On A Whim

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Harry flew in to the midday crowd. The flight had been long and tiring. His back and legs hurt from the cramped quarters. He stretched and twisted while waiting at the baggage carousel. The airport was packed with the normal holiday travelers. Harry needed a stiff drink and to get off his feet, but that wasn’t why he was here.

He grabbed his luggage and headed for the rental car counter. Harry was feeling some nervous energy in his body. He was focused on his mission ahead. He had to maintain that focus.

He walked out to the parking space they indicated the car would be waiting. He hit the unlock button on the key-fob. The lights on a Prius flashed. His head dropped to his chest. “Prius pricks of the world unite,” he muttered to himself. Normally he wouldn’t have taken this emasculation, but he didn’t see any other cars in the garage. It was a busy weekend after all. He sighed and threw his bag in the backseat.

Harry was in awe of the beauty of the land. The area was scattered with small towns tucked into the mountains. The pine and fur trees were packed thick into the slopes. He could only imagine this land would be even more beautiful with the coming snows.

He checked his phone again for the GPS directions. He was still on the right track. It said he would be there in ten minutes. He gripped the steering wheel tight. The breathed deliberately; slow and deep.

Upon arriving at his destination, he pulled his car over to the curb. He parked a few houses down. He didn’t want to announce his arrival prematurely. He went over his game plan a few more times in his head before scrapping it altogether. He was going to go out on a whim — to do whatever his heart told him to.

He walked with a determined, confident gait. Harry straightened his tie and knocked firmly on the door.

Stacey opened the door quietly a few inches before peeking to see who it was. Her eyes got wide.

“Stacey, please go get dressed. I’m taking you to dinner. You should wear something nice.”

“Harry? What are you doing here?”

“I just told you. We’re going to dinner.”

“But I have nothing to wear.”

“I’m sure that’s not true. Don’t make me dress you, myself.”

She smirked and raised an eyebrow. They sat there looking at each other for a few beats. She looked down at her old frumpy housedress. It was frayed and had bleach spots down at the hem. He thought she looked beautiful, but didn’t want the evening to start here and now.

“Okay, okay, come on in. You’re letting all the cold air in.”

“Remember Stacey, dress nice.” He adjusted his watch to get a better look at the time. “We don’t have forever.”

She smiled and nodded before running up the stairs. “Make yourself at home. Please us fix some drinks. The liquor cabinet is in my study,” she called down.

“Why of course, Woman, will there be anything else?”

Stacey took longer than Harry wanted to get ready, but he forgave her the instant she walked down the stairs. She wore a tight, black dress that flattered her figure and accentuated her breasts. She close her pearls to grace the décolletage. Harry tried not to stare or begin to drool. He was supposed to remain cool and aloof. His pants tightening were giving him away.

“You look lovely, Stacey.” He reached out to kiss her hand.

“Why, thank you, Good Sir.”

“Are you ready to go?”

“Yes, I suppose I am.” Her heart skipped a beat. This was really happening. She had imagined it, but never thought it would actually happen.

“Okay, after you.” He opened the door and held his hand out for her.

“Where’s your luggage?”

“I didn’t plan on wearing any clothing.”

She blushed at his honesty.

“I just wasn’t expecting that answer. I didn’t expect you to be so bold.”

“But that is exactly what I am. That is what you’ve always said you wanted.”

“I know it is. It is just different right now.”

“Stacey, please relax. You just have to tell me what you want.”

“Okay.” She rose up on her tip toes and gave him a peck on the lips, drawing her tongue out at the end. “I can do that.”

He held his arm out and escorted her out the door.

“Which car is yours?”

“I flew in.” He avoided looking down the street at the rental. “We’re walking to our festivities for the evening.”

“You really have this planned out.”

“I like to do my homework.”

She smiled up at him, tugging him onward. She was eager to get to dinner. She was nervous. She wanted a glass of red to calm her nerves and allow her to play the sassy vixen. She had imagined how she would play her role for a while. Harry had her feeling good, but he wasn’t what she had imagined. He was colder somehow.

They arrived at the restaurant and were shown a seat right away. He whispered something in the maître d’s ear as he showed them their table. The man showed Harry great deference. Stacey wondered what it was all about, but did’t want to press the issue. A bottle of red wine was brought to the table. She was impressed with the way Harry handled himself and other people’s reactions to him. That made her feel good to be seen with a man like this.

The meal arrived promptly. They both ordered the steak. They ate silently, occasionally looking into each other’s eyes. Harry loved to watch a beautiful woman eat a steak. There was something primal about it. She was a carnivore. His blood was pumping.

After their plates had been cleared, Harry stood next to the table and extended his hand. Stacey was caught off guard yet again. She enjoyed his decision making and boldness. She took his hand. Harry led her to the dark, empty dance floor. As soon as they got to the center, a soft spotlight lit them up. Music started playing quietly.

“May I have this dance?”

“I haven’t been asked that in forever! Of course you can.”

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They danced for what seemed like hours. Their bodies seemed to fit together perfectly. She loved how he felt when she held him. She loved how he smelled. Stacey was enjoying herself when he stopped abruptly.

“Let’s go.” He looked down at her. She nodded in agreement.

She grabbed her purse on their way out. The maître d’ came and shook Harry’s hand in stride. The air was cool, getting toward cold. Harry took his suit jacket off and put it on Stacey. She smiled brightly. He offered his arm again and led her to a posh hotel a few blocks from where she lived.

“Why are we here?”

“I live right down the road.”

“I know, but I want you detached from life tonight. I want you to immerse yourself in this fantasy. I’m going to escort you to a great night on the town.”

“Harry, I want to have you all to myself. Your hands have wanted to wander tonight, but you maintain your gentlemanly ways. That just holds me enough to make my skin tingle.” He grabbed her and kissed her deep. He backed her to the wall of the hotel. They explored each other’s mouths.

