Identical, page 20
You mean like a party? You know
how I feel about underage parties.
He’ll never go for a party, not
even chaperoned. “No, no party.
To take the little kids trick-or-treating.”
He thinks a second, then says,
I guess that’s okay. But not late.
He stands there, head cocked,
waiting for me to respond. “My
dad says okay. We’ll talk later.”
I Don’t Want to Hang Up
But I have to.
Will she understand?
She seems to. Okay.
But she’s not
quite ready to hang up
either. One question.
Daddy has retreated
to the kitchen, but he’ll
notice if I keep talking.
I force my voice real
low. “One quick one.”
Are you all right?
What does she know?
How can I answer?
I’m Running Really Late
So I do something I never do.
“Daddy, I hate to ask you,
but I’m kind of late for work.
Could you possibly give me a ride?”
Then I top off the lie, “Shelby’s
mom will pick me up after
and bring me home later.”
I’ll get home one way or another.
Daddy scowls and Hannah
reacts. I’ll give you a ride.
That way we can talk
about your mom’s reception.
I don’t want to talk to Hannah.
I don’t want her to give me a ride.
But Daddy seals the deal. Great
idea. And I’ll start making calls.
Damn, damn, damn. I hate
when I’m left without a choice.
But that’s the situation now.
I follow Hannah out the door,
and down the block to her Mitsubishi
Mirage. Red, of course. Black leather
interior. And still a mediocre ride.
Mediocre. Just right for her.
Thank God it’s only several blocks.
Hannah yammers on and on about
food and how much champagne
we should order and
Can you help me out with
a guest list? I have no idea
who your mother’s friends
are. I assume she’ll invite
her business acquaintances.
Oh, and what about the press?
Should I contact them? Oh, no,
your father will probably want to.
And on and on some more.
And I can’t concentrate on
one-tenth of what she says
because the only thing I can
think about right now is my
grandmother. A stranger, but
somehow not. Her voice is a
memory, tucked away so deep
inside that trying to extricate
it makes my head pound.
And it feels like once I pry it
up, a crater will be left behind.
I Thank Hannah for the Ride
Go on inside. Preparations
are well underway, and an
excited buzz carries along
the corridors. Sheesh. You’d
think the old folks would leave
Halloween to the little kids,
but no. Any excuse to get out
of their rooms and party, huh?
So, okay, that isn’t so strange
after all. I head straight for
the dining room to see how
the decorations are coming
along. I am not surprised
to see William flanked by
five elderly femme fatales,
hanging cardboard skeletons.
What snatches my immediate
attention is Greta, hand in hand
with the same gentleman who
visited a few weeks ago. They
look like a definite thing.
When she spies me, Greta
waves me over. Kaeleigh,
dear, I want you to meet
Lars. We are old friends.
Speak for yourself, woman,
scolds Lars in a heavy Danish
accent. I myself am forever young,
especially now that I’ve found you
again. He turns his attention to me.
So happy to meet you. Greta
has told me so much about you.
No wonder she loves him.
He loves her, and that little
bit of wisdom comes from
more than his words. It’s
written all over his face.
“Good to meet you, too.
And I think you’re both
Greta beams but says, In our
hearts, perhaps. But my body
reminds me regularly of just
how many years I have worn it.
No matter. My Lars has found me.
I can leave this world satisfied.
Not sure what that is or how
to find it, and I sincerely doubt
that it will ever apply to me.
I look at them, so in love, and I
about Ian. Where is he right
now? Who is he talking to?
What is he talking about?
Why should I even
as long as every now and
again he thinks about me,
pulls me from a place
deep in his heart? Does he
what I’m doing? Does he care
that I’ve hung paper pumpkins,
lit jack-o’-lanterns, baked cookies?
I want to call him, tell him I
him. But no, I won’t do
that, won’t set myself up
for disappointment. If
he’s changed his mind, I
want to know. Anyway,
I’ve got to go. I say good-bye,
hurry away from the All Hallows
Eve celebration, into the night,
close the door behind me.
Isn’t at all what I expected.
It’s not small, not really. And
it’s definitely not untidy. I
I watch too much TV. Aren’t
all single guys supposed to be
slobs? Not Lawler. No, not
at all. His yard is tended with
and I doubt he makes enough
money to afford a service.
His Charger, parked on the street,
is washed, polished. Spotless. I
if dirt and bug guts just slide
right off it. I wonder if lowdown
slides right off him, or if he
worries about it. I would
to know if he’s even a little
worried about inviting me
here, about what the neighbors
might think. Personally, I
give one good damn about
gossip. So I walk right up, ring
the bell, head on inside,
close the door
He’s Gone for Over an Hour
Between doorbell rings
and candy grabs, I roam
room to room, sitting in chairs,
straightening photos, opening
drawers and touching
their contents, trying to
absorb Lawler by osmosis.
The last room I enter
is his bedroom. Like everythin
else, it is tidy. Spare. Few
embellishments but the wandering
star quilt, in sapphire and rose,
and matching throw pillows.
I flop onto the bed, settle
into the hand-sewn luxury.
Who gave him such a personal
gift? Mother? Grandmother?
No, this feels like the remnant
of a lover. Resentment swells
and I bury my head in his pillow,
seek his familiar leather scent,
breathe it in. In. In. Smother myself
in leather perfumed eiderdown.
The Doorbell Interrupts
My Lawler-scented reverie.
I go to answer, expecting a knee-
high Cinderella or Spiderman.
