Plague Life – Part V

Continued from Plague Life – Deleted Scenes

A couple of nights later, coming home from a late shift, Joyce called Megan. She was flat on the couch, scrolling through the muted TV. “Hey”, she answered.

“Hey yourself. What’s going on?”

“Quiet”, Megan told her. Tommy’s been asleep for awhile…I was just getting ready to start your dinner.”

“Skip that”, Joyce told her. “I really need you to work on my back tonight. If you’re up to it.”

Megan sat up quickly-as if a different level of attention was required. “…Sure…” she said. “You OK?”

“Yeah, just beat…and sore.”

“No problem, see you when you get here.”

Once out of the shower and dried, Joyce picked a clean pair of black briefs from the folding table. She hesitated a moment before slipping them on. Then a matching bra. The girl had folded all her underwear in sets. Then the soft old robe that she kept in the mudroom. Padding barefoot into the kitchen Joyce smiled at the glass of wine set alone on the table. She swept it up and sipped without stopping, heading toward the dim light emanating from the master suite.

Megan, resplendent in old calf-length sweatpants and a university T-shirt, had stripped the bed of duvet and top sheet replacing them with an older sheet from the linen closet. She was smoothing the top when Joyce came in. Megan, nervous, wouldn’t look at her directly and spoke to the bed in general.

“We hadn’t said where we’d do this…but your bed is the firmest. And there’s no footboard. It’s tough working on a bed but fine. And I didn’t want to get oil all over your good stuff.” She nodded toward a few bottles on the bedside table.

“It’s fine”, said Joyce softly. “Tommy is…”

“Fast asleep. And down the hall…”

Megan, having smoothed the top sheet far beyond necessary, stepped away from the bed. If she was truly expecting the slow, suggestive disrobing in the half-light that she had envisioned nervously over and over for the last half hour she didn’t get it. Joyce was in a locker room, not a boudoir. After a sip she set her wine alongside the oils, untied the loop of her belt and shrugged the robe off her shoulders. Megan didn’t realize she had been holding her breath until she saw the bra and panties. She wasn’t sure if she was relieved or disappointed.

“Just up on here then?” said Joyce patting the bed.

“Yeah…move in and give me room. Problem with not having a table is I’ll have to straddle you….”

“Sure, sure…” said Joyce kneeling onto the bed. She was moving with a business-like efficiency, leaving no space for the languid eddies that two people in a bedroom might create for themselves.  It occurred to Megan that maybe she was faking that. At least in part.

On all fours, Joyce arched her back then twisted. “I’m so needing this…” she said. Then, on her knees with Megan almost behind her she unsnapped her bra and pulled it off, tossing it onto the floor. “Don’t know why I put that on….” She said seemingly to herself. Then she lay flat. “Do your thing” she said with a sigh.

Megan, trying to match her tone, shook out her hands as might a pianist in a movie before beginning. She rubbed oil firmly into her hands until convinced they wouldn’t shudder when released. Then, still standing, she drizzled oil onto Joyce’s back and rubbed it around lightly to keep it from running.

“That’s warm…”

“Put it in the microwave…” Megan said.

“Of course you did”, she said with her head turned away. Megan comfortably assumed there was a smile she couldn’t see. Then she got up on the bed and in a smooth move borne of the flexibility of youth straddled Joyce at the thighs.

“You OK?” she asked.

“Fine…”

‘No more words’ was a conscious decision. Megan began slowly, thumbs on either side of Joyce’s spine and slid them upward, probing softly listening for a breath or a grunt, any tiny sound that might direct her ministrations. She moved up the spine slowly then fanned out across the back, digging the heels of her hands into the wide expanse of lithe muscle. Then back down again. Over and over. If she had been a painter this would be her rough sketch, outlining the boundaries of her canvas.

The small of Joyce’s back was the focus of her work. She watched the woman’s skin ripple and flow in front of her thumbs and fall back into place behind and heard every sound she made. Up and out then around and down but every time she came to the small of Joyce’s back, Megan would place her thumbs lower until she had to slip them below the elastic of Joyce’s panties. Up then out then around. Finally, before digging again into the softening muscles, she tucked her thumbs into the panties and pulled them partway down, exposing no more of Joyce’s backside than a bikini might have. Still, she paused, admiring the fetching dimples and topmost snick of her divide. She paused awhile.

“Butt Gal”, Joyce whispered with a smile that Megan could hear.

“You don’t make it easy”, Megan said pinching and pulling at the cotton panties with her fingers.

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. You should go ahead and pull them off…”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Megan skootched herself a little way down the bed and again slipped her fingers into the elastic of the panties. This time Joyce lifted herself slightly and she pulled the panties down off her slim bottom and down her thighs. Joyce lifted her knees, then her feet, so that Megan could slide them completely off and drop them onto the floor.

