Heart and Soul
It only takes an hour and a half to get Charlie's camper situated on the campgrounds. True to his word, Pete has called ahead to his aunt and has secured him a great spot right on the water. There's a knoll of trees that is close to a dock where you can sit and fish or launch a small craft. Charlie's eyes light up when he sees it, and I imagine his head is already full of fish fantasies.
The campsite is only a ten minute drive from the bar, fifteen if you consider the traffic, and thirty if it's exceptionally bad. Charlie drops us off at The Swan Dive and heads off to the market to gets some supplies and a few groceries. He tells us he'll be back by three.
Bella is anxious to get started on her pottery, and I'm still trying to get things situated behind the bar. We go upstairs and change our clothes; a loose open smock for her and khaki's for me.
"So, I think I'm going to head out to the garage and start setting things up. I've got some new ideas bouncing around in my head after going to Provincetown," she says, all smiles.
"Sounds good," I say, giving her a small peck on the tip of her nose. "I put a table and some cloths near your wheel and the clay and tints are on the back shelf. If you need water, there's a small sink in the rear on the right hand side. If I get a chance tomorrow, I'll put up another shelf and clean the windows. But anyway, if you need more light don't be afraid to turn on the overhead if you stay until it gets dark. Mike will make sure nobody goes back there, okay?"
"Teddy, don't be such an old woman; I told you Charlie trained me in martial arts. Besides, I doubt anyone is going to stumble out of the bar and go looking for me in the garage," she cracks.
"Yeah well, don't be too surprised if you look up from your Demi Moore moment to see some frat boy taking a piss behind the Hydrangea. It's been known to happen," I tell her. A feeling of uneasiness creeps over me. I honestly don't want her left alone back there at night. Seaconch is a relatively quiet town, but during the summer it does attract all types of tourists, some who can get pretty rowdy.
"On second thought, I don't really want you back there after it gets dark, Bella. We were closed yesterday and there's bound to be a big crowd tonight as a result. I'm going to be busy enough trying to train your dad, so …"
Her eyes flash momentarily and the familiar furrow, which I've grown to discover is the precursor to her anger, begins to form. But when she catches my gaze her face softens. She takes my hand in hers and gives it a reassuring squeeze.
"Okay, I promise I'll come inside before it gets dark. Now stop worrying about me so much. Besides, I'm going to want to spy on Charlie and see how he does," she chuckles.
"Thank you," I breathe into her hair, pulling her close.
"You're welcome," she smiles. I walk over to my bureau and pull out a couple of shirts. I hold them out to her and she points to the green one with the white swan insignia on the pocket.
"Hey," she says crossing over to me just as I pull the polo over my head. She tucks the collar down and pulls my head forward to give me a kiss. I lift her up and set her on the dresser and stand between her legs to deepen the kiss. We don't have time for the rain check that I promised her earlier, but tell that to my dick. He's already stirring from his slumber and is ready for active duty.
"None of that now," she chuckles, giving it a little pinch.
"Mm-hmm … I see how you operate."
'None of that now, Teddy. Just let me get you all worked up so you can go downstairs with a stiffie and a wet spot.'
You're a wicked tease," I growl softly into her ear and lick behind it, eliciting a small groan from her.
"Who's the tease now?" she whimpers, as I trail a long kiss down her throat. I nibble on her collarbone and pull her tank down just enough to see the top of her breasts.
"Let me see them," I beg into her cleavage.
"What? No … I'm not going to let you see them!" she laughs as I rock my face between her breasts.
"No. You'll get all worked up and then you'll get me all worked up and we'll never get out of here," she giggles, protesting.
"Just let me have a little peek to get me through the night," I whisper. I tug slightly on her bra strap; it's a pretty shade of blue. She giggles when my finger teases the skin underneath.
"One quick look and that's it," she warns. I slide her straps down and move the lacy cups to the side, exposing them both.
"There they are," I mumble as my tongue seeks out her nipples.
"Hey - I said you could look with your eyes, not your tongue!"
"Just let me have a little taste …" I plead, as I wrap my lips around her nipple.
I'm teasing her and she's laughing and we both know I'm not planning to take it any further than this, but when she lets out a loud moan, something inside me snaps and suddenly it's all I can do not to take her against the dresser.
Her hand snakes inside my slacks and beneath my boxers and she squeezes me hard.
