Alex sighed as he unlocked the door to the apartment. It had been a long, hard day at work and he just knew Alyssa was going to be pissed over his being late. "I'm home!" he called out, frowning at the lack of response. She must be out grocery shopping, he shrugged. Alex wandered over to the kitchen, ditching his tie on the way. He was over an hour late, but hopefully Alyssa had left him something for dinner.
He wasn't expecting to find the note pinned to the fridge.
I've gotten tired of waiting. I'm sorry, but if you won't make a move, then I need to move on. I used my share of the savings account to buy tickets for home. You'll find the receipt in your desk so you can balance the account. I didn't use up all of my account, you can take what's left -- I don't want it anymore
I loved you,
Alex stared at the note for what felt like forever. Gone. Alyssa was gone?
Numbly, he wandered over to the study. Just like she'd promised, Alyssa had left him the receipt, sitting there on the top of the piles of papers. He glanced over it, wincing. She hadn't spent as much as she might have, since she'd chosen the red-eye flight. Alex's eyes went wide as he realized what that meant. The receipt showed the time, the gate, even the airport. If he wanted to-
He was in the car before he finished the thought, not even bothering to lock the door behind him. If only he hadn't been late he would have had plenty of time!
He had to get there in time. He just had to.
"Wait! Please hold the door!" a woman shouted, bustling down the hall of the skyscraper. Alex's hand shot out, intercepting the closing doors and holding them open long enough for her to slip in.
"Thank you," she panted. "You're a life-saver!"
"You're welcome," Alex smiled. "My name is Alex Rockwell," he stuck his hand out.
She quickly juggled her purse and briefcase around to free a hand. "Alyssa Hardt," she answered. "Thank you again, it's my first day on the job and I don't want to be late. I thought I had plenty of time, but the traffic was just terrible."
Alex laughed, softly. "It always is," he told her. "Think nothing of it. What floor do you need by the way?"
"Oh, twenty-third," she told him. "Anyway, I wish I could repay you somehow, you really did me a huge favor."
"How about joining me for dinner," Alex found himself saying. "I mean, you don't have to-" he backpedaled.
"I get off at six," Alyssa smiled. "Meet me in the lobby?"
"Sure," Alex grinned. "I guess it's a date."
Alex forced himself out of memory. However pleasant it might be, right now was not a good time to be distracted. There were too many cops on the road, and getting pulled over for anything would be a disaster. If they weren't out in force, he could have gone even faster, but as long as they were keeping an eye on him he had to go more-or-less the speed limit. Which was too damned slow!
"Yes!" Jacob shouted, high-fiving his girlfriend. Alex scowled at his best friend.
"I thought you were supposed to be my allies!" he complained.
"Hey, that's Risk!" Jacob shrugged, while the other players laughed. "Your turn, by the way."
Alex glanced across the board, feeling Alyssa frown. "Our entire right flank is gone," she pointed out. "We don't have enough troops to even slow down that kind of advance."
"I know," he nodded. "We should have seen this coming."
"We need to attack, all out, here, here, here," she pointed at the board.
"We don't have the troops," he complained. "The defensive advantage is too strong! We need to fall back, bleed them dry a bit."
"We're fucked," she laughed. "look at the board. We can't stop that flanking attack. Not this turn, probably not next turn. Put all our reinforcements in that direction, but don't pull off our attack line. We need to attack."
"Aggressive witch," he moaned. "What's the phrase you always use?"
"He who will not risk, will not win," she said firmly. "It's a roll of the dice, but when you're fucked anyways..."
"Why not risk it all. Fine," Alex threw his hands up. "Time to roll the dice."
Alex frowned at the memory. It was a gamble. Exactly the kind of gamble Alyssa would love to make. He might loose -- he probably would loose! -- but if he got lucky, he might win. And glancing at the clock, he didn't have much chance without it. Glancing up at the sky he cursed again. The rain would reduce visibility, which would make it easier to avoid the cops, but it'd make high speeds even riskier. He wouldn't catch Alyssa if he wound up in an accident.
Then again, it looked like one hell of a thunderstorm was brewing up. If it started soon enough, it might actually ground her plane. All he needed was an hours delay. Just one hour's delay would be enough.
Either way it was a gamble. He risked either way. He could loose either way. He could win either way.
Without taking his eyes off the road, Alex reached over and flicked the radio on. Maybe the news would have some useful information.
"So Alyssa, what's your pleasure?" the DJ drawled. Alex almost lost control of the car in his surprise. He hadn't realized the radio was still set to her favorite station!
"Can you play 'Come on Rain', by Steve Holy?" The sound of her voice almost caused Alex to loose control again. He quickly spun the dial to the news station, hoping for a weather report. Maybe it would be good news.
"Oh come on," Alyssa begged him. "Just one more song?"
"I can't stand country," Alex grumbled. "You know that."
