They head to their car. I know they are going to talk about us. I know Natalie is going to ask how things went. I know Charlie is going to tell her that everyone loved her. He’s not going to tell her what we said, but she’s going to know the gist of it anyway. I know at some point, Natalie is going to ask Charlie if Grandma really has cancer. And Charlie is going to have to explain how all of this works.
When Rachel and I start to head out, I offer to drive. Rachel hands me the keys, and when she does, Grandma asks us for a ride. “Oh,” I say. “I thought you were staying here.”
“No, dear. I’m staying at the Standard.”
Rachel starts laughing.
“Again?” I say.
“They have a lady who sits in a glass box behind the check-in desk. It’s a riot!” Grandma says.
Rachel, Grandma, and I give Mom a kiss good-bye amid cheers of “Merry Christmas!” and “Thanks for the socks.” We leave the house to her and Bill. From the look on Bill’s face, I get the distinct impression he’s got some weird Santa sex costume waiting for her or something. Gross.
We get into the car, and before I even turn on the ignition, Grandma starts in. “What do we think about this Bill guy?” she says.
Rachel turns her head and then her shoulders toward Grandma in the backseat. “I like him,” she says. “You don’t like him?”
“I’m just asking what you think,” Grandma says diplomatically.
I keep my eyes on the road, but I join the conversation. “I think he seems really taken with Mom. I think that’s nice.”
“You two are a far cry from when you were little. You used to hate every man she dated.”
“No, we didn’t,” Rachel says.
“We didn’t even meet that many of them,” I say.
“She stopped introducing you,” Grandma says. “Because you used to get so upset.”
I don’t remember any of this.
“Are you sure? You’re not thinking of Charlie or something?” Rachel asks.
“Honey, I remember it like it was yesterday. You hated every man who walked in that house. Both of you did. I remember she used to call me up and say, ‘Mom, what do I do? They can’t stand any of them.’ ”
“And what did you say?” I ask.
“I said, ‘Stop introducing them, then.’”
“Huh,” Rachel says, turning forward.
“Sweetheart, don’t take Sunset,” my grandmother says when I get over the hill into the city.
“Grandma, you don’t even live here!” Rachel says.
“Yeah, but I pay attention to the way your mother goes. Take Fountain, and then cut up Sweetzer. It’s better.”
I spend late Christmas night with Thumper, reading a mystery about a family murdered in a small Irish town. The detective is on the outs with the department and really has to solve this one to prove he’s got what it takes. With Thumper next to me, his head resting on my stomach, I admit, this is a great way to end a holiday.
My phone rings around eleven. It’s David.
“Hi,” he says. His voice is soft and shy.
“Hi,” I say. I can feel myself smiling wide. “How was your Christmas?”
“It was nice,” he says. “I spent the day with my brother and his wife and kids.”
“That sounds fun,” I say.
“It was fun,” he says. “His kids are four and two, so it’s cute to see them open a playhouse and get all excited.”
“And then you spent the rest of the day trying to put it together for them,” I offer.
David laughs. “I’ll tell you, those instruction booklets are torture. But it’s nice to be able to do that.”
“I’m going to be an aunt myself, actually,” I say. “So I’m looking forward to all of that stuff.”
“Oh, wow, congrats!” he says.
I thank him, and there is a long pause.
“Well, yeah,” David says. “I don’t know why I called, I guess. I just wanted to see how your Christmas went. I was thinking about you. And . . . you know . . . holidays can be lonely, so I just . . . wanted to see how you were . . . faring.”
Sometimes you want to forget the fact that you’re alone, and instead, you want to relish the feeling that someone understands you, someone is fighting the same battle that you are. Also, you know, sometimes you just want to feel wanted and desired. Sometimes you want to feel what it feels like with someone new. Sometimes you forget about whether you’re ready to do something, and you just let yourself do it.
“David,” I say warmly. “Would you like to come over?
There is a brief pause. “Yes,” he says. “Yes, I would.”
• • •
“Oh, my God!” I am yelling. Or maybe I’m not. I don’t know. “Oh, my God!” Oh, my God. Oh, my God.
Oh. God. Oh God. Oh God. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
And then I fall on top of him.
And he thanks me as he catches his breath. And he says, “I needed that.”
And I say, “Me, too.”
• • •
The next morning, I wake up to hear Thumper scratching at the door. He’s not usually shut out of the bedroom.
I open the door and let him in. He jumps on David, smelling him, investigating. He’s wary. David wakes up to Thumper’s snout in his armpit.
“Excuse me, Thumper,” David says groggily. Then he turns and looks at me. “Good morning.” He smiles.
“Good morning.” I smile back.
He rubs his eyes. He looks vulnerable without his glasses, as if I’m seeing the real him that not everyone gets to see. He squints at me.
“Do you need your glasses?” I laugh.
“That would be great. I just can’t . . . well, I can’t see them anywhere. Because I can’t see without them,” he says, as he feels for them.
I pick them up off the nightstand on his side. In doing so, I lean over him, my body brushing his. I can feel how warm he is to the touch.
“Sorry,” I say. “Here you go.”
He kisses me before he takes them out of my hand. The kiss is deep and passionate. I forget who I am, who he is, for a second.
He takes his glasses out of my hand, but he doesn’t put them on. He puts them back on the nightstand. And he kisses me again, pulling me down on top of him. I guess the weirdest part about all of this is how it doesn’t feel weird at all.
“Mmm,” he says. “You feel good.”
My hips fall onto his hips. My legs fall to the side. He moves his pelvis, pushing and pulling us tighter.
“Thumper,” he says, looking right at me. “Get out of here, would you?”
Thumper ignores him. I laugh.
“Thumper,” I say, “Go!”
And Thumper goes.
I melt into him.
At first, I am doing the things I know I should do. I am arching my back, I am grinding my hips, but somewhere along the way, I forget to do the things you’re supposed to do.
I just move.
When I’m naked and underneath him, when I’m moaning because he’s doing all the right things, he breathes into my ear. “Tell me what you want.”
“Hm?” I manage to get out. I don’t know what he means, what he wants me to say.
“Tell me what to do to you. What do you like?”
I don’t even know how to answer him. “I’m not sure,” I say. “Give me some options.”
He laughs and lifts my hips off the bed, running his hands down the length of me.
“Yes,” I say. “That.”
• • •
After David leaves, I go to my computer and open an e-mail draft. For the first time in a long time, I have something to say.
How come you never asked me what I wanted? How come you never cared about what I needed in bed? You used to pay attention, you know? You used to spend hours touching me, finding things that made me tingle. When did you stop?
Why did it become easier for me to just satisfy you and then move on to something else? Why didn’t you stop me and say that it was my turn? Why didn’t you offer more of yourself to me? You never asked me what I liked. You never asked me my wildest fantasies.