Give Me A Little Credit Here

Give Me A Little Credit Here

Originally published January 2014 as Smokey Saga #12

*****

Intro #1: This is another tale first written as a play script. It has its share of romance, but no sex (though still a cute, spoofy little yarn). It’s my first in “Non-Erotic.” Like “On Your Shoulder,” this bounces between first- and third-person. The first-person parts are bold with the girls’ initials in parentheses. And even after cutting it way down, this is another long one. That and the lack of sex ensures it won’t be my most popular, but the charm’s in its parodic whimsy. Just please go with me on this. Suspend your logic. Have fun with it. And play along with the second intro. Use your imagination. Thank you for stopping by, and I do so hope you enjoy your visit. Happy reading!

Intro #2: Dear Reader, greetings. My name is Smokey, and I’ll be your narrator.

I’d like to show you something. It’s a digital aerial map of the entire fictitious city of Juniper, Minnesota, in which all my stories take place. Pretty, isn’t it?  ………

Thank you! Please click the zoom button to push into the center…click it again…one more time…keep going, almost there…now pan to the north-northwest. Not quite that far, little back the other way…there you go. Now zoom in one more time. See that red and blue one-story on the corner?  ………  Ye—no, not that one. The other one.  ………

Right! That one. That’s 301 N.W. 3rd Avenue, a.k.a. the home of newlyweds Donna and Valerie O’Hanlon. It’s the setting for the entirety of today’s story.  ………

Sorry? What’s that?  ………  Yes, newlyweds. They’re our main characters.  ………

Yeah, no kidding.  ………  Yes, they’re married.  ………  Yes, to each other.  ………

Oh, well, you’ll find out; th—huh?  ………  Well, I appreciate your interest and curiosity, Reader, but I don’t want to give away all the details right here.  ………

Well, you will see; just go ahead and read th—  ………

Well, Reader, why don’t you just read the story, and find out for yourself?  ………

Oh, for heaven’s…gee whiz, Reader, you certainly ask a lot of tedious questions right off the bat, don’t you. Okay, you can close out the map now.

Oh! I almost forgot. When we visit Valerie and Donna, please be discreet. I feel it incumbent upon me to warn you: we’re going to visit them in the middle of something of a, uh…friendly moment. Not intentionally, of course; that’s just the way it’ll happen.  ………  No, no, nothing like that. They’re just going to be making out a little.

Also, please bear in mind that our lasses Valerie and Donna are truly newlyweds. They’re married less than a month. So they’ve been a bit busy with, shall we say, other activities, to unpack a lot just yet. The living room’s pretty filled with boxes.  ………

What?…No, no, no, don’t even worry about that; I promise, they are expecting us. They extended the invitation. Trust me, you can take my word for it, they love company.

You might want to straighten out your clothing, though; I think you’ve got a wrinkle.

*****

(V) Kiss me, you fool.

(D) Mmm…y’know what I’m gonna make you do tonight?

(V) Yeah, you, if things go your way, cutie-pie! Hee hee hee!

(D) Damn, I could take those clothes of yours and just rip ’em right the f—

(V) Uhhh…hon?

(D) Yes, love goddess?

(V) The door…?

(D) …OH! Hi there! Welcome to our home! We’re so happy to have you! I’m Donna O’Hanlon, born Donna Gardner.

(V) And I’m Valerie O’Hanlon, born Valerie O’Hanlon. Donna took my name ’cause it means “of beauty.” But more importantly, check out the ring!

(D) Oh yes, please excuse our lovey-doveyness. We only just got married almost a month ago. And now we have a beautiful brand-new house.

(V) We’re really glad you were able to make it. We’re breaking it in, but we still have a lotta unpacking to do, as you can see by all the boxes.

(D) It’s a real pleasure to have you here. Especially now, ’cause we were in no shape to have company last week…particularly over the weekend.

(V) Exactly…we had a little misadventure. Now, we realize what we are about to tell you is gonna be a…well, a pretty silly story.

(D) Yeah. Matter of fact, f.y.i., this might just be the craziest, dumbest story you’ve ever been told in your lives. But it taught us (among other things) just how overzealous we c—…well, I can get…over the weirdest little things.

(V) Oh, no, no, honey, you’re right; it got me pretty obsessed and nuts too. Just please take our word for it, the whole deal was pretty ridiculous.

(D) So here’s what happened. We’d just got home from the store, and as luck would have it…we had nothing else to do the rest of this fine day.

(V) Your mother came over the next day, though.

(D) Well, yes, but we didn’t know that at the time. So at first glance, it looks like your average, ordinary weekend. At last glance, it turns out to be, uh…

(V) …Let’s say “interesting.”

(D) Yeah, that’s a diplomatic evaluation. This ended up being the most “interesting” weekend we’ve had as a married couple. So, we get back to the house, and…I pick up the mail

(V) She’d been waiting for something kinda…heh…special, to come in the mail for awhile. And Saturday, it, eh…finally showed up.

(D) In retrospect, I was probably just a tad more excited than necessary.

(V) Okay, so here we go: last Saturday morning, 11:00…or thereabouts.

*****

Saturday, September 7th, 2013, 11:12 a.m.

It was a gorgeous 67° day. Puffy cloud bits made their carefree way across the clear blue. The street boasted half a dozen varieties of trees amid every other yard. Birds were hard at work in them, chirping, nesting, doing all the things birds are paid to do. Continual breezes circulated, refreshing the atmosphere. Citizens went about business (and pleasure) indoors and out. A perfectly lovely, run-of-the-mill late summer day.

From the supermarket, five blocks down the highway, and around the suburban bend to 301 N.W. 3rd Avenue trolleyed a lime-green Beetle. The mail carrier was just departing from the O’Hanlons’ mailbox. Seeing this, Donna slammed into park and jumped out. Valerie stepped out carefully—so as not to get trampled in Donna’s path—hefting the not quite lighter than air grocery bags. She was about to ask for a little help when she heard Donna’s scream of excitement.

“Aah!” she shrieked. “OMIGOD! It came, it came, it CAAAAAAME!” She bolted for the door like a five-year-old on Christmas morning, fumbling for the correct key.

“Uh, Don—” Valerie started to say before she heard the screen door slap shut.

Ohhh-kay. Guess I’ll lock the car later, she thought, shutting the Beetle’s door with her toes. Once the grocery-lugging Val maneuvered her way inside, she saw Donna admiring her new prize with a huge smile, rest of the mail in her other mitt. She seemed to get more excited the more she examined it. Seeing Valerie come in, she let out a squeal.

“Oh my God, it finally came!” she reiterated. “Ya believe it? How awesome is this?!”

Her wife lumbered towards the kitchen. Why she didn’t just tote the bags in one at a time, not even Val herself knew. But the last thing she wanted to do was squelch Donna’s enthusiasm, even over a simple credit card. She stopped to smile lovingly at her beaming bride and nod in approval.

Valerie adored Donna with all her heart. Anything that put a smile on Donna’s pretty face put a heavenly moment in Val’s pretty life. It also didn’t hurt that she made love like an angel. It didn’t happen often, but if Donna did something that particularly irked Val (accidentally or intentionally), all Donna had to do was smile, and say she loved her—or poutingly apologize—and she was forgiven.

They were amazingly lucky to have met: both single, in need of a cute lady in their lives, with a perfect combination of things not in common. Val was easygoing, agreeable, light and fluffy, whereas Donna could be a bit edgy, aggressive and challenging. Val worshiped God, Donna worshiped chocolate. Donna had a kid brother, Val no siblings. Valerie was sensible, orderly and organized, and Donna was free-spirited, flighty and capricious. Valerie was a nature and animal person, Donna was a people person.

Donna tended to give up if something took an exceptionally long time. Valerie, once really determined, could work on a single activity forever. Thus something such as, say, the amount of foreplay in their sex lives was negotiated and agreed on beforehand. Donna was a smoky and passionate lovemaker; Val was more delicate. She liked to dangle herself in front of Donna, play hard-to-get with her and mischievously tickle her wife’s libido to make her go crazy.

Then there were the things they did have in common. Both were very loving, giving and generous. Both loved to laugh. And both kissed the ground the other walked upon. They’d been together for two years before deciding to pop the mutual question. And in that time, the number of small spats they’d had could be counted on one paw.

“Sweetie,” Valerie exhaled with a grunt. “Di—…d’ya get the rest of the mail?”

Donna, unable to pry her eyes off the card, deposited the remainder of today’s mail in one of the bags Valerie was carrying. Val stared at the bag as if it did not weigh enough already. Turning back to Donna, she resumed her gracious smile. She loved this girl to tears, but the occasional “good thing you’re cute” moment popped up now and then.

“Thanks, babe,” she sighed, staggering into the kitchen. “Love you!”

Donna looked up. “Hm? Oh, love you too, Valentine! ’Kay, let’s see here…‘please call number on card to authorize.’ I do believe I can do that.”

Her cell was…somewhere. Probably in her purse. The land phone sat on the coffee table. The living room furniture currently consisted of the table and two recliners. The rest was unpacked or yet to be acquired. The phone was active, though no computer yet was. It had indeed been almost a month since they tied the knot. A week and a half was spent making the housing arrangements and moving in, and another week went for their honeymoon. Fresh off said honeymoon, things were officially underway, though with still lots of unpacking to do. But that was fine; both considered unpacking a privilege rather than a chore, a reminder that this was their new home together. Valerie put things away in the kitchen as Donna pulled one of the La-Z-Girls closer to the table.

“…Donna, honey?” Val called from the kitchen. “You wanna please come and help me with the groceries for two minutes?”

“Hm? Oh, babe, I’m, uh…I’m-I’m just gonna get my card authorized here.” She pressed speakerphone and started dialing. A sec later, she again heard the voice of her lifemate.

“…Donna, honey?” Val called from the kitchen. “You wanna please come and make out with me for two hours?”

Those words made a dent in Donna’s plans. She dropped the card on the table, dashed into the kitchen and took her sweet bride in her arms. Both giggled in exhilaration, their fiery newlywed passion long yet to wear off. Being in one another’s embrace tantalized their senses something crazy. When their lips were in contact, everything else in the world went away. They squished their bodies together, kissing, nuzzling, cuddling and groping. They pinned each other up against the counter, fridge and cupboards. They breathed each other, letting the intoxication of their scents take over. Before they knew it, they were on their knees on the tile floor.

