"Hey, Davis, you going to the bar tonight?" It was a hypothetical questions because I already knew what his answer was going to be. Everyone went to the bar on Friday night

"Nope." He said this casually as he cleared the last of his paperwork up in his inbox. He signed several complaint reports filed by Oscar, gave them to himself, and then threw them out. He looked oddly cheerful for someone doing paperwork.

"Nope…?" What kind of an answer was that? Had he stopped drinking? Was he avoiding someone? Was he avoiding me? "What do you mean by 'nope'?"

Davis arched an eyebrow. "I mean no, nada, non… Hey, how'd that whole 'you learning French' thing ever work out, anyway?"

I ignored this question. "Why aren't you going? Are you going tomorrow night?"

"I'm going to Grantsville for the weekend." There was that casual tone again that made it seem like nothing.

"Grantsville? Why are you spending the weekend in Grantsville?"

A dopey smile that was slightly different from his other dopey smiles appeared over his face. "Alex." With that single word and an expression on his face that looked like someone had hit him over the head with a two-by-four, he practically floated out the door.

When he returned on Monday things were normal again and he did not say what he had done that weekend with Alex. I did not ask. I kept telling myself that Alex was a sister, maybe even a cousin, but that dopey look stayed in my mind. I wish he would look at me and look half that stunned.

"So," I began on Thursday. "What's this Alex do, anyway?"

"Veterinarian. You go around back, I'll go around front, and if Oscar still won't give the phone back tell him we have Emma on speed dial."

Davis was at the bar that Friday night but was missing on Sunday. On Monday he was back at his desk. He was humming "Anything for Love" under his breath all day.

I starting humming "Friends and Lovers". He didn't seem to notice.

A month and two more lonely weekends later I gathered up enough nerve to ask about my rival again and hoped to plant some seeds of thought.

"So Alex lives pretty far away, right?"

He shrugged, buried in a Hardy Boys book I had seen him read four times before. "It's nearly a two hours drive."

"Don't you think it would be more practical to, you know, date someone closer?" I prayed for a response of Oh, we're not dating.

No such luck. Another shrug. "We make it work."

I was put off but I refused to let it show. "It would just be better economically. And ecologically."

"I drive a hybrid."

The months passed. Lacey went through three coffee pots and a front window when a snowball war got far too out of hand. The initials "H.Y." refused to fade off the side of the grain elevator. The "Y" was upside down. Davis broke his arm in a heartfelt attempt to revive the bike patrol. He came back one weekend with the name "Alex" written in perfectly ordinary handwriting on his cast with a little paw print drawn beside it. He'd get his dopey look in full swing whenever he glanced down at it.

I felt like breaking his other arm.

The cast came off and summer came around. Davis shared a secret waterhole with me. I thought he and Alex had broken up but he had to ruin a perfect moment with "I think you'll really like Alex, Karen."

I went underwater and stayed there for three minutes. I could not get my heart to slow down. I considered half drowning so that he could save me but remembered how well Davis had done at CPR in our training course and came up.

Two weeks later he came into the office and placed a small velvet box in front of me.

I blinked. "What's this?"

"Can you tell me if you think it's alright?" He sounded and looked extremely unsure and yet at the same time he was nearly vibrating with excitement.

I opened the box and my heart sunk down to the toes of my police issue shoes. It was a diamond ring. It was wonderful, but I had not expected anything less from a man who reads every issue of Cosmopolitan more than he's ever read the police guidebooks. It was a little masculine for my tastes but he knew Alex better than I did.

I wanted so badly to tell him it was ugly and crush his spirits. I wanted to tell him how I felt and how I wished that this ring, no matter how masculine, was being given to me. But when I looked up at his face, it radiated pure happiness and I couldn't bring myself to make that go away.

"It's great," I said instead, forcing a smile.

His grin was reward enough for my acting. "You really think so?" His phone rang and he went to it, picking it up. "Dog River Pol… Alright, Brent, I'll… No, I will not bring the pepper spray. I know he deserves it but we're running low and the stuff isn't cheap. Be there in five." He hung up, giving an apologetic smile. "How about I just take this one, rookie? You've been working hard this week." He grabbed his hat and dashed outside.

As soon as he was gone I snapped shut the little velvet box and hurled it as hard as I could against the wall. It bounced off, unharmed save for some of its velvet being crushed in the impact. After a minute of screaming into my jacket I retrieved the box, smoothed over the velvet, and put it on Davis's desk.

I told myself that nothing was set in stone. These days engagements were like advanced dating; bigger than dating but by no means a lifetime commitment. Even marriage could be temporary. Something like fifty percent of marriages ended in divorce, after all. The same odds as a riot in Dog River, though, and that hadn't happened yet. Nevertheless, I kept hope. Maybe Alex would through the box harder than I had and knock some sense into him.

Three days later I was gassing up when a burgundy Volvo pulled up on the other side of the pumps. A dark man emerged and began to do the same as I was. I noticed several glances in my direction. I wondered if this rather handsome stranger was flirting with me. I wondered if I should reciprocate.

As I was about to leave he spoke. "Excuse me, are you Karen Pelly?"

I blinked. I was wearing my nametag but that only had my last name. I could not think of where I has seen this man before. I nodded with hesitance.

His face broke into a smile and he extended a hand, which I took. "You have no idea how much Davis has told me about you."

I glanced down to see the nice but masculine diamond ring on his finger and I knew that Davis would never be mine.

Maybe it was for the best. Romance between partners never worked out well expect in the movies and even then it ended badly a lot of the time. That dopey look that Davis got whenever he said Alex's name was enough to tell me that he loved him, and the idiotic look Alex got when he said Davis's made me believe he felt the same.

So I would be his friend and let them be happy, but if he ever hurt Davis I would hit him with something much heavier than a ring box and I sure as hell wouldn't miss.