Match #4

Published December 20, 2012 by Kim

“It’s a commonplace book.”

He looked up at her, the little brown journal in one hand, a tube of mascara in the other. Her things lay scattered on the floor between them. “Beg pardon?”

She dropped her eyes, snatching up her wallet and keys and tossing them haphazardly into her purse. “Commonplace book. It’s just a thing I do.”

He sat back on his haunches, handing over the mascara but keeping the book on his knee. “What sort of thing?”

She blew at the hair falling in her face, finally giving up and scraping the rest of her belongings up in two handfuls and dropping it all in her bag. She met his eyes. “I collect quotes. Passages from books–speeches–lines from plays–whatever tickles my fancy. I copy it down in the book.” She held out her hand. “If you please.”

He smiled, eyes crinkling at the corners in that way that she always loved on a man, his dark hair falling over his forehead just so, and he cracked open the book. Looking down, he read the first thing his eyes landed upon. “‘Half of the harm that is done in the world is due to people who want to feel important.'” He lifted his eyebrows in mild surprise, then turned a few pages ahead. “‘Wearing underwear is as formal as I ever hope to get’?” His smile curled a little more tightly, his eyes darting up in a glance. He flipped back near the beginning. “‘And though she be but little, she is fierce.'”

“I’ve never been considered little, but I love that one.”

He eyed her, from her grown-out bob to her knee-high boots. “I’ll wager you’re fierce.”

She blushed, barking out a laugh. Shaking her bag to settle its contents, she rose to her feet. He followed suit, graceful even when coming up from being on his knees, and she stopped, just…waiting.

He towered over many, but she wasn’t petite–and in her boots, she wasn’t terribly far from matching him. As it was, he was looking down at her journal, eyes cutting to the side as he scanned further passages, and giving her ample opportunity to admire him: from the straight, clean lines of his features, past broad shoulders and onward, ending in long legs–and leaving her with the recollection of “Nature might stand up / And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!'”

“There’s much Shakespeare in this little book.” He tapped a two-page spread–Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy.

She nodded. “I’m fond of Will.”

“And of the Bible, too, I see.”

“It is the Good Book for a reason.”

He smiled, snapping the book shut. He looked down at it, the leather battered, the embossed sun all but faded. He stroked the cover with his thumb, peering at her through his lashes. “This be madness.”

One corner of her lip twitched; she fought back the smile. “There is method in it.”

He held out the book. When she reached for it, he pulled back. “Come to dinner with me.”

Her eyes widened. “I can’t. You’re–you–”

“I’m no one. Just a man you happened to bump into coming around a corner.”

She laughed, but it was edged with something frantic. “Hardly.”

He pursed his lips, then suddenly reached into his coat, retrieving a pen. She waited, puzzled, as he opened her journal to a page near the end, writing quickly. He paused, looked up at her once, then closed it gently before handing it over.

She watched him walk away, around the corner, before hurriedly leafing through the book. His neat, angled script covered an entire page:

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.

She hesitated only a moment, then spun on her heels and ran around the corner, colliding soundly with the same lean figure she’d crashed into only minutes before. He caught her by the arms and held her tight. “You changed your mind.”

She smiled until she dimpled, her cheeks high with color, and disentangled herself. “I have to know who said it.”

He laughed–a rich, deep sound. She curled her toes in her boots.

“Perhaps I’ll remember when I’ve a full belly.”

She tucked away her book. “I know a fabulous little trattoria about three blocks from here. Will that do?”

“I count myself in nothing else so happy.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, a smile teasing her lips, and she walked away.

A quick run-step had him beside her, hands thrust in his pockets, shoulder brushing hers.

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Newtown shooting

Published December 15, 2012 by Kim

My family and I live hundreds of miles from Connecticut–even so, when the story broke, I felt such horror and anger as to come very close to pulling my own son out early from school. The news sickened me, quite literally, to the point of gagging in the bathroom and trying to hold in the tears while I worked. I sat for most of the evening with my little ones on my lap, each taking a turn snuggling up to mommy, knowing something was amiss, but not knowing what.

