Rylan: His Perfect Woman

Emilie played the dutiful housewife; she maintained the house, paid the bills from their joint account and thrived on having some time alone. Her cooking, raw or burnt, experimenting with new recipes, all the effort that went into providing a meal for the man she loved. The food was inedible; Rylan teased how if they had a dog, it would turn down offerings, he made it up to her with a restaurant meal or takeaway pizza. It concerned her, Rylan began to notice a change in his waistline, Emilie kept herself fit by jogging, and her future husband seemed allergic to such activities. Opening up another cookbook, Emilie gripped it, determined to keep them both in check. 

Frustrated, Rylan leaned back in his chair questioning his decision, progression in this job was hard, the deadlines lingered, strict, uncompromising. As a freelancer, the freedom to set his own rules and deadlines, however, the steady pay check helped him buy a house and stabilised his struggling finances. He looked at the rigid life he had, Rylan hated the forced structure of school, go there, do this, the monotony of the everyday worker. They were pushing him towards team leader roles, Ziva had success pairing crucial feedback and praise, he considered this the way he should approach the situation. Rylan’s reputation for mischief, however, saw his reflection on a co-workers performance backfire. Their conversation began politely, friendly as Rylan moved to the issue of their work performance having lapsed. Confusion and anger followed as the co-worker struggled to comprehend Rylan, as he changed tactics at the end to praise the good they continued to do. The manager called him over after a complaint, putting it across that his management skills were lacking and a possible demotion may be in his future. 

Being a housewife was an act, Emilie loved to play, sweet innocent beauty hid her dark side. Rylan pranked predominantly friends and family, moments they found humorous and on other occasions, downright annoying. Emilie loved approaching strangers, mischievous intentions, using hand buzzer greets, preposterous rumours regarding gym shower woohoo and fake news involving a kitten trapped in air ducts at the bowling alley. Her antics met with strong disapproval, the gym-goers felt embarrassed, Emilie laughed; what she needed to complete her life, children. They, she hoped, would share her love of chaos. 

Home alone, Emilie found lots to keep her amused, she trolled forums adding controversial opinions, watching the commotion unfold as people argued over her comments. She had done a computer course at school, these skills Emilie honed, focusing on hacking peoples e-mails, sending rude messages to their contacts list. The hacking escalated quickly, Emilie created phishing e-mails to access accounts, and she accumulated small amounts over a few weeks, adding them to the joint account. Adding to the wedding fund this way seemed helpful, Emilie earned nothing from her voluntary work, however, her crime spree was short-lived, one account hacked previously, followed her trail and a larger sum taken as compensation.

Anxiously, Emilie waited, her future husband had financial ambitions, and he saw their current house as a stepping stone towards something greater. Emilie played her naive card, blaming some e-mail she thought was legit; the results impacted their bank account. Rylan comforted her; Ziva could implement some tougher security to protect them in future.  

Rylan: Leaping in…

Rylan slicked his hair into place; his floppy brown locks had remained unruly. Failing in his pursuit to make it look respectable, he hoped his new style would impress. Emilie had messaged him regarding his dinner plans, a subtle hint that she had been thinking of him all day. His parent’s favourite restaurant seemed the most appropriate choice, straightening his tie and checking his jacket pocket, Rylan psyched himself and practised what he wanted to say.

Emilie looked elegant; she wore the same white halter neck dress, her favourite, as she loved the simplicity. Rylan fidgeted in his chair, hot under his collar, feeling the clothes restricted his movements. Jumping up to greet her, the chair fell back, startling a waiter and other patrons, Rylan offered Emilie a hand, bringing her toward him as he dropped to one knee at the same time as rustling in his jacket for a small box. Words fell from his mouth in a quick garbled mess, the preparation lost. The few Emilie understood mentioned marriage and love. She needed little else from him, the single diamond nestled on the gold ring was enough for her to accept. Polite applause came from the neighbouring tables; Rylan gulped his wine to steady his nerves along with his relief.

