It was Merel! It had to be!
Charlotte all but sprung off her seat to open the door, and sure enough, a beautiful Puppy rushed into the house and out of the biting cold. The dirty blond of her hair was strewn in a manner most lovely with melting white flakes.
As soon as the door was closed and the wind shut out, all the layers she was swaddled in were uncoiled, unzipped, unbuttoned with Charlotte’s help until Merel could bear the heat of a crackling fireplace. And her lips were free to receive a sound buss.
She was led by the hand to a sumptuous Christmas table. The pea soup was still steaming, the roast turkey, stuffed, glazed and a gorgeous golden brown, waiting to be carved and the Champagne bottle weeping in its bucket.
They ate copiously, drank, traded fond smiles in companionable silence. Now and again, as Merel reached for something or other, her hand would be gently caught and brought to Charlotte’s lips. She’d enjoy the softness of it and the smell of fragrant lemon oil it carried for a second, then release it and hand over whatever Merel needed in the first place.
Above all else, they made sure their Christmas eves were peaceful, as they both remembered the frantic night three years before to the day. When Merel had shaken as if she were all a raw nerve and burst into tears halfway through a heart-wrenching declaration.
“Please, Charlie, please say you love me back. Please… “
She actually begged, the poor thing, so foreign was the thought that all of Charlotte’s affection over the years, the hugs and kisses, longing looks and impassioned serenades had stemmed from anything beyond friendship.
That her gobsmacked girlfriend-to-be didn’t only love her back, Charlotte was ready to fall on her knees, kiss the girl’s hands and weep over them in joy and gratitude for Merel’s bravery, her will to take that grueling first step for them both; but she refrained, and pulled Merel into a loose embrace instead. She rubbed her back up and down, stroked her nape and squeezed her hip until the tears quit rolling.
“I’m yours, Puppy,” she whispered after the sobs had died down. “Yours to keep.”
There’d been no looking back since.
Charlotte put away the inevitable leftovers and gathered the dirty plates and glasses in the sink to soak, swift and efficient as ever but more than anything eager to hand Merel her Christmas present. Her own she’d found on the nightstand along with a lovely note on red stationery, upon waking up in the morning after her dear lady had left for the studio.
She then headed straight for the bedroom and rummaged around a drawer until she’d found a small box, elegantly bound in red Morocco and carefully hidden some days before.
“Got something for me?”
Merel was standing just behind her, but even on tiptoes, she couldn’t properly spy over Charlotte’s shoulder.
“It’s our anniversary, of course I have something for you, you noodle!”
She turned around and tweaked Merel’s nose before she put the present between her curious hands.
The moment Merel opened it, she just couldn’t hold a small gasp.
Inside of the box lay on velvet a simple white gold chain from which there hung a beautiful stone. A deep blue aquamarine cut in the shape of a heart, as wide across as two of her fingers.
Meager as her knowledge was as far as jewelry was concerned, she could tell the heart had to be twenty or thirty carats at the least, and a stone that size and color had to fetch an obscene price.
“Charlotte, you’ve gone mad!” she uttered. “This must have c-”
But then a soft kiss cut her short. Those gorgeous, luscious lips pressed against hers just for a moment to remind her their anniversary wasn’t a time for reasonable gift-giving, then backed away and left her craving more.
“It didn’t cost much at all,” Charlotte reassured. “Not for me, anyway. The stone came from a ring of my grandmother’s, I only had it set and engraved.”
Indeed as she lifted the pendant to her eyes and turned it over, Merel found an inscription at the back, etched into the setting in narrow italics.
“To my dearest Puppy,
for all the days and nights”
… for all the moments of tender fondness and furious passion; the sweet nothings whispered in passing after a chaste peck and the unholy filth slipping past bitten lips, forced out of a lusty throat gasping for breath.
The words meant so much they had her belly in knots. Her eyes filled with tears all at once and it was the most precious thing to witness her turning to putty.
“Thank you, Charlie,” she murmured.
“Turn around, my darling.”
Charlotte took the necklace from her hands and Merel gave a wordless nod, facing the mirror as told with a broad smile. Her mane was gently swept aside at the back, the chain slid around her neck and slender fingers fastened the clasp. Once the necklace snapped shut, she glanced at her reflexion with a shaky breath.
It was marvelous, how the gem brought out her misty, wide open eyes.
“Charlie, it’s… it’s gorgeous!”
Charlotte placed the warmest, softest kiss on the hollow of her neck, near where the chain rested. Her arms looped around the diminutive body and pulled it tight against her own.
“You are gorgeous, Puppy,” she breathed against her skin. “I could drown you in jewelry, and you’d still shine through.”
Merel was vaguely certain the granny thing was a fib, and that Charlotte had once again spent a small fortune on her anniversary present. But when she’d protested the gift of a guitar - a fifteen hundred euro custom job - a year prior, she’d been consoled with a “I thought it might be too much, then I looked in your baby blues and figured it wasn’t enough”.
What could one say to that? Nothing. Merel only thanked her stars for such a selfless woman
While she admired her new piece of jewelry, Charlotte was off to run them both a bubble bath.
In the tub (the humongous tub, Charlotte believed in no such thing as retirement), Merel lay on top of her woman and peppered her neck and shoulders with lazy kisses.
“Who’s my favorite puppy?”
Merel feigned thought for a moment with her head tilted to the side while Charlotte’s hands patiently ran up and down her soapy back. It was a well-rehearsed back-and-forth, but it never got old.
“Who’s that?” Merel finally asked.
Charlotte pressed a finger to the tip of Merel’s nose with a great grin.
“You’re my favorite puppy,” she crooned.
“I’m your favorite puppy, Charlie?”
“That’s right, you’re my favorite puppy.”
And as soon as we’re out of the bath, I’ll show my puppy a few tricks that’ll make that stunning tail wag.
Upon saying that, Charlotte pulled her lover flush against herself and caught Merel’s bottom lip between her own. The kiss was indulgent and sickly sweet; in public, it would have been outright lewd. But it was quite close to bliss in a tub of warm water and lavender-scented bubbles, with a full stomach and a torrid night to look forward to. The delighted sighs rolling from one of their mouths to the other’s and those lovely little sounds of soft sucking, they could live on nothing but that.
Oh, but they had to breathe too; that was unfortunate.
They smiled at one another with warm cheeks and the same twinkle in their eyes, ready for a marvelous fourth year.