Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chapter 21 (2 left)

Once up in Gabriel’s room, he rooted through a dresser drawer and threw her a scrunched-up T-shirt. Ironing it out on the bed with her hands, Lennon let out a laugh.

It was a black shirt and while it probably fit Gabriel fine, it would cover Lennon down to her thighs. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper cover was on the front, in all its insane mish-mash of faces and colors.

Gabriel passed by her, saying, “Let me get the losers settled down and make sure Gerry’s handling his liquor.” He closed the door on his way out.

His room was half-empty, but she could still see relics of Gabriel’s past in there. His high school and college diplomas were prominently displayed on a bookshelf, along with a trophy and a photo of him when he played Little League. She found a framed baby picture of him, crying or yawning, and stored the memory away to tease him about later. The frame had his full name, Gabriel Robert Harris, engraved in intricate cursive. His birthday, which was in April, making him a year, a month and two days older than she was, was written out. His birth weight was also engraved on the frame. Wow, he was a big baby.

Stepping away from the door, Lennon unbuttoned her jeans and bent over to undo the zipper on her high-heeled boots and pulled them off. She shimmed out of her jeans and slipped them down her short legs. She unbuttoned her blouse and slid her arms out of her sleeves, pulling Sgt. Pepper over her head. Yeah, as she’d thought, the shirt covered her to mid-thigh. Reaching under, Len undid her bra and slipped it off. She folded her bra under her blouse and left her clothes in a neat pile on a chair.

Then she unpinned her hair. It fell to about shoulder-length now and curled up at the ends. The waves in her hair used to get on her nerves. She’d thought of it as indecisiveness on the part of her follicles. She liked it now. If she was going to straddle two races and two cultures and several states, then why should her hair be only one type of texture? Lennon shook her head, laughing at herself.

He knocked on the door and waited until she said he could come in.

“Losers settled down?”

He smiled at her crookedly. “Yeah. Two air mattresses in Sam’s room and the pull-out downstairs for the snorer.” He glanced down at her bare legs. “Are you cold? Do you want shorts or something?”

“Nah, I’m fine,” Lennon replied.

“You cut your hair,” Gabriel said, still standing close to the door. He fiddled around with his lamp, twisting the “on” knob. The light came on after a minute of his fidgeting with it, so he flipped off the overhead, engulfing the room in half-lit, gray light.

“Around Thanksgiving. Had to look presentable for the McKinney torture fest,” Len said. They stood on opposite sides of the room, staring at each other. Shadows crossed his face and his eyes were hidden.

“We’re ridiculous, aren’t we?” Gabriel finally said.

“Kind of,” she acknowledged. “When did we get so awkward with each other?”

“I wish I knew,” he said, walking toward the dresser. His fingers moved to the buttons on his shirt. “You know, maybe I should’ve taken you out to dinner or something before I kidnapped you.”

She sat on the bed, covering her legs with the comforter. He pulled the shirt off, revealing his back to her.

“This works for me,” Lennon muttered.

Gabriel looked at her over his shoulder. “Perv.”

“Dork,” she shot back. His belt slid out from around his slacks and dropped to the floor, the buckle clanging on the wood. “Is it still raining?”

“Yeah. The mud tomorrow will be interesting.”

“Maybe they should change the name of the town from Landslide to Mudslide.” The slacks came down next. “Aw. Bugs Bunny boxers!” My God, he has a cute ass.

“They were clean, all right?” Gabriel joked. He pulled out a worn t-shirt from an open drawer. He tugged it on. She thought he was purposefully flexing his arms, but she wasn’t about to complain.

“So. Hi.”

“Hi,” Len replied. “Are you tired, ‘cause I’m not. Not really.”

“You’re such a night owl. Every time I emailed at, like, two am, you’d respond back immediately.”

“Yup. And two am here is three am in New York.” She shrugged. “I’m kind of an insomniac.”

He crawled up the bed and sat beside her. “Be a bartender. You already work last call hours.” He reached for the top of the covers and shoved his awfully pale legs underneath.

“We match in paleness.”

“Ya think?” He held his left arm out straight and indicated her to do the same with her right arm. “God, Lucy, see the sun much?”

She playfully smacked his chest with the back of her hand.

“All right, so drink slinger is out. What are you going to do, babe?”

“I have no fucking idea,” Len replied after a few seconds. “I could freelance. I’m proofing a friend’s book when I go back. She’s paying me twenty-five an hour and it’s five hundred pages long.”

“Good start. You could teach.” Seeing her face, Gabriel hastened to add, “You know, like writing or something. Get Gerry to show you his latest stuff. It’s got so much more dimension to it. Because of you.”

“Let’s face it. With a name like Lennon, it’s either writer, groupie, musician or porn star.”

Gabriel burst into laughter, burying his face in his heads. Len chuckled, too, watching his shoulder shake as he continued laughing.

“It wasn’t that funny,” she interjected.

