Party at Luna’s 2

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.
I shrugged
“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 who?”
“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.”

Luna Comes Home – by: Odette

Evan helped to bring Luna’s bags into the living room, setting each one down with a thud next to the front door. He looked up at me from the suitcases and before he could even stand up I was throwing myself at him for a long hug that he eventually pulled away from. I could have stayed there all day. Luna was now sitting on the floor next to Zoe, kissing her cheek and tickling her. She looked up, at me. Where’s Chris, honey?”

“He um, moved out a few day ago,” I said

She looked suddenly very sad. “When you texted me?”

I nodded. I didn’t look at Evan.

“I’m gonna go home and take a shower” he said and ducked out.

Luna was making one of Zoe’s dolls dance and she said. Where’s he living? Is he in town?”

He’s staying with a friend near Flagler Downtown, for now. He comes to see Zoe all the time.”

“What happened?”

I shrugged. “I couldn’t deal” I said.

“What about Zoe?”, she said almost angrily.

“I know ” I said. “But she still sees daddy. She just doesn’t see mommy crying on the floor now, or hear fighting when she’s trying to go to sleep.”

“I just don’t understand your frequent changes of heart,” she said. “Your indecisions are very hurtful to a lot of people.”

I bit at my fingernails, “I try to do what is right, what my brain tells me to do. But my body and heart have other plans for me.”

“Meaning?…”

I sighed. “I get panic attacks when Chris is around. That’s got to mean something right? I mean, why does my body fall to bits and I feel like I’m going to freaking die? Then I’m FINE when he’s gone, only, I miss him so badly my heart hurts.” I looked at Luna and she was staring at me blankly. “ I’m just crazy I guess.”

I waited for her to say, ‘ No you’re not ‘ but she said, ‘We’re all a little crazy, honey. But perhaps you more than others.”

“Hmm, thanks, Luna.”

“I’m not trying to be mean, Odette. I’m just tired from a long flight and, well, it’s just sad.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

Shen nodded, then she got up and took her bags from the front door and walked off to her bedroom. I took her place on the floor next to Zoe and wondered how I was going to fix this mess.

Purgatory – by: Chris

As soon as I saw the communal swimming pool with adjoining hot tub I knew immediately that I was in purgatory. It was not a place to live, but rather a place where one goes to wait for real life to begin. A temporary oasis where manicured hedges and stainless steel appliances offer a repose from the hell the outside world has now become. The sales manager didn’t need to tell me that they offer a rent by the month option, the place reeked of Chinese take-away and expensive cologne; the calling card of the transient bachelor.

Wordlessly, I signed my lease for a furnished unit. I may have to live here, but I was certainly not going to get comfortable and I wanted the place to feel as sterile and empty as I did. The only thing that mattered is I was staying in St. Augustine and this complex was only 3 miles away from Zoe, a short jog from Odette.

I screwed up. The fact that I only screwed up on account of Odette’s screwing him offered me little comfort and I began a routine of teaching classes in the morning, playing with Zoe in the afternoons and trying to think of the right thing to say, the one thing that would make all of this alright again in the 2 minutes I had with Odette each night before she shut the door and retreated with Zoe inside the warmth of Luna’s home.

“Chris, you going to the singles luau tonight?” my portly neighbor was waving a flyer in front of my face as I tried to navigate my lock while balancing a small pizza box and a six pack; my Friday night usual.

“Hey Dan, I think I’m going to stay in tonight. Stop by for a beer later if you want. Anyway, I’m not single, I guess.” He started to say something else but I closed the door before I had to hear how I need to “get out there” and how there are so many “babes” in the place. Dan had been here three years and still rented by the month, despite the managers protests that a yearly lease was much more affordable. I admired his optimism. His ex-wife was remarrying next month and as far as I could tell he hadn’t had more than a first date with anyone since he got here, but damn if he didn’t go to the Friday socials week after week because you just never knew when you would meet “the one”.

I cracked open a beer, grabbed a slice of pizza, and slumped down on the leather couch waiting to be surrounded by Verve’s, Bittersweet Symphony that still broke my heart all these years later.

