I woke to find his head on my shoulder, his nose against my neck. He was draped across me like a sweaty blanket, and I smiled with delight at the moist union of our skins, until I saw the web of purple weals on the left side of his back, the explosion of scar tissue from the bullets' exit wounds, and the hatchmark scars from stitches of the surgeries he'd had. He stirred when I shifted position to look at his back.
"Don't look at that, Sully," he whispered sleepily, raising himself on his arms and rubbing his face in my hair.
"It was touch and go, wasn't it? No one let on how close you must have come to dying -- you were hurt badly." What if he doesn't survive the next time? Isn't there always a next time for police nowadays?
"You just need to not think about it. I'm fine, we're together, we have three weeks. Now don't start worrying about something that didn't happen." He pressed my hand against his cheek. "Are you shaking?"
I could pretend not to think about it. "Yes. I'm hungry, John. I haven't had anything to eat all day."
"I'd have taken you to breakfast if you hadn't dragged me into bed by force," he lied. "I could arrest you, you know."
"No, no, no jurisdiction. That's why your mother moved out here, to keep you from sending her to the slammer for shopping at the wrong grocery store."
He laughed, and then slid his left arm under my head to kiss me again. "What time is it, anyway? Are we looking at lunch or dinner? Oh, dinner," he said, looking at the clock. "Where do you want to go to dinner?"
"Somewhere that we don't have to dress to be served," I suggested, putting my arms around his neck.
He rolled nimbly off the bed, snatching a pillow to hide his nakedness. "Oh, no, you don't. I got these cop instincts to keep me from being taken advantage of."
"That's not a cop instinct, that's a pillow." I fished under the other pillow, came up with the dark green elegant hooded cotton nightgown I'd worn the night before, slipped it over my head and stood, the gown falling like a window shade and covering me, no disclosure.
"Hey. That's cheating," he said.
I left him with his pillow and went to the kitchen. As I opened the refrigerator, he appeared by my shoulder, still zipping his pants.
"Bacon!" he exclaimed. "How about we make some BLT's?"
"Now we're talking great cop instincts."
"Let me make the bacon, I'm good at that. How many slices do you want?"
I looked at him as though he were from another planet. "Good God, Copper, cook up the whole pound. I'm starving."
I can make no excuse for my turnaround. One day I was determined to keep our romance out of the bedroom, and then he stepped out of his car, alive and smiling; alive, not just a memory; alive, here on my sidewalk; alive, his eyes locked with mine; alive, and I could not bring myself to miss the chance to hug him, kiss his mouth, tangle my fingers in his hair, hear him whisper my name in passion.
Our lovemaking had been intense, desperate, as though all the years of our friendship had been a prison from which we had suddenly broken free. We could not press enough of our bodies together, twining into one structure, seeking a union that transcended mere gratification. In the consummation of our desire, our relationship was changed forever, heart pressed against heart, arms pulling each other into closest embrace, voices crying out together. Nothing that we said or did together would ever be the same; we were new creatures, inextricably linked by serious, deliberate, cognizant, tender, adoring, starving, satiating physical union. It was the bottom line; we would never, ever see each other the same way again.
Of course I compared the experience to having sex with Adam, though not as though I was doing a review for The Modesto Bee or anything. Adam was a hell of a lover, determined to make certain that he was Lover of the Year, which he always was, in my book, while I was married to him. John made love to me as though he was dying, and I was his only salvation.
I couldn't say that having sex with Adam changed the way we interacted with each other. I wanted to ... well, screw his socks off from the first moment I saw him. Having done so, and accepted his proposal of marriage, I was pleased as punch to take possession of Lover of the Year. I could not remember an amendment in the way we interacted, except that sexual gratification was on tap whenever I felt the itch.
Making love with John, the memories of five years of kindnesses and favors shot through my sensations of pleasure like a weaver's shuttle, bringing new yarn to the warp and woof of my rug, modifying its pattern. My mornings would be different, as I sought him amongst my pillows; my afternoons would be barren deserts unless I saw him, touched his shoulders, his hands. Evenings would be empty, pointless caverns of isolation unless I held him carefully under my embracing arm. And we had so little time, so little time.
"You know," I said admiringly, as we lounged on the sofa after our meal, with him lying back across my lap, "you're pretty well built for a man in his forties who got shot up this summer."
"Thanks. We all work out a little, well, most of us. But I spend a lot of time at the gym. Beats the shit out of sitting in my apartment watching TV. Besides, I knew I had to look good to catch your eye."
"Catch my eye?" I asked.
"Yeah, catch your eye. Ma was telling me about you for a couple years before I ever saw you, and there was a couple more years before I met you. Couldn't let myself go to pot, now could I, just in case you might get interested."
