Ziggy crept out of the bed in the morning with the words, “Gonna scope out the shower situation.”
I stayed under the covers. In the morning light, I could see pine trees through the small window. It took me a minute to remember where we were. I mean, I knew we were in my sister’s house, but trying to remember which state. Right. Tennessee. Outside of Memphis.
The bed creaked as I rolled onto my back. The headboard was scratched and old. The bunk bed above seemed newer, modern and modular.
Ziggy didn’t come back and I heard water running. I guess the shower situation was acceptable. I decided to stay put. I certainly didn’t feel up to a confrontation with Janine with my hair greasy and my teeth unbrushed.
You don’t know it’s going to be a confrontation, I told myself. You haven’t seen her in what, six or seven years? Eight, maybe? When I left home she’d been at college for a couple of years and I honestly couldn’t tell you when the last time we actually spoke had been. Had she even come home the summer before I left? I don’t think she had. She and Lilibeth had both made minimal visits home after they started school.
Which made me think. At the time I just accepted it as the way things were, but now I wondered how Claire took it. She’d doted on them so much. Had she been happy they had left the nest or had she been pissed they didn’t come home to visit more?
Or, as Ziggy would say, both? Why not both?
He slipped back into the bedroom wearing only a towel around his waist. He’d gotten his hair trimmed before we’d left the city, so it was back to its shortest configuration, almost peach-fuzz short in the back and along his neck, showing off his D-note tattoo, but spiky-longish on top by comparison. He handed me a matching towel, neatly folded, and let his drop while he dug through his bag for clothes.
I decided I better get myself washed and ready for the day, too. The house was still quiet. I had no idea what time it was. The child’s room had no clock, I wore no watch, and this was way before the days of carrying a pocket supercomputer everywhere. Maybe Janine had gotten up and gone to work already. Or was still asleep. Whichever it was, I figured I should take my chance while I could.
In the shower was a bottle of Pert shampoo. Do you remember Pert? Do they even make it anymore? I don’t even know why, but when I was a kid I remember us switching to it from Prell. Prell was green. Pert was white and didn’t smell like flowers or fruit.
That smell. I remembered liking it as a teenager but as I washed my hair it triggered a lot of angsty memories. I used to jerk off using it.
Masturbation was the last thing I needed to be thinking about right then. But of course I was also thinking about Ziggy letting his towel fall. Have I mentioned how all the dance training had sculpted him like the Venus de Milo? I’m sure I have. Total perfection.
I was not-not-not going to jerk off with cum-white Pert in my sister’s house in Tennessee. Not happening.
I got out of the shower instead and brushed my teeth and towel dried my hair. It was at its longest ever–long enough to cover the rocket tattoo on my left arm when it was loose. In fact it was too long to towel dry–I’m not sure what the hell I was thinking. That left it a wild, tousled mass, the red extensions (I was back to red, did I mention that?) making the tangle worse. And of course I had left my comb in the bedroom with my clothes.
I wrapped my towel around my waist and listened at the door. I heard nothing so I decided to make a break for the bedroom.
And almost ran smack into a woman in a bathrobe with her hair in curlers and her face looking like the cracked surface of a dry lake bed. She screamed and her voice cracked, too, and then we both recognized each other.
Not Janine, my sister, but Claire, my mother. My brain did a flip.
“Put some clothes on!” she snapped.
“I’m about to!” I snapped right back. God. It was exactly like I was seventeen again.
“And what the hell are you doing here, anyway!”
“I was going to ask you the same thing!” Jeezus. My heart was racing a mile a minute. “I thought you were in the hospital!”
“You wish!” she screeched, ducking around me and then slamming the bathroom door shut behind her.
I refrained from slamming Landon’s door, though I wanted to. I closed it silently instead, then stood there, my hand still on the knob, trying to get my breath back.
I felt Ziggy’s forehead settle between my shoulder blades. “I take it that was your mother.”
“Nice of Remo to warn us.”
“Didn’t he say she was in the hospital? I swear someone said she was in the hospital. Shouldn’t someone with cancer be in the hospital?” I was babbling.
Ziggy turned me around, pressed me back against the door, and proceeded to kiss me to shut me up.
I’m not going to tell you what else he did to me against that door, but let’s just say if he didn’t swallow we would have both needed a second shower. I didn’t argue. I didn’t want to resist. I didn’t give a fuck if we were in Janine’s house anymore.
And Ziggy knew it.
“There,” he said, wiping the corner of his lips with one finger. “Now you’ll be more relaxed.”
Well, I don’t know about that, but I was grateful he was there.