The Gardens - In the Beginning

Friday, October 25, 2013

Luminescence - Chapter 4

Charlie and Lucifer wasted no time occupying the designated dog area of her couch. Charlie hogged his whole blanket; but Lucifer, paying no attention, quickly took over the spot for himself. Not copacetic with Lucifer's arrangement, the terrier opted to claim a chunk of No Dog's Land at the end of the couch beyond the edge of his blanket.  Preferring not to rat them out, Josh chose to let sleeping dogs lie and quickly walked back into her kitchen and sat at the table. Watching her prepare two coffee mugs of hot tea, one he hoped with the faint taste of sweet sugar he had asked for, he sized up her backside from head to toe, and thought it was getting a little too hot in that small room. She peeked over her right shoulder, and met his smile with a caught you smile of her own. She turned back and a movement above her caught his eye. "What the...?"
She turned around with a cup of tea in each hand and followed his stare to the top of the cupboard above her stove. "Oh, that's Lily." She looked back at that look of astonishment on his face. "She's a cat, you know; fangs, claws and purrs."
"Do you have any others?"
"She's an only child." She knew he wasn't a cat person, but he was looking at Lily like she had just risen up out of the bowels of hell. "She doesn't scare easily, so you'll have to deal with her." Sitting down, she pushed his cup of tea across the table to him.
"Is she friendly?"
She leaned back in her chair with her coffee cup held to her lips and gently blew her breath across its surface. He couldn't believe that small gesture was such a complete turn on for him. He was having a difficult time concentrating on the cat.
"She's sizing you up."
He smiled.  "For the kill?"
She grinned, "One never knows with cats." She watched him taste his tea and give her that look of contentment.
"Do you want me to get that package back out of the garbage?"
"Come on..."  he grinned, "how can you just toss it away without knowing?"
"But I do know.  If it's from Patrick, it's crap."
"What if it's not from Patrick?  I'm assuming the P guy is an ex...right?"  She made a face letting him know he was right.
"Somewhat younger than me," she paused, "the last...cured me from ever wanting to be married again." Giggling, she added, "Don't look at me like that. Anyway, would you open a package that you guessed your ex from hell sent from somewhere in Egypt with the name Cleopatra on the return label?"
He laughed and some of his tea splashed onto the table. He wiped it off with his shirt sleeve without thinking, and glanced at her hoping she hadn't noticed, but of course she had.  The intensity of that stare as she got up had him fantasizing she was going to rip off his shirt in the heat of the moment, but she left him feeling a bit foolish when all she did was walk past him to the pantry and bring back an open bag of salt and pepper crinkle chips.  She picked one out and pushed the bag to dead center between them. 
"Junk food with our tea.  Do you like spicy?"
"Is it going to make me hot and bothered?"
Laughing, she picked out another chip and crushed it to pieces between her teeth, then slowly licked the salt and pepper off each finger.  He took a long sip of his lukewarm tea to cool down.  He knew the memory of her P guy hung over her like a huge storm cloud brewing up a hurricane, so he just went for it.  "So, tell me about your ex from hell."
She sighed one of the longest sighs he had ever heard, then began to steadily munch on the chips.  He pulled the bag to his side and pinned it down to the table with his arm.  "Talk to me, Jez."
"He treated me like he couldn't get enough of me while we were dating, and then treated me like he couldn't get rid of me soon enough after we got married.  It was the loneliest three years of my life.  I still don't know if he was gay, screwing around with other women, or just an all around asshole.  If I kept my mouth shut and lived with his narcissistic attitude of himself and his loathing of me, all was peachy.  If I breached the subject with him he tried to pound my head into the wall.  I doubt he ever had friends.  I never met any.  I used to fantasize him being eaten alive by piranhas, or crushed in the jaws of an alligator, but my life has never been one for miracles.  A few months after our divorce he showed up wanting me to keep him on my health insurance plan so he could have work done on his teeth, the creep.  I told him to get lost."  She thought a bit with that pouting of her lips.  "I don't think he was all too happy with me at that moment."  She looked into his glazed eyes and laughed.  "I guess that was a little more than you were expecting.  Are you going to run?"
He looked into those bedroom eyes that appeared more gray than green at that moment, and his mind failed with a response.  His life hadn't even got off the front door step compared to hers, relieving him more than distressing him; but he knew the pain of mistakes made, and couldn't find it within himself to pull away from her.  He began to realize that her pain was going to be his pain and her joy his joy.  He was being drawn into a life that was extremely complicated, and strangely he found himself not putting up much of a struggle.