"We don't have time for this," I warn her, protesting.
"Just let me have a little peek," she says huskily. She pulls the zipper down with her free hand, oh so slowly.
"And maybe," she says, pulling and tugging on me with those damn strong sculptor's hands,
"A little … taste?"
Yep … And that's what does it, that right there … just a little taste.
In the blink of an eye, her shorts are slid off and my khaki's pool around my feet as I position myself at her entrance and wrap her legs around my waist. Memories of our bar encounter from the other night cross my mind, but I brush them aside as easily as her panties.
"We don't have time," she squeals.
"Christ … I know, I know … Maybe just a few stabs, okay?"
Well, a few stabs turns into a few dozen plunges, and within minutes we're going at it like a couple of bunny's going through puberty. The dresser bangs hard against the wall and the mirror shakes with the impact.
And God it's good.
"Oh, so good," she groans, throwing her head back. I press my lips on her exposed throat and I bite it gently. Her moan vibrates against my teeth. I catch sight of her ass in the reflection and the way it jiggles as I plow into her, and I know the gig is almost up. But then I hear her gasp, "love you, love you, oh God I love you," and this intense desire mixes with pure love. I feel like I'm going to explode into a million pieces. It's never been this way for me before Bella; that feeling like everything is right in my world.
"Oh God, I'm …
"Corming?" she taunts, arching her back and grabbing my hair hard.
And for the first time in my life I find myself laughing and coming at the same time. And fuck me, does it ever feel good, especially when I feel the vibrations of her orgasm contract between us. I swear I start coming again, but then I realize I never really stopped.
"Jesus, Jesus," I pant into her neck, trying to catch my breath. "What the hell was that?"
"What- is- fucking," she informs me, like she's providing an answer to a Jeopardy question.
My mind starts to rewind again about our antics on top of the bar and the shame that I felt for taking her so roughly. But then I see her face, all happy and rosy and remember how she begged me not to treat her like a fragile piece of glass and the guilt washes away. We love each other, and even though the physical side of our relationship is changing fast and is more heated than I would have guessed, I'm not the least bit sorry about it. So instead of wearing a cloak of remorse and uncertainty, I envelop myself in her arms and smile.
"Are you okay?" I ask as I help her down from the bureau. She wraps her arms around me and hugs me to her. It feels good to be held; aside from the occasional hug from Esme, Alice and Mrs. C, no one's ever really done that to me. I don't remember my mother's touch, and even Tanya wasn't overly affectionate once her libido was satisfied. But holding Bella and feeling the strength in hers arms as they hold me to her chest and the way she sort of rocks me; well, that's a new feeling for me.
"I love you. I know I'm not the skinniest of girls, and certainly not the lightest, but when you lift me up in your arms like that, well … Itmakes me feel so safe and protected. And loved," she adds breathlessly. "You have the sexiest arms and back of any man I have ever seen. I want to sculpt you."
I start to laugh at her, because for some reason she thinks she is heavier than she is. Bella isn't skinny, she has some curves and meat on her bones, but the girl can't weigh more than 125 pounds. But even as a chuckle begins to escape from my throat I swallow it down when I see her face looking so appreciative and admiring. A sense of masculine pride crosses over me; no one has ever made reference to my strength before. At least not like that. I don't pump iron, but I do work out. I suppose lifting kegs and changing them over the years has increased my muscle mass.
"Okay, first off, thank you. I don't know anything about my back; I don't think I've ever really looked at it. But if it turns you on, that's great. Maybe I need a hand mirror to see what's going on back there," I joke.
I've never been one to check out my body and that's the truth. I work out so I can hopefully keep my pulse a little longer than my parents did. I've never been vain, but I've got to admit that I'm happy that Bella likes the way I'm put together. And boy-do I ever like the way she's crafted.
"Secondly, you are light as a feather. I don't know what you weigh, but you certainly aren't overweight. You've got the sexiest ass I have ever seen on any woman in my entire life." She rolls her eyes at me and blushes. Her mouth begins to open to protest, but I pinch her lips together lightly and continue.
"I have always preferred women with a little meat on them. I know girls think there's no such thing as being too thin; I do work in a bar you know … I hear the way women talk. I also see the way men look at women and believe me when I tell you … Men are gonna be checking you out at the bar, so it's a good thing I have these muscles because they'll be tossed out on their ear if they get fresh with you."
"Fresh with me?" she smirks. "What are you going to beat them up if you catch them looking?"
She's joking, but I see the look of concern that passes over her face. I know she's worried that I'll be some kind of jealous asshole who beats the shit out of anyone who dares to look at his girl. To be completely honest I don't know if I'll be that way or not; it's never been an issue for me before. But I do know one thing, Bella has had enough shit in her life to deal with and I don't want to add to it, so if I do feel pissy because some asshole decides to flirt with her then I'll have to suck it up.
"Nah, I promise I won't act stupid," I rush to reassure her. I'll let Mike throw their asses out of the bar instead.
Speaking of Mike, I remember that he sent me a few texts while I was helping Charlie set up his camper and I pull out my phone to look them over.
Not coming in tonight
Jess is in labor
At the CC hospital.
It's a boy!
7 lb 13 oz
Michael John (Jack) Newton
An image of a round head with blonde hair that surrounds it like a halo and a pair of sleepy blue eyes fills my phone.
My throat goes dry for a few seconds. The first text came in at 9:47 and the last one came in just after three. In the span of five hours, Mike and Jessica's life has been completely altered. I remember the night he told me they were expecting; he was so damn happy and I was happy for him. But I remember feeling a bit jealous at the same time. It's not that I wanted what he had, but I knew I wanted something more than what I had; which basically six months ago, was nothing. My life was so empty then.
"What's wrong?" Bella asks. I guess I must look like a sad Sack or something because she rushes over to me and rubs my back.
My beautiful back, I smirk to myself, and she grins widely, obviously relieved.
"Nothing's wrong," I say quietly. "Mike and Jess had their baby this afternoon. It's a boy."
"Oh, my gosh … Really?" I pass her the phone so she can see the picture. Her oohs and aahs make me smile and I shake my head.
"Aw, he's adorable; I want one!" She exclaims and then frowns, "I-I mean, someday. I don't mean now. Don't freak out. I just meant that he's awfully cute. Not that I want to go out and get knocked up and have one or anything like that. I'm on birth control, I promise. I-I'm an idiot" she says, rolling her eyes at herself and turning a shade of pink that makes her eyes shine like raisins.
I laugh out loud because she is sort of adorable in her embarrassment and it's usually me who blurts things without a filter.
"I want kids," I tell her, because I do. I like kids. I mean, it's not like I've sat around picking out baby names, but I always thought I'd like to have a family someday.
"Yup. I gotta leave the bar to someone; it's a tradition," I tease her. "Besides it takes a lot of people to run a bar properly. If I have a bunch of kids then I won't have to hire people or pay them; I'll get to keep all the money for myself." I pretend to ponder over the idea. "Yeah … I'm gonna want a big family; at least five or six. Maybe even seven," I inform her, stroking my chin.
"Shut up," she giggles, punching my shoulder lightly.
"Ow, that's no way to apply for the job."
This time she laughs outright and I join her. I stop abruptly when I check out the clock; shit-it's getting later and later and now I won't have Mike to bounce. I dash off to the bathroom, wash myself off quickly, and then hightail it downstairs with a final farewell kiss and a promise to see her soon still on my lips.
An hour later, Charlie reports for duty and I appoint Angela as head bartender. He walks in shortly after four, looking all spiffy in a pair of wrinkle resistant navy blue slacks and a borrowed polo with the Swan Dive insignia that I'd given him before I'd left the campground. His hair is neatly combed and he is freshly shaved, aside from the mustache, which appears to be even heavier than it was this morning. I have to admit that I almost admire him for being able to grow such a thick and lush stache; it's as if he's wearing a sign under his nose that proclaims; I'm a man. Deal with it. I've never been able to produce anything more than a bit of peach fuzz and scruff.
We head back into my office and I go over our game plan for the evening. As soon as I'd received the texts from Mike announcing he was a father and wouldn't be in for the night (or most likely, the week) I decided to have Charlie serve as bouncer in addition to learning the art of bartending.
"I don't know how busy we'll be tonight, but if it isn't too bad, then I want you to assist Angie behind the bar. I don't want you to mix any cocktails, but you can pull drafts and take orders. Don't let anyone interrupt, interfere or intimidate and you'll be fine.
"The triple I's," he says to himself solemnly.
I look at him puzzled.
"Interrupt, interfere, intimidate. The triple I's. Don't let any of them happen. Can do," he says with a wink.
I leave him to slice the fruit for garnish and to fill the set-ups and head over to my office. I go over the inventory one more time and place an order for vodka, tequila and gin. These are staples, but in the summer months, they tend to run out quickly. The Sam Adams rep dropped by with a new beer last week and I make a note to have Angie and Charlie recommend it, because there's nothing worse than paying money for a new brew that no one buys. Maybe we'll feature it this coming weekend on a beer flight.
I stretch my arms over my head and look at the clock; it's getting late and I've got to make a few personal calls before I head back to the bar.
I send a text to Mike and Jess congratulating them on the birth on their son and they respond with a flood of new pictures. I don't know much about newborns, but he looks a lot like Mike. I text Jess and tell her he looks just like her; she's vain and I know that'll make her happy. She responds with an OMG-IKR? I chuckle to myself; that's Jessica.
I decide to shoot a text to Em and see if he and Rose can drop by the bar later tonight.
If we come up for air, we'll be there before nine. Not sure If I can get her to let go of my … Never mind. ;)"
I roll my eyes and chuckle; I guess things must be improving between them.
I decide to give Esme a quick call and fill her in on what's been happening in my life since we last spoke.
The phone is answered on the first ring.
"Uncle Edward has a new girl with brown eyes. My favorite color is brown; it's the color of chocolate. Some people like Hershey's kisses. I don't like kisses now. I might like kisses someday. I like chocolate bunnies. Easter will be on April 24th in 2095. You'll be dead by then, though."
"Hi, Alice," I sigh into the phone. Talking to Alice is a lesson in geography; she's all over the map. She is also an amazing psychic since she has never met Bella and I can't imagine Esme discussed my personal business with her since we last spoke. Of course, Alice has been known to eavesdrop from time to time, so who knows.
"May I speak to your Mom?"
"The word Mom is a palindrome," she informs me importantly. "I call Esme, Esme because she isn't the same in the front as she is in the back. Plus that is her name. I want a new name. I want you to call me Gabriella. I have to go now; my dolls need to be rotated. Goodnight Moon. "
"Good night, Gabriella," I say blithely. Alice re-names herself often. Two weeks ago, her name was Dorothy Gale because she watched Wizard of Oz on TV. 'But you may call me Dottie,' she said.
No doubt about it, Alice is a trip. I can't wait for Bella to meet her.
Esme must have plucked the phone out of Alice's hand because I hear her chastise her for picking up the phone without her permission. I sigh in relief because Alice has been known to hang up the call before she gives it to one of her parents; sometimes we play phone tag for hours as we try to dodge Alice when she's playing operator.
We chitchat for a few minutes and I bring her up to date on my new relationship status.
"So, you finally broke the door down?" she asks, excitedly.
I tell her, "Not exactly. I mean we got to know each other better through the door, and then, yeah, I guess we did sort of break it, well, the chain anyway." I realize how this sounds and begin to sputter but she just giggles and says, "Oh, that's wonderful; I can just picture it in my head!"
Great. Now my Auntie is imagining me having sex. I must say this out loud because she snorts into the phone and I find myself chuckling in return.
But her laughter is replaced by silence, save for a few sighs, as I tell her more about Bella and how she came to Cape Cod in the hopes of finding herself and wound up finding me instead.
"It seems as if you found each other."
"Yeah, we did."
"Oh, that's so romantic, Edward," she swoons.
I roll my eyes because she's being cheesy, but I don't deny it. It is somewhat romantic … The whole bonding over the cat through the door thing. I get that. But it's surreal, too; these kinds of things don't happen in real life.
"You're in love," she states, matter-of-factly.
I find myself blushing into the phone as I tell her, "I am."
"And now her father's there with his animals and a camper. Wow. How's that working out for you?"
A loud crash from the bar reminds me that I better get off the horn before old Fumbles has to go in search of another ice magnet, or worse, a doctor. I cringe when I hear him yell out, "Shit!"
I tell Esme that I have to go and that I'll try to call her later.
"Don't worry about that honey; it sounds like you've got your hands full. Besides, Carlisle and I have decided to open up Grandmother Cullen's beach house early this year. If all goes well, we should be there in two weeks."
I tell her that I can't wait to see them and we agree to talk again soon. I hang up the phone and head back to the bar.
I am happy to see that it's comfortably full, but not overwhelming. Of course, the night is young and I can already see a group of twenty-something's coming through the door.
I also see something that I never expected to see.
Instead of throwing pottery in the garage, as I thought, she has donned an apron and is busy taking orders at the bar.
I watch her quietly as she moves about; taking orders and helping Charlie pull a few drafts. She isn't chatty with the customers, but she seems friendly and efficient. I notice one of the local guys nudge another when she bends over to pick up a card that she dropped. I figure that's my cue to get my ass back there and find out what's up.
"Hey, whatcha doing?" I whisper in her ear.
She jumps back startled and I grab her by the waist before she slips and falls.
Charlie raises his eyebrows and gives me a steely gaze. It's not threatening, but it is warning. I look at him puzzled and he mouths, "Don't ask."
"What's going on? I thought you were going to work in the garage?"
"What's going on, is that I was heading out back when I saw Charlie here trying to take some orders and he was making a mess of things. He looked like he didn't know whether to shit or go blind, so I decided to help him out."
"Out back, talking to that guy she was seeing; the one from Egypt.
"You mean, Amun?"
"I mean the guy whose wife decided to take an international flight and arrived on Cape Cod morning."
"His wife … What wife? Amun is only twenty-two."
"And he's been married since he was eighteen. At least that's what Angie told me a few minutes ago. I'm not sure because she was so pissed off that it was difficult to understand her, but I think that was the gist of what went down. All I know is she says she's glad all they did was a little slap and tickle because if she had fucked him like she wanted to, then she'd sure as hell make sure he'd never be able to fuck anyone else again, including his wifey"
"Should I go out there or …"
"No, now that you're here, I'll do it. I know I don't know her all that well, but I think she could use a girlfriend right about now. She told me she wanted to cut and castrate every man she sees. So since I am rather partial to your appendage, I figure it'll be safer for you if I go."
"Hey, I heard that!" Charlie mutters.
Oh for fuck's sake.
Bella goes out back to comfort Angie so Charlie and I are left to our own devices.
"Hey, handsome … I'll have a Fuzzy Navel. Not too much lint." I start to tell her that I'll be with her in a second, but she isn't directing her order at me.
"I-I'll be right with you," I hear Charlie stammer.
He turns to me red-faced and confused.
"Uh, Edward … What the hell is a Fuzzy Naval and what does she mean she doesn't want it "too linty?" he whispers.
"Oh, I dunno, handsome … Maybe you should look it up on the internet?" I've got an iPad perched next to the register bookmarked on a bartending guide. I don't use it too often; only in the summer when the tourists come out to play and want something fancy. But even I have to admit I haven't had to make a Fuzzy Naval in, well, ever. I glance up at the woman and swallow my surprise.
She smiles at me gently and nods her head in recognition. "Hi, Edward, how are you?"
I tell her I'm fine, and I guess she sees my puzzled expression because she goes on to add, "I'm here with a few of my girlfriends. We're celebrating."
"Oh, what are you celebrating?" Charlie asks, leaning over and looking up the recipe.
"My freedom. The divorce was finalized today."
"And you decided to come to Seaconch to celebrate?" I have to admit I find that a little odd; Seaconch is a quaint town but its well over an hour away from P-Town and it certainly isn't a hot spot for them to congregate.
"My sister and her family live in Sandwich," she explains. "In fact, now that Guy moved back to Quebec, JT and I will be moving in with her until our house is sold."
"What about your business?"
"I was just leasing the space and the landlord is increasing the rent this year so I'm actually scouting for a new place around here. "
"Huh." I'm not sure how I feel about this. Lorraine seems pleasant enough, but I can't help but associate her with Laurent. I know she was as much a victim as Tyler was, but still …"
"Um, look Edward, I know this is awkward and I didn't come here tonight to make you uncomfortable. My sister suggested we come here, but I knew as soon as she mentioned the name that it was your place. I'm just going to sit back at the table with her and a few of my friends and maybe drink myself back into my happy place, okay? Maybe the good-looking man with the unfortunate mustache can bring it over to me?"
I glance over to Charlie to see if he heard her description. The way he's studying the iPad like he's prepping for the SAT tells me he has. I see him run his finger over it thoughtfully.
At any rate, it was nice to see you again," she hiccups. I guess she started her celebration before she came in here.
