I had a plan to make the rough draft available in snippets once I had it completed. But to be honest, I'm really excited about this project, so I'm showing off the rough version of the Prologue and first two chapters... right now! Feedback is welcome.
She’s got a hell of a grip.
My fingertips are going numb right about now. I shouldn’t complain. The doctor did give me the option of being on the other end, but somehow I didn’t think seeing my wife push out a baby would necessarily encourage me to ever want to see her naked again. So that leaves me here, getting my hand crunched by superhuman pregnant-chick strength as the doctor tells her to push. My heart’s pounding and I can hear it in my head. I’ve never been so scared, so excited in my life.
“Okay guys, she’s crowning. Next push should free the head. You ready, Sabrina?”
Sabrina muffles a response as she nods her head. I tell her it’ll be okay and stroke her hand. She loosens her grip on my hand just long enough to readjust it, interlacing our fingers instead of crunching my hand entirely. I’ll have to remember to thank her for that, even though I somehow don’t think that in the things to remember about the next few moments, her changing her grip so she wouldn’t completely crush my hand will rank very high.
I have to say, I never thought we’d be here, especially given the last year we had. There was a point there where I thought we were done for. And what a shame that would have been. A baby changes everything though; we’ll be closer, more intricately tied, forever and ever.
Which means there’s no clean break anymore. We’ll be tied to each other forever, never completely able to eliminate the one from the other’s lives. A baby changes everything.
“Okay, Sabrina, push! Push!”
The pressure points between my fingers get hit hard when she squeezes my hand. Her nails dig into the back of my hand and she screams right into my ear. The doctor is yelling over her scream but I can’t quite hear what he’s saying. All I can think about is the stuff Sabrina and I have been through over the last year. And the fact that there’s a 50-50 chance I’ll be raising someone else’s kid.
After all that, I really hope this baby is mine.
Whoa. That was a big one.
I’m not giving birth to a child. I’m giving birth to a football player carrying a truck. And why in the hell does anyone listen to the pregnant chick who says no to the epidural? I’m in labor, damn it! I’m not in my right mind! Drug me! Make it stop!
Alex tells me it’ll be okay. Smug bastard. Easy for him to say, he doesn’t have to squeeze this kid out. They’re lying when they say it’s like trying to push something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon. It’s like trying to push a big ass baby out of a little ass vagina. There is no direct comparison.
The doctor tells me to stop pushing and I finally take a breath. Alex strokes my hand and tells me very sweet things, that I’m doing great, that I’m so beautiful. Liar. I’m sweaty, crying, and I may have shit myself trying to get this kid out. And it’s all his fault. That’s it. I’m not letting him anywhere near my naked body again. Screw that. He did this to me. As a matter of fact, if anything with a penis comes near me again, I may have to bite it off. I’m letting go of his hand. He doesn’t get to touch me again.
The next push should free the head, the doctor says to me. Don’t let me go, Alex. We link fingers. He’s so wonderful, I love him so much. We’re going to be parents. What if he doesn’t want me anymore after he’s seen me like this? I mean, I really think I may have shit myself on that last push. What if I can’t dance anymore? Oh God, I should have thought about that before now. What if my hips are permanently screwed up because of this?
The doctor tells me to push again, and all I’m thinking about is Alex. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I love him so much. I don’t want him to leave. I really hope this baby is his.
The doctor tells me to push again, and all I’m thinking about is Alex. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I love him so much. I don’t want him to leave. I really hope this baby is his.
Oh God, what if it isn’t?
Eleven months earlier…
It’s 6:45 when the alarm goes off.
I find myself staring at the blinking green numbers for a minute or two, wondering what happened to the wide-eyed kid who swore after the first semester of college that he would never again wake up to an alarm at oh-dark-thirty. Only garbage men and serial killers get up this damn early. I spend about a minute debating whether or not to answer the alarm when my lovely wife stirs next to me. And in three, two, one she will say…
“Mr. Spence, are you going to do something about that alarm?”
6:46 AM. Like clockwork.
There was a point where the alarm would be a precursor to early-morning sex, or what I like to call the benefit of marriage. I mean, I don’t have to be at work until nine, and I live 15 minutes from my job. Now it leads to me sitting up in bed and scratching myself for a bit before I drag myself to the shower.
When we first got married, I used to think her calling me Mr. Spence first thing in the morning was cute. Funny that.
