She woke with a start.
Sitting up from bed she could barely make out anything in the
darkened room. Soon enough her eyes lay rest on the only thing radiating light. Rubbing her eyes clear of sleep she looked at the alarm clock to the side of her on a nightstand. The glowing red numbers stated that it was three o‟clock in the morning. She began throwing off blankets and realized the horrible truth that was her life; not only was she completely naked but she was not in her own bed.
Squinting in the darkness in front of her she made out a poster of a shirtless Jim Morrison. Next to her on the bed a man lay sprawled and his light snoring broke the silence in the room. She leaned in closely, careful not to wake him and recognized who the man was.
“Ohhhh, shit!” Audrey muttered under her breath.
Then memories of the night before flooded back to her; the chance meeting of her and Drew in the bookstore, the talking that led them to a bar called the Blue Iguana, the shots of whiskey and pitchers of beer between them both and finally the car ride back to Drew's apartment. Then the kissing, the groping, the wanting...
Breathing in the deep tension of panic she slowly slipped out of bed and tip toed about the room. What the hell did I do? She thought, as her head started pounding from the alcohol, as if it too had just remembered the night before. She spotted her panties and jeans crumpled by the foot of the bed while her bra and t-shirt laid hanging on the bed post.
She dressed herself in quick silence and almost blew her cover when she accidentally tripped over a big leather belt on the floor, making a heavy „thud‟ as she fell to the messy ground. Heart pounding, alongside her head, she looked up to the spot where Drew lie sleeping. Drew had stopped his snoring and simply turned to his side and fell back asleep.
She thanked the gods in heaven as she made her way out the room only to be bombarded with two huge boxer hounds sleeping right outside the door. Both dogs woke immediately and demanded attention. Slightly petting each of their heads she broke between them and made her way down the stairs. The dogs followed her every step, sniffing her feet as she passed, curious as to whom the midnight guest was.
She caught glimpses of family photographs hanging on the wall and recognized Drew's sister when they were both younger. Oh god, I got to get out of her! she thought while slipping out of the door into the cold concrete night.
He wore a dark brown Australian leather hat which hid the top half of his face from her; leaving only a shady and fuzzy beard underneath. His burly stature was taller than hers for sure; but only by a foot or two. Slowly pacing her steps to escape two wildly running children and his presence Audrey crossed over to the classic literature section of the bookstore. She walked through countless rows and columns of newly pressed paperbacks stacked on each side of her. I’ll have to get that later, she thought spotting a bulky paperback of D. H. Lawrence‟s Sons and Lovers.
Weaving her way around to the back of the bookstore she came upon the Astrology section. The smell of coffee brewing close by made her crave a tall mocha latte. Again, she caught sight of the Australian hat man just behind her; he was following her. He walked freely down the aisle as if coming towards her. The nervously running white rabbit from Alice In Wonderland, shot at her from the back of the man‟s blue and white tie-dye t- shirt and then disappeared into another aisle.
Who is that man? She thought. She suddenly remembered e-mails she had received from concerned friends with horror stories of men spotting women alone and then following them to the parking lot and kidnapping them by their car. Like an old woman, she clutched her purse and instantly became aware of her surroundings. A copy of Dr. Luis Turi‟s And God created the Stars lay in easy sight so she quickly grabbed a copy and tried to look busy reading as the mysterious man circled her aisle for the third time.
She looked at various pictures while flipping through the book and from the left side of her peripheral vision saw the Australian hat man suddenly come into view. A thousand thoughts entered her panicky brain, scurrying about when he walked right up next to her; as if it were nothing. The nerve! She thought. Her face began to get pink as she thought of using the book in her hand as a weapon to hit him over the head with.
He looked thoughtfully at a book titled The Astrology of Great Sex: What Your Lover Wants, picking the book up he cleared his throat and opened to the middle of the book. While standing next to him, she began to ease up which, to say the least was odd. He chuckled out loud as he read a passage from the book.
He turned to her, smiled and said, “Can you believe how true these books are?”
Taken back, she stumbled out, “What do you mean?” She carefully took in every rough contour of his face until she realized he looked familiar; but she didn‟t know how.
