Short Stories

Synopsis: Gina and Roni have had a mutual crush on each other for months. Their first date doesn’t quite go as planned.

Spoilers: Very mild spoilers to Beards, but if one looks at the cover of the book it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Rating: Um, probably shouldn’t read this at work, but if you’re your own boss or don’t mind getting reprimanded or fired over inappropriate Internet use then go ahead.

Disclaimer: I own the rights to these characters and this story. They are mine. Do not steal them or I will be forced to sic my lawyer friend (who does great voice work, by the way) on your ass.

Hot Date by Serena J. Bishop

March 1991

Gina slowly turned as she examined her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She didn’t know why she was obsessing. It wasn’t like she could do much to change her appearance. She wore no makeup and her short, nearly black hair wasn’t styled. There was hardly anything to critique.

But she did have her clothes.

Her legs and butt looked firm within her newly purchased acid washed jeans. Her stomach was trim, and breasts were full under her perfectly fitted, button-down black shirt.

She rotated to face the mirror one last time, adjusted the clasp of her gold cross, and smiled, causing her lone dimple to show itself.

Gina DiCarlo was ready for her first official date with Roni, the women she harbored a crush on for months.

Bang! Bang! Bang! The door beside Gina shook on its hinges.

“I’m almost done!” she informed the person on the other side of the door. “Just give me a minute to brush my teeth.”

“You have exactly one minute, and if you exceed that amount of time I swear to Christ I’ll collect all the hair I’m about to shave off and put it on your pillow!” came her roommate’s sassy reply. Although, Early was more than just her roommate. He was also her husband.

When Early heard the water turn off, he positioned his svelte body against the doorframe and displayed his perfect smile. When the door opened, his manicured eyebrows reached his hairline and his mouth formed a perfect O, which was soon covered by his hand. “My, my, my Officer DiCarlo, aren’t you looking handsome for your day off.”

“Shut up, Early. Could you please move?” When he blocked her exit further, she crossed her arms. It was times like this she couldn’t believe she agreed to be his wife. Even if it was just for show. “Move! I need to get to a thing.”

“I also have…a thing.” Early actually had an incredibly busy Saturday planned. He needed to bartend until close and then make a surprise appearance at the nearest drag show where he was debuting a new character, Ms. Reacha Round. “But I always have a busy weekend. You? Not so much. Spill!”

Gina sucked her teeth impatiently. “Fine! If you must know I’m running some errands and meeting a few people from book club to discuss upcoming titles.” At least, that was partially true.

Heavy steps came closer and a booming voice carried down the hall, “Just don’t forget our patrol starts at three.” Steven peaked his head into the bathroom and suddenly knew why his boyfriend was razzing Gina. “You do not look like you are going to a book club. More like a date, which you know you—”

“She’s well aware of the rule,” Early said then kissed Steven’s cheek. When that rich brown, clean-shaven skin presented itself, he had to indulge himself. But while he enjoyed the moment of affection, he saw Gina’s brow furrow and shoulders bunch. Part of him loved to tease her, but Early felt guilty for the situation he created.

It seemed like a simple enough plan. Early married Gina so he could receive health insurance benefits. From the outside it appeared as though Steven were the third wheel. The most substantial conflict, other than the pesky possibility of being charged with fraud, was that Gina couldn’t date any women for a year to keep up appearances. She didn’t think it’d be a problem.

She was wrong.

“Let’s cut her a break. Maybe she’s finally stepping up her style. Although, acid wash was so last decade,” Early quipped and stepped into the hall so Gina could pass.

“Thanks for the fashion tip. Now, is there anything else either of you want to interrogate me about before I leave.” They both looked to the other, then shook their heads. “Good. Early, good luck with Ms. Reacha Round. Steven, I’ll meet you at the station house.”

“You don’t want me to pick you up?”

“Nope,” she said as she slipped on her black leather coat. “I’ll just hop on the bus. See you guys later.”

