No Time To Read? LISTEN In English On-The-Go!
eborah lost track of the last few words Alex and Mark were saying. Although still seated, she was experiencing a sensation of motion sickness.
Had her blood pressure shot up? She turned to gaze outside and noted that it would be dark very soon. Her thoughts refused to be deterred. ‘You heard what he said?’
Yeah, she’d heard… talk about somebody blowing your mind. She drummed her fingers absently while fuming at the memory of those two words. “Pretend wife.” And, don’t forget: “he loves her too”. She shook her head in dismissal. ‘Too much. This is just too —Stop! Alright, grip this now.’ She cautioned herself, ‘You’re in front of Mark. Stay calm and don’t let your emotions take charge.’
She smiled, not too much and not too little, then spoke pointedy. “Well~. I must say it was nice meeting you, Alex.”
Barely glancing over at Mark, she addressed him casually. “I really have to get on my way”, she kept her tone almost bored while already scooting out of her seat. Mark started to ask, “Are you heading back ho~?” but stopped short at the ringing of her phone.
She was thankful for the interruption. She didn’t want to answer Mark’s questions now or say anything else yet. She gave her attention to the phone. It was Dave calling. Quickly putting on a smile that she knew Mark, if not Alex, would recognize as faux, she fought her nerves. She hit the Answer button deciding to bluff it all the way. She answered with a sultry, “Well, hello there.” She hoped it came off like she’d just met her white knight and that both men in front of her would not see her as intimidated by the sexier Tessa at all. At the same time, of course, she did want to impress Dave too.
“I’m so glad you called.”
Dave responded flirtatiously, “I’m glad you’re glad. At the risk of sounding as though I’m playing a game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ — Where are you?”
Her heart fluttered. He sounded wonderfully masculine — and like he was missing her. It wasn’t even so much his words– it was the depth of his voice and the way he paced his words. It was to her like a hot knife slicing butter, melting as it touched the smooth golden color turning it to hot pools of liquid. In a quick and unexpected flashback, she was back in his arms while he whirled her around that beautiful dance floor in Hawaii. Dave. His name unconsciously escaped her lips. He heard.
“I’m here baby.”
She ran her hand through her hair to compose herself. “Yes. You are. And I’m so glad.” She closed her eyes for a few seconds hoping to see his face and feel that safe feeling again that she longed for.
But opening her eyes, she was looking across at Mark and Alex, both leaning forward now, elbows on the table and all ears.
“Um, excuse me please.” She quickly left her seat to exit through a side door. “I’ve stopped to get a bite to eat, then I’ll be heading back home. Is everything alright? With you? And with Susan?”
“Hearing your voice and knowing you’re okay was all I needed. And wanted. At the moment. But in a couple of moments from now? I may be all frustrated and wanting to hold you.”
Her grin was growing by the second. Then he whispered her name. “Deborah.”
“I could –“, he stopped.
Neither of them said anything for a moment. She wanted to speak but felt unsure suddenly. The charged pause was interrupted by the very ordinary voice of a nurse saying something about a patient in 402.
He answered, “Alright, I’ll be right there.”
Deb wasn’t sure if she’d just been rescued or thwarted. “Listen, babe”, she soothed, “I heard. You’re at the hospital.”
“You got it,” he said. “Aren’t I always?” he laughed. Then added, “Oh, listen, about Susan? She’s doing much better and will be released soon — within the next few days, I’d say. She isn’t going to go back to her apartment though. Thank God that she has family she can go to. … She’s been asking about you, Deb.”
Relief washed over Deb. She’d been dreading getting a report on Susan’s condition. This was much better than she’d feared. Released. She said a silent prayer of thanks. “Oh, I know she must have been wondering where I’m at. Why not right there beside her? Tell her I’ll be there tomorrow evening, okay? That’ll give me time to get back home and get myself pulled together before I speak with her.”
He assured her he’d relay the message. “Listen — after you’re through with your visit with her tomorrow night, how about a late dinner? You and me?”
Before she could answer she heard Mark’s voice behind her. “You going to talk all night?”
She waved him off and spoke back into her phone, “I’d love to. Call me back tomorrow afternoon?”
“You bet I will”, Dave agreed. “Maybe even before. Be careful coming home, baby. I’ll talk to you later.”
Alex had joined Mark standing in the parking lot waiting. Their moods seemed to have shifted. Both reflected a more serious countenance. As she approached, Mark was telling Alex, “Look, I’ll catch you later. I’m going to take Deb home. I’ll call you about —“
Would shocking surprises never cease? Deb interrupted, “Wait just a minute, mister! What do you mean, ‘you’re going to take me home’? I’ve got my car, and I’m well capable of taking myself home.”
He turned those piercing eyes full on her. For extra emphasis, he leaned into her. “I said I’m taking you home. and that’s not up for negotiation. You just got a death threat and you think I’m going to let you drive all night by yourself back to Georgia? Get real!”
Deb wanted to say, “And leave poor Tessa manless?” but his eyes warned her that would go over way less than well.
Alex knew Mark like a worn favorite book. He was really worked up and a worked-up Mark was dangerous. Hoping to lighten things up a little he winked at her and in his perfectly charming French accent observed, “You are very beautiful ma chérie. And a challenge. I agree with Mark.”
