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Jack & Jill (Part Twelve)

Jack & Jill (A Love Story)

A Jack Collier Story

By Brett N. Lashuay

 

 

Read last week’s entry here.

Part Twelve: Jack’s Ride Home

 

            In hindsight, I probably should have been more concerned about the position I woke up in. I didn’t bother taking my clothes off when we got into the hotel room, opting to just strip off my suit jacket and socks before crawling into the bed. I rarely sleep well in a hotel room, but that time I had no trouble at all. I had dropped off almost as soon as I hit the pillow. It had been a long day, and I hadn’t slept well before the long night started. I was impressed that I managed to undo my top two buttons and untuck my shirt before collapsing.

 

            When I woke up, I was still dressed the same, but I wasn’t alone. Somewhere in the night, while I presumably snored loud enough to shake the air conditioner loose, I gained a sleeping companion. I woke to find a girl tucked under my arm and her back pressed against my chest. I’m not sure how exactly it happened, but at some point she had crawled out of her bed and crawled into mine. I raised my head up to confirm that I was in fact still in the bed I’d started in and it wasn’t me that moved.

 

            I probably should have thought more about that, but at the time I rather thought that she was just scared or something. I tapped her on the shoulder with my fingers as I sat up, which caused her to turn a pair of bright blue eyes at me. She was cute, and as I have a cousin about her age I sort of thought of her in that vein. In fact, I know someone my age with a daughter about her age so I could have thought of her in that way too, but less successfully.

 

            “Hmm?” She half vocalized.

 

            “Morning.” I said sliding off the bed. “Time to get up.”

 

            “Hrmgingle.” She replied.

 

            “You can probably sleep while I shower.” I told her and took my bag into the small bathroom with me.

 

            I don’t particularly like hotel bathrooms, but I was going to have to use this one so I gritted my teeth, grabbed a tiny soap, and cleaned as well as I could. I didn’t even remember to pack my own shampoo and so had to use the little bottles of whatever it was they had on hand. It was lilac scented, which always reminds me of my grandmother’s bathroom in Flat Rock. She doesn’t even live in Flat Rock anymore, but the association of lilac and grandma’s bathroom will never die.

 

            I managed to clean myself up though, and leave enough cleaning products behind for Jill to use. Fortunately there were two bottles of shampoo and two of conditioner, and I managed only to use half of the one I had. I took my time, to give her a few extra minutes of sleep. I’ve often though about packing a plastic Ziploc bag when I go on the road, so that when I’m in a strange shower I can have the Marley in the shower with me. I suppose its part of the paranoia that the shrinks keep telling me about, I say it’s just safety.       

           

            I didn’t need one as it turned out, but that only proves that people think I might have one with me. I dried myself off, slowly, making sure that I was actually dry before I got dressed. I’d included a clean pair of socks and undies with the few things I’d grabbed with my shaving kit from the trunk of the car on our way in. I’d managed to make myself look human again, even if I was going to be wearing the same suit for a second day in a row. That’s okay though, I can handle that, I’m a tough guy after all.

 

            I came out of the bathroom and found her sitting upright on the bed. She smiled at me and managed her way to the bathroom without help or comment. Her back pack that she had with her accompanied her into the room, and I sat and waited. I was torn between the idea of getting out on the road and having some breakfast sent up. I then checked my cell phone and found that there was only one call from Alice and that it was ten after twelve. Alice didn’t leave a message, but as she’d only called a few hours ago I decided that I probably could interrupt her. Maybe she would tell me that they caught Cole, that would be nice.

 

            I hit the buttons that made this ridiculous hand held machine try and connect to another of its species. I waited, as the sound of the shower turning on came through the closed door. The phone made a sort of ringing sound, that might make you think that there was actually a bell at the other end. I listened to the ring, waiting for the voice mail to pick up and explain that the person I was looking for wasn’t there. What I got was a click and then an answer.

 

            “Hi Jack.” Alice’s voice came through clearly and cheerfully.

 

            “Hi.” I said. “How are we doing?”

 

            “Are you on the road yet?” She asked, and remembered my endless paranoia. “I mean, are you still at the hospital?”

 

            “We’re not still at the hospital.” I told her, paranoia still in tact.

 

            “They haven’t found King yet, but we’re thinking he probably went back to his place in Texas.” She told me. “I appreciate the help you gave us, but you’ve probably caused a lot of people a lot of trouble. I don’t know how your client will feel about you when you get back.”

 

            “I can handle it.” I told her. “It’s not a big deal. Besides, it’s not my fault if the people pulling felonious pranks under his nose are so stupid. Besides, I am bringing his daughter back.”

 

            “I hope so.” She told me. “Give me a call when you’re home. I’ll come visit you.”

 

            “Okay.” I said. “I’ll do that.”

 

            We said our goodbyes and hung up, leaving me feeling alone and tired again. I shouldn’t have felt tired, because I’d just woken up and had an invigorating shower. The problem was that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing, and I wasn’t with who I wanted to be with. I could have it all worked out in about three days if I wanted to, but clearly I didn’t want to. I heard the water shut off and sat down to watch the dust collect on the dark wood of the hotel dresser as the sun shone through the window.

 

            A few minutes passed, then a few minutes more, and I started to wonder if she’d done something that would cause difficulty when the door opened and she emerged. She didn’t look nervous, or scared, but alive and vivacious. Her bright eyes sparkled and she smiled widely when she came out.

 

            “Morning!” She said as she rubbed her hair with a towel. “Can we get some breakfast?”

 

            “Sure.” I told her, “What would you like?”

 

            “Oh, anything.” She announced. “I’m positively famished.”

 

            There was a small chain place connected to the hotel, so we availed ourselves of that. I was trying to decide how to approach her, since I hate looking like someone who keeps people at arms reach when we’re at a table together. The problem was, I wasn’t sure what I could talk to her about that we’d both have in common. The last time I liked a band that was popular it was because Blues Traveler suddenly got big after I’d been a fan of them for three albums already, and everyone was willing to admit that was a fluke for me. As I was sitting there, trying to decide how best to break the ice without bringing up current events, she came in like one of those big ships that they send in to open up shipping lanes in winter. 

 

            “Do you ever watch old movies?” She asked over her menu as we got settled.

 

            “I suppose it depends on how you classify old.” I said, wondering if I was about to get treated to the idea that Raiders of the Lost Ark was an ancient classic.

 

            “You know, like the stuff they show on the classic cable networks.” She looked at me. “You look like someone who watches a lot of movies where Robert Ryan plays the heavy.”

 

            It was impressive enough to find that she knew who Robert Ryan was, but even more impressive that we were going to agree that movies older than my father were what she qualified as old. I leaned back and looked at the menu for a while, trying not to smile too much. I was also trying hard to decide what sort of thing I would be eating this afternoon that I thought was morning.

 

            “I wouldn’t say that it’s all I watch.” I told her. “I have however always liked the style of the pre-war era and the just post-war era.”

 

            “But not the fifties?” She asked, smiling what she probably thought was a cute little twist on her mouth. It was cute, but she needed to aim it at a fifteen year old. Or rather, she needed not to use it until she was about nineteen. If she managed things right, she would be able to knock men out of their chairs at fifty yards with that smile in five years.

 

            “Not really a fan of the fifties.” I told her.

 

            “I thought so.” Her smile became superior. She set the menu down and leaned on the table with her arms crossed in front of her. I suspect she had seen that motion in one of those movies she was talking about and wanted to try it out. She smiled up at me and was examining me from that spot. “Your car is just this side of not being the fifties.”

 

            “The car was a gift.” I told her. “But it was given to me because I liked it best.”

 

            “Someone gave you that car?” She looked shocked, as I supposed she should have been. “Why would some guy give you such a great car?”

 

            “Well it wasn’t some guy.” I told her. “The person who gave me the car was trying to make up for something that happened between us.”

           

            “Oh, I see.” She nodded in a knowing way that she’d probably seen on TV. “A woman gave you the car.”

 

            “Well.” I couldn’t exactly explain why, but I felt like wriggling. “Yes. She had hired me to do something for her and it turned out badly.”

 

            “What happened?” She put her fists under her chin in another imitative movement.

 

            “My car was destroyed, things went wrong, and she gave me the car to try and make up for it.” I said, trying to avoid painful details.

 

            “But you still dress like one of those guys in one of those movies.” She commented. “You wear a hat like Jimmy Cagney.”

 

            “Actually, I wear a hat like Dick Tracy, only I got a different color.” I told her. “Good thing too, if The Shadow movie had come out first I’d have bought a huge wide brimmed hat and a red scarf and then I’d look silly.”

 

            It was a pretty good line, and it got a good laugh out of her. The waitress came and took out orders, giving us a natural break in the conversation. The conversation after that was roughly along the same lines, only we talked about what each of us liked about the pre-war fashions and how the post war fashions just didn’t work as well.

 

            It wasn’t like talking to a young teenager, it was like talking to an adult, and that worried me a little. Not that she spoke more maturely than I was prepared for, but because I found myself wanting to tell her. I managed to catch myself before saying it because of a big red flag and whooping alarm bells in my head when I caught myself thinking it. What I do know about sexual predators is that this is one of their favorite phrases. It’s an easy thing to flatter a child by telling them that they speak better than expected and considering recent history I wanted to stay away from that sort of comment.

 

            We finished our breakfast, which as I’ve said was actually lunch, and got in the car and began out ride home. While riding we talked more about books and history, which was pleasant. I sort of wished I’d met a girl like her when I was her age, I would have had a better time knowing someone like her. She hadn’t gotten to the point of trying to cover up being smart, being ashamed of liking something that not everyone was into, and that was a nice change.

 

            We drove along the road, heading north, with the windows down and the stereo playing music that was older than both of us put together. It made me think that maybe I needed to call Liberty, ask her about the idea of taking Jenicia on a trip to a museum or something. It might not be terrible to have a daughter around, just someone to take places and try to show new sights. I sort of thought that I would have to call Liberty when I got home, discuss it with her and see how they felt about it.

 

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March 24, 2010 - Posted by | Fiction, Jack |

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