I sit in the car, trying to come up with a reason to get out and take the fifteen or so steps to the door. Sunset is still a couple hours off; the brilliant May sun mocks me. I want to be anywhere but in this half empty lot off a dirt county road.
Here? Elko in general, Ronnie’s in particular. Every night I play out the same struggle. Give me one reason to go into the damned bar and shake my ass to make some money. Give me one reason to make myself feel like a cheap whore, night after night.
Unlike most nights, tonight, I have a reason, silly and childish as it might be. Try to shake it, realizing how irrational and stupid it is, I cannot get rid of it. He’ll be here tonight.
Stupid as it is, the dream has stuck with me, and him. He has been with me since I barely knew the whole boy/girl thing. Fourteen years of dreams of the dark haired guy with the dream sky blue eyes, in all their complex glory and sadness. He’s on his way here now.
The dreams have been back since the night after I walked in on Brian. All of them have been back, even the dreams of her, with her light blonde hair and her daddy’s eyes. Six hours, can it possibly be worth it?
Can’t think about that. It really doesn’t matter, does it? If I want the dreams, I have to take all of them. And I long for the dreams, I have since I was a foolish little girl. The night is wasting, six is just ticks away, and all I have to do is open the door and step out into the brilliant May evening, put one foot in front of the other and walk into the hellhole. His middle name is Carter, how weird is that? Of all the random things to remember.
I walk into the bar a shade before six. Things are already picking up a little. Lost in my own little daily crisis, I had not noticed trucks pulling in and dirty miners and ranch hands piling out. Why can’t I just shake this dream? Because it wasn’t off in some far distant future, like it has always seemed before. It was tonight. He’s going to be here.
I shake my head slightly, as if to dismiss the crazy talk. I look behind the bar. Ronnie catches my eye and smiles. For some reason, I think she holds her breath every day until I come into the bar. I could reassure her. It isn’t as though I have anywhere else to go. There certainly isn’t anywhere in Elko I could make the money in a week I make on a good weekend night. And it’s only for a little while longer.
She looks at me and wrinkles her nose a little, making a subtle gesture as though to suggest I go put on my stripper clothes. I smile inwardly. There is nothing glamorous about the navy Nevada sweatshirt and pony tail. I had put the sweatshirt on, because even in the middle of May the nights are cold enough I need something on my arms when I get off work around two. And I’m going to be walking around Elko with him tonight. He’s going to ask me to go with him tomorrow, right? That’s why the bag is packed, sitting by my door in my room in the shitty little trailer.
I glance at Heather who is already at work in the bar. She smiles, but not in the friendly way Ronnie did. I cannot imagine being in my early thirties with a kid or two and working at someplace like Ronnie’s. I smile back sincerely. I know she would not want my pity, but she gets it anyway. My time is short here anyway, he’s coming then everything changes.
I need to stop thinking like that. What I really need is to bear down and make some money. I can be in Boise or Pocatello for school when winter rolls around if I just focus on the task at hand. Dreams or no, there’s no knight in white coming to take me away from it all. Even the dreams make it clear, he’s a lot of things, but a knight in white he’s not. He’s not here to rescue me, I’m here to rescue him.
I walk into the main part of the bar on my way back to the cramped dressing area, suddenly the smell hits me. Soon I will put a little dab of Vick’s on the inside of my nostrils, one of my preparations for work, and it won’t be so bad. But it is one of the things I have trouble with. It’s kind of hard to describe, a mix of old sweat and men’s urine with spilt beer, smoke and perfume. I won’t miss that when I’m gone.
Sometimes I wish some of the other girls will lay off the heavy perfume. It doesn’t really help. I notice a table of miners, they are easily recognizable in their dirty jeans and flannel shirts. The one, Tiny, has a crush, and I keep hoping he will continue to keep it to himself, but he has been getting bolder about coming up and tipping me. My luck probably isn’t that good. Maybe the dream guy will kick Tiny’s ass for me, now that would be useful.
When I get back to the dressing area, Renee, one of the better girls, raises her eyebrows at me.
“Heather has a date already, she wants to go first, do you mind going second?”
I think about it for a moment. No need to rush out the door on a Friday night, plus my dream guy might come in late. Ronnie’s was one of the few places I have worked where the girl got to leave after her last set. In the higher end places in Vegas and Denver, the girls have to work the whole shift, and they leave all at the same time, but Ronnie’s caters to a different kind of girl, a different kind of client, one that wants a happy ending. I have been lucky so far, all of the guys have accepted I won’t do that sort of thing.
I nod to Renee. Second is not so bad. Depending on how long the sets are, I will get out between one and one-thirty. When she smiles, I realized she wanted to be last one off. Since I know I will make the money I want to make by eleven, it is easy enough to smile back. Plus I’m not going to be here tomorrow anyway. STOP THAT. You’re going to be here, he’s not likely coming.
Dancing starts six-thirty, and since I do not socialize with the customers in the way in which the other girls need to, I do not have to do anything but wait in the dressing area until then.
Once the night starts, it is a blur of getting on stage and dancing, going around the room for tips and dances until it is time to get on stage again. I keep my eye out for the dream guy, but of course, it does not happen like that, not at first anyway. It is going to happen, I’m just not being patient enough.
By the time I am ready to get on stage for my third set, I have resigned myself to the idea it was just a dream after all. I feel silly and girlish, and mentally chide myself to realize the only person who is fixing my situation is me, there are no knights on white stallions come to rescue this damsel in distress. I pick out music which is a little melancholy, it’ll undoubtedly hurt my tips a little, but I am a little down on myself.
As Heather gets off the stage, a bundle of ones in her hand, my music starts. Etta James is singing, and I am feeling sorry for myself, which makes what happens next all the more jarring. Because, even though I feel him before I see him, I don’t trust it.
I slink along the little postage stamp stage to the pole which let me wiggle around a little, my eyes mostly closed. It is easier to dance for a bunch of horny perverts, and the bar is full of them by then, if you don’t pay too much attention to their eyes devouring you. And as I turn towards the back, by the door, over by the bar, there he is. My eyes pop open. Deep down, you knew he was going to be here tonight.
The first thing, I notice the hair, parted to the right, long and straight. In the dark light, backlit with black light, it looks raven black. If the dreams are true, there is a red undertone, but the black light underplays that. But the thing which stops my breath, which caused me to miss a beat are those eyes. Even from a distance in the dark, and maybe it is the black light playing tricks, they are an unreal blue, the blue of a dream sky, and he is looking back at me, looking me in the eye. They’re even more beautiful in person than in the dream, and THAT is not something I expect.
I know it sounds cliché, trite, but it feels like the world stops for a moment. I am looking into his eyes, knowing it is a mistake, knowing as my left foot clunks down, completely ungracefully, it is going to cause trouble for him, because the world did not actually stop, and miners in the front are looking at him. And it is not the world which stopped but my breath. Oh my God, thirteen years of dreams of him, sometimes the best part of my day, and here he is, and I have forgotten how to breathe. No, you haven’t, he just literally took your breath away, not what you were expecting.
“Breathe, Bethany.” I tell myself under my breath, and the spell is broken.
Except it is not. He is watching me, trying to make eye contact, but I cannot put him at more risk. I see Don, the ranch owner of Circle Bar Lazy 8 out by Deeth, call him over, and I actually start breathing all right when the dream guy goes over and sits with him. The miners won’t test Don, they respect him too much.
Before I even realize it has started, my last song is finishing. I gather the money, noticing a lot of fives and tens in the tips, and my clothes and hurry back to the dressing area. I take a moment and reach into my purse and pull out a piece of note paper and a pen.
“Meet me at Mick’s off Idaho @ 1:30. Xoxo Sierra” I write quickly, then palm the note, shove the money into my money box. I will sort all the money in a down moment later, but for now, I need to make a beeline to Don and the dream guy, and get him out of the bar before one of the miners decided to get froggy with him. It would be Tiny, wouldn’t it?
I cannot make a beeline for him, it will make things worse not better. I move along the side wall, and damned if one of the ranchers does not want a dance, but Kiley’s song is already half over. I tell him I will come back for the third song, since Kiley always plays a really long one for her last song. He accepts graciously, because he knows it is true. For some reason Kiley likes dancing with her twat out. My third song is always far and away my shortest. If I could get away with two bars and a chorus I would.
Luck is holding, and as I go along the rail of the bar, I arrange another dance, but am able to put him off until Renee was on stage. And then there they are, right off the bar in the back table. The boys along the back wall will wait. Don always has money, he gives me a ten. The dream guy has a five out, which he sort of makes a deal about to the guys sitting behind, probably because Don told him to. I lean over Don towards dream guy, rubbing up against the dream guy.
I can feel him getting aroused instantly. For the first time in a long time, I’m really glad to have that effect. I lean over to his ear.
“I’d like to meet you.” I whisper. “After. After that thing while I was dancing, you’re going to be lucky to get away without a fight. Nod like you’re enjoying what I’m saying.”
He nods. I push his chair back and straddle him, facing him and whisper in the other ear.
“I’m putting a note in your pocket.” I am blocking everyone’s view with how I had him positioned relative to the big rancher, and slide the note into his right hand pants pocket. “Now, shake your head as if you’re saying no to a lap dance. If you want to meet, I’ll see you around 2.” I take the five out of his hand and lean over and kiss him on the cheek. “I hope you’ll be there.”
I keep my eye out as I make my way around the room. He does not look at the note. He smiles at Don after he finishes his beer, and leaves quickly and quietly. Then, I just hold my breath until I get off work that he will be there.
I arrive at the bar around quarter after one. Heather played a short last set, and I got out much earlier than I thought I would. It could cause trouble. I wondered as I drove over whether he would be waiting, but my luck was not in.
I went to the bartender. I’d gone to school with him, maybe a year or two older than me. Rob, I think. I ordered a Tanqueray and orange juice, and found a table in the corner, and held my breath.
But not only is my luck not in, it is really crappy, because here’s Tiny, he must have followed me over from the bar. And he’s already pretty well loaded up. I brace myself. Most of the guys have been taking the turn down graciously, but I’m pretty sure Tiny doesn’t know the meaning of the word gracious.
And here he is. He starts pleasantly enough.
“Hey, Sierra,” he says. Evidently nobody has told him my real name.
“Tiny,” I nod. “I’m waiting for someone.”
“What my money isn’t good enough for you?” He is getting worked up.
“I don’t do that kind of thing, Tiny. It has nothing to do with you.” I answer.
“You work at Ronnie’s,” he says, a mild tremble in his voice. “That means you do that kind of thing.”
“I don’t. I dance. Soon, when I’ve saved up the money, I’m going back to college. Renee does those kinds of things, she’s pretty, why don’t you see about her.”
“I’ve had her, it wasn’t any great shakes. I want you, and I’m willing to pay good.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of bills, which shake gently in his hand. “Five hundred, that’s pretty good, right?”
I shake my head. “Five hundred is a lot of money, Tiny, and I’m sure that would get you a hell of a party over to Wells or at one of the places here in town, but I’m not a whore.”
He takes the money and shoves it at me, his hand betrays a slight tremor. He’s about to make a real scene, and I’m trapped in the corner. I look a little wildly to each side. Nobody is paying too much attention, which is good and bad.
“I don’t want one of those girls, I want you, what five hundred isn’t enough? I can go seven-fifty.” His voice raises a little. He reaches into his pocket. Some of the other people in the bar are looking at us now, and I can feel the embarrassment burning in my cheeks. I might die on the spot. Now the dream guy shows up.
Maybe he has taken a second to assess the scene, because he is very much the ex-jock he must have been, chest thrown forward. He walks right past Tiny and kisses me on the cheek. I’m praying he plays as if he’s my boyfriend or something. He must sense it because…
“Hi, honey,” he says, and his cheek is smooth and clean, he smells like maybe he just showered. “Sorry about being late, I got hung up in Salt Lake.”
I smile up at him, I can’t even tell him how relieved I am he is here. He senses it though, because he winks at me on the side of his face which is shielded from Tiny.
Tiny puts his hand back into his pocket, and starts to turn to leave, then turns back and shoved a finger into the dream guy’s chest.
“No,” he says, “that’s bullshit, you were the fancy dude at the club with the rancher from out Starr Valley.” He turns towards me. “I knew you was a whore, what is it, my money isn’t good enough for you?”
The dream guy draws himself up to his full six foot-two, and presses a hand firmly into Tiny’s chest. He has a look of pure mayhem on his face.
“Move along, friend.” He says menacingly, his tone betraying the friendly word. “You want something you aren’t getting. Now, do you really want to get your ass kicked on top of it?”
Tiny looks at me, the desperation clear in his eyes. For a moment I have a bad feeling. I have no idea whether he is strapped or whether he is going to take a go. It is a toss of the coin in the moment, then it passes. There is a brief flash in his eye, then it is gone, but he isn’t, not just yet.
“This ain’t over,” he says to the dream guy then looks at me to indicate that he means me as well. Then he disappears as quickly as he came.
“Thanks for that, I think he followed me from the bar and thought, you know, dancer means hooker.” I say, then add ironically, batting my long eyelashes, as if to make light of the situation, “You’re my hero now. But what took you so long?”
“Your note said you’d be here at 1:30.” He says. “I guess I didn’t want to appear overeager.”
I laugh. “I suppose that’s better than me showing up and you being in the bag already. I’m Beth, by the way.”
“Andy, or Drew or Trey if you prefer. Different people call me different things depending on how they know me.”
“Which do you prefer?” I ask, feeling curiously formal.
“I suppose I’m most used to Trey.”
“Why do people call you that?”
“Because I’m the third. My father is Andrew, my grandfather AC. I’m just Trey to differentiate myself from the shadow they cast.”
“Ok, Trey. Are you getting a drink?”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” He asks.
“You think maybe he’ll bring a friend back and cause a scene?”
“Did he follow you over from the bar?”
He shrugs then thinks about it for a minute. While he thinks, I toss back the rest of my drink.
“There’s another bar across the street.” I say, softly. “Did you park in the lot?”
I shrug, “Walk me across the street?”
We scoot across Idaho quickly and walk in without exchanging a word.
He finds a table and motions the waitress over. He looks at me for a second, as though to remember what I was drinking and orders a draft beer for himself and a gin and juice for me.
“So,” He says, once the waitress has left. “I don’t have many beautiful women ask me out. What’s the occasion?”
I feel a blush rising on my cheeks. “Get out, I’m not all that.”
“Yes.” He said, “even with your hair pulled back, you’re clearly the most beautiful woman for two hundred miles in any direction.”
“Wow.” I exclaim, I was not expecting a pickup line. “Don’t hold back.”
“Don’t you look in the mirror and know it?”
“I know that I’m cute, I guess.” I say, a little off, I can still feel the burning flush. “It’s hard to think like that. It doesn’t get you anywhere anyway, thinking like that. What are you doing in Elko?”
“Stopping through, how about you?”
“A place to stay for awhile while I figure out what to do next.”
“Because it’s where I’m from.” I say. “Where are you from?”
“Originally? Detroit. I live in Reno now.”
“What brought you to Reno?”
“I went to school there, then I came back after my divorce.”
“I did too, go to school, that is, and left after my divorce. What year were you at Reno?”
He smiles, “Is that a fancy way of asking how old I am?”
“Sort of, more seeing if we knew any of the same people.”
“My class graduated in 91.”
“We might know some of the same people then.” I say.
“Why do I know you?” He says, looking closely at me.
“You don’t ‘know me?’” I say, kind of squirming away from his direct gaze, but in my heart, I’m jubilant. He’s had the dreams.
“Why do I feel as though I know you?”
“Only you can answer that.”
“So you still didn’t answer my question.” He says.
I take a long swallow of my drink. “Which question is that?” I ask, and try to put a little flirt into my tone.
He chuckles softly, “There’s a lot of things you can flirt your way out of,” He says. “Answering why you wanted to meet me isn’t one of them.”
I giggle a little, maybe it’s the drinks but I’m feeling a little flirty. “Oh, that. Does it matter?” It shouldn’t and he knows anyways.
“Not really, but now that I’ve asked it, I need to know.”
“Why is that?” I ask, not wanting to answer directly.
“Because, it is what I do.”
“Ask questions and expect straight answers?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” He says, taking another long swallow from the beer.
“Ok, that’s a more interesting topic of conversation.” I answer.
“It might be, could you answer my question first?”
“Badgering the most beautiful woman in two hundred miles in any direction.” I giggle. “You suck at this seduction game, dude, you know that, right? Plus you already know why I asked you here.”
“I do?” He answers, and there’s a slightly bemused look on his face. “And is that what we’re doing, playing a seduction game?”
“What’s the play, Trey?” I ask, my voice betrays my weariness, and now I can feel him wondering why I was meeting him if it made me feel that way. In the moment, his black hair shiny, and yes, he took a shower between, and shaved too, it makes me like him more than a little that he’s thinking about my feelings, but I have to play out the script. “You live in Reno, I live in Elko, this looks like a two ships that pass in the night situation, doesn’t it?”