They finally broke free to walk through the lobby into the elevator. He reached for her hand as the doors shut. She leaned her head against his chest. Their fingers fidgeted with anticipation. Standing outside the door, Harry would fumbled with the key because his nerves got the better of him. The need was almost unbearable. He finally got the door open, grabbed her hand, slinging Stacey through the door, pinning her against the wall. Harry began kissing with an unbridled passion as the door clicked close behind them.
Stacey reached up to loosen his tie. She slowly pulled it through the shirt collar. She tossed it to the floor. Next, she shrugged off his jacket. He sighed as she exposed her neckline again.

She plucked his shirt buttons open one by one. Then she unbuttoned his pants. He grinned down at her. She tugged on his shirt sleeves, removing it altogether. He reached down to remove his shoes one at a time, without braking eye contact. Next he removed his socks. Stacey kneeled in front of him and pulled his pants off him, allowing him to step put of them. He remained in front of her in only his boxer briefs. The seams were strained from his obvious enjoyment of the situation. She stood up again. She then reached up to kiss him and grab the back of his hair. She led him to the bed and pushed him down on his back. She knelt again between his legs, kissing him gentle before releasing him from the fabric. She proceeded to take him in her mouth. Harry couldn’t control the moan that he let out. She was even more turned on by the sounds he was making. He allowed her to proceed until he couldn’t take it anymore. Harry pulled her head away from him.

“It’s time for you to lose those clothes, Woman.”

“Yes, Sir. I shall,” Stacey said in mock salute. She kicked her heels off into the corner. She reached back and unzipped her dress. She gently let it drop from her shoulders to her waist. Her breasts displayed their luxurious lace casings. They bounced perfectly with her every movement. She proceeded to let the dress drop to the floor. Stacey wasn’t wearing any panties. Harry face lit up with excitement. She crawled onto the bed beside him. They proceeded to make out for a good while. His hands began to roam around her body. Her hands seemed to remain in his hair, pulling it gently.

Harry finally got around to removing her bra. Part of him hated to do so. Stacey looked devastatingly beautiful in it. But the other part wanted to feel her breasts free from all confines.

The rest of the night was them exploring each other’s bodies and pleasures. They talked about what each other liked and wanted. They made love. They fucked. They took turns in between.

They enjoyed the night they had. It was one they’d never forget. It was special. It was a memory that couldn’t be erased no matter how mundane reality ever became.

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Trophy Wife

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Steven always liked her to shower before coming to bed. He was particular in his expectations and she didn’t want to disappoint him. It’s not that he would be upset with her. There were no demands or spoken instructions. She learned what he liked and disliked by simply paying attention.

Marilyn carefully washed her hair. She made sure that it was clean and conditioned perfectly for Steven. Her arms reached up into her long, flaxen hair. Her fingers gently rubbing her scalp. The water cascaded down her pale flesh.

She firmly turned the water off and remains motionless for a bit. Her hair dripping onto the tile. It is a grand, spacious bathroom. The bright light fixtures  illuminate everything. Marilyn reached out to grab a towel to wrap her head in before stepping out of the shower. The rug felt soft and warm between her toes.  She took a good look in the mirror. She is content in her reflection, though she silently takes note of flaws that weren’t there a few years ago. She reluctantly pulled on a robe over her wet skin.

The bedroom was a large, open room with a California King Four-Poster bed  opposite the window. The big, heavy blackout drapery had been pulled closed for modesty’s sake. Dark wooded nightstands stood on each side, with Tiffany style lamps placed in the center of each.

Marilyn walked over to the armoire and pulled out powder blue lace underwear and a matching bra that she hoped Steven would like. In the next drawer down, she picked out a pair of thigh highs. She took the robe off and threw it on the bed before getting dressed. She heard a knock on the door.

“Miss Marilyn?”

“Yes, Pamala?”

“Mr. Steven asked me to bring you some drinks.” She said through the door.

“Okay, just a second, please.” She slipped the robe back on and walked over to the door. She took a breath and turned the heavy brass knob. “Good evening, Pamala.”

“Good evening, Miss Marilyn.” Pamala stood holding a tray with a crystal pitcher of martinis, a jar of green olives and cocktail onions on skewers and two coupe glasses. 

“Please come in.” Pamala walked to marble topped table off to the right. She set the tray down and walked directly out. “Thank you, Pamala.”

“Enjoy your evening, Miss Marilyn.” Pamala bowed slightly and closed the door. Marilyn heard the door locking and then the sounds of footsteps walking back to the staircase. 

Marilyn smiled at the gift from Steven. He was always thoughtful like that. She hung her robe back up before pouring herself a drink. She walked to the bathroom and sat down at her vanity. She took a sip and cringed gently at the bite of the gin. The burn felt good going down. She exhaled before applying light makeup and deep red lipstick. Content with the results of her work, she walked back out to the bedroom and stretched out on the chaise lounge. She turned some Coltrane on the wireless speakers with her phone and then dimmed the lights. She slowly sipped her drink until it was gone. Usually, the olives would have been gone before the martini was, but she didn’t want to leave their scent on her breath. Marilyn closed her eyes and let the sounds float through her mind.

Her eyes remain closed as she hears the door open. Steven enters and softly closes the door behind him. He looks upon his beloved with a mix of admiration and infatuation.

“Hello Dear.” He said as he stood a few steps from the door. He loosened his tie and took off his coat. He walked to the closet and hung up his jacket, as to avoid any wrinkles. “Have you been waiting long?”

“No, I just got out of the shower.”

“Good. Would you like another drink?” Steven removed the tie and laid it on the back on her chair.

“Yes, please.” Her eyes were still closed. There was no movement upon the chair.

