Thursday, April 07, 2011

Chapter 20: August 20, 2031 Recentering

When Lily woke up again, Cass was gone. 

A glass of mango juice with a celery stick in it next to a small container of Tabasco sauce, and a salt bagel were neatly placed on the bar on the kitchen next to a note on the back of a dry cleaning receipt in big letters in his clean, almost childish print, saying he'd check back this afternoon when he could take a break. 

On the bar stool was a big fluffy white towel, trial sized bottles of a strawberry and cream shampoo and conditioner (although not the kind Lily usually used, she needed a special swimmer's formula or chlorine in the pools she swam in destroyed it), a little athletic brand women's deodorant and a hair brush made out of gun metal blue molded metal in a quirky abstract design. Hanging from the track light aimed at the mango juice was a thin, floral print sundress with a pair of strappy pink sandals dangling under them.

Taking the hint, Lily was soon fed, showered and dressed.  It felt good.  Cass had clearly learned something about how to make a woman feel pampered at some point in his life. 

She looked at clock on the oven.  It was eleven o'clock according to the time and temperature screen, and a sultry ninety-four degrees outside already.  A glance out the window revealed that there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Her boss at DeVeaux's had given her the day off.  It would be hours until Cass could take time off work.  The last thing on Lily's mind was a swim.

A flash of her motorcycle sinking into the South Platte flashed in her mind's eye, but Lily was not about to let dealing with that start her day off on the wrong foot.  A visit to a seriously brain injured little girl in the hospital was also not the right place to start her day, Lily decided.

Lily almost started to collect her thoughts to think about what to say on a call to her dad.  Maybe she could introduce him to Cass.  How many years had he been dead now?  Clearly, she wasn't quite as fully recovered from yesterday evening as she thought. 

But, the thought wouldn't go away.  Lily wasn't religious, but her grandmother had often brought her along for Japanese Grave Cleaning Day in the Spring, fifteen days after the equinox, every year, as they'd done all over Asia for twenty-five hundred years or more.

It was a couple of hours drive to dad's spot in the cemetery on the plains of the Front Range near where she grew up, next to mom's.  When dad was alive, she'd gone every year.  Since the funeral, she'd visited once or twice, but it wasn't something she did regularly.  Her life in the city was full enough.  Lily wasn' the sort of person who had long conversations about what she wanted to do with her life with dead people.  She didn't have a shrine to her parents in her bedroom.  The only god worshiped there was the one who found the pyramid of unwashed laundry on top of her hamper sacred.

After leaving a short video message for Cass on the recorder in front of the refrigerator, Lily headed out on a walk to Sakura Square.  Rather than overwhelming her, the intense heat and sun and still air seemed nourishing.  Her grandmother had lived in Sakura Square forever, so it was comforting and familiar.  She walked into the Mercantile Exchange.  Ignoring the teenager at the front counter, she made her way to the produce stand at the back, where the wizened old woman who owned the place was arranging lettuces and daikon.

"What would you recommend that I bring to my parents' grave to introduce them to a young man who has become important to me?"

The shop owner looked deeply into Lily's eyes and was still for a long time.  She didn't say a word.  But, ten minutes later, she had a brown bag with a bouquet of flowers sticking out the top and was headed in the direction of DeVeaux's.  Her insurance agent, whom she had picked for convenience of location rather than minimum premium was on the way.  She explained what happened, signed a statement her agent prepared, and was told that she'd receive a form letter with more questions in a few days.  At DeVeaux's, the front room was empty and the delivery van was not out back.  She didn't make a sound and no one came up.  She took some flowers from the day old bin behind the counter, fashioned a little tiara of flowers for herself, did a fashion check in the mirror, and strolled out again. 

She picked up a baguette on the rest of her walk back to Cass's place.  She could have gone back to her own apartment, but felt no emotional draw to it. 

He called the apartment at about three in the afternoon.

"Are you O.K.?  You look better than I could have hoped in that dress.  You look like a faerie queen.", he said.

"I'm very well, thank you, Cass.  You are the most considerate gentleman I've ever known.", Lily replied.

"The Navy made kind of a big deal about that, and I did grow up in the South."

"Cass?  Is there any way that you could take some time off this afternoon?  I know your work is very important, and if you can't, I'll understand."

"Let just double check for a second. . . . No there isn't anything I can't have rescheduled.  Your wish is my command.  I can be at my apartment in fifteen minutes."

"I'd like to take you some place that's important to me right now for some reason."

"See you soon, my queen."

* * * *

The sun was setting over the country graveyard and the drone of the insects in the grass had begun.  Lily was sitting Indian style in front of the grave marker.  They had cleaned it off and set out the flowers and lit the incense and set out the cup of water and pieces of fruit when they'd arrived.  Cass was behind her, his hands resting lightly on her thighs, letting Lily do the talking.

"Dad.  Mom.  This is your daughter Lily.  I'd like to introduce you to someone.  He's very important to me.  His name is Cass. . . . He isn't like anyone we ever knew when I was growing up, but I think that you'd approve of him.  He's smart, and brave, and considerate and well, you can look for yourselves to see what he looks like.  He takes care of me more often than I'd like to admit and keeps me out of trouble.  Can you imagine that your delinquent daughter has a straight laced soldier in her life?  I know.  It seems strange to me too.  I have a job too, and I rescue people sometimes in emergencies when they slip too far under the water.  I don't think I realized how much I've missed you."

Lily wept a little.  Cass kept his gentle hands on her thighs and breathed deeply and quietly against her as she recovered herself.  She did, and then she was still and breathed deeply herself for a long time as the sunset ended and it grew dark.

"Goodbye.", she said, and they rose.

They were on the way home when Lily asked.

"Cass, I think I've decided.  I'd really like to move into your home and share my life with you for . . . for a . . . for now until . . . . until whenever . . . maybe a long time.  Indefinitely.  Am I welcome?"

Cass smiled his biggest most sincere, glowing smile of pleasure and delight.

"I think I know a guy with a pickup truck."

He pulled over to the side of the road.  They kissed for a very long time in the dark as cars and trucks rushed by on the highway and farmer's fields stretched out forever beside the road.  Then, they caught their breath and Cass drove them back to their home.

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