The sun broke through the grey afternoon illuminating the high-pitched screams of children playing and the bareness of the trees and the yellows and reds of dead leaves decorating a small suburban block. Each home, each plot of land reflected the image of the one across from it. Three generations of people inhabited this track of homes trying to recreate nuclear families in a time of renewed social awareness. This small community filled its time with youth soccer and baseball, yearning for the time when the area was known for the likes of Joe DiMaggio, not the rebellious, drug-infested hippies from across the Bay.
At one particular house an old man grabbed a torn green lawn-chair and maneuvered it toward a shaded spot on his porch. Sitting, he noticed the trademark luxury sedan pulling into the driveway across from him. He looked at the lawn that needed to be mowed; weeds that needed pulling; the hedge that needed trimming. He just needs a little while to get his life back in order, the old man thought.
He watched as woman in her late twenties with light brown hair and a charcoal suit exit the sedan. The old man shook his head gently and lamented about his age. No matter though. She’s just what the yard needs. The old man let the words drift from his lips and whisk away in the afternoon breeze. Alden could use a friend that’s for sure, the old man directed toward no one in particular and fell gently into sleep.
* * * * *
The silence in the house had been deafening before the interruption of a gentle knock at the door. The silence followed again. A man stirred two rooms away. He heard the knock, wishing whoever it was would leave. The knock repeated. He thought about lifting his head and decided against it. Too much effort, he thought. Why look if you don’t want to talk? He began to contemplate if he said the words or whether they simply existed in his head. Does it even matter in an empty house? And if it doesn’t matter then, why should I think about it? The man’s mind, unable to sustain coherent, questioned the last time he ate. Then slipped into inane subjects: Is there enough scotch to get through today? can I have it delivered? and did Nietzsche really have syphilis all those years?
When the sound of knuckles repeated itself a third time, a voice followed in a flustered tone. The man grew angry, Why can’t I just be left alone? When the rapping sound of invitation progressed to the large panel window, the once muffled voice brought recognition to the man. Shit, he addressed silence, desperately seeking its return.
What the hell does she want? The fifth occurrence of knocking finally provoked his response. Fucking Christ! he yelled. His muscles ached and his body felt the weight of gravity upon it. Three days passed since he sat on the couch, only departing to relieve himself. His mind wanted to drift again, but he heard her clumsy attempt at climbing a fence. Just what I need, her breaking her neck.
He looked to his right and out the sliding glass door. The family room where he sat extended from the back of the house and he could see her walking toward him amidst overgrown grass and disheveled plant life. He thought about leaving the door closed, but knew that when it came to a battle of wills, he possessed nowhere near enough energy.
Dude, what the hell? the woman asked.
He sat up, staring at her as she stood there, her suit ruined. The man chuckled at her ridiculous image. Her arms raised in questioning defiance and small holes mixed with pieces of redwood caught in the fabric of her suit brought visions of a dark comedy. He scrunched his face and shook his head.
Open that damn door! I come all this way to see you and this is what I get? You are a dirt bag…worthless.
The man slowly separated from the couch. His back allowed him only stiffness and pain, aware of its neglect. He would have been embarrassed under different circumstances. Yet, he mused at the woman’s condition. As the man gingerly made his way toward her, his posture emulated decay and old age, tripling that of his thirty years. His dark brown eyes and jet-black hair accentuated the decrepit state. After four days in the same clothes, his white shirt had yellowed and his silk tie, noose-like and stretched, was stained.
What’s wrong with you? You… she stopped as a wave of decay bombarded her senses. Jesus Christ! What is wrong with you? She turned her face and pushed him inside. Your mother would kill you for what you’ve done to her home. The man began to close the door when she stopped him. No you don’t. Go get in the shower while I air this place out.
It’s cold. Close the door.
Like hell. You should have thought of that before you turned this place into Little Havana. Now get in the shower. The man dutifully turned to go and the woman sighed in disgust, Ugh. Have you been on a liquid diet the last four days? Wait…do not answer that.