He bent down and placed a kiss on the top of her head. The empty glass was on the side table. He picked it up and returned to the drink tray. He poured two drinks and walked back to Marilyn.

“Have you brushed your hair yet?”

“No, I waited for you.”

“You look amazing.”

“Thank you.”

Steven walked over to the nightstand on the left side of the bed. Inside the drawer, he pulled out a silver hairbrush. He stroked the stands of hair that were stuck in the bristles. He held it close to his nose to get a whiff of her hair. He smiled and walked back to the lounge and Marilyn.

“Would you like me to brush your hair now?”

“Yes, that’d be nice.” She sat up and turned her back to him. Marilyn tucked her nylon covered toes under her shapely derrière. He moved in behind her and pulled her hair back into a pony tail and off to one side. Leaning in close, he smelled her skin and kissed the nape of her neck. Goose bumps rose on her and she shivered in pleasure. Steven smiled and began to brush her long, golden hair.

“How was your day, my love?”

“It was good. I’ve been eagerly waiting for you.”

“Have you, now? That’s good. I like that. It makes me feel appreciated.” Steven brushed her hair with long, slow strokes. He made sure to be gentle when coming to a tangled piece. The brushed strands were placed to the side. He was deliberate and affection in how he took care of her hair. “Will you sing to me?”

“Of course. I’d love to.”

Her voice carried into the air. The sounds of the jazz became the background to her singing. Neither of them made a move to turn off the music. It was the perfect compliment to the moment.

She knew how much Steven enjoyed brushing her hair. It made her feel like she was taking care of her man. She smiled that she was able to provide this for him. 

Steven’s left arm wrapped around her body and rested on her thigh. Marilyn could hear his breath quickening and becoming more and more shallow. She felt Steven’s hands get tense. His whole body began to shudder. She noticed how he stopped brushing. He moved his right arm and the brush around to hold her. Steven’s body tensed tighter and then relaxed.  He took slow, deep breaths. A final shudder cam from his body.

He laid the brush on the chaise lounge.  He stiffly stood up and adjusted his pants. He bent down and kissed Marilyn on the top of her head.

“I love you, Woman. Goodnight.”

Steven walked out of the room, shutting the door firmly. He paused and placed his forehead against the door. It felt cool upon his skin. He then walked back to his bedroom.

Inside her room, Marilyn waited until his footsteps went away. She removed her delicate undergarments and pulled her a nightgown out of the armoire. The nightgown was threadbare cotton and came below her knees. It was her favorite thing to sleep in.

Back in Steven’s room, he was balled up on his bed. He still wore his suit pants and socks. He was overcome with guilt and doubt about his peculiar preferences. Thoughts of the evening replayed in his mind. He cried himself to sleep for yet another night.

Marilyn laid awake on her bed. The size of it made her feel small and alone. Steven meant well, he honestly did, but that didn’t make her feel reassured. She felt like a china doll, whose owner is afraid of leaving a smudge or fingerprints. By day, she did not want for anything. Steven made sure she was taken care of. But his money did not provide comfort in moments like these. She wondered if it was worth it. Was this the life she had signed up for?

“Miss Marilyn? Are you alright? Can I get you anything?”

The Sunset: Part III

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The Sunset: Part I

The Sunset: Part II

 

 

 

The writing had started coming out again. The printed output was increasing with each day. A few stories had possibilities for expansion into longer projects. I was feeling good about it. The high altitude air was going for me. I was happier than I’d been in a long time. The need to create something, anything was the burden I woke up to each morning. The completion of that task always made me feel lighter, perhaps made me feel younger every time.

I sat in the one of the upstairs bedrooms. It only had an old desk in it. I moved the bed and the rest of the furniture out. There was a large oval window that looked out into town. I had tacked up with scraps of paper with thoughts on the walls. The room had become essentially wallpapered with endless notes and poems, hardly a spot of paint was visible. I didn’t want to lose a stray thought. You never knew when a lost thought could have been the key to something greater.

I could hear the trains coming into Downtown. The mainline followed the old Route 66 path. Interstate 40 had replaced it years ago, but it didn’t carry the same romantic notions of heading west like Horace Greeley had spoke of. Traditions could be stuffed out with simple changes. The world had changed before we knew we wanted to keep the old stuff. Kids these days don’t know what a dial tone is. It was a scary new world and bravery has nothing to do with it.

I was going stir crazy after being shut up in that place. I had some decent pages written. There were even more notes and scraps pinned to the walls. I started making piles and putting them in baskets for later use.

One day, I noticed I was looking shaggy when I walked past a mirror. My focus had been on the words and making sure they didn’t dry up. I had forgotten about small things like hygiene and sustenance. I noticed that the fridge was bare. I needed to get out of the house. I needed some fresh air to recharge my lungs and to refocus myself. 

I walked down to the garage and found an old powder blue ’68 Beetle. It was dusty and probably hadn’t been driven in a while. I look around and didn’t see many tools or auto parts. The owners weren’t those types of people. My best bet was to see if it would start, then worry about the maintenance it would require.

It took some cranking and I knew I was lucky when the engine caught. I let the car sit at idle for five minutes before I started towards town. It had been quite awhile since I had driven stick, but I figured it out after grinding the gears a little bit. Driving that thing was a lot more fun than I ever remember behind the wheel.

I pulled up at the little mom and pop market on the corner. It looked like it had been there for fifty years. As I climbed out, I realized the backseat wasn’t very big and there was almost zero trunk space. It took me a minute to figure out that the trunk was in the front. I must’ve looked rather dumb out there. I hope no one was watching.

I walked to Geno’s and grabbed a shopping cart. I filled it with the essential groceries, toiletries and found an aisle that had some cheap tools and household items. I was hoping I would find some oil and automotive items. They didn’t have what I needed, so I made a mental note adding that stop to my list. I steered the cart to the checkout.

