Madison’s reaction to my new housing plans should have primed me for Pam and Ted’s reaction; and why it didn’t was definitely a question for an analyst’s couch, but no, it didn’t. Being in love must be like some kind of magic elixir, I guessed, one that blocked your doomsday receivers or something, or at least blurred them. Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses made for a pretty picture; a hopeful one anyway.So I was kind of blown away when Pam actually started crying over my moving out, and that was even after I had sworn to her that moving into Miss Mary’s house was not some kind of ruse to cover up my moving in with Madison. As if living in sin with him was somehow far worse than regularly spending the night that way. Not that I saw any sin in it at all. Those rules belonged to her and Ted. And in any case, I was moving in with a very nice older lady, who despite being a bit of a free spirit herself, was a well-respected Christian woman. You’d think Pam and Ted would be relieved.
They sat next to each other on the white leather couch in their living room. I sat across from them in the matching leather chair. Everything was so pale in this room, I thought. Cold. As barren as Madison’s apartment was it had never felt cold. And Miss Mary’s living room was all cozy, if cluttered, and comfortable.Pam was clearly upset. Ted remained his cryptic self silently witnessing his wife’s borderline hysteria with a smug I-told-you-so expression on his face. Again I wondered just when was it that I had fallen so totally from grace with him. Here I was trying to first thank them for all that they had done for me and then announce that I was able to be on my own again, and it was as if I was deliberately insulting them.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this,” Pam sobbed and Ted gave her his handkerchief. “Why would you break-up the family?”Break-up the family? I was moving across town, for God’s sake, the same area code, Sunday dinners and all if I could get the afternoon off. What was the big deal?
“It’s because of him, isn’t it?” demanded Pam. “You just want to keep whoring around with Madison, and you think this way no one will say anything. But it’s wrong, Paige.”Whoring around? Really? What century was this?
“You know it’s wrong,” Pam continued. “Make him marry you at least. Have some self-respect.” She blew her nose. “Why are you so desperate? There're plenty of good men out there. You don’t have to settle…for-for--”
“Just stop it, Pam,” I said beginning to get angry. “I want my own place. It’s time.”“You’ll be renting a room,” Ted finally spoke up.
I was actually surprised.
“But it’ll be my room,” I replied.“Where you can be with Madison,” Pam charged bitterly.
I nearly told her that that was impossible but decided not to give her the satisfaction.“My room. My way. My-my-my. Is that all that matters to you?” asked Ted. “If you weren’t so stubborn you might have saved your marriage and kept your house.”
“My husband was a cheat, Ted,” I returned. “And my marriage was a lie. And I’d rather live in a tent with some peace, than a mansion in misery.”“Derrick was wrong. But have you ever stopped to think that you had some part in it? Maybe your bed was cold. Maybe that’s why you’re with this man now. A real man’s too much for you.”
Now I was seething, and I knew it was time to go before I said something I’d end up apologizing for. I was against bridge-burning as a rule, and besides my sister and her children would still be here. Family was family. I stood up.“I move next week,” I said in a careful, cool voice. “Saturday. I hope that’s okay. And I want you both to know that I’m truly grateful for all your support. I really appreciate you letting me live here. But it is time to move on.”
“You’re my sister, Paige,” replied Pam at last seeming to get herself together. “We love you.”She did anyway. I believed that. It was the we part that I wasn’t too sure about.
“I love you too,” I told her, and fortunately you was the same, singular and plural.“We just don’t want you to ruin your life,” she insisted.
I glanced at Ted. Too late for that, I thought.“All I’m doing is renting a room,” I reminded her. “Getting myself a full-size bed and my own bathroom.” I smiled a little. “And a cat. I’d say things are looking up.”
Based on an extremely abridged report of how Pam and Ted had reacted to the news of my new housing situation, Madison kindly volunteered to pay for a moving company to help me make my exit, since it was obvious that Pam and Ted wouldn’t be wanting to aid me in what they all agreed was my folly. At least Madison was not giving me an I-told-you-so, and for that I was appreciative. However, I did have to remind him that all I owned in the world could fit into two regular-sized suitcases.“You just don’t get it, do you?” I chuckled at his relatively naïve offer. “You’re the prince and I’m the pauper.”
The offer came while we were sitting at our favorite table at Le Bon Café, having a game of backgammon along with our lattes. In spite of what he thought of my decision, Madison had made his peace with the fact that I was moving out of my sister’s house and that I could not be persuaded otherwise. My guess was that as a lawyer he must have certainly lost at least a case of two over the years, so he knew how to lose an argument graciously.“Not so sure Twain was writing a love story in that one,” he replied as he rolled the dice.
My heart went pitter-patter as the ever-present flock of butterflies fluttered up all around it. He had uttered the four-letter word, yet Madison was moving his checkers like it was nothing. Then he looked up at me, his expression somewhere between: Touché, I-read-too, And yes, Virginia-there-is-a-Santa-Clause.“Your turn, Paige,” he said.
Denise had created the perfect lighting for her coffee house. It glowed softly from the various nooks and corners, providing enough brightness to read while at the same time flattering the faces. Madison’s face was lovely anyway, just the right balance of cowboy rugged and urbane acumen. And I couldn’t move. My hands were all damp and shaky under the table, and I rubbed them into my thighs.“Roll the dice,” Madison told me, his eyes twinkling with just a hint of triumph.
It was clever, I had to admit. Keeping his plausible deniability completely intact, and yet confessing his feelings for me by discreetly burying them in my own misplaced metaphor. Now I was terrified. I had been waiting for this probably since the day we had met, to hear Madison even merely link the love-word to the us we were sharing. Of course I wasn’t foolish enough to expect him to say it out-right, to say I love you, Paige that was probably asking for too much. Some people went all their lives without saying those three most ballyhooed words. And too many times when people did say them it was just to shore up an empty promise.But I knew Madison was for real. He was not a waster of words. If he was saying ours was a love story then he meant it. Roll the dice, he had told me. But what if I rolled snake-eyes? Would that have to be a sign? I was so in love with him, nothing seemed to matter more. As if my very life was depending on it—because it really felt like it was—I carefully picked up the dice cup, and holding it with both hands I shook it like it could make magic, before pouring the dice out onto to the game board. Double sixes! Suddenly I was breathing again. The butterflies landed softly, and when I met Madison’s eyes this time I was beaming.
“Go ahead,” he said dryly, although there had been a warm smile on his face. “Win then. See if I care.”By the time Denise came over to see if we wanted another round of lattes, I had won the game, and I bragged to her proudly. Laughing gaily she cautioned, “Be careful, cherie. Do not be too confident. It is how he will set the trap.”
Trap? I might have taken her warning for a double-entendre if I had thought for one moment that Denise had overheard our previous conversation regarding the Mark Twain story. Even still it made me wonder. Did she know what she was talking about? Had Denise once been too confident with Madison herself? I couldn’t be sure that he had told me everything, but whatever rivalry I had been worried about with Denise at first had not actually materialized. Madison and I came to her coffee house often and I felt very welcomed. Still…“She beat me fair and square,” Madison declared.
“I’m just lucky, I guess,” I said, now feeling just a little unsure.Denise was busy collecting our empty latte cups, setting Madison’s to-go cup inside my porcelain one.
“Oui,” she said to me. “I think you are very lucky.”I was. Later that night, as Madison and I lay together in his bed, facing each other, our heads sharing the same pillow, our arms and legs entwined, I recalled what Denise had said about me being lucky, and also her warning about not being too confident. I wasn’t. Not for one single moment had I ever taken this marvelous man for granted.
Since a moving company was not called for, Madison said I should borrow his car. It was very generous but I declined. I figured Pam might be persuaded to drive me regardless of how she felt about the move. Surely she’d want to know where I was going to be living. But in any case Madison’s car was just too intimidating with all its bells and whistles.“Is that what you call it?” he asked with a dash of sarcasm.
“Well it is pretty impressive,” I attempted to justify myself.“Guess it does take a lot of mechanics to make up for natural design. You don’t have to use them though, Paige. I got it so normal people can drive my car too.”
“Huh,” I said side-stepping this latest bump in the road. “I haven’t been called normal in a very long time.”My smile was too infectious and Madison couldn’t resist joining me. He sighed deeply, his breath warmly soft in my face.
“I don’t want to drive your car,” I continued as I gently ran a finger along his jawline. “It’s too big. But it would be really great if you picked me up Saturday morning and drove me. And that way you can meet Miss Mary too. You’re going to love her. She’s a hoot.”And Ted might get to meet him, and have the chance to see what a real man really was.
We fell asleep in each other’s arms. Given how much I was so looking forward to a bigger bed, you’d think that I would be all for spreading out in Madison’s queen when we slept together, but I wasn’t. You see, I simply never got enough of touching him, of being hands-on with him, even in my sleep. I loved waking up feeling his body heat against me. I supposed it was just the part of me that still couldn’t believe we were lovers that needed that lovely tangible proof.I didn’t remember being so clingy before with other partners, not even with Derrick. In fact there had been lots of times when I had gotten up afterwards, and escaping into the bathroom had done a bird-bath in the wash basin, as if I was washing off what had just happened. But not so with Madison. I savored his scent, especially the way he smelled after we had made love. The combination of his cologne, and perspiration, and yes, of me, all mixed up together overwhelmed my senses and was intoxicating. Love Potion Number 999.
Good thing Madison was very cool with cuddling. He was wonderful all the time, before, during, and after. Attentive to each part of love-making, he made me feel as if I were something beautiful to be carefully explored and examined, inspiring me to forgive the thousand flaws almost every woman worried about, and convincing me that if I couldn’t hold onto him forever I would never have it this good again. No wonder I clung to him in my sleep.
From far off I could hear Madison calling my name, except that that couldn’t be right. He was right beside me and proving it to myself I snuggled in closer to him.
“Paige,” his voice grew clearer. “Baby, wake-up.” I groaned not wanting to. “I’m sorry,” he said, shaking me gently. But no way was it already morning. “Come on,” he pressed. “I need you to do me a favor.” I stirred now opening my eyes reluctantly. “My leg spasms are getting a little intense. Can you scoot over a little?”“Oh!” I panicked, now fully awake, and suddenly aware of Madison’s legs jerking against mine.
I scrambled back to my side of the bed stricken with guilt for my selfishness.“I’m sorry,” I said desperately. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Hey,” he replied quietly, stroking my arm reassuringly. “You didn’t hurt me. This just happens sometimes.”A smile shone in his eyes but I didn’t believe him. Didn’t he need to turn all the time, and how could he with my dead-weight on top of him?
“What can I do?” I asked anxiously. “Do you want a massage? Will that help? I know how to rub out a Charlie-horse. ”“Sounds enticing,” Madison smiled again. “But if you could just get my Zanaflex for me, that would be great.”
“Zanaflex?”“One of my meds. I keep it in the bathroom, on the counter. The bottle’s labeled. And some water.”
I jumped out of bed rushing to the bathroom. I flipped on the light switch and needed a second for my sleepy eyes to adjust to the brightness. Madison’s bathroom. It was my first time inside. Always it had felt off-limits, like it was his ultimate man-cave, his private, sacred sanctuary. The whole time we’d been dating Madison had never come in here when I was with him that he had not closed the door behind him, the latch click announcing clearly to me, do not follow. That was okay. I understood about Madison’s need for privacy. I didn’t really need to see his bathroom or what went on in here. Bathrooms were decidedly unromantic places for everybody, except for maybe when there were shared showers or bubble baths. Now here I finally stood naked and barefoot on the cool tiled floor. I guessed only the housekeeper was allowed in here because the place was immaculate.I took a moment to get my bearings. Karen had done a good job. Everything looked functional and easy for Madison to reach. Mostly all the fixtures were white or chrome. The room had a hospital-like look and feel to it. Everywhere there seemed to be grab bars, next to the raised toilet, in the large walk-in shower which also had a bench. There was no bath tub. The chrome shelves held various items from towels to toiletries, including other things such as latex gloves and packaged catheters. I spotted a collection of prescription medicine bottles on the marble counter top. It wasn’t a whole lot really but far more than you’d expect to see in a young man’s bathroom.
Guess it does take a lot of mechanics to make up for natural design. When a delivery man ran a red light, I thought. Hurriedly I read the bottle labels and found the Zanaflex. Then I filled a plastic cup with water, turned off the light, and returned to the bedroom.Madison was sitting up now. His bare chest and arms and broad shoulders uncovered by the top sheet were alluring in the calm light of the bedside lamp. Only the wheelchair parked next to the bed gave it away that he was not actually perfect. Madison silently watched me as I stepped around the chair and took a seat on the side of the bed before setting the cup of water on the bedside table.
“This is it,” I said showing him the bottle. “Zanaflex.”Without hesitating I opened the bottle and poured two of the white tablets into my palm ready to place them in Madison’s hand. However, still keeping his eyes on my face he opened his mouth instead, and almost instinctively I placed the tablets on his tongue. Then without missing a beat I brought the cup of water to his lips. Taking a drink he swallowed the pills and water, while I held the cup as if it were a chalice. It was a communion. We had never done this before, not with the strawberries, or the popcorn, never. Madison was always in control and fiercely independent. He didn’t need my help. And he hadn’t needed it now either, it dawned on me. He had simply wanted it. He had allowed it. It was his choice, his invitation. And I hadn’t even pushed him.