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We had reached a new understanding, a new arrangement. I felt like a lot of the loose ends had been tied up. The only real problem now was making sure the walls stayed strong. I couldn’t let myself begin to need him, and as much as possible I had to stop him from turning to me for intimacy (other than the sexual kind).
Part of that plan was Angelica. We had conspired together that week, and on the Saturday morning after Andrew and I “renegotiated” our arrangement, the plan went into effect. On Friday evening, I took the coffee grounds out of the kitchen and hid them in my room. I knew Andrew loved his Saturday mornings- coffee and a movie. I even joined him on occasion, if the movie was right.
When we got downstairs for breakfast, I opened the cupboard and said, “O shit, I forgot that we ran out of coffee the other day. Is tea OK?” I knew it wasn’t.
Andrew was already slipping on his shoes. “I’ll be back soon,” he said.
“Oh, are you going to the store? I can give you a list of a few things…”
“No, just the coffee shop. Want anything?”
He was out the door. I knew he wouldn’t go to the store- that would put several more steps between him and coffee. Once he was in his car, I texted Angelica.
The package is on its way.
A minute later I received, Oooh, ‘the package.’ I hope I get to open it!
It was a little cruel, I had to admit. Andrew and I hadn’t had sex since our renegotiation, this was the second day after. He was home until 6, and I didn’t need to leave until 11:30. I could assume he was planning to have sex this morning, maybe on the couch during the movie. But if my plan worked…if Angelica came through for me…he’d be home confused and too scared to go near me.
I munched a banana and waited.
Twenty minutes later, he was back. Drinking his coffee, he went straight to the couch and started his movie. I think he forgot my muffin- that was a good sign. The movie didn’t interest me, so I went to my room, folded some laundry, and shuffled around the house doing this and that for an hour. I got dressed for work and said to Andrew as the movie ended, “I might head in to work early, see if anyone wants me to take an hour for them.”
Quiet. Andrew turned his head and looked at me as he stood.
“OK. I’ll, uh…see you tomorrow, I guess.”
“Bye!” And I was out the door. I had no intentions of going to work early. I drove straight to the coffee shop and honked my horn. Angelica came running out and hopped in the car.
“Thanks for the ride,” she said, practically bouncing in her seat with excitement.
“It worked!” she squealed, clapping her hands together.
“Tell me,” I smiled, pulling onto the main road.
“Well, The Package showed up, and I made sure I was on the register. Nobody was behind him, thank God. He made his order, and…oh…this is for you I think,” she handed me a bag. My muffin, nice.
“Anyway, I said just what you told me to: So, I saw your wife in here the other day. And he practically jumps out of his skin. I kept going: You know, that girl that comes in here with you. I thought she was your wife, and I pointed to his ring. He looks at the ring and says, Oh, no…my wife isn’t…around anymore. And then it’s like he can’t think of what to say, so I go on, Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, how long? And he just looked at me like I’m speaking Japanese. So no luck there. But I did ask him, So is she your girlfriend then? And he starts shifting and looking around all nervous. It was so cute, I could’ve just jumped his bones right there!”
“And what did he say?” I prompted.
“Oh, right! He said, No, she’s just a friend, she rents a room in my house. And then I pushed, just like you told me to. Wait a minute, you’ve got a girl like that living with you and you aren’t dating her? So no wife, no girlfriend…honey, I’m afraid I can’t let that happen. I’m not giving you this coffee until you agree to take me out. He knew I really couldn’t do that, and another customer was just walking in, so I couldn’t keep teasing. He looked all uncomfortable, and I said, I’m just teasing, but seriously, you have to take me out. I wrote my number on his cup and made sure he saw it. He stared at me and then walked out without saying a word, even forgot your muffin!
I couldn’t wait to get home that night and see if he had kept the cup. Turns out I didn’t need to wait. A few minutes before I got Angelica to her apartment, she got a text. It was from Andrew. Angelica squealed so loud my ears hurt.
Thanks for the coffee this morning. Sorry I was too stunned to respond. My life is pretty messy right now, but if you don’t mind just some simple conversation, how about Tuesday, early dinner?
I was a few hours into my afternoon shift, where I had been casually asking around to make sure Tristan wasn’t just asking out every girl in the restaurant. I couldn’t find anyone else beyoğlu escort that he had talked to about a date, so when he showed up for evening shift, I was ready to talk. I had never replied to his message.
He walked up behind me before I knew he was there. “So did I already get burned, or what?”
“What? Didn’t you get my response?” Lie. Implicit lie, but still a lie.
“No, I thought you just ignored me.” He was visibly relieved.
“Oh, well I said I’d be happy to offer some lessons on firecrackers- but they might be costly.” I actually didn’t like this level of flirting. It seemed like too much show and no real substance. But it’s what people do, so I had to play the game.
“Well, as long as you’re a qualified teacher, sign me up.”
“How about…” I looked up at the work schedule, “Tuesday, after our afternoon shift?”
“That’s good for me,” he smiled.
I loved and hated Saturday nights at the restaurant. Big crowds usually meant more tips, but it also meant noise and complaining and achy feet and headaches. I got home ready to crash at a little after 10. I looked at Andrew’s schedule and saw he was off all day Sunday- he would be free until Monday morning. I knew I was obligated to sleep with him at some point that day, but I made some plans for the morning. I went to my drawer and pulled out a wrinkled sheet of paper and looked up an address.
I was gone before Andrew woke. I left a note telling him I planned to be back by lunch time and that I wouldn’t be gone after that. I drove 15 minutes in the chilly, wet November morning. Passing through large metal gates, I realized the flaw in my plan. Cemeteries are big. How was I going to find Noel’s grave in all this? I got out of the car and started walking around, reading names.
I pulled my coat tight and flipped the hood onto my head. It was just a heavy mist that sometimes became a drizzle, but in this cold weather, that was enough to be uncomfortable. In my wandering, I ran across a sign that said “Little Angels” and pointed to a section about 100 yards away. I headed over there and saw that it was graves for children- some of them died when they were just a few days old, some as old as 9 or 10. I realized that, unlike the other graves, many of which were elderly people who had lived full lives, each of these represented some sad story. What a heartbreaking place!
I saw a grave with fresh flowers and moved towards it. Sure enough, it was for Beatrice Noel. Aside from her name and dates of birth and death, there was a simple inscription, “Long may your star shine bright,” and a picture of a star like you see on Christmas decorations. Of course- she was born around Christmas, so they called her “Noel.”
Nothing about Penny, and I briefly considered trying to find a corresponding grave in the same cemetery, but the wind convinced me otherwise.
Walking back to the car, I sat inside. Just being out of the elements warmed me considerably. It was mid-morning. I pulled out my phone and sent a text to Andrew. I’m so sorry, but I have something I need to do this afternoon. I PROMISE I’ll be back by dinner. There are plenty of leftovers in the fridge.
I started my car and drove.
Three hours later, I was standing in front of another grave. Ian’s. He wasn’t in any “Little Angels” section. I stood there, unsure of how to react. There were flowers there, too, but they were old, maybe a week or two. I talked to Ian for a while. I had so many questions for him- things I was sure he would have been able to answer and help me with. Ian would have been there for me. I cried, I yelled, I kicked someone else’s headstone and then looked around to make sure nobody had seen me do that.
I stood there and thought about a lot of things. I stood until my teeth chattered and my stomach complained. I promised to come back again. Andrew texted me, Is everything OK?
No Andrew, everything is not OK. You know that. I know that. And sometimes I feel like we’re the only ones who do know that, and yet we’re not even talking about it.
I got fast food on the way back- another luxury I had denied myself for too long. I listened to familiar radio stations and was awash with memories of high school and partying on weekends and doing anything to be out of the quiet house. But eventually the static came in and I had to switch stations. I was almost back at Andrew’s house.
I got in the house and put my wet coat on a hook in the laundry room. Andrew must have been in his room. I pulled a few things from the fridge and started cooking. Hamburgers, homemade macaroni and cheese, and buttered green beans. It was a meal I remembered from my childhood, a meal that suited rainy days.
Andrew came down when he heard me clanking stuff around. He grabbed a soda from the fridge and asked if I needed help. I told him no- bostancı escort I wasn’t sure if he was talking about dinner or other stuff. He sat on a chair in the living room, silent. He had a book in his hand, but I think he was waiting for me to talk. I wasn’t ready.
