Love Lies White

II.

 

Bob Wright flips his phone closed and stares at it in his hands. He contemplates the irony: Huh. I guess it’s good Mia bugged me so much, or I never would’ve listed my cell number. But still, how’d this guy find me?

Bob supports his upper body on his knees, his hands holding up his head on a triangle of fingers. He rubs his huge hands on his bearded cheeks, exhaling with remembrance.

 

On the first day of fourth grade, Bobby walked to school with some of the neighbor boys. His mom had taken him over to Credence Elementary a few days before, so he knew what to expect. Nonetheless, his food seemed to be doing tricks in his stomach. It was Bobby’s first day at a new school.

He saw her leaning against the wall, hands on her hips, echoing against the front hallway ceiling as I came through the door, “He can’t be all that…” I saw her eyes begin to roam, “Where is he?” She challenged.

He tries not to look at her, but he can’t help himself. He didn’t even know for sure if she was talking about him, yet her whole demeanor incensed Bobby to intrigue, cute little legs and all.

 

Bob falls back into his chair and states aloud chuckling, “Karah never ceased to amaze me. The most real person I’ve ever known.” He walks to the bathroom, disrobes, and starts the shower. After closing the shower door, he dips his head back into the water and his sixth grade summer.

 

I stand naked, facing an open door obstructed by Karah. The light behind her offers more shadows than form.

“Come out when you’re dressed,” she invites with no fear of my changing body.

I walk out of the clubhouse, tentative about the next steps, yet she is standing on top of the pool’s slide.

“Bet I’ll make a bigger splash than you,” and she jumps feet-first. I race after with a cannonball. We both surface screaming.

“What’s wrong?” Karah’s mom screeches out the back door of the house.

“It’s fffrrreeezzzing,” Karah yells, pulling at the ladder to get out. Her mom goes back into the house vexed.

When Karah rises to full height and stretches her towel around her, I realize she had become much more mature looking. Curves had developed practically over night. She had always had great legs, but now the flesh beneath her swimsuit, which has a zipper from chest to waist, brought such a stir of excitement against my pool-shrinkage that I race to my towel and sit down.

“Come on Bobby, lalalet’s go bababack into the cacaclubhouse. It’ll be wawawarmer there. Thethethere’s a babablanket tatatoo,” her teeth are chattering and her lips are blue as she says this. I, on the other hand, am shivering at the anticipation of being alone with her. I follow behind, wondering what she could be thinking.

Karah throws down some bedding and collapses on the floor, tossing a cover over her head. Her muffled voice exclaims, “Well, are you gonna help me warm up or not?” I couldn’t help but laugh.

“You crack me up! I never know what to do around you.”

“Well, do you need me to tell you to come lay with me on the floor? Please Bobby, will you? I don’t think I’ll bite…but I may tickle.” She retorts sheepishly.

“I won’t stop you, but I’ll warn you: I’m not ticklish,” I smirk at her. I bet she’ll touch me anyway. I open my arms and pull her still shivering body to lie against mine in a big hug. Her shivers subsided, but she continued to face away from me.

“Can I tell you a secret?”

“Uh, yea.”

“You can’t get freaked out or anything, ok?”

“Ok. Come on, let this secret out, you know you want to…” I tease.

“I had a dream about you yesterday…” she begins in an unusually timid tone. I lie in wait. “On a warm day in the middle of a wheat field, we were kissing and rolling, in love and happy…free to feel…free to be…” Her broken and sad voice pierces my heart. She turns to look at me, and I lock eyes with her so that she knows I mean what I am going to do next. She needs to know that she is not alone like she feels she is.

“I love you, Karah, I feel like I always have,” and I kiss her with every tingle making me feel larger and more in control.

 

As Bob towel dries his hair, he walks over to his closet and packs a small bag. Ready to take any stand-by seat he comes across at any cost, he goes to his computer to find the quickest flight back to her side. He admits to himself that he had never given up hope that he would see her again; however, he shakes his head knowing that it will not be as he’d always dreamed. He scoffs at the ill-fate their relationship maintained after their break-up the summer before eighth grade.

Bob pulls a pair of sweat pants over his free, still muscular body. He turns off his bedside lamp and lies down. I never did let her live down dumping me for Billy Burrell.

 

When I walked up to Karah, I realized she has been crying. I had grown up around Karah’s angry home life, so to find her melancholy was less than dramatic. Despite the tears I knew she was strong, even through what she called her “family curse,” which was mainly her parents’ divorce and dumb luck. I dropped my bike and sat down on the grass. With Karah, moments like these were better eased into.

“My mom says hi.” I squinted up at her twisted swing.

“I have to tell you something…I don’t even know how to do it…” Karah stopped talking and shook her head. “It’s been so long…but too long…don’t you think?” She looked up at the sun; then, she met my eyes. And I knew she was going to cheat me just like she had years ago cheated me out of our first kiss, almost at this exact spot. After that she hadn’t talked to me for what had seemed like forever.

“Bobby, I’m breaking up with you,” she watched my reaction. I was stone.

