Chapter 23: Retying – second part

(C) 2011 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved 

And there he was, in her bedroom door, lecturing her. She sat on her bed, looking up at him, her hands in her lap, listening to every word. She felt guilty and scared and fascinated because, along with the anger in his voice, she could hear his pain and fear of losing her. He was afraid of losing her. She thought that was so unique she didn’t know how to react. This man loved her, period. That meant her parents were wrong. She was worth loving. Wasn’t she? She pushed away the doubt and concentrated more on Julian.

“You had my phone number in LA, didn’t you?” he asked, seeming to run out of patience. “I know I gave it to you.”

“Yes, you did,” she murmured, nodding.

“And you couldn’t call?” he repeated. His voice was like a rumble of boulders over velvet, intimidating to some, intimately familiar to Grace. “Believe me, Elisabetta would not have minded! Is that why you wouldn’t call?”

She nodded involuntarily.

He sighed and threw his hands in the air. “When will you believe me that Elisabetta does not get involved in my personal relationships, especially ours!? She’s not that kind of woman. She has her friends and all that, but she’s not jealous of you, Grace. If you call, she’ll tell me. Really.” He paused and looked around, hoping that Grace couldn’t see how shocked he was at her surroundings. There were working class homes in Bogotá that were much nicer than this. What was she doing in this place? The anger left him as his mind engaged with the more pressing problem–get Grace out of this nasty little hole. She owned two apartments, outright; at least one was rented, he knew, so maybe she could just move into the other one. If that was rented, which produced two incomes, she’d have no problem finding a place to stay until one of them was available. Whatever she did, she had to realize that she belonged in Bogotá, and not in the middle of the goddamned desert, and far away from that sadistic 15 year old who was her mother. Julian knew Arabella was older than 15, but she didn’t act like it. From his experience with her, she acted like a mean high school kid who enjoyed making Grace feel like shit.

He walked into the room and sat down on the bed next to her. “Look, I’m glad you’ve come back to Bogotá,” he said quietly, “but I wish you’d told me, okay? What did you do with your house in Tucson, and your car? Just walk out and lock the door?”

“No, in fact I got it rented,” she answered, beginning to relax. “I went to a real estate company and they found a tenant even before I left. And the car’s parked in a locked garage that belongs to a couple who are friends of Mom’s. They have a two-car garage but only one car. I was going to leave it at Mom’s because they went up to Michigan, but it’s just a parking bay with a roof over it and no one to keep an eye on it, so I’m glad the other people could take it.”

“Why didn’t your mother like the car? I never figured that out.”

“I don’t know, but one day I drove her someplace where they had a portero at the gate, and he bowed and scraped and opened the gate as if we were members, and after that, she loved the car. Not the car, but the impression it made on people.”

“What’d she say when you told her you were coming back to Bogotá?”

“I think she wanted to order me to lock myself in a room somewhere, but then she kind of shut up for a minute.” Grace paused, remembering that her mother was playing solitaire at the diningroom table when she announced her plans. Arabella looked up, and then down at the cards, biting her lip, before replying. “Then she acted as if I do this all the time. She didn’t start a fight and she drove me to the airport. . .  But I think she’s more worried about Chuck right now, which takes the heat off me.”

“Is he sick? Heart condition or something?”

“Not that I know of. He plays golf five or six days out of seven and bitches when it’s Ladies’ Day– What?” she asked, surprised as Julian laughed suddenly.

“Bitching about Ladies Day!” he exclaimed, grinning and lying back on the bed. “I love it! Only you could say something like that!”

“Yeah well. . . ” she murmured sheepishly. “It’s just that he plays golf all the time, has a 7 handicap?”

“That’s good, even though I don’t know what it means,” Julian explained.

“Neither do I. But anyway, he’s fine, Mom’s fine, but I guess there’s a problem with his business in Michigan, now that his son’s taken over.”

“And probably doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Julian remarked, reaching up and gently pulling on her shoulder.

“Apparently not,” she answered, turning and lying down next to him. “I met him last year. He and his girlfriend came to Tucson for a visit.”

“You didn’t tell me that.”