“D—…Donna, honey!” tittered Valerie between kisses. “I still have to put the rest of the groceries away!” She thought she’d be able to make out and put things away at the same time. But she always too underestimated the power of Donna’s flaming passion.

“I have a credit card now; I’ll buy you more groceries.”

Val caught enough breath to answer. “No, no, honey, I…I really do. Besides, w—AHhaaahhahaa! Stop, I’m ticklish!…Besides, we can’t have sex on the kitchen floor!”

“Dollface, this is our house,” Donna asserted, wrestling her down, rubbing against her like a kitten. “We can do anything we want on the kitchen floor! We could play Cops and Robbers if we felt like it!…Actually, that sounds fun!” She flipped her eyebrows at her.

“But…but I…bu—…”

Five kisses and three well-placed touches later—

Oh, Donna…you little devil…why do I want you so darn bad?”

“Because I’m a witch and I possessed your mind so you’d marry me.”

“Ah.”

An indeterminable spell of time later, the O’Hanlons ambled out, unable still to take their paws off each other. It’d apparently be a while before achieving some unpacking.

“Y’know, my bride, I hope you appreciate that,” Valerie told her facetiously, now able to flex her flirting muscles. “I don’t make out with just anybody in my kitchen.”

Donna collapsed in the armchair on the right. “I do,” she dreamily sighed. “…Appreciate it, I mean. I don’t make out with just anybody in your kitchen either.” Taking another breath, she threw in, “Actually, I thought I wasn’t allowed in your precious kitchen.”

“Honey, you know that’s only when I’m cooking,” said Val, crashing in the other La-Z-Girl. “Heaven knows I’ve got enough people rushing through the one at the restaurant. At least I get a little peace and quiet here.”

“That still sounds better than being stuck in an office with a bunch of robotic straight women forty hours a week,” Donna chuckled, soothing her eyes with generous blinks.

“You wanna trade?”

Donna nodded. “You’re right. ’F it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”

Valerie giggled like a schoolgirl as she let the reality settle once more.

“My gosh, can you believe we’re married for almost a whole month now??”

Donna leaned her head back, eyes still closed. “Mm, yeah…” she purred. She then looked excitedly at Valerie and replied, “Can you believe my credit card came??”

“…Yyyyyeah.” Val was not quite as jazzed about the card, but kept her smile up. If Donna was happy, Val was ecstatic. If Donna was sad, Val was crestfallen. It occurred to her that they were back home now, and had no more obligations to honor this easy-breezy Saturday. And she had a sudden urge, to feel the softness of cozy pajamas on her skin.

She pushed herself up from the chair. “I’m gonna go get in my jammies.”

“Oooh,” commented Donna. “Can I watch?”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that later,” said Valerie, tuckered out by the flirtatious and ticklish kitchen activity. “Now lemme go change.”

Donna felt a ping of affection cue her. “Why? You’re perfect.”

“Awww…” Valerie turned back, her heart melting. She fell in love with Donna again every thirty seconds. “You’re the perfect one.”

“No, you are.”

“No, you are.”

“No, YOU are,” Donna chuckled, returning to the phone. Again, she clicked on speaker and dialed the number on the card. It rang. It rang again.

It rang a third time. Donna shifted her eyes, twiddling her thumbs. A fourth ring…and a fifth. She waited patiently. A sixth ring…a seventh…an eighth…a ninth…a tenth

Valerie, meanwhile, was in the bedroom, having slipped her clothes off. She viewed herself in the mirror, evaluating each angle. Her eyes fell upon the dresser, where a photo of her beloved bride smiled provocatively at her. As if Donna were a peeper, spying on her getting naked. She imagined the scenario, and her nude body felt a twitch where it mattered. Suddenly, Val got a second wind. She decided to toy with her wife.

Oh, heavens!” she called out, extra playful and frisky. “I’ve left my door open, and…” She gasped loudly. “…Why, I’m naked! I certainly hope no one comes IN here!”

That (again) being all Donna needed to hear, she turned back to the phone, hung up (again), sprang from her chair (again), and scurried to the bedroom, yanking her own top up and over her head in the process. Reaching her destination, there indeed sat a lovely naked Valerie, on the corner of the bed. She cleverly concealed her ladyhood, looking out the window. When she noticed Donna come in, she leered seductively.

“You dirty girl…” she cooed. “Just couldn’t resist a nude damsel in distress, could you?”

Donna inched in on her, desire coloring her face. Her eyes sultrily narrowed.

Get…on your back, sweet thing,” she ordered, a sordid smile curling up her cheeks. “Don’t make me force you.”

Val sat coyly on the corner, defying her a few seconds. “You’re cute when you’re rough.”

“Well, then you’re about to find me downright adorable, little lady,” Donna rejoined. “You better buckle up and strap in,” she warned, “’Cause this is gonna be one wild ride.”

The more soft and tender-hearted Val held out her arms, eyes pooling with affection.

“Do…come to me, angel. Rock my world.”

*****

Saturday, September 7th, 2013, 1:08 p.m.

Once Valerie fetched the paper, the two made way back to their respective armchairs. Val kicked her recliner back, tossed her feet up on the end, crossed her legs, unfolded the paper and started reading. Donna turned the speaker back on and dialed again. And proceeded to wait…again…as it rang once… twice… thrice… four times… five times…

Donna turned to Valerie. “Ehhh…whaddaya think’s going on?”

“Oh, babe, you know how that stuff goes,” Val muttered. “It takes a while. ’S annoying.”

Six… seven… eight… nine… ten… eleven… twelve… Donna began gesticulating with her hand, as if to say, So…we actually gonna get on with it here, or…?

At thirteen rings there was finally a response…by an electronic recording.

Welcome, and thank you for calling DiscVisMasterExpress. If you wish to hear options, please press 1, or say, ‘Yes,’ now.

Donna paused for a second, then acquiesced. “Ohhh-kay.”

If you wish t—”

Donna pressed 1. Through the phone came a high-pitched ding! The recording went on.

Thank you for your selection,” the cheerful-sounding recorded voice continued. “If you wish to apply for a new credit card, please press 1, or say, ‘Yes,’ now.

Donna smiled, brandishing the card in her paw. “Nope, no thanks; already got it.”

If you wish to cancel your credit card, please press 2, or say, ‘Yes,’ now.

Donna’s smile began to fade. “…Nnnnnnooo…just the opposite, actually.”

If you wish to know your credit score, please press 3, or say, ‘Yes,’ now.

Donna furrowed her eyebrows. “Yeah, I kinda need to authorize it first before I can actually have a credit score, phone.”

If you wish to hear more options, please press 4, or say, ‘Yes,’ now.

“Yes, I would; you haven’t given me the one I want yet.” She pressed 4. BIP.

The recording returned to the first option. “If you wish to apply fo—”

They heard the ding! sound again. The recording thanked her.

Thank you for your selection. If you wish to authorize your credit card, please press 5, or say, ‘Yes,’ now.

There we go, thank you,” smiled Donna, pressing 5.

The recording ding!ed yet once more. “Thank you for your selection,” it repeated mechanically. “Please enter the sixteen-digit number…”

Donna became more excited. “A’right! Now we’re getting somewhere!”

“…On the front of your card, followed by the pound key.

That caught Donna off-guard. She hesitated. “…Sorry? Followed by the what?”

Valerie looked up. “Oh, the little tic-tac-toe button down there at the bottom, hon.”

“Ah! Okay, gotcha.” She went to punch in the digits. But before she could, a different sound came through the phone: a low-pitched bhpht! noise that sounded like wind being broken. After which, the recording’s voice appeared again.

Are you still there?” it wanted to know.

“Wha—yes, yes, I’m still here. I just needed to know what the pound key was.”

If you are still there, please say, ‘Yes,’ now.

“…YES. I am still here,” a now slightly annoyed Donna announced. She leaned down close to the phone to address it. “YES.”

The recording responded. “I think you said, ‘Yes.’

“I did say, ‘Yes.’”

The recording ding!ed. “Thank you for your selection. Please enter the sixteen-digit number on the front of your card—”

She nodded. “Followed by the pound key, right. Okay.” She entered the number, careful to get each digit right, and then pressed the pound key.

Ding!Thank you,” it said. Donna nodded, waiting for further instructions.

Ding!Thank you.

Donna and Valerie exchanged confused glances. “Huh?” asked Donna.

Ding!Thank you.

Donna leaned down closer again, this time in bewilderment. “Uh…you’re…welcome?”

Ding!Please enter the expiration date on the front of your card, by month and then year, followed by the pound key.

’Kay, that was kinda weird, but… Donna examined the card again. “Okay…oh, expiration date. Here it is.” She punched three digits in, followed by the pound key.

Bhpht!You have pressed an incorrect key.

Donna went befuddled again. “What?”

The recording repeated itself. Bhpht!You have pressed an incorrect key.

They waited out two seconds of bemused silence. The recording reiterated its request. “Please enter the expiration date…”

“Y—b—I did that,” Donna insisted. “February ’17. Two-one-seven.”

Valerie realized what was wrong. “Oh, sweetie, you have to put in a zero for the month, ’cause it needs two digits for the month and two for the year.”

“Oh! Oh, I got it now.”

Bhpht!Are you still there?

Sigh.

If you are still there, please say, ‘Yes,’ now.

“YES! Yes, I told you, I am still here! I’m not going anywhere!”

I think you said, ‘Yes.’

Donna was starting to get just the slightest bit disenchanted.

“I DID…”

Ding!Thank you. Please enter the expiration date…”

Yeesh. Okay, zero…” said Donna, punching it in correctly this time.

Ding!Thank you.

Donna waited. Then she and Val remembered. “You’re welcome,” they said in unison.

Ding!Thank you. Please enter the security code on the back of your card, followed by the pound key.

The…what? thought Donna. She turned back to her wife for help again. “Uh, Val…?”

Val took the card and turned it over to show her. “Here, right there, see? The little three-digit number right there? That’s it.”

Bhpht!Are you still there?

“Oh, geez,” groused Donna. “Yes, I—”

If you are still there—”

“YESSSSS! I am not leaving! YES, okay??”

I think you said, ‘Yes.’

“BING-o!” a more exasperated Donna exclaimed.

