When Court and I returned from the pizza joint, Ziggy and Claire were holding hands and laughing so hard they were crying. Ziggy jumped up to get napkins and silverware and Court cleared the miscellaneous magazines and stuff off of the table, while I started carefully unpacking the paper bags of food.
Whatever they had been talking about didn’t come up during dinner. I was just happy they seemed like they had been getting along.
Claire didn’t eat much. I wondered how much of brunch she’d consumed and whether it was a lot or a little. I didn’t bring it up. A few weeks ago, after all, she’d been living on mostly chocolate mousse because that was the only thing tempting enough to get her to put on calories. I wondered aloud if we had chocolate ice cream or if I should go and get some and saw her ears perk up.
“Can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meatball,” Court said, one hundred percent as a joke but I saw Claire’s face fall.
“It’s ice cream, not pudding,” I declared.
“I saw some Cherry Garcia in the freezer,” Ziggy said. “But I could use something chocolate myself. Claire, have they brought you some yet from Herrell’s? Makes Haagen Dazs taste like styrofoam by comparison.”
“Why no, I don’t think I’ve tasted this confection,” she said.
“That settles it. I’ll go.” He stood. “Dar—“
“I’ll go with you,” Court said. “It’s Daron’s turn to do the dishes.”
“Ha, okay.” I got up, too, and started collecting the garbage. The two of them hightailed it out, and I tossed out the empty containers, put the used silverware into the dishwasher, and then packed up the leftovers into a paper bag and wrote EAT ME on the side so Colin and Chris would know it was up for grabs. Of the three meatballs in Claire’s tin of spaghetti only half of one was gone and it looked to me like she had sliced it neatly in half before eating it. Someone would get a good meal out of it, anyway. Cancer wasn’t contagious last I’d heard.
The cleanup only took a couple of minutes and then I went back to Claire. She had her eyes closed like she had dozed off, so I sat down quietly and paged through the stack of magazines that had been moved. Both Rolling Stone and SPIN were in there, and I vaguely scanned them for Jonathan’s name and other stories of interest. There was one in there by him, a political story that I lost the thread of by the second paragraph when he went on about how demographic groups could no longer be counted as voting blocs and how they shouldn’t have been in the first place. I no longer remember why that was relevant to the article.
There was a small mention in one of the industry “notes” columns that Jay and Tread of MNB were re-uniting to form a new “musical concept” because I guess “band” was a passé term or something. Then again it was described as “rapgrass blue surf-funk” so who the fuck knows. No mention of what happened to Jay’s more recent band. For a second I couldn’t remember the name of the band because of the queasy feeling in my stomach. Right, Jay, also known as Jam… Happy Occident.
I had a funny feeling then, like in a parallel universe what I would have done now is get drunk and then call Tread and leave him answering messages that were nothing but me repeating over and over in more and more skeptical tones: “rapgrass blue surf funk?!”
Instead I moved the whole stack of magazines over to the floor next to the blue recycling bin. I didn’t put them in the bin, on the theory that if everyone else in the house had read enough of them, they’d finish the job, and if they wanted to keep them they’d move them back to the table.
When I turned around Claire had woken up and was blinking. I could hear Court and Ziggy’s voices as Court got out her keys. I opened the door for them and they came in, Court in the middle of chuckling about something Ziggy had said.
I had that parallel universe thing happen again: I could imagine me being paranoid and wondering if what he was making everyone laugh about was me. In this other world where I hadn’t quit drugs.
Fortunately that was not the world we were in, and when he put down the bag he was carrying and Court went to get bowls and scoops and spoons, I put my arms around him and held him close, right there in my own living room, in front of my own mother. This is my right, I realized, and it was hitting me like it was a totally new concept. We’re married or pair-bonded or whatever you want to call it and this is what it means, that I have the literal right to hug him right now, right here, and no one has the right to say a word against it (except him, of course).
And I think most straight couples would take that kind of thing for granted, whereas I was coming at it from the perspective of someone who just never, ever expected I could reach that point.
He kissed me all along my jaw, where a little stubble needed to be taken care of, not hungrily, not lasciviously. Sweetly. Affectionately.
We had ice cream. Ziggy had of course brought back far more than we needed but no one was going to complain about that. Colin came in partway through the devouring and helped with it. I told him about the leftovers in the fridge. He and I then tackled fitting all the ice cream leftovers into the freezer. It turned out to be a bit tricky, and we opted to just finish one of the containers and then combine two of the others. Colin then gave me a chocolate flavored kiss with a very cold tongue and was suddenly reminded how much I found temperature extremes to be a turn on. We were in front of the fridge and out of view of the living room.
“When do you leave?” he asked, tugging one of my belt loops.
“Tomorrow.” I sucked in a breath, making myself talk before the moment could slip away. “But I think Ziggy has dibs on me tonight. I’m sorry.”
He let go my belt loop and adjusted himself with that hand. “Not your fault Trish left me with blue balls. Or that I’m going to miss you like hell.”
I was about to say I’d be back in a few weeks, when Court and I swapped mother-watch duties, but then I realized I’d probably be going right to New York. “I’m sorry,” I said again.
“Don’t be. When are you going to get it through your head I like wanting you, D?”
“I just don’t want you to suffer on my account.”
“Hah. Too late.” He really looked like he wanted to bite me on the neck then. “A goodbye fuck for you and Zig is more important, or I’d suggest a threesome.”
A vivid image of Ziggy and I giving his erection a tandem tongue bath hit me, complete with scent and taste. “He, uh, that is, I’m just making the assumption. About tonight, that is.”
“I’m making that assumption, too, but if you think we should check with him, we can.”
I leaned to one side so I could look into the living room and realized no one was in there. Claire must have gone upstairs to bed. I assumed Court had gone up there, too, and Ziggy probably had as well. That or he was on the back deck, or in the basement, but unless he was feeling moody I didn’t imagine that being the case. “Um.”
“How about this. I’m going up to my room to choke the chicken in private. If you and he decide you want a midnight snack or something, come knock on my door, all right?”
Colin gave me a peck on the hair, then got as far as the doorway to the living room before he turned around and came back, and gave me much longer, deeper kiss, the kind that left me in a deliciously horny daze. “Just in case I don’t see you before you leave,” he said.
An “uh huh” of agreement was all I could muster. He disappeared upstairs to do as he said. I sat for a second in the kitchen, letting myself experience my feelings for a bit. Uh-huh.
When I got up to my room I could see Claire’s door was closed, the bathroom was open, and my own door was closed.
I opened it to flickering golden light. Ziggy had lit candles that I almost never did. I found him naked in bed reading a book, the top sheet artfully draped over one hip.
In my memory he must have done his eye makeup, because when he looked up from the book at me with the full force of his “bedroom eyes” I lost whatever I might have been about to say. If Colin hadn’t given my libido a kickstart, that would have surely done the trick.