Monthly Archives: April 2020

Plaster of Paris; chapter eight, part one

I have to go back to the gym tomorrow to find out more about the blond, not to mention try to find Billy.  I ask what Lyle found out about Ursula in order not to have to think about returning to the gym.  Mirabelle did a search on Ursula because she loves doing research, and she knows a few people in the biz.  Turn out, Ursula had exaggerated about her financial assets.  She’s worth about ten million, not the twenty-five or whatever she told us.  Also, she just returned from a weeklong five-state tour.  It was a Midwest swing.  Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and one of the Dakotas.  Lyle and I both shudder with the insularity of true Californians, not able to imagine why anyone would live in the Midwest.  Lyle resumes his narrative, informing me that Ursula’s latest book has been postponed twice.  Her publisher is furious with her, according to Mirabelle, and is threatening to sue her for breach of contract.

Her situation sounds grim, but far from dire.  I clarify that she has money, that she’s not broke, which she isn’t.  However, she won’t be able to spend money at the rate to which she’s rapidly become accustomed.  Lyle lowers his voice to impart the gossip that Ursula has a lover somewhere, but that’s all that Mirabelle knew.  I am taking notes as he talks because it helps me order my thoughts.  Lyle is moody as he finishes reporting because we have all this information and none of it fits together.  Ignoring his temper tantrum, I tell him that the blond girl is the key.  I am beginning to realize that he doesn’t react well under pressure and that it’s nothing personal.  A huge yawn nearly splits my mouth, making me realize that I sleep.  It’s nine o’clock.

“I think I’ll hang here a few more hours, then go home for the night,” I say to Lyle.  “I suggest you do the same.”

“Can I come over to your place?”  Lyle asks, a puppy-dog look on his face.  “I don’t want to be alone.”  I can understand that, as I am feeling the same way.  I nod, then we both go back to the waiting room.  My mom is awake and chatting with the Jensons.  Mr. Jenson is back to impersonating a martinet while Mrs. Jenson is dissolving into a ball of weepy nerves.  Mr. Jenson is patting her stiffly on the back, obviously uncomfortable with attempting to console her.

“Why don’t you guys go home?”  My mother says, shooting me a meaningful look.  When I don’t budge, she adds in Taiwanese, “They’re ready to snap.  You need to get Lyle out of here.”

“Let me just see Paris really quick first,” I say, slipping away.  The officer looks up from the magazine he’s leafing through and nods.  It’s a different officer this time, so I have to give my name again before he lets me inside.  I take my accustomed chair and gaze at Paris for a minute.  Open your damn eyes, I urge him silently, but there isn’t even a flicker.  I vaguely remember something about the chances of recovering being reduced drastically if the victim does not open his eyes in the first forty-eight hours following his trauma.  It’s been about that much time, which means we’re entering the danger zone.

“Don’t you dare leave me,” I whisper, unsure if I’m speaking loud enough for him to hear.  Even if I’m not, I have things I need to say.  “Paris, you’ve been my best friend forever.  I love you more than almost anyone on this earth.  I can’t thank you enough for having my back.”  I pause, not wanting to be melodramatic.  I am stroking his hand which has no feeling to it.  “I promise you, Paris.  I’m going to get the bastard who did this to you.  If it’s the last thing I do.”  I sit, not saying anything else.  My heart is speaking to his, and I’m sure he can hear that message better than any I might vocalize.  I allow myself to feel the pain of his pain.  I relinquish the death grip I’ve had on my control for the last few days.  It’s only in his presence that I feel safe enough to be vulnerable, knowing he won’t take advantage of it.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter seven, part three

