Chapter 16

"What are you talking about?" I frowned.

"You've got a mustache. It was Tommy, from the dock. He'd said that a guy was looking for you, a fan I suppose. He didn't say that he knew you, but asked for directions. Tom said he looked pretty nervous." I wiped my milk mustache off. Tom was a sort of care taker of all the boats on his dock which was about forty five minutes from my property. He rented out boat space to the tourists and summertime residents. The guy was pretty funny, when I had come around here first on a couple vacations, he'd predicted that I'd move here before long. He was middle aged, scruffy and worn in. He loved the land around here and was a comfort to have around.

"Well it's probably just someone saying hi, he didn't look dangerous or anything, did he?" I laughed, but I had received two almost stalker-like letters in the past year which had scared the shit out of me.

"No...the only thing that Tom said was that he'd given him directions, and that he had this gorgeous dog in the backseat. Oh yeah, and that he had a different license plate...he couldn't make out the state, some Midwest one."

"Hm, well how gorgeous do I look?" I laughed, I had black athletic shorts and a white tanktop on. I had come back from a run earlier in the evening, and my hair was still up.

"Glorious. Seriously, get a shower, you don't know who this guy could be." Kristen stopped and looked into the fading sunset through the kitchen window above the sink. She leaned her stomach against the counter, pursing her lips with a puzzled look that I didn't understand.

"Naw, don't wanna, I want some chocolate. He's probably just stopping by, like the rest of 'em." I raised my mug to my lips. It was in the middle of August, but I drank hot cocoa and tea all year round.

"Then we'll consult the cards, and then we'll see who's right." With that, Kristen moved away from the window, sat down across from me and proceeded to lay out the deck. Her fingers worked quickly, laying the long painted cards in a strange pattern. She looked at them, then put her elbows on the table, making a frustrated noise. "This makes little sense. Some guy in a picture, the only thing I'm getting from these is that some guy from a picture is coming, and it's important." Her serious face suddenly broke. "Okay, that's it, I win."

"Picture...no, couldn't be, you're cards are lying like a jackal there girl." She grew offended and rushed me off my stool.

"Lying! I think you're hiding something, c'mon, upstairs, gotta make you smell pretty. I have a feeling about this, it's... something." She looked confused to me, but there was something about her. She was able to predict things sometimes, little stuff, she would get like this when it was something decently big. Like when my dog died three months ago, ran over by a speeding tourist while we were in town for the day. She hadn't wanted to bring him, but I didn't take her seriously. So after three months of having a dog, I didn't have one. I was really upset by the whole thing, I couldn't believe that he was gone, in a day. It almost reminded me of my miscarriage, because I had this little life, then boom, the next day, gone. Kris had tried to get me to get a new dog, but I didn't want a new one for a while, I still felt as if I'd failed to be a good parent, even to a dog.

We ran up the spiraling staircase. My house had been completely remodeled, it was mostly simple, neutral colors. Creamy walls and natural wood floors, the dimensions were a bit off, making some features of the room seem more prominent than others. All in all it was a bit of a mess, no, a royal mess. I wrote on the walls whenever I was inspired, and copied the words onto paper later. I had quotes scrawled in quick letters on doors, and favorite posters hanging in random places, next to works of art from Paris, France, and some Midwest paintings. My favorite was a summer star scene, it had the actual constellations within the painting, it was hung above my small fireplace in the kitchen. My parents had visited the first week that it was finished, and I doubted if they would ever come back. They were absolute no-nonsense neat people, they didn't want to see the house past it's week old stage. My furniture was either simple or antiques. I had made a special trip to Europe to buy collectors furniture last year, my favorite piece was my bed from the 16th century. It had been an earl's, the posts were of carved Walnut, enacting an ancient battle of the Greeks in Athens. The soldier's faces were all intricately different, some in the triumph of a kill and some weeping in the thick of the losses. It had been so original that I had immediately bought it, even though it was a disgusting twenty thousand. I had attached off white linen to the connected four thick posts, enabling me to close the cloth and have a sort of canopy. The linen extended to the floor on the front three sides, with the back board to the wall. It was by far the most incredible thing I had placed in my house, the rest of the room had a balcony to add to the high ceiling and a long staircase to the upper floor, where I wrote. I had sent polariods to Kristen before she came, and she'd demanded to sleep in the bed at least once. Once turned into several times, we'd stay up talking, eating oreos or something creamy and fattening. She usually spends the night, the bed felt like a inner world, moonlight filling my room with cool, silvery light. Kristen would tell me stories about who had slept in the bed, she really believes in the whole spiritual side of things, much stronger than I do. Without telling her who had owned the bed, or what was carved into it the first time I showed it to her, she closed her eyes, began to feel the wood, and told me where it had come from. She was probably the only person I would ever let come with me when I wrote outside. We both would talk to trees, at first I was reluctant to talk to live wood, then I bloomed and became comfortable with allowing nature to hear my pain. The nature in the seashore land relaxed me, although I was scared of the idea of being alone, here I was becoming okay with that. Within the first week of moving in, I began to sleep better than I had in years. I usually was up till two am, unable to sleep, thinking of everything that was going on in my life, mostly the problems, now I just concentrated on the gentle noises that the water gave in the night. The crickets, frogs and whatever else was out there seemed to make such beautiful music when the sun went down. On nights when Kris and I had nothing left to say, we would lay together and listen carefully until we feel asleep. She had my guestroom to herself, but it was tacitly said that we felt more comfortable together. It was nothing sexual, not in the least, but we felt very connected, and the fact that I could feel that way with someone was calming to my jumpy blood.