The man thought for a second, then shrugged his shoulders unknowingly.
You are killing me Alden. Get in the shower. Four bottles of Scotch…done…another a quarter empty…beer bottles and—she paused and lifted a two-liter soda bottle—two liters of chew spit? I swear I can’t believe I slept with you. I thought you quit years ago. Never mind. You disgust me. Get in the shower.
The man grumbled something.
What!?! her voice challenged with irritating precision.
Nothing, are you going to be around when I get out?
Of course, some one has to feed your sorry ass.
Take it easy.
Bull shit. You want to kill yourself, do it. Don’t bleed your life away through a bottle. We all have a lot on our plates. I can’t even look at you right now. GO! she yelled.
Shut up. It’s not like you appreciate it.
I don’t. Alden turned and stumbled toward the bathroom. I don’t feel anything.
Stephanie bent over and began collecting rocks glasses and empty bottles of Cutty Sark. I am amazed he even used glassware, she told herself, but I am not touching that spit bottle. He can take care of that when he finishes the shower.
The bathroom was small, complete with a shower and toilet, a hardwood floor and an old-fashioned sink with no cabinets beneath. In the mirror, a stranger stared back at him. This man was shriveled and weak. There were traces of spittle dried down the sides of his swollen red face and his hair knotted.
Who am I? Alden asked. He could see tears gathering in his eyes. Beginning to unbutton his shirt, a Saint Christopher’s medal, dangling from a withered neck, fell free. Fresh tears filled the dry channels on his cheeks and pooled in the sink. The weight of his thoughts pulled his head down.
Alden looked up, Yeah?
For you or a loved one? the woman asked.
No loved one?
Alden blushed. Yeah, just me.
Well good, she bubbled. She had attractive shoulder length dark brown hair and bright glowing blue eyes. Is there anything particular you are looking for?
A Saint Christopher’s medal.
Patron Saint of Orphans and Travelers. Which are you? She spoke with an over-the-top Audrey Hepburn sort of delivery.
I am heading to Italy in a couple weeks.
So you want a little protection. What’s your price range?
Well, it’s more because my father always wears one, but I figured a little extra help wouldn’t hurt.
No shame in that. Anything caught your eye?
No. I’m looking for something small and silver.
I have just the one, over here. Her gaze met Alden with a half cracked, inviting smile that only showed her teeth on one side. As Alden followed her down the display case, he watched her parade a bare finger down the glass while keeping her one eye on him and the other on her destination. How about this one? She focused on a small silver medal with Saint Christopher carrying his staff, the baby Jesus on his shoulders.
It is perfect. Alden let her gently place it in his hand. As it came to rest in his palm, he felt the gentle brush of her fingers and he glanced and saw a sly look in her eye. She’s just making the sale you idiot. It looks perfect. I’ll take it.
You know, I do have a way of reading people. Maybe that’s why I do so well. The woman let her smile crack a little bigger as her lips gently parted into a full view of her flawless teeth.
Well you’ve done a great job here. Now get out before you buy something you can’t afford. Alden looked in her eyes and a strong chill ran down his back.
When do you leave for Italy?
The first of March.
Not the fifteenth eh?
Are you crazy? Fly to Rome on the Ides of March?
A Shakespeare fan?
More into Othello than Caesar. Can’t beat Iago.
No argument here.
So what’s your name? As soon as the words left his mouth, Alden’s stomach cringed.
Cadi Blodeuwedd. And you?
Uh…Alden…Gardner. Alden Gardner. he repeated in shock. Uh…how much do I owe you? he continued in an uncertain tone.
Uh…39.95…Uh…she tapped the buttons nervously on the register…43.25 after tax.
After paying for the necklace, Alden ran out embarrassed and beet red. He breathed deeply, turned and looked behind him and saw her fiddling with things in the display case. See, she didn’t want anything. Doesn’t matter. In a few weeks, you will be on a plane.
When the door closed behind him he looked up and saw a man heading toward him, avoiding the oncoming traffic. Hey! How’ve you been, gorgeous?
