Smoke Ch. 05bycalibeachgirl©
copyright @ calibeachgirl
and jim crowell
all rights reserved, 2011
'The advantage of owning your own apartments,' Greg thought, 'is that you didn't have to punch a time-clock so you could start your day whenever you wanted.
'The disadvantage of owning your own apartments,' Greg realized, 'is that you didn't have to punch a time-clock so your day never ended.'
At noon, Greg put away his shovel, showered and drove back to the college to bring Cindy home. Turning off the radio, he listened to his new tires hum on the hot asphalt. As he made the right turn from Rosecrans onto Crenshaw Boulevard, he passed several store-fronts getting new paint and another with a 'For Lease' sign in the window. He wasn't sure if the traffic on the street was enough to keep all these small businesses open without something more likely to draw a crowd. College students never had any money and except for a few sandwich shops, the sidewalks were empty. 'How many furniture stores can you have, anyway?' he wondered.
The light turned red and he stopped as four co-eds crossed the street, their ponytails swishing in unison as they headed toward one of the small shops to eat.
'Maybe,' he hoped, checking his front pocket for the ten dollars he had set aside, 'we can go to lunch.' After waiting longer at the corner light than he wanted, he circled the long block twice more hoping to find her. When he finally saw her sitting under some shady eucalyptus and waved, though, the light had changed and he had to drive around again. It seemed to take forever and he could feel his heart beat faster as he lost sight of her. By the time he was back, she was standing on the sidewalk by the bus stop, talking to some goof wearing a high-school athletic sweater. He knew she was pretty and it was bound to happen, but it bothered him, just the same. 'Who the hell wears a high-school sweater in college?' he wondered.
He was surprised, though, when she brought him over and said they were giving him a ride home. She slid across the front seat and was sandwiched between the two of them.
"Greg, this is Steve," Cindy said, cheerfully. "He's studying history."
"Hi, how are you?" Greg asked, attempting to be hospitable, hoping a lunch date was still possible. His mouth watered in anticipation and wanted to take her to the pier.
He looked closely at the boy, seeing him as another decent high school athlete not good enough for college football and still living in the past. The beginnings of a paunch betrayed the fact that he was eating too much for his new lifestyle.
Greg heard no response as the boy brazenly stared at Cindy. Without asking, Steve reached over and turned on the radio. Greg turned it off, giving the 'goof,' as he thought of him, the evil eye. He was met by a smirk. 'What the hell is it,' he thought, 'with these morons and their smirks.' He remembered what happened with Joseph and Martine and that smirker and the divorce that it caused. Well, he had no plans on letting it get that far, seriously considering pulling the car over to the side of Rosecrans and kicking the boy out whether it upset Cindy or not.
"As I was telling your daughter..."
"She's my fiancé, boy," he said forcefully but didn't care. Greg knew Cindy had to have told the boy who he was. "So, still live with your parents?" Greg asked. He pulled the car over to the corner. "Here's the bus stop, boy; better get out before you miss it."
Greg's sport coat opened and the boy's eyes widened as he saw the gun. Greg's Colt seemed to stare back at the boy. The boy quickly left, slamming the door and then running down the street. Greg laughed under his breath; he had all but forgotten about the gun. After the attempted murders that crazy night and their head-long flight north with Martine in tow, he had taken to wearing it whenever he left the house. The police lieutenant, Klein, had even helped him get a 'concealed' permit.
He said nothing on the way home... neither did she. The tension in the car sat between them, keeping them apart; he was angry and she was embarrassed. Whatever good feelings he had in the morning waiting for her were lost as soon as he saw the boy fawning over her.
How to deal with the situation, though, he had no clue and neither did she, he guessed. He couldn't beat the crap out of the kid, that wouldn't look good. It would have definitely driven a wedge between Cindy and him. She couldn't explain even to herself what possessed her to talk to that boy in the first place, let alone offer him a ride home.
He put the car away and sat on the patio, just staring at the clouds moving by toward the beach. He was between the proverbial rock and a hard place so he pulled his hat down over his eyes and tried to take a nap. 'Maybe, it'll take care of itself and blow over,' was his last thought before he fell asleep.
An hour later, she brought him a cheese and baloney sandwich and quickly retreated back up the stairs into the apartment.
That afternoon, a penitent Cindy approached him with a single tear flowing down her cheek. "Honey, I'm sorry..."
He couldn't bear to see her like that. "It's all right," he said, reaching out for her arm. "I know you didn't mean for it to happen. But..."
"Yes, I know." Another tear flowed down and then she started crying.
Greg stood up and put his arms around her. He needed to get his suspicions under control; every time he felt good, something like this happened. It wasn't like she was asking for it; she just seemed to attract the wrong type of crowd. 'Is that what life would be like married to her? Can I live with that?'
He thought back to the incident at the beach. He was ready to kill that guy. Without realizing it, Greg's hands made an angry fist. He didn't understand it. 'All these years' he asked himself, 'without any anger showing itself and now this? Am I that insecure about her? I better get myself under control before something bad happens.'
Deep in his subconscious, buried under years of loneliness, was the profound loss he still felt about the first woman he fell in love with. Right next to it was his hatred of the Church that had stolen her from him. It now had surfaced at the most inopportune time and built upon everyman's insecurity seeing his love with another man.
Cindy noticed, though and knew that she had skirted another dangerous moment in their relationship. She looked up to kiss him, desiring that complete acceptance that only lovers could know.
She wished she had Martine. With the woman's scowling presence, the boys left her alone and she was able to go home unmolested. 'That's a good word,' she thought, 'unmolested. Time to put things back on track...'
She took his hand and silently led him back into the bedroom, kicking her shoes off as they walked. The time for talking was over... it was a time for doing.
After removing his clothes for him, she had him lie on his stomach and close his eyes. Sprinkling baby powder over his back, she straddled his back and began to massage his muscles, still tight under his skin. After a while, she could feel him loosen up and relax and she moved to his neck, moving her slim hands over his shoulders and then back to his head, caressing the side of his face. Leaning down, she whispered, "How's that feel?"
Greg moaned a little and Cindy continued touching him. She couldn't see it but she was sure he was aroused. They had lived together long enough that she knew his mannerisms... she could read him like a book... her favorite book... she had him memorized.
Without another word, she tugged him to roll over and as he did, she slowly lowered herself on his face, moving her hips as she did. When she had time to take off her own clothes, she didn't remember and didn't care. Suddenly, they were just gone.
One hand reached for the headboard and the other back to hold him. It was as hard as ever and as his tongue caressed where her thigh met her body, she shifted enough that it slipped right into her wetness. 'Oh, God,' she tried to think but never got past that one thought as he pushed his face up into her.
His hands found her cheeks and caressed them, pushing her down on his face. His tongue entered and retreated each time she rose and fell against him. Even though the late afternoon Santa Ana winds had not started, she was covered in perspiration and could feel the sweat run down her skin. Up... down... up, again... she could feel it coming and tried to stop it, wanting to make it last longer but couldn't and her thighs clenched down on his head. His tongue went wild, moving rapidly trying to bring her off even faster.
Greg was trying to hold his breath as long as he could and worked his tongue even faster. One... he felt that first one quite well and then it was hurriedly followed by several more, each one more violent than the one before it.
She ground herself even harder against his face, glad that he had shaved just before going to the college and his tongue traded places with his nose and back again as she moved back and forth looking for that last, great rush. This time, it started deep within her, scorched up to her breasts and then sped downward to her groin as she let out a wild moan and held both hands onto the shuddering headboard.
After she stopped moving, Greg put his hands on her sweat-dampened waist and gently moved her over and down onto her back, taking a much needed breath. Then, rolling back onto his back, he lay on one arm over his eyes and smiled. He was still erect and willing but she had fallen asleep.
"Old man, huh?" he said to himself and laughed as he looked at the sleeping beauty next to him.
The following day, after an intense morning of love-making, Greg took Cindy to an early breakfast at Raymond's before driving her to El Camino for her two classes.
She was embarrassed... actually, she was a little worried. Offering that silly boy a ride home was a huge mistake and she knew Greg was probably still upset about it. The fool had disrespected her lover, her fiancé, a very stupid thing to do, she knew. If Greg had no compunction about killing four men, beating up a cocky idiot wouldn't faze him at all.
In truth, she didn't like the idea of being at Camino by herself now that Martine had re-united with her husband. Along with all the new freshmen and returning sophomores, there were plenty more young Vets returning from Korea and she realized that sooner or later, another was going to make a play for her attention.
Greg couldn't follow her around all day... that type of mistrust would destroy their relationship but he was human and it probably made him nervous. How could she make him feel self-assured? She was in a quandary and really didn't know what to do other than show him she loved him and only him.
She watched him take a piece of toast and soak up some of the egg yolk. "Honey?" she asked, hesitantly, and touched his arm.
"I've been calling you for a while, now. Hello?" She gently tapped him on the forehead. "Anyone home?"
"I'm sorry, I was thinking about something... nothing important." He took a sip of coffee, the refill still too hot to actually drink. He stirred another teaspoon of sugar into it.
"You could have fooled me," she said; she knew he was lying. "Your face was dark for a moment. It worried me, that's all. Are you... OK?"
He looked at Cindy. He almost said, "The love of my life," but every time someone said that, they got divorced.
He crunched another piece of bacon with his fork into his eggs. "Are we going to be late?"
"There's still plenty of time. Have some more coffee?" She lifted the steamy pot.
"No, thank you. You know, I've been thinking... maybe, I could take a class or two, myself."
"Oh," she said, raising a blond eyebrow. "What would you like to take?"
"I don't know, maybe television repair. There's got to be a market out there for that. I was reading Popular Mechanics and they had an article about it. It got me to thinking. I know that RCA and Zenith sponsor classes. More and more people are buying them. Someday, everybody will probably have one just like they have a radio." He looked out the window at the traffic flowing by on the boulevard. "I could do that at the apartment. We've got a spare bedroom."
"You'd be good at that... I think you're good at everything you do." She smiled, hoping he'd take the subtle compliment, hoping that their problem would just disappear.
"Thanks, doll, I think you are, too... Damn, look at the time; we better get going. Don't want you to get a tardy or something and have to stay after class."
Later the next evening, they went out to dinner at Raymond's.
"Hello, strangers... It's wonderful to see you," Martine said to them. "When you called, I set aside a special table in the back."
Ever since Martine had gotten back with her husband, the restaurant's dining room had taken on a new 'feeling'. It was more romantic and was now open for lunch. Business increased far beyond expectations as the opportunity for mid-day romance became possible.
"Remember what I told you. If you want a job here, just ask. I can teach you how to cook, I mean, really cook and you both can eat here for free. You should be able to afford another car, I bet... that is, if you want. I'll let you two lovebirds talk it over... no rush."
Martine handed over the menus and walked through the doors back to the coffee shop.
"Wow,' Cindy said, "wasn't expecting that."
"The prime rib... have you tried it?" he asked.
"No, I haven't, but... the rest of what we've had here has been top-notch, so I bet it's just as good. It's like down-home cooking, only better... if that makes any sense."
He put his menu part-way down and looked at her. "Would you like to do that? I mean, work here?" The idea of her working had never crossed his mind. 'Maybe it was the best thing to do. For one thing, Martine would be riding herd on her and keeping her 'safe.' The other, and probably the most important,' he thought, 'she wouldn't get bored sitting around the house, even if I were there.'
Cindy sat there, not saying anything. She knew Steve had angered Greg beyond belief. Even so, he had controlled his temper. For a few moments, she was sure he was going to strangle the boy. She wondered how she would have reacted if their positions were reversed.
With Chris gone and the parking lot incidents finally behind her, she hoped and prayed her future was tied to Greg. He was a good man and she never thought he'd be so jealous... it felt good, though, to have someone jealous about her. She thought Chris had been that someone, before he became a worthless drunk.
Greg made her happy, though. He could have exploded both on the boy and on her and he did neither, even as she knew he was upset. Everything he had done, he had done for her, putting his life on the line and on hold for her. She shivered, remembering the violence and death of that night and the mad dash up the coast, dragging Martine along with them as they hid out.
Cindy reached across the table and pushed his menu all the way down. "Greg, if you want me to do it, then I will. You're going to be my husband and I'm going to be your wife. It's our life together that matters, nothing else. I just wanted to learn how to cook for you, that's all." She started to cry.
"Babe, don't cry. Would you want to do it?" he asked. "It could get you out of the house and you could spend time with Martine, again... and, you could get a car... maybe not a new one but we could find a good used car for you, maybe a convertible."
"Ohhhh, could I?" she asked, excitedly. "My own car? That would be fantastic!" She jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him.
The people there laughed... old married couples remembering the excitement of their own love.
Later, Martine came back and asked if they wanted any dessert.
"I'll take the job, that is, if you were serious about it," Cindy said.
"Wonderful... are you going to finish at Camino?"
Cindy thought about what happened. 'Better to leave it alone,' she thought and said, "No, I'll be available, tomorrow if you want, I'm quitting school."
"Great, you can ride with me. I'm sure that Greg has had a lot of things he's needed to do around the apartments and can use the break. Say, about eight-thirty?" Martine was glad. She had forgotten how hard it was running the restaurant and she missed her young friend.
"I'll be at your front door. What do you want me to wear?"
"I'll have something for you, don't worry about that. What size do you wear?"
"OK, I'll have a couple of uniforms ready. I'm going to teach you the business from the ground up. By the time I'm finished with you, you can take over for me. I'm going to have a baby."
Cindy jumped up, again. "Oh, my God, congratulations!"
"Oh, ho! Wait a minute... I'm GOING to have a baby, not... I'm HAVING a baby. We've just started working on it." Martine giggled like a schoolgirl on her first date.
Cindy looked at the light pink and green-trimmed uniform Martine was wearing. "Well, I'm ready," she said.
"Good, get changed and we'll go."
When Cindy came out of the bedroom, there was a bright flash. Martine put her camera away. "There, now you'll have a souvenir of your first real job. You said you did a little waitressing in high school."
"Yeah... at Squealer's, the bar-be-que place over on Sepulveda."
"I've been there... good baked beans... decent ribs... coleslaw could use some work... too mid-western creamy for my tastes."
As Cindy walked to the car, Martine locked up the house and then reached the automobile. Soon, they were driving east on Rosecrans toward Hawthorne Boulevard. "What I'm going to do," she started to say, "is train you in different aspects of the restaurant. I'd be lying if I said it is going to be easy but you already know that. The biggest difference is that we have a much larger menu than Squealer's so eventually you're going to have to learn it but really, that's why we have menus. Just write it down correctly and you'll do fine.
"You know, I was thinking about going into catering. How about it? Want to be partners?"
"Good afternoon, welcome to Raymond's. My name is Cindy. Our special today is pot roast with steak fries and mixed vegetables. It comes with your choice of apple pie, vanilla ice cream or chocolate pudding, all for two dollars seventy-five cents. If you would like a baked potato, then it's fifteen cents more.
"I'll give you some time. Oh, yes, what would you like to drink?" Cindy blushed; she almost forgot the most important part of her spiel, getting the customer something right away so they wouldn't sit there with nothing.
"I'll have a Manhattan. What would you like, dear?"
The woman looked up from her menu. "Martini, please, dry."
"Yes, miss. Thank you." Cindy walked over to the bar and placed the orders. It was a little slow after the lunch crowd left and for that, she was grateful. She had worked harder in the last four hours than she had in the last two years. Of course, she realized, the last two years had been spent as a housewife, in one form or another.
She carefully carried the two drinks over to the table.
"I'll have the sirloin, medium rare, baked potato, no vegetables, pie," the man stated. He looked at his date. "Louise?"
"I would like the Spring Chicken dinner, please... vanilla ice cream."
"Thank you," Cindy said and after placing the order, brought over a basket of fresh bread.
Several days had passed without Greg mentioning the fiasco at Camino and Cindy felt much better. Working at the restaurant had brought her a new look at the world. When she was a teenager working for tips, waitressing was a welcome change from high school but now, working with older women who needed the money, there was an inherent drive to work as hard and as efficiently as possible. She was the youngest there by at least ten years.