We walked home at sunset.
The boardwalk was clear of men in black and we crossed to the shop. You needed to watch out for loud button-down shirts as well. They think it helps them fit in with the tourists. It really makes them look as out of touch as all of them are. I didn’t want to be a part of that world. My mother didn’t want me to be either. She offered to take care of Rickie for me, swore she wouldn’t let them get to her.
Dad made us both safe for a while, but credit never lasts long with loan sharks.
My beautiful son. Life was supposed to be perfect. I was pregnant right out of high school, which is normal enough these days, and I thought Anthony wanted to get away, same as me. We planned it all out our senior year, the price of land in Oregon, the total responsibility we would take for our lives. That all changed when Richie was born.
His fucking father got to him. They showed up to the birth coked up. They named him without my input. They informed me I was marrying Anthony and moving in the Delucci family home.
I tried to take Ritchie and run, but Mom wouldn’t let me. I couldn’t stay there. Anthony betrayed me.
And wants me dead for the money I took on my way out the door.
Home. Gerard and I bound up the steps, two at a time. The street buzzes behind us, clients in and out of the shop, tourists on their way from beach to club, family fun to dinner hell.
I do not miss holidays with my “family”.
Our room beckons, sun setting outside of the small window, bed made. Gerard had fussed around, making things ready before I came home. All traces of our madness were gone, wiped away like the stupid reasons I used to take out my anger on him.
“It was my fault, Ali. I’m sorry. Stupid picture. But I don’t get to do much script work like that, and it looks so good–”
I walk up and wrap my arms around him. The muscles are right beneath his skin, taut and sinewy. “Because you are a great artist.” I lift my head from his chest and kiss his lips, savoring the lingering taste of salt. It tastes different than the crust you get hiking in the desert from water laced with minerals.
We spent awhile in the desert before moving east. For a minute it was magic. Gerard stole a Jeep on our way out of town and it served us well until it ran out of gas. The nights were cold, but we snuggled together and the best of it. Once the Jeep died we had to walk until we found someone we could trust to help us. My lips felt like they were going to fall off before we reached Lake Mead and a fresh buffet of vehicles Gerard could steal. Anthony provided the gas money. I’d originally planned to fly as far away from all of them as I could.
My angel of a taxi driver informed me they would be able to trace me, even if I paid cash, because of the new regulations. And so we stole a Jeep and headed out to the desert. Gerard swore he was looking for adventure. I think he was looking to get in my pants. I was still in the crappy shirt and yoga pants they give you as a recovering mother in the hospital, and so upset all my troubles spilled out of me on the ride. He knew I was easy.
But that doesn’t matter now. Now I am encircled in his arms, safe, home, happy. Hunted. Lost. But happy.
We fall to the bed and he tries to speak but I put my lips to his and eat the words, filling a bit more emptiness inside my heart with the love from his tongue against mine, falling into the nothingness of one bed, one heart, one soul. For now, we are the only people in the world, the sounds of a busy summer evening on the Virginia Beach strip muted by the closed window, the sunset filtered through dirt and scratches, making child’s sketches of light on our bodies. For a moment I think of Anthony despite myself, to wonder at how it never felt like this with him, never felt so connected. We were together such a long time, our fathers determined to have their legacies live on in the way they wanted.
Gerard touches my face and they all fall away, he moves his other hand down my body and I melt, I massage his neck as our kiss goes deeper and he moans in my mouth. We press against each other and restraint dies, hands become frantic and clothes suddenly cease to exist. The evening comes, and the night after it, and we remain in the bed, remain with each other, affirm the life we have created, its goodness, its rightness.
When sleep comes, I am still wrapped in his arms, and the letter stays forgotten in my pocket, somewhere thrown on the floor.
For earlier story see:
installment the first
installment the second
installment the third
installment the fourth