Alden froze, looked around and noticed the man speaking to a woman standing behind him. When you’re headed in the right direction, God keeps you going. He said it a second time…a third. He took another deep breath and went back into the store.
Did you forget something? Cadi asked.
Yeah. I forgot to invite you to dinner. Alden held his breath. Her lips parted as the corners of her smile sank. Say yes. Everyone else says no.
She giggled, regaining a bit of composure.
One night. Don’t make me beg before I donate my money to Europeans. Alden could see the wheels in her head turning. God, just once. Come on, throw me something.
Well…I’m not sure.
Listen. I live in the East Bay, went to a Catholic School, work here in Oakland. You can drive yourself and I promise not to grope.
She had a broad smile. Yes, I’ll meet you then.
I actually get off in like twenty minutes.
Great, Alden kept his voice calm, trying not to sound too anxious. How about across the bridge? It is called Mona Lisa’s. It’s small, quiet and just south of Vallejo on Broadway. You know where City Lights Book Store is?
Just north of that on the same side of the street.
Alden drove there immediately, waiting for her at the bar. The dinner was perfect. She possessed a very energetic personality that mixed well with an enthused calm that accompanies gin. When they finished sharing a cannoli, Cadi stretched her arms above her head, letting her body reach for an imaginary point in the ceiling.
I must get going. she said gently. I need to be at school in the morning.
I can’t believe you work two jobs and go to school full-time. Do you ever sleep?
In small doses. My day starts at six.
Bryant Gumbel sleeps later than that. May I at least walk you to your car?
I would like that. she laughed.
As they walked back to the parking garage around the corner, Alden was cautious to walk on the outside. She said his stare made her uncomfortable, that it was intense and disarming, so he respected her wishes and kept his eyes forward.
Suddenly she hugged his arm with both of her’s and brought her cheek up against his shoulder. Why couldn’t I have met you a month ago?
Because we are meant to meet now.
So you’re a fatalist as well? Seems to me a man of your intelligence wouldn’t believe that sort of thing.
Our futures are not set. We are not predestined. Nevertheless, when we head in the correct direction, life has a way of granting us opportunity.
May I take you to another dinner sometime? Maybe a movie as well?
I would love to, but I do not think that my boyfriend would enjoy us going out again.
Alden’s mind calculated, Then why did she go to dinner? Don’t invite him then.
Cadi grunted, laughing through her nose, You are confident aren’t you?
He was beginning to surprise himself; defeating his shyness all night. Yeah, and it’s usually followed by long periods of self-loathing. Don’t you fret that lovely little head of yours.
Cadi gathered herself and stretched a broad smile across her face, I would love to go out with you then.
He could feel his entire body rejoice. And before I leave for Italy! Perfect.
* * * * *
Alden felt nauseous. Four days of scotch doesn’t do wonders for a middle-aged body. He unlatched the necklace. It was his first time without it since its purchase. He spat in the sink. Alden’s head ached and his body hurt from incapacitation. He took a deep breath, letting the oxygen fill his lungs—the bathroom felt small, the air tight against his skin—he wanted to escape—to burst through the door and into the street.
I’d last about two minutes, then die from exhaustion. He focused his mind on her. Cadi, he whispered. I am glad Stephanie is here. She’s a good friend. After all these years…
Why do you have to talk to her? Cadi’s voice strained. She was tired. Just tell me, do you still love her?
It’s not like that. I swear woman. Alden felt his heart beat rapidly as his body reawaken. This will go on all night. I have to get to the office and they are sick and tired of me being absolutely worthless. Listen, if you want to talk about this tomorrow we can. Stephanie and I have been good friends for over ten years. Did we date? Yes. Did I sleep with her? Yes. Did I live with her? Alden let his voice arc in order to emphasize the question. Yes, he said flatly. Do I love her? he paused, In a way.
She began to cry again.
Wait. Let me finish. he spoke impatiently. I love her as I would a family member. I’d say a sister, but it is not like that. She is a very dear friend.
