On the fourth Friday of the month, the adult bible study hosts a potluck. Dan Williams, the youth minister and leader of the adult bible study, had wanted to do some more active evangelization. After his attempts to hand out bible tracts at the local shopping center failed utterly, Frank suggested that maybe just being friends with non-Christians would be more effective. That led to a regular party where we could invite our non-Christian friends and hang out.
I’m pretty sure Sid was the main target, especially since the more fundamentalist part of our group doesn’t tend to have friends who aren’t Christian. Anyway, Sid went to the first one and it did not go well. The fundamentalists made their first mistake by trying to convert Sid with brilliant arguments from the Bible. Sid answered back with a contradicting verse to every verse they threw at him. Then he pointed out, quite reasonably, that the foundation of their argument was that because Scripture is God’s word, it is therefore true. He didn’t believe in the existence of a Supreme Being at all, so they were going to have to prove their point some other way. Then he really got them by saying that he’d read the Bible a couple of times and had been completely unmoved by it. At least three of the girls burst into tears at that one.
Then there was the time Sid picked up on Mary Phelps’ non-Christian co-worker. Mary is still mad at me about that, even though I pointed out to her that I’m not responsible for Sid’s behavior, that she knew what Sid was like, and that her co-worker had started it by coming on to Sid. It was also about that time that I realized that Sid was mostly going in order to tease the fundamentalists. [A bunch of self-righteous bullies who deserved every bit of the tweaking – SEH]
So, I was surprised to find Sid at Sarah William’s mother’s house in Bel Air when George and I arrived that Friday. Sid had flown up to San Jose with Nick earlier that afternoon. Nick had tried to convince Rachel that he wanted to spend another week, but as we were fast learning, as soon as we suggested something, Rachel was going to insist on doing the opposite. So, when I told Rachel that it was fine by us if Nick stayed, she insisted that he be on the next plane to San Jose. Sid went with him because it had been too late to arrange for Nick to fly by himself with the airline. I figured Sid would just go out wherever when he was up in the Bay Area or when he got home.
There he was, however, playing piano with Frank playing guitar. Mary Phelps had her teeth gritted and was glaring at me, and that’s when I realized Sid and Frank were playing Vatican Rag. It’s a funny tune, but not exactly respectful, which meant that Sid was in one of his moods, and Frank even more so. Frank only played the song to bug Mary and her cohort, which you’d think they would have figured out.
“I think I want to go home,” I hissed at George, setting down my dish of Conchetta’s truly wonderful chiles rellenos on the buffet table.
“Just ignore them,” George said with a chuckle. “That’s what you always tell Dan to do.”
I sighed. He had me there.
I went back into the living room where Frank was belting out the final refrain. Sid looked up as his fingers danced like lightning over the keyboard and grinned at me. The applause as the two finished was both tepid at one end of the room and enthused by the group around the piano. The latter group included Jesse, Kathy, Esther and, oddly enough, Sarah’s mother.
“Hey, Frank, do you know Sad Lisa?” Sid asked.
“I do believe so,” said Frank.
I tried not to groan.
“Turns out it’s one of Lisa’s favorites,” Sid said.
“Then play it, we must,” Frank said in his Yoda voice. He is quite the Star Wars fan.
Frank sang as Sid played. It was beautifully done, but I felt an odd shudder ripple through my body, what my mama would call someone walking on my grave.
I turned away and focused on chatting until the song ended and Dan led us in an overly long grace. Sid, Frank, and Esther were muttering along and chuckling. They were probably making fun of Dan’s long-windedness. Part of me wished I could join them and part of me was glad I’d stayed where I was. George slid up and put his arm around my shoulders.
“Honey, don’t let him get to you,” George whispered.
“He’s not,” I said.
George laughed and kissed me full on the mouth. As we pulled apart, I noticed Sid looking at us, but he looked away before I could get a good look at his face. After everyone had eaten, Frank and Sid led the sing-along. I found myself finally relaxing. I couldn’t help watching Sid as his fingers touched the keys, gently but sure and strong. He glanced up, caught my eye and smiled.
Shortly after that, he finished a song, then turned on the bench.
“What I need is a woman,” he announced. “Any takers?”