Trying to recount the years that had passed, I pondered this frank statement. "You mean that you and your mother were conniving to get us together basically from the time I moved here?"
He picked up my hand and kissed the back of it. "Hey, it all started with Ma talking about the pretty lady that moved in next door to her. You think I wouldn't want to look at a pretty lady? And then I saw you getting in your van one day, and I told her I wouldn't mind meeting you. I just didn't think she'd throw me at you in the middle of the church."
"Neither did I. Sorry about telling you off like that," I blushed, remembering how angry I had been and how rudely I'd brushed him off. "I'm surprised you ever spoke to me again."
"Saw you playing with Gabe that day and fell for you like a ton of bricks."
"The day we met?" I gasped. "My God, you're a patient man!"
"Bodie and Andersol knew it right away. They promised to help me out if they could." He sat up, wincing at the flexion of his side. "Crap! I was supposed to call Andersol back about us going up there to visit tomorrow! That was her on the phone when you left Ma's house this morning," he explained to my puzzled expression. "She wanted to know if they should come down here or if we wanted to go up to Port Laughton."
"And you told her ... ?"
"I told her I'd call her back after I'd talked to you. Can I use your phone or do you want me to go use Ma's? Did you want to go up there?" He had a concentration of worry-wrinkles between his eyebrows.
I walked to the kitchen to get the phone. No, I didn't want to go to Port Laughton to visit the estate. I didn't want to have to share John's attention with Jesse, Bodie, Andersol, and five kids. I didn't want to sleep in separate bedrooms. On the other hand, I thought ruefully, there had been no mention of sharing a bed at night, so maybe I was expecting something that wouldn't happen. And the whole crowd at the estate was almost as eager to see John as I was. I handed him the phone. "Whatever you want to do is fine with me. They've been worried about you, too." I snapped my fingers for Gabe and took him out the back door to the yard.
The cottonwood in my neighbor's yard rattled its leaves in the evening breeze, and hook-shaped clouds swept across the sky, pink and purple as the sun went down. Bad weather ahead: those long thin clouds with the curve at one end always meant something nasty was in store. Surely not rain already -- it was only the beginning of September.
The screen door slid open and John emerged, bouncing a tennis ball. Gabe's head came up at the sound of the first bounce, and he ran to a stop in front of John, panting in anticipation. John tossed the ball with a sidearm flick, and Gabe sped after it, chunks of grass flying up under his toenails. The dog caught the ball before it hit my fence, and brought it back to John, spitting it out at his feet and then stomping and demanding in a growly bark that John was to throw it again.
"I told Bodie we'd drive up there for lunch, but we wouldn't be staying," John said between throws. "That okay with you?"
I breathed out a great sigh of comfort, nodding. He always took my side, even when I didn't voice it.
After about five retrievals, Gabe kept the ball and lay down on the patio under the grape vines that trailed along the fence, chewing the ball so that it nearly compressed flat between his jaws, his eyes half-closed in bliss. Bliss. I wanted some bliss, too. As I stood beside John, watching the dog, I slipped my right hand into a back pocket of his jeans. He tensed, but pretended not to notice. He did, however, smile a little at the corner of his mouth.
"The dog has had enough," I said. "What about you? Have you had enough?"
The question was suggestive enough to make him laugh aloud. He turned to face me and put his hands on either side of my face. "You and me, we need to figure out what that word, 'enough,' means."
I pushed his hands away from my face, whistled softly for Gabe, and went into the house. In the doorway I stopped, and looked back over my shoulder at John. When I was sure he'd caught my meaning clearly, I walked on through the darkening hallway. I heard him shut the patio door, and I pulled the cotton robe over my head and left it lying on the floor.
Walking up the steep bricked street, I looked at all the cast-off items that people had put out for the Spring Pick-up. I stopped short, finding by the sidewalk a big enamelware sink, its shiny white surface marbled with a delftware blue, that someone had put out to be taken away. It was enormous, with a big single bowl sink in the middle, and draining basins on either side. There were cabinets underneath and above the sink, with an icebox in which one put crushed ice and stored glasses so that they'd be properly chilled. It was beautiful, and I loved it and wanted it so much, but reviewing my kitchen in my mind, knew I had no place for it, unless I tore out everything in my kitchen to make a place for it.
I woke with my left arm around John's shoulders. It was still dark, for which I was grateful. If he woke, he wouldn't see my face. Without moving my right arm from under the pillow beneath his head, I raised myself a little to look at him. In the faint light from the hall nightlight, I could just barely see his face. My subconscious was prodding me to think about this choice I was making. I leaned close to his neck and sniffed his scent. No, I thought as I put my head back on the pillow. There's got to be a place in my kitchen for this find. He's got to have a place in my life.