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Return to Earth – 09

He must have been over eighty years old. His hair was just turning white and he walked slowly.

"These things have been so popular I have to keep them locked up. People steal the craziest things," he said and walked toward a cabinet behind the counter. "Funny thing is they are no good without the programming unit. Unfortunately," he came back with a small package, "that is almost the limit of my knowledge of them. The missus and I have gone through all of that a long time ago, the old fashion way."

Cynthia giggled. "I don’t intend to forgo that opportunity if it comes but this will hopefully set us on the right path to it."

"Ah, your young man on the fence about it? Or woman, I don’t judge."

Cynthia frowned at the phrase. "I’m sorry I don’t understand, why would he be on a fence?" She knew what a fence was. She read about them in history class. The teacher spoke of times where men and women dreamed of owning homes surrounded by white picket fences. It was supposed to be the ideal home lay out nearly two centuries ago.
"My apologies, showing my age a little I guess. If memory serves, it means he’s in the middle of making a choice and can still go either direction. You are hoping that this will help him decide."

Cynthia thought about it. Her eyes rolled from side to side as she considered it. "Yes and no. He decided he wants to move forward, he is just a little afraid of committing," she said finally and got the "I don’t understand" look from the old gentleman. "He thinks I’m too good for him and is waiting for me to leave. He has done things to show his commitment to me. He gives just to make me happy and usually it don’t matter what it takes. He just gives it without much or even any expectations. I am hoping this will show him mine and that I don’t intend to go anywhere."

"Well Miss it sounds as if you are very happy. I hope he comes around. Now make sure you read the instructions first. Once they are on, they don’t come off so easy. They can be returned only if there is something wrong with the manufacturing." He handed her the package and a data pad with a pick up form on it.
"Thank you for holding them for me," she said a she signed the form stating she got her package.

"Good luck to you," he said as she turned to head out.

"Have a good evening," she smiled and left. She was slightly disappointed and didn’t want to show it. She had hoped there was someone there that could tell her how to make them work. She wanted it all to be a big secret, right up to the point where she put it on him. Worse case he cuts it off while screaming at her. What would he scream more about the credits it cost or the fact she did it behind his back. The idea almost gave her second thoughts. As she shopped, she got back into the mindset that she had to do it no matter what. She picked up some fresh meat and even a loaf of fresh bread, knowing how much Daniel loved fresh bread it could keep his attention long enough to slap it on. She made one other stop and ordered something to be sent to the new apartment the next day.

"Sorry it took so long, I didn’t like the butcher telling me that I didn’t need to get the cut I wanted. He really expected me to get the more expensive one," she said as she walked in. She stopped in the living room and looked around. The entire place was stripped bare. "I see it didn’t take as long as you thought it would." She said taking the bags directly to the kitchen.

Daniel was seated watching some old comedy with puppets. "No it didn’t. I tossed a bunch of stuff in the recycler. Mostly some girl’s clothes, I would have held onto them but I can barely see her face. It’s been so long since…" Cynthia laughed as she came in and jumped onto his lap. Their lips met as his arms came around her. She just held her lips to his then slowly started moving them brushing them against each other.
"Does that make her face clear?" she asked barely pulling away.

"Mmm almost as if she was right in front of me. It is to bad you didn’t get here sooner you could have saved your clothing." 

"It’s okay, you’ll just have to go shopping with me to buy some more," she smiled and kissed a little more affectionately this time. "I didn’t see much of anything worth the credits so I got stuff to make lasagna. I got beef and turkey. We should still have some of the sausage you made. We got enough to make a salad. Oh and I got a nice loaf of bread from that baker you like. He gave it to me half price because he was closing. Business hasn’t been good he said."

"Huh huh, what do I need to do, for how long and when does it start."

"I am hurt that you would think that I need to bribe you with bread for something."

"Fresh bread, even half off you don’t like buying it. Special occasion stuff if I recall right."

"Well that’s what I get for being nice." She grinned. "You cook then. I have to go make sure you didn’t break anything and then check the recycler to be sure you aren’t serious about my clothing. Finish watching your show first. I am not starving and can wait a little to eat." She gave him a peck on the nose and slid off his lap. She heard him groan. "I’ll take that as a disappointment that I got up groan instead of dam I got to cook groan. Don’t worry, I’ll make up for it later." She grabbed the package and vanished into the bedroom.

