We pulled up to the house and my friend jumped out of the truck declaring she was going to puke and ran into her house and slammed her door. Jake and I looked at each other and laughed. “She had a few more than I did” I said.
“It doesn’t take much for you though” he smiled, looking down. Then he looked back up at my face. “So why do you think we keep running into each other? Do you think it means something?”
I thought about this and shook my head, dismissing his remark. “I think it means that you came to town for the game and I came here to dance.”
He nodded. “What if it is more? What if someone is trying to tell us something?” He looked unusually ernest and worried.
“Like what? And who? God, an angel? And what are they trying to tell us…that we are meant to be together? I seriously doubt it.”
“Maybe its a test” he said.
“That we keep failing” I smirked.
“We haven’t failed anything yet he said and looked over with that look that I knew very well and my heart started to beat fast.”And we are not going to,” He said.
“Do you want to fail?”
He shook his head. “No, I’m good. Rissa is my whole world now.” He leaned back and put his hands behind his head. I was thinking about asking her to marry me.
I immediately felt sick. “Marry you?” I sputtered. I couldn’t contain my disgust.
“I want to, and I’m going to,” he said. “But I worry sometimes about, how can you marry someone when you are still in love with someone else? I don’t want to be an asshole to her in any way at all.”
I thought it was very strange how he threw the love word around. If he thought that what we had was love, then he had no idea what love was. “Listen,” I said. “If you love someone, that never goes away, even if that person isn’t right for you. Love means that the person has changed who you are for the rest of your life. They have become a part of your soul. So even when they are gone, weather it be a breakup or a death, they will always be a part of you. So you can’t NOT marry someone because you love someone else, because, well, then you’ll never get married.” I pulled my hand away and rubbed it slowly. He took it back into his and cupped it with his other hand.
“You have definitely changed me,” he said. “But, I don’t know about Rissa. She makes me feel really good and I laugh all the time with her. But I don’t’ talk to her like I do with you. With you, our conversations feel more important, more intense and real. I can say anything and you won’t just laugh. You think about what I said and figure out a meaningful answer, rather than a witty joke. You ‘get’ me. Isn’t that just what anyone wants, to be understood? I mean, I don’t want you back, of course, but I miss…just fuckin talking to you.”
It was strange to see him like this, so vulnerable and trusting. Was this girl changing him?His softness for her was starting to wear on me. “I’m sorry but the truth is that marriage is not all its cracked up to be. In the end It just restricts you from doing what you want to do…makes you feel guilty for being human. Like, imagine if I wasn’t married right now, we could totally make out and not have to worry about the repercussions.” I laughed.
“It wasn’t long ago that you were married and we totally made out all the time anyway, remember.”
“I remember” I said, looking at him, remembering. I bit my lip and smiled, and he shook his head and looked down. I could tell this was killing him and I wanted to push him even further. Would he cheat on Rissa? I said, quietly, “No one would know”
“Know if we made out right now.” I flickered my eyes up to his and was a little surprised at the anguish I saw.
He shook his head. He was silent and his face started to turn a bit red. “Jesus, Odette. How many times are yo going to fuck over Chris?”
“What are you talking about? Why do you suddenly care about what Chris thinks?”
“Ok,” he ran his hands through his hair, exasperated. “You are right. I don’t give a fuck about Chris. But I do care about about Rissa more than I care about you and your fucking tempting bullshit.”
“Then what was all this stuff about how you can talk to me about more important things than with her? That I ‘get’ you and she doesn’t?”
He shrugged. I stared hard at him. He was trying to control himself. I was in awe at his conflicting emotions. It was like a science experiment watching him. He folded his arms and was breathing heavily. “No one would know” I whispered. “We are completely alone.” I wasn’t even sure if I wanted him to kiss me at this point, or if I just was dying to see if he would.
“I would know” he said.
I stared at him and he said louder. “I would know, Odette. I would!” He pointed his finger at his ribcage with anger.
I felt a deep ache in my chest. He had always been so easy before and now he was the one fending me off. I could feel my breathing getting heavier, the back of my head was stinging a little and was almost surprised to hear myself hiss at him, “I’m starting to hate you.”
