Grace Takes a Time Out Ch. 10by1nolasco©
Grace Takes a Time Out chapter 10
Before ringing the doorbell Peter takes a deep breath: he has no idea if he will walk into a crisis or a calm. After the previous day's events and emotional upheavals he is nervous, tentative, and anxious. Judy came within minutes after he called and took over, shooing him out with assurances that she would deal with the crisis, but it's a new day and he has no idea of the current state. He goes ahead and rings the doorbell as usual, opens the door, and walks in while calling out, also as usual, "Hi! It's me, Peter."
"We're in the kitchen," comes the response from Judy so he goes that way. When he walks in Judy and Grace are sitting at the table with breakfast plates and glasses spread across it and coffee mugs at hand. They are both wearing light bathrobes, clearly Grace's as Judy's is a couple of sizes too large and drapes her like curtains. They both give him welcoming smiles; both look tired and mussed. "Can we offer you coffee?"
"No thanks, I'm OK. I'll make some ice tea. S'posed to be another hot one today." He replies politely but noncommittally and goes to the stove to get the kettle to boil the water.
Grace stands and walks to him, puts her arms around him and hugs: "Thank you for taking care of me yesterday, Peter." He sets the kettle down again on the stove and embraces her. "I'm not as together as I thought and you were there to catch me when I fell. I appreciate that and I know it took a real man to do it."
Peter hugs her back: "I really can only guess what you were going through: I want to be here for you, whatever happens." He is disarmingly, naively, sincere.
She releases a bit and looks into his eyes: "And I apologize for my temper tantrum. We need to be adults and deal with our issues without screaming at each other." She smiles sheepishly.
"Yeah, I wasn't particularly calm and collected either." He lets her go slowly, then turns to the stove again to get the water going. "This grown-up stuff is tough!" he says somewhat reflectively and not to either one of the women directly. "I thought adults had it easy and just messed up because they were lazy, but now I think there's no easy way." He finishes with an ironic "Damn!" then comes to sit down at the table opposite Grace who has resumed her chair, with Judy on one side between them.
Judy speaks up: "You two are so cute: you sound like you're on a Dr. Phil episode making up. If I hadn't been up all night with Grace weeping all over me I might barf." She looks back and forth at the two of them; they are both taken aback. She sighs. "Grace: you've still got a long row to hoe and at least now I think you know it." Grace nods, almost submissively. Judy turns to Peter: "You've got a lot to learn, not because you're dumb or set in your ways, but because, to be perfectly honest, you are pretty green. And I don't mean that as a bad thing. Grace is a treasure and she can teach you a lot about life." Judy pauses after this outburst of wisdom, and looks again back and forth between them, smiling. "And now Dr. Judy has to go to work so don't run any hot water while I'm in the shower." With that directive she rises from the table and heads towards Grace's room.
Grace and Peter look after Judy for a moment and then turn to each other. Grace inhales and looks to Peter: "It's always good when someone you love reads you the riot act: they're usually right. We have some work to do." This last said very directly to Peter; he nods in agreement but waits for her to continue. "I am really tired still. Did you get some sleep?"
"I did. I'm good."
"If it's OK with you, I'm going to get a couple of hours of sleep. If I'm not up by 11:30 or noon come a wake me up. Can you do that?"
"Sure. I have lots to do. I'll plan a break for around noon; I should be able to wrap up the guest room and bath today. You rest and we'll have lunch together." She smiles, thanks him, and gets up from the table; before leaving the kitchen she walks around the table and gives him a light kiss on the forehead. The kettle boils and he starts the ice tea before he goes off to pick up on the work where he left off the day before.
After 15 minutes or so Judy looks in the door, now dressed and ready to go. "Thanks for calling me yesterday, Peter. You did the right thing and I truly do thank you." Her look is completely sincere and wanting him to know she means it. "You have a good day, and I hope to see you again soon." She smiles and gives him an air kiss.
"You too, Judy. I have your number." He smiles back and she leaves.
Around 11:00 Grace comes into the room where Peter is working. He's sealing up a paint can and has his brushes and roller in a bucket ready to clean. She's wearing a long, thin, stained, beaten-up old white t-shirt that comes down just below her hips, and flip flops on her feet. She looks awake and alert. After a few words between them she goes to work removing the masking tape and he goes to wash the tools out. A while later he returns and starts to fold the drop cloths as she continues with the tape. "The paint and stuff for my room is in my car: can you bring it in? I'm not really dressed for the neighbors to see me out on the sidewalk." She grins and lifts the hem of the shirt to show him her dark red low rise panties; he rolls his eyes in mock surprise and leaves the room again to get the paint. Another hour and the guest room is done except for moving all the furniture back – the walls need a few more hours to dry – and they agree to break for lunch.
They are sitting at the table on the back patio with their sandwiches, ice teas, and some chips. Peter is in his normal work uniform of running shorts, messy t-shirt, and paint-stained tennis shoes; Grace has added jeans to the old t-shirt she was wearing earlier. The conversation is lagging, skirting around the issues and events they are both concerned about, until Grace asks: "Think I'm crazy?" and she asks it quite seriously.
