Signed First Edition Ch. 05byblacknight99©
I'm afraid that I'm going to have to make a small administrative note. The reader has been very patient with me thus far in my tale. However, to maintain accuracy with regards to the timeframe from this point forward, I must dramatically abbreviate some of my entries. As you notice the days flying by, please take note of the relative high points as I plunge recklessly toward the introduction and integration of one new major character in our little drama and a brief reintroduction of an older one.
NOVEMBER 24th, 2011
For the first time ever, Tod did not make it to Pop's house for Thanksgiving dinner. He called to make his regrets (though he didn't talk to me, personally), and explain that he had a job interview on Friday in Salinas. That, of course, was a lie. He was so pissed off about what I'd had him do that he didn't want to be around me.
DECEMBER 2nd, 2011
This was the first day I became cognizant that Elaine was away from the house more and more often. When I asked her about it, she told me that she was really getting into the Christmas spirit this year, and was hanging out at the mall and other shopping centers. I didn't question her further. Looking back on it, I should have known that her devious little mind was hatching some exotic scheme ... the type that only Elaine seems capable of putting together.
DECEMBER 9th, 2011
I decided to phone and have it out with my brother, and if he didn't answer my call (the way he'd refused to answer my three previous attempts) I was going to track him down and talk to him in person. To my surprise, however, he picked it up on the second ring.
I told him I was sorry, and he said he accepted my apology. That sort of threw me a little. I was expecting a bit more indignation, and maybe a verbal fight. Somewhat at a loss for words, I mentioned that we'd missed him at Thanksgiving ... that we should go out and do dinner soon ... that maybe we could do some skiing up in the mountains. I tried to start all sorts of lines of conversation, with only non-committal comments and grunts in response, until I finally broke the code. He was still pissed off at me, but it was going to be alright. He just needed to nurse his righteous anger a few more days before finally allowing the hard feelings to slip away. I'm not sure just HOW I knew that, but I did. Maybe some of those old wives' tales are right after all. Maybe twins DO just know.
DECEMBER 14th, 2011
I arrived back from a day at the UCLA Library. I had decided to finish up the doctorate, taking one or two courses in the next semester. After all, I only had five courses and the thesis to go. Traffic was bad, and it took me two and a half hours to make it home. I'd phoned ahead twice to tell Elaine that I was going to be late. Whatever foul mood the freeways had produced fled, however, when I walked in the front door and was assaulted by the wonderful aroma of the meal my wife had prepared. I walked into the kitchen just as she was finishing with the salad, and she turned to me, smiling and shy in a wonderfully slinky negligee, rushing to give me a deep kiss. I asked her the occasion, hoping beyond hope that I hadn't forgotten something important, but she just moved away from me and took a bottle of champagne from the refrigerator. I tried to take it from her to pop the cork, but she insisted on doing it herself. She'd obviously orchestrated this, and after finally bouncing the cork off the ceiling and squealing as the bottle frothed onto the tiled floor, she poured a full flute for me, but only two scant drops in her own glass. She smiled broadly while the glasses dinged musically together in a toast.
"Is that all you're having?" I asked, with a lifted eyebrow.
"I'm not having any alcohol for nine months," she told me merrily, and then shrieked in laughter as I picked her up and twirled her about several times.
Through the course of the meal and the hour in bed making love afterwards, she told me about her appointment at the doctor's office, confirming what the home pregnancy kit had already indicated. She was wonderfully excited and happy, and glowed almost constantly. We talked about the future, where the nursery was going to be, what colors we were going to paint it, where the little tyke was going to go to college, and on and on and on.
Finally, lying in my arms after a very, very tender lovemaking session, she began tracing circles through my chest hair, which meant, I knew, that she had something serious to say. "What is it, Pet?" I asked her.
"I am better than you," she said softly.
"Oh, ARE you now?"
"Yes," she answered without humor. "I am capable of more diverse thought processes."
"More ... diverse?" I asked, grinning. "Diversity isn't always better, where thought processes are concerned."
"But yes, it is," she told me. "I believe it is, anyway. It is the way I am. I would like you to respect me, please. Respect the way I am."
I frowned. "Elaine, you should never doubt my respect for you ... ever. What is this all about?"
