THE APARTMENT HAS a queen-sized bed in one large room like Charlotte’s–a small kitchen and a bath, neat and clean. A bowl is set out on the coffee table fronting the couch, containing an apple, an orange, and a banana. I wonder if the orange is from California. Where I live there was once a vast orange grove, perhaps fifty acres in all, and my property still contains three flourishing trees, navels, seedless, anddelicious, which ripen each year near the end of Novem- ber.
I am hoping that Meredith and I, being alone in a semi-intimate setting, might have a close moment, a moment that perhaps could jump-start our platonic relationship into something more. But, along with us,in the room, is the awareness that Charlotte might be targeted and is by herself–and I know Meredith is sensitive to that.
She says, “I’d love to spend a few minutes here just relaxing and talking with you, but I’m worried about Charlotte.”
“Of course. Is there anything you need…I mean for the night…since you hadn’t planned on staying here?”
“Well, I carry a spare toothbrush in my purse for just such occa- sions, and I’m sure Charlotte has soap and water and all that–and maybe even a pair of warm pajamas.”
I feel like saying ‘or not so warm ones,’ as I realize that mention of sleep-wear stirs me, since I imagine Meredith undressing, so ap- pealing in her nakedness, slipping into a loose nightgown, lying on Charlotte’s sofa, soft, warm. Not that I haven’t imagined her in such ways before.
Meredith turns to go, but spins about, and approaches me. Two feet away, she stops, looks deeply into my eyes, and says, “Greg, I want you to know how much I appreciate all that you and your sister are doing. You are dear people. I just love you both.”
She leans forward and hugs me, hard, pulls slightly away, and kisses me, lightly, on the mouth. Then she smiles sweetly and says, “I’ll get back to Charlotte. See you tomorrow.”
Now, what do I do with that?
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