That seemed to relax him for some weird Jake-reason. Maybe he knew that you don’t hate someone unless you care about them a little too much. He unfolded his arms and laughed and shook his head. “Well I still love you, Odette, but I’m not going to fuck up my life again because of you. I finally have something good going.” Then he said, “Fuck it” and leaned over and kissed me.
His lips were soft, even sweet like his last whisky and Coke. I could feel his smooth shaved chin and smell the smoky club in his hair. I wanted to run my fingers through it but all I could see was Chris and Zoe playing on the beach. Through my gin and tonic haze, I knew that this was the wrong direction, this was not what I wanted or what he wanted, and I wasn’t going to risk losing everything again by making stupid decisions after a few drinks.
I pushed him away. “You were right” I said.
“About what?” he gasped quietly, still hovering near me caught up in our moment.
“About knowing. The reality of it all is that every time I think that Chris isn’t going to find out, he does. He can feel my guilt from 10 feet away, as soon as I walk in the door. There is no keeping anything from him. We are too close.”
Jake shook his head, as if to shake my words away. “You’ll be fine this time” he said quickly and pulled me in closer, his lips were practically touching mine, I could feel their warmth. But I was pulling away against his hands wrapped tightly around my arms. He murmured, “Its too late. There’s no going back or fixing this. You may as well kiss me again, right? Don’t waste this, Odette.”
He put his lips on mine again. They didn’t seem sweet or soft this time and I pushed him away hard and held him at bay with my hand forceful against his chest. “You’re wrong. It’s not too late for me. You kissed me and I didn’t even kiss you back.”
He let go of me abruptly and watched me move away. His expression changed to utter disbelief. “What? You didn’t what?” He was slowly realizing my plan was to try to absolve myself from any wrong doing here. “Are you serious Odette? Are you seriously going to pretend like this is all me? Are you seriously going to fucking do this to me?”
I didn’t know what else to do but nod, my heart was beating, his anger was exhilarating to soak in. Anyway, it was true. I could even tell Chris about this…Jake kissed me, but I pushed him away and told him I wasn’t going to ruin things again.
Jake was getting redder in the face, a vein was popping out of his neck a little. His anger was more than I had seen before in him and it made me nervous so I laughed a little. Then he punched his windshield so hard it shattered from end to end.
I screamed and he looked at me incredulously.
“Get out of my truck” he said.
I grabbed the handle for a quick exit but turned and looked at him, seething with anger that he scared me with breaking his windshield. “I can’t believe you tried to cheat on Rissa with me” I hissed at him.
“Get the fuck out.”
“You cheated on Clarissa with me!” I shouted at him. “You can’t marry her now that you’ve done that to her. If I didn’t stop you, I wonder how far you would have taken things? How far would you have gone Jake?”
I thought he was going to yell back, or do something drastic but instead he sat there and calmly said, “I forgot about this side to you, Odette. It isn’t pretty.”
“Everybody has a side to them that isn’t pretty, even you.”
“Yeah well I don’t fucking pretend do I? Now do I have to throw you out of my truck? Because I will.”
I knew he wouldn’t. But I was starting to panic. This was really bad. With his unexpected calmness, I was instantly regretting all the dumb things I had just said and turned and held onto his arm. “I’m sorry. I’ve had too much to drink. I get very emotional around you and make bad decisions. I was trying to hurt you because you love someone besides me. I’m sorry, I’m horrible sometimes.”
We sat there silent for a minute, looking at his shattered windshield as I held on to his arm. “Rissa doesn’t to this shit to me,” he said.
“Then she’s perfect for you.”
He nodded “I know.” Then he looked over at me and said, “And when you do this to me I can’t help but think of Chris and feel sorry for him that he has to deal with this for the rest of his life.”
“I don’t do this shit to Chris” I said.
“Ohhh…..yes you do.” He laughed cynically. I was quiet. I guessed I did put Chris through some stress sometimes.
“Are you staying at this zombie girls house tonight? How do you even know her?”
“I’ll tell you that story another day” I said, finally opening his truck door and sliding out. “Can you see through this window?”
