The afternoon progressed and the piles of leaves grew. The back yard was huge. The air was thick, the soft wind hot. Even standing in the shade of the trees felt like being in a slow bake oven, sweat evaporating off my skin. My soaked clothes clung and chaffed my skin. The rake kept getting caught on dead vines and ancient trash, slowing everything down. I was tired, cranky and thirsty.
But I made steady progress.
Sienna would appear periodically, bronzed and radiant in the sunlight, drink in hand, admonishing me to stop for a time and cool off. At first she brought lemonade, which tasted like cold, tart nectar in the searing heat. Then she switched up, bringing me another frosted beer while apologizing that the lemonade was gone and there was no ice to chill any water.
Of course, from my impaired perspective, it was all good: the beer was cold, and being served up by a near-naked goddess. From my baked perspective these were the only important considerations.
Before long I’d drank three or four brews.
Maybe. Maybe more. I lost count.
All the while, Sienna moved around the yard in that wispy micro-bikini thingy. Bad enough she would walk toward me, breasts lightly jiggling and threatening to fall out of the near-translucent material straining to hold them in place, worse when she turned to go back to the house, impressive tush gently swinging a perfect figure eight, the bikini bottom, just this side of a thong, leaving nothing to the imagination as far as the firm globes that were her pneumatically muscular nether cheeks were concerned.
There came a time when I found myself standing in the middle of the yard, focus fuzzy from heat, work and alcohol, and the realization slowly dawned I was done.
I was also drunk.
And something else.
Someone was calling my name.
I turned toward the house, staring stupidly. I shouldn’t be this far gone, even in this heat. But there I was.
It’s her, whashername, Ms. Scissors Lifts.
Sienna was walking toward me, her tone questioning.
“Sam, are you alright?”
“M’fine,” I articulated muddily. She moved to stand before me, reaching up to put the back of her hand to my sweat-drenched forehead and cheeks. There came a sudden vision of her as Maureen O’Sullivan and me as John Wayne after he’d shot up the town and beat up the bad guys and was coming home to Maureen for some good old-fashioned mendin’, cookin’ and lovin’.
I laughed happily at the thought.
“Of course you are.” The observation was made sweetly, in a tone suggesting she didn’t believe whatever it was I thought I said. “You’ve done a very nice job here. Why don’t you go upstairs and take a cool shower and I’ll make you some dinner before you go.”
“M’fine,” I mumbled once more, demonstrating the expanse of my impaired vocabulary. “Just gimme m’clothes and I’ll go.”
She smiled. “Can’t do that, Sam.”
This stopped me for a moment as I tried to connect one brain cell to another in a failed attempt to puzzle out whether it was she or me who couldn’t do ‘that’.
Whatever ‘that’ was.
As I’ve alluded, my skull was a charnel house, filled with dead and besotted brain cells.
“Why not?” I asked stupidly.
True, at this point, anything I said was going to be stupid.
“Because, Sam, you’re drunk, and it would be irresponsible of me to let you drive like this.”
“Yes. You keep saying that.” Her voice changed. “Sam …” She was laughing now, pushing and slapping playfully at my chest and arms, even tickling me, causing me to stumble backwards “… you are about as far from fine as fine can get. You are not going anywhere, not only because you’re drunk, but because you’re drunk and you can’t start your truck.”
Sienna stepped back, and I saw she was holding my truck’s keys in her right hand.
I went for my pockets and sure enough, I didn’t have the keys.
Quick on the uptake, that’s me.
“How’d you do that?”
I stared at her with dull eyes, swaying a little side to side. She reached out to steady me, her expression amused.
“I was sidetracked earlier, so I forgot to start the dryer until a few minutes ago. You can’t leave without your clothes, right? So you might as well take advantage of my hospitality.”
“I don’t think so.”
She looked me directly in the eye.
“You are not going anywhere.”
A passing notion of wrestling her for the keys seemed the order of the day. But that’s all it was: a passing notion. With all that beer in me I had the reaction time of a slug; I’d end up tripping over my feet.
And something about her stance was telling me I’d better not.
Exhausted, I gave in, letting her lead me in the house. Once inside she walked alongside, one hand at my elbow, keeping me steady.
There came music.
From somewhere, someplace, there came music.
A woman was singing. The song was familiar, something vaguely remembered. I stopped, resumed walking, then stopped again, transfixed.
The music seemed to be nowhere and everywhere.
All the while Sienna stood at my side, saying nothing, waiting, her beautiful, impassive countenance seeming cast in stone. Had I been a little less drunk, maybe I’d have picked up a cue. Maybe. Truth was, with all that booze altering my internal chemistry I was too numb to catch on to much of anything.
I stopped for the third time at the top of the stairs.
“Don’t you hear it?” I finally asked after straining unsuccessfully to figure out where the music was coming from.
“What do you mean?”