Ding!Thank you. Please enter the security code on the back of your card, followed by the pound key.

GEE whiz… She did.

Ding!Thank you.

“You’re wel-come…” Valerie and Donna again chanted.

Ding!Please enter your date of birth, by month, then day, then year, followed by the pound key.

Donna arched one brow and furrowed the other. “…Ohhh-kay…”

“Oh, honey, remember,” Valerie chimed in, “Two digits for each one.”

“Right…not totally sure why that’s necessary, but I think I can handle it, and…pound.”

Ding!Thank you.

Donna smirked at how bizarrely amusing this was getting. “You are welcome.”

“Yeah, don’t mention it, voice,” Valerie called from behind the paper.

Ding!Please wait a moment,” the recording requested.

Donna kicked back in her recliner. They sat in silence for a few seconds. Val finished her current section, navigating to the funnies. She read for a minute, then giggled roguishly.

“Oh my gosh! Donna, babe, look at this cartoon they printed.”

Donna took a peek. She got the joke, threw a hand over her mouth and laughed, a laugh that said, Oh my God, that’s awful!

Oh my God, that’s awful!

“I know, right??” Val laughed back. “I didn’t think they could get away with that!”

Another second went by, and they finally heard the recording come back.

Bhpht!We are very sorry, but we are unable to process your request at this moment,” it cheerfully informed them. “Please call back at another time.

The O’Hanlons declined their chairs, leaned forward and stamped their feet on the floor. “WHAT??” they harmonized.

Bhpht!We are very sorry, but we are unable to process your request at this moment,” it cheerfully informed them. “Please call back at another time.

Donna’s voice shot up an octave. “What the f—…are you kidding me??”

No.

The recording hung up on them. A click killed the line, and there was nothing left but a dial tone. Donna and Val reacted relatively accordingly.

“WH—…D—…Y—…TH—…” Donna squeaked.

Val scoffed indignantly. “Well, that sucks!” she said. She deeply hated to see anything displease Donna, and grew miffed on her behalf. “Hey, y’know what, hon?” she offered. “Why don’t you let me give it a try. Who knows, maybe something different’ll happen.”

Donna waited another few seconds, then shrugged and tossed away some energy, stretching out to lie on the floor. “Eh, what the hell.”

So Valerie crawled over, ceasing briefly to kiss Donna’s ear, plopped herself in front of the phone and began her own attempt.

*****

(D) Naturally, my initial childlike enthusiasm for my new credit card has begun to fade just a bit by this point. But with Val’s help, we eventually manage to achieve another step forward. Saturday afternoon, about 2:30.

*****

Saturday, September 7th, 2013, 2:26 p.m.

Donna lay reclined in the chair Valerie’d earlier occupied, a look of fatigue occupying her face. Also now on the table sat a drained glass of orange juice and an empty baggie of chips. They’d taken a few breaks to recuperate, as Val attempted to work her way through the convoluted pre-recorded maze herself. Clearly, the DiscVisMasterExpress phone menu system didn’t care for hesitation or errors.

“Donna?” Val turned back to her. “Sweetie? I’m just putting in your date of birth now.”

A not quite ecstatic Donna tossed a half-hearted thumbs-up. “Aces.”

Valerie did so, followed of course by the pound key.

Ding!Thank you.

Donna threw the recording a weary “No problem,” as Valerie rejoined, “Our pleasure.”

Ding!Please wait a moment.

Val crossed her fingers. “Okay, here we go.” They waited again. A few more seconds, and the recording picked back up. To their short elation…this time they heard another ding.

Ding!Please enter the sixteen-digit number on the front of your card, followed by the pound key.

The wives’ faces reverted from one brief moment of hopeful back to bamboozled.

“Wha—?” Valerie asked.

“…Didn’t you already do that?” Donna asked.

Val shook her head. “Obviously, this machine is technologically challenged.”

Bhpht!Are you still there?

“Heh,” Donna chuckled sardonically. “Better not say that too loud; it’ll hear ya.”

If you are still there, please say, ‘Yes,’ now.

Valerie heaved a sigh of her own. “Yes! Okay, honey, I’m gonna try this again real quick.”

I think you said, ‘Yes.’

“Good ear, my pre-recorded friend,” Val observed.

Ding!Thank you. Please enter the sixteen-digit number…”

Valerie cut off the recording, rapidly punching it in.

Ding!Thank you.

Beginning to feel caustic with it herself, Valerie answered, “Oh, not at all.”

Ding!Please enter the expiration da—”

BEEP-boop-BIP-bip-BEEP. Ding!Thank you.

“De nada,” Valerie said.

Ding!Please enter the security co—”

BOOP-beep-BIP-BEEP. Ding!Thank you.

“Your wish is my command,” said Val, starting to enjoy getting sarcastic with this thing.

Ding!Please enter your date of bir—”

BIP-boop-BOOP-BEEP, beep-bip-BEEP. Ding!Thank you.

“Oh, my life is but to serve you, my liege.”

“’Kay, I’m all set to ‘please wait a moment,’” Donna sighed.

They waited for it, but this time something different happened.

Ding!Please enter your zip code, followed by the pound key.

Donna and Valerie’s faces turned to astonishment, before smiles spread across them.

“Whoa, what??” exclaimed Donna.

“Zip code? Okay!” Valerie gladly cooperated before the machine had to chance to ask if she was still there. Boop-BIP-beep-boop-BIP-BEEP. Ding!Thank you.

“You’re welcome!” said a psyched Valerie, turning back to Donna.

Donna’d become excited again herself. “’S like finding a hidden level in a video game.”

“See?” Val grinned, nodding proudly. “That’s why you marry an Irish chick: you get lucky…a lot.” Accentuating the word, she leered at her with a suggestive wink.

Ding!Please enter your age in years, then months, then days, followed by the pound key.

“…Excuse me?” said Donna.

“W—…” Val held out her arms in confusion, staring at the phone. “Why?

“Can’t it figure that out from my birthdate?” Donna wished to know.

Bhpht!Are you still there?

Donna threw her hands in the air as Valerie let hers fall on the table.

If you are still there…”

Valerie lost just a tiny bit of control.

“WE ARE STILL EFFING HERE, OKAY?!” she shouted, clenching her paws into fists. “Aye-aye! Affirmative! Roger! 10-4!”

The recording remained silent. Donna called over after another beat.

“YES.”

Ding!I think you said, ‘Yes.’

Valerie was growing cross. “I think YOU are a jerk.”

Ding!Thank you. Please enter your age…”

Donna got up. “I got it, I got it, I got it…” Val slid the phone over, and Donna punched in another series of buttons.

Ding!Thank you.

“Well, glad math was my best subject in school,” Donna sighed.

Ding!Thank you.

“You’re WEL-COME!” they yelled simultaneously.

Ding!Please enter your exact height in feet, then inches, followed by your exact weight in pounds, then ounces, followed by the pound key.

They paused to stare at the phone, indescribable expressions on their faces.

What in the heck…?” Valerie said.

“Okay, did that thing just say what I think it did?” queried Donna.

Bhpht!Are you still there?

Donna made a fist and shook it at the phone. Valerie dropped her face in her hands.

If you are still there, please say, ‘Yes,’ now.

The peeved Valerie removed her face from her hands. “YES, you son of an answering machine, we are BOTH, still, here.”

I think you said, ‘Yes.’

Donna smacked herself in the forehead. “Uh-huh…” her wife uttered.

Ding!Thank you. Please enter your exact height in feet…”

Why the hell would it want my height and weight??” Donna asked incredulously.

Val started pushing buttons. “I dunno, but if it gets us anywhere…”

“You know my exact height and weight?”

“No; I’m just making up numbers.”

“Heh!” Donna gave another acerbic chuckle. “Well, good luck! The way this is going, the thing probably knows we’re lying.”

“Oh, honey bun, don’t be silly; it’s a machine.” Valerie finished making up a suitable set of figures. “It is not gonna know we’re lying. See?” She pressed the pound key. “Watch.”

Bhpht!You have pressed an incorrect key.

Both faces promptly went into shock.

Please enter your exact height in feet, then inches…”

Donna and Valerie turned back to each other, now intimidated. Valerie gestured to the unpacked boxes. “G—…go-go find the scale and the tape measure!”

Donna stood motionless a moment. “B—…but, h—…I, wh—”

“Honey, later; just go! Go find them!”

Starting to get just a tiny bit creeped out, Donna nonetheless obeyed. She started on the wall to their left and worked her way around as Valerie turned back to the phone.

Bhpht!Are you still there?If you are still there, please say, ‘Yes,’ now.

Valerie changed her tone. “Yes, we are,” she replied sweetly and affectionately.

I think you said, ‘Yes.’

“Yes, we did…” said Valerie, voice loving and benevolent. She caressed the phone with the back of her hand. “And we love you…”

Ding!Thank you. Please enter your exact height…”

“Sweetie, hurry!” Val called behind her.

Donna found the right box. “Aha!” She dug out the scale and tape measure, rapidly toting them over. She put the former on the floor and handed Valerie the latter.

Bhpht!Are you still there?

Both sighed in intense exasperation.

If you are still there, please say, ‘Yes,’ now.

“YEEEE-esssss!” said Valerie.

“’F you’d just be patient two friggin’ seconds,” Donna added through clenched teeth.

I think you said, ‘Yes.’

“You bet your buttons we did, phone,” Val responded, in an annoyed sing-songy voice.

Ding! “Thank you. Please enter…”

Wasting as little time as possible, Valerie drew out the tape measure. Donna stood beside her in her socked feet.

“Oh, hon, take off your socks,” Val told her.

“What?”

“Well, you heard it; we’ve gotta be precisely right. I gotta know exactly how tall you are.”

“…Is it just me, or is this whole thing starting to get really weird?”

“I don’t care, we have to know,” argued Valerie. “Take ’em off.”

Donna stared strangely. “Babe…” she said, “…They’re socks. They add no height.”

Bhpht!Are you still there?

Any semblance of patience Valerie had left was evaporating quick. “Just get ’em off!”

Her freaked-out factor indeed increasing, Donna did as told. “O-okay, okay!”

If you are still there…”

Repeatedly appeasing the intolerant system, Valerie stood next to Donna. “Okay, babe, stand up straight and look right at me.”

