Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Two Ships ~~ Part Seventeen

We walked into quite a sticky situation. To make a very long story short, the state police had been called about Eve's "abandoned" car after it had been there for a couple of days. A call to the police in Eve's home town established that Russ had filed a missing persons report on his wife!
It was now up to Eve to make her way home. I offered to drive her there, of course, but she refused both the ride and my offer to play "back-up" for her when she finally got to confront her husband.
Finally, she and I reached a compromise. She agreed that I could take her to her town's local police station, but only if I dropped her off and left. Period. She made it very clear that this arrangement was not open to debate.
We'd traveled for yet another hour before reaching her home town. As soon as we'd crossed the town line, I pulled over into a supermarket parking lot and stopped the car.
"What are you doing, Dan? Why did you stop?"
"Why? Come on, Eve, you know as well as I do that we have to talk!"
"I suppose you're right..."
"You know I'm right! We have to talk about us, that is, if there even is an 'us.' I mean, what are our options here, doll?"
"I don't know. Really. I don't. I certainly don't know what will happen with Russ. The best-case scenario, however unlikely, is that he'll have gone insane with worry, and blamed himself for my leaving him. Maybe I'll find that he's burned all his dirty magazines, and taken an axe to the computer!" We both laughed. "Okay... maybe not."
"And the worst-case scenario?"
"Absolute worst?"
"Let's see, now." She thought for a couple of seconds. "Russ decides to divorce me for abandonment, and sue for custody."
Custody? I thought, my mind reeling. Custody? "Custody of what? Or should I say, of whom?!?"
In a very tiny voice, Eve answered me after a silence of a second or two which seemed more like a month to me. "Custody of our daughter."
"Oh, my God." She'd "neglected" to mention that! "You have a daughter?"
"Yes. She's six. Her name's Daphne. And she's beautiful."
Beautiful, I thought. Of course. Just like her mom. I didn't doubt it for an instant. However... "I find it impossible to believe that someone like you could have walked out on your husband and your child."
"Well... You're right, in a sense. I didn't walk out on her. She was spending a few days with my brother-in-law and his wife." I was having an incredibly difficult time digesting this new information. "That's who I called from the motel. My brother-in-law, Roger. I wanted to tell him that I was okay, and talk to Daphne and see how she was, of course."
"But once you phoned him, Roger must have called Russ and told him you were okay! Surely Russ would have canceled the missing persons report as soon as he heard from his brother."
"Well, he obviously didn't. Maybe he -- Russ, I mean -- was so furious with me, he was hoping I'd be picked up somewhere by the police, to cause me some real embarrassment and Lord knows what else. I don't know." She paused and added, "And don't call me Shirley."
"Dammit, Eve, this isn't funny!"
"No," she agreed meekly, "it's really not."
I couldn't help thinking about Eve, facing an angry husband. Alone! And all because she wouldn't let me bring her to him, and protect her. "So, what will you tell Russ about us? I mean, the whole motel room thing? Several nights snowbound with a guy who  fell in love with you?"
"Well... I'm certainly not going to lie. I hate lying."
I nodded, sarcastically. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh. That'll work, doll. 'Gee, honey, I spent several nights sleeping with a strange guy I met at a truck stop. We were half naked most of the time, and we even made out hot and heavy on our last night together...' "
"Stop it, Dan. Please."
I didn't stop, of course. I only got louder. " 'And gosh, honey, even though we came really close to doing it that last night, you would have been so proud of me for remembering our wedding vows and keeping my legs shut!' "
"Stop it! You make last night sound so crude, and vulgar, and... and... ugly! My God, Dan, is that how you really felt about it? And about me?"
Okay, that brought me out of my frustrated rant, thank God. In a voice that was suddenly soft and gentle, I replied "No, doll. Of course not. I'm sorry for getting upset like that. If that's how I'd thought of you, I would have selfishly pressed my advantage and had my sleazy little 'way' with you. But I could never have done that, of course." I took a couple of deep breaths before adding "I really, truly, deeply love you, doll."
"Then why did you just get so incredibly angry, and... and hurtful?"
I honestly had to think about that before I could answer her! "I... I guess that something inside me was reacting to the thought of your telling Russ the truth about us, and then suffering any and all outbursts from him because you're so damned honest, and sweet, and..." I realized I was crying. Freakin' crying. Yeah, me. Who'da thunk it? "And as much as I'd want to be right there by your side, to defend you, I know you'd never allow that."
"Okay... I guess. But I don't like that bitter, sarcastic side of you, Dan. In fact, I hate it! It isn't at all like the man I've grown so fond of these past few days. On the other hand, this isn't the first time you've over-analyzed things, always something a little different. I think you're giving everything about me and us far too much thought."
"You're probably right. And you're definitely right about my last little lapse of judgement. And... I didn't like that, either. It's a side that rarely comes out, quite honestly. I'm sorry you had to see it. But it's gone now, I promise."
"Okay!" she said firmly, implying that my petulant outburst was forgotten, or at least excused. "Now. You asked about us, about you and me. So... Cards on the table, here. And don't interrupt?" I nodded.
Eve took a deep breath before speaking. "Dan, you know I don't have much experience with men. I mean romantically, not just sexually. And I've definitely never met anyone like you. I mean, Russ has almost always been a gentleman, of course, opening doors for me and the like, and he's always supported me financially, and emotionally..."
"Please don't compare us, doll."
"Sh! No interruptions, remember, dear?" she said softly. "I have to compare you two, Dan, if only to point out that in ways I hate to admit, I've seen you as..." She struggled for a word. "I've thought of you as better than Russ, mainly in the way you've treated me, and complimented me. He loves me, I know he does, but he doesn't speak to me the way you do, and never has. And don't interrupt again and say anything about how that's 'your way' because of your talent as a songwriter!"
She was right, of course. I had been about to break in and say exactly that!
"You did things that amazed me with their thoughtfulness. Posing as my husband to ward off that huge trucker, offering to buy me gasoline, even offering the clothes off your back -- well, out of your duffel bag, anyway -- when mine were wet, filling my empty stomach with those cardboard-tasting sandwiches from the vending machine... and that song. Oh, Lord, Dan, that darling song, written just for me!"
She took my hand as she continued. "You brought out a side of me that's been buried since Russ and I were courting. Not only that, but you brought it out to a greater extent! I've never, ever considered being with any man other than my husband. Never been tempted. Never. But I shocked myself last night. Russ hardly existed for me... well, not until it really counted. I desperately wanted you to make love to me, no matter how glad I am that we came to our senses before we made what would have been a horrible mistake."
