The start of a short story about unconventional love, and the choices that we all make.
| I am ready. I am real. I am all revved up to go. Down on all fours with my drink, four ice cubes and only half an ounce of amaretto, and a half lit cigarette in one hand. I need to push up on to my knees to finish the drink while the free hand holds the smoke ready for the next drag. There is a dusty old bottle of mescal in the cupboard that I will have to resort to until I can get it together to run out and re-supply at the liquor store a few blocks down. I wonder what time it is?
I hadn’t noticed the music stop, and the sound of my voice echoing through the high ceilings of the upscale industrial one bedroom startles me more than the six or seven rapid-fire-raps at the metal garage styled door of the loft.
Still kneeling I pause with my neck craned uncomfortably towards the entrance,waiting for who ever it is to enter. There is no movement, and so I call out again. If I have to get up and lose my place, I'm going to be pissed, I don't come and fuck around with all of you at work.
“Is it locked? Who is it?"
The only reply is a loud corrugated jar as the metal is pulled forcefully against the thick padlock attaching it to a large silver ring in the middle of the floor. My watch reads 2:08, too late for the liqour store, oh well. Wait, who the fuck is it at this time? I can’t help but shout angrily and storm towards the door as whoever on the other side pulls up against the lock again. Someone had better be dead, or there will be soon.
My back is stiff from hunching over the floor, which is scattered with about a hundred or so photographs, some old and some new. There is one which has stuck to my left elbow, adhered by the sticky sweet liqueur. An old Peruvian woman, her brown face toothless, lost in a shapeless bundle of color, looks up at me through a blanket of wrinkles. Across one antique leathered hand there is the smudge from the drink, but a quick lick and swift slide across the thigh of my soft cotton pants and it’s gone. Setting the photo aside I make for the door to remove the padlock, which isn’t actually locked, but only looped through. My back aches as I reach for the bottom to pull up the door which opens effortlessly, assisted by whoever is on the other side.
She finally answers the door, one of those awful belgian cigarettes she smokes when I'm not home hanging precariously from the corner of her mouth; right eye squinted against the smoke, and the empty glass in her hand. It’s Typical. When she works she gets like this, perfectly disheveled among piles of captured past. The heat from the open door seeps out, and I have to hang my head and smile. Laura’s hair is pulled up into her characteristic bun with loosened pins protruding every which way, the humidity causing a fuzzy faded halo of short curly brown hair. She is still wearing the gray cotton flood pants she had on the day I left but has lost the shirt, and stands dumbfounded, a little too skinny in my favorite black brazier which hangs around her shoulders.
My voice cracks a little as she throws her arms around me and squeezes out the words. Over her shoulder and in-between the shower of the fast sloppy kisses I can see that she was obviously been working. The usually well-groomed apartment is a disaster with various articles of clothing strewn about, and cold unfinished cups of tea on every surface. I keep trying to get her to reuse her teacups, apparently it isn't working as well as I had hoped. Releasing me she makes her way to the living room to start tidying up the mess, snatching a black turtle neck off the arm of the sofa and shouting at me through the sweater as she twists into it, as if rotating her entire body will somehow make it slide down a little easier.
“Oh my god, what are you doing back so soon? I thought that you were in London for the rest of the week? I was wondering who the hell was calling at this time of night. When did you get in? OW!"
The muffled cry is indignant and I have to cover my mouth to stop from laughing. She has moved the coffee table - a beautiful black laquered piece by Robet Melee - out of the living room to clear a space to work, and still tangled in the sweater has run into the corner, shin first. I need to take a deep breath before answering.
“Come here. About an hour ago. Michael has just dropped me from the airport.”
I pull the smothering black material down exposing the stupid grin and further aggravating the drooping bun, which has slipped down to the nape of her neck.
“Why didn’t you call me, I would have come and gotten you. Mike is one of you nine to five people regular old job people, you should respect that.”
Taking her head in both hands and kissing her I can taste the sweetness of the drink, and woodiness of the cigarette which she promptly discarded down the sink as soon as I arrived. Licking my lips and looking down at the muggy glass of melted ice on the counter, I make my point silently.
“Well if you had called me to tell me you….”
I press my lips against hers again, the only effective method of obtaining silence I have perfected in the seven years we have been together. When I pull away she breathes in deeply, and with eyes still closed cups two clammy hands about my face. Before she can speak, I rush out the words I have been dying to say forever.
“Laura. I’m pregnant”
The words hit me. They hit me hard. Holy Shit. I thought I was ready for this, in fact I knew I was ready for this. Looking at Angela, her face slightly plumped by the pressure of my cold sweaty palms, I can see she is thinking the same thing, and I think that makes it ok.
“When did you? I mean…what?”
I am laughing out the words, and she is crying, both of us in a bittersweet symphony of disbelief. I cannot understand what she is saying through the sobs, and then it doesn’t matter, because my mouth is on hers, and we hungrily drink each other in collapsing onto the floor. Unlike me, she can still speak coherently through polite sobs.
“I found out on Monday. I was going to call you, but I thought I should wait until I got back. I guess I needed to see your reaction, to know that this is really what you…what we, want.”
She has stopped crying, and I have begun. Now it’s her turn to laugh, again speaking with that same calm.
“Hey, hey, hey. Baby, I thought you were supposed to be the strong one. Come on now. I couldn’t wait until Sunday, so I spoke with Andrea and he said if I flew out tonight, and as long as I was back by Friday, that two days weren’t really going to make a difference.”
Her voice is smooth and low, she could always calm me down in the way that only mothers ever can. Mothers. We are going to be mothers. I start to sob again, and my words come out choppy and sniffled.
“Ang. We can’t both be Mommy.”
Angela bursts out into laughter, and I realize what I am saying. I know that it’s funny, and I know we have talked about it before we even started to try, but her laughter only worsens the itchy burning pressure behind my eyes. She starts in again with the mellow undertone.
“Darling, oh my sweetness. I love you, so much.”
I am beginning to regain some composure, and manage to answer without too many breaths and whines in between.
“I love you too, I really do. And I think I need a drink”
She stands, pulling me off of the floor along with her, and walks over to her laptop case, producing from within a small duty-free bottle of amaretto.
“I thought that was what you might say, so I brought you this. Want to make me a cup of tea while you booze up.”
There are no more tears, no more laughter. Only her and I, and the frozen emotions of a hundred strangers peering out of photographs and sharing the moment. God, I love this woman.