It might not have been the ideal time to flirt. But with this setup, it was tough for Donna to resist. She giggled seductively, “No problem, dollface,” and flashed her knockout grin.

Valerie was neither seduced nor knocked out. “Yes, yes, hon, I love you too, but we don’t have time right now.” She measured precisely as she could, noted the number, hopped down on her knees, popped it into the phone, and spun back around.

“Now get naked.”

Donna shot her a look. “I…thought you just said we didn’t have time for that.”

“No, no, babe, I mean take your clothes off so I can weigh ya.”

Donna looked at her like she was from another planet. Suddenly, Val grabbed the scale.

“Actually, the neighbors might be able to see in here. Get in the bathroom.”

What??

Valerie led the way. “Come on, I said! Get your butt in here and strip it down, woman!”

Donna arched her brows and changed her tune. The way Valerie ordered her to do this just happened to sound very hot. She followed with a smirk, pulling her clothes off.

“Well all right, but only if you promise to say it exactly like that from now on.”

Fortunately for them, if given partial info, the phone system would wait for them to come back with the rest. It was now Donna’s turn to be nude in front of her wife. She stepped on the scale, and Valerie darted back out to the living room. She slid in front of the phone, punched it in, took a second to say a little prayer, and pressed the pound key.

Ding!Thank you.

Valerie was elated. “HA!” she cheered, looking up at the ceiling. “Thank YOU, God!” she exulted. She returned to the phone. “You’re welcome, you’re welcome!”

Ding!Please wait a moment.

Donna followed back out to the living room, barefoot and free-bunning. “Val, babe…” she started with a silly smile. “You can call me crazy, but, uh…that was kinda—”

Meaning business, Valerie cut her off. “Not now, babe, not now. I got the height and weight right, now it wants us to wait again.”

Donna paused a beat. “Ohhh-kay.” She went to perch back down.

They heard a beep. They looked warily to one another, unsure what this meant. Finally—

Ding!You are now being transferred to the DiscVisMasterExpress credit card authorization department.

Upon hearing these magical words, the brides’ mouths dropped open in relief and joy.

“AH!! Omigosh!” Valerie hopped up and opened her arms to Donna.

“Val! I LOVE you!” Donna shouted, embracing and planting a good, long one on her.

“Mm…I love you too, my sweet,” Val gushed as the kiss broke, stroking her wife’s hair and caressing her cheek. A shiver of passion tingled through Donna’s body. She loved this woman more than anything in the world, but if only she knew how great was Valerie’s own love for her. As far as each O’Hanlon wife was concerned, her devotion for the other was insurmountable. They sat on the floor, this turn of events having reawakened their flirtatious spirit. They laid foreheads together and giggled.

“Know what?” Donna smiled, gliding her fingertip down Valerie’s nose. “You’re pretty.”

“You’re prettier,” Val purred back, caressing Donna’s cheek.

They’d have progressed further, but were interrupted by something else. They heard what sounded like a gong being struck. Then, a new recorded voice assumed the line.

Welcome, and thank you for calling the DiscVisMasterExpress credit card authorization department. To begin, please press 1.

Donna widened her eyes. She spoke.

“You are NOT telling me we could’ve just dialed another number to get here.”

Valerie interlocked their fingers, pressing 1 with the other index. “It doesn’t matter, sweetie, we’re there now,” she cooed, her silky voice sweet as honey. Donna couldn’t help noticing her tone and mannerisms were much, much calmer than they were a few minutes ago. She considered saying so, but thought better and decided to let it go. Besides, she thought, maybe she was the reason Val’d relaxed. Maybe she wasn’t giving herself and her seducing finesse enough credit. Maybe she was hotter stuff than she thought! Val could make her sizzle with one touch in the right spots, but Donna didn’t know she had the same effect. Meanwhile, the new recording went on.

Gong!Thank you for your selection.

Donna rolled her eyes, quite tired of being thanked. Though this was her credit card, and she was indeed super excited four hours ago, the process was sucking her energy well dry. She found herself now wanting to do something else, like carry her blushing bride back to bed. Where they could snuggle, watch TV and drop asleep together.

Val, on the other hand, was now set on making this happen for the love of her life. She’d made some strides, and was convinced things would play out in their favor. She was confident and encouraged, though…while good things, confidence and encouragement could be a trifle dangerous in the hands of one like Valerie Megan O’Hanlon.

Please state your name,” the recording requested.

With a silent “Oh!” Val slid the phone over to her. Donna sat up.

“Okay, uh, *ahem*…Donna O’Hanlon.”

The voice responded. “I think you said, ‘John Bo Banlon.’

“Wh—…NO. No, I didn’t.”

If this is correct, please press 1.

“It’s not,” Donna snapped.

If this is not correct, please press 2.

Sigh. BOOP.

This time they heard the sound of a buzzer, not unlike that of a vintage game show.

Bzzz!Thank you for your selection. Please state your name.

“DONna O’HANlon,” she repeated, trying to be distinct.

I think you said, ‘Lon Ho Flanlin.’

“WHAT the f—” Donna griped.

If this is correct, please press 1. If this is not correct, please press 2.

“Nope, strike two…” BOOP.

Bzzz!Thank you for your selection. Please state your name.

Putting her mouth as close to the phone set as she could without ingesting it, Donna tried again. “DAHHHHHHNNA… OHHHHH… HAAAAAANLUHHHHN.”

I think you said, ‘Gonna Go Pan’lin’.’

Donna shook her head while dropping it in her hands, and whimpered.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Valerie lamented. “This one’s even slower than the last one.”

If this is cor—” BOOP! Bzzz!Thank you for your selection…”

“Okay, fine, how ’bout…” Donna tried her maiden name. “DONNA GARDNER.”

I think you said, ‘Kinder Gardner.’

Donna made her hands into fisted claws. “MOTHER—”

“ALL right, a’right, lemme give this a try,” said Val, dragging the phone back her way.

If thi—” BOOP! Bzzz!Thank you for your selection. Please state your name.

Valerie gave it a try. “Donna O’Hanlon.”

I think you said, ‘Donna O’Hanlon.’

“Ah!” Val smiled with a clap of the hands. “See?”

If only the look Donna proceeded to give her could be defined in words.

If this is correct, please press 1. If—” BIP!

Donna spoke out loud, matter-of-factly, to no one. “I’ve married Barbara Eden.”

Gong!Thank you, Donna O’Hanlon! Please wait a moment.

“Who’s the witch now,” Donna muttered. “A’right, Sabrina, how’d you pull that off?”

Valerie smiled innocently. “I told you, me cheery lass, pure fortune of the Irish.”

“Oh yeah?” Donna shot back, her mordant side unleashed and very much active. “Well, you better take a laxative, Glinda, ’cause that horseshoe’s gotta be pretty damn painful.”

Donna’s smart remarks only endeared her more to Valerie. “C’mon, hon,” Val adorably rejoined. “You know I don’t work like that. All I did was put a rainbow over the house.”

The recording had returned. Gong!Hello, Donna O’Hanlon! If you wish to hear options, please press 1, or say, ‘Yes,’ now.

Donna chuckled caustically. “Ho boy; this again, huh?”

Val took her hand, gave it a rub and a pat. “Fear not, my darling, for you’ve got a higher order on your side. I summon my powers only for good.” She pressed 1.

Gong!Thank you for your selection, Donna O’Hanlon!

“You are welcome, O Elusive Electronic Voice Person,” said Valerie.

If you would like to speak with a representative, please press 1, or say, ‘Yes,’ now.

Surprise and hope engulfed Donna’s face. “A human??” she shrieked. “HELL YES!”

Val sighed contentedly. “God bless you, Alexander Graham Bell.” She pressed 1 again.

Gong!Thank you for your selection, Donna O’Hanlon.

Gong!You are now being transferred to one of our efficient representatives. Please hold, and we will be with you VERY shortly.

Through the phone began to play a mellow ’70s song neither knew.

Donna shook her head, feeling some stamina return. “…Wow,” she breathed.

“Yeah.”

Donna gazed at Val…her straight strawberry blonde hair reaching down her shoulders, the way her gentle, lucky green eyes rested pleasantly on the phone, subtly nuanced by her laugh lines…the side portrait of her face traced by the light, her demure lashes, her diminutively pronounced nose, the way her hint of a smile dimpled her cheek…then down to the fingers of one hand idly drumming on the table, the way her elegant breasts relaxed in her jammie top unshackled by a bra…even the simplicity of sitting on her knees, her tootsies poking out of the p.j. pants…everything. Donna loved everything.

My wife, she thought. My gorgeous, wonderful wife. Her eyes went dewy for one brief moment. “You know what?” she said.

Val turned, her rogue strands of hair wafting up and floating back down. “What?”

“I like you.”

Valerie smiled back, limerence crinkling up her shining eyes.

“I like you more.”

Donna shook her head. “If only possible.”

They took time-out for a soulwarming kiss. After another sec, a familiar voice returned. The first electronic cheerful-sounding voice they encountered—with its own sound.

Ding!We are currently experiencing a high call volume. But please do not hang up, as your call is very important to us. Thank you for your patience.

The music returned. Valerie and Donna stared at the phone.

“…You again?” asked Donna.

Valerie turned a bit hostile. “I don’t like you,” she frowned, addressing the first voice. “I don’t care for you at all. You tortured me. At least the other one’s cooperative.”

Donna sprawled herself out on her back. “Well, babe…” she said with a relaxing groan, deciding to cheer up her wife by teasing her. “Why don’t you summon forth those powers of yours, and get us a representative on here?” She closed her eyes, chuckled and stretched, which lifted her pajama top, which exposed her belly.

Valerie didn’t think Donna was seriously ridiculing her power (which was really her faith in God), but…make fun of me, will you, ya little minx, she thought. Though she knew she’d probably pay for this, she reached down for Donna’s exposed tummy, and give her one big vigorous tickle, right around the bellybutton.

“AAAHH!” Donna shouted, bolting upright. She smirked at Val, who shyly smiled back.

Big mistake, doll,” Donna threatened playfully, both of them well aware Valerie was the more ticklish one—and that every time they got in a tickle fight, Donna owned her.

“Of course you realize…” Donna continued menacingly, “This means war.”

Valerie tried to get up, up and away, but Donna pounced on her, straddled her and had her begging for mercy in about eight seconds. She was right. She did pay for it.

