Friday, August 28, 2009

En Garde by Will Belegon

“I’m telling you, I’m fine. I’ll just snag a cheap motel room.” I wasn’t drunk. Not really. Barely buzzed. But combine barely buzzed with midnight and a three-hour drive, and the folly of me heading for home was obvious. Luckily, the only one waiting for me was the cat, and there was plenty of food and water out.

“No way, old timer.” Kelly shot the idea down casually. “I’ve got an extra bedroom since Donna moved in with her boyfriend. Besides, we can’t let our favorite mid-life crisis poster boy sleep in a sleazy motel. You’re either coming home with me or with Liz and Wilson. And they have a need for privacy tonight. Don’t ya, Liz?”

Later, I would remember the conspiratorial smile between Kelly and Liz. At the time, I was too busy defending my dignity.

“I appreciate the invitation. I really do. But it wouldn’t really be proper and you know it.”

That generated a guffaw from Wilson, his first comment in the discussion.

“Tell me you didn’t go there, John. That won’t work with these two. Believe me, I know. Public appearances? I once watched Liz and Kelly lock lips in the middle of a party just to tweak a frat boy who was talking about lesbians in intercollegiate sports. And believe me, man, if Liz had any desires in that direction I would have long since known about it. At least, I hope I would have.” The quick glance he sent his fiancée was full of not-so-subtle overtones. She played off it, sneering back at him and blowing Kelly a kiss. “They both get off on shocking people, so the whole bit about you looking like a dirty old man ain’t gonna fly. Give it up. You got an urge to spend sixty extra bucks, you can take the three of us to breakfast. Liz and I live just down the street. But you aren’t gonna talk Kelly out of this. She’s got that antisocial rep to maintain, you know. You don’t have a chance.”

“Nope. I don’t give in easy and I always get what I want. That’s why half the campus is afraid of getting in my way.” Kelly punctuated her declaration by giving Wilson her best fuck-off-and-die glare. He rolled his eyes.

“No, half the campus is not afraid of a skinny pixie-sized Joan Jett clone with a sword and an attitude problem. What they’re afraid of is getting charged with child abuse if the cops are too hyped on sugar and caffeine to notice your tattoos.” Wilson and Kelly were notorious for poking at each other like this but, like my nickname, Kelly’s verbal bouts with Wilson were a sign of the respect between them. “Still, old timer, she means it when she says she won’t quit. Your best bet is to give in before she starts hitting you.”

Kelly grinned and brandished a petite fist. “You give? Or do I have to get medieval on your ass?”

“Alright, alright. I give up. I’ll take the bed rather than the beating.” I bowed to my assailant, earning another laugh from Wilson.

“Wise choice, man. I assume you’ll be heading out early, so we’ll see you next month. Unless you really do want to buy us breakfast in the morning?” Wilson shook my hand while the girls shared a hug, then he and Liz headed for home. Kelly grabbed my elbow and pulled me toward the opposite side of the parking lot where we had left her yellow VW and my truck.

“Follow me home, John. There’s plenty of parking. And if you pull into a motel on the way, I really will hit you.”

“Kell, are you sure about this? I don’t want to impose.”

“You’re not, I told you already. And wouldn’t you do the same for any of us? Besides, what do you think, I should be worried about you raping me or something?” She murmured something under her breath as she headed for her car, but it couldn’t possibly have been the words I thought I heard. As she opened the door, she called out, “Besides, I already kicked your ass once tonight. I can do it again.”

As I followed her through the dark city streets, I tried to rein in my imagination. The evening had been filled with thinly veiled innuendo that seemed harmless in a bar between friends, but had other overtones once it was just me and Kelly. The pictures in my mind were not something I wanted to concentrate on with her on the other side of a thin wall. It would be far too tempting. The motel idea was growing more appealing, if only to keep me from wanting something I could not have.