Long Lost Page 37

’’Hey,’’ I said.

’’Your number didn\'t pop up on the caller ID,’’ Ali said.

’’I have a different phone but it\'s the same number.’’

Silence.

Ali asked, ’’Where are you?’’

’’I\'m in London.’’

’’As in England?’’

’’Yep.’’

I heard a noise. Sounded like Jack. Ali said, ’’One second, honey, I\'m on the phone.’’ I noticed that she didn\'t say who she was on the phone with. Normally she would have.

’’I didn\'t realize you were overseas,’’ Ali said.

’’I got a call from a friend in trouble. She was ’’

’’She?’’

I stopped. ’’Yes.’’

’’Wow, that didn\'t take long.’’

I was about to say, It\'s not like that, but I stopped myself. ’’I\'ve known her for ten years.’’

’’I see. Just a sudden visit to London to see an old friend then?’’

Silence. Then I heard Jack\'s voice again, asking who was on the phone, the sound traveling from some desert across most of the continental United States and across the Atlantic Ocean and making me cringe.

’’I have to go, Myron. Was there something you wanted?’’

Good question. There probably was, but now was not the time. ’’I guess not,’’ I said.

She hung up without another word. I looked at the phone, felt the weight, then thought, wait a second Ali had ended it, hadn\'t she? Hadn\'t she made it crystal clear just, what, two days ago? And what had I really wanted to accomplish with this damn phone call?

Why had I called?

Because I hate loose threads? Because I wanted to do the right thing here, whatever the heck that meant?

The pain from the fight was starting to come back. I rose, stretched, tried to keep my muscles loose. I looked at Terese\'s door. It was closed. I tiptoed over and peeked in her room. The light was out. I listened for her breathing. No sound. I started to close the door.

’’Please don\'t go,’’ Terese said.

I stopped and said, ’’Try to get some sleep.’’

’’Please.’’

I have always treaded so carefully when it comes to matters of the heart. I did the right thing always. I never just acted. Except for that one time on an island ten years ago, I worried about feelings and repercussions and what came next.

’’Don\'t go,’’ she said one more time.

And I didn\'t.

When we kissed, there was a surge and then a release, a letting-go like I had never known before, a letting-go like you are staying very still and surrendering and your heart pounds against your rib cage and your pulse races and your knees grow weak and your toes curl and your ears pop and every part of you relaxes and happily gives in.

We smiled that night. We cried. I kissed that beautiful bare shoulder. And in the morning, she was gone again.

BUT only from the bed.

I found Terese having coffee in the sitting room. The curtain was open. To paraphrase an old song, the morning sun in her face showed her age and I liked it. She wore the hotel\'s terry-cloth robe and it was opened just a little, just a hint at the bounty beneath. I don\'t think I had ever seen anything so damn beautiful.

Terese looked at me and smiled.

’’Hi,’’ I said.

’’Stop with the smooth lines. You already got me in bed.’’

’’Dang, I was up all night working on that one.’’

’’Well, you were up all night anyway. Coffee?’’

’’Please.’’

She poured. I sat next to her oh so gingerly. The beating was taking effect now. I winced and thought about grabbing some of those painkillers the doctor had left for me. But not just yet. Right now I wanted to sit with this spectacular woman and drink our coffee in silence.

’’Heaven,’’ she said.

’’Yes.’’

’’I wish we could just stay here forever.’’

’’I\'m not sure I could afford the room.’’

She smiled. Her hand reached out and took mine. ’’Do you want to hear something awful?’’

’’Tell me.’’

’’Part of me wants to forget all this and just run away with you.’’

I knew what she meant.

’’I have dreamed so many times about this chance at redemption. And now that it may be here, I can\'t help but have the feeling it will destroy me.’’

She looked at me.

’’What do you think?’’

’’I won\'t let it destroy you,’’ I said.

Her smile was sad. ’’You think you have that power?’’

She was right, but I make dumb declarations like that sometimes. ’’So what do you want to do?’’

’’Find out what really happened that night.’’

’’Okay.’’

’’You don\'t have to help,’’ she said.

’’Have to,’’ I said, ’’especially since you put out last night.’’

’’That\'s true.’’

’’So what\'s our next step?’’ I asked.

’’I just got off the phone with Karen. I told her it was time she came clean.’’

’’How did she respond?’’

’’She didn\'t argue. We\'re going to meet in an hour.’’

’’Do you want me to come?’’

She shook her head. ’’This time it has to be just the two of us.’’

’’Okay.’’

We sat there and had our coffee and didn\'t want to move or talk or do anything.

Terese broke the silence. ’’One of us should say, \'About last night.\' ’’

’’I will leave it to you.’’

’’It was pretty frigging awesome.’’

I smiled. ’’Yeah. I knew I should leave it to you.’’

She rose. I watched her. She wore only the bathrobe. Ladies, save your frilly lace, your merry widows, your Victoria\'s Secret, your Frederick\'s of Hollywood, your G-strings, your thongs, your silk stockings, your petticoats and baby dolls. Give me a beautiful woman in a hotel-room terry-cloth robe any day of the week.

’’I\'m taking a shower,’’ she said.

’’Is that an invitation?’’

’’No.’’ ’’No.’’

’’Oh.’’

’’Not enough time.’’

’’I can work fast.’’

’’I know. But when you do, it\'s not your best work.’’

’’Ouch.’’

She bent down and kissed me gently on the lips. ’’Thank you,’’ she said.

I was about to crack wise something like ’’tell all your friends’’ or ’’sigh, another satisfied customer’’ but something in her tone made me pull up. Something in her tone overwhelmed me and made me ache. I squeezed her hand and stayed silent and then I watched her walk away.


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