This little puppy was hidden in my mail account for over a year because I wanted to post last year and then something came up and I had to postpone it. It's a little birthday story, celebrating our favourite Lady :-) The beta who did a lot to make the story readable doesn't want to be named, but I surely thank her for her great help and advice!
Here we go!
If you don't know me by now...
When he ordered his third drink in a row, his mood had already darkened to an extent that it worried him enough to consider leaving, but then again he had been too captivated by the scene he had watched for the last two hours to rise and disappear just like that.
There he was. Perry Mason, the ex lawyer, honorable judge and right now jackass of the nation sitting at a bar, asking himself what he had done to deserve to experience an evening like this.
Glad none of his friendly colleagues, or even worse Paul Drake, could see him in his destructive state of mind, he finished his whiskey, and this time he didn't tell the bartender to refill the glass.
As he estimated it, he had the rest of the night to lose his brain in a pool of alcohol.
How some people would love it to see him in his present state. One year had passed since he had moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco to become an appellate court judge, and he'd ticked off a lot of people, because he often refused to play their games. He had always followed his own rules and he was hardly willing to change that, just because some people wanted him to help them move their careers to the next higher level. It almost scared him to notice how many of them used their positions to get a seat in congress or become senator, just to name some of the "low key functions" on their way to become someone important in the White House. At times he'd asked himself why he had given up a successful law practice for the snake pit he now found himself in, and tonight that question was more present than ever.
The other matter that bothered him even more was that Della wasn't even aware of his intentions for them. What had he been thinking when he'd made the plans to spend her birthday with her?
The idea had occurred to him when he'd talked to Paul Drake, and the private detective had reminded his best friend about Della's upcoming birthday. Of course Perry didn't need any hint to remember her birthday, but when Paul had told him Della was going to Chicago to see a friend, he'd had the idea to follow her and had arranged an extended weekend for both of them that could start after she had met her friend as she intended.
He'd even gone to the trouble of talking her new boss into give her the Monday off so she could "go and see her old aunt". Actually, good old aunt Mae had died two years ago, but Perry had decided to use her as an excuse to spend some cheerful days with Della.
From there things had gone downhill. Unfortunately, Paul hadn't known the friend wasn't exactly female. What Perry could detect across the room of the expensive restaurant was definitely nor female and definitely male, good looking, and charming... and not to mention young. He couldn't remember a time when he'd ever felt threatened or uncomfortable when he'd seen a young man talking to Della – now, thanks to their new 'understanding' he did. He had no idea who he was, but he already hated him. Hated their new 'understanding'.
They sat in a roof top restaurant in the hotel Della had checked into the day before and where he had booked a suite for them. He'd planned it all... dinner, candles, dancing... the whole package. He wanted to spoil her to no end. He wanted to make love to her until dawn and fall asleep with her head resting on his chest. He wanted to make up to her that they hadn't met in more than 4 months. Makeup the for weekend they had planned for Valentine's Day only to have a damn appeal summary keep him in San Francisco while helping her boss prepare for a major summit meeting kept Della in LA.
Unfortunately, the result of his surprise was Della clearly having the time of her life with someone else. The man and she were drinking champagne and enjoying an extended dinner with four courses while he had the once in a lifetime chance to watch them.
Perry, himself, had skipped dinner and was sticking to alcohol and cigarettes that had nothing to do with haute cuisine or good manners, but satisfied him more than a steak ever could. Della, obviously too occupied with her company, hadn't noticed him so far. What he had left was the opportunity to watch her, undisturbed. And at least that was something he would never regret.
He felt a crumbling pain in his chest when she laughed about something the man at her table was saying, and he remembered how much he loved her smile, and how her eyes glittered when she made one of her witty remarks. Though tastefully dressed as always, he couldn't help but admit how alluring she looked in her black dress, and he hated the man at her table for having the opportunity to smell her scent and being the reason for her smile.
He wanted to call Paul and force him to find out who the guy was and why he was celebrating Della's birthday with her, but he wasn't drunk enough to do something that childish. Not yet. Maybe later...
If he'd called her and had told her not to make plans for her birthday, he wouldn't have to sit here, wondering why she was having dinner with someone else. Then he realized she hadn't called him either to invite him and the result was that a very disturbing thought was crossing his mind.
What if she didn't want to see him? What if she had decided she didn't want to continue the strange new thing they used to call a relationship? The last time they'd seen each other had been New Years Eve and although he hadn't noticed any change in her behavior, he was aware their relationship had changed since they were living in different cities. While he had the feeling that their physical relationship (due to long time of separation) had never been more intense, he had also sensed their lives were moving into different directions.
