What You Wish For Pt. 06

byRehnquist©

"Beer or wine?" I repeated.

She shook her head.

"How about a beer?" Allie said, appearing behind me and holding a bottle of Lite out to each of us. "Hey, Marisa."

Marisa took the beer, nodding at Allie as she did so. "Thanks."

"Haven't seen you in months," Allie said, to her credit trying to relax Marisa.

I've gotta say, I didn't see this one coming. If anything, I was more afraid of Allie's reaction than of Kristin's.

Still Marisa was silent.

"So does this mean Tyler's almost done with another book?"

"Almost."

"Good."

Allie hooked Marisa's arm, then turned to me. "I'm gonna go introduce her around, okay?"

"Sure, Allie," I said, my eyes on Marisa.

"Come on, hon," Allie said, pulling Marisa toward a group of women--Kristin included--talking in the corner.

"She's hot," Denny Koss said, sidling up behind me and sipping his beer.

"Kinda strange lookin'," Chumly McWhorter agreed to my side. "In a real neat kinda way, though. Yep, I'd do her."

"You'd fuck a rattlesnake," I said to both of them.

They didn't argue with my assessment.

"So she's a vampire or somethin'?" Chumly asked. Marisa was clearly outside his zone. And everyone else's, for that matter.

"Goth," I explained. "They call it Goth."

Over in the corner, Kristin was eying Marisa warily, and the rest of the ladies were unsure what to do. Allie was taking the lead, though, prodding all of them into talking.

"She got any of them strange piercings?" Chumly said.

"Most of them chicks on the internet's got 'em," Denny agreed, then winced at the notion. "They must hurt, y'know?"

I turned and looked at both of them, but their eyes were glued to Marisa.

"Jesus, fellas, simmer down."

"You didn't answer me," Chumly pressed. "Any piercings?"

Chumly's a plumber, by the way, who must spend his down time surfing internet porn. He'd always been something of a pervert.

"Now how would I know something like that?"

They both looked at me like they didn't believe a word out of my mouth. I just smiled.

"Jesus, Tyler," Allen Wilkinson whispered as he joined us, sweeping his long brown hair back over his head and out of his eyes, "you sure do keep life interesting, huh?"

"What d'ya mean?" I said.

"First you shag the hottest chick in our class, convince her to marry you, take off to Florida and make a fortune or something," he said, his eyes locked on Marisa.

"Then you go off and write a book and all," Denny added. "Probably bangin' half the hottest beach bunnies in Florida."

"And now you're back here," Chumly said, "taking all the interestin' ones before we've had a shot at 'em ourselves."

"Dude," Allen said, his voice a reverential whisper, "you got a ten-inch pecker or something?"

I just laughed.

And across the room, Marisa laughed at the same time. At something Kristin was saying to her. Then all the ladies turned and looked at me, Allie said something, and they all laughed again. Just like that, they were all chatting easily, laughing occasionally, and I saw the dark cloud disappear as Marisa's body relaxed and resumed its loose, gangly demeanor.

I smiled.

Couldn't have planned it better if I'd tried.

* * * * *

"So what were you all chatting about and laughing about?" I asked Marisa on the car ride home.

She was in a bouncy mood, and I knew the night had somehow been a success.

"Things," she said, giggling--swear to God giggling--as she answered.

"What things?"

"You know, Tyler."

"No, I don't. That's why I'm asking."

She turned and looked at me while I drove, then burst out in peals of laughter.

"Was Kristin talking out of turn?"

"What makes you think it was Kristin?" she teased.

"Allie, too?" I said. "Both of them?"

"And Darla and Christy and Nancy and-- "

"Okay, okay. I get the point."

"Don't be angry, sweetie," she said, brushing my cheek with her fingertips. "It was fun. They're nice."

I smiled, not sure whether to kill my ex-wife and the rest of them or to buy them all roses for not turning on Marisa like a bunch of sharks.

"Besides," she said, "now I know some of your predilections."

"Predilections?"

"Predilections," Marisa confirmed, then started snorting as she held back her laughter. "You know. Like bondage maybe?"

"Aw, Jesus," I moaned. "It's not a predilection."

"Not according to Allie."

"It was just that once."

"And it rocked her world, superstud."

"Anything else?" I demanded.

"Oh yeah," she said. "A lot else."

"Kristin?"

"And Allie."

"For Chrissake," I muttered.

"Hey Tyler?" she said, her fingertips now caressing my thigh and creeping toward my package.