I tried earplugs. I tried Ambien. I tried all sorts of things to sleep through that god-awful air-raid siren of an alarm. But every morning at 6:45, that damn thing blows up and he sits there and listens to it forever. It makes me grind my teeth, it’s so irritating. I mean, there was a reason we moved the alarm clock to his side of the bed. So I ask him if he’s going to do something about that. He groans and grumbles before he hits the off button, and finally there’s some peace and quiet.
Time was I’d offer sex to get him to shut that thing up. That was back when we both slept naked. Now it’s too early, it’s too cold, and quite frankly I’d rather sleep.
Seriously, you would think after seven years of marriage, ten years together, he would realize I’m not a morning person.
A shower helps me focus, shakes the last bits of sleep loose from inside my head. I get a good look at myself in the mirror and say the same thing I’ve said to myself since I was a teenager.
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
That was something my dad would tell me when I was a kid. It was supposed to inspire hope and motivate me to do well. It worked through school. Lately though, it makes me look at things and I feel a little more tired, a little less alive. If every day of the rest of my life is looking like this, then something went off the rails somewhere along the line.
Sabrina usually makes breakfast while I’m in the shower. Today it’s scrambled eggs with spicy chorizo. Like yesterday. I brought that on myself. I told her once that I could have that every morning for the rest of my life and be a happier, if chubbier, man. And she’s made it for me every day since. For the last five years, every morning, it’s been two slices of toast, chorizo and eggs, and a cup of coffee. I didn’t even drink coffee five years ago. Now I can’t imagine a morning without it.
She’s a damn caffeine pusher, that’s what she is.
Thanks to my darling husband, I now get up before the roosters. As much as I would like to sleep, after that alarm goes off for as long as it does, I find myself totally unable to do so. Maybe if he would stop showering with the bathroom door open so I wouldn’t have to hear him talk to himself in the mirror I’d have a better chance.
I get out of bed mostly to not listen to the noise of a shower going. I’m sure I could use one myself, but this early in the day, who am I trying to impress? I start breakfast every morning at about seven so that it’s ready when he comes down from his shower. He told me a while ago that he loved my chorizo and eggs so much he could eat it every day.
Really? Does he realize how difficult it is to get chorizo in Bellingham? Only a couple of supermarkets in town actually sell the stuff.
I start a pot of coffee, even though I can’t understand how he drinks the stuff. The smell makes me gag every day. I guess there is some truth to caffeine being addictive.
I give her points for efficiency, that’s for sure. Every day, by the time I’m dressed and ready for work, breakfast is hot and ready on the breakfast bar. We sit and we eat, me in a shirt and tie, her in a blue plaid bathrobe. I used to think she looked sexy in a bathrobe, showing off those sexy dancer legs and tight midsection while rocking boy-shorts and a midriff-baring tank top. Now I think it’s just lazy.
“So what’s the plan for the day?” she asks me, the first words she says to me every morning. I tell her the same thing I do every day: on the slate for my day is a slew of phone calls regarding overdrawn accounts, a couple of appointments with some older couples regarding their pensions, and the odd 401K consult. It’s always the same. I start filling my mouth with food whenever she asks, just to cut the conversation short. After a mouthful of food finally works its way down into my stomach, I ask her what she’s doing today. She proceeds to tell me her schedule, which is the same as it’s ever been since she opened the damn studio.
Noon to 2:00 – Tango lessons
2:30 to 4:30 – Dance fitness
5:00 to 7:00 – Waltz lessons for upcoming weddings
7:30 to 9:00 – Salsa/Merengue lessons
Lately she seems more agitated. I think she needs more sleep. Or some of this coffee.
I swear he doesn’t get it.
Every freaking day he asks me what my schedule is like. I’ve owned the Rhythm Academy for years. How does he not know what my schedule is? And good lord, how boring is his job that he has the exact same list of things to do for five years? How can he expect me to pay full attention to him? The only reason I’m up this early is because I promised myself that we would have breakfast together every morning. It certainly isn’t for the conversation.
When I was a kid, the best times my family had was when my mom and dad, me and my sister Mercedes sat down for a meal. Mercedes married that drugged-out ballplayer after she had his kid, and we saw less and less of her. When she died, my family broke. It was rough for a while. When I married Alex, I swore whatever family we built wouldn’t break like that.
