It was the end of a tough week for the detectives of the Palma police. Their long hours and hard work on a difficult operation had finally paid off and now they were in celebratory mode. They had decamped en masse to a bar on the eastern edge of the city centre, taking over most of the place and ordering plenty of beer and wine to reward themselves. They really needed some time to decompress and ease the transition from professional to private life, especially after all the effort they had put in over the preceding days.
As the evening had worn on, one by one their colleagues had all eventually drifted home, leaving Max and Miranda sitting alone at their table, finishing the bottle of tinto they were sharing. Although it wasn’t particularly late, they were both pretty tired by now. Miranda swallowed the last mouthful of her wine, set the glass down on the table and leaned back heavily in her chair.
“I’m shattered,” she announced. “Think I’ll head home now.”
“OK, I’ll walk with you,” he replied, before chucking a couple of olives into his mouth and downing the last of his drink.
“It’s a half hour walk, remember. You don’t need to - I’ll be fine,” she assured him. She valued her independence and didn’t like to feel she needed anyone looking out for her.
“I want to. I could do with some fresh air to sober up before Carmen gets back anyway,” he insisted.
He wasn’t about to risk anything happening to Miranda; she may have taken karate lessons growing up, but as a woman alone at night she was still more vulnerable than she’d like to admit. She shrugged her slightly reluctant agreement at him and they stood up, preparing to leave.
“Actually, it is quite a long walk: quick visit to the little boys’ room...” he said as he darted off towards the back of the bar.
Having taken a detour to a takeaway place when Max’s stomach had reminded him urgently that he’d only had a few snacks since lunchtime, they were now just a few minutes away from Miranda’s place in El Molinar, ambling along the promenade that followed the curve of the sandy beach. It was a clear night, stars twinkling above them as the waves gently broke upon the shore. Moonlight shimmered on the sea and a warm breeze softly rustled the fronds of the palm trees. Nobody else was around at the moment: they were too late for the evening paseo and too early for revellers heading home as the bars and clubs closed for the night.
“Let’s stop for a minute,” Max suggested, indicating a bench in front of them. “I don’t get to just sit by the sea at night very often.”
He plonked himself down and leaned back, arms spread out along the top of the bench. Miranda positioned herself beside him, closer than she would have normally. They were both still quite tipsy after all the wine: not drunk completely, but at the stage of feeling warm towards the world and free of many of their usual inhibitions.
“Nice night - so peaceful,” she remarked as she watched the lights of a boat bobbing about far out across the bay.
“Pretty romantic,” Max agreed, looking sideways at her. “You know, I wish you had someone to share this kind of thing with.”
“I’m fine on my own, Max,” she replied firmly, not wanting to discuss her love life - or lack thereof - with him.
“I want you to be more than fine. I want you to be happy! You must get lonely sometimes. I know: I can set you up with one of my friends!” he said triumphantly, delighted with his idea. He’d forgotten the last time he’d tried to play Cupid - the match he’d chosen had bored her and she’d escaped early, taking him with her.
“No, Max. No. Absolutely not,” she forebade, crossing her arms defensively and staring out over the water.
“Oh, come on. I’ll find you someone good,” he wheedled. “You deserve some love in your life. You’re so clever and beautiful: any guy would be lucky to have you.”
“No, I don’t want you to set me up!” she exclaimed, secretly pleased at the compliments he had just paid her.
“At least let me try, just once. What are you looking for? What kind of man do you want?” he probed, ignoring her protests.
“What? I’m not looking for any kind,” she replied impatiently, hoping he’d lose interest in this topic soon.
“You must have some criteria, or an idea at least. You can tell me,” he pleaded, gently placing a hand on her arm.
“I can’t, so drop it,” she responded, exasperated with him now. She pulled her arm away from his touch - it always stirred feelings in her that she preferred not to have to confront.
“Course you can. We’re friends; you can tell me anything.” He moved the hand that had been resting on the back of the bench behind her onto her shoulder, giving it an encouraging squeeze. “Come on, who do you want?”
