Phil's ReturnbyTabby JJ Kitty©
Note: This is an excerpt from a novel I never finished and have since out grown. It seems to stand alone as a short story, I think. Things you should know: are that the crazy font action and words that are run together were done on purpose, And D is a character of undeterminable gender and race. It was an experiment. Those things don't come so much in to play here, but it might help. Please let me know what you think. Enjoy.
The bass thumped and bumped and thumped some more. Poe's tell tale heart had nothing on this beat track. On and on and on.. It seemed that the only thing to hear was bass. No music really, just beat and crowd and sweat. There was so much sweat you could hear it – Loud accompanying the bass like an afterthought, an accent. This had to be a fire code violation. The crowd, fueled by red bull and vodka cocktails and god knows how many illegals – glad we don't - bounced and swayed and gyrated like the contents of a boiling soup. Packed, spawning fish in a turbulent ocean. D meandered up stream. "Mel!" D yelled grabbing the shoulder of the sober, tranced, gyrating, dripping, gasping Melody. "Mel!" D yelled again. Melody looked up at her friend open mouthed without recognition. Their eyes met. Something was wrong, Melody could see. Her brain kicked immediately back into business mode. "What?" she yelled back. "Come to the front," said D. The two of them swam back through the throng to the lobby.
Happy for clear air, they breathed for a minute. "'S goin' on?" Melody puffed. "Personal first or Business?" asked D. " Which is worse?" Melody inquired.
" 'Bout the same, I think," Said D, " nah, Business is worse."
" Business, then."
"Fast and direct or long and drawn out?"
"Cash box was stolen"
"Ummm...not processing...putting it away. Personal."
Melody sat down on a cold folding chair then stood up again and paced. " Wheredidhecomefrom what's hedoinghere how'dheget here?! Is he alone?" on the last question, she turned and faced D directly, inquisitor fashion.
"I didn't see her," answered D
"Just because you didn't see her doesn't mean she's not here." Melody sputtered, panicking.
" True...but I didn't see her. I took his cash." D was defensive but couldn't figure out why.
"You took his cash...So you were at the cash box – How'd it get stolen?" Melody peered at D. That's why D was defensive..."You weren't going to think about that right now, " D coaxed.
" Right. He came by himself!?"
"Maybe she's parking the car?"
"Wouldn't she break a nail?" D smirked
Melody missed the joke. " ...So he's alone by himself alone..."
"Ok, I'm stopping this - he was alone by himself alone. She was nowhere to be found"
" Ok, so he's here. He's alone – How'd the box get stolen?"
" I don't know."
"You weren't watching it?"
"I was with it the whole time then it was gone."
"But it was 10 bucks a head! You see how many people there are here?!"
"I stamped each hand personally." D answered with brooding irony.
"That was our annual budget!"
"You don't seem panicked or sorry..."
"I really don't know what to do."
"you're so calm!"
"Panicking solves no ones problems"
"You're right, lets call the police."
"It's an illegal party and some of the patrons may be using controlled substances."
"Illegal?! This is a fundraiser for an non profit artistic organization."
"Billed as a rave party without proper permits and drug use on the premises."
"I didn't sanction drugs..."
"They came with the people"
"D, You're being very strange about this...tell me exactly what happened."
"I was watching the box and the door, stamping hands, and I had to pee so Al took over, I came back and saw Philip –"
"Al saw Philip?"
"We both saw Philip. Al stamped his hand."
"Was he polite? Al, I mean, to Philip."
"Perfectly cordial...so I took the money, Al stamped his hand, we exchanged how are you's, great party, la di da, he has a show going up in a few weeks, la la la, didn't ask about you, complimented Al on his wardrobe choice – yes strange – and disappeared into the crowd. Al snarled for a few minute, I talked him down, turned around and the box was gone."
" Yeah, I know, Super sorry, I guess, well..."
"Philip." Melody uttered, horror movie petrified and staring. D's back was to the door but Melody's face revealed everything.
"We'll do this later" said D and vanished into the crowd.
