“You better be decent.” I rapped lightly on the door before pushing my way in. Even though I had my game face on, I couldn’t help grimacing when I saw Matt who was battered and bruised. Not to mentioned bandaged and bored. I could tell he was bored by the way he was flipping through the television channels, much to the chagrin of his roommate who appeared to be trying to rest.
“Hey, it’s my best girl,” Matt said, setting down the remote. I noticed his roommate, a young guy in his early twenties, perked up as well at my appearance. “Did you get Danny?”
“Yeah, we got him,” I said, sitting in the chair by Matt’s bed. I patted his hand, afraid to touch him for fear of breaking something. “He stayed the night with me, and he’s with my parents right now.”
“I told my parents about him,” Matt said, grimacing as he spoke. His mother was deeply religious, so I could only guess what she’d said to that bit of information. “They want to see him.”
“Sure, if it’s ok with you,” I said cautiously. “Do you think it’s a good idea?”
“Yeah. After my mother calmed down, she was dying to see him. I think she thinks this might be the only chance she’ll have to have a grandchild.” Matt smiled, but it held little mirth. “So, fill me in. Did we get the bad guys? Is Kayla back?”
“We got Digger and Brenda. We don’t have Kayla yet, but the cops are working on it.” I didn’t tell him that they were at a dead end because I didn’t want to cause him any grief. “What did the doctors say?”
Turned out that because Matt was in such great shape, most of the wounds were superficial. Only the one across his abdomen had done serious damage. Oh, there was another semi-serious one on his left bicep, but it wasn’t as bad as the one on his stomach. The doctors wanted to keep him for a few more days, but they were optimistic that he’d regain full mobility if he followed his physical therapy plan to the letter. Knowing Matt, he’d do as much and more than they planned. They would have to stop him from doing twice as much as they wanted because he’d be determined to get out of the hospital as soon as possible.
“Don’t you ever do that to me again,” I said, punching him lightly in the arm. “Do you know—I thought…” I let my voice trail off because there wasn’t any reason to say what I’d thought now that Matt was going to be ok.
“What happened to you when you were alone with Digger?” Matt looked at me, noticing that I couldn’t meet his eyes. “Tell me, Scar. I want to know. You might have told me before, but I don’t remember.” Mindful of our audience, I kept my voice low as I related what had happened. I faltered several times, and I couldn’t look at him for more than a second at a time. He made growling noises in the back of his throat when I told him some of the less savory details, and he vowed that after he was fully healed, he was going to beat the shit out of Digger. I forbade to point out that Digger would be in jail because it warmed me to have Matt show his affection for me so plainly. We both fell silent for a minute, lost in our respective thoughts.
“We’re going to have to get separate places, aren’t we?” Matt asked softly, jolting me out of my reverie.
“What?” I couldn’t believe he’d said that even though I’d been thinking about it earlier.
“You and Martinez. I want to get custody of Danny, be a family. We need our space.” Even as he said it, his face crumpled. I rushed to console him.
“Matt, we don’t have to talk about this now. Let’s wait until you come home and are at full capacity before making any major decisions.” Suddenly, I didn’t know what I’d do without Matt in my daily life. We’d been roommates on and off for ten years. Losing him would be like losing my right arm.
“You know what I’m saying is true. We shouldn’t put it off any longer.” Matt touched my hand which was lying on his bed. “We’ll still be best friends, you and I. We just….” He didn’t finish his sentence, but I knew what he was going to say. I knew he was right, but it hurt like hell. I squeezed his hand lightly, feeling something rip in my chest.
I stayed with him for another hour. I reluctantly left to spend time with Danny before going on my date with Martinez. Before I left, Matt made me promise that I’d bring Danny to see him soon. I didn’t know how I was going to get Danny into his room, but I’d do it if it killed me. Maybe I could use Martinez—nah, that wouldn’t be fair to Martinez. I also promised Matt that I’d come visit him every day. He protested that it wasn’t necessary, but I could tell he was pleased by the offer. I knew his other friends—especially his female ones—would be flocking to his bedside, but I also knew that nobody knew him as well as I did. The other thing he made me promise was that I wouldn’t tell Danny the truth about Matt being his father because Matt wanted to tell him himself. That was the most difficult thing to promise as I felt Danny should know as soon as possible, but I acquiesced. After all, it was Matt’s life we were talking about. I left him in high spirits, and I was feeling pretty damn good myself.
“Auntie! How’s Uncle Matt?” Danny wrapped his arms around my legs the minute I stepped into my mother’s house so I couldn’t move. He reminded me of Banana, which reminded me that I needed to call Julia today to see how she was doing.
“He’s just fine. He wants to see you, so I said I’d bring you by soon. Would you like that?”
“Yes! Uncle Matt is my favorite man. You are my favorite woman, except Mommy, of course.” Danny’s exuberance seeped out of him at the thought of his mother, but he brightened when I told him we should go to the kitchen and find some ice cream.
“How is he?” My mother asked in a low voice as she scooped out Rocky Road for Danny. I declined as my waistline wasn’t where I wanted it to be. It hurt me, however, as Rocky Road was my favorite flavor.
“He’s going to be fine,” I said, not really wanting to think of Matt. Not because I didn’t care about him but because I cared too much about him. I needed my mind to be free for tonight with Martinez. I called Julia, but wasn’t able to talk to her or Banana for very long because they needed to nap before tackling dinner. I vowed to do something extra-nice for them once they returned.
