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28 July 2007 @ 08:31 pm
Loose Ends Rejoined  
My mother has always called me a late bloomer. This was out of pity, I think. If you had lived with us, you would understand that her pity was well-founded, because my father was a man who believed the duties of family and citizenship require a level of self-denial and suppression of emotion that would render most persons spiritually sterile. I was a disappointment to Dad; the middle child in years, but the last in everything else.

When my older brother, Gary, reached his junior year in high school near the head of his class, Dad remade our two-car garage into an apartment for him, ostensibly to help him learn the responsibilities of adulthood. I knew by the way they spoke of it, however, that Dad really only wanted Gary to be free of the room we had shared for fourteen years and of my "less driven" influence. This was further proven by Dad's refusal to say that I could take up residence in the new apartment when Gary finally left for college, although I was by then at the same age Gary had been when he moved into it. It was a barely-hidden secret that he would be reserving it instead for our sister, Esther, who is a year younger than I am.

During Gary's senior year, though, the apartment had become the scene of many eye-opening events for me, and the summer before he left I spent as much time there as he did and got into more trouble with his friends. When the time came to drive Gary to the airport, Dad and I were at such odds that he relented, if only to get me out of the house. To him, I was incorrigible, although I was yet a sixteen year old virgin who had barely had any chances to drink or try drugs. I looked forward to my new situation with a certain enthusiasm, if an unexpectedly lonely one. I worked nearly full time stocking a Target store and would have to keep the job during the school year in order to pay rent. Moreover, my few friends were too nerdy to talk into late-night get-togethers, whereas most of Gary's were also leaving for out-of-state universities, so I believed that my partying days were over. How little I understood the power of freedom and a convenient place for young people to flop.

One person who didn't leave town, nor was reluctant to break curfews, was Gary's girlfriend, Beck. They had been reasonably close for over a year, despite some friction over her flirtatiousness, and parted on amiable terms earlier in the summer, knowing a long distance relationship would be nearly impossible to maintain; but she kept finding reasons to come by the house until the day he left, which made me suspect that she didn't want it to end. Two weeks before school started again, the night that I finally moved into the garage apartment, I found out that was not the reason at all.

Beck was very attractive, in person and personality, and I wasn't the only one who had a crush on her. Her lively attitude was announced to everyone around her by her short, spiky red hair, as it always seemed to be in motion, as well her short but well-toned (and often bare) legs. She knew how popular she was and reveled in it, wasting no opportunity to tease Gary's friends or me. Especially me. She was also one of the most active partiers, which often made her the center of attention. She was very much one of the guys when it came to drinking or smoking pot, and few girls would come around when she was there, as she easily monopolized the interest of the boys in the room. Plus, she was my age, younger than most of Gary's friends and not really a part of the circles they ran with in school. I resented Gary for that, that because they were together she bated me playfully, even in subjects she and I shared, relegating me to the rank of little brother among our classmates.

It was obvious to Gary and everyone else that she singled me out for special ribbing only because I was Gary's younger brother, but I wanted to believe otherwise. I wanted to think that she secretly liked me as well. The only evidence I had of this, however, was the fact that she alone called me "David" rather than "Dave", and rarely in a facetious tone. Anyone else would think it was for the opposite reason, but I had told her that I didn't like the nickname when we first met, so she never used it after. Of course, when she became Gary's girlfriend, there was no question of trying to go further, but that was one thing I held on to.

Dad and I argued over that apartment constantly the summer before Gary went to college, and even after he became frustrated enough with my nagging to agree to let me have it I had to practically beg to get the keys. As soon as I had them, however, I moved nearly everything I had in, except for my bed and a few things I wished I could forget. Gary's full-sized waterbed had obviously been too big to fit a college dorm. I had never slept in the waterbed, although I had passed out on the plush sofa in the living area several times, and it surprised me that the first night proved a restless one. I had moved more boxes than I had expected and was exhausted, but the motion of the bed was distracting and the way it buoyed my body felt strange.

