Karen covered her surprise at his hand in hers with a calm blanket. Not that he hadn't held her hand once already, but this was different. That day, the worst day of her life, he was there gripping her fingers to stop them from shaking. Now, her hand was the still one. All her anger was gone. <He expected you to be angry and you should be, you wimp.>
They walked in silence toward a small concrete fountain. Karen cast a furtive glance toward Kermit every few steps. His eyes were fixed on their goal and his mouth tipped slightly toward a frown. Something was about to happen.
<Yes, well, that's what you thought last night, lady.> She had been so certain, so high on her own vindication that all those formalities and chains of command had cracked wide open. The banter between them wasn't unpredictable. "Do you ever take off those glasses?" had seemed such a subtle cue. <Subtle like a brick through a window, you moron.> His response, the obligatory sexy counter to her thrust.
Then something went terribly awry. For a few seconds after Kermit's borderline-panicked escape, she had simply stood stunned in her embarrassment. She had assumed they were of like minds. <What do you get when you assume?> The scenario would involve sliding those green glasses into her purse, paying her tab, and vandalizing her employer/employee relationship.
On the long ride home, Karen had performed a heated recitation of each and every foul and profane noun she had committed to memory. Kermit Griffin's parentage had been dissected and defamed with much gusto in time to soundtrack from 'Tommy.' By the time she'd reached her driveway, she had been reduced to referring to him as that "fucking Muppet" and found her own rage just a touch ridiculous.
After a good night's sleep, the fury had smoothed enough so that finding Kermit AWOL from the office left her concerned instead of enraged. Upon witnessing his performance of 'The Good Humor Man Meets the Ill Humored Man', the hurt and anger gave way to curiosity and caring. As they both reached the gray stone fountain, she sank down beside him and held on to Kermit's hand. Somehow, the contact seemed right, natural for sharing.
The silence remained intact. <All right, smart girl. Your job to keep this ball rolling.> Karen settled herself and watched as the black-clad shoulders slumped slightly. He was wrinkled and he was _never_ wrinkled. "Was it one of your wives?"
Kermit's body shook with the jolt of one grunted laugh. "So it's 'wives' now, is it? If I had half the prowess with women the precinct has awarded me through the rumor mill I'd be one busy man."
"Ah, so there are no multiple Griffin nuptials." She slid just an inch
"The plot thickens."
Kermit released her hand and leaned forward on his elbows. "Mrs. Griffin, singular....for about a nano second."
"Author of the famous 'Dear Kermit Letter' I presume." Karen watched as a mist of sadness, far too evident for the private man she'd come to know, settled around him.
Another short burst of mischievous laughter. "Made a great story, but
not exactly accurate." He turned his head sideways to look at her and
"She skipped the letter."
<Now we're getting somewhere!> The sun was beating down on them and the wall had fallen prey to one tiny hole. "So this woman broke your heart and sent you off to join the French Foreign Legion."
"Not hardly." Kermit ran a hand through his rumpled hair. "Finding her gone was like a birthday and Christmas rolled into one and I'd never make a Legionnaire because I refuse to wear that stupid hat."
The urge to stroke his back tingled down Karen's arm and into her hand. She held it back. The caring was a forgone conclusion. She wasn't exactly sure when it had started. Maybe in a falling elevator. Maybe when she was being handcuffed and he came in flailing a sword to defend her. Maybe it was one late night in the precinct when he brought her coffee because "it was on his way." The origination didn't matter anymore. "So if it wasn't the wife, it must have been someone else."
"How long ago?"
"And it still hurts this much?"
To Be Continued .....