Page 29

Author: Cora Carmack


That name. I opened my eyes, and she was smirking. Two could play at that game. “Oh, Miss Edwards, I think that might deserve detention.”


Her eyes narrowed.


“Or maybe a little punishment.”


I got so much pleasure out of seeing the red rise to her cheeks.


“You wouldn’t.”


Rather than answering, I bent and hauled her over my shoulder. She squeaked, and clutched at my back.


“Garrick!”


“Hush, Miss Edwards. I’m taking you home.”


Benji was waiting impatiently by the backstage door. His frown deepened when he saw us. He said, “First, that was three minutes. I counted. Second, you two are disgusting. I feel like I’m watching some Lifetime movie.”


I just laughed and told him goodnight. Bliss only pouted at first, but when I kept her over my shoulder even as we left the building, she started to struggle.


“Okay, Garrick, you’ve made your point.”


“I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no point. I just like carrying you.”


“Well, you’ve had your fun. Put me down.”


I stopped for a moment and pretended to think. I took the opportunity to slide my hand up the back of her thigh.


I answered, “I, for one, think there’s more fun to be had.”


I set off again, and either Bliss was paralyzed or she was really interested in where my hand was going to go next because she didn’t move again.


Until I started descending the stairs to the tube, then she kicked her legs, and gave a swift, warning pinch to my side. “Garrick, I refuse to let you carry me onto the subway. Down, now.”


I could picture her face red with anger, and suddenly wanted to see it. Flushed cheeks. Narrowed eyes. Pursed lips. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I pulled, allowing her body to slide down mine. I kept my hands at her waist to slow her descent. The shifting of her body against mine was heavenly. She sucked in a breath, and when our faces were level, her eyes were not narrowed, but closed. Her lips weren’t pursed, but her bottom lip was caught between her teeth in a way that made my mouth dry. Her cheeks were still flushed, but I had a feeling it wasn’t about anger anymore.


“You did that on purpose, ” she said.


I laughed, and it came out raspy. She wasn’t the only one affected by our closeness. “I definitely did that on purpose. I think we should make this a post-show ritual, actually.”


She shook her head, and smiled, but she didn’t say no. Even under the dim lights of the tube station, she was radiant. I still couldn’t believe I could touch her. There was no one to pull us apart. Nothing to get us in trouble. I was tempted to announce my love for her to all the other commuters, but I didn’t want to break this moment. I liked the quiet way she was looking at me, her eyes filled with more than just desire. She made me happy, and I hoped I was seeing the same in her right then. Suddenly, I was excited to get home and put my plan into action.


I buried my fingers into her hair, and pulled her in for a kiss. Her hands tightened on my shoulders, her fingernails pressing into my skin. I took my time tasting her mouth, losing myself as we waited for the train.


***


As soon as we arrived home, I told Bliss I was going to take a shower. Sundays were a two-show day, so I certainly needed it. I let her go in first to brush her teeth. I waited for the water to turn on, then leapt into action. I found Hamlet’s feathered cat toy (the only reason she would ever willingly get close to Bliss), and hid it underneath the bed. Then I went to the closet and found the suit coat pocket where I’d hidden the ring. I popped open the box to look at it one more time.


It wasn’t much. I was only an actor, after all. But Bliss wasn’t one to wear much jewelry any way. It was simple and sparkling, and I hoped she would love it as much as I loved her. A popping sensation filled my gut like those silly candy rocks that Bliss loved.


What if I was pushing her too fast?


No. No, I’d thought this out. It was the best way. I opened the top drawer of the nightstand, and slid the ring box toward the back. The water in the bathroom shut off, and I went back to the closet, shucking my shirt. I tossed it in the hamper at the same time Bliss walked in the room.


She came up behind me and placed a hand on my bare back. She pressed a small kiss on my shoulder and asked, “Get Hamlet for me before you shower?”


I smiled, and nodded.


Bliss was so determined to make Hamlet like her that she played with the cat for at least half an hour before bed every night. Hamlet would stick around for as long as Bliss waved that feathered toy in the air, but the minute Bliss tried to touch her, she was gone.


I found Hamlet in the kitchen, hiding underneath the kitchen table. I reached a hand down, and she butted her head against my fingers, purring. I picked her up at the same time that Bliss asked, “Babe, have you seen the cat toy?”


I walked into the room, and deposited Hamlet on the bed. She hunkered down and eyed Bliss with distrust.


“Where did you see it last?” I asked her.


“I thought I’d left it on the dresser, but I can’t find it. “


I petted Hamlet once to keep her calm, then placed a quick kiss on Bliss’s cheek.


“I don’t know, honey. Are you sure you didn’t leave it somewhere else?”


She sighed, and started looking in other spots around the room. I turned and hid my smile as I left. I nipped into the bathroom and turned the shower on. I waited a few seconds, went back in the hallway.


“Bliss?” I called.


“Yeah?”


“Check the drawers of the nightstand! She was playing with it in the middle of the night, and I think I remember taking it away and sticking it in there.”


“Okay!”


Through the open door, I watched her circle around the edge of the bed. I walked in place for a few seconds, letting my feet drop a little heavier than necessary, then opened and closed the door like I’d gone back inside the bathroom. Then I hid in the space between the back of the bedroom door and the wall where I could just see through the crack between the hinges. She pulled open the top drawer, and my heartbeat was like a bass drum. I don’t know when it had started beating so hard, but now it was all that I could hear.


It wasn’t like I was asking her to marry me now. I just knew Bliss, and knew she tended to panic. I was giving her a very big, very obvious hint so that she’d have time to adjust before I actually asked her. Then in a few months, when I thought she’d gotten used to the idea, I’d ask her for real.


That was the plan anyway. It was supposed to be simple, but this felt… complicated. Suddenly, I thought of all the thousands of ways this could go wrong. What if she freaked out? What if she ran like she did our first night together? If she ran, would she go back to Texas? Or would she go to Cade who lived in North Philly? He’d let her stay until she figured things out, and then what if something developed between them?


What if she just flat out told me no? Everything was good right now. Perfect, actually. What if I was ruining it by pulling this stunt?


I was so caught up in my doomsday predictions that I didn’t even see the moment that she found the box. I heard her open it though, and I heard her exhale and say, “Oh my God.”


Where before my mouth had been dry, now I couldn’t swallow fast enough. My hands were shaking against the door. She was just standing there with her back to me. I couldn’t see her face. All I could see was her tense, straight spine. She swayed slightly.


What if she passed out? What if I’d scared her so much that she actually lost consciousness? I started to think of ways to explain it away.


I was keeping it for a friend?


It was a prop for a show?


It was… It was… shit, I didn’t know.


I could just apologize. Tell her I knew it was too fast.


I waited for her to do something—scream, run, cry, faint. Anything would be better than her stillness. I should have just been honest with her. I wasn’t good at things like this. I said what I was thinking—no plans, no manipulation.


Finally, when I thought my body would crumble under the stress alone, she turned. She faced the bed, and I only got her profile, but she was biting her lip. What did that mean? Was she just thinking? Thinking of a way to get out of it?


Then, slowly, like the sunrise peeking over the horizon, she smiled.


She snapped the box closed.


She didn’t scream. She didn’t run. She didn’t faint.


There might have been a little crying.


But mostly… she danced.


She swayed and jumped and smiled the same way she had when the cast list was posted for Phaedra. She lost herself the same way she did after opening night, right before we made love for the first time.


Maybe I didn’t have to wait a few months after all.


She said she wanted my best line tomorrow after the show, and now I knew what it was going to be.


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