We ran across the upper hall to my bedroom suite. As I went into the bathroom and turned on my shower, Kris put in an old Cure album and as the harmonized guitars started to flood into the house, I stepped into a cocoon of warmth and moisture. I was pretty sweaty from my run and the water seemed to go through my skin and flesh, cleaning me. I started on my hair with a scented shampoo and started to hum to the record.

Kris left the bedroom, after setting out an old pair of cutoffs and a off white tank top, screened with a swirling Russian pattern of dark blacks, blues, and greens for Lane to wear. She nodded to herself, this visitor was special, the cards had told her that it was much more than a boy in a photo. She knew the boy that the cards were speaking of, Lane had left out twenty or so black and white large glossy prints on her bed one time, when she was out walking the dog a couple weeks back. The boy in the pictures was startlingly beautiful, and Kris hadn't recognized him. Lane had taken the pictures, Kris had recognized the worn paper on the back of the prints as the stuff that Lane always used, when she had been into photography anyway. That was before she had met her, she'd seen hundreds of pictures that Lane had taken on her first American tour, and a couple from Europe, but for some reason that she didn't tell anyone, she stopped after her first London date. Kris had spoken to Miles about it, his face had winced with pain. 'She stopped because she really felt like she'd reached her peak I think. Well, I don't know if it was a peak, but I think it reminded her too much of Taylor, she never really got over the death of that.' He'd started on a new subject before she could ask any questions. Miles had never spoken to her about him before, but he knew that Lane had told her a bit about what had happened. Kris knew that there was still a lot of pain in the memory, but she had never asked. It seemed like a lot was going to happen tonight, if he even came.

As I rinsed the detangler from my hair I thought of the moment that I developed the film. I had aged it, so that I wouldn't lose the quality, then shelved it. I didn't have the guts to develop it, I couldn't deal with it for such a long time, it wasn't until two years afterwards that I snuck into Miles' flat in London with his private dark room and developed it. After seeing Taylor in Vermont, I took them out again. He'd changed, he was so much older, it was strange to see him on that morning in the black and white. The natural lighting had been perfect, the moment of his playing had been captured. The emotion was still under my fingers when they rubbed against the worn paper. I took them wherever I went afterwards, when I began to date again I hid them in a private pocket in the bottom of my leather suitcase. I had one live in boyfriend for about six months, a tennis player, who'd been interesting. I was never too nuts about him, the way he was about me, so it was an off balance relationship from the start, my friends thought I was nuts for breaking up with him, he was very good looking, a London model at one time. Once he started to become successful with his tennis playing things drastically went downhill, he started sleeping around. So I left him a note, letter really, around ten pages long about why he should leave. He was gone by the morning, without a word. Miles had been overjoyed that he was gone, he'd hated him from the start, and I wasn't saddened by the whole deal, it felt natural. My last relationship was with a friend of Miles, Robert, or Ro, as I called him. He'd been very sweet, a lot of fun to hang out with, the sex wasn't bad at all either. We'd stuck together for a good five months or so, then he moved back to Miles' apartment, and we'd drifted. That had hurt, much more than the tennis buff, but the planning of the house in Maryland had forced itself into my head, and I didn't have much time to mourn over him. I was more at peace with my singlehood here. Although I still got upset every once and a while over loneliness, I felt more mentally stable with myself with men than I had been in years.

As Robert Smith's romantic wails drifted like lost souls against my walls, Taylor stopped his car. Julian needed to relieve himself, as usual. As he clicked on the dog's leash and opened the car door he inhaled the sweet, salty sea air. He could see why Lane would want to live around here, the man at the dock who looked like a replica of Ernest Hemingway had given him good directions, and hadn't asked any questions. As Julian led him through the thick woods to his carefully chosen spot, he looked at the trees, he knew this was her property, she'd bought a good seven acres, enough for total seclusion. He cracked his neck back, staring at the pines that reached skyward. The land seemed very soft, with sand added to the soil. Julian seemed to like the land, so Taylor let him run around for a while. After two weeks of rushing across the country, he wanted to take it slow, he still didn't know what to say to her. Maybe it wouldn't work out, it could only be good for a day, what if they'd hate each other after such a long time? He didn't know. He walked back to the thunderbird and stuck his upper half in the window, reaching across the driver's seat to the vanity mirror of the adjacent passenger's seat. Carefully he removed the folded papers he'd stuck under there. Returning to the tree he'd been standing under, Taylor sat down and tied Julian's leash to the trunk. He leafed though the thin copier paper, looking at the pictures they'd taken of her. Some, like Details and Rolling Stone had used a ton of makeup on her face, giving her a foreign look that was unlike her personality. His two favorites were taken by Miles, he could barely read his name on the bottom of the picture. She didn't have any makeup on, or any clothes. She was in a bed of vivacious red velvet, decently covered, she wasn't looking at the camera, just off to the side, with a rather unplayboyish look of confusion. His other favorite was of her working in a Southern field, wearing worn, mud splashed white jeans and a white tanktop, both were filthy. Her skin was tan and had a certain glow to it, despite the fact that she was coated with dust and sweat. She was kneeling, arms outstretched on the ground, hands in the mud, as if she was plowing the earth with her bare hands. Her eyes were strict, concentrating on her mud covered hands, her mouth in a small frown that didn't quite make her look strong. The wet mud was up to her elbows, it blended in with the overcast day, a storm approaching and the faint green of a distant line of trees in the background. 'No Coltsfoot to Plant' the caption read, he had recognized the plant name because of one of his younger siblings had read a story that said that Coltsfoot was the only plant that didn't like to be planted roots down, it would flip itself over. The picture made little sense to him, but it was powerful, for some reason. He'd ripped that one out of the magazine, because the library didn't have a color copier. The accompanying article was well written despite the fact that it was in People magazine. It spoke of her new book. 'Twice Upon a Time' was its' title, all the poems were stories, faery tales in a more adult sense. Accompanying each poem was a photo of her, depicting a part of the story. The photography was done with several photographers, most were her friends. Although he felt tempted to buy a book of hers, he didn't. He knew he's be looking for references for them, and he wasn't sure if he could take it if there were none.