Daniel got up. It would take two hours to get it made so he figured it was better to start. Most of it was time in the oven anyway. He finished up and went into sit on the sofa. Several times, he could hear Cynthia in the bedroom mumbling something or shouting out her frustration with whatever it was she was doing. Dinner was almost done when she started being more vocal.

"You know you didn’t have that much stuff here and it’s all right where you left it," he shouted out to her. "I promise I didn’t really throw anything out," he added a little worried as she yelled a profanity.

"I know sweetie, it’s not that. It’s just something I picked up. I should have researched it more but I rushed to get it and now I can’t get it to work the way I thought it would. It’s frustrating and I really want it to work."

"It’s probably damaged. You know how crappy the manufacturing has been lately. Just take it back tomorrow get another or a refund."

"I really wanted it to work tonight," she said sadly. That had Daniel worried.

"If it’s that important, bring it out here and let’s take a look. Did you read the manual or instructions?"

"Some, a few pages. I just need it to work," she said frustrated and clearly upset.

"Okay if you can’t come out I’ll come in there and see if I can help," he said getting up.

He could hear her scrambling and running to the door. She had a tablet in her hand and was clearly upset.

"Okay what’s going on? What could be so important that it’s getting you this upset? And why does it have to work tonight? Did I forget something about tomorrow?"

"Like you could forget something," she said as she threw her arms around him. "I wanted it to be a surprise. If you see it you might not like it and think I’m crazy or something."
"I already think you’re crazy, but that is beside the point. It’s obviously upsetting you, I can’t help if you don’t let me. I promise to give it full consideration. At the least, you can let me read the instructions. Given your distaste for dry boring reading, you may have missed something."

"It won’t be a surprise then. I didn’t think it would be so complicated," she said as she leaned against him and put her head on his shoulder.

Daniel slowly ran his hands up and down her back. After a minute or so he slid them up and laced his hands behind her head. He put his thumbs just behind her ears and started moving them around pressing softly as he pulled her head back and kissed her slowly softly on the lips. "Let," he said pulling away then leaning in kissing her again a little harder more intense. He kept moving his thumbs around just behind her ear. "Me," he said, again stopping to kiss her. "Read the instructions," he continued pausing between each word to kiss her a little more passionately.

"Owner’s manual, seventy five pages long," she whispered.

"Okay owner’s manual. Come eat and I will read it."

"Promise you won’t get mad and you will think about it before saying anything."

He nodded and slipped his arm around her waist and led her to the kitchen. "I don’t think I have seen you like this, this must be something to have you so worked up."
"Let’s just say it’s something to help us with this new level of a relationship. I thought it would be simple, cute and symbolic and all that but it’s not so simple. It takes both of us to make it work."

"Okay, that’s a good thing. Wish I had thought of something we could do." He gave her a light squeeze before letting go. This time she was hearing the dejected tone in his voice. He turned and pulled the only two plates left unpacked from the cabinet.

"Hey there is only room for one of us to be upset, and I was first so cut it out. This is for both of us." She cut and served the lasagna and Daniel added the salad and bread. He had cut the loaf in half and made half into garlic bread.

Cynthia picked up the reader and her plate. She carried both into the living room and waited as Daniel came in and took his usual seat. She couldn’t get into hers until he did. She slipped right into place balancing the plate and reader. She placed the plate half on her leg and half on Daniel’s thigh. 

"Just remember that lasagna stains, we don’t have a lot of time to clean up," she said in jest but also with a little hope that it would keep him seated.

Daniel sat his plate on the stand and reached for the reader. She held it tight a moment. "Promise you won’t be mad."

He put his arm around her and kissed her head as she leaned against him. "I highly doubt that it’s something to get mad about. I might get mad if you don’t let me see it in the first place."

"Kiss me first please," she whispered in his ear.
"Ah I see now this is a trick for more kissing. Bit elaborate considering ," he said turning his head and instantly touching her lips to his. He let them sit just pressing together slowly moving brushing them. He then started slowly pressing, parting his lips and pulling in on her upper lip. He pulled it gently and squeezed it between his. Cynthia let go of the reader.

"Now eat silly girl. You didn’t eat much all day. Last thing I need is for your mother to find out you didn’t eat. She would probably think I am starving you." He said as he resituated himself. His arm around her loosed but remained wrapped around her.

"Considering what?" she said suddenly holding her hand over the reader to stop him from reading.

