Chapter Eight: Transpiring Acts of Indignation
“Lulu’s in the backroom screaming in her cell
I’d like to switch her off but I don’t feel so well
You could move closer, I think you have a pleasant smell
You could move in with me into my pleasant hell…”
12 Rounds . Pleasant Smell
The chirping birds singing their final song at dusk woke him, the stark white walls bathed in the amber glow of the setting sun. Everything seemed familiar, but looked like Alice’s Wonderland, somewhat askew. His eyes were heavy and caked with sleep, and his muscles stiff from sleeping on the couch at an unnatural angle. In the distance, from the bedroom, he heard a CD he knew well, an old familiar friend, and the soundtrack to his life. Rolling off the cushions and onto the floor, he stared of at the ceiling, a silent laugh escaping his lips as he thudded heavily onto the rough carpet. The blue comforter he had thrown over him stayed atop the couch, and he was laying there in a faded t-shirt of Kathryn’s and a pair of boxers. Stretching up, he yawned and searched with his eyes for his khaki’s before he took a step towards them, removing his cell phone from one of the front pockets.
This was all a dream.
Thumbing through the internal phonebook, he dialed Beth’s cell number, and waited for her to answer.
“Hello?” the voice was confused and garbled, having just awoken on the fifth ring.
“Beth, its Josh. How’re you doing?”
“Where the fuck are you? I was up ‘til noon, waiting for you. Wherever you are, you might want to stay there.” She growled, suddenly becoming fully awake.
“I’m at Kathryn’s, calm down. Look, you should come over. Swing by and pick up David, I’m thinking about making dinner.” He said, hoping to make some semblance of peace.
“We’ll see. I’ll call you when I get out of the shower.”
The line went dead, and he shifted through the apartment to the bedroom.
She lay in bed, the soft orange of the sun covering her in a warm halo, her hair splayed on the pillow like fire, the soft piano strains of the album ‘Still’ dancing across her figure, down and around every curve. He shook his head wondered what the hell he was thinking, looking at her in the way he was could be punishable by death in some countries. Once an infidel, always an infidel; he thought closing his eyes and retreating back to the living room, removing his laptop from the edge of the couch and booting it up to play Solitaire until she awoke.
As the first hand was dealt, he heard carpeted steps and turned his head to see Kathryn nearing him, eyes alert but gazing at him softly.
“Goodmorning, sunshine.” He spoke, closing the laptop.
“It’s six thirty, far from morning.” She retorted, a playful cant to her lips.
“Yes, but I’ve been awake for less than four hours, it’s morning.”
“Indeed. How did you sleep?”
“Well, I slept well.” He answered, his eyes dropping down, watching her delicate feet move closer; slowly, intentionally. “You?”
“Okay, I suppose, had a lot on my mind.”
“Like?” he asked, hoping the answer in his head wasn’t going to be hers.
“David.” She answered, and his nerves settled,
“And you.” a second too soon.
Her slender fingers touched his face. “You know Josh, you and Beth have been together forever, from what I understand, and I respect that, but I have a feeling she isn’t the best thing in the universe for you. I think that the two of you have been together so long that you’re afraid to split up, that you’re so comfortable, with the theory of never being alone, that you’re only staying together out of comfort.” She whispered, his mind unable to decide if she was simply offering friendly advice, or trying to say something deeper.
“You might be right. I don’t know.” He responded nervously, searching for another cigarette.
“And you know; they probably had sex last night. If she was able to revive him, that is. I’ve noticed the way he looks at her, and being her friend isn’t his only intention.”
He swallowed hard, trying to push the thought out of his head, the thought he had been pondering just before he went to sleep. He saw it too, but he didn’t see it in her. He never noticed the way she looked at him, though, that thought had never crossed his mind. Fuck, he thought, painfully filling his lungs with smoke, staring down at the ashtray on the table, trying to avoid meeting her eyes. He could hear her moving though, not far, just around to the opposite side of the table, slipping into the chair across from him. In his mind, he saw what his eyes would see, her back arched against one arm, her legs draped longingly over the other, her honey blonde hair hanging down, swaying slightly in mid air, brushing against the upholstery of the recliner. Her pale legs glowing warmly, wearing only a pair of plaid boxers, her shirt riding up under her breasts, her stomach revealed, in all it’s softly curved glory. He saw it in his mind without having to wake up.
The visual of her was wiped away like chalk on a board, faint streaks being left over the image of his best friend David and his hetero life mate amidst a sweaty tryst on David’s black leather couch. Moans. Grunts. Shrieks of delight. Sweat dripping. Saliva mixing. Tongues searching. Muscles tightening. Simultaneous explosions that could rival Mount St. Helen. He saw it all, the image of Kathryn coming back, lightly at first, fading in from the background.
He was looking at her, his hand trembling, and she was just as he had envisioned her. He knew she would be; he knew it like a fish knew how to swim.
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” He sighed, burying his cigarette amidst the extinguished butts, lighting another to try and calm his nerves. “Do you mind if I take a shower?” the bitter taste of bile and betrayal rising in his mouth.
“Go ahead.” She whispered, looking at him sympathetically. Like a puppy – look into a puppies eyes and picture the most depressing thing, and it’ll look like that thing is happening to the puppy. Her round eyes, glazed with the beginnings of tears, wanting to reach out and comfort him. Or was it only in his mind? He rose up and moved slowly towards the bathroom, his head hung low, swirling madly with thoughts he didn’t want.
In the background, he heard a man’s voice, David’s voice.
Beth had called as he was stepping out of the shower, wrapping a plush, blue towel around his waist. The number was her cell’s, not the houses, and it had only been twenty minutes since they had hung up.
“Where are you?” he asked, the nerves holding him together feeling as though they were about to fail.
“Home.” She answered, and he could see her motioning for David to shut up.
“Okay.” His voice was distant. “Did David ever come to last night?”
“Yeah, about an hour after you left. What do you care?”
“Eat me. He is my best friend, and just because I wanted to see him pay for his stupidity, that doesn’t change a thing.” He growled at her, pissed at the accusation.
“Yeah well, he’s fine. He’s alive and well. It wasn’t even the coke; it was the fifth of Jack he swallowed. I brought him here to keep an eye on him, and wait for you to get home. He’s a little hung-over and groggy, but he’ll live. Still want us to go over to Kathryn’s?”
“Yes. We’ll go out and get a bite to eat.” He kept his words monosyllabic and deliberate, trying to show his contempt in a subliminal way.
“Alright, we’ll be there in about an hour? He’s still got to get a shower and such.”
“Okay. Call me before you leave.” This time, he got the drop on her, and hung up the phone before she was able to say anything else. His muscles burned like battery acid, and his mind shrieked in betrayal and agony.
He could feel the blades penetrating his spine, one by one.
The door creaked open, Kathryn’s face reflected in the foggy mirror. “Was that her?” she asked, taking a step in, placing a warm hand on his shoulder, still beaded with water.
“Yeah, that was her, and David was there. Evidently, the problem with him last night was a fifth of Jack, not the coke.”
“Why was he there?” she asked, her voice tight and bitter, even if it was only for show, they hadn’t gotten that attached yet. She was still a free agent, an independent entity.
“She wanted to keep an eye on him and wait for me to get home. Or so she says.” His eyes closed, and all he could see was blood dripping down white walls, filling a room to the ceiling with the warm elixir of life. A chill ran down his spine, jerking his eyes open wide, the defogged mirror reflecting Kathryn in the fluorescent light of the bathroom. His hand reached up and covered hers, turning to face her. Wrapping his arms around her, he rested his chin on her shoulder as a single tear slid effortlessly down his cheek.
Drawing back, their eyes met in a second of dull pain, of understanding, and their lips brushed together in a shorter second, the sweet taste lingering on his as he caressed hers softly with his tongue; fingers, light as butterfly wings, dancing down his bare back.
“No.” he whispered, collapsing backward onto the toilet, “This isn’t right.” He looked up at her painfully, holding her hands in his. They were so incredibly warm and soft, beautiful, perfect; just like her. He eased her, sideways, onto his lap and held her closely. “This isn’t the first testament; this isn’t an eye for an eye.”
“No, Josh, it isn’t.” she looked down at him, eyes focusing on his as she leaned down, closer to his face. “It isn’t.” she whispered again, placing her face in the crook of his neck, wrapping her arms tightly around his torso. A painful combo of sighs released.