“The music? Can’t you hear the music? Someone’s singing, a woman. It … the music … it’s beautiful.” I paused, remembering. “I think I heard it before. Here. Today. And at the gym that day you …”
My words trailed off, my mind drifting. A new thought came to me, and I fixed her with a vacant stare.
That got her attention, but by the time my muddled thought processes caught on she masked her reaction. I blinked, sure I’d seen something, not sure what. Disappointment? Anger?
“Meadow?” Her expression was confused. “I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I.” I looked at her again, eyes narrowing. Even in my impaired state I could sense she did understand. I thought push things, just to see what she would say, but the singer’s voice rose, deep, guttural, then rising in whispered urgency.
I was entranced, transported.
Sienna gripped my arm above my elbow, squeezing lightly.
The name was whispered soft, from far away, and for a moment I did not understand this was my name.
“Sam? You need to take a shower, remember?”
The music faded to a murmur, soft sounds I could barely hear, still there, but only just.
I nodded slowly.
“Sam.” I touched my chest, looking down, confused. “Me?”
Sienna was silent.
I stared at her a moment, then nodded.
We were moving again. Sienna led me through a doorway set in one of the few standing inner walls in the house. We entered into a huge bedroom that was furnished haphazardly, the most notable feature a large brass-framed bed up against one wall.
Exhaustion was finally setting in. I was barely aware of the music now. She led me through another door into a large bathroom, opened the shower and started running water, testing for temperature.
She turned to regard me. Thick as the fog enveloping my consciousness was, I started having pleasant thoughts about the two of us in the shower.
“Anything you need?”
Her voice was soft, sweet. Expectant. I looked at those lips, wondering at how they would taste.
Oh, yeah, I can think of a thing or two.
Toasted though I may have been, I was still smart enough not to be stupid.
What was it with her? With me around her?
“I think I can get it from here.”
Was that disappointment just then?
What the fuck is wrong with me?
“If you need something, give a yell.”
She left, pulling the door closed behind her.
Shrugging my way out of the sweat-soaked, filthy clothes, I step over to the toilet to relieve my overloaded bladder. Felt good, real good. I thought of Jim Tidwell, my platoon sergeant during my abbreviated tour of duty as a Marine, who once remarked: “Take away everything else and there are still the five great pleasures of life, Marine: fucking, eating, drinking, pissing and shitting, not necessarily in that order.”
As I’ve aged, I’ve come to appreciate Jim’s wisdom, if not his way of putting things.
The bathroom was tiled on the floors and halfway up the walls, promoting the illusion, if not the reality, of a cool atmosphere that went a long way toward clearing my head. When I stepped into the shower I found Sienna adjusted the temperature so the water was chilly and refreshing on my skin. I must have stayed in there a half hour, thoroughly washing and shampooing myself part of the time; enjoying the respite from the oppressive heat for the rest.
There came a time I reluctantly turned off the water. stepped out of the shower to discover a razor and can of shaving cream on the sink. I noted my borrowed clothes were gone. I opened the door to the bedroom.
No one there.
Wrapping the towel about my waist, I padded to the top of the stairs and called out.
Sienna appeared quickly, looking up at me. I was still feeling somewhat dull and exhausted, but not so I didn’t noticed that damned bikini. I positioned the banister post between the two of us to hide my little friend’s extreme happiness as I leaned over the rail.
“My clothes are gone.”
“I took them. Your pants and shirt are done; I’ll bring them up in a minute. You see the razor?”
“Why don’t you use it? If I’m going to feed you dinner, the least you can do is to try to look your best, don’t you think?”
At this point, I didn’t even try to argue. Best to humor the woman, eat dinner, and get the hell out of here.
What a frickin’ day this one turned out to be.
I returned to the bathroom and scraped my beard. I hadn’t shaved for a couple of days now, prepping for the weekend. Chicks loved guys with shadow, particularly guys who bounced for clubs.
figuring I going out tonight with my roommate to catch a flick and an iced cappuccino after. Who knew what would happen after that.
So much for that idea.
I heard the floorboards creaking in the next room, then nothing.
No answer. I shrugged; thinking she’d probably left the clothes and returned to the kitchen. I wondered what we’d be eating. I didn’t smell anything so I figured she must be fixing something along the lines of lunch. Whatever she was planning on serving up, I hoped there was going to be a lot of it.
I was hungry.
I opened the door to grab my clothes and stopped. Sienna stood there, blocking my path. I opened my mouth, but before I could speak she stepped forward, lifting her left hand, bringing two fingers to rest lightly over my lips while raising her right index finger in the universal signal to ‘Shush.’
I was vaguely aware the music was back, the tempo up, the singer anticipatory in mood.
In one fluid movement Sienna moved closer still, right hand slipping behind my waist and up, then running down my back, fingers scratching, her pelvis grinding into mine as she reached up behind me with her free hand, grabbing a clump of hair to pull me down to her waiting lips.