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Living Fiction - Chapter 52
Here's where Chapter 51 left you.
Jessie opened the door and Princess waltzed in. Edgar practically swooned. Griffin and Jessie looked at each other…all googly eyed and ran out the door.
Millie strolled calmly into the kitchen. She took one look at my new, improved, make-up and clothes. Her hand raised dramatically to her forehead. It’s a wonder she didn’t gouge her eye out with her long, bright orange fingernails. I wondered briefly when she had time to change the polish color. I wondered briefly if she had actually changed the polish color so it would match her day-glo orange, skin-tight track-suit edged in zebra fur.
And seriously, did you know that athletic shoes actually come in cheetah print with glittery pink laces?
“Pearl,” she said dramatically, “Don’t blame me when your ‘boyfriend’turns right around and leaves when he sees you looking all frumpty-dumpty.”
“Frumpty, dumpty? Millie. I think I look great…and if I’d wanted to walk around looking like you I would have…boyfriend? What do you mean boyfriend?”
“You know? Boyfriend. That guy that you’re babysitting adorable little Edgar for. That boyfriend. The one who was sitting on your front steps for about an hour waiting for you!”
And now, Chapter 52 Continues.
Stuttering in surprise, I puzzled, “Waiting on my steps? For an hour? You mean Jay?”
Millie looked at me intently, “Ummm…yes…Pearl…that…guy…was…”
“Knock if off, Millie! I’m not a moron! I can understand English, you know? What is with you anyway? You barge in here and act like…”
Fate had an uncanny way of protecting Millie from my wrath, because right when I was possibly verging on saying too much, I saw Jay framed in the glass of the door.
Waving his hand in a tentative greeting, he reminded me of a little boy…
…and in a moment of clarity do you know what I realized? Jay was kind of cute.
Millie raised one eyebrow at me and I noticed for the first time ever that Millie didn’t really have any eyebrows. At all. She had just drawn a frown in black brow pencil over each eye. The weirdness of it kind of mesmerized me.
I was momentarily torn between asking Millie if something had happened to her eyebrows (Bonfire? Tweezers run amuk? Fright?) and answering the door.
When Jay tapped lightly on the glass, though, answering the door won the debate.
I sucked in my stomach, put a welcoming look on my face, and gracefully opened the door.
“Hey…um…hi! I would’ve called first but I sort of lost your number,” Jay said in a subdued and slightly embarrassed tone. I noticed right away that his face and voice were much more relaxed then the last time I had seen him.
A millisecond later Edgar…ummm…I mean Spot…came skidding around the corner following by a yapping Princess.
Jay dropped down on one jeans-clad knee just as the wiry little dog catapulted himself across the last three feet of my no-wax vinyl flooring.
“Oh man, Spot! Oh, buddy! I missed you, bud. Have you been a good boy? A good boy? And who’s this pretty little gal?” I thought for a moment he was talking about me, but I quickly realized my mistake when he held out a welcoming hand to Princess who quickly became enamored of Jay’s talented scratching fingers.
“Well, I’ll be!” Millie exclaimed, “Princess is usually so, so, so afraid of men and, oh my goodness, just look at her now, will you? Well, I declare, Mr. Jay, you certainly seem to have a way with the females.”
Millie wiggled her drawn-on eyebrows at me and lowered one set of black widow spider mascaraed eyelashes in an innuendo filled wink.
Jay and the dogs continued their mutal admiration love-fest for a few more minutes. Finally he straightened up and looked at me, “Pearl…so…yeah…thanks for watching Spot. Thanks a lot.” Then he fidgetted awkwardly from foot to foot.
Millie took the awkward silence into her own bossy hands. “Obviously you two have some catching up to do…soooo…here!”
She thrust Edgar’s leash into my hands, dug through her voluminous canary yellow patent leather purse (obviously her style sense was vastly superior to mine…I would personally have never paired that bag with a day-glo orange, skin-tight track-suit edged in zebra fur) until she finally located a rhinestone encrusted hot-pink dog leash. Jay looked slightly surprised when it ended up in his hands. I wasn’t surprised at all. Did I ever tell you how pushy Millie actually is?
Well, she certainly pushed us right out the kitchen door. “You two kids go for a walk. Just drop Princess off at my house when you’re done. She will so, so, so enjoy having some more time with her sweet little princey-poo Edgar.”
Jay and I stood on the little porch and watched her as she gaily blew us a kiss and closed the door in our faces.
We had only walked about three steps before the door flew open again. “Wait!” Millie commanded. She ran down the steps and handed me several of my dog poo pick-up bags decorated in paw prints. “Pearl! These bags are so, so adorable! You’ll have to tell me where you found them! Now…shoo! Take these good little puppies for a walk!”
A moment later the door slammed shut again.
Millie blew me a second kiss right before she turned away from the window.
Holy cow. That woman is just totally out of control.
I debated whether it was worth trying to talk my way into my own home. I decided it would take a little too much effort and, after all, the weather was nicely brisk for dog walking.
I took a few steps and realized Jay wasn’t walking with me. I turned back to see his puzzled face. He raised an eyebrow. “Ummm…Pearl? Isn’t that where you live? And who was that anyway? She was very…well, gosh…colorful.”
“You’re right, Jay. That is my house and that’s my neighbor, Millie. Colorful is a bit of an understatement. I’m sorry I didn’t even introduce you to her. I gather you figured out that this is her dog Princess. Princess and Edgar…ummm… Spot…ummm… Spedgar are pretty good friends now. Millie thinks they’re in love. Millie is kind of an idiot.”
“Spedgar?” Jay stopped walking and turned toward me. “Spedgar! Pearl! That’s really a funny name…I like it! If Spot has no objections I think we should definitely change his name to Spedgar!”
“Spedgar!” he said loudly.
And Edgar stopped.
He tilted his wiry little golden head.
“Spedgar!” I repeated.
And Spedgar barked happily.
“Spedgar it is!” Jay said cheerfully, and we continued on our merry way.
The dogs pulled this way and that way, sniffing and barking and barking and sniffing.
We finally arrived at a little dog park, and let them off their leashes so they could add running around to their barking and sniffing routine.
We sat on a little park bench. We weren’t sitting right next to each other, but I could tell we were sitting together.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had sat on a park bench with a man.
But the sun was golden and lovely and touched my face with warmth. I felt comfortable. Something inside of Jay had changed, or maybe I had changed. Jay was almost starting to feel like a friend.
“So,” I hesitated, “How was your time away? It looked like it did you some good. You look a lot more relaxed.”
“It was tough at first. I just kept thinking about everything and getting madder. I mean, Pearl, all those people around town THANKING me for my sacrifice. Geez. They acted like I was the hero. I wasn’t the hero, at all, ever. It was always my son. Do you think I would have willingly sacrificed my son’s life even for my country? Hell, no. I might have sacrificed mine, but I wouldn’t have given up my son for anything. If it would have saved him, I would have moved to Canada. Or New Zealand. Or some island without a fucki...freakin' name. I wasn’t a hero. I wasn’t noble and wonderful and proud of my son for dying for his country. Are you freakin’ kidding me? I would have done anything for him not to have died.”
I surprised myself and reached out and covered Jay’s hand with mine. His hand was so warm. And it was much larger than my husband’s had been.
“And every stupid year all these stupid people come up to me and say the same ridiculous stupid thing…’thank you for your sacrifice’, ‘oh, God bless you Jay’. Yeah. Right. God blessed me, didn’t he? He totally blessed me. He took my son. He took my marriage. He took my life. Yeah. That was a blessing, right?”
He turned his hand over and squeezed mine, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even say this stuff out loud. Especially to you.”
“Why not?” I asked him. “Sometimes you have to talk to somebody. And I’m a good somebody to tell stuff to. I think I understand part of what you’re saying…about God anyway.”
Jay looked a little surprised. And a little uncomfortable.
I continued, “When my husband…died…I…”
“Wait, wait a second. Pearl? Your husband is dead? I thought you were divorced. What happened? Don’t tell me he was in the war, too.”
And while you might think I never, actually shut-up, I sat quietly for a few long moments. It’s true. I didn’t even know how I really wanted to answer. It felt odd, talking to another man who was kinda/sorta holding my hand on a park bench about my … ummm… deceased husband.
“You know what, Jay? Let’s talk about him another time, but he wasn’t killed in the war so at least you don’t have to thank me for my sacrifice.”
“Okay, we’ll talk about this next time, then. Pearl. Maybe…gee..well…next time could be dinner? Yeah. Ummm… could I take you to dinner?”
To be continued on Tuesday, September 27.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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