The HuffPost has revolutionized journalism by taking over the news business. Is fiction next? My new novel, Seeing Red, is being serialized three times a week on the Huffington Post. Here's the latest installment of the book. (Catch up with previous chapters at "Seeing Red on the HuffPost!")
It was almost eight o'clock that night when they arrived at the Beach Rose. They signed in and climbed the narrow staircase to their tiny room in the back of the house. They peeled back the chenille coverlet off the double bed and made love on top of the blanket, before they were fully undressed. When they finally opened the bed, they made love again, in between the lavender-fragranced sheets.
They stayed up most of the night. They made love six times. Or maybe seven. Ronda lost track. About six o'clock in the morning, as the sky outside the window started to turn light grey, she sat up and told him she was starving. When they got up, she noticed that her face was chafed pink.
"I think you really ought to have a little mercy on me and shave," she said, running her fingers along the edge of his jaw. "I never saw a man grow a beard so fast."
She left the bed and stepped into the claw foot tub in the bathroom.
She closed the clear curtain around her. He pulled the curtain open slightly. He reached inside and placed two fingers on her face. "You are beautiful you know. En español, guapa."
"Guapa?" Ronda shivered. "Ooh, what an ugly word. Call me something prettier than that, will you?"
He thought for a moment. "How about bellísima?" Before she could answer, though, he stepped inside the shower and pulled her against his chest.
He cupped his hands beneath her breasts and tipped his face forward and sipped the water that pooled there. Then he ran his hands up and down her hips and cradled his fingers inside her. She leaned backward and he kissed her throat.
They made love again, lying wet on the shaggy cotton rug on the floor.
On Sunday, about one o'clock in the afternoon, they left the Beach Rose and drove to Truro to the dunes. It was warm but not too warm. The waves were calm, and the spring sunshine played on the lime green sea. The sky, as they lay side by side on a blanket in the sand, was the clear light blue of a jewel.
Neither spoke. There was nothing to say. She kept closing her eyes, seeing the way they had been an hour before, her lying on top of him. She smiled. She drifted asleep and woke up some vague time later, tasting the salt in the wind. Shifting up onto one elbow, she studied him.
His deeply set eyes. The sharp arc of his nose. His lips were slightly parted and now leaning over, she kissed them. Then she gently kissed each lid. When he still didn't respond, she placed the back of her hand against his jaw.
"Jesús?" she whispered.
"What?" he said, slowly coming out of sleep. He looked up at her, squinting, and slipped his hand beneath her sweatshirt between her breasts.
She let his hand stay there, but brought the other one, the left hand, to her mouth. On the third finger of that hand, Jesús had taken to wearing a ring. A simple gold ring on his left hand. The first time she noticed it, they were in New York, in his studio. It was March, their second rendezvous.
Two weeks had passed since they made love for the first time in Boston. She was pleased to see the ring appear, because clearly it meant something; she decided that it packaged a feeling between the two of them.
But she also insisted on teasing him. That day in March, she accused him of having a wife back in Spain. A couple of kids. She did that again now.
"Ronda," he said, letting his eyes close again. He took a long slow breath through his nose.
"How many times do I have to tell you Ronda that I am a first-class lover, as you well know, but that I am definitely not a family man?"
"I'm not looking for a family man," she said finally. "I don't need another mate. A marriage partner. It's enough for me if I have your heart." He didn't reply.
She smiled slyly.
"Oh, well. I suppose there are a few other parts I want too."
He opened his eyes and faced her. His look was unusually serious. Then he looked away, staring beyond her into the cool blue of the sky. "I just want things to be clear between us," he said, turning back to meet her eyes.
"Me too. So go ahead, make things clear."
He paused. "I love you. I want to be with you. That's it. That's everything."
"Yes, that is everything. I agree. See, we think the same way." She dropped to the blanket.
"I just can't help teasing you about that wedding ring, that's all."
"It's not a wedding ring. Don't call it that."
"Whatever." She squeezed his hand now and turned back to face the sea. She watched a wave coming into shore. She held her eyes on the wave, traced the green water as it swelled, crested, folded over, then dissolved into white foam on the sand.
"I cannot explain why, Jesús, but I keep seeing a cottage in my mind," she said a little later.
"It's a small white cottage. I think maybe it has a red tile roof. Anyway, it's painted such a bright white that when the sunlight hits it, it hurts my eyes. Out front it's got pink bougainvillea. And hot red geraniums planted in two long window boxes."
He sits straight up. His forehead is drawn into a crease. "Ronda, why would you be imagining such a thing?"
His tone is sharp and it makes her uneasy. "I...I don't know," she said. "I mean, it's just a daydream for heaven's sake. Oh God, Jesús, I'm sorry, I guess I just like to think of the two of us together. In that cottage. The two of us sharing the bedroom, which is painted a cool blue.
And there is a small kitchen with nothing but a table and two chairs and open shelves. And a living room stacked with piles of gigantic pillows. And one other room. The studio. It's lined on one side with full-length mirrors. You practice guitar on the low pine stool set in the corner facing the window. And I...well I guess I dance on the other side, the side near the line of mirrors."
He nodded but stayed silent. The crease eased into a frown. Finally he lay back down and shut his eyes tight.
"Are you all right?" she asked after a while.
"I'm fine," he said. He reached for her hand. Held it against his lips and then set it on his hip.
"Look, I'm sorry," she said after a while. "I didn't mean to, I didn't really mean anything by it. It's just a, a little fantasy of mine, that's all. I guess I like to think that there is a place where...where maybe someday we can be together."
She studied him but his eyes stayed closed. Suddenly, she could feel blood pumping through her limbs. Until this moment she had not allowed herself to think about the possibility of loss. About the chance that she could get hurt. Lose him. But now she saw how easily it could happen. Fear billowed up like wind, hovering like the grey and white seagulls coasting over the ocean.
Her eyes closed. He rolled onto his side and took her to his chest. Kissed her forehead.
"Querida. I want us to be together. You know that." He kissed her nose. His tone was back to normal. Gentle. Relaxed.
"I hope it isn't wrong of me, Jesús. I mean to daydream." She was speaking into his chest.
She smelled the cotton of his new sweatshirt, the one they had bought the night before when they ducked into a souvenir shop in Provincetown, to get out of a sudden driving rain. It was the only shirt that didn't boast gold embossed letters or anchors or lobster pots or coils of knotted rope or multi-colored fish or silvery piles of shells.
The smell of his sweatshirt was clean and comforting. And it was heavenly mixed with his citrus cologne.
"Of course it's not wrong," he said. He clasped her hands flat between his own. Clapped them together. "We've got to, both of us, we've got to dream. I mean we have the rest of our lives. And hopefully, we can find a way to spend them together."
He kissed her again. Later, though, when she thought about what he'd said, what struck her was his tone: it was sad.
She had not heard that sadness before.
READ the next installment on Thursday, February 22 2011. To catch up on previous chapters, go to Seeing Red on the Huff Post!
Follow Claudia Ricci on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RicciCJ