Nevertheless, I had almost fallen asleep when I heard a sound toward the back door, like someone was trying to open it. If I hadn't been groggy with half sleep, I probably would have been scared, but instead I just got up to see who it was, expecting my best friend, Corey. All the while Gary had rented the place, he had left that door unlocked, as it opened on the back alley and only his friends and mine knew of it. Once he left, Dad had locked it, but I had been unwilling to let that go and so a couple of times crawled through the living room window, which had a broken latch. Both times, upon leaving, I found the back door already unlocked, but believed that I had done it and just forgotten. There seemed to be nothing in the place disturbed, after all. When I heard someone back there, I thought I would find Corey because he had turned into quite a pothead in the previous few months and was the kind to sneak around and look in every possible spot for discarded roaches or lost buds. My foggy mind could easily see him as the culprit who had broken in before, and I resolved to scare him as a lesson. By the time I reached the door, though, all I heard was the usual racket of cicadas. There was no one in sight in the gloomy alley.

Then I heard a scraping at the window across the room, and knew immediately by the dark, spiky profile against the main house's porch light that it was Beck. She apparently had not seen me in the shadows of the kitchenette, but stopped trying to open the window as soon as I came to it. I half expected her to run or hide, but she just stood there, waiting. I told her to go around, and went back to meet her when she did.

"Hi, David," she said, coming partway in, "Why are you here?" She sounded nervous, which was odd, given her normally flippant attitude toward me, but I guessed that she felt out of place here without Gary. If she did, she was right.

"I live here now. Just moved in today." Her nervousness and uninvited presence put more pride in my voice than I really felt, and I saw disappointment on her face.

"Oh," she muttered. She did feel out of place. I realized, late, that she must have been the one who had broken in before. It was very curious, but I was too happy to see her to read much into it.

"Um, come in," I said, and waved her by while I closed the door. Beck was dressed all in black, T-shirt, jeans, and Chucks. Even her tiny purse was a dyed lizard skin cylinder.

She did come in, but only as far as the counter between the kitchenette and the living area, where she stood, gazing at the wide candles she herself had brought weeks before. Their possible significance wasn't lost on me, and my mind went directly to the drawer that held a large box of matches.

"You haven't changed the place much." A bit of her spice crept back into her voice.

"Yeah, there wasn't much to change. The bedroom's full of crap, though. It's amazing how much shit I had stuffed into my old room." I automatically went for the matches, thinking that my parents would be less likely to notice candles this late at night than the overhead. I was still not used to the idea of living alone. "Sit down. You want a coke or something? I'm afraid I don't have any beer. But, you know, I haven't seen Chuck since Gary left." Chuck was the older brother of one of Gary's friends and, as such, a valuable supplier of alcohol. Without Gary, that route was cut off, at least for me.

Beck went to the sofa and sat, but not comfortably, then muttered a "No, thanks." I took out the box of matches and grabbed one of the big blue candles on the way over to her, and she looked genuinely puzzled at this. Lighting it, then sitting in the rag-and-wood `70s style chair across from her, I was struck by how the candle flame highlighted otherwise unseen golden strands of her hair. She really was very pretty.

"So, now you know my story, why'd you come over?" I hadn't meant it to sound accusative, but she seemed to shrink away from the question anyway.

"Can you keep a secret?" She asked, nervous again.

"Sure. I mean, who would I tell?" Without Gary, we actually had very little in common outside of school.

"Don't tell anybody, especially not Gary. I know he'd want to come back and do something about it."

"About what?"

"It's my mom. You know she's been seeing that asshole from work." Her voice trailed off, and I was suddenly fully attentive.

"Yeah, uh... James, or Jeremy, right?"

"Jerry, yeah. Well, he gets her real drunk, and when she gets home like that but they don't screw, we have these huge fights about total bullshit... stuff. Just nothing. But I can't be there, you know?" She spoke without looking up until the last. There might have been some fear in her eyes, or maybe it was just the low light.

"So, you're the one who left the back door open on Monday and Wednesday?" Looking down again, she nodded. "Hey, it's alright, you can crash here whenever. Just, y'know, don't gank the food, or I'll have to kiss my parents' asses for more." My tone was meant to reassure her, and, by her audible huff, it seemed to help.