I have never stayed friends with any of my exes.
I don’t know anyone else who has either. After we broke up…
Did she leave you or the other way around? she interrupted.
Not that it matters, but I left her.
When she was still in college. Let me finish. Alden paused to remember where he was.
Yeah? Cadi asked without hesitation.
After you broke up… she goaded.
Okay. After we broke up, I didn’t speak to her for over a year. I felt really bad for the way things ended and she had always been a really good to me. I was sitting at the computer one night and I shot her an e-mail.
Just like that?
Just like that. I had finally gotten control of my drinking…
What? Part of your twelve-step program?
I never did any of that. Besides, I still drink. Things were getting out of control again and I didn’t want to relapse. Now let me finish. I had dried out and dealing with a lot of guilt. After so many straight days of drinking, you don’t exactly sleep very well. So, I decided to see how she turned out.
And what did she say?
She had been going out with some guy at the time and was surprised to hear from me. She thought she would never hear from me again.
Did you try to get back together with her?
No, never crossed my mind. Over the last ten years, we speak off and on. Whenever we have problems and we want to speak to some one who isn’t in our cubicle of friends we call each other.
When was the last time you called her?
Two days ago.
So what kind of problems can you not come to me about?
First of all—Alden started to yell, but instead took a deep breath—First of all, I was returning a call and I asked you to wait until I was finished. I was going to tell you that we sometimes just call each other to see how the other is doing. I love her in a way that makes me care if she’s all right. I don’t want to sleep with her. I don’t want to date her.
I thought you said that men and women can’t be friends.
I did. And they can’t. I did not want to go into this much detail. I think that if she lived in the same town rather than across the country and we saw each other often it’d be different.
How do you mean?
Christ! If two people have a history, it can be rekindled. Maybe they to lunch, hang out… You know, rekindle something. But I talk to her three times one week, then I don’t hear from her, not for six months.
Fine. Cadi proceeded to get undressed. I am going to bed. She stretched her arms out and yawned in surrender.
Why do I always go through this with women? I never understand what’s the problem with a woman who lives three thousand miles away. It is not as if I am flying out to Miami every week. I haven’t see her since I left her at the airport twelve years ago. Well, I forgot that one time, but there is no reason to make matters worse.
Alden left the bedroom and headed for the kitchen. Opening the fridge, he let the cold air of the freezer envelope a sweating body. He loved the way the bottle produced a powder blue hue as the seal broke from the fridge. Grabbing a bottle of gin from its designated spot, he chuckled about the fight they had when she first moved in. His thoughts bathed in the blue shine as he unscrewed the cap and took a swig. Placing it back in the freezer, he closed the door and headed for bed himself.
Did you just have a drink?
I don’t go to meetings remember?
They both laughed softly.
I am sorry. I don’t know why I get jealous.
You’ve seen that movie too many times.
You’re right. And don’t worry about it. I understand where you are coming from.
Then you can tell me why she called.
I can, but it has to wait until tomorrow. The tension dissipated from the room.
Go to sleep.
I want to know.
You are getting curious. We both have to work so get some sleep.
When the alarm went off the following morning, Cadi practically jumped clear to her feet. Alden, seated at the foot of the bed, laughed intently. Her eyes were swollen and her hair was directionless. He had waited five years, calculated, questioned, probed and dreamed. Alden was as nervous as the day he bought his necklace from her.
Looking at him, then the clock, Why are you not at work? Why am I not at work? It’s eleven o’clock! Shit Alden, I’m late! Crap, I gotta call work.
Wait—Breathe—I spoke to Dave. He knows you are not coming in.
Not going in? she asked bewilderingly. Why would I not go in?
Alden curiously watched the way she tried to discover what was taking place. I called and said we were up last late night and we needed a day. He said he didn’t mind.
He didn’t mind? Alden, he always minds.
You have one less sick day is all.
Alden this is trouble. This is not like restaurant work.
I know. He raised a breakfast tray filled with pancakes and orange juice, coffee, bacon, and sausage.