"I have faith, Rod. You do not. For you, faith is only a belief that needs to be proven scientifically. Without that evidence, faith ceases to exist. For me, faith doesn't NEED to pass a test to survive."
"Are we talking religion here?" I asked curiously. I looked down at her, into her eyes, and couldn't read whatever was there. "Tell me what it is that you believe," I urged. "And yes, I WILL respect whatever it is."
She took a breath. "Rod, this child is yours. Not Tod's ... yours. We had sex the day before Tod and I ... um ... did it. And we had sex the day after." I couldn't stop a small smile, and I instantly regretted it. She looked away, hurt.
"Pet, I ...."
"Rod, this is just a feeling I have. Call it a conviction, if you want. Deep in my heart, deep in my soul, I just KNOW that this baby is yours." She sighed deeply. "Now, I realize that you have the power to make me change my mind. I know that you can hypnotize me and ...."
"Ah, THAT's what this is about!" I said, nodding. Now, my smile was genuine, and she seemed to pick up on that, a look of hope in her eyes. "Pet," I told her earnestly, "first of all, I cannot MAKE you think something you don't WANT to think. Hypnotically, I can suggest something ... but your conscious mind doesn't HAVE to accept that suggestion if it doesn't want to. And secondly, I would never try to force you to believe something that you didn't want to ... or vice versa. Of course I respect you. I love you."
She was silent for a long time, and I, being a rather dense fellow, didn't realize that she was crying. Maybe there's a reason guys are dense. As it turned out, being silent and just holding her was exactly what I should have done. I decided to consider such actions in the form of a scientific theorem. I could call it "natural male dominance through denseness."
DECEMBER 19th, 2011
I don't know what there was about Southern California that attracted pulp authors from the early Twentieth Century, but there sure were a lot of them (many transplanted from out east ... the way most Californians were). Carroll John Daly, Raymond Chandler, Erle Stanley Gardner ... the list goes on and on. But right at the top of most critics' lists sits Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs' large ranch, between Burbank and Thousand Oaks, eventually became the city of Tarzana (and if you can't figure out how they came up with that name, then you obviously don't know who the man was). I had just returned from a fan convention there when I was verbally accosted by my lovely wife.
"Where have you BEEN!?!" she shrieked, pushing me back toward the door.
"I told you ..." I stuttered defensively, "... they were having this pulp convention ...."
She was shoving me back in the direction of the car. I wisely decided not to argue. "I've been trying to call you!" she shouted accusingly.
Now, I WAS feeling guilty. "I ... uh ... set my cell phone to vibrate because we were in a theater watching outtakes from the first Johnny Weissmuller movie," I tried to explain. "I forgot to ... uh ...." I gave it up and climbed behind the wheel. "Where are we going?"
She shushed me and worked frantically with the GPS for a few moments, reading an address from a scrap of paper. The device started barking orders and I sighed and set off. "We're going out to dinner," she said, fastening her seat belt.
She replied with our favorite restaurant in Burbank, which really confused me, because the GPS was sending us to someplace here in Pasadena. In response, she broke into a twenty-four carat smile and said: "I've FOUND her, Rod!"
I cleared my throat. "Okay. The way you said that makes me think that perhaps I should know what in the hell you're talking about. You found WHO?"
She sat back and grinned in a self-satisfied way. "I found ME!"
For a moment, I wondered if maybe I shouldn't be driving to the nearest mental health facility. "And you live ..." I pointed at the GPS, "... there?"
She laughed. "Oh, Rod, just wait until you meet her! You'll see! She walks like me, she talks like me, she THINKS like me! She's closer to me than ... ME!"
I shook my head slightly, as if something was a little loose in there. "And ... um ... how did you happen to meet ... you?"
She laughed again. "Her name is Sandy. And I saw her coming out of Trader Joe's and walking toward the downtown shops. I've been looking for ... um ... likely candidates for a few weeks now. And suddenly, there she was! So I followed her, and when I saw her sit down at an outdoor café, I got something and asked if I could join her. And we just started talking about ...."
I was just about to ask the obvious question, but this last sentence pushed it right out of my head. "You sat down with ...?"
"I know. That's so incredibly UNLIKE me, isn't it? I mean, I'm too shy to EVER do something like that, aren't I?" She hesitated, blushed, looked at me askance for a moment and said: "Remember our first date?"
My thoughts were suddenly going in so many different directions at once that I had to concentrate hard on my driving. "Um ... of course I remember our first date."
"Remember how I went to the ladies' room and I was ... gone for awhile?"
"I was afraid you'd run off and left me," I answered, nodding, as the GPS barked another order.
"I was in there throwing up," she said.
I shot a glance at her. "Well, THAT's a hell of thing to tell a guy!"
"Oh, you can take the truth now," she said confidently. "But you were SO charming, and SO nice ... and all at once, I was SO in love with you! And, you know how nervous and shy I am ... and I just KNEW I was going to blow it! My first big chance at happiness!" She sighed, grinning at the past. Then, she turned and looked at me for emphasis. "But that's the way SHE is! Sandy is just like a little baby bird that you hold in your palm, and she's frightened of the world and the evil things in it, but all she REALLY wants is to have faith and trust, and lose herself to friendship and love ..." she paused again, "... just like me."
The GPS announced that we had reached our destination. I pulled over and stopped, when I suddenly remembered the forgotten thought. "What do you mean you were looking for 'likely candidates?'" I asked. "Likely candidates for WHAT?"
She blinked and looked at me. "Why, for TOD, of course."
I was thunderstruck. "Elaine, what have you done?"
"We're picking up Sandy, and then we're meeting Tod at the restaurant ... in ..." she checked her watch, "... twenty minutes."
"You got Tod to agree to a blind date? Tod has never been on a blind date in his LIFE!"
Now, she fidgeted. "Well, I didn't really tell him we were bringing her."
I closed my eyes and opened them again. Nope, this wasn't a nightmare. This was horrifyingly real. She got out of the car. Then I, rushing too fast, fumbling with the handle, somehow got my door open and got out, as well. "Elaine! You can't ...."
She stopped her quick pace toward the front door of an apartment building and turned back toward me. "Rod! Get back in the car! She doesn't know YOU'RE going out with us, either. Remember what I told you ... she's very nervous ... and painfully shy. Just sit there and ... uh ... be charming." And she spun on her heel and sprinted into the apartment house.
I got back behind the wheel and tried to understand the magnitude of what was happening. Without giving it a second thought, I took my cell phone and dialed Tod's cell number. It went right to voice mail, and I left an urgent message to call me. Just to make sure, I called his apartment number, as well, but it rang the requisite four times before going to voice mail, too. I sighed. As if he wasn't torqued off at me enough as it was! Oh man, he was NEVER going to forgive me for THIS!
Elaine was suddenly back with another girl at her side. Protocol demanded that I do something more than just sit there, so I once again opened the car door and got out to meet this lady. I don't like to boast, but I believe I deserve some sort of award for not laughing out loud.
The woman was so incredibly UNLIKE Elaine, that at first, I considered the comparison to be as close to an opposite as I could imagine. My wife is moderately tall. Sandy is so short that the word "petite" hardly does her justice. Elaine's brown hair is long, Sandy's is dramatically short ... almost a butch ... and it was fiery red rather than blonde, as you'd expect a "Sandy" to be. A smattering of freckles adorned the bridge of her nose and cheeks. Also, if you were to put Elaine in silhouette and digitize the picture, every pixel would fall on an arc. She is made up entirely of curves. But Sandy's outline is all conjoining straight lines. And while Elaine is far from fat, her body is full and soft. Sandy, on the other hand, while far from skinny, is slender, muscular, athletic.
I put out my hand to her as my wife introduced us, and her initial reaction was to shrink back from me. She was sort of a cross between a frightened rabbit and a deer caught in the headlights. I seemed to fascinate and terrify her in the same instant. She blinked up at me, then resolutely took my hand and gripped it firmly, though her eyes were able to make contact for only a few seconds. I held the back door for her, and the way she looked at it, you'd think I was asking her to enter the cavern leading to the River Styx. She gulped and shivered, then resolutely got in. I glanced questioningly at Elaine, who uncharacteristically smiled, rolled her eyes toward the heavens and gave a self-congratulatory fist-pump, before dashing around the car and climbing into the front passenger seat.
There comes a time of the day in Los Angeles when the traffic breaks free and proceeds almost instantaneously from bumper-to-bumper-stop-and-go to full-speed-ahead. It's a different time every day, of course ... as well as a different time for each freeway. For whatever reason, that time had passed on the 134, and we made the restaurant right on schedule. All the way there, Elaine chattered like a caged finch, never giving either of us other occupants the chance to chime in or begin a conversation.
Sandy followed along like a little child trailing behind her parents as we made our way into the restaurant and toward the place where Tod already sat waiting. We stood facing each other at the table for only a second before Elaine started in on the introductions; but then, for what seemed like an hour, time stood still. Sandy looked as if she'd been stricken with a sudden fatal disease. Tod, however, seemed to think the whole thing was preposterous to the point of hilarity. He threw back his head and laughed, which, at first, angered Elaine and practically caused Sandy to swoon. But while most laughter is contagious, Tod's is particularly so, and I couldn't seem to stop myself from joining in. Elaine finally followed suit, and even Sandy cracked a smile.
As we all sat down, Tod accused me of high treason, and informed me that he was already beginning to think in terms of payback. I indignantly pointed out that his cell phone was off (actually the battery had died), which now made my wife accuse me of the same crime. Sandy, unable to contain her curiosity any longer, interrupted with that age-old question: "Are you guys TWINS?"
And so the evening progressed in a series of fits and starts. This was one of the thousand eateries in the LA area that boasted the "Best Burger in Town," and we decided to test that claim; the ladies splitting something with avocados on it, while Tod and I each went whole hog, with bacon and cheese and sundry other ingredients. To my amazement, as the meal was ending, we learned that Sandy worked at JPL in Pasadena as a data coordinator for nuclear space systems, which prompted me to try to explain the differences between nuclear power generation and nuclear propulsion. Before I could really get into that wonderful topic, however, Elaine kicked me under the table (the first time she'd ever done that) and announced: "Yes, I'd LOVE to dance."
"Dance?" I asked, dumbfounded. A band had just struck up, though that particular thought had NEVER occurred to me. She was already up and heading toward the dance floor, so I was forced to stumble after her. "I can't DANCE!" I protested, as she stopped, spun and grabbed me in her arms. And indeed, I cannot. I might be able to attempt it someday, if I happen to gain any sense of rhythm at all. Or coordination. Or balance. Or any of the other things that are necessary for that particular pastime. Fortunately for my wife, it was a slow dance, and so we just sort of held each other and rocked back and forth. When the music switched to something more animated, I tried to escape, but Elaine wouldn't let me, and I was forced to self-consciously jerk and gyrate in front of my spouse, who looked lithe and sinuous and sexy. Finally, finally, she relented and let me lead her back to our table, which was empty now, and I spotted Tod and Sandy out on the floor. I wondered casually how long my wife would have forced me to make a fool of myself out there if they hadn't taken the hint, and I cringed at the thought.
I had to admit they made an interesting couple. He towered over her, and yet somehow they just seemed to "fit." I suddenly became aware of the fact that she was very athletic, and she remained balanced and sure of herself as he led her more rapidly and dramatically all over the dance floor. "Maybe you should dance with Tod," I muttered, feeling jealous and insecure.
"Mmmm, maybe I will, sometime," she responded dreamily. "But not tonight. I bet you that they stay out there for two or three more numbers. And I bet you that he drives her home."
"You're on," I said at once. She'd forgotten, of course. Pop, as a college graduation present, had told us that he'd buy us any car we wanted. I had asked for a Toyota Prius, but Tod wanted a Harley Electra Glide. Now, I hate to keep talking about how different everything is in California, but if you've ever spent a few hours on our highways, you are probably very aware that, when it comes to motorcycles, there is NO place like here. Dudes on bikes have their own rules ... literally. They can ride in any lane ... or choose to ignore them entirely and maneuver between vehicles ... between lanes ... whenever they please, usually doing so a breakneck speeds. Pop likes to call motorcyclists in California "Organ Donors." I will admit that Tod is saner than most riders, but the fact remained ... if he was going to give sweet, shy Sandy a lift home, she'd be on the back of a Harley. There was just no way. "What do you want to bet?" I asked my wife. "Put your money where your mouth is!"