Chapter 4: The Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola Fish - Part 2

After the merry-go-round stops, Harrison and I start back towards the coffeehouse and our cars. He puts his arm around me and we pick up the conversation about divorces, his three marriages - none longer than 10 years - and jaded feelings.  “It’s not all bad, though, since ex-wives and in-laws make great characters.”  I wonder whether dates are part of that collection.

About halfway there, he turns me towards him. “You are absolutely beautiful, especially in this light.  I have been having the most difficult time not kissing you.”  He leans down and kisses me with a long, deep kiss.  After that we stop and kiss about every ten feet. The air changes as the evening cools. We pass a yard with some late lilacs. The smell of someone's early season wood fire floats in the air. We finally get back to our cars. A church bell rings 7.

“And here it is, dinner time. We should continue this date a little longer and have some food. I know a great place for lobster and sunsets.”

“I like the sound of that.” When don't I like the sound of food? “Where are we going?”

“Oh, it’s a little place just north of town a bit.” Harrison opens my car door. “You follow me and I'll get us there.”

Where’s this going (as if I don't know)? Wasn't I going to take things slowly with this date and avoid giving into the mindlessness of my sex drive? I should go home, make plans for another date, and reign in this teenage-level libido which is, once more, taking over my common sense.  “Sure. I'll follow you in my car.” Great resolve, Jackie.

We wind our way up through the hills north of the Binghamton area and he pulls into a drive leading to a large farm house.  The house, white clapboards and two-tone blue and black trim, sits on a small rise facing east, the green grass newly cut and a stand of evergreens showing behind the house. A couple of gardens have iris and the last tulips, and the dogwood trees near the house have pink and white flowers among the small leaves. There’s no sign out front but I catch the name “Allard” on the mailbox. The little devil Jackie laughs smugly from my left shoulder; the little angel Jackie begins a frantic tugging on my right ear. I brush off my right shoulder and open the door.
“Welcome.”  Harrison pins me in his arms for another long kiss and then pulls away to walk me up the steps to the front porch. “I bought this place after my first novel sold well.  The past couple owners had restored it, so I got a second divorce and settled in.”

We enter into a center hall with a narrow, curved staircase and doors opening to two rooms on either side.  I catch a glimpse of the colonial period furniture and fireplaces in each room and the setting sunlight and growing shadow through the multi-pane windows. Large 18th century portraits and 19th century landscapes hang on the walls. Instead of stopping, though, Harrison leads me through the hall, past the staircase and the second doorway on the right leading into a den with maroon leather couches and a large-screen television. Thinking about dinner, I wonder where a bathroom might be.

Before I can ask, we end up in the modern kitchen that stretches across the back of the house. I set my bag next to his jacket tossed on the polished tree-slab table and then step around the benches and chairs. “This is beautiful,” I murmur while looking out the pair of slider doors leading to a back porch, flagstone patio, and the sun just barely over the neighboring hill.
“Here.” Harrison reaches across the green granite counter with a glass of white wine. “I hope you don't mind I didn't ask what you wanted.” He pulls a platter of grapes and cheese and a plate with two split lobster-tails from the refrigerator. He must have been pretty sure this date would end this way.
“Will you carry this platter of hors d'oeuvres while I get the grill going?” 

I don't have any choice – although I wouldn't have said no - since he stands there holding the platter out to me. We head through the sliders and he goes down the porch steps, across the flagstone patio and over to the “grill,” which turns out to be a huge stone fireplace with a large gas range attached. It's angled to the south of the outdoor sectional and coffee table that face west. Everything looks like it belongs in a Pottery Barn promotion.

I still stand on the porch holding the platter of hors d’oeuvres. “Do you want me to put this on the table up here or the coffee table down there?”

“Whatever you want.” Harrison starts up the range and then gets a fire going in the fireplace. I start to set everything on the glass-topped table on the porch when Harrison turns around. “On second thought, bring that down here to the coffee table.” Glad I made up my mind. 

I set the cheese and grapes on the coffee table, sit down, and realize I'm sitting with my skirt bunched up under me. I awkwardly squirm around until I get it pulled into place. This skirt is going into the "only wear for standing up situations" pile. I consider stretching my feet out on the lounge section, but then decide against it in case he’s particular about shoes on his furniture.

Harrison sits next to me and sips his wine. “Mmmm,” he closes his eyes and licks his lips. “Can you taste the subtle flavors of peaches, apricots and green apples? It’s a 2008 Riesling from one of the New York wineries.”

I try following his lead and swirl the wine while smelling and tasting it. I have never been able to detect any taste other than "wine" taste, and I decide to fake it now. “Oh yeah, it’s got that smoky, oaky smell.”

“Oaky?  I would say it’s more of a clean, garden scent.”

That sounds like an air-freshener or laundry dryer sheet. I give up, take a gulp and reach over to take a slice of cheese. “Ooo, I like this Havarti.”

“Oh, that’s not a Havarti.  It’s an artisan cheese. Hudson Red.  I love the intense, slightly sweet flavor and medium hard texture.  I always try to buy from New York cheesemakers.”

Ok, so 0 for 2 on the wine and cheese front. Maybe I can do better with the grapes; I’m sure they are New York State grapes. Instead of saying another thing wrong about the food, though, I attempt to be more playful. I spontaneously try to feed him a grape, but I end up smashing my hand into his cheek as he turns his head at the last moment.