Taylor struggled to his feet, untying the whining Julian and opened the car door to let them both in. He stopped and rested his elbows on the car's roof, staring hard into the woods. There were many things to stare at this trip. He didn't know what he wanted to do with himself anymore, he hadn't been by himself like this since he was 13, before they hit it big, it made him think of where he was going with his life. He loved music, and certainly his brothers and his family, he could never leave that, ever. Going into this, he'd promised himself that it would be okay if things didn't work out, people change. But he also knew how much it would hurt to lose what, in essence he had never had.

.

Chapter 17

Taylor climbed back into his car and revved the engine, turned around from Lane's forest and speeded down the small, unpaved road. This needed more time. He reached in the back and grabbed the box of half eaten Twinkies that he'd picked up yesterday at a Kwikimart. Opening up the box with one hand, he started on his first. Julian jumped to the front passenger seat, begging for one. Taylor frowned and licked the creamy filling from the side of his mouth. "Not now Jules." After a half hour of driving, he found himself back in the small seaside town. He pulled into a spot by an antique store, one of several around here. He left the windows open a bit for the still whining Julian. Walking into the store was strange, it was about to close, he glanced into the various glass cases of jewelry, surrounded by old flapper clothes and ancient volumes. The place had a considerable amount of dust, he sneezed and sniffled a bit. After clearing his head of the heaviness brought on by the sneeze, he smelled the oldness of the chairs, clothes, and books. Across a wall were stands filled with china dolls, carefully painted, their dresses wide, made from fashionable, rich materials. Some were plain, white dresses and painted hair, the younger ones being more extravagant. There were war medals, college pins and rings, purses, assorted jewelry and lucky half dollars in the cases. Furniture was farther in the back, his hand brushed against an elegant dark walnut miniature table. The top was a chessboard, done in onyx and mother of pearl. Everything looked well cared for and ancient. He walked back to the cases of jewelry, some was plastic, costume stuff, but some was old engagement rings and the kind of beauty that he'd seen when his mother had gone through Grandma Lawyer's jewelry when she died. None of it looked like Lane would like it, his face tightened.

"Can I help you with something?" Taylor was startled by the voice, he hadn't seen an owner anywhere when he'd come in. The voice was warm, unrushed by the prospect of the end of the day. He looked up from the case, a middle aged woman with grey hair speckled with white smiled up at him, the smile was bright and full. She looked Native American, her tan was deep, and looked natural, she had friendly wrinkles when she smiled, making her look grandmotherly and kind. Her hair was down, braided, with a couple strands of grey straying out.

"Yes, you can." Taylor hoped he could do this right.

"Jewelry? For a man or a woman?" Taylor laughed.

"Definitely a woman."

"You never can be too sure there young man, one must be politically correct." Her black eyes sparkled as she smiled.

"I want to buy something for a girl, but I have no idea what she'd like."

"Is she from around here?"

"Yeah, I don't know.." She cut him off.

"What's her name?"

"Lane, Lane Bronte." Her smile grew wider.

"Laney, my dear bobcat. I have known her for a couple months, though I believe she and I knew each other, some different time, some different life." The woman looked out the shop to the street, her face softened. Taylor was confused, did Lane connect with everyone she knew? This was weird. "She's staying with Kris, up on the east side of town, on the bay. Beautiful land, an Indian community used to live there, lots going on there still. Hm, so what are you thinking of getting her?"

"I don't know, a ring, maybe."

"What kind? Engagement? Friendship? Lovers? The stones tell different meanings."

"I don't know what you'd uh, call us, definitely not engagement." Taylor wracked his unresponding brain, what kind?

"Do you think of her often?" Taylor smiled, that one was easy.

"Yes, very much."

"Then get a Turquoise, it will protect her."

"Does she like silver?" The woman nodded.

"She loves jewelry, a lot. A regular Stevie Nicks, she buys a lot here." Taylor began scanning the cases again, finding a large case filled with silver. His eyes wandered, a bracelet caught his eye. It was simply sanded, most of the roughness gone, a strand of turquoise pieces. Beside it was a pure silver ring, it's rectangular face was a little over a half inch long, carved out of it was an old tree, roots extended downward, and long, delicate branches stretching to the top of the ring. The trunk was thick compared to the thin branches, the band wasn't thick, but it wasn't too thin either, it connected to the rectangle in the center, blending into the face on the sides. As he stared, a hand was suddenly in the case, reaching for them, he looked up to the store owner, who had them laid out on top of the case. "I just got these in today. Yes, she would treasure them." As he paid for them, the woman introduced herself as Lisa, and wished him the best of luck. Taylor felt as if he'd need it.

I snatched a large fluffy maroon towel from the bathroom rack as I stepped out of the shower. Drying myself off and towel drying my hair, I sang loudly to The Beatles cd that Kris must've put in. I didn't feel moody enough to listen The Cure tonight, I felt as if something was going to happen. I felt like star gazing with Kris, maybe we'd rent a movie in town or something. We hadn't discussed dinner either. I put on the clothes that Kris had left out on my bed and shuffled on my old tevas, still alive after a good seven or eight years. I brushed out my wet hair, realizing that I needed another haircut, maybe it was time to take a flight into New York for a week and do some sh and see who it is."

"I already know who it is." My voice seemed weak, dry and scratchy.

The music grew louder. "Why she had to go... I don't know" Paul McCartney's voice was evident from my driveway. I stumbled towards the door, my legs feeling foreign and sick. As my hand touched the brass doorknob, the faint strains of my home stereo seemed to drift in, 'Here Comes the Sun' started. Kris smiled to me, 'Go' her face calmly said. I opened the door and stepped into the cool sea air, 'Yesterday' greeted me.

.

Chapter 18

The night air was cool, the moisture that usually was spread throughout it wasn't as prominent as most sticky nights. Fireflies drifted with a purpose throughout the darkening night, sending wisps of flourecent light through the night. My pathway to my garage and driveway was of clammy cement, I kicked off my tevas, my feet longed for the smoothness. I looked over my random wildflowers and bent over to pick a Violet. My feet kept on moving, though my brain had gone numb. My mouth was parched, and a bowling ball was in my stomach. The song was rewinded, then played again, I knew who I'd see when I rounded the corner and faced the driveway. I absentmindedly pushed my damp hair behind my ear, my knees seemed watery and fragile. Too delicate to walk on this hard cement, I wanted to stop and sit, and think. It wasn't fair, he had the whole trip, whether he took a plane or drove to think about what he was going to say. You had years to think about that, my conscience voiced. I fiddled with my violet, and walked slowly, my toes slowly scraping the cement with every step. One step in front of the other. Left. Right. Left. Right. The corner was two steps away from my feet, one. Now let's see how brave you are.

Kris ran around to the window on the east side of the house, trying to see who had come. She knew that Lane had known who it was. As soon as she heard 'Yesterday' she had known. But it wasn't a song that Kris had known that she'd had as a favorite. She always skipped it whenever she put in the red album from the Beatles. It was just something that she'd always done, but never explained. That was Lane's way of saying that it was something that she couldn't deal with, one of her worst traits. Looking out the window she saw an old, coal colored thunderbird. She could barely make out the back half of a boy, his light, corn colored blond hair was back in a loose ponytail, he was leaning against the car, periodically reaching back into the car to fool with something. There was a huge golden lab in the back, with his head sticking out the window. The dog was clearly confused. 'His master must be pretty upset about something' Kris' thoughts wandered. She longed to get a better seat, but that looked to be pretty impossible with the only wasy to clearly see them was to go into the garage, where they could just as clearly see her. Kris sighed, brushing back her unruly red mane. She slowly walked to the kitchen, her feet making soft plops on the natural wood floor. She reheated her cocoa and sat at the kitchen table, picking up her tarot cards. She closed her eyes as she sipped the warmth that still tasted good in the summer and began to play with the large cards. Good luck Laney, this is brand new to you honey.

Taylor was leaning against some old black car, I caught a friendly but distressed face of a golden lab, his honey brown eyes concentrating on Taylor. He'd changed a bit. A little taller, he'd put on around five pounds, it looked good, he was still a little too thin the last time I'd seen him. In the darkening evening light, he looked a bit more tan, more brown. His eyes raised to mine, and I almost dropped the forgotten violet. Those eyes burned. I felt my salvia gathering in my throat, and quickly swallowed. My toes had completely lost their feeling, I felt as if I was losing my sense of balance, I stepped back to catch it.

"Hi." My simple word came out as a whisper.

"Hey." He reached inside the car and turned off the tape. The dog immeadiately started licking him as soon as he reached inside. He shushed him off. His eyes went to the dock behind my house. "I missed you."

"Did you drive? I mean, from Tulsa?" My words sounded fake, I already knew the answer.

"Yeah." I stepped to him, my legs regaining more feeling.

"Thank you." My lips grew pursed, I didn't know what else to do, there was so much to say, I didn't know how to start.

"Lane, I'm sorry. This hasn't stopped since you left, I can't go back to when I didn't know you." I knew what he was speaking of. "I can't stop this, and I need to clear this up, this cloud has come down and I can't...I just can't.." His face grew small and frusterated. I stepped in.

"You don't know if it would've worked if we'd tried back then."

"Yeah." Silence came. His dog looked at me, then Taylor, not understanding the ice and tears that were between us, he woofed to him. Taylor smiled and put his hand on the dog, who began to bathe it with slobber. His voice came so softly I could hardly hear it. "You really hurt me, I told you I understood." He paused to lift his eyes from the lab to me. "I didn't. I thought if it was real, then it'd survive."

