Angels: Bruises on a Broken Heartbycalibeachgirl©
"What?" she asked, her tongue seductively wiping mustard from her lips.
"Nothing. You look happy, that's all. How are things working out? Everything OK?"
"Yes, thank you. You have been very kind." She took another bite, looking across the table at him, giving him a smile even though she had a full mouth. She giggled, feeling like a schoolgirl. It had been so long for her. Working for him was going to be all right, she was sure of it.
The angel took a French fry when no one was looking, missing the taste she had enjoyed for so many years. The only one who noticed was a two-year old girl at the next table, quiet for the first time all day as she watched the angel in gold and white robes slowly fade away.
Mary watched the tournament game without really seeing it, her attention on Kevin the whole time, even when he asked her if she wanted nachos or popcorn and she had to ask him to repeat his question. The number of people that kept coming to shake his hand amazed her. Everyone wanted to talk to Kevin and he introduced her to everyone he spoke to. Was this what it was like to have someone care, she wondered. Was this what it would be like to be married to him? Was it? Suddenly, she wanted to know, even if just in her dreams.
How could she dream of such a thing? Even though he was friendly, he was still... what was he? Her employer, surely, even if for something as simple as housekeeping. He was a man, a highly educated man, who had hundreds of people depending on him. What was she compared to all that?
"Well," he said, on the way home, "what did you think?"
"It was exciting," she replied, hoping that was the right answer.
Other than the fact that his old school had won easily, she really hadn't paid much attention to what happened on the court, more interested in what was happening every time someone came to talk to him. The evening had turned into a never-ending social event as alumni and parents vied for his attention.
"Want to stop for ice cream?" he asked, looking sideways as he drove.
"Ice cream?" Wasn't it too late?
"Sure, why not?" His right hand reached out to touch her, seeking the warmth.
A few minutes later, he was pulling into the restaurant's parking lot. "They have a good hot fudge sundae here. You'll like it."
"That sounds great. Thank you." Ice cream? It was close to eleven o'clock! What a strange life he led.
Walking in, he wrapped an arm around her waist and looked at her happily. After they were seated and ordered, thankfully away from a loud crowd of teenagers who seemed to be from the other school, he asked, "How are things going? Is everything all right with you and your mother?"
'Yes, thank you. We are very grateful for your help."
"Bill, he's the auto body teacher at the school, says that your truck isn't as bad as it might seem. It's going to need some new body panels and paint and the engine needs a lot of work but it's all doable. It might be cheaper to just drop a new one in. It's just going to take a while but then, the labor is free. He thinks it's worth the trouble."
"What do you think?"
She took another bite of ice cream. With effort, Mary tried to ignore the tremor of sexual tension wavering between them. She had not felt this way since... since she was going to marry John. It was time to admit it, she realized, that she was very attracted to Kevin even if she could never admit it to anyone else.
"Well, you're going to need a car."
Would she leave, when the truck was finished? He didn't like that idea... not at all. But, what was he to do? He didn't own her.
Mary looked at him. Was he hoping they'd leave when the truck was finished? Was he already sorry he offered a place to stay? She looked down at her dish, afraid to look directly at him. What if? What if? She lost her appetite for the ice cream and watched it melt, the cream slowly filling the bowl and mixing with the fudge as she stared silently at it, wondering why she had so suddenly felt lost.
Kevin read Saturday morning's article about the game, realizing that he didn't remember a single thing about what had happened the night before. Between talking to people and watching Mary, it was as if he wasn't even there.
Even now, the sports writers were talking a possible state championship but he was wary of such early predictions. Talk like that was sure to jinx whatever chances the team had if the players let it go to their heads.
He expected the phones at the school would be ringing Monday morning but then he remembered it would be Christmas morning. Even now, the papers were highlighting the athletes, something the coach had tried to stop, saying that it was a 'team' effort. Nothing was worse for a team than to have jealousy rear its ugly head. How so like the military, he thought.
Kevin closed his eyes for a moment, letting the newspaper fall to his lap. Something had happened last night, he knew, something bad. Mary was in a good mood until... until what? Something happened right after he asked about her truck and then she had become silent, not even finishing her sundae. The ride back to the house had been deathly quiet, worse than being by himself.
The aroma of chocolate chip cookies filled the air. Ever since they had taken over cooking, the house was full of good smells that watered his mouth the moment he walked in. There was a cherry pie sitting on top of the stove cooling. He bent over and looked closely at the flaky crust knowing it would melt in his mouth once he got the opportunity to taste it. He was filled with a newfound hunger... for Mary and her food.
He walked into his bedroom, closing the door quietly behind him. He picked up the photo that beckoned to him, seemingly waiting for him all this time.
"Lucy," he said, almost a prayer from his lips, wishing that she was still with him, all these years later. Their child would have been four and full of life and Christmas would mean so much more than it had the last few years.
He leaned a shoulder against the door frame and let out a deep sigh. There was a sound and he turned to see Mary standing there, waiting for something next to the now opened door. Kevin lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, wishing to restore what they had had the night before... before she had pulled away. Something had happened but... what?
His gaze wandered over her face. She moved closer to become a part of him, drawn by his warmth, captivated by the idea of kissing him as he drew her lower lip into his mouth and sucked.
She opened her mouth to drink him in and he deepened the kiss, swallowing her moan. She wasn't sure where it would have led if several things had not happened at once.
His cell phone shrilly called him, so loud it caused her to jerk her head away... and, her mother turned the corner of the hallway and walked toward them, causing Mary's cheeks to flame so badly she was sure they were neon-red. Thankfully, her mother said nothing and seemed not to notice. Maybe the hallway was just too dark.
Kevin wanted to leave the house. He wanted ribs. Not pork ribs but beef ribs. Long, full of meat, saucy beef ribs. Would she want to go with him? Why was he having such trouble interacting with her when all he wanted to do was be her friend? Was that true? Was that all he wanted? He wanted more.
He glanced at the wall clock. It was almost eleven and he could hear sounds coming from the kitchen. If they were going to leave it would have to be now, before the two of them started cooking whatever they had planned for lunch.
"Mary! Florence! We're going out to eat, c'mon, close up the house!" He walked around, closing windows without waiting for an answer. Whatever noises had been coming from the kitchen stopped and he could hear other windows closing. One or the other had gone to the bedroom, ostensibly to change clothes. He walked through the house, checking each room, waiting for them to finish whatever they were doing.
"You'll like this place," he said. "They have the best beef ribs. I haven't been in a while, I don't know why. I guess I didn't have anyone to..."
He stopped talking and waited by the front door, knowing full well why he hadn't gone to the restaurant. It was the last time he had gone out with his wife, their last date. He could still taste her, smell her.
Their 'late' arrival for lunch found them waiting almost a half-hour as the restaurant was filled with holiday shoppers celebrating Christmas. Finally, they had a table and after ordering drinks, the two women looked at the menu. Kevin knew what he wanted: beef ribs and plenty of them.
Mary and Florence decided to share a plate of ribs and soon had sauce dripping from their faces as they bit into the succulent meat.
"My God, this is good," Florence said. "Thank you for bringing us. Thank you for everything."
She took another swipe at the meat with her knife and fork.
"You're welcome. I'm glad you like it. They have hot towels to clean up with when we're done. God, I love this stuff."
He took another bite of the rib, pulling meat away from the bone with his teeth as he chewed it into his mouth. He had almost forgotten how good the ribs tasted.
More than a half-hour later, the last rib's meat finally disappeared from the bone.
"Do you want dessert?" he asked, wiping his face with the hot damp towel the server had brought.
"Oh, no... I'm so full I could..." Mary said, putting her towel down. She looked at her mother who was still busy with her own last rib.
"What?" Florence asked, chewing a little more, her fingers covered with sauce.
"Nothing, Mama... nothing at all."
Why they had kissed, she had no idea other than possible loneliness. That wedding photo said it all, she decided, and yet, the kiss they had shared was the most exciting she had ever had. What was she to do?
"Merry Christmas," she thought to herself.
Kevin drove south on the boulevard until they reached the coast and turned east toward the Wayfarers' Chapel, the famous glass church that overlooked the Pacific.
Parking the car, he escorted the two women into the building, the glass and light-colored limestone reflecting the oh-so-mellow Southern Californian lifestyle. Its airy interior was due to the tall glass walls that gave a view of Catalina just a few miles off the coast. Kevin walked over to the tall window and looked at the island across the channel. The sight never ceased to amaze him and the old song came to mind, once again... 'twenty-six miles across the sea... Santa Catalina, the island of romance...'
Mary stood in the aisle and twirled like a ballerina.
"It's so beautiful," said Mary, quietly, as if she was afraid of destroying the moment.
"A lot of people get married here," Kevin responded reverently, more for sense of being than anything else. "It's very popular with brides."
He watched her moving through the church, oblivious to anything else as she went to one window to gaze at Catalina.
"What do you think?" she asked. "Would you like to get married here?"
Kevin looked at her, unsure how to answer such a direct question.
"I... I hadn't ever thought about it." Why did he say that? What was he thinking when he went to sleep at night, lying alone in the big, empty bed?
Mary looked back at him. "It's just so beautiful, isn't it?"
She moved over toward the glass wall and looked south toward Catalina, the island of romance.
It was a long, quiet ride back north along Pacific Coast Highway, as if he was trying to delay the inevitable return to the house. He soon realized taking them to the Glass Church had put ideas into Mary's head and there was no denying she had shown interest... interest in being his wife, or at least somebody's wife. What was he to do, now? He couldn't see himself getting married now, if at all, could he? It was still too soon and his memory of Lucy continued to fill his nights making sleep impossible. How long had it been since he slept the night through? What was he to do? He was so confused... and, suddenly, so damn unhappy.
The angel was upset, knowing that the evening had not gone as she had hoped. What to do, she wondered, what to do to bring them back together, she didn't know. Love was a fragile gift and this one was so close to shattering.
As Kevin pulled into the driveway, Mary was already out of the car before it had completely stopped and headed toward the front door. Within seconds, she had disappeared inside and Kevin once again wished he had never driven out to the old church.
It was a silent evening for Mary had stayed in her room, leaving him alone in the living room to stare at the television by himself since Florence had also left him alone.
That night, he lay there, staring up at the dark ceiling, wondering why she had gotten to him when so many other women had never been able to get near. There had been plenty of opportunities and he had shied away from every one of them, throwing his life into his work.
Maybe... maybe it was her dark green eyes staring at him when he watched her or her reddish copper hair topped by one of the baseball caps that he had given her.
Or maybe it was just a physical attraction, plain and simple. She was a woman and he was a man, it could be as simple as that. Maybe he had been alone far too long, no matter how his heart felt. What was he to do now? He wondered what Lucy would have thought.
But no, there seemed something more, something he sensed deep within her. At times, she seemed like a young girl, her eyes full of fear from something that had happened before they met. She tried to hide it but it was there.
It made Kevin want to protect her, to touch her... to touch her heart.
The house was quiet Christmas Eve morning when Kevin left his bedroom and went into the kitchen. While the table was set for breakfast, there was no one there waiting and the stove was cold. For a moment, he considered sitting down and waiting but then thought otherwise. He walked over to the coffeemaker, started it and then opened the refrigerator and took out the orange juice. Pouring a glass, he put it back and listened to the coffee drip into the pot. Where were they? Where was she? Had they somehow left? That was something that he really didn't want to consider.
Quietly, he went down the hallway and listened at the first door and heard nothing, not even the soft snoring that Mary's mother had usually marked the night with. He walked to the next door, wondering if all he would hear was more silence.
He knocked on the door and slowly opened it, expecting to find emptiness... the same emptiness that was filling his heart at the thought of the two women being gone.
"Kevin... what are you doing in...?" Mary asked, struggling to pull the light-blue bedding up toward her neck.
"I thought you had gone... you and your mother." He felt foolish, standing in the doorway, watching her next to her mother, practically hiding beneath the covers.
"I just didn't want to be alone, that's all. Yesterday..."
She flattened out the blanket, causing his attention to drift to her breasts pushing against the bedding, bringing back Saturday's memories, good and bad.
"About yesterday," he started to say, trying to explain himself. "I was wondering..."
"You know, about you and... about you and me."
"What 'you and me'? What do you mean?"
Kevin stood there in the doorway, wondering just what did he mean. "You and me, where we're going... together, I mean... if there is a together. I..."
"Together?" she asked, looking at him, the blanket slipping away from her chin.
"What do you really know about her?" asked Mike as he and Kevin walked down the hallway toward the computer room that oversaw the Pacific geosynchronous satellites.
"She makes me happy, I know that," answered Kevin, knowing that his friend only had his best interests at heart and was playing Devil's Advocate.
"I've been alone too long. I..."
They reached the room and pulled open the door without knocking. It had been two days since he had taken Mary and her mother to the Glass Church and the conversation they had had the next morning. To explain where his heart was took a long drive down the coast to San Diego. He wasn't sure he had explained himself well until she began speaking about her own heartbreak, nothing to be sure as devastating as his but hurtful just the same.
She expressed her embarrassment at still being a virgin but he told her it was a gift to be given in love, not something to be thrown away as if it had no value.
They spent the day at Sea World, just walking hand in hand from one show to another, accompanied by their own angel, and it was late in the evening when they finally returned to the house.
Florence looked through the window curtains at the car parked across the street, wondering if it was him... the scourge of her life... of her daughter's life. She stepped back into the shadows, her breathing slowly returning to normal. Would it ever end? She thought they were finally free, hidden away at the colonel's house. Who would ever know they were there? But then, the man opened the door and stepped out. It wasn't him, thank God.
"Merry Christmas," he said to both of them as he sat down at the table.
They were wearing holiday-themed sweatshirts; Mary had a green one with a Christmas tree while Florence had a red one and happy, smiling reindeer.
"Merry Christmas," they replied.
Florence put a dish of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of him humming "Santa Claus is coming to town."
Kevin looked at the two women and knew he hadn't felt so good in a long time.
"Good morning... this sure looks good."
He put a forkful into his mouth and smiled. Living the single life had taken a toll on his taste buds and the years of being alone had destroyed his joy of food.
He looked away from the table to the small Christmas tree that was set up on the coffee table and wondered how they had gotten it. He still hadn't found them a car and the nearest tree lot was over a mile away.
"How did...?" he started to ask, still looking at the tree, its lights shining.
"Oh... well..." Florence looked at her daughter and started laughing. "It was just a long walk."
Kevin then realized he had forgotten to buy anything for the women and his face turned red in embarrassment. He slowly looked at his watch and then up, again. "I just remembered I have to go to the base for a while."
"On Christmas morning?"
"It never ends. I should be back in a couple of hours." He stood up and then sat back down, looking at his breakfast.
"Guess I'll finish this first, huh?" He quickly ate the rest of his eggs, wishing he could have taken his time with the food and then left.
Fifteen minutes later, he pulled into the mall parking lot and rushed into Macy's, surprised and glad they were open. Buying for the mother was easy, he thought, finding several good-looking sweaters but for the daughter...
Walking down the aisle, he chanced upon the jewelry section and stopped to look at bracelets, necklaces and rings. Looking at the rings, he bent over and saw some beautiful engagement rings and wedding sets.
"May I help you?" asked the woman behind the counter.
"I don't know," Kevin answered back. "I'm still..." And then he stopped talking, wondering what he was waiting for. He had been alone too long, much too long. Lucy would understand, he was sure. "Let me see..."
He arrived back at the house close to an hour and a half later, carrying bags of gifts in his arms. It had been so long since he had bought anyone something for Christmas and, he admitted to himself, he probably went overboard. Laughing, he set a bag down and started to put the key into the lock when the door swung open.