“But I still love you, you know that right?” I got to my feet, turned, and picked up my bike. “Bobby, forgive me. Please…” She screeched out into the air behind me. “I’m sorry, Bobby, I’m sorry…” And she was.

 

Bob could almost envision Karah’s handwriting on the note she had left in his locker three weeks after she had broken up with him. “Please take me back.”

“I couldn’t,” he huffs, “she broke my heart, she was my first love. And for Billy Burrell! No way. But we never really did stop, did we Karah, not even after I met Nancy…well, at least not until…”

Bob’s eyes shut as he contemplates the years that have passed since they lost touch. He shakes his head and sits up again: Why did I let Nancy dictate who I stayed friends with after we got married? Like it fuckin’ mattered we slept together! Karah’s always been part of me, and I let her go, knowing full well she was alone.

Bob throws his feet back on the bed and lies flat, arms behind his head as if tied in a knot. This all proves it. I have a great family, but nothing is going to stop me from seeing her this time…I don’t know how many times I have relived that night in the cabin…nothing, no one has ever gripped me like she did…

 

I wait for her to answer, nervous as to how she would take the news. Since she had moved with her dad twenty minutes away while we were in high school, I was used to distance in my relationship with Karah. Our communication, even the most intimate late night meetings, had mainly been over the phone, for we lived a United States apart.

“Hello?” Her voice is sultry even when she’s not trying.

“You busy?”

“Not for you, baby,” she laughs.

“How’s school?”

“I’m ready to strangle most of my students, but other than that I get a great workout expelling my anger pushin’ around the track. What about you, how’s work, the fam?”

“Good, you know, same old shit different day at work. My sister’s graduating from college this winter.”

“Tell your family hello for me. My brother just got a job out in California.”

“Sweet, I bet he makes it big as a movie star,” I laugh. Then, I reign in my courage, puff up my chest, and release, “Karah, I have some news.”

“What’s goin’ on?”

“I’m going to ask Nancy to marry me.”

“Oh,” she falters as if punched in the stomach. She tries to recover, “Wow, um, I remember the last time we saw each other you said she might be the one. Well, um, congratulations Bobby.” I could hear her voice crack just enough that I felt bad for her. “Um, ya know, Bobby, I really do have to get back to work, but wow, thanks for telling me. I’m so happy for you! Really, I wish you the best.”

“Hey, wait! You sound like we aren’t gonna talk again.”

“It’s just the natural chain of events. But that’s ok. I love you, and I am so happy for you, really.” It was as if I could taste the tears on her face.

With a sardonic chuckle she continued boldly as if talking to herself, “I should never have let you go in the first place, right? Honestly though, it’s not like I thought we’d get married. But as you know, I always dreamed it: A nut like me being welcome in a family like yours, being loved daily by you. Yeah right, Karah, real realistic ending to our story…” Karah stopped, “I’m sorry, Bobby, just a minute.”

I heard the phone drop onto the table. She blew her nose a distance from it. I heard her hands grasp the metal of her wheels, her rings chiming her return. She picked up the phone with a sniff.

“I am happy for you, I just don’t want to lose you…I don’t know what I’d do if you disappeared from my life.”

“Karah, that will never happen, ok? You are a part of me that will never wane, and my getting married won’t change how I feel about you, nor will it make me want to talk to you any less. Can you believe me? Can you remember that?” I tried to sound stern enough to snap her back to rationality.

“Yeah,” she whispered. “But Bobby, I need to go.”

“Ok.”

“Can I ask a favor first?”

“Sure, what?”

“Will you find a way that I can see you before you get married? Tell me when and where, and I’ll get a ticket. Can you do that…please?” She spoke soft and slow, dreamily. I smiled. There she is; there’s my girl.

“I’ll see what I can do.”  I affirm with a nod as I hang up the receiver.

 

Bob turns onto his side. His understanding of Karah increasing each time he closes his eyes and recalls their past, but he couldn’t picture her face. He pulls his legs to his chest and puts his hands over his eyes.

“Ok. I have to find that picture. I know I still have it somewhere. I remember hiding it when I finally cleaned out my desk and brought it home. Ah, attic…no, the closet.” Bob jumps out of bed and retrieves the picture from its clandestine bed at the bottom of a box, tucked tight in an alcove of his bedroom closet.

“Wow.” Bob turns on his lamp and sits on the bed entranced by the photo of Karah, cheek to cheek with a baby boy. Look at those pouty lips.  He stares at her hazel eyes, her long dark hair. And that baby! Those dimples! He has her eyes, that’s for sure. He turns the picture over and does the math. She sent this a little over a year after I got married. He must be in his thirties now, about a year and a half older than Mia.

            He stares at her a few seconds longer. Glad his now frigid wife is out of town, he sets the picture down, turns off the light, and lies back. For the first time in years, Bob allows himself to piece together the whole of their last furtive meeting…

 

Hunched to maintain heat, I pace the train platform. My sable coat encircles my calves. I wonder, I can’t believe I’m about to do this. I just can’t imagine going into a marriage without seeing her one last time—alone and free to do whatever we want to each other…at least once in this lifetime. Yep, I gotta do this. I sit to relax on a bench, confident breaths streaming out of my nostrils. I feel warmed by the fact that I will be able to hold her tonight. I smirk while reviewing the steps I took to prepare for our night together.

