The Case of the No-More Goodnight
The sun had set. Everyone had gone home. The lawyer and secretary sat at the large table. He was disheveled, his mind was tired, his forehead wrinkled in thought. Her shoes were lying by the desk, her eyes were combing every line of every piece of paper looking for any breadcrumb of a lead. She finally sat the papers down and hummed a tired sound. She rose to her feet to obtain the cold coffee that sat from hours before. She poured herself a cold cup before asking, "Coffee?"
"No," he grunted without looking up.
She started to take a drink of the cold, dark cup hoping it would open her eyes to what she was missing, but before it could reach her lips, the lawyer took it from her hand.
"No. There's nothing more we can do. Not tonight." There was weary defeat in his voice.
"Perry, surely —-"
"No. I cannot have my secretary working until midnight, drinking cold coffee to keep her awake. I won't—" He was aggravated, his voice a growl.
Her tone was soft and soothing, "Perry, it wouldn't be the first time we've drank cold coffee to get a job done. Now, I'll go warm up this coffee and we'll try again, just you—"
"No, Della." He wasn't growling anymore. He began to quietly gather the papers. "I'm no good in this state." He raised a hand to him temple and brought it to the bridge of his nose. "I won't have you worn down too."
She had found him asleep in the office that morning. The case was hard. The odds were stacked. He had been feverishly looking for a glimmer of hope, a shred of evidence to get the case in his client's favor for days.
She quietly helped him organize the papers, clearing the table. She poured the cold coffee down the sink after taking a small sip. He would find his tie and stick it in his coat pocket and place her shoes on his desk before walking over to the sofa and taking a seat. He rested his arm on his broad leg and let his large hand support his tired head.
She sat beside him in tired silence. He put his arm around her, brought her in close. "Any other secretary would have left a long time ago, Ms. Street," he smiled.
"The allure of cold coffee at 8 in the evening is too much for a working girl to deny," she grinned. Her tone was dry.
"Mmm," he hummed contently as he leaned his head up against hers. They sat in silence together for a several minutes.
Finally, Della began to stir from their comfortable spot, but as she got up for her shoes Perry took her hand.
Della looked down at him, smiled. He was serious. "Yes, Chief?" Her brassy voice crooned the question.
"Marry me." No inflection. No overture. His tone was straightforward, matter of fact.
She looked away, her hand still in his.
"You're tired." She said.
"We have to be back here tomorrow at 8:00, Mr. Mason, and another case lined up after this one— ."
"I know." He let his fingers stroke her hand.
"Perry—" a cry caught in her throat and translated into a broken sigh. She let go of his hand and stood at the big window, looking into the black night.
He didn't follow. He only watched as her eyes set on the dark sky, with it's crescent moon. She brought her arms up and held tightly to her shoulders. She was silent. No protests. No reasoning. Just quiet thoughts manifesting themselves in quiet tears. This lasted for several minutes. He finally made his way over to her. Turned her towards him. Wiped her tears.
"Let's go," He said tenderly. He began to lead her away from the window, but she removed herself from his steady arm. He turned to look at her.
"Do you mean it?" she said. No emotion in her voice. Her eyes steady on him.
He looked surprised but it quickly faded as a tender smile formed on his face. "I always do." There was no victory in this proposal, only the mundanity of the day. The weariness of the night.
He turned to walk away. She grabbed his hand.
"Perry, you need a secretary, and like you said, no one would stay here until this hour but me and—" her voice was frantic with reason.
"I know." He soothed. Taking both her hands.
"I have to be your secretary, Perry, I have to be a part of your work, I have to
be with you —"
"I know. I want you to be."
"I can't be a housewife, Perry. It's not what you want, it's not what you need."
She stopped for a few minutes. Looked at his hands. "Then why ask me?" She was calm again.
He stepped closer placing his hand under her chin, causing her to look up into his face. He held her arms gently, said, "Because, I don't want to have to say goodnight."
"I want to wake up next to you. And come into the office with you. And go home at night with you." He smiled before adding, "I don't want to go a minute without you, Ms. Street."
He started to take her arm once more, but she moved his hand.
He turned. "Yes?" He echoed in question.
"I'll marry you." She said tearfully, almost in a whisper.
"Della?" his voice cracked. He took her hands once more and brought them to his chest.
"Yes, I'll marry you." She laughed and let out a cry now.
He brought her closer, a tear sliding down his cheek. He laughed as he wrapped her small frame into his. "You're sure?"
He began to frantically search the office. She laughed. "What are you doing?"
"I have nothing to give you!" He exclaimed. He finally looked down at his hand and saw the pinky ring on his finger. The red ruby shone dull in the dim office light.
"It's no diamond," he said as he pulled it from his finger and slipped it onto her small one.
"It's perfect," she cried. She held up her hand with his ring on her finger. He brought it into his own.
"Let's go!" Perry said with a sparkle in his eye and his usual boyish grin.
Della laughed. "Where?"
"To get married!"
"Perry! It's 9:15 we can't possibly—"
"Judge Carson owes me a favor. I'll call him—" he strode towards his phone. "Oh, and Della, call Paul, we need him to be a witness."
"Paul will be furious, Perry— he told me tonight that he was going home to sleep and —" she skipped towards her office phone despite her own protests.
They arrived to the courthouse still disheveled from the evening's workload, but elation in every sentence and every movement. Paul arrived with questions that had to be answered multiple times until the grogginess lifted from his mind. As the trio strode through the courthouse, they passed a tired Lt. Tragg and Hamilton Burger, who despite their late meeting were all too eager to stay when they heard the news. Judge Carson arrived and the vows were exchanged. Perry carried Della over the apartment threshold and woke up the next morning with the view of her profile, his ring on her finger, and the sweet realization that now there would only be mornings of the sun gracing her profile, and no more departing goodnights.