Grabbing the T.V. remote he rotated through all the channels, not really seeing any of them. Still his cell phone sat silent. Damn. She was gone and she was still a major irritation. He was tired; he wanted sleep, what he didn't want was to be pacing around his living room waiting on a call from a girl he'd already spent hours worrying about tonight. At last he heard his text signal.
Hi Ray sorry I'm late got stopped by a cop. Home safe now Thx 4 everything
What? She got pulled over? Jeez, she needed a keeper. Anyway, he would have preferred a call; anyone could punch in a text message. Then he remembered he'd specifically told her to text him that they weren't going to talk. He gritted his teeth and texted back to confirm he'd got her message and added
from now on obey the laws of the road.
She came right back at him:
don't yell at me n don't 4get to call me soon
He thought his head was going to blow off. No, no way. 'Just forget me, little girl' is what he should answer. That sounded kind of cruel, he admitted. You damn fool, he muttered to himself as he replied.
Go to bed Angel No promises
How stupid was that? Arlene was not only persistent she was optimistic. Now she would be expecting him to call. Or was that what he'd always intended?
For some time Pres had been able to keep his real life at bay; he'd lived and breathed Ray Nolan's existence. From the moment he'd met Arlene it was no longer so simple.
Every day she sent a text message, short but sweet. It should have made him run the other way and at first it did. He didn't answer but somehow he postponed getting a number change. It was nearing a week since he'd met her and finally she sent no more texts she just called him. Pres told himself if he ignored her she'd just leave a message anyway, which would mean he'd still have to hear her voice. So he answered,
"Hi, Ray!" she chirped. Next to the word "bubbly" in the dictionary he was sure there was a picture of Arlene, "You never called."
"That's right. So why wasn't that a hint for you?" he grumped. Hearing her was already doing things to him, but she still managed to exasperate him as well, "What you want is never gonna happen, Arlene."
She pointed out that it was certainly never going to happen if he wouldn't let it happen. So she guessed she would leave him alone, but in that case she was going up to Red's Hideout tomorrow night. No reason she shouldn't have some fun on a Friday night. Pres couldn't believe how quickly he became angry and said in a low but gruff voice.
"I told you to stay away from there."
"It's a free country," she taunted.
He decided to use reverse psychology and call her bluff,
"In that case, I guess I can't stop you."
"Yes you can. Meet me somewhere else; somewhere you think is safe for me."
He shook his head slowly, she really did need a spanking. She was totally out of control; for a nice girl she had no compunction about manipulating to get what she wanted.
"Yeah. It's your own fault though; I'm desperate," she laughed.
He stalled, looking around the room, fighting himself. Obviously she was a little bit cautious about him; she hadn't asked him to pick her up at her home, but that was good. There was no way he should see her again, but he hadn't quit thinking of her since that night. His instincts were telling him one thing; his feelings were telling him the opposite.
"Ray?" she prompted.
His feelings won, and he said tersely,
"Rapid Racers, we can meet there. You know where it is?"
It was a public place; families all around, situated on the outskirts of Pleasantview. No way for things to get serious or dangerous.
"Of course I know where it is. When?"
He didn't want her out at night particularly.
"Tomorrow, noon, okay?"
"Yes!" she sounded so happy he felt like a slime-ball. It would mean more lies to her. He was not good for her at all, not right for her. He was just putting off the inevitable but he wanted to see her one more time. Somewhere that he could be himself, Pres; at least be himself inside, if not by name. Just for a few hours anyway.
Pres got to the roller rink first but was barely looking around before Arlene showed up wearing a tiny pale green sundress that immediately jump-started his imagination. How could anyone look so wholesome and innocent and yet make his heart and his libido do handstands?
He'd thought the rink would be so safe and, as far as dangerous people or situations, it was. He felt it his duty to point out that he would not be able to see her anymore and it was best if she understood that. Today was just a one-time thing. But then, as they were spinning slowly, holding hands, he found himself leaning in for a kiss. She was so sweet, so different from everything else in his life. Of course, there was still the brat factor.
