tagMind ControlLloyd's Angel Ch. 10

Lloyd's Angel Ch. 10


Lloyd's Angel: Spring Fever

February 1962

I made it to Dr. Reynolds' office just as he was beginning to stare at his desk clock and look annoyed. It would have been even worse if I hadn't gotten lucky with parking. Predictably, the entire meeting was a waste of time; he told Alex her research was commendable, without showing any sign of having looked at the draft notes she'd submitted the previous week, and reminded her -- unnecessarily -- the final draft of her dissertation needed to be in his hands by the end of the month in order to stay on track for spring commencement. My presence added absolutely nothing.

"Did you oversleep?" Alex asked me on the way out, evidently having noticed my rumpled appearance and discreet yawns.

"Not exactly," I demurred, and then stopped in my tracks after a few steps. "I, um, left my briefcase at home this morning. Can I catch up with you later?"

Alex frowned. "I really wanted to talk to you about the sequencing of the middle sections. I was up early thinking about it, and it's bothering me. Would you mind if I tagged along and we discussed it while we walked?" She looked hopefully at me.

There was no way I would ever refuse a request like that from Alex, although I supposed she didn't know that. "My pleasure," I answered, and it was. The sun seemed brighter, and the air warmer, as we walked side by side, retracing the route I'd taken a scant 30 minutes earlier. Alex didn't stray from the topic of her thesis when we reached the car, although she knew I usually walked. By the time we reached home, I'd reassured her that her plans for swapping some of the material made a great deal of sense and she was feeling a bit more at ease.

I pulled into my usual spot in the driveway and, with only a little reluctance, invited Alex in to wait while I grabbed my stuff. My emotional high aside, it wasn't that warm outside. Luckily, the Wagners were out, probably grocery shopping or something, so I could avoid any awkward conversation. She waited quietly in the front room while I dashed upstairs, threw things in my case, and scurried down again.

Alex remained silent until we turned onto the sidewalk. "You weren't here at all last night, were you?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, wearing my best look of ignorant innocence.

"Oh, come on, I'm not stupid," she laughed. "You didn't forget your briefcase; you weren't here this morning to pick it up. The car was too warm for such a short drive, and you park it outside, but there was no trace of frost on any of the windows. Obviously you parked under cover somewhere further from campus, and drove straight to school this morning." Alex looked at me sidelong. "You have on the same shirt you wore yesterday, too."

I couldn't help laughing too. "Guilty! Remind me not to play poker with you." I didn't know what to make of it; I watched Alex all the time and couldn't always remember what she wore from day to day. I couldn't remember anything distinctive about my shirt, but apparently she'd been able to recognize it.

"Lloyd, were you with Susan?" I thought perhaps Alex sounded a touch jealous, but it was more likely I was just reading my hopes into something that wasn't there.

Getting caught in a lie would have been bad, but I didn't want to give Alex the impression Susan and I were an item or something. "It was a party. Susan was there, but so were a bunch of other people. It got later than I thought, and I just didn't want to chance driving last night."

Alex's face fell. "Was anybody else I know there? If you and Susan got invited, why didn't I?"

"Well, I'm sorry, Alex; I really didn't think about it. I mean, you're always working on your research and the wedding -- it didn't occur to me you'd be interested."

To my surprise, she burst into tears. "That's all I do!" Alex cried. "I want to have fun, too! I'm killing myself on this research and Dr. Reynolds has totally lost interest in it and I know Jonathan thinks it's stupid, and I'm stuck planning the entire wedding practically by myself, and then there's classes and grading. I can't keep doing it all!"

Hesitantly, I set down my briefcase and embraced her, not knowing what else to do. Alex clutched at me and buried her face against my collarbone, still sobbing. I was paralyzed; half my brain was thinking that heavy coats and all, her body pressed against mine was the best thing I'd felt in my life, and the other half was trying desperately to avoid getting an erection.

"Hey," I finally said, holding her just far enough away from me that we could look at each other comfortably, "I know it's tough, Alex. And I'd be the first to admit I wasn't a big fan of your work at the beginning" -- that got a small smile from her -- "but I know you and I know you'll get through this. Susan and I will help; you know Connie can help with the wedding, right?" I squeezed her arms gently. "And I'll see about putting some events on your social calendar, okay?"

