When I am through, I shut down my computer. Ten o’clock. Early to be going to bed, but it’s been a long day. After getting ready for bed, I slip under the covers next to Paris. I have a king-size bed because I like space as I sleep, but the bed feels small with Paris in it. I am wearing a t-shirt and panties and still feel overdressed. I turn on my side away from Paris so our butts are facing each other. He turns over and snuggles up next to me. We fit together well. I listen to his even breathing as I drift along. Just as I’m about to fall asleep, I feel his hand move from my waist down to my hip. His fingers are curled over so they are brushing the crease that separates my thigh from my groin. I don’t know if he’s doing it on purpose, but he’s crossing the danger zone. I pick up his hand and put it back on his own hip. A minute later, it’s back on my thigh. I turn around to face him.
“Paris Frantz, you stop that.” I am fierce with him, knowing it’s the only way to nip this in the bud. I have miscalculated, however, since turning around puts my face inches away from his. Even in the dark, I can feel him looking at me before I sense him moving forward. His lips meet mine squarely, and his tongue separates my lips. A moan slips out of my throat as he continues to kiss me. I know I should put a stop to this, but it feels too good. His hand is on my other thigh and rubbing in slow circles.
“Rayne, I need this,” he whispers after breaking off the kiss. I can taste the alcohol and the toothpaste, and it’s a strange combination. I feel his breath on my cheek as his hand moves up my thigh, over my waist, under my shirt and settles on my breast. It’s as if I’ve been branded with an iron. Jolts of electricity shoot through me. Our lips meet. Suddenly, I am angry that he is putting me in this position yet again. He knows that I lust over him. He knows that while we have always been very good at this, it’s inadvisable for us to have sex. He knows all this, and yet, he doesn’t care. Even as my body responds to his touch, my mind is quietly fuming.
“Paris, you have to stop,” I whisper back, my voice ragged. Paris rolls me onto my back and props himself up over me. My thighs part out of their own volition and the fingers of his left hand are sliding under my panties while his right hand is still occupied with my breast.
“Shh, darling, don’t say anything.” Paris covers my mouth with his. I know this is wrong. I know we shouldn’t be doing this, but I am past the point of stopping. I finally submit, deciding to deal with the consequences after it is over. He moves his right hand to my arm and starts the slow, steady stroking that drives me so wild. He is poised over me when I realize what he’s about to do.
“Paris, no!” I say after wrenching my mouth from his. I push him off me, and he tumbles to the bed. “We are not having unprotected sex!” I grab the sheets and pull them over me.
“Then I’ll be right back.” Paris jumps out of bed and dashes out the door. I don’t tell him that I have condoms in the drawer of my nightstand; it’s not something he needs to know. By the time he returns, condom in hand, I know that this will not happen.
“Go back to your room,” I say in a low voice. I cannot believe that for the second night in a row, I am turning him down. This is becoming a habit, one I hope I don’t have to repeat too often. “We can’t do this, and you know it.” I hold my breath, waiting for him to argue.
“Rayne, I can’t sleep alone tonight,” Paris says. My heart breaks at the pain in his voice. How can I be so cruel as to deny my best friend comfort?
“You can sleep in my bed, but I am not having sex with you.” I hope my voice isn’t wobbling as I deliver the ultimatum. “If you try to put the move on me again, I will kick you out of bed for the rest of the night. Understand?” I sense rather than see Paris nod his head, then I pull back the covers and allow him to crawl under them.
“Can I have a hug?” He whispers in a little-boy voice. I move over so I can hug him, and he can hug me. It is awkward to hug while lying in bed, but we do our best. He turns around so his back is to me, and I spoon him from behind. I stroke his arm rhythmically, hoping to soothe him. It takes ten minutes of steady stroking before he falls asleep.
I am not so lucky. Thoughts race my mind as I listen to him breathe. I know Paris doesn’t have anything to do with killing Max, but I can’t help wondering what else he lied about. He has been less than truthful throughout this whole ordeal. I thought I knew him inside out; I’m no longer sure that’s true. It’s discomfiting to realize that your best friend isn’t the person you thought he was. Do I place too much pressure on him to be a certain way? Does he feel uncomfortable talking to me about his true emotions? Does he think that I won’t understand what he’s going through? These questions won’t allow me to sleep. I carefully disengage from Paris and turn the other way. I plump my pillow a time or two, but nothing helps. As tired as my body is, it won’t fall asleep; it’s too jacked up from coitus interruptus. For a moment, I am irritated that I stopped Paris and that he acquiesced so easily. I am tempted to masturbate to relieve my tension, but that would be strange with Paris right next to me. My next irrational idea is to wake him up by giving him a blow job. I squash that idea as well.