Gina departed and Steven returned to his recliner. He leaned back in his favorite chair and pondered Gina’s mood, behavior, and wardrobe. There weren’t any obvious red flags, but something was askew. Not that he would complain. Ever since Gina joined the book club in January, she had changed in subtle ways. She was more friendly, relaxed, and patient. He was probably reading into it too much. On the other hand… “Hey, Early!”

Early stuck his head through the bathroom door. “What’s up, big man?”

“Do you think Gina’s acting weird?”

Early pursed his lips as he mulled over the question. She had been threatening him less over the last few months. “I think being married to me has normalized her.” He gasped and stepped fully nude into the hallway, except for the shaving cream that covered most of his chest. “You don’t think it’s contagious do you?”

“I pretty sure you’re safe.”

***

Roni jostled two paper grocery bags in her arms as she unlocked the door to her apartment. She would have preferred to purchase all of the necessary ingredients the day before, but Gina insisted that the Saturday Farmers Market had the best produce and if she was going to make her famous eggplant Parmigiana—the produce had to be fresh. And if Gina—who didn’t have a car—was bringing wine, cheese, and fresh pasta, then she wasn’t going to complain about her outing.

Roni’s square jaw softened from her broad grin. Just the thought that she and Gina were about to have a real date gave her a joy she hadn’t felt since she learned she had the highest score in her last graduate class.

She turned on the radio above the refrigerator and danced as she unpacked the bags. A little spinning and arm flairs made even the most mundane tasks enjoyable for her. Once the last item was unpacked, she saw she had two hours before Gina arrived. That gave her more than enough time to prepare the eggplant and get ready.

And boy, was she ready.

As Roni cut the plump eggplant into thick slices, she fondly recalled the last time she saw Gina, which was only a few days before. They were too wound up after seeing Silence of the Lambs to go their separate ways, so Gina came to Roni’s apartment for a nightcap.

Then, it happened.

Roni cut her palm and Gina came to her rescue. She treated the wound, whispered in Italian, and kissed her hand.

Roni could only take so much. She knew that kissing a married woman was wrong, but an invisible force pulled at her. It was a desire as intense as breathing after being submerged. And the way Gina fervently reciprocated their first kiss let Roni know that she felt the same way. But before any clothing was shed, Roni realized she was about to become an accomplice to adultery and pulled back.

Roni was mortified and, to alleviate the guilt she felt, Gina disclosed the arrangement between herself, Early, and Steven. Roni listened to the incredible story and as Gina’s confessed, she saw vulnerability and sensitivity that she had only seen in glimpses during their book club. But despite Gina’s marriage, Roni wanted the chance to explore a romance between them. Fortunately, Gina felt the same way.

They finished their evening with plans for a first date. Albeit, a secret first date.

***

For someone well read, word formation was difficult for Gina. Roni stood before her with a sly smile, her long blond hair in full waves, a fitted green sweater-dress, and black tights that acted like as a second skin. The wide belt high on her waist further emphasized her figure. Gina used the discipline she acquired in the Army to keep eye contact even though her eyes wanted to linger over the vision before her. “Hey.” It wasn’t the most brilliant first word, but at least she hadn’t made an ass of herself.

“Hey, yourself,” Roni smiled and stepped to the side.

Gina entered the modest space and could hear the faintest R&B coming from the kitchen. She stood just inside the apartment, unsure of what to do next. It was weird. If she had come over as a friend, she would have put the bag down and tossed her jacket over a chair. But everything was different now. This wasn’t book club. This was a date. “Where would you like me to put the stuff?”

Roni looked to the ceiling, skewed her mouth, and tapped her chin pensively. “Hmm. The bag with the food and wine in it? I think maybe…the bathroom?”

Gina smiled and ducked her head. “Okay, you got me. But can you blame me? You’re so gorgeous that you’ve turned me into a blithering idiot.”

“Thank you. But I think I tried on ten outfits.”

Gina had no doubt Roni would have looked spectacular in all of them, but she loved the look she decided. It was modest, but the fabric hugged her body in a way that left little to her imagination.

“You look really nice too. Love the shirt.” Roni took the bag from Gina, who stood still as a statue. Clearly, Gina had more butterflies than she did. “I’m still Roni. The only difference is now I can kiss you without any guilt.” She winked and watched Gina over her shoulder as she walked into the kitchen.

