What You Wish For Pt. 06byRehnquist©
"But Tyler," Susan started arguing, fully awake now.
"But Tyler nothing. I'm not going to have the biggest night of my life without the woman I love at my side. So I don't care how you do it or what you do, but you make damned sure Marisa's there. Even if only to tell me to fuck off and get out of her life, she'd better be there or I won't be."
"But you can't do that," Susan argued. "You're contractually bound to-- "
"I know what the contract says. But I don't care. Fuck the contract. Let 'em sue."
"What if I can't-- "
"Figure out a way, Susan. I'm serious. She'd better be in Manhattan by Saturday morning, and she'd better be at that party."
"But this is . . . well, it's blackmail."
"No, Susan," I said, my voice lowering. "This is the only way I can figure to tell the woman I love how I feel. And to let her know just how serious I am about it. Mark my words, because I mean every damned one of them."
"I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks," I said, but she disconnected without saying goodbye.
The flight was uneventful, and the meetings I was stuck in with publishers, editors, lawyers, and graphic designers were boring beyond belief. Friday night dinner was good, though.
Things became somewhat brighter about halfway through dinner when Natalie left the table to take a call.
Five minutes later she was back, a smile plastered across her face.
"She'll be here," she said to me.
"Of course Marisa. Who else?"
"Tomorrow morning. Flight gets in at ten."
"What gate?" I said, eager to be there.
Natalie shook her head. "No way, buster. You've got more meetings in the morning. And you need to rest up in the afternoon."
My eyes narrowed. "You're not lying?"
"What good would that do? I'm lying, you'll just leave." She leaned over and patted my hand. "You just settle down now, okay? Try to enjoy yourself. Maybe pay a little better attention at the meetings tomorrow. Get a nap in the afternoon. You'll see her at the party."
"You're not lying," I said again, more of a statement this time, like I was trying to convince myself.
"Ahem," the short little gray-haired fellow at our table said.
"Yes, Riley," Natalie said to the publisher.
"This Marisa you're speaking of," he said, his voice higher pitched than you'd think. "She isn't, by any chance, the young lady who edited this? Actually found it and got it to you?"
"That's the one," I said.
"And she's going to be here?" he said, looking both surprised and pleased at the notion.
"She'd better be here," I said.
"What do you mean, Tyler?" he said.
"If she's not," I started.
"What he's trying to say, Riley," Natalie cut in, her hand clamped on, and squeezing the hell out of, my forearm. "What he's trying to say is that he feels she deserves the lion's share of the credit."
"Oh, I don't know," Riley said, smiling at me easily. "She didn't write it. You did. So credit, to be sure, but probably not the lion's share, eh?"
"The lion's share," I said. "If it wasn't for her, you'd have never seen it. And you've read the final draft I had before she helped with the edit."
He nodded. "Yes, I will admit it's even better than we expected. And your own final version was already superb."
"But her's is better, right?"
He nodded. "Noticeably."
"So the lion's share," I reiterated.
"Then I'll look forward to meeting her," he concluded, diving back into the duck breast on his plate.
I smiled, wondering if he'd still think that when he actually saw her in person.
I thought back to the first time I saw her, wondering how I'd ever come to fall in love with that apparition on my doorstep.
* * * * *
The party started at eight on Saturday night, and I was there five minutes early. It was in a ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria, and there were giant placards with my picture and with the cover of the book scattered throughout the room. There were also several hundred courtesy copies of the book for the press, critics, and the various literati and celebrities that were expected to attend. I'd spent an hour and a half autographing each and every book.
There were already a few dozen people there, mostly milling at the bar or at one of the several tables laden with canapes. I didn't recognize any of them.
And I didn't see Marisa.
I felt a squeeze on my arm and turned.
"Susan," I said, leaning over and giving her a peck on the cheek.
"Congratulations, Tyler," she said, looking around the room then back at me. "You should be proud of yourself."
"Thanks," I said, seeing that she was with someone. A thirty-something like me with a square jaw and short-cut light brown hair. No Marisa.
"I'd like you to meet Todd Mueller," she said. "He's my . . . we're . . . ."
"Dating," Todd said, smiling and extending his hand to me. "You can say it, babe. Really."