You trying to make me fat?
Relax. I know it’s a lot, I’ll help. First, I need to make a call. Read the paper and I’ll be back in a sec. He placed the breakfast tray over her lap and stepped away. Since graduating college, she found a prominent position in management for an accounting firm in San Francisco. He could see that she was still running numbers and allocating funds for things she would miss. Just read the paper. I’ll be right back. As she picked it up, Alden dipped to one knee. From the paper fell two airline tickets and a purple velvet box. There was an intense look of shock on Cadi’s face.
What is this? her voice quivered. Alden…I…
Cadi, I have known a long time. However, as you know, I have to look at everything two hundred times before I take a first step.
I don’t know. Her eyes flickered wildly. Alden could see her lips searching for words. I…
Will you marry me? I am never going to let you go.
But last night? Our argument?
That was why I spoke with Stephanie. I was running by ideas on how I should propose. I wanted it to be perfect; I would have told you right away. She helped make the plans. I want you…only you.
I…yes! Yes, of course I will. Wait…plans…what plans.
Stephanie’s Uncle Peter lives on Capri. He booked a villa for us as a family favor. Then we go to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands.
Okay so I lied again. I put in two weeks vacation for you. I ran it by Dave so as to not upset your clients. He’s known for about a month.
Dave? A month? That asshole! She laughed through her tears.
Last weekend when I flew to LA for the corporate meeting? I actually flew to Seattle and asked your father for your hand. Today was all that was left. Last night I just needed to make sure that Stephanie finalized everything and to run my game plan by her.
God I hate you so much. she laughed with her signature, half-cracked smile as the pooling tears rested on her eyelids. Of course I’ll marry you. But for the rest of our lives you can’t pull any more of this BS okay?
I am not making any deals when it comes to silver or gold anniversaries, but other than that, deal. Eat your breakfast. I have to call Dave and say he did well and you’ll see him in two weeks.
Okay. She took a bite of pancakes with a bubbling excitement and pulled the tickets to Napoli from their covers.
And don’t take too long on breakfast. We have to stop by my parents and tell them the good news. Then the limo is picking us up from there at two.
Yeah. My father insisted.
* * * * *
A disheveled Alden knelt before the sink, his hands clutching the marble. He looked like a shackled prisoner; his head bowed between his arms and his body dangled and swayed as his chest sobbed. I was so happy that day. So full of promise. Now I am staring into nothing. This continued thought met fresh tears upon his face.
Stephanie’s knuckles bounce off the door. Are you okay in there? she asked. I told you to shower, not take another nap. Her voice was much less irritated. It held a kindness Alden recalled from their past.
I’m just going to the bathroom, he lied. I’ll get in, in a second. He raised his head to encourage himself to get moving. She flew out to the West Coast as soon as she heard. He had not told her, but some one had.
Are you okay? she asked from the other side of the door, not attempting to open it.
No, he answered. Alden sat back and dragged his body across the tile until he was up against the door.
You’re leaning against the door aren’t you?
The sound of Stephanie’s back reverberated against the door. Tell me something true? she asked.
I’ve dreamt of you often over the past fifteen odd years.
Tell me something real?
I love her so much you could grab it in your hands and feel the way it blankets the air.
Tell me something honest?
I let you go because I would have ruined your life. Alden heard her take a deep breath. My drinking at the time would never have stopped. I would have eventually run away. Possibly leaving a child…Whatever else you would have tried to build with me.
I know. her voice whispered. Tell me something no one else knows.
For the past four days, I wondered if it would have been you if I hadn’t left. If by leaving you, I saved you and was left for this. There was a long pause. You should have never come. I thank you Stephanie. I will always love you. Never in the way Rich does and never enough. She was my one. I waited my whole life for her…for this…
The rain poured down in torrential anger. He could barely see the lines that marked the ground he walked while cars impatiently crossed his path with windows cracked and lights reflecting on the large droplets of water that gathered on their unforgiving metal.
