Justin Bradshaw had a reputation for being ruthless, but that was not the man that Karmen saw. Somehow, in her very first response, she had seen past his calloused exterior and saw that’s not who he was. He couldn’t quite put his finger on what made her so different from the rest, but he was smitten from their very first conversation. She recognized the good man inside of him and identified with the cynical part annoyed by humanity.
Justin never meant any harm behind his sharp tongue. People baffled him. He asked questions that he often would look back on and could recognize how they came out as sarcastic, but his inquiries were always out of genuine curiosity. Well, most of the time. Sometimes, he just couldn’t help himself. He often found himself wondering what was wrong with him when people mistook his intent, but he never felt that way with Karmen. She always made him feel seen and accepted. It scared him how quickly he felt so comfortable around her. Surely, she had recognized his social awkwardness, but she never characterized it as a flaw or felt the need to point it out to him, as if he wasn’t aware of it. It was one of the things that drew Karmen to him out of a long list of things.
“Woah!” Kevin heard his best friend, Harrison, yell. The loud cheering and clapping broke Justin from his reverie.
“What did I miss?” He asked.
“Are you kidding me?” Harrison asked in disbelief.
Justin didn’t justify that question with a response. Instead, he simply continued to stare at his best friend.
Harrison released an annoyed sigh, “The rookie just hit his first home run at his first at-bat. Yankee history is being made right in front of you, and you’re missing it.”
“It’s not as if he’s the first rookie to do it.” Justin retorted.
“Noooooooo,” but it doesn’t happen often. Where were you anyway? Shouldn’t you be working?”
“What’s with the third degree?” Justin defended.
“You’ve been off your game for acoupla weeks, but the Yankees are the sole reason you became a sportswriter. They are your one true love. What could possibly have enough power to distract you from your….” Harrison trailed off.
“Oh.” The lightbulb went on over his head. “Who is she?”
“Bold of you to assume it’s a woman,” Justin stated.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Who is he?”
“No. I meant bold of you to assume it’s a love interest.”
“C’mon, man! Unless a beautiful woman is standing in front of you, nothing steals your attention from the game.” Harrison hit him with a verbal 2×4.
He had him there. “Okay, her name is Karmen, and we are just friends.”
Harrison shot Justin a look that informed him Harrison did not believe him.
“Well, we are.”
“Whatever you say, Justin.”
Justin turned his attention back to the game. He needed to focus if we were going to take enough notes to practically write the article before making the little over an hour journey to Fairfield for the weekend.
Karmen York, Miranda Walker, Cee Laurie, and Jarrett McClane spent the afternoon on the front porch. The four of them sat facing the beach. Jarrett and Cee sat with their legs extended, one ankle crossed over the other, resting on the porch banister. Karmen and Maranda sat with their legs crossed at the knee. Karmen had the Orioles game playing lowly on the radio.
“Did you think the four of us would ever be in such different stages of life?” Jarrett broke the comfortable silence.
Cee sighed deeply, “If you’re asking if I ever thought that one day, I’d be sitting on the porch of the beach house with my best friends, recently divorced, then no.” She retorted.
Karmen reached out and placed a comforting hand on her knee as she noticed Cee fighting back tears.
Cee smiled at Karmen, “And here you are, recently widowed….”
“Don’t do that,” Karmen moved back to her comfortable, crossed-legged position. “Grief is grief.”
“Fortunately, we have happily married and new love here to give us hope.” Karmen giggled as she pointed her head in Miranda and Jarret’s directions.
“Who are we? The seven dwarfs?” Miranda asked sarcastically.
“Well, since there’s only four of us…,” Karmen paused as she tried to find something witty to say, “no.”
Oddly enough, her comment drew laughs from the group. Karmen soon joined them in laughter. She could never resist the urge when the people she loved were laughing.
“Alright,” Karmen poured herself another glass of citrus sangria from the pitcher on the table. She leaned back in her chair and took a sip of her drink before looking at Jarrett, “last night was date three with David. I want details.”
“Ohhh, date three,” Cee and Miranda chimed in unison.
“Okay, yes,” Jarrett admitted. “We abided by my three-date rule, and it was amazing!”
Karmen, Miranda, and Cee smiled widely and leaned in closer, encouraging Jarrett to continue.
“I do have a question for you, though, Karmen.” He topped off her sangria.
“Am I gonna need that?” She inquired.
Jarrett rolled his eyes at her, “If you and a guy had just finished, ya know,” he made a pumping motion with his hips.
Karmen put her hands up to block her view. “It would have been less obscene for you to have just completed your sentence and asked after sex.”
Jarrett laughed, “Okay, so seconds after you just had sex, he smacks you on the ass and says, ‘good game,’ what would you do?”
“Marry him,” Karmen replied without missing a beat.
Later that evening, Jarrett left to have fantastic sex, and Miranda went off to face-time her husband and probably have virtual sex.
Annoyed with the fact that neither of them was having sex, virtual or otherwise, Cee and Karmen went for a walk on the beach.
“Did you and Eric ever have those days where nothing was planned, but they turned out to be the most memorable.”
“Mhmm. There is gold in those moments.” Karmen informed her.
“I miss those days. Ya know?” Cee paused.
Karmen didn’t respond. She knew the question was rhetorical. So, she kept walking, waiting for Cee to continue.
“One of the dogs would wake us up early, and Dean would always take them out because he was much more of a morning person than I am.” She paused again as they continued walking.
“He’d come in with my coffee, kiss me on the forehead, and tell me I needed to witness the sunrise, and they were always the most spectacular sunrises. We’d decide to run into town and visit the thrift stores, and we’d grab lunch at our favorite deli. Then we’d just go exploring and looking for new attractions. We’d usually find a dive bar that had a local band playing, and we’d order dinner, drink whatever was on tap, and talk until the band started to play. We’d dance the night away.”
“We couldn’t take our hands off each other when we’d come home. It was like we were in high school all over again, and we hadn’t had the opportunity to be alone together for weeks, maybe even months. We wouldn’t even make it upstairs to our bedroom. It was hot, up against the wall, I need you now kind of passion, and I miss that the most.” Tears streamed down Cee’s face.
Karmen grabbed Cee’s hand and gave it a comforting squeeze.
“For me, it was the slow mornings with nothing planned that became the most memorable,” Karmen began.
“We’d sleep in on Saturday morning, and Eric would roll over and pull me towards him and start kissing me. We’d make love before either of us saw the morning light, and our movements were slow. We had nowhere to be. We just enjoyed being in one another’s embrace, we had all day to show our hot, needy desires, but mornings were reserved for the slow and easy. It was the perfect way to start the day. Eric was always so attentive after a long morning of lovemaking. He’d steal little kisses, and he’d make me laugh, and then one day, he stopped. I tried, but Eric always said he was tired or had somewhere to be. Then he got cancer, and we stopped having sex altogether, not that I blame him for that. I’m just saying.”
“I know, sweetie,” Cee reassured her.
“Where did it all go so wrong?” Karmen asked her. “We were so happy.”
“I don’t know,” Cee responded. “I know we weren’t completely innocent, either, but I feel like our men stopped trying.”
“Does it ever make you question your worth?” Karmen asked.
“Every damn day.”
Karmen noticed the man approaching her on the beach, but before she had the chance to say hello, she felt a presence come up behind her. Suddenly, a hand wrapped around her mouth as the other arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her away.
To be continued.
Now that is what I call a cliff hanger. That is the kind of thing that when it is one o’clock in the morning you tell yourself “Just one more chapter”. Well written, my friend!
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Damn that ending gripped me hard. SO painful
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