ho was there?
George hesitated, listening, in the entrance to the houseboat, Beth sound asleep in his arms.
He might have forgotten to lock the door when he left for the McAdams’ place in such a hurry, but he knew that was a justification: He often left the door open, had some deep sense that if he filled his life with enough pure trust, nothing bad would happen to him.
That was certainly foolish, with the mushrooming of the meth cabins throughout the hills that surrounded him, with the belief that, because he was some kind of doctor and worked at the track, he was both rich and possessed a store of narcotics, and also with his connection to Taryn.
He heard nothing, but then, relaxing enough to take a breath, he smelled her, that unmistakable mix of lilies of the valley and smoke, of sweat and the Sour Patch Kids that were her dietary staple. He wanted to call out her name and throw on the lights, but he didn’t want to disturb Beth, and who knew, after all, what he’d really find? The only thing he was sure of was that she’d been there.
He tiptoed in, setting Beth gently on her bed and smoothing the comforter over her, straightening up slowly and looking around. Taryn might be here with someone else, Jamie maybe, or one of her other cranked up friends. They would have seen his headlights, heard his car door; they might be hiding, waiting to spring.
Trying not to move too precipitously, he turned his head to the left, then to the right. Nothing. He shouldn’t have had that drink with Cora. He’d felt fine driving home, but now his senses were dulled, and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to move quickly enough if something went wrong.
It wasn’t until his third pass over the bed that he saw her there, burrowed under the covers, the top of her pale blonde head the only thing visible. He moved closer. She was fast asleep.
Despite everything he’d thought and felt about her over the past months, despite everything she’d done to him and to their child too, his heart welled up. She was back. Well, maybe not back, but she was here. Not manic, not demanding, not pleading or freaking out, but asleep, in his bed, at home, where she belonged.
He let his jacket drop to the floor, peeled off his shirt, kicked off his shoes, unbuckled his pants, considered but rejected the idea of taking off his boxers, and slipped into bed beside her.
She was sleeping on her stomach like a baby, the way she always did, her arms wrapped around her pillow, so warm under the covers. He reached for her and was shocked to touch bare skin, though that didn’t necessarily mean anything, she always slept naked.
Murmuring, she moved into his arms. She was so small, thinner than ever now that she was using meth again, he knew she was, he just hoped it wasn’t too bad, though there was really no such thing as not too bad, was there? But she was sleeping, that was something. Fast asleep and so soft, so relaxed.
He still loved her, he couldn’t deny that, though his sisters, his friends told him that wasn’t love, that was guilt, that was pity, that was hope for something that had died long ago. But people could change, couldn’t they? People could be healed? How could anyone be a doctor, any kind of doctor, and not believe that?
He put his arms around her, pulled her close, ran his hand over her still-soft hair. Working at that club made her smell of smoke, of spilled beer, made her skin salty from the exertion of dancing for hours at a time. Her breasts were nearly non-existent, her ribs knobby against his stomach, her hipbone jutting hard against the cupped palm of his hand.
“George,” she whispered.
He started. He had no idea she was even vaguely conscious, that she was even slightly aware that he was there.
“George,” she said. “Fuck me.”
She reached for him and there was no use prevaricating: He was hard as an axe.
“Come on, Georgie,” she said, maneuvering him on top of her, using her foot to push down his boxers. “Please.”
“Taryn,” he said, confused. He wanted her, of course he wanted her, he always wanted her. But what was she doing here? And what did she want from him?
“Just do it,” she said, opening her legs wide and angling her pelvis so he couldn’t help but slip into her.
She was wet, very wet, oddly wet, too wet. He was trying to think about that, but she was pushing against him, distracting him. Stop, he wanted to say. Stop and tell me what’s going on. Far in the distance, he could just make out the sound of sirens, which seemed to be warning him away from danger.
But stopping, confronting her was so much work, and he was so tired of working, and the alternative, losing himself in her body, in their movements, was so delicious.
He let go and gave himself over, burying his face in her neck, kissing her shoulder, moaning her name, telling her he loved her.
“I love you, I love you, I love you,” he said with each push.
He was coming, exploding beyond possibility of stopping, pushing as deeply into her as he could, when he heard the unmistakable scampering of feet, saw from the corner of his eye the flash of a body across the room, and then felt the blast of cold from the open door.