Christ opening a bottle of Aleve the morning after … She'd better not be hurling her celebration all over the bar tonight.
I look over at Charlie and smirk. If she pukes all over the bar tonight he is cleaning it up; no time like the present to introduce him to the seamier side of being a barkeeper.
"Who the heck was that?" Charlie asks, handing me the OJ and the Peach Schnapps.
I roll my eyes at him and mumble, "That was the wife of Tyler's lover. Well, EX wife, now, I guess; her name's Lorraine." I take a deep breath and look at the Schnapps. "So, a Fuzzy Navel … I forgot it only has two ingredients in it, huh."
"Yep, but if you add vodka to it then it becomes a Woo-Woo."
I raise an eyebrow at him and he chuckles, "I Googled it." We both laugh as I mix it up and strain it into an ice filled hurricane glass. I grab a napkin and hand it to him.
"Take it over to her, and tell her it's on the house, compliments of Tyler."
"I'm not saying that to her Edward," he states, popping a pink umbrella in her drink.
"Because it sounds bitter, that's why not. No, I'll take it to her and tell her it's from me to help celebrate her new-found freedom."
"Pft, you do that then. And for the record, I wasn't trying to be rude, but I guess if you thought so, she probably will, too. Anyway, hurry back because there's a big ass crowd coming in the door, so you my friend are going to experience what we in the trade refer to as a baptism by fire."
I turn to take the next order and no sooner finish fulfilling it, when I've got four more at the counter chafing at the bit to get their drunk on. Thankfully, Bella and Angie return just as I am starting to panic; the night isn't old yet, and the place is getting packed.
"Hey, you okay?" I ask Angie while starting a tab for a couple of guys who look like they jumped out of a J Crew catalog.
"No, I'm not okay, but I don't have time to indulge in my rage the way I will after work when I burn the jacket he let me borrow last night," she says lowly.
"Oh, and PS, his passport and Visa are in the pocket." I hear her cackle as she marches off to take an order at one of the tables.
"Hi, Baby," I say to Bella, who is expertly pulling a beer into a large Stein. No head whatsoever.
"Baby? That's a new one; what happened to sweetheart? For a second, I thought you were somebody else."
"Eh, I'm just trying it out. Hey, how'd you learn to pull a beer like that anyway?"
"Earls on the Avenue."
"Earls on the what?"
"The Avenue; it's a college bar in Seattle; I waitressed there on and off through college. Didn't my dad tell you that when you hired him?"
"No, he never mentioned that to me; come to think of it neither did you. I can't believe you worked in a bar for four years and never said a word about it to me, seeing as I own a bar and all." I'm not mad, quite the opposite, but I am baffled; I can't believe she never brought it up till now.
"I wanted to surprise you, Teddy. I just didn't know if I was going to be able to handle talking to people tonight, otherwise I would have told you that I planned on helping out when you were panicking upstairs about being short-staffed. Now, shove over so I can get this order filled, okay?
"Oh, and you might want to close your mouth before a bug flies in, cuz it's hanging wide open," she says with a wink.
I do as she says and close my mouth, but my eyes must still be wide because she comes over and gives me a soft kiss on my cheek. One of the guys at the counter chuckles, "Well, that answers my question, then."
"What question was that?" I ask wrapping my arm around her waist. Okay, I know I promised myself that I wasn't going to be a jealous asshole, but I still have to make sure the regulars know she is off limits, and when I catch the frat boys' eyes, I let them know, too.
"If the question was whether or not I'm spoken for, then the answer is, yes," Bella tells him pertly as she unwinds herself from my grasp. 'Now, if you boys will excuse me there's a table of thirsty travelers who act like they've been waiting to be served since 1982."
I laugh again and catch sight of my face in the mirror; I look different. I lean in and run my hand through my mop of hair."
"You need a haircut," Charlie says washing his hands at the sink.
"Well, you need a shave," I reply joining him at the sink. "Besides, Bella likes my hair like this, but she doesn't like your mustache."
"Humph," he grunts, pulling a Sam Adams.
We work together steadily, and although he does indeed fumble and bumble as he mixes a few simple cocktails and almost drops a glass or two, he seems to be taking it all in stride. I watch him carefully throughout the night and I notice the easygoing way he has with the customers. I hear him wisecrack with a few of them and hear their appreciative responses. There's something about his confidence and ways that puts me to mind of Pop. He's got that affable quality about him that draws people to him like bees to honey. I never figured a cop would have a personality like that, and when I casually mention that to him, he looks at me with a raised brow and states simply, "You attract more bees with honey than vinegar, kid. And that includes criminals."