"You know I can’t read through your hand, it might be worth looking into though. We might make a lot of credits if we can figure out how to turn a hand into a reader screen. Then again maybe not. Seems reading isn’t what people like to do these days."

Cynthia took her fork and jabbed him in the leg.

"Hey watch it with that thing, that does hurt you know."

"I’m going to make it hurt more if you don’t stop evading the question. It’s frustrating when you do that. Now considering what?"

"You should already know the answer to that," he laughed and shifted his leg as she lifted the fork to strike again. He nearly spilled her plate. "Fine. Considering that of all the things I like to do, kissing you is in the top three or is it two. Anyway, you wouldn’t need a scam to get what I’m more than willing to do any time as much as I can. I have been since the first time. Now let me read this. We still have things to do and we have to be up to fly tomorrow. Ask your other question later and eat."

She conceded, taking a bite as he activated the reader. He thumbed through the acknowledgements page and stopped on the title page. She thought she felt him tense. She quickly realized that it wasn’t that, but it was his arm tightening around her.

"I have been hearing about these. They don’t seem to be particular to any one group or people. Kids, adults, males with males, females with females all seem to be using them. You do realize what they symbolize right?" he kept reading as he spoke. His one arm got tighter around her a she nodded.

He read more as she ate and he shivered as he read one section. "What’s wrong?"

"Just read a listing of other products similar to this and it just bothered me a little. This company sells a larger version. It goes around the neck. Slave owners on station six are using them as collars to mark their slaves. They are more elaborate and thicker to make room for added features. I don’t see how they can have slaves let alone treat them like they do."

"I agree," Cynthia looked up at him with approval. "I went to station six once with my father. We had the misfortune of getting there as a slaver was bringing in a group of young girls. He was whipping them. They couldn’t have been more than fourteen years old and he was selling them for labor workers. If I could have, I would have taken that whip and beat him to death with it."

"Fortunately we never have to go there, not even for the university." He paused and rubbed her side. "We have things to do and if you want to really use these, we should start now."

"Start?" she asked as she sat up.

"Yeah, they are bonding bracelets, some call them couple tags or promise bands. Either way you need to activate them together. Then you need to set up the way you want it to look. You can set it up to have words or pictures. You can also make them smaller in width. If you want, it can form cut out shapes but it’s not recommended as it prevents full connectivity. Last thing is you have to program the lock. The lock makes it so that only the one with the key can take it off. Each partner has the key for the other. Once that is done then it will weave the ends together."

"I never heard of all that. Everyone said all they did was just put them on."

"I suppose you could do that. Skip over most of the steps and use them plain. Just remember that once they are locked they are only removable by the person with the key or by cutting them off. We will need to keep the programing box just in case you want to make any changes. It will still take five minutes to get the first stage done. We still need to get the float back before we are charged another rental. We need to pack up what’s left here that we won’t need for the night. We can drop the few things we keep off before work. I will then be officially moved out." He opened the reader and found a section before handing it to her. "Just some samples of what could be done."
They ate as Cynthia looked at the features. She hadn’t got to that point in her own reading. He waited a short time after they finished to get up, taking her plate with him. He cleaned them up and dried them before putting them in a storage box. He started wiping down everything he used and double checked the cabinets. There was nothing left.
Cynthia went in and got the programming box. She came out and sat down at the table, setting it down. Attached to it were two long grey blue bands. "As long as we have this we can still change the design. We would just need to take them off and program them."

Daniel nodded." True, but that implies that once it’s on you I will ever unlock it."

She smiled sheepishly, her face flushing. "I am sure eventually I will be able to guess the key."

"You might. It might take you a few years, at best. Your key can be anything from numbers, letters or a combination of them up to sixteen digits. It can also be a touch pattern on the bracelet itself or a combination of several things. I don’t know how they expected people to remember the elaborate possibilities. Then again, they will make a fortune on those that forget and have to cut them off." He chuckled as she sat there shaking her head. He walked over and stood behind her putting his hands on her shoulders and gently squeezing. He leaned over and gave her cheek a kiss. "This is your idea. I appreciate the thought and I am happy to do this with you. You decide. We can start the process and then go drop all this stuff off and return the float. You can think about the design and decide what to do when we get back."

She moaned as he continued rubbing her shoulders. "Keep that up and we might not make it on time." She moaned, as she slowly felt relaxed. "Okay let’s start it."

"Have to get in the right position. The box has to touch the arm that you want the band to be on. Being right handed, left is best." Daniel let go of her let shoulder. He reached down and took her hand. "We can do it like this."

Cynthia stood up and grabbed the box, as she turned she let go of his hand and took the other leading him to the sofa. She grinned and pushed him down where he normally sat and then got in her usual spot. The programing box wasn’t huge but it was nearly the length of their forearms. She slid the box between her left and his right arms. She "I like this way more. It feels right somehow."

"Okay if you sure, press the start and then analyze button," Daniel sat still with his arm at the bottom. It wasn’t a comfortable angle but he could deal with it for the duration. "It will give some instructions as it does the first phase."

It took several minutes. They were instructed to move their fingers and ball up a fist three times for each. The band wrapped around each time they did. Then it asked them to roll their arms side to side. It announced when it was done and then said it would take thirty minutes to program the bands settings.

"We go now and take care of everything we will be back just a little after it finishes. You can then make you choice if you’re going to add to it or go for the simple," Daniel lifted the machine and put it on the coffee table. "I suggest that you should take it into consideration that you will be wearing it a long time."

"Or until I drive you nuts enough to take it off." She laughed and pulled him to her kissing his cheek then pulling him to the door.

They made their way to the project room. They put everything away and took a few minutes to look over the equipment that had started coming in from the agriculture committee. They would start to reestablish the project in a couple days. They would be back in school by the time they get it all running fully again. Then they would start the task of finding ways to make it better. Daniel was sure they were in for a disappointment. Even with the added delay, they made it back with the float with several minutes to spare. As they walked, they were noticing more people that had on the bracelets. These same people they might have seen every day and this one thing starts to stand out. It was almost as if they magically appeared now that they would soon be among them.

Daniel laid down on the sofa as soon as he got inside. "Last night here. It is going to be strange in a new place."

Cynthia picked up the bands. "We have a lot of changes coming Daniel. Change is for the better. That’s why I had to do this today. To show you that I am here and will be through all of them and any that come after. Some may think we are moving fast, but I think that we will make it work, that we will get through it all together." She paused and looked at the device in her hand. "I want people to know that. I want them to see that we are together in the things we do. I don’t want to be another one of those that jump in on a fad because everyone is doing it. I wanted this to show everyone. Now I’m not sure is more than a fad that people easily dismiss."

Daniel looked up at the ceiling, he held out his hand to her but she didn’t take it. "It will have meaning to you and me," he said putting his arm down. "It will have a meaning to any that we know and share our lives with every day. Fad or not it will be what we make of it." He lunged out and grabbed her around the legs. She yelped in surprise then screamed. "You don’t need to do this ever. The recycler is right over there. I assure you that it will not change my thinking in any way. If it’s about the fad, then make it about you and what you want it to be. I will support your choice one hundred percent."

Cynthia thought as she lay against him. "I think we should use the images to design them. They shouldn’t be plain. Maybe we can put something on them that shows our commitment to the relationship. We don’t look at the others design until it’s all over tomorrow when they are locked on."
"I think I can manage something. I’ll get a tablet and download the software." He patted her on the thigh as he sat up to get up he pushed her a little. She groaned as she unwillingly got up.

"It can take a few hours to over twelve to get all the programing with pictures done. Take your time and do it the way you want. Remember that it’s able to do it in color as well." He sat at the kitchen table and started the tablet. It only took a few minutes to get off the station network. 

"I can’t find what I’m looking for in the pictures. They are nice and all but it’s not what I want," Cynthia said despondently as she sat at the other side of the table a few minutes later.

"Find what you want on the station network and download it. The larger the detail the better but any picture should be compatible."

Minus a short break when Jena and Michael called, they were done in less than an hour. They even managed to program the locks.

"That was harder than expected," Daniel said setting the tablet down near the program box. The two systems connected and Daniel made sure it was to the right band. Cynthia followed and they started the design program at the same time.

Nothing to do but wait they went in and played some cards and a few other games before turning on a movie. Cynthia got up half way through and started getting ready for bed.

Daniel took his turn and came out to find that he couldn’t find the shorts he normally wore. He could have sworn he had set them aside but figured he must have packed them without realizing it somehow. He just put on his pants for the next day.

"Going somewhere?" Cynthia asked when he walked out.


"Looks like your dressing to go out instead of to bed."

"Oh that. Can’t find my shorts thought I left them here but must have packed them. I’ll just wear this and find them tomorrow."