He perched the book closer to his chest with the strings from his hat floating close by and told her, “This ex-girlfriend of mine was a Pisces and listen here, "To masterly turn on a Pisces woman, remember that her feet are the secret key to pleasure.‟ That's so fucking true, especially about Renee.”
From under his fuzzy dark beard he flashed her a mischievous yet sensual smile. Something was attractively familiar about him. She smiled back showing off a bit of teeth as she tried to place him from her past.
“How interesting...” She replied laughing. “I happen to be Pisces myself and I can account it has some truth to it.”
His eyes, she thought, it’s his eyes! “
You've been following me haven't you?” “
Yup.” A spot of light glistened off his two hoop piercings of his right nostril as he responded.
“Wow, didn't you know that stalking is illegal?” She asked him with a playful tone of authority.
“I'm not stalking. I'm shopping. This is a store you know.” He said matter of fact-ly, while licking his lips to a shiny perfection.
looked him square his eyes, taking in the soft caring light brown of his soul. Underneath his Australian hat lay wavy brown hair that came tothe edge his ears. In each ear, he had ivory white plug earrings that suited his brawny face. He looked barbaric but in a polite civilized manner.
“I know you from somewhere,” She couldn't take the suspense anymore. She placed the book she had been holding down back in its shelf. “What is your name?”
“Aha! So you do recognize me!” He chuckled to himself again, clearly enjoying the hold he had over her. He removed his hat and proudly displayed his face to her; moving it from side to side to get a profile look at him.
Unaware that she was biting on her lower lip she stared at him with great determination and wonder. Then out of nowhere, like some sticky algebra equation she finally solved after minutes of just starring at them, she saw it...she finally saw it.
“That's very good Drew!” Audrey complemented of his artwork. “I like the colors you‟ve chosen.” It was a watercolor depicting a star cluster in the night sky. He had used green for the color of the sky with yellow and blue for all of the stars.
“Let me see!” Marisa said from across the room.
“I want to see it too!” Damien said, even though he was sitting right next to Drew.
Drew looked proudly at the masterpiece he created, stood up from his desk and held it up for the whole classroom to see. He rotated it from side to side for all the kids to view. The room filled with ohhhs and ahhhs.
Then all the students wanted to show off their work to each other and the room filled with separate conversations and laughter. Audrey smiled and raised one hand over her head making a peace sign. A couple of hands went up and did the same and half the room became quiet. She walked to the other side of the room and the rest of the students soon followed example. The peace sign was a signal Audrey made up so everyone would stop what they were doing, be quiet and listen to her.
“Everyone's doing great!” Audrey said once she had all their attention, clapping her hands happily. “But now we need to please keep it quiet and finish up. Okay?”
The students went back to their artwork and Audrey walked to her desk and sat down slowly looking off into space. Audrey really did enjoy each of the students she had and was not looking forward to the end of the day. Even though she loved teaching and her students enjoyed her immensely, she couldn‟t stay.
Audrey remembered her first day of teaching and meeting all her students for the first time. Fresh out of grad school, Audrey had started teaching at a private school in the upper class district of the city. The students had all been a little suspicious of her, not knowing what she was like, and then gradually, they grew to be like her own children.
On her first day, teaching had turned out to be a little more than she could handle. Even though the 4th grade seemed like the right place for her to start out in, the reality was that she was still inexperienced and the children knew. The children almost drove her out but it was Drew, their somewhat leader, who helped her the most. He would make the class quiet down when she needed and if any of the students tried making trouble Drew would be right there to tell his peers to knock it off, "Ms. Reed has something to say.‟
“Do you want it?” Drew looked up to her in front of her desk and held out his finished product for her to take. His chest lay rest on the edge of her desk, he had walked up to her and she hadn‟t even noticed. “You can have it Ms. Reed!”
“No, you can keep it Drew.” Audrey replied smiling, “Give it to your mother. I‟m sure she‟ll enjoy it more than me.”
Drew slowly walked back to his desk with his head down.
