Carter opened the door to find Lisa standing in his doorway. She was wearing a singlet and some fitted jeans. If not for the cheap fabric of her singlet, compared to the silk Kirsten wore, or the way her jeans flowed over hips that were padded more than Kirsten's, she looked achingly close to the woman he wished he was opening the door to.
"Hi." Lisa handed over a bottle of wine, walked in as Carter stood aside. He liked his apartment, had modelled it off the expensively elegant simplicity he had seen in Kirsten's house. Lisa had been here before, felt comfortable enough to drop her coat on the couch before walking through to the kitchen. Carter followed, watched her lift the lid of a pot and sniff appreciatively. He was simmering pork chops in a rich apple sauce. He knew after Lisa ate, she'd smell of apples, of Kirsten's shampoo.
"Wine?" He asked, getting out two glasses. Lisa smiled, nodded. She drank as much as Kirsten used to. Carter wondered if Kirsten was much different now she was sober all the time. Lisa got giggly when she was drunk, whereas Kirsten had just gotten more accepting of touches, more charming.
"So, I've been thinking about next weekend?" Lisa said. She phrased everything as if it was a question, tilting her tone up at the end of each sentence.
"Hmm." Carter said, leading her through to the lounge room where they could look out, past the chair he had spent too many hours in thinking about Kirsten, to the line of the city beyond.
"Wouldn't it be fun to go away somewhere? I mean, we've never done anything on the weekends… I just thought, you know?" Carter continued looking out the window, ignoring Lisa's persistent hand on his arm. He knew this would happen sooner or later, knew she'd start to get serious. He had wanted it to happen later, rather than sooner, wanted more of a chance to see how much more he could change Lisa into Kirsten. Wanted to think about going back to Newport, seeing her again, seeing if it would break the hold she had over him. He didn't know whether he wanted her hold to break over him though, didn't know what he'd have to think about, to live for, if she wasn't always in his thoughts.
"Actually, I'm busy next weekend. I promised a friend I'd help him fix up his house in the country. It would probably be boring for you… Guy stuff… Toolbelts…" Carter looked over to see Lisa pouting at him. She was unequivocally a city girl, born and raised in New York, unaccustomed to fresh air or open spaces. The word country immediately invoked fears of manual labour, insects, having to walk without heels on.
"Well, maybe the weekend after...?" Carter shrugged indifferently, not wanting to be pinned down by her neediness. The buzzer rang, signalling the pork chops' readiness to be eaten. Carter got up off the couch, offering his hand to Lisa. She held it as they walked through to the kitchen, laced her fingers through his as Kirsten had once done to him, briefly, when they were walking out to the parking lot after another night drinking too much wine and talking about the magazine and anything else that came to mind. Carter brought Lisa's hand up to place a kiss on her knuckles before he let it drop. He didn't want his refusal to set up a weekend away to make her leave early. By the look in her eyes, as he refilled the glass, she wouldn't be leaving before morning.
Carter set out the salad he'd made earlier, put the pork chops on a plate. Lisa carried the plates from the warmer in the oven to the table before sitting at a chair to the side of the head of the table. Carter had always imagined Kirsten sitting here with him, had sat at this table when it was still in the store, and imagined her sitting across from him, her chair pulled in close so their hands could entwine while they were eating. Reminiscent of the dinner they had together at her house, Carter had always imagined her at the head of the table. The fact that Lisa had not chosen that spot made him realise, again, that they really were very different people. Lisa could never match Kirsten in class, or style.
"So, this weekend, I'm having a girls night out. It could get wild." Lisa looked at him under her eyelashes, almost willing him to be jealous. He served up his salad before looking back at her.
"That should be good." He said mildly. He was reminded of the dinner at Kirsten's, when Sandy had introduced him to Erin. Kirsten had dropped no insinuations, had known he would never go for Erin. She had looked pleased when he lied and told her Erin had turned him down, but she would never try to make him jealous. It was too cheap a move for her.
"And the weekend after, I thought I'd fly to Newport." Carter's heart nearly stopped as he heard Lisa speak.
"Where?" He asked, wondering how he sounded so calm.
"Newport Beach. It's in California… My sister lives there, and ever since she had her baby, I've promised to fly over, but it's all the way across the country. Plus it's super hot there. And I really need to take Friday and Monday off work to do it. I've got the time owing, so all I have to do is book my tickets." Lisa rambled on, unaware that Carter had put his knife and fork down and was looking at her with a thoughtful expression.