But have you ever gotten to a point where you think you’ve heard everything that this person has to say, everything he has to offer? There’s nothing new anymore. And on top of that when I try to talk to him at breakfast, he never looks up. I only see the top of his head, and he stuffs his mouth full of food. It’s so rude. And to be rude at this hour of the damn morning, when I don’t really have to be up for at least another couple of hours, and the only reason I’m up is to keep him company as he eats breakfast, well damn.
The best part about owning your own business is setting your own hours. And I’m not a morning person.
Working at the bank is boring.
On a good day, I can see ten or twelve different people at my desk, setting up new accounts, closing old ones. Giving financial guidance in our times. Parts of the day, the place is like a library, so quiet and dead, no activity. Usually, between nine and eleven in the morning, it’s a ghost town. Occasionally on paydays the few older people in town who haven’t quite embraced online banking or direct deposits will come in and drop off their paychecks or make a payment to their credit cards. Those days are getting fewer and farther between. It’s amazing how I can work for possibly the largest financial organization on the planet, yet we only have two branches in town.
Well, three, if you want to count the one in the supermarket.
At noon, me and a couple of the tellers go to the diner a couple of blocks up for lunch. We go there because we don’t see people like us there. We see the town: part retirement age hippie, part hipster artist, part undefined student. They range between the clean-cut and the severely unwashed. Some have this too cool for the room attitude that I used to have when I was in school. It’s annoying to see that now.
There’s a waitress here that I like. I mean, she’s nice to me, not that I like her like that. I’ve only been coming here a couple of months. The food here’s shit, but they have good coffee and will boost it up with Irish Crème if you ask nicely. That helps me get through some of the Fridays.
“Hey, it’s the suit!” she says to me as I walk in, flashing those bright white teeth. It’s slow here today so the lunch crowd must be out busying themselves outdoors since it’s one of the 65 dry days we see in the Pacific Northwest. I take off my black jacket and park myself at the counter right in front of her. “Good day or bad day?”
I tell her it’s a better day now that I’ve seen her. As she smiles, I tell her it means my day’s half over. I realized too late that she was about to smile, but she indulges me anyway with a laugh. She pours me a cup of coffee and slides me a menu. When no one’s looking slips me some Irish Crème. My day’s looking up.
He’s cute. In that exotic, one of the four employed black guys in town kind of way.
He doesn’t come off as a total sleaze either, which happens a lot in this business. Some of the customers you get are these old perverts who like to comment on your tits and ass, or like to inform you that you’ve made their masturbation playlist. This town has all kinds.
But this guy doesn’t do that. He comes in, orders his stuff, sometimes he eats and sometimes not. For an hour, I don’t feel like someone is staring down my black top and avoiding talking to me.
First time he came in, I asked him if he liked cream in his coffee. He looked at me all confused for a moment and said he was married. I don’t know if he was trying to be smooth or whatever, but it was cute. He sat down that day and asked if he could have some Irish Crème in his coffee to take the edge off a rough day. I couldn’t resist.
I said how did you know I was Irish?
Anyway, he came in today, and I could tell he was having a rough one. He sat at my counter like he was sitting at a bar. I swear, I thought he was going to ask me for tequila. Some of the lawyers in town do that, but I didn’t figure him for the legal type. I set him up with a cup of really strong coffee and when no one was looking, filled the creamer dispenser with some Bailey’s.
I asked him who died.
He said he did, a long time ago.
I kind of blurted that out. It wasn’t supposed to be as dramatic as all that. I guess I was more tired than I thought.
She smiles and says, “You look pretty damn good for a dead guy.” Then she laughs. Her laugh is a big, full body laugh with her shoulders shaking and her mouth open wide. It’s contagious and shakes me out of my mini-funk. I chuckle in spite of myself.
I tell her the secret is good dry cleaning. If you put enough formaldehyde in the suit, it seeps into your pores and preserves you. She laughs even harder and I join her. I completely forget about the morning, the boredom. This is the high point of my day.
She very casually tugs at her necklace and draws my attention to her breasts. I catch myself staring before I have a moment to remind myself that I’m married and shouldn’t be staring. Then she catches me staring. Busted. There’s that awkward moment of silence that follows that moment where she catches me checking her out, followed by me awkwardly clearing my throat and paying the bill. I leave a double-sized tip to ease the guilt.