Audrey hated to disappoint. She remembered when Drew had brought her a sunflower to class one day. He picked it up on the side of the road on his way to school.
“I remembered sunflowers are your favorite flower,” he told her excitedly. “So I picked one for you. Do you like it?” She had put the sunflower in a vase but it had withered by the end of the day.
After that day, Audrey noticed that he started dressing more nicely to class and even managed to wear a tie one day. After school Drew would stay and help clean up. They would talk about music, they both liked Michael Jackson, and various artworks.
“You should go see an art museum. I bet you'd like it.” She told him.
“I would like it.” Drew said smiling and staring up to her; love stuck. “Do you want to come to the museum with me?”
“I would like to Drew but I‟m afraid I just can‟t. It wouldn‟t be right. But maybe we could try to take a field trip with the whole class. How does that sound?”
Another time, Drew accidentally brushed against her arm in class. Audrey got goose bumps; his touch was both soothing and disarming; like a cold beer after a hard day of work in the sun.
Audrey found herself dressing up in class too. She wore more skirts and colorful dresses and scarves. She felt a natural urge to be beautiful for him. Once she realized this, she knew what she had to do.
“DREW LIKES MS. REED!” Pamela shouted to the classroom. Pamela started giggling with a small group of her friends sitting next to her. Pamela was Drew's twin sister. “It's true! He drew a picture of her and it had a bunch of hearts around it. I saw it in his room!”
The classroom started giggling along with Pamela and her friends.
“Shut up PAM!” Drew said his face turning red. He stood up to hit his sister who was on the other side of the room. Audrey got up and ran to stop him. They liked to fight a lot in class but it had never gotten physical.
“No fighting Drew!” She said grabbing his arm and holding him back. But he continued on towards his sister's chair.
“Drew! Look at me!” Drew stopped in his tracks and looked down to the floor.
“Look me in the eyes Drew.” She said. He slowly looked up at her. He had tears falling from his caring light brown eyes. “It's okay. There‟s no need to fight. Here, come sit down.” She led him back to his seat and handed him a tissue from her pocket.
“Everyone back to work!” Audrey said to the class. “Drew why don't you start painting a new picture for me? Okay?” Audrey said smiling reassuringly.
Drew smiled and wiped away his tears.
Audrey walked over to Pamela. “Pamela please don't agitate your brother anymore, especially not in front of the whole class.”
“But Ms. Reed he really does like you. I'm not lying.” Pamela said.
“Shut up Pam!” Drew yelled from his seat.
Audrey began to feel sick.
Audrey held the envelope tightly in her hand and walked the waxed floors down to the principle‟s office. Taking her time with each step, she wanted to appreciate the school‟s architecture; the brick columns and marble statues in the middle of main hallway. She admired teaching at this school. She felt a horrible sickness starting to take over her body. She knew she had to turn it in. She didn‟t want to think of what would happen if she didn‟t.***
Audrey walked into the empty administration office and found Principal McGraw at her desk busying with paperwork. A painting of Munch's The Scream hung on one side of the plush office.
“Hello Ms. Reed!” Principal McGraw said looking up from her work. “How can I help you?”
“Well...” Audrey said, slowly walking on the hardwood floors to hand the envelope to her. “I have something to give to you.”
“What is this?” Principal McGraw asked taking the envelope from her hand.
Audrey hated to disappoint people.
"It's my letter of resignation.”
Audrey paused before the bathroom door, cigarette and lighter in hand, and anxiously looked in as Brian flossed in front of the three-paneled mirror. The sun had begun to spill over into the bathroom window illuminating the back of his head with bright early morning yellows and reds. Brian stared at her though a side panel of the mirror; his eyes were red around the rims and puffy from tossing around in bed all night. He hadn't bothered to fix their bed that morning.
If only he had let me sleep in bed with him last night and not on the couch. If only he had let me explain to him, then he wouldn't have had trouble sleeping, she thought.
Audrey walked over to the window, slid it up and let in a cool breeze from the outside. Slowly walking to the toilet, she placed the seat down and sat right in the middle on the smiley face seat cover.