Miranda sighed in frustration: he wasn’t going to give up. She’d lost patience, with this conversation and with having to conceal her feelings towards him. Maybe she would just tell him the truth then, reveal who it was that made her heart beat harder and her stomach do somersaults. She screwed her eyes up for a second, then opened them and turned to face him.
“You... I want you!” she burst out.
Max’s eyes widened in surprise, while Miranda’s stared at him steadily. The cat was out of the bag now. Might as well go for it, she thought as she suddenly lunged towards him and kissed him fiercely. After a second or two of shock, he responded passionately. They carried on like this for a minute or so, embracing tightly as if scared to lose each other and thinking only of what was happening in that moment, until all at once Miranda began to feel very sober and very self-conscious indeed. She tore herself apart from him. What had she done? Apart from being her professional partner, he also had a girlfriend: he was off limits. She realised she had crossed more than one line tonight. She stood up abruptly.
“Sorry. I’m really sorry. I... I have to go...” she uttered falteringly as she backed away from him.
She turned and rushed off in the direction of her home. Max got up to follow her, but she began to run and he knew there was no chance he’d catch her. He thought about going over to her place anyway, but what for? What would he say when he got there, if she’d even let him in? The last few minutes had left him more confused than he’d ever been. He was a mess of desire, elation, guilt and uncertainty. He sat on the bench once more and stared out across the wine-dark sea. He had a lot of thinking to do.
Miranda woke to bright sunlight pouring in through the balcony doors. The memories of last night flooded over her all at once. She felt sick with distress and remorse about what had happened with Max. She’d surely ruined both their friendship and their partnership. Besides that, he was with Carmen - she’d had no right to come between them.
She sat up slightly. Her head pounded from the effects of too much wine. She reached for her phone, dread churning in her stomach. No messages from Max. Was that good or bad? She composed one to him:
‘I’m really sorry about last night. Can we please just forget it? Compañeros? M’.
She put the phone down and took a big swig of water from the glass she’d carefully placed on the bedside table the night before, but had fallen asleep before touching.
She wondered what would happen now. Would Max reply to her? What would he say? Or would she have to face him at work on Monday morning with this hanging over them unresolved still?
She hated waiting, tension building with every second of silence from him. Usually she’d clear her mind with a run along the promenade, but the thumping in her temples and across her forehead told her that that was a bad idea. She rolled over and tugged the covers up around her. Today was a day for wallowing.
Miranda’s weekend dragged on restively, the sustained anxiety making for a difficult couple of days. Sunday evening eventually arrived and still there was no reply from Max. She was dreading seeing him tomorrow and was anticipating a long, anguish-filled night worrying about it. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep properly; she would end up torturing herself with myriad awkward scenarios playing out in her imagination as the hours ticked by.
She’d considered walking to Plaça del Mercadal to see him at his place, but what if Carmen was there? Too awkward, she’d decided. Instead she moped around her home, unable to concentrate on anything, her mind taken over by thoughts of her compañero.
She’d just given up on trying - and failing - to distract herself by reading a book, when suddenly there was a hammering on her front door. She peered cautiously out of the window and spotted Max’s BMW parked outside. She’d been so lost in introspection that she hadn’t heard it pull up. She steeled herself and crossed the living room to the door. As she began to open it, Max pushed his way in without bothering with any of the usual pleasantries.
“We need to talk,” he told her sombrely, his customary gaiety wholly absent. He marched to the far side of the room and turned back to face her.
“Do we have-“ Miranda began quietly, shutting the door and avoiding looking directly at him.
“I need answers.” Max was firm. He had to know.
“Max, I’m so, so sorry. I should never have... Can we please just forget Friday night and move on?” she pleaded with him.
“Are you for real?,” he exploded. “You think you can drop a bomb like that in my life and we can just pretend like it never happened?! Have you any idea of what you’ve done to me?”