At the words "horrible mistake," my expression must have changed, because she said "Now don't be upset. Think, you silly dear. You know how I meant that. In terms of my marriage, it would have been wrong. No grey areas there, either! Black-and-white wrong. And as much as I wanted to believe that you were exaggerating when you first said you loved me, I know you meant it. Mean it, that is. For only the second time in my life, I see someone I'm seriously attracted to. And if I gave myself half a chance, I might very well fall in love with you. But what about your side of it, Dan? Like I said, I know you love me, and I'm pretty sure you've entertained the thought of being with me, not just in terms of sex, of course. But long-term, as a... girlfriend? I can see it in your eyes, and hear it in your voice. I guess my question for you is, if Russ and I don't work things out... would you still want me? Even if it didn't happen tomorrow -- which it wouldn't -- or next week, or next month? I know I have absolutely no right to ask this, of course, but would you wait for me, if I wanted you to?"
"You mean, like, in your driveway?"
"Cute. You know what I meant. If I asked you to wait for me, would you?"
"Would you want me to wait for you?"
"You just answered my question with a question, dear."
"Sorry, doll. It's 'Dan Casey,' remember? I'm Irish. We do that." My mind strayed insanely and I suddenly wanted a cigarette, I realized. It had been a while. "Eve, I know you'd never ask nor expect me to wait around, happily celibate in Connecticut, for ten or twenty years. Heh. But I also know that you're not the type to throw away the last nine years of married life with Russ after only one or two big blow-ups between you and him. So no, I wouldn't be expecting a call this weekend." We smiled at each other. "I also know that if you and he separated eventually, it obviously wouldn't just be because you were restless, and wanted to be free to play the field. You are saying that you'd be freeing yourself up with the intention of coming straight to me, and only me. Right?"
"Well, sure." Then, more firmly, she said "Yes. Exactly."
So there it was. She was in turmoil right now, so I daresay I knew her mind better than she did. And I hadn't been too far off base when I'd done all my over-analyzing the day before, had I?
Eve was considering leaving Russ, but not solely because of their problems. Unfortunately, it was also because she saw me as a safety net.
And maybe some men would be offended by that, but I loved her so much, I wasn't.
On the other hand, I wanted her to leave Russ -- if she was indeed meant to do so someday -- for the right reasons. And I didn't feel that I was one of them. If she left him because they had so-called irreconcilable differences, fine... if that was what she really wanted.
As I've said before in so many words, I didn't give a damn about Russ, and I'm not going to start pretending now that I ever did, or would. But I cared deeply about Eve (and even a bit for the daughter I'd just learned about as well)... and that prompted what I arrogantly decided was best for her... or them.
I decided that, as much as it would hurt me to do so, I had to take myself out of the picture, and do it in a way which wouldn't look suspicious to Eve. This was the rest of her life we're talking about. And I was only a tiny blip on that particular radar screen. So far, anyway.
Theoretically, it would have been easy for me to just say, "Nope. If you can't promise me today that you'll dump Russ and run off with me, I'm not waiting around for you, doll!" But she never would have believed I could reject her so easily. Not after the last few days. She already knew me too well, and could read me like the proverbial book. Unless I could come up with something a little more devious.
I had to find a way to get her to stop seeing me as the "safety net" I mentioned above. Even if it meant that I'd be throwing away my only chance at the woman I wanted more than any other in more years than I cared to think about.
"Eve, I would indeed wait for you, but you and I both know that the longer I waited, the better the chance would be that what we feel for each other now would suffer. Your interest in me could wane. Even my love for you could diminish, over time." I decided to place one more subtle nail in my own coffin. "Plus, I wish I'd known earlier that you had a kid..." Bullseye. I could tell that I'd just planted a tiny seed of doubt as to my own prospects as a suitable replacement for Russ. "Besides, in all fairness, Russ deserves a chance to make things right with you, after all your history with him."
She forced a smile. "So, is this where you start quoting from the ending scene of Casablanca, and wish me a hearty fare-thee-well as you send li'l ole me off to be with my husband?"
"Heh. No, doll, don't worry. This is one time I'm not gonna do Bogart for you. But as for the 'beautiful friendship' line that Bogie closed Casablanca with, you and I already have a beautiful friendship. There's sure as hell no reason not to keep in touch!" Sadly, I was lying through my teeth when I spoke that very last sentence. From my point of view, there was every reason not to keep in touch, not that I was going to share that little insight with Eve.
"Okay, then. Besides, we have to keep in contact. I still owe you a dollar, from that bet I lost!" She brightened a bit. "So, write down your address for me!"
"Hm. Bad idea. We don't want Russ to find it and demand an explanation."
"Oh, yeah," she said, unable to hide her disappointment.
"Just give me yours," I said, which brought back her smile.
She reached into her purse, and found a pen and a small notebook. She wrote down her address, tore out the page, folded it, and tucked it into the side pocket of my coat as I started the car.
Minutes later, we arrived at the town's small police station. Eve had me park across the street rather than enter their parking lot.
Doing my best to keep my composure, I said "Well, then, doll, I guess this is--"
"No! Don't say 'good-bye,' Dan! This isn't good-bye!"
"Right," I agreed, forcing a smile. "Uhh, how about 'see ya,' or something equally--" She threw her arms around my neck and moved closer, obviously for a kiss. "Maybe that's not such a good idea, doll. Anyone could see us!"
"Dan, I really don't give a damn what anybody sees!" she said, before giving me the granddaddy of all lip-locks!
As my beautiful doll exited the car and crossed the street, I put the Corvette in gear and pulled away from the curb. I got out of town as soon as possible, making a brief stop at the same grocery store parking lot. Why? Well, I have to admit that for some stupid reason, I suddenly couldn't see very well, and Julie would have killed me if I'd put even a tiny scratch on her precious sports car.
As soon as I entered the very next town, I reluctantly crumpled the paper with Eve's address, and tossed it out of the window. I didn't need that blasted dollar, and Eve didn't need me... in more ways than one.
By the way, if you're wondering whether or not little Daphne was really another reason for me to reconsider being with Eve, I'll share a little fact with you right here and now... and it's something I never even told my beautiful doll...
The reason I divorced Tammy years earlier was because she didn't want children. I did. In fact... I'd always wanted a daughter...