“How are you doing, young man?”

“I’m doing well, sir. How are you today?” I noticed his name tag said “Geno” on it. That made me smile. Some how that made this town even better.

“I woke up again. How bad can it be?” 

“That’s a good outlook. You own the place?”

“That I do. We opened it almost sixty years ago, my bride and I did.”

“That’s amazing.” Geno finished ringing me up and offered to help me to my car. “No, thank you. I can manage. Besides, it’s not much.”

“Well, I hope to see you around. Have a good day.”

“Yes, I’ll be back. It was nice to meet you, Geno. My friends call me Q. I’m staying at the old Gurney place for awhile. I’ll be around.”

“Oh yeah? That’ll be nice. I knew them well. You must be a friend of James?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“I’ve known him his whole life. He’s a good egg. I hope you enjoy your stay. It’s a great town. The weather looks like it’ll stay warm for awhile. Nice to meet you, Q.”

We shook hands and said goodbye. I liked this small town and the innocent comfort that it provided. San Francisco was a great city, but it could leave you feeling cold and alone. This was a completely different experience. My impression of Arizona was the arid desert with lots of dirt, cacti and no trees. Here I was seven thousand feet in elevation in the middle of a forest. This isn’t what I expected, but I didn’t know what to expect. I never thought about it.

I drove back to the house and put away my groceries and brewed myself a cup of coffee. It was early afternoon at that point and I was feeling a little sag in my spirits. I sat the small table in the breakfast nook. I stared out at the trees and the mountain slope below the house. It was a great view, I had to admit. 

Back in San Francisco, I always marveled at the power of mankind’s achievements in art and architecture. Here, I was blown away at the majesty of God’s creation. Life and the path to happiness wasn’t that difficult, if only you could stop long enough to realize it. Life was good. Every morning was a chance to be happy. Geno was happy to just wake up. He was grateful for it. I wanted that outlook on life. Maybe I could find it, but I realized that the desire for it was a big step.

I ran my hand through my hair and decided I was too scruffy. I need to go into town again and get cleaned up. My beard had grown out a little too far. Perhaps Flagstaff had a place to get an old school straight razor shave. I never had one of those. 

I pulled out my phone and Googled it. The third entry, The Barber’s Pole, was nearby in the same shopping center as Geno’s. I decided to take a shower and spare the barber the funk I had gathered on my body. It would be unkind of me to go like this. I had a peculiar smell.

After a shower and some clean clothes, I remembered to write a note to get the necessary supplies to change the oil in the Bug. On the back of a receipt I found on the counter I scribbled haircut, oil, filter and beer, just to be thorough.

The Bug started right away again and that put me in a pretty good mood. I was thinking that things might be looking up for me. I was feeling hopeful. The clear mountain air was doing wonders for my positivity. I was not used to it. I had always been a downer. I had always thought the cynical nature was part of my charm. In the recent past, it began to get tiresome. It was exhausting to always be so negative. I felt like I had to play the role and couldn’t get away from it. But out here, I felt free.

The little car sped through the streets. It was a new experience to be that low to the ground. The windows were down and I had the radio turned up to the local rock ’n roll station. I felt like a teenager again. I had fresh energy and a boundless smile.

“You the fella staying at the Gurney’s house?” The lady asked as I walked in. I was taken back for a moment.

“Uh, yes, I am. Word gets around quick, huh?” I said with a smile.

“It’s not that big of a town. It’s difficult to remain anonymous around here for long. Besides, most of the tourists stay over by the university. You sorta stick out over here.” She had a nervous habit of brushing her hair out of her face as she talked. It was distracting and endearing at the same time.

She introduced herself as Sarah Mae, with a soft, mellow voice, just a hint of a squeak. She was uniquely beautiful. I immediately noticed her tattooed sleeve. It was a floral menagerie with a crossed anchor and straight razor as the centerpiece on her bicep. It was magnificently tough. She had short, crimson hair and small rectangular glasses perched on her petite nose. She wore bright red lipstick, the color right out of a vintage Hollywood set. Her earrings were bold, and dangly. Sarah was the Molly Ringwold for the digital age. 

“So, what can I do for ya?” She was direct.

“I don’t know. It’s been awhile.”

“I can tell. Your fades are all gone,” she said as her fingers worked themselves through my hair.

“I guess, just clean it up a bit. I like it a little long, but just not this shaggy.”

We spoke sparingly as she cut my hair. I’ve never been much of talker with strangers. Small talk is downright painful to me. I’d prefer a barber focus on cutting my hair and getting me out of there. Social situations usually make me uncomfortable.

She washed my hair and then offered to put some product in it, but I declined. I left my old Giants ball cap sitting on the passenger seat. This wasn’t spoken of, I didn’t want to offend her by covering up her work. Perhaps I was reading too much into it. I had a tendency to do that.

“Well, it was nice meeting you, Q. If that is your real name?” I blushed.

“Nice, meeting you, too, Sarah.”

“I’ll see you around.”

“Definitely. I think I’ll be here for a bit.”

I stopped by the auto store and back to Geno’s for that beer. I couldn’t forget that. I was going to need some lubrication to keep the inspiration going. The rest of the day was filled with thoughts of Sarah. It felt good to have a woman on my mind again. It had been awhile.

The Sunset Part II

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The Sunset Part I

 

The sun had caught up with us. We landed at Flagstaff’s Pulliam Airport right after sunrise. My mind was heavy with thought. James and Scott were having a grand time around me, but I took no notice. They had consumed a lot of those tiny airplane bottle of booze. We grabbed a taxi and drove through town. Pine trees passed us by at an increasing rate. I looked out and saw the San Francisco Peaks, coincidentally enough. A calm came over me. It was a beautiful sight.

