tagRomanceLauren Adams Ch. 02

Lauren Adams Ch. 02


The door was locked. Christina knew I was gone, and she knew it was raining, and she knew it was gusting fierce wind, and yet the door was locked. I knocked. Just hard enough to let her know I was upset with her. Another moment's pause. I knocked again, harder this time. Finally the door came open, and I scuttled inside.

"Where have you been?" It was nearly seven already.

"I took a walk. In the rain." Sarcasm is my only friend. Besides Lauren, I suppose. I scrambled to the bathroom to finally relieve myself of that full large soda from the theater. It was maybe five minutes since I left the warmth of her Chrysler Crossfire convertible, and I missed her already. Maybe I missed having someone to talk to. Maybe I missed her awesome body. Maybe I just liked feeling like there was someone who was actually trying to make me happy. Whatever it was, I needed that more than I needed a night with Christina and her sister, Samantha.

Christina and I have been together for a year and a half, and in this year and a half, she hasn't told her family about me. Her explanation for this is that her father would disown her if she knew that she had taken in a strange boy from nearly a hundred miles away, no matter the reason. Thusly, whenever her father or another member of her family comes over, I have to not be here. Which causes me great grief, as I have to hide in our walk-in closet until said family member leaves. Sam is a smidge more accepting. She thinks I live down the street, and that I come over to spend the night because I can't stand my parents' fighting every day. Which isn't that far from the truth, I suppose.

Finished, I zipped up, flushed, and walked to the little twin-size bed Christina had laid out for me in the front room, to further the illusion. There, I collected my laptop. Sitting at the couch opposite Sam and Christina, I switched it on and pulled up Winamp. Sam was laughing about something on television. The most annoying laugh you'll ever be privileged to hear comes out of that woman's mouth. I pulled my headphones off my MP3 player and plugged them into my laptop as I double-clicked Hey There Delilah. I must have listened to it a dozen times in succession. I missed Lauren.

Time passed, as did much of my music library, and finally Sam was getting up to leave. I didn't look up until the front door was shut. When I did, I noticed Christina moving quickly towards the bedroom. I pulled my headphones off and moved to intercept her.

"What are you doing?"

"I have to get ready for work." And she shut the door.

I just stood there for a moment, before calling out after her, "We need to talk!" She didn't reply. I waited until I heard another door shut. She was readying the shower. The water heater clicked on and the walls were soon droning with the flow of water through pipe. I sat back down by my laptop and fell back against the cushion. I just sat there, thinking. Thinking about Christina. About Lauren. About what I did earlier. About what I planned to do the next day. About what Conor Oberst said through my crappy Sony speakers in the bathtub last night. About just driving it off a fucking cliff. Two more days to feel better. If I stuck by that, of course. At least now I had something that could make me feel better. I thought about Lauren again. I missed her horribly. I took a deep breath. I could still smell her. I closed my eyes. I could feel her presence. She was in the driver's seat. We were hurtling down Loop 250 at unsafe speeds. She was walking away down the hallway. She was dancing in her underwear. She was on her knees in front of me...

"Are you asleep? Lock the door after me."

I opened my eyes slowly. Christina was dressed casually, holding her scrubs in one hand and her keys in the other. I took my final opportunity.

"We need to talk."

"And I need to get to work." She advanced towards the door. Suddenly I stood up and blocked her.

"We need to talk about us, Christina."

"I don't want to talk about us."

I got angry. "Why? Because you're ashamed of me? Our relationship is built on a God damned lie!"

Her face scrunched. "Don't say it like that. I don't mean it like that. You know how my father is."

"When were you born, Christina?"

She paused. "Eighty-two."

"Which makes you how old?"

Her face changed again. A bit of a laugh and then, "Shut up, you. It's not that simple. You should know that."

I lowered my tone. "You don't live under his roof anymore. You don't need to be afraid of him."

"I'm not afraid, I just..." She struggled for words. "I don't want to complicate things."

"For who? Cause things are plenty fuckin' complicated for me." I was still blocking the door. She tried to brush past me and I took her arm gently.

She sighed. "I'm gonna be late. Do you want me to lose my job?"

I thought for a second, before I delivered an ultimatum I never thought I would be able to follow through with.

