The clock changed from 6:59 to 7:00 a.m. and the radio turned on, “Good morning and Happy Earth Day St. Louis. If you are planning on being out and about today, look for a high temperature of 67 degrees. It’s currently 45 degrees under sunny skies.” Arun Patil hit the snooze button and grabbed the digital thermometer, turning it on as he flipped over and faced his wife.
“Open up, Sleeping Beauty.”
Felicity Paterson Patil dutifully opened her mouth and took the basal body thermometer under her tongue. Arun studied her face, her pale skin, aquiline nose, and high cheekbones, her long curly brown hair spread out all around her. When the thermometer beeped, Arun put it back on the nightstand. Felicity would check it later and enter it on the chart she used to track her fertility signs each month. So far, eleven months had passed since they started trying to have a baby.
Eyes still shut, Felicity asked, “What do you have planned for this morning? I know we said we would have a late lunch at home before the kids come home from school…”
“I’m meeting with the restaurant’s accountant,” he began, but before he could finish the sentence, Felicity’s eyes flew open round with fear and she gripped his arm tightly. “No, no, not at the restaurant. We’re meeting at his office. Then I’ve got a meeting with a new vegetable supplier. He’s got a line on some Indian vegetables I haven’t been able to get fresh before now. We’re meeting at his warehouse. I promised you, Felicity, if I live to be a hundred, Café Tandoor will never have its doors unlocked on Earth Day again.”
Felicity reached up and stroked the white scar on his light brown skin, the scar that marked where the bullet had grazed his arm. They were always there, the scars: two on her, one on him. They saw them when they dressed and showered, felt them when they pressed against each other as they made love. They didn’t talk about it that much anymore, but without asking, Arun knew what Felicity would be doing while he was working. She handled the accounting for the restaurant now, as well a few other small clients, but on Earth Day, she always booked two sessions with Dr. Ann Fells, her therapist. That’s what she had done for the last three years, ever Earth Day since the one they met, the day that had nearly been the day she died bleeding on the floor of Café Tandoor.
Eager to distract her, Arun pushed the flimsy, silky fabric of her chemise off her shoulder, exposing her soft pink nipple, then bent down and drew it between his lips, sucking it, teasing it with his tongue, even as he gripped one of her hands in his, telling her without words that he would always be there for her, always be there if she was in trouble. Felicity moaned softly, encouraging him to continue. She needed this, he knew, needed the distraction of their bodies coming together to drive away the memories.
Arun pushed Felicity’s panties down to her knees, then dragged them the rest of the way off with his foot, his lips and tongue still pressed against his wife’s breast. She released her grip on his back then, allowing him to shimmy down and taste her cunt, the musky honey of it always a sweet surprise as it spread across his tongue. Even as he circled her clit, feeling it engorge and harden, Arun was willing her to forget Dave Paterson, forget that awful Earth Day, but found himself instead thinking of his own ghosts, his ex-wife Priya, who had hated life in St. Louis more than she loved living with him, his own memories of the gunshots and all the blood and the sirens and the screaming. He closed his eyes tightly, willing it all away, willing himself to think only of the warm body of the woman he loved, her scent, her taste, her feel.
But there were other distractions in the house. From down the hall he heard footsteps, then a small knock on the door before six-year-old Aubree called out, “Mommy? Arun? I can’t get the cereal open and Todd and Spencer aren’t up yet. Can you come help me?” He said a silent thank you for the lock on the bedroom door before answering, “I’m coming sweetie. Be right there.” He kissed Felicity quickly on the mouth and slid from the bed.
After he left, Felicity rolled over and checked the thermometer, carefully marking the temperature and noting her other fertility signs on the chart she kept as meticulously as she kept her clients’ books. There was no mistaking it. She was entering her peak fertility phase. Today. On Earth Day. She covered her eyes and tried not to cry.
* * * * * *
“I’m going to get take out for dinner tonight,” Felicity had told her two older kids, Todd and Spencer, then just seven and nine. Aubree was just three. Her husband Dave was in Columbus, Ohio, on a business trip and after three days with three little ones and a day and a half before he was due home, she needed a break from cooking. “It’s a special Earth Day treat,” she fibbed. “We’ll get something with lots of vegetables to celebrate the things that grow in the earth. And don’t say pizza because the answer is no.”
“Mexican,” yelled Spencer. Todd’s more sophisticated palate was craving Indian food.