Those two guys were still cracking jokes and singing into the night, even though it had become morning. Our friendship doesn’t make sense, but it has lasted most of our lives. One shouldn’t question such things. That’s the way it is with most blessings.

The house was beautiful. I don’t know how they found the place or why they were even looking, but it was the coolest house I had ever seen. It was surrounded by a bit of land and looked right up to the San Francisco Peaks. There was a deck on the backside of the place.

Mt. Eldon was much closer and a lot smaller. It was more like a giant hill on the eastern side of Flagstaff. I silently took it all in. Sure, I had been to Yosemite and Redwood, but that has been many years. I had forgotten what God’s natural world looked like. It was amazing in the truest sense.

“So, what do you think?” Scott asked, nudging me.

“Its cool. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I used to come up here when I was a kid. My mom loved coming here. She said it was the only place she could feel free. Whenever I get to return to this place, I always remember her.” The usually quiet James spoke quite emotionally and walked away.

Scott and I looked at each other for a bit, not wanting to be disrespectful to our friend’s feelings. We took some time to settle into the house. It was amazing. There were two stories, with four bedrooms upstairs; each with its own bathroom. It was like a hotel or something. It must have been designed to keep a large family happy and from killing each other. It was just my luck that I was here with two guys. I laughed at myself since I hadn’t had a romantic anything in years.

I told the guys I was heading out to the store. We needed some snacks and supplies for the place. James asked if I needed a car, as he reached into his pocket. I said no, I had noticed a store down the road not far away. It was a beautiful day out and I wanted to walk.

It wasn’t far before I reached the market. The sun was high in the sky, but it was cool out. I would need a sweater. That thought struck me as funny. My view of Arizona was cactus and the face of the sun. I was surrounded by trees and needing to put more clothes on. This was unexpected.

By the time I returned, Scott and James were on the deck having beers with the neighbors. I put the groceries away, grabbed a water and went to be social.
“Q, I’d like you to meet some friends. This is Laura and this Kathy.” I shook their hands and said hello. “I’ve known these two ladies since we were children.” James was back to his charming self.

“I’m terribly sorry.” Scott said with his smart ass smile.

“Oh, James is the best!” Kathy tried to defend my friend, who now wore the cheesiest smile.

“You don’t get out much, do you?” I blurted out before I could stop myself. My eyes were wide and I was embarrassed.

“Wow, you guys are a little sarcastic, aren’t you?” Laura chimed in, not amused.

James, working damaged control, saved the girls before we could really start. “Sorry, ladies, we can get kinda caustic when we get together.”

“Cheers!” We toasted ourselves as James rolled his eyes.

“Please excuse my friends, they find it entertaining to annoy the entire world.” We smirked and shrugged like idiots. We knew our lot in life and were content with it.

The five of us got the conversation rolling after that, before the ladies had to excuse themselves to carry on with their days. We spent the rest of the day out there just talking. It felt good to relax with these guys. I was beginning to feel like my old self.

“How long do you guys have out here?” I said.

“I have a few days to spend.” Scott said in reply.

“What about you, James?”

“I think I can stay through the weekend. What day is today?”

“Wednesday.”

“Yeah, I’ll have to take off Sunday sometime.”

“Q, you have this place for as long as you want. Please make yourself comfortable and move yourself in. The only other person with a key is Sissy, but she won’t come out here. So, the place is yours.”
“Thanks, but I don’t want to take advantage.”

“You’re not. I want you to take care of yourself. It would be cool if you could write something that didn’t make me want to kill myself.”

“Shut up. It’s not that bad.”

“It can be. I’m worried about you and I don’t like that.” I shrugged. I didn’t know what to say.

“Well, I don’t know how long I will stay, but thank you for everything.”

“How long have we known each other? You’re family at this point.”

“You still don’t have to do this.”

“I want to.”

“You sure none of the family will mind?”

“Dude, I’m the only one who’s been here in years. I don’t even know why we keep this place.”

I had nothing better going on in San Francisco. I might as well stay here and try to figure something out. The atmosphere seemed refreshing. Could I find a subject to write about here? I just needed to start writing about my life and see if something comes out of it. The physical act of writing could lead me into something great. I had to have faith in my abilities and hope for the future.

We spent the rest of the week being lazy. We drank out on the deck looking up at the mountains. When you live in the city, you can forget the beauty of the natural world. Cities can be interesting, but they cannot take your breath away. I loved the clean, crisp air of northern Arizona. The views were unbeatable.

Scott and James returned to San Francisco. They kept in contact via text. I tried to keep my head down and write. I settled in after the boys left. I made sure I woke up early to write. I stayed away from alcohol. I did my best to foster a positive environment for myself. I wanted to create a sustainable living situation. If I could find healthy habits here, I could take them back with me to California.

The Sunset: Part I

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It was a quiet night. It seemed like they were all like that. Nights began to blend together into a grand depressing blur. I liked it that way. I felt a sense of security when it was dark and raining. I never listened to uplifting music.  I don’t even know what it would be if I did. It was always Dylan, Waits or someone equally as mellow. Happiness never really felt right and that, I believe, is why she left me.

I stepped out of the café with my usual black coffee, my breath rising into the air. San Francisco was a somber city. We complimented each other well. The bay looked frigid, still and heartless. I had missed her. I always found some sort of inspiration to write while sitting silently on her shores. I know I’m a pathetic soul. I have a bay as my muse. Some writers have gorgeous, sensual women; I only have a body of water. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I’m grateful I have a muse at all.

The streets were empty at this late hour. The city and I were alone once again. It was freeing to walk the streets in solitude. I guess you could say it was the happiest moment I could hope for in a day. Does that sound a little sad? Maybe it does. But it was realistic.

I pulled my scarf tight and began the walk back to my place. I lived in the Sunset. It was a humble little place off Parnassus, just down the hill from UCSF. It was a good, quiet neighborhood.

