Jeanette hands me a cup of coffee and I move back a little, making room for her to sit in front of me on our back porch, offering her my hand as she steps gracefully over one of the planters. It’s mid-summer and our yard is a riot of the pink daisies she loves so much. They fill every planter and space in the garden now, and I know that she still loves to sit back here. She kicks off her heels and stretches her toes out in front of her, pressing herself into my chest. Her laugh is still a deep purr that can be felt right through her back. “Do we have time to fool around before she gets here?”
My hand strokes over her belly, something I never get tired of doing. I love her belly; I always have, no matter what she thinks of it some days. “You know we can never be quick.” I grin as I pull her a little tighter to me. “Or quiet, beautiful Jeanette.” I laugh along with her, nuzzling through the delicate hairs at the nape of her neck. Her hair is still dark back here, still a rich chocolate black that now reaches all the way to her waist.
I remember her quick burst of tears at the first white hairs. Jeanette was never a vain woman, but she still cried at that, knowing how much I love her hair. I had known how upset she was and had bought her flowers; coming home early to take her out for dinner and dancing, just in time to stop her from dying it. She’s so beautiful; everything about her is beautiful, and I love her even with white hair. It was hard for her to get used to though, and I know that it upset her for months, to look at her hair but in time I let her know with every act, every word, that I love her that way too. She’s still my beautiful Jeanette.
I’ve had a few moments of my own like that; where I saw things in the mirror I didn’t want to see. A crazy diet I went on fifteen years ago until I realized that I could either keep trying to suck in my gut, kidding myself I could wear the same pant size, or I could love Jeanette’s cooking. I couldn’t do both. Alvarez said it in more colorful terms, something about getting my head out of my ass; did I really want to NOT eat her cooking? There’s no way I could do that. The diet lasted about a week, and I decided to run four days a week instead of three and not worry about it so much. My hand strokes through her hair, taking out her ponytail holder and running my fingers through it. I’ve always shaved my head but I’ve been noticing for the past few years that there’s less and less of it I have to shave every year. We’ve both had a few of those moments over the past twenty two years.
This never changes though. My hand strokes over her belly, her own hand covering mine so that our rings will click together. That’s something that’s ours alone. We’ll be somewhere and just reach out, letting our hands brush over each other until our rings touch, making time stop for that one fraction of a second. It’s a breath, in the middle of everything else. That warm metallic click that will put everything in perspective.
I whisper in her ear, letting my lips brush against the skin. “Ariel will be here any minute, remember how it used to creep her out when we kissed like this, ‘Nette?”
She arches her neck a little more to give me room to suck and kiss a trail down the line of her throat, nipping just once, sharply, when I get to the sensitive spot where her neck and shoulder meet. I watch as her toes curl, her whole body shuddering lightly. If only we really did have the time. Her face breaks into a mischievous grin, thinking of Ariel as a teenager, coming out to the backyard for something. She had righteous indignation down to a fine art, coupled with an “ewww, gross!” that could be heard all over the house. “We could really creep her out, Sean, and tell her how she ended up with a name like Ariel.”
Her sensual laugh fills all the space around us. “Didn’t we make some sort of a pact?” She just looks up at me and grins. We did make a pact. If Ariel ever found out, she would probably change her name. I know she could never look at us again, not in the same way anyway. I kiss Jeanette softly, so I won’t mess up her make-up, and we’re both lost in thought for a few minutes, thinking of Ariel, our oldest girl, who just turned twenty.
It was the first spring after we were married, and we were going on vacation again. If I had been excited the first time, then there were no words for what I felt as we planned for that second vacation. When we booked as Mr. and Mrs. Vetter. We kept everything, just loving to look at both of our names side by side like that. We still have all of it, in a chocolate box that we keep in our bedroom. To this day the sight of my name next to hers still gives me butterflies.
We were going to Hawaii for two weeks. I was so worried, knowing that she really didn’t like to fly, but she was so excited too, and she really wanted to go. We had so many things that we had planned to do. Jeanette had never been out of the country before, and while Hawaii wasn’t technically out of the country, it was close enough to count. Needless to say, Alvarez was ecstatic, and grinned like a loony when he asked if we would bring him back a real Hawaiian shirt. We did that and more, bringing him back a big tiki that Adriana still says to this day he won’t take down.
It made me laugh to think of all the tiny planes and helicopters I had been on, but I had never been on a plane this big before, and it made me nervous. Funny, because being on a bigger plane put Jeanette more at ease. We had originally intended to just take a cheaper flight, but everyone pitched in and insisted we take first class, which was a new experience for us both. The free champagne helped with our nerves and about halfway through the flight it was hard for us to keep our hands off each other.
“Do you remember what we talked about on our flight back?” I didn’t need to elaborate; as I looked into her eyes I knew she remembered it very well. I could make her forget all about this flight too. We had both been thinking it, and it wasn’t just a case of too much champagne.