"It has." I whispered, my vocal chords soft. "I ran from you because I didn't want it to barely survive, I wanted it to be constant. And I knew it couldn't be just then."

"You left me."

"I had to." My head tilted to the side, not wanting to deal with that.

"I thought you were going to stay, I thought I had you." I didn't reply, he needed to get this out in front of me. "I thought that could've had relationships like what we had. Technically it was a simple, one night stand, yeah it was. I couldn't believe it happened so quickly, you were there, then you ran. I see it as running, you were scared. Lane, all I want to start with this again, to see if it would work, that's it. If it doesn't, then maybe I'll be okay with it, and I can continue with life, but I doubt it. If it does.." His voice drifted, I was lost in his sea of blue. I stepped closer to him, and embraced that same figure that I had dreamed of for so long. Every aspect was still there, his arms held me tightly. I smelled his same, Taylor boy smell. I laid my head on his shoulder, his black teeshirt soft against my hot cheek. His embrace was warm, lighter now, less tight, he put his hands in my still damp hair and laid a gentle kiss on my wet lips. We let go.

"Okay."

"Okay what?"

"Oklahoma Oooookay." I said in a still weak sing songy voice.

"You'll come?" His voice was as grateful as the smile he gave me.

"In two weeks, to see how that goes." Just as I finished, he grabbed me in a bear hug. "Ack! Okay! Okay!" We laughed together, the sound was so comforting.

"You actually watch musicals?" His eyebrow comically rose.

"They're really sexist, the old ones, but I love 'Oklahoma!' I have the tape inside."

"Ever since you found out I was from their?" His tone was joking.

"No, don't flatter yourself there pardner."

"Well I reckon I don't have to, 'cause I got all them pertty youngin's screamin all over tha place fer me." I softly punched his stomach.

"They're a lot better then when you first came out, you actually get a bit of total silence every once and a while."

"Really? We have these serious ear plugs that block out everything, so basically we can't even tell."

"They've started to act their age finally, and you guys don't even know, that's hilarious." His dog let out a left out woof.

"Hey meet Julian." I stuck out my hand, which Julian sniffed, then licked.

"He trained?" Taylor looked offended.

"Of course, you think I live out in the woods or something?"

"Well, I do. Let him out then, I used to have a dog, so we still have some dog stuff saved."

"What happened to it?"

"Got run over. We'd only had it for a couple months."

"And you didn't get a new one?"He seemed puzzled, as if it was the law or something.

"Didn't feel capable, so we have some Puppy Chow, or whatever."

"That's okay, I got one of those 20 pound bags in the back."

"So, you wanna come in?" He smiled at my question.

"Yeah."

.

Chapter 19

As we walked toward the house Taylor stopped walking then backed up, trying to see what the whole house looked like. Fireflies, with their flickering neon lights whirled by his face, he raised a hand to wave them away, and a swirl of light shot across his white shirt. He was wasn't wearing leather, for some bizarre reason, I had expected him to. I suppose that after getting used to having stage clothes become his wardrobe for so long, they had no longer become an issue to him when he was alone. At the concert he was sporting some dark, navy blue leather pants and a jet black blouse. Now he'd just been stripped down from the stage, simply in khaki shorts and a white teeshirt. His hair was tied back, longer than I had remembered. I followed him to the middle of my small front lawn. I shivered a little, the tanktop wasn't enough, my stomach rumbled slightly, all I had for dinner was half a cup of cocoa. I slowly stepped in the tall, uncut grass, the blades thick from my lack of cutting. As I drew closer to him I saw his gaze to the house was of curiosity. "This is really incredible, I mean it looks cool from the outside. You built it, didn't you?" "Yeah, a year ago." "Hm, how long have you been staying out here?"

"About 4 months, since April."

"It's really beautiful." Taylor stood, smiling, almost sadly. I held my hand out to him.

"Want to go see it?"

After introducing Kris and Taylor we rooted around the downstairs laundry closet, trying to find a stake so that Julian could stay out on the lawn. After a half hour of cleaning the whole thing out we found the stake and were in business. Kris excused herself, making up a silly lie that she had to get up early in the morning, and we were left together in the kitchen. All light chit chat aside, the room became cold with silence. It wasn't that late yet, I realized as I looked at the kitchen clock. I looked to Taylor who for once, looked nervous. "You're hungry."

"Well, uh, if you are." His cheeks grew slightly red.

"I'm starving, and your stomach's growling. Ever have fresh crab?"

"No."

"Let's go out, my favorite restaurant should still be busy now." He smiled, the conversation had been saved. I ran upstairs, grabbed a cardigan sweater and after sprinting full speed down the stairs, almost ran into Taylor. Our hands brushed against each other with a casual speed. It felt like numbing prickles against my hand. I hadn't touched him for so long, the touch was so painful to my chest, it reminded me of what I had been looking for beneath my past lover's sheets, and never found. Then it was gone, and Taylor was speaking of how he wanted to drive.

"What?" I had lost a couple seconds in his last words.

"I want to take you, but I gotta get Julian some chow first." With that he turned and was gone, fetching his dog's dish.