“You OK?” This time it was Joyce asking.

“Fine”, said Megan, unsure if it was true. But she stayed with the work, allowing her hands to rest on the tops of the woman’s backside while working the thumbs toward her spine. The moans-the tiny breaths of affirmation-had stopped but Megan was suddenly hesitant to leave the relatively chaste landscape of Joyce’s back. But she didn’t want to be told to move down.

She backed down until she straddled Joyce’s legs just below the knees and drizzled a little oil on each of her bottom cheeks. Then, gently with open hands, she spread the lubrication out and down the backs of her thighs.

She worked the glutes in tandem as she had her back. Slide her thumbs up the middle then out on both sides of her, then circle back. More attention paid to the thickness of the bottom at her bottom than at the top.  And make no mistake. Megan knew what these feelings were welling up in her breast and starting to tumble down into her stomach, and below. She knew them but struggled to control them. If, in working her thumbs up her bottom, she would spread Joyce enough to reveal what was down between the mounds, she’d freeze guiltily. As if intruding.

She paused and slid backward, lifting her left leg and pressing her knee between Joyce’s. “Spread” she said not knowing what the reaction might be. Every step felt like it might be a step too far-that she might be told “no”.  Joyce’s leg shifted easily.

Megan knelt, working the hamstrings at the tops of Joyce’s long legs. She worked them as she had her back and her bottom: both thumbs up the middle then out and back. Truth, it was her only massage move. And, of course, working the thumbs meant her hands would encircle the leg which was okay with her left hand that rode innocently up the outer leg, but the right slid up the inside of the thigh-chastely at first-fingers withdrawn and circumspect. Not venturing too far or too high. At first.

But then, as she worked the top of the hamstring, right below her bottom, she slipped her right hand all the way up Joyce’s leg. She would swear, if called on it, that her finger inadvertently, mistakenly even, ran all the way up, feeling the warm damp folds at the top. She pulled back as if burned-breathless that she had gone too far! Ruined it!

“Megs?”

“Still here,” Megan said softly, voice catching in the dusty desert of her mouth.

“You should do whatever you want”, Joyce said.

Megan wasn’t massaging anymore. She was sitting back softly rubbing her hand over Joyce’s slick backside and down her legs. And not answering. “Look”, Joyce sighed lightly, “I’m not that thick. Somewhat maybe, but not that. I don’t know what to ask for and if I did, I wouldn’t know how. This is lovely but I’m up for anything. Or nothing if that’s your call. But wherever we’re going, you’ll have to drive.”

Megan’s eyes stung and she was afraid she might cry but opted for the wide smile instead. She patted Joyce’s bottom once then stepped off the bed. She pulled her T-shirt over her head. Her sweats came off next and just as she slipped her thumbs into the elastic of her own panties, saw Joyce watching her. She smiled coyly and pushed them down. She was about to kneel back onto the bed when Joyce said, “Turn around.”

Megan’s smile twisted and she turned. She didn’t move but to push her hips backwards just a bit. Joyce’s fingers played across her cheek. She snapped off the lamp before crawling back onto the bed.

Continuing here Plague Life, Part VI

Plague Life – Deleted Scenes

Continued from Plague Life – Part IV

The next few days passed with little but Joyce’s shifts to tell one from the other. When Joyce was off, Megan made herself scarce giving mother and son time together. When they had enough of that, Tommy might ride down or they’d both stroll down to see what Megan was working on. She was not light on projects and living alone in the house for at least the time being, gave her room to spread out. Her on-line classes were going as well as they could and she was actually finishing art, which had been tough to do when the world was spinning.

That morning Megan opened her eyes with a start, looking straight into the pear tree. The spare room that she uses on overnights looks out into the backyard-the tree specifically. Joyce was horrified when she found out that Megan slept with the blinds open-she could never do that. But then, her schedule made it impossible to contemplate. She herself had black metal blinds in her room-which brought darkness at the pull of a cord.

It was just before six, well over an hour before Joyce would be home. She lay still, sleepily trying to recapture the dream. She remembered Joyce in it, nude, pushing against her. Had they been in bed? No, she thought they were standing…Joyce was rubbing her backside… Megan pushed her basketball shorts down and rolled onto her side to run her hand across her bottom as Joyce had in the dream. Then she slipped her finger lightly between her legs finding herself swollen and damp.