My head was finally clear. It had been so long; I couldn’t remember the last time I could think straight. This was the first time in years my body was free of the strain of alcohol. After so much chaos, it felt comforting to have such a simple life. I felt drained of all the drama, yet I felt whole. It was as if the poison had run its course and left my body.

I walked slowly on these nights. I didn’t want these moments to end. I was drawn to the darkness of the city. San Francisco had a soul with many shadows. Those shadows protected me and comforted me. I thrived within the darkness.

I’m not actually the loner I sound like. I only wish I was. I have friends who refuse to leave me alone. Every so often they won’t even call; they just come over to my apartment. James and Scott were the worst. Those two always want to take me out to the clubs. They never listen to mean drug me out all the time. I don’t know when they expected me to write. This night was doomed to be the same as all the others once I heard the knock.

“What do you want?” I shouted back through the door.

“Open the door, Q”

That’s me. I’m Q. It’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell you another time.

“James, I’m not going out tonight. I need to stay here and write.” I should never have come back to the apartment. I was safe at the coffee shop.

“Open the door, Q. We just want to have a drink with you.”

I knew this night would not be that simple. Complications always occurred with these two. Why the hell did I open the door? I’ll never know the answers to these questions.

“Hey man, good to see you.” Scott is so full of shit. I can see right through his innocence. He’s smooth, always trying to make you feel good before he presents his genius plan he just concocted. It’s painful, really. What is even more painful is that I’m weak and I always fall for it?

“Whatever.” I was still not going to trust them until they were gone. At least they offered me a beer when they came in. I mean, it’s the least they could do.
I was sure they were planning on ruining my night anyway.

“No thanks. I’m still not drinking.”

“Right.” Scott said in a slightly sarcastic tone.

“Man, its just one drink. How many times do we get to sit around and have a beer anymore?”

So we sat around and finished off the twelve-pack. There was small talk wrapped around the tension hanging in the room. I was waiting for their grand idea to spring forth like a jack-in-the-box. I knew them to be sly and cunning. If I was going to be prepared to counter their antics, why was I drinking?

The next thing I knew we were at the bar. I convinced myself it wasn’t a big deal. It was only a bar downstairs from the apartment. They had The Eagles playing on the juke box in the corner. It was actually rather nice. We had switched to some livelier music at this point in the night. James and Scott had found a way to get me to relax.

You might be thinking this is a good thing. You don’t know these guys. Nothing is ever this simple. They harass me until I give in or they get me drunk and I don’t know any better. The latter is far easier and more effective. The tension had long ago ceased to exist. The scotch was flowing freely and the laughter even more so.

“So we’re catching a plane tonight.”

The laughter abruptly ended. I could hear the needle scratching a record in my head. The silence was truly amazing. I don’t think I have heard such profound silence, before or since.

James had a huge grin spreading out on his face. Scott looked away as soon as James spoke. I kept looking back and forth at both their faces. I should have stayed at the coffee shop. It was quiet. I was alone. I should have tried to write there.

“Now, who do you think is taking a flight?” I asked, already knowing the answer. I hung my head waiting for their response.

“We are.” Scott said, still looking away, trying to both answer and avoid the question.

These two monkeys had killed all the joy we had established during the evening. The silence which had once lingered had returned in a hurry.

Scott turned back to fully face me. Somehow he had gathered himself and regained his composure.

“Q, you’re coming with us.”

“The hell I am.”

“You have nothing to do here. This place makes you miserable. When was the last time you took a vacation? All you do is sit in those damn cafes and read. If it’s a good night, you’ll write a few pages in one of your depressing stories. You’re coming with us.”

“Q, c’mon, you need to get away from here,” Scott said, trying to soften the impact. “Come have some fun with us.”

“Where are we going?” My wall was beginning to crumble and they knew it. They came around me, putting their hands on my shoulders. I really hate it when Scott and James get those goofy grins on their faces. The aggravation levels rise to monumental heights. They were aware of this as well. They knew getting touchy-feely with me would annoy the hell out of me.

“We’re going to take a trip to Arizona.” Scott said it slow and deliberately. I put my hand to my head, covering my eyes.

“Arizona? What the hell do I want to go out there for?”

“Seriously dude, please listen to us. You need to take some time and get out of this rut you’ve got yourself in.”

“We’re only trying to help you.”

I tried to sleep on the plane, but it was useless. My mood had not lifted. I was still very annoyed I had been duped so easily. I was mostly upset with myself. I knew I should never have had that drink with them. My sobriety had been coming along so well. About a month before I had taken a trip to the ER after vomiting up blood. The doctors firmly suggested I stop drinking.

That was the first time I had slipped up. At first, it was hard not to drink. Drinking had become such a central part of all my activities. I viewed myself as a social drinker. I simply had a lot of friends.

I sat staring out the tiny airplane window into the nothingness of the night. At that point, I didn’t realize how helpful this flight would be to my life. That getting out of California would change my life forever.

Abandoned Nylons

 

I felt a growing need to get out into the woods, to leave behind the city and society. We do not need all this nonsense. We, as a people, need to find our roots and return to where God intended us to be. It feels natural to be away from a manmade existence. We don’t need every path paved. It is well within the realm of acceptance to veer off the beaten path and explore this world that lies beyond the limits of comfort. You don’t need wi-fi hotspots at all points of your day. Drop your phone and car keys off. You are past due for a date with your old hiking boots.

I had to get out. This was the moment.

“Miss Beverly? Ma’am?“ My secretary called after me as I walked out of my office. I just kept walking. I wasn’t going back. I couldn’t.

