When I was a girl, I had always taken it for granted that one day I'd be a famous artist. A painter, a writer, or both. Childhood was a time of miracles and wonders, and I pictured myself writing an epic romantic novel of such stunning beauty that no one would be able to elude its truth and power.
When I was that little girl, the idea of a middle class, middle-aged single woman writing captions for paparazzi photos of celebs caught in the act, certainly had never crossed my mind.
Like most adults, I couldn't remember when or why that magic had disappeared. And like most adults, I never even noticed it was missing - except for those very rare, often bitter-sweet moments when something truly inspiring would unexpectedly remind me.
That day in the white room, after Kiddo's vehement sobbing had been replaced by occasional sniffles and resolved into even breathing, I was reminded. A brief blaze of that long gone magic inside of me made me feel young and inspired to accomplish something of great significance in my life. For a second, I was convinced I could still write that one world-shattering story about love...
We didn't move. We didn't talk. We just remained lying there in each other's embrace, still and just being. Two entangled bodies, skin on skin, breathing in measures, heartbeats rhyming, blood humming in tune, while time seemed to be ticking away in perfect quarter notes.
All fears gone.
Later, when the light slowly turned into the soft glow of a September afternoon, every now and then a finger caressed a temple or a collarbone, or gently tamed a renegade strand of hair. Hands slowly slid along the curves of a naked form, stroking a thigh, cupping a breast, grazing the nape of a neck. One pair of eyes found another, and a silent promise passed between them.
All defenses down.
A leg was hitched up. A pair of lips reluctantly approached its counterpart. Mouths and tongues met to explore and worship each other's taste and texture. Blood rose to the surface of skin in a flush, moisture swelled between thighs, and flesh pulsated.
All restraints forgotten.
We made love two more times that day in the white room. The first time, I pulled him on top of me and guided him to my wetness. He took me hard, almost aggressively. He kept looking into my eyes, and when I came, he groaned, "I love you..." Those were the only words spoken in hours. A few seconds later, he cried out my name and spilled himself inside of me.
We both dozed off after that, apparently. I don't remember when and how. Time had lost its meaning. But I remember waking up to his hand fondling me, and his mouth kissing and licking the sensitive area between my shoulder blades. I pushed back against him, and he slid inside of me with ease. This time, he was very gentle about it. His hips moved in slow circles, and right next to my ear he kept on whispering my name like it was his mantra. He reached around me to rub my clit. When I cried out during my orgasm, he clutched my hips, pounded into me twice and then moaned at length with his own release.
The shadow from the cross window was long and pale on the white floor boards when we got up in silence and put our clothes back on; kissing and touching each other casually in the process.
With his hand hovering over the electric door opener, Kiddo hesitated for a moment. He looked down at me, delighting me with his best smirk. "Are you sure you're ready for this? Some of them are a little... weird."
I turned to the door in an attempt to see anything through the frosted glass, pointlessly. "What do you mean – weird?"
Kiddo chuckled, and took my hand. "Come on," he said, "we better get done with this if we want to make it out of here before it gets dark." When he pushed the button, the double door swung open into a large solarium, which seemed to be the lounge and lobby of Park Road Village, and apparently a popular granny hangout.
Between potted palms, the female residents sat in small groups of three or four each at round tables, chatting away. Some were reading, some busied their hands with needlework. The tabletops were crowded with teapots and cups, spectacle cases, backgammon boards and playing cards. The air was soaked with Eau de Cologne, Broken Orange Pekoe and the sound of a gaggle of geese.
"It's only 20 steps to the exit." Kiddo squeezed my hand assuringly, and he snickered, "Well, theoretically."
And then it happened...
A portly lady with a disturbing purple poodle hairdo was the first to spot us, and after a remarkably short reaction time, she dropped her knitting needles, threw her bulky arms up in the air and squealed,
All heads turned to where Kiddo and I were standing, and then all hell broke loose. Chairs scraped over floor tiles, books clapped shut and cups landed on their saucers, clattering. And everyone called across each other...
"...aww... it's Edward..." - "...dear boy..." - "...come over here, darling..." - "...it's Edward., Charlotte..!" -"...is that your girlfriend...?" - "...we missed you, sweetheart..." - "...you've been very naughty, leaving us guessing for two days..." - "...give an old lady a hug, sweetie..." - "...won't you introduce that lovely young lady to us, Edward...?" - "...it's Edward, Charlotte, look..." - "...my dear chap..." - "...dammit, Charlotte, switch your hearing-aid on...!" - "...the boy is back..." - "...oh, Edward..."
