Do you remember my telling you that I'm the rhinestones of this story? One thing about rhinestones is how they can dazzle enough to distract, so that you won't notice a tiny snag here and there, a tricky seam, a hidden pocket for touch-up tools. Misdirection can change everything.
The deep brown appearing as Callie shakes her hair free of the towel still surprises her, even though she's been using the same home dyeing products in the same shade for twelve years. Weak autumn morning light through the bathroom window washes the color out to something shallow and dim. Part of her looks in the mirror and wonders . . .
"It doesn't change who you are." Big, gentle fingers slide through her tangles. She closes her eyes and tips her head into Barry's palm, while he hooks his chin over her other shoulder to press a kiss behind her ear. The soft shag of his grown-out hair tickles.
Shivering into the warmth of him down her robed back, she aims for teasing but sounds a little wistful asking, "Which is?"
Barry turns her in his arms. When her eyes open, his meet them steadily. "Mine."
"Mmm, is that so?"
He shrugs, in a puppyish reminder of the Missouri roots that first hooked her. "You're just mine, and I'm just yours."
"Legally and everything," Callie says, a smile finally quirking the edges of her lips, "my gentleman husband."
Getting that marriage certificate required a little hedging, even here in Canada. Once she had her surgery, though, she didn't want to wait, and Barry had known that without prompting. When she woke in post-op, anesthesia giving everything a soft-focus glow, he was on his knees beside her hospital bed, and his first words were, "Wanna let me make an honest woman out of you?"
She felt tears streaking down her face, and his had crumpled in concern. Callie pulled him in for kiss after kiss, every one punctuating a "Yes," until grogginess dragged her head back onto the pillow. He rested his head beside hers there, and she slid back into dreams with one come true all around her.
Remembering now, her smile widens. Barry grins before spinning her, right into a dip.
Callie's breath rushes out of her in a delighted whoop that he steals with a kiss. He pulls her upright again and leads a slow dance out of the bathroom, into their bedroom.
"Sing?" Barry murmurs into her ear.
She groans. "You know my range is dreadful first thing in the morning!"
Barry gives her a look that most people would call 'considering'; ever since their first beer battle, Callie has called it 'devious.' A moment later Barry himself starts to sing, wordlessly, nonsensically, and -- well. Compared to Callie's lousy morning voice, Barry's singing voice at any time is a Shakespearean tragedy. He gets louder and louder, all while swinging her faster and faster around their room, and she collapses against him with giggled pleas of concession.
She finally gets back her breath and is about to launch into "I'm Henry the Eighth" (because she's seen Ghost just as many times as Barry has), when their slightly ajar door crashes open.
"Uh-oh, guess we've woken the kids." Barry shakes his head in mock despondence.
"What a pity." She smirks, dropping her right hand from his shoulder to her side. Their three dogs instantly crowd in and nuzzle.
The rambunctious Hasty, white-patched Pasty, and slobbery Tasty arrived as puppies on their doorstep via special courier ten years ago, with no note or real explanation. Tucked in with them there was only a picture, showing Nasty cuddled up to a dog that Barry thought looked familiar from a long past visit with Sergeant Diaz.
They haven't told anyone but the closest friends and family members about their new home, this tiny ranch-style house on the outskirts of Calgary. For the trial, a J.A.G. friend of a friend of Callie's allowed her and Barry to submit testimony by affidavit, and the couple left Kentucky as soon as they could. Barry's discharge was honorable, his recovery slow but sure in Callie's hands. These days Calgary gives her a chance to get into a little spotlight through local theatre groups, and the rest of the time they live quietly in the open air between the Rocky Mountain foothills and the plains.
They've changed basic aspects of their appearances -- with new hairstyles, softer curves in Callie's case and leaner muscle in Barry's -- but nothing more. As much as she went through to get from Scottie to Callie, she wasn't interested in superficial procedures. Barry said the scars were enough of a change for him.
Callie pats the dogs and turns back into Barry's embrace. Her left hand slips from his shoulder along his neck and jawline, then upward.
His lips pucker slightly, but he doesn't otherwise react. Neither of them ever purposely avoids or pays much attention to the little dimpled patches under her fingers; they're just facts.
"They don't change who you are," she says. Her hair drips down her forehead and into her eyes right then, and she blinks away sienna trickles of not-tears. Suddenly her happiness is so overwhelming that her face can't contain it. The width of her smile pulls one from him, even if his has a confused tilt.
"What?" he asks, instead of parroting her earlier response.
Hasty, Pasty, and Tasty jump around them, a whirlwind of excited barks and wet noses. Barry's body is warm and real around hers. Their left hands bear the weights of matching rings. They're together, and they're here.
She shakes her head. "I'll never stop being amazed."
Understanding brightens his expression, and he tightens his hold on her. "You're pretty damn amazing, yourself. I mean, except this one thing . . . "
There's that devious look again. She leans back, crossing her arms and waiting.
"I'm going gray all alone," he says gruffly.
Callie snorts. Then she tackles him onto the bed, and the dogs pile on, and everything is a blur of sloppy kisses.
People ask for the whole truth and nothing but, and still see only what they want to see. Even though I love my dresses and shoes and those dazzling rhinestones, I'll always be that simple Tennessee girl at heart. And my reality trumps fantasy.
- end -