He looks back at her, equally seriously, and pauses before he answers: "No. But I think you've been pushing yourself pretty hard. Crazy hard? I've seen that in sports when I was in high school: people who would focus on nothing but improving their performance and they could get pretty intense and if anything went wrong be really down about it or blame themselves, or if the parents were pushing too, blame the parents. That make any sense?"
"Some, yeah. I think I've been pushing back against the implosion in my life since Joe died, as if I could keep it from overcoming me or the kids. As if we were trapped in a bag that was getting smaller and smaller. Judy seems to think I should ignore the implosion, or at least not respond to it directly. The bag: she'd just pick up the biggest knife in the kitchen and slash her way out, drag the kids out, and tell the bag to go fuck itself." They both smiled at that.
She continues: "I spend a lot of time pushing back, not so much slashing. When she put it that way, it made some sense. But it's all so tiring. I've felt trapped and lonely: what I really want is to feel vibrant and alive again. Can you understand that?"
"I think so, in some ways." replies Peter, slowly. "I haven't had such bad things happen to me, but I can understand about everyday drudgery and feeling like there's no way out. Sometimes in high school I felt that way, but when I compare it to your last year, mine was pretty trivial. And I've seen that when you feel good you really light up. I like that."
"My relationship with Judy started more as a way to cope than change my surroundings: get my mind off the every day and have some bright spots in the day or the week. But this painting is the first real thing I've done to make actual changes and in some ways I've been fearful of the process. Then there's my list with 'getting rid of Joe's clothes' on it – that's scary too."
"What about me?" is Peter's almost spontaneous question.
She smiles at him; her eyes sparkle a bit and she licks her lips. "You are definitely the most challenging, most unplanned, and brightest spot for me right now. More like a lightning bolt than just a bright spot." He looks surprised, but unsure of her meaning. "Really, Peter. I had absolutely no designs on you when you arrived last Monday, and I'd been looking at you, known you, for years; in the last 8 months you've been here 2 or 3 times a week. Then 'Wham!' and I'm all over you. It was like I was so stressed that day and after the kids and parents left I got about 5 minutes then you show up looking gorgeous and friendly and available. I just thought in some non-verbal way – 'I'd like to have some of that'." She chuckles with the recollection.
"And so you did." returns Peter. "Can't say as I resisted much, either." A smile. "But how does that – me – fit into getting Joe out of your life or whatever you were saying before? I don't want to be a problem for you. You were pretty wiped out yesterday it seemed to me and I don't want that to happen again or go on."
"It's more about me being in charge of my life than pushing Joe out: the painting, closet clearing, those sorts of things. I was stressing about repainting the – my – bedroom even though I never particularly liked the color, but Joe did. You were – are – a more radical departure: you are my wild, no-impulse-control side taking charge. And I really like it! You make me feel vibrant and alive!"
"But we can't go on forever. You said at the beginning and I think so too that this can't go on indefinitely. I like you, I don't know, more than anyone, but we can never be equal."
"Actually we are equal, but we're different, too. I think that as human beings, moral and responsible, we are equal. I have more life experience, that's all. These are different things. But you are right, we can't go on forever, but we can go on for another week and a half." The glint in the eyes again, the mile. "I want to."
He looks away and takes a breath. "It's gonna be like withdrawal at the end, isn't it? You'll have the kids to take up your time, and Judy; I guess I'll have to get a life, my own life."
"Yeah, withdrawal. I hope the journey makes the unpleasantness of arrival worth it. You want to talk, anytime about anything, call me." A pause as she thinks about what's next. "Look, about yesterday: it was a perfect storm of all those other conflicts combined with my downer date with Stan," Peter looks up sharply in surprise "and you snapping at me." He's about to come back and defend himself but she cuts him off before he can: "I'm not saying it was your fault or you were wrong, but that I was in a pretty uncertain place and you gave me a push, and all my conflicts and self-doubts exploded inside me."
"Remember I told you I remembered Stan as sort of shallow?" she asks, leaning forward as if seeking validation of some sort. He nods agreement, his eyes fixed on her. "Well if he was shallow before, he has now completely dried up and there's nothing left but a flat, dry, dusty lake bed. I kept trying to find something familiar and likeable, I kept thinking 'is this the right guy?', and I didn't let go or walk away when I should have. It was death by a thousand pin pricks and I should have gotten away. So when you walked in I was feeling like crap and all the Joe stuff whirling around in my mind like some guilt inducing tornado. First I fought back, then I collapsed."
"How are you now?" He is genuinely concerned, and curious: nobody has ever had a conversation with him remotely like this one.
"I feel good. I know I have things to work out, but I have a clearer plan. Judy convinced me to go back to the support group. And I know I have the two of you on my side." She pauses as she tears up a bit, then gives him a hesitant smile. "I need to think about me and the kids first; Joe's gone, I'd like to think he'd want me to press on and that's what I want, too. The details sure do suck, but that's what I have to do, that's my plan, and I'm not looking back!" She has pumped herself back up and looks at him expectantly, then asks quietly: "What about you?"