“Wow, I’m sorry!” I grab a napkin to wipe his face just as he reaches up to clean his cheek off, which causes me to slip and smash a second grape I had in my other hand onto his shoulder.

Harrison shakes me off. “I'll take care of this.” A quick look of disgust crosses his face as he wipes off his shirt, but when he next looks at me, he’s composed and laughs a slightly patronizing laugh. “You're so cute."

He stands up. "I better get the lobster grilling." I sit back on the couch and silence opens up between us.  I might not be able to figure out the differences in cheese and wine, but I can tell when a date is threatening to turn sour.

“There, these will be perfectly done shortly.” He puts another piece of wood on the fire in the fireplace.

Just then the sun dips below the horizon, shooting rays into the sky of pink and gold and blue. “Look at that,” I sigh and sip my wine, momentarily forgetting the awkward exchange we just had. Harrison sits down again and puts his arm around my shoulders. I feel him lean his face into my hair, and the tension instantly fades.
“Will you stay for the night?” he whispers into my hair.

I catch my breath in mid-gulp of that garden-fresh Riesling. I immediately swallow wrong.  It’s one of those horrible mis-swallows and I choke and sputter while waving off help.
“Are you ok?”

“Yes,” I choke out.  “I just swallowed wrong.”
“Oh, ok," any concern gone from his voice. "Well, we need to get the salad and bread.” He takes the cheese platter and leads me hacking and wiping my nose into the kitchen. 

“There are glasses in the cupboard beside the sink,” Harrison says as he sets the platter down. It takes me a couple cupboards to find a glass with my eyes now watering as I try to hold in the coughs. I find a juice glass and gulp down some water, praying it'll stop the spasms of my throat.  

“I'll stay,” I croak out.

“What’s that?”

“I'll stay tonight.” My voice is a bit squeaky but I'm not choking anymore, except on my earlier personal resolve.

“Good; that’s what I hoped you'd say. But let’s eat first.” Once more the magic fridge has a fully tossed salad waiting. Harrison also picks up a carrier with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and a loaf of bread. “Grab those utensils and plates, will you?”

All crises averted, we settle at the porch dining set. “This looks wonderful,” I lay out the plates and silverware. I hope I don't have any trouble with the lobster; I've used up my awkward moments for this date. Quickly, though, we are deep into a conversation about his latest book and enjoying the cool evening and the last of the light. A crystal chandelier I haven't noticed hanging from the porch ceiling automatically comes on as the evening gets darker. He was right; this really is a great place to have dinner.

We return to the outdoor couch and the fire. I sit on the seat, carefully tucking my skirt underneath me, but Harrison stretches out on the lounge section and moves me over next to him. Well, I guess I have my answer about his opinion of shoes and furniture.

I lean against him. “I love watching a fire. As the wood burns down, I imagine there are cities in the embers.” That might sound hokey but I don't really care.

It feels like an hour passes, although it’s probably only fifteen minutes, when Harrison tosses the back cushions behind the couch and arranges the throw pillows. The seat is now the width of a single bed. “Well, here’s something else that’s on fire that you haven't imagined.” Now that line’s some really artisan cheese I think briefly. Then he is kissing me again, pulling on my hair to raise my face. The light breeze was slightly uncomfortable, but now I'm too busy mentally following his hands and tongue down my neck to notice much. I'm very aware of how strong and muscled his arms are. I try not to think about Stacey's comment about Harrison and students.
Suddenly I decide to take control and get rid of the feeling I’m only the passive participant in this date.

“Here,” I push him back so he’s now laying on the pillows. “I think it’s time for dessert.” 

As I unbutton his jeans, I hear Liz Phair’s “HWC” in my head. I can't help but notice his penis is more slender than Stanley’s, but it’s also longer. Ice cream cone, Jackie. I lick my tongue up and around the shaft and look up at him with the head in my mouth. His eyes intensely watch me. Am I doing this right? Quickly I close my eyes – hopefully seductively – so I don't get nervous. I ignore the fact that it feels more like I'm eating a corndog than licking an ice cream cone and try to figure when he’s going to come. Should I try to pretend I’m taking the chocolate covering off a banana? Suddenly he groans loudly and I try not to choke again as warm cum shoots into my mouth. So this is what something oakey tastes like. It’s definitely not a clean garden scent. Without thinking I wipe my chin on his shirt tail.

He pulls me up to a sitting position. “I have a better place to continue this.” He stands up, deftly and expertly tucks himself away, and completely composed again pulls me up and leads me back inside and up the stairs to his bedroom. Then he’s pulling off my top, my bra, my skirt, my panties, all the while following his hands with his tongue. With an odd disengagement, I take in the hand-made Shaker style furniture, and just as I start to wonder if he got it all from Vermont, he pushes me back onto the bed and buries his head between my legs. Forget the furniture, Jackie. There are more important things happening here.
The next morning, as we eat breakfast, Harrison looks at me over his coffee. “I really enjoyed last night, and I think we could have some fun for a while.  You need to know, though, that I don’t really want a serious relationship and eventually this will end.”

“Oh yeah, of course.  Me too,” I say sagely as I'm refilling my glass with fresh squeezed orange juice.

I register somewhere in the back of my mind that our relationship’s defining theme will only be sex, but then the afterglow of homemade pancakes, bacon and lattes distract me.  

Posted by Jackie Connolly

Chapter 4, Part 3

No comments: