Next Season
By Clare Bautista

Jamie stood outside The Italian Village wondering what made her come here. She should be home with her daughter. Instead here she was, rehashing memories of what could never be. It seemed so long ago that one night with Rey...but she remembered it like it only happened yesterday.
Jamie was unsure whether to go in or not. At that moment, her stomach rumbled reminding her that she hadn't eaten since lunch. She should just go in and eat. She was already here, she tried to rationalize to herself, she would just be eating, that's all.
Still, she was hesitant. She knew she was kidding herself. She looked inside and saw that there were few people there. Just like the last time. 'Okay, this isn't good, Jamie,' she thought. 'You know exactly why you came here. You not only wanted to reminisce, you wanted to see if he would be here. Because you know it's one of his favorite restaurants. Well he isn't here. You've humiliated yourself enough so just turn and go. You can eat somewhere else.'
Realizing the truth in her thoughts, she turned and stepped into the curb to wait for a taxi. A few minutes later, a cab pulled up. It was dark and so she couldn't see the passenger inside it. So she simply waited on the side for the passenger to get out.
The door of the cab finally opened, and when the man stepped out from inside, Jamie's jaw dropped. Rey Curtis' eyes widened in surprised pleasure when he saw her. "Jamie." Rey was grinning.
Jamie was still in shock and it took a bit of effort to say something back. "Rey. Hello." She cringed at the sound of her voice --- the shock that must be written all over her face, she heard in her voice as well.
Before Rey could respond , the cabbie asked loudly from the inside, "Hey, miss are you gonna get in or not?" His tone was impatient and annoyed.
Rey looked at Jamie in question and Jamie stared back. After a moment, she told the cabbie, "No, it's okay. Thanks."
The cabbie grumbled something unintelligible and peeled away from them.
They were now alone. Neither one spoke immediately. Rey studied Jamie and he let out a low whistle. "You're looking good, Jamie."
Jamie blushed at his open admiration and simply replied, "Thank you. You do, too."
"Well, wow, this is weird." Rey said.
"Yeah, it is." Jamie agreed.
"Hey, if I'm keeping you..."
"No, you're not." Jamie replied, hastily, her heart beating fast.
"So, did you just come out?" Rey asked, gesturing to restaurant.
"Actually..." Her voice trailed off.
Jamie fixed her gaze on him. Rey was looking at her, waiting patiently for her answer. She took a deep breath and finally admitted, "Actually, no."
"No? Oh, are you waiting for someone here?" Rey asked, inwardly hoping that she would answer no.
"No, no I'm not. It's just...nothing."
Rey looked at Jamie, exhaling in relief. He didn't really believe her but he did not question her either. Instead he said, "Do you want to hear why I'm here, Jamie?"
Jamie shrugged. "It's really none of my business, Rey."
"That's true." Rey complied. "But I'd like you to hear it anyway."
Once again, Jamie didn't respond, so Rey just plunged ahead. "Jamie, I'm here because I was walking trying to find a cab by the precinct and I walked by a Blockbuster. In the window, I saw a poster for American Beauty and it reminded me of...." His voice trailed off, as he found himself being scrutinized by those beautiful blue eyes of hers.
Jamie smiled tenderly. "Me, too," she replied, her tone equally tender as her smile.
"So, we're here again." Rey said, taking a step closer to her.
"Yes, we are." Jamie agreed, taking a step closer to him as well.
"And where do we go from here, Jamie?" Rey asked. They were so close to each other now.
"Well, how about for right now, inside the restaurant? I don't know about you. But I'm very hungry." Jamie answered, her eyes twinkling.
Rey laughed heartily. "That sounds great." Rey then offered his hand to Jamie, which she unhesitatingly took and they walked inside The Italian Village.

By unspoken consent, they didn't talk about them during the course of the meal. They only talked about what was up with each of them. Jamie told Rey that she had divorced Dave already. And Rey informed Jamie that Deborah had passed away 18months ago. Both conveyed their condolences and their I'm sorrys and then moved on to other topics. Jamie found out that Rey was back on active detective duty, while Rey learned that Jamie was not only practicing law, she was also teaching one class in NYU now.
It wasn't until when they were done with their meal and drinking their after-dinner red wine, that they began to speak about that long ago night that they had spent. Rey started it with his question, "Jamie, why didn't you ever call me after that night?"
"So I guess, our avoidance of this topic has officially come to a halt?" Jamie joked.
"Yes. It has. We already started it outside, Jamie." Rey pointed out.
"Yes, I know."
"So, please answer my question."
"Why? Rey, trust me when I tell you I wanted to. So many times. But I couldn't. I knew it wouldn't be right. You were a married man then and I was married too. And we had so many problems that we could only solve on our own." Jamie told him, looking at him straight in the eye. "But you know, it helped knowing that if I really, truly needed help you would be there."
"But you didn't." There was a note of hurt in Rey's voice.
"No. And any call I would have made then would have been done out of loneliness and not out of any real need for help."
Rey nodded as he listened to her. "I understand. You're an amazing woman, Jamie. You know that? Very strong. I'm a man, and yet I don't think I could be as strong as you."
"What are you talking about, Rey?" Jamie asked, a protesting note in her voice. "You. You're so strong. I can't imagine going through what you did with Deborah and getting through it. But look at you, you're here, in one piece, doing well."
"Well, I still have my bad days." Rey confessed.
"That's perfectly normal, Rey. I still have my bad days, too." Jamie admitted. "But I also know that it'll get better with time."
There was a moment's silence between while they sipped their wines. Jamie put down her wine glass first and spoke up once more. "Rey, you know what I'm wondering?" Rey shook his head and Jamie continued, "I'm wondering why tonight of all nights we both decided to go here. It would be one thing if you were the only one here or it were only me, but it's the both of us that are here tonight."
"I don't believe in fate."
"Neither do I. But I do believe in this --- it's something a Filipino friend of mine told me once -- she said it sounds better in their language, but translated to English, it says, That God basically helps those people who work to help themselves."
Jamie nodded. "That sounds good. But what does it have to do with us? I mean, we didn't exactly work to be here. "
"Yes we did, Jamie. Maybe it's not work by your standards, but it is work."
"How so?"
"Well, like my seeing that poster. I didn't have to go here after I saw that. I could have just gone home. But instead, I chose to follow that inclination I had after I saw that and made my way here. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have seen you and I wouldn't be here with you now."
"That's not work, Rey. That's coincidence. Or luck."
"No, it isn't. You said you were here for the same reason I was, but what triggered you to come here?"
"Come on, Jamie, I'm sure there were lots of restaurants near your office. Why this place?"
"Because it's Valentine's day tomorrow and I thought that I haven't really had any romance in my life since you, so I decided to come here in reminisce." Jamie knew that she had also hoped to see him, but she figured he didn't need to know that.
"But you could have done that somewhere else Jamie. You could have done that at home, yet you chose to come here. And that took effort."
"I guess."
Another silence hung between them. They were both trying to understand how they both came to this place, on the same night, after so long. It seemed totally incomprehensible and incredible. Rey took another sip of his wine and then spoke up. "Jamie, I believe that everything happens for a reason. That night we spent a long time ago happened for a reason. And I believe we ran into each other, on the night before Valentine's of all nights for a reason, too."
Jamie stared at Rey's handsome face. Her heart was beating fast again. She wanted this man. But she wanted to be sure that it wasn't just loneliness steering her towards him. He had made her feel safe and perhaps, loved once. But that was just an illusion then. Could the illusion become a reality? She wanted that more than anything in the world.
"Rey, I just don't want to be hurt again." Jamie whispered. "I'm scared I'll be hurt again."
Rey reached out and took her hand in his. "Jamie, I would never hurt you."
"But isn't it too soon...after Deborah I mean." Jamie asked, her eyes full of uncertainty.
Rey shook his head. "Jamie, I've been like a man without a soul for almost a year and you know what? One day I just woke up and realized that if Deborah could speak to me, she would be so mad at me for wasting my life. She would have wanted me to remember her, yes, but she would have also wanted me to go on with my life. When I realized that, I felt so free. I felt like Deborah was smiling down at me from heaven and saying, "Finally! You got it, you dork."
Jamie chuckled. "That's a nice thought, Rey."
"Yes, it is. You see the best way I can give tribute to Deborah to live my life to the fullest. She wouldn't want me wasting away. I know that now."
"So what do you want us to do, Rey?" Jamie's tone was hopeful but also fearful all at the same time.
"To continue what we started, Jamie. That is, if you want. You and I found comfort in each other in our roughest times and that's something." Rey was still holding her hand.
Jamie looked down. His hand was holding hers firmly, like it was silently reassuring her of Rey's sincerity. She brought his hand to her lips and kissed it, softly. Jamie's eyes twinkled with happiness. "And they say modern life is rubbish...," she said, laughing.
Rey began to laugh too. But then he sobered as he told her tenderly, "No way, Jamie. Not with you."
Jamie smiled brightly and Rey went to the other side of the booth, sitting beside Jamie. "So what do you say, Jamie, can we please try this?"
Instead of answering, Jamie leaned forward and kissed him tenderly. It took Rey by surprise but in a moment he recovered and kissed her back with all the passion he felt. Then all of a sudden, Rey broke the kiss and smiling teasingly he asked, "Is that a yes?"
Jamie smiled from ear to ear as she replied. "Yes, Rey."
Rey grinned back and began to kiss her once again.
They were still kissing when they heard a waiter clearing his throat beside them. The two of them looked at him red-faced. "I'm sorry signore, signorina, but it is midnight and we are closing. Could I give you your check?"
"Uh, I'm sorry. Sure, please." Rey replied.
"I'll get it for you, signore." The waiter walked away.
"Did you hear what the man said, Rey?" Jamie asked, still smiling and holding his hand.
"It's midnight. It's Valentine's."
"Oh, yeah?" Rey couldn't erase the smile from his face.
"Yeah." Jamie replied. There was a silly smile glued to her face as well.
Rey pulled Jamie close again and then as he gently caressed her cheek, he whispered, "Happy Valentine's, Jamie."
"Happy Valentine's, Rey." Jamie replied. Rey chuckled and then pulling her to him, began to kiss her once more.


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