They tucked into their food, talking excitedly about the future, the quiet, perhaps homely wedding they could have, a few friends and good food. Rylan pondered ideas to renovate his family home; both his mother and sisters’ bedrooms sat empty, unused, dusty and in need of a coat of paint and the lounge seemed dated. Her face fell, the prospect of living with Rylan was her dream, the house in which he currently resided was small, boxy and had been host to his parents, their lives filled the spaces and lacklustre energy. Taking her hand in realisation of her disappointment Rylan suggested an alternative, a large spacious house on the same street. It had a fenced area for children to play, a pool and there may even be room for a dog. Children, how many did he want? Two, Three, Five? Emilie pictured children running, giggling, while she cooked up a delicious Sunday dinner, or Rylan barbecuing, her stretched on a sun lounger, big floppy hat, oversized sunglasses and the children playing in the pool.

All the arrangements, the financial commitment was Rylan’s burden to carry as Emilie continued to enjoy her voluntary work. His heart weighed heavy, Rylan gave this home one final look, memories flooded in, his parents cuddling on the sofa, listening to he and Ziva bicker over whose turn it was to choose a film. The kitchen had played host to Jose, his cooking, all those meals he loved growing up. School projects, arguments and slamming doors, this place had embraced every minute. Aria’s weight machine had sat gathering dust he meant to sell it after she died since exercise was something he and Ziva hated. Emilie had been buying furnishings; she giving the delivery guys multiple orders, ensuring everything was perfect and in position. Their house was large, flooded with light and with a luxurious touch, Rylan stepped into his new life with anticipation.

Ziva: Electric Blue

Work had been busy, Ziva and her colleague Ayaka struggled to find time for a coffee, piecing together the code for a security program; the deadline had encroached on their personal lives. As they finish the first system-level, Ayaka disappeared; her coffee from the morning sat cold on the desk, beneath it was a card. Her colleague had recently moved over from Oasis Spring a few months ago to assist with the project, the card was from her former team wishing her a happy birthday. A significant date, turning forty, Ziva guessed from the puffy cheeks and red eyes Ayaka had nothing planned, and no-one with whom to celebrate.

Ziva pondered what last-minute choices she could make, missing this occasion was unfair, Ayaka deserved something to mark the event. She sent e-mails to invite people to bring food, drinks or a small gift to her place in Brindleton Bay. Rylan greeted people, setting the various dishes on the kitchen counter for people to help themselves. Keeping Ayaka upstairs, hidden from the influx of visitors, Ziva distracted her by showing her the latest program she had been designing. Ayaka made her excuses, tears burst through, Ziva nodded, showing her the door, Rylan led a thunderous cheer, followed by birthday song and presentation of white chocolate cake complete with candles. Hugging Ziva tightly, Ayaka sobbed at the efforts, the party might have been small, but it was perfect.

Living for Friday night was becoming a habit, the move from her brother’s shadow had allowed Ziva to blossom, thriving on the growing social life and friendships she was making. Nightclubs, pubs, restaurants, Ziva found herself surrounded by people and fun, including the occasional rave in Windenberg on the Bluffs, a small island off the coast. Music, bright lights and a bar were ready for party-goers to prosper till the pre-dawn hours. An electric blue-haired woman had Ziva questioning herself and wondering about the possibilities of a new romance. It surprised her, at the same time feeling natural, as though she had known these emotions all her life. The young woman introduced herself as Elizabeth, dancing close to Ziva the whole night. Sparks of interest and desire filled her senses as she watched the beautiful Elizabeth move her body, both thrived on the music. Arian or Miguel failed to make her stomach twist into knots, Elizabeth did and had her stumbling through their conversation, tongue-twisting words she knew. They took a break, drinking Salty Llamas, Elizabeth tapped her number in Ziva’s phone, she and some friends were getting together, San Myshuno karaoke night. Singing was a laugh after a few simsmapolitans, her words accompanying a huge flirtatious smile.

Lying awake, Ziva pictured Elizabeth in her mind, her sweet perfume, the sapphire eyes made her weak at the knees. Arian had been the first person she adored, yet this woman piqued her interested in a way Ziva enjoyed so much. Having a boyfriend had felt logical, showing interest in Arian, flattered by Miguel, Ziva thought her heart would lead her to a tall dark-haired man. Elizabeth spun her world, the emotions were intense, visualising every moment of their evening together. Turning over to check the time, Ziva contemplated the possibilities of a relationship, the potential for the future, exciting.