The Manager laughed when I told her that it was the Bose surround sound that sold me on the unit. I didn’t even notice the view of the ocean until after I had been here almost a full day. I wondered what Odette was up to. Luna told me that they had been having bonfires every night. I knew I would be welcome, but was I wanted?

After inhaling my third slice with the realization that I hadn’t eaten anything since the kind bar I wolfed down for breakfast, I thought about what I said to Dan. Was I single? I decided that I needed to see Odette. I grabbed my keys and headed for the fire.

Sorry – by: Odette

We were having bonfires on the beach every night. Luna was tutoring an English major who was attending Flagler College and in return for Luna’s help she studied in Zoe’s rooms in the evening by a small book light as Zoe slept, so I could go out and mingle without having to take a monitor along with me. I was also free to drink some red wine and not worry about anything. Luna was adamant that I needed to have fun again to shed this awful anxiety business. It was either Zoloft and Ativan or bonfires and red wine and I thought myself to be terribly lucky that I had that choice.

People would just walk up the beach and join us at the fire sometimes. Luna and I kept the doors locked to the house and carried a key so that we didn’t have to worry about anyone coming in that we didn’t know. But mingling under the stars every night on large blankets by a flickering, warm fire with the crash of the ocean, was pure bliss. Chris picked up Zoe from preschool and spent all afternoon with her before bringing her home for dinner. We didn’t speak when he dropped her off but he always looked really sad and confused as he leaned against the doorway while I pulled her gently inside. I tried to smile at him but it was a struggle since he looked so anguished. I couldn’t help but think about the months that I felt like that, while he was away on tour, and found it hard to feel sorry for him with that memory. I realized that we were just constantly punishing each other and I wondered if that was ever, ever going to stop.

Then tonight as I lay under the stars on a large, brown fuzzy blanket, as soft as the ones I used for Zoe when she was a tiny baby, I held up my glass and looked at the fire flickering behind it. I positioned it so that it looked like the flames were dancing out of the glittering red wine, then jumped when someone sat down unusually close to me. I took in a quick breath when I saw it was Chris and the others around the fire buzzed with excitement that he was here, which instantly aggravated me.

“Hey” he said, and moved some sand around in a circle with his toes.

“Hey.” I sat up and looked at his face. Of course it looked beautiful in the firelight and he smiled at me which tugged at my chest. I looked back at the flames and leaned against him and he put his arm around me and we sat quietly for a while. Some people tried to engage him in conversation but he only shrugged his answers and when the others realized Chris was refusing to be the center of attention, they left him alone. It was nice to just sit with him for a while and listen to the conversations going on around us.

“It’s nice to see you” he whispered in my ear.

I nodded and took a sip of my wine and looked up at the stars.

“I wish I was here with you every night” he said.

I was quiet. I was free without him but it was still amazing to have him here right now. But more than this would be suffocating.

“So who is the dude with the fried blonde hair, straight out of the North Shore movie?” he whispered.

I giggled, “I don’t know, he showed up last week and comes almost every night.”

“How does he have a burnt nose in the winter?”

I tried to stifle my laughter. “He must just go surfing every day, I suppose, even though the water is freezing.”

He nodded, “C-razy” he mumbled and I laughed out loud. Then I relaxed a little more onto his chest and he took a piece of my hair and started to braid it, just like he always used to when we were first together and we were around other people, but wanted to be somehow intimate. He was the only guy I knew, that could braid hair and I always liked to watch him tuck Zoe’s hair into utter cuteness tied up with bows. He was such a good dad. I closed my eyes and thought about if I could handle being with him, how much better life would be. Maybe if I went into counseling or something, maybe if we went together, maybe we could find some place to start. Maybe we could start small, and go from there. Heck, maybe this was our start. That thought got my heart thumping and I realized I was panicking again. So I quickly told myself, ‘no. This was a one time thing. Chris was going to leave after this bonfire and that was it.’ Just that thought helped me to settle back down again. He finished my braid and I took his hands and wrapped them around me so I could hold them over my belly.

“What about a bike ride tomorrow?” he said. “I bet we could get Luna to watch Zoe and we could just ride around downtown, look in the little shops and maybe get an early dinner somewhere? No pressure?”

I thought about the word, pressure, like that was the only word he said in the whole sentence.

