I awoke later with a stiff neck. Sleeping in a chair has a penalty for those in their thirties. Mia was gone. I wasn’t surprised at first. She had been getting more animated as the hours wore on. Then I remembered Bob’s comments about old habits, and I got a bit scared. I searched the bathroom and the other bedrooms on the way down the hall. I picked up my pace and didn’t slow down until I saw her sitting on a stool in the kitchen. She had her back to me, looking up at a cabinet full of SpaghettiOs. Embarrassment creep into my bones.
“Ahh, that’s kind of a little obsession of mine.” I scratched my head trying to figure a way to explain my childish tastes. She didn’t move or respond. Something wasn’t right. I walked carefully around the counter, my concern was rising. As I got close, she turned to me. There were tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Adrian loved those. Sometimes, it was the only thing I could get him to eat.” I could see the pain in her eyes. I didn’t understand the context, but I knew it hurt bad. I pulled her to my shoulder and closed the cabinet.
“I’ll get rid of them.” I didn’t care if I ever ate another can. “I’m so sorry you saw them.” I didn’t know what else to say. I had no idea why they triggered so much pain.
She pulled away from my shoulder. “No, you’ll keep them right there.” Her crying had stopped, and the tears were smeared by my shirt. “They are good memories: Adrian coming home from school, the kisses and hugs.” She was tearing up again. “I tried to get him to eat better, but he loved that crap.” She was blubbering, half laughing, and half crying. I saw more pain, and I had no way to take it away. I asked the obvious question, the one I really didn’t want an answer to, but I knew she had to answer for me.
“Adrian is your son?” I gave it present tense, hoping I was wrong, but knowing where this type of pain comes from. I felt it when my Grandma died. She dropped her head back to my shoulder.
“Was.” She said quietly. “One minute, life was great, and the next, there was a cop at the door.” She was crying and holding me tighter. “One fucking accident, and my whole family was gone.” Even though I knew it was coming, I wasn’t prepared. I felt my Grandma’s death all over again as Mia dredged up the memories of her loss. I think I knew where the “get the fuck out of here!” came from. God help us, we were two sorry fucked-up individuals.
I led her to the couch in the living room, and we sat. I wiped the tears from my eyes and prepared to listen. “Tell me about Adrian.” I knew I had to know for her sake. He had to live again, if just for a moment in this room.
I listened for over an hour as she told me about Adrian and his father Carlos: their lives and their dreams. Adrian was obviously in line to be the next President of these United States. She was married for eleven years before the accident. Adrian was ten at the time. I noticed the color coming back to her face as she went on about Adrian’s exploits. I heard how he broke his arm climbing a tree and how he won a book contest, how he had drawings all over the house, and when he drew on the house when he was three. I envied Carlos those eleven years. She looked so alive reliving them. I could only imagine the amount of love in that household. When she was done, she sighed.
“I’m so sorry you lost them.” It was a useless statement, but I couldn’t just keep staring at her. She scooted over to me and laid her head on my chest. I wrapped my arms around her.
“I can’t even remember if I told them that I loved them that morning. It really bothers me that I can’t remember that.” She wasn’t crying or blubbering anymore. It was just a pain that wouldn’t go away.
“Even if you didn’t (which I doubt) they knew it.” If her description was even half way true, they wouldn’t have had any doubts.”It didn’t sound like your family was lacking in the love department.” I absently stroked her hair. I really like playing with her hair. It seemed so natural to be running my fingers through it. Her timing was a bit bad, but she said what I had already figured out.
“Heroin lets me forget them.” I was a little surprised that she didn’t use past tense. “I shoot up, and it all goes away.” She fluttered her hand in the air. I didn’t comment on her verb tense. I was hoping it was just a slip and not a Freudian one.
“You’ve got some of your color back.” I smiled. “What do you say to something to eat?” I wanted to get off the subject of heroin, at least for one more day. She sat up.
“Dale, you haven’t eaten either.” She had a concerned look on her face. “We’ve got to get something into you, too.” She stood and headed to the kitchen with determination. I followed happily. She seemed to be getting better by the moment.
We finally cooked the pancakes. I had syrup on mine, and she shied away from the sugar. Dry pancakes and water seemed to suit her stomach. We talked about nothing special as we cooked and ate. It was as if she had lived here her whole life. We decided to spend part of the afternoon down on the beach. The summer sun was shining, and we had been cooped up inside too long. I carried down one of the pool loungers so no one would have to sit on the sand. We shared the dumb umbrella.
She was still in my robe. We would have to do something about that. I didn’t even know where she lived. We lay listening to the waves. I tried not to stare as she exposed her legs to the warm air. They had a wisp of stubble but looked soft nonetheless. She probably also needed toiletries. In my mind, I was filling closets and bathrooms, and I realized I had her moving in. I knew I was moving too fast, but the thought was very pleasant.
“I don’t want to use again, you know.” It came out of nowhere. I was a little surprised that she was thinking about it.
“What?” It was a place holder. I didn’t have time to think, but I felt she wanted me to respond.
“I know I said it wrong. It just came out that way.” She lifted her head up and looked at me. “I can remember forgetting, and it was nice. I don’t want to do it again though.” She was still tempted, and it brought fear that I felt in my stomach.
“Then move in here.” It was the only thing I could think of. I had to keep her away from her old life. “I won’t let you use again.”
“You’d live with a junky?” She looked back to the ocean. I could almost feel her shame.
“You and all your sins are welcome. You’ll just have to pile them on top of mine.” I guess it was the right thing to say. She got up and cuddled into my lounger. She folded her hand around my neck and pulled me to her lips. They were soft and warm and tasted of dry pancakes. I prayed mine tasted like syrup. I hadn’t showered or slept in over a day. She didn’t seem concerned, so I let it drop from my mind and just enjoyed the sweetest lips in the world. It was much better than the waves. I knew at that exact moment that I loved her. The world would tell me it was too soon, insane, or just lust. For once in my life, I truly didn’t care what the world thought.
“I assume that was a yes,” I said, smiling like a five-year-old at Christmas.
“This is insane! We hardly even know each other.” She was holding both sides of my head and looking into my eyes. “This could go so wrong.”
“Letting you leave could only be worse.” I pushed her hair back behind her ear. Even though they were still a bit bloodshot, I found her eyes very pretty. “Stay with me.” I asked again.
“Yes.” She kissed me again, then laid her head on my shoulder. “I really love it out here.” We listened to the waves for a few minutes. But two unshowered people on the same lounger in the summer heat was a bit much. Mia stood up with a smile, grabbed my hand, and said, “Come swimming with me.” Her energy was returning with her color. I let her pull me out of the chair, and we headed back to the pool.
“I don’t think I have a suit for you.” I said stupidly. She smirked at my ignorance.
“Then you can’t wear one either.” I had slowed down a bit. For some reason, I felt my naked body might be a disappointment to her. The sun was still bright in the sky. My fantasies with her had always involved darkness and sheets on a bed. She sensed my hesitation and turned to face me. She grabbed my other hand and gently pulled me while walking backwards herself. She was wearing a mischievous smile. When we reached the pool patio she let go of my hands and slowly dropped the robe to the stones below. I had seen her naked while crying, sweating, and freezing. I had seen her naked in pain I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. I had never seen her naked with eyes that matched her heavenly smile.
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