“Damn you, Paris,” I mutter softly. He emits a sigh which startles me as I initially think it’s in response to my words. I quickly realize that it has nothing to do with me and continue my musing. Shit. I have to deal with Quinn tomorrow and try to explain bailing on her. I don’t feel too guilty about it as she got a date out of our encounter last night—perhaps we can be friends. I wonder if I should visit the male bartender, Antonio, this weekend; Vivienne is definitely out of the question. It’s been three months since I’ve had sex, and I’m hornier than a toad. I know women are not supposed to want sex as much as men do, but that’s a myth. I think women are just more adept at hiding it or turning the energy towards something else. All I know is that I am ready to have sex any time, any place. I know it’s especially bad when I’m ready to wake up my best friend just so he can service me. Especially when said friend is in the middle of a crisis.
“Max,” Paris mutters in his sleep. “Max! Don’t leave me!” His voice rises in panic. “Max, where are you going?” He is shouting by now, kicking the covers off the bed—and me. Kicking me, I mean, but also kicking the covers off me.
“Paris, wake up.” I give his shoulder a sharp shake, but he continues to squirm. He is a deep sleeper, and it takes a lot to wake him up. “Paris!” I shake him again, then a third time. When he still hasn’t woken up, I slap him in the face.
“Wha—huh?” Paris opens his eyes, but I know he’s not quite awake yet. “What did you hit me for?” He sleepily rubs his cheek as his eyes slowly droop shut.
“Wake up!” I shake him again. “You were having a nightmare.” I tell him what he’s been saying in his sleep and ask if he remembers any of it.
“I remember chasing Max as she runs away from me,” he says thickly, his eyes almost closed. He corrects himself. “She’s not running away from me; she’s running away from something behind me. I can’t see what it is, but it’s something terrible. I don’t want her to go because I know something is going to happen to her. There’s a cliff in front of her which she doesn’t see.”
“You ok to sleep now?” I ask—I don’t want a repeat performance.
“’I’m fine,” Paris says softly, his head nestled in the pillow. I pull the covers back up to his chin and watch as he falls asleep again. I envy his ability to drop off with little fuss. I do not fall asleep easily nor do I sleep well. I sigh and snuggle back under the covers, staring at the ceiling. Not literally, of course, as it is too dark to see the ceiling. I know if I shut my eyes, I have a better chance of falling asleep, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I make a mental list of things I have to do tomorrow. Call Emil from work and see if he will meet with me. There is definitely something he’s not telling me. I need to email Vashti and see if she’s heard anything else about either murder. Shit, I was supposed to call her. Oh well, too late for that now. I might even need to visit the Wild Side West again and see if Billie has done any bragging lately. I have to ignore my sister’s emails as they just get me upset. I have two weeks to think of a way to back out of the whole wedding drama, so I’m not going to bother with it now.
I wish I had a sister who shared one interest with me. I don’t care what interest as long as it’s something we both liked to do. I know that genetics are a funny thing, but I don’t understand how two offspring from the same loins can be so diametrically opposite. I know for a fact that she has voted Republican from the minute she could vote while I usually vote Democratic with the occasional green or independent thrown in. She asked for a Macy’s card for her twelfth birthday; I asked for a bike for mine. She wanted to go to finishing school—I played volleyball and tennis. She bought her first lipstick at thirteen—I rarely wear makeup at all. I could go on and on, listing each difference, but that would be painful. Suffice to say—if my mother had given birth in a hospital like normal mothers, I would suspect that Libby had been switched at birth. That’s the only way I can think of explaining things. I drift off to sleep still musing over Libby and my differences.
The alarm goes off with an ungodly loudness. I slam it off, noting that Paris hasn’t budged from his sleeping position. I pass my hand in front of his nose to make sure he’s breathing. He is. I slide out of bed without waking him. I slip on my bunnies and pad to the bathroom to get ready. The day is cold, not unusual for a September morning. I take a long, hot shower to relieve my tension and to massage my aching back. After I’m done with my morning ritual, I go into the kitchen and start the espresso maker. I don’t normally drink coffee first thing in the morning, but I need the pick-me-. I didn’t fall asleep until well after two in the morning, and I’m feeling the effects of it already. When the espresso is ready, I pour myself a cup and drop in a healthy dollop of cream. I top it off with some sugar and a squirt of whip cream. It’s all I want for breakfast.
I make it to work by eight-fifteen, which is highly unusual for me. While I am good at what I do, and I expend a hundred percent while I’m there, I don’t usually go the extra mile and show up early. As I hang up my jacket, I notice that Quinn is nowhere in sight. Not that I expect her to be at my desk every day, greeting me with a cheerful smile. It’s just that I could use a bit of friendship right now, and she’s the closest thing to it at the agency. I sit at my desk and start up the computer. There are three emails from my sister just waiting for me. The first has the ominous subject line of, ‘I am extremely cross with you.’ I know I shouldn’t open it, not when I’m in this mood. I know I’m about to mess with my head, but I also know I have to deal with her at some point. I open it with trepidation. I have no idea what to expect now that she has become the Martha Stewart from hell for weddings. I take a few deep breaths before I start reading.
“Rayne, I cannot believe you haven’t emailed me back yet. I hate when you pull this passive-aggressive crap. You must have known I’d want your opinion about what you are wearing and confirmation that we’re on the same page. I cannot believe you haven’t emailed me about your dress or your diet plan. I know it’s difficult to lose ten pounds but if I could do it in high school, so can you! You better. I don’t want a porker for a bridesmaid. Libby.” She should know about losing weight—she was borderline anorexic as a high school cheerleader, but I guess that phrase is redundant. The second is entitled, ‘A few more thoughts.’ I sigh and make my mouse hover over the ‘delete’ button. I really don’t need the grief, but I also feel guilty because I have such an overwhelming dislike for my sister. It’s not her fault she’s completely different from me. One of the old Taiwanese ways that my parents tried to instill into my sister and me is the idea of family loyalty. Unfortunately, it didn’t take with either of us.
“Rayne, if you don’t reply to this email today, you are no longer a bridesmaid. I have just about had it with your bullshit. You think you’re so great because you haven’t given into ‘the man’. You work in a shitty nonprofit job which makes you better than me, I guess. Or maybe it’s jealousy because you can’t get a good man yourself that you want to ruin my wedding. Whatever it is, you better reply. Libby.” I am stunned by her vitriol. It’s hard for me to believe that she is this mad at me over such a trivial thing. The last email, sent an hour after the second one, is entitled, ‘F*** you.’
“I can’t believe you haven’t responded. Don’t bother, Rayne. It’s obvious that you don’t care about me at all. I can’t believe you’d do this to me. Not only do I not want you to be my bridesmaid, I don’t want you at the wedding. You’ll just ruin it, anyway. I hate you, Rayne. I really do. P.S. Don’t go running to Mom about this like you always do.” This blows me away. First, I am numbed by it, then I am angered. She should know that I don’t get to work until after eight PST. What the hell is her problem? And the crack about running to Mom? The only reason I talk to my mother is because I can’t talk to Libby. I make sure nobody is around, then call my mother.
“What’s up, man?” My mother sounds cheerful. She must be working on a painting or something. Creativity makes her happy.
“Mom, you have to listen to this!” I read her the three emails and wait for her reaction.
“Ah, Rainbow. Don’t let Liberty get to you. Call her up and tell her you’ll do it. She’s just tense—she doesn’t really mean it.” Mom says, much too blithely for my taste.
I protest. My sister hates me and always has. My mother disagrees. She thinks Libby is jealous of me and insecure because deep down, she knows her values are fucked up. My opinion is important to her so she flies off the handle when she senses my disapproval. I snort. It’s just like my mother to pull this hippie psychobabble on me. I think Libby does what she does because she’s a manipulative, high-strung, controlling bitch, and I want no part of it. My mother refuses to be drawn into my indignation and calmly points out that I need to decide what I can live with and what I can’t. Don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t let Libby engage me in her drama. She says if it’s the money, she’ll help me out. It’ll make my sister happy, and isn’t that the important part?
I want to ask, what about me? Doesn’t my happiness count? Apparently not in this situation. I am tired of being the one who has to be understanding of Libby. Why doesn’t she ever have to think of me? Even when we were kids, my sister never had to take my feelings into consideration, only vice-versa. I know what my mother’s answer to that would be. Libby doesn’t have the capacity to think of others, so it’s no use to ask her to do it. In addition, she’s the younger sister and it’s up to the elders to look after the youngers. I think that lets Libby off the hook too easily, though. If Mom and I coddle her and never expect her to think of others, why would she do it? If we’re always acquiescing to her, she has no incentive to ever give in. I’m not in the mood to argue any more, however. I promise my mother I’ll call Libby, then hang up the phone.
I turn back to the computer and pull up a Word document. I make two lists—what I can stand and what I can’t. If my mother is willing to help out with costs, I guess I can wear the hideous dress with the accouterments. I can take Libby’s snotty tone and her shitty attitude. I can have my hair and my nails done, but I want to do my own makeup because I can’t stand that caked-on feeling. Screw the wrap. If I get chilly, I can put on my coat. I will shave my armpits, but not my legs. No one is going to see the latter, anyway. I’ll wear pantyhose, though I detest hosiery. I won’t bring up any controversial issues, but if someone else does, I’m not going to shy away from a discussion. There’s nothing wrong with healthy disagreement, anyway. Lastly, I most definitely will not dieting for her wedding. If I happen to lose weight, great. If not, tough shit. I feel better after typing out the list and call my sister at work.