There was a moment of perfect clarity between us, as we looked deep into each other. The tip of her tongue traced over her lip before she pulled it in with her teeth, and let it go. Her voice had trembled slightly at first, when she turned to me and said her diaghram was packed with the rest of her bags. It was one of those moments when everything else disappeared; a moment in time that meant so much more than what it appeared. I asked her if she was okay with it. I knew I would wait for her, forever if need be, if she said no, but she whispered ‘yes’, leaning in to kiss me.
No one paid any attention to us as we made our way to the tiny bathroom, and lost ourselves in each other. We made love still mostly dressed, as it was an awkward place, with her balanced on the edge of the small sink. It didn’t matter; from the moment we touched it was something so much more. We made love hard, and I held her still as she came, her scream muffled in our kiss which ended up making us both laugh, just a little, as she came down from it. I cupped her jaw in one hand and pulled back a little to watch her. Our eyes held each other as I slowed down so I wouldn’t come right away. Then we made love slowly, quietly, and with a purpose, never once looking away from each other. My last coherent thought before I came was to please let me give her a little girl.
It was two weeks after we got back home again that we found out she was pregnant. After the plane we had made love every day after that without protection, but I didn’t need to count back dates to know when it happened. Our little Ariel was conceived on the flight to Hawaii. We didn’t know she was Ariel yet, or that she was even a she, but I knew I loved her.
I’ve always loved Jeanette’s belly. Even when we were first together, I loved to trace over the faint silvery marks across her stomach and hips, a reminder of her daughter Emily. I loved to watch her belly grow. We would sit out here on the back porch, exactly like we are now, and I would run my hand over her belly.
I’ll never forget the moment I felt her kick. She was wearing my t-shirts by then, and I slid my hand underneath to run my hand over her belly, fascinated by how big she was. It was the strangest thing, to think of another little person in there. She kicked hard, her little foot pushing against my hand. I didn’t want to let go and left my hand there, until she kicked me again in a little flutter. Touching a pregnant woman’s belly once could never prepare me for the feel of my own child kicking me. Neither of us knew whether Ariel would be a boy or a girl at that point, but right then I knew she was mine. She was someone Jeanette and I had made, someone that was both of us. It hit me so hard right then, we were going to have a baby. I had always said that ‘we’ were pregnant but I never felt it, really felt it with every fiber of my being, until then. Jeanette’s hands covered mine, soothing me, as I cried into her neck for a few moments, completely overwhelmed and overcome.
I thought nothing could ever compare to that feeling, until the day I got called at work that Jeanette had gone into labor. I have always thought of Jeanette as brave but seeing her slicked in sweat, straining to give birth, I realized just how brave. I watched our baby being born, and her first cry nearly made me buckle. A nurse made me sit down when I held her for the very first time. Her pinched up face still full of fury the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. A little girl. We had a little girl.
Jeanette and I had kidded around about names, and the fact of where our baby was conceived had us come up with Ariel; the both of us laughing hard at the thought. When she was born, Jeanette and I looked at each other, with our little girl between us, and knew that she would be Ariel to us forever, and so that’s what we named her. We may not ever be able to tell her why we called her Ariel, but that’s another matter.
Angela, my little angel, came almost three years after that. I had given her two little girls. Angela was all mine. She would quiet when I held her, and I would walk with her forever, long after she had fallen asleep and I didn’t have to do it anymore. When they grew to be teenagers and would yell and fight with each other and it was hard to be in the same room with them, I would remember holding Jeanette on the back porch, and the feel of those kicks against her belly. Holding them as babies. The first time they called me Dad.
Ariel went on to go to Berkeley, and Angela left to live on her own six months ago. I came home after work one day to find her in Angela’s room crying. It was hard for her, for both of us, to have them out of the house. I’m not ashamed to say that I got her drunk, right on this very back porch, and made love to her. We hadn’t done that in years, it’s difficult with kids in the house, and we both laughed hysterically when the coyotes sang to us, with us, again. Some things never change. The girls know to knock now before they come in. The house is ours again.
Ariel had gone to visit Rachel, Hicks’ and Candice’s daughter, when she started going to school at Berkeley, and the two women became friends. Angela, sixteen at the time, wanted to visit with her sister, and so we sent her out there with Sandro, so that he would look out for her. Rachel and Sandro had first met, when they were both ten, at our wedding. They had gone out to see a movie a few years after that when Hicks and the family stayed with us for a long weekend. When they saw each other again I guess it was fate, and he asked her to marry him.
Jeanette and I share one last kiss when Ariel knocks on the door, grinning at each other when she knocks on the kitchen door before she comes out on the porch. She’s definitely ours all right. Ariel looks so much like her mother. Her hair is shorter, cut to her jawline, and she has a ring in her nose, but she still looks so much like Jeanette. She loves the white in her mother’s hair, and keeps trying to convince her to let her “do something” with it. I heard the color pink mentioned once. Ariel hasn’t managed to wear her down yet, but every time she asks, I think Jeanette gets a little closer to letting her. I look at Ariel now, and it’s not hard to imagine Jeanette when she was younger.