"You haven't spoken to me all morning Brian," she whispered. She lit a menthol cigarette and pulled her robe tightly over her chest. She looked down at the small green tiles on the floor and wondered if her life was over.
"What should I say?" He asked quietly. He squeezed a drop of toothpaste on his brush, rinsed it under the faucet and turned around to look at her. His lips were curled into a frown and his eyes drooped, letting her know he was not happy in the slightest. His toothbrush was poised like a knife in his hand.
“Well you can start out by saying "good morning‟ for starters.” She said blowing out smoke in the direction of the window.
He looked at her though hurt and puffy eyes, refusing her simple request he turned back to the sink and started brushing his teeth.
“Dimmit Brian!” she yelled in a shaky voice. “Talk to me! I‟m your fiancé.”
She took a long drag from her cigarette and slowly let the smoke roll out trying to keep her poise in front of him.
“You‟re the one who wanted complete and total honesty, right? Ring a bell? This is me! This is what I‟m feeling. I don‟t know why I have these feelings, I don‟t even want them!” She put the cigarette on the edge of the counter and moved in closer behind Brian wrapping her arms around his waist and softly placed her head on his back. She felt him ease up. “But I do want you Brian. I need your help; I need your guidance baby...”
Brian looked at her arms though the mirror. He closed his eyes taking in the comfort of her body pressed against his. She smelled like her usual vanilla scent. He remembered the night he asked her to marry him. He had been busy studying for finals all day and hadn't eaten. It was snowing out and she had arrived at his apartment with his favorite Chinese take-out in hand. She had thrown her coat and scarf off on the floor and then started running towards him. She jumped on him and when he caught her, she had wrapped her legs tightly around his body and they kissed for about two minutes straight. He remembered how she had said yes and how they had made love that night with her crying the whole time out of happiness. For a split second he thought he understood where she was coming from.
Then it faded just as quickly.
“Audrey, I can't do this.” He replied. He removed her arms from his waist and continued on brushing his teeth.
Surprised, she stepped back and felt her heart beat faster. “What do you mean? What about „complete and total honesty‟... now that I can actually confide in you, you're not even giving me a chance to explain myself! How is that-”
“Explain yourself? No, you explained enough already. What more do I need to know? You're a fucking pervert Audrey.” He spit out the remaining toothpaste from his mouth and put his toothbrush back in its place. “We were so close to getting married and you come out of nowhere and tell me you have feelings for a little boy. A fucking little boy Audrey. It's just sick.”
Audrey felt her heart sink. Audrey felt her future sink as well.
“I can't pretend everything's okay.” He took one last hopeful glance at his now ex-fiance and shook his head. “I can't be apart of this.” He walked out of the bathroom and hurried the rest of his morning rituals and left for work.
Audrey continued smoking. Slinking down to the floor, she saw a parade of tears flooding from her eyes, a diseased downpour straight from her lifeless heart onto the dirty bathroom rug. She wiggled her pink toes and took another drag from her cigarette. She felt like Alice swimming in her own tears; outraged at why nothing in her world can seem to stay together.
As a little girl, Audrey wondered why the girl and guy ever broke up. “But mom, I don't get it. If they still love each other then why don't they just make up and stay together?”
“Life doesn't work out that way sweetness.”
Since sneaking out of Drew's apartment Audrey hadn't called him. She stayed inside her apartment most of the time since. Keeping herself busy with laundry, playing with Thomas her cat, catching up on old movies, cooking all her meals from scratch and grading papers. It was three days later that Drew called her and asked her to meet him for dinner. She agreed.
They met at a place called The White House. It was actually a bar that served food and not a restaurant. She spotted Drew by the same hat he wore at the bookstore; the brown leather Australian hat. Drew was at jukebox with a glass of beer in hand. Audrey slowly came up behind him and said, “So what are you playing?”
Drew jumped a little and started laughing at himself and turned to her and gave her a big grizzly hug. She basked in his warmth.
“I'm playing you some Doors, a little Hendrix and of course some Michael Jackson.” He said letting her go. “For old times sake.”
He led her to their table and had a pitcher of beer and glass ready for her.
