Our gentle kisses turn into something much more urgent, his grip on me tightens and soon the world around me is forgotten. Instead of fear, I feel frisky and I hope that he’ll give up on taking it slow and realize that slow and steady won’t win a race that isn’t being run… I’m his and I’m not going anywhere. With hope in my voice I look down at the man beneath me, I can feel the heat coming off of his body. “Babe?” It’s both question and plea and it’s apparently killed the moment. With a shake of his head Berjes pulls out of our embrace. He doesn’t have to say the words ‘not tonight’ ’cause I know that look in his eyes, it’s the same look he gives me every time he rejects my advances – guilty, lusty, torn but decided – oh how I hate that look! I spend the night wrapped in his arms regardless, being held tight against his him yet getting no satisfaction from it. One day he’ll have to say yes, one day he’ll have to tell me why I can’t get more than a kiss or a cuddle from him. Tonight, he’s keeping me safe from whatever it is that’s picking off the people of Sunset Valley.
The town being on night-time lock-down doesn’t really change my days all that much, it just means that I have no real job to go to. I can pick my hours, so long as the sun’s still out, but there are so many better places to be during the day than in a dingy theatre… Like the beach! Sure, Berjes won’t join be when I start to boil and run and cool off in the ocean, but he’ll laze around in the sand, reading and picnicking and generally goofing around. Sometimes we take in a movie or wander the streets and shops, but with the beach so close to home, it’s just terribly convenient.
Any days I don’t spend with Berjes (few and far between) I spend with mom, at the graveyard. Creepy place to hang out but it seems to bring her comfort and the more time she spends there the less brokenhearted she seems about dad… Gosh do I miss him, I have to admit that it’s nice to have an excuse to visit him, to talk to him… We were just starting to get to know each other and now he’s gone, except not gone. I can still feel him, sometimes, if we’re out too late, like he’s hovering and watching us, looking down on us with a smile.
I do go to work though, every now and then. I’m supposed to be scouting for new music, but there seems to be a complete lack of any talent coming through town. I can’t say I blame them, what with the lack of nightlife, but I do get excited for when someone does show up to play. Unfortunately, most of the bands are local folk who used to work the nightshift and now need a hobby or bottom of the barrel bands from Twinbrook who just want to be able to tell their buddies they went ‘on tour.’
If and when this curfew ever gets lifted, I don’t plan on being stuck in my position as talent scout, I can play a guitar a damn sight better than most people… I’ll just have to get used to playing in front of others. Hah. I can play for one now, but if there are two people in the room I pretty much meltdown. So, I spend my nights in my music room, strumming my guitar and pretending that I’m on stage, playing for a crowd. They go wild and scream my name and I can smile and wave instead of collapsing into a pile of helpless on the stage. Ahh… Daydreaming.
My ‘me’ moments are the moments of my day I truly treasure. Mom paints and Berjes cooks and I sit in front of the perfectly tuned grand piano and play. I’m transported back to being a teenager and playing along with my classical CDs except now I know each symphony by heart. Now I can feel each note reverberating through the strings and wood of my instrument, surrounding me like a melodic hug, soothing me. The music runs through me and my fingers move across the keys without me needing to give any conscious direction. Sometimes it’s the music I grew up with, sometimes it’s an interpretation of something I heard on the radio and sometimes the notes are all mine, flowing through my heart and soul on their way to my fingertips. With my hands dancing across the ivory, I forget myself. I put aside my job, my relationship, my stress, worries and concerns, my city disappears and it’s just me and the music.
Why do people always call my cellphone at ridiculous hours? I yawn my “hello?” into the phone, without checking the caller ID.
“We need to talk…”
“Huh? Wha…?” I rub sleep from my eyes to make sure that I’m reading the ID right, now that I’m concerned enough to look. It’s Berjes and I don’t like those words. “OK…”
“Can you come to the gallery? It’s important.”
“Yeah. Yes. I’ll… I’ll be right there. Is everythi-”
He cuts me off abruptly with a “See you soon.” and then he hangs up, leaving me terrified that everything is not OK. What did I do?!
I’m dressed in a heartbeat, I can’t remember pulling on my pants, it’s like I spun and was in a different outfit. I’m still spinning as I rush to the art gallery, frantic at the thought that this is the end of my relationship. Isn’t that what “we need to talk” usually means? He’s standing outside waiting for me and I drop a quick kiss on him, hoping for reassurance but he pulls – no jerks! – away from me, taking a step back and holding my hands. He looks as concerned as I feel as he leads me inside to have the dreaded talk. I’m on the verge of tears as I climb the stairs up to the display, ready to plead for yet another chance to fix whatever I must have broken.
Through blurry vision it’s hard to believe what I’m taking in, it’s the scents that convince me it’s real – lilacs and roses, lavender and… pancakes? “What…?” I’m dumbfounded, surrounding the pretty table are more flowers than I’ve seen before in my life, all eclipsing the beauty of the paintings and sculptures around them.
“Sorry if I scared you, Little.” Berjes says with a quiet laugh “I just wanted to surprise you… Surprise?”
Oh what I surprise! This is way better than breakfast in bed. My words come out breathy and ethereal, less real than the scene I still can’t quite take in. “It’s beautiful! Oh Berjes!”
Once I stop being dumbfounded, he leads me over to the table, holding my chair out for me and waiting until I’m settled before seating himself. We chit and we chat and we eat the most delightfully fluffy pancakes I’ve ever enjoyed. Every time I daze off, stunned by what he’s done for me, I earn myself a little pinch as my magnificent, wonderful, fantastic, lovely boyfriend convinces me that I’m not dreaming. It feels like a dream, the best dream ever, do I have to wake up? I manage, for maybe the first time in my life, to resist the temptation to lick my place clean of every crumb once we finish. I, rudely, leave Berjes at the table so that I can wander amongst the flowers, sniffing each bloom and admiring the colours. Suddenly, he’s behind me, I can feel his presence as much as his hands on my back. I spin and envelope him in a tight hug. “Oh Berjes,” I murmur into his shoulder “I don’t think today could get any better. I love you.”
“I love you too Little Lee.” He whispers back to me, his breath brushing past my ear. For a while we just stand there together, holding each other close and basking in the glow of our love. And then he lets go, stepping away from me abruptly and looking as concerned as I felt earlier today after getting his phone call.
In a movement so swift I think he’s falling, Berjes is lowering himself to his knees and digging into his pocket. The gears in my head start whirring… I’m supposed to get this, this is… Is he? “Berjes?”He is! “I want to wake up to you and I want to fall asleep with you and I want to spend every second in between with you. I want to see the world with you, I want to stay right here with you. I want to grow old with you… I want to marry you Lee and deep down in my heart I’ve known all my life that you were the only girl in the world for me. I’ll love you until the end of time, and even longer if I have anything to say about it. Marry me Lee? Be my wife?”How did I not see this coming!? He proposed… He proposed! I’m gonna be a fiancee! I’m going to be a wife! Oooh a wedding! Mr. Berjes Clarke… Why is he looking at me like that? Oh! OH! “Yes! Yes yes yes!” The band slips over my finger and I’m in heaven… Heaven with diamonds oh my! “I’ll marry you tomorrow if that’s what you want!”
We do decide that tomorrow is a little too soon, but all of a sudden life is rushing towards me. I’m engaged (I’m engaged!) and I have the Legacy and I have a house to build and a wedding to plan, I have no real job to speak of and neither does my fiance (my fiance!) since he also worked evenings but we do have all the love in the world. I’m so excited to begin planning our future, to stop thinking about just me and what I want and to be able to include the only man there’s ever been for me in every aspect of my life.
We jump right into the preparations for the wedding, forming a guest list and picking a time and place (right here at home), but that’s hardly the most stressful of the many detailed things on my plate. I’m determined to start my new life with Mr. Berjes Clarke (that sounds so good!) in a new house, something that’s just ours. Not my mothers, not mine, but ours. The thing is, if you’re trying to get two people to agree on one aesthetic style and how many bathrooms are necessary while another tries to give her sound wisdom on how many babies we need to have… The whole design process is pretty stressful! I constantly have not one but two people second guessing my decisions, though I suppose they both have the same…
My biggest concern is money. Mom says not to worry but dad was the breadwinner and mom was never really employed. I mean, she worked in the studio all the time, she still does, painting and sculpting and stuff but how much money can a couple of topiary’s and a still-life bring in? For sure not as much as they’re worth, every time we visit the consignment store I’m sure mom’s getting ripped off… I can just see it in that guys eye – like he’s taking a bigger cut than he deserves.
“So you’ll let me know if I’ve missed anything?”
“And you won’t mess up the grass too much?”
“Of course, ma’am… You’re going to be getting married here soon, wouldn’t want a messed up yard, would we?”
“And you’ll sa-”
“Yes ma’am, we’ll save the bricks. I promise you, we’ll take care of everything you’ve asked. Everything.”
I take one more look around the house I grew up in, empty except for wallpaper. There’s a tear in my eye as I walk out the front door for the last time, demolition starts tomorrow and unless I turn around and run back in, this is goodbye. “Goodbye home…”
For at least a little while, my home will be with Berjes and his family. If home is where the heart is, like they say, then my home will be with Berjes forever, but for now I’m living with him and his half sister and her friend. The town home is so much smaller than the mansion I grew up in, but it’s constantly full of noises and bustle and hustle and the smell of my fiance’s (my fiance!) amazing cooking. He knows his way around the kitchen as well as mom knows her way around ours. I’m getting used to having a handsome man cook my meals for me, even if he won’t serve them to me in bed.
The next time we visit the lot that home is built on, it looks nothing like home. Lily and Connor’s room is still standing, and the studio too, but where our couch used to sit? Mud. Staircase? Mud. Kitchen? Mud. They’ve promised to make sure all is in order for the wedding but this much mud makes me nervous. It may be a fairly casual wedding I’m planning, but I’m still wearing a long white dress! This mud had better be gone.
“… The next thing you know, Lee’s squealing a high-C and Adam’s still chasing her around the house with the worms!”
“He does that to the kids too! I guess he’ll never grow up?”
“Jess, Adam is my twin and I’ll tell you one thing, the man is evil!”
“Yeah, but he’s hot!”
Make a note: this is the first time Kaitlin and I have ever done anything in unison. Mark the occasion. Together we squeal our high-Cs “Eeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Jess!! He’s our brother!” and then, the three of us, myself, my sister and my sister-in-law(/boss) burst into laughter. This is not an afternoon I’ll forget.
The panic I felt when Kai shoved an outfit into my hands this morning and demanded I get ready to go out is long forgotten amongst the laughter of my surprise-bachelorette party at Corriente. Jess, of all people, is the one who planned it, the one who invited all my female family and friends – mom and Millie, Laurie and some girls from high-school and work. It’s a huge party and it’s all for me! We’re giddy with excitement and sticky from sparkling nectar. I have been praised and embarrassed by just about everyone here and for once in my life, I’m relishing being the center of attention. Maybe it’s the nectar from the ride over? Music is pumping through the club, just for us, I have blisters on my feet from the worst shoes ever and my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard. Just as I’m finally catching my breath, finally getting used to being here after two hours, the rest of the girls start hooting and hollering… I really should be paying more attention to what’s going on around me!
“Take it off!”
“Show some skin, suga!”
Our catcalls fill our lounge as the two ‘dancers’ gyrate their way from guest to guest, always making their way back to me. They’ve got my heart pounding and my blood racing, I’ll tell you that. My face is flushed from nectar, embarrassment and well… Have you seen these guys?! Part of me wants to take one (or both) home with me, this is more skin that I’ve seen of my fiances, but I love Berjes and I’m gonna go home to him and see all of him that I want! In the meantime, I sure know how to enjoy this.
“Shake that ass!”
“That’s the stuff! SHAKE IT!”
Ooooh… I like the shaking.
I get home more than a little tipsy, later than we should have been and with gropey fingers and seductive words. My lovely, sweet, kinda, prude of a fiance does not give in to my dulcet tones and fumbling grasps. He makes me laugh ’til I almost wet myself, he cooks me a dinner that’s so heavy I don’t want to move and then, when I finally get him to the bedroom, he somehow coerces me into a pillow fight instead of a tumble. Am I pissed? A bit. But he makes up for it by ‘letting’ me win. I may still be frustrated, but at least I get to smack him over the head a couple dozen times!This is my last night as Miss Lee Clarke. At least tomorrow when I wear my white dress I’m not breaking any customs or traditions or whatever. And tomorrow night? No excuses!