He nodded, and shrugged. I looked down at his fist that was bleeding a little. Oh well, he did that to himself, idiot. I slammed the door and walked towards the front door of the little house. The door was unlocked and the couch still had neat piles of her laundry stacked up on one of the cushions. There was a blanket and a pillow there now too. I didn’t look back at Jake. I just walked in and shut the door quietly behind me and hoped I hadn’t ruined too much of my life in 10 minutes.
And to think, I almost didn’t get in my truck and drive my ass down to Gainesville to see the game. My buddy had tickets, so since Rissa was working all damn weekend I figured I may as well go and hang out with the guys instead of playing video games by myself on the couch for 12 hours. And to think that I almost didn’t go to that stupid club, but only went because we were supposed to go to get a sandwich at Flacos afterwards and I was starving.
It was one of those nights where drunk girls kept coming up and talking to me and I really didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to disrespect Rissa and they all seemed the same anyway…dress a little too tight, a couple inches too short… heels a couple inches too high and makeup just short of looking like a drag queen. I can’t stand that shit and the club was like it was hatching these types out of eggs or something and then they were coming over to me.
OK, so maybe that is a bit harsh, but when I was sitting on the couch, trying to take up as much space that I could so that no dumb chicks could try and sit and spill their drinks on me, it was like through the misery and smoke everything changed when I saw her. She lit up the entire room. What the hell was she doing here in Gainesville? She didn’t give a shit about sports, even if her team was playing next door from where she lived. When she saw me smiling at her I could tell she was stoked to see me too and I literally swept her up in my arms and I wanted to just drag her out of there to my truck, right then and there, and zip her out of that dress. But we both knew that this was it. This was as far as it was going to go. She looked so beautiful in this sweet little blue dress…totally sexy but not slutty like her hot-zombie friend. I breathed her in on the dance floor and shivered when she ran her fingers down my arm. But then I always get that aching in my chest with her. I want more, and more. But this was it and all I could do was fight with myself about doing the right thing for Rissa, and loosing myself in this girl that I was never going to stop loving, ever.
I was getting a little tired of the angry lyrics and growling over heavy thudding beats and walked breathlessly from the dance floor to slide onto a silver bar stool, making sure I wasn’t anywhere near the awful vampire girl. My friend came and sat on the stool next to me. “Are you having fun?” she yelled in my ear.
“Do you want to go downstairs and dance some hip-hop?” I asked. I glanced over at vampire-girl who was standing close to her dorky guy at the bar and shooting me evil looks. I smiled a little in spite of myself, careful not to laugh and make her more angry.
“Its too busy down there with the big game and all.”
“What big game?”
“The Bulldogs are playing the Gators tomorrow.”
“Really? Yeah, traffic was a little heavy coming in to Gainesville. “
“That’s why. And now all the Georgia rednecks are in town tonight…sure to be fights breaking out all over town.”
I nodded and thought about telling her I was originally from Athens and was technically a Georgia Bulldog myself. But instead I just handed my cash to the bartender and sipped at my third gin and tonic. I was feeling very tipsy and aching to dance downstairs to music I knew. “Come on, just for a few minutes” I said, also really wanting to get away from the negative energy that was radiating from only a few barstools away.
She shrugged and sucked down the rest of her drink. So I did too and we both stood up and wobbled a bit in our high-heels. We both laughed at our pitiful drunken state.
“Can you walk?” I asked. “How are you going to drive home?”
“I might called my boyfriend to come and pick us up.”
I felt a pang of guilt as I remembered kicking his breakup note under her wicker porch furniture.
“Oh, OK” I said, not sure of what else to say.
We clomped down the thin, dark winding staircase. I hung on tightly to the railing and we stepped out into Rihanna filling the room, apparently finding love in a hopeless place. We started to push through the crowd to find a dance spot in the middle and I looked over at the little lounge area off to the side of the dance floor. I don’t know what it was that made me look, perhaps some kind of force in the atmosphere…maybe the full moon. But I saw first, a breathtakingly beautiful guy there all sprawled out on one of the blue velvet couches. When he saw me looking at him his face changed a little. And even with my glasses off, when his grin spread across his face I knew it was Jake, my Jake, and my heart started to thud harder than the bass coming from the speakers. I could barely breath with excitement.