Rylan: The Man’s Got Spice

San Myshuno hosted festivals throughout the year, a spectacular array of cultures found their way to the Spice Festival. Imagine tables of free spicy food samples, stands selling intense flavours to tantalise the taste buds and bright colours bringing the city to life. All those aromas, acoustic sounds from the resident guitarist and topping it all off with a mind-blowing explosion via the bubble blower.

Rylan’s latest novel brought dark humour to the cyber world, following a detective stumbling into a world alien to him. His book brought a freshness to a perhaps overused concept, a good cop gets the bad guy and a will they, won’t they romance with a haphazard forensic specialist. It captivated the audiences, the movie directors of Del Sol Valley, but his inability to translate to dialogue was a different matter. The director fell asleep reading over the first act, throwing the script on the fire, ordering a complete rewrite. Resistant, Rylan’s eyes scanned the screen, words jumbled in his head, he had spent hours planning each section, neglected his girlfriend, forsaken his friends and he was still no closer to igniting the excitement of his book for the screen.

Frustrated, Rylan slammed his keyboard, enough! he needed time to unwind, some hot food and a gorgeous woman in his arms. Emilie and a few friends were at the Spice Festival, Bhel Puri in hand, Rylan was looking for something with an extra kick. He challenged Maesto and Sai to savour the spiciest of offerings, Phaal Curry, three ghost chillies heated up the flaming tomato-based dish. Bitter notes hit their tongues, the effects of heat ignited throats, stomach, red-skinned and sweating the men battled on. Sai succumbed, his eyes and nose flooded, he dropped the plate, running off towards the Karaoke bar, what burnt on the way down, came back worse on the way back up.

Maesto felt the curry repeat on him too, he fought the urge, laying down his plate in defeat. Rylan fought, endorphins circulated his body, pain to pleasure response forcing him to devour every last drop. The coveted Chilli tee proudly won and attracting much admiration, Emilie swooned, impressed by her man. His friends groaned, Rylan bragged, snap chatting his achievement.

Rylan’s stomach remained unimpressed, the churning and nausea, it was hard keeping his discomfort a secret until Emilie went home. Believing milk would save him during the curry challenge, he drank at least a pint, ready for the festival. The resulting prize was worth the suffering he faced in the morning. Work beckoned, Rylan hoped his night on the town did the trick, but his sister’s arrival put an end to another days productivity. Fed up with getting no response, Ziva decided to confront him. He let her in grumbling, why did she come all this way, the phone is a perfect means of communication. Ziva scowled, they were family no matter the distance, they needed their space, besides he was putting the moves on Emilie. Cheeks burned, what he and Emilie were doing was private, he turned back to his computer, grinning, maybe it having the house to him was an excellent idea after all.

Ziva: Treasured Memories and New Beginnings

The childhood house was light and airy, memories filled every room, she wanted a piece of this love with her, some furnishings to make her place feel like home. Rylan scowled, refusing to let her have anything; he wanted her to take only her own belongings and say goodbye. She wasn’t even asking him to sell the house, he was determined to live there, and it was her choice to move on. Rylan chose selfishness, leaving Ziva feeling it was she who had abandoned him. In anger he slammed the door as she put her final bag in the taxi, she took one last look at what was her home and saw her brothers’ angry face red, glaring at her through the window.

Ziva looked over her new home, the sparsely furnished rooms, the galley kitchen which had little room to swing a cat and a threadbare second-hand sofa which sat looking very lonely in the large living area. Every home takes time to build, but the tiny windows did nothing to improve her environment. Brindleton Bay weather was unpredictable, sunny, rainy, coastal gales that made the house groan with eerie noises in the night. The rain was her biggest problem, a leaky roof soaked her belongings, the few momentoes Rylan let her bring, paintings by Jose ruined from one storm and photos of her mother stuck together. She sank onto the front steps throwing items she failed to salvage into black bags; wondering if the sadness ever ended.

Her neighbours were kind, surprising her, dressed in her nightshirt, Jason brought a tasteless fruit cake but smothered in butter it was the best breakfast after the storms. Supriya lent a hand cleaning up the puddles from the leaks, handing her a number for a local roof specialist. They warned her the number of stray animals roaming the beaches, a ship crashed into the rocks years ago bringing them to the shores. Cats curled up, a fireplace warming them, their thanks shown through shredding sofas at unsuspecting newcomers homes and dogs running off with hotdogs waiting their turn on the barbecue. Jason’s dog Mouzer sheltered in his porch, he had been a stray looking for food and warmth, he took him in and they had been inseparable since. Ziva had yet to explore the surrounding area and the idea of furry company was what she needed to make this her home.

