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Receiver's Choice

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"I'm bored," Maria announced dramatically when Debbie returned home. Debbie rolled her eyes and dumped her bag on the floor at the end of the couch Maria was sprawled over.

"You could cook dinner." Debbie sat, forcing Maria to move her legs and sit up straight.

"I can't. I only have one hand." Maria held up her bandaged left wrist.

Debbie sighed. She'd had a long day of interminable meetings and things going wrong at work, so she'd been looking forward to getting home and spending some time with her girlfriend. Which was still a novelty, given how much time Maria spent in other parts of the world. But these days, Maria wasn't much fun to be around. "Fine. We'll go out."

At first it had been good to have Maria around and nice not to come back to an empty apartment. The trouble was that Maria hated not being able to play and all this enforced rest was taking its toll. Unfortunately it was also taking its toll on their relationship. Debbie just kept telling herself it would be fine once Maria was better, but a little voice kept wondering if it was being together so much that was the problem.

Maria seemed to perk up a little once they were out in the open air. She held onto Debbie's left hand and listened to her moan about her day, sympathetically squeezing Debbie's hand from time to time. If Maria stayed like this all evening, Debbie would easily be able to forget what she'd been like earlier. And most of the past few days.

The place Debbie had chosen wasn't one she'd been to often but she'd chosen it for a reason. As she'd hoped it was busy and they had to wait for a table. After ordering drinks at the bar, Debbie led Maria over to the corner, where there was a pool table, with four players around it and a table tennis table that fortunately wasn't in use. "How about a game while we wait?" Debbie asked, picking up a paddle.

The players lounges at tournaments always included table tennis. Maria had been teaching Debbie in bits and pieces, when Debbie had managed to come along to watch some of Maria's matches. Debbie was still pretty terrible, but she could at least manage to keep a rally going for a few strokes, which might be all Maria needed right now. If not, winning would probably also go some way towards cheering her up.

"I can't," Maria said, not taking the paddle Debbie held out to her.

"You only need one hand." Debbie straightened her arm to push the paddle a little closer to Maria. "There's nothing wrong with your right wrist."

Maria shook her head. "It's not the same."

Debbie took a deep breath and found it didn't help. Knocking back her drink didn't either, although it did make Maria's eyes widen. "I've had enough," she concluded. "If you're just going to mope around you can go back to your parents' house. I'm going home." Not wanting to make a public scene, she didn't slam her paddle onto the table. Neither did she slam the door to the restaurant, nor to her apartment. But she did flop onto her sofa, so recently occupied by Maria, and cry into a pillow that smelled of her.

Debbie started at the buzzer chirping in the hallway. Although her eyes were now dry she wasn't in the mood for conversation, so she kept quiet, hoping that whoever was out there would assume she wasn't in. But they buzzed again. It would be quicker to get rid of them.

On the other side of the door was Maria, with a worried expression and her hands behind her back.

"I am sorry I am grumpy," she said. "You try to cheer me up and I don't appreciate you enough." She held out the box of chocolates that she'd been hiding.

An apology was a start, but not enough for Debbie to forgive everything. So she said nothing.

Into the growing silence Maria continued, "I am a terrible girlfriend. You are so good to me and I do nothing for you."

Debbie couldn't quite let that go, despite her current ambivalence towards Maria. "You always find a nice hotel room when I come to tournaments." Maria hated hotels, having spent a lot of time in them, and always preferred to rent a house. But having seen how much Debbie got excited about the novelty of expensive hotel rooms, she'd abandoned the houses and returned to hotels when Debbie visited.

"I like hotel rooms that have you in them." Maria's grin made Debbie smile a little, and she stepped away from the door to let Maria in. Although it was partly because she didn't want to have the whole conversation on the doorstep.

"I didn't think you ate chocolate," Debbie said, leading Maria back to the living room.

Maria shrugged. "If I can't play at least I can eat chocolate instead. But if you don't have any then I will have to eat all of them because I will be so sad."

Debbie sat back down on the far end of the couch, leaving a space between herself and Maria.

"I promise to do better," Maria said. "I will remember you are as important as tennis."

Debbie bit her lip to keep from smiling as she shook her head.

Maria amended that to: "More important than tennis. Who knew that was possible?"

Despite herself, Debbie finally smiled properly. It was hard not to give in when Maria was so enthusiastic about making amends. Whether it would last was another question, but tomorrow was another day and Debbie didn't want to lose her girlfriend just yet.

"Then we eat!" Maria ripped the plastic packaging off the box and opened it. "Which is your favorite?" Not waiting for Debbie to answer, she plucked one from the box and held it out.

Debbie shifted closer, so Maria could put the diamond-shaped chocolate in her mouth. After everything today, she needed this. And when she'd swallowed, Maria leaned over to kiss her and Debbie let her, the last of her coldness towards her girlfriend fading.