... Be myself again and put this whole thing behind me, obviously.
In contrast to Christmas, New Year's was a relatively quiet evening. I worked a short shift, since we weren't starting anything after eight-thirty so that people would be able to get home in time for the countdown. I don't get that, myself - I'd rather be in a nice, heated theater at the stroke of midnight rather than out on the street waiting for some fireworks to go off , but if we're not going to get the business, I'll go home early. It's not like management gets paid by the hour in these places.
I was so worn out that staying in had a certain amount of appeal. The theater's full during school vacation week, so everyone was working extra shifts, and that was after all the family-related stress of the holiday. I got back to the condo, and I was just ready to drop.
But, Ray had dinner ready, and I was hungry. I told him about some of the craziness at the theater - it seemed like everyone thought we were doing something for Final Night, and some were actually really insistent about it. There just seemed to be a plague of people complaining about subtitles, too.
We did make it to midnight, though - one of Ray's brothers had given us a puzzle and we broke that open. I don't think I've done a jigsaw puzzle since elementary school, and in the interim either puzzle-makers have become more sadistic or I've become dumber. There's also the possibility that this means I've never really tackled a puzzle made with adults in mind, but I'm going to stick with the "sadistic bastards" theory.
The wine certainly didn't make it any easier; although it did make the evening a little more pleasant. We laughed a lot when a piece that looked like it should fit didn't, and at the weird things each other said. The puzzle itself was actually of San Francisco's "crookedest street in the world", and I let slip comments about how there was a really good bagel place there, pointing to a spot just outside the border. Of course, he didn't pay them any mind, whether because of the curse or because Elizabeth had spent some time out there (or maybe he just thought it was a funny thing to say). He joked about how he always finished his Christmas shopping up at Games People Play, and now that the shoe was on the other foot, all the people he would get puzzles must think he hates them.
But, he said, he was glad his brother George had gotten us the puzzle. It's been too long, he said, since we've really sat down to do something together. Then he leaned over and kissed me.
It kind of took me by surprise, although it shouldn't have. We've been sleeping in the same bed for three and a half months, and we'd had some close calls, so it was inevitable that he'd eventually pin me down, but, still... My mindset has been so much to maintain the status quo until May that I didn't think that something new could get sprung on me after so long, or that maybe, to Ray, this was the status quo. I dropped the puzzle pieces in my hand and just sat still as he moved back in again, this time putting his arms around me and pulling me closer.
He slipped me some tongue and I responded in kind. I was sort of on autopilot, just doing what I do when Stewart does the same things. I was a little nervous, but I knew the moves, at least. We probably undid all the work he'd done on the puzzle as he laid me out on the living room floor. He rolled off me after he came, landing on the rest.
He sighed and turned his head to look at me. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"
"Yeah," I said. "We've both been so busy..."
"I know. We've got to find some way of fixing that." He looked up at the clock. "I'll get the champagne."
So we counted down without a TV or radio, alternating numbers as we looked at a clock his grandfather had evidently made. When midnight came, we clinked our glasses and drank up.
"This year," he said, "I resolve to pay more attention to my girl."
"I do. Starting right now."
He leaned in and kissed me again, although we moved it to the bedroom when he squeezed my butt and found a puzzle piece in there.
The next morning, he took the chance to sleep in; it's probably just the second or third time I've been up before him. I walked to the bathroom and looked in the mirror.
So, I thought, this is what a two-timing tramp looks like. I wasn't sure just what last night made me - was I cheating on Stewart, finally doing what Liz was supposed to be doing, or just finally playing the part fully. I can't deny that it felt good - Ray and Liz had been going together since high school, and he knew every inch of her body. I was a little disappointed that I didn't orgasm; Jake says the feeling is great, and that's just from masturbation. Even as I was nervous about where all this was going, I wondered if maybe Ray could do something that Stewart couldn't.
I was a bit worried about Ray's claim that he was going to pay more attention to "Liz", though. I'm not going to lie and claim that trying to keep Liz's life on a straight line until she gets back has been easy, but it certainly helped that her relationship with Ray was on the cool side. Sure, for all I know he says this all the time and it only lasts a week or two, but I don't know whether or not that's the case.
I hope that is. This whole experience has certainly taught me to fear change.
The grim reality, I suppose, is that if Ray could do something Stuart couldn't, would you be in this situation?
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