Alden dialed the number and brought a mobile phone to his ear. I just got in. I’ll be home in a couple of hours. How are you? Alden asked.
I am fine. There was static in the connection. I am going to the store to get some milk. But I should be here by the time you get in. Don’t be in too much of a rush. I’ll wait to hear from you before I start dinner.
You shouldn’t have waited. I am debating between a hotel or taking BART in.
Don’t take BART. I don’t want to head back out to get your car. She paused. So are you coming or what? There was impatience in her voice.
I’ll call if I decide on staying in the city. The phone cut.
What was that?
I’ll call if I change my mind.
Okay, she said and hung up the phone.
Alden stepped from beneath the awning and headed for the bus. She will love this. Hopefully I can beat her back home. Stepping on the commuter, he opened his briefcase and gazed at his contract. I can’t believe it! Quickly he closed the case and took his seat in the middle. The rapid way to which it filled was an added bonus. After waiting only a few minutes, the shuttle departed the airport for the BART station.
The ride back was unbearable. The train, though making much better time than his car, moved with a tortuously slow rocking progression. Alden constantly found himself opening and closing his black leather-bound case with the impatience of a child at Christmas. When it finally reached his stop, Alden readied himself for a full sprint. This far east of the Bay offered no relief from the downpour. In fact, it appeared to be worse. Exiting the terminal, Alden saw his car parked only a few feet away. He congratulated himself for his wonderful coup. The surprise was complete.
The car gently rolled into the driveway and Alden turned off the headlights to surprise Cadi. I did beat her, he thought, noticing the absence of light from within the house. Looking across the street he saw his neighbor rocking gently in his chair. An old man stared blankly into the rain. He thought about sharing his good fortune, but decided against it. Alden waved, but received no response. I’ll invite him over for coffee tomorrow while Cadi’s at work. Which reminds me, make a note to call Dave to see if Cadi can get some time off. I think it’s time to go to Cabo. Alden walked to the door and inserted his key. Inside, the house was pitch-black.
Suddenly, Alden felt a violent jolt in his chest! He quickly grabbed the ceasing muscles, feeling for physical wounds; its was hard to breathe and his ribs constricted. Alden’s knees went weak and his face burned. There are voices of a struggle! Before his body succumbed to fear, he raced toward the bedroom. He threw his shoulder into the door and it flew off its hinges. He raised the briefcase in his hands, using it as a shield. A man was holding some one down by the shoulders! Cadi’s being raped! In a rage, he lunged at the man. The darkened silhouette turned toward the crashing door.
Die, you Fucker! Die! Alden screamed as he met the intruder with a crash. As their bodies collided together, he noticed eyes wide with surprise—not ruthlessness, nor fear—there was no violence in this man, simply the shock of recognition.
Alden sat up, pinning the man by the shoulders. Dave?
I…I…it was an accident…didn’t mean…for…this…
A veil of shadowed confusion came over Alden’s face. He turned to see not a hurt woman, but a flushed, naked wife—his wife. He rolled off and fell against the wall.
Dave ran his hands through his short blond hair and scratched a perpetual five o’clock shadow. His downward casting blue eyes and slumped stature emphasized a meekness in his presence.
I was going to see if Cadi could have a few days off. I have good…news… Alden’s voice trailed off. There was a lacking comprehension in his words while he spoke.
I am… Cadi started to speak.
Then that was it. He did not hear anything else. There was only silence.
You know she was the one that called me. stated Stephanie.
No I didn’t.
She is worried about you.
She can burn in hell.
I think Dave is a little worried you might do something.
I wouldn’t waste my strength. It’s not as if it was his fault. The stupid whore was the one that should have said no. It was her responsibility, not some two-bit office punk with as much social skill as Helen Keller on her period. God! Alden yelled. How could I be so stupid?
You didn’t see it coming?
No. I don’t even remember them leaving. I just see her lying on that bed. She had this queer look of relief. And the more I think about that look the more I try to figure out how long it went on. Were there others? How did she meet them? Or was that social derelict the only one? Suddenly Alden fell backwards as the door opened. Why haven’t I fixed that damn door? It should open inwards. The hate and anger brought Alden closer to coherence.