Philip came into the lobby. Not a tall man, but not short. Average is an inadequate term to describe his stature but it's the closest available term. Dark hair in a non-style, not the non-style that's stylish, just a non-style – his clothes were about the same. Usually he dressed a la Marshall's fathers day sale two years ago but today he had on something that appeared to have been purchased recently and at least fit well. His eyes were his most distinguishing feature. His eyes were Melody's Achille's heal. They were big, soft, warm chocolate brown orbs that seemed to reveal some kind of timeless wonder to her. They lit up like the night sky at Christmas when they saw her, and she'd fall, hook line and sinker every time. They had a planetary gravitational pull that would suck her in like a vacuum tube and render her useless for hours even days after one glance. She worked hard to avoid his gaze. No luck. Damn. "Heyyy." He said. Casual, familiar, warm, no big deal. "Hey." Answered Melody. Curt nervous, evasive. She looked down and fiddled with her sleeve. He approached her, standing very close. She closed her eyes. She could smell him. Leaver 2000 soap mixed with clean laundry – Snuggle and Tide. Nothing smells as good as clean man and fresh laundry. Sensory overload wrenching her into a pre-swoon shallow breathing pattern. His face was so close - not quite kissing close but close enough for kissing to be considered an offered option. "Hey." He said again with a big, broad smile, and that creamy velvet chocolate pudding seductive voice that vibrated her nether regions the way no sex toy ever could. "Hey." She answered, curt again but lighter, finally returning the gaze. Fuck. Resistance is futile. She had to concentrate on standing and breathing which was increasingly difficult. "You look great tonight." He said, softening the eyes, the voice, slipping a hand to her waist. Aw hell. She inhaled. " Thanks." She answered, almost in apology. Why apology? Breathing and standing. She tried to look away but couldn't. Gravity. She was locked. Oh no here we go. The blood swam in her ears and the world disappeared. Caressingly, his arms encircled her waist, he pressed his body so close to hers she thought he's go through. This is what happens. This from the casual observer, looked like just a friendly hello hug. But into this hug they squeezed seven years of unrequited lust. This Hug was more than hello. This was an epic soul fusion through time and space. The very floor beneath them vaporized. There they hung, like two sticky snowflakes suspended in the void. Her spine melted, his head collapsed upon her shoulder, the physical and ethereal blurred into an indistinguishable love smoothie disguised as a casual embrace.
"There you are!" cried Alistare, relieved, then embarrassed but unapologetic, "Mel, we're-" he began. Philip and Melody broke apart guiltily like awkward teenagers caught smoking in the back of the bus. "Can we discuss it later, Al?" Melody asked in a voice that was not her own. "Um, " Alitsare was also awkward, "it's important." His face was sad but urgent and kind of injured. "I know about the box" she said, head down not looking at either of them. "There's more," Said Alistre, businesslike, this time. Resigned, she sighed, "Gimme a minute, 'kay?" she was gentle but gave him a reprimanding look. "Yeah, ok," he said and faded away toward the throng.
Melody stood away from Philip, facing him but still looking at the floor, "How've you been?" she blurted. " Good," Philip answered cautiously, "busy."
"Busy?" she asked.
"Yeah." He said, moving toward her again. She dodged him and stood behind a folding chair as if the would do something to prevent the inevitable. " How'd you hear about this?" she asked in that casual manner that is never casual and always causes an arm to flop in the most bizarre way. "Email, I'm on the email list," He put one knee on the chair and leaned in. If this were a musical, they'd be about to burst into song. "Oh yeah...but-" she tried to convince her self out of hyperventilation. He circumvented the chair, she'd backed up against a wall. "You look fabulous," he purred, moving closer. " Thanks." She breathed, annoyed that they were revisiting this part of the conversation. He put an arm on the wall and leaned in. She tried to remember which 80's teen movie she saw this move in, and kind of smirked with the thought. He took this for an encouraging smile and smiled back. "How are you?" he asked like a Barry White B-side. "Busy, as you can see."
"Was. 'till the robbery."
"I'm not dealing with the robbery right now."
Their eyes met again and away went the universe. She broke the gaze, closing her eyes, "How's Tabitha?" that question took strength. It rattled him, he didn't expect it. He never expected it. He liked to pretend that Tabitha and Melody didn't know about each other. It was worse now because he'd chosen Tabitha over Melody about six months ago. "Good." He said flatly. "Her allergies have subsided?" she asked accusatorily. She was gaining power. She moved away from the wall toward the center of the lobby and crossed her arms over her chest. He just stared. " And her politics?" she asked with the expression of someone who would raise an eyebrow if they could and is frustrated by their genetic inability to actually raise an eyebrow in an eyebrow raising situation. But the point came across anyway. "Tepid as usual," he said looking away himself this time. Melody was squared off and direct now. They both sighed, he looked up she answered with a quizzical look. "At a batchelorette party, "he answered. Her face fell with sad, accusatory panic " No, no..." he said. His eyes declared "of course not. Someone else's. of course not..."