“Maybe” I said, and I felt him sigh against my back. I folded my fingers tighter into his and he lifted them to his mouth and kissed them.

3 Jake Text – by: Odette

I put my wine down and texted Jake from the kitchen:

“Remember when you sucked me in even though I was totally unavailable and didn’t want to get involved with you?”

“YES”

“Well, I’m trying to do the same with Evan but he won’t have any of it.”

“What does he like about you?”

“He likes it when I am brooding, stand-offish and uninterested.”

“Then be that.”

I liked how he didn’t even ask what happened to Chris. I smiled and missed him a little.

Immunity – by: Odette

I didn’t know what to think when Evan came and sat down next to Chris and I at the bonfire, smoothing out the blanket so he wouldn’t get sand on his khakis. We just kind of stared at him and he nodded at us. I hadn’t seen him for about two weeks, since he got back from England, and that was just a quick hello while he put down Luna’s suitcases at the front door. Since then, Luna’s greek lessons with him seemed to have been relocated to the local coffee shop and I couldn’t get up enough energy to ask her why he stopped coming to the house. But here he was.

“How was England?” I said, pulling my hand slowly out of Chris’s and smoothing out my blanket like I had just seen Evan do.

“Amazing as always,” he said. “Lots of sheep wandering in front of the car…old men in suspenders, pubs with kids running around in them. You would have liked that.”

I nodded and wished again for a moment, that I had been with him. Chris picked up a little shell and threw it.

“How is it being back from tour?” Evan said at Chris. “Enjoying your local celeb status?”

“Sure” he said. Their tone was making me feel a little tense. Evan knew that Chris moved out, so surely he knew that Chris wasn’t exactly happy with his situation. I was gathering there was something weird going on here that I hadn’t been filled in on. Then Chris said, “Hey thanks for that email while I was on tour. That was from you, right?”

Evan laughed abrubptly, “Yes but…clearly you didn’t listen.”

“Listen to what?” I said. “Are you guys speaking in some sort of code? Please don’t do that.”

Chris shook his head then looked at the fire like he was extremely bothered by what had just transpired, which was odd since he was the one who brought it up.

“Listen to WHAT?” I said again, looking at Evan.

Evan got up. “I’m getting more wood for the fire, it looks pretty pathetic to me right now.” Then he walked off and Chris shook his head and murmured, “asshole.” He looked at me. “Why do you always make friends with the winners?”

I frowned at him. “I don’t understand. First, why you won’t tell me what he was talking about, or why you have a problem with him? He’s never done anything bad or mean to you. In fact, I happen to know that he respects you…a lot.”

Chris looked at me suspiciously. “And how do you know that?”

I thought about when I had tried to kiss Evan, right about where we were sitting right now, and Evan wasn’t having any of it since I was still technically married to Chris. But I wasn’t exactly going to be using that story as an example. “He just always speaks really well of you whenever your name comes up,” I said…which wasn’t really true since his name never came up around Evan. But if it did, I was sure he would be nice.

“Whatever” Chris shook his head. “I don’t care.” Then he smiled. “I’ve pretty much become immune to any emotion short of fight or flight.”

“Me too actually!” I said.

“We’re like two peas in a pod” he said turning to me, with his nose practically touching mine. I thought for a second he was going to kiss me and I was a little mesmerized. I guess he picked up on that because then he did, softly and gently, almost in a plutonic way. Then when I lingered he pulled me in for more. It was surprisingly amazing. I was completely lost in him for a few moments, then when we stopped and looked around a couple of people were looking at us slightly stunned. North Shore threw a coin at us, “Get a room,” he said.

“He’s not as dumb as he looks” Chris whispered, pulling me close to his face again. He smiled. I could feel his breath on my lips and I realized I wanted him to kiss me again. Once again, he read me like only he knew how and said, “Come on. We happen have the best room on the beach.” He jumped up then pulled me up with him and said, a little too loudly, “See ya losers.” And we hurried off laughing, me with embarrassment, towards the pathway leading to my little patio and sliding-glass doors. I glanced back to see Evan walking towards the fire with a big pile of wood, and as he looked up to see me walk into my bedroom with my husband I caught the beginnings of the logs falling out of his hands to the sand.

