I have a review over on It’s Not Chick Porn today, so head on over for some snarky goodness.
Up to page 211 in Guide edits. I never realized you could get sick of a book you’ve written, but I am way tired of Ash and Ellie. I’m longing to get back to Corine and Chance in Good Touch. I left them hanging when I received the edits. Like a good, conscientious writer, I went straight to work.
Corine, I miss you! Here’s a little something to make you miss them too.
If Wishes Were Candy
He sucked in a breath like he had a hole in his chest. “Something I haven’t known in a long time, Corine. A little peace.” Then he seemed to read my misgivings because he sighed. “Not sex. I’ll even sleep in my socks.”
An inside joke — and I heard him laughing at Coupling all over again: no self-respecting woman would ever let a naked man in socks do the squelchy with her. I ached suddenly, missing that shared context, maybe not with Chance. God, I was bad at people coming back into my life. But I wanted it again with someone. Someday.
How that was possible when I lived as I did, I had no idea. I couldn’t see myself doing PTA meetings and car pools, cheering at soccer games. What would I talk about at a book club? I imagined myself inadvertently searing my palm over tea while handling a charged object. Maybe my only chance (no pun intended) lay with him or someone like him. Someone who existed on the fringes, who defied probability and made normal folk a bit skittish. Well, I was all over that.
I remembered something he said, years ago. “Sometimes when you meet someone, there’s a click. I don’t believe in love at first sight but I believe in that click. Recognition.” He’d kissed me then and whispered: “Click.”
It was supposed to make me feel less alone, grouping us together, but I’d had my fill of the us and them mentality, even if it contained a grain of truth. Recalling that moment, though, I softened toward him. Perhaps fatally.
“Okay,” I said, dropping the sheets onto the couch. “You can sleep in my bed.”
Once the words were out, I felt like the blonde in every horror movie who hears a noise in the basement and goes to investigate alone. Sometimes you smell the stupid all around you, but you step in it anyway. This was one of those occasions.
“Thank you.” He held my look a beat too long, but that was all. No suggestion in it.
I don’t know what I’d have done if he gloated or used a pet name. I like to think something appropriately horrible, like handling his underpants and advising him he’d soon be castrated in a gardening accident. To give myself a little distance, I sent him upstairs to rinse off some of the road dirt. I joked about not wanting his grubby butt in my bed, but we both knew it was pretense.
Chance could be made of Teflon for all I know; he never looks less than perfect. While I waited for Senor Alvarez, I puttered around the apartment and tried not to imagine the man lounging in my bathtub. “What kind of place doesn’t have a shower?” he shouted.
I glared, though he couldn’t see me. “Mine.”
If nothing else, Alvarez was prompt. An hour on Mexican time could mean anywhere from sixty minutes to six days. “Buenas noches,” he murmured, accepting the key.
“I appreciate this,” I said in Spanish. More verbal stroking as I explained the basic bookkeeping system, and we did business in flattery. I came away slippery with it.
If I didn’t trust him, though, I’d have no other recourse. The life I’ve built here doesn’t offer backup plans. I have no failsafe because I didn’t expect to leave. I bought gewgaws, for God’s sake.
Before he left, I paid him a week’s wages in advance, a thousand pesos. Sounds like a lot, but in the exchange it averages to a hundred bucks, but he’d make a decent amount in commission. I hated losing even thirty percent of the big sales, but it was better than missing them entirely with a closed shop. Alvarez was a salesman, as well as my buyer, so he’d take good care of the place.
We exchanged pleasantries and I asked him to water my garden on the roof. He said he didn’t mind, didn’t ask how long I would be gone and excused himself with the queer formality I found endearing. I supposed from his perspective, it didn’t matter if I came back. If I didn’t, he inherited the shop, as possession is nine-tenths of the law, so maybe he was hoping for natural disasters as he departed; it was beyond me to interpret the thoughts swimming behind his eyes.