As Gina observed the sway in Roni’s hips, she remembered she left something of great importance in the bag. “Hold on!” she rushed into the kitchen.

Roni cocked a perplexed eyebrow as Gina reached to the bottom of the bag. Gina removed what she thought was a clever gift for a date. “I don’t know if you’ve read it, but I remember it being very thought-provoking.”

Roni read the title of the novel, Flowers for Algernon. “You brought me flowers,” Roni said with humor. She flipped through the pages and was drawn to elegant cursive on the inside cover. I told Early and Steven I was discussing books today. Now, I have. – G.

“Thank you so much. I have actually read it, but I can always find time to reread the modern classics. You’re very sweet.” She demonstrated her appreciation by kissing the dimple on Gina’s smiling cheek.

As Roni left the kitchen to add the novel to her impressive collection of books in the living room, Gina took a moment to observe the well-organized kitchen. The eggplant was arranged on baking sheets, sliced and salted. There was a series of bowls lined along the counter with the ingredients that corresponded to where they needed to go in the preparation process. The baking pan was a bit shallow, but it’d work. And, she noted, two empty wine glasses with a new corkscrew. “I see you replaced ol’ rusty.”

“Yeah, while I survived my injury, I would like to avoid it happening again.” She studied the healing cut in the center of her palm. “I should probably let you open the wine.”

Gina gladly opened the bottle of merlot and poured their glasses. “Salute,” Gina said with her glass raised, “and to what I hope will be the first of many dates.”

“To the first of many.” Roni clinked her glass and savored the taste of the soft red. “I’m surprised you brought wine since you have to work later.”

“This will be my one and only glass. The rest is for you.”

“Trying to get me drunk?”

“Not in the least. When I kiss you later, I don’t want the booze responding.” Gina reached for Roni’s hand and kissed it. “I want it to be you.”

Roni swallowed a large volume of wine. Gina the Romantic was a sexy weapon who could easily strike her down on to her bed. Or her couch. Possibly the floor. There were so many different places. “We should probably make lunch now to stay on schedule. We can’t have you going to work hungry.”

Gina smiled and released Roni’s hand. “I would hate to get a teacher off schedule. Let’s get started.”

Gina led the preparation while Roni acted as sous chef. They minced and diced. Added the tomatoes to fragrant garlic and onions. In a peculiar twist, Gina asked Roni to close her eyes when she added the herbs and spices to the mixture. After the mysterious process ended and while the sauce simmered, Roni sipped her wine and studied Gina. Her motions of dredging, frying, and draining the pieces of eggplant were precise. Almost robotic.

“Do you make this every week?” Roni asked as she dialed to a new radio station with a much less obnoxious DJ.

“No,” Gina answered as she added sauce to the rectangular pan, “but when I was a kid, we made a huge Sunday dinner. Since I was the only girl, I was tasked with making a main dish. I made this a lot.”

“How old were you when you started?”

“Ten. So, I had a solid six years of experience before…well…you know.”

Roni nodded sadly. She remembered the story of Gina’s disownment well. Roni wasn’t close to her family, but at least they hadn’t turned their backs to her. Of course, Roni’s family didn’t know she was gay. She wondered how they would react if she ever came out to them. She became lost in her own thoughts until she realized Gina had spoken. “I’m sorry. Can you say that again?”

“I’d like to pass on the recipe someday,” Gina said as she layered cheeses and fresh basil on top of the sauced, fried eggplant.

“I’ll gladly take it,” Roni said with a smile. “It smells delicious.”

Hot air rushed at Gina as she opened the oven and slid the dish into it. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but this recipe…” Gina rolled her hands as she attempted to search for a way to politely articulate her thoughts. The last thing she wanted to do was offend her date.

Roni stilled Gina’s gesticulations. “I understand. It requires more than a first date for you to share.”

Gina smiled in relief and held Roni’s hands in her own. They stayed in comfortable silence and involuntarily swayed as the sexy, blues rhythm of Black Velvet started behind them. “I love this song. I’d ask you to dance, but I’m terrible at it.”