She wistfully looked at her coffee cup, her thumb rubbing back and forth over the top of the handle.  She glanced at his mug as his fingers grasping the rim turned it clockwise around and around with him staring intensely at it, she imagined, absent of thought.  Their silence was like a heavy fog about them and she fretted she had said too much.  Looking up, her eyes met his soft gaze, but she felt no comfort.
With a slight smirk he pushed his chair back from the table, and walked over to the electric teapot, stopping short of the counter to check on the cat above, but it was no longer there.  Scanning the full length of the cupboard tops revealed only empty space.  While feigning absolute calmness, he quickly looked around the room stopping at Jez's eyes; but that almost smile told him she already had his number and he couldn't help his quick grin before his face became serious again.
"Did you see where Lilith went?"
"Where is she?"
"Haven't a clue."  His eyes were asking her "why not?"  She added, "Don't worry.  She's an absolute stinker, but sweet."  He looked quizzical.  "A real glutton for attention; an over achiever when it comes to play."  His blank stare egged her on, "She's friendly..a little crazy...but extremely friendly."
Putting his cup on the counter, he pushed the teapot switch and watched the bubbles begin to rise from the bottom until they became ferocious.  He was wondering what having a cat that's sweet and rotten at the same time really meant.  He turned around and faced Jez.  He needed to stand above her, to feel like he had some sort of leverage in their relationship.  She met his gaze with that questioning look that encouraged him on, like she was waiting for him to take charge. 
"I think the package should be opened.  It's useful to know where the P guy's head's at with all of this, and the only way you'll be able to do that is to find out what's in the box.  The whole thing sounds too weird.  He could still be dangerous for you."
"I'll think about it."
"You'll think about it?"
"I'll think about it." 
"Jez, just open the damn package!  How can you be so indifferent about something that could be so dangerous?"  
She leaned forward in her chair, "How can I be what?  You've seen too many horror movies.  We're talking about my life, not The House on Elm Street.  We're  talking about my normal, uneventful, everyday life.  Nothing's going to fall out of the sky and kill me.  And it's PATRICK, not the P Guy!  What is it with you and this P Guy stuff?"  She stopped herself, pressing her palm against her forehead, and sighed.  She straightened up and tried to soften her frown as she waited for him to leave, but he just stood looking at her. 
She sighed again and he watched a faint half smile seem to almost appear on her face as she twisted her mouth ever so slightly and gently tilted her head to one side, looking up at him with those soulful eyes that made him want to grab her and smother her naked body in kisses.  How he hated himself at that moment.  How could an argument be so seductive.
She couldn't take back her impatient outburst, so she just said the first thing that popped into her head.  "Our first argument, and we've only been together half a day.  Not a good omen for things to come, is it?"  She watched him turn the pot back on, and slowly make his cup of tea before returning to the table.  He stood for a moment by his chair, then finally noticed that her cup was also empty. 
"I'm sorry, for not paying attention."  He whisked her cup away before she had time to think of anything more to say and quietly made her a cup of Lady Grey tea.  She was surprised that he had noticed she didn't drink the same tea as his.  "You like it sweetened a bit, don't you?"
"Half a teaspoon, just a touch of sweet."
"Just like me."
She could hear the smile in his voice.  "Just like you."
He sat back down and pushed her cup of tea across the table to her.  "We should see which movie we want to watch, before it's too late to go."
She nodded, and held her steaming cup of tea in her hands, enjoying the warmth.  "You can take that package out of the garbage can, if you wish.  I just don't want to see what's in it today...maybe tomorrow."
"It can wait."

She was puzzled that this older man with dirty clothes, a day old beard, and the demeanor of a slightly sophisticated good ole boy was beginning to look impressive to her.  He sported no spare tire around his middle which was a huge plus as far as she was concerned.  Surprised, she was beginning to wonder what he looked like underneath all that cloth.  Blowing her breath across the surface of her steaming tea, she watched Lily emerge from under the table and sit quietly at the base of Josh's chair.  She mentally crossed her fingers, took a sip of hot tea, and hoped Lily would be a good girl.  

He felt the stare of those gold eyes penetrate to his inner core with the intensity of a lightning bolt.  To his right sat Lilith...Lily...and that look, when his eyes met hers, that look that encompassed a thousand bad words into one long stare was un-nerving.  Standing up she balanced on her hind legs with her front paws lightly resting on his thigh and he, for one horrible moment, thought she was going to try to jump onto his lap. The uncertainty lasted only seconds before she stretched out full length, lowering her hind quarters to the floor, and digging her razor sharp claws through his jeans and into his flesh.

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