Jeanette and I make a fuss about who gets to sit in the front seat and talk to her. I want her to, and she wants me to. Ariel rolls her eyes at the both of us and Jeanette wins. There isn’t a guy out there that can tell me it’s any different in his house, if there are women in it. I love hearing about her life out there. Jeanette’s never lived in California, so Ariel and I talk about restaurants and other places. She makes a point of not talking about boyfriends, knowing that it makes me twitch. I’m her father, I can’t help it. To me she’s always going to be my little girl. She tells Jeanette though.
When we finally get to the reception hall, I give Angela, who is already there, a huge hug, amazed by how much my heart hurts for missing her. I want to tell her to move back in; I don’t like where she’s living, but Jeanette keeps telling me I can’t meddle. I look up towards the table with the punch glasses; Ariel even has her mother’s laugh, and the rich sound of it can’t be missed as the two women stand close to each other talking. Boyfriends.
Everyone is here. Alvarez and Adriana, Miguel and of course Sandro. Hicks, Candice and Rachel; Ariel and Angela. All of their friends have shown up too, and the tiny reception hall is packed, with the dance floor jumping to something even living with two girls can’t make me recognize. Dan waves at us from the other side. His wife is nearly due, and he won’t leave her side for anything, and definitely not in the midst of all these people. I don’t know how much Alvarez has had; people keep buying him drinks and I think he’s lost count by now, so, holding onto Alvarez, we make our way through all the young people to give our best to Dan and his wife.
I need to get Alvarez some fresh air, because I’m not going to be able to get people to stop buying drinks for him. It’s cool out back in the shade, and we sit on the edge of a concrete barrier between the hall and the parking lot. He hasn’t stopped grinning. “How the hell do they grow up so fast, Vetter?”
“I haven’t figured that one out myself.” We both laugh pretty hard, finishing the last of the drinks we brought with us. We’ve had this conversation before, a few times; I have little girls after all. I’ll never know how the hell they grow up so fast. “Jeanette and I want to pay for the wedding, when it’s time.” I know that if I try to tell him when he’s sober, he’ll try to talk me out of it, but if I can get him to agree now, it’ll be harder to turn it down later. Even half cut, he tries to tell me that I don’t have to, but I just grin back at him, pulling him into a hug. “You’re my best friend, Alvarez, and I’ll owe you forever. We’re doing this. Let us do this, all right?”
I keep my arm across his shoulders as we sit back again. I would do it anyway, but right now I think it might be the only thing keeping him from falling into the parking lot. He’s not going to be grinning tomorrow morning. He swirls the last of his melted ice in the bottom of the cup before looking over at me. “All right Vetter, but I want a BIG wedding. A Hawaiian wedding, with torches and a roast pig and everything.”
His crazy laugh is infectious, and anyone coming out the back doors would think we were a couple of crazy drunks out here. “If you can get Rachel and Sandro to go for it, sure. Adriana might kill you though. Me too probably; she still hasn’t forgiven us for that damned tiki in your front room.” We go back inside with Alvarez running ideas past me for a tiki bar and a bevy of those Hawaiian dancers. Adriana is definitely going to kill me.
By the time we’ve gone back inside, the younger people are mingling by an appetizer table, and the band is playing music you can actually dance to. I danced with Rachel first, remembering the last time I had danced with her, all those years ago when Jeanette and I had visited and we danced on the beach. She’s thirty now, not eight, but I find it hard not to picture her as a little girl, all skinny arms and legs. Jeanette is dancing with Sandro; he was a teenager before he got over his crush on her; maybe he never did. They float in a swirl of red and I let Rachel go, so that she can dance with Alvarez. I dance with Angela, my angel, next, and then with Ariel, whispering to her before we break to get the band to play something for me. She smiles at me, that beautiful smile that is so much like her mothers’. “You two are adorable, you know that, Dad?” I grin back at her. I still love hearing her call me Dad, that’s never going to change either.
I remember the first time I danced with Jeanette, on my back porch. She had said she wasn’t a very good dancer but that she would follow me if I led her. When our girls were old enough we would have Alvarez and Adriana watch them for us, and we would go out dancing. We even took lessons, more so to have a place to dance than anything else.
The dance floor clears a little more, as the band starts up a slow tango. She wore dark red; she always wears dark red, every time we go out to dance. We’re good and we’re beautiful together, but right now there is no one else here but the two of us. Our bodies slip over one another in a dance made for lovers; a dance that shows your soul and your passion to a woman, and lets her show you hers. Her hair floats out in a wave, baring her slender throat, as we separate; our eyes never once leaving each other. Telling each other with every move, every look, every touch, that our love has never flickered; not once in twenty two years. There is that pause, her hand held in mine as our bodies are stretched to the point where all it would take is a thought to let her go forever. Her dark lashes flutter closed and take forever to raise over the dark near black pools of her eyes, her passion hasn’t dimmed in all this time either. She waits for me; her body balanced precariously, the dark red silk flowing over her like water, before I pull her back. Pulling her tight to me in a sensual embrace, our bodies touching at every point. Our foreheads touch. My hand holding hers the entire time. I will never let her go.
copyright © 2006 xxxevilgrinxxx