Catch up here.
The water cools my skin as I step in and wade out to J.D. with Ethan on his hip in waist-deep water at Magic Island.
“Mommy’s here!” J.D. says excitedly and points to me.
Ethan turns his head. “Mommy!” he squeals, pumping his arms up and down while giggling.
I hold my arms out to him with a big smile on my face. He throws himself at me nearly flying off J.D.’s hip and I catch him under his arms. I lower us down to our necks in the water then bring him close to kiss his nose and push him back out while making a surprised look. He giggles again and smacks the water with his palms. I turn him around to face J.D. and throw him through the water. J.D. scoops him up, tosses him in the air, and catches him. Ethan shrieks with glee.
Karen is arranging trays of food on the picnic table when we return. Patrick is manning the grill and Rick holds an empty aluminum tray next to him. Lolo and Lola sit on the side in folding chairs watching the massive game of volleyball between Brad, George, Mundo, my uncles, aunties, and cousins.
Jessie and Nancy, a doctor and nurse couple J.D. works with, arrive before Patrick has all the food off the grill. Jessie is as tall as J.D. and trim with short greying ocher hair. Nancy is a few inches taller than me with long bleach blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail.
J.D. sits on the grass with Ethan shirtless in his lap after we eat. I hold the white cupcake with white frosting and the birthday candle just out of Ethan’s reach as we sing Happy Birthday. J.D. helps him blow out the candle while everyone cheers. I remove the candle then move the cupcake in closer. Ethan smashes it with both hands. He looks at his sugary cream coated hands in wonderment then shoves his right hand in his mouth.
Tommy arrives while we are packing up. I punch his bicep. “So late, you,” I give him a hard time. I point with my chin towards J.D. and Ethan. “Go play with your nephew.”
He pulls me into a hug and kisses my cheek. “Sorry, Sis.”
I am nestled between J.D.’s arm and torso in bed. My right hand rests flat against his chest.
“What do you think about another baby?” he asks, running his middle finger in light circles on my shoulder.
I tip my face up to his and stroke his jawline. “Are you sure?”
“As sure as I was sitting on Waikiki Beach asking you for a second chance.”
“Let’s do it.”
He rolls me onto my back. “Are you sure?”
I use my hip and leg to turn reverse position then straddle his hips. I position my hands on either side of his head and he runs his hands along my hips. “As sure as I was when I agreed to give you a second chance.” I descend greedily upon his mouth.
He sits up and runs his hands up my back. I run my fingers through his wavy locks and he trails soft kisses down my neck setting off the butterflies inside.
J.D. winces from the shock of leaving the air conditioned hospital for the heat and humidity of paradise. He stops in his tracks at the sight of Lance leaning with his back against the building and his hands shoved in his jeans pockets.
J.D. stiffens. “What the fuck do you want?”
“Same thing I’ve always wanted,” Lance answers casually.
“She doesn’t love you.”
“She might feel differently with you out of the picture.”
“Are you threatening me?”
Lance peels himself off the wall. “If that’s what you want to call it.”
J.D. clenches his jaw. “You need help.”
“That’s what I was trying to do before Ari took out the protective order.”
“Is that why you waited for her to leave once you found out she works there?”
“I was trying to talk to her!” he shouts, taking a step towards J.D. “She had to go and act like I was trying to kill her!”
“What else would she think you were trying to do after all those months stalking her with dead roses, calling her, and harassing her in public?” J.D. returns with the same volume. “Or did you forget the last time we saw you, you were arrested for assaulting her?”
Lance’s eyes go dark and a malevolent grin spreads across his lips. “I forgot how soft her skin is and how she smells like white ginger. The night in jail was worth remembering that.” He takes a step towards J.D. and says provokingly, “I remember the first time we made love. All I could smell was white ginger for days.”
“Looks like I’m the one who gets the sweet smell of white ginger every day,” J.D. fires back.
“I was her first.” Lance takes another step forward.
“Do you really think I care who her first was?” J.D. steps back.
“That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
Lance lunges forward and J.D. turns to flee inside. The automatic door sighs open and cold air blasts him as he crosses the threshold. Lance tackles him around the legs. J.D. throws his hands out to break his fall. He kicks his feet and rolls over as he hits the floor.
Lance releases J.D.’s legs and scrambles on all fours. J.D. shoves his right foot into Lance’s left shoulder. Lance stumbles then gathers himself, launches off his feet, and punches J.D. in the face with his right hand as he falls on top of him. J.D. grabs a fistful of Lance’s hair and punches Lance in the eye.
Two police officers run around the corner from the emergency room as J.D. winds up for another hit. They secure Lance under his arms and haul him outside.
J.D. finds Nancy in the hall. “Would you call Ari for me and let her know I’m running late, please?”
“I thought you were already gone,” she states then winces as she catches sight of his red left cheek. “What happened to your face?”
