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Jaz pulled into a space and noticed Qwayz's car. It was their first anniversary, and she had stored their wedding portrait in the never-used bedroom closet. It had been such a weird few weeks, with both of them preoccupied with TC's death while trying to catch up on their studies. As Qwayz kissed her goodbye early this morning, had he wished her happy anniversary or happy Valentine's Day or good luck on her biochem exam? Jaz hoped today was the day they would find their way back to each other.
Opening the door and announcing her arrival, she stopped, then convulsed with laughter. In her grandmother's rocker, a few steps from the door, sat a gigantic teddy bear holding a red and purple balloon bouquet in one paw and a dozen pink roses in the other.
"I couldn't find gardenias to save my life," Qwayz said, leaning against the bedroom doorjamb.
"You're a trip." She fell into Qwayz's waiting arms. "I love you."
"Me too. Happy Valentine's Day, Jas-of-mine."
"That sounds so good." Jaz let her head drop against his neck, soaking up his Jade East scent.
"And this feels good, too, but we've got reservations at Giuseppe's at six."
"Oh, boo coo de bucks."
"Nothing's too good for my lady." He flashed his familiar smile, even-toothed over a sensuous bottom lip.
They dined royally at their favorite neighborhood bistro, where Mama Aruzzo always hired a roving violinist and gave each woman a rose for Valentine's Day. When Qwayz told her it was their anniversary, she announced it to the entire room and gave the couple a bottle of champagne.
They staggered lazily up the hill to their apartment. Inside, they patted Teddy on thehead, and rounded the fireplace to the bedroom, where Qwayz had more champagne on ice ... water.
"No more champagne," Jaz protested weakly, "or I'll get a headache, and I don't want a headache tonight." She began peeling off her clothes as Qwayz threw the champagne out of sight. "Oh, I look a mess." Jaz stood in front of a freestanding antique cheval mirror, absently moving a big red bow from her field of vision. "I always loved that mirror." She flopped on the bed.
"Happy first anniversary." Qwayz stroked her bare brown thigh.
"Ah!" Jaz said, jumping up as she realized the antique mirror she'd admired for so long was hers. "You devil!" She fingered the beveled glass as Qwayz sidled up behind her, his image captured behind hers.
"It's hard to shop for the girl who has everything." He brushed his lips across her cheek and kissed her.
"As long as I have you, I do have everything." She squeezed her hands over his.
"Well, I'm gonna give you something memorable every anniversary."
"That reminds me." She wrestled herself loose of his grasp and rolled the television out of the way.
"Hey watch it." He ran to help. "What's in there?"
"Put it over here. Prop it on the bed. Now, you unveil it."
"Oh, sweet!" He was speechless.
"Oh, Qwayz, it's beautiful. We're beautiful." They both stared at their wedding day image captured in oil, their eyes shining brightly. Jaz remembered his proposing during one of their study playbreaks ...
"Valentine's Day has always been super special for us, and I think we oughta do something extraordinary to commemorate it," he said, his sensuous bottom lip tucked under even white teeth, devilishness dancing in his eyes.
Jaz, who straddled him, murmured, "Yeah? What?"
"Marry me." He rode her to the other side of the couch, her questioning eyes never leaving his. "Why not? I love you, you love me, I can't see any part of my future without you in it. Somewhere on this planet I want it written that you and I cared enough about each other to make it legal. I've thought about it a lot since your father discovered our living situation, and it's what I want. You and me for eternity, Jaz. I want you to be my wife." He kissed her.
"Qwayz, you're a trip. In a time when folks are running from marriage and commitment--"
"I've never gone along with the okey-doke, Jas-of-mine. Isn't that why you're so crazy 'bout me?"
"You're pregnant!" Jaz teased. "In love and trouble, tsk-tsk."
"I'd be in trouble if you said no, Jaz. That'll mean I was wrong about us all along. Am I?"
