Platonic Pt. 7 (Conclusion)
Platonic, Pt. 7
Rumson, New Jersey
“So you don’t love me anymore?” Andrea lay next to him in his bed, propped up on one elbow. The bedcovers were draped around her hips, exposing her nakedness from the waist up. She smiled as she asked him the question, trying to look like she was asking in fun. But he knew her. She really wanted to know.
Brandon kept his eyes on her face. He didn’t want to look at her breasts, as lovely as they were. He didn’t love her anymore, not like before. He realized that now. She no longer had a grip on his heart. He knew because the sex they’d just shared only felt like sex. There was nothing special about it, the way it used to be for him with her. He felt bad about that, and not for himself. Andrea was his friend. He loved her as his friend. He didn’t want sex with his friend. He felt like it cheapened their friendship, and made her less than she used to be.
“I love you,” he said. It was still true. Just different now.
Andrea was watching him, closely. “But not like before.” She knew him, too.
“Before wasn’t good for me,” he said. “That was me wanting from you what you wanted from someone else.”
“I wasn’t using you, Brandon.”
That she would say that meant that she probably had been using him. She’d never wanted to hurt him, but she’d enjoyed him wanting her. He’d been her back up love; her shoulder to cry on when the man she love stepped on her. He couldn’t be mad at her about that, because he knew what it was all along and he’d let it happen. He’d known the truth, but didn’t want to see it. Love is nothing if not hope, and hope can make anyone a fool. That’s what Freda Michaels had been trying to get him to see for years. Freda knew, but her telling him wouldn’t have worked. He had to see it for himself, and like a child maturing into adulthood, learn some things through hard experience.
“We’re friends, Andrea. We should be able to use each other when we need something, as long as it does no harm.”
“What if I want us to be more than friends?”
“Is that where you are now?”
“I think so, yes. I think I’m at that point in my life.”
If Andrea were being honest – with him and with herself – then she was today where he was years ago. Years ago he would have jumped at the chance. There was a time when if she’d simply said the word, he would have married her without hesitation. There was a time in which she had her hands around his heart.
He said, “We’ll always be friends, Andrea. I’m always going to love you. But for me the moment has passed.”
Manhattan, New York
“Do you really have to use a condom to blow me?”
“Those are the rules.”
“I don’t think I can come like that. I don’t think I can feel anything.”
“Do you want something else…a hand job?’
“Fuck no. I can do that for myself. Do you really have to use a condom?”
Terri was getting a bad feeling about this client. He was too whiney, like a spoiled toddler who wasn’t getting his way. A tantrum might come next. There was a big difference between a baby and a grown man throwing a tantrum. One could be dangerous. She cut a glance at the hotel room’s door and wondered if she could reach it, throw the security latch and get out before he caught her. If she needed to run. If he tried to chase her.
“The rules were explained to you when you set up the appointment,” she said. “We can’t change the rules.”
“Why not? It’s just you and me now. I won’t tell if you won’t.” He winked and smiled at her, as if she really wanted to suck his dick without protection and only needed his agreement to keep quiet to do it.
“Those are the rules, Gary. So no condom, no oral.”
“Then I think I want my money back.”
Terri slid away from him on the bed and reached for her bra. “Okay, call the service.”
She was going to get off the bed, but he grabbed her wrist. “I want my money back now.”
She needed to keep the situation calm, and then try to get away from this asshole. “Gary, don’t be silly, okay? We can have fun if we play by the rules. Let me put the condom on you…”
“We’re not using any fucking condom, Jewel. I told you I can’t feel anything like that. Let’s not make this something ugly, okay?”
Terri saw the threat in his eyes. If this bastard didn’t have things his way he was going to get mean.
She was sick of this, so sick and tired. And she didn’t have to be here. She could have gone to Brandon’s last night, and tonight been relaxing in his den without a care in the world. Brandon wouldn’t pressure her to do anything because they were friends. He cared about her.
Terri looked at the customer’s hand clutched around her left wrist. She looked at his wedding band. She said, “If you wanted someone to suck you off raw, you should’ve stayed home with your wife.” It was a wrong thing to say, given his temperament. But she didn’t care anymore.
The customer squeezed her wrist tighter and growled, “You little bitch,” and started to reach for her with his other hand. But he wasn’t that quick, and she was.
As she zipped up her dress Terri kept her eyes on Gary, who sat on the edge of the bed with a bloody hotel towel pressed against his broken nose. She said, “You could call the police, but you probably don’t want to. They might arrest me for solicitation, but it won’t stick. My company has a team of lawyers and private investigators ready to jump at a moment’s notice, and we have politicians who enjoy hanging out with us on occasion. You, on the other hand, have a wife who thinks you’re being a good boy while you’re in the city attending your company’s convention. And your company probably wouldn’t appreciate the bad press they’ll receive when this hits the news.”
From behind the towel Gary mumbled, “Fuck you.”
“Since you didn’t and won’t, you really can call and get your money back. Enjoy the rest of your evening, Gary.”
Rumson, New Jersey
Brandon was surprised to open his door and find Terri standing across the threshold. She didn’t look very friendly. Remembering how he’d come off the wrong way a couple of nights ago he decided to play things carefully and see what happened. He said, “I’m glad to see you.”
“I used to box when I was in the Army,” Terri said.
“Yes, really. And I was pretty good, too. They don’t have a boxing program for females, so I could only spar. I was the only female training for boxing and there weren’t too many dudes in my weight class, so I fought a lot of guys bigger than me.”
“Where are we going with this?”
“Where we’re going is that you’re bigger than me too Brandon, but I bet I can kick your Wall Street ass.”
“That still doesn’t tell me where we’re going with this.”
“Where I’m going is that if I do this, there can’t be anybody else. No naked wenches for Christmas, or any other time. Next time it won’t be her I punch out.”
“And before I stop working where I’m working, I need to find another job. My rent and bills still need to be paid.”
“Or you could stay here.”
“How would that be different from what I’m doing now?”
“You’d be here as my friend, and because I care about you and what happens to you.”
“I don’t need a man to save me.”
“I’m not in the saving business, Terri. I just want you here with me. It’s not a complicated thing.”
“It’s always complicated. We’re different people.”
“Was it complicated when you came here before?”
“As I recall, it got very complicated. Complication came out of your kitchen naked.”
“She had a towel on.”
“Yeah, for a hot second. I didn’t come here to talk about your wenches.”
“Do you want to come in or are you going to stand out in the cold while we talk?”
Terri stepped past him into the foyer. He noticed that she had a bandage over the knuckles on her right hand. “You’ve been fighting?”
“I wouldn’t call it a fight. So do you really think this can work with us, Brandon?”
“Yes I do.”
“Because we worked well as friends. I liked having you here, and when you weren’t, I missed you. I want you here all the time; here with me.”
“What if I said I’ll move in, but that I want to wait before anything happens?”
“For how long?”
“I don’t know; three months, maybe six.”
“I understand. You’re worried that you’ll suck in bed and not measure up to my high standards.”
“Ooh, you asshole!” For the first time since he opened his door to her Terri smiled. Actually let go of a little laugh.
He said, “Okay, but seriously, I do think there’s something we need to do before we jump into the deep end.”
“Is this another one of your ultimatums?”
“Not at all. More like a strong suggestion…a very strong one.”
Shrewsbury, New Jersey
The Office of Dr. Freda Michaels
One Week Later
Freda tried to maintain her professionalism and not smile as she sat across from her patient. Okay, patients. They sat next to each other on her office sofa; closer than strangers would sit when there was adequate space but not so close that one could make assumptions about their level of intimacy. Brandon was dressed in pressed jeans under a cable knit pullover of too high a quality to come from anybody’s department store. He’d let his facial hair grow out, and with it trimmed low, looked handsome in a scruffy kind of way. Terri wore jeans, too, and cute over-the-ankle boots with three-inch heels. For the first time since Freda had known her she wasn’t wearing a hairpiece. Her short wavy haircut made her look much younger. Today, rather than sexy-pretty, she looked sexy-cute. They looked like a cute couple, if that’s what they were. Freda had hopes. “It’s really nice to see you again, Brandon,” she said.
“Thanks Freda. You too.”
“Although I must admit that I’m quite surprised at the circumstances.”
“We just want to make sure that we start things off on the right foot – you know, all things considered.”
“I’ll do all I can to help. So are we going to call this couples counseling?”
Terri took Brandon’s hand, smiled and said, “Let’s call it ‘playing it by ear’ counseling.”
Shrewsbury, New Jersey
Evan woke up to the aroma of breakfast – bacon, coffee, something with onions. When he got down to the kitchen he found the table set and Freda busy finishing up what they used to call their country heart attack breakfast: Bacon and hot links, home fries (from real sliced potatoes) with onions, scrambled eggs with cheese, buttered grits, cheese toast (made in the oven), pancakes, coffee and sweet tea. So that they wouldn’t permanently clog their arteries they used to only have this breakfast once every month or so. Evan hadn’t had it since their marriage ended. His stomach rumbled that that was far too long.
As was her habit from back on the mornings before they had kids and again after the kids were grown and out of the house, Freda was wearing the dress shirt he’d worn to work the day before. The shirt was white, and the way it contrasted with her long, bare, honey-hued legs made his heart gasp rather than beat. She had classic soul music playing on his stereo, currently Groove Me by King Floyd. As she flipped the pancakes she wiggled her hips and sang along. She looked good enough to eat. Again.
When Freda saw him she danced his way, smiling and with spatula in hand, and greeted him with a smack on the lips. He grasped her waist so that she couldn’t prance away and asked, “So why are you so happy this morning? And the only correct answer is because of what we did last night.”
“That’s one reason,” Freda said.
“What’s the other?”
“I think that for the first time in a long time I truly believe that love can conquer all. It feels good to have that hope again.”
“Is this because of your patients – Terri and Brandon – hooking up?”
“Mmm-hmm. If I’d had to bet money a couple of months ago, I would have bet that they didn’t have a chance. But now I’d bet on them making it work. And if those two can make it work, hey…”
Freda turned away and padded back to the stove. Evan watched her, and for a moment he forgot that their lives were separated, that they weren’t married any more. Or maybe it didn’t matter. Maybe all that mattered was how they felt being together in the moment. And maybe that feeling conquered everything else.
31 May 2012
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GOLDEN (INSATIABLE: BOOK TWO)