'd fixed it, because when I ran water through the drain it didn't leak. But I decided to prove it to myself by filling the sink with water and letting it out, and I'm glad I did, because water poured everywhere.

It took a while for me to realize that the garbage disposal itself was leaking. It was clearly pretty rotten internally when I replaced the washer, and it seemed to be dripping from a point below the washer. So I unhooked all of the pipes again, loosened the retaining screws, and started to twist the disposal unit off. That's when I discovered the real problem, because water came flooding out of the plastic case.

The reason it had appeared to work for a time is that the leak was into the case from the rusty metalwork, and only when the case was full of water did it start dripping from the place near the outlet pipe.

So then it was back to the hardware store for a replacement unit. By then I was wondering if a call out fee might have been worthwhile. I hate plumbing, and rarely touch it, but this had looked so easy at the start.

After I'd read the installation instructions, it seemed that installing the unit would be straightforward, but I ran into a snag. Holding the new unit in place took all of my strength, and I couldn't guide it onto the old fittings. It was a two-person job. And I was not going to call Craig, which would have been an obvious choice, or any other guy. It wasn't specifically male help I needed, and I didn't want to feel I'd gone running to a guy to solve my problems, so I called Laurel, who came right over.

She held a flashlight and guided the disposal into place, and I twisted it onto its mountings. In fact, if I'd had a light, I may not even have needed her help, but getting it seated was just not working for me. Then we talked a little about my visit with Amy while I finished re-attaching the drains.

I left out most of her concerns, especially about Yolanda. If there's friction between the three of them (or any pair), it's their problem to work out. I did tell her of Amy's confusion about why I was there, which explained both her prompt departure after our dinner and her wanting to meet separately with me. Anything else she can decide for herself.

Laurel did gripe about me letting Amy stay the night without calling her.

I didn't leave myself much time until dinner. (This is the point where the weekend's distractions got away from me.) So I had to thank Laurel and send her home so that I could get ready.

Craig met me at a local Indian restaurant that I'd heard was good, and wanted to try. Well, it was good. Very good. But I misjudged how spicy the food would be. I expected the usual Indian customized to American palates.

Well, I will go back to this restaurant again. I will even order the same meal. But I will not take a guy there (without asking for my food made mild) and will take tissues for my forehead. My face must have been cherry.

To be fair, the waiter did warn me in advance. I took it as a pro-forma warning. And to give Craig his due, he didn't make me feel at all embarrassed, even though we're usually quite rude to each other when I've met him at work or traded messages on Facebook.

We did talk (as I'd threatened him) about dress for the fundraiser, but only briefly. It's black-tie optional, which makes his job fairly easy. (And mine expensive - but then I'm not buying the tickets.) And it was a very pleasant evening. He's very good company, and in person his acidic comments are even more clearly intended just for humor.

We got a coffee together after dinner, then went our separate ways. I find myself looking forward to the fundraiser, which I was really not certain I would.


I had left the kitchen a mess yesterday, and cleared around before getting a shower. The cleaning items that were wet from the leak I left on the floor to dry, but otherwise I got the room back in order.

In the afternoon, Yolanda and I went to her co-worker Lisa's to see the kittens. They are wonderful, and I have chosen the two I want. There's a female with dark- and light-brown markings. Tortoiseshell colors, but her markings are like separate patches of solid color, almost like a quilt in the shape of a cat. And a male who's grey and black with white patches on his neck and belly.

I'm planning to pick them up next Sunday.


And that pretty much catches me up. The weather this week has been horrible, but I did sneak some time on Wednesday to take Yolanda and hunt down a gown for tomorrow.


Craig showed up with a very pretty arrangement of flowers. Daisies and cream roses. I don't know if he'd deliberately avoided valentine's reds and pinks, and I didn't ask, but I assumed it and appreciated the consideration.

I looked him over. He looked really good in a tux. "Not bad. I thought you were going in a tee shirt and jeans?"

"Didn't have any clean tee shirts. Had to rent this instead."

He scrutinized my gown for a moment. I sensed his gaze linger at one point for a moment before his eyes met mine again. "You look okay, too. Amazing what you can find at Goodwill, right?"

"Goodwill?" I frowned at him. "I stole this from my last boyfriend. There's a reason he's an ex."

He nodded. "At least he had good taste. Shall we go?"

I picked up the gown's shawl and draped it over my shoulders. "Lead on."

