Two lovers slept soundly. The man was spooned in behind the woman with his arms wrapped around her tightly. The woman was more than comfortable in the man's embrace, but her dreams were disturbed with images she would not remember upon waking. However, that wasn't what awakened her in the end; it was the shrill ringing of the phone sitting innocently beside her head. It rang and rang, seemingly trying its best to disrupt the sleep of its owner on a clear, bright Saturday morning. Its shrill chirp also cruelly reminded one Makenna O'Neill that she had never bought a new answering machine to replace the one that had gone kaput a month ago.
As she lay and listened to the insistent ringing, she stupidly contemplated who would be calling her so early…and on a Saturday no less. She wasn't on call, and it wasn't a weekday. Of course, she didn't once think it could be someone calling for Sirri. Then again, only Sirri's asshole roommate knew he was here. Groaning a little as she moved, she reached for the telephone. It was rough going at first because Sirri was holding onto her very tightly. He muttered a few incoherent words as she disengaged her body from his. She finally reached the phone. Blindly, she picked it up and brought the receiver to her ear.
"This had better be damned good this early in the morning," Makenna grumbled. Behind her, Sirri uttered a few more mumbled words. They had gone out together last night and didn't get back to her place until after three. That wasn't to say they actually went to sleep right then, either.
"I'm looking for Sirri," a flat female voice said. "His roommate told me he was with you."
Although she had spoken to the woman a total of three times in two years, Makenna had no trouble recognizing the voice of Sirri's ex-wife, Melissa. Almost immediately, she wanted to hunt down Reese and thoroughly chew his ass out for giving her the phone number. What jolly good right did that prick have to give Melissa Claspinski-Amandurre her goddamned phone number? She didn't even like it that she refused to give up the hyphenated name, as if she would not release her hold on Sirri. On top of the early morning call, it was another annoyance that seemed to squeeze every nerve in her body. What was it with her lately? Every stinking thing set her off. After a brief moment, the uncharitable thoughts left her mind. If Reese had given Melissa her contact info, something terrible must have happened.
"Good morning to you, too, Mel." Makenna knew Melissa hated to be called 'Mel,' but she didn't give a ripe fuck. Oh, her potty mouth. Even in her thinking. God. She hated to be awakened in the morning when it wasn't necessary. "Hang on. I'll wake him." She took extreme joy in letting Melissa know that her ex-husband was sharing her bed. She honestly didn't know where the ire was coming from, but she was very protective of her lover. If someone had hurt Sirri, they had hurt her. It was as simple as that.
"Thank you…Mack," Melissa said dryly.
Not caring if she hurt Melissa's ear or not, Makenna clunked down the phone and turned to rouse Sirri. She then noticed he was already awake. "It's Melissa."
He nodded. "I heard."
The moment he took the phone, Makenna made moves to give him some privacy, but an unexpected bodily function kicked in, and she exited the room quicker than she intended. In her wake, Sirri's eyes followed her, their deep brown orbs studying her curiously. She didn't have time to look at him or ponder what he was thinking. She just knew she had to get into the bathroom and close the door. She didn't care if Sirri heard her doing something quite unladylike, but she would be damned if she'd let Melissa listen in.
It was a good ten or fifteen minutes before she heard Sirri's discreet knock on the bathroom door. By that time, Makenna was at the sink washing her face. She called out to him to come in, but instead, he chose to open the door and remain in the doorway. Although she had long since donned a robe, he was as naked as the day he was born. He enjoyed walking about the room in the raw. Oftentimes, she wished she had the same unabashed immodesty that he seemed to freely possess. But then again, it was something he did in front of her. She didn't think he gave a free show to everyone first thing in the morning. Or she hoped he didn't. After gazing at her for a few minutes, he stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Her morning ritual forgotten for the time being, she leaned into him and allowed him to loosen the robe's tie. He kept one hand around her waist as the other slipped into her robe. She released a hissed breath as his hand cupped her breast, his fingers gently kneading it. She wanted to turn toward him and kiss the sensation out of his beautiful lips, but he wouldn't let her move. For a moment, for a brief moment, she wondered if he was somehow placating her, readying her for some unimaginable bad news. But would he manipulate her like that? Chastising herself, she allowed the thought to leave her mind. He wasn't into manipulation. It wasn't his way. He was simply a sweet, considerate lover.
"Are you hungry," he asked, seemingly out of the blue.
The thought of eating didn't sit well with her. Her stomach did an uneasy flip flop. "No."
"I didn't mean for food."
She smiled a little and he finally allowed her to turn toward him. She was about to bestow her lip numbing kiss on his waiting mouth, but the stinking phone rang again. He sighed heavily and reluctantly backed away from her. She watched as he walked to the bed and snatched up the receiver. He bit out an impatient 'what is it now?' She was again tempted to leave the room and give him the privacy he deserved, but she couldn't. Apparently, Melissa had called for round two. She wanted to ask what was going on, but she wouldn't pry. If Sirri wanted her to know, he would tell her. After a few minutes, the conversation ended, and he replaced the receiver back onto its cradle. He sat down heavily on the side of the bed and reached for his discarded clothes.
Makenna tightened the straps on her robe and slowly approached the bed. By that time, Sirri had donned his briefs and was just stepping into his jeans. When he noticed her, he set aside his task for the moment and gazed up at her expectantly, asking her with his eyes to join him. They sat down together and Sirri buried his face into his hands. He released another heavy sigh before uncovering his face.
"I don't like to pry or prod you for information, especially when it comes to Melissa, but I'm curious, Sirri. What's going on?"
He focused his eyes on her face. "You're not prying. We're getting married, Makenna, and you should never feel as if you're digging for information about me. Whatever there is to know, I want you to know it. Does that make sense?" She nodded, and he sighed a third time. "I don't like talking about her or our marriage. I've never made that a secret. I promise that one day, I will tell you. All I can say now is that Mel's mother has died, and she's coming here for the funeral. Whatever issues I had with Mel never overshadowed the fact that her mother was a good person. I had great respect for her."
"I think I know where you're going with this," Makenna said. "You want to be there for your former mother in-law, not your ex-wife. You don't have to get my approval or even ask my permission. It's never been that way with us, Sirri. You know that. And as far as telling me the story behind your marriage, when you're ready, I'll be here. Always, Sirri. I love you."
He nodded almost vaguely and reached out, taking her hand into his, grasping it tightly. "I know, but there's more I must ask of you." He waited to see if she was going to supply another comment. They had been together quite some time, and she could read him better than any lover he had ever had in his life. Before he met her, he had longed for a relationship to reach that depth. Yet, it was sometimes difficult for him to admit that their connection was scary. He often wondered if he was fit for it to go beyond to the next level. When he was certain she wasn't already aware of his thoughts, he continued, "I don't want to hurt you, but I think I should do this alone."
Of course it hurt. She wouldn't lie to him and say that it didn't, but again, this was something that stemmed from his old life, from a time when she didn't know he existed. But she wouldn't tell him he had hurt her, not for a million dollars. It wasn't a spite thing. It was simply because she was so deeply in love with him. He was right. This was something he needed to do alone. He didn't need her there, shooting daggers at Melissa with her eyes. "I understand," she said. "It's okay, but I want you to know that I'm here if you need me."
"I know you are." He leaned toward her and kissed her cheek. "I'm going to go back to the apartment and change clothes. Mel's flight will come in some time late tonight, and I need to get geared for her arrival. The funeral will probably be in a couple of days. I'll call you."
She nodded. "Okay."
Makenna watched Sirri in silence as he finished putting on his clothing. When he left a few minutes later, she sat staring after him, immediately pondering the change in his demeanor. It wasn't unusual. His ex always seemed to mute him somehow. The silly, playful man that she loved became sullen, withdrawn, and brooding. Just like today. Makenna shook it off and moved away from the bed. Once Melissa was gone again, her Sirri would return.
Instead of spending more time worrying about her lover, she went into the kitchen and started the coffee. Although she and Sirri had planned to spend the weekend together, that idea was shot, so she went to her second choice. Work. She picked up her briefcase and placed it onto the kitchen counter. She dug around in it until she found the paperwork she needed. Ah yes, the clueless girlfriend/abusive boyfriend case. She sighed heavily. It had been two weeks since Niko Milionis was assigned to represent Ms. Clueless on her most difficult foster care case, and the ingrate had yet to honor any appointment scheduled to discuss it. He had made one for Monday morning. If he didn't show up for this one, he would face one irrational caseworker in court. But then, that was probably the game he wanted to play. He was an ass, and she hated him. What made the situation worse was the fact that her lover was slated to start clerking in his office, ironically enough, on Monday. How awkward would that be? Makenna wouldn't visit Sirri often at work. No way. Before long, she was engrossed in her work. If she had had a clue as to the heartbreaking events that were awaiting her just hours down the way, she would have gone off and hidden in bed. But it wasn't for her to know. Not yet.
When she thought about it later, Makenna would question her intuition tenfold. It had always led her where she needed to be, but that Sunday night, it perhaps should have faded to total ignorance. Would she have preferred it that way? To have been totally in the dark about what was going on? Considering the pain she would feel, the answer was simple. Yes, she should have been left in the dark. But in the end, she knew somehow the truth would have leaked out, and she might have felt more destroyed than if she had never known at all.
That evening, one day after Sirri received Melissa's phone call, Makenna had just finished showering and psyching herself up for the week ahead. It was late, close to ten or eleven, and she knew she should have gone to bed an hour or more ago. But she stayed awake, as if inherently knowing that the phone would ring. When it did, it was Sirri. Already, she heard the muted strain in his voice. He was absolutely miserable, but wouldn't tell her outright, which led her to believe that Melissa was in the room with him. Normally not a suspicious person, she didn't think about it twice. Sure, Melissa would be there. She refused to release her hold on Sirri, and she was probably more interested in trying to get back with him than attending her mother's funeral. It was a harsh thought, but one so very true. They spoke briefly, too briefly for Makenna's comfort. What made it even worse was that the conversation ended quite abruptly. There were no 'I love yous,' or 'I'll be right over,' or 'keep the bed warm for me.' There was nothing. Not even a good bye.
She stared at the phone for a long time, wondering if she should call back or go see him. He hadn't wanted her to be present during the drama, but she was very worried about him, worried about what Melissa was doing to him. Sirri wasn't a push over, and far from a wimp, but there was just so much stress a person could handle before cracking. She knew Melissa was a gigantic stressor, and her presence coupled with everything else going on in his life, was probably more than he wanted to deal with right now. Her eyes had begun to burn, and she knew she had stared at the phone long enough. It was time to put her concern into action. Sirri might become annoyed, but she couldn't help it.
Reese opened the front door to a most unexpected guest. Makenna. They stood staring at each other for several minutes before Reese finally spoke up. "Makenna? What's up? It's kind of late."
She nodded, acknowledging Reese's words. "No shit it's late," she said. He was acting as if she had never come over here this late before. It wasn't a regular occurrence on a Sunday night, of course, but it happened often enough where his reaction was anything but normal. An awful lurching sensation attacked her stomach, and for a moment, she thought she might projectile vomit all over him, dirtying up his tee shirt, shorts, and military style haircut. Right then and there, she knew she should have turned around and went home. But she wouldn't. She would see Sirri or die first. "I came to see Sirri. I know he's home. He just called me not an hour and a half ago."
Reese nodded, likely mocking her. "Uh…yeah, he's home, but this isn't a good time. I can tell him you stopped by. He'll call you in the morning."
"The hell he will," Makenna declared.
The little bastard didn't want her to come in, and he was trying his best to block the doorway. Oh, but she wouldn't have that. Without thinking, she elbowed him in the abdomen, immediately feeling the shock of the blow. Ill prepared and stunned to say the least, Reese held his injured tummy, backing away awkwardly. Makenna noticed Sirri's bedroom door was closed, and she began to make her way toward it. All the while, Reese was behind her, reaching out to her, giving it the old college try. She had knocked the wind out of him, and he was having a tough go of it. Good. Served the bastard right. He was trying to keep her from going into that bedroom, but nothing would stop her. Not even the devil himself.
As she made her approach, Makenna could hear muffled voices. Apparently, the struggle at the front door had drifted back to Sirri's room. Somebody inside was scurrying around, making a lot of noise. Not giving herself time to prepare for the shock, she reached out and turned the doorknob. She figured the 'scurrier' was trying his or her best to engage the lock before she had time to open the door. But that wasn't to be. Makenna pushed open the door and the first person she saw wasn't Sirri. It was who she assumed was his ex-wife. She was tall, very thin, almost skeletal, and had obviously dyed blonde hair. The dark roots were loud and obnoxious. She had pixyish features, reminding Makenna of an elf or something. All she needed was a set of pointy ears. She was one of the most unattractive persons Makenna had ever seen. The elfish ex-wife wore nothing but one of Sirri's tee shirts. Just as Makenna had suspected, she had been on her way toward the door. Once Makenna tore her eyes off Ms. Keebler Elf 2004, she afforded a look at Sirri. He was holding his head in his hands, shaking it from side to side, almost imperceptibly. He wore nothing and looked quite pitiful sitting on his bedside. He had been stripped of more than his clothing. His dignity was gone now, totally obliterated by the choice he made. Although he had betrayed her beyond all sanity, she almost felt sympathy for him. Almost. She actually didn't know what to think, feel, or do. But her stomach did. The projectile vomit meant for Reese spurt out of her mouth in a hot gush, landing on the floor, the dresser, the end of the bed, and all over the ex-elf's funky pointed feet.
Makenna didn't hear Melissa's cry of disgust or her choice curse words. She didn't see Sirri suddenly move. She barely heard Reese's winded words: 'I told you not to go in there.' It should have earned him another elbow in the ribs, but she couldn't think. Nothing made sense. The only thing that did was escape. It was time to leave, time to get out of there. She couldn't look at any of them right now. The humiliation was overwhelming. It seemed as if everyone had been in on the grandest joke of all, but she was its victim.
In her haste, she hooked her foot in the throw rug just a few feet short of the front door. Ironically enough, she had given Sirri this very rug. For three minutes or more, she stayed on the floor, as if she had suddenly forgotten how to walk. Dazed now, she brought herself shakily to her knees. She vaguely heard the loud slap of Sirri's bare feet as he approached her where she fell. Stupidly, she saw that he had had time to put on his jeans. His hand came around her forearm and she jerked it violently out of his grasp.
"Don't you dare touch me," she hissed.
Both Reese and Melissa were standing close to Sirri's bedroom, completely entranced by the spectacle they were witnessing. Feeling their eyes, Sirri turned and looked at them over his shoulder. "Get out," he demanded through gritted teeth. "This has nothing to do with either of you."
Melissa didn't want to go anywhere. She was thoroughly enjoying Makenna's pain, but Reese had something in his chest that resembled a heart, and he dragged her away toward his bedroom.
Makenna stood without assistance and darted for the door, but Sirri was directly behind her. He grabbed her arm again and turned her around to face him. Without a second thought, her hand came up and she slapped him as hard as she could. "I told you not to touch me."
His cheek burning fiercely, he dropped his arm limply to his side. "Makenna, would you let me explain…"
She interrupted him. "Explain what? How you did it? I think I know how it works."
She planted her hand in the center of his chest and pushed at him, but he barely moved. That made her even angrier, and her hand came up again, but he blocked it effectively, grabbing both her wrists at once to prevent her from striking him a second time. She would have spat in his face, but everything inside her had dried up and died.
She wouldn't hear it, wouldn't let him tell her anything. She didn't want to hear his motives or excuses. "You've said you hated her, that she hurt you, that she used you, but you fucked her anyway? Is this the first time or have there been several stolen moments? You're so different when you see her or talk to her, now I know why."
"No you don't," he said. "This has never happened before."
His eyes had never seemed to convey such an awesome display of shame and horror…of honesty, but she wasn't buying it. She had been lied to by the best. "And I should trust you? There's nothing you can say or do that will fix this, Sirri. You've fucked up severely, and I will never trust you again. I can't live with somebody I don't trust. Let me go."
He shook his head stubbornly. "No, I won't let you go. Not until you listen to me."
"There's nothing you have to say that will convince me. I know what I saw, and it's over. For the last time, Sirri, let me go."
"No, I won't let you go," he repeated.
"Okay," she said softly. "Have it your way."
She could have taken the easy way out and kneed him in the groin, but somehow, it seemed to be a low blow, even if he did deserve it. Instead, she drew on another escape method. Makenna had taken a self-defense class a long time ago, and she and her fellow students were taught how to break away from another in the same stance as she and Sirri. He had a tight grip on her wrists, but if she managed to wrench her arms away in the direction of the weakest points of his grip, she would be free. Mustering the last of her strength reserves, she jerked her wrists away from the area where his fingers met. Unbelievably, it worked.
She didn't give Sirri time to react. Instead, she darted for the door and let herself out. Knowing well that he simply wouldn't give up, Makenna ran for the elevator. She heard herself muttering a silent prayer as the doors slid open just seconds after she hit the 'down' button. Makenna heard him coming out the door into the hallway, but she blanked it out. It wouldn't matter if he pursued her, she was already safely inside the elevator. She pushed a button and began her zipping descent down to the ground floor. Horridly enough, her stomach did another sick lurch. Thinking quickly, she went for the pristine ashtray sitting innocently in the far corner of the car. Thank God there was no one else inside to see and hear her.