Melody relaxed, she sat reposed on the folding chair, he grabbed another one, turned it around and straddled it, arms across its back. There they sat in the middle of the lobby as if they were about to start some audition scene about ex-lovers. "I'm doing this show..." he began, intimately. She knew this was coming, he always asked her do a show at his theatre, she always said no for the same reasons. Subtext and Tabitha. Tabitha was always somehow involved with the production and Melody's subtext with Philip was unmistakable. Melody wanted to avoid that song and dance right now – it's getting old. She grabbed his hand, held it, and turned her head to watch the party for a moment, then turned back to him. " Shh," she said, quietly nurturing, in her lowest sultry voice, "we'll discuss that later, just be still now." He held her hand. They watched their clasped hands for a while not knowing what the other was thinking. Just sitting and feeling. She'd stopped resisting. He'd stopped pursuing. They simply sat, hands clasped in folding chairs and dense silence next to the party din. Alistare appeared again and shot her a reprimanding look and walked outside. Melody inhaled, squeezed Philip's hand and whispered "Come into the office with me."
It was morning and he had nothing else to do but to try and recover from last night's losses and clean up the mess. It was a stagnant clouded morning damp because it wanted to make matters worse. He was grumpy and hung over and upset. How the hell did the box get stolen? It must've been his fault. Mel would kill him. He'd avoid her. They'll probably have to fold the entire production. Damn. He couldn't even do this right. The one thing he knew well was numbers and he couldn't even hold on to a cigar box of money. Fuck.
His office was dark, tomb like. Today, that's a good thing. Most days that's a good thing. He wasn't paying attention. He didn't really look beyond his nose and he really wasn't paying attention to that either. Alistare sat in his chair behind his desk with a thunk and a heavy huff awaking the nude and sleeping Philip cocooned in the very receipts and financial reports Alistare had planned to go over that morning. Embarrassment. Oh, the embarrassment.
Philip sat up with urgent apology searching for his pants and a grip on reality. Alistare sat agape and confused about the hygiene of his paperwork. Philip wanted to say something but his larynx failed him so his jaw flapped up and down like a suffocating fish in winter. Alistare wanted to blame Philip for the box, he wanted to blame him for something, but he remained at his desk staring at the paper wishing for telekinesis so he could extricate Philip forcefully from the room, with out moving.
Philip got his pants on and grabbed his shirt from the floor. He looked around seeking the misplaced words that evaded oration. He wondered where Melody was but knew not to ask. Finally, he finished flailing, quickly nodded at the catatonic Alisatre and, failing eye contact, left the room, the building.
Alistare got up. He had to get the image of naked, flummoxed Philip out of his head. He knew this was an untouchable Melody issue. Maybe Stew knew what to do...He got up and went over to the diner. The day was suddenly too bright but remained annoyingly damp. He thought about going back home and hiding in the Blue Room. He decided against it.
Stew wasn't in yet. He was home sleep. Last night was a lot of work so he took the day off. Damn. Barbra offered Al some coffee. He nodded. She was Stew's cousin. Sometimes she filled in, not often though. She was a pleasant, sturdy girl, not shapely unless you mean trapezoid. But she had a pleasant face and kind eyes and a soft spot for mopey Al. He told her about the box and Philip, sipped his coffee and stared blankly at a lemon meringue pie. It looked like a molten landslide from another planet and he wanted to be there for the ride. It looked cozy - somehow. Barbra followed his gaze and reached for the pie. "No, thanks." He said very very quietly. She asked him what he wanted to eat. He shook his head like a grumpy kid. She placed an order for blueberry pancakes and left him with himself.
