Dark Hunger


Page 6



The ride on the train home helped her to downshift. She needed to think this through without Josie wisecracking in her ear and without that inner, doubting voice. Sitting on the half-empty train gave her space to think. All the other women her age were reading on their phones, texting, or deep into a Kindle device. Hmmm. She needed to get one of those for the ride. Maybe if she buried herself in a good book she could escape from the clusterfuck she'd created in her real life. Reading about other peoples' foibles and mistakes was so much easier than living through her own.

Leaning her head back against the glass, she sighed, the train's rumble sending her head bobbing forward slightly. Mike. Dylan. Mike. Dylan. Mike. Dylan. The rhythm of the car moving forward on the metal tracks turned the two words into a mantra.

Why couldn't she have both?

Both, both, both, both. Now that word looped through her mind to the beat of the train's motion. Both, both, both, both.

Beep! Her phone told her she had a text. Reaching into her purse, she pulled it out. Battery was low, too. Making a mental note to charge it when she got home, she checked.

Mike. His text confirmed their date. He was taking her up to his cabin tomorrow night. You like pasta? he asked.

Who doesn't? she replied.

LOL he texted back. Can't wait to see you tomorrow.

You too, she replied.

And then she immediately texted Josie, because right now? She needed her friend, some ice cream, and a lot of talk.

Sorry. Can't make it until morning.

Laura gawked at the screen. What? She needed Josie right now! Why couldn't the woman be free at the time Laura craved a good bitch and moan session?

Why can't you come over? I've got cherry chocolate chip ice cream, Laura texted.

Work. Extra shift. Money. Sorry. Tomorrow morning? Josie answered.

Fuck. The train skittered to a stop, then fwap! Laura was flung to the side. Too busy texting, she forgot to grab one of the stabilizer bars, and she nearly landed ass over tea kettle on the floor. A quick scramble out the wheezing doors and she was on her way home.

Fine. No ice cream for you, Laura texted as she walked home, her heels clicking on the pavement. A balmy night, one that should be enjoyed outside, drinking margaritas at an outdoor table.

Instead, it was her, Netflix, and Mssrs. Ben and Jerry. Josie could suck it. OK, Josie could come over for coffee in the morning.

By the time she got home, stripped down into her jammies, and grabbed dinner (the pint had plenty of protein, right? And cherries counted as a fruit...), she found she was too tired to make it through the monologue on The Daily Show. Throwing the other half of the ice cream in the freezer, she padded into the bedroom, plopping on top of the covers. The clock read 7 p.m. A nap?

Sore legs pulled up against her belly as she curled into a ball. A nap....

“Slow down, slow down!” Josie held up her hands, displaying her nails of the week: little tiny campaign posters, alternating on her fingers, five for each Presidential candidate. It looked like a sea of red, white and blue had been vomited up onto her nail beds. What Laura had thought would be a nap turned into more than eleven hours of sleep. She felt like Rip Van Winkle, and this time, Josie made the coffee. Laura must have looked that zombified, because Josie never made the coffee.

Yet another morning talk with Josie. If she wanted to enjoy breakfast with someone, she wished it could be Dylan or Mike.

Or Dylan and Mike.

“So you're telling me Dylan brought you flowers, it turns out the girlfriend in the pictures is dead, and you fucked him. On your desk. At work. In the Beige Room of Pain.”

“No, see it wasn't really like that – what? Beige room of what?”

Josie held up one finger. “Uh, uh, uh! I'm just establishing the facts here. Your office is where color goes to die. That's a fact. We'll get to the moral and ethical judgments next. But first: did Dylan, in fact, pose as a flower delivery man to sneak into your building at work today?”

“Yes.” Laura poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down. She was going to be late again.

“And did he then come into your office, and you told him that you knew he had a girlfriend or a wife?”

“Yes.”

“And he then informed you that the girlfriend was dead, has been dead for almost two years, and then you – fucked him on your desk?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, the facts are established.”

“Good. So I – ”

“Now: Are you out of your fucking mind?” Josie grabbed Laura's coffee mug and took a swig, arching one eyebrow and looking more like Stephen Colbert than she had any right to.

“What are you, a lawyer all of a sudden? You're a nurse. You work in an old folks home!”

“I don't work in an old folks home,” Josie sighed. “I do clinical research on geriatric patients.”

“Same difference.”

“No, it's not the same difference. Do you design Tylenol bottles for children?”

“What? No, I work in IT for a children's health insurance program!”

“See? Related – but not the same!” Josie finished Laura's coffee and slammed the mug down, but was considerate enough to get up, pour more, and slide it across the table to her.

“Oh, shut up. That's not what this is about. Why the hell are you grilling me? It's an interrogation, like I'm being cross-examined or something.”

“Because – you're – behaving – like – someone – who – has – lost – her – mind!”

“Why – are – you – talking – like – I – am – a – toddler?”

Josie snorted. “I don't know.”


Laura squinted at Josie. Stared her down. “You're just jealous because I've had more sex than you.”