I went up to my room and changed into more comfortable clothes, then finished making dinner.
We ate in silence for a while. Then Andrew broke the ice, “So how did the job interview go last week?”
“No luck. But I don’t think I would have taken the job anyway.”
“Yeah. I know I can’t be too picky, but this one probably wouldn’t have lasted. And if it didn’t work out, then I’d be back here with you…if I hadn’t already been replaced.”
He laughed lightly at that comment. “I doubt that would have happened.”
I was curious, “What happened to the other girls you told about this…offer?”
“Well, one was over the phone, and she just hung up. One in person said she’d have to think about it, but I never heard from her again. One said she’d do it, but on the first night, she panicked before we even had our clothes off. I gave her a week to find another place. She was gone the third day.”
I thought about that for a second. Poor girl.
“Anyway,” I said, “I have another interview tomorrow at a place I think I could like.”
“And…I’ve got a date on Tuesday evening,” I tried to mention casually.
“With Steve?” he asked, not showing any reaction.
“No. Steve is nice, but not really my type. There’s a new guy at work. Not anyone I could ever be serious with, but whatever.”
“Well, on that note…” He was fiddling with his food, clearly not sure what to say or if he should say it. It was so cute how nervous he would get about some things. “I’ve got a date on Tuesday, too.” It hadn’t even occurred to me that our dates were on the same evening.
“Oh, really?” I teased. I knew full well, better than even he did, but I wanted to hear his version of it.
He cleared his throat. “Um, yeah. Just a girl I met at the coffee shop down the road. It’s nothing serious- I’m just taking her to dinner after work.”
“Some girl you met at the coffee shop? Sounds made up. Are you just jealous that I’m getting some extra-curricular action and you’re not?”
“What? No, she…she works at the coffee shop. She told me to ask her out. And after what you were saying about how I need a woman in my life, I thought I’d, you know…try to meet people.”
“Well, that’s commendable. What’s her name?”
His eyes got wide and his face went red. He didn’t know! He never got her name! Oh, this was too rich. I might have a new hobby- “try to make Andrew blush.”
He opened his mouth and stammered a bit, then admitted, “I don’t know! She gave me her number, but…”
“It was probably on her name tag. Were you not looking at her boobs?”
“I…didn’t want to be rude.” Then he started to laugh at his situation. “Well, at least I know how to start our conversation on Tuesday.”
“Sooo…should I try to keep some distance Tuesday evening? In case you want to bring her back to your love nest?”
Not even joking, he looked up and said, “No. I already told her…that…I’m not up for anything serious, just some conversation.”
“Oh Andrew. Sweet, innocent, naïve Andrew. If she asked you out and you are playing the ‘I just want to talk’ card, you can be sure she’s going to try to get you naked. Is she cute?” Oh my, this was a fun game of ‘Make Andrew Blush.
“She’s…perky? Cute. Friendly. A little aggressive.”
“Well, I hope you have a grand time futilely resisting Miss No-Name’s advances.”
“And what about you and mystery man? Should I try to stay out late?”
“No. He’s going to have to work for anything he gets from me. Maybe offer me free rent or something.”
“Besides, even if I get the urge, I can always come back here and shag your brains out. It’s less complicated that way.”
“Yes, because everything around here is simple and uncomplicated.”
After a minute or two of silence, as Andrew put together another burger, he asked, “So what were you up to today? Everything OK?”
“It was…nothing serious. I just had some personal errands to run, some things to take care of.”
“Oh, OK.” I was just beginning to get Ian off my mind, but now it was all flooding back. I said nothing while I cleaned up my dishes and put away leftovers.
“Gina?” his voice was soft.
“For a few…personal reasons, last week and this week are just a really rough time for me. I…I’m sorry if I’m moody and…a little dark. It’ll be better in a week or two, I hope.”
“Oh. I get it. When it rains it pours, or something like that.” It was hard to keep in mind that I wasn’t supposed to know anything about Penny or büyükçekmece escort Noel. The anniversary of Noel’s death had just passed, and his 6 year anniversary with his mysteriously-absent wife would be in a few days. But as far as he knew, I had no inkling of any of that.
“Yeah, and remember what I said about sex helping me to not feel numb?”