There’s a new face today. He’s cute.
My noon dance class gets a decent crowd, most of them professionals looking for a new way to work out or meet women. They get disappointed in a week when they realize the women are older and chubbier than they expected, or in three weeks when they realize how hard it is to get one of those “Dancing With The Stars” bodies. I do have my regulars, mostly elderly people who have a lot of free time at home or parents of young children who absolutely have to get out of the house. The new guy stands out. He’s too young to be one of the professional douchebags, seems too single to be a parent and judging by the way he moves – coordinated, like an athlete of some kind, but lacking any real grace or lightness in step – he’s never danced a day in his life.
But my, oh my, he’s cute.
I can tell he’s never danced by the way he stretches. He seems to be really big on loosening up the upper torso and neck, but doesn’t limber up his legs much at all. Rookie mistake. He’ll feel that tomorrow. He seems entirely too sure of himself, like he knows he’ll pick this up easy. He has a smug look of “this can’t be that tough” written all over his face. He’ll feel that tomorrow too.
But he is cute.
Everything and everyone seems to stop when she enters the room, and with good reason. Oh, damn.
She has a presence, authoritative. She owns the room. The studio is undeniably her space. She works the room silently for a minute or two, weaving her way through the students, obviously checking for new ones. Her eyes hit mine a few times.
She moves with a predatory grace. Long, lithe movements underscored by lean, powerful muscle in her lower body. My brain screams, nice legs. She sizes up the room, sees her regulars and her new students like a jaguar in the jungle, stalking a kill. I notice because I’m a predator as well.
I own whatever space I’m in, can tell who I’m dealing with, what I’m dealing with, inside of two minutes in the room. All salespeople can. We find the right bait that can get you interested, then we hook you and reel you in.
She catches me staring at her, this beautiful creature, and I’m already trying to figure out how to hook her.
We start with a few basic stretches, loosening up the lower body. The new guy, Max, surprises me. He’s pretty flexible for someone who looks like a gym rat. Most of my regulars are in today, and these old people and new moms can’t touch their toes, probably haven’t seen them in some time. Max with the flat stomach can. Easily. I can see muscle tone underlining his long sleeved top. We go into some yoga stretches, trying to get the lower back released. My regulars are struggling a little, but this damn new guy can keep up. I don’t want someone to impress me today.
We start with some simple movements; this is Tuesday, my beginner’s day. I may have my regulars, but some of them are just not going to progress past the beginner’s classes. The new guy finally stumbles a bit with the footwork, and he seems very frustrated about it. Not as easy as you thought, huh tough guy? Still, there’s something about his movements I haven’t seen in a while. For what he lacks in fluidity, he has in liveliness. His body is finely tuned. He’s alive, unlike half my class with a foot in the grave. His movements project strength.
The women in my class are staring at his ass, have been for twenty minutes. I’ve got the frontal view. Oh, God, did I just think that? Why did I think that? Once you think that, you can’t unthink that. Oh, great, now I’m thinking about his junk. Why am I smiling? Is that drool on my lip?
This is supposed to be the beginner’s class. So why does it feel like these tango steps are so complicated. I can’t quite get it. It doesn’t help that I’m paired up with this lady who keeps whispering to me that she’s married and just had a baby. It’s a little creepy.
Sabrina, the instructor, keeps coming by, stopping our dance, adjusting our body lines. She’s developing a habit of straightening my back and adjusting my hips. I wouldn’t think anything of it if I was sure I didn’t catch her checking me out while we were stretching. My partner, Diane, whines that I’m her partner, and Sabrina says to her that she should be taking better care of me, seeing that I’m a beginner and all.
The music continues, elegant and orchestral, reminding me of that scene in “Scent of a Woman,” where Pacino tangos the hell out of that skinny pretty chick. I think the song is the same too. I tell Diane in my best Pacino voice, “If we get tangled up, we just tango on.” She laughs, and Sabrina comes over to correct our lines. She pounces on us, and is getting more and more agitated about Diane and me.
She likes correcting my body lines. I’m just starting to think she likes grabbing my ass. I respond though, more eager to be the teacher’s pet than I ever have in my life. Her touch makes me realize that there’s only one way to get the respect of a predator like her; you have to match her on her hunting ground.
I’m going to be the best damn dancer she’s ever seen.