The sun made it’s final appearance when the patented knock came to the door, sending the living room of the apartment into upheaval. Kathryn shot up towards the door, and Josh readjusted himself, and tried to smooth the wrinkles from his t-shirt, his fingers still damp from the nervous swear from running them over the curves of her stomach and hips. He took a couple deep breaths to calm his nerves, as did Kathryn just before she opened the door. She stepped out of the way, and let the two of them enter.
Beth took a seat next to Josh on the couch, resting her head softly against his shoulder and David plopped down onto the couch. Josh’s eyes shot between the two of them, trying to see if David’s lust was returned in anyway, but he couldn’t find anything. She was a good actor, he knew that. When she wanted to disembowel him the first time he had his moment with Tawny, she plastered on a sweet smile, and remained utterly calm; but deep in her eyes, he could see the murderous rage of betrayal. Betrayal. How funny. Inside, he chuckled to himself and leaned back, his back wedged into the corner of the couch, Beth coming back with him, her body now leaning comfortably against his.
“I’m in the mood for Mexican guys, what about you?” Josh asked, leaning forward onto the table and removing a cigarette from the pack without disrupting his occupant.
“Sounds good to me.” Beth answered softly, digging her nails into his side. Kathryn and David nodded, and she headed to the bedroom to get her purse.
Josh lit his cigarette and was surprised when Beth pecked him on the chin, and sat up, running her fingers through her hair. He sighed quietly, eyeing David.
“So, how’re you doing, kid?”
“Better, thanks to Beth. She did a good job of taking care of me last night. Don’t you let her go, she’s a good girl.” He smiled, glancing at her from the corner of his eye. Josh shot his head towards Beth, noticing something sparking deep inside her mind.
“I know she is, and I’m not planning on it.” He responded quietly, taking a harsh drag off his cigarette.
Forty-five minutes had past between their arrival at the apartment, and the groups arrival at the family owned Mexican restaurant named, El Jaripeo. Leaning back in the booth, Josh caressed the bridge of his nose with the edge of his thumb, waiting silently for their orders, while the others were engaged into a conversation about David’s misadventure. Occasionally Kathryn would shoot him a glance and a smile that he returned, wondering about the thoughts running through her mind, and after their second was shared, he’d squeeze Beth firmly, bringing her deeper into his body. He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t care, either. The whole scene seemed right to him, proper; without any explanation.
Their entrée’s arrived shortly after their third shared second, and a relative hush fell over the crowd as they began eating, passing the hot sauce around the table for the first couple of minutes. Josh glanced up a few times; just to watch Kathryn, the fine angle of her jaw as she ate; wanting to reach in, under the thin layer of skin, just to caress the nerve endings, to send impulses to her brain, warm and soft impulses, sending chills down her spine. But he could not; all he could do was watch, like a voyeur, wondering what her sweat, blood and tears tasted like. He wanted to be inside of her, to the hilt.
When the check arrived, Josh dropped two twenties onto the table and the four of them scooted out of the booth, through the front doors of the restaurant, and into their cars, returning to Kat’s apartment.
The moon hung high over head, like a sliver of ivory, sending pure, white halo’s over the world.
David kneeled in front of the coffee table, tapping out the contents of a tiny, clear baggie, reaching into his watch pocket, removing a single-edge razor blade, wrapped in a thin cardboard sleeve. Cutting the small bump into several minute, snaking lines, and from the same pocket, he brought a short length of a coffee stirrer.
“Anyone want a line?” he asked, looking about the room, watching the girls shake their heads and Josh rise to his feet, legs wobbly from the vodka he had been drinking.
“Sure, what the hell? You only live once.” He answered, kneeling down next to David, edging him out of the way, and took the straw from betwixt his fingers. Dropping his head to the table, his fingers against his right nostril, he inhaled the first line, and the second rocketed up the left side. He laid back on the floor, the powder coursing through his veins, his eyes locked onto Kathryn, sitting up high next to him. His mind spun like the Tasmanian Devil, so fast he couldn’t have fingered a thought, no matter how hard he tried.
And so the obsession begun, dancing like faeries in the wood.