“Does it have to be?” He asks, and though I shouldn’t be, I’m surprised. I feel my eyes widening, and see his smile.
“You felt it,” I say. “The same as I did. And you know why I asked you here.”
“You looked into my eyes. Nobody looks into my eyes like that when I’m on the stage, dude. There was a second, maybe two, that felt like an eternity, and I tripped over my feet. You felt it too?”
“I forgot to breathe.” He says.
“Have you had the dreams?” I ask, and almost immediately I realize it is too direct, too soon. I realize there is a weight to the question. And then something I don’t understand, and I feel strangely like I’m sitting in an old car by a mountain, and I feel a rush of embarrassment, even a little anger as I’m looking at the clock. Somehow, I know this is coming from him, and he wants to say something, but he won’t, not yet, because there’s some embarrassment there on top of everything else.
He shakes his head slightly, but there it lacks conviction. A moment has passed, but it’s ok, the clock is running, but not that fast. I smile at him.
“Me too.” I say, then add quickly, “the whole forgot to breathe thing.”
“What was that?”
I put down money for the drinks on the table, without even thinking about it. I look at him.
“Is it ok if I cover this?” I ask. He nods.
“How about this?” I say, and a thought strikes me, a way to show him the dreams are real.
“I’m listening.” He says.
“Bet me a piece of pie.”
“I can guess your middle name.”
“One try?” He asks with a laugh.
“Only one try, but you have to think of it before I guess.” I don’t actually need him to think of it, I have the answer from the dream last night, or this morning, but I have to play it out.
“You’re on.” He says.
“Unusual, is it?”
“It is. Ok, I’m thinking of it.”
I smile at him, and take a cocktail napkin off the table and write a word on it.
I turn my eyes up to him.
“Put it in your pocket,” I say, folding the cocktail napkin and handing it to him. “But don’t look at it until we’re over there and done with the pie.”
“Ok,” he says and stands up. We walk towards the door, and I impulsively grab his hand.
“Let’s walk over there.” I say.
He nods, and I can feel a turmoil. He’s distracted by holding my hand. It’s weird, because I think he’s flustered by the simple intimacy of it.
The walk is only a couple blocks anyway, and the brisk air this long after dusk at the high elevation in Elko in May was refreshing after the stale smoke and beer smell of Mick’s. I take my other arm and put it across my breasts.
“What’s up with that?” He asks.
“The cold air. I wasn’t really prepared for it.”
We walked a couple of feet, both smiling, maybe for different reasons.
“So,” I say, “what do you do?”
“Are we getting away to that conversation?”
“For the moment. We’ll pick up the other in a little while, you aren’t in a hurry, are you?”
“No.” He says. “I have all night, if that’s what you want.”
“Ok, but I think the piece of pie is going to be about it for tonight. So what’s the answer?”
“I’m a writer. At the moment, I’m playing at being a journalist.”
“Ah,” I say. “I would have guessed a musician with the long, thick hair.” I reach up and play with his hair a little.
“That’s no fair.” He says.
“Do you want to play with mine?” I ask, looking up at him, batting my eyelashes at him. I know exactly the effect I’m having on him, and I’m getting off on it a little bit. He’s sweet in a shy way, which belies his manner a little. I have to look up a lot to see him. At the same time, he’s noticing how short I am, and marveling about my lashes and eyes. Oh, if he knew what I think of his eyes, he would be even more flustered.
“You have no idea.” He says.
“I have an idea,” I answer.
“Ok, spill.” He says.
“It’s been quite awhile.” I answer. “And you’re wondering whether your better angel is going to win tonight, but you don’t really want him to.”
“What do you want?” He asks.
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“How long is quite awhile?” He asks, though he knows the answer, and maybe knows I know the answer.
“You’re buying a little.” I tease him.
“I’ve withheld judgment.” He answers.
“Ok, it has been a little over a year and a half, maybe right at that. And that was just a wild weekend with an old lover. Before that it was over a year.”
“Really?” He says.
“Tell me I’m wrong, or answer my next question. What type of writing?”
“I’m working at freelance non-fiction stories for travel magazines and such.”
“So I’m not wrong?”
“I’m not saying.” He flirts back. “And I’m on my way to not withholding judgment, why is it important for you to show me that?”
“Because it is who I am.” I answer. “Tell me about what makes you passionate in writing, because you don’t get passionate about writing travel pieces. And you defined yourself as a writer.”
“I’m a poet.”
“Are you good?”
“I am exceptional.” He says.
“No modesty there.” I respond.
“Do you know how I told you I thought you were the most beautiful woman in 200 miles in either direction?”
“I could hardly forget that.” I say. “Not that there’s much for two hundred miles.”
“I could capture that beauty and immortalize it in writing.”
“Wow, you think highly of yourself.”
“I am singular.” He says, and pauses to open the door of the casino for me.
We walk into the café. We look at the menu while we wait for service.
“Ok,” I say. “Take the napkin out and look.”
He opens the napkin. It said simply “CARTER.” His eyes get wide.
“I won’t actually make you pay for the pie.” I say, smiling slyly.
I take a sticky note from my purse, and a silver pen, and write on the wrong side of the note, fold it over and hand it to him.
“Put that in your pocket now.” I command.
“I’m curious.” He says.
“It will wait.” I answer, knowing it probably won’t, but he surprises.
“Ok,” He says, “what’s next?”
“Seriously?” I ask. “You’re going to let it go at that?”
“You seem to want to play this in your own time, I’m willing to wait for it.” He says. I order banana cream pie, he orders the peanut butter cup pie.
“Wow, I was right. What am I missing?”
“A lot, evidently.”
“Evidently. So where do you go next?”
“Do we have to talk about that now? I’m kind of just enjoying our cryptic little conversation.”
“That’s the turn our cryptic little conversation takes. Where do you go next?”
“Eureka, Tonopah, Vegas, Winslow.” He says.
“I’ve been to Ely and Vegas.” I answer. “What are you working on?”
“A couple of pieces, one on old Pony Express stations, the other on abandoned mines.”
“Any poetry planned?”
“I never plan the poetry.” He says, it borders on presumptuous or self-satisfied, but doesn’t quite get there. He pauses, but there is something more he is going to say. “Come with me?”
And the pie shows up, right then, giving me a minute to control myself, my breathing because I’m in turmoil. I expect him to ask. I’ve seen this in the dream a dozen times, but still, it doesn’t become real until he actually speaks the words. I look at him.
He probably thinks I’m buying time, as I twirl the pudding from the pie on my fork, but he’s wrong. Everything in the dream has come true. The die is cast, the note is in his pocket, my bag is packed. He probably thinks I think he’s a weirdo or something for asking me, but really, it is completely about controlling my racing heartbeat, because suddenly I’m so excited I can scarcely think, let alone speak, and I have to play the scene out, knowing before I say it, what I have to say.
“We hardly know each other.” I say finally, but I want to make it clear to him there is no judgment in my tone. I want him to pursue it, to own the idea, to make it his. In the end, it has to be him, this has to be his idea.
“You said this was a ‘two ships that pass in the night’ sort of setup, and I said it didn’t have to be. Well, if you come with me, we can actually see if there is anything to make it more.”
“You’ve decided that the better angel wins tonight, haven’t you?”
He looks lost; it is endearing. “What do you mean?”
“There were two plays, Trey. One was to try to seduce me, the other was to try to get to know me. You decided that you want to know me.”
“Does one preclude the other?” He asks.
“You know the answer to that, don’t you?”
He smiles. “Yeah.”
I play with what was left of my pie. When it is getting ridiculous how I’m stalling, I eat it. A moment passes, I excuse myself and go to the restroom, feeling rude for not answering, but I already have. The answer is sitting in his pocket, folded onto the wrong side of a post-it note.
Thirteen years, almost fourteen, I have been dreaming about this. Now it is here, and I can scarcely think. If I don’t play it out right, he’ll sense something is wrong. He can’t think about the price. A few minutes in the restroom, and I’m feeling more myself. When I come back to the table, I look him squarely in the eyes.
“If I say yes, will you write about me tonight?”
“No promises that you’ll see it tomorrow.” He answers.
“Is that a yes?”
“What time do you want to leave in the morning?”
“Is that a yes?”
“You’ll see.” I say, and I’m holding my breath as I pick up the bill, and draw a ten out of my purse.
“Ten.” I said.
I smile to myself. “Take the note out of your pocket.”
He does. He opens the note. It reads, “I’d love to go with you, I’ll see you at ten tomorrow morning.”
I am standing up as his jaw hits the floor.
“How?” He asks.
“How high is your crazy meter?” I ask, because now I’m willing to commit, to go all in on things. I have shown him in a way he can’t disprove.