It had been a dream and dreams are unbidden, so she didn’t feel guilty about it. Now though, she was awake sliding her finger into herself while thinking of Joyce. “Nope”, she said out loud. “Nope. Nope.” She threw back the covers and sat on the bed, shorts still at her knees. She stood, stepped out of them and walked the two paces into her private bath which is the best thing about this room. Still, she rubbed her bottom where dream-Joyce had and felt a weakness in her legs.

She peed and stepped into the shower for a quick freshener from the neck down, then brushed out her hair before slipping it into a ponytail. If she had dreamed of someone else would it have been okay to touch herself? She was ready for it, that’s for sure. She promised she’d take care of herself later, at home. But not now. Not here. A touch of blush on the cheeks and she was set. For reasons she didn’t want to explore too deeply, she cared about how she looked when Joyce got home. Not like that, though! Not really. She just didn’t want to be appear tired or drawn or anything that might concern Joyce.

There was no way Megan could know it, but what she was doing did work. Somewhere, between leaving the hospital, driving home or coming out of the shower, for a moment, or a flash of a moment, Joyce would look forward to seeing Megan. Not getting home. Not eating. Not having a glass of wine. But seeing Megan. Joyce didn’t let the thought linger and flower, but it was there-albeit forced fleeting.

Joyce, clean and damp, walked into the kitchen sniffing at the air. “Now that smells good…” She shuffled barefoot to the stove and peeked over Megan’s shoulder. There was a pounded chicken breast simmering in olive oil and lemon alongside a half dozen spears of asparagus and a smattering of capers.

“Asparagus? Where did you get those?”

“Had them at home. Picked them up over the weekend…”

“The chicken was…”

“You had it in the freezer. I split a breast, so there’s another left. I’ll pick some up next week. And there’s still quinoa-that shit lasts forever.”

“You’ve seriously expanded the breakfast menu”, she said squeezing her arms from behind before going to her place at the table.

“It’s not breakfast for you. You’ve been up all night…For breakfast, when Tommy gets up, you’ll have…” She opened the refrigerator door and pointed to a bowl sealed with plastic wrap. “Pancake batter-with chocolate chips…”

“When did you do that?”

Megan shrugged lightly, “A little bit ago.”

“Jesus Megs…”

“No biggie.”

Joyce sipped at the orange juice that had been set for her. “You do a lot for us…”

“Well, maybe. But then, there’s the fact that I have fuck all else to do”, she said grinning.

Joyce wadded up a napkin and tossed it at her. “Brat!” She smiled weakly, the fatigue of the shift settling now that she was home. She leaned back to allow the plated meal to be set in front of her. Hunger kept her from picking-she dug in.

“Delicious”, she said closing her eyes, savoring. “I know you snuck some butter in.”

Megan turned to face her and leaned against the stove, dish towel over her shoulder. “That’s why it’s so good.”

The silence between them was natural. Joyce ate, Megan cleared the counter and washed the pan.

“So”, Joyce asked picking up an asparagus spear with her fingers. “What do I call you?”

“Come again?”

“Someone asked today about Tommy. And who watched him. You were his babysitter for a while-still are really. Then you were a friend. Now with all this…and the shopping, and the…everything. I’m not sure what to call you.”

“Not Personal Assistant.”

“No not that…something to do with the house…I don’t know…”

“You better not say ‘maid’!”

“No”, Joyce scoffed. “How about Gal Friday?”

“What the hell is that?”

“I forget how young you are…”

“Accomplice?”

“If we ever plan a caper.”

“How about ‘Squire’, said Megan with a cocky head tilt.

“Squire?”

“Sure. They lived to serve their knights. To do whatever they could do to ensure the knight was at the top of their game. Right?”

“I’m a knight then?”

“Absolutely!”

“Were there female knights?”

“You definitely didn’t watch Game of Thrones.”

Joyce shrugged. “Naw. I’m more of a King Arthur girl…”

She finished off the last bite of chicken. “Hello. I’m Doctor Joyce Maples. And this is Megan, my squire.” She grinned widely if groggily, “That has potential.”

 

Continued here Plague Life – Part V

Lying April

I’m out in the back working the compost again, pulling the sweetest and darkest for the garden that still mostly slumbers. At this particular moment, the sky is a heartbreaking blue with painfully white clouds smirking down through the lie that is April. I uncovered the fig and threaded the grape vines two weeks ago when the forsythia blazed and the first groundhog of the season wandered into my trap to be ferried across the river to the church grounds where he’d cavort with the hundreds of bunnies and hedgehogs that had made the same trip over the years. I’d caught trout on Good Friday and, forgetting sunscreen, burned my nose and cheeks. Now for the past three dawns, I’ve sprayed water on the buds to ward off the frosts that have rolled through and right now, at this particular moment, wearing sunglasses makes as much sense as an aqualung. She’s yelling for me to come in before I catch my death, but snow squall or no, I’m putting lettuce in. Today. Why do I always let April do this to me?

