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Chapter  4
Across Town

He lay completely nude, curled up like a big white tiger in the middle of the rumpled, unmade bed, legs folded up under him almost to his chest. One hand tightly gripped the TV remote control and the other was securely planted in front of his mouth, what exactly he was doing with it propped there was not instantly discernible. The TV was loudly blaring as childish cartoon characters danced and pranced and did their silly antics. With eyes wide open, he seemed completely mesmerized by it all. 

“Ma,” his deep, velvety voice suddenly droned as if he had been awakened from a state of near stupefaction, “get me a Coke … a large glass … understand.” And then he repeated it in an overly loud, contemptuous tone, pausing between each word and pronouncing in slow distinct syllables as if royalty were commanding inferiors. “A … large … glass … get it?”

The compassionate countenance of the woman who had been busily hovering about the bedroom immediately darkened with irritation, yet not a real vexation, but that of a mother who dearly loved her son, knew and countenanced his every mood. Like a humble housemaid, she had been quietly attempting to undo all the clutter and chaos in the room even though it seemed to instantly reappear as soon as she left. Nevertheless, it made little real difference, since the area was isolated from the main part of the house, being only a remote basement room that had been converted into a cozy niche and rumpus space for her roving son when he chose to honor her with his presence.  

“I think maybe you should get it yourself, Ronny. What are you doing? Nothing … just laying there watching the TV … stupid cartoons … like always. And I have all this work to do … picking up and cleaning up after you,” she grumbled in a heavy Cuban accent as she reached across him to pick up some burned pizza crust that he had carelessly deposited on the multi-stained, silk comforter. 

She was a prepossessing, but somewhat stout woman in her early sixties. As she moved awkwardly about the room seemingly in a state of nervous tension and agitation, putting things in their proper place, picking up old newspapers and magazines, stacking up dirty plates and glasses to carry upstairs and clean, her breathing appeared more labored than one would expect for a woman of her age. But it was stifling and oppressively hot in the basement, and perhaps that accounted for her difficulty in breathing and the beads of perspiration that, drop by drop, were gathering on her forehead and soaking the locks of dark, closely cropped hair around her chubby face.

“Look,” he moodily snapped back with a tone of real irritability in his voice, his eyes still riveted on the television cartoon characters, “I’m the king here … and you do exactly as I say! So get my Coke … now! And make sure it’s a large glass, stupid … not half filled! Understand!”

His mother sighed in dismay, a distressed look crossing her face; then, as always, against her better judgment and even while shaking her head no, she ploddingly backed away from her perverse son and began hoisting herself up the steep cellar steps to accommodate his impromptu command. As she slowly lumbered upward, she continued shaking her head in disgust, mumbling to herself in Spanish over his rude, insolent behavior. She hated when he said that—about his being king—and in that severe, serious tone of voice as if he really believed it. It was as if she were inheriting all the misfortunes and anxieties of the world each time he uttered that egotistical, self-gratifying, and completely immature nonsense.

Even though, after the deplorable failure of her first marriage, Nina had remarried a tender, compassionate, and generous man, Ronny was still her most precious treasure. He was and always would be the most important person in her life, the one who gave her every waking moment meaning and purpose. Despite his appalling behavior, she loved him more than any words could express and lived only for him: to do for him, to help him financially, and to soothe his heartaches when he brought them to her. But regrettably, he brought nothing to her, rarely asking for any assistance or any demonstration of her boundless maternal love, and giving her little in return. And because of this, his recklessly independent attitude, she constantly worried about him—all the time, worry and more worry. Although she never expressed the thought to a living soul, as Ronny grew older—he was now in his early twenties—she had gradually begun to question his normalcy.

Chapter 9
Gretchen Makes the Weekend

As they sauntered towards the beach in the heat of the balmy summer night, he put his arm tightly and forcefully about her waist, and she immediately responded in kind. He could feel body heat radiating through her slightly moist sheer dress as she leaned against him. Her crop of thick black hair blew gently across his face, and she provocatively laid her head on his shoulder. It was just too easy he thought to himself as he glanced away from her and watched the waves breaking on the beach. It seemed so perfect—too perfect: the beautifully romantic evening, the now quiet beach, the still darkness, and this sexy girl seemingly asking for him to take her. Whatever came of the next few hours, Ron justified it by the fact that, for the last several years, he had really found nothing. And now there was this Gretchen who had unexpectedly walked into his life. Perhaps, just perhaps, he mused, this might be the start of something really special. He certainly wanted it to be so, but whatever came of it, tonight he would take whatever was offered.   

