SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY
FROM CHAPTER THIRTY:
Ben drove fast, his car windows open to the hot September morning. Laura. He’d just gone into that red fog of love—come out the other side and saw he’d been taken again. He’d had to live with that for almost two weeks now.
Ben whacked the wheel with his fist. Laura let him kiss her, let him carry her upstairs and then froze and talked about hate. Hate. Well, she was right.
Just a tease. (There were worse words for it.) And he was into his third week of classes. His student evaluations were ahead. Members of his department would be watching him teach, then they’d write long letters describing his teaching methods, his testing, his attitude….
And his lawn mower had quit on him. Sears used to have a branch at Black Hawk Village, but now you had to go all the way to the Crossroads if you wanted repairs. He had time enough before a two o’clock curriculum committee meeting.
And he couldn’t sleep.
“Damn fool,” Ben said out loud, taking South Main. He shouldn’t have rushed her, but he just saw red. She wouldn’t tell him anything about her, and she wouldn’t let him—
Damn fool. Laura. She’d made him feel like a damn fool.
His front yard looked like a hayfield.
He had to park a long way from Sears and carry the mower, and it was hot. He had to wait in a line. He tapped his fingers on a counter and thought maybe he shouldn’t have rushed her. She was crying. He’d just forget her completely. Let her walk out.
A fat clerk took down everything but the color of Ben’s eyes and his mother’s maiden name when all he wanted was a lawn mower that worked. He watched the clerk scribbling and thought that he hadn’t made any promises, hadn’t bought Laura fancy presents or taken her to New York. He’d just dreamed about it, thank God, and now he didn’t have to be with her any more, hadn’t been for almost two weeks now.
He was pretending she didn’t exist. Finally he got out of Sears and walked back to his car in the heat. Women who wear sexy clothes and smile and then say, “Oh, no, not you” and slide right out of your life. Laura was probably laughing at him because he’d tried to score.
The road home was nothing but four-way stops; he swore. Her breasts were so beautiful. Damn. He could have gone with Laura to New York at Christmas and seen plays and foreign films; he imagined them arguing in their hotel room afterward, hashing over the directing, the acting, the staging, and then making love.
You were supposed to go after them—they wanted you to—and she had such a curve to her hips now. But she cried. And pretty legs—
Red lights at Main and University seemed to last five minutes. He sat and swore in the stink of everybody’s exhaust. If they were married and she wanted to go on and get an M.A. in library science, he’d let her; she’d practically be living on campus because his house was so close. If he had a wife, he wouldn’t have to take care of the damn details and could write that book…here he was, out of bread and he had to make his own lunch.
Ben swung into the Jack and Jill lot and stopped with a squeal of tires. She wouldn’t tell him anything about her. She was probably married. That quiet face of hers.
He had to wait in line again at the checkout counter. He hunched his shoulders and looked around the store. It was full of university students, as usual, because it was only a block or two from campus. A brunette with pants as tight as skin on a peach was getting to a guy sacking her groceries—the poor guy was putting cans on top of bananas.
A woman like Laura could always find a man. Probably Laura’d been living with some guy and just got tired of him.
Ben got home and was so hungry he fried a hamburger with onions the ways Laura had taught him, even if it wasn’t lunchtime. He knew enough now to pour the grease off.
“Damn idiot,” he told himself every now and then, and listened for her screen door, and was careful not to brown the hamburger too much, and mumbled, “Idiot. Damn.” He white skin would look almost blue when it wasn’t tan.
He could have a nice, quiet evening by himself or a few hours at one of the joints on the Hill with Hal and Noney Esterbrook or Grant Barney and Jan Dugan. He wasn’t going to think about Laura Pray. Maybe she liked women, not men? A cold lesbian.
Laura’s back-porch door squeaked. When he heard it he might as well have had her plastered against him. He watched hot grease pop in the pan and wanted her in bed and wanted to hit her—
Hate. While he was shaking with what he wanted, he was shaking with what scared him.
And Laura stood where he could see her, white shirt and shorts bright against deep green.