Partners in Crime
It was all quite beautiful!
Mary had taken care of having the very best china on the table, as well as the silverware, white linen, crystal and flowers. She herself was looking utterly stunning, and I could not help but smiling approvingly.
"You have surpassed yourself, dear!" I said admiringly, and with a bright smile she lightly patted my shoulder and kissed my cheek.
"Well, I thought the occasion was worth it", she remarked and for a last time checked the ensemble. "First anniversary! A cause for celebration!"
I could not resist a little amused cough. "That's for sure!"
She turned to me and suddenly looked earnest. "I mean it, John", she said softly. "You have granted me security, and my freedom. The freedom to love and to follow my heart."
I looked at her fondly and put my arm around her shoulder. "Which is not more than you have done for me, right?"
The smile again. "Right."
"What do you suppose, who will be first?"
"Oh, I am convinced that Anna will arrive before Holmes. It is not such a far fetched assumption that he will take his time. He's never liked socialising, as you yourself have often told me."
"But, Mary, today's not about socialising!"
"Wait and see!" was all she said.
But though my wife is a pretty clever woman and – beyond that – has grown quite familiar with the habits, the preferences and dislikes of my close friend... Sherlock Holmes, at least this time, managed to surprise her by being not only in time, but also in quite good spirits.
"I must confess", was his dry statement when she accompanied him into the dining room, "that I am quite at a loss regarding the proper way to congratulate you both, considering the circumstances. But anyway, my dear, these are for you." With these words he presented her with a lovely bouquet of flowers.
"Oh, thank you. They are really beautiful!"
"And – one for Mrs. Forrester, of course!"
This got her, obviously, by surprise again, but she was surely delighted. "Of course!" And then she added smiling, displaying once more her tact: "I will go and put these into vases."
The very moment the door had closed behind my wife, I found myself in a tight embrace and Sherlock Holmes' lips captured mine with a fervent kiss.
"Really, Holmes..." I mumbled when I had caught my breath again. "If that is your way of congratulating me, we should celebrate the wedding anniversary on a weekly basis."
He chuckled. "I will raise no objection, as long as I may – afterwards – take you with me to pursue one of those cases..."
"Oh! Are you saying we are on a case tonight? Well, tell me about it!" I directed him to a seat and poured him a drink.
"I have not worked that out, actually. It has to be something very urgent and important to justify the fact that I whisk you away from your wife on the evening of your very first anniversary!"
I stepped behind him and bent down to whisper into his ear: "Considering the fact that we have not seen each other for a whole week now – well, I daresay that IS a matter of urgency!"
He inhaled sharply and pressed my hand. "I grant you that, John."
A short knock on the door prudently announced Mary's return, and with her was Anna Forrester, Mary's former employer and widow of the late Mr. Cecil Forrester, wearing a dark blue evening gown and her best smile.
"Doctor Watson, Mr. Holmes!" She greeted us both affectionately. "Thank you so much for the flowers, Mr. Holmes", she turned to my friend. "They are wonderful."
"And he's put me to utter shame", I half-mockingly complained. "I should have thought of that myself, Mrs. Forrester."
She looked me in the eyes, one of her hands still on the arm of my wife. "My dear Doctor, you have given me something far more precious than that..."
And Mary smiled.
The evening passed really pleasantly. The meal was delicious, and as my friend could be quite entertaining when in the mood for it, the conversation was lively. I had noticed that Holmes had even brought his Stradivari with him, which was a promise for a little concert after dinner.
What an odd quartet we were, sitting together like this and celebrating an event, which, in the eyes of the world, must be the exact contradiction to what we really were about. In the eyes of the world our behaviour was not only immoral... but also illegal. And it had been the act of marriage that had granted us all a certain state of safety.
Mary was right: Up to some extend, we were really free. And she was an amiable and in a way a wonderful companion. If it had been my wish to truly share my life with a woman, I should not have been able to find anyone better than her. I had never felt any physical desire for her, and I knew that she felt about me exactly the same way. Anyway, we were as happy as circumstances allowed us to be. And lucky, too. After all, we had found love.
When this evening was over, Holmes and I would return to Baker Street and keep the curtains drawn. As far as the public was concerned, we would be on an urgent case that would keep us occupied for at least two or three days.
In the meantime Anna Forrester (whose children were on a visit at her grandparents' house in Kent) would be staying with Mary, officially to keep her company while her husband was away. Knowing their prudence, I was convinced that they would take care of arranging the guest room in a way that would raise no suspicions...
Eventually, I thought it about time to say something, so I rose from my seat and took a glass of champagne.
"My friends..." They ceased talking and looked at me. "I would like to give you a toast. To love. To friendship. And... to partners in crime!"
That last expression brought a definite twinkle to the eyes of Sherlock Holmes.