She sat on the bed, watching Sam get dressed for the office. With each glance over at her she saw his smile grow as she appreciated the show he put on, his head vigorously popping through his undershirt with a shake, snaking one arm through a dress shirt sleeve then the other. He held his belt out with a wiggle of his eyebrows, turning slowly to add it to each loop, beginning and ending facing her. Then suddenly, he was on the bed, stretched out next to her.
“Tie my tie?”
“Not when you’re laying down.”
“Let’s do other stuff.” He pushed her back and straddled her.
“Quiet shhh, he might hear us.”
He bounced a bit. “Nope. Can’t. I oiled the springs.”
“You did not.” She reached up and started to make the knot.
“You impressed him.”
“I did? Really? Give me your hand.” She buttoned the cuff.
“He told me to tell you he was, how’d he say?” He tapped his chest. “Rightly impressed.”
“Does he always talk like that?”
“Like a hillbilly?”
“You know, the ‘praise Jesus and god’ stuff. He isn’t going to try to convert me today, is he?”
Sam ran a slow finger down her cheek and rolled off the bed. “He’s going to have to be converted first. Daniel’s the most irreligious person I know. Ask him about the time he tried to show us how to speak in tongues.”
Leslie sat up. “Can he really do that?”
“Heck no. He showed up to the church service on base and, I didn’t see it but as an MP, I was called in to get him. See, he translated a line from Blinded by the Light into Spanish. Then he was shaking, flinging his arms around, yelling it. Got busted by a catholic chaplain…ask him, he tells it better.”
They both looked at the door as they heard footsteps and the bathroom door closed. Sam continued. “Ask him about the time he did it as a kid, only he used the words from ‘Louie Louie’. He says it backfired. To this day, they talk about it in his old Sunday school in reverential tones.”
She got up and wrapped his robe around her. “Am I going to be alone with him all day? Can we see you at lunch?”
“Nope, sorry, I have to attend a press conference, but I’ll be home for dinner. He and I will do something tomorrow, we’ll have some of your delicious homemade cake, then he’ll head back.”
She watched his feet slipping into their shoes as he continued. “Call Molly, see if we can make it a foursome for cake and poker tomorrow. Here,” He pulled his notepad out of his blazer, talking as he wrote. “Ask him about Louie Louie, about speaking in tongues on base. Ask him about the time that woman clawed me to get me out of her way — I’ll show you that scar later so you can kiss it, make it better.”
He ripped off the little paper, handed it to her. She folded it and put it in the robe pocket.
“Go make yourself some coffee? Yes?” He wrapped her in his arms, her nose smashed into his chest. “Oh, I need to thank whoever invented the hug.” She pushed back.
Sam continued as he gathered his pens and cards. “Now, he doesn’t expect to be entertained, but he might want to buy you lunch. Pick a place with a big table.”
“Does he eat a lot? Y’all didn’t finish the carrots last night.”
“No, so that,” He gestured, “You know, space between you, so you feel comfortable?”
“You said I’ll be fine.”
He straightened his tie. “We need to move the mirror in here. Um, he asked about you, um, staring. I told him you might tell him what color he talks in. He’s cool with it.”
She pursed her lips into a cross pout.
“If you don’t bring it up, he will. He’s like that.”
“Walk me out, then make you some coffee, please?” They walked toward the front door.
“Am I being cranky?”
“No. But, you like coffee.”
“Sam, go to work.”
“Love you,” He kissed her forehead, pointing at her as he backed out. “No bike.”
And he was gone.
Noting Daniel’s door was shut again, she went about her own morning. A shower, the funny pages, a look askance at the borrowed spinning wheel, the bobbin of a carnelian red she didn’t like in the making.
Listening to the scrapes and bumps from behind Daniel’s door, she knew he was up and so she moved into the kitchen to make coffee. She ground enough for three cups, not knowing if he was a big drinker. Or would he be polite and sip only one. Or turn her down and ask for tea.
She began searching the cabinets for a nonexistent box of leaves or bags and clenched her thumbs when she heard him walk in.
He spoke. “Good morning there. Is that coffee I smell?”
“Yes, is coffee ok? We don’t have any tea.”
“I surely do like coffee.”
She turned on the machine, keeping her eye on it and not him as he spoke to her back. “I know Sam likes his beverage watered down with milk. If’n he’s using one of those flavored ones, I won’t laugh.”
“No, he drinks it black.”
“Well, now that I can’t laugh at.”
She handed him an empty cup and pointed to the jar behind him on the fridge. “There’s the sugar.” She was aware of his eyes on her as she turned back to the drainboard for her own cup.
