Caroline By Candlelight

Caroline By Candlelight

Rated 'PG'

By: Jana~

~~Disclaimer~~

*****~*****

While at the ATM machine, Caroline picked her nose and they got it on security camera video. The machine didn't give her the withdrawal, so the bank had to review the tape before giving Caroline her money. Caroline, being too embarrassed, decided not to go back to the bank--

DEL: What do you mean? You're going to give up two hundred dollars just because you're a little embarrassed? I'd walk down the street naked for two hundred dollars.
CAROLINE: You'd do that for fifteen, we already determined that last Halloween.
ANNIE: Caroline, you have to go back there. You can't let them get away with this.
CAROLINE: I'm not going to let them get away with this. I'm going to mock them in my comic strip.
RICHARD: No, no, no, Caroline, please, please. Remember when you mocked the electric company? I am not working by candlelight again. --

This is what happened on the day Richard was referring to... the day the electric company turned out the lights...

*****~*****

--Richard came back from running errands to find Caroline's apartment without lights. Caroline was on the phone, and she was not at all happy.

"Look... I can't work like this! I run my business out of my home! I need to know when the lights will be back on! -- What do you mean you are not seeing a power outage? There obviously is one, I have no lights! -- Yes, I paid my bill! -- What? -- Hello? Hello??" Caroline slammed the phone down and sighed in exasperation… "Great!" she snapped, turning her attention to Richard... "They hung up on me!"

"Caroline? What's going on?" Richard asked, confused. There were lights on when he left, now there was darkness.

"Well, I can't be certain, but I think the electric company disconnected my lights cause I mocked them in the strip!" Caroline sighed angrily.

"What?! They can't do that... can they?!"

"Well, apparently they can!"

"What makes you think this has to do with your strip?" Richard asked as he helped Caroline light some candles.

"Well, it wasn't disconnected for nonpayment. They aren't seeing any power outages on their computers. I am the only place affected by it. AND, cause they said 'well, maybe next time you have a problem you will talk to us instead of insulting us in your little strip.' before they hung up on me!" Caroline was getting more and more upset as the reality of the situation sank in.

"So, what do we do now?" Richard asked, hoping he would be allowed to go home.

"Well, now we try to get some work done by candle light. I still have a deadline to meet!" Caroline said as she placed 2 candles on the coffee table by the couch.

*****~*****

--Richard worked at the desk while Caroline worked at the coffee table. Several minutes and several disgusted sighs later, Richard finally spoke his mind...

"This is not working Caroline! It's too dark in here to even distinguish colors!"

"Well, I don't have any more candles. What do you want me to do?" Caroline asked sharply, more irritated at the situation than at Richard…

"Call them and apologize Caroline! So we can get some work done!" Richard pleaded.

"I won't give them the satisfaction!"

Richard just threw his hands up in frustration and headed for the door.

"You aren't leaving, are you?" Caroline asked, her tone softening…

"We can't work like this Caroline! I'm going home."

"Ok, ok... I'll call and apologize." She finally conceded. Richard stopped at the door and watched as Caroline picked up the phone and made the call.

*****~*****

--"Ok, they said they would have the lights back on in about 2 hours. Happy now?" Caroline said to Richard after she hung up the phone.

"Ecstatic." He said sarcastically… "Thank you." he added softly, walking back into the apartment.

Richard made himself comfortable on the couch and Caroline soon joined him. Richard was a hard man to know. He was the best colorist Caroline had ever worked with, but he seemed so sarcastic and distant. Then there were times where his facade was thinnest and he seemed very warm and caring. He didn't seem to want to talk much, to get to know Caroline, or have Caroline get to know him, and that bothered her. She thought she'd take this opportunity to get to know him, if he'd let her.

"So..." Caroline started...

"So?"

"So... tell me about yourself."

"Why?" Richard asked, stalling for time.

"Cause... we have worked together for a while now and I don't really know you all that well."

"There's not much to know."

"Then it shouldn't take long!" Caroline shot back.

Richard sighed as he resigned himself to the idea that he was going to have to actually have a conversation. There was something about Caroline that made him want to keep some distance, but at the same time, he wanted to be as near her as much as possible.

"What do you want to know?" Richard asked, figuring it would be easiest on him to answer questions.

"Well, what are your hopes and dreams?"

"My hopes and dreams? I don't have dreams, I have nightmares... and my hope is that this conversation will be over very soon."

"C'mon Richard, be serious!"

"What do you want from me Caroline?"

