The turn of events has made me uncomfortable and I am eager to change the subject. I don't want to get into ideological arguments with Lewis right now, particularly in light of his rather fragile mental state. I reach into the bag and pull out the tube of cream.
"This is medicine," I hold it out to him. "For your neck and leg."
He does not take it. He cocks his head to the side, looking down at me from lowered lashes.
"Back in my day, you didn't have to do no doctoring yourself if someone else was around to help."
He wants me to apply it.
Perhaps he just wants attention. Some caring and affection. God knows he's had very little of that these last few months.
"Fine," I say, trying to sound irritated. He didn't have to know that the prospect of rubbing something into his skin sent shivers of giddy gumballs down my spine.
I flop down next to him, instantly aware of his overpowering scent. God, how can someone so dirty smell so good? I open the tube of cream, hoping that my fingers aren't trembling.
"Come closer," I command. "Turn so I can get at your neck."
Having his face so close to mine is highly disconcerting. I tear my eyes away from the process of wandering down the slopes of his broad, high cheekbones and landing in the plump softness of his full lips. I am so close that I can see the slight razor rash on the side of his massive jaw. There is a dash of freckles on his nose and more trailing down the side of his neck.
My fingers reach out to the red marks on his broad throat. The moment of contact has me feeling somewhat dizzy. I rub in a circular motion, up and down gently as he holds perfectly still. His eyes are on me as I trace over the slight bulge of his Adam's apple, trying desperately to keep an expression on my face that resembles deepest concentration.
"There," I say demonstratively. "Now your leg."
He props it up on the couch, similar to the way I'd done on the chair.
Whatever you do, do NOT look at his crotch.
"Roll up your pants, please."
He does as told and I see his calf for the first time clearly. It is long and slender, finely muscled, covered in a light dust of dark hair. His feet are smaller, like his hands, probably not much larger than my own, with a broad, fine arch and nicely shaped toes. I notice how veins seem to bulge from his feet, much like they do on his hands.
Good. Keep your eyes on his leg.
His pants seemed filthy, spotted with stains, their low, deep pockets protruding from the side of the legs. I can't help myself. I stare. Down… there.
"Um, Lewis – do you have something in your pocket?" I start applying the cream to the wound on his leg with my fingertips. He winces slightly, but recovers quickly.
"Uh, yeah. I almost forgot 'bout that."
He reaches into the side of his pants, wriggling in a way that makes it hard for me to add more cream and pulls out a filthy handkerchief. I remember how Arleen had told me that Victorian gentlemen were usually very concerned about how their "linen"; i.e. handkerchiefs, shirts, socks, and collars appeared – especially in front of a lady. Lewis rather self consciously unfolds the soiled kerchief to reveal a small object.
"What is that?" I ask, applying the last touches to his leg.
He is staring at it, drifting off as he gingerly touches it with his hand.
"A pin cushion," he says in a small voice. "To sew my clothes if they git broken."
I remember Arleen telling me something about a pin cushion that had gone missing.
"My mama made it for me."
His voice is strange, wavering somehow.
I pat down the leg of his pants.
"There, all done. Do you need some on your wrists?"
He is transfixed with the pin cushion, continuing to stare at it.
"Oh, um no."
He is gently stroking it, deep in thought.
"Lewis, are you alright?"
He closes his hand over the cushion and thrusts it back into his pocket, turning his head away from me.
"Um, yeah. I'm fine."
Oh damn. He's trying hard not to cry. His face is all red. I can see him fight against it, clenching his jaw, concentrating with all his might on his hands.
He's remembering his mother, probably realizing that in the year 2012 she is long dead. I couldn't let him break down, not just yet. I had to do something, anything to keep him in positive spirits.
I immediately reach for the remote and turn up the volume of the TV. It is One Direction again, jumping across the screen on some far away beach.
Thank you, One Direction. Thank you!
"Look at those man-girls, Lewis!" I call to him, feigning excitement. "Aren't they just precious the way they jerk around like that?"
He is still looking away, sniffing, but I can see his eyes glimpse the screen. Before long, there is a dimple forming in his cheek and the hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth.
"Watch me," I say and jump to my feet. "Look, I can do it too!" I start to imitate the moves of the boy band, exaggerating everything to make it look even more ridiculous. Desperate times require desperate measures.
Oh god, I must look like an IDIOT.
But Lewis starts to laugh, his eyes still shining with tears.
"You don't know UH OH, that's what makes you Bea U ti FUL!" I sing in a mocking voice, sounding like a cross between a hyena and a chipmunk.
Lewis even forgets to keep his mouth closed as he laughs, revealing his mottled teeth.
He watches me jump around, gyrating and tossing my hair until the song is over and I gasp for air amidst wracking bouts of laughter.