“You know, darlin’, I gotta get this out of the way. Sam says you got some kinda gift? With color?”
She didn’t want to turn around. “It’s not a gift.”
“Well, I still gotta know, what color am I?”
“It’s not like you’re a color,” She turned around, spoke to the space next to him. “It’s just that when people talk, I hear, shapes. And the shapes have colors.”
“I been called lots of things, but never a shape.”
“No, it’s,” She looked at him. “Purple. You’re like a, a velvety purple that ripples in waves with dots of yellow and little ones of brown.”
He rolled the cup between his hands. “Now see, that’s a, that’s a gift.”
“Here’s your coffee.” She held out the pot.
They took their cups to the deck after she warmed up some dark spiced molasses muffins she had made the day before, with cubes of butter and cream cheese on a plate.
“Leslie, darlin’, you sound a little like you’re more from here than he is.”
“I’m from Texas.”
“Ah. Never been there, but I hear it’s awful pretty.”
She crumbled some of her muffin on her plate and spooned a little coffee on it. “And you?”
“Heaven. West Virginia. Texas might be the greatest state but the best Virginia is West Virginia.”
She surreptitiously pulled the paper from her pocket. “Sam said you, um, Louie something base?”
He reached across the table. “Gimme that. I can’t read his chicken scratch neither. You tell him I answered all your questions, y’hear?”
“Well, he said you had some stories about a church.”
“Oh, I hate church. My Uncle Owen used to say my frame didn’t darken that door near enough so I had to invent some ways to make him think I was there.” He crumpled the paper and tossed it into the open BBQ. “Your man can tell you all about me when I am not here to call him a liar. What I want to know about is you.”
“Me? Like what?”
“Like how’d you two meet. And how’d some husband get stupid enough to let go of you?”
“Oh. Well, we met at a diner — Sam likes bacon, too — and he asked me out and now I live here.”
He shook his head like a dog just out of a bath, “Darlin’ are we in some kind of a hurry? Don’t be skimping on the details. I gotta say, that was awful quick.”
“Me moving in? I know.”
He sat back, licked his lips. “Not quite what I meant, but Ok,” He took another muffin, broke off the top. “You know, your cookin’s so good, it’s like findin’ an extra chicken in the bucket. So how long did you two date before you moved in?”
She savored his compliment before answering. “Three months, maybe?”
“You leave your husband in Texas?”
“Oh yes, I had to.” She tried to picture bringing Dex with her while she toured. An unpleasant stinging at the edge of her mind told her she had.
“You run away?”
“No, he’s dead. So I moved.”
“Darlin’, we need to set somethin’ straight. Now I know Sam’s not one for flappin’ his gums, but if you’re gonna sit there and tell me the two of you is silent together…”
He checked his cup for more coffee. “Dead, you say. You kill him?”
“What? No! How…? I couldn’t have! He was somewhere else and they said she didn’t either.” She was mortified that he so easily got the truth from her. Swiveling away from him in her seat, she suddenly wanted the muffin, to fill her mouth instead of more words, but it was behind her.
“Another ‘she’? You tell Sam?”
She shook her shoulders with her head.
“I am sorry, darlin’.” She heard him pour more coffee into a cup. “My daddy, he never married without having a spare on hand and another one in sight. I can only do two out of those three.”
She tried not to look, but glanced over her shoulder.
“You ain’t gonna find a ring on me.”
“I wasn’t looking at that.”
“‘Course not. You’re better than that. Sam won’t go lookin’ neither.” At this, she turned, looked at him full on. “He gets hisself a girl, that’s all he wants. A one-at-a-time-woman man, he is.”
“Your daddy had an affair?”
“Yes’m. More than one,” He named each finger as a woman while he counted off one hand and started on the other, but stopped when he saw Leslie’s jaw fall stunned. “Some men just need a little change of scenery with the seasons is all.”
She had felt a weight inside her begin to lift. This revelation of someone so casually moving from woman to woman almost teased out the tangle of emotions she felt about Dex and his probably prostitute. The gold and white cubes of a bird’s chirps distracted her, and she lost it. And still, she felt better.
“You ought to tell him, like he should tell –”
“I don’t want it to be what he thinks of when he looks at me, a woman whose husband saw a prostitute.”
“You need to give our boy more credit than that,” He stretched out his legs, gave the hammock a kick. “What say you and I go find ourselves a brunch.”
“I can make eggs and bacon if you’re hungry.”
“The kind of chatter you and I gonna have, we need some liquid fortification. It may be 10 something here, but it’s 5 o’clock somewheres.”