Work was quiet, with time to think, she mulled over the changes in her life over the past few years and the friends who moved on. Arian may have gone but his ability to spam her inbox remained and the messages got her thinking. What if something drastic happened? A Zombie attack? Meteor strike? The e-mails he sent offered an eccentric idea, private land investment, or a place in the ultimate in bunker comfort, all the amenities you might need in a nuclear fallout. Ziva laughed off the preparation plans, Arian had a wicked sense of humour, it was nice to hear from him, she missed him. Otherwise, work remained her one constant, losing her mother weighed heavy, the numerous changes in her life, it all felt alien and she wasn’t sure how to do it alone. Rylan was distant, he begrudged her calling him, their conversations were brief and continued to make her feel she had abandoned him, guilty for pursuing a life of her own.

Rylan: Down But Not Out

The whole house to himself should have made for an interesting time, except the initial excitement wore off. Rylan laid in, walked around naked, wet towels deposited on the bathroom floor, and ate when he felt like it. Sai and the rest of the Mischief Makers came over regularly for movies, gaming and food several nights a week which impacted on his finances as he failed to complete many of his freelance jobs. This had been his childhood home, but with both his parents gone and Ziva living her life on the coast, all he could see were hollow memories. Here, Rylan felt the sadness of losing his father turned outwards, anger at his mother for being at work when he died, and for the times he needed her.

Rylan pushed himself, determined to boost his reputation, producing novels of excellent quality. His phone had been ringing nonstop throughout the morning with Sai begging him to go clubbing, so when he answered the phone for the eighteenth time, he yelled, annoyed that Sai had continued to bug him. Taken aback, the caller repeated his introduction, Rylan suddenly realized this was for real, one of his clients had recommended him to the San Myshuno Editorial and, if he was available he could start Monday as a regular contributor to their magazine. A brief pause, preceded the deafening cheers, SM Edits was the most prestigious media outlet, to work for them was beyond what he had set his sights on. The position was a few steps up from the entry-level jobs he considered when he finished school, it seemed knowing his worth from the start, combined with patience had finally paid off. This new job meant he got to spend time gaming, testing the latest offering in virtual technology, feeding all that excitement into words was a dream job.

Regular paychecks came with perks, freedom, to write novels, he had so many notes, rejected content from ghostwriting and fresh ideas at the forefront of his mind. Imagine a world, his hero’s perspective, caught up in Cyber-espionage embracing delicious possibilities from both sides of the law and the added royalties could help him secure a new place. A four-bed house with a huge garden and a pool, perfect for raising a family of his own. He knew an elderly couple were looking to downsize, and with the sale of his current home, he might have enough money when the time came.

Since the future looked positive, perhaps it was time to consider what other possibilities were in store. Life with Emilie excited him, she understood him, they both harboured a mischievous side, pulling pranks on friends and on rare occasions, restaurant staff. The Chez Llama had been his parent’s favourite place, and he honoured that by treating Emilie to its delicious menu. She looked elegant in her white silk dress, her beauty radiated in the candlelight, what had he done in this life to deserve someone so lovely , it was unbelievable luck to find her. They might be here to celebrate his success and enrollment into the workforce, but all he could think, she could be his Mrs Emilie Rodriguez.

Aria: When It’s Your Time

Ziva’s head throbbed, memories of shots lined up on the bar churned her stomach, Sunday was a great day for a hangover, Aria cooked bacon. Showers were a welcome relief from a hangover, what was strange however, was the silence, it echoed in her mind, increasing the volume of each step she took. Chaos greeted her, the stench of stale grilled cheese sandwiches, crisps crunched into the carpet, mixed in with various drinks, the lounge had an additional mess, her brother. Slumped on the sofa, glasses rest crooked on his face, Ziva rolled her eyes and surveyed the kitchen, everything as last night decorated the surfaces. She checked the garden, Aria liked to sit outside, her nose buried in a book, but nothing.