Tangles

Standing there in front of the open garage I thought of Joe for some reason. He was in his seventies when I took over managing the bar for him and he was tied up with Sherry who was a good thirty years younger. I knew Sherry for having a kid with my buddy Bull a couple of years before he killed himself. It wasn’t his only kid, just his only with Sherry and they are all still knocking around town, fun house mirror images of him. Even the girls, which is a shame. Don’t know what happened to Sherry but back then I’d find Joe’s Viagra everywhere; in the register, on the bar, the desk in the office, the floor…He couldn’t see too well but was too vain for glasses. I’d sweep them up into a small bank envelope and leave them in a drawer. I wished I’d have kept them. We buried Joe two years ago when the second fall cast a shadow over his brain. At ninety-six he wouldn’t have survived any surgery which was fine as he was pissed to have outlived everyone. Holly, the tenant in 703, was talking to me but I really wasn’t focused. Since the library was closed for this shit she was out of work and couldn’t make rent which I’d inferred. It was fine. Ma had really liked her, so she had a pass, which she didn’t know about. She was a nervous type who I’d once described as looking like a dark little man with long sideburns. Which was unfair but today she was dressed like a pile of dirty clothes left behind at the laundromat. I’d seen her out and about though, when we could go out. I’d seen her on the outside of a few vodka and crans. She cleans up well and, me being me, I’d watched her walk away a time or two or lean over a bar. I knew what she was bringing to the table. She was saying something about unemployment, and she’d have some of the rent next month for this month then when she got her big check…and on and on. She was squinting or smiling, I couldn’t tell. But then I heard her say something about making it up to me. That she could do that. That was it. That’s what made me think of Joe. And his pills. I wished I’d have kept some of those. I bummed a cigarette off her. She tossed me the pack. “I didn’t know you smoked”, she said. “I don’t”, I told her.

Plague Life – Part IV

Continued from Plague Life – Part III

They ate the pizza on the back-yard patio. This time of day the sun was dipping behind the oaks and only winked at them through the leaves as a light breeze kept the bugs at bay. It was good to be outside and Tommy, bored with a sit-down meal after half a slice, was fine taking a bite then running to the swings or playing catch off the shed roof and coming back for another. No surprise he had demurred on the salad his mother had made but she and Megan were enjoying the treat that fresh produce had become.

Both women sat with their backs to the house at opposite ends of the glass-topped table where they could watch him. Their legs were up on spare chairs and the glasses of iced tea sweated tiny puddles that ran zig-zagging toward the center of the table carrying crumbs along in their wakes. It was the kind of day to notice things like that. Joyce caught Megan looking at her once, but only because she had been glancing at Megan. That made Joyce smile and give her head the tiniest of shakes.

“What?” asked Megan.

“Nothing”, she answered with still the ghost of a smile. Megan noticed the fine fuzz that glittered on Joyce’s neck with the sun twinkling on them. With her eyes on Tommy running over to the table Joyce spoke without moving her head. “Slept like a rock last night.”

“You were probably due”.

Tommy stopped himself at the table and grabbed his slice of pizza. He tore at it with a roar then slapped it back onto the plate. Megan tossed him a napkin which fluttered to the ground as he wheeled and ran back to the swings.

“I think it was the massage”, said Joyce.

“Could have been. You were pretty well knotted up.”

“I felt that.” She took a sip of her drink and set it down away from the puddle it had made. “I might…I mean, …I might have a favor to ask you.”

“What?”

“You can say no.” Joyce looked at her and pulled the glasses down over her nose for the second time today. Had never noticed her doing that. Was she going for coy or maybe mid-thirties cute? Whichever, she was pretty much hitting it.

“Not without hearing what it is.”

“I used to get massages at Standing Stone”, she explained. The Stone, as it was known in Joyce’s circle, was a day spa that offered a menu of pricy and elaborate massage and body treatments.

“Yeah, you’d mentioned it once or twice”

“You ever been?”

“No. Outta my league.”

“Yeah, they’re expensive. But they took good care of me every couple of weeks. I was wondering, after what you did for me last night” she paused, glancing up in the sky as if waiting for the question to be communicated to her so she could pass it along. “Can you do a full body? Or legs?” She was sliding the words out quickly, hardly opening her mouth, wanting them to be in the air but hesitant to say them. Was it dumb feeling this nervous? It was a simple question, she was telling herself, knowing full well it wasn’t and she was lying.