Within fifteen minutes my seatbelt was on, and Taylor was revving the engine of an old, black sleek machine that minutes before had been in my dirt driveway. I lowered my car window and breathed the night air in, feeling the moisture droplets cling to my lungs. My hair blew behind me as the car gained speed on my private road. My eyes opened to see the tops of the carefully planted rows of pine pass by, creating a blur of steel green and rich navy blue, the stars flew by like snow white Christmas tree lights. The metal beneath my arm had a good feeling, Taylor had a love for it, it had brought him luck, I knew it. I turned my head slightly, Taylor's eyes were on the road, his ease with the wheel, stick and foot was at a liquid perfection in his movements. His eyes dodged from the road to me. I opened the glove compartment, and taped spilled out with the speed of a waterfall and onto my lap. My hands picked through sea of cassettes, some labeled, some with a scratching of pencil which I couldn't read, and some were completely lacking any kind of ID. My hand grabbed a grey tape with a label, after holding it up to my window, to try to catch the remaining light, I caught three letters, REM, and shoved it into the car's cassette tape's mouth.

"That's 'Automatic for the People'" Taylor's voice was calm. The tape was almost finished, I fast forwarded through 'Man on the Moon' to my favorite song on the album. Michael Stipe's voice gracefully broke and grew stronger with the powerful chords of the piano, the orchestra strings creating the red velvet backdrop to the childhood memory of water and night. "You like this song?" I nodded.

"Nightswimming, that has to be the most romantic song ever sung, hands down." Taylor remained quiet. We drove to the crabhouse without anymore talking, except for direction giving.

Fueller's Crabhouse is by far the most popular restaurant in town, there was a tiny indoor dining room, and a huge, covered deck attached onto it. There was a live band, too loud, a couple middle aged guys doing covers of classic rock, I winked to them as we passed. The place easily became packed from Friday to Sunday night. The tables were simple wood, with the only thing gracing the table tops was a paper towel holder, salt and pepper. Our waitress led us through the thick crowd of bodies becoming filled with good beer and fresh crabs. Little kids, so past their bedtimes that they had the crazy night energy in their veins ran in the aisles of tables, weaving their way out of the waiter's and waitress's ways, screaming with laughter. I caught young teenagers sharing a look of new adoration from across a long table, filled with older, oblivious parents. The girl's eyes met the boys with strength while he shyly looked back, not believing her boldness. The warm lights on the beams of the tented deck gave the illusion that it was lighter out to the eaters. Beyond the dock's side railing, there to behold was the pitch black Chesapeake Bay. The joyous, random mess of crab shells and innards were eagerly strewn on the tables, which were covered with thick brown paper. The mess created was fantastic, mothers opened the hot crabs for their toddlers, carefully removing the bad parts for the eager youngsters that licked their fingers and reached for the tender meat. Our waiter led us to a back table, not in the middle of the loud conversations between college students and energized parents. Just as our waiter was about to give us menus, I raised my hand, smiling. "A dozen and a half softshells, and a basket of seasoned fries. A Shirley Temple for me, and a Dr Pepper for him." The waiter winked at me and disappeared.

"How did you know to get me a Dr Pepper?" Taylor looked confused.

"You had a couple cans of it in the backseat." I smiled.

"Am I going to like this?"

"Taylor, you have not experienced seafood the way you will tonight, that I promise you." In the soft lamps, his blue eyes were merry, sparkling at mine. We held the gaze until the waiter came back, bearing the drinks. I slowly sipped the sugary sweet drink, alcohol was not going to make me forget tonight.

"So, how long do you have off?" I questioned him off handedly, half expecting to be let down. Taylor's eyes brightened proudly.

"As long as you want."

"You're serious?"

"Yeah, we just finished touring, Zac and Ike are in Tulsa now, for how long, I don't know. Ike got married, and he lives just outside of Tulsa, Zac's seventeen now, I think he's thinking about moving out soon. The last time I talked to him he was thinking of taking a vacation by himself, I think he needs to get away for a while. We've made our peace, Hanson is still moving, but not with such craziness now, we're more in control of where we go and when. So I'm taking time off, period, we've written most of the new album on the road, so we're covered for a whiles now."

"That's good." I sipped my bright cherry drink.

"You came to a show." My drink almost went down too fast and I sputtered, coughing. Taylor reached for my arm. "Whoa, you okay?"

"Yeah, fine, god, you popped that one on me pretty fast." I smiled and coughed again. "Yeah, I did, uhm, well, I wanted to see you." My eyes did not meet his.

"You could've called."

"How? Ring the fan club," my voice grew high pitched and sarcastic. "'Hi, my name is Lane Bronte, yeah the poet person, I had sex with Taylor, can I talk to him for a minute?' Somehow I don't think that would've worked. It's not like you tried."

"Fine, you've got a point, but Lane. . ." The pain in his eyes that I had seen in them when he talked to me in the driveway returned. "I didn't think you wanted me." I found his hands and brought them in mine, squeezing and bringing them to my lips. I kissed the back of his hand, smelling his skin. Hot tears fell onto his hand.

"I think I might out do you on the dance floor, I'm trained girl."

"You're ON!"

Our hands intertwined, still quite gross from the crabs, the seasoning under our nails and our palms slippery from the butter. We ran to the main deck where the band was playing and began a mock waltz. Laughing, a crowd drew as did impressions of old, 50s dances and jumped around on the old, complaining wood. Soon people joined us, cheering the dancing couples, we traded partners and started square dancing, amazed that most couples knew how to. We all sang along and cheered as the song ended. We found each other in the crowd and just as we turned to go back to the table, the band started up again, slower , with the guitarist's notes hopeful. 'Here comes the Sun' came through, we started lip synching the song to each other, slowing our feet and growing closer. Taylor's face was flushed and glowed, his eyes danced, darker in the lower light. As couple around us still managed a steady pace, we slowed. Closer. I could feel his breath on my hot neck, warm and moist. I was aware of every cell that touched him, God how I missed this. The same butterflies that had appeared when I had first seen him suddenly had little butterflies, and my stomach felt as if it was about to fly away. He still made me nervous, the good kind, when you shake with adrenaline and complete adoration. His grip tightened slightly and our bodies were held back by two layers of cotton. I smelled his shirt, his smell made me want to crawl into him and stay. That musk, mixed with a faint scent of sweat and sex. I moved my pelvis closer to his and I heard him draw his breath in.

"God, you move me." His strained whisper in my ear made the position move to a even closer feeling. I moved my head to look at his eyes, my eyes began to tear again, I fiercely held them back.

"I'm sorry." My voice was quiet, I swallowed with a struggle and looked into his eyes.

"You did what you had to do, I'll never completely understand it, but..." his voice faded and eyes dropped. I lifted his chin with my grainy hand, still full of the salty seasoning. His eyes were almost a blackish blue in the dark light. Like the bay at sunset, that colour , letting go of all guards put up to protect himself during light hours with strangers. He had always done it for me, and I never noticed, until now. Our lips grazed each others, then to a stronger connection, break, then Taylor's lips were on my own, his hands in my hair and my grip on his body was a python death grip. As we separated, our breathing was hard, pain in both of our eyes. So much time we had been apart, so much to try to make up.

We made our way back to our table in a daze, tacit words changed everything. Our waiter came back with a fresh face of reality. He asked for dessert with a polite tone.

"Key lime pie." Taylor and I said our orders in unison. The waiter smiled.

"You guys married or something? Pretty damn good telepathy you got goin' on."

"Uh, no." I smiled up at him. I pretended not to notice Taylor's critical eyes on me.

As my head slowly sank into my pillow, I closed my heavy eyelids. I laid there, unable to speak, everything under my skin felt horribly tired. I let my muscles relax and go slack, I opened my eyes to see Taylor above me. Smiling like a goof.

"What are you doin' there mister?"

"My stomach is filled with crustaceans Lane." He giggled uncontrollably, his laugh was catching and soon we both were rolling on the mattress that covered ancient walnut. We tried to catch our breaths, giggling.

"I gotta say hi to 'em." I reached for his shirt, lifted it up and gave his stomach a raspberry.

"You nut!" He grabbed my shoulders and laughed. Our legs and arms were a tangle on the crimson bedspread, my legs felt weak with every touch. The wrestling held on for a while, just enough to prove that I was better at it. Though I think he let me win.

"Pin. Advantage Lane." I let out an evil laugh.

"Okay, you can kick my ass, point made." I laughed, then realized what position he had really put me in. "Well now, I knew it, you can't stand it, can you? Straddling me already." I didn't know whether to move or not. Taylor's hand went to my hair, and I removed my legs from his waist and laid next to him. Silence.

"What?"

"I dunno. I just don't know." I paused, thinking. "It's so different now. I kept on thinking, after I left, 'Well, what if we'd never been together that fast, I could still have him now. Maybe it was too early.'"

"No, no way, it would've happened anyway. Seriously, it would've happened, if not then, then probably the next time we would've seen each other."

"You're so sure?" I looked over to him, smiling.

"Laney, I am never going to let you out of my sight again." His face was serious, lips pursed. "Never."

"Okay." I whispered, and brought his hand to my lips.

.

Chapter 20

Kris was gone the next morning, leaving a short note that she was visiting her parents in Texas for two weeks, and she'd call. I couldn't believe that she left, it wasn't like her at all, she confronted people, she didn't leave notes, that was something I'd do. I had woken up in a tangle of eggshell white sheets and blond hair. Morning light had slowly sifted through my window, the pale layered brightness cast itself on our bodies, warming them. I had awoken before Taylor, and his eyes were closed, face inches from my own. His face looked a little younger without the effect of his eyes, his bone structure had changed in four years, he looked so much older now, the youthfulness that had been so sweet to my eyes before had all but melted, an artful seriousness had overtaken the youthful naiveness. His lips were slightly parted, deliciously thick and sensuous. He rubbed against my shoulder, his skin against mine madHe grabbed my arm just as I was turning. "Uh-uh, I promised you."

"What?"

"You're not to leave my sight." I giggled.

"I have to.. what? No way dude." But I simply looked in the shower as he relieved himself, staying. "So what do you want to do today? Want me to show you around the bay or something? Antique stores galore around here, I love that kind of old stuff. You have to meet this woman who own this store near here..." I felt arms with thin gold hairs enwrap me softly, and his lips were on my neck, making their way down my back. "Or, uh, we could camp it out here, whatever you want." My voice grew wavery and high. "I mean the bay can wait, it's just some fish and.. uh.." I grabbed his hand and led him back to my bed. Morning light streamed in, brighter than the barnlight of our first encounter. My creamy white walls brightened the room, Taylor's hair took on a lighter tone in the light. He carefully laid me on the rumpled sheets and lowered himself on me, my body accepting his. His mouth was on my own, with passion and softness. I struggled to lift his shirt, rumpling his hair a bit, my hands were in his hair and my legs held him in a hard grip. I felt his sex rise in his boxers, next to my cutoffs. His tongue felt of urgency, I broke the kiss.