You would, she harumphed to herself, not registering the impact of his words. Although she didn’t like the idea, she thought again of that man, the call, and Sound of Silence playing. . . A little shiver ran down her spine and she found herself swallowing her pride. “Alright”, she grudgingly agreed, handing Mark her keys. “You drive then.”
It was dark now. Sliding into the passenger seat and settling in felt good. She reclined the seat back and thought that this might work out just fine. I can catch a nap.
Mark watched her, amused, and quipped, “Shall I sing you a lullaby?”
“Not the way you sing”, she returned the sarcasm playfully. He stayed quiet. ‘One for Deb’, she smiled to herself. She used to beg him to sing to her. Turning her head she stared out the window. ‘Now I can just think while he drives. Let him think I’m sleeping.’ He turned some music on low and seemed content to just have some quiet time too.
She didn’t think long though. Sleep overtook her. She wakened to Mark’s voice. “Debbie, we’re home.”
She looked around. Sunlight was streaming across the front porch and over the dew that was heavy on the grass. The neighbor’s dog barked a hello. Mark called out to him “hey, buddy, it’s good to see you too!” Deb rubbed her eyes and said, “I can’t believe I slept that whole way. Hurry and get the door open! I’ve got to get to the bathroom.”
Mark laughed. “I guess you do. I stopped last night a couple of times for the restroom but you didn’t want to wake up. You mumbled and pushed me back. So I hit the fast lane and here we are.” He opened the door.
Deb rushed past him. “Yeah, well, clear the way, this is a flash flood warning.”
He laughed at her again. When she came out of the bathroom he had taken his shirt off & was sifting through some mail he’d brought in. Was he staying? Should she let him?
She asked, “Mark? You want some coffee?”
“No. No, I’m gonna go to bed for a while. I’ve to get some sleep”, he said.
Guess he’s staying. She nodded her head and said, “Alright.” He drove from Florida. He must be tired she told herself. Don’t be a shrew. She watched him as he climbed the stairs. ‘It’s almost like old times’, she thought. Almost.
Entering the kitchen she turned on the lights and pulled her kitchen curtains apart letting in a sunbeam. There! That’s better. The backyard looked so pretty this morning. She heard a bluejay calling its mate as she put on a pot of coffee. Absent-mindedly she hummed an old tune her grandmother sang to her when she was a child.
“There’s an old spinning wheel in the parlor.
Spinning tales of the long, long ago… “
She stopped. Why I haven’t thought about that song in years! Tears sprang to her eyes. She whispered, ‘Grandma, I loved you so! I miss you. You were so good to me.’ She let her mind touch the precious scenes from another time and place. ‘The ring you left me… laboring to teach me. Oh! And the Christmas cookies!’ She stopped. A memory of…. ‘I want to–‘, ‘I wonder’, she began again. ‘Where did I put it? Oh yes, I remember.’
She rushed into the den. That was where Mark took care of the bills and had some of his mementos at a desk that had been given to him by his father. The room also had a fireplace. And two plush rocking chairs with a love seat sofa facing toward it. It held a beautiful cabinet that had belonged to her grandmother. It was filled with some of the most beautiful things that she had treasured. Inside, at the bottom of it on a shelf lay a box belonging to Deb with Things Remembered engraved on it. And inside that was their family photo album. She opened it tenderly. Mark and her … wedding pictures. The kids. Special tidbits that brought a rush of memories flooding back. Mark and me and baby make three. She had written that above a picture of them with Danny when he was born. She heard the dog barking and got up to see why. But it was just some company arriving at the neighbor’s, next door.
She returned and picked up the mail that Mark had brought inside. She laid it on his desk. Bills, she mused, lights, phone, — she experienced a sharp intake of breath. The desk drawer had been left open. Mark always kept that one locked. For years it had been that way because he kept a gun in there for home protection.
She sat down to pull it completely open. No gun. Just a ledger, some pens, and at the back of it a stack of old letters. What’s this? She opened the packet. To her surprise, these were letters from years ago. Love letters and notes that she had written to Mark. I never knew he kept these. She began reading a few of them and a tear trickled down her cheek. You once loved me so much. I know you did. Oh, Mark, what’s happened to us? And now others are involved. Tessa, and Dave, sigh. Then her eye caught sight of a small leather folder.
When she opened it she gasped. A beautiful, very seductive image of Tessa upon a bed.
And a love note from Tessa to Mark. Painfully, she read …
Something happened to me. It was the best thing that ever could be. More than a fantasy. It was a dream come true. Your crooked smile seemed to whisper that you wanted me. And when I removed my sheet your eyes confirmed it. All I need now is you and our bed.
Forever yours my darling,
Debs hands were icy cold. Her cheeks burned. And her stomach felt like it was saying, you can have your coffee back now.
Then a little piece of paper, very small, in Mark’s handwriting seemed to play peek-a-boo with her. What’s this? She picked it up and read,
My Deb 11/2/21
Sharp thinker. Emotional lover. Secretive.
Easy going. Very sexy. Not a man that wouldn’t want her.
Then the most shocking thing of all! It was titled My Deb. And it had been dated 11/2/21.
Yesterday morning she thought. You wrote that about me? Yesterday?
To be continued