"I just wanted to get to know you a little better! Sheeesh! Just forget it!" Caroline snipped, exasperated. She started pouting and it immediately made Richard uncomfortable. He rolled his eyes and sighed, deciding to give her what she wanted.

"My dream is that one day I will be recognized as a serious artist, and have my paintings hanging in a museum." Richard answered quietly.

"What about love?" Caroline asked, pushing further.

"What about it?"

"Well, have you ever been in love?" Caroline asked sheepishly.

"Caroline... I don't see how any of this is doing any good..."

"Oh, c'mon Richard! Just answer the question! Sheeesh!"

"Once..." he replied reluctantly.

"Really? What was she like?"

"I really don't want to talk about her..."

"Ok, ok... what about your childhood?"

"What about it?"

"Do you enjoy making things difficult?"

"Yes." Richard answered sarcastically.

"What was your childhood like?"

"Typical..."

"Ok, ok... fine. It's obvious you don't want to become friends..." Caroline complained as she got up from the couch and walked towards the kitchen.

"Caroline..." Richard said, following her... "I am your friend."

"Well, you have a funny way of showing it!"

"Caroline... look, I'm sorry, I don't like talking about my personal life. That doesn't mean I'm not your friend." He put his hand on her shoulder, and Caroline turned around and looked at him. For a moment, they both felt something, but Annie came in and shattered the moment.

--Richard and Caroline both jumped when Annie entered, unexpected and unannounced.

"Hey! What's with the candles?" Annie asked, then stopped in her tracks when she saw Caroline and Richard a little closer to one another than usual. "Uh-oh... romantic setting. Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt!" Annie apologized, then quickly retreated.

"No, Annie... it's not what you think!" Caroline called after her, but Annie kept going. "I think she got the wrong idea." Caroline commented, blushing slightly.

"Yeah, well, she would." Richard replied dryly, walking back to the couch… Caroline joined him.

"So... you want to tell me about your childhood?" Caroline asked, trying again to open him up.

"Not really..."

"Fine." Caroline was obviously hurt, and Richard sighed as he took off his glasses...

"My childhood was bad, ok. I really don't want to talk about it. Nothing personal."

"Sorry." She apologized, seeing a sadness in him that made her want to cry…

"It's ok."

She decided to change the subject… "Well, ok... what about school?" she asked, and before Richard could respond she imitated him... "What about school?" she shook her head and continued… "Did you have any friends in school?"

"No. Not really." Was his distant reply.

Caroline threw up her hands in resignation… "I give up Richard. You don't want to talk to me, then fine!" Caroline snapped, then walked off with a candle into the bathroom.

*****~*****

--Richard was frustrated. He wasn't used to answering questions like this, or having friends like Caroline. She was annoying in her need to get to know everyone, but on the other hand, she was the most considerate, caring person Richard had ever known. He didn't want to hurt her, but that's exactly what he was doing. He sat silently on the couch, deep in thought, waiting for Caroline to come back out of the bathroom. When she did, it was obvious that she had been crying.

"Caroline..." Richard tried for her attention.

"What?"

"Her name was Julia." Richard replied softly, confusing Caroline. "The person I was in love with." he added quietly. Caroline turned her attention to Richard, realizing he was attempting to open up.

"What was she like?" Caroline asked, nervous about pressing further.

"She was amazing. She had this insatiable appetite for living! When I was with her, even the impossible seemed possible."

She sat beside him on the couch… "What happened to her?"

"She left me by her father's request."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"I really thought she was my sincere amore." he said softly, deep in thought.

"Sincere amore?" Caroline asked, puzzled.

"Sincere amore. It's a love you never have to question."

"Wow! So, if she was your 'sincere amore', and she left you, what does that mean? Does that mean you will never get married?"

"I don't know. Some search all their lives never finding their 'sincere amore', I find it unlikely that I would find it a second time." Richard admitted sadly.

"So, that's it?"

"What's what?"

"If you can't have Julia, you won't have anyone?"

"I... I don't know..." Richard stammered, flustered.

Caroline reached for his hand to comfort him, but just then the lights came back on. It startled them and they both jumped slightly.

"Oh, look. The lights are back on!" Caroline said, surprised.

Richard stood and headed for the desk… "Maybe now we can get some work done."

"Yeah, let's get to work." Caroline replied, noticing Richard's attempt to distance himself again. *At least he opened up some. That's a start.* Caroline thought to herself, starting back to work.

-- Richard glanced at Caroline as he worked… *She seems happier.* he thought to himself, a slight smile crossing his lips. If only the lights had stayed out for a few more minutes...

THE END