(Continued from Geneva – 12)
It was an odd fall, he thought watching the trees as he pulled into the driveway. No hard frost yet, but no rain. The leaves that were changing and falling seemed to be doing it out of exhaustion more than anything. They knew their time was done, even if the weather didn’t.
Approaching the house, he turned down the old Waylon tune that had popped up on his shuffle. No, he wasn’t feeling generally lonesome, ornery and mean but, seeing someone sitting on his porch, he did feel a prickle on the back of his neck. He rested his hand on the console top, ready to snap it open, then recognized who it was.
He turned off the truck and got out. He’d only seen Chelsea twice before in his life, but he could see she had made an effort to look attractive this time. Not flirty or showy but beyond presentable-and it didn’t take much. Her hair, no longer a tied-up mess stuck to the side of her head, hung loose and wavy, framing her face. She had dusted lightly with make-up that accented rather than concealed her freckles and her thin lips glistened pink. The dark eye liner might have been overdone but it fit the picture. She had a slight bump on the bridge of her nose that probably came with a story and her lanky frame looked comfortable in worn denim and long-sleeved cotton jersey that pulled slightly across her breasts.
“Geneva’s not here”, he said simply.
“I know. She’s at the Battery picking up a few things. We texted.”
“She know you’re here?”
“No. She thinks I’m at work.”
He leaned against one of the rough-hewn porch columns and noticed a small duffle beside her.
“No cigarette today?” She winced and pointed to her purse. “Who smokes in a stranger’s house without permission?” he asked.
“I was trying to show you I couldn’t be intimidated. I didn’t care about you.”
“How’d that work out?”
“Burned my fingers and ruined a good beer.”
“You’re lucky I didn’t spank you too.”
“Oh Jesus, I thought you were! When you said that to Gennie I thought…I almost puked I was so nervous.”
“You know what happened to Gennie, right?”
“She’s my best friend-even if I’m not really hers.” She shrugged lightly allowing her voice to tail a bit. “We talk or text every day”. She reached for her purse, took out a pack of Salem 100’s. “Do you mind?”
“Light one for me”, he said.
She patted two out of the pack and put them in her mouth. She snapped a battered Zippo and lit them both. He took one, smudged with pink frost at the end.
“I knew she was reaching out to someone.”
“You never asked?”
“Not my business.” He inhaled his first cigarette in a month and watched it burn for a moment. “Also none of my business but I’m going to ask anyway. Are you two lovers?” Chelsea took a deep puff and exhaled luxuriously-seeming to conjure the answer in the smoke. He was in no hurry, content to let her chew, hoping for the truest and not the quickest answer.
“Naw. I wish…I mean we were-before Brittany. Little and short. But sweet. We hooked up before we really knew each other. If I had known her better, I’d have taken better care of her. It. The relationship. We never really had one till now. Friends you know. “
“So, Chelsea, what brings you here to my porch on a day when your friend isn’t here?”
“I’m a direct person. People either hate that or like that about me, but it’s the only way I can be. I’m on short hours at work-can’t afford to get a place of my own right now. Living with Brittany without Geneva as a buffer is impossible…”
“For being a direct person you sure are taking a wide path…”
“I want to move in.”
“That’s direct.” It was his turn to read the smoke after a long exhale. “I can’t open a boarding house for everyone that doesn’t want to live with Brittany anymore.”
“You’d do a great business”, she said smiling wryly. “I’m just looking for a place to fall out a bit. Like I thought Gennie was looking for. Now I’m not so sure…” She waited for him to jump in, not yet knowing that it wasn’t his way. “Anyway, one thing you should know though, if I move in here? I’m one hundred percent a girl gal. I let Jimmy Wilson take me to the Christmas Dance in seventh grade, but that was it for boys. No dicks for me.”
“And you’re telling me this because….”
“Well, with you and Gennie-… she kinds of goes which way the wind blows…”
He frowned. “Don’t put it that way. It makes her seem…frivolous…flighty, somehow. Is that how you meant it?”
“No. No. Of course not. I’m sorry. It’s just that…I’m gay, and I wanted you to know that. That’s all.”
“OK, I get it. No offense taken.” Happy to finish that part of the conversation he sat in the chair beside hers, separated by a small table.
“I could be helpful around here.”
“I have a CDL. And can handle a fork lift…landscaping…” her prepared speech was trailing off and she took another, quick and nervous, drag. “I can handle any machine you have up here.”
“I imagine that could be helpful…”
He waited for the rest. There had to be something more, the way she was scanning the surrounding hills for clues. “There is another thing…” she started slowly, then stopped. Puffed the last of her smoke, then put it out in a flower pot after holding it above the dirt and having him nod the OK. She reached for her purse to get another.
“Don’t”, he said, again simply. “You know what you’re going to say. Just say it.”
She sighed deeply and surrendered, “If I’m living here and I fuck up-or do something you don’t want me to be doing-and you need to spank me? I’m OK with that.”
“You are, are you?”
“Not looking for it. Not hoping for it. Not. Been there done that, a long time ago. But if you thought it was necessary, I’d be OK with it. Not OK, you know? Don’t know how much I could handle these days-especially from a guy…But…if you had to…”
“I get it”, he said letting her off the hook though he would have been happy to while away the afternoon listening to her talk about spanking. Just hearing a woman he barely knew use the word… Nothing in his outward nonchalance betrayed him. He looked at the bag. “Did you and Gennie already work this out?”
“No. This is on me. I didn’t want to put this on her. Figured this was between you and me.”
“What if I’d have said no?”
“You don’t know me.”
“I know Gennie.”