I cannot express my heartache and rage. Parents who cannot even claim the bodies of their young children, waiting for the investigation to wrap up, evidence be collected, and clearance be given to remove the remains from the classrooms. Parents who made breakfast this morning, bought or packed lunches, checked homework, snagged a quick hug and kiss…

And now there are presents that will never be opened, pictures with Santa that won’t ever be taken, Christmas dresses and suits and ties that will never be worn, milk and cookies that won’t be set out, stockings unfilled, and houses that will fall silent, or will lack that one voice in the mix–the laughter and the fighting and the whining and the questions about everything. All of it stopped. And it won’t come back, not for Christmas or ever again, and I look at my children just one more time, tonight, and my heart physically hurts for these parents, these grandparents, and the siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends (but, oh, especially the parents!). I want to lock my babies away, keep them safe, stand between them and all the world—

Match #3

Published November 30, 2012 by Kim

She swore, dabbing at the sauce sliding down the front of her blouse.

Her brand-new, on-clearance-at-Neiman-Marcus, blindingly white blouse.

Casting a quick glance at her date and blurting out an apology, she darted for the ladies’ room.

“Damn, damn, damn!” She looked at herself in the mirror. Tomato sauce made an orangey-red oval alongside her left breast. She thought of her date, waiting at their table by the window, his perfectly steamed lobster cooling.

She grabbed a handful of paper towels, dampened them, and began to scrub furiously. Another woman exited a stall behind her, threw a pitying glance her way as she washed her hands, and smiled weakly before leaving.

The stain was getting worse. She flung the paper towels into the sink and stomped her foot, her Louboutin knock-offs clacking against the tile.

The bathroom door opened, and a man walked in.

She glared at him. “Um, not the men’s room.”

He smiled, lifting a bottle. “Seltzer water.”

“Excuse me?”

He came closer, holding the bottle out to her. “Seltzer water’ll take out the stain.”

She cocked her head. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. My grandma swore by it.”

She nodded. “Good enough for me. What do I do?”

He folded another paper towel into quarters, then opened the water and soaked it. He reached for her, then stopped. “You, uh, you need to blot it. You won’t get it all out here, but it should help.”

She smiled, taking the wet towel from him and resuming her efforts to save her blouse. “Who are you?”

He smiled back. “David. I’m the bartender.”

She lifted a hand in a small wave. “Nice to meet you, David. I’m Sophie.”

“Sophie.” He cracked a grin. “That’s a lot better than what I was calling you.”

She smirked at his reflection in the mirror. “God help me, I have to ask. Pasta Girl?”

“Chocolate Martini at Table Seven. But Pasta Girl has a nice ring to it.”

She eyeballed her top. The stain wasn’t gone, but it was much better than before. Aside from the huge wet spot. “I can’t go out there.”

He looked pointedly at her chest. “It is a little transparent, isn’t it?”

She blushed.

“Look…wait here another minute, okay?” He waited for her nod, then left.

She looked at herself. Her hair was escaping its clasps, her lipstick was wearing off, and her blouse was showing the world that she’d worn the lacy bra to dinner. She sighed. Not her best night.

The door bounced open, and David reappeared. He stopped short, glancing around. “Anyone else come in?”

She shook her head.

“Good. I’d rather not lose my job for being in here.” He held out some black cloth. “I borrowed a vest from one of the girls. It’ll keep you covered until Scotch Neat can give you his jacket.”

She slipped the vest on. “Thank you. Really. You didn’t have to do all this.”

He grinned, showing dimples. “My pleasure.” The smile shifted, and his look gave her butterflies. “Anything you need, I’m happy to help.”

She couldn’t hold back her own smile.

