"John!" I cried and hugged him, despite the fact that I was still holding my carry-on.
"Shh! You don't want them to hear you, luv." He kissed me softly. "I'm glad you came."
"So am I." I felt a sense of security in his arms. He was familiar, and I knew him well. Right then, I really was glad to be here.
We hurried through the airport terminal after waiting for a few minutes for my luggage to arrive.
"I thought you had a Rolls-Royce!" I said when John led me over to a green Ferrari and put my stuff inside.
"I do. I've got two. But everybody knows I've got them, so I drove this. I don't want any rumours goin' round."
"Of course," I nodded, and suddenly remembered Cynthia, John's wife. "Er… John, what about Cynthia?"
"Get in," he said, not answering my question. I did, not wanting to press him any further.
John was halfway to his house before I got an answer.
"She knows. I told her it was just a friend. Just a friend," he repeated.
"I can't help feeling like an intruder. She must think something is going on. Especially since… since we've know each other for so long. For twenty-three years."
"Damn, was it that long ago?"
"Since I was born,"
A companionable silence filled the air around us. I let my mind wander back to the faded days of long ago, when the only thing we were concerned about was whether someone could come out to play. All of the crazy things we'd done together with the neighbourhood kids, and quiet moments alone, throwing rocks in a brook or climbing a tree in the park. I wanted to relive them again, but of course, that was impossible.
A steady rain was rolling down the windows. Like tears, I thought. I must have cried an ocean full of them when… say it, said a small but fierce voice in my head. Say "he died."
I actually said it out loud, not realising it.
"What?" John asked, glancing over at me with concern. "Who died?"
"Nobody," I muttered, but tears came anyway. I hated crying, and especially in front of him.
"Oh." He said quietly. "You mean… Chris."
I didn't say or do anything, only tried to wipe away the constant stream of tears coursing down my face. It's been six months, Aileen; get over him! He's gone and won't come back! No amount of crying will change things!
"I'm sorry luv, I really am. He was lucky to have you."
The past tense hit me hard. Was lucky. Not is lucky, the way it should be.
"Don't cry, Aileen." John reached over and squeezed my shoulder. I scooted over and automatically his arm was around me. I cried harder than I had in a long time. My tears had just begun to slow when we pulled into his garage.
I'd never been to Kenwood before, had only seen pictures of it in fan magazines. I gaped at the size of it.
"It's a beautiful house, John," I commented on our way inside.
He shrugged. "I suppose." Then he called for Cyn.
"I think--here's a note." I handed him a scrap of paper on which was Cyn's neat, careful script.
"She's gone out with Jane and Pattie. Won't be back for hours, I'll bet."
Was that a good thing? Being alone with him? I knew that his relationship with Cyn wasn't that great. No, he wouldn't try anything on me… I didn't think.
I couldn't help but peek into various rooms as I was led up the stairs to a spacious room on the east side of the house with huge, floor to ceiling windows and dark wood furniture.
"Does it suit you?"
"Anything would at the moment," I moved my suitcases to the bed and began unpacking. Both of them could barely fill one drawer of the wardrobe.
When I was finished, I set the suitcases back down. I knew if I turned, he would be standing behind me. It was impossible not to feel his presence.
"John, don't--" I began, but he kissed me, long and hard. I refused to give in to him. Of course I wanted to, desperately wanted to, but I knew I couldn't. Still I found myself leaning against him and not protesting when he laid me gently on the bed.
"You don't know how long I've been wanting to do this," he breathed and quickly unbuttoned my blouse.
My mind was frantically telling me to push him away, stop him; but some part of me that I hadn't known existed kept me from resisting him. It kept me from shoving his hands from my chest, made me want more.
I gave in to his kisses, letting him pull my blouse off. It wasn't until he reached for my skirt that my mind panicked. I froze and John felt it. "Don't!" I gasped, noticing that I was breathless.
John immediately moved away from me and sat up. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't have done it."
"It's not your fault. Stop worrying," I said and put my blouse back on. He made sure to look in the opposite direction.
I sat there awkwardly, wishing I could erase the last few minutes from my memory. Now the special friendship we'd had seemed tainted.
"Hello? John? Are you home?" I heard Cyn call up the stairs.
"Gone for hours?" I asked.
John shrugged and went to the door of my room. "I'm up here… helping Aileen."
There was silence. "Okay."
"Christ, I fucked this up. I always do." He muttered. "The whole visit's ruined."
"No it's not," I admonished. "Don't say that. It was bound to happen sometime, anyway."
He smiled and kissed me, but in a friendly, brotherly way. "Come 'ead, let's go downstairs and get something to eat."
Cyn came into the kitchen and greeted me warmly, though she shot a hurt glance at John. I felt horribly guilty and stammered and blushed the whole time introductions went on.
We got ourselves some sandwiches along with a scotch and Coke mix. I didn't look anywhere near John, just kept staring at my plate. It was obvious what we were trying to hide, and I was sure that Cyn could see through it too. But thankfully, she was kind enough not to say anything to embarrass us.
"I think I'll go upstairs and take a nap," she said once lunch was finished and quickly left the kitchen.
"I feel terrible!" I exclaimed as soon as she had gone. "I feel like I have to apologise to her or something. I can't believe she didn't say a word."
"She would never do that." John said in a funny voice.
"Maybe I shouldn't have come at all."
"No, Aileen, don't leave! Please don't leave! I need you. And I'm not just saying that either; I mean it."
"All right John, I'll stay, but only for a couple weeks, if that." I yawned. Jet lag was catching up to me.
"Go on to bed. I'll find something to do here."
"Maybe you should--" I didn't finish the sentence. Instead I carried my plate to the sink and went upstairs. John's eyes followed me the whole way. And still, deep down inside--though it was wrong--I wanted him to love me without having to worry about Cynthia or Julian. The selfish part of me wanted him for myself, but I knew that was impossible. Such are dreams, I thought hazily as I pulled the covers up to my chin and fell asleep.