"Do you want to lose me?"

Our eyes were locked. I let go of her arm. She just stood, staring up at me, her face changing from businesslike to concerned, then to contemplative. She looked down and repeated, "I'm gonna be late," before she turned the door knob. And then she was gone, and the door left wide open. I didn't have the heart to carry the argument outside. I just stared out into the rain, watching the LS430 pull away and out of the complex. I shut the door slowly.

I took an early bedtime that night. Besides the fact that Christina was gone, Lauren had left me pretty exhausted. I was almost ashamed at myself for what we had done. But at the same time, I didn't know what to think about Christina. We had been growing so far apart, it seems, ever since I got here. I should have been happy that Lauren had come into my life. I should have just been looking forward to dinner tomorrow. I should have just forgotten about the argument with Christina. Instead, I let my mind swirl with everything that had happened that day. I didn't get to sleep until three.

My vision was cloudy. I could remember something about hospital equipment, electronic beeps and buzzing. Christina was standing over a patient, proclaiming him to be dead. I could remember the coldness of her voice as she said those words. I could remember all of this, but now I was sitting on a large, maybe queen size bed, staring into a bright light. I blinked, and it was Lauren. She was sobbing, panting, moaning, "Make me cum, Bryan..." I got up slowly, and I was suddenly by her side, holding her, kissing the nape of her neck, whispering...

"I love you, Lauren..."

My eyes shot open. I was sweating. The sun was beating its full force through the blinds I had neglected to shut. I groaned.

Toast for breakfast. I ate slowly, thoughtfully, wondering what Christina was doing. Wondering what Lauren was doing. Tracing the steps back to when this duality began. I won't be able to do this for long, I thought to myself. I switched on the TV as I finished eating. Some soap opera drivel. I marveled at how screenwriters can be so incredibly wrong when describing relationships. Then, suddenly, I kicked myself for not asking for Lauren's phone number. She would certainly have done something for the boredom.

I started thinking about the dream I had. My head began to buzz and ache as I remembered the bright light between the hospital and Lauren's bedroom. I remembered feeling warm in Lauren's arms. I didn't want her to let go. I didn't want to come home to Christina. Was that just in my dream? No, I had felt that way yesterday, after my act of infidelity. I scolded myself for thinking like that. Suddenly I got up and started pacing around the living room. The clock on our cable box read a couple minutes after noon. Christina still wasn't home.

Maybe I'm a fatalist, but I believe nothing happens by chance. It was four months ago when Christina was offered the overnight position at the hospital. It came with a $2,500 bonus, which she used along with her little red GMC to walk off the lot with the Lexus she now drove to work each night. It also entailed a three dollar an hour raise, which brought her enough money each month to pay her new car and keep a comfortable lifestyle. We've had more arguments over that issue alone than any couple should ever have. And this, what was happening right now, was why. For four months Christina has had no time to spend with me. I've been stuck at home, with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no one to hold. And every day, Christina comes home, we exchange a few pleasantries, and she's off to bed, with nary a second thought about me. The three days of the week I go to school, I'm gone when she comes home, and she's asleep when I get back. And when I don't have school, there's boredom, emptiness, where Christina once was.

I pressed my fingers into my temples. Between the fight last night, my dream, and the ruminations over what kind of life I'm destined to lead, my head really hurt. I found the bottle of Excedrin and inhaled two with my Sam's Cola. Then I laid down on our larger sofa and flipped the channel to ESPN. Billiards. 9-ball, to be precise. I had always loved pool, though I stunk at it. Such was also the case with poker, baseball, lacrosse, life in general. Though I must have done something right yesterday, as karma saw fit to introduce Lauren into my drab existence. Perhaps to rescue me from it? No matter what I did that morning, I couldn't erase her from my thoughts. Maybe I just won't try to reconcile Christina's arguments anymore, I thought. Maybe Lauren and I will run off somewhere exotic. Fiji. The Bahamas. We can live behind the teacup ride at Disneyland. We can take our meals ten thousand feet up on a summit of the Rocky Mountains. But now I was just being silly.

