“Are you alone?”
“Lil is driving. What’s wrong, baby?” I could have guessed it was Erik, but she’d never admit it.
“Can I see you?”
I looked at my watch. My plane was scheduled out of Santa Monica at six. I could make it if I left Venice by four. If history was any indication though, I’d be out of there in an hour. I wished I could tell her no, but we had too much history, too much intimacy to just turn my back. So I let Lil take me home, then I got into the Mercedes and went to Venice.
Jessica lived on the beach, as her publicly sunny demeanor demanded. I parked and walked up the long stairway to the back, where the pool overlooked the ocean. The furniture was gone, as was the barbecue. She stood alone at the half empty bar with her glass of white wine, still wearing her flowing white dress. It outlined the shape of her body in the breeze, making me think immediately of pulling her legs open, but gently. That brought my hot little goddess back to mind, because with her, gentle was optional. I should have nailed her in the car, bruises or no. I wasn’t any less aroused than her, and now I was in a dangerous position. I wanted to f**k. I had a weight at the base of my c**k that needed to drop, somewhere, somehow.
“Jess,” I said when I could see her puffy eyes. “Wasn’t there a party or something? After the opening?”
“I couldn’t take it any more. Smile, talk about popsicle sticks and culture’s effects on childhood memories. Smile. Answer process questions about keeping dead trees alive. Smile again. How are you?”
I snapped a glass off the rack, and Jessica poured me some wine. “I’m fine, really. You called me over here to ask me how I am? It looks like I should be asking you the question.”
She barely paused before getting to the point. “Erik.”
“I thought you were engaged.”
“So did I. Do you want to sit?” She indicated the indoor patio behind sliding glass doors.
The thought of going inside and lounging on a couch with her, which I’d done a hundred times, somehow seemed too risky, so I slid onto a barstool. “Where’s everything? Those hideous f**king lamps are gone.”
She took a deep breath and swished her wine around. “Three days ago, he took them. They were his.”
“Figured.” I didn’t know what she wanted. Was I supposed to sympathize? She had dozens of girlfriends, each with two shoulders to cry on. What the hell was I doing there?
“He found out you were coming to the opening. And he just went off. ‘Why’s this guy still hanging around? Why can’t you cut him loose?’ Blah blah.” She downed her wine. “He doesn’t understand. Or didn’t understand. As you can see, he decided to stop trying, which I guess is for the best.”
“I’m sorry to hear it, but I’m not taking the blame for it.”
“Jon. You don’t have to get defensive.”
“Jess. What do you want, if not to blame me?”
She was a bundle of nerves, which no other person would notice because she never wasted a movement. She didn’t have a set of sweet little tics like Monica. Jessica was still water, her tension revealed in her gaze, which sat in the middle distance.
“I should be frank,” she said.
“You be anyone you want.”
I waited until she was ready, because she’d get to it if I stopped cracking wise, and I had the feeling I would want to hear it.
She took a deep breath. “I think Erik had something. I think he was seeing something I was pretending wasn’t there.”
She was squirming. Oh, this was good. Delicious even. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t want to assume she was going where I thought she was because I didn’t want the rug pulled from under me again. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d implied she wanted me back and then turned the conversation back on itself.
“You’ve always been there for me.” She looked up, right at me.
“We were married,” I said. “I told you, I take that seriously.”
She took half a step toward me. I’d been through that before with her, and I wouldn’t lean into her half a centimeter I didn’t have to. I hoped with the same fervor, but I was gun shy. Even when she put her fingers on top of my hand, which she hadn’t done in a while, I was torn. After the divorce, she’d still touch me, but she’d back off like a hosed down cat as soon as I went for her. I was impatient with the games and horny as hell from being around Monica. I felt like a caged animal.
So when she touched my face, I froze, convinced I would spin her by the hair and bend her over. That wouldn’t do at all. Not if I was going to have her again.
“You’re being shy, Jon. That’s not like you.”
“You going to push me away?”
“No. Not this time.”
Fine. I put my hands on the sides of her face so she couldn’t turn and pushed her against the bar. I choked off her squeak with a kiss. She kissed me back. She really did.
The drop in my chest was relief. My stomach tightened. To have my life back. To be back to normal again. With my wife at my side, a sealed unit, unbreakable. I touched my old self when I put my hand on her breast. The completed me, at my fingertips.
I pulled her skirt around her hips and hitched her up. She put her legs around my waist, and I carried her inside.
It was dark with those ass-ugly lamps gone. I wanted light to see her, to believe it. Oh, anything could go wrong between us writhing on the couch and me actually getting my dick in her. I remembered my promise to Monica, but I could explain the next day. I’d be sorry to see that sweet thing go, but woman would tolerate infidelity, and I cared too much about both of them to sneak around. Jessica had to be my choice. I’d taken a vow, begged for it to be honored, and waited so long that turning away the possibility of a reunion seemed ludicrous.
I pulled the top of her dress down.
Gorgeous in the moonlight. Those br**sts, with little rocks for ni**les at the tips. I sucked them and tasted her. The taste of me being normal again. The taste of morning dew and cut grass. I rolled her nipple over my tongue and pushed my hips into her. I whispered her name in a fog of relief and delight. I could barely breathe.
“Are you sure, Jess?” She’d better be sure. Between her and that delicious little girl in Echo Park, I was a throbbing rock.
“Yes, baby. Make love to me like you used to. In the beginning.”
Yes, I wanted to. And I might have. If she hadn’t asked for the old me back, I might have been as sweet and gentle as our first night. But in my ear, as if she sat right next to me, I heard Monica moan, “Hurt me, Jonathan. Tear me in two.” I got even harder, if that was possible, and I was at the point where I could expect to walk out of there with a pair of ten pound weights between my legs. I was too old for that shit.