Moving Forward – by: Odette

Lying naked with Chris was almost the same as being fully clothed, I was so comfortable tangled with him in a mess of white sheets not long out of the dryer. He smoothed my messy hair away from my forehead and kissed it, “God this makes me miss you more”.
I realized I liked him best when he was missing me. I didn’t need affirmation then. His emotion was so obviously in his face so I could see clearly that he really did care about me. All that other stuff, endless video games, leaving all the time, perhaps it meant less than I thought. Now the monotony of comfort wasn’t ruining our relationship and there were no expectations sending me into panic-mode.

“Do you wanna hear my plan?”
“Ok” I said, nervously. His plans tended to mean stability in which I was involved somehow, something I immediately decided I wasn’t ready for even before he began to explain.

“I want to get a place near Luna’s on the beach here. There’s a foreclosure just a few houses down that we can afford.”
I gave  a noncommittal nod, this was actually a little exciting, and he continued. “The label wants to give me some good money for getting the next album out in 6 months, which means I’d need to go back to Athens to write the songs and teach them to the guys.” He saw me wince when he said 6 months and he grabbed my hand with both of his.  “I don’t want to leave you, not like this with everything so messed up between us. But I can’t abandon the band now that we have this amazing opportunity.”

He held my hand even tighter and looked like he was teetering between excitement at this chance with his band and utter fear about what I was going to say, and I realized I completely had him walking on eggshells around me. Was I really that unpredictable?  I could feel the cool air coming in through the cracks on the side of one of my windows and pulled the sheets up and around me. I wondered if the beach house he was talking about was in better shape than Luna’s.  “Well if you are going to buy a beach house, why don’t you have the guys in the band all come there to write the album, and Zoe and I will stay here at Luna’s till your album is finished. You know they won’t be able to say no to living at the beach for 6 months, right?”

He processed this for a minute and said, “The guys have jobs they can’t just leave. I think Dave is actually dating someone who isn’t crazy. Anyway, they can’t afford to just come here and not work or anything.”
“But didn’t you all just make lots of money off this tour and with the song doing so well?”
He looked a little uncomfortable. “WelI I did, because I write the songs. The other guys still need to work.”
“Maybe you can pay them then?”
“Pay them for what?” He looked at me like I was crazy.
“I don’t know, for helping you write the new songs.”
“I’d be surprised if James could even write his name.”
“I’m just trying to think of ideas that will keep you in town so you don’t have to leave again.” I knew that would be the end of us if he left again, beach house or no beach house.
“I’ll think about it” he said.  He lay back on the pillow with his hands behind his head. “I guess I could see what the guys think about your idea. But that would mean I would have to live with those dirty bastards in the same house for 6 months.”

I shrugged. “You did it for 3 months on a tour bus!”

“Exactly!” he said. I stared at him. Did he want to leave? “But it will be worth it if I can be near my beautiful wife.” He pulled me in for a tight hug then started kissing me again. “Can I stay here tonight?”
“No” I said quickly, not knowing what I would do with him in the morning. He simply smiled a little then slipped his fingers between my legs.”Then can I stay just for a little while longer?”
“Mmm, yes, ok.”

Aladin With Short Hair and Glasses

 

Sometimes you just need to punish yourself
with self-deprecation
as the romantic FOOL thinking there is a way out
like in the child’s action movie, flying through the teeth of a dragon
on a magic carpet. 
Perhaps he did like me
perhaps he stopped talking to me and looks horrified when I am in the room
because he liked me
Perhaps I can fly passed the jagged dripping jaws
before the fire licks my presumptuous
self-loving and loathing-self.
Even so, the skin of my once beautiful back
will never be touched
in the way it wants to be.

How can 2 minutes in a room
with one person
saying almost nothing,
be like the cartoon on the TV
minus the plethora of colors
cacophony of Disney manic music
swirling absurd mad genie
while my world stops
in front of you.
The sword falls from my fingers
and you drive it through me almost gently, so easily,
without lifting a finger 

Our stumbling nothingness of the English language went like this:

Me: “What have you been up to?”

Him: “Not much, really.”