Megan only cared to hear that she was asking for full body massage. She had given them before with and without subtext. Megan had told Joyce about the kinesiology class but not about the sports massage workshop she had taken because an aspiring trainer in the class had talked her into it. And she also wouldn’t mention that the aspiring trainer was a short blonde from up country named Becca who’d taught her a fair amount beyond longitudinal gliding.

“I’ll pay you, of course”, said Joyce, misreading her silence.

“You will not…”

“Come on. I’d want to. This is a lot to ask…I’m feeling like I might be taking advantage.”

“It’s just that, I can do the basics, you know? Nothing the pros like they have at The Stone.”

“The Stone’s closed now. It’s just you and me…”

Megan let the last words breathe a bit as she bit into a fresh slice. Amazing how long Folino’s crust stayed crisp, even beyond the cheese cooling. Some kind of magic, no doubt. Joyce was looking her way, but the glasses were masking her eyes and this time she wasn’t pulling them down her nose. Thinking of Becca brought back memories of their early flirting. Words didn’t always mean what they seemed to mean. Or they did, but they meant something else too. Something more. Megan had been concerned that, if it came to it, she wouldn’t have the nerve to make the first move. Now maybe she didn’t have to.

“I’ll give it a shot, sure. I have some oils and lotions at home. I’ll go get them before you leave so they’ll be here whenever you want.”

Joyce stretched her legs and arched her back, stretching. “Great”, she said, her eyes back on her son.

Continuing here Plague Life – Deleted Scenes

Who has that kind of time?

He leaned out of the doorway toward me, just far enough for the reflected muddy glow of the streelight to hit his hands and up his chest, leaving everything above the cigarette in shadows. By the tilt of his hat, his gaze seemed off-as if he were looking over my head, off into the distance. Where there was more nothing but stacked higher.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, voice dry and dusty.

“I’d like to be high”, I told him.

“We got you. Lotta people in your shoes.”

“Yeah, but only for a half hour or so…”

“Wait. What?”

“I need to be high for a half hour.”

“Half hour. Like thirty minutes?”

“Maybe forty-five tops. Got some things to do that a buzz would definitely help with. I don’t need to tell you how long it’s been! But then, I’d like to be straight again.”

“Straight again.”

“Yeah I got shit to do later that would definitely require…a level of straightness. Like I have now.”

“Whyn’t you go do that shit now? Then come back?”

“Too early. And I doubt my ability to hold on till then without…”

“Getting high…”

“Being high.”

“Being high.”

“Yeah. I need it to hit me real fast.”

“Then, like that…”, he tries to snap his fingers, but instead his pointer finger snaps off at the top knuckle with a small pop. He pauses to follow the track of the top of his digit disappearing among the detritus along the curb. “…be straight again. That what you mean?”

“Yeah. Something that snaps on and off. Well not like….” I looked down to where his finger had fallen to watch the roiling under the rags and sodden papers as the vermin vied for the prize. Something must have won out as a skittering of tiny claws rattled away. “You got anything like that?” I asked, looking back up.  “With switches?”

“Switches.”

“On and off.”

“Neh, man. Our ride takes a while to get to cruising speed. And once there it lasts…a good long while. Then it takes some time to come back down. Four-hour minimum commitment. Results may vary.”

“Thought so.”

“Come back when you have a couple of seconds”, he said leaning back into the shadows. “A day…a weekend maybe. And I’ll fix you up.”

“Thanks”, I said hustling away. Who has that kind of time?

Plague Life – Part III

Continued from Plague Life – Part II

The next day, just after noon, Megan was in the driveway of her parent’s home just down the street from Doctor Maples’ place. She had the base of an antique steamer trunk on a collapsible work bench and was sanding the wooden slats along the frame. The belt sander was loud and the dust was thick enough that she had to stop every few minutes to clear her classes and shake her mask.

She used her mom’s car was still in the garage, but her dad’s truck was gone. When her parents drove to their place in Arizona two months ago, the plan had been to stay a couple of weeks. Now Megan wondered when she’d see them again. They were happily hunkered on their rented corner of an 800-acre ranch with nothing but nothing surrounding them. Her mother was riding again, and dad was hunting most days and the word “retirement” kept slipping into their conversations.

Megan changed the belt in the sander to a finer grit. She made sure she was busy and didn’t let her mind wander to Joyce and what had happened the night before. Not because she didn’t want to, not because a fantasy of Joyce Maple wasn’t slavering, chained at the edge of her subconscious ready to fill her head with all the details she could provide. But she wouldn’t. Joyce was a friend-she’d know her since she was a kid. She trusted her with Tommy. Picturing her naked based on a chance glance and goofy joke seemed a betrayal of some kind.

