||Vignette, Romance (H/M)
words; 6 pages (8 ˝” x 11”)
||Everything up to and
||This story is for my
dear friend Lea. Semper fi!
||After the encounter
with Mattie’s English teacher, Harm helps her pass her class.
And sometimes “home”-work hits too close home – as Mac is bound
to find out...
Falls Church, VA
Why couldn’t people realize in time what they needed you to do?
The bullpen lay deserted when the elevator doors opened in front of Mac.
Trying to dry her hair with a towel and zip open the jacket of her
jogging suit, she stormed through the dark room in the direction of her
office, fuming. Petty Officer Gomez had known all day long he would need
his lawyers to review Seaman Benet’s personnel file, but, as he had told
her on the phone just now, he had ‘forgotten’ to tell them because he’d
been ‘so busy rehearsing his statement’ for tomorrow's article 32. And,
he had added in an apologetic tone, he was sure the colonel knew how
such things tended to happen...
‘Damned sure I know,’ Mac thought as she fumbled for her office key.
‘We’re always having to set right in court what our clients screw up for
lack of concentration!’
She’d practically jumped out of the shower and into her car in order to
get here and grab the file. She was in for a long evening if what she’d
gathered from the Petty Officer’s tale held up. She had tried to reach
Harm, but he wasn’t home yet, and at first, his cell phone had been out
of service and then, it had been set to voice mail.
Turning on the lights in her office, Mac rummaged through the drawers of
her filing cabinets, only to find that the file in question wasn’t
there. ‘Great...’ She frowned. Then she remembered that she had given it
to Harm a week ago because he had needed it for some preliminary
‘God, I hope he didn’t take it home with him...’ Rushing out of her
office again, she quickly strode over to his door, not bothering to
switch on the lights in the bullpen. The light coming from her office
was enough to find the keyhole. Luckily, a little while ago, Harm and
she had exchanged their spare office keys for situations like this one.
But just as she was about to insert her key into the hole, she noticed
that his office door was ajar and that the faintest shimmer of light was
coming out of the room, the source being his computer monitor.
Confused, she stepped into the dark room. “Harm?” A document was open on
the screen. However, its author was nowhere near in sight. She walked
back to the door and pushed it open, gazing into the dark bullpen.
“Harm, you there?”
All of a sudden, she started when she heard his voice from the break
room. The door was closed, and she hadn’t noticed that there was a
little light creeping out from underneath it.
“Okay, that was a lot to digest, Mattie. Let’s see if I’ve got this
right: the guy who called you was...” Harm’s voice, slightly
exasperated, had lowered a little so the rest of his words were lost on
Mac. ‘The joys of fatherhood,’ she thought, grinning, and decided he
didn’t need to know she was here right now. She’d just look if he had
kept the file in his office, and leave him to whatever it was he was
doing here at this late hour. She’d call him later to discuss their
She switched on the lights in his office and thumbed through the files
lying on the desk. After a few seconds of annoyed anxiety she had
finally found what she had been looking for. Just to make sure the page
she was especially interested in was in the folder, she sat down and
opened it, picking up a few sheets Harm had left on his desk, in order
to make room for the file. However, the folder and its contents
immediately lost their interest when she cast a casual glance at one of
the pages in her hands.
It was a photocopy of a Shakespeare sonnet, simply titled 116. Although
the number didn’t ring a bell, as soon as she read the first verses, Mac
recognized it – from one of Mic’s Valentine cards. The words had
impressed her deeply back then. Somehow, finding this very piece of
poetry on Harm’s desk caused a funny sensation in the pit of her
stomach. Drawing a decided breath, she decided to ignore the feeling as
her eyes quickly skimmed the lines.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Underneath the verses that had obviously been copied from a book,
someone had typed an assignment.
Write an essay, trying to capture William Shakespeare’s thoughts and
state of mind of when he wrote this sonnet. Choose first-person
perspective. Try following Shakespeare’s train of thoughts as presented
in the sonnet.
All over the page, there were comments and notes in Harm’s handwriting,
arrows pointing to the words the particular ideas were referring to. In
the corner up right, Mac read M. Grace. “Uh huh,” she made under her
breath, smiling a little. ‘Daddy’s doing daughter’s homework... nice...’
She remembered that on the way back from their last abroad
investigation, Harm had been uneasy about being delayed. When she had
asked what he was worried about, he had told her that he had an
appointment with Mattie’s English teacher who’d apparently threatened
not to let Mattie pass her grade because of her absence from school
during the first term. Curious, Mac let her gaze wander to the monitor,
and just as she had expected, the open document wasn’t about Naval
issues at all.
‘Rabb on Shakespeare,’ she mused, chuckling. ‘Sailor, you never cease to
surprise me...’ The fact that Harm was right now in the break room just
across the corridor faded into the background of her conscious.
Intrigued, she began to read.
There is nothing coincidental about true love. Two minds tied to each
other by the deepest of emotions is a matter of destiny. Whatever I
might make up to deny the true nature of my feelings would not change
anything about the universal truth that love is a power beyond my
influence. This is the precise reason why I need to stop finding excuses
for what I know is inside my heart. There are no impediments to the
marriage of true minds.
Love is even more powerful than the force of my will, it cannot be
changed or commanded. No matter how your situation may change, how your
perspective on what you hoped for may be reversed completely as far as
rationality is concerned – if your love was of an everlasting, universal
kind, it will forever be unchanged. It will be the one unwavering focus
in the giant blur of life passing by. The one constant to cling to in
times when your heart undergoes trials and tribulations. I need to
accept that the one I love will be the center of my life till death do
us part. Indeed, love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.
Sadly true – sometimes, you do not know what love is really worth. You
are bound to find out, but only when it is too late. It is in this very
situation that love can hurt most: because you cannot stop loving. You
do not have the power to let go of your lost dream. Thus, the most
cherished of emotions can indeed bear out to the edge of doom – and
there is nothing you can do about it.
I have known all this as a fundamental truth, inherent in the power love
exercises over me. Whatever you may say to try and prove me wrong: you
have never known love if you contradict to what I just pointed out. In
my life, love has found more alteration than I would ever have thought
it would survive – and yet, it has never altered. Nor will it ever do
A heavy lump had grown in Mac’s throat. All of a sudden, she felt sneaky
and treacherous, robbing Harm of his privacy. She could feel that what
she had just read wasn’t just Mattie’s homework. It was Harm dealing
with what he kept locked up deep inside. The teacher might have an idea
that Mattie hadn’t written this alone, but any help from her guardian
might be limited to ideas and certain choices in wording. Never would
she guess that the picture that had been drawn along the lines of a
centuries-old poem was a replica of a real, existing situation.
But Mac knew it was. Of course, Harm had taken up the preset task and
had tried to render Shakespeare’s thoughts the way they lay buried in
his verses. Yet, there could have been many different ways to do it. The
fact that Harm had chosen this precise path, told her more than she’d
dreamed she’d ever hear from him. Truth be told, she probably wouldn’t
have heard anything at all. But now the words were there, in front of
“If this be error and upon me proved...” Mac, in a choked whisper, cited
the sonnet to herself as if to make the importance of what she’d read
more tangible still.
She jumped when, in the next second, the office door was yanked open.
Harm stormed into the room, enraged, but stopped dead in his tracks when
he saw who was breaking into his personal data. In the wink of an eye,
the fury on his face made way for deep confusion.
“Mac?” he asked, his voice incredulous. “What are you doing here?”
She gulped and made a quick movement with her hand, clumsily pointing to
the file lying on the desk in front of her. “Uh... I needed to get
Seaman Benet’s personnel file,” she said a little breathlessly, trying a
strained smile. “You know, Gomez called me about an hour ago and told me
that Benet was probably lying,” she explained in a hurried rush of
words, “You know, about where he...”
“Uh... yeah...” he made uneasily, cutting her off with a dismissive
gesture and avoiding to look at her. “I’ll call you back as soon as I’m
done here, okay? Mattie was so desperate about her homework, you know,”
he said with a slight, crooked smile. “She’s good at writing business
letters but she’s just not into literature. So I thought...”
The more he said the more the absurdity of the situation became evident.
Mac felt the color rise in her cheeks. Two adults, trying to distract
each other from what was in plain sight. Harm had opened up. She knew
what he had written between the lines, and he knew that she knew. This
game needed to be put to an end.
Mac took a deep breath. “Did you mean it?” she asked in a low voice,
making him stop in mid-sentence.
“What?” he asked, not very intelligently, although she could see in his
eyes that he knew exactly what she was talking about.
“Is this William Shakespeare, speaking for Mattie Grace, or is it Harmon
Rabb, speaking for himself?” she ventured boldly. Attacking was still
the better way of defending yourself. However, she didn’t have the
strength to smile.
His shoulders slumped. “I think you know,” was all he answered.
Once again recoiling from the final step? Anger gave her voice a sharp
edge when she retorted, “No, Harm, I don’t know. I never did. Not even
in Paraguay. I may have a certain idea where some of the things you did
came from, but there’s no way for me to be sure.” She became aware that
her voice had lowered a good deal but she knew that if she tried to
raise it, her threatening tears would become audible. So, when she
continued, her words were barely more than a whisper. “I’ll be forever
grateful for what you did. And there’s no way I could ever repay you.
And yet...” She swallowed, but forced herself to push forward. “From
what you’ve written, I... one might get the idea that... that maybe you
wouldn’t want any other compensation than what I might be able to
offer... if you’d just let me know that I needn’t be afraid of the
plunge.” Again, she needed a second to steady herself. “So, which option
For a moment, he didn’t react, the expression on his face not far from
being downright terrified. Then, he squared his shoulders and closed the
distance, coming to stand behind her and laying his hands on her
shoulders. “The latter,” he murmured.
Torn between fear and elation, Mac reached up and placed her trembling
right hand on the one on her left shoulder, turning her head. His eyes
met hers and for a few never-ending seconds she lost herself in his
gaze, seeing the fear in it lessen as, by the by, caring and tenderness
became evident on his expression.
“This is so perfect,” Mac finally spoke up, with a nod pointing to the
open file on the monitor.
“But?” he prompted with a smile.
Finding it hard to stay earnest when all of a sudden her heart was
starting to overflow with silent joy, Mac smirked back. “I think it may
need a female touch to make it pass for Mattie’s,” she answered, her
voice still very low.
“Do you?” he asked with raised eyebrows, his thumb caressing the back of
“Yeah, and I think you might want to simplify the language. Or Ms.
Dragon’s gonna guess who’s behind all this.”
He nodded, still smiling. “You’re right,” he conceded. “Want to help me?
With the ‘female touch’, I mean.”
“We’ll need to get together for our strategy anyway,” she answered,
hearing how her happiness resounded in her voice, but not giving a damn.
“I’m sure we could fit in a little Shakespeare.”
“So, how about I tell Jen that our trio family dinner’s going to be a
family dinner in four?” he suggested.
“You sure I won’t disturb the three of you getting together?”
He kneeled down at her side so they were at eyelevel. “They’d better get
used to it, I daresay... right?”
“Right,” was all she whispered before meeting him halfway. The kiss was
short and tentative, and yet, when they parted, Mac could read in his
eyes that what she’d always suspected to be in his heart was there for
real – and it hadn’t changed one bit in all these years. True love
indeed, not altering despite all alteration it had found.
Shakespeare had a point.