Alex sniffed and nodded, and then wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry to unload on you like I'm some ditzy... well, blonde."

"You're the most beautiful blonde I know," I smiled, "but I'd never make the mistake of thinking that's all you are." I bit my tongue to avoid saying any more.

"Hmm," Alex said, looking more cheerful, "I guess it's too bad for you I'm already taken."

"Tell me something I don't know!" We both laughed, and the remainder of the walk to school was upbeat.

That day marked a turn in several relationships. As winter started to give way to early spring, Alex and I grew increasingly close. She spent almost all of her free time polishing "Unconscious influences in demographic-neutral peer preferences," largely reviewed by myself, and then preparing for her oral defense. We started taking long walks, heedless of the weather, discussing either her research or frivolous topics while we wandered the neighborhoods near the campus. When we weren't tied down by office hours, we started spending more time working from "our" booth at Nino's, where the atmosphere was a little more calming.

There was a price to be paid for my "Mister Nice Guy" facade. I spent each day working with Alex, laughing with her, sharing frustrations, and even touching her occasionally in the way friends will, and ruthlessly refusing to yield to the temptation to convince her to be my lover. More often than not, I left Alex and made my way to Susan's apartment, painfully erect and with, I'm sure, unhealthily high blood pressure.

Once there, I'd sneak in the side door and head up to her room. All my accumulated lust and frustration would be poured out into Susan's more than willing body as I imagined the things I'd do with and to Alex. Sometimes, if she was there, Yelena would join us; occasionally I'd rut in her if she was agreeable and Susan was gone.

That happened more frequently as time passed. Susan had become increasingly unreliable. She started showing up late in the mornings, sometimes missing classes, and often appeared unprepared. I knew she was seeing other people, which didn't bother me, and Yelena told me Danny was a frequent caller, which worried me a bit. The thing that really unnerved me was the way Susan gazed at Alex when she thought nobody was looking; it reminded me too much of my own feelings.

March was hellish enough without that added to the mix. In addition to the work Alex knew about, I was pushing my tenuous control of my ability to the limit. I was at my wit's end with Dr. Reynolds; having encouraged his disinterest in Alex's paper earlier, I had realized it was in danger of being overlooked entirely, which would threaten her chances of graduation.

A few well-placed entreaties to his secretary had finessed that roadblock, as well as given me the names of the other members of the review board. I was going through a bottle of aspirin a week while I tracked them down and invented reasons to talk to each of them. Alex's paper was a good one, arguably better than my Master's thesis, and she wouldn't have liked it if she'd known what I was doing, but I needed those professors to have a favorable opinion of her thesis without thinking too much about what it said. Somehow I managed to stay on top of my own coursework, although I don't think I looked at my own thesis more than twice during the month.

To top it all off, Alex's birthday was at the beginning of April, and she was really looking forward to a special evening out Jonathan had promised for preceding weekend. Her excitement and increasing anticipation were driving a stake through my heart; I'd gotten used to hearing about how he'd disappointed or aggravated her, and listening to Alex's enthusiasm for his plans was not what I needed.

"You look tired, Lloyd," she finally told me one evening, after responding to a question I'd lobbed at her in preparation for her thesis defense. It was Friday and Nino's was pretty crowded, but our booth was on the quiet side of the room and the waitress knew our routine so well we never had to ask for coffee refills.

"I feel tired," I admitted. The headache from my last "unexpected" hallway conversation with Dr. Flynn was still wearing off, I felt I could recite Alex's paper backwards in my sleep, and guilt over Susan was weighing on me. We'd just heard that afternoon she was flunking her classes. "How do I live with this?"

Alex didn't pretend to misunderstand what I meant. "Susan's a big girl. Maybe you helped bring her out of her shell, but she's responsible for her own actions. I'm sorry she's chosen this path for herself too, but don't blame yourself for it."

"She's a nymphomaniac, Alex," I told her bluntly. "I was thinking with my dick, I didn't -- still don't -- understand really how this all works, and I ruined her life. Of course I blame myself! If this keeps up, she'll never get her advanced degree; she'll never use a thing she's learned."