Get in the shower. I have had enough of this. You’ve gone from poor me to fuck the world. Go!
Close the door.
For one, I’m a nurse…and second, we have slept together. I know what you look like. Go!
* * * * *
Alden hated to admit it, but he did feel better once he got out of the shower and ate lomo salteado, a specialty she cooked for him while they dated. Getting up from the table, he turned on the radio. A country song came on. The words were soft and melodic:
Memories and drink don’t mix too well,
Jukebox records don’t play those wedding bells.
Looking at the world through the bottom of a glass,
All I see is a man who’s fading fast.
You have got to be kidding me. Stephanie stated, the sarcasm in her voice reaching a crescendo.
You know I like it, but honest to God, not on purpose. I just wanted to hear something.
Well, turn it. There are so many things you have to deal with, the last thing you need is a twang-y redneck belting out the Woe Is Me campaign.
Leave it a second. I like this song.
A song about drinking, I cannot believe it. This is progressive isn’t it?
I learned from the best.
Am I that bad? Alden let a smile crack on his face.
Shut up. Now turn it.
It’s a good song, Alden defended. Curiously he looked at Stephanie, age had been kind to her. Maturity enhanced her beauty. Where once had been petite, slender limbs, now were rolling curves and confident eyes. However, since they had dated she developed a sharp wit.
Another country original I bet. Wait…let me guess, his dog died with him. No wait. His Mom was at the pearly gates and told him that it was too bad, the Baptists got it right and he was Catholic. Am I close?
Funny, said Alden, shaking his head. No. The song is… Alden brought his fingers to his lips, then releasing his hand, let the fingers part with a kissing sound that echoed through the kitchen. Molta bella, he finished. If you could sacrifice yourself to a plot you might get it. Mio poveri, il mio piccolo angelo.
Really?—Puccini?—You think I’m Tosca or something? Stephanie gave him a sardonic smile. If you ever got your head out of your ass, you’d walk upright.
What the hell does that mean?
Means exactly what I said.
The meaner she got, the more she came alive; the more she spoke, the less he thought about Cadi. Consequences faded from his mind as a terrible numbness came over him. Alden had not cared about anything, but his pain for four days. At this moment, he respected not even the pain. Sleep with me, he said.
Shut up, she said forcefully without hesitation.
Alden’s mind calculated the possible meanings in the way she spoke. The he thought of her husband and what Cadi spoke of in jealous rages. Rich is a good guy. And wouldn’t that be great? Dish out what happened to you not four days ago. Throw yourself off a bridge degenerate.
A Euro for your thought?
It’s more than a dollar. Your mother only offered you pennies. I remember.
He did not care anymore. He was sick of caring. I have always loved you.
Stop it. Come to me. Alden said stepping toward her.
Neruda no longer works. I am married.
So am I. I wrote you poetry. The smell of her breath was sweet as it brushed his face.
As you did so many others, she said countering his approach with a retreat.
I need you.
You do not.
Then it is a new day. Live every one as if it were the last. Carpe Diem.
You have lost your mind. Stephanie turned away. Dead Poets? Really? You forget I dealt with your movie fetish a long time ago. It is no longer mysterious, nor interesting.
Stay with me. Just lay next to me. Once again he moved forward, invading her space, yet, careful not to touch her.
Yeah right. Stephanie’s voice cracked as she tried to exude disgust.
Stephanie, I know you love me…And I love you. I am not asking for anything other than an expression of that love…for one night.
Even though we could no longer be friends? You’d ruin my marriage?
All I know is that I hurt.
Well, so do a lot of people.
Alden grabbed her by her belt as she tried to turn away. Then, with that passionate violence only acceptable between lovers, Alden pulled her body against him. One night, he said as he brought her face inches from his own.
Rich wouldn’t like this. Her voice, fallen to a whisper.
Don’t invite him then.