It Can Be So
 
 

By tuna.dc


 
 

"Havenít we seen this one before?" Chris asked, carrying a bowl of popcorn into the living room. Setting the bowl down on the coffee table, he sat down on the couch beside his wife. Rita shifted her body so that he could lean against her, which he did instinctively. Finally comfortable, she wrapped her arms around him and placed a tender kiss on his cheek.
 
 

"Yep, we have, but itís definitely worth seeing again."
 
 

"If you say so," he let his voice trail off as the opening credits flashed on the TV screen.
 
 

Ritaís mind wandered from the movie, back to the night they had first watched it togetherÖ.
 
 

~*~*~


 
 

(FLASHBACK)
 
 

Chris stood near the end of the bar and checked his watch for what must have been the 45th time. Damn, only two minutes later than the last time he checked. He scanned the crowd again for any sign of his date as his hand nervously checked in his coat pocket. It was still there, a tiny bulge, right where he had placed it. His eye searched the crowd again. She had told him that she wanted to dance tonight, but why, of all places, had she wanted to meet in this noisy, crowded bar?

He would have preferred the softer strains of a jazz combo, but this apparently was what she had in mind. Seven years ago, he might have liked this kind of place. But now, his life was changing and he was ready to change. The crowd tonight was mostly college kids or grad students. The music was blaring and the temperature had to be near 130 degrees. He flagged down a bartender and asked for another tap beer. He wanted this to be a special night, but it was turning into a nightmare.

Allison Weber. His Allie. She had to be the one. He met her just a little over three months ago and had fallen for her immediately. Allie was his first steady relationship since college and even though they had both gone to the same school, she hadnít even noticed him back then. But he had certainly noticed her. Since his college days, Chris had become used to being able to have just about any woman he wanted, but now he felt that he had matured, and wanted more than one-night stands. Allie was smart, she was funny, and she was such a knockout with her straight blonde hair and deep brown eyes. She was his best friend. She loved having a good time and loved being the center of attention, and Chris lavished her with attention and more, catering to her every desire. He didnít think heíd ever find anyone else who would ever be more perfect for him.

Allie was always surrounded by people. She had mobs of friends, and Chris was always being introduced to someone new. But lately, he felt himself being pushed into the background when he was with her. It only really bothered him when he gave it some serious thought, like now. Most of the time, he just enjoyed being part of her life.

At 27, his life was good. Things had finally starting to fall into place for him. He had just been promoted from Narcotics to Homicide, a full- fledged detective now with the rank of Sergeant. The written test had been a killer, but he managed to pass. That, along with a great letter of recommendation from Lieutenant Hudson, made him a shoe-in for the Homicide Division. The new job came with a nice pay raise, but the best benefit was his new partner. Rita Lee Lance was probably the departmentís most up-and-coming cop. God, she was smart! She was the smartest cop heíd worked with so far, even though heíd had some great TOís. Her natural instincts made her an incredible detective. She was his same age and had been on the force for as long as he had, but Rita, well, she just seemed like she was years ahead of him. He felt incredibly lucky to be partnered with her.

He had to stop looking at his watch. Allie had told him that sheíd meet him at this bar at exactly 8 PM. She was always prompt. He thought heíd surprise her by arriving early so he could actually be there waiting for her when she came in. But here it was, 8:22, and there was no sign of her.

He loosened up the knot in his tie, thinking he was definitely overdressed for this bar, and could feel the sweat forming just under his hairline. Damn, it was just too hot in this place! Did they even have any air conditioning at all? This was Florida, after all.

When Allie did finally show up, he wasnít about to stay at here much longer. He had wanted some quiet time, for just the two of them. Over the last two weeks, he had been preparing to ask her the biggest question of his life, finally feeling ready for this next, big step. Heíd have preferred to take her to a nice restaurant then for a romantic walk on the beach. Then hopefully back to his place. He had just moved into a downtown loft, his promotion affording him a much nicer place. He wanted to make this a night sheíd remember for the rest of her life, so he had let her pick the place, and this was what she had chosen.