Roni placed Gina’s left hand to the small of her back and clasped Gina’s right. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”

Gina was drawn in closer. As their bodies slowly grazed against each other, more than just their physical connection intensified. An openness that had never been present before passed between them. “Is this…okay?”

Roni felt Gina move perfectly in time with the song, but she had a suspicion Gina was asking about more than the dancing. “This is more than okay. You’re a natural.” She smiled, but Gina remained quiet. “Compliments make you uncomfortable, don’t they?”

Gina shrugged. “I just don’t think anything I do is fantastic. Except maybe the eggplant parm.”

How or why a strong, intelligent, attractive woman like Gina thought her only greatness came from making one meal was beyond Roni. She stilled their dance and looked deeply into Gina’s chestnut eyes. “I know we’re still learning about each other, but I already know that you’re sensitive and passionate, very smart—I’m always looking up words you use, beautiful—”

“You can stop now,” Gina said with a smile.

“I don’t want to.”

“Yeah, but now you’re really stretching it.” Gina shook her head and her shoulders bounced slightly.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. I’m just so happy right now I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m on an actual date with Veronica Mullins, a woman whom I have pined after for months, and she’s complimenting me left and right. It’s very surreal.”

“Well, if you need knocked down a peg or two, I should tell you that acid wash was so three years ago.”

“You sound like Early. Actually, I think you two would get along really well.”

“Maybe someday I’ll get to meet him.” Roni did the mental math and calculated it would be seven months into the future if Gina held to the rule she and the others established. Seven long months. Roni didn’t know if she and Gina would make it to the next month let alone more than that. But, she sensed they would be.

As the sultry song came to a close and the DJ reminded the audience of the local Gun Show, Gina studied Roni. Her green eyes looked beyond her, lost in thought. “What are you thinking?”

Roni drew her attention back to Gina. She could answer truthfully, but disclosing her thoughts of potentially having a long-term relationship with Gina on their first date would be a bit much. Even by lesbian standards. “I, um, was wondering how you and Steven came out to each other.”

“That, is a long story.”

“We have some time before lunch is finished. Besides, if you’re going to insist on holding me like this and not kiss me, we might as well clean our mess.”

Gina gradually leaned in, but paused before she met Roni’s lips. “How about I kiss you, then tell you the story while we clean?”

“I can get on board for that.” Roni closed the distance between them and pressed her lips to Gina’s.

Their first kiss was a hormone-fueled, frenzied rush of passion. This kiss, much like their dance, was soft and slow. Deep in their hearts they each knew this wasn’t their last chance for romance. They could linger. They could relish. They could be patient.

Gina lost herself in their moment. It was so much more than mere lust with Roni. While she appreciated the lean muscles under her hands, she desired Roni’s whole being. Her kindness, her humor, even her system of different calendars. There was no one in the world like her.

In Gina’s arms, Roni was free. She didn’t need to hide any part of herself. She could share her deeper thoughts. She could be flirtatious and sexy. And she felt safe with Gina. Gina was as strong mentally as she was physically, but wasn’t afraid show Roni her vulnerabilities. That took an exceptional kind of toughness.

The DJ’s voice faded and was replaced by a group of string instruments and snapping fingers. Gina broke their kiss and sighed as the classical sound transitioned into a high-energy dance number. “I can’t escape this song. Early plays Vogue all the time so he can practice his performances.”

“I really need to meet this guy. Although, it’s going to cause some problems if you want to bring up your husband every time we make out,” Roni playfully admonished and pulled away. “So, how about that cleanup?”

“I promise I won’t bring him up again.” Gina leaned forward once more only to have Roni’s index finger come between their lips. That same finger then pointed to the egg and breadcrumb covered dishes beside them. “You’re serious?”

“I like things tidy. You should know that about me by now. Plus,” Roni lifted the cross at the hollow of Gina’s throat, “cleanliness is next to godliness, right?”