"Taylor."

"Uh huh?" He wasn't paying attention to me.

"Whoa."

"What?!" His voice was strained.

"Do you think I'm going to leave you again?" Taylor lifted his head to mine and stopped his movements. He stopped, thinking. His head lowered.

"I don't know, I just don't. With you, nothing's ever solid."

"I've never promised you anything, have I?"

"Yeah you did." I was confused, what was he talking about? "After we kissed for the first time, in the hospital, I had to go get a doctor. I asked you to promise not to leave." His voice was low, the words he could've used in a fight against me. Tears found themselves in my eyes. "I believed you."

"You have every right to hate me, you do, you know." I paused, his head was still lowered to my stomach, supporting his weight with his arms, over me. "I've never regretted anything in my life. But you make me regret every second that I've lived ever since I left you. My promises aren't worth much to you, but this I promise you, Taylor Hanson: I will never leave you again, if someone leaves this, it's going to be you." I lifted my tanktop and sportsbra, cupping his head in my hands and lifting it to my face. He looked into my eyes, scared.

"I will never leave you." Tears spilled from my eyes, as I wiped one from his. His lips found mine and we began the art again, slowly, keeping both our needs in check. His lips went my chest as I tugged off his boxers. I softly moaned with elation as his lips and tongue licked and kissed my body. His fingers worked to get my shorts and panties off and we began much like the way we had in the hayloft. Nothing felt forced like then, I accepted him on top of me, slow movements, a steady rhythm, as old as time. As I felt him enter, I felt an impossibly perfect calmness in my mind, I knew he was home. I grabbed him closer, wanting more of him inside, I couldn't get enough. I had felt so empty for so many years. Other lovers had done little, I couldn't explain what he had done right, what he was doing right. His eyes closed as I came, and I held him throughout his, we looked into each others eyes, not quite believing what was happening. We held onto each other like there was no time left for us, clinging, close as two stacked spoons.

"You mentioned me, in interviews." Taylor and I lounged on my bed, his sensuous skin delighted my eyes, and the immortal butterflies that came when I saw him naked settled right back in my stomach. We'd finished making love and were chatting before we began again.

"Yeah, I did. It was more unconscious than it looks though. When I would read the articles, I'd be slapping myself for it."

"Why?"

"I kept on ignoring the fact that I missed you so damn much. The journalists would be asking me about who I was seeing, and I felt horrible because I never wanted to tell them. It didn't feel right, speaking of someone else to them. Like they weren't good enough. I hated doing that, I knew I was wrong, but then I didn't know that it was you. All I knew was that those relationships would never last."

"You know what made me come? I mean the last straw?" I nodded, trying hard not to stare at his body. "Ike got married, I spent a lot of time with him and Sarah, his wife. The more I was with them, the more I began to think of us. Every time they'd kind of go off in their own little world, I'd see us together, and it'd tear me up. My stomach would sink and I'd become so frustrated with what had happened. Ike finally caught up with me, and got me to admit everything, him and Zac. They basically shoved me in the car and told me to go get you." I smiled.

"Then I'll have to thank them, now won't I?" I brushed back a stray strand of gold from his face.

"You're so beautiful." My eyebrow raised, I was by no means beautiful, to me anyways. In society's eyes hell no. I had dirty blonde hair and greenish eyes, usually hidden behind glasses. My bust wasn't all that huge, I was a 34B, nothing more, which I happened to like. I wasn't tall, only around 5' 5", but I liked my fit body and thought I was pretty, but never beautiful.

"How can you say that? Very cheesy Taybean." I looked to him.

"No, I'm serious. You're such a special person, you have so much going for you. I went to one of your readings, you're so... real to me." I propped myself up on my elbows.

"You think so?"

"Yes I do." I looked up to the large, Gothic window in my bedroom.

"I knew you were there, at the reading, I saw you before it began. You have no idea how much I wanted to run to you." I pursed my lips, I couldn't believe that I was confessing everything. "But I couldn't, I don't know why. I just saw you and realized what I had let go, and it hurt, I felt like such a waste. I picked out all the poems about you in my list, I didn't have the guts to really read them to you."

"So you did write about me, I've never gotten anything of yours, I wasn't sure if I wanted to see if you had." I turned toward him, surprised.

"Of course I wrote about you, I don't have affairs like that every week. Writing's my therapy, I had to write so much in order to deal with myself after you. I had to get through that work in order to feel like I was a decent person. Don't think that I was able to walk away from us and feel completely justified." I walked to my closet and took my light, cobalt colored, satin robe out and began to put one arm in it. Taylor moved from the bed and grabbed my hand.

"Wait. Please." My eyes didn't meet his. "It's not all your fault, just listen, it's over now, okay? We're together now, can we just concentrate on that?"

"How isn't it all my fault?!"

"I could've found you, I could've rang you, it's my fault as well as yours. So can we stop this? Please?"

"What do you want from me then?" Taylor took me in his arms, my skin tingled as it touched his.

"I want to start over."