Back Door Woman: Sat. PM Ch. 02bypjstewart50©
I hadn't intended to, but I must have taken a nap anyway. I didn't exactly wake up. I was jolted out of slumber. It suddenly struck me. A fierce, burning pain pierced my chest cavity. The place we call the heart. Unannounced visit. Uncharacteristic kisses. Unchecked stares. Lying. This was it. Over. Done. Kiefer had shown up unannounced because he'd come to say goodbye. Stab. Stab. Stab. What was that driving into my heart? I was still wrapped in Kiefer's arms. He still snoozed. What to do now that I knew?
Whoa. Maybe I didn't know anything. Maybe that wasn't it. Ha. Who am I kidding? It's over. Finis. My heart was pounding, trying to escape its confines. Why didn't he feel it? My heart? Why didn't it wake him up? I forced myself to take deep breaths. One. Two. Three. Better. Get a grip, a grip, a grip, please. If this is to be the last hurrah, then don't be a ninny. Do you want his last memory of you to be of a whining nag? No, no, no. I determined to adopt the stiff upper lip. I can do it. I've been doing it for years. This won't be that different. Be extra tuned in. Make memory snapshots. Remember this weekend forever.
My determination to keep a stiff upper lip did not lessen the searing pain in my chest. My recollection of what I'd been thinking before I napped is that I'd been eager to discover what was wrong with Kiefer. Now I didn't want to know. I wasn't going to do this again as I had years before. No gnashing of teeth. No wailing. Not again. Once was enough. Not for him again, for no one. Wasn't going to ask. No. Not going to ask him. I had to get up. Had to escape. I carefully pulled away and up from Kiefer's embrace. I was not successful in my attempt not to disturb him. His eyes flew open as I stood. He looked scared. Well, perhaps not scared. But something.
The phone rang. Thank god. It was my friend D'Ann, calling to see if I was alive. I knew that that was not really why she was calling. She, no, they, my friends, were still in shock about Kiefer. Well, it would be short lived, my friends' acquaintance with him. Too bad. I turned away from the sofa as I spoke into the phone. I didn't feel like talking to D'Ann. I didn't feel like talking to anyone. I made hurried, whispered excuses to her and hung up. Kiefer was half way to me by the time the phone was back in its cradle.
"Who was that? You didn't talk long."
"Oh, it was my friend D'Ann. Just checkin' on us. Wonderin' if we were alive."
"Why wouldn't we be?"
"God, I dunno. It's just an expression."
It was near 6:00 P.M. I had slept much longer than I'd thought. I moved to the kitchen.
"It's nice outside still. Wanna go out for some wine before dinner?"
"That sounds good. Can I go out like this," Kiefer asked, referring to his nakedness.
"Sure," I said. Be brave. Be funny. Don't let it show. "If you're not embarrassed waggin' that little thing out in public, well then, I say go for it. Good for you!"
His right fist pounded my upper arm. "You are so mean to me, J!" he emphasized 'mean.'
"Oh, poor baby. He's sooooooooooo mistreated."
He laughed. Laughter. His laughter. Could I make a recording? And him not know?
Kiefer headed upstairs to dress. My mind was still reeling with the sense of impending loss. I mechanically prepared the dinner rolls and placed them on the baking sheet in preparation to bake at a later time. When Kiefer returned to the kitchen, I almost choked. I felt the laugh way before it issued from my throat. There he stood, my little pink Power Puff Girls t-shirt stretched tightly over his torso, four or five inches of skin visible between the hem of the t-shirt and the waistband of his jeans. Barefoot still. He looked utterly ridiculous and utterly adorable. I was convulsed with laughter as he wandered around the kitchen, gathering wine, corkscrew, glasses, pretending that nothing was out of the ordinary. He had given me the t-shirt a long time ago when the Power Puff cartoons were so popular, and I had carefully laundered it over the years because it was one of my favorite things to wear around the house.
I couldn't breathe I was laughing so hard.
"What's the matter," he asked with supreme nonchalance, glancing at me with a decidedly poker face.
I still couldn't answer. I wanted to hug him, hug him tight. My Power Puff girl guy man.
"C'mere, you idiot," I finally got out. "You look so cute. You could do the drag queen thing, I think."
I pressed my palms to his face and smacked his forehead with my lips.
"Nah," he said. "I'd never be able to manage the high heels. Too clumsy"
We both laughed and he headed to the French doors. I raced ahead to open one for him.
"Grab my smokes, will ya? They're on the bar."
I went back and picked up the pack, a book of matches tucked just inside the package where a small tear had been made, and followed him out just in time to prevent Athos from knocking him over as he maintained balance of all the stuff in his arms. I helped him place everything on the small table between the chaises and turned around to close the door. He busied himself opening the wine.
"You haven't called Sarah Jude today, y'know."
"Oh, shit, I forgot. I gonna get my phone."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Just get the phone inside. I don't think a phone call's gonna break me. Besides, you know the cell reception here sucks."
"You sure you don't mind? I'll pay the bill," he said as he reached for a smoke.
Kiefer had always been politely concerned about my money. It was sweet. He lit the cigarette.
"Of course I don't mind. You are so goofy," I said, making a face at him and crossing my eyes.
He had already opened the wine. I began to fill our glasses as he stepped inside the door and grabbed the phone. He backed out, shut the door, and started dialing, pacing as the call went through. I hoped Camelia, Sarah Jude's mom, or Sarah answered the phone. He always fretted when neither of them could be reached.
"Hi, Cam. Sarah there?" Pause. Kiefer's facial expression changed. "Huh? Slow down, slow down. What's wrong? What's the matter?"
Kiefer's pacing stopped then restarted. Something was up.
"S-L-O-W down, Cam. WHAT did you say?"
I watched him intently. The timbre of his voice had changed. He stopped, stock still. Oh, God. The face. Ugly Kiefer. The eyes. Ugly, ugly Kiefer. What had happened? He was frozen. Then, apparently, Camelia's voice on the phone called him out of the hateful stiffness.
"That little mutha fucker. I will KILL him. He is dead, Cam. That little son of a bitch is DEAD," he screamed. Pause. Listening to Camelia.
Ugly Kiefer was gone, but a very pissed Kiefer was in his place.
"No, no, I don't want to talk to her. No, don't - - - uh. Hi, baby."
The voice changed again. Sarah was evidently on the other end of the phone now.
"Are you all right?" Pause. "What? What do you mean it's nothing? Don't TELL me it's nothing, Sarah. I'm KILLIN' that little son of a bitch." Pause. "No, no, no. Stop, Sarah. O.K. O.K. Are you SURE you're all right?" Pause. "Yeah, I know, I know. Huh?"
There was a lengthy pause as, evidently, Sarah explained something to him.
"Are you SURE?" Pause. "O.K. O.K." Pause. "I'm just worried about you, baby. That's all. I love you. Do you want me to come home?"
My Kiefer's face was back. Not ugly Kiefer's. Not pissed Kiefer's. Just Kiefer's. Sarah had restored his good spirits.
"Yes, I promise. YES, I promise. I'm fine. I love you, baby. Love you. Bye. O.K. Bye."
Kiefer punched the disconnect button on the phone. He sighed. Heavily. He woodenly walked to the door, opened it, and returned the phone to its resting place. I decided not to intrude on his thoughts until he spoke. I knew how much he loved his daughter and how much he regretted things he had done and not done in the past. Lamentably, he had once said of Sarah's childhood that he was sick of sandboxes. I knew that he had relived that moment many times, wishing that she were still sandbox size and that he were in there with her, loving her then as he loved her now. Her maturation was almost more than he could bear. I had thought, honestly, that the onset of Sarah's menses was literally going to kill him. So much to deal with as a father. He had, after all, been so young when she was born. He was, after all, not so grown up now.
Kiefer absently wandered. After a few moments, he turned to me. I smiled.
"You O.K.?" I asked. "Need me to take you to the airport?"
"Nah. Sorta false alarm. Well, maybe. I dunno yet. I mean, you know Cam. She exaggerates to the max!"
In truth, I didn't know Camelia. I had spoken on the phone with her more than several times many years ago, but I didn't know her.
"Cam tells me that this new boyfriend of Sarah's tried something with her."
"Tried something? You mean - - - sexual?" I exclaimed.
"Yeah. Sexual," he growled.
God, no wonder I'd glimpsed ugly Kiefer.
"But that wasn't the case?" I inquired.
"Not according to Sarah. She says Cam blew the whole thing out of proportion. I'll get to the bottom of it when I get home. But Sarah sounded fine, just fine. I trust her more than I do Cam."
Kiefer had no idea how lucky he was. How lucky he and Camelia were. At her age, sixteen, they should be grateful that she hadn't been sexually active for years! I credit Kiefer's frank sex talks with Sarah for her virginity. He had never steered away from speaking frankly with her when drugs and sex were the subjects.
He looked so relieved.
"Want your wine now?"
"Yeah. That'd be good."
He received the glass from me and started walking towards the back of the yard. He still needed to think.
Me, I was just grateful that ugly Kiefer had not prevailed. I had seen ugly Kiefer only a few times, and that was a few times too many. I wanted no part of him. Kiefer was ninety-nine percent Dr. Jekyll and one percent Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde was not someone you'd want to meet. Mr. Hyde-Kiefer was brooding, dark, and vicious. Cold, mean, and brutal. Hmm. An Eye for an Eye's Robert Doob was an honest to goodness altar boy in comparison to Mr. Hyde-Kiefer. The drumming scene. Yeah. I knew where that came from. But that was only a lightning brief glimpse. The real Mr. Hyde-Kiefer was much more frightening than Doob. Unbidden fears beset me at times. I knew Kiefer's drinking, too. His overindulging, that is. There was sappy drinking Kiefer, cute, but obnoxious after half an hour. Then there was nasty drinking Kiefer. I didn't like him at all. Never did. Nasty drinking Kiefer was not quite as bad as Mr. Hyde, but I had fears about whether the two ever met. Sometimes I imagined him stalking dives and dark streets in strange places in the middle of the night, searching. Searching for something. Absolution. Revenge. The dragon. Slay the dragon. Or, succumb.
The contrast between Hyde-Kiefer and the one in my line of sight wearing a Power Puff Girls t-shirt was striking. In fact, I'd been so transfixed moments ago by his face, his eyes, the ugly Kiefer, that I'd failed to appreciate the dichotomy before my own eyes until now. Athos was trailing along behind Kiefer. Eventually, Kiefer squatted down and rubbed Athos warmly. He was O.K. now. He headed back to me. I was happy to be there.
"Filler," I asked, pointing to his empty glass.
"Yeah," he said, as he sat down again. "How's yours?"
"Fine. You O.K.? You want some more time to yourself?"
I must have looked at him questioningly because he followed up.
"Really. I'm fine. Thanks. Do I need to make the salad now? I mean, if you want me to make one?"
"Oh, it's still a bit early. Let's wait a little. How 'bout finishin' this bottle of wine first? And, by the way. Take my t-shirt off, you creep. You're gonna stretch it beyond recognition."
"O.K." he grinned. He pulled the shirt over his head. I stood up, took it from him, still chuckling about how absurdly cute he looked in it.
"It's too cool for no shirt, doncha think? You want me to run up and get one for you," I asked.
"Nah. I'll get it," he replied. "And take that back up, too," he said as he took the pink t-shirt from me. He disappeared into the house and returned moments later with a Hard Rock Acapulco t-shirt on. Clogs, this time. No bare feet. He sat down, picked up his glass, and turned to me.
"How was Mexico?" he asked.
"Mexico? God, I've been back for over a month!"
"I know, but I haven't really talked to you about it."
"Well, it was like it usually is - - - rewarding and heartbreaking. You really do need to come with me one time. You'd be changed, you know."
"Are you sure you'd want me to come? Don't you have friends, regulars, who are always there?"
Kiefer was referring to my three or four times a year visits to somewhere in Central or South America with a local group who provided carpentry skills and, sometimes, simple medical care. I'd been at him for years to accompany me, but the times never seemed to mesh with his schedule.
"Well, sure, some of the same people are there all the time, but what's that got to do with you?"
"Oh, I dunno. I just thought it might be a private thing."
"Private? How many times have I asked you to come with me? About a thousand?"
"No. Not a thousand. Don't get hostile. I just asked."
I didn't understand his use of the word 'hostile.' I had been confused about his reference to a private thing. Kiefer's generous but sometimes too sheltered nature would benefit from helping people whose standards of living were, in a word, barbaric by ours. My feelings must have shown on my face. He reached over and touched my face.
"I'm sorry. I just - - - I just wondered how your trip went. Anyone in particular you enjoy being in Mexico with? Any of the regulars?"
A strange question.
"Hmmm. I dunno. Let's see. They're all great. There's Sherry. She's a kill. I really like her. And Stan. He's the master carpenter. God, I've learned so much from him. This time we completed three houses and a community center. God, they were so proud, so happy." I paused, thinking about those smiling faces.
When I looked back up at Kiefer, he was staring at me. Again. I let it drop. I wasn't asking. No.
He finally smiled and we began to catch up with one another's lives over the past couple of months. I listened intently to each of his words. I might not hear them again. I told him a little more about Mexico and a bit about the universities I'd visited lately, and he filled me in on funny things that had happened at work. The conversation finally turned to where I was headed next. I told him that I was headed to L.A. soon. His eyes got big. I guess so. I wasn't going to lie to him. But I bet he couldn't be too happy knowing I'd soon be in his territory and he was here to say goodbye. But that's not how he responded.
"L.A.? When? How long? What days will you be there? That's so great. I can't wait."
Where did that come from? Can't wait? What does that mean?
"Uh. Well, I'll be there in about three weeks."
"Where will you be? UCLA? How long?"
"Well, I'll be at UCLA some and Pepperdine some. Mostly I'll be doing some research and writing. I'll be there for a month or more."
"Oh, my God. You're KIDDING, right? A month!"
"That'll be so cool," Kiefer yelled. "It will be great to have you there when I get home from work!"
"Oh. Oh, I won't be at your place. I leased a house. Don't wanna be in your face and space for that long. You'd be sick of me."
"What?" he practically screamed. "What do you mean you've leased a house? Are you crazy?"
Kiefer suddenly stopped his animated questioning. He got still, in fact.
"Oh, I see. You don't want to be with me for that long. Or at all."
I was stunned. I had always tried to give him his space since our 'relationship' had ended years ago. It shouldn't have surprised him that much.
"Of course I want to be with you! But I don't want to intrude on your lifestyle while I'm there. It could be for over a month. What would you do with me there for that long? You'd go crazy!"
Kiefer's response was very quiet.
"No, I wouldn't. Maybe good crazy, but not bad crazy." He looked me straight in the eyes. "Change your mind, please."
His eyes awaited an answer.
"We'll talk about it, O.K.? God, I didn't mean to upset you. I was just trying to be concerned about your happiness."
"Yeah." He drained his glass. The bottle was empty. "Wanna eat?"
I got up, picked up the empty bottle, my glass, and the corkscrew and headed to the door. He preceded me, holding his glass, and opened it. We entered the kitchen and, without speaking, each attended to our own tasks to complete dinner preparations. Oddly, despite the rather uncomfortable conversation we'd been having outside, the dinner went rather well. No, it went damned well. We unspokenly agreed to be pleasant. The meal was good. Our conversation centered round a novel that we'd both recently finished. Midway through the meal, I was reminded of why I'd been so attracted to him years ago. He was brilliant. Animated. He had the most incredible way of cutting through bullshit and going straight to the heart of the matter. He was, in a word, fascinating. I had been mentally fucking him for well over half an hour. I wanted to do it more than mentally. But I also didn't want to rush it. I loved the anticipation. Plus, I wanted to enjoy the feeling in case it was the last time I was to feel it.
"Are you as full as I am," I complained.
"Oh, God. I'm dying. Stuffed."
"Wanna take a walk? Get some of this stuffed feeling to go away? I think it's still O.K. outside. I might need a sweater though."
"What about the dishes? Should we get 'em now?" he inquired.
"Good, Lord. Do you mean you talked me into putting in two dishwashers and neither of them cleans the table?" I paused and then laughed.
He laughed, too.
We quickly picked up the table, rinsed the dishes, put away the food, and headed to the back door. I reached for the hooded sweatshirt hanging on the coat rack and pulled it over my head.
"You think you have on enough, or do you want to get something else to put on?" I asked.
"Aaaa. I'll just walk fast if it gets too cool."
We enjoyed a wonderful walk, not talking much, just holding hands and strolling. From time to time, Kiefer would lean down and kiss the top of my head as we walked. I wanted it to go on forever. My heart was beating too fast and hard again, but it was from a different source this time around. I wanted to make love.
When we got back to the house and entered the door, Kiefer set the alarm, asking if I wanted a drink of water. I answered 'no' and headed for the stairs, kicking off my clogs as I went. Two steps up and I stopped, pulling my t-shirt over my head and tossing it over the railing. I wondered if Kiefer were watching. Half way up, I stopped, slowly pulled down my sweats and tossed them as well. At the top of the stairs, I stopped to remove my panties, a pale pink thong. Before I got them off, he was there. I have no idea how he got up the stairs that quickly, but he was there. He stopped the downward pull of my panties. He went down on his knees, smothering his face in my belly, kissing my navel repeatedly. Then he went for the place that made my knees weak. He twirled me around and slowly licked the small of my back. It was one of the most sensitive places on my body. He alternated between stroking the area with his hot tongue and with a light touch of his fingers. Soon, my legs were not capable of holding me up anymore. He caught me in his arms, strong, covered with golden hair, stood up, turned me around, and kissed me. Fire in his lips. Fire on mine. My arms went up around his neck and my legs up around his waist. He cupped my buttocks with both hands, fire in them, too, and headed toward the bedroom door.
Kiefer didn't stop at the bed. He kept walking until we were in the bathroom. He placed me on the smooth countertop surrounding the sink. Now the panties came off. Kissing, kissing like teenagers in the backseat of a car. Hot, heavy, hard smooching. Touching, touching his skin, feeling his touch on mine. Kiefer's fingers went inside me. My hand went to his cock. He removed his fingers and swept them teasingly across the small of my back, watching in the mirror as my back arched, listening to my moans. I thought he'd enter me, but he did not. He leaned around and began again to lick where he'd just run his fingers. Then he blew his warm breath on the damp skin. It tingled, it tickled, it razed my skin with the kind of fire that can't be seen with the naked eye.