Okay, so the jury is in on my #HolidayShorts. Some of you have expressed that you want to hear more from Laura and Garrett right now. Since these two have been hanging out with me for a long time, it only seems fair that I should share the rest of what I know about them with you. So, without further adieu…
Even bellowing at him on the street, in an outfit that could make other people look homeless, Laura was a ravishing creature. Flushed with anger as she was now, her dark skin glowed underneath her long coppery braids making Garrett’s body hum and crackle in response, just being near her.
“I called all the time Garrett. I just knew something must be wrong. Something must have happened. It had been over a month since you’d written, or called, or anything. I started calling everyone and… and anyone I could think of but I was nobody. Just some girl you hooked up with — someone you barely knew. So for months and months, nobody would tell me anything.” Laura turned her back to him, her shoulders hunched. He could tell she was crying in earnest now and he was to blame.
Reaching out, he touched her shoulder.
“Don’t!” She said pulling away from him. “Please. He’ll be watching and it’s clear I don’t have any control over myself around you.”
“So you’re not just sleeping with that pompous jerk, he’s important to you then.”
She turned to face him. Her voice, her expression suddenly wintry, “Despite my ridiculous behavior upon your unexpected arrival Garrett, I don’t just sleep around… especially, not with jerks. Look at this from his point of view for a minute, would you? Until you barged into my house this morning and ravaged his girlfriend in front of him, he hadn’t heard word one about you.”
Garrett looked up and out into the street past her, letting the word girlfriend sink in for a moment. As it did he found he didn’t much like the feel of it — it sat like a turgid lump in the pit of his stomach.
“Why?” He asked.
“Why doesn’t he know anything about me? You were my girlfriend when I left. I know we hadn’t been together long but you knew how I felt. I told you often enough. I thought you felt the same way about me.”
“You told me often enough? Oh, that is rich… you’re mad… you’re mad at me! Well, maybe you should have been telling me something for the last fourteen months friend, because my number and my email address haven’t changed. You haven’t written. You haven’t called. Still! No, you just show up as if nothing happened. And what? We should just pick up where we left off? As if, I’d just be here with nothing, and… no… no one else in my life.”
Laura stomped up the steps to her porch. Surprising him by using just her slender form, to practically shove him out of the way getting to her front door.
“Wait, wait Laura, please. I couldn’t call. Believe me, I couldn’t.”
He stood close behind her, careful not to touch, but there was no way he was letting her go back inside to that guy without making his case. She stood there with her back to him, clearly carrying the weight of it all. Her need to know what had happened up against, never knowing. He waited, wanting to cross his fingers. Maybe say a silent prayer. He’d had plenty of practice doing both.
“Why, Garrett? Why couldn’t you?”
“I was sick.”
“Yes, for a long time.”
“Sick, how? How long?” She’d turned and was looking at him now with questions and concern in her eyes. The first look that gave him any hope since he’d kissed her. He quickly debated the pros and cons with himself. Just how much should he tell her at this moment?
“Nearly the whole time you didn’t hear from me Laura, a little over a year.”
“That’s not possible.” She was shaking her head; her chin was sticking out again. Lord, he’d forgotten how stubborn she could be when she thought she was right about something.
“I ought to know how long I was sick Laura.”
“I told you Garrett, I called… a lot. When I still couldn’t get any information after six months, I even called the Red Cross. They didn’t have you listed in any hospital facilities.”
“I was only in the hospital part of the time. The rest of the time they had me at the base answering phones for the brass mostly.”
“Answering phones? That doesn’t make any sense. Look Garrett, this isn’t going to work. I know, okay? There was a very nice soldier, Private Sterling, he took a lot of my calls and eventually he took pity on me. I was so worried you see? I thought something bad had happened to you. He told me months ago in confidence that he’d seen you a couple of times and you looked in perfect health. I begged him to pass along my number to you and he promised he would, even though it might get him in trouble.” Laura laughed mirthlessly, “I guess I must have sounded really desperate, a real live damsel in distress.”
Garrett felt his chest constrict at the pain in her voice. He would have helped her too if he had heard even a sliver of it. He remembered Sterling. A good guy who, however unintentionally, had apparently caused a great deal of trouble.
“When I didn’t hear from you I knew. You had changed your mind about us. I get it. It all happened too fast and now you’re back and you’re alone, so you want to start over but it’s not real.” Laura reached up to put her hand on his cheek, “At least it’s not real enough for me Garrett. I need more.”
“Stop it.” Garrett spoke more sharply than he intended but he couldn’t help it. Laura pulled her hand away from his face fast.
“No,” he moaned, “I didn’t mean that.” Grabbing her hand, he held it against his chest and tried to relax so we wouldn’t say or do the wrong thing again. “I love it when you touch me. Girl, can’t you see that? Can’t you feel it?”
“Please… let me go.”
“I hear what you’re saying honey, but things are not as cut and dried as you’ve made out. There’s a lot you don’t know. A lot I need to explain.”
“Alright then. Explain. You have my attention.”
“Not like this.”
“Why on earth not, if everything is so easy to explain?
“That’s just it. This is not an easy story to tell or even hear. I want you calm so you’ll really listen to me. And I don’t want to do it with someone else, who definitely doesn’t have my back, behind the door eavesdropping and waiting to grill you about it when I’m done.”
Laura’s mouth pursed and twisted as she contemplated his rationale. She was unbelievably cute right now, he thought. He sincerely hoped she was going to give him a shot to make her understand, so he could always kiss her when she looked like this.
“So, what are you proposing?”
“Dinner. Tonight. I’ll make the reservations and pick you up at 7pm.”
“No. I’ll meet you somewhere.”
“Okay, Café Riazor? 7:30?”
“You remember where it is?”
“Of course. I need to get back inside.”
“I’ll need my hand.” She said with a smile.
“Yeah sure,” he said smiling now too, “but first…”
Mesmerizing, he thought staring at her mouth again, but instead of kissing her there, he turned her hand in his and kissed her palm gently. Then he embraced her. The hug was delicate. There was a fragility to what he felt and he knew she felt it too. A more tender caress than the way he’d started might see them through the more jagged edges of connecting again.
“It’s so good to see you.” He spoke into her hair. Letting the unique mixture of scents from the rosemary, lavender, and peppermint oils she put there waft through him.
“You… it’s good to see you too.” She relented in that at least but was the first to pull away finally just the same. “You should go now. I’ll see you at Riazor tonight.”
Nodding his head, he backed away and down the porch steps, “Thanks, I’ll see you later.”
He walked away but he could feel her watching him as he did. He considered that another good sign, that she stayed and watched him, instead of immediately returning inside to deal with Ken. He wondered how that would go and hoped that Ken would prove to be an even bigger malcontent than Garrett suspected he was capable of. As if on cue, he heard the front door of her house open. When he looked back she still stood there looking after him but Ken had opened the door. This time he had put on a shirt Garrett was grateful to notice. He continued to watch ruefully as Ken put his arm around Laura, led her into the house, and shut the door.