Michael surprised Sean: “Hey, is that your girlfriend? Nice. She’s a real looker, Dad.”
“Jeeze, Michael, you scared me. What are you doing home?”
“It’s 3:30, Dad. You know, school’s out?” Michael sat down next to his father laughing.
“Looks like you had a good day,” Sean smiled.
“It’s over, I’m here. Hey can I play now?” he motioned to the computer.
Clearly disappointed, Michael moaned, “Aw come on, Dad. No homework tonight and no tests tomorrow.”
Michael’s face flushed. Sean recognized the stop sign and confessed. “I set your computer up today with an EQ account and dial-up, and put in the character transfer request. You should be all set up, son. Knock yourself out.”
His face lit up. “You did? Cool, Dad. Thanks.”
The phone rang and Michael left. Sean picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
The voice at the other end was Connie’s. “I’m going to be late tonight, Sean. Something’s come up.”
Sean heard a click on the line. “I can imagine,” he replied flatly.
“Listen, I don’t need that right now. Take care of dinner, will you? Order pizza or something.” She abruptly hung up.
Sean listened for a few seconds and heard another click. He replaced the receiver in its cradle. Footsteps… from their bedroom to Michael’s room…
The living room was cozy. Sean put on a Greatest Hits of the 60’s CD and lay down on the sofa. He had picked the sofa himself, his decision based solely on how it felt when you lay down on it. Connie loved the color, so she was happy with it too. Lying back, he closed his eyes. The world seemed so saner with eyes closed. He could see none of the violence and oppression, none of the insanity that happened every day in the city, none of the insanity that was his life. It all melted into darkness, a darkness in which his mind created whatever it pleased.
In the darkness, the quiet night wrapped its soft arms around him and caressed him lovingly. Faceless, giving, soft in its affection, the night kissed him sweetly. His lips longed for its enveloping love and cried out silently to be taken and taken again. The moon rose from behind the trees and the darkness took on a woman’s form, unclothed and beautiful in the soft glow. She pulled him to her and they kissed in an embrace that lasted an eternity.
Melting… he was melting. Panic… ringing… his ears were ringing.
Sean sat up in a sweat. The music had stopped. It was dark outside.
“Dad! It’s for you!” Robbie called from the kitchen.
“What?” His mind was still crossing back to this reality, slowly, unwillingly.
Robbie brought the cordless into the living room and handed it to him. “Phone, Dad. Some woman.”
Pushing his hair back from his face, he took the phone. “Hello?”
“Sean?” It was Kate.
Unable to mask his surprise, he replied: “Kate? Why are you calling?”
“Well, thank you very much,” she laughed. “I just wanted to make sure you were ok. I left work early too. Must be a bug or something.”
Finally awake, Sean asked: “You’re sick?”
“Well, if you want to know the truth, I’m just sick and tired. That place makes me sick. Fasula is the pits. I just couldn’t take it any more. So what are you up to?”
“Nothing. Just took a nap. Connie’s working late and I guess I need to do something about dinner for the kids.”
“I’ve got an idea.”
Hesitatingly, Sean answered: “Yeah?”
“How about I stop over with pizza?”
“Don’t you live in the city? Kind of a hike, isn’t it?” Sean regretted saying that as soon as the words came out. He bit his lip.
He was relieved when she answered: “I’m at the mall doing some shopping. Would you guys rather join me here?”
Glancing around the almost respectably clean room, Sean said: “No, it would be great if you came over. Let me give you directions.”
Kate arrived with the pizzas and 2-liter cokes about thirty minutes later. She wore tight-fitting jeans and a white blouse. Sean was also in jeans, though his didn’t fit quite so well. He had lost weight lately. His baggy sweater concealed his thin upper torso.
“Hey,” Sean said simply, opening the door and letting her in. “You found us ok?”
“No problem,” she replied smiling. “Here take these.” She handed the shopping bag of cokes to Sean and they went into the kitchen.
“Ok if we eat in the kitchen? It’s where we usually eat.”
“Sure, fine by me. Less formal. Where are the boys?”
Sean called for the boys. They yelled back from their room: “Just a minute.”
“Teenagers,” he shrugged. “Want a drink?” Sean offered Kate a glass of coke.
“Yes, thanks. Nice place. How long have you lived here?” Kate sipped her drink slowly.
“Oh about fourteen years I guess. We moved here around the time Michael was born.”
“How much land do you have here? It seems huge compared to my little apartment.”
“Thirteen acres. Most of it is wooded. We planted a ton of Christmas trees, to sell I mean, but gave up on that idea a year or so ago. Too much work.”
“Cool. Can you show me around? I’d love to see it.” Her eyes were disarming. They looked into his and right through him. He felt them probing for something.
“You mean now?” He wondered if his nervousness showed.
“Yes, now. Is that ok? Looks like we have to wait for the boys anyway. A minute for them will be at least fifteen minutes.”
Sean glanced out the window at the darkness. The moon was out and backlit the trees outside the kitchen window. “Sure, there’s enough light I guess. I’ll give you the moonlight tour. Costs extra you know,” he laughed.
“That’s ok. I brought my credit card,” she said, pulling her wallet from her handbag.
They walked through out the back door into the soft moonlight. The evening was beautiful and cool, the flowers heavy with their spring scents. Sean took Kate’s hand and guided her toward the back field. He stopped and let go when they reached it.
“This is the back edge of the property. That field belongs to the Toomy’s. See those woods to the right? Our property is L-shaped. The woods all the way back to the end of this field belong to us.”
Kate took his hand again and he shivered. “Show me,” she whispered.
The house sat on a small hill. Most of the property was on lower ground. He led her down the hill to an unused barn, past it, and back into the forest of cedars and beech. They had to go slowly for it was darker here than out in the open.
“What’s in the barn?” Kate asked pushing branches out of the way.
“My wife likes horses. We used to have a horse.”
“But not now?”
“No, she never rode it, and, well, it ate like a horse,” he laughed. “We found a good home for her though.”
They came to a clearing in the woods and Sean pointed out a stone marker to Kate. “That is the property line. To our right it gets pretty wet - a marsh - so we should probably not go there, at least not in the dark.”
“It’s beautiful, so peaceful. What’s that singing noise?”
Sean listened. “Frogs, tree frogs I think. Only the males sing. To attract the females.” He was looking down into her moonlit face. He was only slightly taller than Kate, maybe two inches. An eternity seemed to pass.
“Show me the barn,” she said finally.
“Ok,” Sean took her hand. It was moist and warm. He led her back to the barn and inside.
“There are four stalls. Two are filled with junk and the other two are empty.” He flicked on the lights. “Sorry about the mess, and the smell. Standard hayloft upstairs. That’s about it.”
“It smells like my grandparent’s barn in Ohio,” Kate walked the center hall, opening the doors, looking inside, closing them again. “You do have a lot of junk here.”
“My wife grew up here, so most of it is her family’s stuff. Her dad sold us the place when we were looking for a bigger house and he was looking for a smaller one.”
“Oh, where does he live now?” Kate peered up into the loft darkness.
“In a nursing home. He had a stoke a few years back.”
“Oh, sorry. What’s up in the loft?” She turned on the loft light.
“Come on, let’s check it out.” She ascended the wobbly ladder carefully while he held its base. He caught himself staring at her nicely shaped figure and looked away guiltily. He followed her after she was safely in the loft and they stood quietly in the musty loft.Sean walked softly to the loft doors and swung them open, letting in the cool, sweet night air. It seemed too pure in comparison to the city’s smoke-filled streets, so much easier to breathe in without regret. When he turned back, Kate was there, and he was in her arms. She held him lightly, looking up into his eyes. His arms slid around her and his hands pressed against her back, bringing her closer. He thought of nothing but his desire to kiss her. Their lips met and his world melted away in their hunger for each other.