This formal attire was smothering me. I had to get out to the fresh air and trees. I had to get away from this city. I reached up and clutched at my throat, pulling my scarf down and out of my way. My heart started beating faster when I heard my car chirp as it unlocked. I like to be self-sufficient. They were forcing my hand. I had to do it.

I was doing something I shouldn’t be. I whipped the scarf from around my neck and let it get caught up in the air as I threw it out the window. The buttons popped off when I ripped the shirt open, shooting in every direction. I had to get air. I had to get a chance to breathe purity once again. My life was polluted with pre-packaged meals and stop and go traffic. I am not of the mindset that we were ever meant to be stacked upon each other the way we are these days.

I needed my own space. I needed room to stretch out my arms and feel cleanliness of nature. I sped away as fast as I could. It felt good to be racing out of the city.

The buildings and exit signs were a blur behind me. I needed to find a place where I wasn’t closed in. I wanted to be away from a desk, responsibility and inauthentic expectations. All that was living a lie to me. I didn’t want to be that person any longer. I knew no other way out.

I made it out of the city. I drove fast without hesitation. I-95 is a long road with a lot of possibilities. It made me smile thinking of all of them.

I pulled over to a small gas station where the 95 hit 17. While I was putting gas in the tank, I took the top off the jeep. It wasn’t doing me any good. I wanted the wind in my hair.

I went inside the minimart to grab some supplies. I loaded up the basket with a couple bottle of wine, some cheese and a cheap pair of flip flops.

There was a teenage boy working the counter. His name tag said his name was Bobby. I asked Bobby if he knew a good place to get away take a few days off. Without taking his eyes off me, he pulled down a business card and handed it to me.

Bobby said his aunt rented the house out. It was right on the beach of Jekyll Island. I merely had to continue down 17 to the 520 and straight to the beach. That sounded simple enough to me.

I thanked him; flashed him a smile and a wink. He blushed. As I was walking out to the Jeep, I caught a glimpse of myself in the window. My shirt was still wide open, revealing my bra. I stopped short, trying to decide if I should be embarrassed. I smiled and continued on my way.

I tucked the bags behind my seat. I pulled off my heels, throwing them back there, too. Then I shimmied out of my nylons. I threw them on the passenger seat.

As I pulled out of that gas station, the wind took the nylons away. I watched them fly into the air. I pressed the accelerator.

 

Cold Honest Truth

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“I don’t view that résumé as negative. I see it as an honest description. It may be a cold description, but it’s a mere truth. It is neither positive or negative. They’re just 2D words and the real you is a complicated, 3D being.”

“You’re not making me feel better”

“What do you want me to say? I’m trying to put this in the most honest way I can.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t see it as a flattering portrayal of me.”

“But you said it! They are your words. Why don’t we just rephrase them?”

“Because they are the truth.”

She stood before him with her hands in the back pockets of her denim cut offs. She wore a little tank top that accentuated what she had. Her behavior could be defined as antsy. She squirmed a bit too much. It was flirtatious without any intent. She was ripe to be taken advantage of. He realized all this. He tried his best to keep his focus on her eyes and the subject at hand. But they were beautiful green eyes…

“Look, I’m not going to sit here and go over everything that is positive about you. You know most of what I’m going to say anyway. I know you’re smart enough and have been hit on enough.”

“I’m not trying to get compliments out of you. I just don’t believe you.”

“You don’t have to believe me. In fact, your opinion doesn’t matter at all. The only opinion that matters is that of the guy who is lucky enough to get chosen by you.”

“No one is wanting me to choose them, as you say.”

“Just stop. Please, just stop.”

“What?”

“I’m trying to figure out if you’re innocent enough to believe your own words.”

“I’m not lying!”

“I didn’t say you were. You just have a block to where you can’t see the real you and the good things about you.”

“I think I could agree with that.”

“Good, then just listen to me and believe what I have to say.”

She looked back at him, trying to see something in his face. She wanted to find the secret to how he could see so much good in her. It was polar opposite to her own reflection. It amazed her that he could see past all her flaws and find what it was that he locked into.

“I’ll try.” She released a loud breath of pent up frustration. It was as if she let the burden of her own self doubt go. She would do her best to think positively and embrace her assets.

Condo Life

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She returned the handset to the cradle on the wall. “That was Jerry. He asked if he could swing by and pick up that book.” She said, pointing to the entry hall table.

“When?” I replied, not looking up from my laptop.

“I don’t know, maybe ten or fifteen minutes?”

“I better put on something appropriate then.” I remained on the end of the couch. I kept typing away.

“Your choice. I’m sure he won’t mind.”

I shot her a glaring look. I didn’t need to hear about Jerry again from her. His eyes lingered. Bit too long for my comfort. He was a really nice guy, but there was something a little off. I can’t explain it. I just something I felt.

“I’m going to check the mail. Do you need anything from downstairs?”

“No, I’m good.”

“Okay, I’ll be back.”

 ~

I focused on a manuscript. It was another project that needed to be turned in. I had been behind schedule for a little while now. I needed to get this one in on time. I found some momentum. My fingers were pounding the keys with minimal effort. This was going to be good. I could tell by how easy the words were coming out. It was like I wasn’t actually writing it. A perfect rhythm was established. I was nodding my head to the background music and the pace of the keyboard.

Time must have gotten away from me. I was finishing up the final formatting of the piece when I heard a car door shut. I looked up at the clock on the wall. Twenty minutes had elapsed. It  was Jerry. I shut my laptop and tried to gather up all my notes. I heard a knock at the door.

“Just a minute!” I yelled. My heart rate was flipping out. This isn’t what I needed. I totally forgot he was coming over to the condo when I got lost in my work. I felt silly rushing to clean everything up. He knocked again. He must not have heard me. “Just a minute!” I yelled again. I didn’t want to seem flustered, but in truth I was losing my mind. Why?

Then I heard talking outside. I froze. I looked at the door, horrified. The sound of keys jingling and then scraping against the lock made me get my ass moving again. I left all the things I was trying to collect and bolted for the bedroom. I did not make it.

“Whoa!” was all I heard a male voice say from the doorway.

 

 

Sudden Change

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Charlotte Underwood, fresh out of the shower, sat down in front of her vanity. The bedroom was dimly lit, but she could see well enough. After a long look into the oval mirror, she applied lotion to her body. The movements were slow and methodical. There was no hurry to her actions.

Her eyes kept returning to the reflection in the mirror. An unrest growing within her. Contemplation, if not outright judgement, burned behind her eyes.

With her skin properly moisturized, she picked up her favorite brush and began to attend her hair. With long and thorough strokes, Charlotte brushed her hair until it was silky and smooth. Her nightly ritual was to pamper her hair, making sure there were no knots or tangles.

Charlotte kept eye contact with her reflection. She thought back to youthful conversations with boyfriends. She was always persuaded to keep it long, even when she had a strong desire to cut it shorter. Never wanting to displease anyone, she kept it long and brushed it out each night.

None of those boys stuck around for long enough to make any serious impact on her life, but they took up her youth. The fresh years when she might have experimented, stretching her boundaries and comfort zone. She would never know those possibilities now. Those boys had made the length her hair seem to be special, as if by cutting it, she would lessen her own value. 

Still brushing her hair, Charlotte grew resentful of those who came before, the ones who she hadn’t been assertive enough to say no to. She wished she could grab their memory and yell “No!” to them. “No, you will not interfere with my desires!” She was not some Rapunzel to keep pristine.

Charlotte set the brush down and took a deep breath. She opened a drawer and took out a pair of scissors. She closed her eyes and cut the precious locks to chin length, letting the disembodied strands fall to the floor.

She was shocked to see what she had done. She had actually done it; finally. There was no turning back now. The task needed to be completed and so she did. Wide eyed, she sat frozen in her chair. 

There was something else missing. An idea formed in her head. She has seen several women on Instagram with short hair she was always jealous of. Charlotte rummaged under the sink and found clippers. She shaved the sides of her head and put the remaining hair back in a stubby ponytail. Examining it from all sides, Charlotte decided she really liked it. She was excited and giddy. Her hair had a punk vibe she had never been able to feel when she was younger.

Charlotte stood, letting her towel fall to the floor. She picked out panties and two sports bras. She slowly and deliberately got dressed. She found running shorts and a tank top. She double knotted her sneakers and adjusted herself in the mirror. Running her fingers through her fresh coif, Charlotte smiled to her reflection.

“I’m going for a run.” Charlotte turned around and walked confidently out the door.

On her bed, a very naked man lay bound and gagged. His eyes explained that he was in no position to make any decisions.

The Tea Party

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The place was called Union Jane’s despite a Union Jack flag hung outside in arbitrary defiance of the American Revolution. The interior was a busy menagerie of color and texture. Bookshelves lined every wall. Bric-a-brac and tchotchkes were prevalent throughout the establishment. Pink lingerie hung from moose antlers above her. A yellow parasol was spread open, attached to the rafters from the handle, on the other side of the room.

Tegan Taylor was sitting in a giant, overstuffed chair. She had a permanent sad girl pout. She wore chunky, black rimmed glasses. She wore a prom-style gown with tights and heels. Her grandmother’s pearls were strung around her neck. Tegan chewed on an antique pipe. A tattooed mustache peaked out from the inside of her pointer finger. A class ring from St. Mary’s College caught the sunlight whenever anyone walked in the front door.

“You can’t smoke in here.”

“It’s not lit.”

“Ma’am, you cannot smoke in here.”

“It’s not lit.”

“Can you please put it away, ma’am?”

“Why?”

“You’re making people uneasy.”

“I’m not an easy kinda girl.”

The waitress stood there, not knowing how to take this customer. She was clearly a little odd. Without saying all of the unprofessional things on her mind, the waitress left in a huff of attitude and frustration.

“Tegan, why are you harassing with the new girl?”

“She deserved it. Dude, she was being a surly twat.”

“Will you please not talk like that?”

“What’s the matter, Ian? You afraid I’ll shatter your romantic fantasies of what a lady should be?”

“I know who you are. You don’t always have to go ‘full Tegan’ on people.”

“I’m offended by the insinuation that such a thing exists, besides, I did no such thing. I wasn’t even mean to her. I was neutral at worst.”

Ian grew frustrated with Tegan, there was no winning in these conversations. He changed the subject to something less antagonistic.

“How’s Matt doing? I haven’t seen him in awhile.”

“I left him.”

“What? Are you kidding me?”

“Nope. Why would I joke about that?”

“I don’t know. I mean…why? Why now? You guys were together forever.”

“Yup, 10 years.”

“I don’t mean to pry, but why?”

“I got tired. He got lazy. I came home the other night to him playing video games. I tried to talk to him. He snapped and said some horrible things to me.”

“That sucks.”

“I just don’t want to do it anymore.”

“Do what?”

“I don’t want to compete with video games and his stupid friends.”

“It’s his loss, but ya know, I used to be one of his stupid friends.”

“I know, but then you got smart.” Tegan patted him on his cheek in a patronizing way.

“You can be heartless, ya know that?”

“I know, but I’m still one of the good girls.”

“Anyway, how have you been?”

“Have you ever thought of calling the place ‘Alice’s Tea Fetish’?”

Ian got up and walked away. He hated it when Tegan became combative.

“Can you at least have your tea wench bring me another cup?” She leaned over the top of the chair and hollered. Her smirk faded.

The rain continued to come down. She watched it fall for awhile before gathering up her notebooks. Tegan didn’t believe in umbrellas or raincoats. She walked out into the dreary day, just as she was.