"That's why I was thinking we could do something. I'm really not a good flyer, I like having someone there." Lisa finally looked up from her plate, caught Carter looking at her. If there was a bigger coincidence than his faux-Kirsten having ties to where his real-Kirsten resided, he was yet to come across it.
"You know, I worked there for a few months, at a little publication. It'd be good to see a few old friends. If I can get the time off work, I'll book us tickets tomorrow." Lisa smiled at him, swallowed the pork she'd been chewing and spoke.
"That's great. I'll book us into a hotel. I mean, we could stay at my sister's because she lives in a fairly big place, but with the baby there…" Lisa shook her head, obviously not pleased by the idea of being woken at all hours by the howling of a small child.
"Sounds great." Carter resumed eating, his mind already on how he would see Kirsten. He knew she no longer worked at the Newport Group. He'd have to come up with something by the time they landed in California.
"Taste good?" He asked Lisa. She smiled at him, nodded. She was on a diet, like most New York women seemed to be. The amount on her plate seemed to be changed by only a few mouthfuls and a lot of cutting.
Later, clearing the plates away, Lisa came up behind Carter and wrapped her arms around him. He was still consumed with thoughts of how he might bump into Kirsten, how he could orchestrate a meeting that Sandy need not know about, that would not lead to Kirsten guessing about why he was back there. He'd need Lisa as his side, a valid excuse, but would prefer her to not be there so he could talk to Kirsten alone, lose himself in her words, her every move, without Lisa constantly adding incessant babble to the conversation like an errant child.
Carter turned around to kiss Lisa, felt her lean into him, start to unbutton his shirt. At this point he let himself drift from reality further by imagining, as he did every time they had sex, Kirsten in her place, her small hands working at his shirt buttons, her blues eyes shut in ecstasy. Carter walked backwards towards the bedroom, holding fast to the embrace his Kirsten look-alike was offering him. Clothes were quickly dispatched into lifeless piles on the floor as their limbs became entangled upon the bed. Carter could almost see Kirsten's face in Lisa's, her eyes dark in passion, lips swollen from kisses, back arched. He felt himself getting harder, felt himself swelling to the point of breakage. He reached for the phone past Lisa, pressed speed dial and willed her to pick up. It was only a few rings before she did, and as he heard her voice say that too-familiar word, he felt release, allowed himself a slight moan. Lisa squirmed out from under him.
"Who the hell is that?" She asked. Carter had covered the mouth piece with his hand, hung up now before Kirsten had the chance to hang up on him.
"It's no one… I thought I heard it ring, picked it up…" Carter heard himself sound confident in his lie, knew Lisa had bought it when she lay back down beside him, the light from the kitchen illuminating her collar bones, reminding him too sweetly of Kirsten, what it had felt like to let go to her words. Carter pulled Lisa towards him, let his arms rest around her. Usually he just felt like taking a shower after they'd had sex, wanting to wash the stench of a woman other than Kirsten off him. If he had sex with Kirsten, he knew he'd try and stay with her as long as possible, basking in her scent, in their sweaty afterglow. Tonight, hearing her voice had brought her closer to him. The darkness of the room contributed to his imagination painting Lisa as Kirsten. The whiff of apple still on Lisa's breath made Carter close his eyes, remember Kirsten's hair, Kirsten's eyes. She seemed to be all around him, enveloping him in a dream that was happening when he was both awake and asleep. He thought it would be subsiding, thought time apart would have faded his memory of her, but instead it was only becoming clearer. Every late night in the office, every time she had looked up at him so that he melted into those liquid blue pools… These memories and more were becoming a sharper constant in his mind, an unavoidable thought process that he did not know how to rid himself of. He needed her. Suddenly, next weekend seemed too far away.
Yes, the time zone thing may be out since they're on different sides of the country. I realise I should do something about that… Maybe the Cohens were just watching the movies really late. And, wow, what a coincidence about the Lisa/Newport thing. Mhm, I know. Just go with it. Please…
This fic will be going on a short hiatus. I'm sorry- I want to know what happens as much as you. Uni has just started back for the year, and it's vaguely crazy around here at the moment.