His knuckles rapped the dented table heavily in a stead rhythm as he stared at a peeling section of wall paper. She sat in the other chair, sipping her coffee, watching his hand, feeling the pressure of its rhythm. Finally, his knuckles came down and rested.
“I’ve been having some trouble at work, Baby.”
“Yeah?” She paused with the mug clutched between her hands.
“They’ve been taking away my hours. I wouldn’t worry so much if it were just me,” he put his hands over hers, “but I can’t just think about myself.” He smiled.
His smile belonged to her. She tried to memorize every detail of it. “That’s sweet of you, Babe.”
“I just wish there was some way we could get some more money. Then… I don’t know. We could think about getting married or something.”
She felt as if she had just jumped off the edge of a cliff and was now plummeting toward the sparkling water below, unable to breathe in the thrill. A tear came to her eye from the rush of wind and it still sparkled there as she returned to the room and let go of the mug to hold his smooth, strong hands. “What?”
“I mean, I really want to. We could get a nice apartment. You could have a real kitchen to make dinner in. Maybe we’d have a kid or get a dog. It’d be nice wouldn’t it?”
She nodded, mouth gaping open. He loved her. She was going to be married. He wanted to marry her. She thought of a little house in the country, far away from the suffocating, dingy city and the apartment with peeling wallpaper and mold spots. It was unlike any foster home she’d every stayed in. The little house was like the one she’d read about it in 3rd grade in a book she’d rescued from the school library’s discard pile. She heard voices of children laughing and playing in the yard, while the smells of the some fancy foreign dish she’d made, no… better a simple chicken pot pie, wafted through the house. His dress shoes squeaked against the hard wood floors as he came home from the office, smiling and inviting her into an embrace.
“I just wish we could get some more money.”
The grey room came sharply back into focus. Money. Was that the only obstacle? It was immediately personified in her mind as a great fat man with a greenish skin, smoking a cigar and clanking coins between his fat fingers, withholding the deed to the little white house. Cruel, cruel man.
“Maybe you can help,” he offered as he saw the pictures swirling around before her eyes, within reach.
“Of course! I can ask for more hours, though they haven’t been very generous with those for me either. Maybe I can try to get another job.”
“Yeah, that’d be great, Babe.”
“Maybe I could work a night shift somewhere.”
“Yeah,” he paused and watched her as she stared into the cooling coffee, wracking her brain to try to remember where she had seen a hiring sign the other day.
“The other week I heard about a pal of mine whose girl made a bunch of money so they could get married.”
He stood up and got out a mug and poured the coffee into it, walking slowly back to the table so as not to spill. He blew on the coffee, then took a cautious sip. She shifted in her seat, not taking her eyes off him for a moment, waiting for a word of salvation from his lips.
Finally, with more force than she intended, “Well?! How did they do it?”
He looked at her with surprise, “Huh? Oh, she went out and met some guys. They thought she was pretty hot, so they paid her big bucks to check out a hotel room with them.” He took another sip. “It only took them a few months and then they could afford to get married.”
She watched him take another long sip. His lovely, lovely mouth. Then they came. The invisible hands gripped her shoulders and slid inward to close around her neck.
“It might be the only way,” he said slowly and solemnly.
She gave her shoulders a shake and the hands departed. “Did…did it bother your friend that his fiancée was…going with other guys?”
“No, Babe, it wasn’t like that! She wasn’t into those guys. She just had sex with them and they’d pay her. They’re happy.” He dragged his chair across the linoleum floor and put his arm around her. “I will always love you, no matter what you do.”
He loved her. She took his free hand and kissed it. “I never want to leave you. We’ll make it work. If you do your best and I do mine, I just know we can make it work.”
“That’s right. We’ll each do what we can.”
Photo is mine.
Part 1 can be found at this link.