The blanketing silence of the street settled quickly without the sander’s whine. She shook her hand which was still buzzing a little. There were doves cooing in the pear tree and a distant lawn mower but the street was eerily quiet. Those out tending to their yards or Mr. Jensen, waxing his car again, seemed hushed as they went about their chores.  She was about to bend to the task again when she heard Tommy from down the street.  Six-year-old boys do not do hushed.  “Hey Megsy”, he called. She removed her fogging glasses. He was riding his bike toward her and waving.

“Hi Tommy!” she waved back, instinctively glancing up and down the street for cars. “Where’s your mom?” she asked then bit her tongue as if the innocent question would reveal something. Would she have asked that question that quickly yesterday? Two days ago?

Tommy had braked at the bottom of the drive. “She’s coming”, he said and pointed.

And there she was. Joyce had just stepped into sight from behind the mammoth rhododendron at the end of the block. She was wearing old jeans that were ripped at the knees more from use than fashion and a long-sleeved crewneck running shirt-a souvenir from some five K or other she’d run over the years. Her running shoes were a striking blue a coincidental match with her sunglasses. Strolling more than walking she looked lankier than she was. Her mask was hanging at her throat, ready to be pulled up if anyone passed or wanted to exchange words from across the sidewalk or over the hedge.

The visions that Megan had tried to hold off crashed through the walls of her consciousness like the Kool-Aid man as she watched Joyce’s languid approach. She cut her eyes from her chest not wanting to go there. This is ridiculous, she thought.

“You’re comin’ to eat with us”, Tommy cried.

“Oh, am I, now?” Megan said smiling. She had pulled her mask down so he could see her face.

“This one talked me into pizza from Folino’s for dinner”, said Joyce, close enough now to join the conversation.

“And you’re gonna come!” Tommy yipped.

“Is that OK?” asked Joyce. “I know we said five but….”

“Naw-that’s good. What time?”

“Four?”

“Easily done.”

Joyce pulled her sunglasses down her nose and gave her a look. “You’ll have time to clean up, right?”

“Oh yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“Good” said Joyce turning away with a slight tilt like a small plane leaning toward home. “See you then.”

Tommy was off up the street and out of earshot. “Hey Doc,” Megan called to her. “I enjoyed you walking away more last night.”

Joyce said nothing but, without missing a step, spun slowly and grinning with her tongue between teeth that had never looked so white, wagged both fingers like a kid playing quick draw, before turning away again with maybe, just maybe, a little switch in her hips.

“Sweet Jesus”, thought Megan.

Continuing here Plague Life – Part IV

Plague Life – Part II

Continued from Plague Life – Part I 

In the kitchen Megan could hear the water running in the shower. Her heart had settled, and she was breathing almost normally again. What the hell was that? She smiled widely as the pan heated and she pulled the bread from the freezer and um, cheddar, she decided, from the fridge. She dropped two slices into the toaster but waited to drop them. When the oil in the pan was just shy of shimmering, she poured in the egg whites and over filled a glass of Chablis.

In the shower Joyce was still shaking her head not quite believing what she’d just done but smiling at the thought of it. She’d apologize, of course. What the hell was she thinking? But that’s as far as she got before starting to giggle again. She was thorough under the hot stream but fast. She wanted to get out to the kitchen. She turned the water off.

Megan put the cheese on the eggs and folded the omelet, smacking her lips at the tartness of the wine. The bread went down and she pulled a robin’s egg blue Fiesta Ware plate from the cabinet knowing how good it would look with the white omelet. Would she have cared about the presentation of a midnight omelet an hour ago?

When she heard the door open to the mudroom Megan pulled her mask, which had been hanging around her neck, up over her mouth and nose. The kitchen was spacious and wide open, but they’d been cautious. Joyce came in, her short auburn hair damply cupping her face.  The towel she had covered with earlier was around her neck and she was wearing a clean set of green scrubs. Seeing without looking Megan could tell she wasn’t wearing a bra. Probably no underwear either but impossible to tell. Megan mentally slapped herself in the head for thinking about that, but it had been a weird evening.

“Yessss…” Joyce said, sipping an offered glass of wine as she sat. She also ooohed and ahhhed at the omelet but didn’t spend too much time admiring it. She didn’t realize how hungry she was until she began eating. She worked around the crisp edges of the eggs and wolfed down half a piece of buttered toast. “This is wonderful…Thank you.”

“Easily done…”

“…About earlier….”

“What?” said Megan innocently, using her eyes to compensate for the smile the mask was covering.

“I was tired…giddy, I guess…”

“Stop it…”

“No! Really. And I’m not a modest person…”

“Obviously…”

“I can’t be. Not now. That was my fourth shower today. We’re all the time in locker rooms, underwear, bare-assed changing clothes. I shouldn’t have…”

“Here. Can I do something?” Megan asked. Without really waiting for permission she slipped behind Joyce and put her hands on her shoulders.