He held the door open, and she slipped out ahead of him, heading back to her table. Her meal was gone, a take-out box sitting in its place. She looked at her date. “Mike?”

“Oh, I had the waitress pack it up for you. I was already done–didn’t see a need to sit around while you finished half a plate of ravioli.”

She saw the little folder by his elbow, the edge of a receipt peeking out. He’d already paid. “No dessert, then?”

“I wasn’t in the mood, actually.” He stood. “You ready?”

She thumbed the vest. “I need to return this. Can I borrow your jacket?”

He grabbed her leftovers. “Don’t worry about it. I’m here all the time for lunch–I’ll drop it off, later.”

She hesitated. “Actually, Mike…you go on without me.”

He glanced at the tables nearby. “Sophie?”

“No, really. Go on. I’ll get a cab home.”

His voice lowered. “Sophie. What are you doing?”

She smiled, aware of the couple behind her desperately trying to listen in. “I’m dumping your ass.”

His face reddened. “Fine.” He dropped the container on the table and walked out.

She watched him until his car pulled away from the curb, then carried her ravioli to the bar and perched on one of the stools.

A pretty redhead smiled at her. “What can I get for you, ma’am?”

“David.”

The redhead’s forehead wrinkled. “Excuse me?”

“He loaned me this.” She pointed at the vest she was still wearing. “I need to give it back.”

“Sure thing.” The redhead disappeared through a pair of swinging doors at the far end of the bar.

David burst through the doors a few moments later. “…Sophie? Something wrong?”

“He ate without me. He skipped dessert. He wouldn’t loan me his jacket.”

He frowned.

She continued. “And now I need to call a cab.”

He looked hard at her.

She blushed, smiling and keeping on a brave face.

He relaxed. “What do you say to another chocolate martini, and skip the cab?”

Her smile widened. “I say I’m all yours.”

He sat an icy-cold glass on the bar, his thumb- and fingertips leaving ovals in the frost. “And I say I like the sound of that.”

The Guest

Published October 31, 2012 by Kim

Music pounded loudly enough to be heard outside, three houses away. She crossed the street and the lawn, ringing the doorbell out of habit more than anything, since no one would hear it over the noise. Even so, a young man of about twenty opened the door, looked her up and down, and smiled.

She did not like his smile, nor what it said, but she smiled back.

“What can I do you for?” he said.

“Mind if I come in?” she replied.

He opened the door wider, letting her enter the house. People were everywhere, young people–fit and beautiful and drunk. Her smile faltered, and she quashed the urge to roll her eyes. Nothing ever changed.

He tugged her hand, pulled her along to the living room. He held her close, grinding against her and giving her looks she knew he thought were seductive.

Oh, how she hated the game…particularly when so poorly played. Still, she bit her lip and smiled up at him. He tried to get closer.

One.

They moved to the deck, the cool autumn air chilling her arms, and his friend poured a beer for her. She eyed the red plastic cup and bit back a sigh, looking up in time to see the looks exchanged between them. The friend smiled at her, a little too widely, a little too surely. She sipped the beer and smiled back.

Two.

He led her back inside, through the kitchen, and an arm came up to block her way. She stopped, meeting the gaze of an older boy–they were all boys, to her–who seemed…nervous.

“Who are you?”

“She’s from down the road.” Their host held her by the wrist. She decided against reminding him that she had a name.

“She’s…older.”

“So?”

She spoke up. “You don’t like older women?”

Their host laughed. “Yeah, he does.”

She caught the quirk in the older boy’s face, the shift in his glance. No, he didn’t like older women. He liked them younger.

She smiled at him, all lips and teeth and wide-eyed innocence. He relaxed, smiled back at her.

Three.

They followed her out, the nudges and whispers and laughs grating on her nerves. The smiles she gave them, though, promised so much more.

