He looked at me with dead, sad eyes. "I can't do this anymore." He sounded so empty.
"You moving out?"
He dropped his head a little. "I miss my girl friend back home, dude."
I knew he had a sweetheart back in Michigan, but I had no idea he was this much in love with her. Not by the way he has been acting since he and I met. "So what's up?" I pressed.
"I'm going home. Right now. I'm leaving."
"AWOL?" I had a feeling.
He stuck out his hand to shake. "I'm done with this shit."
"Dude," I tried to talk some sense in him, "they're going to come for you. They will catch you eventually. Your dad won't be able to help you on this one."
"I'll cross that bridge when I get to it."
I shook his hand. "I guess you got to do what you got to do. Don't worry, if anyone asks, I don't know shit."
"Thanks." He handed me the key. "Take care."
I said fuck it and gave him a hug. "You too, my friend."
After school was let out, I decided to swing by the ship to see the guys, and snoop around about any word on Torok. The berthing area was fairly quiet. A few people there did mention it. One person was first class petty officer Say. He quickly asked me if I knew anything about it and as promised, "I don't know shit. He didn't say a word to me." I lied. He accepted that and went on his way. I went back to my rack where Taco was hanging out. "Yo," he called me over, "I got something for you."
I approached him when he handed me a piece of paper. "What's this?" He snuggled a little closer and whispered. "It's an address. Hammy will be there on the date below it. He's going to be playing some cards at a house in Norfolk. He invited me to the game. I accepted at first but when he gave me the address, I made an excuse to get out of it. But he will be there dude." Then he winked at me.
I knew what he was doing for me. Everyone knew he ratted me out to Lori. I nodded my head. "Thanks." And walked away.
Just as I ascended from the berthing and started heading to leave the ship, Glen raced up to me. "There you are. I was going to come by tonight to give you a message."
"About what?" I questioned.
"It's Sanoki's old lady, Karen, she wants you to come over tomorrow to their apartment. She wants to talk to you about something."
"What does she want with me?" I wondered out loud.
"I don't know. She didn't say. But it has to be tomorrow. Sanoki has fire watch so he won't be there. But a little heads up, they've been fighting recently, something about money problems. She might be asking you for a loan."
"Thanks." I said.
When I made it back home, all was quiet again. Now, it was just me. In a way, I was kind of glad too. I was really tired. I stayed in for the most part and just watched some TV. I grilled me some chicken and later, I took the Valentine's bear with me on a walk on the beach. I stared at it in the dark, in my hand. When I was ready, I tossed it into the crashing waves. Now, I was officially done with Teresa.
The Torok thing was still blowing my mind. Talk about shocked. His departure came completely out of the blue. I guess we all have our limitations. The apartment did feel a little creepy with nobody else around. It seemed to be either filled to capacity or dead as a zombie. There's something to say about both of those scenarios. At least there was one thing was good about it. "Ah, Frosted Flakes. Excellent."
Hey, I like cereal.
I arrived to see Karen about 4 PM or so. When she answered, she was dressed in her night wear still and wrapped inside of a blanket, even though, it was a rather warm day. "You look like shit." I told her, entering the place and noticing something odd. "Why is it so dark in here? Turn on a light or open the drapes."
"We have no lights." Karen explained, walking back into the bedroom and plopping herself back down in the bed. Me right behind her. "They shut them off a few days ago."
"That sucks." I mumbled.
"You're damn right it sucks." She concurred. She sat up in the bed when I took a seat on the edge of it. "The honeymoon is over." She sounded so exasperated.
"What's going on?" I asked her. "You should be out doing something on such a beautiful day. Why are you hiding inside like this?"
"I haven't any money to go do anything. Carroll, I can't live like this. I really can't. I knew money might be tight, but I had no idea it was going to be this tight."
I stood up and pulled out my wallet. "How much you need?"
She looked up at me and began reaching out her hand to wave me off. "No, I don't want a loan." She said. "Thanks anyway."
I stared at her. "Then what do you want?"
She now began to hang her a head, fidgeting slightly. "I'm leaving Dan."