Half were mortally offended, the other half were laughing hysterically. No one was taking him up on the offer.
“No?” Sid got up. “I didn’t think the odds were too good anyway. I’m taking off.”
As he left the living room, he was stopped by Sarah Williams, who was just going in.
“Leaving already, Sid?”
“Yes,” said Sid, his eyes glittering mischievously. “While the night is still young, I’m going to get me some.”
“Some what?” Sarah asked.
Sid goosed her on her backside and sauntered out of the house. Sarah screamed and Dan looked like he was about to commit murder. The rest of the room sat in stunned silence, except Frank and Esther. They laughed like hyenas.
“You walked into that one, Sarah,” Esther gasped.
“Did she ever,” Frank managed to add.
“Quit laughing, you two,” Kathy said, failing to hide her own giggles. “She doesn’t know Sid that well.”
“She should after Carol and Dean’s wedding,” said Esther.
Carol and Dean pressed their lips together in disgust. They’d only heard about the incident, which had happened a couple months before. Unable to snag a date for the wedding, Esther had asked Sid on a dare. The thing is, Esther has a rather raucous sense of humor and her mind is almost as filthy as Sid’s. She blames it on all the engineers she hangs around.
Anyway, Sid went and, at the reception, the two were seated next to Sarah and Dan, who had only been married a few weeks at that point. Sid and Esther spent the entire party trying to one up each other with dirty double entendres, and Sid made indecent proposals to both mothers and all of the bridesmaids. Esther said it was the most fun she’d ever had at a wedding.
I shuddered and tried to put the memory out of my mind. I was surprised at how easy it was to convince George to take me home early, although I shouldn’t have been. When we got home, I was going to send him on his way, but he just kissed me and asked to come in.
“Okay,” I said, reeling from another of his kisses. “But just for a little bit. I’m really tired, George.”
Which was the actual truth, for a change. I didn’t have to follow anybody until Monday.
We sat down on the couch in the living room and George told me to close my eyes.
“Why?” I asked.
“Just close them and hold out your hands,” he said.
I did and felt him slip a ring onto my left ring finger.
“Oh, George!” My eyes flew open.
It was a simple diamond cut into a circle, and it was huge.
“Oh, George,” I said again. “I’m going to be scared to wear this.”
“That’s okay.” He patted my hand. “You deserve it.”
“It fits, too.”
“It does?” George looked surprised and elated. “I was just guessing. I’m so glad. I thought I was going to have to bring it back.”
“No. It’s perfectly beautiful.”
“Not as beautiful as you are, Lisa. I love you so much.”
We kissed again, then George yawned loudly.
“I guess I’m not the only tired one,” I said, giggling.
“It’s okay,” he said, sliding backward until his head was propped up by the arm of the couch. “I guess I am kind of sleepy. I was up all night in my studio.”
George had a darkroom and studio in one of the buildings his family owned, which was in downtown Los Angeles. He mostly kept it for Jesse, so that Jesse could do portrait sittings, and to keep an eye on the building because the area it was in was supposed to be getting redeveloped soon. I had never been there, and at that moment, it struck me as a little odd that I hadn’t.
“There’s been some weird stuff going on in the alley,” George continued. “Jesse says he thought he saw a kidnapping going on a couple months ago. There were a whole bunch of men and a guy in handcuffs. So, we’ve been taking turns watching.”
“Really?” I asked. “What have you seen?”
“Well…” He gave me a funny look, then laughed and pulled me down next to him. “Nothing for you to worry about.”
“And maybe not you, either,” I said, snuggling next to him. “You two didn’t necessarily see what you thought you did.”
“I know what I’m doing, Lisa.” George squeezed my shoulders.
I didn’t say anything but snuggled a little closer. I couldn’t tell him that I probably knew better than he did how to handle what he’d seen in that alley.
A few minutes later, George started softly snoring. I slid out from underneath his arms and he slid down all the way onto the seat and rolled over to face the back of the couch. So, I covered him up with an afghan we kept inside one of the end tables, then went off to bed in my own room.
I couldn’t help wondering if Sid would jump to the wrong conclusion when he saw George. But Sid never found out that George had stayed the night. George left around seven the next morning, and I know because the silent alarm on the front door went off. I went to check it and saw George heading down the driveway to the street below us. Sid hadn’t come in, either. His BMW was gone from the garage and the alarm readout didn’t show him coming in.