*  *  *  *  *

A couple of days after I'd returned to Connecticut, I was outside shoveling the snow from my driveway when Julie's Corvette pulled alongside me. She pushed the control button that lowered her power window.
"Hiya, sis, what's up?"
She had a strange look on her face. Julie seemed... not angry, exactly, but a little... put out?
"Do me a favor, big brother?"
"A favor?"
"Yeah!" she said, throwing a bunched-up something-or-other at me which I reflexively caught without even realizing what it was at first. "The next time you borrow my car, don't leave any of your little trophies in it!"
I looked down at my gloved hand. In it was Eve's bra! "Oh!" I said, "This isn't really a trophy, exactly. It's more of a... souvenir."
Julie laughed and shook her head before throwing the car into reverse. "Yeah, right!" she yelled. "Like there's a freakin' difference!"
As she roared away down the road, I looked at the bra wistfully, and softly said "Actually... there is a difference."
Eve would have understood what I meant.

*  *  *  END  *  *  *

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Two Ships ~~ Part Sixteen

A few hours later, I woke up and Eve was nowhere to be seen. I glanced toward the bathroom. Its door was opened far enough for me to see that it was apparently empty. As I often do, I surmised the worst. Filled with guilt over what had almost happened last night, Eve must have left before I'd awakened. Damn, where could she be?

I jumped out of bed, discarded my bathrobe, and rushed to the nearby chair for my pants and shirt.

Before I could put either pants or shirt on, I heard a strange noise. From far behind me, I heard a groan that sounded like it had issued from an elderly man. I turned to see Eve, standing by the bathroom doorway, carrying the bedspread.

"Eve! Where'd you come from? And why are you holding that?"

She raised her arm, lifting the bedspread higher. "Oh, this? I thought that maybe I could ditch my winter coat, and wear this as a cape."

"Remind me to tell you about my adolescent crush on the actress who played Batgirl."

"Why am I not surprised? Anyway, I was in the bathroom."

"But the door was wide open, and--"

"You just couldn't see me. I was in the bathtub!" I looked at her uncomprehendingly. "It's where I've been sleeping for the last two hours or so."

"What? Why?"

"You woke me a couple of hours ago. It was already light out -- it's about nine o'clock now -- and I woke up because you were tossing and turning in your sleep. And... moaning."


"Uh-huh. It sounded like you were having a... umm... a really sexy dream, if you know what I mean."

"Ohhh, my...!"

"I figured the dream might have been the result of the last three nights' worth of... frustration... and..." She laughed. "Anyhoo, I thought I'd give you some privacy."

"Oh, good grief!"

"So, since I was still pretty tired... I slept in the bathtub. But the way I feel now, I regret it!"

I ignored the fact that I was still only wearing my underwear, and walked right over to her. Once I got there, I gently instructed her to turn around. Without even questioning me, she did so. From behind her, I began kneading her shoulders and neck.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, almost immediately.

"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?"

"No, silly. I meant, 'Oh, that feels good!' Don't stop!"

I vigorously rubbed her shoulders for a few seconds more before saying "I could give you a full massage... If you trust me."

Eve turned slightly so that she now faced me. "If I trust you, dear? Dan, after everything that happened last night... and everything that didn't happen... I think I'd trust you with my life."

Heh. If it hadn't been for her "I trust you with my life" comment, I might have been offended. It's nice to be thought of as trustworthy, but with a woman as desirable as Eve... Well, I was certainly no eunuch! Did she think it had been easy to hold back when I had wanted her so badly?

Eve turned away from me once again. Then, without another word, she stepped forward, toward the bed. She cinched the belt of her bathrobe tightly around her waist and knotted it, then casually shrugged off the top of the robe. The entirety of her well-toned back was revealed to my admiring gaze.

Eve lay face-down on the bed, as I stepped forward to the side of the bed and leaned over to begin massaging her arms, neck, shoulders and back. After several minutes of my attentions, accompanied by her plentiful "oohs," "ohs," and "aahs," I carefully lifted the hem of Eve's robe and folded it to cover her backside so I could work on her feet, calves, and thighs. Then, after several minutes of that, I returned to lavish even more attention on her shoulders and back.

After about half an hour of the total treatment, when my hands' movement finally began to slow, Eve started to snore! But then she giggled and said, "Just kidding, Dan! Now... Is this where you want me to turn over?"

"You're still kidding, I assume?"

"Yer darned skippy! But you'd like it if I weren't, right?"

"Heh. Don't expect me to lie and say you're wrong, doll!"

"Just wondering. I thought that maybe you'd gotten a long enough look at my 'goodies' to satisfy you... before you finally covered me up this morning."

I was suddenly glad Eve wasn't going to turn over. That way, she wouldn't see how red my face had gotten.

* * * * *

I decided to get cleaned up, and looked around for my duffel bag. I even peeked under the bed, and when Eve asked what I was searching for, I told her. "Oh, I brought that into the bathroom with me last night when I showered."

"You did? I didn't notice."

"Uh-huh. I was going to see if any of your shirts or t-shirts were long enough for me to wear as a nightshirt, but I got... distracted."

"Distracted? What do you mean?"

