Catch up here.
“Ari,” a hushed voice calls and a hand nudges my shoulder. “Babes, wake up.”
“What time is it?” I drone. I blink my eyes open to find J.D. stooped over the bed wearing light blue scrubs over grey long underwear.
“Too early. I need to leave and I didn’t want you to wake up disoriented your first morning here.”
“How thoughtful,” I yawn.
“There’s coffee left in the pot and yesterday’s paper is on the table.” He leans in and leaves a kiss on my lips. “Go back to sleep, babes. I’ll see you tonight.”
It is late morning when I wake again and leave the warmth of the bed.
The studio is long with an angled wall at the end. An afterthought of a square kitchen is on the right when you walk in the front door. The bathroom and a walk-in closet on the left. A separate area for the bed and a closet is in the acute angle of wall past the bathroom.
I settle at J.D.’s desk to the right of the sliding glass door for the balcony with my coffee and the paper. I rifle through a drawer for a pen then open up the Classifieds.
The front door opens later that evening while I add salt to the beef stew. I twist my head around and watch J.D. walk through. “Hi, baby.” A whisper of a smile plays on my lips.
He does a double take while removing his charcoal grey pea coat. “Are you wearing my sweats?”
I look down at the oversized dark grey Georgetown University sweats, sleeves and pant legs rolled up and waistband rolled down. “Looks like it. I was freezing.”
J.D. enters the kitchen, spins me around then covers my mouth hungrily. He lets the kiss come to a natural end and rests his forehead on mine. “They look better on you.”
“I need to go shopping.” I return to the stew and stir the spoon around once then pick out the bay leaf, setting it on the counter.
He wraps his arms around my waist and rests his chin on my shoulder. “I’ll get the metro map out for you. It’s easier than the bus in this weather. I should be off early Friday. I’ll take you down to my bank and get you added to my account.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Babes, we’re getting married. Why shouldn’t I?”
I set the spoon on the counter and turn back to him laying my palms on his chest. “I’m still getting used to this. You had everything planned out in your head way ahead of me. Me coming out here until I start school. Getting married.”
“You said yes to both.”
“I know I did. You’re missing my point. You’ve been thinking about this longer than I have. Go ahead, add me to your account on Friday. Just don’t be surprised at the moments when I have to reorient myself to you changing from the man I’m dating to my fiancé. And when we’re home this Summer, I’ll add you to my account.”
J.D. changes out of his scrubs while I dish out the stew and set the bowls on the old Formica table.
“Lola called and said we need to pick a date. Now,” I tell him once we’re both seated.
“If you want to get married this Summer during your rather short break, yes.”
“June 26th. We can have the rest of the two weeks as our honeymoon before I have to be back for school.”
“I’ll call her after dinner.”
“Where are we getting married?”
“Papohaku Beach.” My face breaks out into a wide grin.
Delicate white crystalline flakes cover the National Mall. Snow crunches under our boots with each step. I shiver under J.D.’s arm as we approach the Washington Monument.
“Why was this a good idea again?” I ask, my teeth chattering. “Can’t we do this in the Spring?”
“You’ll see when we pass the monument,” he answers.
We stop at the end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool after passing the Washington Monument. The frozen water in the pool is grey and glassy. The grounds and war memorials are blanketed in white.
Serenity fills me as I take it in. I forget I can’t feel my nose or chin and let the feeling wash through me.
J.D. leads me to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We stroll reverently by the wall until J.D. stops and brushes frost off a name.
JAMES C MASTERS
“My dad’s best friend,” he says quietly. “e nI have memories of him before they left.”
“Rick started drinking when he came back and Jack didn’t,” I surmise.
He tips his head down to me. “You’re good at this.” He winks.
“Just paying attention.” I smile in return. “How often do you come here?”
“Once a month.”
“We’ll bring flowers next time.”
I head to the apartment building from the car and something cold and wet hits the back of my head then seeps into my hat and my hair. I whirl around and J.D. is bent over, hands on his knees while laughing. I squat, scoop up some snow, pack it between my hands, and smash it in his face.
“Ariana!” he yells, wiping snow off his face.
“Not so funny now, is it?”
He lunges for me and I shriek, running for the front door. He catches me around the waist and lifts me off the ground spinning.
I exit the mental health inpatient unit pulling out the scrunchy holding my hair in a knot in the back of my head. J.D. is waiting for me, pea coat in hand. I grin wide at the unexpected sight. “Hey. What are you doing here?”
“I thought you might like a ride home instead of taking the metro.”
“I’ll take a ride from you anytime.”
We walk through the hospital sharing our day with each other. He shucks off his white coat and I hold it while he pulls on his pea coat.
“I want to meet your parents,” he states while waiting for a light to turn in stop-and-go traffic.
I stare at him. “That’s not a good idea.”
“We’re getting married. I really should meet them,” he insists.
“You thought I should give Lance a second chance. Look how well that turned out,” I say touchily.
“They’re your parents.”
I shift in my seat to face him. “I was seven when we moved to Georgia. I didn’t make friends because I was too different and they didn’t care. I was alone. I called Lolo one day at the end of the school year and cried. They sent me back home without protest.
