Chapter Ten

We made our way back into the cabin, walking slowly. Laurie kept his arm around my waist, and I kind of liked that. I would have thought it would be awkward, but it felt... natural. Inside we showered (in separate bathrooms. The showers in the cabin were barely large enough to accommodate one person, let alone throw a mini orgy). Then, freshly scrubbed, I decided to show my appreciation in a tangible way--I started frying bacon for him. Hey, anyone who thinks that's nothing special has never done it. Popping fat? I think it's at least as worthy of credit as braving thorns to pick roses.

Lawrence announced his arrival in the kitchen with a deep sniff. "You give me sex, then feed me. If I'd come down to find a beer waiting on the table I would have known that you were a Stepford wife."

I turned a strip of bacon. "Beer you can do yourself. I have nothing against anyone else drinking it, as long as it doesn't make them obnoxious, but it's nasty stuff. A waste of perfectly good grain that could otherwise have been made into bread or cookies."

He got a bottle out of the refrigerator, opened it, and took a swig, then lifted the bottle toward me. "See, this is an omen of how well we'd do together. I wouldn't have to worry about you pouring out my last beer, or drinking it yourself."

"You got that right. How about making yourself useful? See if you can find a sharp knife and slice some tomatoes."

He was doing that when I heard the vehicles turning in downstairs. I looked at him, saying, "Look, Laurie..."

"You don't have to say it." He cut another slice. "I don't say anything unless you say something."

"Modern gentleman."

There was a babble of voices downstairs, several of the raised in irritation. I caught, "Damn it, Charlie, my toes...!" There was a pounding on the stairs, then the sound of the front door banging open. I finished lifting the bacon out onto paper towels, then turned off the flame and pushed the pan to the back of the stove as footsteps rapidly approached. Charlie entered the room just as I turned back around. His eyes rapidly ping-ponged several times between me and Lawrence. I said brightly. "Laurie and I are having BLTs, but if you want bacon you're gonna have to fry it yourself. Otherwise there's plenty of ham and cheese, and..." Charlie had stalked right up to me. Now he stood a couple of inches away, leaning toward me, gazing intently into my face. Son of a bitch. The narf is trying to tell if I've been deflowered by LOOKING at me. I thought that went out in the forties, if not the Victorian era. I held the fork in a manner never approved by Emily Post and lifted it between us, saying calmly, "Charlie, step back or I introduce you to the concept of personal space through behavior modification."

Well, Charlie was dense in some areas, but he wasn't a total fool--at least not where his own hide was concerned. He stepped back as most of the other guests came into the kitchen. He pointed at me and said, half triumphantly and half accusingly, "You got laid!" I smiled at him. Doubt crept into his tone. "Didn't you?"

I picked up a damp rag and started wiping down the stove. "You know, if you leave grease too long on your appliances it'll set up to something akin to rubber cement."

He looked over at Lawrence. "Did you?"

Lawrence looked at me. "Do you want your bread plain, or toasted?"

The other guests were looking curious, too, but they were mostly being amused by Charlie's frustration. The photographer didn't quite stamp his feet, but he came close. Then Charlie's face lit up in an 'aha!' expression. He pointed at Lawrence. "You did! You changed your pants!"

Uh-oh, I thought.

Lawrence, though, was a trooper. He immediately, but casually, said, "Of course I did. I got drenched running out to the truck."

"That won't cut it," said Charlie. "You'd have just let them air dry... wouldn't you? I would." He looked at the others. "Wouldn't you?"

"I was wearing blue jeans," Lawrence added.

"Oh, well," said Philip, "That makes a difference. No one wants to sit around in clammy denim, and they'd take FOREVER to dry in this humidity."

"All right, I'll give you that," Charlie admitted, "But you DID run out to the truck. You left the movie early, and alone. If you didn't come back here to jump her bones, why would you do that? And don't try to say that you had an overwhelming need to pee, but had developed a sudden phobia about public restrooms."

"What an imagination," I drawled. "Charlie, maybe you should spread your talent from the visual to the literary, 'cause you're sounding like you could manage some fiction"
Charlie was looking stubborn. "What other reason could there possibly be for him leaving and sneaking back here?"

"Maybe the movie sucked," suggested Melinda.

Charlie shot her a glare, then said, "And besides, look at them. They both look smug."

"Maybe that's because they've managed to screw with your mind without having to expend any effort." Conner shook hands with Lawrence, then me. "Well done. No house party like this is complete without at least one 'did they, or didn't they?' situation. On a personal note--if you did, congratulations. If you didn't--you're both stupider than I thought you are."

Isaac said, "Personally I'd like to say that Belinda and I are kicking ourselves for not offering you two our vacation money for ringside seats."

Charlie looked at me sharply. "Would you have accepted?"

I smiled at him sweetly, patted his cheek, and cooed, "Theoretically? I don't know, Charlie. As my Mama says, you never know what you'd do till you're actually in a situation."

"Mustard or mayo?" asked Lawrence.

"For God's sake, don't make me choose," I called back.

"Anything for you."

"A-ha!" said Charlie.