“Do you know him?” my friend asked in my ear, holding and peering over her straw in extreme interest.
I nodded, stunned. “He must be in town from Athens to watch the game, ” I whispered to the air.
“He’s really hot. If I didn’t have a boyfriend and if you weren’t married, we could both have some fun with him tonight.”
Was she kidding? I looked at her. She wasn’t. Did people like her really exist in this world? This was all too much. My heart felt like it was going to explode.
Jake stood up and started to walk towards me and I laughed with pure delight when he just wrapped his arm around my waist and started dancing with me. I could smell the alcohol on his breath and I was a bit dizzy from all my drinks so I rested my head on his shoulder. He was all cigarette smoke and Drakar Noir. He said into my ear, “What the hell are you doing here? Did I just dream you onto the dance floor?” He smoothed his hand over my hair on the back of my head and I bit my lip and looked up and smiled at him. His eyes glistened and in any other universe we would have kissed. Instead I put my head back on his shoulder and my hand on his arm. I ran my fingers over his muscles and took in a breath as he tugged me in closer. I probably needed to leave right now. I looked at my drunk friend who was dancing with a very grabby-guy so I left Jake’s grasp and hurried over there to her. I pushed frat-boy away from her and said, “leave her alone, idiot.” We turned and walked quickly out of the club before he could react, with Jake following. My friend was laughing “Oh my God!! Damn girl, you are lucky he didn’t push you back! Jesus!”
We stood out on the sidewalk in front of the club with the night air that perfect, Florida Spring temperature with a lovely breeze. The clubs were going to be closing soon so the sidewalks and streets were filling up with college kids.
Jake grabbed my hand and my friend looked down at our intertwined fingers. “I thought you were married,” she said, brushing past me. She went up to the wooden valet podium, long black little purse swinging from her elbow, and told the kid standing there to go get her car, “pronto”.
I was horrified. “You’re not driving home are you?” I said, marching up to her with Jake striding up behind me.
“No, I’m driving to Daniel’s house. I can’t get the fucker to call or text me back. It’s like he’s dead or something. ASSHOLE. I’m so tired of his shit.”
“You can’t drive like this. You are too drunk!” I wanted to say that he didn’t want her there, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell he about the note now. It wasn’t the right time and she needed to discover it on her own.
She shrugged, looking a little irritated. “I’m fine and…”
“Wait, Jake can drive us!” I put my hand on her arm and nodded enthusiastically at her, practically fluttering my eyelashes at her. I really needed to turn this around.
She looked at us both and smiled. She nodded, tucking her black hair behind her ear thoughtfully, and said, “Ohhh-kay! Let’s just go back to my house.”
Jake smiled to himself. “Fine. Come on girls” He took out his phone to text something, then put it away and held out his elbows for us to hold on to. Then we half-stumbled off to the parking garage where Jake had his truck.
The full moon glistened enormously in the night sky, and the red and gold lights shone in front the Hippodrome Theater while club music still filled the air. “Perhaps there is a God,” He said, as we hung ridiculously on his arms, and he grinned that evil, Jake grin that I knew all too well.
She drove a tiny little black Jetta down Second Ave, taking the traffic circles like they were a spinning ride at Disney World, and I looked down happily at her blue dress that she let me wear. I smoothed the fabric on my legs. “Where are we going?”
“Well, there is a new club that my friend is DJ’ing at and she throws down some Old Wave and Goth sometimes. You ever heard of the song, Harley David, Son of a Bitch?”
“You’ll love it.”
I thought that was an interesting declaration since she had known me for about 15 minutes. At her house, and after a short grilling session about who I was and who I “belonged to”, and who belonged to me…she was comfortable enough with my answers to disappear into her bedroom and pull on fishnet stockings and a black dress that I wasn’t sure if I should be seen out with her…in. But she looked amazing and I was almost giddy hurrying out with her to her car which was parked on the street. The cool spring air blew through our hair as we slammed the car doors and opened the windows and sunroof.