I switched off the TV drone, clothed, and walked outside. Everything in sight was covered with a thin coat of water droplets from last night's rain. The sight of it is always lovely. And the smell of water on asphalt is a favorite also. I took in the trees with gently shimmering dew kissed leaves, slightly yellowed with autumn's first touch, the cars and trucks shiny and slick, the puddles on the ground reflecting the strikingly blue sky overhead. So blue, in fact, it was as if there had been no storm at all. As if the blanket of water spread across the town was an inferior mirage, akin to one you might see distant in a desert on a hot day. The cool air refreshed me, calming my throbbing head.

I turned the corner, around my apartment building, enjoying the rare atmosphere. Then, focusing ahead of me, I saw the back of a tan, full-size sedan. A familiar shape. I moved innocently forward. From the back, I could faintly make out a stylized "L" logo. And the tag number on the license plate. It was Christina! But why was she parked behind our building? There were plenty of spots right near our front door, and I'm sure she wouldn't want to risk another storm, and having to rush between buildings in the rain. I saw a figure in the passenger's seat. But no driver. Intrigued, I moved closer, cautious in my approach. The figure in the passenger's seat had a short, buzzed, blond head of hair, and its head was tilted back as if relaxed. As I continued to move forward I saw it -- Christina's head lifted in an arc from passenger seat to driver seat headrest.

I ran back to the apartment, up the stairs, dashed through the door, and shut it behind me. My heart was pounding; my breath was ragged. She could not be allowed to know that I had seen her. I started flinging pillows and things around to make the front room look more lived in, to make it look like I hadn't been out for a walk just now, that I hadn't just witnessed my girlfriend in her car with another man. As if I'm the one that had something to hide. I tore my shoes off and stripped back down to what I'd slept in. I switched the TV back on and got comfortable on the couch -- I looked comfortable, anyway -- while I awaited Christina's entry.

The ensuing fifteen minutes lasted a lifetime. I don't remember what was on the television when I heard the car door slam shut. All I remember was my heart never slowed, never relaxed to a normal resting rate. I was still sweating when she finally walked in, nonchalant. I fought the instinct to rise up and confront her, and instead allowed her to walk through the room and into the kitchen. When I finally found my voice, I addressed her.

"Late again?" I swallowed.

"Overnight is hell."

I hated when Christina complained about her job. She chose her fucking comfortable position over spending time with me a long time ago. I was silent for another few minutes. And then, unable to stop myself:

"Who is he?"

She stopped. "What do you mean?"

"Who the fuck is he? Don't play stupid."

She looked at me with her head cocked sideways and her hands on her hips. "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm tired." She started walking towards the bedroom.

I should have said something, done something, but I was too tired of conflict at that point. The bedroom door shut. My eyes shut. My brain was still knocking viciously against my skull. The image I had seen not twenty minutes ago was still looping in my mind. I finally sat up and looked at the time. It was close to two. Another four hours until Lauren would arrive. Christina would be deep asleep by then. Now it was just a matter of killing time. And boredom. And my headache. And the thought of Christina. My laptop was still on the other sofa. It took an unusually hefty amount of energy to transfer myself from one couch to the other. I opened it up and simply stared at my desktop wallpaper while I tried to sift through all the thoughts in my mind.

Foremost was Christina. Now I knew why she was late, not only today, but more than likely every damn afternoon. The thought burned itself through my mind, though all my heart felt was numbness. No, that's too... cliché. It felt more like a pinhole in the center of my heart, through which everything I had ever felt about Christina was slowly, painfully draining. It was the rest of me that felt numb. It was jealousy. Was it? Here she was, sucking off some random guy, when she won't even give me the courtesy of a normal conversation. But did I really care that it wasn't me in the passenger's seat this afternoon? After all, Lauren had given me the most amazing... anything... that I had ever had. What if I did leave Christina? What if I just ran off with Lauren somewhere? For the second time in less than an hour, I was thinking about leaving with another woman. So does that make me innocent in this whole affair? I'm just as bad as Christina. I've been cheating. I've been lying. I've been going around behind the back of my significant other. And here I was, complaining that Christina was doing the same thing I had done just yesterday.