The weather was still pleasant (it had risen into the sixties earlier in the day) but I needed a jacket. It didn't match my outfit, but it kept the chill at bay.

I think Yolanda and I did well finding the dress, especially given how limited our time had been by the weather. It's burgundy, which isn't a color I often wear, but it works very well. It has a matching gauze shawl, and it's pleated below the chest, beginning with a starburst seam that forms the focus of a sweetheart neckline. (And the focus of Craig's eyes for that extra moment.) The skirt has just enough fullness to have a little "swish" for dancing. I had shoes and accessories that worked with it, and it wasn't as expensive as I'd feared, though it certainly wasn't cheap.

It fit the occasion well, too. There were many outfits more conservative, and several less so. Most men were dressed much like Craig, though there were a few in regular business suits.

I hadn't attended any formal event since Barry and I parted ways. It seemed a little strange to be there without him. I kept feeling that he was sitting at our table, and feeling eyes on the back of my neck, but it was just my imagination.

I admit that I was a little nervous that he would be there. Not that it was a rough breakup. Just that it would feel awkward to introduce him to Craig, in the kind of place that was exclusively Barry-and-Helen.

But then, of course, the events Barry took me to were mostly connected with his career. This wouldn't be on his list. And in a way last night's ball gave me a sense of freedom. I always had the option not to go with Barry, but his choice wasn't quite so free, and so both of us thought it as something of a responsibility at the same time as being enjoyable. Last night had none of that feel of having to be there. Craig and I were there purely because we wanted to be.

So in spite of my irrational glances over my shoulder, I had no reservations about being there, and it was a good feeling.

Dinner was very good, and the presentations interesting. They're very committed to orchestra outreach. There was a silent auction, but nothing we were tempted to bid on.

Craig is a much better dancer than he'd implied, and was willing to be a little more adventurous after I'd showed I could follow his lead. Maybe a little unsubtle with his signals, but that's better than not being readable.

We did get to spend some time talking to others. There are some pretty interesting and varied people supporting the orchestra. Craig wasn't reticent about asking other women to dance, and that left me free to dance with others, one of whom was a professional whose task was to partner unattached ladies. That was quite a workout, and impressed Craig, who was watching.

The weather was chilly, but not unpleasant, when Craig took me home. He rushed around to open the car door for me and help me out, and then I guess we both became hesitant.

"Um," he said. "Thank you. I've had a great evening."

"Yeah, so have I," I said.

"Can I see you again?"

"Yeah, I'd like that."

"Good. So... goodnight."

"Goodnight," I said, then, as he turned to leave, "Wait..."

He turned back. I took hold of his arms and pressed my mouth to his. He was surprised, but I felt his lips part against mine. I released his arms, and touched his shoulders as we kissed, feeling his hands rest against my waist.

After a few seconds, I drew back and took my hands from his shoulders. "Thank you for taking me," I said. "I really did have a lovely evening."

"Yeah, me too," he said, releasing my waist. "Even more so, now."

"Goodnight," I said, and headed to the house.

I almost invited him in. Even now I'm not really sure why I didn't. Thinking about how the night could have continued - well, okay, that was quite pleasant, but it could have been so much more so. So I felt a little annoyed with myself.

But I guess I haven't dated much since Barry, and I didn't want another one-night-stand. I want to get to know Craig a little bit better. And I guess I want him to know me better. If there's a risk of either one of us falling for the other - and I don't know that there is, yet, but something about him has that feel - I don't want that destroyed by any revelation about trysts with Laurel. For instance.

If that's going to come between us, then I guess I'd prefer it did before we've gotten too involved to back away painlessly.

(And a little demon on my shoulder keeps whispering to me: but if you might drive him away later, you should fuck him while you can...)

With Barry, we knew where we were from day one. (Or night one.) Later, that got blurry, and neither of us could be what the other needed, and so we broke up. But that was a long time later, and while we were true to our commitment to avoiding commitment, our relationship was very good.

But Craig and I have barely talked about personal issues at all. If we had, and I knew more of what he's looking for, I'd probably be in bed with him right now, rather than writing this entry after a troubled night's sleep.

I have a cat carrier, litterboxes and food and water dispensers set up, and Yolanda and I will be picking up the kittens this afternoon. I have no idea what I'm going to call them. But I'm looking forward to having cats in the house again.


Picked up Simon and River (yes, the kittens have names!) from Lisa. She said that someone else wanted to take River (the female, obviously) away, which doesn't surprise me, she's such a gorgeous cat.