Alex played with her half-empty coffee cup for a minute before looking up again. "I won't pretend that I don't find what you did shocking and repugnant -- I do." She sighed and continued, "But I think none of us were smart to encourage you to experiment as casually as we did, and I honestly believe you didn't intend for things to work out this way. You can't put her back now, and I know you're too good a man to go on beating yourself up uselessly."

"Have you considered going to church?" she asked, surprising me.

"Honestly, no. My family wasn't very religious."

"Well, think about it. You might find it reassuring to remember that not everything is within our control, and that God has forgiven far bigger sinners than either of us will ever be." Alex smiled. "Connie and I go to the First Baptist over on Maple; you could come with us if you wanted -- the people there are friendly and I know you'd like our pastor."

That was how I found myself walking to church on Sunday morning for the first time in probably 20 years. The weather had turned warm -- well, for late March -- and I'd endured far worse to spend time with Alex. The stroll over to her apartment had given me some time for reflection, but then I learned I had yet another problem.

"Good morning, Lloyd."

Both women greeted me on the front walk using the same words, but the effect was totally different. Alex accompanied them with a bright smile and quick hug that made my heart pound and left no doubt she was pleased to see me. Connie's tone was distinctly cool and her body language was quite different from our first meeting at Nino's.

In case I hadn't gotten the hint, she walked beside Alex, leaving me to trail behind them, and maintained a steady stream of conversation regarding the wedding, preparations for it, and the birthday outing Jonathan had planned. In a way, it was a hopeful sign that Connie seemed to feel intervention was required, but I wished she weren't such a good friend.

I was a little surprised to see Danny at the service, but perhaps he was a better Christian than I gave him credit for. We greeted each other and settled in our seats; I figured it wasn't coincidence that Connie sat between Alex and me.

"We should double-date again sometime," Danny whispered to me, and then we were bowing our heads for the invocation.

Most of my mind stayed focused on the problem in front of me -- beside me, technically -- rather than the worship. Many things about it were still unclear, but my ability definitely worked best with emotions, especially when I could reinforce existing feelings or relate to them myself.

After some thought, I closed my eyes and found Connie's glow beside me. Trying very hard not to be too heavy-handed, I focused on her and fanned my suspicion that Jonathan was a cheating womanizer looking for a trophy wife, and that Alexandra wouldn't be happy with him. Her best friend's happiness was very important to her. Once I'd caught a hint of a shimmer, I switched to Danny and reinforced feelings of friendship -- hopefully I'd be able to ask him questions the girls wouldn't answer.

I sat back and listened to the sermon. The pastor was worth listening to -- he was fairly young, almost our age, but seemed to have a knack for connecting with his congregation and communicating his message in an interesting way. Honestly, I figured I was still in for it when I died, no matter how much I told myself that what I was doing was more like having a silent argument with somebody than taking away their free will. I did feel better when the service concluded, although some of that probably was due to Connie's more relaxed expression.

"You should join us for brunch," Danny suggested. Connie didn't smile, but she didn't frown either when Alex nodded and I accepted.

The conversation around the table inevitably centered on Alex's birthday celebration plans, or rather her outing with Jonathan. Even Danny, who didn't have the reasons for hating it that I did, was clearly wearying of the topic.

"I know!" he finally exclaimed around a mouthful of pancake, "if you and Jonathan are having a private celebration, then I think the rest of us should have our own party. Connie? Lloyd? Are you two up for a night on the town?"

"Pass," Connie laughed. "I already have a better offer."

Alex immediately looked interested. "Really? Is that mister tall, dark and handsome?"

"Maybe," admitted Connie, with an uncharacteristic blush.

Danny settled for a smirk and rotated to look in my direction. "Lloyd?"

"I'm in," I answered, not really sure why. The prospect of sitting at home thinking about Alex together with Jonathan wasn't appealing, but it wasn't clear Danny's idea of fun necessarily would be better.

"He's not that bad," Danny repeated a touch defensively, as I waited for the driver ahead of us to notice the light had changed. "Jonathan's just, um, traditional."

I darted a quick look at him. "Alex doesn't strike me as a particularly traditional woman. She's okay with being 'the little wifey'?"

Danny had the grace to look slightly abashed. "Well, okay, probably not. But they've talked about it, certainly. I'm sure they've got things worked out."