The one thing that made me feel better was thinking of Lauren. She would come soon enough, and rescue me, and take me somewhere where I could forget everything else but her. I wouldn't let Christina ruin the night I had planned. I shook my head violently, as if to shake Christina out of my mind. Then I got up and started pacing around, just to have something to do. I walked to the kitchen and made two more slices of toast. Then I sat back down at my laptop and browsed to Yahoo! games, where I proceeded to waste the hours playing Literati and coming up with words I never even knew existed.

Soon enough, though not soon enough, it was time to get ready for Lauren. I allowed myself plenty of time for the requisite shower, shave and shine, and plenty of time afterwards, to allow for Christina potentially waking up. From the closet, I selected my best button-up shirt and khaki Dockers. I looked much better in these than in the shorts and tee shirt Lauren had met me in yesterday. I dressed and cologned myself.

The cable box read 5:42. I was early. I silently hoped she would be, too. Lounging on our larger sofa, I tried my best not to let Christina back into my head. The sun had just begun to sink behind the homes on the horizon. I wandered out onto the patio to get a better view. The orange and yellow and pink hues of the sunset blended with the reds and browns of rooftops to create a beauty that nature could never have intended. It was against this backdrop that the silver Crossfire slowly approached. I shut the door and practically ran down the stairs to the passenger side door. Looking in, I saw something that made the entire day's events just melt.

Lauren was smiling.


"So you don't know why you're going?"

"Nah. It's mainly so I have something to do. I don't want a minimum wage job, and I don't want to be stuck in a career I'll hate for the rest of my life."

"Understandable." We were talking about college. "I'm not so sure about Psychology, myself," Lauren continued. I mean, what kind of career options do I have? Psychologist, yeah, but that's it."

I chewed my tortilla. We were at this hole-in-the-wall Mexican buffet on the other side of Midland. Karaoke, and $5 fajitas, were all that kept this place afloat. And the fajitas weren't all that good.

"What about baseball?"

She looked up, a bit startled. I quickly explained:

"I found a trophy in your hall closet..."

"Oh, so you were snooping around while I was changing, were you? I'll have to watch you more closely from now on." She was smiling. God, I'll do anything to get her to smile. She was gorgeously under dressed, in a grey Texas Longhorns tee and blue jeans, her hair playing about her shoulders as she talked. I felt a little awkward, sitting in my Sunday best, trying so hard to impress her. I should have worn shorts and a tee shirt.

She continued. "I really wasn't as good as that shiny achievement of mine would have you believe. I was a pitcher, and sometimes a third baseman."

"Basewoman," I interrupted.

She giggled, then went on. "Anyway, I swear to God my ERA was somewhere in the hundreds. I never struck anyone out, and I walked half the batters I faced."

"Oh come on, you're exaggerating." I smeared some watered-down green salsa on my tortilla and loaded it with more charred beef.

"I was better at third base. Couple of the other girls said I had a vacuum for a left hand, and a rocket for a right."

"See? Just avoid the mound and you'll be alright." We both laughed.

Just then, the server arrived with fresh tortillas. "Anything else, you two?" He was unusually friendly for being stuck working in such a dump. We shook our heads in tandem and he walked away, presumably to cater to the one other seated table in the entire restaurant.

"So why'd you quit the game?"

She frowned. "I didn't see a future in it. Maybe if it was you, you know, a man has the Major Leagues to look forward to. There aren't any big organized leagues for women's baseball."

I nodded in agreement.

"So the way I figured, I should try and follow a career path that actually has a future for me. And that's how I was duped into Psychology."

I loaded a new tortilla with onions and peppers as I asked, "So what has Psychology taught you?"

"Nothing much. I'm mostly passing because I'm good at book work, and tests. I can recite facts, sure, but I don't know what it all means." I noticed she had barely touched her plate, which contained strange red-sauced balls of pork, shredded meat of some kind, and steamed veggies.

"Y'know, I played Little League when I was a kid."

"Really?" She seemed genuinely interested, and relieved to be off the topic of Psychology.

"That's where I learned to be a switch-hitter."

She leaned back in her chair. "I sense a big, dramatic story coming on... am I right?"

I laughed. "Partly. Not big, but I guess interesting nonetheless. I got to the plate twelve times that season. The first eight times, I came up right-handed. And I struck out all eight times. Didn't even hit the ball. Not so much as a foul tip."

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