A moment after they’d settled back down, voice number two came back.

Gong!You are now being transferred to one of our efficient representa—…”

“Hm!” Donna chuckled. “Look at that, Valentine, they’re tag-teaming us now.”

“…Please hold, and we will be with you VERY shortly.

Valerie waved it off. “Don’t you sweat it, baby. Trust me, by the time this is over, these people’re gonna know MY name.”

The music returned, right on cue, in the midst of a very particular Steve Winwood song.

“—wind, in her arms…Valerie! Call me/Call on me! Valerie…”

Both jaws hit the floor. As if by magic, a song entitled “Valerie” happened in fact to be piping through the speaker. A stunned Donna and Val slowly turned to each other.

“No…way…” Donna murmured through a hint of a chuckle.

Val looked straight up to the ceiling. “Now You’re just having fun with us, aren’t Ya?”

Ding!We are currently experiencing a high call volume…”

“A’right, you can’t do that with a rainbow,” the amazed Donna insisted.

Not to be outdone, a more recent and recognizable song took over. By Amy Winehouse.

“—fool out of me/Why don’t you come on over, Valerie…”

Both veritably shrieked in shock. They watched the phone, neither batting an eye, as Amy sang her name again and again and again.

Gong!You are now being transferred…”

The song resumed. The O’Hanlons turned back to each other, more floored than they could ever remember being. They let it play a little longer, and Donna stood. She didn’t know what kind of mystic force was at work here, but…

“What the hell,” she said. “Might as well just go with the flow…” She held her paw out to Valerie. “Wanna dance?”

Val let out a giddy chuckle. Still a little dazed and confused, she laughed, shook her head, stood as well, and accepted Donna’s hand. “Why not??”

*****

(V) Yes, we know…please trust me, we’re not imbeciles. We’re not soft upstairs, I swear. We just didn’t want to give up. We just kept repeating all those clichés to ourselves. Y’know, “Good things come to those who wait”…

(D) “The best things in life are worth waiting for”…

(V) “The longer you wait for something, the more you appreciate it”…

(D) “A watched something never…something”…I never remember that one.

(V) So we figured, why not try to get a few other things done in the meantime. And by that, I mean have an indoor picnic.

(D) Right. So, Saturday afternoon, 4:-, 5:something.

*****

Saturday, September 7th, 2013, 4:47 p.m.

Donna rubbed her stuffed tummy with a contented sigh. “Awesome lunch, babe.”

Ding!We are currently experiencing a high call volume. But please do not hang up, as your call is very important to us. Thank you for your patience.

The recliners were pushed back a few feet. Now with full stomachs, both lay on the floor on their backs, disposable plates and cups sitting about.

Valerie chuckled. “Well, ‘lunch’ might be debatable…what time is it?”

“Shoot, y’got me…4:-, 5:something?”

They waited another moment. Donna held up a hand, all five fingers. She put down her thumb, then her pinkie, then her ring finger, then her index…and flipped the remaining digit in the direction of the phone. They had the timing perfect. Right on cue—

Gong! Donna and Valerie recited the message in flawless sync with the recording.

“You are now being transferred to one of our ‘efficient’ representatives,” the girls mocked and air-quoted. “Please hold, and we will be with you VERY ‘shortly.’”

They snickered. Val linked her fingers, turned her hands palms out, held them at arms’ length and cracked her knuckles. “So, what’cha wanna do now?”

Donna wasn’t ready to move for a good little bit. “The way you stuff me, babe, I could take a ten-hour nap right now, but, uh…” She exhaled. “Guess we should do the dishes.”

Valerie rolled onto her side until able to get on her feet.

Ding!We are currently experiencing a high call volume…”

Val fetched the trash can, crouched to retrieve the disposables, theatrically deposited each in the trusty waste bin, then returned it to its designated spot, and herself to the living room, clapping any accumulable dust from her hands.

“Dishes’re done. What else do you wanna do?”

Donna propped up onto her elbow. “Well, ’s see…what’ve we done today so far?”

“So far…” Valerie paced back and forth, counting on her fingers. “We had our late lunch-slash-early dinner…did some more unpacking…read the paper cover to cover…did the crossword puzzle…cut it up, turned it into an origami museum…counted the ceiling tiles…danced to my song…made love, aaaaand…oh yeah, went to the grocery store.”

With that, she resumed the recliner, and made it live up to its name.

Gong!You are now being transferred to…”

Donna tried to roll over as well, but was so full she’d a bit of a tough time. “H—…hon?”

Val declined the chair, took Donna’s hands and helped her up.

“Thank you, my reason for living,” Donna gratefully groaned. She kissed Valerie, then made a fateful announcement.

“I gotta take a leak.”

*****

(V) Once you’ve invested in a project more time than it takes to get from Hawaii to Disney World—both lovely honeymoon spots, by the way—it feels like a real shame to just give up. That all that time would otherwise’ve been wasted. You are no doubt thinking by now that we’re insane. And you’re not wrong. ’Scuse me one sec, I gotta grab something…ah, here we go.

Eventually, Donna’s mother called—thank goodness Donna found her cell phone—and said she’d be by next morning to warm our house a little. Now, if I may go off on a little tangent here…those of you who’re all too aware that if you rearrange the letters in “mother-in-law” you get “Hitler-woman”…I’ve gotta be honest in telling you that Donna’s Mom and I love each other. We do. But don’t hate me for it, because I’m not bragging.

…Please don’t let her know I told you this, but when we first met, I HATED the woman. She always called me “young lady.” Ugh…she thought it was so cute. Drove me effing nuts. She wasn’t exactly crazy about me either, but, well…I know how terrible this is, but have you ever had a recurring dream that your significant other’s Mom died…and it feels really good?

I know, I hate me for it too. Obviously, I’d never really wish such a thing on her. But that’s all in the past; we’re fine now. Anyway, the reason I bring up her Mom is, she…well, maybe I should just let you find out for yourself.

Apropos all this credit card goofiness, in our now semi-loopy state, we finally decided it was time to fight fire with fire. So we said, you know what? We can wait just as long as you can prolong it. Desperate situations call for desperate measures, and so we pulled out the secret endurance weapon. The ultimate time-killer. Sunday twilight, something like…1:30 a.m.

*****

Sunday, September 8th, 2013, 1:45 a.m.

Two teacups were on the table. The board sat on the floor between them. Donna was about to fall over on her side dead asleep. Val blew on the dice, shook them and rolled.

“’Kay, I pass Go, $200, Community Chest…oh, cool, ’nother 45 bucks. Your turn, hon.”

Donna didn’t move. Val crawled over the board and French kissed her nose. She awoke.

“Wh—…what happened?”

“It’s your turn, babe,” Val explained, gesturing to the board.

“…Oh, for G—…okay, fine.” Donna lackadaisically picked up the dice. She didn’t roll, but just dropped them on the board. Valerie gave her a couple claps.

“Oh, hon, doubles! You got outta jail free.”

“Yippity-skip,” said an exhausted Donna. She rubbed her face. “…Why’s my nose wet?”

Gong!You are now being transferred to one of our efficient representatives. Please hold, and we will be with you VERY shortly.

Donna reached toward the phone. “I’ll show you ‘very shortly,’ you little—”

Valerie took her hands. “ALL right there, sweetie, all right…” She got up, collecting their teacups. “Sounds to me like someone needs more tea!” She headed back to the kitchen.

Donna practically begged her as she did so. “No, please! No more tea!

Val called to her from the kitchen, refilling their cups. “Donna, honey, I told you, if you win the game, I’ll treat you next time we go out. Whatever you want, all day, ’s on me. And then I will make you the best dinner you’ve ever had.”

“Oh, Val, I don’t wanna win the game!” Donna whined. “I don’t want more tea! I either want a human being on this phone right goddamn NOW—”

Ding!We are currently experiencing a high call volume. But please do not hang up, as your call is very important to us. Thank you for your patience.

She finished her sentence, weeping by the last word. “…Or I wanna go to slee-e-e-eep!”

Valerie came back with the teacups a matter-of-fact moment later.

“You’re just going through a state of temporal somnolence due to your circadian rhythm, combined with your somewhat lethargic physiology, which would naturally result in a microsleep condition in your cerebral cortex. Not to mention your pathological adversity to delayed gratification.” With which she picked up the dice. Donna stared at her.

“Great; now I’m tired, and I have a headache.”

Gong!You are now being transferred…”

Val rolled. “Yay!” she clapped. “Boxcars!” She started moving her token.

*****

(D) When I was a little girl, I used to love to stay up late like all kids do. And like a lot of kids, I’d get out of bed after I thought my folks’d gone to sleep, and sneak out of my room. The difference is, most kids, when they do this, get caught and sent back to bed. I…did not. If you have children, or, if you happen to be a children…then you know that once you’re born, an internal alarm is installed in your parents’ brains, that senses when you get outta bed, wakes them up, gets THEM up, and boom, you’re back in bed before you know it. Five minutes later, you’ve gotta go to the bathroom, then five minutes after that you get thirsty and need a glass of water, and then you have to pee again, and this time, your parents actually go to the trouble of tying you to the bed. To them it’s worth it, you see.

Okay, obviously, I’m kidding; you don’t need two trips to the bathroom.

Anyway, the point is, I never got caught. I never got sent back to bed, and thus spent more than my share of twilights wide awake. The twilight hours always seemed kinda…mysterious, to me. And elusive, and unexplored. I was amazed when I found out they still show stuff on TV after midnight. I never really did much of anything, ’cause I didn’t wanna get busted. I just marveled at the fact that I…broke on through to the other side. I went back outside my bedroom after midnight, and I got away with it. I felt invincible back then; for a long time I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

But when I hit my 20s and got a full-time job…I realized WHY parents don’t let their kids stay up late. So I go, let’s see, if I want eight hours’ sleep, I’ll have to hit the sack at…ten?? I hadn’t been asleep by ten since I was…ten! I dunno if you ever spent your weekends sleeping till noon, but if you try to switch gears just like that…well, you might as well have a dang parade going on outside. Before you know it you’re up again, channel and web surfing, thinking boy, this is gonna be rough in the morning. But don’t despair, kids, ’cause after a few days of just trying not to drop dead at work, hitting the hay at ten suddenly sounds like a dandy idea! And getting to the actual point…once you’re all grown-up, ho-ho! Just try pulling an all-nighter now.

