January 6, 1995, 9:27 PM—Roger and Holly's House
The fire in the fireplace was blazing, casting both light and warmth over the otherwise darkened living room. The open bottle of wine on the coffee table was almost empty, and the two wineglasses resting beside it were completely empty. The open pizza box sharing the coffee table with the bottle of wine and wine glasses held three slices that had long since grown cold. One pair of black pumps and one pair of brown wingtips rested on the floor beneath the coffee table. A solid gray necktie lay on the floor half under the couch. Two jackets—his double-breasted navy blue suit jacket and her gray blazer—were tossed across the chair.
The quiet of the room was broken only by the occasional muted murmurs and sighs of pleasure from the couple happily lost in one another's kisses and caresses on the couch before the fire. The long work week was finally over, as was the exhaustive summation of every aspect of the Fifth Street Fire by both the Springfield Journal and WSPR, and Roger and Holly were celebrating with the bottle of wine, roaring fire, and couch time—with the addition of a pizza for dinner—they had waited for since their return home four days earlier.
The ringing of the phone intruded on their dreamy state of bliss. "Machine?" Roger mumbled, tearing his lips from Holly's neck to utter the single word, knowing she would understand that was his shorthand way of saying, Should we let the machine pick up?
"Machine," Holly mumbled back before pressing her lips to his, knowing he would understand that was her shorthand way of saying, Yes, let the machine pick up.
The machine dutifully picked up after the third ring, and following the beep, the voice coming through the speaker was one they both recognized. "Hey, newlyweds! I don't want to interrupt anything, but how about dinner tomorrow at our house? I've organized all the wedding pictures in an album, and we can order in…how about Chinese?...and you can pick your favorite picture to be enlarged for the mantel, and Dad, you and I can decide where in town we want to look at more offices next week, okay? Call me tomorrow. And don't do anything I wouldn't do…which gives you plenty of latitude."
"Blake!" Ross yelped, exasperated.
Blake just laughed happily. "Talk to you tomorrow. Bye!"
Holly's shoulders shook with laughter as she sat up, and Roger was smirking. "Our daughter is incorrigible," he said, amused.
"Because she takes after her father," Holly replied, also amused.
"I believe her mother has an incorrigible streak too," Roger said.
"Me?" Holly asked innocently.
Roger gestured to his shirt. "My shirt buttons just flew open all by themselves, did they?"
"How do you know they didn't?" Holly replied. "You were so involved in tracing the shell of my ear with your tongue at the time that you wouldn't have noticed if the house fell down around us, much less exactly how your shirt came to be unbuttoned."
"And here I was going to praise your powers of concentration," Roger said. "The last time I did that, you melted and couldn't form coherent words. Tonight, you managed to get my shirt totally unbuttoned while I was doing that. I'm impressed."
"Well, that was more about determination than concentration," Holly replied. "I was determined to get your shirt unbuttoned, no matter how much I wanted to melt at what you were doing. And while we're on the subject, I seem to have a few less buttons done up than I did when we sat down here." She gestured to her own blouse, the top three buttons of which were undone.
Roger grinned. "Well, after all, I am incorrigible."
"And I wouldn't want you any other way," Holly replied, grinning back. "You or Blake." She laid her head on his chest then, resting her hands on his shoulders. He wrapped his arms around her and gently rubbed her back.
"Tired?" he asked.
"Not sleepy tired, just the 'I don't want to move from this spot' kind of tired," she replied. "It was a long, stressful week, and I'm glad the work part of it is over."
Roger frowned, but Holly couldn't see it. This wasn't the first comment she'd made about work being stressful this week. He knew part of it was the insanity surrounding the fallout from the Fifth Street Fire. And being the publisher of a daily newspaper was not a relaxing job by any means. But she had mentioned on Wednesday night that Fletcher was still very prickly, though he hadn't said word one about Roger, or Holly marrying him, since Holly's first day back at work after the honeymoon, and that Nick was preoccupied with something, though she had no idea what, so it had to be personal, and none of that was making Holly's job any easier. The burden would ease somewhat come Monday, now that the fire was no longer breaking news, but Roger still hated that Fletcher's sullen attitude and Nick's preoccupation were stressing out his wife.
Roger had gone to WSPR that afternoon, and while he was there, Gilly had asked him for a meeting on Monday morning. He had no idea what she wanted, since the work half of his energy and attention had been devoted to finding an office for himself and Blake (their search would also resume on Monday) and getting ready to step out on a very large limb launching his own business.
He wondered if Holly would be open to returning to WSPR if the opportunity presented itself; she and Gilly had always gotten along fairly well. At least, Holly seemed to get along with Gilly better than she did with Fletcher or Nick. He made a mental note to look into the possibility that there might be an opening at the station equal to Holly's talent, and if there was, to float the idea to her and see what she thought about returning to work there. If she wanted to stay at the Journal, Roger would support her decision, but she really hadn't seemed to enjoy her work for a while now, and she might be happier professionally somewhere else, whether it was WSPR or some other news outlet.
He left his musings about work for Monday morning and returned his full attention to the woman lying in his arms.
"I could stay like this all weekend," Holly said, nuzzling Roger's chest.
"I could too," Roger said, "but if we do, I'm picturing Chrissy bursting through the front door like a SWAT team when we don't show up for dinner."
Holly laughed as she pictured that. "She'd do it, too," she said, lifting her head to look into his eyes. "Okay, except for dinner with Blake and Ross tomorrow night, I could stay like this all weekend, holed up here with you, lying in your arms."
"Just all weekend?" Roger asked.
Sensing where he was going with this, she said, "You have a different time frame in mind?"
"I was thinking the rest of our lives," he replied.
"The rest of our lives," she repeated. "I used to think that was how long I'd have to live without you. Now it's how long I get to be with you."
He took her hand and kissed it. "You're the proof that life is good. You are my life."
"And you are mine," she replied. Still holding his hand, she sat up, then tugged on his hand as she stood up. "What do you say we clean up tomorrow, and go to bed now?"
"Yeah, it's getting late, and the fire is almost out," Roger noted as he got to his feet.
"That fire is almost out," Holly said, glancing over her shoulder at the fireplace. "But this one…" She looked back at Roger as she stepped into his personal space and wrapped her arms around him. "This one is going to be burning bright and steady for a very long time."
"Forever," Roger said, wrapping his arms around her waist.
"Forever," Holly agreed before kissing him, a long, slow, deep kiss that stole his breath. When they parted, Roger swept Holly up in his arms and carried her to their bedroom.
And they were right: that fire would burn bright and steady between them for a very long time, a perpetual flame of love and home that would light their life together through all its ups and downs for decades to come…for that cold January night and for the rest of their lives.
This concludes "Tonight and the Rest of Our Lives." Roger and Holly's married life continues in my next story, "Storm," featuring them, Blake and Ross, Maureen, and several other Springfield residents. I hope to start posting it this weekend. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned, because there's a lot more to come!