Gina felt the cool metal drop against her skin and a wave a heat travel from her neck to her core. Roni literally made her feel weak in the knees from the mention of cleaning. Please God give me strength to stay focused.

Roni filled the sink basin as she watched Gina roll up her sleeves. The slightest movement caused minor changes in the definition to her forearms. It’s official. She has muscles absolutely everywhere. “I, um, was promised a story about you and Steven.”

As Roni washed, Gina dried and told the story.

Fresh out of the police academy, Gina was partnered with a former Marine and five-year police veteran, Steven Fields. Steven had garnered himself a reputation for being a good cop, but few people wanted to work with him. He knew this. Some wouldn’t work with him because he wasn’t keen on taking freebees at convenience stores. Some because they insisted he was hired because he was black. And some because he was a taciturn man. Other than his professional background and love for baseball, no one knew a thing about him.

Gina had a similar problem when she joined, except her downfall was her gender. She met the fitness requirements, even for the men, spoke multiple languages, and also served in the military. But some couldn’t get it through their heads that a woman could do their job better than they could.

Gina and Steven formed a unique partnership, what some in the station called the “Affirmative Action Duo”.

They worked well together over the first few months, but Gina observed something unusual about Steven. He never commented about women and she never saw his eyes wander towards them. At first, she thought it was because he was polite and mindful of her presence. So, she began to watch how he interacted with other men at the station. They would make comments about a woman’s physical attributes or clothing. Their sexual conquests. But Steven would never join in the conversations. At the most, he would say an enthusiastic, “Yeah,” if a comment or question were directed towards him.

The pieces didn’t fully come together until one evening when they were called to an upscale restaurant. A very intoxicated patron attempted to pay with a stolen credit card. On the way, Steven offhandedly mentioned that he knew the bartender, Early.

Before they confronted the drunk, Steven walked over to Early. Then, Gina saw Steven smile. But, it wasn’t the kind of smile one directed at their friends. It was a secret smile that only lovers share.

Roni handed the last dish over to Gina to dry. She was riveted by the story. “This is killing me! How did you finally get him to tell you?”

“Well, before we left the restaurant, Early said, ‘It was nice meeting you, Gina.’ And I knew, because I introduced myself as Officer DiCarlo and—”

“That’s what’s on your nameplate too. Ah! Steven must have been talking about you before,” Roni said with a broad smile, pleased she solved the mystery.

“Bingo. So, once we booked the drunk and returned to our patrol, I tested the waters a bit. As I drove, I started talking about the trust it takes to be someone’s partner and how to really have someone’s back there couldn’t be secrets. It was a very melodramatic speech. To my surprise, he told me how much he hated our nickname, and that he thought I was a fine officer who didn’t get enough respect.”

“Wow. Bet you weren’t expecting that.”

Gina tossed the damp tea towel on the counter. “No way. It was almost like I turned on an openness switch. After he told me a little bit about his family being very service-oriented, I went with a calculated risk and told him that if anything tragic happened to me when we were in the field, not to worry about contacting my family. He asked me why, so I told him.

“He thanked me for sharing and was sympathetic, but didn’t say anything for a few minutes. Once we were stopped at a light, he asked me if I was good at keeping secrets. I looked at him square in eyes and told him I already knew. Two days later, he invited me over for dinner where I met his boyfriend, Early. The rest is history.”

Roni stared, her mouth agape.

Gina chuckled at her response. “Surprised?”

“Absolutely. I thought that maybe Steven caught you flirting with some librarian. She had a dusty copy of The Great Gatsby and you couldn’t help but lay on the charm. Show off those linguistic skills and muscles of yours.”

“My flirting is much subtler than that,” Gina said and pulled Roni towards her. “Besides, The Great Gatsby?”

Roni allowed herself to be drawn closer and hooked her fingers through Gina’s denim belt loops. “You don’t like The Great Gatsby?”

“I hate The Great Gatsby. There are no characters I like.” Gina slightly tilted her head downward. “None.”

“Not even Nick?” Roni asked as she closed her eyes.