"So, Angel, tell me how you ended up getting pulled over last week?" he really had been curious, "What did you do; flash your dimples or something?"
She giggled impishly,
"Oh, that. I guess I was sort of speeding."
"Somehow I never pictured you as a lead foot, sweetheart. Did you get a ticket?"
"Nah, I talked him out of it."
"I'll bet you did," he said with a half-grin and then reflected he wasn't all that amused about her sweet-talking someone besides him, "And how did you do that?"
"Well, I kind of told a fib. I said I'd just had a big fight with my boyfriend and I'd been so upset I didn't realize how fast I was going. I guess he felt sorry for me. He said that was no excuse but he'd let me off this time if I promised to pay more attention from now on," she turned her head so she could look at him flirtatiously with a sidelong glance.
"Don't bat those baby blues at me, Angel, I'm not the one giving out tickets." The irony of the thing wasn't wasted on him, "Didn't anyone ever tell you it's a sin to tell a lie and you shouldn't play fast and loose with the law?"
"Oh, don't be a drag, Ray! You sound like my dad or something."
That gave him a jolt. He in no way felt fatherly toward her and she was looking at him like he was an old fogy or something. Cripes, he was only a couple years older than her. Still, for some reason he couldn't resist asking,
"How often does this happen to you? I mean getting a speeding ticket."
She looked away evasively,
"Oh, once or twice," but then she turned back to him with an eager smile, "Mostly I never get caught, though."
He shook his head slowly,
"You worry me, little girl."
They got drinks and snacks from the vending machines and sat at a table by the window. Afterward Pres threw away the empty cups and bags and they continued talking. There was so much he wanted to tell her that he couldn't. So he danced around certain subjects and told her as few lies as he could. But basically he had to tell her Ray's story. He could not tell her about his life as Pres, it would endanger his work.
They still had more hours of daylight left so he suggested they head to Wildlife Woods Park, another "safe" and public place. He had not kissed her again at the rink, but that definitely changed at the park. They played a game of pool in the gazebo, but soon after he took her in his arms again and touched his lips gently to hers. This time she surprised him, returning his kiss with much more passion than last week. She wasn't kissing like a little girl now.
What is this, has she been taking lessons from someone?
He was surprised and disgusted to realize that even a suggestion of that possibility caused a stab of jealousy. Now, what was that? He'd never been jealous in his life. One kiss led to another and things were getting a bit steamy and Pres knew it was lucky they weren't tucked away somewhere private.
Suddenly he realized it was getting late. Time for him to switch gears and prowl downtown and time for Arlene to get back to her own normal, placid world. He'd promised himself that this would be the last time he saw her.
"We need to go, Angel, it's going to be night in just a few minutes," he touched her arm.
"I'm allowed to be out after dark," she joked. Her hand glided across his chest and down one arm sensuously. Whoa.
"The park is a different place when the sun goes down," he warned. Caressing the side of her face he ran his thumb softly over her lips, "We still need to get your car from the roller rink so I should get you out of here now."
"Can't we just talk a little while longer?"
"Talk? Is that what we were doing?" he flashed her a teasing grin. She dropped to the grass, pulling him with her and he put an arm around her. They were quiet for a while as the darkness gathered.
"Let's count the stars," Arlene whispered at last and laid back on the ground.
Give me strength, Pres groaned inwardly as he relaxed beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. She turned to him, resting her hand on his chest again and they watched the night sky. Again she was asking him about his hopes and dreams. That subject was like a mine field and what was worse was how much he really did want to tell her everything. He felt more like Pres Everhart than he had in two years. What good could come out of this? At best he would always have to keep her from getting too close, he didn't want her being downtown at all, even at his house. At worst, he could be exposing her to danger if the wrong people in his other life learned about her. But something in him tightened at the thought of not seeing her again. He wanted her. He wanted her bad.
Oh, Everhart, you are so screwed.
Next blog update: Harvey and Lori Ferguson Ch. 16 Aftermath and New Horizons