Dee’s fantastic Friday carried over into Saturday; everything in her life these past twenty-four hours had been beyond perfect, surpassing any superlatives she could conjure. It all felt so unreal, so…magical. All the stars and planets had aligned in just the right way and at just the right time to make all her wishes come true. And, now, her final wish had been granted: Dining on lasagna and sipping Chianti with the one and only Officer Eli Colton, the Department’s undisputed boy wonder.
He had entertained her throughout their Saturday night dinner, recounting his many adventures and near misses, both on and off duty. Between their day at the State Fair and this dinner, he’d shared so much of himself, she felt as if she could write his life story. And what a life! By comparison, hers seemed lackluster and boring. She didn’t feel she had anything interesting to share of herself with him—not that he had asked, mind you, but if he had, she’d have been hard-pressed to find much to say.
“Did I tell you about the time I chased a bull down McDowell Road…in rush hour traffic?”
Dee laughed at the visual and shook her head.
“It was my first year on the force, I was still a rookie, and this bull, he was a mean, old son of a bitch—”
Dee cleared her throat and glanced over to Tad who was busy working on a large plateful of lasagna.
“Oh, sorry. So this mean, old…bull…gets loose from the livestock exhibit at the fairgrounds, busts through a barrier and takes off down McDowell in heavy traffic. Cars are honking, tires screeching, people yelling—I mean, the bull had a set of horns on him, not to mention, balls, and he was mad, like, charging cars kind of mad. Took ten of us officers and seven squad cars to finally corner the muthafu—”
“Sorry, sorry,” Eli said, looking to Tad. “I swear, if I’d have had a horse and a lasso, it would have been a scene right out of McCloud! Imagine: Me, a rookie fresh out of L.A., chasing a raging bull down the mean streets of Phoenix! Crazy, I tell you.” Eli stopped to take a breath and finish his last bite of food. He looked to Tad’s plate, now all but licked clean.
“Kid sure eats a lot for such a little thing.”
Tad was quick to counter: “Mommy, is he done talking yet? Can I go play with my Weebles?”
“Sure, go ahead.” Dee helped Tad from his chair and shooed him off to his bedroom. When she returned to her seat, Eli refilled her glass with Chianti.
“What, dare I ask, are Weebles?” he asked, giving her a quizzical look.
Eli shrugged. “Never heard of them.”
“You know, Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down?”
Eli shook his head and laughed. “Guess I’m a little out of touch with the latest toy craze.”
“Actually, they’ve been around for a few years.”
“Okay, you got me. I admit, when it comes to kids, I’m pretty out of touch. Ask me about anything else, though—cars, restaurants, movies, you name it…or music! On any given day, I can tell you who’s who in the American Top Forty. Speaking of which…” Eli pulled out a trio of cassette tapes from the pocket of his jacket hanging on the back of his chair. “I brought over some new releases: Earth, Wind, and Fire. The Commodores. Ah, but this one,” Eli held up the cassette, a gleam in his smoldering brown eyes, “This one’s a new kid I’m really excited about: Prince—have you heard of him? Amazing sound. You’re going to love it.” Eli popped the cassette out of its case and jumped from his chair. “Where’s your cassette player?”
Dee frowned. “Sorry, I haven’t got one. We’re still just getting settled…”
“No worries,” said Eli, snapping the tape back in its case. “We can watch TV instead.” The words had no sooner left his lips when he realized there was a notable absence in the living room. “No TV either?”
Dee’s frown returned. “I’m still working on getting the place furnished.”
Eli clapped his hands together. “Well, how ‘bout we grab another glass of wine and go hang out on the sofa together.”
Dee held up the bottle of Chianti. Empty.
Eli’s face fell. He was all out of suggestions, but Dee was not going to let her perfect weekend end on a sour note. She hopped from her chair and made a beeline for the fridge.
“I’ve got some Blue Nun,” she offered, “And for dessert, Little Debbie chocolate chip cookies!”
Eli plopped down on the sofa, the million-dollar smile returning to his face. “Works for me!”
Over the course of the next hour, the two sipped on wine and finished off the entire box of cookies, sharing them with Tad as he played with his Weebles’ treehouse playset on the floor in front of them. Eli, between bites of cookie and sips of wine, talked effusively as Dee listened, enrapt, while Tad tried his best to tune out the nonstop babble.
Dee had thought it impossible to learn any more about the Department’s golden boy, but Eli seemed to be a deep well of information about ‘All Things Eli’. She learned he’d earned his high school varsity letter in, of all things, badminton, and had been a member of the glee club all four years. His high school senior year he ran, and won, his race for student body president. The experience, he said, perfectly prepped him for college: “I was the first freshman, and the first black, ever, to get elected as the president of the USC College Republicans. I actually considered a life in politics, but then—”
A loud snore interrupted him. Both Dee and Eli looked to Tad, a Weeble doll clutched in his hand, crashed out on the floor before them.
“I should put him to bed,” said Dee, in apology. She rose from the sofa and lifted Tad into her arms, who immediately awoke in protest:
“Time for bed, Tad. You can play with them tomorrow. Say goodnight to Eli.”
Rubbing his eyes, Tad mumbled a half-hearted ‘goodnight.’
Eli gave him a little wave in return. “Nighty-night!” he said, then rose from the sofa to collect his jacket from the back of one of the dining room chairs.
“You’re not leaving, are you?” asked Dee.
“Do you want me to stay?” he asked.
Dee halted in the hallway to ponder Eli’s question and all of its implications.
“Because I’ll stay if you want. Just say the word.”
Dee still didn’t answer. Something made her hesitate; something that felt an awful lot like fear, but the reason for it was vague and blurred, difficult to define. She was an adult, and Eli a grown man, someone she trusted…and desired—there was no denying that; she could feel it in her loins.
So what the hell was she so afraid of?
Eli held up his jacket and raised his eyebrows, as if to ask: Should I put it on and leave, or put it down…and stay?
Dee chalked up the vague sense of fear to pre-coital jitters—it had been a long time since she’d been intimate with a man. Dismissing her jitters, she gave Eli a reassuring smile, and said the word he was now waiting, and hoping, to hear: