Knox County Ch. 02byRehnquist©
When Cynthia awoke, she reached over for David. He wasn't there. She flipped on the light and saw that his side hadn't been slept in.
Oh great, she thought. An all nighter with whoever the fuck she was. She got out of bed and shrugged a robe around her shoulders, tying the sash tight against her slim waist.
When she descended the stairs, he was in the corner next to the couch, cradling his legs in his arms. His eyes were red, tears dried on is face, dark bags under his eyes.
"David, honey, what's wrong?"
He didn't seem to hear. He was rocking gently, in his own world. She approached and kneeled down in front of him. She reached out and touched his cheek. It was hot, feverish.
"You're burning up," she said. When he said nothing, she lifted his chin. He looked at her, seeming to notice her for the first time. "Baby, you need to get to bed," she said, her voice low. "You're sick."
"How could you?" he said, turning his chin away from her hand and looking at the walls. His rocking picked up.
"How could I what?" she said.
"Sleep with him. Fuck him."
Her eyes went wide and she drew back from him.
"Fuck who? What're you talking about?"
"That cop," he said. He turned back and looked at her. His eyes were glowing now. "In the parking lot. Every fucking Tuesday night. How could you do that to me? To us?"
How did he know? she thought. Her mind raced. She was afraid to say anything, needed to sort this out.
"Answer me," he said, his voice cracking.
She said nothing, only stared at him. She was frozen.
"I never cheated on you," he continued. "Ever." He was almost yelling now, his voice on the verge of breaking into sobs. She felt like she'd been punched in the stomach. She was convinced–hell, she was positive–he was banging someone at the office. Secretary or some such. His eyes, though, and his voice told her she was wrong. She'd been wrong all along.
She felt tears well up and stream down her cheeks. She reached out to touch him, to tell him she was sorry.
"Get the fuck away from me," he shouted, pushing her hand back. He started crying, burying his head in his arms, rocking. "Just get away from me," he sobbed.
She was going to be sick. The knots in her stomach were churning, the bile rising in her throat. She was crying now, too. "Please David, please."
But he ignored her, sobbing into his legs, rocking.
She felt it rising and dashed to the bathroom, trying to get the toilet seat up before she vomited. She wasn't quite fast enough.
What have I done? she thought, covered in vomit and sobbing against the cool toilet seat.
* * *
"Hart Shafer and Coombs," the voice on the other end of the line said.
Elizabeth hesitated, not sure she could go through with this.
"Hello?" the voice queried.
She sighed. "Will Sherman, please."
"One moment please," and her call was redirected.
He answered on the second ring. "Will Sherman."
She bit her lip. "This is Elizabeth," she said. When he said nothing, she continued, "From the other night."
"Of course," he replied. He sounded giddy. "Just one sec." She heard him tell someone to shut the door, then he was back on the line. "How are you?"
She said nothing for a moment, and he seemed content to wait her out.
"Will, I'm not really sure how to say this. To ask this."
"Ask what?" She signed. "The other night. We didn't use any protection. You know, a condom."
"You're not pregnant, are you?"
"No, it's not that. It's just, well, you know. Do you have any–"
He laughed. "No," he said. "Nothing like that. I'm clean."
"Will, it's not that simple. I need some proof."
"Like what? Why?"
"Like a blood test." He wasn't laughing any more, and she was afraid he'd hang up. "Listen, this is really important. I'm really sorry, but I gotta know for sure. I'll pay for it. Pay you back."
"You don't have to do that," he said. "My fault, too, I guess. It's just that, well, you know. Heat of the moment and everything."
They were both silent for a moment. She was reliving the evening, and she was almost sure he was as well. He broke the silence.
"I'll break away this afternoon, get a quick test. Give me your number."
"So I can call you when the results come in. Should probably only take a day or two."
She hadn't thought it through to this point. She didn't want to give her number, was unsure where that would lead.
"How about I just call you back in a couple of days?" she suggested.
"Sure," he said. "Couple of days then." They said their good byes, and she flipped the cell phone closed.
* * *
Sean was in his studio. Engrossed in the details, he didn't hear the doorbell. The music was loud, something by Springsteen, but it was only background noise. His focus was on the canvas, on the delicate tip of the brush as it curled just the right amount and applied the perfect shimmer to the edge of the reflection of the bottle against the picture frame.
This was his favorite part: Taking the colored shapes and gradually honing them until they were lifelike, jumping off the canvas at the observer. Such realism was commonly derided in the art world. They mocked Rockwell and Wyeth as illustrators, revered Pollock and de Kooning as innovators. Sean understood the slams against Rockwell. Too kitschy, idealized, cutesy. But Wyeth? Sean loved Wyeth, thought he expressed more in a perfectly executed portrait or landscape than Pollock ever did with a shitload of drips. Where was the technical skill in dripping paint, for Chrissakes? No, Sean was convinced, the real artists combined technical virtuosity with deep emotion; their paintings said something more than "My, isn't this cute" or "What the fuck is that." The real geniuses conveyed pain, suffering, and ambiguity all at once. And they conveyed it realistically.
So engrossed was he in perfecting the shimmer that he didn't notice the door to the studio open. As a result, he almost jumped out of his skin when Roger spoke.
"The painting looks beautiful," he intoned. "You look like shit."
Sean's hand skipped into the painting and he turned, throwing the brush across the room against a wall. "For Chrissakes, you know how to knock?" He reached down and grabbed a clean brush, trying to fix the glop of paint now marring the shimmer. A few flicks of the brush and most was dabbed away, the balance feathered in.
"Very nice," said Roger, watching over his shoulder.
"My God, Sean, when's the last time you slept?" Emily said.
"I'm on a roll," he said, waving the brush toward the corner.
Roger and Emily walked over and looked, first from ten feet or so, then getting closer.
"You've never done still life," said Roger. When Sean didn't reply, he continued. "They're powerful. Very powerful."
Sean kept painting. He glanced now and again at the drawings to his left and squeezed paints onto the pallette at his right arm. The brush danced over the canvas, dotting in color, making the bottle come to life, the amber liquid glow . The rug was so real you could touch it, feel its coarse, damp texture.
"Grab me that brush," he said, holding his hand out, his eyes never leaving the canvas.
Emily retrieved it and placed it in his outstretched palm. He went to finer detail, tracing in the shadows of grain across the hardwood floor where the it met the edge of the rug.
He felt her hand on him, but still he focused. "You need to stop," she said. "You need some rest."
He ignored them. "I'm fine."
* * * Roger made tea in the kitchen.
"Jesus Christ," he said, waving his arm over the counters. Emily's eyes followed his hand and took in the moldy bread, hardened cheese, and a sink full of dirty coffee mugs.
She nodded. "We've gotta do something here Roger."
He shook his head. "But what?"
He looked at her. She said nothing, still taking in the mess. Her body sagged and she started cleaning. The food went into the garbage can. Roger started running water in the sink, rinsing out the dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.
After fifteen minutes of cleaning, the kitchen was again at least somewhat clean. They sipped their tea, and Emily broke the silence. "He needs someone. He's gonna kill himself out here."
"Doesn't look like he's had a proper meal since before the funeral."
"Housekeeper or girlfriend?" Emily asked, looking at Roger.
He leaned back against the counter, sipping his tea. "Both I should think."
Emily nodded. She'd done this before, for other clients. Artists could be so damned single minded when they got going. When they were done, the high of creativity led to depressing lows. Drugs, booze, womanizing, they all reared their ugly heads in spirals of self destruction. She'd dealt with it dozens of times in the past. The trick was to get them back to even keel, let them relax and sort things through before they crashed and burned.
She made two calls. One to place an ad for a live-in housekeeper in the Knox County Herald, the second to the William Rose Escort Agency.
* * *
Aimee watched David Holloway pull out of the garage and turn onto the street. She pulled from the curb and followed him, turning on the outskirts of town into the Saunter On Inn. After a few minutes, she followed him into the diner and looked around. He was alone at a booth in the corner, his eyes staring past her, gazing at nothing.
She walked over and stopped in front of his table. "This seat taken?" she said.
That seemed to startle him out of his reverie. His mouth opened, but he seemed unable to speak. She slid in across from him. He looked about forty, thinning light brown hair, with sad hazel eyes. He was shorter than Tim, just shy of six feet tall, and looked to be in good shape. Right now, though, his face was haggard and gaunt, his eyes vacant, dark bags puffy under them.
"It was me," she said.
The waitress approached, short, plump, on the other side of sixty, all business and no nonsense. She ordered a cup of coffee and toast.
When the waitress left, she looked back at David. He was staring at her, his mind in a daze. "I left the pictures."
He said nothing, only stared, and she didn't know how to proceed. He seemed brittle, about to break. This was worse than she'd expected.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't really–"
"Why?" he said. His eyes were glistening and she tightened.
The waitress approached, placed a cup of coffee in front of her and slid a plate of pale toast toward her. She topped off David's coffee and placed the ticket in front of him.
David's eyes didn't leave Aimee the entire time. "Why?" he repeated.
She looked down, into her coffee. "I don't know," she said. "I just wanted it to stop. Still want it to stop. And I figured that. . . . Well, that if you knew, if all of them knew what he was doing, that he'd stop."
"Who is he?"
She looked up and into his eyes. "My husband."
He said nothing, looking away from her and around the room. He was trying to hold back tears, she saw. Pressing his lips together, his neck tensing, blinking in flutters.
He was shattered. She saw that, saw it more clearly now than when he'd first seen the pictures. He couldn't cope with this, and she'd done it to him.
"I don't know what to do," he finally said, his voice little more than a whisper. "I don't want to lose her, but I think I already have." He turned back and looked at her. "I think I lost her a long time ago. Just never noticed. Too busy. Too busy making the perfect life to actually live it."
A tear was streaming down his cheek. Without thinking, she reached over to brush it off. He hadn't shaved, and the stubbles on his face were coarse against her fingertips.
"I can't stay here," he said. He stood, reached into his pocket and grabbed a ten, threw it on top of the ticket.
She rose with him. "Please," she said. "Don't go yet." He turned and looked at her. She walked to him and took his hand, leading him out to her car.
He sat without a word, staring straight ahead. She said nothing, unsure what she was doing. So she drove, aimlessly, far out into the country. The windows were down, the warm summer air blowing through the car.
After nearly a half hour, she pulled the car into a conservation district parking lot. She shut off the car, got out, and walked around to his side. She opened the door and he turned to look at her. She held her hand out, and he allowed himself to be guided from the car. "Let's go for a walk," she said, leading him to the overgrown path at the end of the parking lot.
They walked in silence, her hand in his loose grip. He seemed in a trance, not paying attention to the birds or the trees, the warm air. A half mile in, there was a small clearing with a picnic table. It was covered in dried leaves, the nearby fire pit overgrown with weeds and thistles.
She let go of his hand and bent over, clearing the bench on one side of the table. "Here," she said, sitting down and patting the bench next to her. He obeyed, looking at her.
"Listen," she started, "I really–"
He leaned over and kissed her, his hand going to her shoulder, his eyes closing, his lips pressing into hers. She was startled, and she didn't respond. But still he kissed her, his lips parting and his tongue seeking hers.
She opened her mouth and kissed him back, her tongue meeting his. With her response, he kissed her deeper. His left hand pulled her closer, and his right closed in and cupped her breast, squeezing around her nipple until it hardened in his palm.
"Make love to me," she whispered in his ear. She realized her need for this, needed to make him feel better, needed to love and be loved.
He pulled her shirt over her head and kissed her harder, his hands reaching around and unclasping her bra. She shrugged it forward and leaned into him, her hand pulling his head to her breasts.
He wasn't gentle. His mouth found her nipple and sucked it in roughly, his other hand squeezing her other breast, pinching the nipple until it was hard before switching her mouth over to it and sucking it in. He scraped his teeth against it, causing her to moan in a mixture of agony and pleasure.
She felt his hands fumbling at her shorts now, trying to unbutton them. She reached down to help him, to shed the rest of her clothes as quickly as possible. Once unbuttoned and unzipped, she lifted her ass from the bench and pushed them off, her mouth seeking his at the same time. They kissed again, long and deep.
Then she felt his hand press firmly against her sex, his middle finger pressing against the length of her slit. She was grinding her hips against him, the bench rough on the bare skin of her ass.
He broke the kiss and looked at her. He seemed angry, she thought. Then he spoke, his first words in nearly an hour. "Why?" he said, pressing his middle finger into her. She was still dry, and it hurt as it pressed in. "Why did you tell me?"
"Oh God," she moaned as his finger roughly pushed in. She felt tears well in her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said, her body trying to back away from the invader. "I didn't mean to, didn't want to–"
"But you did," he said, jabbing his finger in deeply. She yelped, and he held it there. "You ruined by fucking life."
She felt herself getting wet around the invasion, her nipples hardening with the onslaught against her. "Yes," she gasped, leaning in and kissing him. He kissed her back, his tongue insistent, his finger beginning to saw in and out of her.
He broke the kiss and leaned into her breasts, sucking her nipple in forcefully. She arched against him, pushing her pussy back against his finger. He pushed another in and rubbed them hard against her upper wall, his thumb brushing over her clit. "Is this what you want?" he asked, mumbling around her nipple before sucking it back in harder. She ached with the pain, but his fingers were building her up. "To get fucked," he mumbled. "Your husband doesn't fuck you so now you want me to? Figure he fucked Cynthia, you'll get even by fucking me?"
"Yes," she said. "No." She didn't know what she wanted. She only knew she had been this aroused in years, since she first married Tim, young newlyweds happy and blissfully in love.
He looked back at her and saw the pain in her face, the confusion. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, guilt and shame overwhelming her and conflicting with her arousal.
"Oh my God," he said, pulling his fingers out of her. "I'm sorry." He wiped the tears on her cheeks, but she pushed him back. Her hands went to his pants and unbuttoned and unzipped him.
"What are you– "
"I need this," she said, pulling his pants down to mid thigh and sinking her mouth into his lap. His arousal had subsided, and she sucked his soft cock into her mouth. Her hands were cupping his balls, squeezing them.
She heard him moan. "No," he said. "We'll get caught."
She broke her mouth from his hardening cock with a pop and pumped him with her hand. "There's no one for miles," she said. He was growing rigid in her hand. "But we can't. This is– "
"What I need," she finished for him. "What we both need."
She lowered her head again and sucked him in deeply. He got harder and harder in her mouth, his breath now coming in shallow gasps as her lips traveled his length.
His hand was on her head now, on the side of her face, feeling himself through her cheek. When she figured he was as hard as he was going to get, she raised her head from him.
"Now," she said. He only stared. "Make love to me, fuck me hard, I don't care." She straddled over him and reached behind herself, guiding his prick to her entrance. She leaned over and kissed him as she slid down. She felt his breath push into her, his groan lost in their kiss.
When he was all the way in her, deep, the tip pushing against her cervix, she held there. She cupped his face in her hands and kissed him, starting to grind herself against his hips. She opened her eyes, seeing his shut tight, the pain gone from his face and replaced by concentration.
She felt his hands go to her ass, spreading her cheeks. The breeze was blowing against her exposed rosebud, tickling over her soaking length, sending shivers through her pelvis and up and down her spine.
His hands were kneading her ass cheeks, clutching, guiding her now up and down his length. She felt him starting to move, too, pushing himself deeper into her with every thrust, as if trying to bury himself totally within her.
He needed this. She saw that now. The contact. No betrayal, no questions, just pure physical need. She felt her orgasm building, and she broke the kiss, squeezing him tight. "Oh my God, yes, just like that." She was getting louder, her voice echoing through the trees, and she heard him grunting with the force of his thrusts.
She felt his legs squirming under her and realized he was kicking his pants the rest of the way off. But it didn't stop the thrusting, the spearing deep within her. "Yes," she cried, raising her head high and sobbing with relief as the warmth of her climax washed through her.
Her body went slack as her orgasm subsided and he took the opportunity to stand. He was still in her, holding her by the ass, her legs wrapped around his waist. He pumped into her forcefully a few more times before turning her around and laying her back onto the crackling dry leaves on the picnic table. She leaned back, and he reached forward, pinching her nipples, squeezing her breasts, one hand on top of her mound. His thumb pulled back the hood of her clit and started rubbing it in circles. His thumb wandered and gathered her juices before returning and rubbing more insistently.
She gazed at him through half closed eyes, her hips arching with his thrusts, her teeth biting down on her lower lip. "Fuck me," she whispered. "Fuck me harder." His eyes traveled over her belly and breasts to her eyes.
His breathing was shallow, his hips shoving into her hard. "Tell me how you want it," he said, pulling her hips to him as he thrust in to the hilt. He held her there and still he pulled her harder into him, bumping her cervix with the spongy head of his cock.