"I found a piece of paper with the words to your song on it..."

"Oh, so that's where I left it!'

"Yes. And I read it before I took my shower." She paused and looked at me. "I was hoping you'd let me keep it."

"Maybe that's not such a good idea, doll."

"No? Why not?"

"Well, when you get home... I mean, I assume you are going home... Am I right?"

She closed her eyes and nodded. "I think I should, at least for now."

I didn't know whether "at least for now" referred to Eve's hopes for her and myself, or for herself in general. But it was obvious that she still intended to work at saving her marriage.

"Well, if you bring that song home, and Russ finds it, won't he ask questions?"

"Why would he? It's just a song." I can only imagine what she must have seen on my face, because she quickly added, "Oh, Dan, don't get me wrong! To Russ, or almost anyone else, it would 'just be a song!' A beautiful song, yes, but... just a song. To me, it's a beautiful memory, of a sweet, sweet man."

As you may have guessed, that certainly pacified me... for a moment.

I looked at her for a long moment, then spoke. "You realize we have to leave here today. I don't have the weather as an excuse to keep you with me any longer."

She chuckled. "Yeah, that was pretty sneaky of you, arranging that blizzard after you spotted me at the truck stop!"

"I'll get you back there, and we'll put some gas in your tank, and after that... well... I guess we'll talk about that when the time comes." I laughed bitterly. "Time. That's really the enemy, here, isn't it?"

"What do you mean?"

I explained my thoughts, purposely stressing the word "time" for effect whenever I used it. "You and I had only so much time that we were snowbound. You only had so much time that you could be away from your husband. And you haven't had time to fall in love with me, as I have with you. But I really believe that if you did have the time to do so... you might. Might. Look at last night. It was only your high moral standards that kept you from making love to me."

"Is that supposed to be funny? The line about my 'high moral standards,' I mean?"

"No, doll, no! I meant it as a compliment. You're an amazing woman. I think you're remarkable! But I don't think I'm being egotistical saying you wanted me, almost as much as I wanted you."

"Almost as much?"

"Heh. You're a very attractive woman, and sexy without trying to be so. You have no idea how much I wanted you. And still do. You're certainly no easy score, doll, so the fact that things went even as far as they did makes me think there's something there that maybe you don't even know about. But even if you were in love right now, I don't think you'd tell me. Not in words, anyway." I paused, suddenly wishing I had a lit cigarette in my hand. "The best time for us would have been ten years ago or so, before you took the steps that put you where you are today. And by 'today,' I mean in your life, not in this room!"

"Thanks for the lesson, professor. Do you always think things through so thoroughly?" I gave with shrug, and a little tilt of my head a la Art. "My goodness, you sound like we'll be walking out of each other's lives forever when we leave here, and it doesn't have to be that way."


"Of course not!"

You're wrong, doll, I thought, but I decided to drop the matter until later, and only answered her with a smile.

I went to take my shower, and when I came out of the bathroom, Eve was once again wearing the outfit she'd worn on the night I met her.

She and I headed over to the restaurant for breakfast. We were the only customers. Even Millie was absent. Art took our order himself, went to prepare it, and served it to us when it was ready. While we were eating, he sat down to join us.

"So," I asked him, "When's checkout time?"

Eve looked at Art and said, "I believe Millie told us it was ten o'clock, right?"

Art looked at her and nodded, then glanced at me with a crooked grin. "Yep. Same time for deadbeats and freeloaders."

Eve looked pointedly at her watch. "It's already after ten."

"Oh, so? Well, I guess we can just let that slide," said Art.

"We really do have to be going," I said. Eve and I stood; so did Art.

"Not so fast, youngster! You said you'd teach me that song you ended your set with last night."

There really isn't time for that, I thought. Then something occurred to me, something which I didn't dare suggest to Eve, although one look at her face told me that the very same thing had entered her mind. She looked at me sadly, and nodded.

She reached into her purse, fished out the song I'd written, and handed it to Art with a slight expression of loss on her face.

"So, whattya think, old-timer?" I teased. "Any chance you can use those to help you fake your way through it?"

"Why, sure. Heck, I'll prob'ly play it better than you do."

"Maybe so!" I said. "And you'd better at least give that a shot." Art looked at me seriously when I softly added. "No imitating me when you do it, either. Make it your own, grumpy."

"I will, Woody. I'll try, anyway." There was an uncomfortable moment when I thought the old man was going to hug me, but thankfully, it passed. Heh. "You two better not leave without stoppin' by the office and sayin' your good-byes to Millie, or she'll send Lenny to fetch you back!"

"Lenny again?" I exclaimed. "The elusive offspring? I don't think you two even have a son!" I joked.

Art ignored that crack. "Oh, before I forget, hotshot, I got a little somethin' for you, too." He pulled an unlabeled Coricidin bottle out of his shirt's breast pocket and handed it to me.

"Art... I wasn't expecting anything like this..."

"What did you expect? My Dobro?"

"You know what I mean. I can't take this..."

"Course you can, dummy. It ain't expensive. And you think I don't got a spare? I got about a dozen of 'em. But they don't package Coricidin like this no more. Haven't for about ten years or so. So take good care of it."

"I will."

"You better. Keep it with you, too, and from now on, whenever you start kiddin' yerself and forgettin' you're a musician, pull this out. And then reach for your guitar." I didn't think it was a good time to mention that I didn't even own a guitar any more. Another uncomfortable silence passed before Art said "But get your own durned Dobro!"

Before we left, Eve looked at Art with a mischievous glint in her eye. "Gee, Art, nothing for me?"

"Oh, I got somethin' for you, honey," he said, and he hugged her.

Eve and I walked out of the dining room and onto the walkway that led to the office. Before I could open the door, it was opened by a tall man who I figured to be somewhere around my age.

The man was uncommonly good-looking. In fact, he was so handsome, he was almost pretty. Tightly-curled blonde hair of medium length, light blue eyes, clean-shaven... I cast a glimpse at Eve. She was openly staring at his face and well-muscled physique. Hell, if I'd been a woman, I probably would have been staring at him in the same way!

