Life Next Ch. 02byC.C. Rider©
“I didn’t think you were coming back.”
“I said I’d be right back.”
“That was an hour ago.”
“Let’s just cuddle awhile,” I started, trying to salvage the moment, “and if you fall asleep, that’s fine.” I put my arm over her hip and petted her tummy gently.
“Okay, but I really was sound asleep.”
“I understand,” I said snuggling up against her, my manhood swelling in the heat between us.
“This is crazy,” she said.
“What, us sleeping together?” I adjusted my hips and pressed against her.
“No. That I am going to Vegas with you tomorrow.”
There was a quiet pause, but I could tell Addie was realizing from the pressure on her bottom that there was no way we were going to sleep, not yet.
All of a sudden the fortuity of being naked in bed with Addie at that precise moment overwhelmed me. It had started at our twenty-fifth reunion. That I was even there was a fluke. I wasn’t going to leave Rebecca in her condition. Then my best friend from high school surprised me by calling and saying he was going. I still wanted to beg out; it was Rebecca who had insisted. And now it had led to this.
“You know how you convinced me?” Addie asked, breaking my spell.
“My good looks?”
“When you said I think too much.”
“That’s all it took?”
She turned over to face me, and we lay with our heads on the same pillow. She took my erection in her hand and squeezed it lovingly. “You said the same thing to me on the night you first asked me out, do you remember?”
Uh oh, a test. I vaguely remembered we were sitting in my car. It started to come back to me.
“Let’s see,” I started. I pretended like I was deep in thought while my hand found her curly pubic hair. “We were at Annie Harlow’s party and your girlfriend Pam was making out with my buddy Glen, so she wanted to stay and you wanted to go home.”
“So I offered you a ride, and we were sitting in my old Camaro in front of your house.” I found her clitoris with the tip of my finger. “I tried to kiss you and you wouldn’t let me.”
Addie nodded, so I continued. The memories were flowing now, fueled by the stirring in my genitals. “Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves’ was playing on the radio.” I could see us again, so young, in the pale yellow glow of the dashboard light.
“I don’t remember that.”
“I do, because I was thinking my night moves weren’t so hot. So I told you I was sorry for trying to kiss you.”
“You were very polite,” she said giving me a few friendly tugs. It seemed so natural for us, talking and playing like this, even after all those years.
“Go on,” she said, stroking me with a lazy rhythm now.
“I asked you out.”
“What you said, exactly, was, ‘Would you go on a date with me?’ and then you just waited for my answer…”
I knew where she was headed and I laughed. “And then you started pestering me with a bunch of damn questions like ‘When?’ and ‘What would we do?’”
“And do you remember what you said?” She squeezed my erection firmly and waited for my answer.
“I said, ‘Addie, you think too much.’”
Addie sighed and eased her grip. “I have heard you say that a million times in my head. It has been like a mantra for me….”
“That’s just you thinking too much again.” My hand pressed on further between her legs, wetting my fingers.
“I know, and when you said that tonight, I knew I was going with you.”
“I went on that date with you, didn’t I?”
I crawled on top of Addie effortlessly, and she leaned back with parted legs, offering herself to me.
“Do you know how lucky I feel right now?” I said, delaying the moment. “Here I am in bed with this beautiful, sexy, intelligent …”
“Middle-aged, marginally employed…” she interrupted.
“Shh…” I shook my head. “We are about to embark on a grand adventure. That’s not crazy at all.”
“I almost didn’t come tonight,” she whispered.
“Because I think too much,” she managed with a cry and a laugh at the same time.
She put her hands on the sides of my face and looked in my eyes like she wasn’t going to let me look away. She was drawing me into her.
“No more thinking,” I said as I entered her for the first time, gently, slipping into her like we’d been doing this for decades. Then the two of us disappeared in our love, like two pats of butter melting into a warm fluffy pancake.
We started slowly at first, like we were getting to know each other, a polite-conversation-about-the-weather kind of lovemaking. And then we caught a mystical rhythm, and the Addie I remembered from those afternoons so many years ago appeared.
She wrapped her arms around me and muffled her cries in my neck. The bed was rocking against the wall. I could sense her condition. I knew she was willing herself to an orgasm. Not an unabashed, howling-at-the-moon sort of thing – it was more controlled than that, but I knew her, and I knew it wasn’t any less intense. I could feel her closing in, and I tried to catch up to her. I wondered if we could do it. I was close. And then it happened.
A dull thudding on the wall, and the muffled words: “It’s three o’clock in the goddamn morning.”
We froze. “When we get back to Vegas,” I whispered to her, “the first thing I’m am going to do is send the kids to a movie.”
After we finished more quietly, we were cuddling and I made this assessment:
“Well, we didn’t pull off the simultaneous orgasm thing,” I said, “but we did literally wake up the neighbors. I’d say that was a worthy first effort.”
Addie was prepping for bed at the bathroom sink in her big terry robe. I had pulled on my pants and put on a shirt to go check on Jeffrey again. I came up behind her, slipped my arms around her waist, and rested my chin on her shoulder. She set down whatever she was doing and looked at me in the mirror.
“I’ve decided on the south of France,” I began, “a little town in the Alps.”
“Yeah. It was a toss up between there and Sicily. I was leaning toward Sicily…”
Addie was looking at me quizzically.
“…but now that you’re coming with us,” I slipped my hands under her robe. Her expression changed, and I could tell it wasn’t because of my roaming hands. “I am definitely thinking the Alps.”
“I can’t afford a trip like that,” she said with a strange look.
I turned her around to face me and her robe fell open. “I wasn’t thinking you’d ‘tag along.’ I want you to come as a part of our family.” Perhaps I was being presumptuous. “Assuming, of course, you’d have an interest in coming with us…”
She smiled and pursed her lips. “I might be persuaded.”
“And Addie, please don’t do that again.”
“I’m sorry. Thank you… this is new to me.”
I pulled her against me and we kissed
“So why are you favoring the Alps now?” Addie asked.
“I don’t know. It’s more romantic. That’s why I was favoring Sicily, actually; before tonight, romance was a negative. And there are other reasons. You’ll find out.”
I already had the spot in mind.
The boy was fine, lost in that stage of sleep so intense that only young boys can reach it. I was standing over a curled up and sleeping Rachel, and I was compelled to pet her hair, hair exactly like her mother’s, long and golden, feather-light. She stirred.
“I’m sorry sweetie. Go back to sleep.”
“Daddy?” she said as I was about to turn to go.
“Is she coming with us?”
I was stunned. I sat down on her bed. How could she know? Of course she knew. She had known before I did.
“I think so. I hope so. Please don’t let that worry you.” I petted her head again.
“Do you love her?”
“Yes, I do.”
Rachel looked at me like she was considering her reaction.
“I love your mom, too – very much. But it’s different, Rachel. Every human relationship is different.”
“It’s okay dad. I understand.” She closed her eyes.
“I love you Rachel.”
“Are you still awake?” I asked. Addie was facing me in bed and she opened her eyes.
“A little bit.”
I felt like I needed to explain something. I couldn’t fall asleep without doing it.
“Remember how I told you I used to linger in the basement after we made love and listen to you and your mom talk.” I decided to call it making love now because in retrospect, that is what it was.
“I told you how great it was, the way you’d talk about piano lessons, or a some costume you needed for a school play, stuff like that.”
“It really wasn’t that great. I mean, I thought you were great, but sometimes…” this was harder for me than I thought. I just wanted her to know. “Sometimes I’d cry.”
A scared look of concern jumped in her eyes. “What do you mean?”
I remembered it vividly, hauntingly. “One time you were talking about a family picnic, about what relatives would be there and this chocolate cake you were going to bake…” I was having trouble.
“What’s wrong Mark?”
I swallowed. “And I knew I didn’t deserve you…”
“That’s crazy, Mark.”
“I know that now. I just wanted you to understand; that’s how I felt then. I felt like I wasn’t from your world. We didn’t talk about picnics and cakes in my world. I was too busy ducking liquor bottles or walking on egg shells around my suicidal mother...”
“Oh God, Mark, I know…” she whispered sympathetically.
“No, I’m not feeling sorry for myself.” I kissed her because I could. “It’s that I didn’t think I was a good person. A good person wouldn’t have kept pushing you to do something against your wishes. To my credit, I knew, in some weird, unhealthy way, that I was only trying to fuck you because I thought it would bring you down to my level, make you something less than you were.”
“You don’t have to do this.”
“No, I do. I didn’t break up with you because you wanted to stay a virgin; I broke up with you because I couldn’t respect that, and I knew you were going to give in. And I knew that I was too fucked in the head to handle that.”
My chest hurt. I lost track of the point I had intended to make. I was searching to find it.
“It’s okay,” she said softly.
“No it’s not okay.” It came to me. “One way or another, Addie, I was bound to break your heart. I just want you to know that I loved you as much as you loved me. It broke my heart too.” That was the best I could do.
“Can you ever forgive me,” I added.
“I forgive you,” she said softly.
We were quiet for a while. Addie appeared like she had something to say, but was afraid to say it.
“What?” I prodded.
“To this day, I have never experienced anything like what I did with you. Just thinking about you would make me shudder and touch myself.” She was smiling now so broadly that it made me smile. “I was serious about wanting to keep my virginity, however naively,” she sighed with exasperation, “but honest to God, Mark, a part of me was scared that if I let you make love to me,” she screwed up her face with comic fear, “I might die.”
I started laughing. I had never been able to make a woman enjoy herself as much or as consistently as Addie did. There were times with Rebecca, but it took years of practice.
“It wasn’t me;” I said, “it was you.”
“No – it was us!” Addie said with emphasis.
I smiled. Maybe she was right.
“Well, it looks like you survived,” I offered.
“I don’t know, Mark;” she said with sly, witty eyes, “what if that guy hadn’t pounded on the wall?”
I was behind her and we were cuddling – spooning – when we drifted off to sleep, and at some point that night, I believe I woke up to discover something remarkable.
I couldn’t recall the slightest effort, but I was inside of Addie, like our genitals had mystically gravitated towards each other in our sleep. I adjusted my position to push myself further into her, and Addie purred dreamily, like she was enjoying the sensation, but faintly, like she was also still asleep. I slowly withdrew, and heard a tiny whimper. I pressed back in, and she purred again, as if she where saying, “There, like that.” So I didn’t move. I don’t know how long it lasted, but I experienced a startling sensation of connection. I remember our hearts pulsing, the heat of our genitals so intense. I also remember muffled, quiet little snores, and I honestly don’t know if they were Addie’s or mine.
At least I think that happened. I pulled myself from bed early to check on the kids, so I didn’t get a chance to ask Addie in the morning, when the memory (or the dream?) would have been fresh in our minds. I thought of that experience later and asked Addie if she had any recollection of what I was talking about.
“No, I don’t think so,” she said like it was a curious question. “I do remember waking up feeling wonderful. It was amazing really. My life is in utter upheaval, I had no idea what I am doing, and I was as relaxed and content as I can ever been.”
We leased a chalet with a converted carriage house in the French Alps. It was on the road from Allos to Barcelonette in the Haute Vallee du Verdon near the Parc National du Mercantour. Sheep grazed in our yard, large rolls of hay speckled the wild-flower meadows, and craggy mountain cliffs jetted up from a verdant tree line.
When I told the French broker (in my broken French) that it was important that the master bedroom be as far away from the guestrooms as possible, he laughed.
“Ah oui monsieur, por l’amour, no?”
“Oui,” I had to admit.
“Tres bien,” he said in that way only the French can make you feel naughty.
I explained, with a smile, that it was like a honeymoon with kids. He said he understood and had the perfect place – and it was true.
A moss rock fireplace dominated the main room of the house. The kitchen had an old wooden cook stove that had been retrofitted for gas. The bed in the master bedroom was huge and the four-post bed frame was so heavy that I believe the piece had to have been constructed in the room. The carriage house had two bedrooms and a loft, and it was spacious and perfect for the kids.
Addie and I would often coax the kids out of the house in the afternoon by telling them we were taking a nap. As soon as they were safely away, Addie and I would rush to the bedroom, draw the curtains, race out of our clothes, and devour each other. “Homework time” had become “naptime.”
“What if Addie and I got married?”
It was early in the morning, and Rachel and I were sitting on the overstuffed leather sofa in front of the moss rock fireplace.
“What a surprise,” was her pointed reply.
“Really, dad: the way you two carry on, it’s like you’re a couple of high-schoolers.”
“We’re that bad?”
“Oh please. And the bawdy innuendos are SO annoying.”
“You know what a ‘bawdy innuendo’ is?” I wasn’t sure if I knew.
“‘It certainly is a sturdy bed,’” she said mocking me unflatteringly. “It’s gross.”
I could tell she was only half serious in her disgust and I laughed – bright kid. “Are you through?”
“We’ll try to behave. I promise.”
She shook her head disbelievingly and looked away as if to ignore me.
I didn’t say anything for a while. Then I heard a muffled little sob. The weight of my question had finally settled in.
“Rachel, I don’t miss your mother any less, and marrying Addie is not going fix the pain in my heart either.”
There was no response.
“Just tell me; do you like Addie?”
She sat up straight and looked at me with fierce wet eyes. “That’s the problem – I like her a lot.” Rachel closed her eyes tight and a tear streaked her cheek. I didn’t know what to say.
“It’s like I see how happy you are,” she said, struggling, “and how much fun we have, and then it’s like all of a sudden, I don’t know, it’s…” She trailed off, lost for words.
“It’s wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
“Yes!” Rachel said emphatically.
“I know,” I said truthfully. We hugged and Rachel struggled not to cry.
“But it’s still beautiful,” I offered hopefully. “And your mom wants us to have fun, Rachel. She wants us to laugh.”
I pushed her back so I could look in her eyes. “And mom would like Addie too.”
She looked at me quizzically, and then all the sadness in Rachel’s body disappeared like a wind had blown through her. She let out a “Pfft” and laughed.
“What?” I said stupidly.
“Yeah, right!” she said sarcastically.
I shook my head. “I meant in a figurative… or um… I didn’t mean if she were still…” I was flustered, and then I chuckled hopelessly. “Never mind.”
“I know what you meant. It just didn’t come out right.” Rachel smiled and touched my hand.
“I haven’t asked her yet. I wanted to talk to you first. Would you be okay with that?”
Addie rolled her eyes. “What if I said no?”
“I’d try to talk you out of it.”
“What if I still said no?”
I sighed and pleaded with her with my eyes. “Please don’t say no.”
She paused like she knew she was torturing me.
“Okay. I like Addie, dad, and I like that you are going to marry her.”
“Can I make a suggestion though?”
“Absolutely, of course.”
“Stop staring at her chest all the time,” she whispered. “You’re embarrassing yourself.”
I hired an au pair to take the kids on an excursion one day, and Addie and I went exploring on our own. It was the Café la Mangeoire, a two-hundred-year-old converted sheep manger overlooking a limestone green mountain lake. I had seen the place in a magazine, but there was no name or address, just “A restaurant in the Haute Vallee du Verdon,” so it took a while to find it. We had lunch outside on the flagstone terrace by the lake – lamb and fennel cassoulet, a baguette with sweet cream butter, and a chilled bottle of pinot noir.
After lunch, we sat lazily, finishing our wine. Then I took her hand and got down on one knee.
She said yes of course. That’s not the amazing part. It was that terrace. It hadn’t been visible in the picture, so when I saw it my heart jumped; the walls, the columns, everything was covered in leafy grapevines.