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I know no rose but this

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1. paper

The smell of coffee is what rouses her before the alarm, but not long before, the bedside digital clock reading 5:48.

The other half of the bed is empty, but by the mug next to the carafe is a note on hotel stationery.

The traditional first anniversary gift is paper, it says. IOU something better than this, but til then, love you.

"When are you even counting from," asks Tessa over breakfast an hour later, downstairs at the buffet.

"You told me you didn't wanna date me, but you did wanna kiss me again," says Kait, grinning. "That's when."

2. cotton

She doesn't do it often because she knows how it throws off Kait's focus, but with nothing scheduled after the free dance at Nationals except the gala the following day, Tessa takes the liberty: borrows Kait's Astros t-shirt after their post-press conference shower, doesn't take it off when Kait pulls her onto the bed and on top of her mouth, wipes Kait's lips with the hem of it afterward, then sneaks it downstairs to the gym the next morning to wear in front of everyone, casually, on the elliptical.

"Fuck you," Kait whispers.

"Yeah, later. Happy anniversary," she whispers back.

3. leather

Tessa pulls into the driveway beside Kait's townhouse on a Friday evening in January not in her own white Civic, but a matte black Cayenne.

"Jeez," says Kait, sliding into the passenger seat, upholstered in black full grain leather. "So that's why you asked me to dress up. Whose car is this?"

"Loaner from a dealership that wants Scott and me to do an ad for them," says Tessa. "We won't, but they don't need to know yet."

"Where's dinner," says Kait.

"Dinner's you, if you don't mind," says Tessa, killing the interior lights, sliding her hand up Kait's thigh.

4. flowers

"This," says Kait, gesturing backward at the trail of rose petals on the carpeted floor that had led her to the bedroom where Tessa was waiting, "is the most ridiculous, rom-com nonsense, like an urban legend about what women like—"

"I think you should let me have it," says Tessa.

"Seriously," says Kait.

"Kait," says Tessa patiently. "It's our anniversary for another thirty minutes and I'm wearing lingerie in your bed and I'm gonna make you come in my mouth before it’s not our anniversary anymore, if you'll stop complaining and let me."

"You could've just said so," says Kait.

5. wood

Kait found the kitchen table for Tessa's new house: barnboard from a farm close to Guelph, almost too heavy to drag from the back of the borrowed pickup truck and up the icy driveway.

"How'll I ever be able to move this again," says Tessa, sweaty and panting, once they've wrestled it in the front door and locked it behind them.

"Hmm," says Kait, backing Tessa into the edge of the table, pulling off her coat, then her down vest, working her cold fingers under Tessa's sweater, making her shiver and arch her back. "I think it's fine right here."

6. iron

Tessa drives down unannounced the week Kait finds out from the team doctor that she's anemic.

When Kait opens the door, Tessa pushes past her unceremoniously to the kitchen, dropping a package onto the counter with a thud.

"Cast iron skillet," she says. "I've been reading around. It can't hurt if we cook everything in here for a while."

"What do you mean, 'cook'," says Kait, doubtfully.

"I bought a book," says Tessa. "I think if I wreck it we can just scrub it off and reseason it, it's indestructible. We can give it to our kids."

"Grandkids," says Kait.

7. wool

No matter how many years she spent in Michigan, Kait never got over her Texan apprehension about winter. Tessa teased her for it, but bought her a sweater every year anyway.

This year's gift would’ve been merino, from the men's section at the Bay, grey and densely cabled with a shawl collar.

Tessa finds it in a drawer when her furnace is on the fritz and she needs another layer—Kait was right after all, she thinks wryly, pulling it over her head. It's a comfort, though the tags are still on it and it only smells like her own perfume.

8. bronze

Tessa sees the whole thing on TV: the unsynchronized twizzles, the fall that knocks them into third, the furious tears in Kait's eyes on the podium, Worlds right around the corner.

Kait shows up at her house a week later.

"I miss you," she says without preamble, then: "I'm sorry, I don't know how you've been doing—"

Tessa cuts her off by cupping Kait's cheek in her palm and kissing her softly on the mouth.

"I made a list," adds Kait. "Of pros and cons for trying this again."

"It's our anniversary, you know," says Tessa, and kisses her harder.

9. pottery

"I want you to feel at home here," says Kait. "I figured this is sort of like the equivalent of a toothbrush in the bathroom, for—"

"For women who can't have a conversation until after coffee number three," says Tessa.

"Exactly," says Kait.

The mug is earthenware, from a local potter Tessa would love, glazed different colours inside and out, painted with lavender flowers arranged in a wreath around the word HERS.

"So what's HERS," says Tessa. "Is it the coffee and I'm the HER, or is it me, and the HER is—"

"Up to you," says Kait. "Maybe both."

10. aluminum

Tessa's found a new preoccupation in her retirement: collecting antique tea tins for their house. Kait wakes up one cold morning to a new one on the nightstand, and inside it, a narrow platinum band.

"I'm not gonna ask if you'd marry me," says Tessa anxiously. "But we could wear rings, if you want, to remember me by when you're out of town. On the right hand, like, it's just for us."

"Like I'd forget," says Kait. "And it's perfect, and yes."

"I didn't buy one for me," says Tessa. "Seemed presumptuous."

"Next year," says Kait. "I'll find you one."