“Wait…” Joyce protested.

Megan said nothing, just began kneading Joyce’s shoulders and neck.

“Don’t…”

“Oh Shush!” She continued to knead her shoulders ignoring Joyce’s words and instead following the lead of her head lolling from side to side. They’d been in close quarters for over a month-essentially quarantined together so while this could have been seen as risky, neither was immediately willing to stop.

“I warn you”, said Joyce, “I might cry. It wouldn’t be the first time today.”

“You also laughed, so it’s been a big day.” She left a hole in the conversation in case Joyce wanted to fill it. When she didn’t, “You should do whatever you want. This is your home-this is your safe place. You want to cry, cry. You want to laugh, laugh.”

“What about mooning the babysitter?”

“By all means”, she said giving her a firmer squeeze.

“Does feel good.”

“I audited a kinesiology class.”

“Really?”

“I didn’t finish. There was a guy, then there wasn’t. But I learned a little of this.”

“You have a gift.”

“You’re sweet. And beat. What are you doing tomorrow?”

Joyce wasn’t due at the hospital till six tomorrow evening, so she was planning a day of nothing. Vegging with Tommy. They talked softly as Joyce ate and Megan continued to work the knots out of her shoulders. She’d be over at five to help get her off and ease the separation that Tommy always felt. It was their routine but there might have been another layer to it now. Joyce felt it as did Megan. And neither regretted it.

Dinner over and the massage finished, Megan moved toward the door. “I’ll be working in the garage all day tomorrow. Refinishing a trunk that I found in a shop a couple months ago, before the world changed. I’m available. If you need me before five, just text.”

“I’ll be fine”, said Joyce. “See you tomorrow…”

“Yep”, then pausing with a smile behind the mask, “Thanks for the bum shot.”

“Get out of here.”

She left and Joyce sat, nursing the wine and rubbing her shoulder where Megan’s hands had just been. It felt like they were the first hands on her in months.

Continued here Plague Life – Part III

Georgie

Georgie was sitting behind the station drinking the cheapest quart that thin money could buy. His mask was flapping, hanging from a band over one ear and showed stains of paint overspray, tobacco, blood and probably snot if I got close enough to look. Betting he found it. He was leaning to the left, away from his bottle hand, because the bleached-to-pink red resin chair he was sitting on was dumpster salvage-tossed there with a broken leg. I tried to steer clear because Georgie was always good to bum a buck or two which was okay normally but not so right now. He saw me right enough, but all he wanted was an ear in passing. “They should drop an atom bomb on all of it”, he said, looking at me but not-as his eye tended to float and wander. “Wipe out all this sickness and disease at once.” “Georgie,” I said moving on, “That would take us out too.” “That’s what I mean”, he coughed. “Start again but get it right this time. Have god not make any animal that walks on two legs. Give us enough time, we’ll just fuck everything up!” I slowed, waiting to see if he was done. He didn’t seem sure.

Plague Life – Part I

She turned the music down as she rolled up on the house. Sometimes after a shift like she’d just had, she needed it loud to keep her awake. But not tonight. Tonight, she was angry enough, frustrated enough to stay awake and drive to the coast if necessary. The concept, the idea, the thought of “enough” had been with her most of the day. Not the job. Joyce Maple was the chief of critical care at Swansea Health, a 250-bed hospital that served most of the county.

The virus cases had stabilized here, and she was back to her normal three 12 hour shifts and two overnights. They had a full staff-all healthy-and were finally fully stocked with what they needed to fight this freaking plague.

What she didn’t need however was her fucking husband-she still wasn’t thinking of him as “ex”-texting her between patients making demands about child visitation and his car. Which she was paying for, by the way. It was true that trying times reveal the true character of people. Happily, those she was surrounded with at work and in her tiny society at home have proven strong and positive. That turd, not so much.

She pulled into the drive automatically staying on her side until she hit the button above the visor to open the wide door into the empty two car garage. There was no “his and her” side anymore. Four months ago, she’d have been coming home to a husband and six-year old son. It wasn’t the largest or truth be told happiest family, but it was what it was. It was a port in a storm-a place to hide from the world, a place to just BE. Which is what she needed right now. Which is why she was crying in the linen closet at work earlier. The first time that had happened. She was just tired and…fucking enough already.

Now she was coming home to her son Tommy, who would be asleep, and Megan Crockett, his babysitter. A blessing that one. Tommy had known her since he was a baby and since her university was on hiatus, she was back at home in the neighborhood with nothing besides online classes and art projects to do. They kept the proper distances and protocols, the girl even had her own masks because she worked with spray paint, so at least Joyce had someone in her life she could count on for something.