"I would have told anyone who asked me two weeks ago me that I knew you well; now it's so different, so much more. And not just the sex – I feel treated like an adult and expected to be one, too. Don't get much of that at home." A rueful smile. "If you feel like I'm leaning on you please tell me: I don't want to add to your problems." He looks at her directly to emphasize this. "I'll walk away before I cause trouble." She gets up and comes around the table to him, goes behind him and reaches her hands to his shoulders, down his chest, to give him a squeeze.
"What'll it be like dealing with people my own age?" he goes on. "I have no idea, and I'll try not say anything critical like 'you have no idea what bad is', but I guess I'll look at all my friends and their issues differently. I liked you before, Grace, and now I feel so much closer. Cutting it off is going to be tough." She leans forward over him and kisses his forehead.
"Thanks. I know what you mean. Let's go move some furniture."
An hour later no furniture has been moved. They are lying down in her bed, face to face, embracing, talking quietly. The guest room paint had not been dry enough for moving that furniture back; the furniture in her bedroom had been too heavy? Inviting?
They had embraced and kissed and he had decided to go as slowly as he could so if she wanted to stop she would have time. But she didn't: she let him kiss and embrace her and she returned both equally. She let him run his hands over her, touch every part of her he could reach, and made no resistance other than low, guttural noises. He had removed her clothing with almost painful slowness, and she didn't have that much on, that it seemed to take hours. She removed his clothing in occasional bursts of desire and frustration. Once they were stripped, they kissed and licked and tried to inhale every part of each other's torsos so that when they finally made love he went off like a rocket, leaving her less than satisfied. But he both knew this and was able to bring her to climax with his hands and his tongue.
Now, in the post-afterglow (it's been 15 or 20 minutes) they are discussing a most incongruous topic: seeing other people. They remind each other of their original rules of non-exclusivity, non-attachment, non-romance; that when their time is up they will go separate ways and have their separate lives and relationships. They embrace and she rolls him on top of her and reaches down to guide him into her body. They move together slowly at first but after a few minutes with increasing speed, clutching at each other, holding. Faster. She cries out "Don't stop, Peter!" He grunts and stiffens, she stiffens and groans loudly and they are rigid together for a moment, then softening.
Another round of afterglow and post-afterglow. "We should get some work done or people are going to wonder just how lazy we are." Grace says with a smile. "The painting has to get done sometime." He rolls away from her onto his back and stares up at the ceiling, his breathing now steady; she runs her hand down his chest and stomach to his groin. "Come on, sweaty guy. We won't waste time putting on clothes 'cause we'll just get them all sweaty, too. Naked furniture movers – that'll be fun!" and she giggles as she sits up and steps out of the bed, still holding one of his hands to pull him after her.
It takes almost an hour to get the guest room in order, her bedroom furniture moved so he can start to paint the room tomorrow, and the guest room bed made up for her as she'll be in here for a few days. And they're still naked and still sweaty. "Ice tea?" he asks admiring her clear, smooth, slick and glistening skin, her smiling face with fly-away dark blonde hair stuck to parts of it, and her full breasts. She agrees, not to subtly eyeing his olive-skinned muscular figure, smiling eyes, and hanging penis. They go to the kitchen to see if there's any ice tea left – fortunately there is so they pour glasses and look for snacks. About all they can find is a bunch of bananas, so they sit at the kitchen table ("easy to clean sweat off the vinyl chairs later" says Grace) and they watch each other peel and eat bananas. Grace is the first to break out in giggles as they play with their food; Peter suggests, as seriously as he can, that maybe the peels would make good birth control devices, then he starts to laugh.
"Time to be serious." Grace says with as straight a face as she can manage, bunching her eyebrows together in feigned seriousness as she looks at him. "What's the schedule for the next couple of days?"
He takes a moment to compose himself. "Well, paint tomorrow morning, but I have to be off by 1:00 to go home and get ready for the party."
"That's right, your family barbeque. I almost forgot." She gives him a sly smile. "I can get you off by 1:00," giggles "and I promise to behave at your family's party. I can probably even say something nice about you that would not shock your mother." She giggles again, he blushes.
"That'd be good. Saturday is yard work, then I have whatever Shirley has up her sleeve at 6:00. What about you?"
"Other than wondering what Shirley wants up wherever she wants it to go" this said with some sarcasm to which Peter responds with a dismissive look "I'm having Saturday evening with Judy. Her kids are out but we haven't decided whether to have our old lady debauch here or there."
He grins: "If you're having it here you may need to buy more of these." and holds up the last of the bananas and they both laugh. "But seriously, Grace, are you OK? Seems to me like we've gone from one extreme to the other in 24 hours. I'm glad we're on the good side but I worry about you."
"Thanks but don't. My head is way clearer than it has been for weeks and I've got you and Judy to watch over me. That alone makes me feel good and safe. And I also think I know better where I am emotionally and what's ahead, and I can deal with it." She stands up from her chair and stretches her arms up above her head, reaching for the ceiling and touching it while Peter gazes admiringly on her nakedness. She brings her arms back down, looks Peter in the eyes, and tells him: "Now bring that banana over here and use your imagination."