"No, Qwayz. I'd be honored to be your wife for the rest of my life." Qwayz then sprang the ecru Victorian tea dress with the leg-of-mutton sleeves that Jaz had loved in Memories Boutique. "How can I refuse?" She smiled through tears of happiness.
Qwayz was willing, but Jaz nixed the idea of inviting her parents, knowing her father would be vehemently opposed to his daughter marrying so young. So they swore their friends to secrecy, and the Chandler wedding party took off for Tahoe one weekend. TC orchestrated the ceremony with Nat King Cole's "Too Young" as their wedding march. TC hosted the wedding dinner before dangling the bridal suite keys in front of the newlyweds. Qwayz carried his bride away from their friends and into the suite, where the first thing they noticed after he staggered across the room and dumped her on the bed was the beamed ceiling--a reminder of the first time they made love in that French barn. They'd convulsed with laughter and fell asleep in their wedding clothes, she in that gorgeous lace dress with the gardenia wreath on her head and he in his tux.
And now their wedding-day images stared back at them. Two blissfully happy newlyweds with a glimpse of the gardenia bouquet. The artist had captured Qwayz's full lips, the little indentation between his top lip and his narrow nose, his high cheekbones, hazel eyes, skin tone, and curly hair.
"I didn't expect this masterpiece." Jaz moved closer
to inspect their larger-than-life selves. "You are one fine brother!"
"It's perfect of you." Qwayz was mesmerized by his wife's intelligent, honey eyes, hooded by dense, long eyelashes and topped by her thick, naturally arched eyebrows. Her curly mane, which fell below her shoulders, was crowned by the halo of gardenias. "Unreal. Who did this? Michelangelo?"
"Close. Luchesi Tretoni. He did the painting of us as children that hangs in Dad's office. It's as awful as this is magnificent."
"He captured us, Jaz ... the love, the hope, the promise. This is a for-sure bona fide heirloom. You hadn't seen it before?"
"No." Jaz slid her arms around Qwayz's waist. "I wanted us to see it together--for the first time on our first anniversary."
"Our kids are gonna laugh." He chuckled. "What is it about you, me, and Italy? We're gonna get there one of these days."
"Our second honeymoon. I'll get pregnant there." They laughed into each other's arms.
"Oh Jaz, thank you. I needed this ... to remind me of how sweet our life together is."
They made slow, deliberate love, with not an inkling of urgency from the weeks of deprivation. "Welcome back," she said as they lay spent and satisfied.
"It's good to be home." Qwayz kissed her as he interlocked his legs with hers. "If I'd played my cards right we'd be making love at Paradise Rock for our first anni--"
"Everything I want, I have whenever you hold me tight," Jaz said.
"We are magic, Jaz, and we'll last until the end of time." They giggled and kissed. He thought of the place they'd found after one of their trips to Carmel, where they had regularly stopped to make love until somebody built a house on it. "But it was perfect, Jaz--that secluded granite peninsula jutting out over the Pacific. The sound of the ocean pounding five hundred feet below."
"We have a lifetime to discover another special place. Maybe even the Myrtle Beach your dad was so crazy about."
"Yeah, but he hadn't seen Paradise Rock. If I'm ever missing, that's where I'll be. Our one-bedroom hideaway from little Q-5 and Amber and Shane."
"Oh, Negro, please. We'll name our daughter after your dad's guitar, but I'm not naming our second son after a movie."
"Shane Chandler? Sounds ... athletic."
"As cool as we are, we'd never have doofus kids." He stretched out his long brown legs and Jake protruded. "I'm kinda cool, how 'bout warming me up?" Qwayz said, and Jaz climbed on top of him, covering his body with hers. She rose above him and held on to the brass headboard, with San Francisco's diamond sky approving beyond. She let her engorged breasts fill Qwayz's passion-soaked eyes. "Have mercy, girlie," he managed before treating each of her chocolate drops to the rough-smooth texture of his tongue.
"I love you, Jas-of-mine, don't ever forget that."
"Don't ever stop. Promise?"