"Daniel you don’t wear work clothing to bed. You won’t be comfortable. Take them off and come to bed."

Daniel had to kick himself but he just could bring himself to do it. His body was more than willing to comply but his brain sent up a red flag. "In a little bit. I just want to make some notes on the project layout and do some ordering. I want to order the seeds for our side project. We can pick them up after work tomorrow."

Cynthia got up and walked into the kitchen. He had already opened and poured a drink. "Thanks," she said as she took the glass. "First of all I already ordered the seeds we need as well as the equipment. Second, if you did come up with something it can wait. Its late and we are going to bed." Daniel grabbed another glass and poured even more into it as he looked in her eyes and saw a glint of amusement.

"I am so glad my discomfort amuses you," he said polishing off the drink in one big gulp. Then he poured another.

"You have to admit it’s is funny. You have to be the only man around that is afraid to go to bed half-naked with a woman who is half-naked as well. What is the problem?" she held her hand on the glass. He slid it out from under and walked around her.

"I don’t know. Conflicts, trust take your pick."

"Trust? Me?"

Daniel rolled his eyes at her a she came in behind him. He sat on the edge of the sofa bed. "You I trust, it’s me I don’t trust. My brain and body are always in conflict. One’s willing the other is not. Sometime part of my brain is willing but the part that isn’t seems always to win. Top it all off this is all new to me."

"Do you think I have extensive knowledge?" she asked as she took the glass from him? "Daniel I may have kissed a few more boys than you have girls but that is about it. We have gone past the point of anything I have done." She set both glasses down and then grabbed his hands. She pulled him up then moved to unfasten the pants and slid down the zipper. "We have been sleeping together in the same bed for over a week. Half that time I have been half naked. You haven’t done anything ungentlemanly in all that time." She pushed the pants down and let them fall. "To be honest I am a little disappointed in that. I would have thought by now you would have gone to second base, some may have even said third base." She pushed against his chest. He barely moved until she gave him the look. He chuckled and fell backwards. "I don’t think this is something you can learn in books. This is life. Whatever mistakes we make we will learn from and move on even if they are embarrassing." She finished pulling the pants off and tossed them to the side. "Now stop the nonsense," she said straddling his stomach and laying on top of him. "I told you before to be normal. Next time I won’t be so nice."

She slid against him as moved over the top and onto the bed. As she did Daniel felt coolness on his stomach. Reflexively he reached over and rubbed the spot. It was slightly wet. His brain went into overdrive as he moved on the bed and Cynthia pulled up the blanket.

"Now that was a little fun. We’ll have to try that again in the future."

Daniel grabbed his glass and took a drink. Cynthia cleared her throat and looking past him at her glass. He absently reached over and picked it up giving it to her. They watched one last program before she took both glasses and put them on the stand while turning out the lights. Daniel waited until he thought she was asleep before he slid down and got comfortable.

"Daniel, you said earlier that kissing me was one of the top things you liked to do, what else was there?"

Daniel took a deep breath then rolled over draping his arm around her as he had been doing every night. "Holding you like this or any other way I can. Now sleep."

They got up early and cleared out the entire place. Nothing was left and they headed out to work they stopped at the project room. They could have gone into the apartment but they both feared that they would take to long. The entire day dragged along as they went from station to station. They didn’t have any runs that took them to the mining asteroids. When the day finally ended, they bought dinner on their way home. Daniel stood back holding it as Cynthia tried opening the door. It by the fourth try she was getting mad. She was about to give up when it finally accepted.

They both gasped when they walked in. The place was huge. The kitchen was all the way to the back behind a dining room that was up three steps from the living room. The bedrooms were on either side of the living room. They only guessed that the bathrooms were in the bedrooms. There was one complete comm station and entertainment system combined. The screen was at least twice the size of what was in the other place. Daniel went into one of the bedrooms as Cynthia went into the kitchen. Everything was bigger, roomier. There was even a comm and entertainment set up in each bedroom. At first, Daniel thought it was redundant. Then he remembered that two bedrooms apartments were usually filled by individuals not couples. They would want privacy. There may come a time when either of them would want some privacy. 
"Can’t say there isn’t enough room. Even with the extra furniture this place feels three times the size of what I had in the beginning of the year." Daniel waved at the sofa and lounge chairs in the living room. They were nicely situated around a small clear coffee table.