When they reached the beach and could almost feel the spray from the billowing waves, Gretchen kicked off her shoes so as to walk barefoot in the warm sand. Ron thought this very sensual, and it heightened even further his sense of this fiery seductress whom he hardly knew. Feeling reckless and wildly daring with her, he followed in kind and tore off his thick, blocky men’s construction boots and socks and, with them in one hand and Gretchen in the other, he playfully pulled her through the tiny ripples of waves as they washed up on the beach. 

It was the perfect setting for romance, or as Ron was now thinking, for just raw, uninhibited sex. She had aroused him to a red-hot fire where his whole body was hungering for her; his lips were flush with pulsing blood. After only a few minutes of kicking about in the wet sand and cool waves, Ron pulled his new found friend to a dry area away from the surf where he envisioned he would eventually take her. Then, without warning, as they were both laughing and romping about, he suddenly stopped, pulled her close, and pressed his moist lips and feverish body tightly against hers. She was receptive and answered him back in kind. Her mouth gradually opened to his, and their tongues danced in a play of sexual lust.

Yes, he told himself, no doubt, tonight he had gotten lucky. The place was perfect, the weather was perfect, and the woman was perfect—at least for the evening’s immediate purpose. Mentally, he summed up how far along he had moved and how he was doing. After their barefoot romp through the surf in which their bodies had playfully mingled and touched, together and then apart, he had worked up enough courage to make the first move, his prolonged, deep kiss. And he had apparently succeeded, receiving an indication from Gretchen that she would impose no limits. 

Now, Ron, once he perceived that a woman desired him and was his for the taking, began forging ahead rapidly, making huge strides past all the halfway posts toward his final goal which was to sexually possess the woman over and over again to the maximum level of his endurance. There was no partway or even halfway with him; it never sufficed, never gratified his ravenous sexual appetite. His philosophy was such, along with his inextinguishable urges, that it led him to treat most women, even those for whom he had true feelings, as pure objects of lust and amusement. After all, the important things in life were to have as much fun as possible, spend lots of time with your bosom buddies, and of course, have lots of women to summon forth when sexual desires called for immediate gratification. Yes, he wanted that one perfect woman, a wife, to be exclusively his for real love, but in the interim, if he couldn’t visualize the woman he was with at the moment as one capable of fitting that bill, like maybe Gretchen, then he would use her for his lascivious desires. In fact, already, he had considered the daring and immoral idea that even in marriage it might suite him to have several women—his wife and lots of beautiful pleasure toys on the side. His ideas on life were that simple. He considered himself to be a very conventional guy—a standard model with no fancy unintelligible, esoteric frills.

So he expeditiously hustled on, sparks flying, gently pushing Gretchen down into the hot, dry sand where he pressed his body close to hers, touching, groping, kissing, moving closer to the ultimate victory. He had his both hands all over her body and under her dress, where he began pulling down her panties. Gretchen in turn, pressed her voluptuous breasts to his mouth and kissed his sweet, full lips over and over again. She reached out for the zipper on his jeans and began pulling it down to better feel his huge erection which told her she had the power over him. For about five minutes, there was not a word spoken as they rolled about in the sand in a state of uncontrollable sexual frenzy. Then, without warning or provocation, Gretchen unexpectedly and abruptly shoved Ron with such a force that he fell backward off her into a patch of wet sand filled with some old Coke cans. She rolled over turning her back to him and curled up in a fetal position, as if protecting herself from further assault. Immediately, Ron righted himself and came close to her again, his arm tenderly on her shoulder, rubbing her back, and running his hand through her long black hair, wet and laced with sand. He rested his head gently on her shoulder from behind.

“Gretch …what’s wrong? What’s the matter? Did I hurt you, baby? I didn’t mean to,” he whispered as he ran his tongue over the nape of her neck and failed to see that she was withdrawing.    

“Stop, Ron, please,” she whined tearfully as she shoved away his caressing hand. “I’m not ready to go this far yet. I just can’t … I just can’t!”

Chapter 52
Gustavo Walks on the Wild Side

The door was opened to Gustavo by an attractive and stunningly dressed woman—obviously the wife of the couple, the woman to whom he was to make love. She was wearing red-leather pants, a tight, black cashmere sweater with a luxuriant fur trimming, and very high-heeled black leather boots going midway up her calves. She was a woman somewhere in her fifties, had dyed-blonde short hair, was wearing a good bit of makeup, and appeared to be in relatively good shape for her age. She was extremely busty and hippy—a look that appealed to Gustavo. He immediately knew that he would have no qualms or hesitations about making love to her.

“Well! Hello! So nice of you to come over, Roberto. May I take your coat?” she politely offered, smiling graciously. It was apparent that this couple was exactly as they had billed themselves: rich, educated, and sophisticated. The lady had one of those charming, comforting, automatic smiles that flash on and off effortlessly to put guests and strangers at ease. She had a distinct air of sophistication about her, that air often acquired by the very wealthy of society; she exuded graciousness and confidence. Gustavo had never acquired any of those qualities, but he was nevertheless both charming and handsome, with his sparkling green eyes and full lips. He gently handed the woman his coat, and immediately, as she went off to hang it in the closet, a man appeared in a doorway at the opposite end of the large room and proceeded with outstretched hand toward Gustavo.

“Hello. I’m Leslie’s husband, Austin. You must be Roberto. Glad to make your acquaintance, Roberto.”

Austin was a tall, good-looking gentleman, probably in his sixties, thin, with a shock of thick, white hair that gave him a professorial air. He had a long lean face with high, pronounced cheekbones, but unlike Gustavo, his lips were thin and certainly not his best feature. With perfect diction, he spoke in low, sonorous tones, such that one might have thought him to be a radio announcer or news anchorman. His attire was quite casual but rich looking. Being a good judge of quality men’s clothing, Gustavo knew that everything this gentleman was wearing was exorbitantly expensive and tasteful.

“Sit down, Roberto. Let’s chat a bit. I want to get right to the matter at hand rather than beat around the bush. It’s really better that way, don’t you think?”

Gustavo settled into a large, plush, white leather chair behind a massive triangular glass coffee table, the most ornate thing he had ever seen in a home. In fact, the whole room, as much as Gustavo could see without touring or blatantly staring about, was elaborately appointed, done in various shades of  red, white, and black. All the furniture was quite modern looking, all black wood or white leather. Wall to wall was a thick deep, white shag rug, so deep that, walking over it, one’s feet did tiny rolls from side to side. There was no doubt in Gustavo’s mind that this couple was very wealthy. And although he should have been on edge and apprehensive, for some unknown reason—perhaps the atmosphere of wealth and sophistication—Gustavo was completely relaxed and at ease. He sat eagerly waiting to hear what these two people had in mind for the evening’s entertainment. He was actually looking forward to this most extraordinary caper.

As the man took a seat directly opposite Gustavo and began talking, his wife came back into the room and stood obediently behind her husband who had seated himself comfortably on the huge four-piece sofa and placed his feet up on a red leather foot stool. Other than the relaxed poise which the gentleman had assumed, it felt almost like a business meeting as the three of them prepared their agenda for the evening—that is, if everyone agreed and passed muster.

“Well Roberto, you are drug and disease free, aren’t you? It’s the one question we must ask. Other than that, your personal life is of no concern to us.”

Gustavo nodded, assuring them that he was; being a dentist, he explained, it was necessary that he regularly check himself. He assured them that he was in excellent health.

“That’s splendid,” the husband continued in the same vein as his wife. “As we told you on the phone, Leslie and I have been married a good many years, and we’ve taken to bringing a third party into our sexual escapades, just to liven things up and do things a bit differently. You see, I’m not at all jealous of my wife … nor she of me. We don’t always bring in a gentleman … sometimes we bring in a young woman for me. Then Leslie watches. It’s actually quite exciting and a turn on to watch your partner making love to someone else. Anyway … we think so, don’t we, Leslie? We don’t go in for threesomes of any kind … it’s just some innocent voyeurism, you understand,” he chuckled, a healthy glow spreading across his high, pallid cheek bones.

Momentarily he paused to scrutinize Gustavo’s expression carefully, ascertain if there were any hints of an objection. Then he proceeded. “Maybe you don’t understand this … why we like doing our sex this way … occasionally, of course, not all the time. Usually it’s all quite normal. But … even if you can’t understand it, that’s quite all right. You needn’t agree or disagree. You simply need to fulfill your role, which is to make passionate love to my beautiful wife and enjoy yourself. Just have a good time as if I weren’t even around.” He glanced behind him and smiled up at his wife who automatically flashed back one of her automatic, model-like smiles. She placed her pale white hand with the now-visible protruding blue veins lovingly on her husband’s shoulder. Then Austin continued with his introductory chat. “She is quite beautiful, you know. For a woman her age, she has luscious, firm breasts, a D-cup, and long, limber curvaceous legs. And she’s good in bed … take my word for it. You’re in for a real treat, Roberto.”

Chapter 34
Love at Last

The next day was even more wretched than the preceding. He was still unable to reach Caroline. At the exact same time, he began calling her, with the identical results. Of course, Caroline saw Warren each evening at the same time, and as long as Ron persisted in calling at the precise time in which she was busy with Warren, he was bound not to find her in.

Unable to reach his love interest, he was convinced that she was out every evening with someone; his suspicions were aroused beyond repair. There was no doubt in his mind that she had someone else, and he would have to ferret out the truth by any means available. If he discovered that she was lying to him again, her second devious lie—the first being her age—then he would deal with it harshly, perhaps dropping her on the spot. He’d “throw her into the trash heap” on top of all the other women he’d recently met. They were “all no good bitches,” and with these troubling thoughts on his mind, he mentally began railing against women. Generally, he did not have a very high opinion of them. His experience with the fair sex had taught him and made him what he was, and so far, that experience had not been positive.

“These women are all alike,” he contemplated with contempt and disgust. “They’re so damn emotional and sensitive, bitchy, manipulative … enjoy twisting you around their little finger. And they’re irrational … and liars, demanding all your time and fucking possessive and jealous when they think they’ve caught you. You can never figure them out because they don’t make any damn sense. Most of them are just plain stupid.”

Ron, despite these embittered feelings, loved women and felt he couldn’t live without them. Although he needed to have a woman in his life and eventually wanted one of his very own, he did not hold most of them in high regard. In his simplistic, crude style, he was always proud to spout off his philosophy about the opposite sex to whomever would listen: “Women are good for cleaning my house, cooking my meals, making love, and shitting out my babies.”

It was regrettable that he felt this way, and when women heard this, they turned away, labeling him a male chauvinist. Unfortunately, to this point, he could never really entertain the idea that a woman, perhaps his future wife, could be his very best friend. These simple but foolish ideas that comprised the sum total of his philosophy regarding the opposite sex were no doubt partially responsible for the difficulty he was experiencing in finding and holding onto a young girl. He was a sexy and good-looking young fellow whom women found superficially appealing, but when they dug deeper, especially during disputes, and uncovered the innards of his psyche, they quickly put him into the rubbish and ran away. 

It was not until late Saturday morning that Ron was finally able to reach Caroline, and he was irritated and on edge that he had been unable to speak with her the whole week. In his mind, he had already condemned her, concluding that she had another man and had probably not even thought of him the whole time that he had been calling and worrying whether she would see him this Saturday. He was becoming jealous and possessive; he couldn’t bear to think that she had someone else for whom she cared. “Caroline … hey … it’s me, Ron,” he began, feeling quite unsure of her feelings toward him. “I’m coming over. You want to see me today?”

Caroline, who had also been agonizing over their approaching weekend date, felt relief at the sound of his voice. As much as he wanted to be with her, she had wanted to be with him even more; she was, after all, a woman—intense and overly dramatic when it came to love and romance. “Yes,” she replied with alacrity, “of course I want to see you! Come. Come as soon as you can. I’m free.”

“I’ll be there in an hour … and remember … no plans for the evening! I want to stay as late as I feel like … and … and … could you wear a dress for me? OK?”

Up to this point in their relationship, Caroline had always acceded to all Ron’s requests. Today however, that was about to alter. Last time they had seen one another, he had asked her, commanded her unequivocally, never to make plans on the night he was coming, and she had agreed, lied to him, knowing that it was impossible. She had to see Warren; it was their night together and had been for over a decade. He came at nine and they were together until late Sunday. So tonight, when her new lover made his plea, Caroline would have no convincing lie to offer as to why he could not stay with her until the wee hours of the morning, or whatever he had in mind. Tonight, she would be compelled to tell Ron about Warren, and it could very well signal the end of their relationship, for he would see her as a lying, manipulative woman. She had lied to him about her age, and he had discovered it. Now her second crafty lie was about to be uncovered. Even though he might abandon her, Caroline had no alternative, for she had no intentions of ever jeopardizing her relationship with Warren. It was that simple. Ron had to be second in her life.

“And yet,” she pondered as she hung up the phone and prepared to get ready, “I had to lie … for my sake and for his … to hold him, to keep him. At least … so far it’s working. It’s only a measure of how much I want him. But he’ll never see it that way. It measures the intensity of my feelings for him. I’m doing everything I can to keep him in my life. But now … I think the game has ended. He’ll have to know about Warren.”

As Caroline got dressed, she continued sketching out in her mind how she might justify her egregious lies. Perhaps he could be convinced that she was doing it for them, for their new and promising relationship, to hold it together. She hoped with all her heart that he would accept this explanation, for she was convinced that there was something special developing between them. Their relationship was different from anything she had ever experienced with any man, and she wanted to play it out to its logical conclusion. To cut it off now would be a grievous disappointment.

While speculating on her plan of action, Caroline engaged in some very special preparations because of Ron’s request that she wear a dress. It was a relatively simple matter for her to choose pants or jeans, for that she knew best, but when it came to dresses, Caroline felt a bit like a sailor on land. She spent almost an hour going through her closet of dresses and finally chose a tight, black, silky cocktail dress, short and low-cut so as to accentuate her ballet-dancer legs and slim, toned figure. Light, ivory-colored hosiery with red four-inch spiked heels completed her outfit. As she observed herself in the mirror, she recalled that it had been many years since she had seen herself looking so feminine, even if a bit tawdry and scandalous. She felt like a high-class call girl preparing for a prestigious customer—dressed to provoke only sexual passions. Still, if this was what her lover craved, she was not going to deny him anything that it was in her power to grant, the only exception being that which would jeopardize her relationship with Warren. Caroline’s goal was to indulge and pamper Ron—to make him happy, eager to be with her, and at ease and comfortable in their anomalous relationship. She recognized that it had to be terribly difficult for him, as it was for her—with the titanic age difference of almost thirty years separating them.

As usual, Caroline was dressed within an hour of Ron’s call, and straightaway began pacing about her apartment, zealously awaiting his arrival. But hours stampeded by, and he did not show up. Caroline, keeping one eye always on the clock, walked around and around in the small circle her apartment permitted. Occasionally she paused to touch up her makeup, reapply her perfume, or comb out the imaginary tangles she felt had matted down her hair. She tried to read a few pages of her novel, sat down with the book, got up again, went to the kitchen for some water, and ambled to the bathroom to brush her teeth, fearing that a dry mouth would result in bad breath. She did everything possible to divert her attention from the fact that he was inexcusably late again. He had said he’d be there in an hour, but that was well over three hours ago. As each passing minute rushed by, she became more indignant and exasperated; it was time they could have spent together, limited, bounded, time that was so precious to her. And it was being squandered. His behavior was intolerable and unforgivable.

“What’s wrong with this guy anyway,” Caroline asked herself as she angrily calculated the hours they had left. “Why can’t he ever be on time? It’s already going on four o’clock, and we only have till nine … which means he has to be out of here at eight. And then … I have all this explaining to do … about Warren. He’ll never accept it … and he’ll be hounding me to stay late into the night. Hell! Why doesn’t that selfish bastard come! He’s demented! Something is seriously wrong in his head!” She was unable to control her anger, hating him for the way in which he was treating her. “Doesn’t he want to be with me … like I want to be with him? What could he be doing that’s so important? It seems that everything and everyone in his life is more important than I am. I guess I mean nothing to him. Damn him!”

She continued pacing about, fidgeting with things, but all the while, feeling her wrath and animosity surging. Usually Caroline was of an equable temperament. Certainly she was not hot-tempered or moody, yet this issue between them, his constant lateness, could instantly detonate a crying, screaming tantrum. She felt miserably helpless as the minutes ticked by and he didn’t come. What could she do? She was continually trapped between her flaming desire for him and her erupting animosity triggered by his lack of respect for her time. Every liaison, she found herself enmeshed in this misery. Like a modern-age zombie laced with timed explosives, she went on, moving randomly about her room, unable to control her wired emotions. A physical weakness, a shakiness, an icy coldness crept over her. With a palpitating, pounding heart and labored breathing, tears began to flow down her pale, made-up cheeks.

And such was the hostile, joyless state in which Caroline found herself when the doorman rang to announce Ron’s arrival, three hours late.

Instantly coming to her senses, Caroline’s first thought was not to answer, force him to turn around and go home. But despite everything, she still wanted so badly to see him that such a plan would have been even more torture for her than that which she had already endured. No. She could not do that. But somehow, she had to teach him that he could not abuse her like this. She had to let him know how his intolerable behavior affected her, how it literally tortured her.

Perhaps she should have just expected it and ignored it, learned to accept it because it just seemed to be a part of him. But Caroline read it as a signal from him to her that he was not as involved as she, that he didn’t look upon each moment of their togetherness as something precious, like hidden diamonds which one could enjoy only in rare moments. So he had to pay somehow, and he had to be taught the serious consequences of his callous, soulless behavior.

For BIOGRAPHIES of the ARTISTS, click the names:     LINDA LEVEN         LANCE LEE