Given Jonathan's eye for arm candy and Alex's aversion to chauvinism, I wasn't so sure, but any further discussion would have to wait. Our destination was in sight. "LEGS!" proclaimed the sign, and knowing Danny, that wasn't all we were going to see. Well, the hell with it -- I was here to be distracted.

There were a lot of legs to be seen, hidden among the throngs of men crowding the floor. A leggy waitress wearing a tuxedo shirt, heels, and not a lot more met Danny two-thirds of the way to the bar with a drink; clearly he was a regular. She was back with another pair by the time we'd found seats at a small table.

"Here -- you look like you could use it," Danny offered, pushing something in a lowball glass in front of me. I tossed it back, ignoring the burning in my throat, and tried to concentrate on the stage. The girl in front of us was slowly removing her costume, prompting numerous cheers and wolf whistles from the watching men.

I found my glass magically refilled and nursed my drink while I watched the hooks on her bra come undone until only the girl's hands held the lace in place over her generous tits. She was undeniably attractive, but her roots looked a touch dark and the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. Despite my best intentions, I found myself comparing her unfavorably to Alex.

The cheering peaked when she cast away the bra, and I unobtrusively adjusted my lengthening cock. Maybe Alex's breasts weren't so large, but the Alex in my fantasies wouldn't stop dancing with her G-string still in place, and she'd be using her luscious lips for more than just blowing kisses. I knew she'd be looking only at me, and not working the crowd that was beginning to spout dollar bills like weeds in a spring lawn.

"Can you imagine Alexandra doing that?" Danny asked, leaning over so he could be heard.

I jumped and tried to stuff the thought back behind my eyes, hoping like hell my fantasy hadn't spilled over to him. My laugh was a bit uneven, but with all the background noise it passed muster.

Danny continued talking. "Damn, I'd like to have my own place. I could watch this and be making money instead of spending it." The waitress returned with another pair of drinks and he slid a bill into her bra, earning a quick smile that was more genuine that that of the departing dancer. "Of course," he resumed, "my parents would kill me. If labor relations didn't do me in, first" Both of us watched the waitress's departing derriere before turning back to the stage.

We stayed a few drinks longer, but I couldn't get into it. Every time I started thinking about how none of the girls looked like they really enjoyed what they were doing, I'd begin thinking about how I could fix that, and then panic and shut down. I think I would have given anything to trade places with Jonathan, wherever he was -- he could have the club and girls, and I'd take Alex.

After a few efforts to rouse my spirits failed, Danny admitted failure and suggested we head back. I probably shouldn't have been driving in my condition, but we were in no hurry and the traffic was light most of the way back to campus. Frat row, on the other hand, was packed.

"C'mon, Lloyd," Danny urged me, "they're having a huge party next door. Stop in and visit; it's part of the collegiate experience, for chrissake!"

I was drunk and horny, and maybe there'd be a willing coed. Danny grinned and clapped me on the shoulder when I pulled into a vacant spot, leaving the car crooked but out of the traffic lane. We ambled up to the front door and I paid the cover, figuring I owed Danny for at least a few drinks.

Danny grabbed a beer and disappeared, while I picked up something that claimed to be a mixed drink and stumbled towards an unclaimed seat on the couch in the front room. The music was loud enough to wake the dead, and the dancers in the crowd had far more enthusiasm, if less artifice, than the professionals we'd seen earlier.

The crowd shifted slightly and I caught sight of Connie. She was dancing near some guy who watched appreciatively as she gyrated, swinging her hair and trying not to spill the cup in her hand; luckily it seemed to be nearly empty. I remembered her throwaway comment from brunch and felt a surge of benevolence. She was a good friend to Alex, and if we had friction between us, I knew Connie was just looking out for her friend's best interests. She deserved some harmless fun.

The room wasn't that large, so I tried to collect my wits and concentrate on her. I thought about the grace of her body, and how she must love dancing for the guy, and teasing him to excitement with her moves. I knew I was drunker than I'd thought because it took so long to get a reaction.

The guy's eyes looked like they might bug out when Connie tossed aside her cup and began stroking herself through her top while doing a slow grind. I was just congratulating myself on a job well done and tossing back the rest of my drink to combat the headache when another guy, with a strikingly dark complexion, appeared with a drink in each hand. He pushed a cup roughly at Connie, spilling some of it, and started shouting at the other guy.

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