Yolanda left after we'd let the kittens loose in my house, and I watched them. I picked them both up and set them gently on the cat litter, so they'd know where that was, and in front of their food bowl.

They alternated between hiding and acting scared when I was around to fighting and not caring whether I was in sight. I got some video of River popping up into the air to do battle, much like her namesake.

In the mid-afternoon, I called Craig.

"Hey, are you allergic to cats?"

"Umm, no?"

"Would you like to come over? If you don't have plans."

"Sure," he said. "Any reason?"

"Not really," I said. "We haven't had much chance to talk. I thought we might take a walk while these kittens figure out how to tear my house apart."

"When a woman says she wants to talk, she's either dumping you or you did something really bad."

I laughed. "Neither. You're safe."

He arrived about a half-hour later, and the kittens hid, although River poked her head around a chair to watch us occasionally.

He talked some about his daughter, Claire, who's nineteen and at a college in-state. They seem to have a pretty good relationship. He worries about her, but says she has a lot of common sense. It's only really since she went away to college that they've become close; she was very cold to him after the divorce, and had some rough times in her mid-teens.

"Can I ask what happened?" I said. "You don't have to answer."

"About? Getting divorced?"


"Well, she was right," he said. "It was my fault. I mean, we'd had problems for years, it wasn't like we had a perfect marriage. But... I had an affair. Kate found out. That was it."


"You're disappointed. I'm just trying to be honest."

"Well," I said, "you make it sound as if it would be okay if she hadn't found out."

"No," he replied. "No, I didn't mean that. It was a mistake. It was worse than a mistake. It was wrong. But finding out was the last straw for her. She couldn't forgive me, and I can't blame her."

"Yeah, I see."

"It was worse than that," he said. "If I'm being honest, here. The woman I had an affair with, she was only, like, twenty-five, and I met her at church. It's hard to think of more ways that it could have been wrong, and we both knew it."

"Ah, wow."

"Yeah, so Claire was right to blame me. But I've apologized and tried to make it up to her, and over the years she seems to have forgiven me. And Kate doesn't hate me as much as she once did. We're probably no more dysfunctional than the average family now."

"How about the church?" I asked. "Was it a big scandal?"

"I couldn't say," he replied. "I wasn't a churchgoer before Kate and I'm not now. I went to keep her happy. And I guess I've always felt that... well, it was our fault. Mine and Ricki's. But it wouldn't have happened anywhere else, or in a more mainstream church. There were activities that we did that were supposed to be spiritual, but that really went beyond the bounds of friendship. I found myself trying to be near Ricki for share time, and the church encouraged us to have feelings for each other.

"And then we got together for private share time, and you can guess the rest. I think we were kind of a cult, and I'm sure there were plenty of others who turned the kiss of peace into a makeout session. But in the end, we knew what we were doing. Especially since I wasn't really a believer. I got caught up in emotionalism, but I recognized it for what it was."

I grinned. "Sounds like a fun place."

"You'd think so, but I don't think anyone was happy when they closed down. It was, you know, gospel of wealth. God will bless you with material goods - and joy in interpersonal relationships. Hence the share times and crossing boundaries. There were some financial irregularities. That was after my time, though. Even Kate gave up after that. And you know, sometimes, when I feel guilty about what we did, I wonder if it was all to the bad."

"How do you mean?"

"Claire," he said. "She was about twelve when Ricki and I were seeing each other, almost fourteen when we divorced. If it all hadn't happened, she'd have grown up into that congregation, with sharing the kiss of peace and the emotional bonding with guys whose motives would be about as pure as mine with Ricki." He frowned.

"Oh, yeah. That sounds disturbing," I agreed.

"Yeah, I've a feeling that might be why Kate became less hostile over time."

I nodded. "That's quite a story."

"Yeah, well, it's behind me. These days, I never even turn my head when a hot twenty-something walks by. And if you believe that..."

"Yeah, right," I said. "If I believed that, I think I'd throw you out now."

The kittens had decided that we were safe to ignore, and were bouncing around the living room.

"What about you, Helen?" Craig asked. "How come you're single?"

"It's just how I am," I said. "I was engaged, once, but things got complicated. My fault. And I guess I came close a couple of years back, but that wasn't going to work out. But then... when you say "single," that's a bit complicated, too."

He didn't look happy at that. At all. "What does that mean?"

"Well, I'm single. I'm not married, engaged, promised, committed to anyone. But I'm not a nun. There are a couple of friends, one in particular... I like to spend time with. Occasionally."