At home they had honed a routine that worked for them so far. When the garage door closed, Joyce got out of the car, kicked off her sneakers, stepped around to the laundry area and stripped. Her scrubs, top then bottom, and tonight her bra and panties went into a pile on the floor. She swore that she spent more time dressing and undressing at work than she did in front of patients. She wore no jewelry, no watch, nothing else. She bent and picked up the bundle to put in the washer surprised to find it empty. Megan must have done them. Sweet. And she knew better than to touch them before they were washed, so that was fine.

But she was distracted and moving slowly, more thoughtfully than usual as she tried to get the day out of her head. By now she should have been wearing the old robe or have moved to the bathroom for a shower but instead was standing in her altogether thinking about laundry when the door from the mud room opened and she heard Megan say, “Hi Joyce! I did…” They both froze for a moment, Joyce leaning naked over the washer and Megan with her hand on the doorknob.

“Shit!” said Joyce reaching quickly to snatch a bath towel off the stack on her folding table. She hadn’t been facing the house door either way-it was a full side view was all. No biggie. A side boob tops. “I’m sorry Megan…You should have knocked…” Joyce, holding a towel over her breasts that fell to her knees took a deep breath and closed her eyes hard for a second to reset. She opened them with a wry smile. “I’m sorry Megan. It was my fault…”

“I shouldn’t have just barged in.” Megan said.

“It’s okay. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize”, Megan said. “You’re beautiful.”

“Hah!” Joyce barked lightly. “But, thank you.”

“No problem. If I looked like you, I’d never wear clothes.”

“Stop”, said Joyce still smiling but blushing, nonetheless.

“I separated some eggs”, said Megan. “Was going to make you an egg white omelet. Cheddar or Swiss?”

“Megs”, she said using the nickname she called her ten years earlier when she was one of the neighborhood kids, “Like I’ve told you, you don’t have to cook for me.”

“Doctor Maple”, Megan said seriously, “I’ve eaten your cooking. So yes, yes I do.” Joyce’s eyes widened at being teased. “The county is depending on me.”

“You brat! If I had a free hand, I’d throw something at you.”

“Cheddar or Swiss?”

“Surprise me. But it’s really not necessary.”

“Of course it’s not ‘necessary’. A lot of things aren’t necessary. But would you like it?”

“Sure I’d like it.”

“And I opened that Chablis that was in the fridge…”

“Ah, THAT is necessary.”

“Figured since you weren’t going in till late shift tomorrow.”

“You remembered that…” Joyce said.

“Of course. Your schedule is my schedule.”

That simple statement caught Joyce in a way that surprised her. Of course, her babysitter would know her schedule. Since the dick had moved out and all this shit hit the fan, Megan had been her only constant relationship outside of work besides Tommy. Which was fine-who had time for anything else at this point. Her job was to keep everyone in her orbit safe. She had enough to worry about.

“Helloooo? Earth calling Doctor Maple. Doctor Joyce Maple.”

“Sorry”, Joyce said. “I’m in a bit of a fog tonight.”

“No wonder. That’s fine. Are you out of wheat bread?”

“No. The last is hidden in the freezer behind the ice cream.”

“Oh”, said Megan keeping a teasing tone, “Secret hiding places now?”

Joyce smiled wanly and shrugged indicating the towel covering herself. “I guess I have no secrets from you anymore…”

“Oh, I think you do…” Joyce cocked an eyelid. “I’m a butt gal. At best, I got a hip shot.”

Joyce gasped then coughed as a deep laugh rolled through her chest. It was an infectious tumbling laugh that Megan had no choice but to join. “Butt Gal”, she laughed as her shoulders heaved. “A new super hero!”

“We’ll make T-Shirts!” Megan laughed.

They cackled together from across the garage until Joyce ran out of breath. She swiped the corner of the towel across her eyes.

“I can’t remember the last time I heard you laugh.”

“Yeah”, said Joyce breathing normally again. “It’s been a minute.”

“Sounds good.”

Again, the conversation wound down with neither seeming to be in a hurry to finish it until Megan finally spoke up, “Go. Take your shower. I’ll have the food ready when you are.”

“Don’t forget the wine.”

“I definitely won’t.”

Megan had turned and was on the way to leaving and closing the door behind her when Joyce called to her, “Hey Megs…”

When Megan turned, Joyce turned her back to her, her bare back uncovered from shoulders to ankles, and walked slowly into the bathroom, giggling like a girl.

Continued here Plague Life – Part II