“Especially Nick.” Gina closed the distance and kissed Roni. She intended the contact to be brief so she could detail her thoughts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but Gina’s excitement grew from Roni’s exploration with her lips and hands.

Roni enjoyed the tender connection they shared earlier, but she wanted a sampling of a little more. She wanted to trace Gina’s mouth with her tongue and grip her dark hair while she did. Shortly into their passionate kiss, Roni realized she couldn’t handle just a taste. “God, I want you so badly, but we should stop. We only have twenty min—actually, I think…maybe?”

Could they in that amount of time? Gina knew she could. “I’m game to try if you are.”

“I’m very game.”

Gina felt her shirt become untucked and Roni heard her fashionable belt hit the ground with a thud as they traveled down the short hall to the bedroom.

Roni straddled Gina on the bed, kissing her neck and unbuttoning her shirt. She sucked at her pulse point and felt Gina’s hands under her sweater dress, trying to get a grip of the material. Roni stilled and allowed Gina to pull the knit garment over her head. Gina kissed and licked Roni’s neck down to her white lace bra, focusing her attention on Roni’s partially exposed nipples through the textured fabric.

The teeth teasing Roni overwhelmed her. This would be quick. Too quick. “I know we said—ahhh,” she moaned when Gina’s hand pushed gently between her thighs.

Gina pulled her mouth away from Roni’s breast. “What’d you say?”

“Nevermind. Not important,” Roni sad breathless and continued to enjoy the slight and rhythmic pressure Gina applied. Part of Roni wanted to guide Gina’s hand beneath her tights and to the slick pool that awaited her, but she didn’t want to be the only one experiencing pleasure. She stealthily unclasped Gina’s plain bra and pinned her to the comforter.

The warmth of Roni’s body covered the coolness Gina felt from her open shirt. She parted her legs and, with her hands on Roni’s buttocks, brought her closer. When Roni pushed into her further, Gina moaned in her ear.

The sound was the sexiest utterance Roni ever heard. “I can’t wait to get you to do that again,” Roni huskily stated as she repeated the rocking motion with her thigh.

“Get me to do wh—” Gina’s words were stopped when her nipple was drawn into Roni’s hot mouth and fingers started to struggle with her button fly jeans. Why did I have to wear an outfit with so many damn buttons? Gina’s frustrating thought snapped her out of the erotic situation and caused her to be aware of her surroundings. Something was off. “Do you smell that?”

“Smell what?” Then, an acrid odor struck her nostrils. “Oh no!” Roni crawled off Gina and ran out of the room.

Bra loose, shirt open, and pants undone, Gina followed her into the kitchen. She saw a steady stream of dark gray wisps rise through the cracks of the oven and Roni’s hand on the door. “Don’t do it!”

Roni opened the oven and was immediately engulfed in thick smoke. Her eyes watered and she coughed as the room filled with the carbon particulates of the burned eggplant. A shrill, insistent beep from the smoke detector caused them both to wince.

Gina grabbed Roni’s hand, pulled her to the nearest window, and opened it. “Stay here and get some air. I’ll take care of it.”

Roni nodded as she continued to cough up what she inhaled.

Gina opened the remainder of the windows and removed the batteries from the alarm. Oblivious to both of their undressed states, she asked Roni, “Do you have any fans?”

Roni’s coughing subsided enough to speak. “Yeah. Give me a sec.”

While Roni dug through her bedroom closet, Gina rebuttoned herself, covered her nose and mouth with the damp tea towel, and took their mostly blackened lunch out of the oven. She didn’t understand. Upon closer investigation though, there were two culprits. The first was the shallow pan. The cheese and sauce began to bubble over and fell to the bottom of the oven. To obtain verification for the second offender, Gina asked, “What temperature did you set the oven?”

“Four-fifty,” Roni said as she emerged from the hallway fully clothed and holding an oscillating fan. “Just like you asked.”

That was only one hundred degrees warmer than the eggplant should have been baked. “Maybe this recipe should have written instructions,” Gina muttered to herself.

Roni set up the fan and as it blew the smoke away, through the clearing air, Gina locked eyes with Roni. And they laughed.

