This is the fifth part of a short story which takes up the story of Riley Mansfield, seven years after the events described in my first novel, The Audacity of Dope. In order, the first four episodes are entitled, “Seven Years If It’s a Day,” “Like Old Times,” “High in La-La Land,” and “Far, Far Away.”
Melissa Mansfield hadn’t let her husband go off to Hollywood alone because she’d wanted to screw one of his close friends. It honestly hadn’t occurred to her. It just happened. Eric Hays had stopped by, just to help settle her down and replace a damaged front door. They’d watched TV, and talked, and smoked some weed, and, typically, she and Riley smoked weed before they made love, and, when Melissa was high, she felt like making love.
Perhaps it was slightly Pavlovian. Perhaps she was just a creature of habit.
It still didn’t make it right. She wasn’t supposed to be as stupid as a dog. She sat down at the kitchen table, sipping coffee and feeling ashamed. Eric was out on the back porch. Melissa was satisfied he was bawling like a young’un. She felt badly. He felt worse. She poured him a cup of coffee, not because he asked for it but because she was going out there to console him. She put her cigarettes and lighter in her pocket so that she could carry the two cups.
Eric was presentable. His cheeks were flushed, eyes reddened. He had the sniffles.
“Cheer up, kid,” she said. He was in the porch swing. She didn’t sit beside him, just handed him a cup of coffee and pulled the rocker a bit closer.
“What’s done is done,” Melissa said. “I regret it. You regret it. It just happened. It didn’t mean anything. We just caught each other in a moment of weakness.”
She lit a cigarette, Marlboro Ultra Light. She was trying to cut back, her goal being to stop smoking cigarettes when she wasn’t smoking weed. She hadn’t smoked weed this morning. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Or dismantled. Eric didn’t smoke. She didn’t see how he did it. Everyone else she knew smoked when they were high. She guessed everyone was different. Some people smoked when they drank. Melissa might smoke when she drank, but not because she was drinking. She craved one when she was high, though.
Eric still hadn’t said a word.
“Eric. …. Eric.”
He looked at her. His eyes seemed to register a small bit of life.
“You don’t love me,” she said. “I don’t love you. I love Riley, and I regret what happened, but it did. It did. It’s not gonna happen again. No one else needs to know. I don’t want to tell anyone, and I don’t think you do, either.”
“I love Riley, too,” Eric said, “I mean, in its way.”
Melissa took “in its way” to mean “not in a homosexual way,” but, rather, an “I love you, bro way,” which she, while thinking it juvenile, understood. Eric was younger, oh, by five years or so, she figured. It had been a long time since he’d cut his hair. He bore the look of a wild child, but he wasn’t. His soul was older than he was. He was a man less simple than he thought himself to be.
It was nine o’clock in Kentucky. Riley almost surely wasn’t up yet in California. Perhaps he’d gotten himself laid, too, Melissa thought. Wouldn’t that be funny?
“You caught me on the rebound,” Eric said. “Me and Penny broke up. That ain’t an excuse. It’s just what happened.”
“Drink your coffee, Eric. It’ll be okay.”
He still wasn’t much for talking. Somebody had to.
“I had a dream last night, Eric,” she said. “I was underwater, just sort of … dog paddling, but not on the surface. I was about three feet under water. It was clear and blue, like a swimming pool. I couldn’t reach the surface, but I wasn’t sinking to the bottom, either, and I wasn’t having any trouble breathing. I wasn’t in danger of drowning. I just didn’t have anywhere I could go.
“I don’t know what it meant. I don’t know if it meant anything. I just think what happened, happened, and there’s no use in doing anything but forget it. Don’t tell anybody. Don’t talk about it. I guess there ain’t no good to come from it, but there doesn’t have to be anything more that’s bad. The two of us, we both just had a moment of weakness. We did it ‘cause, at the moment, it just seemed good. Too good. But there ain’t no need to make no more of it.”
Still, Eric didn’t speak. But he nodded.
“The truth will set you free,” Melissa said. “That’s what they say. I think the truth can be locked away sometimes, too. The truth can ruin things. If I told Riley all about it, he’d forgive me, and if I knew he’d done something like this, I’d forgive him, too, but it might not be the same.
“And I want it to be the same. I’m gonna ask Jesus for forgiveness,” she concluded, “but that’s all. It’s just best, Eric. That’s all there is to it.”
Melissa got up and sat next to Eric in the swing. She took his hand and pecked him on the cheek.
“You’re sweet,” she said. “You really are. When I see you, I want you to be my friend. I want to give you a hug, and you can give me a little kiss on the cheek. That’s all, though. When Riley gets back, him and me are going back to Henry. We’ll be back before long, a month, two months, who knows? That’ll give both of us time to get over this.”
In Los Angeles, Riley had a crisis brewing, too. He just didn’t know it was there or what it was.
If you were not already acquainted with Riley and Melissa, not to mention Eric Hays, I’d love for you to read The Audacity of Dope. My second novel, unrelated, is called The Intangibles. Most all my books can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1