Melody had crawled up into the tech booth to sleep after the evening's Philip activities. She needed to be away from him to sleep. Philip encounters always rendered her useless. Energy Vampire, he'd tapped that ass and tapped her out. Her body was heavy. Not that warm, cozy, lovely, post coital heavy. It was a Cold, drained, dead heavy like cement packed in ice and buried under the ocean floor. A crane couldn't raise her. She lay there on the floor still wearing the dress she'd had so much trouble getting into last night. It cut into her middle She felt like a sausage, 2 sausages separated by a pained and evil twist. She was too weighted to do anything about it. A fog had settled in her brain and made her thoughts sloggy and kind of damp like the day. Was it post Phil or post alcohol? She couldn't tell. Maybe both...All that, she thought, all that and all we got was a mess to clean up. Fuck. What the hell were they thinking? No, no blame no blame no blame....she fell back to sleep dreaming of Philip holding her, stroking her hair...It's not love...
D awoke at home wrapped in a blanket of self blame. Decided to go to the theatre and work this out. Maybe they found the box and could live happily ever after. Took a shower. Headed to the theatre armed with lattes and chocolate croissants. Peace offering.
Alistare ate his blueberry pancakes, slowly, pensively, masticating each morsel as if it was precious until it disintegrated. He had to remember to take the next bite. He didn't really taste anything. But the fact of blueberry pancakes is comfort enough sometimes...sometimes. Barbra refilled his cup. He didn't notice. He kept looking at the pie. This mountainous dessert. This creation in yellow and white accented by the odd swish of golden brown. That's when you know it's done. When it's golden brown. The next instruction is "enjoy". Golden brown. enjoy. He was feeling fork-poke-done but hardly golden brown and the last thing he could do was enjoy. He wouldn't even contemplate the effort.
Philip stood rumpled outside of the theatre. After some consideration, he leaned against his car for support. His body ached. His brain refused to work. He could not even manage the car door handle. He tried – it didn't work. Melody encounters always left him unhinged, over charged with hormones and emotion. Loss of thought process and motor function were typical post Melody symptoms. His ex-wife named it "cheater's breakdown". He hadn't yet realized that he'd been out all night, again, without explanation. He hadn't yet realized that he reeked like an exploded distillery. He hadn't yet realized that Melody, equally disheveled, stood quizzically in front of him, head cocked, arms akimbo.
He blinked. Wasn't sure if she was a mirage. He wanted to ask her what she was doing there...he started to remember, still unsure, faked a smile. "Heeeyyy..." he cooed, brightly as he could. His voice massaged her worn out being. "hey." She said, quiet, short, almost a whisper, barely an utterance. She felt as if she was shouting. "You Ok?" he asked. "Mmmm" she nodded sleepily. He reached out to her and gathered her closely to him. They both went limp, supported by each other and the side of the car. Then all of those cosmic sparks and timeless, spaceless feelings rose up again and she whispered "stop" into his shoulder so he clung tighter. Silently, she cried.
D pulled into the theatre parking lot with all the drama and vigor of a stunt driver at the end of a scene. D could not believe the view in front of the theatre. Here in broad daylight, he had some nerve! D hated Philip for his emotional hold on Mel and there they were for all the world to see...what must his wife think? D grabbed the lattes, walked past them undetected, and went into the theatre. Thought sure Al would be in his office submerged in paperwork and worry. But he wasn't. D put the lattes on the trashed desk and went looking for him. The place was a mess and empty. So much for the mini meeting...D headed for the diner.
Philip and Melody were still embraced in the parking lot when D walked by again. They were mired in their own tortured universe of lust guilt bliss and pain. D couldn't understand why they perpetuated it. He was married and, though charming, only moderately attractive.
D walked into the diner, sat next to the brooding Alistare and picked up a menu. Alistre barely moved. "What is up with my catatonic friends today?" D asked. Al smiled more to himself than to D. He was glad D was there. " So did you – " D started, stopped by Al with a shake of his head. "Oh..." said D. Barbra mechanically took D's pancake order – she wasn't fond of D. D freaked her out. D tried to smile, then gave up. Something had to be done. There was a juke box in the corner. Stew had filled it with his favorite music so it didn't get much use from the customers. D fed a dollar into it and punched up a couple of songs. The first chords of Bowie's "Changes" came through instantly. Like a freshly watered plant, Alistare sat up straight and looked at his friend, relieved, clear-eyed, and grateful. "The box is gone. Completely gone..." he started. "yeah..." D sighed. Alistare started to blame him self, D countered with equal reflexive reproach and the two spiraled together down into the clammy gutter of mea culpa until Melody and Philip walked in.