“I, I wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t know what came over me. I can’t just blame the alcohol, I know, but I had had too much,” she explained hurriedly, wringing her hands and studying the floor.
“So, what you told me, the kiss, you’re saying now that that was all just drunken nonsense? One big mistake and you didn’t mean any of it?” He was slightly calmer now, but still uncharacteristically serious.
“It didn’t mean anything,” she lied; the truth was too dangerous. “It should never have happened.” But it had, and the few minutes of intimacy they had shared had brought her such happiness, and then such torment.
“Right. Well, you should know that I have been in turmoil this whole weekend. I have done a lot of soul searching. After you ran off I sat on that bench for more than an hour thinking - told Carmen I wasn’t feeling well and not to come over after her shift. I couldn’t face her.” He paused, collecting himself. “And then yesterday... yesterday, I broke up with her. Because of you. And now you’re telling me it was nothing to you. Really? You expect me to believe that? In vino veritas, Miranda.” He was getting angry with her again.
He watched her standing across the room from him. She was staring at the tiles in front of her feet, head hanging in - discomfort? shame? He realised how hard she was finding this. Dealing with emotions was not her forte.
He softened and continued more gently. “I’m going to ask you again, and I need you to be totally honest with me now, ok? I’m putting my heart on the line here. If our friendship means anything to you, you have to tell me the truth: did you mean what you said? Did that kiss mean something to you?”
“You left Carmen... for me?” she asked incredulously, looking up at last. She had to be sure of what he was telling her before she would risk letting him know that, despite the alcohol, she had been sincere when she had made her declaration.
“Yes. You said you wanted me. Well, I want you. I’m in love with you.” He looked into her eyes, solemnly and bravely. He knew that without the liberating effect of wine, she would never be the first to declare her true feelings, so it was up to him to be the courageous one today.
“You’re in love with me?” She couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing. It all seemed unreal.
“Completely, it turns out,” he shrugged. “It took what you - we - did for me to finally realise it. But you haven’t answered my questions.”
“Sorry. Ok, I’ll be honest.” She took a deep breath. “Yes, I was telling the truth on Friday. And yes, the kiss meant something to me. It meant everything to me. I... I love you,” she admitted, fear and discomfort making her voice a little shaky.
Max let out a sigh of relief. “That is the best confession I have ever heard.” A grin lit up his face.
“But we work together, so nothing can happen between us, can it? It would get too complicated. And what about Inés? And Carmen?” she questioned glumly.
“Miranda, my love, there is a life outside of our job and it is far more important,” he told her lovingly. “We will make it work, ok? Forget Inés. She is not in charge of our whole lives, you know. And Carmen is fine, really, or she will be - she said she knew we were not made to last. She was the one to turn down my proposal, remember? Anyway, don’t worry about all that now. Will you just allow yourself to be happy, please? With me?”
She nodded slowly as his caring expression and persuasive words began to alleviate the troubled feeling that had resided deep within her ever since she had run from him. She decided to trust him and let herself take this chance at love.
“So where do we go from here then?” Miranda asked, biting her lip nervously.
“Well, I think it’s traditional to kiss now,” he joked, light blue eyes sparkling.
He approached her, his smile dropping slightly. This was important and he wanted it to be a special moment. He took her hands in his and squeezed them reassuringly. She looked up at him cautiously, still a little on edge.
“Do you want me to kiss you?”, he asked softly.
She nodded again, too tense to speak. He let go of one of her hands and rested his own against her cheek for a second as their eyes locked, before moving it down and round to the small of her back and pressing her into him. They brought their faces closer together, gazing into each other’s eyes with desire.
Max broke the contact, closing his eyes and gently touching his lips to Miranda’s. They kissed tenderly, passionately, and deeply. All the yearning and doubt of over a year was finally resolved as they eagerly wrapped themselves in each other’s arms. Eventually, Max lifted his head back slightly, still holding her tightly against him.
“What a wonderful weekend this turned out to be, after all,” he murmured.