"Maybe I'm just trying to get into her pants," said Lawrence.

"I hate you two," growled Charlie.

Boz (who was eating a box of Goobers--and I will resist making a comparison here because that would be too easy, and not worthy of me) nudged Charlie with his elbow. "C'mon, Charl. You told me that you could sniff out an active female anywhere, any time. You're my role model, so prove that you deserve my respect and slavish admiration."

"Shut up."

Lawrence walked over, coming up behind Charles. "Charlie? You're in my way, man."

Charlie scooted aside, then watched avidly as Lawrence moved closer to me. I leaned back a little, resting my butt on the edge of the counter, trusting Laurie to keep the game going. He leaned toward me, smiling. Charlie went, "There! There! He's looking at her with lust."

Lawrence reached past me and picked up the plate of bacon, lifting it toward his face and taking a deep sniff. "Ooh, damn. Don't worry, Scribe. I won't drool on it. Now, come over to the table and let them who wants it get to the stove. I'll make the sandwiches."

"There you go, Charlie," said Melinda. "The natural male lust for processed pork products. I don't feel like standing over a stove, so I think I can deal with ham and cheese."

I sat down and watched as Lawrence started to build the sandwiches. I sensed someone moving up behind me, and I was pretty sure I knew who it was. The chance to look prescient if I was right outweighed the risk of looking foolish if I was wrong, so I said, "So help me, Charlie, if you smell me I'm going to write an article proving that historically photographers have been known to have the tiniest dicks in creation." He moved around me to sit sulkily on my other side. "Besides, all you would have smelled was bacon, anyway."

Soon the table was crammed with people sitting elbow to elbow. Now, I don't know what it is--maybe bacon puts me in a good mood. Then again, tomatoes used to be known as 'love apples'. Or it could be the fact that Lawrence was talking to Conner, eating his sandwich with one hand, and stroking my knee with the other. Or maybe it was the fact that Phil offered me his original cast soundtrack and signed theater program for Sweeney Todd if I'd tell them, "Did you, or didn't you?"

"Here's a hint." In any case I finished my sandwich, reached over and took the last small bite of Lawrence's lunch out of his hand and set it on his plate, then stood up. I stepped behind Laurence chair grabbed the back, and jerked hard. I managed to shift him a few inches back without rupturing anything. It was enough room for me to slither around and sit on his lap. Then I put my arms around his neck and kissed him for all I was worth. There was an eruption of applause and cheers, and I could here Charlie yelling, "I knew it! I knew it!"

"Nope," I said, standing up. "You suspected it. I guess now I can look forward to you leaving me alone for the rest of the week."

"Why would you think that?" he asked, sounding honestly confused.

"Oh, for heaven's--"

"Charlie," said Lawrence. "You don't honestly want me to have to get territorial on your ass, do you? I'd rather not. Some women are turned on by that, but I have a feeling that Scribe would just kind of roll her eyes about macho bullshit."

"You know me better than I thought," I said. "However if he actually grabs anything, you have not only my permission, but my encouragement to kick his ass up between his shoulder blades."

"You're a cruel woman," said Charlie plaintively.

"Then develop your latent maschocism and enjoy it."

Belinda giggled. "I like the way she thinks."

"So," said Dan. He made twiddling motions between me and Lawrence. "Are you two TOGETHER-together?" Lawrence and I looked at each other, and he raised his eyebrows. "Oh, don't look innocent. You both know what I mean. Is this just a brief, passionate fling, or is it the beginning of a bee-yoo-tee-ful romance? Are you going to move in together? Register your china pattern? Get married? Have kids? Any combination of the previous? Go steady?"

"I knew I should have kept my mouth shut," I grumbled.

Lawrence pinched my butt. "But I like it when you soul kiss."

I pointed at him. "A little smart ass is appreciated, but don't make me regret this. As for you, Dan--think Doris Day."

"What the hell does that mean?" asked Boz. Most of the others were looking confused, too.

Philip sighed. "Oh, you poor benighted straight people. Dan? Duet time." They both started singing together, "Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see. Que sera, seraaaa..."

"Oh," said Boz, "That blond chick. She was kinda hot, but wasn't she always trying to sleep with that gay guy?"

"Oh, my God," said Phil. "The child actually played attention. Yes, Rock Hudson was in several movies with her, and he was gay. Died of AIDS, poor lamb."

"Really? I don't remember that. I just remember him listening to her on the party line and faking a Texas accent, then making her believe he was gay so she could try to cure him."

Phil and Dan both groaned. "Yeah, that movie called for too much suspension of disbelief. I always thought that the Doris character was too smart to believe that crap about 'all he needs to turn straight is a roll in the sack with a good woman.'" Philip got up, grabbed my face, and gave me a smacking kiss. "Phil! You put your lips on woman lips! What gives?"

"You actually get it about homosexuality not being curable. If I ever decide to be bisexual, I'm going to have to fight Lawrence for you."

I kissed him back, and Charlie threw up his hands. "Even the gay guy is getting more action from her than I am. I give up."

"And if I could believe that, Charlie," I said, "I might be able to really relax."