It was now 8:27. Where the heck could she be? The government office at City Hall, where she worked, closed its doors at 4:45 PM, so he knew sheíd left work hours ago. Was she trying to kill him, by making him wait so long? Chris went in search of a phone to try and track her down..
 
 

~*~*~


 
 

Rita was finally dressed for the evening, her brunette curls neatly pulled back and clipped in place. She was just putting the finishing touches on her makeup when her doorbell rang. "Coming," she yelled as she came bounding down the circular stairway. She opened the door and motioned her three friends in. "Hi, guys. Come on in."

"I told you she wouldnít be ready," Robin said, joking.

"I AM ready. I just need my shoes," she assured them as she headed off in search of her elusive black, high-heeled pumps.

Her friend, Gail, went over to the bar and poured herself a glass of wine. "Take your time. Weíve got all night."

"Yeah, Saraís birthday goes all the way till midnight," Robin chimed in.

"That only gives us about four hours to party," Sara said sadly. "Iíve already wasted twenty hours of my birthday."

ďGot Ďem!Ē Rita shouted, spotting her shoes behind the bar. ďNow, we can go."

"Now? Iíve just poured myself some wine!"

"Does everyone want a glass?" Rita asked politely.

"Sure," Robin said.

"Yeah, Iíll have one," added Sara.

"This is such a cool apartment, Rita,Ē Robin began, ďItís just perfect for you. Itís so colorful! I totally love it."

"Itís a good thing I got promoted, otherwise Iíd still be living over in West Palm. Thereís no way I could afford this on my Vice salary."

"Palm Beach PD would have been crazy not to promote you. Youíre the best cop they have," Sara said.

"I donít know about that. My new partner is a great cop, too. Itís like he thinks three steps ahead of me.  Itís so amazing."

"Chris Lorenzo is such a babe,Ē Gail blurted out. ďI donít think Iíd be his partner on the force for long. Iíd want to be his partner, partner. I remember him in high school. All the girls had the hots for him!"

"I canít believe he became a cop!Ē Sara added. ďHe was such a jock in high school!"

"Yeah, Rita, how do you stand it? You have to be attracted to him," Gail pressed her.

"Iíd either be a fool or lying to say that I wasnít. I just canít let anything happen. This job is too important to me. Itís my career. Iím not going to let any romantic notions overtake my brain. Weíre partners, thatís it," she explained, "and hopefully friends too!"

Her friends broke out into a chorus of laughter. They werenít buying her story, that was for sure.

"Besides, he has a steady girlfriend and I think theyíre very serious," Rita added for their amusement. "He talks about her all the time."

"Ah, the truth comes out. We just wanted to know if you were attracted to him." Robin had her now.

"Who wouldnít be?" Rita admitted. "Have you gotten a good look at his eyes? And then thereís his grin. It just melts me every time I see it."

"Girl, youíd better hope he marries this other woman, cuz you have got it bad!" Sara teased her.

"Whoís he dating anyway?" asked Robin.

"Her name is Allie Weber."

"Well, I hope heís not too serious, cuz she doesnít have a serious bone in her body,Ē Gail said, shaking her head sadly. That is one lady who I doubt will ever settle down. Remember her from college, Sara?"

"Yeah, wasnít she the blonde that always had a group of men hanging around her?"

"Kinda like Pigpen, from Peanuts. But instead of the cloud of dust, she had a cloud of men," Gail joked.

"And to think, I went to State College and missed all that excitement," Rita said, fascinated by their conversation. "According to Chris, theyíre pretty much in a long-term relationship."

"Maybe sheís changed,Ē Gail conceded. ďIf I was dating Chris Lorenzo, I know I would settle down right away!"

"Letís get this party going, ladies, while the night is young," Rita said, heading them toward the door.
 
 

~*~*~


 
 

Chris found a pay phone off in the corner and dialed Allieís home number. There was no answer. Just for the heck of it, he left a message. She had to be on her way, he thought as he headed back over to the bar.

"Have you ever have to wait for a woman?" Chris asked, trying to strike up a conversation with the bartender.

"As a matter of fact, yeah, I have. When they know they have you, they love to torture you this way," the bartender explained.

"Unfortunately, that makes perfect sense," Chris laughed. "I guess she got tied up in traffic somewhere."