When I leave, I don’t know if I am escaping through the teeth
or if the hole closed up and I am left in my minivan cave without a lamp.

It all looks the same on the other side of the front door to the Palace.

And so I light a little match in front of the steering wheel (I don’t really)
I am so grateful for its existence
And warmth
because my heart knows what it is like to be cold
And it isn’t cold, because I still have Abu, the fucking monkey.

Advice From Evan – by: Odette

I heard someone trying to get in the front door but the chain was on. I figured it was probably Chris, thinking he could come over for breakfast after hanging out with me last night and I hurried out there with my flannel PJ pants, big baggy white T- shirt and my glasses on with my hair thrown into a ponytail on top of my head. So when I shut the door, unlatched the chain and heaved it open, I was really, really surprised to see Evan standing there.

He followed me inside and I said, “So you are here to see me and not Luna?”

“That’s right. I was hoping to talk frankly about a few things, especially now that you and Chris seem to be in a good place again.”

“Things aren’t always what they seem.” I said.

“Don’t try and downplay what is going on with Chris. You should have more respect for him with all he puts up with from you.”

I was surprised at his tone and suddenly wasn’t at all excited about what he had to “speak frankly”  to me about. I rolled my eyes. “Sit down at the bar and I’ll make you some breakfast. Do you want a poached egg on toast? That’s what I’m having.”

He nodded. “Sounds good.” He sat in one of the tall chairs at the bar and I went into the kitchen and pulled out the pan and the egg holders.

“I like your glasses” he said. “You should wear them more often. They offer up a mirage of substance.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I paused by the oven and looked at him angrily. “That doesn’t even make any sense, and it’s way too early in the morning for me to be able to handle your sarcasm.”

“I’m just kidding with you,” he said, snickering a little.

“Hmmm. So, Chris is going to buy a house near Luna’s on the beach.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know which one he means yet, but he said it is a foreclosure just a few houses down from here.”

“Let’s go walk down the beach and look for it after breakfast” he said.

“OK.”

We sat and ate our eggs together at the bar and then I made us some hot tea and poured it into mugs with lids that we could carry with us on the beach. He mixed in the milk and sugar while I peaked my head into Luna’s bedroom and she looked up sleepily when I told her I was going for a walk and to please listen for when Zoe woke up.

I threw on a sweatshirt then Evan and I headed out the back door, across the porch and out onto the blinding white sand. It was cold on my bare feet but the hot tea helped to keep me cozy anyway. The steam fogged up my glasses as I sipped and walked. I took and held his hand, just because I needed someone to hold on to and he let me. We passed a couple jogging and they smiled and said hi to us. “They think I’m a lucky guy” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“It looks like you are my girlfriend or wife right now, so they gave me that approving smile, like I need to hang on to you.”

“Maybe you should?”

“Yeah right. I’m glad I never kissed you that time, before I left for England” he said. “That was probably one of the best decisions of my life.”

“Why would you say that to me? What is up with you this morning?” I let go of his hand which was weirdly sweaty anyway and I made a conscious effort to not wipe my hand on my leg.

He stopped and looked at me and so I stopped too and waited for what he had to say.

“I’ve been thinking about this all night. I was wondering why you can’t just be happy with Chris? Do you have some sort of a valid reason of why you can’t just be with him again without pushing him away. Could it be the, ‘he wants me so I don’t want him anymore-problem?'”

I plunked down on the sand and he sat close next to me and I leaned against him. He shifted back a bit but didn’t let me fall. I tried to think of what the problem was and when it started.  I buried my mug a little so it wouldn’t fall over then picked up a handful of sand and let it slide through my fingers. “I guess I just feel like if anything bad happens, like really bad, he drops the ball. I can’t shake that. I get panic attacks when I think I have to play the good wife again.”

I looked at the ocean. It was a cool winter morning but there were still surfers out there in their wetsuits. The sun was climbing higher in the sky and I thought of sitting on the beach and watching Meliah surf in contests when I was 16. “When Meliah and her baby died, Chris just left me alone for 6 months. I don’t know what I expected from him, but the last few, he was always annoyed with me and resentful. He played video games all night, every night and didn’t even try to talk to me during the day. I just got used to him not being there emotionally. Now he acts like everything has changed, and it has changed. We have worked hard on getting past every problem. But the fact remains that he wasn’t there for me when I needed him most. I think that is when I stopped being faithful to him, in every sense of the word and I’m not sure if that will ever change back.”