He flashed a perfect smile at us and shook Eve's hand, then mine, as he said "You must be Mr. and Mrs. Casey, right?" She and I nodded. "I'm so pleased to finally meet you both!" Then, to me alone, he said "I'm really sorry I didn't get to see you perform the past two nights, Mr. Casey. Mom and Pop said you really got a rise out of the supper crowd!"

Mom and Pop? "You're... Lenny?"

"Guilty as charged!" he said, laughing brightly and flashing those perfect pearly-whites of his again. "I really have to run, but I'm sure glad I got to meet you two. 'Bye now!" And off he went.

I looked at Eve, as she finally managed to turn away from his retreating figure to enter the office before I did. "You can stop drooling now, doll."

"That's what you think," she said, as Millie smiled at us from behind the desk.

"You two lovebirds finally leaving us?" she asked, in greeting.

"I'm afraid so, Millie," I answered. "We just said our farewells to your grumpy old husband."

Millie shook her head and grinned at me. "Oh, stop. He's an old softie, and you both know it. In fact, I'm betting he gave a hug to you" -- she pointed at Eve, and then at me -- "and gave you a handshake!"

"Well," said Eve, "you're half right. I got a hug, but Dan didn't get a handshake."

"I didn't really need one," I said, absently fingering the Coricidin bottle in my coat pocket.

"Well, I got a hug for both of you!" she said, coming out from behind the desk to deliver them, as promised.

After a few minutes of small talk, Eve and I returned to Room 47 to collect what few belongings we had. Then we headed to the "heaterless" Corvette.

"Dan, how good are the odds that you'll be able to find your way back to the truck stop?"

"Honestly? Not too bad. I have a fairly good sense of direction, and most of our way from there to the motel was straight driving anyway. All I have to do is account for the difference in travel speed between the night of the blizzard and now, when the roads are relatively clear."

"Whatever you say, professor," she said with an impish grin.

Not surprisingly (to me), I did find the truck stop after about an hour and a half of trial-by-error driving. Its parking lot was predictably clear of snow...

But Eve's station wagon was gone.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Two Ships ~~ Part Fifteen

Just like the last chapter of Two Ships, this one's a "rerun" for those who've followed my blog for more than a couple of months, because I used it as a Theme Thursday entry! But it had to go here now as well, obviously. Besides, a lot of you liked it the first go-round...

Two Ships is winding down, folks, so I'm going to post a chapter every other day from today until it's done. And after that? I don't know. I'm suffering from Blogger burnout, frankly. The last few days I've been visiting most of my favorite blogs, but not all. And I haven't been leaving too many comments, even on my favorites.

What this means in the long run, I don't know. But right now I don't feel like writing. As it is, Two Ships was written over a year ago, so I haven't written anything new of substance for the last couple of weeks.

Anyway... We'll see.

Thanks for your time.