"We’ll just have to make use of it and have a dinner party or something. We can have Michael and Jenna come over to help," Cynthia said come back from the kitchen.
"We haven’t even moved in and you want to show the place off," Daniel groaned.

"It’s a new place, we should invite our friends over. We’ll have to do it again when we leave school and get our own apartment. This will be a good learning opportunity. Figure out what not to do. This way it goes better when it actually is socially required for us to have one."

"Almost everyone we would to invite is a student and they are all home with their parents or whoever it is that they live with. I don’t think they will want to come all the way back here for a simple house warming party. Not to mention the pressure you will put on Michael and Jenna, or any of the others for that matter, to do the same."
She looked at him and pouted. "Fine, party pooper."

"I didn’t say we couldn’t do it, but I do think that we should at least be moved in before planning a party. I would say a small dinner would be okay. We need to get organized and moved in. We have a lot of work to do to get the project room back up and running. Not to mention that the only food we have here is the food we just brought in. I would say at least a week before we plan a dinner."

With a sigh, Cynthia conceded. "We do have one thing to do first," she took his hand and they headed back to dining area. She had put her flight bag down there and started fishing around in it pulling out the promise bands.

"I think it would be appropriate to do this for our first thing in our new place. That is if you are still willing."

Daniel looked at the device. She had carried it all day. The bands face was against the box so they couldn’t see the designs. He did see the one visible change. "I said I would, I haven’t done anything to say otherwise now have I?"

"No you haven’t. Just the opposite actually," she reached and caressed his face. "You have been very willing and supportive. I…" she hesitated slightly "Thank you." She lifted the box and set it with the bands touching their arms. She pressed a button and it came to life. The bands moved slowly curling up and around their forearms. There was a slight tingle as the ends came together and merged into one another. When it completed they were tight against the skin.

"Good thing it’s a breathable material," Daniel laughed as he twisted his wrist side to side looking over the design. So far it had done just what he wanted.
"Let me see," Cynthia said as she reached for his arm. Daniel reached up and started getting food as she looked. "I thought we were going to add something that showed our commitment," she said as she twisted the band back and for the looking at all the pictures.

"We did and I did. You just need to use that pretty head of yours to figure out what," he grinned. He took her hand in his and pulled it up so he could see what she had done. "Wow, that is I awesome," he said looking at each image and layout. "I thought you would do flowers, you did a great job tweaking the pictures you found. You got a lot of detail to come out. I like the linked hearts too. It would not have occurred to me to use them like that. You should claim the design before someone steals it."

Daniel took his food and drink into the living room to sit on the sofa. It felt a little weird as he used a remote to activate the entertainment channels. Cynthia followed slowly. She had put a lot of thought into what she had done. From what she saw, he didn’t. She sat her food down on the coffee table and stared at the band on his wrist. Was she missing something? It didn’t even look completed.

"Daniel you need to explain it please. I don’t see it, I don’t understand what you did. It’s doesn’t even look done."

"Sure it is," he said frowning and taking a bite of food. He looked down and choked. "Oh crap I forgot that part. Dam it. Would think it be the foremost in my head since it took most of the time to set up. It looked fine a moment ago. It must not have connected long enough." He took another bite of food then a drink before sitting back and holding out his hand to her. He held it in the air a minute or so before cocking his head and frowning. "My arm is getting tired and this won’t work if you don’t hold my hand. I’d like to eat and then get things unpacked so kind of need to do it now. After all this is my dominant hand and I need it to eat."

She finally moved and put his hand in hers holding them both in midair, the bands came together and new images began to form on Daniel’s band. She pulled away but Daniel held her fast and smiled. "I’m glad that worked. Wasn’t sure it could, bit of a risk but its cool."

She sat watching as the pictures became more detailed blending the new images together with the ones already on it. The last one to come in focus. The white blotch that had been there slowly was merged with a black. What made her worry fade was seeing her name next to a heart. The two shapes formed a circle of black and white. Her name was on the black side written in white. Daniel’s name appeared in the white side in black writing. She didn’t recognize the image next to it. It looked like a bunch of squiggles geometrically placed.

"That was amazing, how did you do that?" she asked sliding over and then up on his lap putting her arms around his neck. "I’m sorry. I should have known that you would have done something elaborate."

"I just used all the features available. I do like the way it turned out though."

"Yes the animal pictures are very nice. They look like the ones in the photo frame at your parents."

