Kelly stands near me, waiting for our shift to begin. Imagine a fine trim figure which accents common work coveralls, and lovely auburn locks perfectly complementing mocha skin which proudly proclaims mixed ancestry. Then throw in great work ethic, amazing skill, and an ability to laugh at the horror our world has become. You get Kelly. We've worked power-station-seven together for years, and I'm ready to pop the question.
The power goes off, and only emergency lighting, running on internal batteries remains on.
"Shit." Kelly's potty mouth activates in times like this. Then comes the competence. "Run a voltage check on three, I'll get seven."
With ten lines, the combination minimizes time. I pull out my voltmeter and clip one end to ground by line three. I read four-forty, which means both one and two are at full capacity. Wait no. I need to ask.
"I'm short by two twenty. How about you?" I love that voice. So sure, so competent.
"Reading at fours." I'm hedging my bet. Kelly knows what it should be, and will tell me what to do next.
"You take one, I'll get two."
It was our first meeting. Site manager introduced me to a new hire at a mixer. Kelly looked exactly like today, only with a sexy little twinkle in those green eyes, so rare in mixed heritage. Never believed in love at first sight. Afterwards, I accepted the reality of instant lust, but was too shy to say anything. I never realized we wouldn't meet again for years.
"Nothing." I call, when I'm at the line. Only two checks- we're lucky today. Kelly runs up, hair waving in a ponytail like a banner proclaiming, here's a good one, there are no more fish in the sea. Like a true pro, already has a plan.
"Max, go check on the end point. I'm calling to see if a generator is down."
We'd been working together for two weeks when Kelly asked me out to dinner. As few bonuses as we get, it was a big gesture. I waited in my best, good denim jeans and a button up shirt with a bolo tie that my dad gave to me. Kelly showed up in tight, low-hip jeans, a white top which showed taught, bare midriff, and cowboy boots much like mine. "Hey sailor, buy you a drink?"
The rest of the night went just as well, though we both drank too much. We never figured out what we did, or didn't do, after staggering back to housing units. I woke in bed and Kelly on my couch.
"Stop daydreaming and get it in gear. The fault's in our lines." Kelly runs past me, desperation dripping sweat like sparks at a grinder. I follow to the middle of the route. We have half a mile to check for where the line has shorted. A simple point, back the way we came. "Go."
I begin inspecting, looking for places where insulation broke. A one inch cable should be easy, but not in these conditions. A quarter mile to go over, foot by foot. Tapping an insulated probe against the cable, hoping my precautions will be enough to survive if I find it. Kelly took the hard part, the one where I can't help until I get further up the line even after I notice something wrong. Because I'm in the safe, down-current position, where nobody has to rush to a distant cutoff switch. And the further we go, the worse it gets. Then I find it, not by probe, but by the scorching, which is only visible looking close, with the light on the line. Water dripped along a seam until it got into the lines and vaporized, blowing out a piece of insulation. But the water kept walking back along the line, a good ten feet.
"Found it," I yell. Kelly runs my direction. I get the best junction box and shunt the power off, then start pulling the bad portion out.
"Crap." Always has a way with words. "I'm faster. I'll get the replacement cable. You prep everything here."
"Where do we go from here? You know dating in the department is against regs?" Kelly asked when we woke up the next morning. "We need to take it slow. Think it through. One of us gets a different position. Then we can make a new start of it."
"I waited years to find you. Now we have to wait again?" I wanted to cry. One night and I couldn't even remember it. The hell was, Kelly had it right, we couldn't afford to both get kicked over this. Nobody wanted to be left out in the cold.
I have the cable stripped out and all the join points clean when Kelly shows up with nothing. I have no idea what to say. I point and ask, "Where's the replacement line?"
"Water got in and all the insulation is useless."
"But these are the main melt runs for this section. We have to keep them working." I'm starting to panic.
"Max. They already closed the security barrier. We're stuck here."
I'm floored. All this time, I've fought the good fight, trying to save us from glaciers created by humanity's short-sighted policies. I've worked hard to keep the heating coils running at their leading edge on this, one of the few surviving fertile valleys. And I wasted my time not telling Kelly how I felt. Because I don't know if he feels the same way.
"Kelly, can you..." Kelly puts a finger to my lips.
"Answer one question first." He points at my name tag. "Why do you go by Max, but your uniform is G Woolrich?"
"Because my first name is Grace and I hate it. I'm anything but graceful."
"And Maxine shortens to Max." I mentioned he was smart didn't I? "I love you Max. Kiss me."
How can a girl resist a request like that? I lean forward, standing on my toes, so my lips touch his. Just as they meet, I hear a horrible grinding sound, the ice rupturing the steel as it closes too much. Kelly's lips are hot even as the temperature around us plummets.
Author's Note- Cornell Woolrich wrote 'It Had to Be Murder' the short story which formed the basis for Rear Window, one of Grace Kelly's best films.