Archive for the ‘ongoing story’ Category

CHAPTER 3 – MODERATION

Posted on: July 26th, 2011 by Madison Lake No Comments

“All I’m going to say is, you have exactly four, maybe five minutes to get up off the floor and make yourselves decent before Mrs. Furlish walks in. She’s stepping out of her car as I speak. The scowl on her face makes me think she’s not in the best of moods, but then, she’s a tough one to read at best. She might just be struggling with the seatbelt.” Liam stared out the front window intently. “Okay, she closed the door. The only thing you’ve got going for you is she’s elderly and slow. Now get moving.”

            The two careless lovers jumped up off the floor. Miguel followed Genevieve into the staff room, a pile of clothes covering up what they could of their exposed flesh. Liam plopped himself down at the front desk and waited, surfing new messages on his iPad. Nothing. His life at the moment had slowed to a snail’s pace given he was not out and about socially these days. As he watched Genevieve and Miguel tiptoe back into the salon’s main room, he began to have second thoughts about this Lent thing. He was definitely missing out, although, he mused, sex should really have nothing at all to do with drinking. The fact that he had neither in his life was what really worried him.
Before giving up drinking for Lent, Liam hadn’t really been all that happy. Sure, his sexual appetite had been quenched with each visit to the clubs, but even that was getting tired. What he truly longed for was love, and he knew enough that you don’t find that at the Down Under. Nonetheless, he was addicted – addicted to skin, to seeing smooth, taut bodies gyrate and grind with the beats, titillating those who watched by exposing just one small bit at a time  It wasn’t only the physical parts that were exposed to him, but with each thrust or wiggle, these beauties showed Liam a little more of who they were inside. The more he watched the more he understood, until he felt he knew them intimately. That was the ultimate turn-on – that and the tease, the playfulness, the ‘don’t touch’ tantalizing aspect of the experience. He had become a first class voyeur. He longed for it, he craved it, yet he wanted out. Was Lent going to save him?
The door rattled and in shuffled Mrs. Furlish. Liam didn’t mind attending to the few elderly ladies who regularly came to Snippets. He felt it kept a nice balance between the outlandish queens and dykes, the tattooed artsy types, the arrogant young stock brokers with their diamond studded wives who were regulars at the salon for cuts and colors, and who offered him a regular diet of the goings on around town. As long as his clientele didn’t object to one another, Liam figured all were welcome.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Furlish. And how are you today?” Liam stood up and gave Vivian Furlish a welcome hug. Her thin arms wrapped around Liam’s wide girth. She patted his broad back with her claw-like hands. Mrs. Furlish had to be in her late seventies, and she looked it. She had been coming to see Liam for six years. Every Friday she had a wash and set, and because she was a smoker she got it dyed once a month, to keep the grey bright and fresh looking.
“Sweetie,” Liam said gently while patting Mrs. Furlish on the top of her thinning head of hair. “I’m going to get Genevieve to wash and set you today. I’ve got a last minute cut and color to do. Rather than reschedule your appointment, I figured Genevieve could take over. Besides, she needs the practice.”
“Making the loyal customers your guinea pigs now, are you, Irish?”
“No, no, that’s not it at all Vivian. You know me better than that. You’ll love Genevieve. I know how much you like to talk and Genevieve is a great girl for gossip. And you know I’d never abandon you or leave you with someone I didn’t feel was capable.”
“Well, I guess so. What choice do I have? I’m not about to go home, now that I’ve parked the car and all.”
Mrs. Furlish glanced toward the back of the salon at Genevieve. She was giggling while snipping away at Miguel’s damp, tangled hair. Every now and then she’d lean in toward his face as if she were straining to hear him, and nibble on his ear.
“You might be right for once, Irish. I’m trusting you on this one, but next time I want my regular routine, okay?” She poked him playfully.
“You got it, sweetheart. Thanks for your understanding.” Liam smiled sincerely. “Now, have a seat. She’ll be right with you. Here,” he handed her a magazine. “We got the new People in today.”
On the cover was a glam shot of the new royals. Prince William was wearing a blue v-neck cashmere sweater over a white shirt and khaki trousers, while his new wife, Catherine, was dressed in white a knit sailor suit. Vivian Furlish flipped the pages until she found what she was looking for and settled in on one of the comfy settees to wait. Seeing that she was alright, Liam casually walked to the back of the salon and hovered politely over Genevieve, watching her every move.
“Your next client is waiting,” Liam said, nonchalantly. “I have a cut and color that just booked. I told Mrs. Furlish you’d be happy to take care of her.”
Genevieve didn’t flinch, but continued to snip and thin Miguel’s hair until satisfied with her work. Liam had to admit, Miguel’s new cut was styling. She had cut most of the length at the back and along the sides, but left it lightly feathered on top to give it a tousled look. She kept his sideburns long to accentuate his jaw line. The look was very GQ and gave him an air of sexy sophistication rather than the look of sexy boyishness he had walked in with.
“Just a quick blow job…I mean blow dry…and I’ll be done.” Genevieve and Miguel giggled like teenagers. Liam glared at her with a twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed the breath of fresh air Genevieve brought to the salon. When Liam had first opened, over eighteen years ago, it was rocking all the time. But over the years, and with staff coming and going, the vibe had mellowed – he had mellowed. This new employee was just what he and Snippets needed. It was great to see someone who could enjoy herself on the job and still accomplish great work, although he had to admit, sex on the salon floor even pushed his limits for acceptable on the job behavior. Maybe he was just jealous, but he’d have to speak with her about it.
“Alright, hurry up you two. You’ve got a lovely but rather impatient Mrs. Furlish reading about Jen Aniston’s newest date in an old People. She’s going to tire of it very soon, so let’s be ready.”
“Right, boss.” Genevieve shot Liam a look and Liam couldn’t help but laugh.
He returned to his desk. By the time Genevieve got Miguel dried and out of the chair, Mrs. Furlish was pacing around the waiting area looking at her watch. Liam pretended not to notice, eyes intent on his iPad. He was looking at the Foxy Lady website, reconsidering his fetish regardless of giving up booze. He looked up at Genevieve, taking care of his client, Vivian Furlish. She didn’t have to take her on. He had just sort of dumped her on Genevieve last minute, without asking, and Genevieve had graciously taken to the task without a word. Despite her outward appearance and ostensible flakiness, she was becoming a valuable asset to Snippets. Liam smiled to himself. Yes, he thought, she is going to work out just fine.
            “Here you go, Mrs. Furlish,” Genevieve said. “Come on back to my station with me. I’ll take good care of you.” She turned to Liam.
“That’ll be forty for Miguel, hon. Do you mind taking care of that for me?”
Liam nodded. Genevieve winked and blew Miguel a goodbye kiss. Then she guided Vivian Furlish by the elbow to the back of the salon.
            “My goodness, that’s an awfully mini, mini skirt you’re wearing, my dear. I didn’t know they made them that small.” Genevieve smiled to herself.
            “Actually they make them smaller, Mrs. Furlish, but I can’t fit into those.”
            “Well, better you than me,” Vivian replied as if on par with the lovely Genevieve. Her dentures gave her speech a slight lisp.
            Genevieve helped Vivian Furlish into the chair and stepped on the hydraulic pump to raise it. She ran her polished nails through the thin, straggly and yellow-stained strands, but omitted the additional spice she had used with Miguel’s introductory assessment.
“I’m thinking a little trim might be nice today, Mrs. Furlish, as well as a wash and set. It’s getting long, and I know some very cool cuts that would take at least ten years off your age.”
Genevieve played with Vivian’s stringy locks, gently pulling, lifting and fluffing it up to create volume. “Maybe something like this,” she said to her client, cocking her head as if that would produce another image in the mirror.
            “Ten years, huh? What do I have to lose, right?
Genevieve pulled Vivian’s fine hair up and let it fall down naturally. Then she cupped her hands around the bottom and puffed it up to just below her ears.
“What do you think?”
“Oh, my!” cried Mrs. Furlish in sudden disbelief. Her dentures clacked as she spoke. Her eyes were like saucers.
“It reeks of sex in here.”
Mrs. Furlish looked slyly in the mirror at Genevieve. In return, Genevieve turned beet red.
“Figuratively speaking of course, darling, I don’t mean it really smells like sex, but this place pulsates with it. You, Irish, the pictures on the wall…all sexy, sexy, sexy. And this haircut!”
Genevieve relaxed a little, and looked around. Sure enough, the framed black and white photographs of women and men bordered on erotic but the bodies in them were tastefully hidden in shadow. A few Picasso-esque paintings that hung in the waiting area of the salon were clearly of nude females. Even the furniture was sexy. A leopard chaise lounge, a couple Herman Miller chairs in pale blue and brown, and a modern light blue settee. There was a peanut-shaped teak table for magazines; all very living room comfy. Genevieve had never really looked at the salon that way, but Mrs. Furlish had a point.
“Sex on the beach. Seems to me they make a cocktail by that name,” she continued matter-of-factly. “In fact I know they do. I read it on a menu a while back at the Clay Hotel in South Beach. What do you say we call my new do sex on the beach? Irish will love it.”
“Why Mrs. Furlish! I think you’ve just become my new BFF”

…stay tuned…Chapter 4 will be posted next Tuesday, August 2nd.

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CHAPTER 14 – TURN OF EVENTS

Posted on: June 21st, 2011 by Madison Lake No Comments

            Joanie stood stock-still, watching the handle turn. Then it stopped, and the irritating jimmying of the door began again. But he hadn’t gotten in – not yet anyway. In the corner of the bathroom, she spied her heavy clothes hamper, which she slid over and shoved up against the door. Next she piled books and magazines from her bathroom reading supply on top of the hamper. Towels and facecloths were jammed in the crack at the base of the door. None of this would keep him out for long but it was all she had, and she thought it might buy her some time.
The incessant scraping of metal on metal was getting to her, so she went to the vanity and turned on the tap, flipping the light switch as she passed. The light didn’t go on. She could have sworn she had just changed the bulb, but dismissed the thought as there were more important things to worry about at the moment. Between the running water and the hard object being jammed into the door lock, there was enough noise to muffle any sound she might make, which is what she wanted. Still, she walked quietly over to the small window, opened it slowly without letting it creak, hoisted herself up onto the sill and leaned her head out to look around. Yes, it was a long way down, but there were pipes and outcroppings to her left and right. Perhaps if she could squeeze through the frame and climb onto the narrow ledge below, she’d at least be able to call for help. Even if people thought she was a jumper, any attention was better than none. 
As Joanie leaned further out the window she heard something buzzing. She couldn’t identify what it was or where it was coming from. There was no machinery being operated down below. In fact the street, usually bustling with people, was sadly, empty. But then she remembered it was Sunday, all shops and offices were closed. Craning her head, she listened more intently. Maybe Peter had found some sort of power tool to use on the door? She eased down from her perch and tiptoed back over to the door, but as she passed, she realized the sound was coming from the cupboard below the vanity. Completely miffed, she turned the water off so she could hear better, opened the cupboard and looked inside. The noise stopped. She closed the doors, thinking it might start up again, but nothing. Just as she was about to walk away, she noticed a faint glow coming from a crack between the two doors. Curious now, she opened the vanity again and sure enough, she saw a bluish light coming from behind the Pine Sol and Mr. Clean. Then it faded and went out completely. Down on all fours, she reached into the back of the cupboard space, felt around until her hand landed on something hard, smooth and warm. She grabbed it and pulled it out.
“Oh my god,” Joanie whispered, as she looked at the iPhone in her hands – her iPhone. “How the heck…” But before she could put all the pieces of the puzzle together, the handle to the bathroom door began to jiggle frantically, as if suddenly there was an urgent need for Peter to get in. Quickly, as there was no time to waste, Joanie punched in phone, then recents, and there on the screen was Jake’s name and number four times. She smiled. The door started to creak and crack as Peter began to make headway into the room. She had only seconds. Without missing a beat, Joanie pressed Jake’s name, set the phone back in its place, and put a roll of toilet paper in front of it to block out the glow. Just as she closed the vanity doors and managed to burrow into a corner of the bathtub, the bathroom door came crashing open.
“Well, well, well, what have we here?” Peter brushed his hands together removing splinters and dirt, and sauntered over to the tub. The door hung halfway off its upper hinge, the lower hinge dangled like a loose tooth from the door jamb. Books and magazines lay strewn across the floor.
“Listen, Peter, I had no choice. You made me do this.” She paused for breath. “I tried to reason with you but…”
“Tried? You call that trying? And just when we were enjoying a little one-on-one lip action.” He winked. Somewhat charged up with the success of victory, Peter had a fresh glean in his eyes, although he still looked pale and wan. Joanie could smell the stench of his unwashed body. Under normal circumstances, the male scent would have turned her on. This just made her stomach churn.
“So, what am I going to do with my little Jo Jo, huh?” Peter paced around in the small space, clearly enjoying himself, while Joanie shivered with fear curled up in the corner of the tub. Then he turned briskly to her.
“Out.”
“What?” Joanie asked, confused.
“You heard me. Out. Get out of the tub.” Slowly, Joanie rose and climbed out. Peter was quick to grab her by the arm, to ensure she didn’t flee.
“Ouch, Peter, you’re hurting me. Why are you being like this? What have I done to you to deserve this treatment?”
“Hmmm, let me see…do you want me to start with that time when we were kids and you didn’t include me in the game of kick the can? ‘Peter, Peter, dog-shit eater…’ Sound familiar? I know, I know, that was before we ‘liked’ each other. So, how ‘bout this one: ‘Why’d ya leave, Joanie Scott? Why’d ya forsake us all, leave Charleston – leave me – and move to New York?’ Huh? Can you answer me that?”
Shock and disbelief ran through her bones, but she sat mute.
“That’s what I thought. You can’t answer because you have no guts. C’mon, let’s get out of this stuffy bathroom.” He pulled on her arm again but she resisted, wanting to keep him talking beside the vanity a little longer.
“Oh, Peter, please,” she said loudly, emphasizing his name. “You’re only looking at the worst of the worst. We had good times, you and me. Such good times.” She waited to see if he’d say anything, then continued. “Kids are mean, Peter. You think I didn’t get my fair share when I was young? They called me four-eyes because I wore glasses, and kids used to refer to me as a boy because I didn’t wear a bra till I was fourteen. Don’t you think that was hard? Well it was.”
“I don’t care what you felt, Jo Jo. No one knows what I’ve felt – not then and not now.” He yanked her arm, dragging her over the debris and into the hallway. She cried out, loudly enough she hoped, for the iPhone to register her voice.
In the hall she passed the home phone, grabbed the receiver and pressed on, but there was no dial tone. Then it hit her; the bathroom light, the phone. Joanie quickly scanned the room and realized no lights were on. The usual glow from the digital clocks on the stove and microwave were non-existent. The only light in the apartment was the late afternoon sun that passed through the south-facing windows. Holy shit, she thought. She was on lock-down in her own home.
“No free phone call in this prison, sweet thang.” Peter let loose a dangerous cackle. “Now, get on that bed. NOW!” Joanie did as she was told. Flopping onto her bed, she shimmied up to the headboard and leaned back. Peter took a long coil of rope from his jacket pocket, cut it in two with his pocketknife, went over to the bedpost and proceeded to tie Joanie’s wrists, one at a time, to each post. Gripped with fear, Joanie let her head fall to her chest in defeat. She didn’t even try to fight anymore. What was the point? As her wrists were cinched tight, she was at his mercy. She knew he could do anything he wanted to her now. She was as vulnerable as she could possibly be. Eyes closed, she gave herself up to her fate, her only hope being that maybe Jake, or someone else, heard her cries. Next, Peter cut two more pieces of rope from another coil.
“Spread your legs,” he demanded. Joanie stiffened.
“Peter…Peter, please, please don’t do this. I…I’m not wearing…”
“Wearing any undies? Has that ever stopped you before?”
“Peter!”
“Spread ‘em.” Again, Joanie lowered her eyes but not before catching a glimpse of Peter staring directly between her legs. He grabbed one foot and, more gently than she expected, attached it with rope to a baluster at the foot of the bed. He opened the top drawer of her bureau and removed a pair of black stockings. Fearing the worst, Joanie shut her eyes, but Peter simply placed the soft nylon under the rope to protect the skin of her ankle. He did the same with the other foot. When he finished, he stood back to assess his handy-work, a sinister expression on his face. But to Joanie’s amazement, rather than molest her, Peter grabbed a blanket and nonchalantly tossed it across her lower body. She didn’t know whether he did it to keep himself from being tempted by her exposed crotch or whether he was being protective, but she was relieved and grateful for the gesture. More surprising still, was that Peter walked over to the loveseat he had earlier fallen asleep on, and sat down. He pulled a packet of Marlboro’s from his shirt pocket, tapped one out and lit it. She watched him inhale deeply, like he was savoring a delicious dessert.
“Surprised, Jo Jo? I’ve smoked for years now, but you wouldn’t know that, now would you? There’s so much about me you don’t know.”
“I’m sorry Peter. I truly am,” Joanie said, a quiver in her voice. Peter took another drag.
“Me too, Jo Jo.” He fell quiet then, and when he spoke next, Joanie thought she detected regret in his tone.
“You know, Jo Jo, we really had something, didn’t we? I mean, you and me, we could have moved mountains, we could have changed the world – or at least Charleston. That would have been enough.” He chuckled.
“So what happened, Peter?”
“Hmmm, that’s one loaded question, sweet-pea, but coming from my true heart, it wasn’t your fault. I’m only blaming you now because I love you so damn much, ya know?” Joanie noticed beads of sweat accumulating on his brow again, and that same wild look had returned. He sucked long and hard on his filter tip and looked her straight in the eye. She winced.
“I wanted you so bad, Jo Jo. Always did…always will. Funny thing is, even when you teased me, I wanted you more. It kinda felt like love to me, ‘cause you know, I didn’t really ever know what love felt like – till you that is.”
“So, why did you marry Clarice if you loved me so much?”
“Oh, her? I never loved her, and she didn’t love me. I married her because…” He let his voice drop off. “Because Kevin loved her, so I wanted to prove that I could get her. And I did. Big whoop, right? Because Kev got her in the end anyway.” Peter let the burnt out cigarette fall onto the hardwood floor. He butted it out with the tip of his boot. Joanie ignored it.
“Kev and I always competed. Oh yeah, we were best friends alright, but that’s what best friends do, they compete. I will admit that I took it too far that time, but I kinda liked it. I felt so powerful, so in control. It felt like I had won, that is until Clarice and I were married and then the sky really fell.” He pulled out another smoke and lit-up. His hair was damp and greasy looking, his eyes held that hollow look that had earlier haunted her. He jiggled his left foot up and down nervously, inhaling before he could even exhale the stale smoke he had taken in. Then he stood up, walked over to the end of the bed and sat down. Bound by crude lashes, Joanie’s bare feet were stretched out in front of him. He picked one up and, butt dangling from his mouth, began to caress it. Stroking each toe first, he then rubbed his filthy hands up and down her arch. She watched him, unmoved. He spat the butt onto the floor and left it smoldering, then bent over, put her big toe in his mouth and suckled it like a baby. Joanie remained stone still, even though she was scared to death. When he finished he looked up at her.
“You know, Jo Jo, as much as I always wanted you, and you always wanted me, I knew it would never work. Did you know that?” Joanie shook her head.
“I’m surprised by you. Weren’t you aware of my freakishness? Didn’t you wonder why we never actually dated or made-out like other teenagers did, why I never pursued you beyond our light, unattainable flirtations? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because I love you Joanie Scott.” Peter lowered his head as if he was about to cry. For a brief moment, Joanie felt inclined to touch his head, to stroke his dark matted curls, but of course her hands were tied. Still, whatever it was he was going through, he was still like a brother to her, and her heart went out to him. But no sooner did she feel this way than his erratic mood reoccurred. His eyes flashed when he looked at her, his nostrils flared. Although pale and sickly looking, he breathed heavily and tightened his grip on Joanie’s foot. She tried to recoil but the ropes held her fast.
“You’re too good for me, Joanie Scott, too good. Never once did you even guess how fucked-up I was, not then and not now. I am, you know.” Peter shifted uneasily on the bed, jiggled his leg again, and looked around nervously as if searching for something. He was jittery and anxious.
“Ever since I was a little boy I used to dream of ways to torture things. It started with bugs, little beetles, flies, then it evolved into snakes and rats, then…larger animals. I never…killed anything, honest. But I loved to watch them squirm. As I got older, I wanted to get the same satisfaction teasing and torturing people, even those I loved.” He paused thoughtfully. “Poor Clarice. She had no idea what she was getting herself into when she married me. I thought she was so sexy. She was, you know. All the other guys wanted her, especially Kevin. But I got her. At first I really thought we were a match made in heaven. She came across like she was so sexually adventurous – such a free spirit, remember? But she didn’t want to play the way I wanted to play.”
Joanie turned away. Beyond frightened, she braced herself for what was coming. She understood now that Peter was more than a troubled man, he was dangerous, unpredictable. Even though part of her trusted him because she’d known him her entire life, she realized, as he had pointed out, how little she really understood him. Peter lit another cigarette and continued. A smoky haze filled the filtered light coming in through the window. 
“I realized soon enough that Clarice was a big mistake, but it was done. I wasn’t going to divorce her, even though I knew she wanted me to. Maybe that was some of the torture I enjoyed, since I couldn’t do the things I really wanted to do with her. I took away her virginity and took away her hopes of having a family and a happy life. I made her suffer by staying married to her. But eventually she found a way to torture me too, by hooking up with your brother, and my best friend.”
“What do you mean you took away her hopes of having a family? What did you do to her, Peter?”
“Clarice? Oh, I teased her, taunted her sexually, but I never gave in to her. I enjoyed watching her want me, making her squirm, then walking away. I think at first she thought it was a form of foreplay, until she realized my wicked sense of humor was not so funny. Oh, I made her suffer alright.” Peter had a faraway look in his eye that made Joanie shiver.
“Oh, but don’t think I ever hurt her. Oh, no. I never touched her. You see, that was the point. I never, ever touched her. Just like you, Jo Jo.” Joanie looked at him, shocked.
“I know how you fantasized about me. You did it all the time. Do you think you would have had these thoughts about me if I had given in to your fantasies? No way. You fed me. I got off on seeing how much you wanted me, by knowing that when you closed your bedroom door each night, you were envisioning me. You see, I fed you too.”
Joanie shifted uncomfortably on the bed, alarmed at what she was hearing. Somewhere, deep down in her gut however, she knew Peter was right. Her love for him – her fantasies, were based on a young love, an imagined love, that had grown between them since childhood, but it was shallow. What she thought was love was pure lust, which lacked depth and any real knowledge of the other person or his life. When she remembered with embarrassment all the times she had dreamt of him, of them so erotically together, it was exactly as he said it was. It was based entirely on the fact that they were off limits to each other. No one had said they couldn’t be together. In fact, when Peter had married Clarice, everyone who knew them wondered why it hadn’t been Joanie. Somehow all of that just sweetened the pot. What amazed her now was the discovery that he had been doing with her, exactly what she had been doing with him all these years. Oh, there was so much she didn’t know about Peter Thompson, so much she didn’t want to know or ever wanted to find out.
All of a sudden they heard a crash, like the front of the apartment was being smashed down with a wrecking ball. They both jumped. Peter leapt up off the bed, but by the time he turned around to check what the commotion was about, four bullish looking men in uniform stood in the bedroom doorway, guns drawn.
“Police. Stay where you are, and don’t move.” The man in front of the others moved cautiously into the room. He looked squarely at Peter.
“Freeze. Put your hands on your head. Do it! Don’t move.”  He grabbed Peter by the scruff of the neck and threw him onto the floor. Before Peter knew what was happening, a large booted foot landed smack on his back and he was handcuffed. 
…stay tuned…Chapter 15 will be posted next Tuesday, June 27th…
 
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CHAPTER 8 – KEVIN

Posted on: May 10th, 2011 by Madison Lake No Comments

Thanks to what Joanie considered a stroke of luck, Peter was called away on business that afternoon. He left without saying goodbye. Whether he really did have out-of-town business, Joanie didn’t know, or care. She was just glad he was out of the picture, and for the moment, out of her life, freeing her up to spend quality time with her dad and the rest of the family.
            Kevin was waiting in the hospital room when Joanie arrived. He looked older and thinner than she remembered him, and had dark circles under his eyes. At first glance, Joanie barely recognized him, but as soon as he saw her, his face lit-up and the old Kevin that she remembered so well, appeared.
            “Hello doll. How’s my favorite sister?” He leapt up from his chair and grabbed her in a full embrace. His smell was as familiar as ever.
            “You mean your only sister! I’m good, Kevin. And how are you? God, how long has it been now, five years?”
            “Six, but who’s counting, right?” Kevin chimed in, and they laughed.
            “I guess it’s really been about ten when you think about it,” he continued.  “Besides the two times I was passing through New York, I’ve always been MIA when you’ve come home, and that hasn’t been very often now, has it little sis?”
            Joanie blushed, ashamed that she’d been so remiss all these years, feeling like she’d let her family down, all because of some silly drama that took place years ago. But it was more than that, she realized, thinking back. It was because of Peter. It had been all along. She shuddered, the recent incident still too fresh in her mind.
            Kevin, Joanie and their mother spent the day together with Walt in his room on Ward C. He was livelier, Joanie felt, joking and laughing almost like he was back to his old self. But by evening he grew tired.
            “Well, Dad, we’re going to go out for dinner, and leave you and Mom to some alone time. We’ll be back in the morning.”
Kevin leaned over the bed and gave his father a kiss on the forehead. Joanie started to tear-up. It was such a touching sight for her to see her brother and father, who she hadn’t see together for a long time, share this moment. But she wiped her eyes, not wanting to reveal her emotion to her Father. Clearing her throat, she said.
“I’ve only got a few days here, Dad, but if you keep improving at the rate you are, you’ll get home before I do,” said Joanie encouragingly.
            Huang’s Noodle House, one of their old favorite haunts, was open and busy as usual. Joanie and Kevin walked in to see Mr. Huang and his wife still there, taking orders and serving plates heaped with Chow Mein, and steamy bowls of hot and sour soup. Although they seemed much older to Joanie, they still had the same skip in their step as they served their loyal customers. Clearly they enjoyed running the place. Joanie and Kevin ordered a bowl of wonton chicken soup each, along with a side of vegetable spring rolls, and two pints of Tsingtao beer, then settled in. They had some catching-up to do.
            “So, where to begin,” Kevin said, trying to open a potentially awkward conversation with ease.
            “You start,” replied Joanie. “I’m all ears.”
            Kevin explained that he was working as a journeyman carpenter with another old friend of theirs, Johnson Briggs. The two had worked together for six years and had just recently decided to go out on their own, in partnership. They had made a lot of contacts over the past few years, he said, so business was already good, and building up quickly. He explained he lived just across the harbor in Mt Pleasant. It was quieter there, and he liked to go hiking in Yorktown State Park, which was nearby.
            “So, do you still hang out with Peter and Clarice?” Joanie asked, baiting the hook.
            Kevin took a moment to reply, and seemed to deliberate which way to go with his answer.
            “Well,” he mused. “Actually I don’t see much of them anymore. We had a stupid falling out, so to speak. I’m sure it won’t take much for you to guess what that was about.” He waited for her to rip into him, and she did.
            “Kevin, that was so long ago now, but what the hell was that about, anyway? I mean, really. That stupid move you made on Clarice broke our whole group apart. You and I haven’t spoken much since then, except at family gatherings. Doesn’t that bother you? It does me.”
She took a long sip from the bottle of cold beer on the table in front of her, which seemed to calm her down.
“Actually, I’m surprised you’re still here in the Charleston area after what happened.” Joanie paused. “What did happen anyway?”
            Kevin looked away. Shame, and perhaps guilt was written in the expression on his face. Joanie reached over and took his hand. He squeezed it, but continued to avoid eye contact with her.
            “Oh, Joanie, I don’t know what happened. I was young, and she just hypnotized me or something. I mean, we’d never seen the likes of anyone like that here in Charleston, not back in those days anyway. And let’s be honest, she was putting it out there.”
            “I don’t care, Kevin. Peter was your best friend, and Clarice was his girlfriend back then. If she was the one instigating it, you should have let it be – you should have walked away. It was really wrong of you to respond to her the way you did. You know that, don’t you?”
            Eyes averted, Kevin replied. “You’re right Joan, as always.” He paused. “Why has it taken us so long to talk about this, huh?”
            “Because we’ve all avoided it like the plague, that’s why. It’s about time it got out in the open.” Joanie sighed. “Have you tried to talk to Peter, clear the air?”
            Now Kevin turned to face Joanie, and replied emphatically. “No way! There is no way on god’s green earth that I can ever talk to him again, ever.”
            “Whoa, is there more to this story than what I know?”
There was a long silence before Kevin spoke.
            “’Fraid so, Joanie.”
            “Okay, Kev, fess-up. What happened?”
            Taking a swig of his beer, Kevin continued.
            “Well, Joanie, you know that night at Joe’s? That was a long time ago, right? Well…me and Clarice…we started seeing each other, kind of regular-like, shortly after that night. Things got pretty hot and heavy between us. I had no idea it would happen that way, it just did.”
He waited for Joanie to say something, but she remained silent, so he kept talking.
“When Peter proposed to her, and she said yes, I backed-off, even though she wanted to continue. That’s when I moved outside of town into the Mount Pleasant area. I was trying to put distance between me and the whole affair, no pun intended. But after the wedding, she started coming around the house – my house – inviting herself over around suppertime, or sometimes she’d stop by early in the morning on her way to work. I didn’t exactly invite it, but I guess I didn’t exactly say no either. She’s pretty tempting, Joanie, and obviously I’m not one to resist temptation.”
“What do you mean, ‘she’s pretty tempting’? Geez, Kev, how long did this go on for?”
“Truth?”
“Yes, truth.”
Kevin knocked-back the rest of his beer in one gulp and flagged down Mrs. Huang.
“Two more please, Mrs. Huang.”
When she was gone, Kevin turned to look at Joanie with full eye contact.
“It’s still going on, Joan.”
Joanie just sat there, looking at her older brother in total disbelief. She didn’t know what to say. For what seemed eternity, words were left unspoken as the reality of the situation sunk in. Two cold beers were placed in front of them by Mrs. Huang, along with their spring rolls. The beer was all they touched.
“Does Peter know?” Joanie finally blurted out.
“I’m sure he does, but he says nothing to Clarice about it. And like I say, I don’t see him anymore, or should I say, he doesn’t see me. That’s pretty telling, wouldn’t you say?”
“But Kevin, why – why do something like this that you know is so wrong? And why Clarice? I mean, maybe you know more about her than she lets on to the rest of us, but I don’t have the time of day for that woman.”
“Which question do you want me to answer first?”
Joanie just glared at her brother.
“Okay, okay. I know it’s wrong, but what’s also wrong is that they got married when they didn’t love each other. I don’t know why they ever went through with it. Even at the time, it was clear there was no chemistry, no connection between them. Peter just felt obligated, or something.”
Kevin took a deep breath, relieved to finally be unloading this secret he’d been carrying around like a monkey on his back for far too long. Opening up to his baby sister after all these years made him want to talk and talk, to finally clear the air once and for all. He knew this day would eventually come, and now it was finally upon them. Kevin realized he’d missed the relationship he and Joanie shared more than ever. 
“What about Clarice?” Joanie asked, still prodding.
“She knows she never should have gone through with it – the marriage that is. She was young, and acted spontaneously – and foolishly, an insecure, young, frightened girl. You remember what she was like. But Joanie, she’s not like that at all, at least not anymore. Like all of us, she’s grown up. She’s smart and funny and very sweet and caring. She’s just never been able to show who she really is to other people because no one wants to get to know her. The Clarice they remember from back then is not the Clarice she is now. That was so long ago, but everybody hangs onto those memories.”
“Except you.”
“Okay, Joanie, I’ll admit, Clarice is not the easiest person for people to get along with. She doesn’t put a lot of effort into changing the way people perceive her. Kevin sighed. “She just doesn’t care what other people think of her, and I admire her for that. All I can say is she’s not like that with me.”
“Right, ‘cause you’re special. You see an angel, while everyone else sees a devil.” Joanie kept on him, wanting to make her point, although she wasn’t even sure anymore what that point was.
“Oh no, don’t start with me. I have my own guilt about that night, but what’s funny is I don’t have guilt about what we have now. I don’t know why. Maybe because I feel our relationship has stood the test of time. I know we are meant to be together, Joanie, and whatever we have to do to have that, we’ll do.”
“What about Peter? Doesn’t he get a say?”
“He should have a say. Trouble is he ignores anything that points to trouble. Joanie, Clarice has tried so many times to talk to him about their relationship, has asked him if he’s happy, if they should seek help or get a divorce so they can both move on with their lives. You know what he says? He says he’s the happiest man on earth and doesn’t want a thing to change. Go figure that one out. Frankly, I think he’s messing with us. I think he’s getting his sweet revenge.”
Steaming hot bowls of soup, laden with noodles, Bok Choy, broccoli, chicken, and bean sprouts, were placed before each of them, while the spring rolls still sat untouched in the middle of the table. Their beer glasses were drained.
“Everything goes awright here, Mr. Kevin?” Mr. Huang asked, looking at the untouched spring rolls in the middle of the table. 
“Sure, Mr. Huang, everything’s just fine. We’ll eat them, don’t worry. We love your spring rolls, don’t we Joan?”
Joanie nodded. Mr. Huang smiled. She stared at the soup that had been placed in front of her, as if waiting for something to happen. This was a landmark moment. Joanie felt what Kevin and Clarice were doing – had been doing all these years, was morally wrong, yet after hearing Kevin’s heartfelt confession, and being fully aware of Peter’s odd behavior, Joanie had to agree that no matter how poorly they had all handled things from the start, Kevin and Clarice were in love.
 “So now what, Kevin? How is this situation going to play-out? I mean, you can’t just keep living a lie. Eventually someone is going to find out – someone has to find out if you ever want to move on, have a family, or lead a normal life. Geez, Kev, how do you sleep at night?”
“Not so great, but when I’m with her, like a baby.”
Stay tuned…Chapter 9 will be posted on May 17th. To read ‘Just Friends’ from the beginning, go to the tabs at the top of the blog site and start at Chapter 1. 
 
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CHAPTER 7 – JAKE & PETER

Posted on: May 3rd, 2011 by Madison Lake No Comments

Joanie’s phone rang six times before she answered.
“Hello, is that you, Joanie?” The voice on the other end of the receiver asked.
“Yeah,” Joanie replied groggily. It was six o’clock in the morning.
“Sorry to call so early. Hope I didn’t wake you. It’s just I hadn’t heard from you. I was worried.”
Joanie was quiet, trying to get her head around who might be calling her so early, unable to identify the voice on the other end. Then it dawned on her.
“Jake? Jake, is that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me alright. Am I a complete idiot for waking you up like this?”
“Oh, no…no, not at all. It’s…it’s good to hear your voice.”
“Good to hear yours too.” There was a long pause before Jake spoke again.
“You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about you, remembering the first and, as it turns out, the only time we were together, the day I saw you off at the airport.”
“I suppose you mean that kiss.” She blurted unintentionally, as heat rose to her cheeks.
“Well, that and the great afternoon we spent together, before your bad news that is. But it’s true, that kiss has left me wanting more, I can’t deny it.”

Joanie didn’t know what to say. At that time, she had felt the same way. Maybe she still did. But it was confusing for her being back in her hometown, and being around Peter again. Despite his despicable behavior in the hospital waiting room, there were things she felt she needed to know, issues she had to get to the bottom of. Somehow Joanie didn’t think that was what Peter really meant to do, what the real Peter would do. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something wasn’t quite right.
“Joanie, are you still there?” Joanie gathered her thoughts. She liked Jake. Even though they had just met, and she had no personal ties to him, at least not yet, he didn’t deserve to be pulled into her back-story so soon.  
“Sorry Jake. Yes, I’m here. I’m just tired that’s all. It’s been a bit rough since I arrived. You know how it is.”
“Of course. I’m sure it’s a lot to take in. I just wanted to hear your voice, that’s all, and to make sure you’re doing okay. Is there anything I can do for you, like give you a year’s extension on the fashion design deadline?”
“Yeah, that would do it, Jake. You’d be my hero then, that’s for sure.”
“Done.”
She laughed. “But seriously, do you really want my work?”
“I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t. How was I to know you’d be gorgeous, smart, funny, and single, as well as an ultra talented clothing designer? Actually, I’m hoping you don’t consider yourself single anymore.” Silence hung between them.
“I don’t want to be too forward, but I really like you Joanie. We had a connection, don’t you agree?” Joanie remained speechless. Jake continued, undaunted.
“Look, I understand you have to be in Charleston right now, but I hope we’ll be able to spend a lot of time together, beginning when you return. In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind that I call from time to time.”
Joanie felt another flush, flattered by what Jake said. However, she was confused, even hesitant, and didn’t really know why.
“I like you too, Jake,” Joanie played along. “But I have so much work to do for this Gala when I get home. I’m going to be working twenty-four-seven as soon as the plane lands. I hope you understand.”
“Of course I do, but everybody has to eat and sleep, don’t they? You take care of your designs and I’ll take care of Joanie. And I promise not to interfere. I just want to be with you, to get to know you…and shower you with kisses and some of life’s simple pleasures. Is that so wrong?”
Joanie thought for a moment.
“No, I guess not.”
“Okay then. Let’s leave it at that for now. I’m really glad I got a hold of you, Joanie. I have meetings all day and wouldn’t have been able to call you until later this evening. Listen, go back to sleep now, if you can. I’ll give you a call tomorrow, if that’s okay with you.”
“That’d be great Jake. Thanks for calling.”
Joanie placed the receiver back in the charger and plopped her head back into the soft feather pillow. She sighed. With less than an hour before her alarm was set to go off, Joanie decided to get out of bed, shower and head to the hospital early. Just as she rose, the phone rang again.
“Hello.”
“Hey sugar, how you feeling this morning?” It was Peter.
Sugar? What was that about? Just when she was about to give Peter a piece of her mind, he spoke.
“So, are you up? I guess you are or you wouldn’t have answered, right? So, how long will it take you to get ready, because I’m on my way to pick you up.”
What!”
“Don’t say another word about it. I’ll be there in fifteen. No rush. I’ll just hang outside. Oh, and I picked up a latte for you. No sugar, just how you like it. See you soon, hon. Bye.”
Joanie was livid, but kind of grateful at the same time. She quickly showered and was ready and waiting outside just as Peter’s black SUV pulled up to the curb.
“Hey, gorgeous.”
What’s with the gorgeous thing today? Joanie thought to herself, as she hopped into the passenger seat, avoiding eye contact. Peter gunned it, and they drove off.
“This isn’t the way to the hospital Peter. Where are we going?”
“Detour. I have something I want to show you. Don’t worry. We’ll get you to see Dad in plenty of time.”
“He’s my Dad, Peter, not yours.”
“Can you roll down your window just a notch, Joan? Peter deflected. “I love the fresh morning air out here.”  
Joanie just glared at him. However, she had to admit the air was clean and crisp, and the scenery exquisite. Sunrise was Joanie’s favorite time of day. She’d always loved the countryside that surrounded Charleston. As they whizzed past giant oak trees and green maples, she felt comfort in the familiarity the landscape provided. They drove farther and farther from the city, into the wide open fields, then into the treed foothills. Peter took a sharp right onto a dirt road that wound up and around a steep knoll. When they reached the top he stopped and shut the engine off.
“Here we are,” he exclaimed.
“Here we are, where?” She asked, annoyed yet intrigued.
Peter opened the truck door and climbed out. He walked to the edge of a steep ravine that opened up to a breathtaking view of fields and waterways below. Hands on his hips, he took a deep breath. His chest bulged with pride, and a huge grin spread across his face.
By this time, Joanie had climbed down from the passenger seat and had joined him. She looked around. An entire world was laid-out before her, full of patchwork fields, forested hills, and winding rivers; full of life. Suddenly she was transported back to a time that was more important to her than anything she had ever known, a time from childhood when everything was perfect. Back when she felt a sense of security within her family, a sense of belonging to her community, and more than anything, a sense of freedom to be herself. It was a time when she flourished as a young girl, then blossomed into a young woman, and when a spark finally ignited between her and Peter. With remembered smells and sights, so many memories came flooding back.
“So…why are we here, Peter? What is this place and why are you showing it to me?”
“It’s ours – our place.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about this, Joanie. Remember, when we were kids? We used to climb up into these hills and build forts out of branches and boughs and whatever we could find? We spent hours hanging out, making plans for the future, just you and me and Kev. Those were the days, weren’t they?”
Peter moved toward Joanie and put a protective arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. He nuzzled his face into her neck, kissing her tenderly. She shuddered, but didn’t pull away, even though confusion stirred within her. His nuzzling turned more intense, and soon his lips met hers as they locked in an intimate embrace, hands groping, while a vast vista lay before them. Joanie’s head was spinning. She was so turned-on but knew this wasn’t right. Nevertheless, she couldn’t stop herself. Her mouth opened to let Peter’s tongue and lips explore her own. As she became more relaxed, he pulled her shirt up slightly, reaching for her breasts, latching on to her firm nipples and squeezing tight. Their kisses became more passionate. This was what she had always wanted, wasn’t it? For all these years she had wanted Peter, wanted him to want her as much as she wanted him, and now she was finally getting her wish. So, why was she second guessing this? As much as she wanted to fully succumb to Peter’s advances, a small voice in her head was saying no.
His hands felt around her body urgently now, reaching from her round breasts down to her stomach. He grappled with the button of her jeans, trying to undo them, trying to wriggle his hand down the front of them, unable to wait. He tore at her shirt, her waistband, pressing his body heavily into her. As aroused as she was, his increasing aggression frightened her. She pulled away, dizzy with confusion. He backed off, but it wasn’t long before he was trying to kiss her again, searching out her lips, her neck, working his way around her body. The more he kissed, the more frenetic he became. She wanted him, had wanted him for so long, but this didn’t feel right. Still, Peter was unrelenting. He thrust his hand down her pants insistently, reaching for the moistness between her legs. By now, Joanie just felt repulsion. She twisted and squirmed, and finally wrenched herself free from his clutches.
“Peter,” she gasped. “Peter, what are you doing? What’s the matter with you?”
He stood there, breathless, patient, hoping she would relax and come around again. When he realized she meant what she said, he composed himself, as best he could.
“Listen Joanie, I bought this place for us. Get it? You and me, we are meant to be together. All those years growing up, being ‘pals’, but knowing deep down there was more, much more. You know as well as I do. It’s just taken me this long to figure it out, but I did. So, last week I bought this place for us, to settle down here, in our hometown, together.”
Joanie stood silent, in disbelief. Peter moved toward to her again, coaxing her closer, drawing her in to him from behind, so she could face the spectacular view before them. She remained motionless, until Peter tightened his grip. Then she struggled to free herself, but he was too powerful for her. He forced himself up against her again, squeezing her, pulling her into him. Then he swung her around to face him with a power that startled her. His wet mouth came down on hers but she turned away. Instead, he found her neck and burrowed his head into it, then moved down toward her breasts. She fought to release herself from his grasp but she couldn’t. He was forcing her down to the ground. Her knees began to buckle under his weight. Her mind swam with confusion and fury. Finally, she screamed. It echoed down to the valley below, a cry louder than she thought she was capable of. It seemed to frighten Peter enough that he let go of her, as if he suddenly awoke from some crazy dream. He stood back, looking stunned and slightly ashamed. Joanie made a dash for the truck, but when she got there the door was locked. She ran around to the passenger side, but it was locked too. Through the Jeep window she could see Peter dangling the keys in front of his face, tauntingly. Joanie stood frozen, in place and in time. Her mind raced, as she tried in vain to think of an escape route.
“Hey,” Peter finally yelled to her. “It’s alright. I’m sorry, okay?” Slowly, he moved toward the Jeep. Joanie backed-up.
“C’mon Joan, I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. I got carried away, that’s all. I’ll get you back to town, and to the hospital to see your Dad. I promise.”
She heard the click-click of the doors unlocking. Skeptical, but knowing it was her only way out of there, Joanie moved toward the vehicle and hopped into the passenger seat, sitting as close to the door as possible, her hand on the chrome door handle. Peter climbed into the driver’s seat, started the ignition, and skidded out of the gravel road, heading toward the main road. They remained quiet most of the drive back to town. Inside, Joanie was fuming with rage. How she wanted to talk to him, and tell him how she felt, that she was frightened, and so horribly disappointed, but she couldn’t find the right words. Peter was either too embarrassed to or too proud to say anything, Joanie couldn’t decide which. As they neared the city, and the hospital, she couldn’t restrain herself any longer.
“Peter, what’s happened to you? You are not the Peter I know and love, or shall I say loved.” She paused, noticing her hands and shoulders were trembling.
“I’m so angry right now, so hurt. How could you do this to me, to us? I should report you to the police, you know. I’m not kidding.”
Wind whipped in through Peter’s open window, flattening his brown curls against his left cheekbone. It felt colder now. Joanie wished he would close his window, but she let it be. Outside her own window, weeping willows and small oak trees grew lush and green along the roadway, while pink and white oleander bloomed on the median. The landscape, Joanie noticed, had changed from the wild, untamed foliage of the countryside, to the well manicured gardens and roadways of the city. Her heart was left back on the windswept knoll, a place she had loved since childhood, broken into a million pieces. Finally Peter spoke.
“I want you, Joanie. I’ve always wanted you. Don’t you see? We were meant to be together, since childhood. We knew it then, and we know it now. You know I’m right. Joanie, I can’t live without you, and I won’t stop until I have you.”
…Stay tuned…Chapter 8 will be posted next Tuesday, May 10th 
 
           
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