I admit it; I’m being a voyeur. The delicious-looking man across the fence is shirtless, smoking a cigarette and sipping something I’m sure is alcoholic. I’m always right about these kinds of things.
Jubal Arden. Wow, he changed.
I haven’t seen him since we graduated high school. My guess is that he’s back to deal with his mom’s bookstore. Drowned in her own bathtub. Tragic.
Jubal didn’t see me at her funeral, which was just as well. He was dealing with some serious shit. Life and death shit. And then he disappeared. That bothered me. The man I’ve wanted to see again, after all these years, had vanished. Again.
There had been little to see outside my bay-windowed, second-story fortress until tonight. Jubal’s mom never came out to her back yard except to water the lawn and shrubbery. The neighbors on either side of me, I’m positive, conspired with each other to ensure I never see anything of note happening in their back yards. Neighbors, right?
The full moon gives me a good view of Jubal. I used to love that boy when I was in third grade. It’s rather unfortunate that a) he fell for my best friend when we got to high school, b) he never paid me the slightest bit of attention, and c) he looks damn good in the moonlight.
Janine, ex-best friend. She’s out of the running in the capture-the-handsome-man sweepstakes now, so I suppose it’s up to me to perform such duties as may be called upon by a single female who knows a thing or two about getting what she wants.
Fuck me. Just when I thought life couldn’t get any more unsatisfying, along comes Jubal.
“You’re late,” Lance said, flipping two eggs in a skillet.
Dolores Sackett eyed her brother with a mixture of amusement and pity. He still thought that, as the older sibling, he had a right to tell her what to do.
“Mom and dad gave you the diner because you’re good at two things: cooking and making babies. Stick to what you know,” Dolores said. She lit a cigarette and slurped down a cup of coffee before going out front.
“Well, mom and dad gave you the house because they knew you’d never be able to afford one on your own,” Lance retorted. He slid the eggs onto a plate and placed it in the window. Betty, the other server, stood at the kitchen window and unashamedly eavesdropped. Lance gave her a stern look, so she left.
“Anyway. Big news. Jubal’s back in town,” Dolores said.
Betty was back, waiting for another order. Lance didn’t send her away this time.
Lance slammed his spatula on the grill.
“I hate that fucker.”
“Because he broke your nose in high school?”
“Yeah. Among other things. The Janine thing, for instance,” Lance said, frowning.
“That’s history, bubba.”
Lance’s two words echoed in Dolores’ head all through the morning rush. She didn’t like the way he said it. Not at all.
The brainless and inattentive woman would have opted for an earlier time to meet Jubal. The way of the sensei instructs that patience and forethought should lead our actions. Besides, I look hella better in the moonlight. Most cougars-in-training do. Moonlight doesn’t mask imperfections, but it certainly softens the edges.
Let’s not kid ourselves, woman/girl/giddy damn female. I liked the boy back in the day. Ok, sure, he’s a grown-ass man now, but he looks positively boyish for a man pushing forty. Jesus! We’re the same age. This thought isn’t improving my mood.
Screw the makeup. A little powder, a little lip gloss, a lot of deodorant. No perfume. It smells like old-man ass on me after a few minutes. That’s me. Sweat like a pig, smoke like a chimney, cuss like a sailor. It’s amazing that no one wants to marry me.
Truth is, I stopped looking long ago. I hate to admit it to myself, but there it is. I’ve settled for settling. Tragic.
Yet again, I write the word tragic in a journal.
Dolores sipped the whiskey and grimaced. She excused herself, went to her house, and brought back a bottle of Jameson’s Irish whiskey. Without asking, she poured out the whiskey that Jubal had provided and replaced it with what she considered a superior whiskey.
Jubal watched all this with a tinge of amusement and interest. It was a recurring theme in his life.
“That stuff you call whiskey? No. Just – no,” Dolores sipped her whiskey demurely and willed herself not to sweat.
Jubal chuckled and nodded his head.
“Don’t know much about good whiskey. I remembered that you had a fondness for it in high school,” Jubal said, sipping tentatively at his drink. He nodded appreciatively and took a larger sip. The warm feeling in his gut was as surprising as the woman beside him.
“So. Where you been, Jubal? In a hermitage?”
Jubal shook his head.
“Knocking about. Just your average itinerant,” Jubal said, lighting a cigarette and handing it to Dolores. After a brief pause, she took it. He then lit one for himself.
The next few minutes were spent in companionable silence. Jubal was pleased, and surprised, that he could speak to Dolores as if they had been old friends. They hadn’t been. Not even close. She had been that girl. That girl who didn’t want her best friend dating him.
“Lance says ‘hi.’ And he hopes that you won’t break his nose again,” Dolores said, smirking in amusement.
“Your brother was a bully back then,” Jubal said, sipping more whiskey and finding that he quite enjoyed it.
“Yes he was. And now he has a wife that won’t put up with his bullshit, along with three rambunctious daughters. Metaphorically speaking, he gets his ass whupped every night when he goes home. It made him a better person.” Dolores uttered a short, sharp laugh, and instantly regretted it.
Way to be a lady, dumbass! He probably thinks you haven’t been housebroken.
Another comfortable silence descended on the couple. Dolores poured herself more whiskey and refreshed Jubal’s glass. Moonlight glinted off the tumblers, and Dolores’ eyes. Jubal was entranced by the effect, warmed by the whiskey and the late July night, and unsettled by being in Dolores’ presence.
I want to do bad things to this man right now. But no. The way of the sensei tells us that the impetuous bird becomes a meal. Give the man a chance to fall for my charms. I might have some, somewhere. Stranger things have happened.
Dolores leaned toward Jubal and touched his arm lightly before speaking.
“You were my inspiration, Jubal. I started to journal because of you.”
Dolores returned to her upright, not-leaning-in-to-a-beautiful-man posture and puffed gently on her cigarette.
“Really? Uh – " Jubal paused. He didn’t know how to deal with being an inspiration to anyone.
“I figured that it was a kind of superpower. Someone writes some words, and everyone is affected. The whole school was in an uproar when you got suspended for writing about your parents’ sex life. To a third-grade girl, it was magic.”
Jubal gazed at Dolores, causing her to blush. The moonlight refused to show her red cheeks, but it could do little to keep her from tossing an impressive amount of whiskey down her throat.
“And you’ve been journaling ever since?”
Dolores nodded, not trusting herself to speak right now. Her throat burned from the whiskey, and her thoughts burned from the admission of a secret.
He laughed lightly, sounding like a sore-throated elephant. Dolores thought it was the sexiest laugh she had ever heard.
That’s a dangerous laugh, boyo. A panty-dropping laugh. I understand why Janine fell for you. I wonder how she would feel about my plans for our futures.
“I gotta work tomorrow, so I gotta go. Keep the whiskey, boyo.”
Jubal stood up quickly, swayed from the effects of the alcohol, but remained more or less vertical.
“Uh – maybe tomorrow night – “
Dolores strode off quickly.
The way of the sensei tells us to leave them wanting more. Plus, I gotta throw up.
“Where were you last night? I came by and you were gone,” Lance flipped two eggs in the egg pan and turned some bacon on the grill.
“Ah. Well. I was at Jubal’s mom’s house. Jubal and I had a late-night date,” Dolores said as she put on her apron.
“Jubal’s house, you mean.”
“Yeah. I suppose that’s right. It’s his house now,” Dolores said, musing on the change in ownership.
“What’d you guys do?”
Dolores looked at Lance out of the corner of her eye, a mischievous glint in her eye.
“Drank some whiskey. Then I fucked his brains out. Drank more whiskey and then I fucked his brains back in again.”
Lance tossed his spatula down and turned to his sister, glaring.
“Age cannot wither, nor custom stale her infinite variety,” Dolores quoted, laughing at her brother’s dark face.
“Let me translate for the knowledge-impaired cooks in the vicinity. It means I can still mess with your head.”
“Seriously, Do. What did – “
“None of your business, buster. But, if it makes you feel any better, we didn’t engage in any physical intimacy. I didn’t even kiss the guy.”
Lance, mollified, went back to cooking breakfast for his sister.
“Going back tonight, though. And you know how I get when I drink whiskey.”
Lance refused to rise to the bait.
Jubal wants me. I’m always right about these kinds of things.
I wonder if I can get him to paint my house first.
Tonight’s the night. The fulfillment of all my dreams. I have followed the way of the sensei, more or less. I mean, you can’t blame a girl for getting a little antsy before the big night. It’s been a long wait, and desire has come close to winning me over before tonight.
Jubal is about to have the night of his life.
Jubal and Dolores were standing by the river’s edge, engaged in some serious making out. Jubal’s desire was evident; he was breathless and weak. Dolores stepped back a few steps as he caught his breath. It was then that he saw a gunman approaching him.
“What the h – “ was as far as he got before a bullet ended his life.
Dolores glared at the gunman.
“Well, you took your sweet ass time, Lance. I think my lips are gonna fall off.”
Lance looked at Jubal and prodded him with his boot. Betty bent down and checked his pulse. She looked up and smiled.
“I woulda been here sooner, but Betty showed up late,” Lance pointed an accusing finger at his server.
“I had female issues, ok?” Betty raised her hands, palms upward.
Dolores looked at Betty.
“Ok, sensei. What now?”
Betty glared at Dolores.
“Stop calling me that.”
Betty put on gloves, bent down, and took Jubal’s wallet, stripping it of cash. She tossed the wallet to the side and stuffed the money in her bra.
"The man was still as dumb as a used spark plug. Did he really think that the passage of twenty years would make me forget what he did to my sister?" Betty wanted to spit on him, but she didn't. She had seen enough CSI episodes to know better.
"And did he think his good looks would help?" Dolores gave Jubal a kick in the ribs.
"He ain't that good looking," Lance said.
"Not any longer," Dolores said, pointing at Jubal's shattered features.
“Let’s go. Just another robbery gone bad. Tragic,” Betty said, striding to the car.
Betty was the mastermind. I did all the heavy lifting, though. Betty said that sometimes we must do unpleasant things for the greater good. Easy for her to say. She didn’t have to get felt up and groped by the man who killed Janine.
Major kudos to her, though, for taking care of Jubal’s mom. The woman should have never given her son a false alibi. Betty said it was a piece of cake, almost like the woman wanted to pay for her sins. Who woulda thunk it, right?
Speaking of cake, I think I have some red velvet in the fridge…