“I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 10,” Felicity said. Spencer’s guess was closest, so Indian it was. Thus it was that sheer canlı bahis chance landed her in Café Tandoor at 2:30 p.m. to pick up dinner for later before it was time to pick up Aubree from her playgroup. She and the owner, Arun Patil, were alone in the front of the restaurant, momentarily quiet between the lunch and dinner rush, when the gunman, face obscured by a ski mask, burst in waving a gun and yelling at Arun to open the cash register.
It never made sense, not then and not later. As Arun stuffed the money from the register in the bag, the robber demanded Felicity’s purse and jewelry. She quickly slid her purse across the floor to him, but as she reached to remove her necklace, everything exploded in noise and pain. One bullet ripped through her arm, a second grazed Arun’s. Two shots flew wild before the final round pierced her lung and the robber fled, without the purse, the jewelry, or the money.
* * * * * *
Arun paced the hallways of the hospital two steps behind the police officers. He knew Felicity only slightly, had seen her come in occasionally for takeout or a meal with her husband. Stitched and bandaged, he couldn’t bring himself to leave the hospital until he knew if she was okay. He didn’t even know her name, but the EMTs had told him it was only him keeping hard pressure on her chest wound that had kept her alive in the few minutes it had taken them to arrive. “It just doesn’t make sense,” remarked Officer Steve Wexweiler to his partner. “We got a hold of the sister-in-law in two seconds, and she’s happy to take care of the kids, but she’s got no clue where her husband is. I’ve been dialing his cell phone for the past three hours with no answer, and he’s on an out-of-town business trip, but his office says there are no meetings on his calendar after 10 o’clock this morning. There’s no answer at his hotel. Where is this guy, and how does he not hear 10 messages saying his wife’s been shot and is in surgery?”
A nurse came out and spoke to the cops, studiously ignoring Arun, who leaned in to hear the report. “They’ve treated the wound to her arm. The bullet didn’t hit anything but muscle, and it exited cleanly. They’re still operating on the chest wound. It’s lucky that she was so close to the hospital and that somebody,” nodding slightly in Arun’s direction, “had the good sense to apply pressure to the wound. The doctors will be able to tell you more when they finish up.”
“No, seriously, this shit you are not going to believe,” Wexweiler told his partner the next morning. “I know you think you’ve heard it all, but you haven’t heard it all.” Officer Peter Spiro pulled up a chair to listen. “So I had an idea to call back to Dave Paterson’s assistant on her cell and find out who he rented his car from. The rental car company in Columbus was able to find the car late last night with a GPS tracker.”
“Yeah, and so where was it?”
“Parked in the lot of a hotel. Turns out he was shacked up in a different hotel with a chick. And get this, he had a signed, official-as-can-be contract to try to knock her up. He’s a low-tech sperm donor, I guess.” Wexweiler guffawed.
“So she could alibi him for six p.m. until the cops found him around ten, but they had no alibi for the earlier part of the day. With Patil’s description, he could have passed for the shooter, tall, slim build, white, typical St Louis accent. Patil couldn’t rule him out in the photo lineup because of the ski mask…”
“Yeah?” Wexweiler was starting to look interested.
“But once they explained to him that he was ‘person of interest’ in his wife’s shooting, and could have flown from St. Louis to Columbus and still had time for his little date at the hotel, he came up with an alibi for earlier in the day. Another ‘client’ for his ‘services.’ He’s got an alibi from noon to four.”
“Yeah, well, you’re telling the wife all that.”
“Only as much as I have to, dude. Only as much as I have to.”
* * * * * *
Arun Patil had become a fixture at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. In saving her life, he felt he had taken on some sort of obligation. With her sister-in-law unable to face her and her husband barred on doctors’ orders from her hospital room, he was the one who sat by Felicity’s bedside, refilled her water pitcher, and just held her hand. His brother and uncle picked up the slack at Café Tandoor while he ferried her kids between their aunt’s house and daily visits to see their mother. When she was released a month after the shooting, he drove her home.