She made them dance for her, her eyes following their movements as they grasped one another, their eyes wide in terror and surprise, bodies fluid and shining in the dark. They were beautiful to look at, but it was growing late, and the moon was high. She stood, pressing a kiss to their cold lips, each one in turn, and left them there. As she passed into the undergrowth, she clapped her hands once. Their bodies fell like marionettes with the strings cut.

(Happy Halloween, everyone. -G.)

Modern Women

Published October 16, 2012 by Kim

“Have you see Lady Burnham? She’s been updated.”

“No! Again?”

“Yes. Mrs. Hardwick and I met her at Délan’s.”

Cymbeline hissed. “What has she improved?”

“Her left arm, of all things.” Marguerite’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Truthfully, it’s vulgar. Pure silver, excepting her wedding ring–the Crafter bonded it to the ring finger.”

“Silver? Entirely?” Cymbeline shook her head. “Has she no grasp of what constitutes taste?”

“It’s the way of the nouveau riche, my dear.” Marguerite raised her skirts to her knee, exposing perfect ivory legs. “The bisque is much more attractive.”

The ladies set aside their cups, exiting the room and departing the house for the gardens. The low hiss of a pressure valve underscored their conversation, the occasional squeak of a joint interrupting the overall quiet of the scene.

“I do so love your flowers, Marguerite. How do you manage it?” Cymbeline touched a cluster of blooms, the petals tinkling as they brushed against one another.

“I’ll relay your compliments to Marshall. He’ll be pleased–he does make such an effort.”

“I’ve told Harold we need that model of gardener, but he simply refuses.”

Marguerite tutted. “Unfortunately, my dear Cymbeline, husbands do not always understand the needs of a household.”

They laughed, the metallic tones bright in the air.

Match #2

Published October 7, 2012 by Kim

The council chambers were packed, the room stifling hot.

You would think they’d cancel the meeting when the air conditioning unit broke down after lunch, but I guess torturing city hall employees wasn’t enough, now they were trying to kill the rest of us.

And if the man at the podium didn’t hurry the hell up, I was going to melt. I was here about the leash law, and this idiot had already overrun his three minutes, been told to step aside, and was still arguing his point about the recycling bins.

Councilman Warren was obviously reaching his limit.

“Mr. Stewart, the council appreciates your concern, but the recycle bins are provided by the City for a functional purpose. Changing the color to make them more eye-pleasing isn’t a concern.”

“Councilman, you don’t understand–”

“Your time is up, Mr. Stewart. Step aside.”

“I have every right–”

“Yes, a right you’ve exercised over these people for–” he glanced at the clock, “over six minutes. You’re done. Sit down.”

The old fogey slammed his notebook shut, and a remote fell from the podium, the back popping free and batteries scattering across the floor. Mr. Stewart looked around the room and walked away, not even bothering to pick up the mess he’d made. Some of the other residents whispered behind me when he dropped into his seat near the back.

I turned my attention to my binder, only half-listening as I reviewed my notes. I could hear Councilman Warren calling, “Mr. Dugan?”

There was a lull, and then someone was standing in front of me. I glanced up, and a tall, quite attractive guy was looking at me. He smiled oddly, and held up a battery. “Excuse me, ma’am–one of these rolled under your chair.”

I blushed, standing and moving out of his way. “Sorry–here.” He got his battery and reassembled the remote, then returned to the other side of the room. I stole a few glances, but he didn’t look over.

There were two other presenters before I was granted my turn to speak. I kept it brief, focusing on my own personal experiences with pets allowed to roam freely (complete with photographs of damage to my property and documented losses of songbirds around my feeders), and made certain to keep it under my allotted time. No one wanted another Mr. Stewart. Councilman Warren thanked me, and I resumed my seat.

It was easier, then, to keep a surreptitious eye on the pretty-boy working tech support for the meeting. I couldn’t see his hands, so I couldn’t peg him as married or single (not that lack of a ring was sure-fire on status), but I definitely was hoping for the latter. He wasn’t my usual type–tall, thin, and wiry–but my type hadn’t done me any favors so far, so why not try something new? There might be something behind the big and brawny look.

