Shorty looked up from reading his section of the paper in his chair and agreed. "Death warmed over."
I took it all in stride. "It's the partying." I relayed to both of them. "It's been nonstop since the girls showed up. Every night is the same. Go home, shower, go to the bar and drink, come home, pass out, wake up and here I am." I paused for a moment. "What day is it anyway?"
"Wednesday." Shorty answered for me.
"So, uh, Carroll," Motown asked me, "smacking any of that ass yet?"
"Nope." I said. "Neither has anyone else either. Don't think a few of the guys haven't tried. It's like every night, a new face shows up from the division to go out partying with us."
"Your place is the place to be right now." Shorty surmised. Motown addressed Shorty. "Have you met them yet?"
Shorty shook his head. "Those young things don't want nothing to do with an old man like me."
"You're not that old, brother." Motown told him.
"Old enough." He summed up.
Motown readdressed me. "I figured you would have fallen in love with one of them after breaking up with that hot fox of yours."
I rolled my eyes while working on my customer. "I've had all I wanted in the world of love." I stated.
"Me too." My customer got into the conversation. "Broke up with my girl about a week ago. Or should I say, she broke up with me."
Motown looked at the guy. "I take it you have a bad attitude towards love too then?"
The guy looked at him. "Where love is concerned, I say kill it before it lays eggs."
We all started laughing at that. Motown got to his feet and started cleaning up his station. "You white boys fall in love too easy."
"You never been in love before?" I questioned him.
"Never." He asserted. "Everything that I've been through in my life, I'm still surprised I haven't ended up in prison. Or dead"
The room came to an abrupt halt. We all stared at him for a moment. I finally broke the silence. "Do tell."
"You can read all about it in my book, when I get it written and published." He left it hanging. Then he turned to me. "You're not the only one with writing aspirations, Carroll."
"Everyone could probably write a book about their life." Shorty added. Motown put his broom away. "Yeah, maybe, but I'm from Detroit, born and raised."
"What's that got to do with anything?" Shorty asked him. Motown looked over at him. "You ever been to Detroit, have you?"
"No." Shorty answered.
"Okay then." Motown started walking out. "I'm going to lunch guys, talk to you later."
"Don't forget," I called out to him, "it's your day."
He waved at me while exiting through the door. My customer looked up at me. "His day for what?"
"His day for an extended lunch. You see, we hardly get many customers in port. Everybody is on leave, or goes to a barber on base or maybe has their own civilian barber or something. So, we take turns at three hour lunches." Then I switched topics. "You say your girl broke up with you a week ago?"
"Yeah," He confirmed. "It sucks too."
"Preaching to choir, my friend."
"Not only that," He continued, "I got stuck with these concert tickets for this Saturday at the Scope."
I froze mid action. "Concert tickets?"
"Yeah, for Triumph."
I stepped out in front of him. "You have tickets for the Triumph concert this Saturday night?" I turned to Shorty. "That's Teresa's favorite group."
"You want them?" He asked me. "I'll sell them to you face value if you like."
I just love how the universe works sometimes. I have to admit, it's always throwing something in my direction. It's been like that since I can remember.
That evening, it was the same as always. Get home, take a shower, grill up some grub, and everybody heads to the bar. Well, this night, I broke the habit. I stayed behind. Teresa did likewise. We eventually found ourselves sitting on the flood wall staring out at the black ocean. It felt like the right time to spring it on her. I reached into my coat pocket and pulled them out. "Want to go out on a date with me Saturday night?"
"What's that in your hand?"
"Two tickets to a concert." I toyed.
She gave me a suspicious look. "What concert?"
"Oh, you know," I kept teasing, "just some little unknown group called ..... Triumph!"
"No ... fucking ... way!" She hollered. "Carroll, I love that band. They're my all time favorite."
"I know." I grinned. She leaped on top of me, wrapping her arms around my neck. "You're the best."
I don't know why, but I just wanted to explode inside just from how happy she appeared to be. By the time she settled down somewhat, she filled me in on a little unknown secret. "I've never been to a concert before."
"Really?" I was shocked to learn. "Never?"
"Never." She assured me. "And to think, my first time will be to see my all time favorite band. God, I'm so happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you."
I could have stayed in that moment forever, or at least for the rest of the night, but as it were, a ruckus had broken out and was sneaking up on us. That ruckus was coming from the direction of the bar. It sounded like a group of people arguing. We turned to see what it was. Andi was racing fast towards us, and crying, followed by what appeared to be the rest of the gang. We both got to our feet to investigate. "What's going on?" Teresa asked her, as she approached.
"It's your brother!" She screamed. "He's driving me fucking crazy with his jealousy! I can't take it anymore!" She walked up to me and grabbed me by my coat. "Get me out of here, Carroll. I need to get away for a while. Please?" She practically begged. I looked at Teresa. "Go ahead," she insisted, "get her out of here. I'm going to talk to Michael, find out what's going on."
I watched her head towards the gang as I led Andi to my car. We got in and off we went. As I drove around, seeking a place to park, Andi went on to tell me what happened. It would seem that Kaps got into it with O'Brien when she and him took to the dance floor to slow dance. I can't say this was unexpected what with all the constant drinking, lack of sleep, and the high octane of emotions floating around, a conflict such as this was well overdue in my opinion.
I finally found a spot overlooking the ocean. We both got out and stood around the car as she tried to dry her tears and calm down. I would occasionally give her a hug. "I can't take his shit anymore, Carroll, I just can't."
I did my best to comfort her. "I'll talk to him, okay?"
She looked up at me as I held her close. "It's been two years since we broke up. Hell, I haven't even seen him for the last year. The only reason I agreed to coming here was because I thought he was over it by now. Why won't he get over it, Carroll?"
"It just takes some guys longer." I tried my best to answer. She snuggled a little tighter. "Look at you, you're shaking. Here, take my coat." As it was a little cold out. I managed to get her covered when she fell back into my arms. "You're such a nice guy. You're about the only one who hasn't tried to make a move on any of us girls yet."
"I didn't figure that to being the reason why you guys came to visit."
She slightly broke my grip. "You're such a gentleman." She said. "I'm kind of jealous of Teresa."
"She and I are just friends."
We stared into each others eyes. She lifted her hand and placed it on one of my cheeks. I suddenly realized what was about to happen but before I could react, she planted her lips on mine. "Andi." I mumbled through the kiss. "Andi." I tried again. Next thing I knew, she had placed her free arm behind me and lifted herself, wrapping her legs around my waist. "Andi." I attempted for one last time. To no avail.
Oh, to hell with it.
By the time we returned, order had been restored. We walked into the apartment and everyone appeared to have gone to bed. The place was quiet with the exception of the TV still being on. I walked Andi to her door. "Thanks." She offered. We exchanged another hug. "No problem." I whispered, releasing her. Once she closed the door behind her, I headed to my room, navigating around the cots and noticing Kaps passed out on the couch.
Once in my room, I saw Teresa sleeping in the bed. I made a bee-line to the bathroom and took a quick shower before crawling in next to her. She rolled over and placed her head on my chest and one arm around me. "Is she okay?" She asked quietly.
I wrapped an arm around her and snuggled in. "She'll be fine. She just needed to get some things off her chest." (Yeah, that was the understatement of the year)
I felt the warm breath of a kiss on my cheek. "Thanks for being there for her."
I didn't respond. Instead, I just laid there with her, holding her, feeling like a dirty son of a bitch. But why? Teresa and I were just friends. We were just friends, right? I mean, she is engaged, right? So why the guilt?
The next day, in the sales office, I let Kaps have it. "You need to chill your shit, dude."
"Don't tell me what to do, Carroll." He wasn't taking our talk very well.
"She's not your girl friend anymore, Mike. She's not in love with you. You have to let her go."
"I don't see how it's any of your business." He said. He was right. "Maybe not," I told him, "but what happens in that apartment is my business, and right now, the atmosphere isn't very good because you can't let the past go."
"What are you trying to say?"
I stared at him. "If you can't act like you got some damn sense, then maybe you shouldn't hang around. They're here on vacation. They came here to have some fun."
"You kicking me out?" He wanted to know. "They're my sisters for Christ's sake."
"Yes, they are." I reinforced, "but they are also grown adults. You know I wouldn't let anything happen to them."
"Fine." He settled. "But I'm staying until they leave at the end of the month."
"Fine." I replied. This is when he stuck out his hand. "I want my rent money back."
I shook my head, but dug into my pockets none the less. "Whatever. When they leave to go back home, I want your stuff out of there."
I turned to make my out when he had more to say. "I should have known this was going to happen."
I stopped and faced him. "Come again?"
"Everyone warned me not to get you involved. You always have to be the alpha dog. You always have to be in control. It's always your way or the highway."
I contemplated his words. "You might be right." I reasoned. "Just remember, you came to me, I didn't come to you."
He stared me down. "I regret that decision now."
I tossed it off. "Sounds like a personal problem." And finished making my exit out the door.
Everything appeared to be falling apart. I suppose it was a good thing I didn't let it affect me, as it were, most of my thoughts were on Teresa and the concert. I was really looking forward to it. When the moment finally arrived, we were both pretty jacked up. We had good seats. Not that it mattered much, I don't think anyone there even bothered to sit down once the band took the stage. The place was jumping. A few songs in, Teresa grabbed me and shouted into my ear. This was right about the time the band started playing one of their best songs. "Andi told me about what happened between you two the other night."
Suddenly, I couldn't feel my heart beat. She must have seen the terrified look on my face. She leaned back into my ear. "Don't worry about it."
"But I feel really guilty." I tried to explain. Teresa rolled it off her shoulders. "It's not your fault, Carroll, it's mine."
This threw me off guard a little. "How is it your fault?"
She leaned back into my ear. "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear earlier."
"What are you talking about?" I shouted over the noise, trying to make sense of her words.
"This." She answered, then giving me a very passionate kiss. I eagerly accepted it. Hell, I have been anticipating it, dreaming of it in fact. I wrapped both arms around her and held on for dear life. When we broke, we simply stared at each other, smiling. The look in her eyes told me everything I wanted to know. Despite this, she told me anyway with her mouth when the words came dancing right off of her tongue. "I'm in love with you."
Instantly, I knew this changed everything. She knew it too. All I can recall is nodding my head with great satisfaction. I reached for the back of her head and pulled her ear to my lips. "I'm in love with you too."
There was no turning back now. We had finally broken the ice. As the song from the band played on, we kept staring at each other. I couldn't take my eyes off her. And I really did mean it. I was in love with her. As much as anyone could be in love with another. I felt more for her than I ever did for anyone else before in my life. Even more than Lori. This new discovery also brought with it, the painful knowledge of her impending nuptials. Now, we had to have a conversation about it. There was no way around it. Fortunately, it could be placed on hold. Right now, all I wanted to do was make love to her all night long. Apparently, she felt the same.
We kissed relentlessly from that point on during the remainder of the concert. We kept going as we made our way through the parking lot to the car. We kept going in the car, even as I drove us home. How we didn't get into an accident, I will never know. It kept going as we made our way up the stairs, and into the apartment. Everyone was gone, probably at the bar. It kept going as we made our way to the bedroom, closing the door and removing each others clothes. It kept going when I lifted her up on the dresser, and the bed, to the floor, to the dresser again, and back to the bed. It kept going all night long and well into the morning when the sun began shinning over the horizon. In short, it just never seemed to stop. It just kept on going like some kind of sexually charged energizer bunny. It just ... kept ... going.
The magic of love traveled through us that night like a song inside our souls. It felt like a secret being unlocked and exposed from deep within. It felt like a long journey finally coming to an end. It felt good. When fate gives you the chance, you have got to take it.