She was having a "real" career now, and he was fighting not to hate his. She appeared busier and more vibrant to him than ever, and when he had told her so, she'd had just laughed and replied that it was just his imagination, but he wasn't so convinced. He knew other people who had long distance relationships and the effect was often the same. Couples became estranged, one started going astray, they stopped talking, and sooner or later they ended up in a dead end, asking themselves what had happened and deciding to separate for good. Was this happening to them as well? Was Mr. Charming at her table a first (or last) indicator to him that he was losing her?
He watched them more closely, trying to figure out how close Della and the man really were. In his mind he did his best to skip the image of them sharing a close embrace, but in the end it was the fantasy everything turned around. It was obvious they were both enjoying each others company, but it was impossible to say how close they actually were. It ticked him off to admit he had no idea what she felt for the man, although he claimed to know her like no one else did. The one thing he knew was, she use to look differently at him than she was looking at her company tonight. And what told him that? He wished he knew...
Through the smoke of what had to be his 20th cigarette he saw the man talking to the waiter. Perry checked his watch and realized it was almost midnight. Della's birthday was almost over, and he hadn't even talked to her. Not that she looked unhappy. Deciding to leave the restaurant before she saw him, he paid the bill and gave the bartender the highest tip he had ever given to someone and left.
One hour later he found himself in front of the door to her hotel room. He'd told himself not to follow her to her room to see if the man went inside because he knew that would have been disgusting and disgracing for both of them. And yet he was there, waiting for the voice in his head to tell him to knock.
He couldn't help himself, because he was a jealous fool, and he missed her. Actually, he was missing her desperately and waiting until the next morning to talk to her was unthinkable. Maybe it was the alcohol in his blood or just desperation. Years later he would recall his next move as brave rather than foolish. He knocked. He waited and knocked again. Seconds passed. Seconds in which his heart didn't beat and then she finally answered, wrapped in a robe and all awake.
"Perry?" Her jaw dropped and her facial expression changed from shock to disbelief to utter joy. "Perry! Come in!"
Before he actually realized she was happy to see him, she'd taken his hand and had pulled him inside. Quickly his eyes checked the room. The bed was turned back and the book she had been reading lay on the unused pillow. She was alone. Relieved, he whirled her into his embrace and kissed her hungrily. At first, overwhelmed by the ferociousness of his kiss, she couldn't react. Then she melted against him and kissed him back.
"Happy Birthday, Miss Street," he mumbled against her neck after they had broken apart, because there was no air to breathe left for either of them.
"I'm afraid you're a little late," she returned with a low chuckle. "But after that kiss I'll forgive you. What are you doing here?... No, let me guess Paul told you where I was!"
"Yes, he did." He nodded and gave her another short kiss. "And I'm not exactly in time. I'm sorry."
"Don't worry," she laughed and took his hand in her's. She led him to the bed where they both sat down. "I'm fine."
She bit her lower lip without stopping to smile. "How do I deserve this surprise? Only because I got one year older?"
"Why not? It's been some time since we saw each other."
He knew he sounded foolish and she didn't even try to make him feel better.
"Over 4 months... I assumed the telephone wires between L.A and San Francisco only allow a certain number of calls to go through..."
"I know," he admitted guilt driven. "I should call you more often..."
"See me more often..." she completed. "I tried to call you several times... surprisingly most of my calls get caught by some answering service or a certain Janice Tybone..."
"My secretary. She's new," he admitted lowly.
"She's doing a great job at keeping you away from the rest of the world instead being your link to it," Della smirked. "I guess I misunderstood my job a little..." her wit was dry, her smile real but her words were serious. He knew she was disappointed and it hurt him to know he had been hurting her.
"You're right." He raised his hand and caressed her chin. "I promise to be better in the future...and I'll tell Miss Tybone to put you through wherever I am and whatever I'm doing. Maybe that way we can talk more to each other than our machines."
"However," he continued. "It's gone both ways you know. With the late hours and weekends your boss keeps, returning your calls and planning a weekend together is rather difficult."
She smiled and cocked an eyebrow. "I told him I had a lot of experience with overtime." Then she sighed. "But you're right. It's different when you're not dating the person you work with. Even if it is nothing more than bringing a case together you're still together."
He caressed her hand that lay on his arm. "I hope he knows how lucky he is to have all that time with you."
She ran a finger along his jaw line. "It's work….nothing more. He's married, and even if he wasn't, he's not my type."
Perry smiled and kissed her palm. "I've missed you a lot, you know."
He leaned over and let his lips caress hers. Her perfume reached his nose, captivated him and let his raving mind come a little to rest. Where she was, was peace and when she was with him he felt far away from the world outside, thought it was only one door away.
"So do I... I wish you had told me earlier you wanted to spend my birthday with me" she whispered weakly, as if the kiss had taken away her anger about Janice and anything else that kept him away from her. "We could have gone somewhere else... something less... cold than Chicago in April."
She chuckled, but suddenly he was back in the roof top restaurant and her image of sitting with this stranger at the table reappeared on his mind. The young man she was laughing and chit chatting with... as if she wouldn't miss him at all.