“They like their insulated life without us intruding on it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” he asks sorrowfully and takes my hand.
“Because the family that matters to me is back on Moloka`i, the guys, and you.”
“I want to take you to New York City to meet Tommy then.”
“I’d love to meet Tommy,” I respond with a smile.
“Next month? Drive up on a Friday after school and work and come back Sunday?”
“Sounds like a plan. I’ll take that Friday off.”
A five-foot ten-inch, straight blonde hair with hazel eyes version of J.D. approaches us in the hotel lobby. His lips curl up and his arms open. “Jack!”
J.D. clasps his arms around his brother and they pound each other on the back. “Looking good, Tommy!”
“You must be Ari,” he says playfully pushing J.D. away and focusing his attention on me. He draws me in, squeezing me against his chest. “I hope you’re hungry after your drive. Best burgers are in the Village.”
Shakespeare’s is a hole-in-the-wall. Two-tops circle the bench seating running along the walls except for the opening connecting the restaurant to the ice cream shop next door and the area leading into the kitchen. The server pulls a table out for me and J.D. to get to the bench then pushes it back in. Tommy sits across from J.D.
Juice drips onto my plate from my burger after taking my first bite.
“Hey, Tommy,” J.D. says nervously. “Would you be my best man?”
“Hell yeah!” he answers excitedly and punches J.D. in the shoulder.
Tommy spends the next day taking us sightseeing then to Phantom of the Opera.
“Tell me, dear sister,” Tommy says slipping his arm through mine while we wait for J.D. in the lobby of the Majestic Theater after the show, “what happened back in college? Jack was a total mess after you broke up.”
“He didn’t tell you?”
I summarize the last week of school nearly four years ago and the party months later for Tommy.
“My brother’s an ass.”
“I’m what?” J.D. asks as he nears us rubbing his hands together. He takes my left hand into his and stares at Tommy.
“Ari told me what you did back in college. I’m surprised she took you back and agreed to marry you,” he teases.
“I’m a luckier guy than you,” he retorts and pats Tommy on the cheek with his free hand.
“Yeah, so Dad keeps saying. I don’t think anyone I meet will ever measure up to Ari.”
“Oh, please,” I mutter.
“I mean it, Ari. He couldn’t stop talking about you when he came to visit two months ago.”
I shift on my feet between them. “I need to try the New York cheesecake I keep hearing about.”
The phone jangles as J.D. walks through the door and he picks it up, “Hello?” He is silent for a moment then comes to me in the kitchen and holds the phone out.
“Who is it?” I mouth.
“I don’t recognize his voice,” he whispers.
I set my water on the counter and take the phone. “Hello?”
“Ariana,” the deep male voice says.
“Dad,” I return flatly.
J.D.’s eyes widen. I shoulder past him to the living room and pace.
“Who answered the phone? And when did you move to D.C.?” he asks rapidly
“My fiancé and the beginning of the year.”
“You’re getting married?”
“Don’t act like you didn’t get the invitation. I know Lola sent you one. Not that any of us expect you and Mom to be there.”
The line is silent.
“Why did you call?” I ask gruffly.
“Your mom passed away.”
I stop pacing and clamp my teeth together. I glance at J.D. leaning against the kitchen doorway. He uncrosses his arms and I shake my head at him.
“The funeral was yesterday,” he announces casually.
“And you’re telling me this now?” I ask raising my voice.
“I didn’t have your number.”
“You pick up the phone and call home!” I rebuke.
“No! Don’t ‘Ariana’ me,” I snap. “You two never took an interest in my life. You didn’t even care enough to call me before yesterday so I could arrange to be there! Why are you even bothering?”
“I want to see you.”
“Then hop in your car or buy a ticket. I refuse to spend my hard earned money to be ignored.”
“I’ll pay for your ticket,” he offers.
“You come here if you really want to see me. Or you fly home for the wedding next month.”
“You’re all I have left.”
“No. You have a family back home you’ve ignored, too! You have parents who miss you. You have brothers and a sister who don’t understand how you can turn your back on all of us. You have nieces and nephews who don’t even know who you are.”
“Then we’re done!” I disconnect the call then toss the phone on the sofa and rub my forehead. “Fucking bastard!”
J.D. strolls over to me. “Hey,” he says softly, taking my hands and pulling me into his embrace.
“He calls the day after my mom’s funeral to tell me she died.” I hook my arms up and rest my hands on his shoulders.
“I’m sorry, babes.” He kisses the top of my head.
“I don’t even feel anything about her dying. I’m just angry at him.”
“Maybe I need to take your mind off that anger.” He walks backwards to the bed with me still in his arms.
He sits on the foot of the bed and pulls my left knee to him, stroking up the side to my thigh. “I never got a proper welcome.” He strips off his scrub top, takes me by the waist, and flips me onto the bad under him. He weedges his left knee between my legs and brings his face in an inch from mine. “Last one to the tennis court pays for dinner and The Crow.” He smacks his lips against mine then springs off the bed for the closet.
©Debi Smith, 2013