Besides, I need to wait for Mr. Jenson, as he’s on my list of people to interview.  I doubt very much I’ll get anything substantive from him as he’s a cagey man, but I owe it to Paris to try.  I have a hard time believing that he drove or flew from San Diego to the Bay Area to kill Paris for reasons unknown, but odder things have been known to happen.  I wonder about the Jensons financial situation, then wonder why I wonder.  Even if they are strapped for cash, it’s not as if Paris has much in the bank.  The money that Ursula claims she’s going to settle on him hasn’t happened yet, Mr. Jenson don’t know about it, anyway, and it’s not enough to kill your stepson over, is it?  Thinking about money leads me to ponder whether Paris has a will or not.  My guess is no, but he can be surprisingly pragmatic about things such as that.  If he does have a will, I’m fairly share that much of his earthly possessions will be split between Lyle and me.  I wonder if Inspector Robinson has looked into that.  I’m sure she has.  She’s a thorough inspector who always gets her man.  Or woman.

I sit at the table a bit longer, though I no longer want to eat.  I can’t bear to go back yet, so I sit.  It’s nice to be surrounded by others with similar stories, but not to be immersed in their pain.  In a strange way, we are a support group without ever having to say a word.  This is one place where you can assume for the most part that most people are not here for happy purposes—except, perhaps, to give birth.  I wonder how many tears the cafeteria has witnessed?  More than its fair share, I’m willing to wager.  It’s the one place that has a lock on grief.  After ten minutes of resting, I rise, dump my trash, and return to the waiting room.  I look around me with displeasure; I am starting to seriously loathe this place.

Lyle, my mother and Mrs. Jenson are each slumped in a chair, my mother sitting between the other two.  Mrs. Jenson has her head buried in her hands while Lyle is staring at the wall opposite.  My mother is leaning against the wall behind her with her eyes closed.  I can’t tell if she’s just resting her eyes or if she’s actually napping.  I sit in the seat across from them so we don’t look like a line of prisoners waiting for execution.  I close my eyes as well, suddenly exhausted.  I want desperately to go home and sleep in my own bed, but it’d be too lonely and desolate without Paris in the other room.  In the last couple months since the conclusion of the first murder case, Paris hasn’t stayed over at Lyle’s place very often because he’s been watching over me.  I don’t know if I can stay in an empty apartment with Paris unconscious in the hospital.  I wonder if I could persuade my mother to come home with me.

“Catherine!  I got here as soon as I could!”  Mr. Jenson is racing towards us, his face red.  He is a short man, around five-feet eight inches, but he carries himself with the erect posture of a military man.  He has a short, bristly flat top of white hair with a neat moustache of the same shade.  He is wearing a dark brown suit with a narrow black tie, which is appropriate attire for attending a funeral.  I shake that thought from my head.

“Douglas!”  Mrs. Jenson jumps up and hurries to her husband.  He wraps her in his arms and murmurs something into her hair.  It’s obvious that he loves his wife and would do anything to take the pain away from her.  It warms up my attitude towards him, but only marginally.  Mrs. Jenson ushers him over to our little group and introduces him to my mother who has never met him.

“Pleasure, ma’am,” Mr. Jenson says gravely, shaking my mother’s hand.  “It’s most unfortunate it has to be under such duress.  How is Paris?”  He looks from one to another, studiously avoiding looking at Lyle.  Mrs. Jenson fills him in on the developments.  The five of us do a little shuffle so my mother, Mr. and Mrs. Jenson are sitting in a row with Lyle and I across from them.  My mother quickly falls back asleep.

“Would you like to see him?”  Mrs. Jenson ask softly, her eyes focusing on her husband’s.  He hesitates, and for a minute, I’m sure he’s going to say no.

“Of course, Catherine.”  He comes through like a trooper.  The two of them stand up, and Mrs. Jenson leads him by the hand.

“Did you see the way he hesitated?”  Lyle hisses as soon as the two are out of sight—and hopefully earshot.  “He doesn’t give a damn about Paris.”

“Lyle, please,” I say wearily.  I am too tired to hear another harangue about the evilness of the Jensons.  While I may not agree with their ideology, I have to respect that they are being true to what they believe.  Besides, obsessing about it isn’t going to do anything but give Lyle an ulcer.