I didn't know what else to say. The situation was so alien to anything I'd experienced before. Here was a very cute girl who I'd had a crush on for who knows how long, basically asking to spend the night alone with me. If I had been a more savvy playboy, I might have imagined a subtle seduction, but as it was...

"You sure you don't want something to eat or drink? I feel like I should offer something, seeing as how you're my first guest." She smiled at that, which made me feel great.

"Yeah, I guess. I walked over. What do you have?"

"Ah, well," I jumped up and ran to the ancient refrigerator. Its sudden illumination temporarily blinded me. Then, "I've got... not much." I cringed. I had forgotten that I left the few groceries I bought with Mom that afternoon in the main house. "A two liter of DP, probably stale, some microwave burritos?" She shook her head. "Oh, I've got a tub of Chunky Monkey."

"Perfect."

"Cool." I got that, then the Dr. Pepper also. I was thirsty, if she wasn't. "I haven't washed any cups yet, though." Fortunately, I had remembered to get plastic dinnerware; but I had to take the ice cream and Dr. Pepper out to her before I could look for it.

"How long has this been in the freezer?" She asked while I was digging through the drawers. After only a few hours, I had lost stuff in my own place. Typical.

"Uh, couple of weeks? I think Mom got it for our little family send off for Gary. Why, is it freezer-burned?" It had felt full, so it shouldn't be too bad. Beck was licking an ice cream-covered finger when I came back with spoons, though. I hadn't been in the fridge since the first night after Gary left, when I had checked to see if the 'frozen broccoli' was still there. It wasn't.

"Mmmm," was all she said. I was enjoying her smile at least as much.

"Here you go," I splayed out a handful of plastic spoons, "I brought a bunch in case they break."

"Very thoughtful, little brother." So, she was nearly back to normal. Well, two can play.

"I'm three months older than you, and you're going to find it hard to marry Gary after he bags the female half of the Dartmouth freshman class."

"Shit. Him? He's probably cowering in his dorm room, hiding from all the bulldyke feminists." The subject of her and my brother's break up had been fodder for the whole summer. For me, it was a way to deflect her more personal jabs.

We dug into the ice cream and Dr. Pepper together, playfully stealing them from each other. Since I didn't have any clean cups, we traded drinks out of the bottle. With this and the slow-burning candle, I began to see that the situation had romantic possibilities after all, however low brow. Beck said no more about her mother, so I didn't ask. Likewise, I dropped mentions of Gary. There was no need to spoil our little powwow. Eventually, the ice cream was nearly gone, and our competition for it became more fierce, and more funny to us. Beck held up the Dr. Pepper, which was still a quarter full, as if to use it to fend me off.

"Hey, be careful with that," I laughed, then lunged for the tub of ice cream. Rather than sling the bottle toward me, however, Beck accidentally dropped it beside her on the sofa.

"Oh, shit!" She squeaked, and shot up, rubbing at her now wet side.

"Get the bottle!" I interjected, reaching for it myself. I got it before it had emptied, but at least a cupful had splashed onto the cushion and into the space between it and the next.

"Oh, fuck. I'm sorry, David. And this your first night." I was already on the way to get a towel from the closet in my bedroom, thinking-my towel. My closet. My bedroom.

"It's okay, we can just turn over the cushions for tonight." Bringing plenty of towels was something my mother had insisted upon. Smart Mom.

"I don't think so," Beck said as I came back out into the living area, "it's wet on both sides. And this is the cushion that sorority girl puked on, remember?" She was holding the cushion up to look at in the candlelight and poking it with an index finger. Even in the low light, I could see the dark stain stretching around its edge and the lighter, older one practically covering one side.

"Oh, yeah. Fuck. Well, here, you can use this to sit on it, anyway." I took the cushion from her and brushed it off somewhat with the towel, then replaced it as it had been with the towel over it. There had been enough spilled on it to make the towel too damp for sitting, however. Beck leaned against an arm of the sofa and looked at me expectantly.

"I guess I could sleep on the floor," she intoned sheepishly. Oh, but her smirk said so much more. The floor was carpeted, but solid concrete underneath. She wasn't about to sleep on that floor.

"Or you could just sleep in the bed with me." As I said, two can play. Her smirk widened and her eyebrows raised into that 'Do you think you have what it takes?' look I had seen her use so often with Gary. But she reached down to the coffee table to pick up her purse.

"Alright, little brother. But stay on your side, or you'll wake up a little sister."

"Heh. I'll try to restrain myself." I wanted to sound as sarcastic as possible. In truth, my heart was beating like mad. I couldn't believe what had just happened, or how quickly it had. I would have to restrain myself from just jumping straight into bed that minute.

"weeell," she drawled, pulling away from the sofa's arm, "I'm pretty tired already. I need to pee, though."

I gestured toward the bathroom, speechless. Even if nothing more titillating happened, sleeping beside Beck would be the highlight of my whole summer and make all of my arguments with Dad worthwhile. I doubted that I'd get much sleep, though, if my heart didn't settle down. Unless it burst. The thought made me giggle softly, which Beck heard while turning.

"What?"

"Nothing. I was just wondering what Gary would think about this." as the thought indeed entered my head, albeit not as funny as the one it replaced. She waved it off and walked away.

"Fuck him. He's probably getting reamed by some fratboy named Mitch."

I watched her walk to the bathroom, unsure of my next move, then thought of the sofa again. I grabbed the towel, balled it up, and rubbed the cushion more thoroughly, then set it up against the arm to dry. The towel I threw onto the kitchenette's counter, then picked up the candle and walked, practically jogging, to my bedroom.

At that time, I was wholly innocent of the affections of women. Beyond a few, rare kisses, I had reached sixteen with as little experience as the average middle schooler. To tell the truth, I was scared to death of being close to girls I liked, and so unwittingly sabotaged every opportunity I was given by making a fool of myself. Through Gary, Beck knew this, and had joined him in mocking me for it on more than one occasion. Emotionally speaking, that night I was a basketcase.

I had to pass the bathroom door in the short hall between the living room and bedroom, and for an instant I considered stopping to listen at it. It was an unsavory thought, I know, but such was my mood. Fortunately, that thought was overshadowed by my fear, for surely she could hear my footsteps, and lack of them, much more easily than I could have heard what she was doing. I hurried on, set the candle on the shelf-like headboard of the bed, and sat with my back against it.

I was already in my underwear, which I suddenly became intensely aware of. Although Beck and I had seen each other in more embarrassing situations, even skinny-dipping in Benbrook Lake, it had always been among a group, and with her safely on the arm of my big brother. This was as different as night and day. I'm sure my genes were hoping they might get a workout that night, but the rest of me would be happy just to be able to calm down. For once, I missed the bitter taste of beer and the acrid taste of pot smoke.

When Beck came out of the bathroom, the momentary flash of light before she turned off the switch blinded me again, but I recovered quickly.

"Sorry," she said, chuckling, as she walked around the bed, "I like that you brought the candle in. I like to sleep with a nightlight on." That was something I didn't know. Gary would have known, but I knew he never used one even when she was with him.

The candle was placed too high for the flame to illuminate the floor, so she stumbled twice over boxes before reaching the other side of the bed. She was only in her T-shirt and boxers (a tidbit of information that had long since become common knowledge), and I guessed that she must have hung up her jeans to dry. Good thing for her both the jeans and the T-shirt were black, because I didn't have a washing machine to soak them in and Dr. Pepper would probably stain. All this went through my head in the time it took her to take four steps; anything to keep my mind away from the gaps in her boxers and speculation about the immediate future.

Whatever thought I might have had instead would not have equaled what actually happened, however, because once she stopped at the other side of the bed, she reached backwards and pulled off her T-shirt, baring her breasts exactly as if she were doing it alone in her own bedroom. When she freed her head from the shirt, she had no more unusual expression on her face than a yawn that confirmed what she had said. I, however, was stunned to the core. I'm sure I was white as a sheet, and if it had been brighter anyone in the room could have seen my chest pounding. I gathered every ounce of strength to look nonchalant, but it was surely a weak façade.

"You going to sleep above the covers?" She asked.

"Uh, no. I was just waiting for you." Although that didn't make sense, either. I scrambled to get under the sheet. It was too warm for a blanket, but thankfully cool enough not to need the window unit. Electricity was going to be something I was determined to conserve.

Beck also got under, but sat back against the headboard as I had, so I echoed her. I was completely at a loss; she was in total control of the situation, even if she didn't know it. For interminable seconds, we watched the candlelight play against the opposite wall. When I couldn't stand the silence any longer, I spoke, knowing not what I should say.

"Like I said, I'm sorry I don't have any beer. None of the guys have come around since Gary's party, so I ran out of everything two weeks ago. Even my quarter bag." And that had only been the second such I had bought, allowed by Gary only because it was a special occasion. To my surprise (and quick embarrassment, because her boobs jiggled), Beck perked up and began to get out of bed.

"I've got a joint in my purse. I'll be right back." Rather than get out the way she got in, she kicked off the sheet, then crawled over my legs and left by the corner near the door. What affected me more than watching how her small breasts moved along the way was that she held my ankle for a moment in passing. It was under the sheet, of course, but before she had made it through the door into the hall, I had sprung a rock-hard erection. Now I had something else to be nervous about, and wished I had not left off the blanket after all.

I fumbled with the sheet to hide my erection better, but ended up needing to adjust it as well. I was about to give up and lie down in some odd position when Beck came back, twiddling a good-sized joint between her fingers and grinning like the Cheshire Cat. My eyes wandered unbidden toward her flesh-colored nipples and the lighter skin just above the elastic of her waistband. I was totally lost. She could have killed me just by pulling those striped undies down. To add injury to injury, she crawled back over my legs as before, deftly missing the mess on my floor and touching my other ankle on the way. Returning to her position beside me, yet not pulling up the sheet, she handed me the joint.

"You're closer to the candle," she said with a strange tone. Was she asking me to move for another purpose? Imagining no way to get out of it, I turned away from her to rise, reach up to the candle, and light the joint. I immediately dropped back and handed it back to her, hoping she would be distracted enough to miss any hint of what was still straining against my tighty-whiteys. Try as I might to move skilfully, however, I still ended up much as she was, with the sheet bunched mostly at my knees and showing entirely too much Fruit-of-the-Loom.

Beck seemed not to notice, though, taking a first, long hit. She often bragged that she had started smoking pot at ten, just like Drew Barrymore, but no one really believed her. At any rate, she knew how to take a hit, and was one of the first who introduced me to the stuff. I think she actually liked to have people watch her smoke more than the pot itself, but I would rather have had the feeling without having to burn out my lungs. Back then, everyone seemed to do it for different reasons.

Finishing perfectly, she passed it to me. I took the hit. And promptly coughed, which made her chuckle.

"You'll never get used to this, will you?" She asked, the smile obvious in her voice.

"You never get enough of saying that," between coughs. I handed it back, shakily.

"Just take it in slowly and smoothly." She demonstrated for the umpteenth time.

"Easy for you. Your lungs are probably numb by now."

She passed it again, punctuating the gesture with a thin smoke ring. Those I could do, though mostly only with cigarettes, which I hated.

"I'm telling you. Any time you need more practice, just call me. I can find it whenever I want." This was one of her brags that so far had always proven true, although I doubt for the reasons she believed. Cute sixteen year old girls pretty much have that effect on guys, especially stoners.

It was getting harder to keep my eyes on the joint when she passed it to me. The pot quickly made her body more interesting than I thought possible. Her shoulders were covered in freckles, which reached down below her neck into the cleft between her breasts. She was beside me, but every time she reached over, she did it with her left hand, so that she had to turn the upper half of her body enough to make nearly all of those freckles visible. It was mesmerizing. Not to mention the ones on her legs. And all the light, creamy skin where those freckles stopped...

By the time the joint was down to a roach, I was flying, and leering at Beck like a guy with autism. Most unsettling of all, she seemed to be looking at me the same way. I think both of us were trying to ignore the implications, but the old saying was working overtime that night. Pot it does a body good.

Finally, I couldn't hold the roach any longer, but had nowhere to put it. Beck and I had both been flicking the ashes directly onto the floor beside the bed, but that wouldn't do for the still-lit cherry. I thought of the candle, since it was a wide one. I rose and turned to look at it, completely forgetting my erection, which had abated not a micrometer, and caught Beck in a very obvious check. My heart, which had miraculously calmed during the last few minutes, pumped at least as loudly as before, but the pot fortified me enough to place the roach on the molten lip of the candle, smearing some of its paraffin in the process. The roach promptly went out and stuck to the candle, so I dropped back to my sitting position. This time, completely sans sheet. And voila, there was my little soldier, standing at attention in his white uniform for the whole room to salute. From a face burning with shame, I looked over at Beck, fully expecting to have to defend myself against her superior wit.

She was slumped over, leaning a few inches toward me, face on fist, dead ass asleep.

I decided that it was time for me to do the same. I gazed at her for another few minutes, however, slowly coming to the conclusion that that position wouldn't be good for her to sleep in. I stretched out, got under the sheet, stealthily turning onto my side toward her, and poked her on the arm holding up her head. There was no reaction, so I did it again, hard enough to knock her head off her fist. She perked up, looking as groggy as I had felt before she showed up.

"What's uh, the deal?" She asked, Pinkwise.

"Nothing. Go to sleep."

I watched closely as she lowered herself to a more comfortable position and pulled up the sheet. Despite the pot, I committed to memory every inch of the sheet's slow journey along her body. She lay on her side, facing me. At the last, she noticed me watching her.

"Good night, David." Truer words were never spoken. But, as I had been told, in that apartment, the night wasn't over until the alarm clock went off. And I hadn't moved my alarm in yet.

"Good night, Rebekah." She smiled without reopening her eyes. She wasn't the only one in the room who had exclusive rights to use a name. I knew a few of her secrets as well.



Regardless of the pot and my utter exhaustion due to Beck's presence, I still couldn't sleep. She, of course, fell out like a dead girl. I soon gave up willing myself to sleep and concentrated on her face while my buzz slowly wore off (and my erection did likewise). I felt like a five-year-old in love with his babysitter. I was older than her, I had my own place, and she was asleep, yet still I felt utterly helpless. And stupid. But not alone. She had shown me that with her last smile.

Beck, Miss Firecracker though she was, had once been merely Rebekah Anne McLaughlin, a neighbor on our street before her mother and father were divorced some ten years before. Ever since then, she had hated her last name (no less because of its unfortunate spelling). More recently, since she had 'come out' as one of the smoking crowd, she had forbidden anyone from calling her Rebekah because, as she said it, "I'm not some lying bitch from the Bible." What she didn't tell most people, though, was that she remained a believer, even going to church with her grandmother on Easter every year. I knew because I knew her grandmother through my own paternal grandparents, who had gone to the same church before they died. She allowed me to call her Rebekah because I saw her praying one day before middle school, when her cat had run away. She swore me to secrecy and I kept that secret (and if you think this is betraying it, you're wrong).

So, everyone knew her name was really Rebekah, but not that she didn't hate it as much as she put on. There was a lot of that in Texas. For some reason, girls really despised having Biblical names, at least in public, while guys mostly didn't notice at all. I have never had a problem being called David; even prefer it. It's just not as efficient as "Dave", I guess.

Sometime during these musings, I did get a bit of a doze because, when I woke up, Beck was laid out on her back with the sheet again pushed down past her waist. I no longer felt nervous, thanks to my sleepiness and her soft, deep breathing, but I sure wanted to touch her. Truly, it was only my fear that held me back. I was not that honorable a person. The candle was still burning, but its flame was no longer directly shining on her body, thanks to its shrinking down to the shelf on which it sat, so I could only see her breasts in silhouette. Nevertheless, their slow rise and fall led my mind to places my hands would rather be.

To free myself of the torture, I gingerly crept out of bed and went to get some more Dr. Pepper. Which was now flat and warm. So, I lightly washed out the bottle and started filling it with tap water. I was going to get a drink, then put the rest in the fridge for later, but before it was totally full I heard Beck walking down the hall toward me. I turned off the tap and offered the bottle to the zombie-like shadow. She was still topless, of course, but I could barely see enough to know her by her now even more punked-out hair.

"Water? I'm afraid it's all we've got left. I could wash out a cup and add ice for you, though." She took the bottle from me, grasping about my arm with her other hand first to make a more certain contact.

"No thanks," between sips, "The ice would probably taste as bad as the water." I had to laugh. Her voice sounded as saggy as her shoulders looked. She held out the bottle with both hands, as if afraid she didn't have the strength to carry it.

"Yeah, you're right. It is colder, though." She came up beside me, brushing against me at several remarkable points, and took me by the arm.

"No, come back to bed. You're keeping me awake." That was a switch. I'd only come to the kitchenette five minutes before. Still, who was I to argue?

With the bottle in one hand and a sluggish Beck holding the other, I started back toward my bedroom. We were both skinny, but had to bunch up to get through the hall without going one after the other. During those few feet, her body brushed up against mine with every step, and the warmth of her skin made my mind whirl. When we came into the room and I set the bottle down on the floor beside the wall, Beck crawled onto the bed as she had before, though this time giving me the view from behind. Such torture.

As I got in, she curled up right in the middle, then placed an arm over me when I rolled onto my side again to face her. Her head was now only a few inches from mine, and even in the deep shadow I could see that her eyes were closed, though she was still adjusting her position as if awake. Had she been sleepwalking? Was she dreaming that I was Gary? The idea seemed ridiculous, but her arm belied any other explanation I could think of. She even pulled it momentarily tighter, as if hugging me. All very strange, yet she seemed for everything to only want to go back to sleep. I decided that prudence was my better bet and turned onto my back to gain some distance.

I dozed some more, though not deeply. I might have had a dream, but I forgot it quickly if I did. When I came around, however, I found that Beck had drawn half of her body diagonally across mine, leaving her cheek on my right shoulder and both of her legs splayed around my left one. Her pelvic bone was right... in the wrong place, and I immediately felt a stirring that I knew could easily spell Big Drama. As if on cue, Beck roused, turned her face towards mine, and opened a pair of lazy but startled eyes. Beyond her, I could see by the moving shadows on the wall that the candle had shrunk even further; but there was still enough light for me to see her smile. The stirring became a distressing fact that could no longer be ignored. And certainly couldn't be hidden.

"Never mind," was all she said. She pulled back, under the sheet, and reached for it. Utterly shocked, I let her without a peep. She went right to it, and I, who had never even been close to having it done, could tell that she knew what she was doing. I'm not sure how long it took, but I don't doubt that it broke her speed record, if she had one. In finishing, she answered a question many of Gary's friends had asked him, to no avail. She swallowed. She wiped spit off of the sides of her mouth, but that was all. After, she slid back up to my face and asked me, "D'jou like it?" I could only nod and grin like an idiot. She closed her eyes, smiling with a more serene expression, and resumed the same position she had been in when she woke. Except that her pelvis was now, somehow, placed just right.

The next time I awoke, I could tell that I had really slept, if only for a few hours, for the first twilight of dawn was drowning out the candle's shadows on the wall. Beck was still lying on me, but now she had moved mostly to the other diagonal angle, with her head directly below my chin and both her legs pretzelled around my right one. I felt so good. Sooo good. I felt relaxed like I hadn't since before the summer had started. I felt powerful in a way I never had before. Above all, I felt at home. In my home. However humble.

I watched the room change from a washed out gray to a deep, rich blue, then lighten further as sunlight began to filter between the fenceposts around the inner courtyard and through my window. I was mentally drifting with the light that had traveled ninety-three million miles to hit my bedroom wall when Beck finally roused again.

"Good Morning, Rebekah," I said, with nothing but gratitude.

"I told you, David, it's not morning here until the alarm goes off."

"I don't have an alarm clock, Rebekah."

"Then it's going to be a long night."
 
 
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