Sweet Thyme Baby – 17

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

17

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 16 first)

 

In the middle of the night, Sharon lay still and listened for sounds in the sleeping house.

 

She turned on her side and lay with her arm bent under her head watching Lance sleep in the green-sea light of the clock face. His eyeballs jittered beneath their lids, and the corners of his mouth twitched as if he wanted to smile but couldn’t manage it. Love for him filled her. She bent to kiss his mouth and recoiled from the stink of his breath.

 

She couldn’t get out of bed fast enough.

 

She stood at the foot, first ill with disgust and then weak with guilt. Poor Lance, he deserved a better wife. She worked long hours and didn’t always have time to plan meals. Leftovers languished in the refrigerator. Dried up drumsticks, the greening heel of a ham. Lance complained, then sulked, complained more. Same tune. Same lyrics. He and probably Hamish too had eaten ptomaine lunch meat or fatal chicken salad. Children and men: when they were hungry their taste buds went numb. Any minute, he’d wake up sick.

 

Down the hall, Hamish’s bedroom door stood open and a seashell nightlight burned in an electrical outlet next to his bunk bed. He lay on his stomach on the lower bunk with his face turned away from her. She knelt and blew on the back of his neck. The fine brown hairs moved and she saw how long and shaggy they were. Bad food. Bad grooming. More guilt. She had to try harder to be a good wife and mother. She blew again; he muttered. She waited for him to turn but he settled down and was still again.

 

“Hamish, turn over, honey.”

 

He was so beautiful, it would kill her if his breath stank.

 

Hamish opened his eyes and smiled spaciously.

 

He smelled of toothpaste.

 

*

 

On her way back to bed Sharon stopped at the telephone table on the landing and jotted a list on the pad she kept there. A haircut for Hamish, and she would make time to clean the refrigerator. Lance’s teeth must be full of caries. She would make a dentist appointment for him whether he wanted to go or not.

 

She heard him in the bathroom brushing his teeth. When he came out, he said, “I woke up with a taste in my mouth like something died on my tongue.”  He wore the pajamas she had bought him for his birthday. Red and blue triangles on a white ground. A big loose top and flappy legs. She realized they were an old man’s pajamas, de rigeur in the rest home, but Lance wasn’t even forty.

 

“I hate those pajamas,” she said as she got back into bed. Mentally she added to her list a trip to Macy’s, to the young men’s department.

 

“Me too.”

 

He grinned, grabbed either side of the placket neckline and ripped.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

The pajama top dropped off his shoulders and onto the carpet. The hair on his chest made a “y” from his nipples down to his naval. He put his hand inside the waistband and shoved the pants down. The sight of his penis surprised her, standing almost vertical, the scrotum stretched taut as a drum cover.

 

He leapt onto the bed and straddled her hips.

 

“Hamish’s door is open.”

 

“In Bible days people lived in tents. No doors. Don’t you think Joseph and his brothers knew what mom and dad did after lights out?”

 

“That’s blasphemy.”

 

“Kiss me and I’ll shut up.”

 

She laughed uncertainly. “What’s put you in such a good mood?”

 

“You’ll know soon enough.”

 

“Lance –.”

 

“I woke up, you weren’t here. I missed you.”

 

“I was checking Hamish.”

 

“Check me out instead.” He drew her hand down to touch him.

 

“Lance!”  She tried to ignore her body’s response. “I think you should see a dentist. I’ll make the appointment.”

 

“You talk too much.”

 

He pushed up the hem of her nightgown and put his hand between her legs.

 

“Lance, what’s got into you?” His unusual assertiveness aroused her. “What are you hiding?

 

“I’ll tell you when I’m ready. It’s going to be a surprise.”

 

“But, I don’t like –.”

 

He kissed her and although she knew the feel of his lips as if she had been born kissing him, they felt wrong that night. And the smell was there, under the toothpaste and mouthwash. She turned away. He took her face between his thumb and index finger and twisted it back. She recalled her promise to be a better wife and made herself relax.

 

“You’re going to walk tall beside me, Sharon.”

 

What did he mean by that?

 

*

 

The sky was pale when she left him sleeping, snoring faintly. She stopped outside the guest room door and pressed her ear to the jamb. Her brother was a world class sleeper when he had the chance. If he had been awake she would have dragged him out of bed and downstairs for coffee. His company would have distracted her. Instead, she showered in the bathroom off the laundry room. In the dryer she found underwear, Levis, and a sweat shirt. She ached inside and between her legs the tender folded flesh stung. For a moment she cupped her hand there to soothe and comfort it.

 

Close to seven, she hear the squeak of the Ryan’s garden gate from across the street and a moment later a double rap on the back door. Her friend Lovey Jones looked into the kitchen.

 

“You got any o.j., honey?”

 

Sharon made herself smile. At least it felt like a smile, she couldn’t be sure without looking into a mirror.

 

“Is that the true time?” Lovey stepped closer to the kitchen clock, squinting. “Girl, I didn’t know it was so early. I’ll come back –.”

 

“Don’t be crazy. Sit.” Sharon handed her a glass of juice. “Good run?”

 

“I went straight across the garden to the sea meadows and down as far as College Road and back.”

 

Sharon nodded and poured milk into the pancake mix.

 

“You okay, Sharon?”

 

Sharon cracked an egg on the side of the bowl.

 

“What you thinking about?”

 

About all she had to do that day. About the secret Lance was keeping from her and how it made her cross that he was playing coy about it. About how good and at the same time all wrong sex had been between them. Desire had transformed Lance and for a moment she had been carried away, as if she too had been changed into someone reckless and wild. By morning light her passionate responses felt immoral and her body felt invaded.

 

She asked Lovey, “Do you think people change?”

 

“Isn’t that what your whole religion is about? Bad people getting good. Grace.”

 

“That’s not what I mean.”

 

Lovey smiled. “Let me tell you, Little Lamb, one thing I know for sure. We’re all of us changing all the time. That’s a truth of the universe.” Overhead a door slammed shut. “You want me to vanish the scene before Himself gets resurrected?”

 

“He hasn’t had his shower. Finish your juice.”

 

Lance had a precise mind categorically ordered for people and races, and Lovey Jones didn’t fit in any of them. She wasn’t pure African-American, but neither was she anything like blue-eyed Midwestern Baptist – the species with which Lance felt most at home. Coolie, Conquistador, Yankee trader and coal black slave mingled in Lovey’s hybrid blood; and to Sharon she was beautiful: big and round-bodied and strong as a tribal goddess: cocoa brown, her mouth wide and mobile, and the largest gentlest brown eyes, eyes to get lost in, to rest in.

 

Lance appeared in the kitchen door.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 18 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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