"Oh that turned out nice too. It definitely looks better finished than on the tablet. I wasn’t talking about the band though. I was referring to you sitting here like this. That is a great way to end an issue."

"I like this too," she said as she got in close. "You had me for a moment. I saw all those images it looked so incomplete. I thought you had lost your mind or something when I didn’t see anything and you just thought nothing of it. Then I saw that black and white symbol come together. I don’t know what made you come up with it. Seeing our names come out on those pieces like that made my heart jump."

"Well it’s not permanent," he said leaning forward to get their food. "They will stay visible for up to four hours or less." She looked at him like she was about ready to stab him with her fork. "Not gone forever, they can be brought back. The images are tied to your bracelet. When we walk together we normally hold hands," he slid his fingers over her hand and pressed his wrist to hers. "It will take five minutes of contact to get a full four hours.

"Sneaky way to make me hold hands," she said pretending to be offended. "So now we have to hold hands every four hours so you don’t look ridiculous with an incomplete band. Just out of curiosity, what happens if we hold hands before the four hours is up?"

"Well on the off chance that happens," Daniel played along pretending to be disheartened by the idea, "it will change the timing. They could be visible all day long with enough contact."

Cynthia started eating before she responded. "I suppose. It’s a sacrifice on my part but I can’t have you seen like that. What would people think?"

"Not sure. We might have to test it and find out," Daniel smiled as she gasped in mock shock. 

"Never. It may be a grueling experience but I will not give in to them.

The laughed and continued to eat. Daniel sat back and as awkward of a position as it was managed to finish with Cynthia still in his lap. After cleaning up they spent two more hours unpacking. Cynthia made a point of finding a way to make sure the bands came into contact at least three times.

"I didn’t really notice until now that you really don’t have much clothing," Cynthia said as she hung things in the closet. "What you do have is old and out of style. I think we need to take you shopping for new clothes."

"I think you should call Jenna before it gets to late and talk to her about your dinner party. The two of you think alike so I would venture a guess that she and Michael will be having one as well. You wouldn’t want to have yours on the same day. And there is nothing wrong with the clothing I have. I don’t need to buy anything else."
"You may be right, about Jenna that is not your clothing. On that you are wrong so wrong."

He was right. Jenna had been planning it from the moment they walked into their new place. They decided they would do them the week before the session started, three days apart.

Cynthia yawned and stretched. She was curled up in one of the recliners nearly half asleep. "Time for bed," Daniel said as he came around and pulled her out of the chair. "I have the bed made, take a quick shower and lay down to sleep."

"You need to sleep to," she said yawning again. "You need a shower to, you don’t smell so good."

"I will when you are done. Now go please."

She turned around and got behind him pushing him towards the bedroom. "We have two showers now. No one needs to wait. Just a quick one I want to get to bed. You can shower better in the morning. I already have my clean clothes in the other one.

"Speaking of which I still haven’t found my sleeping shorts," Daniel said putting the brakes on and she slipped causing her to crash into his back. 

"To bad so sad you’ll have to continue to make due. Now shower please. I want more than five hours of sleep tonight."

It was late and Daniel decided not to mess around. It was midnight when Cynthia came from the other bedroom a towel around her wet hair. Daniel was in the kitchen getting a drink of water. She saw the sofa bed already pulled out.

"Oh no that’s not happening," she came up into the kitchen, grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to the bedroom door. "There is a perfectly good bed in here. There is no reason we can’t use it. I thought we talked about this."

Daniel frowned and cocked his head as he usually did when he was trying to remember something. Cynthia groaned and pulled him into the bedroom. She stopped just inside seeing the blankets were already pulled down the pillows were propped up and the lights were low.
"I don’t recall saying anything about this. I suppose we can try it. It’s smaller than what we have been using." He whined playfully. 
"Daniel it’s the same size , it just doesn’t fold up. This one should be more comfortable."

"Just try staying on your side for a change," he said whispering in her ear as he pulled her into an embrace he kissed her neck. "Now go break it in and I’ll get the lights out there." He gave her a tiny push and laughed as he went back out to the kitchen. He was putting on a show but he was nervous. Sleeping on the sofa together was one thing but sleeping in an actual bed, it felt different. It felt more real.

"I thought we could do this together," Cynthia said as he came back in. She was standing next to the bed. She put up her arm. She smiled as he came over and put his arm next to hers. When they locked hands then fell backwards onto the bed.

"Okay no more hesitating time to sleep."