“Well, duh! You slept with Dylan, and then a day later you slept with Mike.”

“No, a couple days later.”

“And then, like, a couple days later, you slept with Dylan.” Josie held up her hands and wiggled them, pursing her mouth in a silent “O.” “A couple days makes all the difference when you're fucking two guys at once.”

“Not both at once,” Laura jumped in. Her face burned. If only...

“So, Mike's next on your dance card...”

Laura sighed, “Can we just not do this right now, Josie? I'm confused and tired, and...”

“And you're probably kinda sore, huh?”

Laura grabbed a pot holder and threw it at Josie's head.

“Hey, you almost cracked one of my nails!” Josie made a great show of examining each talon.

“Well, it will match your cracked head. What kind of friend are you right now? You're supposed to be supportive!”

“I am being supportive. I support you getting your head out of your ass! What are you doing, Laura, sleeping with these two, on and off, on and off?”

Laura didn't have an answer. It was easier to just argue. “Because I – really like them. Both.”

Josie plopped down on the couch next to her. “Well, damn, girl, give your poor hoo-ha a little break here and there. It's not the Energizer Bunny!”

“Jea-lous,” Laura mocked.

“How much did Stohlman Industries pay you during the time that you were being serviced by the fake flower delivery dude?”

Laura laughed. “I don't know. It didn't last as long as you think it lasted.”

“Oh, I'm sure it didn't. Quickies at work never do.”

Laura punched Josie's shoulder. “How would you know?”

“Have you ever seen the on call room at a hospital? There are brothels in Bangkok that get less action.” Josie grabbed a clementine from the bowl of fruit on the table and pierced the sweet, loose skin with one of the same nails she'd nearly cracked when the limp pot holder had whacked her head. Laura opened her mouth to make a sarcastic comeback but couldn't.

Both.

If only there were a way she could have both.

“Too bad you can't have both.” Josie elbowed her in the ribs. Laura slid sideways, giving Josie an evil look. Had she read her mind? Had Laura said something she was thinking aloud? Was Josie baiting her to see if she could get a rise?

“Both?” Laura laughed lightly.

Shrug. “A girl can dream, right?”

A vision of her fantasies in the shower hit Laura, surreal and stifling and shaming.

“Some dreams are just a little too farfetched, Josie.”

Plunking the peel in the trash can, Josie spoke through a mouthful of juice wedges. “No such thing.”

“What?”

She swallowed, her voice clearer now. “No such thing. That's why they call them dreams. If they were supposed to be not farfetched, we'd call them plans.”

“When I said I had a plan, having you go to Laura's office and fuck her on her desk was most decidedly not part of the plan. Not.Part.Of.The.Plan.” Mike stretched his neck, turning it so hard that something popped. Twice. It felt good – he needed to release something other than his foot up Dylan's ass.

“Yeah. Uh, well, I always said I'm a 'pantser.'” At least Dylan had the decency to seem sheepish. Cocky and sheepish. How the hell did he pull that off?

“How about you try working on being a 'keep it in your pantser'?”

Dylan bit his lips and did an “Aw, shucks” gesture, staring at his toes and kicking the floor lightly. Good try, buddy. Like you're Opie or something. “I'm sorry, Mike. It really wasn't planned.”

“I know.” He softened a bit, knowing Dylan was telling the truth. He never lied; that was one part of their relationship that made sense.

Shoulders relaxing, Dylan perked up. “So the good news is that she likes me again!”

“The bad news is that she still has no idea what we really want from her.”

“And the billionaire thing.”

“Yep.” They sat in a stony silence, the weight of too many unresolved issues smothering them. Mike felt a sudden sadness, a depression out of nowhere. Dylan got Laura today, and he was genuinely glad, if conflicted.

Dylan bit his lips.

Mike could feel his eyes rolling hard in his head as he stared at Dylan, and finally he said, “Whatever. At least you're back in her good graces now, and maybe we can find our way through this one and not scare her off.” What Mike wanted to ask, and what he knew he couldn't ask, was Had Laura said anything about him? Because if she had, and still slept with Dylan, that meant one thing. And if she hadn't, and slept with him, that meant something else.

He wasn't sure what either option meant, just that it meant something.

Dylan was staring at him, head cocked, eyes slightly narrowed, his arms crossed over his chest, bunching up his t-shirt. “You want to know if she said anything about you, don't you?”

Shit. It was like the guy could read his mind! Then again, after ten years together, maybe he could sometimes. “Did she?”

“No.”

The silence that hung between them meant something too. Damn it. Mike knew it. But knew what? All this meaning and no clarity made him confused, overwhelmed, frustrated. Time for a run. This one might require a half marathon. “Hey man, I'm going to go do a half. Are you in?” Might as well invite him along.

“Thirteen miles? Are you crazy?” A loose thread on Dylan's t-shirt caught his attention and Dylan played with it, slowly twirling the thread tight, nice and taut, and then snapping it, removing it. He flicked it into the trash can. Then he leaned back against the kitchen counter and stared at Mike. “You're trying to pound the pain out of yourself.”

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