The truth was, he needed her too. No one else would ever share those moments of panic and terror. At first, they went over the shooting again and again. What the robber said, and how he said it. Had she not moved fast enough to hand her bag over? Had he not made it clear he wouldn’t offer any resistance? Her willingness to have him around, her wanting him around, assuaged Arun’s guilt. Irrational guilt, but guilt nonetheless. And where’s the end of it? The end of guilt? The end of kindness? The end of being alone except for each other with a terrible memory? It never ended, just continued into a new chapter one night when the kids were all in bed and a bottle of wine led to a kiss, a kiss to a caress, a caress to an unspoken invitation bahis siteleri to take one another’s hand and walk to the bedroom, both of them knowing that what would happen behind that closed door would mean there would be no end to their needing each other. No end to it ever. Wine-fueled, fumbling kisses as clothes were quickly discarded and cast aside, fingers grazing the still-tender scar tissue as shirts and dresses slid from bodies and onto the floor. Wine-warmed and wine-wet, Felicity was ready for him as soon as he was on top of her, with the smooth head of his uncut cock, its moisture mixing with hers as he slid effortlessly inside her, feeling himself engulfed by her, all of their limbs seeming to touch everywhere at once as they kissed and fucked and fucked and kissed. Messed up by the wine and the emotion, they laughed and cried as Arun rocked into her again and again, her thin, lithe body pressing up to meet his downward thrusts, the pace quickening moment by moment until Arun felt a feeling he hadn’t felt in so long, his body tightening, the electric focus of his energy on the warm spot where their bodies came together. They didn’t come together, not that night at least. There was no time for synchronization, just Felicity’s fingers pressed into the muscles of his ass, urging him on, urging him to thrust harder and faster, to come inside her. With one more thrust, he gave her what she, and he, wanted, what they both needed, a momentary release, a measure of solace in their satiation.
Felicity looked at the envelope her divorce attorney had forwarded to her. There, across the back flap, Dave had written “Losing is for suckers.” It was one of his little catch phrases, not particularly one of her favorites. Still, she had to acknowledge it was just the flip side of the confidence that had initially attracted her to him. The letter had come with the news that he didn’t intend to sign the divorce papers, that he didn’t want a divorce, no matter the terms. That has been a surprise. As soon as she was strong enough to talk a bit, one of the nurses had given her the name of a good attorney. In exchange for her not calling his boss to say who and what he had been doing on his company’s time, Dave had agreed to a legal separation with spousal and child support. He was out of the house with new locks on the doors by the time she got out of the hospital. Custody and visitation had been a non-issue. Obsessed with her body when she was pregnant, Dave had never been a very interested father, had barely visited the kids at his sisters while Felicity was in the hospital. He had been so accommodating that she was blindsided when he didn’t sign the divorce paper the day he was served. But losing was for suckers; if the marriage was going to end, his ego could only stand him being the one to end it.
I know you are pushing for this divorce, but I’m hoping you’ll agree to give me a second chance if you just understand where I’m coming from and why I did what I did. I’ve been seeing a counselor, trying to understand why I made the choices I made. She said I should write to you, just tell you the whole story from the beginning. . .”
Felicity had barely been able to continue, laughing and crying at the same time made her chest ache. She wasn’t sure what was more outrageous: that Dave Paterson was seeing a therapist, or that someone really thought telling her all the details of “why” he had been shacked up in a hotel with multiple women in one day was going to change what she thought: that he was a lying, cheating dirtbag who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. She riffled through the letter; it was way too many pages to boil down to “I’m a dog.”
It all started, he wrote, at a party he went to the summer after high school. His best friend Trevor had showed up with a girl he was seeing and her best friend, who he was convinced would be “all over” Dave. He had not been wrong. Tiffany–but she wanted him to call her by her “Druid name,” Elowen–was indeed all over him and that without a drink or drug in her. The party had convened around a few kegs in an open field surrounded by nothing much of anything for miles. Tiffany/Elowen, who had entwined her fingers with his and was staring at him earnestly as she explained her “deep connection with the natural world,” within five minutes of meeting him. “I know it sounds crazy, but I get out around trees and plants and all my atoms just start vibrating with life, you know. Like, my whole body gets hot with energy.” Dave thought that yes, it did sound crazy, but Tiffany, who he was happy to call Elowen if it upped the chances of his getting in her pants, was indeed very, very hot. As she leaned into him, he had a clear view down her tank top, and with no bra underneath, her pert little tits and bright pink nipples, a view that, along with the fact that her skirt was so short he could see her panties underneath, had certain parts of his body vibrating with life as well. Trevor’s girl had taken off, taking Elowen with her before Dave had a chance to walk her away from the group congregating around the kegs, the music, and the bonfire, but not before he got her number.
