Sometimes, I even thought of Jonathan as my brother. For years at a time, I referred to myself as a childless, single woman, even when looking in the mirror. I observed my flat stomach and thought, “well that's because you've never had any children.”
Funny how the mind works.
And when I ran into one of my independent contractors and his four year-old in the line for coffee, I thought, “I don't have one of those.”
I guess I hadn't had one of those. I'd had a brother.
Right. Maybe my mind's tricks were somersaults into truth.
“It's nice to finally meet you, Hannah.” I said to the little girl. She hugged her father's leg, twisting her head until one brown pigtail went sideways. “That's such a pretty name.”
“It was her mother's mother's name.” Her dad was Will Santon. I hired him to do the things I wasn't supposed to do. Unsanctioned information gathering. Tough interviews. Covert recordings. Spy shit. He had a good touch and was so smart I sometimes called him just to talk out a problem. “She's going to hate it someday.”
We moved up in the line.
“Evergreen name. That's what my wife called it.”
Will was in his early thirties, looked late twenties and had the mind of a man who had seen eighty years worth of suffering. His wife had died in Afghanistan, leaving him with Hannah and a broken heart. He talked about Hannah all the time. The heart, he was less open about.
“That's code for what?”
“Old lady.” When he smiled his face got less rugged, less angular and hard. He was handsome no matter his expression, but when he smiled I sometimes forgot what I was thinking about.
“As the proud owner of an evergreen name, I assure you, it never stopped me from being young.”
An unmarried, childless woman in her late forties is the constant recipient of a certain look. Not pity. Not understanding. Sometimes curiosity. Often bitterness tinged with accusation. Maybe a lick of condescension. I constantly fell into the twist of a conversation, in the dark corners around what's unsaid. Saying I was young once opened me up to that look, and under normal circumstances I would have regretted saying it.
But not with Will. He never made me feel like a spinster. He looked me in the eyes when he said, “I bet it didn't.” He dripped with sex and promise, holding his hand out to let me approach the register, even though he was ahead of me.
I leaned down to Hannah and said softly, pretending Will didn't hear everything.
“Have you ever tried the snowman cookies?”
She shook her head.
“Would you like to?”
She looked up at her father, who raised an eyebrow and said, “Not before lunch.”
I stood up.
“I didn't ask you, Delta.”
He kept his eyes on mine for a half a second. They flicked over my body, then back to me. His jaw worked into a smile that never found his lips, a readjustment at the joint, a relaxing of the chin. Even past the short, dark beard I could see every muscle. I wondered what his neck tasted like.
“We aren't in the office,” he said. “You're not the boss.”
“Of course I am.”
“You're lucky Hannah's with me.”
“I felt pretty lucky when I got up this morning.”
My own smile took on a life of its own. Resisting it was making my entire face twitch.
“Next guest please!”
The call dripped with cheerful impatience. I approached the counter and gave the guy my order, buying Will's usual after getting three snowman cookies so Hannah didn't have to share.
That was the benefit of being a childless, unmarried, middle-aged woman. I got to write my own fucking rules.
When I walked into the Malibu hotel suite, the first one wasn't wearing anything but an erection and a silver cross. I knew him by name, face, and cock. He had sandy hair and a surfer's smile. His back was covered in tattoos that seemed to mean something I couldn't care less about.
I wasn't into talking about anything outside the four hotel room walls, so I didn't ask.
“Hey, girl,” he said counting three playing cards out. He scanned his solitaire layout. Nothing.
“Buddy.” I peeled my jacket off.
“He should be here any minute.” Three more cards. Nothing.
“He have a name?” I reached around and unzipped my dress in two moves.
I let the dress drop. Buddy looked up from his cards and bit his lower lip when he saw my white lace bra and garter. The matching panties were balled up in my bag. I didn't like trying to get out of them with the garter still on, and the crotchless kind were weird to me.
“Not funny.” I slid the Jack of spades from the top of his pile of three and put it on top of the Queen of spades.
“Calvin,” he said, leaning back with his hands behind his head, admiring me. He was going to have to go soon. I had limits. Buddy was in the club, and everyone was checked. I liked newness. I liked a stranger, but I needed to know everyone played by the same rules. Mine.
“I mean, does he have something he wants to be called?”
Buddy wasn't Buddy's real name either. His real name was Bart. It wasn't even short for Bartholemew. It was like his parents were cats hacking up a furball when they named him.
The lock clicked. The door opened and shut before I got a good look at Calvin.
Handsome. Suit. Tie. Nice shoes. Clean as a priest.
He'd do nicely.
“You must be Cinnamon,” he said, taking off his watch and dropping it on the bar. He had a lovely Scottish accent that I could really learn to enjoy.
“That's my name. Don't wear it out.”
Jacket off. Cuffs unbuttoned. He would indeed do very nicely.
“You like to gamble, Cinnamon?”
“You can call me Cin.”
He smirked. Undid his belt. Click. Snap.
“You can call me Calvin.” He took his tie off, and didn't undress any further. “Both of you. I'm going to give Buddy here a head start. I bet I can make you come more times. I bet he'll be curled up like a kitten sleeping and you'll still be screaming.”
“You're on, motherfucker.”
“Buddy,” Calvin said. Just that one word was an expression of dominance. “I didn't ask you.” I loved it when the two guys got into a pissing contest. The drama was an aphrodisiac.
“Buddy knows me,” I said, a hand on one out thrust hip. “He knows what I like. My money's on him.”
“A hundred,” Calvin asked, stepping forward. I could smell his cologne.
He raised eyebrow. I was going to see this guy again. Three times. I'd had better, worse, and everything in between. It was a crapshoot and Calvin came up boxcars.
“Keep count, would you? And if we're both inside you-”
“You both get credit.”
He looked over my shoulder at Buddy.
“On your back, soldier.” The surfer scooted down. Calvin looked at me, just a look, and with barely a nod, told me what to do.
I got on the bed and crawled to Buddy for the last time, putting a knee on each side of his head and lowering my wet pussy onto his face.
Buddy was about to get his head start when, but with the one ring tone I couldn't ignore, my phone rang.
This type of chapter by chapter release is the absolute worst idea I ever had. It doesn't fit my process at all, but I owe it to you to find time to write this book.
So here's the deal. This is a group project.