Evan nodded thoughtfully. “When you were going through this, did you ever confront him about it or ask him to do things differently?”

“Honestly, I just went and found comfort in someone else.”

“Jake?”

“Yes.” I smiled, just at the mention of his name.

“Chris seems like the kind of guy, that if you would have told him what you were feeling, that he might have tried to adjust…to be what you needed him to be. I don’t mean that you could change his personality or anything. Its just that, sometimes guys don’t know how to act in situations that we don’t plan for. He probably had no fucking idea what to do and thought he needed to leave you alone to figure it out for yourself. Didn’t he take care of Zoe that whole time?”

“Yes.”

“And what would you have done without him?”

“I guess I would have taken care of Zoe and it would have been difficult.”

“But he was there for you, in the way that he knew how to be. He knew how to feed and clothe and love your daughter, so he did it.”

“Yes” I said. “He adjusted his work schedule to take her to school. And play with her, and come home early enough to make dinner for all of us, bathe her and read to her at night.”

“That’s a big deal” Evan said. “A really big deal.”

We sat there quietly for a few minutes. “Lets go find this house” I said and we got up and walked further down the beach. “He said it is white and the number is 111.”

Evan pointed and there was a huge, stone mansion on the beach. It looked fairly new and there was a porch like Luna’s, but the luxury version, then a swimming pool off to the side. “Wow” I said.

“So is that some incentive to forgive the guy?” Evan said.

“Holy shit.”

We walked closer and the dunes in front of the house were completely covered with black-eyed Susan’s. “These are my favorite flowers in the world” I gasped.

“Maybe its a sign.”

“I certainly don’t believe in signs. Or anything,” I said.

He looked a little sad at that declaration. “Can I mention one more thing to you?” he said.

“Go for it”

“I’ve noticed your, well, happiness seems to come and go quite randomly.”

“I’m not bipolar.”

“I’m not saying you are. What I’m saying is that  it is the same for all of us. For some reason, sometimes, every human being gets depressed for no reason. But we immediately want to pinpoint then solve whatever the “problem” is that is dragging us down. I guess you could still be mad at him for not “being there”. But we both know that you should forgive him for that. No one is perfect and the reality is, sometimes there is nothing to fix. Sometimes we are just sad because of hormones or life or whatever. I know it is harder for you because you struggle with the anxiety symptoms. But I feel like with you, Odette, that you are a problem solver. This makes you a great mom and it is amazing what you do for Zoe with all of her therapies and vitamins and healthy diets that Luna tells me about. But it seems you also scramble for a cure when you are down. And you think your cure is to push Chris away, when really the best solution is to let him back in. I don’t think his presence and love is a problem you need to fix.”

I nodded. “I never thought of it that way.”

“I also can’t help but notice that you seem to have created bigger problems when trying to solve the one that you are confused about. Like how you just told me you were devastated that Chris wasn’t there for you and instead of communicating with him and figuring out how to make it right again, you created an even bigger problem along side of that by having an affair with Jake.”

“I wouldn’t take that back though. I needed Jake at the time.”

“You are damn lucky Chris didn’t walk away from you after that mess. Not many men would stick around for more like he did. He must have been harboring some serious guilt, or pity for you to let that one slide. He’s a damn saint.”

I shrugged, “I don’t know why he stayed.”

“I don’t know either. I never would have carried on with a woman who had no respect or loyalty, and I want to add that even though I find you attractive and well, slipped a couple of times, I could never think seriously about being with you, even if you weren’t with Chris, because you are such a damn train-wreck. But for some reason Chris still wants you.”

I sighed and looked at the Sea Gulls landing on the sand around us. “I’m not sure why or how this is about you too, or why you seem to be so mad at me. But I’ll have you know, I could find other guys out there who want me, even if you think I’m awful or something.”

“I’m sure you can Odette. There are plenty of guys out there who will be happy to bang you but no one is going to love you like Chris does.”