"But I love it," she pouted. Alex kept his eyes on the road, but he could still see her out of the corner of his eyes. So long as he didn't look directly at her pout he might be able to resist it, but one good strong look-
"Oh fine," he found himself saying. "One more song," he growled.
"Thank you!" she squealed, and he smiled. He couldn't resist her.
"I love you," he almost laughed the words.
"What'd you say?" she froze, hand halfway to the radio.
"Wha?" he said, glancing over. "Oh, I said- Oh." He broke off, realizing the words that had come out of his mouth.
He couldn't see the tear's coming from her eyes. He was having too much trouble with suddenly blurred vision of his own.
"I love you too," she said back. "Oh, Alex, I do love you."
It was the first time he'd said the magic words, but not the last.
"I love you," Alex mouthed the words, their cadence slightly strange. When had he stopped saying them? He still meant them, still felt them. But with work being bad, and the economy worse, and their rent being raised, and a hundred other things, he hadn't had a chance to say them lately. Perhaps she was right to cash out.
But he wasn't going to let her. "I love you," he said, more strongly. "I love you Alyssa, and I'm not letting go."
Smiling, he realized he had the perfect way to show that, too. Flipping the dial back over to the radio station, he kept an eye out for a payphone. The number for her favorite radio station was, as always, on a post-it note near the radio, and he already had evidence that she was listening to it.
"Hello, my name is Alex," he said as soon as the DJ picked up. "My girlfriend called in a request a little while ago, and I was wondering if you could put out a counter-request, fast. Sooner is better."
"Depends on the request," the DJ replied. "What song are you looking for?"
"I don't remember the name of it," Alex cursed himself. "It's something about her turning on her radio or something."
"Can you be any more specific?" the DJ asked. "I'm not sure- Wait, could it be 'Just Might Have Her Radio On', by Trent Tomlinson?"
"I don't know," Alex sighed. "She's the one who loves country, not me. All I know is I've done her wrong, and I want her to know how sorry I am."
"What's her name, Alex?" the DJ asked.
"Alyssa," Alex said. "I hope someday soon Alyssa Rockwell."
"Want to give her a message?" Alex could almost hear the DJ smile. "I can guarantee it'll be on soon."
"Alyssa, I love you. Wait for me, please," Alex begged. "I'm coming baby, just as fast as I can."
"Keep your dial tuned," the DJ promised, "and your eyes on the road!"
"You'd better believe it," Alex said fervently. "Gotta go, thanks!"
"I don't know why we bother with a savings account," Alyssa groaned. "We can't pay money into it anymore."
"Yeah, I know," Alex sighed. "Still, if we start tapping into it for every little thing that comes along, we won't have any in there for emergencies."
"I know, I know," Alyssa pushed away from the table. "It's just..." she sighed, not sure how to continue.
"You want the little things. You want a cell phone, and cable TV, and a car with a new coat of paint," Alex agreed. "So do I. But with you laid off, and work cutting back my pay, we can't. And with the economy in the shape it's in, it's not like we're going to get better jobs soon."
"I know, I know!" Alyssa smiled. "Still, there are some things we can spend it on, that we should."
"Like what," Alex complained. "What do you want to spend it on?"
She glared at him. "If you're going to be that way, then never mind!" she growled. "Just forget I said anything!"
"Alyssa!" Alex shouted as she ran out the door. "Damnit," he complained as he slumped back into his chair, "I always say the wrong fucking thing." Sighing, he thought again about buying a ring. If he tapped into savings, he could afford it. Was it even worth trying, though, now that they were fighting so often? She seemed to want something out of him, but refused to say what! And when he pressed her on the issue, she just snarled and ran off!
Women. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em! Not that he'd want to try to live without her!
That fight had probably set off tonight, Alex realized. It had happened less than a week ago. It wasn't fair of her to play these games, though! Dammit, why couldn't she just come out and say what she wanted? And this whole childish thing tonight, running home because he couldn't guess what she wanted! It was like it was all some giant game with him!
Alex took a deep breath. As annoying as her habits could be, he did love her. Really, he did.
"Please, God, let it rain," he whispered. "Let it pour. Shut that airport down."
Someone listened. A peal of thunder shook the car as lightning struck somewhere close, and suddenly entire sheets of rain were pounding on the car. He glanced at the clock. 10:30; the plane hadn't taken off yet. And with rain like this, it wouldn't take off soon.
He'd be in time.
"I love you Alyssa," he whispered, smiling slightly. Sighing, he made the decision he'd been putting off.
Assuming she was willing to come home, he'd propose. No. He'd propose. Tonight. As soon as he saw her!
On the radio, the DJ came on. "And now for a special message to a young lady named Alyssa, from a young man who hopes she will soon be Alyssa Rockwell..."
Or maybe a bit earlier than that. Oops.