I sat back down and reached out to pull her closer to me. "Oh sweetie." I coddled her a little. "Is it really that bad?"
"I wanted to know if it would be okay if I stayed with you until next Friday. I'm going to have Dan give me enough money for gas so I can go home. I'll sleep on a cot or the couch, I don't care. I just have to get out of here."
"Of course you can stay with me hon."
"My clothes are already packed." She informed me. "I promise I won't be a burden."
"You're not a burden." I conveyed. I reached back into my wallet. She tried to refuse my offering. "Take this." I insisted. "It's just forty dollars. It'll hold you over until Friday."
She gave the appearance of slight shame. When she settled on looking me eye to eye, she smiled. "Teresa fucked up."
"Hey," I pointed at her, "don't say that. Now, let's get your things in your car and get you out of here. Then I will take you out to dinner."
"A date?" She perked up. "You're going to take a married woman out on a date?"
"Eh, why not?" I joked back, getting to my feet. "Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll get lucky."
This seemed to cheer her up. The best news was that she didn't have to sleep on a cot or the couch. With Torok gone, she had the bedroom all to herself. For me, I wouldn't be alone for the week. having her around would do me some good too. It was nice to have someone to talk to. The place wouldn't feel so creepy. We talked more about her troubles and her failing marriage. She explained that she wasn't going to file for divorce, she just wanted to go home and wait for Sanoki to get out of the navy then they could try and make it work from there. He had about two years remaining. Once he read her note on Sunday morning, he swung by to talk to her. I gave them their privacy by going over to see Bonnie and the twins. I stayed for an early dinner. before I left, she extended another invitation. "You have to come have dinner with us this Thursday."
"I do?" I responded.
"Yes, you do. So clear your calender."
I wasn't about to argue with her. I handed out kisses to her and the kids before swinging by to see Lori and Bernie. It wasn't a long stay. In fact, I was only there for about fifteen minutes. Just long enough for a cup of coffee and to ask her a question. "Want to go on a date tomorrow night? Dinner and a movie?"
"Really?" She gleamed in her chair. "An actual date? You and me?"
"Sure." I figured. "Why not?"
By the time I made it back to the apartment, Sanoki was gone. Karen and I took a walk on the beach. She brought me up to date. She was leaving for Georgia that Friday. It was settled. "I really appreciate you letting me stay with you."
"Think nothing of it." I rolled off. But there was something else on her mind. "I'm really sorry about what Teresa did to you." She couldn't let it go.
"Forget about it." I again had to say. "Karen, she did what was best for her."
"She took the safe road." Karen presumed.
"Be that as it may," I said, "she made her choice."
"Do you regret your feelings for her?"
I stopped to look out at the ocean. My new hobby of late. I shook my head. "No, I don't. Besides," I continued, "we're too young for that. I think you have to be forty years old before you can have regrets."
She giggled. "You think you'll regret it when you're forty?"
I was confident in my answer. "No. I will never regret the time I spent with her or my feelings that came from it. Don't get me wrong," I wanted to make clear, "she has changed my life in more ways than one, but I can't bring myself to regret love. Love is like a game of poker," I reasoned, "you always have something to lose with each hand, but it's up to you to decide if you want to keep playing for one more hand or walk away from the table. I decided to go all in and I lost. That will happen too, sometimes. If you're willing to accept the sweet taste of winning, then you also have to accept the sour taste of defeat. That's what makes playing the game so thrilling."
She wrapped her arm around mine and placed her head on my arm. "She picked the wrong guy."
I smiled. "You got that right, baby." As we laughed it off.
The date with Lori went well the next night. Most of it was spent talking about Bernie. When I took her back home, I left her at the door, but I left her with a passionate kiss. She seemed to enjoy it. "I think I'm going to like dating you." She winked, before she disappeared inside.