Which brings us back to our little credit card saga. By the by, my fascination for twilight as a kid went hand in hand with a fascination for those magical plastic cards that as far as I was concerned could do absolutely anything. That long, long expository spiel was just to attempt to prepare you for what’s coming next. Oh, and, incidentally…my apologies, in advance. For what? Trust me, you’ll see for what. Sunday, twilight, 3:30 a.m., probably…

Or…it…might’ve been 3:45 a.m., I can’t really remember…

Y’know…maybe it was closer to 4:00; I didn’t very much care by this point.

*****

Sunday, September 8th, 2013, 4:41 a.m.

Donna paced, trying to keep herself awake. Their Monopoly game had chugged to a halt. Valerie knelt not very animatedly, elbows on the table, face melting between her hands.

Ding!We are currently experiencing a high call volume. But please do not hang up, as your call is very important to us. Thank you for your patience.

“Well,” mumbled Val, “Glad we didn’t have anything else to do today.”

“Val…honey…can we please, please, PLEASE just go to sleep??”

Valerie sat up, gave herself a light smack in the cheek, rubbed her eyes and yawned.

“Donna, just think how great we’re gonna feel when we finally get through!”

Donna’s tone was turning angry. Her beloved bride Valerie’s endless—and seemingly foolhardy—optimism was starting to get on her nerves.

“Yeah, uh…y’know, Val, I’ve been thinking about that these last, oh, I dunno…FOURTEEN hours, and, uh…somehow, I just don’t think it’s gonna happen.”

Gong!You are now being transferred…”

Valerie forced herself up and took Donna’s hands. “Babe, we can’t just give up!”

Donna held out her arms inquisitively, pushing Valerie’s paws back towards her.

“Yeah…remind me why not again?” she asked.

Ding!We are currently experiencing…”

“Donna, it’s gonna happen! I prayed for it! God has always answered my prayers!”

Donna was so wiped, she was giving less and less thought to what came out of her mouth. And growing cranky. She sharply yanked her hands from Val’s.

“Oh, really?” she said. “And, um, just what kinda prayers would those be, exactly?”

She wandered to the other side of the room and rubbed her eyes. Valerie was clearly caught off-guard by this question and the way Donna asked it. She felt a bit stung.

Gong!You are now being transferred…”

“What does that mean?” Valerie inquired.

Donna removed her hands from her face and held them in the air. “NOTHING. Absolutely nothing.” She heaved a sigh and stared off at nothing in particular.

The blood in Valerie’s feet went cold. Feeling an abrupt uneasy feeling in the tummy, she took a few cautious steps toward her wife, paying less attention to the phone herself.

“Is there something you’d like to say to me?”

Donna’s lips said, “Nope!” But her flippant tone patently contradicted it.

Ding!We are currently experiencing…”

Val came a few steps closer still. “Yes, there is. What is it?”

Donna sighed, re-rubbing her eyes with a faint groan.

“Donna, answer me.”

Donna couldn’t really look at her, but finally croaked out a reply.

“…Look, Valerie, you don’t have to do me any favors.”

Valerie’s eyebrows jumped, quite startled to hear the girl she cherished say something like this. The comment aside, she couldn’t remember the last time Donna addressed her with the full three-syllable version of her name. A bit of hurt came through in her voice.

“…Are you saying you don’t want me here?”

Gong!You are now being transferred…”

Donna turned in Valerie’s direction, but still didn’t exactly face her.

First of all,” Donna’s voice rose, “Our wedding vows didn’t include trick questions.”

Val turned more startled yet.

“And B, ‘You don’t have to do me any favors’ means ‘You don’t have to do me any favors.’ ‘I don’t want you here’ means ‘I don’t want you here.’ Did I say, ‘I don’t want you here’? I did not. Ergo, I reiterate: you simply don’t have to do me any favors.”

Valerie could barely believe what she was hearing. Her lower lip began to quiver. She returned to the recliner and slowly let herself down again, practically melting into it.

Ding!We are currently experiencing…”

Whatwh—” Valerie’d never heard her soulmate speak to her like this, as girlfriends, wives or anything else. She didn’t know what to say to do. She started to get frightened.

Donna continued, still not completely able to look at her. “And all I mean by that is, I just think there’re things we could be doing right now more productive than this. Like maybe…oh, I dunno, just off the top of my head…SLEEP!

She covered her face with one paw. Looking at Donna, Valerie’s powers of speech were trapped in bemused apprehension. She felt numb. She looked helplessly at the phone.

Gong!You are now being transferred…”

Both breathed a bit heavier. Valerie heard Donna start to weep, very soft and silent. Before she knew it, tears came to Val’s own eyes. Needing to sit herself, Donna plopped on the floor and covered her face. Neither said anything for a few seconds.

Ding!We are currently experienci—”

“Oh, just hang up!” Donna abruptly shouted.

A very startled Valerie gasped and jumped. She did nothing but cry. A few more seconds passed by, of elevator music that all sounded the same: maddening.

Gong!You are now being transferred…”

It was driving Donna insane. “Hang up, I said! Just forget it! SCREW it already!!”

As Donna’s voice loudened, Valerie’s piped down.

Wha—…” she whispered, tearful and fearful. “Why’re you yelling? You’re scaring me.

Donna brought it down a few notches. “I just can’t believe this whole, freaking, thing…”

Val slipped down onto the floor and approached on her knees. “Honey…it’s okay. I—”

“‘Okay?!” Donna chopped her off. “This is not okay!” She paused for a sob. “I am sitting here in the dead of night, waiting for a goddamn miracle to happen! I’m a grown woman struggling to stay awake at…at…whatever the hell time it is, being on hold for fifteen hours! Something is clearly wrong here! If there is anything this situation is not, Valerie Effing O’Hanlon, it’s ‘okay’! This, SUCKS! A’right?!”

She brushed her eyes with a sniffle. Val started to sob. Not bawling loud, but enough for Donna to hear. All she wanted to do today was make her wife happy. And she’d failed.

Ding!We are currently experiencing…”

“Donna…” Val said through her tears. “H—…how can you say that? I mean, I…I know this isn’t the greatest day ever, but-but y—…you’re acting like it’s the end of the world! We are still married, you know!” She forced out a weak chuckle. “I mean, it…it’s not like we’re being forced to divorce if we can’t authorize your credit card.”

“It goddamn feels like it,” replied Donna, already regretful. “I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to leave me by now.”

Gong!You are now being transferred…”

“Wh—…what’re you talking ab—…” Valerie couldn’t believe she just said that.

“I can’t believe you just said that.” She inched closer on her knees again. “Donna…

“Look at this.” She pointed to her ring. “We’re married! Donna, darling, heaven’s sake, I’m your wife! You got me! I’m not going anywhere! You have a brand-new wife, who loves you more than anything she’ll ever love…and would give her life if it meant saving yours!” She blinked some more tears off her eyes, placing a hand on Donna’s shoulder.

Donna scoffed. “You’d die…so I could stay alive? Gee, that makes a lotta sense. Great, you’re dead, and I’m a widow. What am I supposed to do then, Val? Answer me that.”

Val let that go. She leaned up closer to her ear and whispered.

Donna, my angel…I love you more than life itself. I adore you more than any person has ever adored anyone or anything, ever. Donna Ellie O’Hanlon…you are my world.”

Donna just cried. The words effectlessly bounced off her.

“Ohhh…” she moaned miserably. “I wish I wasn’t too tired to care.”

Valerie could not believe that either. She took her hand off her beloved’s shoulder.

“‘Too…tired…to care??” She couldn’t just let that go. Or hold back her tears.

“Okay, my friend, you just blew my mind, twice, and THAT one hurt. What you just said really hurt me, Donna. All I’ve done…all, I’ve, done, for the last fifteen hours is stand by you, and help you make this happen. Your happiness is the number one priority in my life. Lemme explain something to you, Donna: your wife, Valerie Megan O’Hanlon, would go beyond hell and back to make your dreams come true. ’Cause you’re the queen of my heart. I LOVE you. It bears repeating.” She shook her head. “If someone took you from me, or said we couldn’t be together anymore…I…” She wept at the mere thought. “…You have no idea how much it’d destroy me. If I lost you…I’d shatter, into a million tiny pieces, until nothing in me could be broken anymore. And you’re too tired to care?

Donna let another moment go by, absorbing all of this. Her heart wrenched again as she heard Val unleash a stream of sorrowful, soulbreaking tears. She collected her thoughts.

“Okay,” she began. “You wanna talk about this, we’ll talk about this.”

Valerie paused crying to look up at her.

“Number one…about four hours ago, my dream was not authorizing this stupid thing anymore; it was sleeping! Apparently, I should have told you then, except, I did! I said it over and over again! Val…look, I’m sorry. I really am, but-but…you just wouldn’t listen to me! It’s…” She tried to think, but her headache wouldn’t allow it. “It’s gotta be, like, five in the morning! You know I need as much sleep as I can possibly get, and you haven’t let me have a wink! I started…” Sigh. “…Stupid as it probably sounds, I started to think that maybe…maybe you actually didn’t love me anymore.”

Those seven last words cracked Valerie’s heart, and made her bawl yet harder. Donna continued to attempt to locate the words she wanted. But again, she couldn’t think.

“I…I didn’t mean to…” She grew frustrated, and threw out the first pleading statements that came to mind. “I didn’t think it would be like this! I…I didn’t mean to do anything wrong here! I…” She turned back to Val, whose head was turned to the floor.

“Val…” Donna took Valerie’s wet chin in her hand. “Val…look at me, please?”

Her tear-soaked eyes were pinched shut. Donna felt arrows of guilt spear every part of her. She felt her body brim with shame. After another moment, she spoke again.

“I wasn’t really too tired to care.”

Valerie opened her heartache-stained eyes and looked at her.

“I…I only said that to make my point. It was a…a sucky choice of words. And…’cause I got pissed off that you wouldn’t let me sleep.”

That revelation injected Val with shame. She dropped her eyes, too dismayed to look up. She felt inexpressibly disappointed in herself, as if punched in the gut by her own fist.

I’m…” she said barely audibly. “I’m so sorry.

And just when she thought she couldn’t feel any worse. Donna grimaced and pretended to shoot herself in the head. She rejoined under her breath.