*  *  *  *  *

"You wrote that for me?" Eve said, eyes wide.
"No one ever wrote me a song, or a poem... Not even a real love letter."
"Not everyone can write. Not effectively, anyway. I can, that's all."
"Don't be so... so... dismissive of your talent. You can do these wonderful things, and you make them sound like nothing. Well, I think you're terrific!" She impulsively threw her arms around me and kissed me warmly but chastely before heading for the bathroom.
We hadn't even gotten our coats off yet.
Wow. Even as my own biggest fan, I was embarrassed. I'd wanted her to like the song -- more accurately, I was hoping she'd love it -- but she was over-reacting. She was suddenly talking about me like I was God's gift to the world.
Well, God's gift to her, anyway. I mean, hadn't she ever...
No. She hadn't. She was relatively inexperienced in romance. She'd told me that herself. In fact, when she'd said that their love life was "pretty satisfying... in terms of frequency as well as quality," I'd resisted the temptation to jokingly ask her "How do you know Russ is a good lover? You've no one to compare him to!"
So, in the so-called "ways of love," and in some other experiences in life, I figured, Eve was... not immature, certainly, but... impressionable. And unsettlingly so, in my mind.
I started wondering, what had Russ really done to "sweep her off her feet?" Maybe not much, by other people's standards. Maybe he'd merely shown Eve he was interested in her, and not very concerned with getting her in bed (as I assumed that many of her earlier boyfriends in high school and college had probably been), and that had been enough for her. Or at least it might have been enough, once he'd also told her that he loved her.
(Just as I had. Ouch.)
Yeah, I know, this was all supposition on my part, but you've probably already noticed that I have that tendency anyway. Sometimes I think too damned much, no getting around that. And all I'd done for the past two days was think about her anyway, so there was no reason to stop now, right?
This is all too quick, I thought. Yeah, I was saying that, the very same guy who'd fallen in love with her the moment he'd set eyes on her! But I, on the other hand, wasn't inexperienced in love... or any of the emotions which posed as love.
More questions arose. Was she in love with me now, or at least, was she telling herself that she was? I sure as hell couldn't ask her that!
Heh. What was it I'd said earlier? "Be careful what you ask for...?"
I'd removed my coat and was searching through its pockets, looking for the paper upon which I'd written the lyrics to my as-yet-untitled song. While I was thus distracted, Eve grabbed my miniature duffel bag -- though I didn't notice that just then -- and headed for the bathroom, saying she was going to take a shower. (I figured my own could wait until the next morning, as was my preference.) Immediately thereafter, the bathroom door opened a crack and she called to me. "Dan? Would you be a dear and get my new bathrobe from the closet?"
"Sure thing, doll," I replied, suiting the action to the word. As I approached the bathroom, robe in hand, Eve opened the door a bit wider and leaned partway out. I could see that beautiful face of hers, as well as the alabaster skin of her left arm and left shoulder. Mmm, tempting, I thought. "Here you go," I said. She smiled and thanked me as she took the robe.
I'd already turned off the overhead light after having snapped on one of the two small reading lamps on the bed's headboard. Eve came out of the bathroom wearing just her robe. as she had last night. I had stripped down to just my underwear while she'd showered, adding my own bathrobe for modesty.
She and I didn't even discuss whether or not tonight would end with any TCM movies. We were too tired. Without exchanging a word, we'd apparently both decided to go right to sleep. Silently, we got into the bed on our respective sides. Once Eve was settled, I clicked off the lamp and snuggled up against her as the heavily-draped room was plunged into utter blackness.
She lay on her back, and as had become our norm, I was on her right. I impulsively leaned over for a goodnight kiss. As our lips touched, Eve wrapped her arms around me tightly and returned the kiss with what I can only describe as enthusiasm. I nearly went mad with the sensations that immediately stirred within me. They were sensations of love, and of longing, and... did I already say love?
My self-control swayed dangerously toward extinction as Eve's lips parted welcomingly, even hungrily. She clutched me to her with an unexpected urgency. We tentatively yet passionately kissed again and again, our hands eagerly caressing each other's backs and shoulders. How -- and why! -- I summoned the strength to break our embrace, I'll never know... but break from it I finally did. I detached myself from her inviting warmth and rolled passively onto my back, breathing heavily.
I'd expected Eve to allow me (and herself) to relax somewhat after that, and drift off to what would doubtlessly have been an uneasy sleep for both of us. Instead, she threw her body over my own. I felt her robe bunched up against my midsection as she first knelt astride me, then lowered herself to sit upon my stomach. As she did so, I felt the top half of both blanket and bedspread slide from her back to land softly on my legs. Eve bent downward and deeply kissed me again, and again... four times, five times, six, seven... I lost count.
My arms reached up to encircle her waist, and at the contact of my hands against the smooth, soft skin of her sides, I realized that her robe had fallen open. Earlier, she had made a joke about "letting it all hang out," and I was thankful for both of us that the pitch black nature of the motel room presented me from seeing her intimate loveliness thus exposed. Eve did nothing to change this situation. Either the abrupt baring of most of her naked form hadn't occurred to her, or if it had, she too had realized that I could indeed see nothing.
I was thankful she hadn't sat back a little bit further upon me, or yes, I would have lost all restraint.
She suddenly sat straight up, and whispered, "I can't, I can't," and then a louder, more decisive "I can't!" She thought aloud in desperate whispers. "I'm not divorced, I'm not even separated... Russ and I just had one big fight. One!"
Yeah, that's right, doll, I thought soberly, please talk yourself out of this because I'm in no position to do it for you (you should pardon the expression).
A final, plaintive "I can't!" accompanied Eve's abrupt retreat to her side of the bed.
She began crying audibly, and I instinctively reached over to comfort her, but what started out as innocent consolation heated up yet again as my lips found Eve's in the darkness. I was partly beside her and partly atop her, my hands ever-so-slightly straying from so-called "safe" areas, and I knew there could be no doubt in her mind just how badly I ached for her as our eager bodies pressed against one another. But this time, luckily, she took my face in her soft and gentle hands and said, "Please, Dan, I'm sorry, but... We can't do this!"
It was as if cold water had been thrown upon me -- although only in a mental sense, rather than a physical one -- and I finally... finally... pulled away from her.
"Oh, Dan! I'm sorry. I'm so sorry..." she said.
"It's okay, doll," I said softly, meaning it.
She was still sobbing. "Don't be angry with me? Please?"
"It's okay, doll. Really!" I told her, trying to stress the truth of my words without raising my voice to the point of sounding angry... because I wasn't.
 "But this is so unfair to you, I know..."
"Eve, please. Listen to me, darling. I understand. And no, I'm not angry, don't worry. I love you, okay? I love you, darling, and I really do understand. You're absolutely right. We can't... do this." She was still crying. "I love you, doll," I repeated.
"And I..." she began, before falling silent for a long moment. And you what? I thought, my heart pounding. "And I... would never intentionally hurt you."
I wasn't sure right then if I was happy or sad that she hadn't finished that sentence the way I'd thought she would have.
Wisely forgoing any additional goodnight kisses, Eve and I fell asleep soon after saying our whispered goodnights. Neither of us had the energy nor the presence of mind to cover ourselves with the bunched-up blankets at the foot of our bed.
A few hours later, as the very first rays of the morning sun began to illuminate the room with an eerie blue glow, I awoke briefly. Eve was sound asleep, her still-opened bathrobe covering naught but her shoulders and upper arms. At first, I thought of pulling it closed, but realized she might awaken and misinterpret my actions as I fumbled with her clothing. So instead, I reached down and pulled the blankets up to cover both of us before going back to sleep.
And just for the record... Yes, she was every bit as lovely, exciting, and flawless as I'd envisioned her to be. Maybe even more so.
My beautiful, beautiful doll...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Two Ships ~~ Part Fourteen

My regular readers -- all but the newest ones -- will experience a sense of deja vu beginning somewhere around halfway through this chapter. I already posted the last part of it several weeks ago, in late October, to showcase a song of mine which it contains.
Other than that, fellow babies, you're on your own!
Thanks for your time.