Tuesday night was date night again, only with Hrisko. He was wanting to check out a new movie release and I wanted to thank him for helping me through the Teresa ordeal. No sooner did we get settled into our seats, in the back row, and the lights went down, did two girls sit down next to us, on my side. I glanced at the one next to me and nodded quietly. She half nodded back and giggled with her friend. Shortly after the movie started, I felt something on my right leg. It was a hand and it was slowly moving up my thigh. I cocked my head in bewilderment. WTF? I thought. I slightly turned my head and shifted my eyes to look at her from the corner of them. She did the same, smiling at me. Then she stared back at the screen. I did likewise.
Walking to the car afterwards, Hrisko was basically freaking out. "I swear to God, I can't take you anywhere, can I?"
"Dude, what was I supposed to do?" I pleaded for an answer to the madness.
"I swear, you're the luckiest mother fucker I have ever known. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't actually see it for myself."
We stopped next to his car. "I can't believe it either." I said. "That was a first for me."
"Right in the damn theater, dude!" He exclaimed. "A total stranger gives you a hand job." He pointed at me. "I want to be you for a day. No," He changed his mind quickly, "I want to be you for a week. Better still, a month."
"Don't tell the guys about it." I requested, getting into the passenger seat. He slipped into the driver seat. "Why would I do that? They would never believe me anyways." He hesitated before starting the engine. "You're a walking, talking, breathing Penthouse Forum Letter, you know that?"
"If it'll make you feel better, you can grope me." I jested, leaning over slightly to rub his arm.
He jerked away and tossed my arm off while laughing. "Get off me."
So yeah, I laughed it off. But deep inside, I had no understanding of why things like that was happening to me. I couldn't explain it in the least. Not just what occurred in the movie theater, but all of it. I couldn't explain Diana and Fort Lauderdale, or Irene, her sister and Sevina in Italy, and I certainly couldn't explain everything that has happened since. From Leah, to Andi, Teresa and all the others. I just wasn't getting it. I mean, yeah, I was getting it, but .... you know what I mean. None of it made any sense.
Maybe I was just exuding some sexually charged vibe or something. I honestly don't know. I seriously never considered myself THAT good looking. I figured I was average at best. Was it the blue eyes? The blonde hair? My height? My body? What? I don't know. All I knew was that at any moment, around any corner, on any given day, I could do nothing more than just lock eyes with a girl and boom! it was go time. Hell, for the most part, it always seemed to happen when I was least expecting it. When I was involved with something else. The truth is, the few times I ever tried to hit on a girl, I was shot down. Hell, even Lori shot me down that first night when I made the move. It just didn't make any sense and even to this day, it still doesn't. Even what happened to me recently. (Which I'm not going to tell, by the way) But it's always been like this. The universe always seems to place me in some of the most unusual moments with unusual girls and situations and before I can tell what is what, I'm in the middle of sex.
Even in later years with the coming of computers and the internet. I remember going into chat rooms on AOL and the same thing would happen. I swore to myself I would never meet girls online. But it happened. So even if I was unknowingly sending out some kind of vibe from a physical perspective, it still somehow followed me to the internet. It always has been and always will be a mystery to me. Another mystery also includes my going to Bonnie's house to honor her invitation. I got there a little early to play with the twins, but when I showed up, they weren't there. "Where's the kids?" I asked her.
"They'll be along shortly." She assured me. "They're out on a walk around the block with Julie."
"Julie is my niece. She's here to visit for a couple of weeks from Pontiac, Michigan." (I know, I noticed it too, everyone was from Michigan. Torok, Motown, and now Julie. And me a Buckeye!) Suddenly, we heard some chatter on the front porch. "That's them now."
The kids entered first and they ran right up to me with arms extended. I lifted them both up and we handed out little kisses and hugs. When I put them down, Bonnie made the introductions. "Carroll, this is my niece, Julie. Julie, this is Carroll, the guy I told you about."
We locked eyes. She smiled. I smiled. "Hi." I spoke. "Hi back." She returned the greeting.
I knew the moment I looked into her own blue eyes and that short blonde hair what was happening. I could read her look and I damn well knew how I was looking at her. That feeling in the air, oh yes, I knew exactly what was taking place. Here we go again. This shit was just getting stupid now. The only thing my thoughts would allow me to think was ..... UH-OH!