"I'd like a sliding shower door on the tub," she said.

"But we live in an apartment. We can't just go making home improvements."

Our mantra that year was "Debt Free in '93". Vix had put it all on paper. After defining what was necessary, we moved from our ancient spacious two-story, three-bedroom, hardwood floor newlywed apartment surrounded by live oaks, suspended in the branches, bathed in dappled light, to a stuffy shoebox apartment, half our stuff stacked along the walls, the rest jammed in to a storage unit.

In order to more quickly fulfill the mantra, I had sacrificed myself to the high demon of restaurant management: fast food. Specifically, a double drive thru burger stand where I spent 13- to 19-hour days in a burning box with the ambience of a sinking submarine. Debt-free in '93, I whispered to myself. Debt free.

We now were close to failing on that vow. It was the first Sunday in December 1993, and we leisurely rolled through it, our only day of the week together, starting on the couch reading the paper.

"I already checked, we'll get a break on our rent for any improvements we do to the place. They buy the supplies, we do the work."

"I don't even know how to do something like that. You know what a klutz I am."

"You replaced the radiator in the Fox."

My one shining moment of garage artistry came back to haunt me.

"C'mon," she said. Then she gave me The Look. I hate it when she does that. A mixture of sad and sexy. I am powerless against it. The fact that her loose pajamas had slipped and revealed skin in all the right places didn't hurt.

"OK. I'll try."

"Can you have it done by next Saturday?" The Look, this time cubed. "They're delivering all the stuff tomorrow morning."

I hid behind the paper, but it was too late. "Saturday. Check."

The next week screamed like a asp-filled nightmare. Nothing but mids and night shifts. Crack addicts ordering a loaded cheeseburger only to throw it back through the window. As promised, shower door and supplies leaned against a stack of boxes near the bedroom door. Tomorrow, I thought.

That day led to the next and the next. Vix and I hardly saw each other awake. Each night I slid in to bed next to her, molding to her shape. Each morning she left a crayoned note apologizing for not staying up and wondering if I needed her help with the door. Friday's note mentioned she'd be spending the night at her mom's house after helping her cater a holiday party. We spoke on the phone before she left and said she'd see me Saturday.

When I got home that night, the door and I had a stare-down, and the door won. I grabbed a Mountain Dew from the fridge, a last resort measure for me, carefully read and reread the instructions and began.

Luckily, everything around the tub was right angles. This eliminated the need for a lot of sawing, sanding and creative caulking.

Sometime around dawn I finished. I cleaned up, ate and napped for a few hours. Then I drove to the Y where we had a lonely membership and took a shower before heading to hell. A heads-up to you handyman noders out there: Shower caulk should set for 24 hours before you get it wet.

A long day mutated in to a longer night. When I finally got home, completely torched, already dreading my next shift despite tomorrow's day off, I heard the shower running. I poked my head around the partially openned door. Thick rolling steam filled the room. "Honey, I'm home."

"Don't come in yet!"

Damn. I hadn't seen her awake, let alone naked and wet, in almost a week. Had I done something wrong? Had I done a crappy job on the door? I was just about to ask her when she said, "OK, you can come in now!"

She had turned the room in to a sauna. I began to sweat. With so much steam it took me a two steps to get close enough to actually see my handiwork.

"Like it?" I asked.

"Love it."

I searched for leaks and was about to ask her if she noticed any when I saw her blurry outline.

She cupped a breast in each hand and pressed her nipples against door. Carefully, using her legs to guide her, arching her back when needed, she slowly drew two interlocking hearts, clear connected paths in the steam.

"Like it?" she said.

"Love it."

"Come in and get cleaned up. You smell like a french fry. I might just eat you."

I don't remember undressing. I do, however, remember her appreciation.

The next morning we left the Sunday paper outside. Sun splashed through our windows as we splashed across each other. During a break, she jabbed me in the ribs.

"About tomorrow," she said.

Shit! She was going to ruin a perfectly wonderful morning discussing my job? Double shit, triple shit.

"Yes..." Grumble, grumble.

"Hand the bastards this." She gave me a plain white envelope, unsealed. I took the note out of it, unfolded it and began to read.

Though the past 11 months have been ones of great learning and enrichment, I regret that I must leave Bumpus Burgers in order to pursue other opportunities....

"It's complete bullshit, of course, but you're outta there in two weeks."

During some down time while Vix was away, she made a quick balance sheet to find out where we stood. Apparently, we had lived more frugally than expected. In fact, we had a surplus, allowing us to coast through the holidays. We talked about a vacation to California, but soon we weren't talking much anymore.

I tried not to smirk the next day when I presented my resignation letter, somewhat drained from the previous day. Debt free at last, we decided our presents to each other wouldn't cost a thing, just time, attention and plenty of reasons to bathe.

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