*  *  *  *  *

The rest of that day was fairly uneventful. Eve finally got hungry, so she threw on some of my clothes (which sure looked better on her than they ever had on me!) and we went for coffee and brunch at the motel restaurant. Millie was her usual cheerful self, and Art was... Art. Heh.
Back in our room, we talked a lot more.
I went into much more detail about my younger years, and my off-and-on friendship with Kelly. I'm not one for sappy emotional outbursts, so I kept the actual sense of loss I felt about Kelly's untimely passing out of the conversation, pretty much. But whenever I came too close to letting it show, Eve was right beside me -- literally, of course -- with hugs and murmured consolations, not to mention an occasional "friendly" kiss on the cheek.
I did not discuss my marriage to Tammy, except in passing. And as far as Eve's side of the conversation... well... it was as if Russ had never existed. For all intents and purposes, it was like we had our own little world, and our own little life, here in this time capsule called a motel room.
There was a lot of small talk, too, of course, and usually that kind of crap bores me to tears. But Eve had a way of making even trivial things sound important... or maybe it's just because I cared so much about whatever she had to say. She spoke to me on so many levels, as she also spoke to my heart.
Okay, okay, I guess I can be allowed some degree of sappiness in my own story, huh?
During the mid-afternoon, Millie came in to do a little housecleaning. Eve and I stayed out of her way as Millie cheerfully gave us the lowdown on the weather situation. Iowa was doing a fine job of digging itself out, and life was returning to normal.
"So, I guess you two lovebirds will be heading back to Connecticut?" she asked.
Heh. I wasn't sure how to answer that. Neither was Eve, apparently. As Eve and I shot each other a glance, Millie continued, "I mean, that is if you both live there?"
Suddenly, both Eve's eyes and mine were locked on Millie. She smiled. "Don't worry, Art didn't tell me, Woody," she told me. "I told him, or at least I thought I was giving him the news, last night. He only confirmed it."
"How did you know?" asked Eve.
"I can't really say for sure. Woody here doesn't wear a wedding ring..."
"A lot of guys don't," I said.
"Uh-huh, that's for fair. I don't know, I guess the rest of it was just women's intuition. It don't matter anyways. Not to me, and not to Art." Millie poked me in the chest with her index finger and joked, "So, mister, you going to make an honest woman out of this little filly?"
Now I knew Art hadn't told her. If he had, he probably would have mentioned something about Russ, based on what little I'd known and told him when I'd made my own little confession.
Millie laughed gaily and picked up the bag full of soiled towels, linens, and the two bathrobes. "Don't mean to put any pressure on you or nothing, Woody," she said brightly. Then she looked at Eve and winked. "That's your job, honey! Keep at him. He'll come around. Art sure did! And it's obvious Woody here is smitten with you.."
"Oh? How so?" I asked her.
"Oh, come now, Woody. I know musicians. I married one, remember? When you were singing last night, you couldn't take your eyes off of little Evie here. You were a pro for a while, right?" I nodded. "And professional musicians usually work the crowd, making eye contact with everyone they can if the venue's small enough, like ours is. And like I said, you only had eyes for your sweetie."
I was surprised. "I did that?"
Millie looked at Eve and shook her head. "Men! They don't know we can read 'em a mile off!"
As Millie turned to leave, Eve called out to her. "Oh, Millie? Are your phones working yet?"
"Sure thing, honey. Need to make a call?
"Well, yes, if that's okay?"
"Course it is. Just go to the office and ring for Art. I still got to do Rooms 58 and 130."
And she left.
As Eve went to the closet for her coat, I asked her "Room 130? How many rooms does this freakin' place have?!?"
"Surely not that many," Eve replied.
"Don't call me Shirley," I said.
She laughed. "Stop saying that, you nut! Anyway, if it bothers you, you can ask Art or Millie about it later."
"Don't think I won't! Unless you ask Art when you make your phone call?"
"Uh-uh. I'll leave the nosy questions... I mean, the probing questions... to you, professor."
"Okay. See you in a few minutes, then."
"You bet," she said, giving me a little hug and a quick peck on the lips before leaving.
As soon as Eve had left, I went to the bureau to search for some paper.

*  *  *  *  *

That night, immediately after Eve and I had eaten our supper in the restaurant, both Millie and Art joined us at our table. Art was wearing the same work-boots and bib overalls from the night before, but he had on a real shirt this time. A red, plaid, flannel shirt. I couldn't help noticing that Art's right hand was wrapped in gauze.
Eve noticed too, and exclaimed "Oh, dear! What happened to your hand, Art?"
"Durned kitchen accident! Got burned makin' tonight's soup."
"You should of heard the salty words flying around that kitchen!" said Millie. It wouldn't have surprised me, actually. Art was one of those people whose G-rated, Waltonesque phrases like "yuh durned fool" and "what in tarnation" made way for the "damns" and "hells" as he got to know you, so I could easily picture him coming out with some major-league epithets when backed to the wall. Heh.
"Rotten timing, too," he added.
"When's a good time to burn yourself, grumpy?" I asked him.
"Oh, hush up, you! I meant I was hopin' to play again for the folks tonight. Seems a lot of 'em liked my little set last night." He looked at me, vainly trying to suppress a smirk. "And yeah, they liked you too, hotshot."
"Glad to hear it."
Art leaned toward me. "Millie and I were talkin' earlier, and we got a little offer for you." I knew what was coming, but I waited for him to say it. "Free meals and lodging for tonight, if you take the stage all by your lonesome."
"You mean I'd get to play solo, without a rank amateur like you holding me back?" Millie and Eve laughed, while Art pretended to be insulted. "How can I refuse? Okay, it's a deal... if you throw in one more thing."
"What in Sam Hill else do you need?"
"It'd mean parting with your pride and joy. Temporarily, anyway."
"Sorry, Millie's not up for grabs. Besides, you got your own gal."
"Goodness! Art!" exclaimed Millie. I couldn't help but wonder if she'd just kicked him under the table.
"Very funny," I told him. "Let me use your Dobro for one of my songs."
He sat back and sighed loudly. "Done. But treat her with love, youngster. Anything else while you're on a roll, you little hood?"
"Yes, actually."
"I knew it..."
"I want to borrow the Coricidin bottle, too."
He looked at me cagily. "Don't rightly know where it is."
I chuckled. "Bull. Hand it over, grumpy."
He sighed loudly once again, shook his head, and took it out of the pocket of his overalls. I smiled as I took it from him.
"While you're on a roll, Dan," said Eve, echoing Art's earlier comment, "wasn't there something you wanted to ask Art and Millie?"
"Oh, that's right! Thanks for reminding me, doll." I looked back and forth at Millie and Art. "How many rooms does this motel have?"
"Eighteen," answered Millie. "Why?"
"Well... What's with the numbering?"
Art and Millie grinned. "That's Art's doing. He's a little... quirky."
As seriously as I could, I said "Quirky? Art? Hadn't noticed." All four of us got a good laugh out of that one.
She continued. "Every number has a special meaning for us. The room you two are in is #47, for instance. I graduated college in '47."
"What about #58, and #130?"
"Those are both for Lenny. He was born at 1:30 in the morning on June seventh. In 1958!" She paused. "And the room you two were in the night you got here was #69."
My eyebrows rose. "And dare I ask the significance of that little number?"
"Dan!" hissed Eve.
"Hey, I just thought, with no heater, maybe..." Predictably, Eve kicked my leg under the table.
Millie either didn't follow my off-color line of questioning, or (more likely) pretended not to understand. "That heater went out when I was sixty-nine. Art promised to fix it... and that was over two years ago! So I changed the number from 54 to 69 to remind him!" She paused and smiled. "We got hitched in '54."
"Changed it to nag me, you mean," Art said good-naturedly. "She 'reminded' me last time her birthday rolled around."
"And I'll keep reminding you till you fix it."
"Your birthday's in August. Why fix it when you don't need it?"
Eve chimed in. "Well, there's nothing to stop you from fixing it during the winter, when you do need it."
"Who wants to work in a cold room?" he countered, and we all laughed again.
After a little small talk, the subject of the Dobro and its history came up. Art knew the guitar type had originated in the 1930s, when it had been invented by a man named John Dopyera. John and his brother had started their own company in the late 1920s with the goal of creating a louder guitar.
"But do you know where they got the name Dobro?" I asked him.
Eve reached over and patted my hand. "Showing off again, professor?"
In as close a copy of Art's voice as I could manage, I said, "Oh, hush up, you." Eve smiled back at me while Art and Millie laughed. "And don't you kick me again," I added.
Art shrugged. "I dunno, I just thought 'Dobro' was short for Dopyera Brothers."
"Actually, the word 'dobro' meant 'good' in the Dopyera's native tongue... whatever that was."
"Oh, dear, you mean you don't know that? Will wonders never cease!" said Eve. This time, the three of them laughed at my expense. But I didn't mind a bit.