By the time I spy the train, my gut is giddy. I watch it empty, and I begin to wonder if she had missed it. Then, an attendant pushes a cart up to the side of a train car. The cart turns out to be an elevator, in which Karah and her wheelchair are brought down to the platform. It’s as if I forget she’s in a wheelchair every time I see her again. God, look at that smile.

“Hey,” she calls out as she rolls over to where I’m standing.

“What’s happenin’ hot stuff?”

“You been waiting long?”

“Not too bad, but it’s fuckin’ cold out here. Too cold to snow now though. Let’s get the hell outa here, follow me.” I didn’t see any bags, and I wasn’t sure how she handled snow. I halted and turned back, “Um, do you want me to push you through the snow?”

“No, thanks, I got it. Where’re you parked?”

 

Bob shivers in his bed recalling that freezing winter. I can’t believe she went through a Michigan storm to see me. He could not stop thinking and start sleeping because he knew that at this point, in spite of the sad present situation, he was going to take his fantasy to fruition. Deep down, he knew she would want it that way. I’ll never forget look on her face when I pulled the car up to the cabin…

 

I put the car in park and turn off the lights. Karah turns to me. I can tell she’s emotional by the way the candles lit in the windows glitter her eyes.

“You are too good. I guess I get to learn a bit about how you woo women, on top of all the other perks there are in seeing you one last time…” We both laugh.

But I take her hand and give a serious, “Hey, now! Stop that last time shit. Neither of us is dying here. So how do you wanna to do this? I wasn’t able to do much in the way of a path through the snow. Can I throw you over my shoulder and carry you in?” Karah snickers.

“No, but I’ll let you drag me by my hair if you get your wooden club out of hiding.”

“You’re awesome!” My belly laughs echo in the trees as I round the car and open her door. I pick her up, bumping the door shut with my backside.

“So, you get to carry me over the threshold—how ironic for you, huh.”

“How ‘bout I throw you over the threshold, would you consider that ironic for you?” I retort, swinging her through the wooden portal.

Karah slaps my face in jest, “Bobby, you really are an asshole, aren’t you?”

“You know the answer to that,” I smirk and stomp the snow from my boots.

“Wow, a couch in front of the fire as well! How’d you find this place?”

“My sister came up here with her sorority sisters, so when I asked her for a getaway place, this was her reply.”

“You told her about this?” Karah asked incredulously.

“Not exactly. She was helping me think about honeymoon destinations.”

“Yeah…ok then…”

To remove the uncomfortable silence, I kneel down. “Shall we get a fire going?” She takes off her coat and shoes to sit cross-legged.

With the crackling fire, the silence between us becomes anything but uncomfortable. Contentment relaxes her brow as she stares at the flames.

Karah chimes, “Are you hungry? I brought some snacks and wine; they’re in the car on the back of my chair, of course, but I did think ahead.” Her laugh signals me to turn to her.

“We can eat later.” I walk over to her on my knees. “There’s something I have to do first…” I cup Karah’s cheek and pull my thumb over her mouth. She then grabs my neck and guides me to her. All the pent-up passion flows through our open eyes and lips, as if we wanted to devour each other for an appetizer.

Breathing heavy she whispers, “You do have protection right?”

“Um, you’re not on the pill?”

“Um, no. You don’t use condoms?”

“Um, no.” I slouch back hard onto my knees. “I can’t believe that I could forget…” I shake my head exasperated and disappointed.

Karah’s coyness begins working on my body again as her hands and mouth explore the skin beneath my clothes, continuing to undress me.

“Let’s just play, like we always used to do, only this time we get to be naked.” She begins to undo my pants.

“Wait…” I pick her up and carry her to the bedroom. I turn on the lights, intent upon seeing her for as long as I can. Unable to resist, we join in a pleasure embrace, all our parts fitting in their perfect place as we explore positions before only seen in our dreams.

“I want to stay in you,” I whisper in Karah’s ear.

“Yes, Bobby, yes,” she moans, “stay, stay forever where you are…” And I make love to her like I’ve always wanted.

As I lie next to her spent, she rolls onto her side. Serious eyes stare at my chest while she fingers the hair that covers it. “I know you love me,” she pauses to see my reaction. I slide the back of my fingers across her cheek, saying yes with my stare. She continues encouraged, “What if she tells you that you can’t be friends with me?”

“She won’t. She’s not one to be insecure or jealous.”

“I hope not. I mean, I know that this won’t happen again, but…” Karah lays her head on my shoulder. “Hey, ya want to do it in the bathtub?”

 

Bob travels across his dark room in strides and enters a doorway. He goes to the bathroom and washes his hands. I wish she wouldn’t of been right about Nancy. I really didn’t expect marriage to be so cliché. No sex, then no love. Now that Mia’s gone, Nancy and I don’t even speak, nothin’ to talk about. And now I have a chance to connect with Karah again, and she probably won’t even know that I’m there. I don’t know if she and I would of worked married, but I just wish I wouldn’t have lost her.

Bob splashes water onto his face. He returns to his bed ready for sleep to take him away.