Friday, August 29, 2008

August 29, 2008

Alex answered the phone after the fourth ring, sounding slightly out of breath.

“Hi, Alex,” I said. “It’s Vivian LeVeau. Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“No, no. This is a good time,” he said. “I was just getting out of the shower.”

I took a moment to enjoy the naughty visual, imagining the water droplets trickling down his toned body.

“Down, girl,” I thought, getting myself back on track.

“I got the flowers you sent,” I said. “They’re gorgeous, and they smell heavenly. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome. I’m glad you like them,” he replied.

“So,” I paused, suddenly feeling shy, “Are you still interested in taking me out to dinner?”

“Most definitely,” he said. “Are you free Saturday night?”

I thought ahead to my original plans for Saturday: Do laundry, clean out my linen closet, and figure out what’s causing that funky odor in the back of my fridge. I think I can rearrange my schedule.

“Yes,” I said. “Saturday’s perfect.”

“Great,” he said. “May I pick you up at 7?”

“Seven is good,” I said.

“Oh," I added, "Where are we going?” I need to figure out what to wear.

“How about Chez Henri?” he asked.

I almost choked on the water I had just taken a sip of.

“Chez Henri?” I sputtered.

“Yes, is that ok?” he asked, concerned.

“Yes,” I said, regaining my composure. “Chez Henri is ok; it’s more than ok.”

Alex chuckled and said, “Great. I’ll see you on Saturday then.”

“I can’t wait.”

I immediately called Sonia after hanging up with Alex.

“Are you sitting down?” I asked her.

“What? Yes, I’m eating dinner,” she said. “What’s up?”

“I just spoke with Mr. Alex Hayes,” I said. “Guess where he’s taking me.”

“Wait a minute,” she replied. “You said you weren’t going to go out with that guy.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to, but he was so thoughtful in sending me a bouquet of flowers to tell me how sorry he was for being so rude after the accident,” I said.

“Geez, Viv,” Sonia laughed, “I didn’t know you were such a sucker for a bunch of weeds.”

“They’re not weeds, Sonia!” I said, sounding more exasperated than I’d meant to. “You should see them.”

“But anyway,” I continued. “Back to where Alex is taking me to dinner. Guess.”

“Oh, I don’t know...TGI Fridays?”

“Ha. Nope. Get this—he’s taking me to Chez Henri,” I said.

“What? I thought you said he just lost his job,” she said. “How can he afford to take you there?”

“I don’t know,” I said, feeling a bit deflated. “I guess I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Well, maybe you should,” she said.

“It is a good question,” I admitted. “But it’s not like I have any business asking him that. If he thinks he can afford it, who am I to question him?”

“Maybe you shouldn’t,” she said. “But I hope he’s not getting in over his head. You don’t need another ‘Adam’ situation.”

I hadn’t thought of Adam in years, ever since he skipped out on our lease in college after we broke up. My father had warned me about living with someone when I was so young, and especially of living with someone to whom I wasn’t married. But of course, I wouldn’t listen. As a matter of fact, I am still paying off one of the credit cards Adam and I had shared—it had been in my name only. Adam had known what he was doing; I have no doubt.

“So, anyway,” I said, clearing my thoughts, “I need something to wear. Will you go shopping with me tomorrow to find a dress?”

“Absolutely,” she said.

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang.

Who’s that? “Oh, Kelly and Kaitlyn," I mumbled. "It completely slipped my mind....”

After Kelly left for her therapy appointment, Kaitlyn and I settled in to the serious business of coloring pictures. Once she got bored with the crayons, I broke out my acrylic paints and let her go crazy with them on papers I’d spread out across my kitchen floor. I swear her paintings are better than some of the stuff my co-workers have produced and tried to pass off as acceptable. I wonder how they'd feel if they knew a three-year-old put them to shame.

When she’d finished her last masterpiece, Kaitlyn handed it to me and asked, “Do you like it, Aunt Vivee?”

“It’s beautiful, honey, just like you,” I said, giving her a one-armed hug around her shoulders and a kiss on the forehead.

“Aunt Vivee?”

“Yes?” I asked.

“You got it upside down,” she said, taking her painting from me and turning it right side up.

“Ohhh, well, yes, I can see that now,” I said, suppressing a giggle.

I looked Kaitlyn over and realized that the acrylics might not have been the best idea. She was covered in paint. She’d even somehow managed to get it in her hair.

“Ok, Kaitlyn,” I said, “We’d better get you into the tub or else your mom’s not going to be too happy with me. You’re a mess!”

Kaitlyn laughed and asked, “Can I have bubbles?”

I nodded.

“Yay! I love bubbles!” she exclaimed as she ran down the hall to the bathroom.

“Man, to be a kid again,” I thought. “So easy to please.” I smiled to myself at how cute she is.

Once I’d finished up Kaitlyn’s bath and had styled our hair with the new barrettes, we made some mac ‘n cheese with broccoli for dinner and settled onto the couch to watch my “Lion King” DVD.

Kaitlyn and I sang along together to all the songs in the movie, but about half way through, I noticed that I’d lost my accompaniment: Kaitlyn had fallen asleep.

I turned off the movie and covered Kaitlyn up with a blanket. I looked at the clock and realized that Kelly should have been back to get Kaitlyn probably a half an hour before. I wondered what was taking her so long.

I called Kelly’s cell phone to check on her and it went to her voicemail.

“That’s strange,” I thought. “Well, maybe her session with the therapist ran late or something. I’m sure she’ll be here soon.”

I decided to go look through my closet to see if I had any possible dresses to wear on my date with Alex and to check out my shoe situation. I have a million shoes, but I never seem to wear half of them because I don’t have any outfits that match them. I am hoping to be able to find a dress that will go with at least one pair of my shoes I haven’t worn yet.

I had pulled out about ten dresses and had them splayed messily across my bed, and I had a small mountain of shoes piling up on my bedroom floor when I heard a knock at the door.

“There’s Kelly,” I thought.

I ran down my hallway to answer the door. When I opened it, Kelly was standing there with black streaks of mascara zigzagging across her cheeks. She looked miserable.

I pulled her inside and gave her a huge hug. She seemed to fall apart in my embrace, and as I hugged her, I noticed how thin she had gotten. I wonder if she’s been eating.

Kelly sobbed onto my shoulder. I felt her tears begin to soak through my shirt when she pulled away suddenly.

“Do you have any Kleenex?” she sniffled.

“Of course,” I said, as I ran and grabbed the box out of my bathroom and handed it to her.

“What’s wrong, Kel?” I asked, my heart breaking for her. “What happened?”

She honked into a Kleenex and said, “Well, I went to my therapy session, and of course, we talked about John.”

I nodded.

“I was able to keep it together while I was there, but once I left Evelyn’s office, I fell apart. I stopped crying long enough to drive over here, but once I put my car in park, I couldn’t hold back my tears any longer.”

“Honey, why didn’t you cry at your therapist’s office?” I asked. “That’s what she’s there for. It’s ok to let out your emotions there.”

“I know,” she sobbed, as she blew her nose again, “But I just couldn’t let Evelyn see me cry when I’ve only just met her. It felt so surreal to be talking to a stranger about John’s death.”

“I’m sorry, Kel,” I said. “This has to be so difficult for you.”

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a year since John died. When he’d been called to active duty, Kelly hoped that it wouldn’t be to serve in Iraq, but that’s exactly where he was stationed. Kelly had attempted to keep her feelings secret from John because she didn’t want to add to his stress at leaving his family and going to fight in this “war on terror”. He tried not to show it, but she could tell he was scared, too.

In the days before John was deployed, I can remember Kelly’s phone calls to me late at night after John had gone to bed. She would share her fears with me about his safety over in Iraq. She was terrified that he wouldn’t make it back home to her and Kaitlyn. She kept telling me that she just had a gut feeling that he wouldn’t be coming back. At the time, I thought that Kelly was just having a normal reaction to her husband being sent away to a war zone. I didn’t know then that she’d be right.

“Viv, why didn’t I try to convince John to move to Canada or France or something?” she choked. “We could have left the country and he’d still be here. I shouldn’t have let him leave.”

“Kelly, you know John wouldn’t have wanted that. He never would have agreed to it,” I said. “You shouldn’t beat yourself up with thoughts like that, Kel.”

“Those are the only kinds of thoughts I’ve had the last 10 months, 3 weeks, and 6 days, Vivian,” she cried. “I don’t know how to have any other kind of thoughts.”

“I can’t do this without him,” she went on. “How can I raise Kaitlyn without her daddy?”

Kelly looked at me with red, tear-filled eyes, and I almost couldn’t breathe for the grief I felt coming from her, pulling me down into her despair. I felt my own tears begin to fall.

“Do you know that Kaitlyn told me the other day that she can’t remember what her daddy’s voice sounded like?” she gasped as she choked out another sob.

“I can’t do this, Vivian. I need John here with me. He was supposed to be here with us. It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” she continued through her tears.

“I’m so sorry, Kelly,” I said. “Whatever you need, I will help you and Kaitlyn. I will help you through this.”

Kelly looked up at me with her bloodshot eyes, and I could tell from her expression that she believed me. For the first time since she’d walked through my door, her tears slowed, and I felt her relax as I hugged her tightly.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Viv,” she whispered. “I don’t know what I’d do.”

7 comments:

Hope said...

Wonderful! You are developing a great sense of depth to your characters, which makes them much more easy to relate to.

Great job!!!

mum said...

Good stuff, Cefarian. Look forward to the next post.

mum

Charlotte said...

I enjoyed this post a lot. I like the pacing of your writing. You're setting up a lot of different storylines, but everything is happening at a rate that actually seems realistic and possible.

Keep it up! =)

http://charlotte-faulkner.blogspot.com/

Carmel Beauty said...

WOW!! THIS IS GREAT! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

icesunstorm said...

Wow, i'm impressed...Thanks;-)

xibby_us said...

I love it. I wish you could post more often, but I understand. I love the story.

Noleen said...

Wow!
I Just stumbled upon this today and I'm already hooked!

I need to spend some time on the background story to catch up. I've become a little jaded with this genre of late...

Somehow your humanity spills into the charaters you create.
Can't we all identify with the changing room debacle?

So refreshing to read a tale with dimension and believeable twists to the saga!

The vibrant descriptions and honest admissions of the author remind me that fiction has a grand place in modern literature!

Anticipating your next installment,

Know-lean.