She is lucky, possibly the luckiest woman on the planet. No eHarmony bullshit or matchmaking friends who swear blind date Bill/Winston/Travis is a handsome smart hardbody, neglecting to mention he is barely five feet tall, chain chews Nicorette gum, and has a glass eye he pops out between dinner and dessert on their first (and only) date.
Katie and Adam meet at Starbucks. He is standing in front of her in line, she notices his broad back - his plaid cotton shirt is either Abercrombie or J. Crew, she can't make up her mind. The line isn't moving because the woman in front of Adam is talking on her cell, pointedly ignoring the smiling barista eager to take her order. Katie can hear the woman on the cell, everyone at Starbucks can hear her, she's thinking about getting a Brazilian wax and does it hurt and would it be a dull, lingering pain or feel more like a wasp sting? When she shouts, "Even my ass?" that's enough for Adam, he takes the phone from her hand, walks to the front of the store, opens the door, and throws the cell phone into the street. Where it is promptly run over by a FedEx truck. The woman looks at Adam. Just as she begins to frown, the Starbucks customers applaud. Softly at first, as the applause grows, the woman's face turns pink, and she runs outside.
Adam turns to Katie. His face is blocky, a big jaw, light green eyes and dark curly hair. "I'm not usually an asshole," he says.
"I thought you were great. Very courageous," Katie tells him. Wondering if a Brazilian really does hurt.
The barista gives Adam a handful of free drink coupons and Adam treats Katie. They have both ordered grande non-fat cappuccinos which Katie takes to be a good sign, some kind of karma. Adam is a sports writer for the "Los Angeles Times." Does Katie like baseball? Naturally, anything with statistics, she tells him. RBIs, ERAs (earned runs multiplied by nine, divided by innings pitched). She has a double major in art history and math from UCLA, a more worthless major is hard to imagine. Everyone assumes with a math major you'll be an accountant, she says. It makes her crazy. So what do you do now, he asks. She hesitates - I'm an accountant. Adam smiles.
Three dates before sex. Polite kiss date one. Heavy tongue, major sucking face, groping above clothes date two. Everything but actual intercourse date three. Three dates before sex, hardly a slut - Katie's justification.
Adam's body is hard and square, like his face. Thick thighs and calves, tree trunk arms that taper to surprisingly slender wrists. Was a swimmer through high school, breaststroke his specialty. He demonstrates in bed, naked, lying on his stomach. As his arms move through imaginary water, Katie watches the muscles in his back ripple like waves. And the kick - his feet come together, frog-like and as he pushes them out, he almost knocks Katie off the bed. For revenge she bites him on a butt cheek. Oh, it's like that, he says, smiling at her. Now she is face down on the bed and he's her swimming instructor, you will learn how to do the breaststroke. Stroke, kick, and glide.
What they have in common. Love of sports. Practically the only thing they watch on TV. Sports, Jon Stewart, The Simpsons. Neither knows a single winner of American Idol. Dogs, not cats. Red wine, martinis with gin. They each have a single tattoo. A lightning bolt on his left ankle (college/fraternity/much alcohol involved). Four leaf clover on her right shoulder blade (ditto/sorority/ditto).
"He is too perfect," her roommate Sarah (nickname "the glass is half empty") says.
"You're jealous," Katie is getting ready to meet Adam at a Dodger game. She can't decide if she should wear ballet flats or tennis shoes. She chooses platform espadrilles, she remembers Adam told her he liked them.
"Just trying to spare you heartbreak," Sarah says. She frequently speaks in pop music lyric language. Sarah's degree in modern poetry is as worthless as Katie's art history/math major.
"If I could clone him for you, I would." Katie is looking forward to sitting in the press box again, watching the reporters joke with each other, their easy camaraderie. At first Katie felt out of place, until Adam urged her to she demonstrate her statistics skills. She asked them to match numbers to men... 4256, 792, 311, 755. One of the radio guys nailed it immediately. That's Rose, Speaker, Crawford, and Aaron. The numbers are their hits, doubles, triples, and homers. Turns out radio guy was a math major, too.
Adam has a small house in Silverlake, he moved in five months ago. The house is mostly Craftsman, but the previous owner added a modern sunroom off the kitchen, round and two stories, it looks like a silo. Adam thought about tearing it down, instead he lined the curved walls with bookshelves.
Sunday morning and Adam has run to the market for Bisquick. Pancake weather, he tells Katie. Cool, cloudy, not your typical Los Angeles day. Katie is happy to stay in bed and read the paper. She starts on the sports section, looking for Adam's byline. But she's cold. Adam's bathrobe would help.
The owner before Adam had a company come to organize the master bedroom closet. Shelves for shoes, for sweaters, a tie rack, more room than Katie's apartment closet. Or apartment. If she moves in with Adam, they will fight to the death for closet control.
Adam's bathrobe isn't on the hook at the back of the door. Not on a hanger either. Katie notices a small pile of dirty clothes beside the hamper. In Katie's dating experience it's common for men to use a hamper, but never actually put the clothes inside. She'll do that for Adam. Because this will be her closet soon.