That was the moment I realized that I wasn't ready for this at all, and the exit door on the other side of the lobby became really appealing. Kiddo gave me an apologetic look. "Sorry," he said, "I think I should... I'll be right back." He let go of my hand and walked over to the bedlam, where he was hugged and patted and welcomed like the prodigal son.
This wasn't a retirement home lounge - this was the Edward Grey Fanclub Headquarters! I smiled constrainedly and acknowledged the gazes that turned to me frequently with polite nods. Kiddo distributed pecks, smiles and flatteries as if they were candies. 'The old ladies kinda like me,' he had said yesterday. Well, that was the understatement of the century. They treated him like he was a pop star, they celebrated him...
...like he was Robert Pattinson, for crying out loud!
Kiddo threw me a brief glance and shrugged. Laughing, he ducked away under a hand that reached out to ruffle his hair. Then he bent down to a white-haired, incredibly small and skinny lady in a wheelchair. She had to be 90, minimum, and was the only one who hadn't joined in the granny fangirl screaming by now. I watched in puzzlement, as she cupped Kiddo's cheeks with her frail, arthritic hands and kissed him firmly, right on the mouth. When she released him, she raised her arms as if looking for applause. And actually, a few handclaps could be heard, along with some oh's and aw's. It was surreal. But it was also touching; the fragile silent lady beamed with joy.
"It's a hell of a show, isn't it?" A deep voice suddenly spoke behind me and I almost jumped. I turned around to look into a pair of bright blue eyes, smirking at me out of a tanned, wrinkled face under a broad-brimmed stray hat. Two thin, accurately done braids of grey hair framed her cheeks, together with the white chords of earplugs. They belonged to an iPod which was taped to the horizontal bar of her walking frame with a piece of adhesive bandage.
"Pardon?" I stammered.
The old woman pulled the earphones out of her ears and let them drop onto her freckle-littered and remarkably low-cut décolleté. "I said," she repeated, "it's a hell of a show, isn't it? You will be the talk of the week, just so you know. Are you a relative of our Edward?"
Oh... 'your' Edward, it is?
"No, I'm not." I said, "We're friends."
"Friends?" Her eyebrows went up so high that the hat was tilted back. "How come I don't know you?"
What the fuck...?
I should have told her to mind her own business, but for some reason I felt annoyingly intimidated by the astute lady. "We just met, so we're um... new friends."
She leaned forward on her walker, and laid a multi-ringed hand on my shoulder. I could hear the treble version of 'California Dreaming' frizzle out of the dangling earbuds, as she whispered into my ear, "Listen, little lady – I have no idea what you're pulling off here, but I tell you this: I feel very protective about that kid. I know he is quite a cutie who can make your most precious parts tingle, but just in case you haven't noticed yet, he isn't playing in your age group. So I will keep an eye on you, do you get me?"
Before I could lift my jaw off the floor again and even think about a proper retort, she shoved herself past me and whooped, "Edward! What took you so long? Did you donate a kidney?"
"And what if I did? Would it save me from your devastating wrath?" Finally released by the fangirls, Kiddo walked towards us.
"Not really. Because I like to kiss and make up," the woman chuckled and pulled him into a tight hug, "Come here, Kiddo..."
Come here, K... what?
"I see you've met my friend Annie already?" he said as they let go of each other.
"Well, we didn't quite make it to the point of a real introduction yet – ts, ts, ts..." The braids swung from side to side as she shook her head, "Where are my manners? I'm Edward's friend, Lucy. You can call me Lu. Glad to meet you."
I took the hand she was offering, and answered as pointedly as she had done, "I'm Edward's friend, Annie, and I'm glad to meet you too. Unfortunately, Edward and I were just about to leave, so..."
Kiddo gaped first at me, then at lunatic Lucy, then back at me. He blinked a few times.
Yeah, synesthetisize that!
"Awww... too bad indeed," Edward's friend Lucy purred, "You need to visit me next time you come here, for tea and some nice girl talk, what do you think?" Not waiting for my answer, she turned to Edward. "See you later then? Don't forget our date tomorrow."
"I won't," he promised, and they hugged again.
Lucy glanced sideways at me as she patted his back and said, "You're looking good, Kiddo, a bit of happiness suits you. Take care, ok?" Then she released him, put her earphones back on and swung the walker around. With a final wave of her hand, she moved away from us, singing loudly...
"...and the sky is grey, and the sky is greeeey, California Ca-li-for-nia dreaming on such a winter's day, such a winter's daaay..."
"She's terribly out of tune," I stated, not only referring to her singing.
Kiddo nodded thoughtfully, "I know."
"Why does she call you Kiddo?"
"Why do you?"
"Come on," he said, "let me walk you home."
Leaning against the front door of my house, I blindly fumbled for the keys, while Kiddo and I were kissing goodbye for the fourth or fifth time. Well, I wasn't really counting. "Will I see you tomorrow?" he asked, and gingerly sucked at my bottom lip.
"Mm-hm," I answered, returning the favor. I finally got a hold of the keys and pulled them out.
He rubbed his nose against mine. "Ok, I'll pick you up at the station, if that's ok with you... oh, fuck!"
I winced. "What?"
"I promised Lucy to... I can't come, I have an appointment tomorrow night. I'm going to help Lucy with her Lieder recital."
"Oh," I said. I didn't like the thought of not seeing Kiddo the whole day. It was kind of frightening how much I didn't like that thought. "Why don't you come in and... stay?"
His eyes lit up. "You want me to?" I nodded, smiling at him. "God, Annie, like you'd have to ask..." he sighed and pulled me close. His hips crashed into mine, and what I could feel there left no room for questions. After we had kissed hello again for the fourth or fifth time – I still wasn't counting - he suddenly stopped, a little breathless, and moaned, "I can't stay, dammit. I didn't bring my backpack."
Fucking son of a backpack bitch!
"Fuck!" was all I could say, disappointment washing through me.
"Exactly." he chuckled, "You have a way with words, Annie."
"You can come in and stay for a bit though, right? And then go home and check your blood sugar and everything, right? Next time you bring extra insulin and gear and we'll store it in my fridge."
What are you talking about, Portman? You might as well ask him to move in right away, with that!
Kiddo had caught my slip, too. He looked at me incredulously for a few seconds, but then a genuine smile lit up his face. "That's a good idea, I think. And I'd love to stay with you for a while tonight."
"Ok." I turned around to open the door, but I was a bit shaky and had trouble getting the key into the lock. On top of that, Kiddo's hands were grazing my hips from behind and I could feel his erection press against my ass, which was a little distracting, to put it mildly. When the lock finally clicked open, he snickered into the nape of my neck and his hot breath made me shiver.
As soon as we stumbled inside, Kiddo let go of me with a gasp and stiffened. The ground floor apartment door was wide open, and a treacly voice lilted, "Annie, daaarling...!"
I shook my head with a sigh, but smiling. "Nice to see you too, doll. Can I help you with anything?"
Instead of an answer, the doll from apartment No1 winked at me, gave Kiddo a wistful once-over and purred, "Helloooo, gorgeous...!"
"Oh, please..." I couldn't help but giggle, "Edward, meet my naughty neighbor, Alice – Alice, this is my friend Edward. Behave yourself girl, ok?"
"If you insist...," Alice said, the cherry red lips pouting.
Kiddo was staring at the hummingbird-like vision in front of him. Actually, he was gaping, taking in Alice's appearance, from the shiny black wig and the screaming rainbow make-up, over the tight satin corset and the matching panties, down to her net stockings and purple patent leather heels. The poor boy looked like he needed to be rescued from sensory overload.
No synesthesia here, Kiddo – I see it too. It's just Alice.
Handing him my apartment key, I said, "Why don't you go upstairs and make yourself at home? I'll be with you in a sec." Kiddo took the key, turned on his heels and hastily moved for the stairs.
Halfway up, his usually polite demeanor got the better of him, and he paused. Bending over the stair-rail, he nodded towards Alice and said, "Nice to meet you. Um... bye." And off he went.
Alice looked at me with eyes as big as fried eggs and mouthed, "Oh. My. God... cuuute!"
"Hands off, Alice! And calm down, ok?" I rolled my eyes, "I need to ask you a favor..."
"Anytime, darling, you know that. But first you need to tell me what the hell you did to James; the poor hottie is inconsolable! Did you break up with him or something? Is it because of that breathtaking slice of cream tart waiting for you upstairs? Jesus, where did you find him, and are there more of his kind? And did you notice that baby doll had a boneroni when he looked at me? Ay chihuahua! Annie, did you see that bulge? I swear, my own middle leg was just about to-"
"Alice!" I grabbed the square shoulders in front of me and shook them. A very effective maneuver if you need to shut up a wired drag queen.
"Wha-ha-hat?" she demanded, holding on to her wig as I rattled her.
"Calm the fuck down, or else I'll call you Eric!" I hissed.
"No, you won't!"
"Don't dare me! Jesus Christ, yes, I saw the... bulge. And it was already there before we came inside, so no need to wet your panties, ok?"
"It was... bef...? Holy Judy!" Theatrically, Alice clutched her chest with both hands. "So it is true what James said, my beloved fruit fly is a cougar and proud of it? And that adorable cupcake upstairs is your-"
"Eric!" This time I shouted, and Alice winced. She held both hands up in defense, nodding frantically, and then she pretended to lock her mouth and threw an invisible key over her shoulder.
"You wanted to ask me a favor, darling?" she twittered, batting her fake lashes.
I squeezed my eyes shut and pinched my nose between my thumb and index finger, internally counting to ten. Apparently, Tom had been pretty informational in my absence. I made a note to myself to have a very serious conversation with him, in the very near future. I couldn't let him run around and tell the tale of Annie and her violent boy toy. Especially now that I knew about Kiddo's probation.
"Annie? Are you ok, darling?"
"Yes," I patted Alice's cheek, "I was just thinking... did James say anything else? Anything remarkable?"
"I thought everything he said was pretty remarkable, to be honest. He almost burst out in tears, I tell you. Said you dropped him for a super young lover, practically a kid. I couldn't believe it, so..."
"So you decided to sit in ambush to see if I'd bring him home, yes?" Alice blushed, and I chuckled silently. "You are incredible."
"I know, and I'm sorry, but oh..." she literally jumped up and down, "it is true, and he is such a Baldwin. Nice pecs underneath that shirt. And he almost looks like Rob!" The way she said it, it sounded like Rawwb. "What's the name of Mr. Sex-on-legs, huh?"
"Alice! I just introduced you to each other, didn't you pay attention?"
"No, I was bliss-tracted. Is his hair as soft as it looks?"
I sighed, "His name is Edward."
I pressed my hand on her mouth before my ears would start to bleed from her piercing, high-pitched squeal. Alice's eyes made a serious attempt to pop out of her head – thankfully, three to four layers of clotty mascara kept them in place.
"Hif mame if Ebwarb? E lookf like Rawwb and hif mame if Ebwarb?" she mumbled into my palm. I removed my hand, and she gasped, "No shit?"
"No shit," I confirmed.
Anyone who thinks Twilight fangirls were crazy, has clearly never met a gay Twihard! Alice had taken off her wig and now used it to fan herself as she kept on chanting quietly, "ohmygod... ohmygod... ohmygod..."
I rolled my eyes. "Ok, listen..." I started, trying to ignore her dramatic performance, "Are you still lusting for my couch?"
Alice froze, and her voice dropped two octaves which made her disconcertingly sound like Russell Crowe. "Are we talking about THE couch? The couch that I was willing to part with my left nut for, if you'd only agreed to sell it to me? Designer couch, single item, black leather?"
"Yes. Still want it?"
"What has happened to 'only over my dead body'?"
"I changed my mind. It is... it makes noises. Do you want it, yes or no?"
Alice looked at me suspiciously with narrowed eyes, swinging her wig in small circles, thinking. I started to get impatient and sighed with ostentation.
"Ok," she said. "Tell me when and where, and who I'm supposed to kill, and we have a deal."
"No corpses. I want you to help me redecorate my bedroom, that's all." Alice's eyebrows went up, and her mouth formed a surprised 'oh'. "I want you to paint it, to be more precise," I explained, "Can you do that?"
"Of course, darling, I'd love to! Is it for your new young-?"
"Can you keep your dirty thoughts to yourself?" I cut her off.
"Sure, sure. Just tired of the vanilla walls, huh? Ok, what are we going to do... purple? Dark blue? Or..." she waggled her brows, "...a sexy wine red?"
"White, Alice. I want them white."