What You Wish For Pt. 06byRehnquist©
Well, here it is. The last part. Before I say more, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of you who have read this and taken time to comment on it. These stories are the only practice I get writing anything other than appellate briefs and legal pleadings, and it's nice to know how I'm doing. So to all of you, readers and commenters alike, thanks.
Now you're all going to find out what happens to our intrepid hero. Will it be reconciliation? Maybe hook up with Marisa? Sure, Natalie's out of the picture now that you all know she's thirty years older than Tyler, but what about Susan? Or Allysin, for that matter? Hopefully, someone's still reading this by the time this is posted and even gives a shit.
You will remember that I wrote this to concentrate on writing believable female characters. All of the potential female leads were really interesting, at least in my opinion. I'd really, really like you to take a moment to share your thoughts on how I did in developing these characters. I mean, come on, I spent dozens of hours developing and writing it. The least you can do is take two or three minutes to let me know if my female leads were compelling, believable, quirky, bitchy, whatever. Did I (at least partially) redeem Kristin? Did Marisa's actions make sense given her background and emotional make up? Were any of them too cliche? (Say this, none of them betrayed their man and went off on a gangbang tear for big baloney rides!)
So please, take a moment to comment. And either way, thanks a ton for reading this.
"You seem different," Kristin said, sitting on the back porch with me while we watched Dad pushing Ben on a tree swing.
I'd gotten home from Marisa's a few hours before, spent some time with Mom doing her exercises, and now we were all outside enjoying the last of the fifty degree weather before winter set in.
"Like you've met someone," she said, her eyes avoiding mine. "Someone that . . . well, you're excited about."
I was silent, not sure how to answer her.
"Did you sleep with her?"
"What difference does that make?" I said, amazed at her boldness. "I've slept with a dozen or so women since you left. What's one more?"
"Because you care about this one," she replied, looking down into her lap before turning to me. "Other than Allie--and I'm not so sure how much you cared for her; I mean really, really cared--other than her, you really haven't fallen for someone since . . . ."
"Since you left me," I said. "You can say it: 'I haven't really fallen for someone since you left me.'"
"Since I left you," she whispered.
"You're wrong," I said. "I did fall for someone. Just before I had to come back here. Someone who would've been . . . I don't know. But it was more than just sex, I can tell you that. And if this hadn't happened with Mom, then who knows. I'd probably be with her."
Kristin was silent, seemingly stunned at the realization I'd formed an attachment to someone other than her. Even though she'd left me for Randy and a life back in Grant City, she was nourishing this infantile fantasy about her being my one true love, the only person I could ever be with.
"What's the big deal?" I said, angry at her reaction.
"Just watching my dreams shatter."
We were silent for a few minutes, both of us staring at Ben.
"Listen," I said, for some silly ass reason trying to cheer her up, "I don't really know how serious this is gonna be."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean she's afraid. To get involved and all."
"Because she's been hurt."
Kristin mulled it over, then placed her hand on mine.
"But you want her to say yes, don't you?"
"I think so," I agreed. "I want her to at least try."
"Do I know her?"
I laughed. "Yeah, you've seen her."
"She from here?"
"My editor," I said. "The girl I was at dinner with that night. The one who told me about Ben."
Kristin's eyes widened. "But she's-- "
"A wonderful person," I challenged. "Smart, kind, pretty. All around wonderful. Maybe a bit difficult to get to know, but from what I've come to know . . . ."
Kristin bit her tongue. To her credit, she left my description unchallenged.
"So you think maybe you're in love with her?" she asked.
"But you want to find out?"
"Without really . . . without trying? On us?"
I looked at her, not sure what to say.
"We'll see how it plays out," I said, then laughed. "Hell, if she--if Marisa--has her way, it's not going anywhere anyway, okay?"
Kristin nodded, then tried to smile. But she was afraid, like she was finally getting the point that there may never again be a Tyler and Kristin. That our ship had sailed, and she'd been on deck and left me ashore.
On a shore with other women out there I could fall in love with and who could love me in return.
Then Kristin's hand squeezed mine.
"No matter what," she said, her jaw set with determination, "I want you to be happy. I really mean that. And if you can't be happy with me anymore, then I want you to find someone and be happy with them. You deserve it."
I nodded. "You, too," I said, meaning it. "You, too."
She gave a lopsided grin and kissed me on the cheek.
* * * * *
I was going to give Marisa five days, then call her to push for a dinner commitment. On day three, she called me.
"You really serious about wanting to get to know me?" she started, her voice timid.
"Never more serious about anything in my life," I confirmed.
"And about me getting to choose where we go?"
"Deal's a deal."
I heard her draw a breath, then she spoke in a flurry of words. "Tomorrow night. Pick me up at five thirty. Greek Islands in Greektown."
"See you then," I promised.
* * * * *
When I picked her up, she was dressed as always. Think black. Her face challenged me, daring me to say something.
"You look hot," I said, smiling as I pushed her hand away from the door handle and opened it for her.
"You don't have to do that," she said.
"Open my door. This isn't the nineteen fifties. I can get it myself."
I smiled and shut the door behind her, then went around, got in the car, and put it in drive.
"I'm not asking you to change," I said, paying attention to the street signs as I made my way toward Halsted. "Don't bother asking me, okay? We're doing this to see if we can get along. Deal with each other the way we are instead of try to mold each other into our own visions of the perfect mate."
She said nothing.
"Okay?" I prompted.
"Fair enough," she said.
"And I was serious before," I said. "You really do look hot."
"That's just because you know what's underneath."
"True," I agreed, then grinned.
"The tattoo," I said, looking at her briefly before turning left onto Halsted.
"What about it?"
"It's fucking smokin'."
A faint smile turned her lips. "You really like it?"
She seemed pleased with that. After a minute, her hand snaked across the front seat and came to rest on my thigh. We drove the rest of the way in silence, just enjoying the silent company.
* * * * *
Almost an hour and a half later, Marisa pushed away her half eaten plate of baklava.
"I give," she said, patting her tummy.
"You're kiddin', right?"
"What? You think I'm a pig?"
I smiled. "That's the first time--fifteen or so times we've been out together--it's the first time you've ever left so much as a crumb on your plate."
Just then a waiter hustled to our table, some Greek guy in his mid-forties, full head of black hair slicked back and a five o'clock shadow on his face. He looked at the plate, then at Marisa, then back to her plate. His face turned into a great, broad smile.
"What?" she said. "You, too?"
"The cooks," he said. "I had a bet with them. Fifty bucks. No way you could eat it, I told them. They bet me you could."
"Then you win," she said, her lips curving into a smile.
"Fifty bucks," he said, then tapped his temple. "I knew, you see. 'She slowing down,' I told them. They laughed and said it didn't matter."
"Great," she said, pushing herself away from the table. "Now everyone thinks I'm a pig."
"Not a pig," he said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Active. High metabolism. Good appetite. But not a pig. Oh no, definitely not a pig."
He ogled her, the look on his face making it clear he'd like to rut with her, pig or not.
"I think we're ready for the check," I said, interrupting his stare.
He tore it off and slid it to me. I slid a hundred under the ticket. His eyes lit up at that.
"Change?" he said, knowing my answer.
"We're square," I confirmed.
His face lit up.
"Thank you," he said, sliding the check and the bill off the table before hustling away.
"Thanks," Marisa said, placing her hand atop mine.
"So what now?"
I patted my stomach. "I don't know about you, but I could use a walk."
She groaned at the prospect, rubbing her distended belly.
"C'mon," I said. "It'll do you good."
So that's what we did. For the next hour, we strolled over the bridge across the interstate and into the Loop, commenting on our favorite buildings and the people scurrying home late from the office. We guessed which ones were lawyers, brokers, traders, and the like.
* * * * *
An hour and a half after dinner, we pulled into an open parking spot a half block down from her apartment.
"You coming in?" she said.
I shook my head. "I was serious before. No more of that until we know--both of us--where this is going."
"But I want you to come in," she said, taking my hand and squeezing. "Really."
"And you'll behave?"
"If that's what you want," she said. "If it's not . . . ."
She raised her eyebrow at the suggestion left lingering with her words.
"It's not what I want," I said. "I think it's best, though."
"Whatever," she said, opening the door. "So you coming in?"
I shut off the engine and joined her.
Once inside her apartment--just as spotlessly neat as the last time I'd been there; I think she was a touch obsessive-compulsive--we sat on the sofa and listened to more jazz, sipped wine, and talked about books. What was good, what was bad, why, how they did it, and what could've made the good ones even better.
Then we talked about our childhoods, families, friends, and everything else under the sun. She was becoming easier to talk with as we became more comfortable with each other, and she seemed to be letting her guard down more and more as our conversation went along.
"I could get used to this," I said, sipping the last of my wine.
"The jazz," I said. "And you."
She smiled, then reached for the bottle of wine to pour me some more.
"No," I said, pulling my cup away. "I've been here almost two hours, and I've got a long drive."
"Spend the night," she said, neither suggestive nor demanding. Just that. Just, like, spend the night.
"Where will I sleep?"
"In the bed, of course."
"Oh," I said, leaning back and looking at her. "And you'll behave yourself?"
"Will you?" A smile was playing over her lips. It lit her whole face up in a way I haven't yet described. Especially this smile, which had a certain little girl innocence to it.
"Then so will I," she said. "Try, that is."
"Think you'll succeed?"
"Depends on how much more of this we drink."
"Then let's have just one more, then we'll turn in. I wouldn't want you to rape me or anything."
She leaned in close. "You sure about that? Sounds kinda kinky. Maybe it's just up your alley."
It was my fault. I knew it then and there, but it was her easy, flirty demeanor. I just broke down and leaned in and kissed her. Just a light peck on the lips, but then she was back seeking more. And before I knew it, we were in a full blown makeout session on her couch. My hands were stroking her face, arms, and back. She was holding my head to keep my lips where she wanted them.
After I don't know how long of this pure heaven, I broke away. Taking a deep breath, then adjusting the raging hardon in my pants, I looked at her and smiled.
"Okay," I said, "time for that bed now."
She pouted, but her face showed something more. Something like she was glad I'd held off.
I wasn't glad, though. I was now fully revved.
A couple of times during the night, I found myself reaching toward her sleeping body. But I stopped every time, frustration riddling my hormones.
And the next morning I was rewarded for my restraint while putting on my jacket to leave back for Grant City and let Marisa get her studying done before class.
"So when's the next date?" she said.
"When do you want?"
"Tonight? And tomorrow?"
I smiled. "Could be a bit tough. With your school and all and me trying to get another book written."
I shrugged. "Depends on what you want to do."
Marisa paused, biting her lip and looking at the ceiling. Then she turned to me, her face a combination of challenge and trepidation.
"I want to meet your friends," she said.
"Those people you went to school with. The ones you went and partied with that one Friday. You said they meet most Fridays."
I hesitated. There was a strong chance that Allie or Kristen or both would be at the get together this Friday. It was at Chumly McWhorter's place, and they were both close with Chumly's wife Darla.
"Is there a reason you're not saying yes?" she said. The trepidation was now gone, her face all challenge.
I sighed, recognizing her tactics. My anger at the endless challenges--the "See? You are embarrassed of me" attitude--was quelled by the sudden realization of her underlying motivation, though. She was afraid. I saw that. It was in the initial trepidation. She was afraid of where we were going together. And afraid I'd just be another one to throw her away.
I smiled, a broad grin.
"So you're coming back to Grant City?"
"Only if we go to the party," she said, a smirk now on her face.
"When's your last class on Friday?"
"Don't avoid answering me," she said. "I'll cut class if I have to. That's no reason either way. Just yes or no."
"Well," I continued, "I was just hoping you could come in early. I'd really like you to take a look at where I am on the new one. The sequel."
Her look told me she thought I was weaseling out on answering her.
"If you think I'm gonna be deterred by your book, spend all night-- "
"Oh no," I interrupted. "It's just that the party starts at seven. Since you're coming out and all, I just wanted to make sure you'd have a couple of hours to at least scan over it and see if you spot anything major before I finish it."
Her eyes narrowed, trying to spot a trick in my answer.
"If it helps," I said, "I can e-mail you the work in progress. Then you could have a few days to peruse it at your leisure and we can just go over any problems when you get there. That way we'll definitely get to the party on time."
"So you'll . . . ."
"Take you to the party? Of course. Why wouldn't I? Hell, you're gonna have to meet them all sooner or later anyway. Might as well be sooner, right?"
"I guess so," she said, suddenly not so sure of herself.
"Good," I said. "Then I'll e-mail you the attachments and, if you've got the time, look at as much of it as you can. Bill the account, of course, so you can get paid. This isn't a favor you know. Just call or e-mail me when you'll be in town so I'm ready for you."
She nodded blankly, her mind wandering.
"Think I can get a kiss before I go?"
She walked like a zombie toward me, leaned in, and pecked my cheek.
"I'll see you Friday," I said.
She was standing at the doorway as I left, watching me but not seeing me.
Then I shuddered. What would Kristin and Allie do?
* * * * *
Marisa didn't go out of her way either way on Friday. She was the same. Black goth clothes and makeup. The only real change was the long, black trench coat to allow for the chilly weather.
Mom, who had never met her, was initially taken aback at her appearance. She quickly settled down, though, when Marisa sat with her for fifteen minutes or so and patiently asked for updates on her recovery and--better yet, you'll know if you try it with any grandmother--her time with little Ben.
Dad, who was by now used to Marisa's appearance and, if not comfortable, at least no longer shocked, just listened to them and smiled, only occasionally interjecting a comment or a question.
I sat on the couch next to Marisa and watched them all.
Then we disappeared upstairs for an hour and a half, where Marisa proceeded to point out a few major plot holes, character inconsistencies, and problems with the flow of the new book.
"Don't get me wrong," she said halfway through the savaging of my hard work, "it's really very good. Probably better than the first one. And I'm sure you'd have caught most of this in the initial editing and revision process. So at least I've saved you some time, right?"
"Right," I said, knowing I wouldn't have caught half the mistakes she'd found in only three days.
By seven fifteen, we were pulling into the Chumly and Darla McWhorter residence, the last in a long line of cars in the packed driveway. Kristin's car was parked right in front of us.
Marisa must've seen my hesitation. Or the narrowing in my eyes. Or, most likely, the way my knuckles turned white as my grip on the steering wheel tightened.
"Problem?" she said, more than just a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"Just so you're prepared," I said, turning to her, "that's my ex-wife's car there."
"You knew she'd be here?" Marisa said, her eyes going wide.
I nodded. "She's really good friends with Darla."
"And you didn't say anything?"
I turned back to the car in front of us. "You wouldn't have believed me."
She fidgeted, embarrassed I was onto the game she'd played.
"Besides," I said, relaxing, "this had to happen sooner or later, right? And with everyone here--pretty much both of our friends, Kristin's and mine--I don't really think she'll do anything."
"Maybe this isn't such a good idea," Marisa said.
I shook my head. "You're not backing out now."
"We could go back to your place," she said. "Just watch a movie or something."
I got out and went around and opened Marisa's door. Marisa, forever quick to open her own door before I had a chance to do it for her, just sat there.
"Come on," I said, holding my hand out to her.
She didn't move, so I reached down and took her hand, gently pulling her from the car.
"Will you relax?" I prodded. "It'll be fine."
When Darla answered the front door, her smile at seeing me turned to confusion at seeing Marisa.
"Hello, sweetie," I said, leaning in and pecking Darla on her plump cheek. "This is Marisa."
"Hey, Tyler," she said, slack jawed. "Marisa."
Marisa tried to smile and nod her head in greeting, but she was just as frozen as Darla.
"Where do we put this?" I said, holding out a platter of venison sausage, cheese, and crackers balanced atop a twelve-pack of Lite.
Darla snapped out of it, now smiling brightly and taking my arm.
"Back here, handsome," she said, leading me through the crowd in the living room and into the kitchen.
I felt two things on that long journey of only twenty-five feet: Footsteps and stares. Marisa's footsteps only inches behind mine and the silent eyes of my classmates and their significant others on me and my new girl. I managed to smile and nod at all of them on my way to the table covered in appetizers.
"Beer or wine?" I said to Marisa once the platter was snuggled between a plate of crudites and a pot of barbecued meatballs and the beer on the porch to stay cold.
Marisa's head turned from the crowd, most of whom were now back to chatting with each other, and her eyes met mine. She looked like a deer in the headlights, her eyes unseeing.