"Of course..." she rose from the bed and strolled to the dressing table where she sat down and started removing her earrings.
"Paul told me you went here to see a friend..." he started, uncertain if he really wanted to have this conversation.
"That's true. We had dinner together this evening. It was nice."
"Who is she? You never mentioned a friend from Chicago."
He was walking on thin ice, but he needed to know. He wasn't a masochist by heart, but his need to know the truth was bigger than his fear of it. After a moment of silence she raised her head and their eyes met in the mirror. "It's a he," she corrected him. "And he isn't from Chicago."
He was still sitting on the bed, watching her, asking himself what to say or do now. Her eyes were sparkling, demanding a next question from him. He obliged, "Do you mind to tell me who he is?"
"He's a friend... an old friend."
He raised his eyebrow. What he saw hardly filled the description of an old friend, did it?
"You don't have to tell me, if you don't want to," he said quickly. "After all you're..." his voice trailed off and he nervously rose from the bed, searching for his cigarette case in the depths of his jacket pocket.
"After all I'm what?" she asked and turned on her chair to have a better look at him.
"Free," he answered and lit a cigarette.
"Free," she repeated musingly. "What is this supposed to mean?" She wanted to know. She moved in slow motion when she rose from her chair and approached him, her arms crossed over her chest.
"You know what I mean..." he said, inhaling deeply. He hated this. Hated what being a judge had done to define the new boundaries of what and who they were to each other now. Practically it seemed like the right thing to do, but it tore his heart out to say the words.
"No, I don't know what you mean. Just say what you want to say, Counselor. Get it off your chest, before you explode."
"It means you can do whatever you want and meet whoever you want to... no questions asked and no justifications given."
"I don't think I have to justify myself for having dinner with someone I deeply care for."
He frowned. There they stood after 4 months of separation, only inches apart and she told him she cared for another man.
"No, you don't... as I said, you can do what you want."
"Right. And you're free to ask whatever you want to ask."
"And what is that suppose to mean?"
"That you have exactly 10 seconds left before I ask you to leave unless you finally ask me who he is and why I had dinner with him."
He was stunned. After a few seconds, he swallowed and did what he was asked to do.
"Fine... who is he and where did you find him?"
"He was my neighbor back in the little Xanadu where I grew up and I first saw him in my closet where he tried to hide from my brother."
"He did what?"
"His name is Tony Dominico, and I used to baby-sit him and my brother when I was 14."
The glowing end of the cigarette hit the floor, and Perry cursed and rubbed his hand. He'd burned himself with the cigarette he had completely forgotten about while he listened to Della.
"I doubt the hotel management will be happy about this," Della remarked dryly and quickly removed the mess from the carpet while Perry examined the small, but visible mark on his finger.
"You never mentioned Tony Dominico," Perry muttered, unimpressed by her complaint.
She gave him 'that look'. "You've never shown an interest in my baby-sitting clientele."
Then she smiled reassuringly. "His family and mine were friends, and when he invited me to Chicago for my birthday I said 'yes' because I wanted to meet his fiance' who happens to live here."
"I didn't see any fiance'..."
He mentally kicked himself and prepared for something he couldn't predict. He had just admitted that he'd been watching her and Tony. He certainly wasn't showing off his poker face tonight, but right now he wasn't Perry Mason, the lawyer or judge. Right now he was Perry Mason, the jealous idiot, and there was nothing he could do to hide this side of himself.
"She had to work late..." Della answered mechanically. "You watched us?" she asked, astonished.
"I had made a reservation in the same restaurant..."
"Oh damn, Della... I had planned the whole weekend... the suite, dinner... I even convinced your boss to give you the Monday off, so..."
"I thought we could spend some time together... and then I saw you and him in the foyer..."
"And you decided to draw the wrong conclusions," she finished his sentence in her own words.
Then to his surprise she started laughing. First lowly and then, as her lungs filled with air, she laughed out loud and sat back down on the bed where she covered her face with her hands. He just watched her, deciding to let her laugh. As long as she wasn't insulted, because he had been thinking the worst, he was fine with whatever reaction he received.
After a minute she was finally calming down and removed her hands to apologize, "I'm sorry," she said, still chuckling. "But you're too funny!"
"Yes... maybe I should be flattered that you think I was having dinner with a charming young man who had some kind of... let's say indecent interest in me, but actually I think it's funny."
"At least one of us is amused."
"Definitely," she rose from the bed and pushed herself gently into his embrace. She planted a light, but seductive kiss on his mouth and whispered, "I think I am flattered. And, beware Counselor, I definitely think I'm the one having indecent thoughts right now and it involves no one but you."
To support her intentions, her fingers ran over his shoulders to the knot of his tie and started undoing it.
"I think this is going to become the best post birthday gift that I've ever received."
Comments are love!