Perhaps Aria took one look at the mess and decided a pamper session was the order of the day, either way, Ziva set to work, her stomach and head churning with the scent of stale beer. The clanging pots woke Rylan, like his sister, hungover and in desperate need of a fried breakfast, all he got was lukewarm coffee, paracetamol and a mop. Ziva had no sympathy, stern in her approach that this mess was ridiculous, and that he should stop leaving everything to Aria. Rylan yawned, he put the mop against the wall, his heavy feet stomped their way upstairs. Furious, Ziva used her anger to clean up, surprised at how quick it went, at least in the kitchen, which meant Bacon and Eggs. 

Ziva worried, Aria had her phone switched off and none of her friends had heard from her. A sinking feeling replaced her nausea, as she crept upstairs hoping it was her overactive imagination. Aria appeared to be in a deep sleep, a peaceful and youthful look on her face.  Ziva perched on the bed, her mothers’ hand was cold, she held it tight, stifling sobs. Uncertain how long she had been sitting there, Rylan stood solemnly in the doorway, staring at them, Aria had passed away in the night. He moved forward slowly and put his arm on Ziva’s shoulder as she leaned against him.

The next few days passed by in a blur, Ziva rushed through funeral preparations and completing her sale on her new home in Brindleton Bay, leaving her time to grieve; she would miss her mother most of all. Moments alone or at night her head whirred, the memories of Aria, laying there, she should have checked on her first thing in the morning. As for Rylan, he ignored Ziva, perhaps she should have waited to say something to him about her leaving but everything had happened so quickly, the house was ready. She scraped together all the money she could, Rylan disagreed with anything she wanted, unwilling to let her take any furniture. In the end, Ziva sold the only thing that still connected her to her old life – her rocket – just to help furnish her new home, so much for her maiden voyage and her dreams.

Rylan felt angry all the time, losing their mother, his sister leaving him, whilst he didn’t expect them to live together forever, he felt it was selfish of Ziva to abandon him. Girlfriend Emilie was his saving grace, she talked, offered comfort and of course breakfast. They met daily, her presence having a soothing effect on his mood and grief. In private, intimate moments, Rylan realised she was the one; amongst her friends she seemed self-absorbed, the centre of attention and surrounded with adoration, but with him, Emilie provided the attention he craved.

Rylan had been unapproachable since Ziva told him she was moving out, it had been her plan for a long time and everything had fallen into place when Aria died. She wanted to smooth things over, leaving things so hostile with her brother made her feel it was she who was being unreasonable. Rylan shrugged, she was a grown-up, why ask permission to leave, she should go. Emilie felt awkward unused to sibling rivalry, Ziva apologised to her, the prepared food in the fridge should keep him going for a short while and her number if he needed anything. He glared at the TV as Ziva left, Emilie snuggled next to him understanding to stay neutral in their disagreement.

Aria: Change is Coming

Aria cooked up a batch of her spicy chilli, Banoffee Pie and Cheese puff pastries, tonight she would resign as leader of Major Chords in style. The ultimate playlist reflecting her time as host, accompanied by her violin, would start the evening. Stepping down had been long overdue, Aria could no longer keep pace with the group’s enthusiasm, the late-night experiences, the loud noise DJs past off as music irritating her classical ear.

One problem with the plan, the Mischief Makers arrived and, like her son, they had huge appetites. She stared confused as they helped themselves to the buffet, Rylan hugged Aria, thanks for the food, they were staying? Checking the calendar Aria realised the mistake, tonight was his games night, one Saturday a month he took over the lounge and emptied the fridge, the noise from them echoed through the house, competitive cheers and bickering over cheat tactics. Aria forgot, caught up in the number of dates Rylan and Emilie went on, to remember he did stay home.

Aria forced to concede her mistake, moved her social gathering upstairs. The limited space offered in her bedroom and noise from the Mischief Makers made for an unpleasant final evening as host. Her friends were polite, perching on her bed discussing the finer details of classical music, made tinny by her computer speakers. She used to plan beautiful elegance and this evening had a teenage hangout feel, her friends making the most of her bed’s comfort. They ended their evening early, Aria led them through the trail of devastation, courtesy of Rylan and friends. Food and drink had spilt over into the hallway, Aria, embarrassed ushered her friend through the door with cake parcels to distract them. Rather than facing the kitchen, she headed to bed, hoping Rylan had cleaned up by morning.