*  *  *  *  *

I played seven or eight tunes on Art's beat-up acoustic guitar for the small but appreciative crowd that night. Most were classic country, but I threw in a couple of blues tunes, of course.
Then I announced my final song of the evening, and tenderly lifted the Dobro from a stand Art had placed next to the piano bench. For a moment or two, I sat there lost in thought. I didn't look at the crowd. I didn't even look at Eve. In fact, after having fitted the Coricidin bottle on the little finger of my right hand, I closed my eyes and played the bluesy notes that formed the intro for the song I was about to play. But those "bluesy notes" were only a teaser of sorts. The song wasn't a blues song in structure, although the lyrics certainly gave the impression that it should have been.
As I began the song for real, I glanced at Eve, Millie, and Art. Art's brow was furrowed, and his arms were crossed on his chest. He seemed somewhat irked that he didn't recognize the song I'd started playing. I smiled and began to sing, giving the vocals my own sound, with a little Leon Redbone thrown in for additional character.

Though I've got the blues.
It's a wonderful feelin'.
I've got the blues,
Cuz my poor head is reelin'.
There should be pain enough to break me for all time,
Cuz this woman I hold,
She can't ever be mine.

I should be sad,
But I smile when I see her.
I should feel chained,
But I've never felt freer.
She's someone else's, but I know she cares for me.
I'm selectively blind
And she's all I can see.

I should be screamin' & cryin', and climbin' & punchin' the walls.
But all I know is that I'm happy whenever she calls.
I've got a thousand reasons I should tell her goodbye,
But the thought of her gone makes me break down and cry.

Now it was time for the instrumental break, my guitar solo, as it were, and even in the structure of this non-blues song, I did everything I could to channel Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, and as many of their original blues guitar influences as I could. I wish I'd had a second guitarist to keep up the rhythm section, but I filled in to the extent of my ability. As a lead guitarist, I'm usually passable, but nowhere near great. Having said that, however, I can honestly and objectively say that I don't think I've ever played better than I did that night, during that song.
As I ended my solo -- which garnered some scattered applause, I was pleased to notice -- I repeated the bridge.

I should be screamin' & cryin', and climbin' & punchin' the walls.
But all I know is I'm in Heaven whenever she calls.
I've got a million reasons I should tell her goodbye,
But the thought of her gone makes me break down and cry.

So I've got the blues
And they say that's a downer
Yeah, I've got the blues
Yet I thank God I found her.
She's a perfect woman, and me, I'm only a man
Who will give her my all,
While she gives what she can.

Though I've got the blues.
It's a wonderful feelin'.
I've got the blues,
Cuz my poor head is reelin'.
Yeah, I've got the blues...

As I played the last few licks -- bluesy notes once again, of course -- there was a tangible moment of silence... and then the little dining room was filled with the sound of enthusiastic applause. Ya done good, kid, I told myself. I stood up, gave the audience a little half-bow, and in my very best Elvis voice, slurred "Thank yuh evver'buddy, thank yuh so much, yer beautiful people!" and walked back to my table. Eve jumped to her feet, threw her arms around me, and gave me a lip-lock that literally took my breath away.
When I finally came up for air, Eve reluctantly released me, and Millie was the next to hug me. "That was wonderful, Woody!" said Millie.
I looked over at Art, who extended his hand so I could shake it. "You gotta teach me that one before you two up and leave here, kid." I promised to do so.
On the way back to Room 47, Eve and I didn't speak, but it was a very comfortable silence. We held hands as we walked to the door, only letting go when I needed to unlock it.
As we removed our coats, Eve said "That last song was beautiful, Dan. And I think it's the first love song I've ever heard where the word 'love' wasn't even mentioned!"
I looked at her, wide-eyed. "It... wasn't?"
"No. But it didn't really have to be. It was there when you sang it, if you know what I mean."
"I think so, yeah..."
"What's the name of it?"
"I'm... not sure. I haven't given it a title yet."
"What do you mean, you haven't...?"
"I wrote it, doll. I wrote it for you, only this afternoon."

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