It wasn’t unusual for Sid to stay overnight somewhere, so I really didn’t think anything of it. Besides, he was on tailing duty that Saturday, so while I had figured he would, at least, call, it wasn’t any big deal that he hadn’t. I spent the day getting some sewing done and went out that night with George.
Sunday, Sid still hadn’t called, but there wasn’t much I could do. I went to mass with George, then out to brunch, then he talked me into spending the rest of the day with his family at his parents’ place in Malibu. Well, it was only fair. I’d dragged him out to visit my family the week before. Unfortunately, it was not much fun. George had three older sisters, only one of whom was married at the time, and she and her husband had no interest in children. All three sisters and the one brother-in-law were there, and Mrs. Hernandez spent all afternoon complaining that she didn’t have any grandchildren. Most of her remarks were aimed at her daughters, but I was targeted just often enough to get that I would be expected to produce as soon as was decently possible after the wedding.
It did not make for a comfortable ride home. George was bubbling over, talking about how wonderful it would be when we had our own little ones.
“I think we should have six, don’t you?” he asked.
“We don’t necessarily get to decide,” I said, hedging.
Truth be told, I was not planning on using traditional birth control, but I’d heard about some interesting options called natural family planning. Even then, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to have children, never mind that my sister wasn’t having any problems that way. My mother had had a lot of trouble, not only getting pregnant, but carrying babies to term. After I’d been born two months premature, she’d had a couple other pregnancies which she’d miscarried, and her doctor and her priest finally convinced her that the birth control pill would be a lesser sin than potentially killing herself with another pregnancy.
“Well, I hope we have six,” George said.
“Then you get to take care of them,” I snapped. It had been a wretched afternoon, and I was trying not to worry about Sid.
“Of course, I’ll help.” George grinned, obviously very proud of how modern he was.
“If we have six kids, you’ll do more than help. That’s a lot to handle even if I wasn’t going to work. And I fully intend to keep my job.”
“You don’t need to.”
I sighed. “I want to.”
“But what if I don’t want you to?”
“Well, George, you may just have to get used to it. I want to keep working.”
“Lisa, I’m not worried about Sid. I want you to stay friends with him. But I’ve got enough money to keep us comfortable. You don’t need to work. And you and Sid can still be friends.”
“Even if Sid weren’t around, I’d still want to work.” I glared out the passenger window of George’s car. “I like working. As much as I love Mae’s kids, if I had to do what she does, I’d go nuts. I know. I’ve had to do it once or twice. I’m not that maternal.”
“It’ll be different when it’s our own kids.”
He looked at me, a worried frown on his face. “Don’t you want kids?”
“Yes.” I paused because it suddenly hit me that I wasn’t all that sure that I did. “But I also want to do my job. I’m good at it and I love doing it. Asking me to stop would be like me asking you to quit doing your photography.”
“You wouldn’t do that. I have to do something.”
“Well, so do I.”
“We’ll have kids to take care of.” He reached over and held my hand. “Trust me, Lisa. It’s going to be wonderful. We’re going to have a beautiful life. You’ll see. I love you so much, Lisa.”
“I love you, too, George.”
“Hey, we’re here.” George pulled into the driveway at Sid’s house. “Tell you what? We’re both tired. Let’s give this a rest and we’ll talk again later, okay?”
I nodded. “Okay. I’m going to head on in and go right to bed.” I got out of the car. “See you tomorrow.”
George looked a little forlorn as I went up the walk to the house and I felt guilty and really mixed up. On one hand, I hated that it didn’t seem as though he heard a word I said about what I wanted. On the other, I really hated that he seemed so disappointed in me. As I went inside, I reminded myself that these sorts of bumps in the road were normal for relationships and that I had gotten Sid to communicate with me. I’d eventually get through to George.
Then I forgot about George when I realized that Sid still wasn’t home and he hadn’t left a message on the answering machine. I shouldn’t have, but I checked the alarm readout and he hadn’t been home, either. It was still the weekend, so he could have been at an extended party. I went to bed thinking that I was telling myself a lot of things I didn’t really believe.