Scraping silky black hair into a ponytail, Ziva observed her mothers calm exterior as she realised Rylan would be staying home, she was desperate to tell Aria the news, it seemed it would have to wait till morning. Arian wanted one last party, his new job started Monday, so this was it, the cafe was their first stop, with two bars and a club they would be up all night. Ziva struggled to contain her excitement, Arian pulled her aside, she had put a deposit on a coastal view property in Brindleton Bay, it needed some love, but it was all hers. He threw his arms in the air, pulling her into a bear hug, releasing her Arian turned, a toasting a double celebration, Ziva grabbed his arm, unable to late to stop him sharing her news. It was moments like this she would miss, Arian loved to wow the crowd, he could make anything into a newsworthy moment. Captivating the whole group with his style and flair. They both had exciting opportunities, Ziva felt sad that they would experience them on opposite sides of the country.

Miguel disappeared after the announcement, along with a few other’s, keen to savour the first pub. Arian eyed a second cake slice, nudging Ziva, she glances through the windows, leaning on the fence was Miguel. She stood close, the night air chilled her skin, folding her arms and clearing her throat, Miguel turned his lips a suppressed smile, her news was both welcome and disappointing, with Arian no longer in the picture he had hoped for an opportunity for him to sweep in. Ziva’s cheeks warmed, forcing her to look away, lifting her chin, Miguel planted a kiss on her cheek, and embraced her, while he appreciated his messages were forward, the feeling had been genuine. Long-distance relationships were hard, work, travel and missed social opportunities, Miguel believed they were unlikely to survive as a couple. He would settle for friendship, at least in the short term. Shaking her head a soft laugh broke the seriousness, flattered by his casual approach to relationships, Ziva herself had mixed feelings for both him and Arian. The pair uncoupled with Lee’s announcement he and Arian were on their way out, giving Ziva limited opportunity to share her response to Miguel’s proposal. Lee linked arms with her pulling her from seeing any possible hostility from Arian to Miguel. He leaned close, Miguel had commitment issues, its why they had one date, plus his attempts at flirting with her. Glancing over her shoulder, Miguel and Arian walked silent, distanced and heads down.

Ziva: Chess Moves

Ziva looked at the quiet office, no-one throwing crumpled paper with silly jokes written on them, bringing her cold coffee or proclaiming how annoyed they were with the coding. Arian had been absent for a week. She tried to call, dozens of messages filled his machine but nothing since their double date. Miguel continued to send flirtatious messages which she ignored, whilst the initial few had been sweet, they were becoming inappropriate. Brushing it aside the question remained, where was Arian?

Her rocket sat unfinished in the garden, she stared with vacant expression through the kitchen window, wondering what it would be like to jet off, get up close to the stars. Ziva jumped, Aria entered, a sheepish Arian followed, his gaze drifting from Ziva to the floor and then to Aria. They stood awkwardly for a moment until Aria realised it was she who needed to leave. A shift from one foot to the other, Arian indicated eventually that a discussion over chess might be in order. As they set out the board, the pair remained silent through the first set of moves, Ziva knew she was losing, pushing all her pieces towards him, it was time for answers. He dropped the rook sighing, pressing his lips together, his intentions had been honest, a first date, the potential for sparks, gatecrashed by his friend Lee, and his jealous emotions when Miguel showed interest in her. Arian really had meant to call her the next day to apologise when he received a call from a rival software company offering him a new job. It was a step up the career ladder, taking a leave of absence allowed him to familiarise himself with the new company. Rearranging the chess pieces, his fingers rolled the queen, placing it in front of Ziva, he paused admiring the way the stray lock of hair shaped her face. The promotion took him from Newcrest and while Ziva planned to move on too, to leave Aria in the care of her brother felt wrong and for a relationship that had yet to have a proper first date, it was a risk. Chess continued with what could have been lingering in their minds.

The dent in his bank balance was worth every penny, bowling, dinner, long strolls through the park and tonight, a movie. Rylan brushed his hair, gel held curls back and he posed in the mirror to ensure he looked the part of the boyfriend. Aria smiled, he looked so grown up and at last focused on work and this new woman; maybe he would bring her home, the changes in him were undeniable. His pranks, unfortunately, were still evident, a spider decorated his sister’s pillow, mice-infested fridge and cockroaches on the toilet, while all were fake, Ziva and Aria freaked, much to his amusement.