“Oh, I know.  I’m sorry,” Lyle says contritely.  “It’s just that they remind me so much of my parents.  And about a zillion other parents of queer folk.  How did you get to be so lucky?”

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Plaster of Paris; chapter seven, part two

I wander around the gym, engaging random people in conversation.  No one working out, of course, because that would be in violation of club rules.  Besides, I know how I’d feel if someone was pestering me as I was trying to do my reps.  However, there are quite a few people just milling around, looking as if they’re either resting or done or about to start.  Those are the ones I target.  Understandably, most of them are reluctant to divulge anything to a total stranger, but the fact that I’m a petite woman who is not a potential threat disarms the women.  The fact that I’m a good-looking petite Asian woman disarms most of the men—and more than a few women.  Unfortunately, even when I’m able to pry information out of people, there is precious little to be had.  Gym rats are creatures of habit, and most of this crowd never step foot in the gym until late afternoon.  After an hour, I’m more than a little dispirited.  I decide to try one more person before giving up.  My quarry is a burly he-man hulk with bulging muscles and a tiny waist.  I don’t understand why guys go for that look, but I’m sure many guys don’t understand why some women slather makeup on their faces with a trowel.  The guy has bought some kind of wheat-germ drink from the juice bar and is chugging it down methodically.  I wait for him to swallow before I speak.

“Hi,” I say brightly, beaming at him.  “My name is Rayne.  Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“Not at all, doll,” the guy smiles back as his eyes leisurely travel up and down my body.  “Trace.  Short for Tracy, but nobody calls me that.  Not if they want to live, that is.”  He throws back his head and makes a braying sound like a donkey that I soon realize is his way of laughing.  I restrain a sigh at facing yet another stereotype, this time in person.  “Ask away.”  He grins at me as he continues choking down his drink.

“Do you know a guy named Billy?  Short, blond, muscular?  Heart tattoo on his bicep?”  I say the information by rote, which is what it is by now.

“Billy Matthews?  Hell, yeah, I know him!  Thinks he’s going to win Mr. fucking Muscles of San Francisco!  Not if Trace can help it, he sure isn’t.  Too fucking short, for one thing.”  Great.  A guy who talks about himself in the third person.  However, he does know Billy, so I cut him some slack.  “What does a nice gal like you want with an asshole like that?”  Trace looks at me curiously.  “You ain’t his type, anyway.”

“I just want to talk to him,” I say stiffly.  With the other people I’ve talked to thus far, I’ve been able to make small talk, put them at ease.  With Trace, I have lost that ability.  Good ol’ boys tend to do that to me.  “Know where I can find him?”

“Well, here, most every morning.  At night, he likes to frequent the El Rio or the Elbo Room depending on his mood.”  Trace hasn’t stopped looking at me, and it’s beginning to get on my nerves.  “I’m telling ya, he doesn’t like Asian girls,” Trace says earnestly, finishing up his drink.  “He’s partial to Puerto Rican pus—gals.”  I know what he was about to say, and I shoot him a dirty look for it.

“Thanks for the information,” I say briskly.  “I must be going now.”  I turn and leave, not giving him a chance to say anything.  “Prick,” I say under my breath.  It looks as if I’ll have to put my quest for Billy on hold.  At least I have a name and a general description; it’s a start.  I wave to Jimmy on my way out, but he’s staring resolutely at anything but me.  I rush home to shower and change—jeans and a red, long-sleeved shirt—before hurrying back to the hospital.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter seven, part one

I turn to the computer where there is an email from my sister.  More blathering about her wedding and what I must and must not do.  Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so important, and I delete it.  There’s also a nice email from Vashti just saying she’s thinking of me and to call her when I have a minute.  That one I save.  I frown at the next email because it has an unfamiliar address:  I click it open, expecting it to be spam though we have a good filter system.  It’s from Ursula.  She wants to know if I’ve figured anything out yet.  I lift an eyebrow.  It was only yesterday afternoon that I saw her, so I’m not sure what she thinks I might have accomplished since then.  I don’t have the same  antipathy towards her as does Lyle—I actually enjoyed her—but I’m wary of her strident interest.  Granted, Paris is her biological son, and she did just discover him two days ago, but the concerned mother bit is a bit heavy-handed given that she hasn’t laid eyes on the boy for twenty-eight years.