"Yeah, Iím sure thatís what it is. You know what itís like on Friday nights."

The banter between the two men continued, with Chris still checking his watch every few minutes.

Finally, his worry got the best of him and he headed back to the phone to check the local hospitals and the police station as well. But there was no sign of her anywhere.
 
 

~*~*~


 
 

Rita and her girlfriends headed for a strip of local bars on the East Side of Palm Beach. Their first stop was a glitzy dance club.

"Are we here to pick up guys or what?" Rita asked the group as they went inside.

"Whatever happens, happens," Gail answered with a smile.

"Iíd love to pick up a guy," Sara said, "It would make my birthday complete."

"I think Iím too old for this," Rita joked, "Iíd love to meet a guy the old-fashioned way."

"That is never gonna happen, my friend. Thatís why weíre here," Robin teased her.

The club was crowded and the place was hopping. Sara spotted a tiny, open table and led the group toward it. "Whatís everyone drinking?" she asked as she flagged down a passing waitress. They all put their order in and sat back, watching the people on the dance floor move to the music.

Before long, several guys came up to their group and asked each lady to dance. An old acquaintance of Ritaís noticed her and took her out to the dance floor. While she was dancing, Rita spotted a woman with long blonde hair out of the corner of her eye. She looked just like the girl in the picture that Chris kept on his desk....his girlfriend, Allison. While she had not yet met Allison, Chris had told her so much about her that she felt like she knew her already. She smiled, thinking that Chris must be here too. Sheíd have to find him and say hello. As she danced around she tried to spot Chris, but she wasnít having any luck.

Even stranger, Rita thought, was that Allison seemed to be having a very Ďintimateí time with some ĎCaliforniaí surfer-looking guy. Chris hadnít said anything about them breaking up. In fact, he mentioned that he and Allison were going to be going out tonight. Then Rita remembered what her friends had said earlier about Allison. When the song ended, Rita walked back to her table. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched to see where the blonde was headed. It had to be her, Rita thought. But with Chris still no where in sight, she just wasnít sure. The blonde was now back at her table and the surfer guy was all over her. In fact, he stuck his tongue so far down her mouth, that Rita thought for sure that Allison would choke.

Being an instinctive cop, and more importantly, a friend to her partner, she decided to find out once and for all if this woman was indeed Allison. Rita saw her opening--Allison headed to the ladies, and she followed her in.

Both ladies stopped at the mirror to check their makeup and hair. Rita glanced over and acted a bit surprised. "Youíre Allison, right?" she said with a friendly smile.

"Yes," Allie replied, not recognizing the woman.

"Sorry, Iím Rita Lance, Chrisí new partner. I recognized you from the picture he has on his desk at work. Itís really nice to meet you." She held out her hand and Allie took it cautiously. "Is Chris here tonight? Iíd love to say hello."

"Uh, no, no heís not."

"Oh, I thought you guys were going out tonight. He talked about it all day."

"I guess things changed," she answered abruptly. "I decided I needed to party. He wanted to get all serious."

"Oh, Iím sorry, I didnít know. Did you guys break up?" Rita asked, surprised, not knowing exactly what to say.

"Listen, Rita, is it? You wonít tell Chris you saw me here, will you? I havenít talked to him yet. Heís been leaving me messages all night long. Itís so annoying."

"No," Rita promised quickly, not out of any loyalty to Allie, but to spare Chrisí feelings. "I wonít tell him. Iíll leave that to you." And with that, Rita walked out, heading back to the table to join her friends.

Sara noticed that something was bothering her right away. "Rita, what is it? Is something wrong?"

Ritaís eyes followed Allison coming out of the ladies room and back to her table, where she immediately latched back on to her surfer boy, picking up where they had left off. "No, nothingís wrong,Ē she lied, ďbut can we get out of here and go to another bar instead. Iíd rather not have to look at someone in here."

"Sure, we can go. Come on ladies, letís go to Murphyís. Itís nice and loud in there."
 