The night rolls on.
Bella and Angie work well together as a team and I note the growing friendship between them. I'm happy; Angie is a great girl and Bella could use a friend.
I also notice that Lorraine has pulled her aside more than a few times, so I'm not at all surprised when she steals over to me during a lull and asks if she can take her break because she'd like to show Loraine her new work area in the garage.
I watch as the two of them head out back, and when Lorraine stumbles as she walks out the door, I catch Charlie's eyes following her."
"Where's Bella going with that woman?"
"She's just taking her out back to show her the workshop I set up for her. She's an artist too."
"Oh, uh, okay. Well, since we're slowing down, would it be okay if I went back there to check on Hienzie?"
But the way he poses the question makes me think he's checking on Lorraine; I saw the way he was looking at her ass. I nod my head and grin. "I'm sure Hienzie must be going frantic wondering where you've been Charlie." I wiggle my eyebrow a little and he sort of stammers and blushes as he heads out back.
I check my phone, and sure enough, I have a text from Em telling me he's not coming after all, followed by a slew of others.
Indisposed, if you get my drift
Hey, did you ever Google that accident?
Was there a chick involved?
I know there was a chick involved.
Who is she?
I shoot back a quick reply.
Fuck, I'll be down tomorrow night- save me a cold one
What's her name?
A few minutes later, Bella returns to the bar with Charlie right behind her, carrying a rather giggly and tipsy Lorraine in his arms.
"Nothing happened, she just sort of swooned when I walk in the garage and I caught her, that's all.
Lorraine giggles helplessly and begins pulling on Charlie's mustache.
Come on baby let me see whatcha hiding underneath!
Is she singing Katy Perry to my dad?" Bella giggle snorts.
"Uh, yeah … I mean I think so; I'm not exactly familiar with Ms. Perry's tunes."
"Well I am, and if she starts looking for his peacock I'ma gonna peace out," she informs me as she heads over to the bathroom.
Angie finds Lorraine's sister, smoking out front. As he helps her out the door,Lorraine turns to him and says, "You're a very handsome man, Charlie Swan, with the exception of that very unfortunate mustache."
"Oops, did I say that out loud?" We all laugh. Well, everyone but Charlie, that is.
After the bell rings to announce last call, we mix up a final round for the table of twenty-somethings. I ask Bella, Angie and Charlie if they want a drink to help themselves unwind. Charlie declines, but the girls are game, so I mix up a batch of Cosmos. They settle themselves at the bar and sip their drinks appreciatively.
Bella tells me that Lorraine asked her if it would be okay to store some of her pottery supplies alongside her stuff. I tell her that I don't mind, because I don't. If Lorraine is moving to the area and her sister frequents my joint, then I guess I'm just going to have to make peace with everything.
Charlie wipes the bar down expertly with the same rag he used the other day, and instead of blushing I find myself smirking.
"What's that look for, Ted?"
Okay, first it was Kid, and now it's Ted. I guess I can live with it.
"Hey, is that a piano over there?" He asks excitedly.
"Um, yeah. It was Pop's, but then Tyler took it over; he-he was a fantastic pianist."
"You play"? He asks, going over to peep at it underneath the sheet that's been covering it for almost a year.
"I do, but I'm not that great at it, at least not as good as Tyler was, or even Pop. Why, do you play?"
He grins and quirks his head to one side saying, "My mother was a piano teacher, so yeah, I did play. But I haven't tickled the old ivories in years."
I nod when he indicates he wants to see the ancient upright that once belonged to my grandmother Masen.
He removes the sheet carefully and folds it up, placing it on a nearby table.
I walk over just as he settles down on the stool. He warms up his fingers by playing a few notes and then he plays a lively version of chopsticks. He's rusty for sure, but he's laughing and having fun.
"Dad, I haven't heard you play in years!" Bella cries from her stool at the bar. She and Angie have managed to drain the shaker and I notice that Bella's cheeks are a deep pink. Angie goes behind the counter and mixes up a fresh batch and Charlie calls me over, patting the stool beside him.
I'm conflicted; I haven't touched the piano since the day the Coast Guard showed up at my door to tell me Tyler was gone. A look of anticipation passes between father and daughter as I stand next to him, undecided.