The day has a surreal feel to it as my coworkers avoid me as much as possible.  If they have work they want me to do, they either quickly drop it on my desk and scurry away, or they email me their needs.  Nobody actually talks to me unless they are forced to explain what they need.  Even Quinn avoids me, which is highly unusual.  I don’t miss the constant interruption, but I’m still rather hurt by the snub.  My colleagues are acting as if it’ll rub off on them—the murder bug.  At least, Derek, a coworker tangentially involved with the last murder case is no longer working here; that would make a bad day even worse.  Only the kids treat me the same because in their world, death—even murder—is no big deal.  I would bet that at least ninety-percent of the kids have had someone close to them die—many of them, more than one person.  So for me to be close to three murders is not unusual to them—in fact, it gives me street cred in their eyes; I have the same as experiences as they, to some extent.  Too bad I’m not getting paid to be a counselor rather than an admin assistant.

People ask me how I can work in a place like A Brighter Day with juvenile delinquents.  Aren’t you scared, they ask?  They are the ignorant ones.  The people who bother me, however, are the ones who can’t put themselves in the kids’ shoes, who consider themselves superior.  The people who can’t understand how any kid can turn to crime or live ‘the way they do’.  One particularly obnoxious person wanted to round up all the kids like the ones at my agency and put them on an island somewhere..  I finally let him have it after he pontificated for a good half hour.  I’ve seen some of the case files—I have to organize them periodically—and I’m surprised the kids aren’t more screwed up then they already are.  One has a mother who locked him in the closet every night so she could service men without him bothering her.  One’s stepfather visited her bed frequently and promised to kill her younger sister if she told.  One male was gang- raped with a broken bottle by a bunch of older girls who were high on crack..  The guy I told this to wasn’t quite so ebullient in his criticisms after I shared a few cases with him..

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Plaster of Paris; chapter six, part three

“It’s your turn to go in, Rayne,” Mrs. Jenson says softly.

I struggle to my feet and stagger into Paris’s room.  He hasn’t changed from the last time I saw him.  The officer guarding him must be getting used to the sight of me because he doesn’t bother to poke his head in, just angles his chair so he can see me if he needs to.  I sit in the chair by Paris’s bed and don’t say anything; I just watch him as his chest rises and falls.  Periodically, I touch him gently to let him know I’m there.  There are so many things I want to say, but can’t.  It all sounds so trite compared to what is happening to him.  Thanks for being my best friend, Paris.  Thanks for always being there.  Thanks for being there for me when my father died and for countless other times since when I would have been in deep trouble without you.  Thanks for helping me through the difficult last two months, and I’d do the same for you.  Thanks for the unconditional love.  How can I say any of that without sounding stupid?

I shift in my seat, trying not to notice how pale and terribly still Paris is.  I wish he would wake up so we could get him out of this room; I hate the thought of him being alone.  Paris is such a people person.  He detests being by himself except for the rare occasion when he needs to recharge his batteries.  It happens about once a month.  If I’m home, he’ll put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on his door that he stole from a hotel, then lock himself in.  He’s always more centered and at peace when he emerges hours later, so I let him be.  He never talks about what he does when he’s in self-imposed solitude, but I assume it is some kind of mediation.  Even though Paris is not religious like his mother, he is highly spiritual.  I draw strength from him, and I am at a loss how to be the strong one now that he needs me.

“Paris, you have to wake up,” I whisper, my eyes filling with tears.  “You can’t leave me.  I don’t want to wake up to a world without you in it.”  I stop, not wanting to lay a guilt trip on Paris, though I want him to know how much he’ll be missed if he dies.  “Remember how devastated I was when my father died?  I can’t go through that again.”  I am clutching the edge of the bed as well as his hand.  “I’m going to find out who did this to you, Paris, but it would sure help if you gave me a sign.”  I wait, but nothing.  Not even an involuntary twitch.  I close my eyes as the tears slip down my face.  I know it doesn’t help to cry, but I can’t stop.  I must be more tired than I think because I fall asleep.

Paris is smiling at me, and he’s whole.  Nothing is bruised, battered or broken.  He’s my beautiful boy as he always was.  Except for the gaping hole where his heart should be.  At first I don’t notice it because I’m drinking in the sight of him radiant.  When my eyes are drawn to the hole, I can’t stop staring.  We are outside, and there is greenery showing through that hole.  Suddenly, a face pops up behind the hole.  I can’t tell if it’s a man or woman, but s/he is grinning at me, though s/he’s missing an eye due to a bullet wound.  S/he waves at me before slowly crumpling to the ground.  To my horror, a gun drops from my hand to the ground as the hole in Paris’s heart shrinks until it’s completely gone.  Once that’s complete, he turns and walks away.  There is nothing behind him.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter six, part two

“He’s a changeling,” I say, not exactly sure what it means but liking the sound of it.  “He’s a gift from the heavens.  It doesn’t matter who raised him because he basically came as he is.”

“I’m just so thankful he didn’t lose himself in such a joyless household.”  Lyle finishes one cigarette and reaches for the lighter when he catches the look I’m sending his way.  “What?”  He’s defensive, but knows exactly what I’m staring at him for.  “I’ll quit again when Paris wakes up.”  I don’t say anything.  I can’t, really, without sounding hypocritical., although my own tobacco usage is atypical.  I’ve never been a daily smoker, and it’s rare when I smoke more than two cigarettes on any given occasion.  I sigh and hand over the lighter.  Lyle slips out another cigarette and lights up.

This time, I leave him alone.  Instead, I turn the conversation to the blond as I inhale on my cigarette.  The blond is someone we need to focus on, and I am betting that Lyle’s friend, Marisol, can help us out.  Lyle corrects me yet again on his friend’s name, much to my delight.  I know perfectly well what her name is but it’s so ridiculous, I can’t help making fun of it.  I know, it’s like the pot calling the kettle black, but really!  Lyle wants to know why I think the blond is so important.  I can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic or if he really wants to know, but I answer him, anyway.  Sort of.  I say it’s just a hunch because I don’t want to tell him about my dream.  He’ll think I’m a nut if he doesn’t already.  I need him on my side because I always think better with two heads than with one.  I also want to take his mind off Mrs. Jenson, and thinking about possible suspects should do the trick.

To make it even sweeter for him, I tell him that I agree that there’s something odd about Ursula contacting Paris the same day he’s hit.  Lyle reminds me that she had made a point of saying her husband was out of town which sounds fishy to him.  I tell him what Mrs. Jenson told me about her own husband.  It’s not that far a drive from San Diego to San Francisco.  He could easily have driven up here to commit the crime if he missed a day of the hunting convention, and who would be the wiser?  It’s not as if someone would have been keeping track of his movements 24/7.  He certainly has the temperament to commit cold-blooded murder, turn around and finish attending a hunting convention and not turn a hair.  Mr. Jenson is definitely a top suspect on my list as far as means and opportunity.  When it comes to motive, however, he falls a little short.  I can’t see him taking out his wife’s only living child, but stranger things have happened.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter six, part one

I am incredulous with his reaction and demand to know why it doesn’t bother him.  He thinks it’s funny, and he thinks she’s jealous of anyone I’m sleeping with.  He’s still chuckling as he reveals that he thinks the good inspector has the hots for me.  That causes me to sputter indignantly for a few minutes while Lyle looks on in amusement.  The prim and proper inspector having a crush on me?  The thought of that is so bizarre, I can’t take it seriously.  I’m nothing more than an irritant to her, forced upon her because of unusual circumstances.  I’m a suspect in an attempted murder case and have been in two past cases.  I don’t even know she’s gay, for god’s sake.  The idea is ludicrous, I inform Lyle.  He brushes aside my objections, firm in his belief that Inspector Robinson wants to get into my pants.