“What could I say? The son’s one of the biggest jerks I’ve ever met and his girlfriend is gorgeous and smart and didn’t like my mother. We went to lunch in Nogales one day, just me and Mom and the girlfriend and, ah. . . who else? Some friend of Mom’s but I can’t remember her name right now. . .”

“What’s the girlfriend’s name?”

“Ah. . .  Eu, I can remember what she looks like, but the name. . .”

Julian laughed and pulled her close. “You never remember women’s names,” he chided, “so don’t worry about it.” Lazily he rolled over on top of her.

Grace slid her hands up and over his shoulders as they kissed. She loved how solid he felt, not thin and not heavily muscled and definitely not fat, but very warm, as if the sun radiated through his skin. Her mind dropped its guard so she could respond only to the immediate here and now of his mouth and his hands and the smell of his skin. . .

 

Julian lay on his back, an arm around Grace, more relaxed than he’d felt in several months. Even though he didn’t like the surroundings very much (he’d been in cheap motels that were nicer than this), he was happy to be where he was. A bed is a bed is a bed, and rooms can be changed, like sheets. Grace would get out of this place soon, he was sure of it, and then he could stay with her longer. Still, at the moment, he entertained the idea of staying til Emma came back and then greet her oh-so-casually in a sheet and nothing else. She’d be so pissed! God, when would foreign girls learn that the only thing they’d get from their leftist lovers is VD, because those guys knew less about sex than priests.

But no, he wasn’t going to upset Emma tonight. Grace did not need to deal with that. She needed to move out of that dank apartment and the rest would fall into place.

He hugged her and sighed. “I better get going, babe,” he murmured.

Grace stretched and wrapped herself around him. “No you don’t. . .”

“Yeah I do. . .”

They kissed for several long minutes. . . maybe foreplay. . . maybe just the pleasure of kissing. . .

“No really,” he finally whispered in her ear. “I’m going to take a shower, okay?”

“No. . .” she whispered back, but didn’t stop him when he moved away. “And let the water run before you get in,” she said clearly as he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “It’s one of those Japanese on-demand things. It takes a while.”

“Okay.” He stood up and stretched before walking toward the bathroom.

He took his time, but when Emma returned, Julian was dressed and standing in the livingroom with a disheveled but smiling Grace. As he expected, the other woman reacted to him as if he were the devil incarnate–barely polite, tense, in a rush to get to her room and have a candlelit vigil for Che Guevara, a man on his way to becoming another Jesus Christ or Simón Bolívar. Poor bastard would never get to rest in peace.

Grace and Julian had a long good-bye kiss, as if they were dancing to silent music, and he promised to call. In bed, she believed him, but at the door, she had doubts, although she kept them to herself. In bed, she was fine. Out of bed, she fell apart. Nevertheless, she stood partly behind the door and waved to him as he walked out the gate. Silently she shut the door and went back to her room to get a robe or something that would warm her up. The night air was chilly and the apartment floor was freezing cold, even through her slippers.

“How was your day?” she asked Emma, who was coming out of the kitchen with a bowl of soup and some crackers.

“Pretty good, actually,” the other woman answered. Now that Julian was gone, Emma had returned to normal. “I really lucked out this month with my classes, because they’re both between intermediate and advanced, and that’s a lot more interesting to teach. Tonight I started a unit on singing and one of the guys said he’d bring his guitar on Friday night. That makes it so much easier!” She went into the livingroom and sat down at the small table against the wall. “There’s more soup, if you want some, and crackers,” she added helpfully.

“Oh I’d love some! Let me get a sweater and I’ll join you,” Grace replied moving gingerly toward the short hall. She’d take an antibiotic prescribed by the doctor right after she ate, and hoped it would reduce the swelling by morning.

“What’d the doctor say?” Emma asked, buttering a cracker while Grace had some soup.

“That I have a very bad case of psoriasis and maybe an allergy, so he gave me some pills to control the swelling. He told me to keep my feet up as much as possible, keep my feet clean and dry–or at least clean, because dryness isn’t good–and that the swelling should go down in a day or so. And I have an appointment next week.”