The council, to my annoyance, decided to postpone their vote on the leash law. That’d be another Monday evening spent sitting here. I grabbed my things and made for the door, only to be waylaid by a sharp “excuse me” when I stepped into the hall. It was Battery Man.

He smiled at me, extending a hand in greeting. “Jim Dugan.”

I took his hand, giving it a well-practiced shake. “Ellie Spencer.”

It’s raining men

Published October 6, 2012 by Kim

I like men.

I mean, I like men.

Tall, dark, and handsome. Lanky, muscular, easygoing, stern, quirky, nerdy, brilliant, regular Joes?–I like ’em.

(Full disclosure: I tried dating a short man, once. It didn’t go well. And when I say short, I’m saying my 5’6″ could go over his head if I wore low heels. It was an awkward date, and I ran–literally ran–through the dorm after the door locked behind me, just to get away from him and his intent to kiss me. Have you ever not wanted to be kissed so badly that you ran away? It was that bad.)

There’s something about a man. Tall enough to tuck yourself into him–under his chin, against his heart, his arms around you. Oh, such a nice feeling. Broad shoulders, the kind that hit you right there. Arms that you can sleep on like a pillow. A tuchus you could bounce a quarter on. Thigh muscles that make you sit up and beg. (I can never get enough of just looking.)

A good friend–my best friend–and I were chatting the other day on Facebook about an actor we both like (I’m married, but he is so on my list. Yes, that list. And if you’re a red-blooded female that likes men, not these poster boys the girls want these days, then put Neal McDonough on your list, too). We’re both attracted to how manly he is. Let me use her words for what I mean, because she sums it up oh-so-very-well:

“Just that in [Hollywood], all these guys are really thin with six-pack abs

and couldn’t lift a juicer, but he looks like he could split logs and get into

a bar fight and then drag an anchor across the grass or something.”

That’s what I’m talking about. A man.

We’re surrounded by a society that glamorizes these…boys. Half of them seem rail-thin, and look fit because they’re so lean. Yeah, okay, they exercise, they take care of themselves–but they look soft. These are not guys that look like they could do hard work, like splitting rails for fences or throwing bales of hay or some such. They reek of having an easy life, or having the appearance of one, because that’s what they know–what they expect. I like a man with a little hardness about him, something in the edges that doesn’t blunt or fade. I need someone I know can literally do the heavy lifting when it’s needed. And I want a man who can make me feel like a girl.

Take Mark Harmon, for example–he seems far more easygoing in real life than his character (and boy, do I love Gibbs), but if you’ve read anything about him, you know he works hard. He built his own house, for Pete’s sake! He’s not a talker, he’s not prone to making much of himself. Those young fellows of Hollywood clamor to be seen and heard, and while they flash in the pan, there are actors out there who take the world in stride and do the best they can without making asses of themselves. Actor or no, that’s the sort of man I admire.

(Here’s where people wonder what kind of complex I have. I don’t think it’s any different than any other girl liking men that remind her of her father. I do like older men, and I like them quiet, more than a little stubborn, willing to butt heads with me, and still be a font of comfort and humor–but not all the time.)

~*~

It would be nice if I could post something that doesn’t devolve into a stream-of-consciousness thought–alas, so goes my brain. I suppose, in short, I miss seeing honest-to-God men out there in the world. If you’re not running into a cocky jock, it’s a metrosexual. Both are useless. Give me a man with layers, with a quietness and strength about him, a reticence that falls away when he’s peaceful, resting, secure. There’s something inherently fulfilling about being that person to a man like that–the one he feels himself with, and knows he can set aside the armor he wears in the world.

You can keep your Edwards and your Jacobs–give me my Rhetts, my Wyatts, my Jethros. Leave the Mulders and the Malcoms and the Grissoms to me and my kind. We know what to do with them.