Instead I find a half-dozen
people my age. A couple wear
masks—a blood-scarred monster,
a long-fanged werewolf, a Dumbo-
eared George W. Bush. The rest
assume they don’t need costumes
to look horrific, and that includes
my dearest friend Madison. At
the sight of me, her jaw drops.
This isn’t where you live, is it?
No Hey, how’s it going, just
Don’t suppose there’s any use
lying or denying. “No, it’s not.
I’m just answering the door.”
I have no idea if she knows who
does live here, but I’m not
volunteering the information.
As if reading my mind, Madison
asks, Well, whose house is it?
They all wait for the answer.
The answer I really don’t plan
to give. But as I try to formulate
a reply, Lawler’s Charger pulls
against the curb. The jig, as
they say, is up. And so, I’m pretty
sure, is any notion of hanging
around now that he’s home. Anger
erupts like Vesuvius. “So do you
freaks want candy or what?”
The car door shuts and all attention
turns to Lawler, tall and frigging
gorgeous beneath his new haircut.
Madison turns back to me, and
the smile on her face is not exactly
friendly. You’ve got to be kidding.
Mr. Lawler arrives, all charm. Hey,
guys. A little old for trick-or-treat,
aren’t you? Well, help yourselves.
Wouldn’t want you to knock over
any little kids for their candy.
He smiles and puts handfuls
of the sweet stuff into their
pillowcases. Anyway, I don’t
need junk food lying around
the house. I’ll just eat it, you
know? Thanks for stopping
by. See you all on Monday.
Dismissed! Then he turns
to me. Thanks so much for
watching the place. I sure
didn’t need any kids playing
tricks on me. He takes my arm.
Come back inside and I’ll pay you.
And I wouldn’t expect
anything less. Still, I suspect
Madison, et al. are lurking
nearby somewhere, waiting
to see when and if I leave.
No Lawler tonight.
“The haircut looks great.”
What else can I say?
He stands very close to me,
looks down into my eyes.
Thanks. I had hoped you
could stay for a while, but now…
“I know. It’s okay.” Oh
yeah, real okay. I swear
I will strangle Madison
one of these days. “Oh,
and you don’t have to pay
me anything. I was happy
to help out.” Happy to lie
on your bed, your pillow.
But Now I Have to Go
And we both know it, and we know
it has to be sooner rather than later.
Do you need a ride home?
I’d planned on staying out later.
Much later. But somehow I don’t
feel like calling Mick or Ty.
Somehow, going home and fantasizing
about Lawler will be more
than enough action for one night.
“Okay. If you think it’s safe
to leave your house empty.”
I’ll leave the candy on the front porch.
We walk to the car, far apart,
but the street appears deserted,
except for a few kids well down
the block. “Trick-or-treat seems to
end earlier and earlier every year.”
I think that started with 9/11.
He opens the passenger door,
every molecule the gentleman.
I’m pretty damn sure no guy
has ever done that for me
before. “Thank you.”
But of course, milady.
I might as well melt right now.
Even without Lawler in it yet,
the Charger smells like him.
I think I could just curl up and die
right here in the cushy front seat.
I know this relationship can never
work out. But, oh, how I want it to.
Lawler gets in, starts the car, drives
me home. And although there is so
much to say, neither of us dares
attempt it. The silence crushes.
Finally I chance resting my hand
on his thigh. “I find older men
very attractive, you know.”
He smiles. Older than what?
I Know He Has More to Say
I’ve got plenty more to say too,
but I’m afraid if I do I’ll jinx
myself. Still, home isn’t so
far and my curiosity is killing
me. “So…what do you think?”
Is he playing coy? He has to
know what I’m talking about.
This game isn’t that complicated.
“About us.” Okay. Said it.
He sucks in a deep breath.
There isn’t an “us.”
Now see? Went and jinxed
it. Oh, well. What’s jinxed
is jinxed. Might as well push
things right out into the open.
“I thought there might be…
could be, anyway. Kind of
seemed like things were
moving that way.” Enough
already. Let him talk.
Lawler Pulls Over
A couple of blocks from home.
I don’t move to get out of the car,
and he turns to face me.
You are a stunning temptation, not
to mention an amazing distraction.
You’re bright, beautiful, adventurous.
I am totally drawn to you, and if you
were eighteen and not my student,
I’d go out with you in a hot second….
No! He’s brushing me off.
I want to yell, but I get the feeling
a soft question might work better.
“What if we were really careful?”
I can’t believe he’s about to
withdraw from the game.
You saw what happened tonight.
I guess that was an eye-opener
for me. Ours is a very small school,
in a very small town. Secrets are
difficult to keep here, especially
this kind of secret. I’m really
sorry that I led you on. There’s just
something about you. Something…
together you always appear to be.
I wanted to help you. To heal whatever’s
broken in you. To make you whole.
Whole. No one can do that
for me. God, why did he have
to go and get so serious?
Game over. I lose. What am
I going to do? Throw a tantrum?
“Okay. I understand. But if you
ever change your mind, you know
where to find me, at least during
second block.” Side-out.
A Man with Morals
Or maybe just a coward.
Either way, lucky me,
I had to go and fall for
him. History will not be
nearly as much fun from
now on. In fact, I’m not
sure how I’ll go to class,
listen to his lectures, ace
his pop quizzes, etc. etc.,
without staring at his pecs
or better yet, his gluteus.
Then again, I can still stare,
still fantasize, still dream,
Anyway, Lawler Seems
Like the “fall in love, settle
down, and have three kids
with a picket fence” kinda
guy. Definitely not my type.
Not that I’m sure exactly
what my type is. Other
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