"Does he have a name?"

"Ah, well, there it gets even more complicated... her name's Laurel. And the other one is Yolanda. And there have been other guys, but not right now. I'd... like you to meet them. I might risk you thinking I'm depraved, but I won't risk being dishonest. That's always come back to haunt me."

"I see." He looked puzzled rather than angry.

"I like you, even if you are an ass," I said. "If we're going to keep dating - I'm not going to say this is the way it is, take it or leave it, or this is how I am, I'm not going to change. That's also come back to bite me. I'm open to seeing where this goes. But only if you know where I am right now. Does that make sense?"

He nodded, still frowning. "Yeah, I guess it does."

"And before you ask - about Laurel - no, you can't watch."

He raised his eyebrows. "That wasn't what I was thinking." Then he smirked. "But if not Laurel, what about the other one?"

"Nope," I said, grinning, "not Yolanda, either." Then, changing the subject, "It looks like the kittens are doing okay without supervision. Feel like going for a walk?"

It was about sixty-five outside. He didn't object when I took his arm as we walked around the neighborhood.

When we were back in sight of my house, he asked me if I wanted to go out to eat.

"I was going to cook something easy for myself," I said. "Since it's Valentine's tomorrow I'm not sure we'd be able to find anything other than fast food."

"Let me try?" he said. "I have some ideas."

So Craig called a couple of restaurants while I checked on the kittens, who were playing hide and seek around a chair.

"We're in luck," he said. "There's an opening in a half-hour."

He took me to a tapas bar that's about fifteen minutes from my house. I knew of the place. It's fairly expensive, but from what I'd heard well worth the price.

It would have been hard to imagine just a few days ago that I'd be sitting outside on the weekend. The temperature had fallen, but they have a partially-screened area and overhead gas heaters, so it was very comfortable, even with a slight breeze.

The restaurant had a Valentine's special, but we ordered from the regular menu. Most of their patrons were couples, and the tables were set with candles. Overall it was a lovely atmosphere, and a great meal. We'd been lucky to be seated when we were; the restaurant was full, and remained so for almost an hour after we arrived.

When Craig drove me back home, he was about to get out to open my door, as he did the previous evening, but I stopped him, so that I could kiss him without having to stand in the open. He responded enthusiastically, and I felt a nice warm tingle in my belly when I finally let him go.

"Call me," I said. "Let's get together soon?"

Craig nodded.

Today a very pretty flower arrangement arrived at the office for me. I have to say, I wasn't expecting it, but of course I knew who it was from.

Or, I thought I did. There was no note.

I called him. "The flowers are beautiful."


"Umm, yeah? The flowers you sent me?"

"Uh-oh. I didn't send any flowers. You're avoiding Valentine's implications. I respect that."

"I don't believe you," I said. "There's no card, but... I don't... think I believe you."

"Ooh, I want to know," he said.

"I'm sure it's you," I said. "It's a shame you won't admit it, 'cause I'd give you an extra-special, personal thank you."

"I wish I had sent them. Who's your secret admirer?"

I was certain he was putting me on. He'd probably come clean after leaving me hanging for a few hours. Maybe I could turn the prank around.

"Uh, wait, what's that?" I said.

"What's what?"

"It's back hidden in the foliage. Oh, hell, there is a card."

"There is?"

"Shit. Now I'm in a bind. Either the card's going to say they're from Craig, and I'll feel really stupid for calling you, or it's going to say someone else, and I'm going to feel really embarrassed. Should I hang up?"

"If you want."

"I'm going to open it. Wait, what the hell?"

"What's up?"

"In deepest sympathy? What kind of stupid trick...?"

"That's not right," he said. "There shouldn't be a card."

"And how would you know that, Craig?" I asked, sweetly.

"Aww, hell, don't think you fooled me," he said. "I couldn't take the chance that you were telling the truth."

"Yes, Craig, I believe you. You're such a bastion of truth and honesty and not sending bogus Valentine's flowers."

"They're not bogus," he said. "Happy Valentine's day. Can I claim my special thank you, now?"

"Of course," I said. "Thank you, Craig."

"That's it?"

"What did you expect? Wait, don't answer that, this conversation is embarrassing enough already."

"Well, okay."

"Craig - they're really very nice. Thank you. I'll send you a photo. Maybe we can get together next weekend?"

"I'd like that."

"Me too," I said.

Final note for today - I'm happy to announce that the kittens have been using the litter box.