Ella stood at one side of the bed, John on the other, each holding a corner of the quilt that her grandmother had given Ella for her hope chest. Ella was frowning slightly.

"Are you sure you are ready to drive?" she asked. "It hasn't been that long since the doctor took the stitches out."

"Yes, love, I will be fine. I appreciate that you do not want me to do too much too soon. I just want to go alone." his eyes twinkled.

"Oh!" she laughed "You haven't been able to surprise me with anything since you got back - I see."

"Spoilsport," he teased, flipping a pillow at her.

"Hey!" she protested, "Are you helping me make this bed, or not?"

Later, as she stood in the driveway watching the back of his car out the driveway, she shaded her eyes from the sun with her hand and worried. It wasn't that his shoulder wound had endangered his life, it just seemed that he was pushing his limits. He hated to be incapacitated, and although his doctors had been surprised by his quick recovery, she still worried. With a sigh, she admitted to herself that that was her job, to make sure he did not do too much. She turned and went back into the garage, and into her studio behind it. She knew the best way to make time pass was to keep busy.

Absently she punched the on and random buttons on her cd player, and danced a little as her favorite music filled the air. Opening a bag of clay, she eyed it critically for a second, then sliced off a slab with her wire. Weighing it, she nodded, and cut four more pieces of the same size. Quickly, she formed them into cylinders with a few deft blows on the counter surface, then set them next to her wheel. She filled up her water bucket, then checked her sponge. It was not too worn, so she left it, and sat down to her work.

Moments later she was producing small cylindrical shapes with an indented rim that was intended to hold a lid. After she had created ten of these, and used most of the clay, she stood, stretched, and got down a pair of calipers that were hanging on a shelf over her head. Measuring the first cup, she carefully made a lid to fit it, repeating the process for each cup. It took her longer, she noted yet again, to make the lids than it did to make the cups themselves. But the lidded teacups with their Japanese styling had proved to be a favorite in her shop, and she was pleased that John had given her the idea when he requested a cup like this for himself. When she was finished with the last lid, she took the board the cups rested on out to her drying shelves, in a shady place outside. Too much sun, and they would dry unevenly. But before the first firing, she had to dry them as thoroughly as possible.

Finished with her throwing for the moment, she rinsed her hands in the bucket of water she drew the water to throw with from, and stretched. One last chore, and she was done for the day, She was making it a short morning's work, as she wanted to give John a nice dinner when he came home. She took her dried work that she had been making over the last week and carefully loaded her electric kiln. The greenware was the most fragile state of her pottery, but she could nest pieces together, since there was no glaze on this firing. Thus she could fit more into the bisque firing than she would be able to when these pieces were glazed and fired for the last time. She finished loading and started the firing before she tidied up and left her studio for the house, shedding her apron at the door.

She stripped and threw her clothes into the washer in the utility room, then stepping into the shower the wash off all the dust and mud from her work. This little shower was intended just for this - to get her or John clean after they had spent the day working. It kept to worst of the dirt out of their rooms, and that made life easier. Naked, damp, skin glowing from the shower, she stepped into to kitchen, and could smell the bread she had left rising on the counter.

Glancing at it, she saw it was ready, so she turned on the oven and popped the bread in. She looked in the refrigerator to verify that she had everything she needed to make a good salad, and then pulled a ripe mango out of the fruit bowl. After she had peeled and cut it up, she added it to the cut up chicken that she had prepared that morning, and put both ingredients into a pot of chicken stock. Then she made the salad, and put it back into the refrigerator. Lunch prepared, she tied a sarong over her shoulder and went out onto the patio. She knew from long experience that her skin took a lot of careful exposure before she could go naked outside without burning. Outside, she set the table and picked flowers to put on it.

When everything was ready for John's return, Ella went into their bathroom and brushed her hair out, taking it down from the braided coronet she wore while working and letting it flow loose over her back. It fell almost to her knees in a cascade of fire. She retied the blue sarong around her waist, and went back into the kitchen to check on her work there.

John found her there, leaning over the counter reading a cookbook. All he could see was her hair at first, and he caught his breath at the sight of it, loose like that. She rarely wore it loose, and he knew that she had let it down for him. Then she turned around, smiling to greet him, and he smiled. She was beautiful, this wife of his, and amazed him. He knew she had put in some hard work that morning, but now she was breathtaking, something from an exotic dream, and coming toward him with both her hands held out to his, laughing throatily.

"Hungry?" She asked, smiling up at him.

"You know I am." He smiled down at her, taking her hands in his and drawing her close.

"Good, I have lunch ready." She laughed again, pulling away from him and beginning to get a tray ready to take outside.

"That's not what I want - but I'll wait." he kissed her hair. "I want to make you happy."

She tossed her hair at him and rolled the tray out to the patio. He followed and made her sit so that he could serve her. Before he fed her, though, he stripped down to his underwear.

"Didn't want to make you feel overdressed." he grinned.

"How thoughtful of you!"

Ella watched him admiringly. He watched her in return, until he sat and they began to eat together and talk.

"How was your trip to town?" she teased.

"Productive." he lifted his glass to his lips, but she could see his eyes crinkle with a smile.

"Did you get anything?" she prodded further.


"Oh, John!" she protested. "Tell me! I've been waiting all day!"

He smiled. "Have I ever told you how cute you are, especially when you wrinkle your nose up like that?"

"Oh, pfft!" She finished her salad and said "I'll clear the table, dear."

"Don't you want to know what I went to town for?"

"No!" she put her nose into the air. Then she winked and went into the house. When he followed, she said "Really, don't tell me until you're ready. I'm sorry I teased you."

Standing on tiptoes, she kissed him. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, skin to skin, and kissed her gently but thoroughly. At length, he murmured to her. "Let's go to bed while you can still stand up."

"Yes, let's."

In the bedroom she untied the sarong and let it puddle at her feet, looking over her shoulder to see the effect on him. He smiled in appreciation, and then followed her onto the bed. They lay together, limbs intwined, kissing every now and then, quite content just to be in contact with one another.

John held Ella close. She nestled her face into his shoulder and wrapped her other arm around him.

"Have I ever told you how special you are?" he asked. "You are this incredible woman. You are so strong, and capable of so much, yet you let me just love you. You know," he tipped her face up so he could see it. "that really is all I want. Just to love you, to care for you in any way possible."

She murmured in reply, her eyes dreamy. He smiled and her heart leapt at the sweetness of it. His smile was the most beautiful thing she thought. He kissed her lips, then each eyelid, tenderly.

"I went to see if the kittens were ready yet." he said abruptly.

"What?" she blinked. "What kittens?"

"I know you have always wanted a siamese cat, and then Patty heard of a litter in town. So I went to see if any were available. They are ready to take home. Twelve weeks old."

"Oh!" her eyes went wide. "Oh, John!"

Ella took his face in her hands and kissed him soundly.

"I think that means yes." he said laughing, when she let go.

The next morning, she having declared it a holiday in honor of their impending family, they went to see the kittens. Ella was excited, her face shining with anticipation. John told her he wished that he had done this years ago.

"I love to see your eyes light up like this." he said, taking her hand as she sat beside him in the car. "I just want to make you happy. And I will do anything to make you happy."

"As long as you are with me, I am happy." she assured him.

He smiled at her, eyes hidden behind his sunglasses, but she knew what they looked like - she had seen that look of love so many times.

Later, as Ella sat on the floor covered - it seemed - in kittens, trying to choose, he watched her and delighted in her childlike joy in the tiny scraps of fur that cavorted around her.

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