“Higher than it was this morning.” He answers, clearly amused.
I laugh, and I know the laughter reaches my eyes.
“Imagine where it will be in tomorrow.” I say, but I want to leave the thought hanging for a little bit, I want to build a little puzzle for him. “Walk me to my car?”
“Of course.” He says but I can feel a slight tension building, in the back of his head, there was an alarm bell about Tiny. I had seen the heightened response before, mostly from guys who bounced in high end clubs and guys who had been in the service. It makes me wonder a little bit.
As we walk out of the Red Lion, he is grinning.
“Ok,” I ask, “what are the rules for the trip?”
“I won’t push anything?” He answers.
“What if I want you to?” I ask.
“Then do something about it.”
I smile to myself again. “I’d really like to talk some more, but if I’m going to be here at ten, I need to get to sleep, Fridays are crazy.”
“I understand. I’m tired, too, I’ve been up since like nine this morning and driven like three hundred miles.”
I take a deep breath, look at him, see him smiling to himself, and smile at him.
“If I tell you something really strange, you know like weirdness alert, will you tell me if it is too weird for you before I leave tonight?”
“Sure.” He answers.
“I dreamed about you last night.” I say, like you might say I used the bathroom before I left, then add the weird part. “It wasn’t the first time I dreamed about you.”
“Me?” He asks, but it isn’t what I expect, not even from the dream.
“You.” I say, baldly. “I dreamed about what happened at the club. And when it happened, it was exactly as I dreamed it, only more intense.”
“Ok.” He says, nothing more.
“Ok?” This catches me off guard, it seems like even in the dreams he fights this part a little more than this. “I tell you that, and you say ‘ok?’ You aren’t running for your car?”
“Let’s say that but for some things that happened today, some things that have happened to me over the past couple of years, and you proving to me that you know things about me that you have no reason or chance of knowing, maybe I would take it a different way, but we’ll just say that I’m open to learning more.”
“Wow.” I say, that must have been something by the mountain. “Ok. You are different, Andrew Carter the third. You don’t even know me, and you’re telling me that you trust me.”
“I have a pretty good internal sense of these things.” He answers. “What is Beth short for?”
“Bethany.” I say, but we’re out of time, we’re at my car, and I can’t stall this out further, I said I needed to get going.
“I meant what I said, Bethany.” He says, a little solemnly.
“Which part?” I shoot back.
“About you being beautiful.” He replies.
“I know,” I say, then add. “You are too.” And though we mean it in different ways, it emboldens him.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve met.” He answers, an implicit challenge in his voice.
I smile at him, and this time, any reserve in my smile is gone, because he is more than halfway to believing. The sooner he believes, the sooner we can be what we are meant to be. Now that we’ve met, the clock is ticking.
“Of course it is, silly.” I say. “I would remember having met you.”
“You know what I mean.” He replies, and I am a little surprised he is pressing the issue.
“I do, but until you understand how, I can’t tell you.” I answer, and give into the impulse I’ve been having since he rescued me from Tiny.
I lean into him, standing on my tiptoes and kiss him full on the mouth. He pulls back a little as if he wants to say something. I let him break the kiss, then put my right index finger on his lips to stay the words which are coming, then kiss him again. He gives in, and responds fully, and the intensity nearly carries me away. For a moment, I feel as though we’re the only two people in the world. When it feels like the kiss should end, I break it, and take a moment to catch my breath. While I catch my breath, there is a prick in the back of my mind; it was everything he had imagined when he left the bar. Internally, I smile, at the fact he was thinking about it, and it was all he was thinking about, not getting into my pants. It is time to leave. I smile at him.
“Wow.” I say, making sure he has registered the compliment before I ask, rather plainly, “do you want to meet here in the morning?”
“Sure,” he says, but I know where he is staying, and I think I’ll surprise him in the morning.
I kiss him on the cheek again, as I fumble in my purse for the keys to the car. I have to recover, because I’m flustered, and fear I’m about to lose control of what I’m thinking and feeling. And the words which come out of my mouth betray the sensation.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?”
“No.” He says. “Plus I can’t help shaking the idea this isn’t first sight.” Makes me smile inside again. “But I do believe in destiny.”
A thrill shoots through me. Destiny is what we are. If he believes in destiny, the dreams are true visions.
“Maybe we’re destiny then.” I say, almost to myself. “See you at ten?”