Roni collected herself and wiped a tear away. “How would you like a world-class peanut butter and jelly? It’s a recipe passed down from my mother to me.”

“That sounds great.”

They sat for a lunch resembling a meal Roni usually witnessed her fourth graders eat. Complete with milk. Just as they started to enjoy their food, there was a pounding at the door, followed by the announcement, “Fire Department.”

“Did you?” Gina asked.

“No, I…” Roni realized her nosey downstairs neighbor probably heard the commotion. “I can guess who did,” she said as she walked to the door. She opened it and was faced with two firefighters outfitted in their turnout pants and jackets. “Everything’s under control, just some smoke from the oven.”

Despite their very different appearances, they both nodded as if they were twins. “I’m sure everything’s fine, but we need to come in and take a look,” said the more senior firefighter. “The building’s owner requires it whenever we’re called. Or at least, that’s what the lady downstairs said. She was very insistent.”

Roni sighed. She remembered that was part of the rental agreement. “Fine. Come in,” she stood to the side as they both entered.

“Hey, DiCarlo!” the younger of the two men said, while his mentor went to the kitchen. “I haven’t seen you since that first aid refresher class. What are you up to?”

“Book club,” Gina said quickly. “The rest of the group just left. We had a great conversation, which is how we lost track of time and the eggplant burned.” God, I’m a terrible liar. “How are you?”

“I’m doing alright. Wish I didn’t have to work on a Saturday. How’d you get so lucky?”

“I’m not lucky. Actually, I have a shift pretty soon.” Gina looked at her watch and scowled at the time. When her gaze lifted, she caught Roni’s eyes, who nodded at Gina’s unanswered question. “When you guys are done here do you think you could give me a ride to the station?”

“I don’t think that’d be a problem. Would it, boss?”

“Nope. Not a problem at all. The only problem here is the eggplant. You made that Cajun-style,” he said to Roni with a smile. “Let’s get out of here, rook, and…DiCarlo, was it?”

“Yes, sir. But, do you mind if I meet you outside in five minutes? I’d like to help clean just a bit more.”

The two men nodded and said their goodbyes. Once they were gone, Roni leaned on the closed door with her eyes closed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Was this the worst first date in the history of dating?”

Gina walked to Roni with a grin. It wasn’t the date they planned, but it was certainly memorable. She lifted Roni’s chin and when she saw green eyes peer back, Gina said, “Bad first dates, don’t lead to second dates.”

Roni bit her lip and tugged on Gina’s shirt playfully. “How about we plan something simpler? I’m paying off my layaway tab on a VCR this week. We could rent a movie and I could make popcorn.”

“Sounds perfect since I’m a big fan of your cooking.” Gina kissed her briefly. “Speaking of which, can I get that PB and J to go?”

“Sure thing.”

Roni wrapped leftovers while Gina went into the bathroom and checked for hickies. Those would be a very difficult to explain to Steven.

When they met at the door, Roni slid Gina’s lunch into her coat pocket. “I didn’t leave any marks, did I?”

Gina looped her arms around Roni’s waist and smiled. “I’m in the clear.”

“Maybe next time. But, I’ll make sure to leave them in spots no one but me can see.” Roni gripped Gina’s leather lapels and pulled her closer for a final and thorough goodbye kiss. “Call me.”

It wasn’t fair that she was expected to speak after a kiss like that. “Um, yeah, absolutely. I’ll let you tomorrow what my schedule is.”

“Yes, please do that, but what I meant was…can you call me when you’re done your shift? You have a dangerous job and I want to make sure you’re okay.”

Gina was a young teenager that last time she had someone who cared enough to want a check in. “Sure I can, but it’ll be really early in the morning. I’ll wake you.”

Roni shrugged with a smirk. “I can go back to sleep. Just please call,” she asked seriously, then chastely kissed Gina one last time before opening the door. “See you soon, Officer DiCarlo.”

Gina smiled. “Yes, you certainly will.”

THE END*

*If you’d like to learn more about the beginning of Gina and Roni’s friendship or their journey as a couple, you can read all about them in Beards. Buy links available here