 

~*~*~


 
 

Chris was on his third glass of beer. He had left four messages on her home machine now and still had no clue where Allie was. She wasnít answering her cell phone. He even checked his own machine to see if sheíd left a message for him. There was nothing. He checked his cell phone; it was working OK. His beeper was on and the batteries were good. He felt so helpless. Something inside told him to leave the bar and just head home. But if she did show up and he wasnít there, sheíd never let him forget it. So he decided to stay and ordered another beer.

Every time the door opened, Chrisí head popped up to see if it was Allie. This time, when the door flung open, he gazed over to see four ladies walk in, the last being one Rita Lee Lance. Quickly, he ducked his head. Maybe he could just lay low and when she wasnít looking, heíd head for the door. His partner, even though she was a great friend, was the last person he wanted to see right now. Heíd been babbling about Allie at work all day long, like a 15 year old that had just discovered girls, almost to the point of being a bit insensitive to Rita, since she wasnít in a realationship at the moment, that he knew of. And the last thing he ever wanted to do was to alienate his partner. A cop just couldnít afford to do that.

But Rita had been a good sport about it, listening to all his escapdes and never making judgments. She did give him her opinions on a lot of what he said, and most of what she said made complete sense to him.

She definitely was a good influence on him, he thought with a smile, glad he was at the opposite end of the bar. Man, he just couldnít let her catch him here, alone, tonight! Rita might think that he had been lying or that he had been stood up. Either way, it would make him look pretty pathetic in her eyes, something that he really didnít want. Good thing he hadnít mentioned anything to her about the ring! Sheíd surely have some opinions for him tonight, and he was just not in the mood to hear them!

Too late! Chris caught her eye in a millisecond. Rita must have sonar, Ďcause she spotted him the instant he had seen her. The eye contact was brief, but it was contact nonetheless. He saw her say something to her girlfriends, and they all glanced over at him and waved. Then Rita came gliding over to him at the bar.

"Hi, Sam," she said cheerily as she stood beside him and gave his arm a squeeze. She was careful not to mention anything about Allie.

"Hiya, Rita. I see ya brought a bunch your friends. Are you guys having a good time tonight?"

"Yeah, Itís Saraís birthday. Sheís 28 and her biological clock is ticking, so she wanted to come out and pick up a guy,Ē she said, joking. ďWeíre on bar number two already."

"It sounds like fun," he said with a laugh. "Just donít send her my way."

"Iím afraid my bar hopping days ended when I graduated from college. I think Iíd rather sit at home with a glass of wine and a good movie than to be here doing this."

"I can definitely relate to that." Chris agreed, sipping his beer. "Listen, can I get you something to drink? I apologize, my manners arenít what they should be."

"Donít worry about it, and sure, Iíll take a glass of house red."

Chris waved over his friend the bartender and asked him for the wine. He poured it and set it down in front of Rita.

"Sheís sure worth waiting for," the bartender commented. Chris nearly blushed.

"This is my partner from work, not my girlfriend," he explained as Rita broke out in a smile, flattered.

"I hope you know what youíre doing man," the bartender continued.

Ignoring the bartenderís last comment, Chris turned his attention back to his partner. "Donít let me keep you from your friends. Iím actually still waiting for Allie. Sheís running a bit late tonight."

Rita lowered her gaze. She didnít want to see the happiness and hope in his eyes, all the while knowing that Allie would not be showing up here anytime soon. "Iím not worried about them," she said, pointing to her friends. "Theyíll do just fine without me."

"You know, I donít really like making the bar scene all that much myself. Take this place, for instance. Itís hot enough to fry eggs in here! And the music is so loud, it gave me a headache a block before I got here. I must be getting old."

Rita couldnít help laughing at his joke; his grin was infectious. "I can relate. Itís so hard hold a decent conversation in here," she shouted, trying to be heard above the din.

"What?" Chris asked.

"I said, itís so hard to talk to someone, you know, to have a conversation?"

Chris couldnít understand a word she had said; the music must have intensified by 100 decibels over the last few minutes. He just nodded in agreement and said, "yeah," as if he understood. He looked over in the direction of Ritaís friends then leaned in to her and said directly in her ear, "I think youíre friends are wondering what youíre up to over here."

She turned to see them give her a wave and she returned the gesture. "I should probably get over there," she said into his ear.