“Count on it.” He says, and as I get in the car, shut the door and fire it up, I’m left with one last thought from him, the tension evaporates as I start the car forward, and there is replaced by nearly pure joy in his heart.
My legs are shaking as I drive away. How do you describe something, think of something, you have waited for seemingly forever? I had said yes. The next morning, we would be riding into a future together. I knew it as clearly as I had ever known anything, but I am nervous.
I wonder what he is thinking, and immediately have to concentrate more on driving back to the trailer. I am all over the road. Wondering what he was thinking, or better yet, trying to tune into it, maybe the universe will give me a little vibe… I had felt a little of it, particularly at the restaurant… was going to have to wait, and it probably would not be fair anyway.
Was he too cocky? Somehow, I had known he would be a little cocky, but no, he had not really crossed the line. He wanted to impress me, and unlike me, he did not know he didn’t have to. Or did he?
The way he responded, I wasn’t sure whether he would be willing to admit to the dreams, but it was clear he had them, too. But really, he had, hadn’t he? He didn’t turn and run when I told him I had dreamed about him. He asked me how he knew me, and he practically said he knew me. I wonder if he has made the one connection I am sure of. Probably not, there’s enough difference in age, he might not think I knew her.
She would totally freak, no, Bethany, pay attention to the road, you’ve had enough to drink that a cop won’t hesitate to pull you over, and the insurance would kill, plus it isn’t exactly like you can call him to bail you out for a DUI. I turn off of Idaho, and the danger of getting pulled over passes, as I zip along the dirt road out to the trailer. Two turns, no traffic, it is almost automatic. I revisit the thought of Valerie.
She would freak out, completely come unglued. How many poets with dark hair and beautiful blue eyes could there have been in her class at Nevada? Especially ones who even ten years later carry themselves like jocks. Should I talk to her about it? Of course not, then if she still thinks she should have some claim on him, I would have to walk away, and after all, if the dreams are true, didn’t I really know him first?
Part of me wonders why he didn’t try harder to seduce me. I could feel the desire coming off of him. I guess that had to be enough. I take a moment to consider, Penny will probably be home, and probably still awake. Two drinks, is the smell still on my breath? Would she even notice? She has seemed more with it, more attuned to such things recently.
I stop the car short, about a half mile from the trailer. Had I really missed it? There isn’t the overwhelming smell of smoke in the trailer anymore. Had she actually quit smoking? She hasn’t been boozed up when I got home, or sleeping on the couch. How long has it been? Christmas, maybe? Really? After being her toughest critic for so long, shouldn’t I know if she has cleaned her act up?
I put the car in gear and speed the rest of the way. At least I don’t have to pack. I’d done it in the morning after the dream. Sure enough, he asked me to come with, didn’t he?
I pull up alongside Penny’s old beater and bring my bag along inside with me. She is still awake, another surprise.
“A little late tonight?” She asks lightly.
“I had a drink with a guy I met.” I answer.
“Not a customer?” She asks, wrinkling her nose a little.
“Of course not.” I hate how short I am being, but I can’t seem to help it.
“Was he cute?”
“What is this, twenty questions?” Again. What is up with the questions, and more to the point, what is up with my responding defensively?
“Just a little curious about my daughter, is that so wrong?”
“No, of course not,” I answer, softening my tone a little. “I’m going to be going out for the weekend, maybe into the middle of next week.”
“He must have been cute.” She teases.
“Who says it has anything to do with him?” I respond defensiveness rising in my voice, despite myself. Does she even notice?
“You’re late coming back from work for the first time since you moved home, you mention having met a guy for the first time since you got back from Las Vegas, am I supposed to think the two aren’t connected?”
I smile and maybe a little of it is the afterglow from meeting him, maybe I know I’m being too hard on her. The problem is, meeting him, as nice as it could be, I also know the flip side of the dreams, and there is a clock running. Does he know that part too?
“Of course, Mom. But he wants to get out early, so I really need to go to bed. Can we talk about it when I get back next week?”
She stands up. Again I notice, seemingly for the first time, she is really making an effort for the first time in a long time, because she comes over and kisses me on the forehead.
“Of course. Have a good time.”
But when I go into my room, I know sleep is going to be long in coming. I get out the diary and write to my little girl, who I will never know.
Rated 5 stars overall, readers are saying “a love story told in a completely different way.”
Click here to purchase on Amazon.