Under a pair of Lucky jeans, she sees a pair of pumps. Pink, shiny, peep-toe. Katie taps at them with her bare foot. The art history girl part of her brain admires them, wants to try them on, are they Manolo? The math/rational part of her brain screams back at her, you fucking fool, he's sleeping with another woman.
When Adam returns they eat pancakes with butter and real maple syrup and she gains ten pounds in ten minutes. About the shoes in the closet - she doesn't say anything. Because there must be an explanation. Completely logical, no bullshit. All she has to do is ask, what's with the pink pumps and he'll tell her. They'll laugh at her paranoia, she'll blame her roommate Sarah - if something is too good to be true... hah hah, he'll say and he'll kiss her and the sex will be the best ever.
She is a pussy. If she asks he will reveal the other woman, more beautiful, Jenna Jameson great in bed, there's no way Katie can compete, ERA calculating skills or not. She remains silent. Stupid and suspicious and silent.
She is channeling Nancy Drew. Checking bathroom cabinets, dresser drawers. Hard work, limited to when Adam is taking a shower or running an errand. The results of her investigation, an old mascara wand. Former girlfriend? She'll confront him. No excuses, Adam. He'll take a deep breath, exhale - her name was Lisa, she moved to Seattle. She is not nearly as much fun as you.
Katie doesn't say a word. Until - after pouring Bisquick down the drain at every visit, she announces another pancake day. Oops, we're out of Bisquick. Already? She nods. He goes. Nancy Drew swings into action.
The silo. Up near the top, a photo album pushed back between other books. Only a few photos inside, like actor headshots. A woman, more handsome than pretty, in a long gown. Shoulder length hair, dark and flippy at the ends. Make-up a little heavy, Katie thinks. Another photo of the woman by the ocean, Northern California, maybe. She's wearing shorts and a polo shirt and her head is thrown back, laughing. Tan and fit, muscular, an athlete. The image is soft, as if salt spray has clouded the lens.
Adam doesn't seem the type to date an actress.
The last photo, the woman looking over her shoulder, she's in a slip, the same soft focus lighting. Wearing stockings, old fashioned ones with a garter belt. She is turning to adjust a seam. The same heavy make-up, is this the old girlfriend? The owner of the pink shoes?
She hears the front door open.
He's sure he told her he had a sister. Christina, she lives in Chicago, she wants to be an actress. She came out to L.A. for pilot season last year, no luck. Theatre is her true passion.
"When's she coming to visit again? Can I meet her?"
Adam thinks. "Maybe in the fall. She hates sushi. That's the only thing about her that bugs me. Do you want to take a shower? I could wash your hair."
Pancakes will wait.
Why doesn't he have more photo albums? Or framed pictures of Christina in his house? He hasn't finished moving in, he still has things in storage. Maybe he'll go to the storage place this weekend.
Are you older than Christina? Just a year.
You guys kind of look alike.
Adam laughs. Everybody says that.
Katie would like to check out the album again, but she can't find it. It's vanished.
Her roommate asks if everything is all right. Katie gets defensive, why shouldn't it be? "Because you seem gloomy. And blue." Sarah nods towards Katie's fingernails. The polish is chipped on the edges. Katie hasn't been making her bed. Or unloading the dishwasher. Gloomy, blue, obsessed.
The sex is still good. At least they have that. Who needs trust?
Adam is in the shower, Katie is reading the Sunday paper in bed, T.J. Simers is on a rant about Frank McCourt, the Dodgers owner. Adam's phone rings and usually Katie would let the machine pick up, but this time she reaches for it, not thinking. Adam's mother. Katie has spoken to her on the phone once before, she lives in a suburb of Baltimore and works part time at a public library.
Katie explains Adam is in the shower, she'll have him call when he gets out. Mrs. Dennison just wanted to say hello. They talk about the weather - hot and muggy in Maryland, Mrs. Dennison would move out to L.A. in a heartbeat, but earthquakes scare her.
"You could go to Chicago. And live with Christina."
Katie is about to laugh, Adam's mother is making a joke. But she realizes as the bedroom swirls around her and her vision goes pink, that Mrs. Dennison has no idea who Christina is.
Adam is singing in the shower, a Rolling Stones song. Katie opens the freezer, looks under the sofa. Behind the junk in the coat closet. Fuck, fuck, fuck, did Adam throw the album away?
She finds it between the mattress and box spring. Of course he still has it, Christina means too much to him. She looks at the photo of Christina in her stockings, adjusting the crooked seam.
Adam comes out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist.
"Did I hear the phone ring?" he asks.
Katie doesn't answer. She can't take her eyes from the photo. And the tattoo above Christina's ankle. A lighting bolt.
"D'oh," she says to Adam in her best Homer Simpson voice.
"D'oh," he says back to her, moving to the bed and letting the towel slip to the floor.
About the author:
Ann Lewis Hamilton was born in Virginia and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. She has recently finished her first - and hopefully not last - novel.