“I remember, I think you’re weird that way.”
“I know. And maybe I am. Or maybe you’re the weird one.” I stuck out my tongue at him for that comment. “In any case, I’ve probably been a little extra needy lately…sexually. And if you could just keep Thursday as open as you can…I really would like to be with you as much as possible. I’m taking off work that day- you don’t have to do that, but…just be around…and don’t say no…please?”
I was anticipating Thursday, his anniversary, being different. I didn’t expect him to take off work, but it made sense.
“OK, I’ll make sure you get some action that day. In the meantime, finish your food and come upstairs to my room. I need to forget some things tonight.”
Noticing that Andrew had just heaped another pile of mac-and-cheese on his plate, I figured I had enough time to take a shower. Afterwards, I went to my room and put on some plaid boxers and a white tank top. I could have stayed naked, but there’s something nice about having a man take your clothes off of you.
Not long after I was dressed, Andrew came to the room, looked in and said, “OK if I shower first?”
“Yeah, go ahead,” I said, pulling my hair back into a ponytail.
While I waited, I sat in my recliner and looked up at the stars. I was glad the clouds were clearing so that I could enjoy the sky this evening. It was a little chilly in just a tank top, so I put on an old sweatshirt. It used to be Ian’s- one of only two things I had of his.
I looked at the stars and thought of Noel. They had her for 11 months. Was that old enough to start talking? Had Andrew heard his little girl say “Dada?” Had she taken steps, holding his fingers in her tiny hands? Or had she been sick, and did they spend 11 months watching her die? I wanted to know- I wanted to hear him talk about it. Did he talk to anybody about it? I couldn’t imagine him chatting about it with the guys at the body shop. And I didn’t know anything about his other job, oddly enough. I got the impression he was a night watchman.
I wondered what he did with all his memories of Noel (and Penny?). Did they stay with him all the time? Or did he fight them back and bury them? Did they show up at unexpected times and places, triggered by a word or object? Were there things in this house that had a special history? I rubbed my arms, not for warmth but to feel the sweatshirt.
Andrew walked into the room with a towel around his waist, rubbing his hair dry with another towel.
“You know,” he commented, “we should have sex on that recliner at some point. How far back does it recline?”
“No,” I said, sharper than I had anticipated. My teeth were clenched. “The recliner is off limits.”
“Whoa. OK. Sorry. But…did you want to be in your bed this time?”
“Yes. But I want you to get me there.” Seeing his look of confusion, I sighed and rolled my eyes. “I want you to persuade me into bed, get me worked up, seduce me, whatever. We have to have sex tonight, but I want you to get me to want it.”
“Oh! Got it. I thought you meant you wanted me to carry you,” he said, a bit sheepishly.
He walked over to me and stood there for a second. “Put the legs of the recliner up- put your feet out.” I looked up at him with curiosity, doing what he said. Once my feet were fully extended and propped up on the recliner’s footrest, Andrew knelt down in front of them. With his warm, clean hands, he took one of my feet and started rubbing. He put pressure on the bottom of my foot, then all around. For at least five minutes he rubbed my foot and up my calf, then switched to the other foot. I leaned back in the recliner and pulled my arms into the sweatshirt.
Andrew was, I had to admit, very good at this. I lay there and just enjoyed the sensations, including the sight of him in just a towel, at my feet.
He eventually moved up to rub my thighs, then worked back down to my calves again. He had been working at it for at least 15 minutes when he stood up, leaned over me, put his mouth against my ear and asked, “Would you like to come to bed?”
Eyes closed, I smiled and said, “I guess so, but I’m not taking my clothes off.”
Surprising me, Andrew reached down and scooped me up in his arms. I squealed in surprise and tried to grab his arm, forgetting that my arms were inside the sweatshirt. The result was that I wiggled around for a second, throwing Andrew off balance. He managed to at least get me over the bed before he dropped me. He fell forward and caught himself on the bed. We both laughed at that as I wriggled my arms back into my sleeves. Andrew leaned towards the wall and turned off the light. The streetlights below made us still able to see each other, but at some angles his face was still in the shadows.
“Well, I’m naked and you’re not getting out of your clothes, so I guess that means…blow job?” He was obviously joking, but also trying to figure out my game.
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