"Yeah?"

"We maybe close enough now--maybe know each other well enough--that maybe you'd take me to a hotel now and, you know, try some of these things with me?"

Then she burst out laughing as she gave my pecker a quick squeeze.

"Tease," I said, now vowing vengeance on all gossipy, kiss-and-tell women.

She just laughed louder. "I can't wait to call Susan tomorrow."

Stopped at an intersection, I turned to her.

"Enjoy your little laugh, young lady. You'll maybe find out about my fondness for spankings."

"Giving or receiving?" she laughed. "They didn't really get that far into your past."

I couldn't help it. Her laughter was infectious and I just laughed right along with her. Okay, mine was more of a chuckle, but I'll admit she just took my breath away at that moment. So unguarded. So happy. I felt good, pleased I had some part in her glee no matter how small and if only as the butt of the joke.

And that's when I knew.

I was in love with this girl.

Me. A soon-to-be (maybe, if the experts were correct, but what do they know anyway) successful author in love with this weird, wacky, silent, brilliant, incredible-amount-of-food-consuming, Goth chick. This lovely young lady with a brilliant smile and an infectious laugh.

We had nothing in common except our love of writing and good books.

Nothing.

Does love really work like this? It sure as hell wasn't like any love I'd ever dreamed of.

And would it strike her, too? Would she fall in love with me?

That last one that scared me, because now I realized more than ever that I really wanted her to love me.

No just like me, even if it did include hot sex.

I needed Marisa to love me.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

"Problem," Marisa said when I answered the phone three days later.

"What?"

"The party," she said. "It's next Saturday."

"Yeah," I confirmed. "We're flying out Friday morning. We'll spend Friday afternoon and the following day in Manhattan, go to the party, fly back Sunday afternoon. What's the problem?"

"I can't make it," she said.

"You what?"

"Can't make it."

"Why?"

She was silent.

"C'mon, Marisa," I said. "What's the problem?"

"Something's come up is all."

"What?"

"Just something. Something I can't get out of."

I took a deep breath. Since we'd parted Saturday at midday, I'd been looking forward to the upcoming mini-vacation with Marisa in the worst way.

"Then can I at least see you before I go?"

"Sorry," she said, barely a whisper.

"Marisa, what's wrong? Did I do something?"

"It's not you. It's just that . . . well . . . something's come up."

"Can we talk about it?"

She was silent.

"Marisa?"

"I'm sorry, Tyler."

And she hung up.

When I tried calling her back, it went to voice mail. I left her a message. Then another message an hour later. Six messages on Tuesday also went unreturned.

* * * * *

By late Wednesday morning, I was frantic.

"Why don't you get off your ass and go to her," Dad told me. "Jesus, you walk around hangdog all goddamned day. Just go to her. Find out what's the matter."

I looked at him, then at Mom, who nodded in agreement. So I listened to them.

I sat on the stoop outside Marisa's apartment for three hours before one of her neighbors came home and saw me there.

"She's not here," the heavyset woman said. "Took off early yesterday mornin'. Suitcase in hand. Caught a taxi."

"Did she say where she was going?"

"Sorry," she said, and her face told me she meant it.

* * * * *

I was on the interstate back home, cell phone to ear, when she picked up.

"Hello?"

"Susan? It's Tyler."

She paused, then spoke slowly. "How are you?"

"Susan, have you heard from Marisa? She's canceled out on going to New York, won't take my calls, and now I've been to her apartment and-- "

"She's with me," Susan said, sadness in her voice.

"What's wrong? Did I do something?"

"It's not you, Tyler."

"Then what is it?"

Susan sighed. "I can't really talk about it."

"Well can I speak with her? Talk to her? At least say hello?"

"That's probably not a good idea right now."

"Why?"

"She doesn't want to talk to you. I don't think it would be a good idea to force her, okay?"

"Can you tell me anything?"

"Not now." She paused. "Tyler, I'm really sorry. I was afraid you felt this way. I will tell you she's not sure how you feel, but I warned her you probably cared for her. I'll tell her that now, okay? Maybe it will make a difference."

"Goddamnit, Susan," I said, "let me tell her myself. Please."

"Good bye, Tyler. I'll call you when I can tell you more. I promise."

She disconnected.

That's when I got pulled over for doing eighty in a sixty-five. He was an older cop, though, one who'd so obviously been there before and recognized the look on my face.

"Woman problems?"

I just nodded, staring straight ahead in a daze.

"Well getting your ass killed--and probably killing someone else--sure as hell ain't gonna solve 'em now, is it?"

I shook my head.

"Sorry."

"Don't be sorry. Slow the hell down."

He walked back to his car muttering.

Then a thought struck me, and I spent the rest of the drive home hoping Kristin would be there.

* * * * *

"What did you guys talk about with Marisa?" I asked when we were in my room.

Kristin smiled, then grinned broadly.

"This isn't funny," I said, trying to keep my anger in check. "She's taken off. Won't speak to me."

By the look of horror on Kristin's face, I knew with a sinking feeling that it wasn't anything she'd intentionally done.

"We didn't . . . everybody was . . . just stories, Tyler. Really. You saw us. She was laughing."

I nodded. "What kind of stories?"

Kristin dropped her eyes, fidgeting.

"What kind of stories, Kristin?" I insisted.

"You know. Maybe some racy stuff. And some funny stories. From when we were together and when you were growing up and stuff."

"I know about the racy stuff," I said. "What about the growing up stuff."

"Just, like, some of the things we all used to do. You know. The first time you smoked dope and spraypainted a mural in your Dad's workshop. Stuff like that."

I nodded. "Nothing about . . . well-- "

"We were nice to her, Tyler," she said, sadness in her face. "You saw us. I wouldn't do that to you. I could see how you watched her."

"And how was that?"

"Like you cared for her."

"So it was in your own best interest to get something in to maybe put up a little roadblock, right?"

"I didn't. Swear to God I didn't. I wouldn't do that." Her face was frantic, her tone pleading with me to believe her.

I just stared at her. Hard.

"You have to believe me. Sure, I want you to give us another chance. But do you really think I'm going to go around sabotaging every relationship you have for that chance?"

"Why wouldn't you?"

"Because then you'll never give me another chance," she said. "I know you. You'd hate me even more."

"I don't hate you," I said.

"But you don't love me. At least not enough to give us another chance."

"We've been over this. It's not-- "

"I know," she interrupted. "But let me tell you what else I know. If you really care about her and I do something--anything, no matter how small--if I do something to get in the way of that, you'll never talk to me again. At least not like you are now."

She was right, of course.

"We've got Ben now," she continued, her voice softening. "You think I'm going to mess up what we've got right now with Ben? Knowing it'll hurt him? You really think I'd risk that? So yeah, I want you back. But I wasn't lying, Tyler. I fucked up; I know that; and I really only want you to be happy. If I can make you happy--and I swear to God I'll try for the rest of my life like never before--well then I want that chance. But I know if I get in the way, you'll resent me for the rest of your life. And I don't want that. I don't want Ben to see his parents hating each other, even a little bit. Not if I can help it"

I nodded. She was right: It wasn't anything she or any of the other women had said or done on Friday night.

Then what the fuck was it?

"I can tell you something, though," Kristin said.

"What?"

"There was something in the way she looked at you--sometimes at us while we were talking."

"What?" I pressed.

"She's scared. She looked at you with fondness almost bordering on puppy love devotion. But there was something more. Like she was scared of that. Of her own feelings for you."

Time to quit lying to myself. I'd suspected since talking to Susan, and now Kristin confirmed it.

Marisa still didn't trust me. Trust us. She'd been shit on so many times, she was scared of giving it a chance.

Her terror of being rejected or hurt was overwhelming any feelings she may have for me.

So what do I do now?

* * * * *

I was packing Thursday evening, getting ready to get up at four the next morning and get to O'Hare for my flight to Manhattan.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn't hear the scraping at first. When I heard the thud, though, I went out to investigate. Mom was laying sprawled on the stairway, trying without success to pull herself up by the bannister.

"Mom," I said, rushing down to help her up. "Jesus, what're you doing? Where's Dad?"

"We need to talk," she said. Her speech was almost back to normal. The words were clearly enunciated, and most of the pause between words was gone.

"I'll come downstairs," I said, holding her frail body to mine.

"No." Her voice was firm, and her expression told me she wanted to get the rest of the way up the stairs.

"Okay," I said, and helped her the rest of the way with her weak arm around my shoulder.

Once in my room, she sat in the chair at my desk and turned to face me.

"You're hurting," she said.

I nodded.

"Is it Kristin?"

"No, Mom. It's not Kristin."

"So you've decided then. You're not going back to her."

I sighed. "Pretty much. Yeah, that's over."

She paused, her face upset at first. Gradually, a sense of steely determination set in.

"Why?"

"Because, Mom," I explained, trying to find words for my feelings and failing. "Because she left me. Because she married someone else."

"But you love her?"

I thought about it before answering.

"Sure. I love her. Always have."

"Then why won't you try?"

"Because, Mom, my love wasn't enough. Mine or her's. It wasn't enough to keep it together."

"I've seen marriages get past worse."

"Yeah, but for how long? Have you seen them get past worse and last? Were they happy? Or as happy as they were before?"

She gave a brief shake of her head. "No. No, they weren't."

"I've thought about it, Mom. Really I have. But it's two things. First, she left me. No explanation, no nothing. Just left. And got remarried to someone she was . . . she was sleeping with while we were still together. I mean, that's pretty major."

"And you can't forgive that?"

I shook my head. "The problem is that I loved her so much. Really. With every breath I took, I worshiped the ground she walked on. That just makes it way worse, you know? It's so hard to take when you love them so much that you can't even picture them acting like this. And when she did, it just dropped my whole bottom out from under me. Maybe if I didn't love her as much it wouldn't have been so bad. I could forgive the betrayal and all. But I can't. It's like she didn't love me nearly as much."

Mom nodded, her face sympathetic and understanding. "I think she'd try now, though. I think she realizes that, and she's doing everything to prove to you she'll love you more than ever before."

"But I can't trust that. What if we get back together? Will she get bored again? I mean, if she really loved me--loved me as much as I loved her--then she'd have never gotten bored with me. Did I mess up? Sure. A lot. I'm not saying it was just her fault. Still, she's the one that left. Without a word of warning or explanation. And she's the one that moved on. And to be honest, I think the only reason she's willing to even try now is because we're both back here and Randy's divorcing her. Back with her family and friends and everything, and no Randy anymore."

Mom nodded. "You said there were two reasons."

"Ben," I said. "Right now Ben's growing up in a one-parent household. He gets to see all of us, but he's used to the way things are. He doesn't really know any better, and by the time he's older he'll have forgotten all about Randy and everything and it will be all he knows. If I get back with Kristin and it doesn't work out . . . well, I just can't put Ben through that kind of pain."

"And you're not willing to take the chance," Mom said, a statement and not a question.

"No, I'm not."

"You think it's better for him to grow up in a single-parent household than in a normal household?"

"That's not what I think," I said. "I just think that the 'normal household,' as you put it, wouldn't last. And I don't want Ben to have to go through that. Kristin and I get along now, and I don't want him to have to go through a divorce and the whole mess associated with it."

We sat silent for a few moments.

"Then it's Marisa, isn't it?"

"Yeah, Mom, it's Marisa."

"You really care for her," she said. "It shows. You're . . . I don't know. Protective, I guess. And you always seem to be leaning toward her."

"I think I love her."

She nodded, her somber face brightening into a smile. Though only half of her lips curled into the smile, she was the mother I'd grown up with. I no longer saw the stroke she'd suffered. She was my mom again.

"I can see how you would. Not at first, I suppose. But in just those few minutes, I was with her, I saw something. A kindness that's pretty rare."

I nodded, not sure how to put my feelings into words.

"Have you told her?" Mom said. "That you love her?"

"No. Never really got the chance."

"Bullshit, Tyler."

My jaw dropped. Mom never swore. Well, almost never. But her profanity wasn't in anger.

"You've had plenty of chances."

"She's gone," I started to explain. "She's-- "

"Then find her. Find her and tell her."

"I know where she is. With her sister. In Florida. But she won't see me."

"Then figure out a way to get the message to her. Through her sister or something."

"But how?"

Mom pushed herself out of her chair, clutching her cane and staring down at me.

"If you really love her, you'll figure out a way." She slowly covered the few feet to me on the bed. "Now kiss your mother for making it all better and help me down the stairs before I break my neck."

* * * * *

Around eight o'clock that night, I sat at my desk writing my nearly-finished second novel. For whatever reason, and don't ask me to explain, I figured out the only way I could get word to Marisa. The only way Susan would have to tell her how I felt.

"Tyler," a sleepy Susan said on answering the phone, "do you know what time I have to get up in the morning?"

"Tell her I love her, Susan. Don't tell her I care for her. You tell her I love her."

Susan paused.

"Tell her," I insisted. "And you tell her, too, that if she's not there Saturday night--if she's not at that party--then I'm leaving. This isn't just my book. This is our book. Your's, Marisa's, and mine. And I want all of us to be there to get the credit."

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