"We're dating," she said, smiling at him.
"Tyler Collins," I said, returning the firm handshake. "Thanks for coming. And congratulations, too. Susan's a very special lady."
He beamed at her, and she returned his look with a warm, easy smile.
"Don't I know it," he said. "We met during a trial a few years ago. She dusted my ass. And then I run into her at the grocery store. A Cuban grocery, no less. Little hole in the wall tucked away in the alley."
She patted his forearm. "You don't have to tell him the whole story."
He shrugged, grinning at her. "I just did. Except that we had a drink. Papaya something. And one thing led to another and-- "
"And here we are," Susan said, pecking his cheek.
"I'm happy for you," I said. "You deserve it."
She gave me a warm smile. "And you're the one who kicked me in the ass to give it a shot."
I nodded, still looking over their shoulders and around the room, trying to spot Marisa.
"She'll be here soon," Susan promised. "You know how it is. Make up and traffic and everything."
I searched her face for any signs of deception, but she seemed honest and earnest.
"Tyler," I heard a voice call out. "Come over here a moment, will you?"
I went toward the entrance and saw Riley McMasters standing next to two men I'd seen a million times before in pictures and on the screen.
"Tyler," he said, "I'd like to introduce you to Clint Eastwood and Stephen King."
"It's an honor," I said, shaking both of their hands in awe.
"Thanks," Eastwood rasped in that familiar voice.
"Good to meet you, Tyler," King said as I shook his hand. "An excellent book. Really very well done and all."
"Yeah," Eastwood agreed.
"Thanks. Really. Coming from you two, I mean, that's really high praise, right?"
Eastwood chuckled. "You don't know why I'm here, right?"
"For the party?" I guessed. "Or someone's going to be here you want to see?"
"He has no clue," King said.
Eastwood chuckled. "I'm the leading partner in TriCorner."
Now they both chuckled, shaking their heads in disbelief.
"TriCorner bought the movie option," Natalie chimed in from behind me. "Hello Clint. Stephen."
They both gave her a hug and a peck on the cheek.
"Natalie, you old battle axe," King said. "Still finding the hot up-and-comers, aren't you?"
"When're you gonna come to my agency?" she said to him.
They all grinned, bantering back and forth. My mind, though, was elsewhere.
By nine thirty, my jittery nerves were being run ragged. Susan, when confronted, continued preaching patience, but my patience was running thin.
I'd talked with nearly every one of the two hundred or so people in the banquet room by then, and I was back with Eastwood and King, now joined by Carl Hiaasen, an incredibly talented Florida mystery writer who was one of my favorites.
"So you're saying this girl," Hiaasen said, disbelief all over his face, "this Marisa. She's the one who read it and got Natalie to contact you?"
"And edited it," I confirmed.
"Really," King said. "And she's a student?"
"Working on her doctorate in English. Creative writing, too."
"And Natalie listened to her?" Hiaasen said.
I nodded. "She's really good."
"At the editing, too?" King asked. "I mean, was it just spelling here and a phrase or something there?"
"No. It was the whole ball of wax."
"Does she write, too?" Eastwood asked, his first words in five minutes.
"Some, I guess," I answered. "She wants to. I know that. But she's waiting for some more experience. Life experiences, she says."
"How is she with dialogue," Eastwood asked. "Writing dialogue. How is she?"
"Did you read the book?"
All three nodded their heads.
"Like the dialogue?"
The nods continued.
"She helped me re-work a lot of it. Not totally. Mostly a word here and an inflection there. But it really made a big difference, that's for sure."
Hiaasen gave a low whistle, King nodded in thought, and Eastwood just tightened his lips and narrowed his eyes.
"Holy shit," Hiaasen whispered, coming out of his reverie.
"What?" I said, seeing Eastwood's eyes narrow to smaller slits and King's mouth open in awe.
"My God," Eastwood croaked, "I wish I was thirty years younger."
"No shit," King agreed.
I turned to watch a tall, elegant woman in a simple sleeveless green dress enter the room and look around shyly. Her hair was cut short and parted on one side, the part nearly covering her left eye. A small, matching green handbag was held against her ribs, the only adornment beside the dress and a simple pair of high heeled shoes.
"Marisa," I whispered, amazed at the transformation.
"You know her?" King said.
"That's her?" Hiaasen asked. "The editor?"
"You got to work with that?" Eastwood said reverentially.
"Excuse me," I mumbled, walking to her without looking back.
She saw me approaching when I was still twenty feet away. Her body tensed, the nervous, searching look now replaced by embarrassment or shame something like it. Her eyes dropped, to the floor, then rose again to meet me.
"You came," I said in relief.
"You . . . . I didn't recognize you," I said. "When you walked in. I had to look a second time."
"I look okay?"
"Yeah," I said, reaching for her hand. "You look okay. Maybe even a little better than okay."
"Really?" she said. "Because I feel like a Barbie doll."
"Barbie dolls never gave me a hard on before," I whispered in her ear.
She smiled, or at least tried to. She was a ball of nerves, though, and her eyes kept shooting to and focusing on the floor.
"Can we get some fresh air?" I said.
She nodded, taking my hand and following me to the balcony.
"Here," I said, draping my suit coat over her shoulders to hold off the breeze on the balcony.
"Did you mean it?" she said, her eyes searching my face as I spoke. "What you told Susan to tell me. Did you mean it?"
"That I love you?" I said. She nodded. "You're damned right I meant it. More than anything in the whole world. I've never been so serious in my whole life."
She didn't smile. Instead, her eyes bore into mine and held me there, her face searching for any trace of a lie.
I sighed. "I'll tell you when I knew it. The second night. Well, not really, but the next day when I was driving home."
"The second night we spent together? When you wouldn't . . . you know."
"The first night was great, don't get me wrong," I explained. "But the second night was magical. And the drive home was pure torture because I knew I wouldn't see you again for a couple of days. I realized I didn't want to wait a couple of days. Not even a couple of minutes."
"But I called you first," she protested.
"I was afraid to push you. You made it clear you were . . . what, reluctant? Not sure?"
"That could just be infatuation," she said. "You're describing infatuation."
I shook my head. "Thought about that already. But it's not. It's like it was when Kristin and I were first together, only stronger. Way stronger. I remember that. I loved her with every breath, but I could still put it aside for other things when I wasn't with her. With you, though, I can't even really think. The book's gone nowhere since that second night. Maybe ten, twelve pages, and they're all shit. I know I'm gonna have to re-write the whole lot of it."
"Then say it," she said. "Say it again. Convince me."
"I love you, Marisa Key," I said, stepping close and holding her face in my hands, staring into her deep brown eyes as I spoke. "I swear to God. This isn't puppy love. This isn't lust or infatuation or any of that. I know. Been there done that, and that's not what this is."
She tightened her lips.
"Don't try to make yourself believe it," I said. "Just believe it. It's a fact. And you need to deal with it. You can't run away just because I want to spend the rest of my life proving to you--proving every minute of every day of every year--that I love you."
Her eyes were welling up again in tears and still she was silent.
"I love Ben, too," I said. "But you know that. Not more, not less. In a different way, the way a father loves his son. And my folks, too. I love them, too. But you?"
She was nodding now, encouraging me to finish.
"You," I continued, a gentle smile on my lips, "you I love the way they write books about. The books we both mock. The sappy romance shit. Only it's stronger, more real. I love Ben, but I want his ass out of the house by the time he's out of college if not sooner. And my folks? Well, I'm already looking for a new place now that Mom's pretty much mended and all."
I kissed her, just a light brushing on her tear-soaked lips. I tasted salt and the scent of mint.
"And me?" she whispered.
"I don't ever want you out of the house. Not unless I'm with you. I could spend every waking moment of every day from here to eternity and never get enough of you."
"Damned right I'm sure."
"And in five years? Are you still going to feel that way in five years?"
"If we play our cards right, it'll only be stronger."
"Is that a proposal, Natalie?" I heard from behind me.
"Riley," Natalie gasped. "You're ruining it. You . . . you . . . . Men!"
Marisa ignored them, instead hugging me close and burying her face in my shoulder.
"I love you, too," she said. "More than anything. But I'm scared."
"Is that an acceptance?" Riley said.
"Shush," Natalie hissed. "What's wrong with you?"
"If I get you a ring will you accept it?" I whispered into her ear. "And will that convince you that I mean it?"
"But I ran away," she said, sniffling.
"I know," I replied. "But I know why you did it. You were afraid. You weren't leaving because of . . . I don't know. I just know it's not like Kristin. Not like when she left."
"But still," she said.
"I've been abandoned," I said. "You didn't abandon me. You were scared, so you ran. But you won't do it again, will you?"
I felt her head shaking in my shoulder.
"And you really do love me, right?"
"And now you know that I love you, right? And I mean really know. You know I'm telling the truth."
"I know," she confirmed.
"So let me say it again, maybe a little more formally this time. Should I get a proper ring and drop to my knees, or do you just wanna elope and get married somewhere? Or am I too soon on all of this?"
"Do I have to wait for the ring before you . . . you know," she said, pulling back and looking at me. The tears were shining in her eyes, but a joyous and playful smile was curling her lips.
"You little horn dog," I accused.
"I think that was an acceptance," Natalie confirmed for Riley.
* * * * *
Hours later, entangled on the bed in a knot of naked limbs, Marisa spoke.
"Can you really believe it? Clint Eastwood wants me to write the script."
"Help me and him write the script," I corrected her. "And only if they actually end up making a movie out of it."
"Still," she said. "Clint Eastwood."
"And Stephen King still wants you to edit a book for him."
"I don't know if I want to do that now," she said.
"Well, I mean, what can I really do? Jesus, Tyler, he's Stephen King."
"You'll break his heart if you refuse now," I said.
She was silent for a moment.
"Just wondering is all."
"About what?" I asked.
"If any of them would've even given me a second look if I'd . . . well . . . you know."
"No," I said, genuinely confused, "I don't know. What d'ya mean?"
"If I'd shown up as Marisa. Marisa the young, angry, dressed in black chick you described for them."
"I don't think anything would've been different," I said. "That's the Marisa I fell in love with. The one I still love, really. That's the Marisa that snagged me, so I'm sure it would've snagged them, too."
"So this new Marisa," she said, shivering as my fingertip traced the lines of her tattoo. "You love her, too?"
"Is she the real Marisa?" I said.
I rolled over, propping my head in my hand, and stared at her.
"Why? Why did you do it? I mean, you look fantastic, but I'm gonna love you no matter how you dress or what color makeup you wear."
"For you," she said. "I didn't want to embarrass you."
I looked at her. "I was never embarrassed. Not once."
She smiled. "I know. That's why I love you. And why I know--I mean really know--that you love me, too. But this was your night. I wanted it to be about you, not about the fucking nut job editor you were so madly in love with."
I smiled. "Well it's nice."
"The new look?"
"Oh, that too. But no. I was thinking how nice it was that Clint Eastwood lusts after my chick. Think about it: He's a Hollywood star, Dirty Harry for Chrissake, and he wants my woman."
She laughed. "And how do you know I don't lust after him, too?"
"Because you're in my suite. In my bed. Naked as a jaybird."
"And horny again," she said, twisting toward me. "Did I ever tell you about the three things I haven't done yet?"
"What three things?"
"Sexually," she said, her face now above mine, her hands pinning my shoulders to the mattress. "Since the day I lost my virginity, I've been saving three things for my husband. Three things I've always refused to do so I could save them for the one man I was meant for. You know, like those three things were for just me and him and no one else, and we'd always know that."
"What are they?"
She reached back between her legs and guided ole Thurman to her wet entrance, leaning over as she did so.
"Tell me," I gasped, savoring the feeling as she slowly sank onto me.
"You'll only find out when we're married. When you peel the wedding dress off on the first night of the honeymoon."
"What if I try . . . Oh God, yes . . .what if I try one of them before we're married?"
"I'll shoot you down," she said, leaning her head back and groaning.
"But I'll like 'em? These three things?"
"You'll . . . oh yeah, just like that . . . you'll fucking love them," she promised through her ecstasy.
Oh shit! I thought, almost getting off thinking about the possibilities twirling through my head and the warm, wet vice gripping me below.
How the hell was I going to concentrate on the rest of my second novel until after the honeymoon?