She pulled up in front of the club and got out to hand her keys to the valet. We could hear the music thudding and lights flashing around in the dark windows. She hurried me to the door and we walked right in as she kissed the door-guys on the cheek in the french “hello” style. I smiled and nodded at them. She was completely at home here and I stumbled after her wide-eyed as Alice in Wonderland.
I hurried behind her through the packed-out club with thudding R&B music, our black boots clicking loudly up a thin, wet staircase and we pushed open a heavy door to come upon a smaller room with a sparsely populated dance floor and a DJ playing what I supposed was “goth” music. It wasn’t exactly what I had imagined for my dance night and I thought about going back downstairs to the more familiar R&B. Up here I wasn’t sure I wanted to be so, er, visible on the dance floor with only about 15 other people on there. But my friend just walked right up and started to dance like an angel, a black angel and as I looked around I noticed the the other dancers were also in black and it looked like the music had lifted them up and they were directing the changes and beats with their own bodies. It could have been comical if it wasn’t so impressive. I watched in awe for a while, then wandered over to the bar and ordered a gin and tonic and sat down to watch from afar. It took about two minutes for a guy to come and sit near me. I looked at him to see if I needed to stealthily get up and move somewhere else. But he looked harmless so I sipped my drink and waited with amusement to see if he would get up the nerve to talk to me. He flickered his eyes over at me and I looked down in my drink. Then I looked up at him again and he was still looking and looked away. I could escape before he tried talking to me, and perhaps just try and navigate the dance floor. I could probably try to dance like the others, it looked pretty fun although I wondered if I was too colorful to be allowed to try to fit in there. I sucked down the last of my drink and looked up at the guy. He had moved now to only one barstool away from me. He looked over at me and smiled. I looked away without smiling back, then felt bad and looked back at him and caught his eye then smiled back. Suddenly there was a girl next to me with vampire teeth and her eyes were lined with thick black makeup. “If you look at him one more time I’m going to rip your blonde hair OUT of your head.”
I got up immediately, as if I hadn’t even heard a word she said and walked off to the dance floor. I closed my eyes out there and tried to dance to the music like I had seen the others do. It was quite easy to just go with the flow. Although the lyrics were angry, the beat was so heavy and methodical it was like it pulsated though my body. I barely had to try to dance I just had to move and the music just took me through the motions. My heart was beating hard from being hissed at by the wanna-be vampire girl, but dancing smoothed out my emotions and I realized with a kind of relief, why it had been so important for me to get out of the beach house and just melt for a while into the night and the music. I was remembering who I was, which sometimes was a just a little more than a wife and a mom. One day I was going to be too old to do this. I opened my eyes to see my friend dancing next to me. She grinned at me and I smiled back happily. Perhaps I wasn’t too blue to fit in here.
The door flew open and I met eyes with the girl who lived here. She gasped and backed up.
“No, no, wait, wait!” I shouted at her.
She stumbled backwards some more and started to open her porch screen door as I hurried out with explanations tumbling out of my mouth as fast as I could form the words, “I thought this was my friend’s house. She used to live here but she just texted me a second ago and said this wasn’t her house but it was too late you were already coming in the door! I’m so sorry this was just a silly accident I promise!”
She stopped at the screen door looking terrified still. I was scared too, gasping for breath between my words, constatnly checking her hands… that they weren’t reaching for a weapon in her purse. She gazed at my face. She had black hair with thick bangs almost in her huge blue eyes. Her skin was very pale and I wasn’t sure if that was usual or because she had just found a stranger in her house at midnight. Then I noticed that after staring at me for a second, she started to relax.
“Who the FUCK are you? And WHAT are you doing in my DRESS?” She suddenly brushed past me into her house. “You better not have stolen anything, bitch.”
I followed her back into her house to assure her that I didn’t and she was frozen there, gazing around. I realized she must be noticing that it was clean.
“What the fuck?” She whispered.
“I, I thought I was doing a favor for my friend” I stammered.
She peered around at me. “Wait a second. I read about this. I know what you are.”
“What am I?” My eyes widened as I soaked in her new, accusing demeanor.
“You’re one of those people who breaks into people’s houses and cleans them, then leaves a bill! Aren’t you?”
“What? I’m not a, a cleaner! I’m just me and I don’t need any money, and I’m not stealing and I am really, really sorry about this bizarre and horrible mix up. I should go now.”
“My dress,” she said.
I looked down at the perfect little blue dress and thought about running. I peered out of the open door at the street. Bob’s van was parked under the street lamp. I looked back at her, and as if she could read my mind she stepped in front of the door to guard it.
“I, like, need to get my clothes” I said. “I guess they are still in your bedroom.”
“That is so creepy and werid that you have been hanging out in my house for hours” the girl said. Then to my relief she cracked a smile. “That is so, fucking WEIRD. Why did you think this was your friends house? Did you clean my whole entire house?”
“Yes, for hours. And I did all your laundry.” I looked up at her and she shook her head and laughed with utter amazement. I sat down on the couch. “My friend, Kat, used to live here the last time I visited her. She never mentioned anything about moving and I never heard back from her tonight so I thought I would just come here and wait for her.”
“And so you broke in? Is that like, normal for you?”
“That window right there wasn’t locked or anything.”
She looked over at it. “Yeah, I need to keep it locked I guess, incase crazy girls who like my clothes break in and clean my house like a fucking elf. What are you going to do next, sew me some shoes and leave them on the kitchen table for me to discover in the morning?”
I laughed at this, completely delighted that she knew the fairytale. “The Shoemaker and the Elves!” I said. “I’m totally like that aren’t I?” She grinned back at me. Then I realized that I had no place to go and I was not going to be going dancing tonight. I let out a huge miserable sigh.
“What’s wrong?” she said, looking confused.
“I just, I had a stressful trip and I wanted to go out dancing but now I have nowhere to go, nothing to wear and nothing to do.”
She smiled and bit her lip. “You know what, girl, I think you were sent her to me for a reason,” she said.
I looked up at her, feeling a little worried at that statement. “What do you mean?”
“On my way home here tonight I wished on a star for the first time since I was a little girl. I thought that my boyfriend was going to break up with me tonight so I wished, I wished that nothing bad would happen tonight and that instead, something really, really good would completely change my life. And now my house is clean and you want to go out dancing. What on Earth could be better than that?”
I smiled with delight, “seriously!” I said. “What could be?”
As I folded the last of her laundry in a neat pile in a hamper next to the couch, I held up a powder blue dress with a zipper up the front. I dangled it in front my chest at looked down at it. Gosh, Kat’s style had improved, and she must have lost a little weight in the past couple of years to be able to fit into this achingly cute dress. I thought about when she came to visit me in Athens and how she made herself so at home that Chris made several embarrassingly sarcastic comments about her being “like family”. So I figured she wouldn’t mind if I just tried it on, especially since I didn’t even pack any clothes. I stepped into it, zipped up the front so that it hugged my body nicely, but in a tasteful way, and looked at myself in the mirror in the hallway. It was perfect, wow, and hung like a tulip just above the knees. I pulled my hair into a high ponytail then let if fall back down around my shoulders and tucked it behind my ears. Down looked best. Now I really wanted to go dancing but it was almost midnight and in Gainesville the bars all shut down at 2am. What a disaster if I stayed in all evening just cleaning. I looked around her spotless house. I had even made her bed, scrubbed the bathroom, tidied up and dusted the office area and mopped the floors. I vacuumed the couch too even, since that was probably where I would be sleeping. She was going to faint when she saw this place.
Then I thought I heard her pull up in the driveway, thank goodness. I hoped she didn’t mind that I was wearing her clothes. I was about to open the front door to greet her when my phone buzzed and I looked down at my text. It was from Kat and said, “Can’t wait to see you. I don’t live at that house anymore though. Just meet me at our fav coffee shop tomorrow morning.”
Oh my God what had I done? Who the hell lived here? At least it was a girl. I heard the keys in the lock and wondered as I hyperventilated, if I should bolt for the back door or just stand there in this person’s dress, smile sweetly, and wait.