Elowen had indeed made his body vibrate in interesting ways that bahis şirketleri summer after their senior year before he headed off for college, and she stayed in town for community college. Dave’s parents had backed off supervising his comings and goings since he had turned 18, and Elowen’s parents seemed to have the same attitude, but even so there was no need to find a time when one of their houses would be empty of parental units. Since she was only interested in getting naked out in nature, any secluded spot with trees and grass would do for that. There were plenty of fields and state parks around that offered them all the privacy they needed. On their first real date, he had bought her a Slurpee and taken her out for a walk on a park trail. On the first private grassy area they found, just a ways off the trail, he was soon slurping on her tits, the nipples turning hard and bumpy in his mouth as she rubbed his cock through his shorts and moaned her encouragement.
They returned to the same spot on their second date. He had wanted to take her out to eat–it seemed like the right thing to do–but she explained she was a vegan and there weren’t too many places she could eat. So after stopping for a Snapple, she was soon naked on her back in the grass, with Dave tongue-deep in her crotch, licking her for all he was worth. He’d never met a girl like her before, who talked like her, like she wasn’t afraid to like what she was liking, “Oh, Dave,” she had moaned, “lick me, make me come, I want to soak the ground with my nectar.” Dave wasn’t sure what that was all about, but he liked the feel of her fingers running through her hair and her fingernails on his upper back as she lifted her ass off the ground to meet his waiting mouth. “That’s right, lick my clit, make me come, I’m so close.” He circled her engorged clit with a quick, motion, even as two fingers of his hand pumped in and out of her welcoming cunt until she was moaning out her approval and he could feel the soft, warm walls of her clamping down rhythmically against his fingers.
As they lay together in the grasss, her naked except for a small top, him still dressed, she explained that in her “Druid” beliefs, people had the responsibility to give their “sexual emanations” back to the Earth, that a woman’s fluids blessed the planet, while a man’s fertilized it. Dave had looked up Druids on the Internet and was sure that everything she was saying was a load of crap, but he was also pretty sure that he was about to get some action for himself, so he kept his opinions to himself. In a moment, he was standing, Elowen on the ground on her knees in front of him. “So I’m not going to swallow, you know? Not because it’s gross, but because the Earth needs your energy more than I do.” With that by way of introduction, she had begun by licking the smooth head of his cut cock, humming a little to herself as she did. He watched as her sharp, pink little tongue darted out again and again, licking and teasing his head. He dripped with precum and she brought her mouth close and rubbed her lips against his head, like a girl applying lip gloss before thanking him for the “gift of his sap, like the lifeblood of a tree.” He almost laughed then, except that she was taking him full in her mouth, her lips warm and wet around him as she slid up and down his shaft. There was nothing funny at looking down at a beautiful girl, her wild dirty-blonde hair loose around her shoulders as she pumped his cock with her mouth and her hand at the same time, and it didn’t take long before he felt the familiar sensation in his groin that told him he was about to come. “I’m coming, baby, I’m coming,” he had warned her, giving her time to pull away as his cum arced out and away from him onto the green grass. When he finished, she carefully licked his head again, removing every trace of his orgasm as delicately as if she were licking honey from a spoon.
Trevor tried from time to time to get him to talk about what was up as the summer months sped by, but Dave wasn’t talking. Crazy made-up bullshit or not, every time he got into the car with Elowen–he couldn’t even think of her as Tiffany any more, although that was the name he had to use when he came to her house to pick her up for a date–he knew how the night would end, with him fully, completely, and totally Druidically satisfied. “I’m here to pick up Tiffany,” he would say, as Elowen would drift down the stairs in a summery sundress or something else that could quickly be removed as soon as they found a shaded, quiet spot. In some ways, their time together became like a ritual. They would talk about nothing in particular as they drove out into the country, until one of them would point and say, “There.” Words were no longer necessary. Just a touch, just a glance, Elowen would drop her dress and panties as he stripped out of his shorts and t-shirt. Both of them facing a tree, he could feel her warm, naked body pressed up against his backside as she coated her fingers with oil and began caressing his cock, running her fingers in a tickling motion up and down his already-hard shaft before she gripped his left hipbone tightly in her left hand and began jacking him off with her right hand. Without words, she learned to read his body’s signals, knowing when to back off to prolong his pleasure, to slow or even stop when he was on the verge of climaxing until the orgasm was unstoppable, and he would come, shaking, shuddering “blessing the Earth with his seed.”