While I’m musing over this hypothesis, he also drops that he’s slept with women before.  After imparting that startling information, he returns to my room, leaving me stunned, but not for long.  I hurry after him, pushing open my door.  I’m not ready to end the conversation quite yet.  I demand to know what he’s talking about as he seems the original poster boy for gay since birth.  I’m also having difficulty accepting that he’s a switch-hitter, too.  Isn’t anybody just gay any more?  Yes, I’m aware of the irony, but I can’t help feeling that way.  Lyle shrugs, his attention on the computer.  He offhandedly mentions that he was a late bloomer, that he and Paris had a good laugh over the idea of Lyle with a woman, then assumes the conversation is over.  It’s not to me, and I’m hurt that this is yet another thing Paris didn’t tell me.  It seems like there are a few things he’s kept from me.  Sure, I’ve been out of it the last few months, but still.  The last thing I want is Paris to cut me out of his life.

Lyle sees that I’m not going to let it drop, so he tells me his coming-out story.  He grew up very sheltered and couldn’t fathom being with a man.  Even after he knew the truth, he tried to convince himself that it was just a phase.  It took many attempts at a relationship with a woman before he finally acknowledged to himself what he should have known all along—he was gay.  He liked women as friends, but he couldn’t love them romantically and he certainly wasn’t sexually-attracted to them.  I ask when he last slept with a woman.  He gives me a dirty look, but answers.  Ten years ago when he was twenty-five.  That’s pretty late for discovering one’s gayness, especially for a man.  He assures me with a mischievous smile that he’s not attracted to me, and for a minute, I’m hurt.  Even though I know he’s not into women, I’m insulted that he could so freely admit that he’s not attracted to me.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter five, part three

“Ok, you two,” my mother says firmly.  “You need to rest.  Go home.”  Lyle and I begin to protest through our tears.  The last thing I want to do is leave Paris.  “Go!  You need real sleep—not an hour here and there.  Take Lyle’s truck and crash at Rainbow’s.  I’ll stay with Catherine.  I have my car if I need it.”  When my mother decides on a course of action, the best thing to do is to follow it.

“I’m not going,” Lyle says firmly, not having as much experience with my mother as I have.

“You are going,” my mother replies, leveling him with a stare.  I shudder at the memory of that well-timed look.  I’ve seen it rarely over the years, but the effect is emblazoned on my soul.  “Ideally, you’ll stay away until morning, but barring that, get at least five hours of sleep.  It’s seven-thirty now.  That means I don’t want to see you until after midnight.”  She lifts her chin, daring Lyle to defy her.  To his credit, he recognizes an immovable force when he sees one and simply nods his head.  The last thing I see as Lyle and I leave the cafeteria is my mother buying more food, presumably for Mrs. Jenson.  Lyle and I walk to the truck in silence.  We are well on our way home when Lyle finally speaks.

“You going to work tomorrow?”  He is gripping the steering wheel so tightly, his knuckles are white.

“I have to,” I say simply.  He knows better than most why.  I took a month’s leave of absence after the first murder case and pretty much exhausted my goodwill with the agency.  After the second murder case, I was made to feel guilty for taking a week off.  In addition, people were starting to looking askance at me at work.  I can tell they’re thinking, ‘What’s wrong with her that she’s been involved in two separate murder investigations?’  I’m not thrilled that there has now been a third attempt.  If I’m fortunate, however, it will be thought of as a simple hit-and-run.

“I’m closing shop for a few days,” Lyle says.  He is the owner of a novelty shop on Mission Street and sets his own hours.  “We should check the news when we get to your place.”  He is obviously thinking the same thing I am as far as to how the ‘accident’ is being reported.  When go inside my apartment, there are messages on the machine.  I zip through them quickly.  I’m half-listening, when the last message catches my attention.

“…lucky.  Next time, I won’t miss.”

“Lyle!  Come here!”  Lyle had gone into Paris’s room to find something to wear and comes hurrying into the living room.  He’s wearing a pair of Paris’s black jeans and one of his silver shirts as they are roughly the same size.  My heart twists just looking at him.

“What it is?”  Lyle’s eyes are troubled as he sees the look on my face.  It’s on the tip of my tongue to demand that he take off Paris’s clothes, but I swallow my comment.  I press play on the answering machine instead.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter five, part two

Watching Mrs. Jenson, I feel another surge of anger.  Not at the would-be murderer this time, but at her.  She loves Paris, I have no doubt, but she can’t see past her narrow vision to embrace the beautiful, complicated man that he is.  The whole time Paris and I’ve been friends, I’ve never heard Mrs. Jenson say anything positive about or to Paris.  Instead, she stands to the side with her mouth pursed, looking at him with disapproval.  Paris feels her disappointment keenly, but hasn’t gotten bitter over it as many would have.  However, he does have issues with his dead father, which reminds me that I have to tell him the story his mother told me about shutting out Mr. Frantz after adopting Paris.  It might help explain why Mr. Frantz was the way he was.

Thinking about Mr. Frantz and Mrs. Jenson leads me to think about relationship in general.  How we as humans pretty much fuck them up on a regular basis.  I know more bad relationship than good ones, and even strong ones such as my parents’ marriage are marred by details best left unknown—such as each of their affairs.  My strongest adult relationship ended badly when she walked out on me because she ‘couldn’t stand one more day’ of being around me.  She said she’d scream if she had to listen to my idiotic ramblings any longer.  That’s how she phrased it.  I was still in love with her, and needless to say, I was crushed.  Paris, for as good as he is about making people fall in love with him, isn’t so great with relationships himself.  He gets bored easily and dumps with impunity.  He’s had more than one stalker in his time.  Brett, the love of his life who died from AIDS, is the exception, and now Lyle.  Except they had a huge fight which led to Paris running into the street and being hit.  Again, I can’t stop the thought that Lyle might have had something to do with the hit-and-run from creeping into my mind.

I sit up straight as something which had previously slipped my mind comes rushing back.  The blond that Lyle’s friend, Marisol, Melody, or whatever her name is, saw smooching Paris at Muddy Waters.  Tall, good body, pretty.  I don’t remember if Lyle said the last, but I’m sure she’s pretty.  Paris doesn’t hang out with anyone not attractive, even as a friend.  It’s one of his weaknesses; he has an eye for the aesthetics.  He’s had one or two anomalies in his past, but for the most part, he likes attractive people.  I’m not sure the blond means anything, but it’s an oddity in Paris’s life.  From the way Lyle described her, she’s not someone I recognize.  Like a great many big men, Paris prefers small women.  I wonder if there’s any way I can find out who the mystery girl is.  The other reason I doubt she’s a lover of his is because of her age.  Paris won’t date anyone under twenty-one, even though he likes them young—Lyle notwithstanding.  He says if he can’t drink with them, he won’t sleep with them.

There is nothing to do but wait.  I would give anything to trade places with Paris, but that’s simply not an option.  I close my eyes, intending to rest for a minute.  I used to be able to pull all-nighters when I was in college, but not any more.  The effects of the past sixteen hours or so have caught up to me.  I fall into a deep sleep.  I dream of Paris screaming my name from deep beneath the ocean.  I am on the surface, desperately trying to decipher what he’s saying.  I can barely make out his form, and there’s an amorphous blond figure next to him whose hair is twined around Paris’s neck.  His face is slowly turning blue as she chokes off his airway.  Ursula suddenly appears, wresting Paris away from the apparition.  She pulls him up—and away from me.  I call out his name, but he slips further away.

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