"Go, have fun," he said, handing her the glass of wine. "Iíll see you on Monday," he shouted.

"Yep, Iíll see you then. Have a good time tonight," she yelled back.

"You too," he said, forcing a smile.

Instead of walking away she turned back to him. "Say Chris," she said directly into his ear, "Why donít you come and join us until Allie shows up? The more the merrier, you know?"

At first Chris didnít want to, but then he thought, what the heck! Who knew when Allie would show up. "Yeah, OK, I think I will," he said, following her over.

~*~*~


 
 

It was a little after 10 PM when the women decided to mosey on to the next bar. Rita quickly glanced at Chris. Heíd been looking at his watch and his beeper all night long. He kind of reminded her of Lassie waiting for his master to return home. Heíd been trying to have fun with the ladies and to some extent he was, but he couldnít put the thought of Allie out of his mind.

"Come on, Chris, you can join us!" Sara said.

"Nah, you gals go on without me. Iím gonna wait here a little while longer and then Iíll probably just head home."

"Are you sure?" Gail asked.

"Yeah, Iíve been in that bar before. You guys go, have a good time. Iíll be fine."

"You know what?" Rita began, "Iím actually getting tired. Iím not used to this bar-hopping routine.  Chris, would you mind giving me a lift home? We all came together in one car," she explained.

Chris looked at her suspiciously but reluctantly agreed to her request. The other three ladies knew exactly what was going on. Rita was going to tend to one of the lost souls of the earth. It was one of her lifeís missions, and they teased her about it all the time.

Rita gave them all a good night hug and thanked them for their understanding.

Sara whispered into her ear, ďBe gentle with him.Ē

ďMind your own business!Ē Rita scolded her playfully, ďAnd you have a great birthday.Ē

With all the good-byes said, the women headed out, leaving Chris and Rita in the noisy bar. They sat without talking for a few minutes, finishing the remainder of their drinks.

Finally, Chris broke the silence between them. "She must be hung up somewhere without a phone. Thatís all I can think of. I called the hospitals and the station half an hour ago and thereís nothing to report. Maybe itís work related, you know?" he speculated, reaching for answers.

Rita just nodded. The last thing she wanted to do was to break his heart. "You donít mind giving me a ride home, do you?"

"Not at all. We can go whenever youíre ready," he said. "I think giving her a 2 ½ hour window is pretty generous, donít you? I mean, would you be mad if you showed up that late and your date wasnít waiting anymore?"

"No, I wouldnít. Youíre probably right, she probably doesnít have access to a phone. I bet itíll be one of those really funny stories."

Chris stood up and went to pull the chair back for Rita. She had a hard time meeting his gaze. She could see the sadness in his eyes, and she knew the truth.
 
 

~*~*~


 
 

Always the gentleman, Chris shut off his car and went around to hold the door open for Rita then walked her upstairs to her apartment.

"Nice complex," he said as they made their way up the sidewalk.

"I love this place. I decided this was where I wanted to move right after I got the promotion. Lucky for me, they had a unit open."

"I got a new loft downtown, same type of deal. I had actually looked at the place about a year ago, but it was out of my price range back then."

She reached in her purse and found her key. "Would you like to come in and see it, maybe have a glass of wine or something?"

"I thought you were tired?"

She smiled, knowing sheíd been caught. "I really just didnít feel like any more bar hopping. Seriously though, why donít you come inside for awhile?"

"I donít know...I ought to find out what happened to Allie."

"Itís up to you."

That sad look in his eyes returned and he quickly dropped his gaze to the ground. By now, he realized that Allie had probably stood him up. There was no accident, no ĎI couldnít get to a phoneí stories. Heíd heard rumors about her from other guys. She liked the idea of a boyfriend, but after awhile, she wanted to move on. She wasnít ready for a serious commitment, they told him. But Allie told him just the opposite. He wanted to believe her, but now, he had serious doubts.

Chris shook his head to clear away the unpleasant thoughts and bring his mind back to the present. "All right, Iíll stay for bit. I am curious to see the inside of this place," he said finally, trying to muster a smile.

"Great," she said, opening the door. "Come on in."

~*~*~


 
 

Rita gave him the grand tour. He was very impressed and he told her so again and again. The whole apartment had a real modern feel to it. It was really bright and colorful, just like Ritaís personality. He sat down on the sofa while she poured the wine. Rita handed him a glass then grabbed the remote, flicked the TV on, and sat on the floor in front of the sofa. "Letís see if thereís a good movie on, shall we?"

Chris grinned. Rita was so comfortable. Everything about her was inviting. But what he liked best about her was that she acted like sheíd known him forever. He felt so safe around her.

Rita surfed through the channels. "I love old movies, what about you?" she asked casually. "Oh look! ĎIt Happened One Nightí is starting in about an hour. Mmm, Clark Gable, now thatís a man!"

"Never saw it, and Clark doesnít do much for me."

Rita laughed. "I certainly hope not! Itís a good movie though, a comedy. Wanna watch it?"

"Sure. I donít get to watch movies much. Iím into sports and watch the games whenever I get a chance. Basketball is the best."

"That doesnít surprise me. Did you play in high school and college?"

"I played in high school, but I was a little too small to be a serious player in college. I loved to play but I wasnít that great anyway. Now, I mostly just coach at a youth league downtown on Saturday mornings."

"Thatís terrific. Iíd really love to do some volunteer work one of these days, maybe work with kids somehow too. My schedule is just so crazy right now, though. How do you manage?"

"Well, Allieís not too crazy about the coaching. Especially on Saturday mornings, cuz she thinks weekends should be Ďourí time. But I canít bring myself to quit doing it. Itís important to me and I think the kids are getting a lot out of the program. Not necessarily because of me, but the whole program is really worthwhile, you know?"

Darn, Chris was back to Allie again. Sheíd like to give him a piece of her mind about this woman he was so serious about, but she held her tongue for now. "I think you should do what your heart tells you to do. If you think coaching is right, stay with it."

"What do you like to do in your spare time, Rita?"

"Me? I like to run. I really like to bike, too. I love sailing. I like to cook, though Iím not that good at it. And I love to read trashy romance novels," she said with a giggle.

"Thatís not exactly what I meant," he said with a grin. "Are you seeing anyone?"

"Not right now. When it happens, it happens, you know?"

Chris nodded. "Yeah, youíre probably right," he paused, "Have you ever thought you were with THE person and then you realized that what you thought was the right thing, wasnít?"

Rita wasnít surprised that he was traveling down the relationship road with her. In the short time theyíd been partners, sheíd learned that Chris Lorenzo told her just about every detail of his love life. Sometimes he told her WAY too much! For now, she decided sheíd answer his question, then ask a few of her own.

"I have been in love before, but Iíve always realized that he wasnít the right one before things went too far." Now it was Ritaís turn to pause. "But I guess itís possible I might have been wrong," she admitted to herself. "Do you think Allie is THE right person for you?" she asked hesitantly, looking up at Chris.

He gave her a smile then reached over the back of the sofa, pulling a small box out of his suit coat pocket and rolling it in his hand. Finally, he opened it up, briefly glancing at the ring before holding it out for Rita to see.

"I wanted tonight to be special because I was gonna give her this," he said sadly. "I just hope nothingís happened to her. Maybe I should check with the hospitals again."

That did it. Rita couldnít stand seeing him worry like this, all the while knowing the truth, that Allie had stood him up and was just down the block dancing with someone else. It was time for her to tell him what she knew, no matter how badly it would hurt him. She certainly didnít care what she had promised Allie.

All Rita cared about was Chris, and she knew that if the situation were reversed, she would want to know if someone was doing that to her. "Chris, Iíve got to tell you something," she started.

"What?"

"When was the last time you talked to Allie?"

"Late this afternoon, a couple of hours before we were supposed to meet. Why?"

"Do you think she had a clue why you wanted this night to be special?"

"Itís Doubtful. I really wanted to surprise her, so I told her to pick out a place that she wanted to go," Chris laughed slightly. "She said she wanted to dance."

Rita turned to completely face him. "Chris, I saw her tonight."

She watched his face change from stunned to puzzled, but before she could explain, he interrupted, "But youíve never met her. How would you know her?" He sat up straight now, preparing to leave in a hurry. "Was she hurt?"

