Lena gently rolls over and snuggles further beneath the covers. She inches closer to Paul’s side of the bed, hoping to make contact. Her arm touches something rather hairy and all of a sudden a giant tongue licks her across the eye and nose. Lena jumps up and makes a startled face, “Errugh!” Once sitting straight up she realizes she is looking into the eyes of Martha the sheep dog.
“Martha, you silly thing! What in the world are you doing up here?” Lena giggles and pets the dog. A few moments later she hears music coming from downstairs. She pulls back the covers and inspects her ankle. It was bruised but not quite as puffy as the night before. Lena stands up cautiously and attempts to walk across to the door. Her ankle is sore, but not wobbly and she walks with a little limp. She hobbles down the stairs and peers into the kitchen.
Lena sees Paul sitting at the table with coffee and an acoustic guitar in front of him. Papers are spread out all over the table and a cigarette is burning in an ashtray. Lena steps quietly behind him and places a hand on his shoulder, “How’s it going?”
Paul shudders a bit, not used to being taken off guard in his own home, “Lena! You scared me! What are you doing walking about?”
Lena sits down in the chair beside him, “You have Martha to thank for that. She took your place in bed this morning. How long have you been up?” Paul gives a little smile. Lena notices he needs to shave and looks a little scruffy.
“I haven’t been up that long, maybe an hour or two. This song is racking me bloody brain! How’s your ankle?”
Lena looks down and props her foot up on his
vacant knee, “It’s bruised and a little sore, but it
feels rather stable when I walk on it. I limp a
little, though.” She looks to Paul and sees him
shaking his head.
She looks at him questioningly, “What? What are you shaking your head about?”
Paul sighs and pats her foot, “You, you silly thing. You shouldn’t even be walking on it to know that you’re limping. I’m taking you back upstairs.” Paul rises and attempts to pick her up but she scoots the chair backwards, “Please Paul. I want to stay down here with you and drink coffee.”
Paul shakes his head, “I’ll bring it up to you, Lena.”
Lena inches further away and pleads, “Pretty please? I’d love to hear your songs. I’ll be quiet, I swear.”
She pouts out her mouth a bit and and looks at him innocently. Paul laughs and shrugs his shoulders, “I can’t very well say no to that!”
Lena smiles triumphantly, “Good, now just go about your business like I’m not even here. I’ll get some coffee and be extremely quiet.”
She rises and Paul pushes her back into the chair, “No. I’ll get you some coffee and you can be quiet.” Paul strides over to the coffee maker and pours Lena a cup. He walks back to the table and hands her the cup, “Here you go. Ready?” Lena takes a sip and nods excitedly.
Two hours and three cups of coffee later, Lena yawns and looks to the clock. She realizes that she needs to call Madame and check on how she feels. Lena taps Paul on the shoulder, “Paul. I’d better call Madame Cordelia, I’m a little concerned about her and she is probably worried about me too.” Paul shakes his head in understanding and helps Lena up to the phone. She leans against the wall and picks up the receiver.
The phone rings twice when Madame Cordelia picks up abruptly, “Hello, this is Madame Cordelia!” Lena jumps a bit from Madame’s boisterous greeting.
“Madame Cordelia, it’s me Len—er Anna. How are you doing? Are you feeling any better?”
Madame Cordelia sighs, “Oh, Anna darling, I’m just doing dreadful. Jezebel has been hiding all morning and I haven’t been able to go look for her because of my dizzy spells!”
Lena bites the side of her lip, “Do you want me to come home? I’d be more than willing to help you!”
Madame Cordelia laughs heartily over the phone, “No, Anna dear. If Jezebel wants to come out, she will; her food is waiting for her. I’ve decided to close the store today. I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow. These things come and go. You just concentrate on you ankle and that lovely young man.”
Lena rolls her eyes, “Alright then Madame, I’ll be home later today. I hope you feel better. Goodbye.” Lena hangs up the phone and sighs. She turns to Paul, “I hope that you don’t have any hot dates. Madame Cordelia doesn’t want me to come home until later. Really, I don’t want to get in your way. You can just drop me off at the library or the store and I’ll sneak in so Madame doesn’t get disturbed…”
Paul ushers her back to her wooden chair, “Lena, don’t be ridiculous. I have to go to the studio, but that’s not until later. I’ll run you a bath and you can come along. Then I’ll take you home.”
Lena shakes her head, “I’m sorry. I feel like such an inconvenience. I shouldn’t have spent the night. Now I am getting in the way of your work!”
Paul laughs, “Are you finished? I believe that we need to get ready and then off to the studio. Come on!”
Lena runs the hot water until the stream meets her desired temperature. She sheds her clothes and puts a foot into the steamy water, carefully trying not to injure her ankle any further. As she submerges herself in the tub, she begins to hum quietly. She recognizes the tune as “Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding. Soon she stops humming and starts singing out loud as she squirts shampoo the size of a quarter on her palm.
As Lena is rinsing the remnants of conditioner from her mass of hair, she hears a faint howling coming from outside the door and a hysterical laugh from down the hall. After the outside noises cease, she quickly finishes up her bath and dries off. Lena wraps a large, navy towel around her head then she dresses. When she steps out of the bathroom rosy and flushed from the heat, she walks cautiously into Paul’s room.
Paul is sitting on his bed putting on a pair of blue socks. Lena falls down on the bed next to him, “Is everything okay? I heard Martha howling.”
Paul looks to her and hides a laugh, “Yeah, she was fine once you stopped singing. She only howled at the part where you whistled for fifteen minutes. Couldn’t seem to get it right, eh?”
Lena turns a color that is more burgundy than blush, as if appearing from the heat had somehow amplified her embarrassment. Lena shrugs sheepishly, “Sorry. I was never any good at it anyway. Besides, I am not used to taking baths in a strange man’s house.”
Paul raises an eyebrow, “So I’m strange, eh? You’re the one walking around the house looking like that bird from Sunset Boulevard.”
Lena pats her head and discovers the towel still wrapped around her hair, “Oops.”
She releases her hair and shakes it loose. The warm, clean smell of shampoo encompasses the room, “Well, if I am Norma Desmond, then that means that you are my William Holden. He’s one of my favorites, you know. Him and Cary Grant…”
Paul looks her in the eye and interrupts her, “Hey, Norma. I’m Mr. DeMille; are you ready for your close-up?”
Lena stops in mid-sentence, “Huh?” Paul leans in and kisses her so passionately that she finds herself on her back and completely breathless. She pushes his shoulders slightly and he releases her mouth.
She gasps for air, “Wha-what was that?”
Paul plays with her damp hair, “Didn’t you get it? The last line of the movie where they are taking Norma away and she says, ‘I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.’”
Lena looks at him in a curious manner, secretly delighting in the warmth of his weight on top of her, “But William Holden wasn’t Mr. DeMille. He was that screenwriter.”
Paul groans and rolls his eyes, “There you go, ruining my clever and romantic moment. See if I’ll ever be your Bill Holden again!”
Lena runs a hand through his
shiny brown hair, “I’m sorry, Paulie. You just took
me by surprise. I am very impressed.” She kisses his
cheek and inches out from beneath him. He rolls onto
his back and watches her slink to the doorway. As Lena
walks to the hallway she calls, “Let me put my face on
and I’ll meet you downstairs in ten minutes.”
Written by Cinder Whittier. May not be reproduced in any form, by any means, without the permission of the author. Permission may be obtained by e-mail.
E-mail the author!
Get Back Home!