Rylan paced the pavement outside the cinema, his hands sweating, beat against his trouser leg, he had it all planned. First she arrives, they hug, he compliments her, perhaps brushes the hair from her face, drawing her in for that perfect first kiss. Emilie crept closer, a sharp “Boo” in his ear, Rylan jumped causing a complete loss of composure and he moved in for the kiss, his clumsy lips met hers. She giggled her face bright red, pulling him back for a much improved second attempt. Words jumbled themselves, a tongue twisted wordsmith reliant on his girl to request tickets and popcorn, his eyes captivated were by her as he handed over cash, forgetting the change.

Ziva: All Work and No Play??

Hushed tones, everyone looked studious, keeping their heads down, avoiding eye contact; the CEO stepped from the lift and stared, impressed. Ziva glanced up as he walked through catching his eye. Smiling, Ziva was keen to show a positive and polite impression and greeted him warmly, asking if he enjoyed the tour. Conversation flowed as he showed interest in her role, project and life. The supervisor waited patiently, her colleagues looked on with hesitant glances, wondering when Ziva would take the hint. His next question, interrupted by the supervisor, reminded him there would be other occasions to chat with the staff at the upcoming party. Nodding, with an apology, he moved on, Ziva beamed with renewed confidence, impressed that the company leaders were so in tune with the workforce, that they wanted to speak and engage. Her supervisor rolled his eyes, the tilted head telling her to return to work instead of daydreaming.

Arian ruffled his black hair and leaned on her desk, pressing random keys on her keyboard to annoy her, she brushed him off with a playful giggle. Late Friday afternoon with most people leaving for the day, Arian came to ask Ziva on a date, she blushed unsure if dating co-workers was sensible, worried that things would get awkward whichever route they took. Perched on her desk he smiled, a loose curl flopping in front of his face, she had refused his advances a couple of times, this time however, Ziva took a deep breath, staring at the program code that had been giving her a headache, she finally said – maybe he could pick her up at seven.

A table for four was a disappointing change to the evening as Arian’s housemates joined them making a double date. Lee had a shock of white hair, cream suit and natural tan, he regarded her silently as he took the last chair next to her. He had nothing much to say, and Arian’s dissatisfaction with the situation was evident. Miguel, however, was talkative, bordering on flirtatious. Being a vet, he loved reciting stories, dog running off with pizza slices, cats falling from first-story windows and the chaos of a busy surgery. Ziva felt her own stories were bland and unimaginative, except when sharing the crazy things her brother did

The foods arrival brought a change in mood for the couples, Lee relaxed as the wine flowed and Arian managed to smile, his attention focused on an engaging Ziva, her confidence growing as the evening progressed. Time slipped by, with irritated waiters clearing tables, trying to interrupt their spirited laughter and vibrant conversation, keen they should move to the bar area so they could close the restaurant. It was 3 am, realising they were alone, the couples made their way into the pre-dawn hours to stroll through Oasis Springs. Its desert lands looked inviting at this time, rather than in the blistering heat of the day. Ziva wondered what possessed her grandmother’s family, to stay in such a place for so long.

Aria slept intermittently, checking to see if Ziva had arrived home, surprised each time to find her bed not slept in; deepening the creases of her brow, worried where she could be. Downstairs, Aria stared into the pale fridge, light illuminating its choices; drumming up inspiration to bake comfort food, the need to keep herself busy. As she reached for the milk, the key clicked in the back door, the carton split, spilling the contents, Aria steadied herself against the fridge, shocked and relieved the intruder was Ziva. Glowing, Ziva swept across the kitchen full of apologies, helping to clean up the mess, gushing over the evening, new friendships and the delicious the food. Her animated enthusiasm continued, watching Aria dice fruit and threading them on skewers. Ziva followed her mother outside, pausing her monologue to light the barbecue. Perhaps it was the animals that drew her in, either way, Ziva found herself drawn to Miguel, her voice became softer and Aria noticed she blushed when recalling his stories, and a brighter pink pinched her cheeks when a message from him popped up on her phone