Chapter Eight: Pecan Pie

Every time I shut my eyes, the bus gave a lurch and started up again. But each time we started, we stopped all over again to let someone else climb on. The bus was really crowded, and it was hot. Noisy too. A bunch of Hawaiian ladies were all talking away, fanning themselves with paper fans. You could see how much they were sweating, yet for some reason the heat didn't seem to bother them.

I was sweating a lot too. It was a hot afternoon, and I was dressed up in my best suit and tie. My only suit and tie, really. Here I was, just a few weeks out of the Marine Corps and already I was practically broke! No matter how I tried, I couldn't seem to find a job in Honolulu. It didn't help that I was a haole, a stranger from the mainland. Maybe it was because I was an ex-Marine. Or a blonde. Or maybe it was because I was gay . . .

My eyes jerked open as the bus lurched to another stop. Ever since I kissed Walter that night I'd been confused. Was it a one-time thing? He hadn't followed up on it in any way. But maybe I was just kidding myself. Maybe I really was gay even if Walter wasn't. I did think about him a lot. Of course it didn't help matters that I was living with the guy . . .

Suddenly I just couldn't take sitting in the sweltering hot bus any longer. We were stuck in Kailua, and it was still a long way to Walter's huge beach house on the North Shore. But my friend Sheila's place was just a few blocks away. Before I could chicken out I hopped out and started walking.

"Jamie!" Sheila's wrinkled face lit up like a Christmas tree. But then she got a good look at me. "Baby, you look exhausted. What have you been doing all day?"

"Nothing, I just . . . I was looking for work at a couple of places in Honolulu. The bus was broiling!" I stepped inside, already pulling off my necktie. Sheila's place was cool and air-conditioned, which is one reason I wanted to stop by.

"Well, I wish I could let you relax in the guest room, but the plumbers have it taped up. Come wash up in the kitchen, then you can lie down in the living room till dinner is ready."

Sheila wasn't kidding, the place was still a mess. Having the pipes give out was what got me kicked out in the first place, and that led to my moving in with Walter. Sheila let me wash up in the kitchen sink, since the downstairs bathroom was still a mess.

"Can I help with dinner?" I asked, drying my face with a dish towel. I was feeling much better now, cooler and a bit sleepy.

"Hell no, beautiful. You can't. Get the hell out of my kitchen!" Sheila swatted me on the backside, which was funny because it reminded me of Walter somehow. Watching him smack that sweaty waitress on the fanny, that was it. Funny how thinking about that now got me up like flagpole.

When I stretched out on the living room couch to rest a little, I figured that in about five minutes I would get up again and go help out in the kitchen. Instead I fell asleep. I must've been out cold, too, because when the phone started ringing it took about five rings for me to answer it. Sheila let it go because she had her hands full in the kitchen.

"Hello?" I sounded like a bullfrog with a sore throat.

"Jamie? Hey there, kid! I thought you were out job hunting! Whatcha doing at Sheila's, baby doll?"

"She invited me over to dinner." I frowned, not liking the way Walter made me feel like I was goofing off and being lazy. He sounded wide awake, of course, and very cheerful. When I first heard his voice my heart started pounding, hard and fast. But I was sure that was just nerves.

"Well, since you're already parked over there, why don't you see if you can spend the night? Sid, Kirby and the boys are coming over to play poker, and you know how noisy the place gets when all the guys are here."

"I can't just invite myself to stay the night!" Now I was really mad, because Walter was expecting me to be rude to my best friend Sheila. More than that, why was he so certain I wouldn't want to play poker with the guys myself? Did he think I wasn't manly enough to hang out with his poker pals? I was really steaming now, but before I could give Walter a piece of my mind Sheila came bustling out from the kitchen.

"Walter!" Just the sound of her voice made me realize how crazy she was about the guy. Of course, Walter had helped pay for all her plumbing repairs. Sheila sat down on the sofa with a thump, her backside pushed right against my crotch. She started talking away, having a real conversation, but of course I could only hear half of what was being said. "What's that? Yes, of course. Don't even worry about it! There's plenty of room on the sofa. I don't see why not. He was having a lovely snooze a minute ago! All right, I will. Bye-bye!"

"What was that all about?" I growled, when Sheila finally got off the phone. I was too mad to care that I was being rude to her instead of Walter. I was even mad about the way she sat down on the couch, pinning me in position while Walter gave orders over the phone! That sounds silly, I know, but I was in such a mood.

"This is for you, baby." Sheila just laughed, and kissed her two fingertips really quickly before pressing them to my lips. "That's from Walter, and he says thanks for understanding about poker night. Come on, let's have some dinner. Sorry I've got to serve you in the kitchen! Do you like pecan pie?"

"I like apple pie," I said, rubbing my eyes. I hated feeling left out. But Sheila was a good friend. So I sat up and tried to push Walter out of my mind, at least until after dinner.

I guess sometimes pecan pie is just as good as apple pie.