"Do you remember this afternoon when Bella told us she was driving and we called shotgun?" I nod my head in remembrance.
"I couldn't believe my ears. I never thought I'd see my girl willingly get in a car, let alone behind the wheel, yet there she was, demanding to drive the Willys.
"In other words, if my girl has the guts to get back in the saddle again, then what the hell are you waiting for, partner? Now Giddy up." He slaps the seat beside him.
You need to make the time to play, Buddy-boy … I didn't teach your sorry ass for nothing.
He starts to finger a familiar tune, a duet. It's one that I know well; one of the first things that Tyler taught me, a child's piece called Heart and Soul.
My fingers touch the keys tentatively and we begin to play. The few people left in the bar call out appreciatively and we look at each other and grin.
"Hey, maybe we should turn this into a dueling piano bar," Charlie exclaims as he misses another key.
"Yeah, let's not get ahead of ourselves, Charlie," I laugh, missing a chord of my own.
I'm having fun, I think to myself. Charlie isn't Pop, and he's certainly not Tyler, but he's like them; he brings out the happy in people.
One song leads to another and the last customers are cashing out with Angie, who looks like she's ready to keel over. I stop playing to run their card since Ange can't seem to remember how.
I look over at Bella and she is slumped over the bar. She must be exhausted.
Well, I have been wearing her out, I think to myself, smugly.
"Oopsie … Girl going down …" Angie sings.
Sure enough, Bella is about to topple off her stool. I catch her before she hits the floor.
"You got her, Ted?" Charlie asks from the piano.
"He's got me, Charlie!"
Mm-hm, you drunk over there, Bells? You want me to tuck you in?"
"Nope, I got my own tuck-er-inner right here, Daddy-O!"
Charlie just shakes his head laughing and continues to play. Hienzie comes out from the kitchen and sits by his feet, his tail thumping to a very poor rendition of Billy Joel's Piano Man.
Bella presses her face into my neck and begins to kiss it loudly.
"Let's go out to the garage and start on those seven children right now," she whispers. Except it isn't a whisper.
"Shh … Maybe in a few years," I tell her, patting her back.
"No-no … You said seven kids and that's gonna take a long time … We gotta get started right now because you're almost thirty and ya not getting any fresher.
"Hey, nobody got fresh with me tonight," she pouts.
I feel a tap on my shoulder and I turn around to see who it's from.
There's a young guy in a white polo holding the hand of a woman in a pink Lily dress with little green watermelons embroidered all over. They look vaguely familiar, but I can't place either of them, aside from the fact that they were with the last table to cash out.
"You sure you know what you're getting yourself into, Dude?"
I look at him startled, remembering him and my words from a few weeks ago.
He looks at me in anticipation and smiles broadly when I give him back the same reply he once gave to me.
"I know exactly what I'm getting myself into, Dude."
"Good for you man, it's about time."
A/N: So it occurred to me that I should have named the chapters after cocktails. If you have the time, I am willing to go back and make the changes. But they have to fit with each one in some way. Anyone up for the challenge? I'll give you credit in the next chapter! xo
Thank you so much for reading and for your patience while I battle real life and try to find the time to write.
A Special thanks to sunflower Fran who beta's this fic. Red is Fran's favorite color I think, since she uses it quite often whenever I send her an update to edit. LOL! I will be buying her plenty of Cosmo's when we meet in Nashville next month to thank her for her hard work. Anyone here going to the meet-up? I HOPE so!
This story is almost complete, save for the next chapter which highlights the rest of the summer and addresses the fall. (Unless I get inspired by one of the characters to write a bit more!) There are some outtakes, one of which is already written. I was going to include it within this story but some readers prefer outtakes to come at the end of a fic or in a separate story altogether.
There have been a few reviews that tell me they think this story would make a good movie. I actually received an email from a screenwriter a few months ago who wanted to discuss this possibility. I am quite dubious about this email, but it did get me thinking .. hmm ... wouldn't that be wicked cool? Lol! Do ya think I can get Rob to take the lead?
If a movie was made about you, who would you chose to play the part? I vote for Lisa Welchel (Blair from The Facts of Life) since she is my Doppleganger) but only if she can drink and swear. Which I doubt she can. So maybe Queen Latifah because she is my girl crush.