“That sounds like he can’t do anything,” Emma said, puzzled.

“Well, actually, he can’t. There isn’t too much to do with psoriasis. And frankly, I’m just glad I even get to see a doctor, because in Tucson, I called some doctors, including a chiropractor, and no one would see me because I don’t have insurance. Dr. Rueda accepts cash. Or a check, in my case. Oh yeah, the chiropractor agreed to see me, in Tucson, but all he could do was re-align my neck and give me cortisone, which made me retain water. And eat everything in sight.”

“Really!?” Emma was scandalized. “No one would see you without insurance!?”

“That’s right. In fact, the only person who actually helped was a nurse who lives next door. She told me to rub my feet with cream and then wrap them in damp cotton socks and cover them with plastic bags. It helps! I’m going to do it here, too, ’cause otherwise, I can’t walk.” Grace finished her soup and picked up a cracker. “Do you need the shower now?”

“No, go ahead,” Emma replied. “I guess you and Julian made up?” she asked with a little mischievious grin.

“Oh yeah,” Grace answered with a happy smile. “He was pissed because I didn’t tell him before I left Tucson.”

“You didn’t? Why not?”

Grace shrugged. “I don’t know. And also, I think I was just anxious to get out of there. I just didn’t want to spend another summer there! And my neighbors! Not the nurse, but this couple that lives on the other side of me! The wife is just too  weird. She was forever trying to seduce Julian and it got to the point that he’d practically crawl from the front door to the car so she wouldn’t see him.”

“Was she young and sexy?” Emma asked, laughing.

“Oh no! That was the thing!” Grace exclaimed, leaning forward. “She’s in her sixties! And she drinks like a fish and goes on and on about how her mother was a suffragette and stuff like that! I mean, I’d like to hear what she has to say about all that, but it just gets lost in other ideas. And she’s married to a really nice guy!”

“What do they do in Tucson? Are they retired?”

“No, they teach at Pima Community College. She teaches art. Very feminist art, too. Very in-you-face kind of thing. . . Oh hey, I forgot to ask. How’s Jorge, that guy you were dating?”

“Oh we broke up months ago,” Emma said with disgust. “I was so mad I didn’t know what to say. I helped him get through the Icetex applications and he came up to New York to visit me last year and everything was, like, really cool, and then I didn’t hear from him. One month, two months. . . Finally I called him in Neiva, but whoever answered the phone said he’d gone up to Barranquilla and gave me that phone number. So I called and he tells me he just got married! Son of a BITCH!”

“What a motherfucker!” Grace exclaimed, sitting back in her chair in surprise.

“No shit!” Emma nodded. “And on top of that, he wanted me to congratulate him!”

“God! Where does this guy get off!?”

“Who knows!? I was just devastated and cried for days!”

“Of course! Who wouldn’t!? I’m so sorry! You liked him so much!”

“I actually fell in love with him! God! What a waste of my TIME!!!”

“Well, with any luck, his wife will find out what a bastard he is and leave him,” Grace suggested.

“Yeah, I hope so. Barranquilla girls are a lot more independent than the ones in Bogotá.” Emma shook her head and buttered one more cracker. “But in the meantime, I’ve met other people and–oh yeah, I forgot–I’m invited to a party at one of my students’ homes on Saturday. Hope you don’t mind being left alone.”

“No, not at all! Have a good time!”

“I plan to. I met this guy a few weeks ago who was in one of my classes about. . . I don’t know, two or three months ago? Something like that. Anyway, we kind of hit it off and he’s going to be there, too.”

“Ah-h-h-h ya-a-a-a. . . .” Grace murmured, grinning.

“Yeah well, it’s no big deal, just a party,” Emma said, but she smiled too.

“Have a good time.” Grace yawned suddenly and covered her mouth. “Wow, it must be getting late. I’m going to take a shower. Just leave the dishes in the sink and I’ll do them in the morning.” She stood up and stretched, then clutched the sweater around her. “Quick shower and then, bedtime! Good night!”

“‘Night,” Emma answered, standing and beginning to stack the dishes. “Sleep well!”

“You too!”

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