"No, she wasnít hurt. In fact, she looked like she was having a pretty good time. I recognized her from the picture on your desk. She was at the first bar we went to. And she WAS dancing," she paused, "with someone else." He turned away, shaking his head. "Iím sorry, Chris. I didnít want to be the one to tell you. I saw her there and I thought you were with her, so I went over to try to find you and say hi. I figured youíd introduce us. I donít think she realized what you had planned for tonight."

"Thatís an understatement," he said sarcastically. "I canít believe she couldnít just come out and tell me.  What did she say to you?"

"She said she felt like partying."

He let out a sarcastic laugh then stood up and walked over to her window. "I canít believe I was such an idiot! I should have seen this coming. Everyone told me that she wasnít one for long term relationships."

"I donít think youíre such an idiot," Rita assured him.

Chris looked out the window, his back to Rita. "Take your pick then; fool, jerk, stupid, sucker, you know, the list goes on and on." Rita didnít quite know what to say, but it didnít matter because Chris didnít give her a chance to speak up. "I really loved her, you know? I wanted to ask her to marry me. I really thought she was the one. I gave her every part of me and then she dumped me. I really didnít see it coming. Or maybe I did, and I just didnít want to admit it."

"Iím so sorry, Chris," she said softly, giving him a tender, caring smile even though his back was still to her.

"Did she tell you I was waiting at Murphyís, so that you could run in and rescue me?"

"No, that was just a coincidence. When I saw you in there, I donít know, I just thought you might need a friend tonight."

He tossed his head to the side, and she could hear the sadness in his sigh. "Listen, I think Iíll just head home now, OK?" His voice cracked a bit. "I donít think Iím the best company right now. But thanks...," his voice broke before he could finish the sentence.

Rita quickly rose to her feet and went over to the window, standing right next to him as they watched the street lights flicker in the street below. "You probably hate me. Maybe I shouldnít have told you. I feel so responsible..."

He stopped feeling sorry for himself for a moment and glanced over at his partner. "I donít hate you. Thatís what partners are supposed to do, right? Protect each other. You do everything right, Rita. Everything. Thatís what makes you so good."

She turned and met his gaze then nodded. "Youíre more than a partner, youíre my friend. I didnít want to see you get hurt and I didnít want to tell you in the bar. And now, I canít even imagine what youíre going through. But if you want to stay and talk, Iím a pretty good listener."

"Youíre a good friend, Rita. Probably the best friend Iíll ever have. Iíve never known anyone quite like you before. I mean, we barely know each other, my life is crumbling around me, and yet I feel so safe here with you. Itís hard to describe . Itís like you know me better than I know myself."

Rita tried to joke off his latest revelation, "Itís just the cop in me."

Chris disagreed. "No, itís much more than that."

She continued to joke, hoping it would lighten his mood. "Well, weíre partners only in the police sense of the word, Lorenzo. Donít get any other ideas!" She went back to sit down on the sofa.

He laughed and flashed her a grin. "Oh, come on, Sam. Do you really think Iíd try to hit on you the same night I was dumped by someone who I thought I was going to marry?"

"Do you really want me to answer that? Iíve heard about your conquests, Lorenzo."

Suddenly serious again, Chris sat down next to her. "How could I not see this coming?"

"Maybe you just saw what you wanted to see."

"She told me she loved me."

"People define love differently."

He turned and looked her directly in the eyes. "Do you have a logical answer for everything?"

Rita giggled. "Nope. Iím just trying to help you."

"You know, thatís the first time a woman ever stood me up. I think I should be outraged."

"It happens to women all the time. Most of the time, itís the guy whoís insensitive."

"Maybe thatís what making this so unbelievable. Itís like the last three months of my life has been a complete fabrication, a total waste. Why couldnít she just tell me, face to face, that she wasnít ready to get serious? I feel so used. I donít think Iíd ever treat a woman this way."

She leaned over and put her arm around his shoulder. "Did you learn anything from all this?"

He sat back against the sofa, enjoying the warmth of her arm across his back as her fingers lightly massaged his shoulder. "Yeah, Iíve learned that the next time I think Iím in love, instead of giving away my heart, Iím just gonna give her my car. Itíll be a lot less painful."

"Thatís an interesting idea. I wonder how all the single ladies youíll be dating will like that deal."

Then she added, seriously, "And if youíve learned something, it wasnít wasted time."

"Maybe I just wonít date again, ever!"

Rita rolled her eyes out of his line of sight. "And just what parish might I find you preaching at, Father Lorenzo?"

"You know, youíre supposed to be on my side here. I thought you were gonna feel sorry for me and help me to get through this."

"Youíre the one whoís making jokes. Youíll never date again? Who are you trying to kid?"

Serious once more, Chris wondered aloud, "How could I have been so wrong? I should have seen this coming. I should have known that she didnít feel the same way about me that I did about her."

"I donít think it works that way. Maybe she did love you liked you love her, but then her feelings changed. Thereís no magic formula here."

"This hurts."

"I know."

"So whatís the recovery like?"

"Thatís different with everyone, too. Some people just move on and get over it quickly."

"Like Allie?"

"Yep, like Allie. And for others, it takes a little more time."

"Like me?"

She didnít answer right away. "Yes, I do LIKE you, partner," she said, playing on his words without answering his question..
 

Chris smiled and looked into her eyes. "I like you too, friend."

"Shh," she said, putting her finger to her lips, "the movieís starting." She held him closer in her arms and he snuggled up against her.
 

(END OF FLASHBACK)
 
 

~*~*~


 
 

The movie was now ending. They had hardly spoken to each other through the whole film.

"So, did you like it?" she asked.

"Like it? Yeah," he said in a soft whisper. "It DID happen one night," he added with a grin. The movie had brought back memories for him as well. "I think I knew then."

"Knew what?"

"Knew that I loved you and that you were the one for me."

"Oh really?"

"Well, I never did give you a car, did I?"

"No, you didnít. You gave me your heart."

He turned captured her lips with his, giving her a most passionate kiss. "I love you."

"I love you too!"
 
 

~*~*~
 
 

I knew I loved you
 
 

Maybe it's intuition,
 
 

But some things you just don't question.
 
 

Like in your eyes,
 
 

I see my future in an instant,
 
 

And there it goes.
 
 

I think I've found my best friend.
 
 

I know that it might sound more than a little crazy,
 
 

But I believe
 
 

I knew I loved you before I met you,
 
 

I think I dreamed you into life.
 
 

I knew I loved you before I met you,
 
 

I have been waiting all my life.
 
 

There's just no rhyme or reason,
 
 

Only this sense of completion.
 
 

And in your eyes,
 
 

I see the missing pieces,
 
 

I'm searching for.
 
 

I think I've found my way home.
 
 

I know that it might sound more than a little crazy,
 
 

But I believe,
 
 

I knew I loved you before I met you,
 
 

I think I dreamed you into life.
 
 

I knew I loved you before I met you,
 
 

I have been waiting all my life.
 
 

A thousand angels dance around you,
 
 

I am complete now that I've found you.
 
 

I knew I loved you before I met you,
 
 

I think I dreamed you into life.
 
 

I knew I loved you before I met you,
 
 

I have been waiting all my life.


 
 

The End February, 2000
 
 

So thereís a short little pre-quel, if you will. I just had the idea and it kept at me until I put it to paper.
 
 

Chris, Rita and Hudson are the creation and property of Stephen J. Cannell and USA. I mean no

harm.
 
 

The rest of the characters, Allie Weber, Surfer-dude, the bartender, Sara, Robin, and Gail are all created by me.  Judy created the names of Rita's friends...she's such a good editor!
 
 

Thanks to Judy for editingÖI still donít know where you find the time! (Editorís Note: Neither do I! Sorry to take so long....)
 
 

And to Resauthor for the idea of a pre-relationship type story.
 
 

It Happened One Night is a pretty good flick.
 
 

I knew I loved you is performed by Savage Garden.
 
 

If you would like to write to me, I welcome all comments, good or bad, please email me at Tuna.dc@excite.com
 
 

And yesÖ.there should be another one coming soonÖ.much longer and back to the storyline!

Hope that makes you all happy!