I played with Danny for the rest of the afternoon, keeping a sharp eye out on how he was doing. He seemed all right, though clingy, of course. He wouldn’t even go the bathroom by himself, which was understandable. My parents and I were more than willing to give him the love and attention he needed, my parents more so than I. I felt guilty again for not providing them with progeny. Sure, the rest of the clan had done their part, but none of them were close enough to allow my parents to reap the benefit on a regular basis. I brought Banana over whenever I could, but it wasn’t the same. Still, I had a feeling they would be a large part of Danny’s life as he had no one else, really, except Matt, until Kayla was found.
“I have to go now,” I said to my mom around five-thirty. I wasn’t meeting Martinez until eight at his place, but I sorely needed some time alone.
“Where are you going?” Danny asked, his eyes huge. He’d been playing with the blocks from my childhood, but his ears perked up at the sound of my voice.
“I’m going to a friend’s house,” I said gently. “I’ll be back later.” I already knew I was spending the night at my parents’ house, which made me feel as if I had a curfew again.
“How about you stay for dinner?” My mother said, trying to tempt me. “I still have some barbecued pork.” Normally, that would be enough to halt me in my tracks as I could eat it three times a day, every day, but the thought of Martinez slaving over a hot stove for me prodded me to take my leave. Danny clung to my legs until I promised that I’d bring him back a doggie bag. I didn’t think he quite understood what I was saying, but he seemed content with that promise. I hoped he didn’t think I meant I was bringing him an actual dog, but there was little I could do about it.
I went home and immediately hopped in the shower. It felt good to thoroughly cleanse myself; it bordered on spiritual. I stayed in the shower until the hot water ran out. Only then did I get out and head, naked, back to my room. I wanted to wow Martinez, and I wasn’t ashamed to admit it. I knew that he liked me, but I was a woman. I wanted more than just like, respect, or even admiration. Part of being a woman was being desirable, and I planned on taking it to the next level. I paused for a minute. Was Martinez Catholic? Funny how we hadn’t talked about religion. I didn’t care one way or another, but it mattered if he didn’t believe in contraceptives. Or abortion.
I hummed as I picked out a one-piece, electric blue sleeveless dress. I didn’t normally wear bright colors, but it made for a nice contrast to my normal clothing. Besides, it hugged my breasts without being too harsh on my waist. I added sheer pantyhose that guaranteed to tear very soon. I’d only worn them twice and had been lucky so far, but I was no good with fripperies. Sooner or later, I’d forget I was wearing something less substantial than spider webs and do something to ruin them. Still, they looked great with the dress which was the only requirement. If I was lucky, Martinez would be ripping them off me later tonight.
I pulled my hair up into a modified bun with wisps everywhere. It was sexy, yet casual. Better yet, it was easy to pull down with one tug. I added silver jewelry because I wanted to be cool rather than overtly hot with gold. I dabbed a bit of glitter on my cleavage, liking how the sparkle set off the blue of my dress. I debated on wearing eye shadow, but decided to nix it. If Martinez and I did have sex, I didn’t want my face to look like I’d been in a slugging match post-coitus. I limited myself to a hint of blush and my usual MAC lipstick. Film Noir this time. It’s a deep brown which offset my dress nicely. I turned slowly in front of the mirror, liking what I saw. I was ready to go, but it was only six-thirty. I didn’t have to leave for another hour if I wanted to be on time, which I did. I didn’t believe in running on CP time, perhaps because my mother frowned on people being late.
I decided to pack a bag while I was thinking of it. Not because I thought I’d spend the night at Martinez’s, but because I knew I’d sleep over at my parents’ house. I only included the bare minimum because I hated to pack for short trips, and as an afterthought, I tossed some condoms into my purse. I wasn’t a schoolgirl who denied that she was thinking of having sex; I knew I’d sleep with Martinez given the chance. There was absolutely no excuse not to be protected, not in this day and age. I hauled the overnight bag and my purse to the front door and dropped it off there so I wouldn’t forget either.
I went in the living room to watch the game, any game, as long as it took my mind off the shitty week. I wanted to think about Martinez, but I was too afraid to do so. Things were capisce between us, but it felt tenuous. I didn’t want to do anything to fuck up the promising start to a beautiful friendship, and I knew I didn’t have much leeway after withholding evidence from him. I watched as the Twins battled the Red Sox, top of the fourth at the Metrodome with the Twins leading 3-2. It was Schilling versus Radke, and both pitchers were on top of their games. I rooted lustily for the Twins to beat the defending champions, knowing that Matt was probably watching the game as well. Speaking of Matt. I called him at the hospital.
“Hello?” He sounded groggy and not at all like himself.
“Radke, that’s what. What you got to say about that?”
“There’s more than half the game to go. Don’t be dissing on my boy, Curt,” Matt joked, his voice feeble.
“Radke’s on fire, man. There’s no stopping him now.” It felt good to joke with Matt like the old days. It gave me hope that we could be just friends again some day. Some day soon. After a few more minutes of nonsense, I hung up. I felt much better about the world in general with things right between Matt and me. I watched as much of the game as I could before I had to go. The score was the same, and I listened to it in the car on the way to Martinez’s apartment. He wasn’t kidding when he said he lived in a dicey neighborhood, but I wasn’t scared.