It didn’t take long to build a fire tonight, although I totally cheated with lighter fluid and logs bought from the grocery store. Fires on the beach are technically, illegal but we kee them close enough to Luna’s house, and out of the way enough that we have never been bothered about it. Sometimes people walk by and just come and say hello or join us for a while. That is what happened tonight. I hadn’t seen Rissa’s friend since I went surfing with her months ago, but when she walked up she was interested in what was going on and sat down with her two friends, guys that looked liked they had just stepped out of some 60’s beach party movie. I was glad I had hired a babysitter for Zoe, so I didn’t have to worry tonight, about, well, anything. And now the words were spilling out of my mouth as though I were talking to lifelong friends. I thought it was odd that when I spoke, I could hold an audience for a surprising amount of time. Then I got tired of chatting and looked at the flames quietly for a while, hearing talk about some kid who was missing at Flagler and some teacher that just got fired for having an affair. That caught my attention, someone could seriously be fired for having an affair. Then they said it was with his student…oh. I held my wine glass up so I could see the flames flickering behind it. It looked like they were floating in the glittering red wine.
“What are you looking at?” Evan said.
I showed him and he looked confused. “I don’t get it.”
“Look how pretty it looks with the fire behind it.” The wine swirled in a circle and he shrugged then nodded to pacify me, not impressed. It was frustrating to see something so beautiful and no none care about it. I blurted out, “I need to do something creative,”
Everyone was quiet for a second and looked at me. “Well, what do you love to do?” The new surfer guy said. I wondered at his fried blonde hair and a burnt nose even though it was winter. He was wearing a big sweatshirt but shorts and flipflops so he was practically sitting in the fire to stay warm. I thought about what he said…what did I love to do?
“I love to dance” I said.
“Lets see,” his friend said. I glanced over at Evan and he rolled his eyes, looking uncomfortable. He had his signature khakis on and a nice sweater. He smelled good too of course. He kept wiping off his glassed and rubbing his eyes, like the smoke was bothering him.
“I’m not going to get up and start dancing by myself to no music,” I laughed.
Surfer guy got out his phone and started to play Justin Timberlake’s, Rock your Body.
I looked at Rissa’s friend and raised my eyebrows at her. She grinned, totally up for it. I stood up and reached out my hand and pulled her up on her feet. We danced together to the music and Evan got up and stormed off back to the porch. I could see him watching me from there. Then surfer guy was next to me trying to do the grind dance and I pushed him away to arms length so he went over to Rissa’s friend who was quite happy to oblige him. I glanced over at the porch but Evan was gone. It was fun to dance next to the fire and hard to not die laughing at some of the robot moves these guys were coming up with. But then suddenly Luna was there, holding my arm and she said, “ Zoe has a fever.” I hurried off with Luna up to the house and went into Zoe’s room. Her high school baby sitter got up so I could sit down on the chair near Zoe’s bed and feel her forehead. She felt completely fine to me. I leaned over to put my lips on her skin, cool as a cucumber. In fact, I covered her arms up with her comforter and tucked her in a little more tightly.
“She doesn’t feel hot,” I said, “not at all.”
“Evan thought she did , Luna said.
“Evan? I don’t get it.”
The babysitter explained, “I needed a light for my book when I went out in the living room to get one he said he would sit with Zoe while Luna
found one for me. He didn’t want her to be left alone at all while there was a party going on at the house, he said those were your strict instructions and I know that too. So, he must have checked her forehead then.”
Zoe stirred and I put my finger to my lips. I got up and let the babysitter take my seat so she could read her book again, then walked out
to find Evan. He was on the couch reading a National Geographic, looking a bit grumpy.
“Oh, hey,” he said. “Having fun tonight ?”
“I was until I got really worried about Zoe For no reason. I
don’t really feel like going back out there to party now. I looked at him suspiciously. So was that the plan?”
He shrugged, still looking at his magazine. “I guess you are going to have to keep your clothes on after all” he said.
“Oh my God. What’s that supposed to mean?” I yanked the magazine out of his hands and threw it down next to him on the couch.
He looked right at me. “It just looked like you were about to do a strip tease out there. ”
“What!” Then I took a breath, mentally decided not to freak out as this was not like him at all, he was not my boyfriend or anything, although he was acting weirdly jealous. It was a bit funny actually so I said calmly, almost nicely, “You are such a nerd. It’s called dancing and just
because we weren’t doing the fox trot doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. ” I took his hand, “Get up and I’ll show you.” I pulled him up so that he stood in front of me and I held tightly onto his hand. He wasn’t going anywhere.
He looked at me angrily, I thought maybe I should give up on him he was being such a grump. He said sharply,d “What is wrong with you tonight? Why are you acting like this?”
Once again I tried to diffuse it, “What, happy? Confident?”
“I think I like flighty and brooding better on you. At least then I have you all to myself.”
I looked at his eyes behind his glasses . I took the dark frames off and smoothed a piece of hair behind his ear. He blinked his eyes at me, slightly stunned and I put my arms around his
neck. “Dance with me. ”
He hesitantly put his arms around my waist and we moved slowly together in the living room. I put my head on his shoulder and relaxed a bit. He put his cheek against my forehead and we just moved together for a minute. Then I squeezed him tightly and pressed against his body so he would feel all of me, but he instantly pushed me away .
“What are you doing? ” he said.
“What about Chris?”
“What do you mean?”
“You are still married to him.”
“I know ”
“If you can’t be faithful to him then why don’t you divorce
him and let him go?”
“We’re just dancing! And anyway, It’s more complicated than that.”
“How? there is nothing more straightforward than infidelity, I know that first hand, I know exactly what it feels like to be cheated on.” He stepped back from me even further.
“By my ex-wife. EX- wife. I adore you, Odette, with every fibre in my body, but I can’t stand what you are doing to Chris. And you would probably do the same to me if I ever got involved with you. Honestly I couldn’t go through that again.”
“That’s not true. And anyway, Chris did it to me too.”
“Then why must you insist on staying married to someone you don’t love?”
“I never said I don’t love him.”
He looked at me utterly confused and I suddenly had a flashback to my conversation with Jake. He had that same look on his face when I told him I still loved Chris. Why were guys so stupid sometimes?
Evan took his glasses out of my hand and put them on his face. “If you love him, Odette, then why is he across town living with college students and you are here dancing with me?”
“You make me happy, ” I said. “He doesn’t.”
“I’m going home,” he said. “You have a selfish perspective on love. One that I don’t understand and I don’t ever think I will.”
I chose simply to ignore his words, wrapped my arms around him again and said, “Don’t leave now. I’ve barely spent any time with you and I missed you so much while you were in England. You keep me sane, you mustn’t be mad at me. I couldn’t bare it.”
He let me hold him for a minute, then he relaxed a little, “I missed you too” he whispered into my hair.
I looked up at him, close to his face. “You don’t have to get involved with me. You could just kiss me.”
He shook he head and laughed cynically then pulled away from me.
“What’s wrong?” I threw at him. “Am I ugly or gross or something? Why can’t you stand to be near me?”
“God, you are so manipulative. You act like you are so sweet but, Jesus. And it is so tempting to try and believe that there in some sincerity in your words.”
I looked at him like he was crazy. “You give me too much credit, Evan! I don’t know how to be manipulative. I just say what I feel!” He started to look angry again and I don’t know why that made me feel like giggling but it did and I held it in. I knew he would completely loose it if I laughed at him.
“You KNOW your’e not ugly, Odette. You are just trying to get me to….I don’t know what you are trying to do. I guess kiss me.”
“Which makes you so upset because….? Evan,” I said, looking up at his eyes, “Don’t go.”
He stepped towards me and it looked like he was going to kiss me for a second. My heart started to pound and I even started to close my eyes. But when I opened them he was half way out the front door. It banged behind him. I stood in the quiet living room for a minute and listened to the chatter just outside on the porch. “Shit” I said. Rissa’s friend walked in the kitchen door from the back porch deck and I thought I should probably ask her what her name was again, but it was too embarrassing because I should have remembered it.
I went to the kitchen to pour myself another glass of wine and looked at a bottle of seltzer water there on the counter next to the gin. “What the hell is quinine?” I said to her.
She said, “It is some kind of poison right?” She took the wine bottle from me and poured herself a glass.
“Then what is it doing in seltzer water? Look it says it right here on the bottle.”
She shrugged at I studied her standing there in the kitchen. She had big dark eyes and long brown hair like Rissa’s, but she wasn’t friendly to everyone like Rissa was.
“Who was that guy you were talking to that just left?” she said.
I took a sip of wine, then another one. “Probably my last chance at happiness.”
She nodded. “Mine left years ago.”