I started to walk briskly back the house and he kept up with me. “How can you say that no one else will love me? How the hell do you know? Jake loved me.”

“Jake? Are you fucking serious?”

I stopped and stood there for a minute and looked at my wedding ring. “Why are you talking to me about this?” I said. “Why do you even care?” I suddenly felt like crying. I took my glasses off and rubbed my eyes. He immediately reached out and took my arm. When I looked up at his face I was surprised at his anguish.

He rubbed my arm then dropped his hand and struggled to say, “I lost my wife to her indiscretions. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that Chris manages to forgive you. I could never do that with her, which kind of sucks for me.”

I nodded. “I’m really sorry about that.” I didn’t know what to say. I was the wrong person to comfort him with this issue.

“But most of all, you are giving Luna a lot of grief. She is really worried about you and I hate watching her go through this.”

“You care a lot about Luna don’t you?” I looked up at him and he smiled a little and nodded.

I suddenly felt really happy for Luna, that she had Evan looking out for her, pretty much yelling at me on her behalf. My heart swelled for both of them. “I’ll give it a real shot with Chris.” I said. “And deal with the anxiety without pushing him away and just see what happens.”

He smiled and nodded. “Good. And you need to realize just how lucky you are. If you could just find some gratitude inside you for the life you have. Look at this place.” He put his arms out and I could feel the breeze he was talking about and smoothed the strands of hair dancing about my face. “There is truth in the saying that people are happy because they are thankful. I’m not downplaying clinical anxiety, Odette. I know how painful it must be. But… between these panic attack things, or whatever, just try to be happy with your amazing life and not wreck the people closest to you.”

I nodded and looked at the house off down the beach. “OK, Evan. I’ll try. And we’ll stay friends, right?” I said.

“I’ll have to stay away from you. It’s painful for me,” he mumbled.

“What! Really? But you said I’m a train wreck. Be honest Evan, you can’t be friends with me simply because you just don’t like me anymore.”

“That’s not it.” He started walking again and now it was my turn to keep up with him. “I like you more than you deserve and I can’t help how I feel about you. To come clean, I actually do understand why Chris is sticking around.” He shook his head and ran his hands through his hair with frustration. “And it kills me to watch you put him through your hell. I keep imagining that you are doing it to me for some reason. Maybe because I realized there was a possibility for us to be together and I have pictured the scenarios for so long. I finally realized that you wouldn’t be faithful and loyal to me either because that is the kind of person you are. So for me, if not for him, you need to be kind to that man. Help restore my faith in love before I fucking kill myself please.”

I gave him a hard stare. “I am very loyal and faithful to those who deserve it.” I said. “Maybe you don’t think you deserve it.”

“Maybe I don’t” he said. And we walked up the steps to the back porch. Luna was in the kitchen with Zoe putting some cereal and milk in a bowl for her. “Well!” she said. “If it isn’t two of my most favorite people in the world.”

I looked at Evan who seemed to shed all his stress caused by me in just one second to grin at Luna. Then he went to kiss her cheek. He put his mug on the counter before he grabbed his keys and headed out the front door, not saying bye to me.

“What did you two talk about?” she said as the door clicked shut.

“He likes you a lot Luna,” I said. I looked over at her and she flickered her eyes up  at me with a poker face as she handed Zoe a spoon. “Eat up child” she said. “And drink up too. Almond milk is expensive.”

I examined Luna’s lovely silver hair hanging over Zoe’s bowl as she fed Zoe just to get her started, and thought about how she was very young to be completely gray. She had long eye lashes and killer green eyes always hidden behind strands of her hair. A little bit of makeup could be amazing on her. And if she shed the hippie skirts and flowing poet shirts for something a little more fitted and cute, she would probably look like a completely different person. “Luna!” I said, “I have a great idea!”

“Oh, no.”

Bike Ride

We glided through the busy old stone streets on our bikes and I stopped short in front of the candy shop. Chris stopped next to me and smiled at what I was staring at. It was the biggest, reddest chocolate covered strawberry ever.

“Let’s get that,” he said.

“OK”. We locked the bikes together and went in the candy shop. He held my hand while we waited to be served and for some reason this made me really giggly. He grinned at me. “You’re such a weirdo. All we have to do is get you an alien-looking strawberry and you are giddy as a Zoe on the trampoline.”

