Saturday, November 19, 2011
“Hey cat,” said Cody, walking up the steps with Sondra in the evening gloom. Shady mewed at Sondra, then leaped off the top step and into Cody’s arms. He laughed and stroked the purring grey kitten.
“That’s Kelly’s kitten, right?” Sondra scratched Shady’s back, watching Cody.
“Yeah. He keeps slipping out in the evenings and waits for me here on the steps to take him home. It’s like a routine now.”
“Hm. He really likes you.”
“Yeah, me and cats have always gotten along,” said Cody. “I guess we’re both like, let us be who we are. We know each other that way.”
“Kindred spirits, I think that’s called.”
“Did he get out again?” Kelly asked, climbing the steps behind them. “I should have named him Houdini!”
Sondra looked toward the hallway, then at Kelly. “He just gets out?”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s like he can be sleeping with Cheddar in the laundry in the afternoon — and the second me or Mom open the front door, he’s gone! Then he waits for Cody.” She took Shady, who looked resigned to the situation. “He really likes Cody. God knows why.” She grinned. “’Scuse me.” She slipped around them and down the hall.
“What is it?” asked Cody, watching Sondra watch Kelly depart.
Cody would admit he knew next to nothing about girls, but even he knew (from experience with his mom) when Sondra said Nothing like that, there was something. He also guessed she would be moody the rest of the evening, and maybe tell him what he’d done wrong after he’d forgotten it ever happened. He nudged her to get her moving, and they took the short walk to their door. Down the dark hallway, Kelly stepped into #202.
“You know, we ought to string some LED lights in these hallways,” said Cody, just to break the silence. “We usually have enough juice to run a few, at least long enough for everyone to get inside for the night.”
“Hm. What about those yard lights with the little solar panels, like we have marking the path to the johns?”
“Hey… good idea. As long as everyone remembers to bring ’em back out in the day.” They stepped inside. Sondra immediately veered to the love seat and cranked her windup flashlight with more vigor than usual. The grating whine of the little generator followed Cody into the kitchen, where their cooler sat. Groping in the near-darkness for one of his last cans of beer, his hand first found the wine bottle. He stopped and thought a moment.
Sondra glanced up from her book without really wanting to, as Cody came back. He had a mug and glass in either hand.
“Something to drink.” He put the wine glass on the end table where she could reach it, then sat in the lounge chair opposite with his mug. “You wanna talk?”
She sighed, put down her copy of Virgin of Small Plains, took up the wine glass. “It’s not you, Cody. Sorry.”
“What is it, then?”
“You really don’t know.” She was not asking.
“As Johnny would say, not a freekin’ clue. Well, I added the freekin’ part, but anyway.”
She crossed her arms, wine glass in hand alongside her face. “How long has her kitten been ‘getting loose’ and greeting you?”
“Uh… Shady? I don’t know… oh. You know what? I think he did it the first night we moved in here.”
“Uh-huh. A strange coincidence, don’t you think?”
“I dunno. You know how cats are. Sometimes they don’t accept that they’ve moved right away. Sometimes it takes a couple months.”
“It’s been a couple months.”
“What… you think Kelly’s been letting him out? Why would she do that?”
Sondra sighed and took a long drink. “I don’t know, Cody. But it just doesn’t add up for me.”
“Shoot. It’s not like Kelly’s interested in me or anything.” Sondra just looked at him, and Cody gaped. “Do you really think…? No way! Just no way!” He looked toward Kelly’s end of the townhouses and glowered, curling into a prickly ball.
“Back when it was just the three of us, and even after we brought Tim and Sara back with us, I thought she was nice looking, sure. A little preppy maybe, but I didn’t know if there was anyone else our age left. You know what she told her mom? Word got around.” Sondra shook her head. “She said she didn’t want to date me even if I am the last guy on earth! But even before, I knew. She looked at me like, like I was… what is it…” He waved his free hand for a moment. “Necessary evil. That’s the vibe I got from her, she thought they had to have me around but she didn’t want anything to do with me. And that’s fine, I’m used to that…” he flapped his arm. “No way.”
“What about now? How does she look at you now?”
“I dunno. I haven’t looked at her much since I met you.”
Sondra snorted, then laughed. She stood, crossed the three steps to Cody’s recliner, draped herself across his lap, and pulled the lever to lift the footrest. “You know: for someone who thinks he doesn’t know much about girls, you sure know the right thing to say.” She kissed his forehead.
“What, the truth?”
“Don’t ever change, Cody.”
“I won’t.” He grinned. “You either. We can be ourselves forever.”
After a thorough kiss, lasting several minutes, involving much tongue and more than a little groping, Sondra sat up gasping. “I wanna read a little while longer before we go to bed, okay? I’m getting into some of the good parts.”
“We were just getting into some of the good parts here.” Cody grinned and reached under her loosened sweater, stroking her breasts one more time. “What’s it about?”
“It’s a mystery. A girl turned up dead in Bumfuck, Kansas, and the townies all tried to hush it up. It’s like twenty years later before anyone gets around to figuring out what happened.”
“Sounds more interesting than what my mom used to read. Those trashy romance books with the steamy covers, you know?”
“Yeah. There were a bunch of those laying around my old place from before my mom took off.” She climbed off the chair. “This one’s pretty good. Maybe you’d like to read it when I’m done.”
Cody laughed. “My mom used to say the only books I ever picked up had a spaceship on the cover. That’s not completely true, but…” He shrugged. “Whatever. I guess I can run back and grab my PSP, it should be charged up enough for tonight.”
“What are you playing?”
“Zombie Hunter 3. I might finish it tonight, probably tomorrow. Unless you read a long time.”
“No… I won’t be reading too much longer. Maybe an hour.” She settled back into the love seat. “Hurry back, okay?”
“Sure. Hey… I love you.”
“Love you too.” Sondra grinned as he slipped out, then went back to her book. Pretty Little Kelly might be after Cody, but he refused to believe it and didn’t seem to care even if it was true. A certain tension, that she didn’t even know had been there all this time, seeped away.