Dirty Red

Page 12

Caleb launched himself from the couch where he was watching TV and took the container from my hand. I blinked at him in surprise. I’d never seen a man move that quickly for ice cream.

“Leave it,” he said.

I watched him shove it behind a couple of frozen steaks and shut the door.

“That wasn’t creepy at all,” I said.

He looked seriously disoriented for a minute before taking my hand and leading me to the couch. He started kissing my neck, but my mind was still on the ice cream.

“Why don’t we move in together?” I asked casually.

He paused what he was doing and rested his forehead in the curve of my neck.

“No,” he said.

“No? Why not? We’ve been seeing each other for nine months. I’m here practically every night.”

He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair, making it stand on end.

“I thought we weren’t doing anything serious?”

My eyes bulged. “Yeah, in the beginning. You don’t think this is serious? We’ve been exclusive for five months now.”

That wasn’t true. I had been exclusive from the day I met him. I hadn’t as much as looked at another guy since the yacht. Caleb had admittedly gone on a few other dates, but in the end, he always landed back in my bed. What could I say? Sexually, I was a force to be reckoned with. Obviously, not enough of a force.

“Why is that ice cream in your freezer?”

“That’s where you keep ice cream,” he said dryly.

Caleb had a scar near his eye. I’d tried to get him to see my plastic surgeon about it, but he’d refused. Scars should stay where fate put them, he’d said. I laughed at the time. It was one of the most ridiculous things I’d ever heard.

Now, staring at my almost boyfriend, I knew I was right. Scars should be removed. Ice cream scars especially. I reached up and ran my finger across it. I didn’t know where he got the scar. I’d never asked. What else did I not know about him?

“Was it hers?”

We rarely spoke about his ex, but when we did, Caleb’s mood became damp and remote. Normally, I tried to avoid the subject — not wanting to look like the jealous new girlfriend, but if the guy couldn’t get rid of her ice cream…

“Caleb?” I crawled onto his lap and straddled him. “Was it hers?”

He couldn’t get away from me, so he opted to look me right in the eyes. That always made me nervous. Caleb had very intense eyes — the kind of eyes that stripped you right down to your sins.

He sighed. “Yes.”

I was a little taken aback that he actually admitted it. I shifted uncomfortably on his lap, not sure whether I should ask the inevitable follow up questions.

“Okay,” I said, hoping he’d offer some sort of explanation. “Can we talk about this?”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” he said with finality.

I knew what that meant. There’s nothing to talk about meant — I can’t talk about it because it still hurts. And — I don’t want to talk about it because I haven’t dealt with it yet. Swinging my leg around, I slid off his lap and onto the couch. I felt paper-thin. I am seasoned in the art of men, and I know from experience that nothing can compete with a memory. It is uncharacteristic for me to not be the memory, so I was unsure of how to act.

“Am I not enough for you?” I asked.

“You’re more than enough,” he said seriously. “I was completely empty until you came along.”

Normally, something like this coming from any man would sound cheesy…cliché. I’ve dated poets and musicians, all of which were verbally gifted enough to give me goosebumps, though none ever had. But I felt warmth saturate my heart when Caleb said it.

“But, I told you from the start that I am not ready. You can’t fix me, Leah.”

I registered what he’d just said, but I didn’t believe him. Of course I could fix him. He’d just told me that I filled his empty. What I didn’t want to think about was who had created the empty…and how big of a hole she had left.

“I’m not trying to fix you,” I said. “But, I am developing serious feelings for you, and you’re basically rejecting me for a tub of Cherry Garcia.”

He laughed and pulled me back onto his lap.

“I’m not moving in with anyone until I marry them,” he said.

I hadn’t heard anyone say this since I was fifteen and my parents forced me to go to Bible camp. “Swell,” I said. “And I’m not sleeping with anyone until I marry them.”

Caleb turned his best I can have you whenever I want you look on me, and I got so flustered I didn’t know whether to kiss him or blush. He outplays my seduction attempts every time. Power, I thought with only half-dipped interest because he was kissing me. He has power over me.

We didn’t mention the ice cream again, though every time I was in the vicinity of the fridge I felt like a base dwelling bottom feeder. The stupid Cherry Garcia turned into a body part to me. It was like he was keeping her finger in the freezer instead of just shitty ice cream. I imagined the finger wore black nail polish and scooted around the house when we weren’t home. It was after my ring, I knew it. Ex-girlfriends have a way of keeping their fingers in things, long after they’re gone.

It worried me at first, but Caleb was so present in our “non-serious” relationship that I forgot about it. I had more pressing matters vying for my attention, like my job at the bank and the everyday drama between my co-workers, and my upcoming vacation with Caleb to go skiing in Colorado. Everything needed my attention, and I was more than willing to spread my ear, input and good times expertise all around. We went another three months without talking about the finger. What we did talk about was us — what we wanted, where we wanted to go, who we wanted to be. When he talked about having children, instead of bolting from the room, I sat up and listened with a half-smile on my face.

We were three days into our ski trip when Caleb’s college roommate called to tell him that his wife was in labor. As soon as he hung up the phone, he looked at me. “If we leave now, we can be there by tomorrow morning.”

“Are you crazy? We have the cabin for two more days!”

“I’m the godfather. I want to see the baby.”

“Yeah, you’re the godfather — not the father. The baby will still be there in two days.”

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