We sat outside on the concrete benches lining the street that was blocked off from traffic, just for pedestrians (we probably weren’t supposed to have our bikes there) and I ate my monster strawberry while he had some homemade malted milk-balls. “Now this isn’t so bad.” He said, referring to my original hesitance to go on this bike ride with him.

“This is really fun” I said with a mouth full of dripping strawberry. He nodded happily. “Lets go get a couple for Zoe” I said. “The dark chocolate ones probably don’t have diary in them.”

“Ok.”

We shoved the paper bag of strawberries in Chris’s backpack and headed off to the Coquina Spanish Fort where we put a big blanket down on the grass and stretched out under the sun with the cool air blowing gently across us. Chris had his hands behind his head and I sat up pulling grass out of the ground and annoying ants that roamed onto the blanket. “I saw the house you want to get,” I said.

He sat up, “Well its not a hundred percent yet and these things often fall through. I almost didn’t want you to see it yet so you wouldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t work out.”

“We can do this together you know.”

“We can?”

“Sure.”

We were quiet for a while but I could practically hear him thinking. His eyes kept twitching and he kept rubbing his hands together. Finally he said, “It takes a gorgeous house to get you back then?”

I laughed out loud. “Actually it took a lot of thinking and soul searching but we both know that we don’t want to be with anyone else right? I mean, I was watching Downton Abby late last night and one of the things the guy, Matthew says to Mary, is, “As long as you are on this earth, I’m not going to be happy with anyone else.” And I realized when he said that, that I completely  understand. We may not be perfect but I am never going to love anyone like I love you so we need to try and make this work.”

“I agree, Odette” he said and took my hand. Then he scooted up close to me and kissed me, sitting there on the blanket in front of everyone. I thought then about when we were back at our house in Athens while I sat on the couch with my screen and he sat there looking at his screen and all I wanted was some romance back in my life. Now here it was, somehow, with Chris. And how amazing to feel comfortable, like I wasn’t hurting anyone. But I also knew this could crumble as quickly as it all semmed to come together.

“I need you to promise me one thing before I let my guard down again,” I said quietly.

“What’s that?” He took my hand again and looked into my face to really listen. Once again I was stunned that he was doing what I had wanted all along, to just listen and care and love me.

“You can’t disappear again, like after Meliah died, then again when you went on tour.”

He sat back a bit. “On tour, I needed to work thorough everything. It would have been impossible to chat like everything was OK. And I didn’t disappear when Meliah died. I was with you every day.”

“You know what I mean though, right? We’ve talked about this.”

“Yeah, I know. And I’ve said I was sorry and here you are bringing it up again. Do you want me to bring up what you did to punish me for that whole thing?”

“Well, I don’t really want to fight about it. If we rehash the problems of the past in every fight we have no chance, Chris. You do realize that, right?”

“Then why are you brining it up!!??”

“I just want to make sure you aren’t going to abandon me again!” I yelled at him. The people near us probably thought we were nuts to be kissing one minute then yelling at each other the next.

“How about this,” Chris said, a little quiter. “I promise to stick around and be open with you, if you promise not to even FLIRT with another guy for all the days of our lives, till death do us part.”

“I can’t even flirt?” I smiled cheekily.

“Not funny. Yes, or no?”

“Yes.”

“Really? I’ll believe it when I see it. That means with Evan too. And holding hands in a ‘plutonic way’ counts as flirting. Don’t think I don’t have spies out there on the beach.”

“What!?”

“Some friends of Bob and Lucy’s reported that you were holding hands with another guy yesterday so Bob went out there and saw you sitting with Evan. He said he spied on you guys for a while but you just talked about me the whole time, that it was a good conversation and that you obviously still love me.” He smiled.

“Spies? Chris…you are out of your mind.”

“You made me that way. But do we have a deal?”

I looked around us, at the other people lying on blankets on the grass in the sunshine. There were teenagers, like how we were when we met, and there were couples and families of all different ages. Did I want to be here with him again in 10 years? How about 20?

“OK,” I said.

“OK.”

%d bloggers like this: