Continued from here.
He wasn’t asleep when she returned. The light on her dresser was on and he was kneeling up on the bed, dialing the phone on the night stand.
“Who are you calling?”
“You made me nervous. I want to make sure he’s not going to come walking in on us.”
Kathy didn’t say it, but she thought it was a good idea, calling to check. It’d be just her luck, Charlie barging in, all weepy and full of loneliness and self-pity, and there she is, in bed with the guy he’s decided is his new best friend. She angled her way from the door to the foot of the bed and stood by the window, pretending to look out. Really she was peeking back over her shoulder to admire Robby’s body.
“That was my sister,” she said.
“What did you hear?”
“Just voices. Why? Were you talking about me?”
He knew she was watching. He straightened himself up on his knees, squared his shoulders, tightened his ass. His back was three-quarters to her. Still, she could see him growing aroused. She almost laughed out loud at his vanity, and would have if she had not found it so appealing and if she had not been made breathless by the sight of him. Kathy had never been with anybody this perfect. And Robby had never had a woman who cared that he was beautiful. In his world, despite all the classes they took on “gender issues” and all the bullshit they spouted about sexual equality, women received and men gave. All the admiration flowed one way. Girls he knew expected their boyfriends to be gorgeous the way they expected them to be pre-law or pre-med or future MBAs. The men they dated were accessories to their own beautiful bodies, jewelry that called attention to the wearers. Over the course of eight summers, Kathy had waited tables with dozens of these girls and she had come to the conclusion that they would all be just as content to be made love to by their own bedroom mirrors. When they looked at a guy like Robby, they saw only their own reflections. For girls like that, Robby stripped for sex the way he stripped for work at the yacht club. Kathy was the first woman who admitted getting wet at the sight of him, and he was taking advantage of the fact. Not that she minded.
“He’s not picking up,” Robby announced with a worried frown.
Kathy sat down on the bed. “Forget Charlie. He shows, he shows. What do we care? What does he care?” She shrugged off her robe. Robby looked at her and smiled.
“Maybe he’s asleep. I’ll let it ring a couple more times.”
She let her eyes drift over him and onto the print on the wall behind him. She’d driven the nail for it in the perfect spot, so that it hung there at eye level for any guy kneeling behind her. She called it her Japanese etching, although it wasn’t so much an etching as a cartoon. And it probably wasn’t Japanese. It was just that all the characters in it were naked samurai warriors and naked geisha girls.
It'd been a joke birthday present from Kara, who hadn't believed she'd have the nerve to hang the thing.
Some guys got a kick out of it. It inspired them. Some guys never even noticed. A couple had laughed out loud. One guy it had turned off completely. Turtled him right up. He fell back on the bed cursing her. Called her sick and twisted and a crazy bitch. When she laughed at that, he tried to hit her. But since he was using his good hand to cover his crotch, he swung at her weakly, like a girl, and barely clipped her. She’d thought about taking the picture down after that.
She’d never gotten around to it.
Earlier tonight she'd been glad.
Robby'd liked it.
He said it symbolized something about her.
“What? That I’m a Japanese whore with a thing for S and M?”
No! Not at all, he said.
“Well, to tell you the truth, I’ve got a little of that in me. You ever decide I deserve to be punished—“
He was talking about her soul, he said. Choosing that picture, where she picked to hang it, it was a work of conceptual art.
“Go to hell!”
“I mean it. You have the soul of an artist.”
But she was laughing. And he did mean it. After they tried following the examples of some of the samurai and geishas, finding only one couple that wasn’t recommending the impossible, and then lay there holding onto each other, Kathy thinking she might still be coming as she tried to regain control of her breathing and wondering how she had lucked into this one, he talked to her about the Asian collection at the MFA up in Boston and described his favorite paintings, most of which were by Chinese not Japanese artists. But there was one painter, not so old, though his style was ancient in some ways, very modern in others, an influence on the Impressionists, Monet owned copies of his prints, he was Japanese. Would she like to go up to Boston some time, to the museum, let him show her what he was talking about?
If someone had asked her that even two hours ago she’d have said she couldn’t think of anything more boring.
“Yes,” she'd said, “Yes, I would like that very much.”
Now she frowned at the pure-white geishas and the hung-like-horses samurai.
A work of conceptual art, my ass! The picture was stupid. And she was stupid for hanging it there. He didn’t know her. If he thought she had the soul of an artist, he didn’t know her at all. He looked at her, he saw somebody else, somebody more like the girls he was used to. The someone he thought she was was all in his head, he’d made her up. When he left the Cape at the end of the summer he’d take his invented Kathy with him and never for a moment miss the body he’d left behind.
Robby slammed down the phone. He grinned. “I woke him up. We’re safe. Hey! What’s wrong?”
“Charlie. My sister.” She sighed, wiped the tears out from behind the lenses of her glasses. “Robby. Do you know how old I am?”
He shrugged. He hadn’t thought about it. “Twenty, twenty-one.”
“I wish. And you're sweet. Or blind. Or a liar. I’m twenty-six.”
“Really? My sister’s twenty-six.”
“Don’t tell her that.”
“I’m twenty-six, and I’ve been married.”
“No kidding? What happened? Didn’t work out?”
“Puts a lot of stress on your marriage when your husband’s in jail.”
“My ex-husband, he’s sort of a criminal.”
“What sort of criminal?”
“Robbery. Burglary. He hit a cop once.”
“Wow. No wonder you divorced him.”
“That’s not why. I mean. It was one reason. He was screwing around on me, too. But you know what? That wasn’t it either. I would have put up with that, that’s how dumb I was, am. But he.” This next piece of news was going to be a lot tougher to deliver. “He hit my daughter.”
She leaned back across the bed, her head touching the wall. She ran her finger over her belly. “Didn’t you notice the scar? That’s from my Caesarian. I got pregnant my junior year in high school."
“Was he the father?”
“No. The father was some other guy. He was never in the picture.”
“Where is she? I didn’t see any signs, you know? That a kid lives here?”
“I send her to live with my mother in Plymouth during the summers. I just work too much, you know? The diner every day, Coleman’s on the weekends. When school’s out I can’t keep track of her. Charlie calls her the Reverse Fresh Air Fund kid.”
“I don’t know. My mother didn’t do such a good job with me and my sister, did she?”
“She did fine with you. I think so anyway.”
Robby made his way over to her. He knelt beside her, staring at her belly, not showing off anymore, and, she couldn’t help noticing, definitely drooping.
“So now you know what an idiot I am, huh?”
Robby shook his head. He took her hand and placed it on him. Then he bent and ran his finger along the scar, tracing the path he was about to follow with his kisses.