“The nachos here are great so I ordered us some of those and also a sausage pizza.” He said. “Do you like sausage pizza?”
“Yes, that's fine.”
Audrey looked around in the small bar and noticed the bartender smiling at her. She smiled back.
“You come here a lot I take it.” She said. “The bartender is smiling at me.
“Oh, that's just Arlene.” Drew laughed. “She thinks you're pretty.”
The bar was small but had character, television sets hung on the wall with several tables along one side of the bar and the actual bar on the other side of the wall. Several beer posters were displayed on the walls and in one corner was a darts match was being played.
“This is a cute place.” Audrey asked taking a sip of her beer. “So what's been keeping you busy these days?”
“I'm in construction. I build dreams not houses.” He said laughing. “Okay...so that wasn't funny.”
“No,” Audrey laughed, “it wasn't. Sorry to say.”
“I've been in construction for about two years now. I love it; it pretty much keeps me sane. I did have a weekend job at a CD Trade post, but I quit. They had these stupid uniforms that I hated wearing.” He said. He drank the rest of his beer and began pouring another one from the pitcher.
“Do you want anymore?” he asked.
“Oh no, I'm good.” she replied letting a smile creep from her lips, “I still have this one to work on.”
“Ohh!” Drew said excitedly pulling a black notebook out of his bag from the floor, “I wanted to show you my recent artwork and tell me what you think.”
He flipped through a couple of pages and then stopped to one with a girl's eye looking out to an angel floating into space with a pyramid and atomic bomb going off. Color splashed out from the page.
“Wow...”Audrey said, “These are all really creative Drew. Are these highlighters for the colors?”
“Yeah.” He said, “I like how bright the colors are with them.”
She flipped to the next one which was a woman‟s vagina with an eye in the middle and a tree sprouting into the air. She smiled.
“Your imagination is wonderful. You have great use of symbols for life here.” She complimented taking a sip of her beer. “Where do you get your inspiration if you don't mind me asking?”
“Well, I like to take a high dosage of magic mushrooms and trip.” He said looking to her for a hint of approval or disapproval. She stared back at him fascinated and he continued.
“The best place to trip is out in the woods. I set up camp and I wait for my inspiration to come and then I jot down the ideas.” He said guzzling half of his beer in one drink. “I don't actually draw them right then. It‟s a little hard to concentrate when you trip.”
Audrey smiled at Drew nodding her head as if she knew and began sipping more of her beer. Drew stared at her, taking her in inch by inch and felt the same way he did when he was younger; love stuck.
Audrey couldn't go to bed later that night. It was midnight and she had too much on her mind to sleep. She watched a little television but couldn‟t stand the late night crap they showed. Then she went to see if she had any laundry to do; nothing. She sat on her bed and thought of what would help her go to sleep.
Audrey knocked three times on the brown door marked #156. She looked down to the floor to her black slippers. She still had on her pajamas but had put her winter coat over them. Nervously playing with her hair, like she used to do as a child she waited patiently. Drew propped open the door, hair all a mess and with no shirt, reveling an elaborate tattoo across his chest. His eyes were puffy and when they caught sight of Audrey opened and greeted her with the utmost warmth.
“Hi.” Audrey muttered quietly, “I hope you don't mind, but I can't sleep and I was wondering if I could stay the night with you.”
Drew opened his arms out to her and she came into them, smelling Drew‟s scent of sleep. He led her into his apartment, locking the door and taking Audrey‟s coat off for her. The two boxer hounds came up to Audrey and smelled her feel again. Drew walked to his bedroom which was still as messy as she remembered with clean and dirty clothes, DVD's, CD's, artwork, broken belts, photographs, dog hair and papers all about the floor.
Drew climbed into bed and motioned for Audrey to come with him under the covers. Slipping out of her slippers she walked closer to the bed and noticed he had a little fan blowing on the side table with blues music playing from little speakers from his MP3 player. She crawled back into bed with him. She let him wrap his arms around her while her breathing began to drop pace. Placing her head on his chest she began intertwining his chest hair between her fingers. She closed her eyes. Bodies intertwined and warmth shared together they fell into a dreamless slumber.