His face held a certain impassivity; you see it in all waiters and valets. They might want to jam a knife through your left eye socket, but you’d never know it from their expression. Working retail, I’ve acquired a similar look myself.
Then there was nothing left for me to do but climb the two flights of stairs to my aerie and face Chance again. I reflected on my idiocy while I did so, unable to believe he’d maneuvered me into letting him sleep in my bed. Part of me tingled and refused to stop; my pussy didn’t believe the business about the socks.
“Down, girl,” I muttered as I headed for the bedroom.
It wasn’t late, but if I knew him, we’d make a start at first light. So I scrubbed my face, moisturized with oil of Olay (yes, I’m that old), and then brushed my teeth. Hesitating for just a moment, I changed into a seldom worn nightgown. The nights are warm here, and I generally sleep alone. You do the math.
Maybe it was cruel, but as my final act in preparing for bed, I touched up the frangipani on my throat.
I found him sitting on the edge of my bed, wearing striped boxers, a white t-shirt, and yes, his socks. The sight made me smile, though not as much as seeing him in my boudoir. What a wonderful word. My room definitely rose to the challenge, done in rose, lavender, and handmade lace. It bordered on brothel burlesque, especially with the balcony overlooking the street where I might show my bosoms to prospective clients.
Nodding, I threw some clothes in a bag while fighting off the memory of other occasions where I’d done exactly that. Chance told me we were leaving and I began to pack, no questions asked. Right up until the last, I would have followed him through fire. In the end, I did that too — and that was why I had to leave him.
Is that love? It seems like a pale word, too easily tossed about by people who don’t know the meaning of it, who twist it for their own ends. I’m afraid of it now, right up there with clowns, close spaces and open flames. On our second date, I had a panic attack when Chance ordered Cherries Jubilee. After that, I felt sure I’d never see him again.
Shows what I know.
As I came around the bed, he shivered visibly. Oh, I knew he was scent-sensitive. More than most people, an aroma carries him back in time, makes him relive the associated memories, feel the emotion of that moment. The way it affects him, I’d call it a weakness, but how could I pass up the opportunity to torment him a little? How heady that I still have the power; I wouldn’t have guessed that he was the steadfast sort.
I mean, just look at him. I noticed the glances we attracted when we were together. Someone generous would call me an endomorph, but I’m well-aware I’m round and squat, not sleek and long-limbed like Chance. If I try to wear crop pants, I grow cankles, and there’s always a bit of kitsch about me, no matter how hard I try.
In the last year and a half, I gave up on elegance and worked on developing my own style. It generally involves flowered hats, gypsy skirts that show off my rather cute feet and peasant blouses. Luckily these things are readily available here.
He inhaled deeply as I got in bed, his eyes fixed on the decolletage of my undeniably demure gown. Swear I felt the heat of his look tracing the satin trim along my breasts. “You grew a mean streak, Corine.”
I recognized his tone. The perfume had been a bad idea, because we were both remembering the last time we’d been together. Christ, the sex was good that night. Looking at his mouth, I began to forget all the reasons why I shouldn’t get naked and roll around with him. Determined not to give in, I lay down and pulled the sheet up to my chin.
As if he knew, Chance touched my hair where it spread on the pillow beside him. “Red looks good on you.”
I’d never been a redhead while we were together, and for him, my changing hair acted as a quiet kink. He said it was like making love to a different woman every time. And why was I thinking about that now? Rolling onto my side, I killed the lamp and the room gained the soft luminance of distant streetlights. City noises came to us, cars and conversation.
“Giving me your back?”
“I’m not giving you anything,” I said, glancing over my shoulder. Mistake. In the half light, he looked as sad as I’ve ever seen him.
“Not anymore,” he agreed softly.
“Christ. What do you want from me?”
Propped up against the headboard, he smiled then and I saw the silver glimmer of his coin, rolling along his knuckles. “Only what I always wanted. Everything.”