“Trying to picture you as a porn star kind of is.” He peered up at her from between his fingers. “It’d be so, so wrong. But hot.”

She knew that he was gauging her reaction. Lennon didn’t feel embarrassed. Instead she said, “Yeah? The guys in porn…not attractive.”

“I’m not looking at them!” He replied, his eyes running quickly up and down what was visible of her body above the blanket.
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“You never told me the whole story with you and Skank,” Lennon said, voice raspy, into the darkness. Buried under blankets and lying on her side, spooned against Gabriel’s chest, Len stretched a foot between his sprawled legs. He twitched a little. Lennon’s feet were small and always cold and Gabriel’s calves were warm.

“I think you can guess the gist of it, right?” Gabriel asked.

“She cheated on you with Seb.”

“Yup,” he sighed.

“How could he?” Len replied, anger in her voice.

“We were on the rocks already,” Gabriel said. “It wouldn’t have lasted that much longer. It already lasted eighteen months and honestly, I didn’t expect to see her after two weeks.”

“Why? Was it a one-night stand that went eighteen months?”

“Pretty much. We met at a show in Evanston. She came up to me. I’d never had a girl like that interested in me, one who was really bold and blunt and…”

“Well-endowed?” She suggested.

“Mmm, yeah. We slept together on our second date. She and Seb flirted incessantly. I didn’t really think much of it. They were friendly. It was easier for me if my girl and my best friend got along, since they were the ones I saw constantly.”

After a long pause, Gabriel continued on. “We were already fighting a lot—had always fought a lot—and while the sex was great, everything else was kind of…not there. All of the times you and I have talked and kidded around and texted and emailed…she and I didn’t have that. And that was all right for a while.”

“How did you find out?”

“There were a lot of whispered phone conversations on both their parts. A lot of nights when she’d suddenly be working—when I knew that she hadn’t made her latest audition or gotten the photo shoot or whatever. At shows, she and Seb would be around each other a lot. She broke up with me right before Christmas that year, told me everything, said she was out of my league, and I came back here.”

“Out of your league? Who the fuck does she think she is?”

“The indie musician thing doesn’t exactly bring in a lot of money.”

“Neither does acting,” Lennon replied. “Did you love her?”

“I thought I did.” Lennon moved her foot. Her sole was warm now, but her toes felt cold. “Lennon, your feet are freezing.”

“They generally are,” she answered, rolling over to face him. “Sorry.”

“I’ll thaw you out. I promise.”
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“Do you remember what you said to me before I left?” She asked, more to his clavicle than to his face.

“Yeah.” His eyes opened. She wasn’t sure how she knew they were open—all Len saw was a blur in the dark. “I’m going to take you being beside me right now as a positive indication of something.”

“Do you still—?” Lennon didn’t want to finish her question. What was she going to ask? “Do you still like me?” “Do you still feel the same way?” Screwing up her courage, she went on. “I feel like I’m more…”

“More what?”

“Ready,” she said. “Everything in its own time, right?”

“God, you’re quoting my lyrics…” He brushed a soft kiss on the top of her head and whispered back, “Right. Are you sure?” He rested a hand on her hip.

“Yeah…Yes. I am.” Propping her head up on an arm, she said, “I’m a lot more in control of things now. You needed time to get your head together.”

“I needed time? What about you?”

“We both did, dork.”

“You’re a wise soul, Lucy.”

“I don’t know about that. I…decided to jump off the subway platform.”

“Huh?”

“Nothing. I’ll explain later.”
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A few hours later, Lennon cracked her eyes open to the feeling of being watched. She was lying on her back, in a room that was unfamiliar at blurry first glance, and Gabriel was folded beside her, leaning on an elbow, and looking down at her shirt.

“Um…what are you doing?” She asked, voice scratchy.

“Picking out faces,” he replied. “There’s Marlene Dietrich.”

“Did you find Marlon Brando?”

“Mmmhmm. And Poe.”

“Talk about alcoholic writers.”

Gabriel snickered. “And… I can’t tell who that is, ‘cause I’m too busy looking at your breast.”

“You know, they’re not fake,” she said, stretching, causing her back to arch.

“Oh, I know,” he said, eyes following her movements. “It’s one o’clock. Get up. Let’s go to Esme’s.”

“You’re making me get out of bed?” Lennon whined.

“I’m luring you with food, though.” He reached over to the nightstand for something and slipped her glasses onto her ears.

“That’s the same thing Stace used to do in college to get me out of bed on the weekends,” Len recalled.

“Great minds think alike. Come on. Let’s go out on a date.”

“A date?” She giggled.

“Yup. And then, I’ll let you help sort Stacey’s things out. And tomorrow, I’m taking to you to dinner in Sedalia.”

“Oh, are you now?” Lennon replied, pleased that he was making plans. She sat up, one bare leg dangling to the floor. “All right, I accept. Any other plans, Ricky?”

“We have five days. Let’s not waste it.”

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