“I, uh…believe that was my line.” She turned back to Valerie. “Look, Val, I—”

She got out no words past this before Valerie threw her arms around her, squeezed as hard as she could, and buried her face in Donna’s chest. From somewhere down between her breasts, Donna heard her bride whimper, “…Please forgive me.

Again, right when she thought it wasn’t possible to feel guiltier.

“Okay, Val, you gotta stop stealing all my lines.”

Feeling relief and devotion bloom inside her, Valerie’s crying changed from sad to glad. She turned her face up to Donna’s, blinking and sniffling.

“So you…you still love me?”

“Oh, like you even need to ask,” Donna chortled, an emerald-colored reflection of herself staring back. “You still love me?”

Valerie smiled happily for the first time in twelve hours. “Even more,” she cooed, seeing herself mirrored in hazel. She stopped herself before she started up again.

“Oh, c’mere,” she cooed, laying an Earth-silencing kiss on Donna. Their arms enfolded, and they teetered off-kilter. Gravity took over, and they went on making out on the floor.

And the world as they knew it vanished.

Ding!We are cur—” ...Click.

A voice.

A human voice.

“Hello, thank you for calling DiscVisMasterExpress, may I help you?”

When their lips were in contact, everything else in the world went away.

They kept kissing.

“Hello?…Are you there?…”

They kept kissing.

Hello, is anyone there, please?…”

At last, the lasses detached from their liplock and regained any fragments left of their senses. Donna reached for the recliner to pull herself to her feet.

“I, um…I think I’ll go get us some Kleenex, honey. Glad Rite Aid’s open 24 hours.”

The voice on the line underlapped Donna’s as she spoke. And they still, didn’t, hear it.

Valerie got to her feet too. “Oh, baby, let me go with you. Really, it’s the least I can do.”

“The least you can do?”

Anybody there?” asked the voice.

Donna continued. “My God, Valerie, I was acting like such a je—”

“WHOA, whoa, wait a minute,” interrupted Val. “Did…you just hear something?”

“What?”

And this time, they did hear it.

“Hello, anyone there at all?

They spun back to the phone in what felt like slow-mo. In realization of the epiphany upon them, they returned glances to each other for one second. Then…unisonously—

“OMIGOSH!” screamed Valerie.

“HOLY CRAP!” screamed Donna.

They raced back into the living room and dove around the recliners to get to the phone. Donna arrived first, knees hitting the floor the instant she shouted, “Hel—”

But she got no further.

The line went dead. The poor, drained wives were left with nothing but a dial tone.

Valerie’s face fell into another wince of mental agony. Donna just about had a seizure. She shook her head, staring at the phone, feeling the tears coming on yet again.

“…NOnooooo…no no no no no, NO…y—…you are not…you did NOT jus—…”

Valerie saw her wife panicking. She promptly went down on her knees with her.

“Donna. Donna. Honey, it’s all right. S—…sweetie? Sweetheart, look.” She turned Donna’s face to hers. “Baby, look at me. It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay. Honey. Honey!

She took Donna in her arms, kissing her tenderly all over. “Hon, calmdown.” She held on, caressing her hair, lowering her voice till she could get her back under control.

“Donna, sweetie, shhhh. Don’t worry about it. Shhhh. Everything’s okay. I love you. I love you.” She kissed her once more and whispered tranquilly in her ear. “I love you.

Valerie silently hung up the phone and put both arms around her, letting Donna’s head slip down to her shoulder. The next few seconds consisted only of Val soothing her mournful wife. A few more gentle strokes and “shhhh”s later, Donna raised her head.

Oh my God,” Donna solemnly mumbled.

“I know…I know,” Val comforted, petting her hair, arms and back.

Donna shook her head. “Oh, I’m not totally sure you do…”

“…Babe…I—”

“I mean, if you do, then at least one of us does,” bemoaned Donna. “At least one of us knows what just happened—to me. ’Cause I damn sure don’t.” She shook her head again. “It’s…it’s like I’m watching the whole last hour in my mind, over and over again, and…”

Her words were no easier to find and put in order than before. “…That wasn’t me.” She detached herself from Valerie’s embrace and stood.

“That was…some kinda psycho, that…just commandeered my mind and took the wheel. I…I…” She paused to exhale. “…Val, I almost brought our marriage to a standstill.”

“…No,” Val tenderly mollified, trying to put Donna’s mind at ease.

Donna took a few steps in the opposite direction. “Well, you saw it: we just had our first married fight. And I totally brought it on. And it was over a freaking credit card!

Valerie stood with her and took her hands. “Honey, stop beating yourself up! All married couples fight. Trust me, it was gonna happen sooner or later!”

She gave another soft chuckle. “If you didn’t know before, yes, honey; we’re gonna fight. A lot,” she assured, gazing into Donna’s damp eyes, trying to penetrate love into them.

“But all it means is that we love each other!” she smiled. “So look here: don’t you ever worry about breaking us up. It is NOT gonna happen.” She let go of Donna’s hands and wiped both her cheeks dry. “I told you earlier, I’m not going anywhere.”

Donna nodded. “I know…but I still just hate that I hurt you. I’m really sorry, Val.”

“Well…” Valerie smirked lovingly. “Don’t worry about that either. If it makes you feel any better, I inadvertently hurt you too, so we’re even. And…y’know what, never mind the Kleenex. I think right now we could…just both really use some sleep, huh?”

Donna stared at her wordlessly for a moment.

Valerie sheepishly dropped her eyes. “I know, I know. My bad, honey. But look, it’s all behind us now. Everything’s gonna be fine when we wake up. C’mon, Mrs. O’Hanlon. It’s bedtime.” She reclaimed her hands. “Let’s cuddle up…and drift off to Dreamland.”

*****

(D) Wow. I’m…speechless.

(V) Yeah, words fail us; that pretty much says it all.

(D) Oh, but you don’t have to go; we haven’t finished our story just yet.

(V) Unless of course you must; don’t let us keep you if you have other plans.

(D) Right—but we promised you could meet my Mom, Carole, so if you want, by all means, stick around a bit longer. She’s in the last segment.

(V) Here we are. Twenty-four hours after we began. Sunday morning, 11:00.

*****

Sunday, September 8th, 2013, 11:11 a.m.

The lazy prenoon Sunday reflected the same image of loveliness its Saturday presented. Virtually cloudless heavens, both temperature and rate of traffic just a trifle lower than the day before. Around the corner to NW 3rd Avenue swept a blue Volvo, parking behind the Beetle. Out stepped a woman in a summer dress and her late forties, who bore a slight resemblance to Donna, for obvious reasons: it was her Mom, Carole Gardner. She reached the house and knocked. No answer. She tried the bell. No answer.

A bit curious, she opened the screen door and knocked on the actual front. It creaked an inch ajar. Oh, she thought. …Maybe they can’t answer the door, so they left it unlocked. Which seemed less than secure to her, but…she popped her head in and called.

“Hello?…Girls?…It’s me.” Carole discreetly wandered a few steps in. “Um, the door was unlocked,” she continued calling out. “I hope you don’t mind me letting myself in.”

Yet still no answer.

“Uh, Donna, Valerie, I saw your car outside, so I figured you were home. If you aren’t, I could come back later…but I don’t wanna leave your door unlocked…”

Three seconds later, a groggy Valerie emerged, rubbing her eyes. She tossed out a yawn, in the middle of which she noticed their visitor.

“Oh, Carole, hi!” she greeted with a hug.

“Well, hi, hon! There’s one of ya. Slept in this morning, huh?”

Valerie stretched with a chortle. “Ho-HO, yeah.

“Hey, uh…how’d you get in? I didn’t know Donna made you a key.”

“Oh, eh, she didn’t,” Carole said, a tad sheepishly. “The…door was open.”

Valerie stopped pawing at her eyes, raised her brows and remembered. “…Oh yeah.”

“I hope it’s okay that I came inside.”

“Oh, of course it is; we were expecting you!” chuckled Val. “Yeah, we didn’t mean to leave it open, just…uh…one thing led to another, y’know. Long story.”

“Well, I’ve got plenty of time,” Carole shrugged. “My little girl still in bed, is she?”

Most of her energy replenished, Val perked the rest of the way up. “You bet. Oh, well, hey, sit down,” she urged. “Let me get you something. You want a drink? A snack?”

“Oh, that’d only be delightful,” Carole accepted, taking a seat in one of the recliners.

“Outstanding.” The daughter-in-law adjourned to her kitchen.

Carole called to her, chuckling, as she of course found what she was about to say “cute.”

“And you could also get that lazy daughter of mine up while you’re at it, young lady.”

A few steps into the kitchen, Val momentarily froze in her tracks, letting her face go into that anguished grimace, teeth and fists clenched. She let the irritation pass, took a breath and turned to call back. “You got it, Care!”

“Oh, Valerie, honey, do you have some of those darling little cookies around?” Val heard her ask. “You know the ones I mean? Tiny morsels of heaven; I just love those things.”

“Yes, I know,” Carole heard her respond. Under her breath, Valerie laughed to herself, “You bought them for us.”

Another yawn emanated from behind Carole. She and Val heard the front door open, then shut again a minute later, and two more bare feet padding in. In ambled Donna, big heavy newspaper in one hand, brushing her face awake with the other.

Carole turned to see her. “Well, there y’are, lazybones!” she smiled, playfully ribbing her. “Well, what’re you doing sleeping in till 11:00, ya li’l ol’ slugabed?”

She opened up for a hug. Donna lowered her gaze and stared ominously a few seconds. Carole, arms outstretched, threw her the “c’mere, c’mon!” gesture with her fingers.

Donna nodded, it being nowhere near worth it to argue. “Okay,” she agreed as they ‘X’d and ‘O’d. “Okay, Mommy, but just one thing: you’re not allowed to call me ‘lazy’ today.”

“That’s right, Carole, me neither,” added Valerie, returning with cookies on a plate.

“Really?” asked Carole, accepting the snack. “What’s going on?”

Instead of saying anything, Val sauntered straight over to Donna, took her by the hips, drew her in, and then took her by the lips.

Carole arched her eyebrows. “Well, well…throwing me a little hint, are ya?”

Forgetting her Mom was in the room for a minute, Val broke the kiss and spoke sultrily.

“You want a Kool-Aid, sweet baby?”

