I felt like I was on cloud nine, it had been that way for every day that had passed since we’d made it official. Being in a relationship was completely new to me, yet it felt easy when I was with Lacey. Our strong friendship and bond we’d created in our line of work had made a perfect foundation for the start of our relationship. For the first time ever, I was thinking about a future, one that wasn’t just centred around work. I couldn’t believe the change in myself. I’d never even seen it coming, and yet now, here I was, imagining the various steps that me and Lacey would be taking in our lives. I found myself amazed by the difference that one person, one woman, could make in my life.
Ripping the tape with my teeth, I pulled the wrapping paper tighter around the ornate music box, securing it quickly, and binding it with a matching purple bow. Picking up the birthday card, I slipped it under the ribbon and scooped up the bouquet of flowers, inhaling the sweet floral perfume from the beautiful, bright yellow and lilac blend of lilies and freesias. I was excited to spend today with her, and even better that it was a day off, so we didn’t have to fit in birthday wishes and gifts around shouts and regular duties. Gathering everything into my arms, I swiped my car keys from the coffee table and headed out the door.
Lacey looked as stunning as ever when she opened the door, glowing with a happy smile at the sight of the bouquet I handed her. She inhaled the scent of the flowers, holding them close to her chest as she kissed me sweetly on the lips and moved aside to let me in.
“These are gorgeous.” She swooned, making her way toward her kitchen and reappearing moments later with them in a glass vase, half filled with water and planting it on the surface.
“Not half as gorgeous as you.” I replied, resting her present on the table and wrapping my arms around her waist.
“Aww, such a smooth talker.”
Her playful tone was laced with sarcasm and I found myself smiling like a fool as I gazed into her silvery eyes.
“Happy birthday.” I whispered tenderly, planting a gentle kiss on her soft lips.
I felt her arms tighten around my waist as she pulled back and murmured:
I’d have been happy to spend the rest of the day right there, doing nothing but holding her, kissing her and feeling her heartbeat against mine. But I knew that wasn’t an option. I’d made some plans for this afternoon, and then meeting the guys at the pub for celebratory drinks tonight, so like it or not, we were gonna have to leave this room.
“Flowers and a gift? You’re spoiling me.” She said as we broke apart.
She picked up her present and made her way to the sofa.
“I know. I should have just got you an orange.” I teased, following her.
“That’s Christmas you ass.” She laughed, throwing a cushion at me.
Catching it, I sat beside her, tucking it behind myself and watching as she opened her birthday card and smiled at the cute cartoon bear on the front. I cast an eye around the room, taking note of the lack of birthday related decorations. There was only one other birthday card, a cat in a fireman’s helmet, which I assumed was from her old Watch. Aside from that there was nothing that would suggest that today was a special day. I watched her lay the card on the table, and begin to work on the bow, recalling her tragic story of having lost her family. It had to be hard on days like these. Days that should be filled with love, and celebration, surrounded by friends and family. She’d been through years and years of birthdays without family, at least the type that is born through blood. I thought of how she’d settled into the Watch. She was family to us, and I felt a little lighter knowing that we were going to make sure the evening we had planned, left her in no doubt of just how much people loved and cared about her.
“Oh my god.” She breathed as she uncovered the music box. “I can’t believe you got it.”
As she looked up, I could see the watery sparkle in her eyes, and for a second, I panicked that I’d screwed up and she hated it. But the falling tear that slowly rolled down her cheek told me that it was something else.
“Is everything okay?” I asked as she opened the lid, and the tune began to play.
She stared at the box as though mesmerised by the melody, and I didn’t know whether to speak or remain silent. We’d seen the box a few weeks before, sitting in the window of a small boutique. She’d mentioned that it reminded her of one she’d had as a child, but as we continued past it, she didn’t speak anymore about it. The next day, I bought it.
“It’s the same song.” She finally whispered.
“Same song?” I asked.
She looked back at me, and nodded with a watery smile.
“My foster parents gave me a music box when I moved in. It was the first thing that I’d ever really been given.” She began, the music slowing down and coming to a stop. “I cherished it. It was strange being in a new house, with new people, I used to wind it up each night, keep playing it over and over again before I fell asleep. It was comforting.”
In my head, I envisioned a young and vulnerable Lacey, tucked up in her bed, clutching a music box in her arms. I wanted to hold her, but she continued on.
“It became like a security blanket to me, I’ve missed it over the years.”
“What happened to it?”
She sighed, brushing her fingers over the edges of the box.
“It was destroyed in the fire.”
I reached out a hand, resting it atop of hers and moving closer, drawing her into my body for a comforting hug. She leaned back, her head against my shoulder.
“Thank you.” She said warmly. “I love it.”
I pecked her on the cheek, my lips just a short distance from here ears as I whispered:
A few moments passed in comfortable silence, before she spoke again:
“I know that you’ve made plans. But would you mind coming somewhere with me first?”
She sounded uneasy as she asked, and I got the feeling that there was something personal about the request. Wherever it was that she wanted to go, there was no way that I was going to miss being by her side.
“Of course.” I whispered.