Richard shuffled his feet awkwardly as a crowd of officers slowly cleared out the breakroom, having completed the annual Boxing Day ritual of swapping their unwanted Christmas gifts. Richard kept one hand behind his back to try and hide his own gift, wishing the wrapping paper wasn’t so bright.
As the group finally dispersed Richard went into the room and was gratefully to see that Valerie was still there and alone now, leaning up against the counter with a cup of coffee in her hands.
“Valerie, can I see you for a minute?”
“Sure, Richard, did you need something?”
“No, I just…here.”
He thrust the brightly wrapped box at her, all of his usual composure gone.
Valerie knitted her eyebrows together in confusion. Still she accepted the box. Putting down her coffee she gently removed the wrapping paper and pulled out the thick knitted sweater that was inside. It was stripped in multiple colours with white weaved through out it. Valerie thought it was lovely.
“Is this for me? You shouldn’t have.”
“It’s from my mother actually,” Richard said, trying his best to relax. “Handmade and everything.”
“Yeah, you know that sting operation on the Stinson case we were on three weeks ago?”
“Of course I do. We ended up all over the news.”
“I know and well…she saw the reports too and assumed we were…together, as a real couple. I tried to explain that we were both undercover and it wasn’t what it seemed, but she insisted on doing this for you. She was even upset that I didn’t bring you over for dinner last night to meet her.”
“Well then you tell her I love the sweater,” Valerie said, and she meant it. It had been a long time since anyone had done anything like this for her.
With that he turned to leave, feeling like he’d embarrassed himself enough for one day.
“If you ever need a fake date for dinner at your mom’s again I’m available,” she said, working to keep her voice upbeat. It wasn’t like she had any family to see over the holidays after all, but Valerie knew that had been her own choice.
Richard let his mouth hang open for a second before he remembered his manners. “Uh, well you could come over tonight then if you’re not busy. I mean my mother won’t be there, but-but I have leftover turkey!” Smooth Richard he thought. Why don’t you just propose to her on New Year’s Eve in front of everyone too? Make it ten times more awkward.
Valerie smiled. “I’d like that.”
Once Richard got over the shock of not getting turned down they agreed on a time and Valerie went back to her desk, careful to keep the sweater away from any half-filled mugs of coffee just waiting to be tipped over so she could wear it to dinner.