“Oysters Rockefeller,” I said.
“Gesundheit,” Dan said, from behind a copy of Esquire.
I leaned on the granite counter separating the kitchen from the den where Dan lay ensconced on the sofa. “But what do you think about them?”
He lowered the magazine and said cautiously, “I don’t think a lot about them. I don’t think I’ve ever had them.”
“I was considering cooking them for Saturday.”
For the past month I’d been appearing in a small theater production of The Long Christmas Dinner by Thornton Wilder. Our last performance was this evening, and on Saturday we were hosting a cast party. It was the first party I’d ever hosted, or even co-hosted, in a long…well…ever.
I wanted everything to be exactly right.
“Well,” Dan said thoughtfully — and the fact that he did give it his serious consideration was one of the reasons I loved him so much, “oysters are kind of an acquired taste. They’re expensive too.”
“I don’t care about that. The expense, I mean.”
“Okay, but I’m guessing they don’t make great leftovers.”
“True.” I frowned. Neither of us ate leftovers, so what did that matter?
“Chief, you should make whatever you want to make. If you want to make oysters —”
“It doesn’t have to be oysters. I just want to make something nice. Something special.”
“Anything you make will be nice and special,” Dan assured.
“Now you’re humoring me.”
He laughed, tossed the magazine aside, and joined me in the kitchen. He looped a casual arm around my shoulders as he stood next to me studying the recipe. “They do look good.”
The wind shook the beach house. I glanced out the picture window at the ocean gray and choppy with whitecaps. The white Christmas lights looped over the deck railing twinkled determinedly in the face of the winter gale.
I said, “I wanted to cook them because they’re the same era as the play. I thought that would be fun.”
“I like that idea.”
I liked the smell of his aftershave, grown-up and masculine, like Dan. I liked the fact he hadn’t shaved yet because it was just us home together, relaxing. I liked how he looked in well-worn jeans, a white Henley, and white socks. I never knew how sexy socks could be until I saw Dan walking around my house in his white athletic socks. And I liked the fact that, even if he thought I was being a goof, he pretended to take me seriously.
Because he did take me seriously, even when I was a goof. Because he loved me and cared about what mattered to me. It had taken me a while to catch on to this, to really trust it, but I’d finally figured it out. Love meant never having to be sorry you were a goof.
I said, “You’re going to be here, right?” This was the third time I’d asked. Being a police lieutenant meant Dan’s schedule could be unpredictable. Not that I couldn’t handle this single dinner party on my own, but it would be so much better with Dan. Everything was so much better with Dan.
He turned his head and met my eyes. I was smiling, but he didn’t smile. Or at least his mouth curved into something that wasn’t quite a smile, could just as easily turn into a kiss. He said softly, as usual understanding me better than I did myself, “I’ll always be here, Sean.”