“Long story, but please don’t mention it to her.”
“Okay, James. My lips are sealed.”
“Thanks, Nance. I owe you.”
“You owe me a lot already,” she reminds him jokingly.
“I am forever in your debt,” he responds theatrically and opens his arms wide then bows while walking backwards.
Eddie Vedder sings as I sit on the futon with my knees pulled up to my chest, a glass of wine in my left hand and the book, V, in my right hand.
“Hold me darling, just a little while”
I held her close, I kissed her our last kiss
I found the love that I knew I had missed
The deadbolt clicks and I glance up with a smile. J.D. walks through the door hunched over with a swollen cheek. I toss the book aside and set my glass on the end table while I stand. I meet him as he kicks off his shoes. He grabs my face between his hands and covers my face with desperate kisses.
“Baby, you’re scaring me.”
He enfolds me in his arms. “I’m sorry, babes.”
I pull back and cup his jawline with both hands studying his face. “Did a patient do that?”
“Lance was waiting for me.”
I tense as tears rise and run my fingertips along his hairline.
“I’m okay, babes,” he says wiping my tears away. “It felt good to finally hit that crazy ass mother fucker.”
Lance is waiting with his hands behind his back as I leave work with Rob escorting me to my car. I pivot on my heels, return to my office, and listen to Marvelous 3.
I guess I met the Devil
But I sure didn’t know no better
Rob calls twenty minutes later to tell me the police picked up Lance.
Johnny’s lament seeps through the door when I arrive home.
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am
J.D. is on the floor with Ethan playing with wooden blocks. They face the door as I step inside and both sets of eyes light up.
“Mommy!” Ethan clambers to his feet and runs across the room reaching his arms out to me.
I kick off my heels and squat down holding my arms out. He grabs me around the neck. I draw him close and close my eyes, breathing him in.
Ethan unwinds his arms and pulls my blouse. “’Mere, Mommy.”
“Okay, sweetie.” I lean over to exchange a light kiss with J.D. as I sit down.
“What’s wrong?” he asks quietly as he rests his forehead on mine.
“Not in front of Ethan,” I whisper.
Ethan takes my hand and drops a block in it.
J.D. gives Ethan his bath while I put dinner in the oven. We read Ethan a book in bed then tuck him in.
I turn on the hot water and step into the shower. I close my eyes and tilt my head back under the gushing water.
The shower curtain rustles behind me a few minutes later as I hang the washcloth on the shower caddy. J.D. reaches over me for the shampoo. His fingers massage the foamy liquid into my scalp with a firm pressure that forces me to lower my eyelids and let the tension go.
He spins me around and rinses out my hair. His mouth is on mine as he massages conditioner in and I open up to a passionate fire. I circle my arms around his neck and he lifts me by my thighs, pinning me against the wall. He runs his tongue below my ear and I gasp sharply.
“Dinner,” I say breathily.
“Oven’s off,” he answers and covers my mouth again.
Bernard Sumner is backed by synthesizers singing a tale of a Bizarre Love Triangle while I rinse dishes and J.D. loads them in the dishwasher.
“They need to lock him up and throw away the key already,” J.D. says frustrated.
“What about changing jobs?” J.D. suggests.
“I’m not going to let him run my life.”
“He already is. The nightmares are in full-force, neither of us gets a full night’s sleep, and you’re always on edge wondering when he’ll show up.”
“I can’t control them. You know that,” I retort.
“I know, babes,” he says compassionately. “But they stopped when you were in D.C. and started again when he showed up at your office.”
“I’m not doing it,” I insist, turning off the water and taking a sip of my wine.
“Dammit, Ari! You’re not invincible!” he shouts and slams the dishwasher door closed. “This is our family! You can’t take these risks and be cavalier with your safety like you did back in college!”
“That’s not fair!” I bark back.
“You know what I meant,” he says lowering his voice.
“No. Explain it to me,” I say sourly and lean back against the counter with my arms crossed, wine glass in hand.
He leans against the opposite counter and pushes the heel of his hands behind him on the edge. “Forget your pride for a moment and think about me and Ethan. We need you. It’s not just about you anymore. He always finds a way to get to you and he got to me. The protective order means nothing to him. He does the mandatory thirty days and pays his fine each time then resumes stalking you.”
“This is my home.”
“You left before.”
“I knew I was coming back!” I yell.
“Babes, stop being inflexible and be realistic. Please,” he begs. “We can’t keep going on like this. We have to do something.” He reaches out and caresses my upper arm. “Leaving doesn’t mean you’re running away like your parents did. They couldn’t cope. We need to be safe. Two different things.”
“I fucking hate when you’re right,” I mutter. “I won’t leave again though. I want our kids to grow up with family nearby.”
“We could go to the outer islands.”
My eyes light up. “You’re a genius, baby.”
©Debi Smith, 2013