Donna automatically replied in her own low and steamy tone. “Yes I do, sex doll.”

Forgetting her Mom was in the room for another minute, Valerie took her right hand…

“You wanna go get some…” And smacked Donna’s bottom with it.

“…Cinnamon buns today?”

“You bet your…” Donna spanked her back. “…Sweet ass I do.”

Carole looked down to the cookies, a bit awkwardly. She did a little thumb-twiddling.

“Would, um…would you two like me to leave?”

“Oh, no, no, Mommy; just gettin’ it out of our system,” said Donna.

“Well, for these couple hours,” Valerie added, skipping on tippy-toe back to the kitchen. Carole watched Val prance like a gazelle till she disappeared from her line of sight.

“I see…” Raising her voice to be heard, she called, “Why, Valerie.”

“Yes?” came the cheerful voice.

“Take advantage of my little girl, did you, young lady?”

The mother and daughter heard a pot clatter loudly to the kitchen floor.

“Uh, Val?” Donna called.

“Nothing!”

She produced a glass of Kool-Aid twelve seconds later and served it to Donna.

“Oh, good, you got the paper.”

“Yup, Sunday edition.” Donna tossed it to her. Val caught it, almost falling on her butt.

“So, Vally! Let me ask you,” said Carole. “How’s my favorite American daughter-in-law?”

“Uh…hm. Well, that’s an interestingly-phrased question, Carole. I feel pretty wonderful right now, thanks. And yourself?”

“Oh! Simply ditto.”

“Your favorite ‘American’ daughter-in-law?” repeated Donna. “As opposed to what, Mommy, your favorite Yugoslavian daughter-in-law?”

“Nope! Canadian.”

Donna’s eyes widened. “You’re kidding me! Jimmy?”

Valerie turned back to Donna. “Your brother’s married??

“That was my question!” Donna whirled back on Carole. “My brother’s married??

“Yup; it’s official. He and Suzie tied the knot.”

Valerie was astonished and elated. “SHUT UP!” she shouted. “No way!”

Way.

Gasp. “Oh my gosh, that is so awesome!” Val squealed. She tossed the jumbo Sunday paper into the unoccupied recliner—which almost made it recline completely on its own—and again hugged Carole jovially. “Congrats, Mrs. G.!”

“Thank you. Donna, sweetie, I’m so proud of both of you.”

“Whoa!” said Valerie. “So wait a sec! That means a month ago I was a single only child…now I have a wife, a brother and a sister??”

“Indeed,” said Carole. “I have two daughters-in-law: one American, one Canadian. My son and my daughter now both have wives.”

“…Wait a minute!” exclaimed a not quite as ecstatic Donna. “When did that happen?!”

“Tuesday.”

TUESDAY?!”

“Well, Carole, why didn’t you tell us before?” Val asked.

“Well, you were on your honeymoon. Jimmy said he was sorry you couldn’t make it.”

“Ho-ho!” Donna laughed sarcastically, hands on hips. “I’ll just bet he was…”

Valerie remained delighted. “Well, that…oh my gosh, that is so cool!” she said. “Where’re they going on their honeymoon?”

Paris,” crooned Carole.

“OOOOoooh! Was it a beautiful wedding?”

“OH my, yes.”

“Awwww!”

Donna was turned the other way. “Oh, he just could not stand it, could he?”

“Oh, Donna!” Carole turned to her. “Your getting married had nothing to do with it!”

“HA! I beg to differ! All of a sudden, I’m in the spotlight, I’m getting all the attention, everybody’s congratulating ME…and that was just gnawing away at him, wasn’t it?”

Carole gazed back to Valerie. “Sibling rivalry rears its particularly ugly head.”

“Oh, Donna, stop it!” said Val. “Aren’t you happy for them?”

Donna made a motion with her mouth to spit out an automatic “NO,” but she didn’t. She took a moment, letting her heart soften and warm, smiled, and chuckled.

“Of course I am. No kidding, Mommy, that really is fantastic.”

“Oh, Carole, you finished your cookies,” noticed Val. “I’ll go get you some more. Babe,” she turned, addressing her bride. “What would you love for breakfast?”

“Aw, I love anything you whip up, Rachael,” said Donna, blinking her butterfly kisses. “Surprise me.”

Valerie beamed back at her. “You know what? You, are, perfect.”

“No, you are.”

“No, you are!” insisted Valerie, resuming the kitchen.

“Okay, have it your way! You win; I’m perfect!”

“So, what’s this you were saying—you slept in today but you’re not lazy?” asked Carole.

“OH, geez.” Donna picked up the card from the table. “A’right, well…y’know, my, uh…new credit card came in the mail yesterday.”

“Oh, that’s terrific, hon,” said Carole. “Congratul—”

Donna held up a hand to halt her. “…Not quite.”

“What’cha mean?”

“We…sat on hold, six-teen hours…trying to get it authorized. And we were so tired, we got ticked off…well, I did…and we…kinda had a little fight. And when we DID finally get someone on the phone, we…missed it—please don’t ask me how—and they hung up.”

Carole’s countenance turned a bit worried. “You stayed up all night?”

She turned away from her mother again. “Felt like dead crap on toast six hours ago.”

The reaction provoked in the wives by the next thing Carole said had yet to be defined.

“Well, why didn’t you just do it online?”

Donna froze in her tracks. The sound came from the kitchen of several cooking items crashing to the floor at the same time, including a plate wobble-spinning for several seconds. Certain impulses entered Donna’s mind…impulses that did not reflect her nature as a person: throwing something, striking something, kicking something, shooting something… She slowly, very very slowly pivoted her feet 180° to face her mother—her face a mask of utter disbelief—held up both index fingers, shut her red-seeing eyes, and ejaculated one single, sharp, biting, barking word.

What?

Valerie slipped out of the kitchen, wearing her apron and a dish towel over her shoulder.

“Did…she just say…what I think she said?”

Unaware there was anything amiss, Carole elaborated. “Well, yeah, sure. You can go on the site, process the information through, do it in just a couple minutes.” Her smile remained, but as she looked back and forth between them, it faded.

“You…didn’t know that?”

Donna let one more moment go by before she screeched. “…WHAT?!!

Val shut her eyes, but could not shut her mouth. She whipped the dish towel off her shoulder and whapped herself in the face with it three times. “OH…MY…gosh.”

Suddenly, the situation came clear in Carole’s mind. “OH, dear…” she uttered. Her daughter extended an arm, beginning to totter unsteadily. She went for the wall just to stay on her feet. Val sat on the recliner’s arm. Carole turned back to the phone.

“And, the two of you sat awake all night long waiting f—…” She looked back again.

“Oh, honey!” she lamented. She took Donna in her arms and gave her a warm motherly hug. “Oh, no wonder you slept in so late!” She let go of Donna and went to hug Val as well. “I am so sorry you guys went through that!”

“Hell, how sorry’re we we went through it?” Donna grumbled.

Valerie looked at her. “…Really, babe?”

“Huh?”

“Well…are we?” asked Val. “Are you actually really sorry that happened to us? I mean, aside from the whole sleep deprivation thing. I mean, yeah, I could’ve done without that. But other than that…how sorry do you really feel?”

Donna needed a sec to think about it.

Do you honestly feel like it was all just wasted time?”

Donna considered. “Hm…y’know, for some reason…not really, no.”

“Me neither!” Valerie agreed. “Sweetie, I think last night you and I got about as close as two people who love each other can possibly get. If not more. I mean, to me…that’s a true declaration of our love: we ended up staying up all night together, for the pure heck of it! Just because we could! Can Jimmy and Suzie say that?”

Donna chuckled, not having thought of it this way. “Yeah, true; let them try it!”

Valerie took her hands and kissed them, one at a time. “Y’know, believe it or not, Donna, I’m glad we had that fight. I didn’t think it was possible to love you any more than I did, but…I do. I really do! I love you even more now.”

Donna couldn’t help but smile big and beautiful. “I love you too.”

“You two are so adorable,” Carole remarked. “Valerie, honey, why don’t you sit down, and I’ll make you guys some breakfast. You shouldn’t have to lift a finger after that.”

Val’s voice jumped a little. “Oh, that is really sweet of you, Carole, but, I, um…” She cleared her throat, not quite sure how to phrase this. Donna did it for her.

“She doesn’t let anyone in her kitchen when she’s cooking.”

Valerie nodded. “That’s…about it, yeah.”

“Well, all righty,” said Carole. “Hey, Donna, why don’t we get on the computer and get your card authorized?”

“Oh, Mommy…” Sigh. “It’s not unpacked or connected online yet, and…even if it was, I…” She handed it over. “…I kinda don’t even wanna look at that thing right now.”

Carole took the card. “Well, can’t say I blame you,” she agreed. “But if you’d like, I could take it with me and do it for you.”

“Oh, would you, really?” smiled Val.

“Aw, Mommy, thanks so much, that’d be awesome,” said Donna.

“Of course, no problem! Well…guess I’ll get going then.”

“Well, you don’t have to,” Donna said. “I mean…”

It was Carole’s turn to hold up a hand. “It’s fine, girls. Even if I wasn’t aware of last night, I can see now, you two could really use some rest. Why don’t you go back to bed?”

“…Maybe after breakfast, we’ll see.”

“Okeydokey,” said Carole, starting for the door. “Love you guys. God bless. Oh, and Valerie?…Take good care of her, young lady.”

Val forced herself to smile, trying not to sound like her teeth were clenched. “Will do!”

“Give Daddy a hug and a kiss for me.”

“You have a wonderful day now, bye-bye!”

*****

(D) Y’know, while it might sound utterly in(s)ane…looking back on it…I think I’d say that was one of the best weekends of my life.

(V) Same here, babe.

(D) Well, again, we really wanna thank you so much for coming; with you here it feels more like home already.

(V) Yes, and we hope you understand, we’re gonna have to say goodbye for now. But feel free to come back sometime! We’d love to have you over again.

(D) Oh, yeah. Hey, Mommy! Come back here a second. Say goodbye.

(C) So long, you all take care now! Sweet dreams!

(V) Donna, my sweetheart…my love…you, are, exquisitely, perfect.

(D) No, you are.

(V) No, you are.

(D) No, YOU are.

(V) NO, YOU ARE!

(D) Okay, you win.

(V) Kiss me, you fool.

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