Thanks as always to my editing team. PapaKilo14, Hal, Pixel the Cat, GeorgeAnderson and Olddave1951. Their work makes smooth reading. They make all the mistakes you never see go away. As usual, Harddaysknight gives me peer review and a critical read. SBrooks103x also gives me a pre-post read and criticism. These guys are the best. I love you all.
Author’s note: This one is a bit different. I had approached GeorgeAnderson about coauthoring a story with me after he contributed heavily to “Catch of a Lifetime.” I had an idea for a story and a good start. We agreed on a division of labor and I’m as happy with it as anything I’ve ever written. I am very grateful to George for doing this with me. I always wondered how that process worked. He was off the hook to work with and a first class writer in his own right. I hope you enjoy. Randi.
Co-author’s note: Randi Black is widely known as one of the most talented and respected writers on the site. To be on her team and have my name mentioned on her stories is a tremendous honor. So, when she asked if I would coauthor a story with her, I jumped at the chance. I don’t know if we actually figured out how the process works, we sort of made it up as we went along, but I’m very happy with the result. Working with her has been an amazing experience: Randi is as gracious and kind as she is talented, which is saying a lot. Coauthoring has been a blast, and I hope we can do it again sometime. Meanwhile, enjoy “Hate at First Sight.”
Do you believe in hate at first sight? If you believe in love at first sight, can the opposite also happen? I hated Talbot McCoy the first time I saw him. It wasn’t that he was ugly or weird, quite the contrary. He was tall, well built, and I would discover, very smart, too. He had tons of curly dark hair, a face off a fashion magazine and all the other kids at school loved him. I hated him.
My name is Livingston Brookes. Don’t call me Livy, either. I hate that name. I seem to start out here hating a lot of things. I’m really not like that. Just as many people loved me as loved Talbot. I’m a bit like him in a lot of ways. I’m tall, athletic and smarter than he is. The biggest difference between us is that I’m black and he’s white. That doesn’t matter to me. There were only nine black kids in our high school and I didn’t care for most of them. A white family adopted me when I was little and I love my parents. I just point that out as a matter of fact, not to indicate that I hated him because he was white.
I moved to the school I was attending between my sophomore and junior years. I was number one in my class at my old school. When I got to the new school, I was number two. You guessed it; Talbot was number one. What pissed me off was that he never worked at it. He took blow off classes and aced them. It didn’t hurt that all the teachers loved him. Hell, my mom and dad loved him. My mom was a science teacher and my dad was the football coach and taught health and PE.
I took dual credit, college and high school, classes and I worked my butt off to get those grades. Talbot played defensive end on Dad’s football team and he was all state three years in a row. I played volleyball and ran track. Talbot did track, too, but he threw discus. I was out there running my ass off trying to break the school record in the 400 meters. He would be leaning against the fence. He’d push off every now and again, go throw three or four times and then hold that fence up again for a while. What made it so infuriating was that he won state our junior and senior years. So did I, but I busted my ass and he goofed off.
By taking those weighted classes, I passed him in the class rankings. He never seemed to mind. He was always happy and cheerful. He talked to me every day. I had him third hour in art three my junior year, and when I walked in the first day he introduced himself and hugged me. He hugged me every day for two years. It wasn’t special; he hugged everyone. He’d be going down the hall and everyone he hadn’t seen yet that day would stop for one of those hugs until he’d be late for class. The teachers never counted him tardy.
We had the same conditioning class first hour our senior year. He was ten minutes late on the days he bothered to show up at all. Dad taught that class and he never counted him tardy or absent. When I told Dad I wanted to sleep in and miss his class, I got this lecture about responsibility and being the best I could be. When I mentioned Talbot, he got this huge silly grin on his face. “Talbot is just special,” he said.
“What about me?” I asked. “I’m your daughter! Aren’t I special?”
He snatched me up and squeezed me until I could hardly breathe. “Of course you are, Honey. You’re my baby girl. Your butt is getting fat, though, so you need the conditioning.”
Beating on him with my fists didn’t faze him a bit. He just spanked me on my fat butt and kissed me. My butt isn’t really fat. Phat, maybe, but not fat. I have one of those sprinter butts and guys can’t keep their eyes off it. It’s hard and round and I work on it a lot. Dad knows that and he loves to tease me about it.
Our senior year, I decided to run for student council president. Guess who was running against me? I was eating lunch, and Talbot came and sat down beside me.
He hugged me, of course. “Livy,” he said. “I don’t want to run against you.” Of course, he would call me that. “I know you’ll beat me. You’re the class president and more people like you than like me. Do you want to be both things?”
I thought about it. “No, I don’t really have time to be both. Talbot, how many times have I told you not to call me Livy?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I always forget. I just call people nicknames. Think about this. You decide which one you want. If you want to be student council president, I’ll drop out and run for class president. If you want to be class president, you drop out and run for that.”
I wanted both just to rub his nose in it, but I’m not stupid. I doubted more people liked me than him anyway. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll drop out of the class president race. You take that.”
He hugged me again. “Good choice,” he said. “You’ll be a better student council president than me anyway.”
“Stop that,” I told him. “Why do you always do that? We aren’t friends, Talbot. Stop being so nice to me, and stop hugging me!”
I’d told him that a thousand times and he never paid the slightest attention to me. He just laughed. “I’m wearing you down,” he said. “Someday you’ll admit that you’re in love with me.”
He talked to me all the rest of lunch hour and the next morning he actually showed up for conditioning. The first thing he did was hug me. He was infuriating.
When we graduated, we both made speeches and he actually thanked me for pushing him to be better. He said I had been a wonderful inspiration to him because of my work ethic and he admired me. It nearly made me puke.
We wound up at the same university and he made it a point to talk to me every day. It was the same old hugging routine, and people actually thought he was my boyfriend. No one would ask me out because they thought I was with Talbot. Since we were on the track team together, he made it a point to sit by me on the buses or airplanes and it seemed like I couldn’t get away from him. He was such a nice guy that I couldn’t be mean enough to him to drive him away, and it just got worse and worse. I had thought that high school was bad enough, but college was even worse.
People would invite me to parties by asking if Talbot and I were doing anything Friday. I would tell them I had no idea what Talbot was doing, but I’d be happy to come to the party. They would look at me as if I was weird and ask me if we had broken up. It just wasn’t worth it to straighten them out. He would even ask me things like, “Hey, Calvin asked if we were going to the lake with them, are we?”
I got so sick of it that I stopped going anywhere. My roommate thought something was wrong with me. “Are you sick, Livingston?” she asked me one evening.
“No, I’m fine!” I shot at her. “Leave me the hell alone.”
“Jesus, girlfriend, I was just asking,” she said. “I’m worried about you.”
“I’m sorry, Allie, I didn’t mean to snap at you,” I said.
“You need to relax,” she said. “There’s a party at the Wilsons’. Let’s go.”
I grumbled around a while, but she dragged me off to the party. I actually had a good time and there was no sign of Talbot. I smoked a couple of joints (it’s legal here) and had way too much to drink. The next thing I knew, I was away from the lights, fighting off two douche bags from the baseball team who were trying to get me naked.
“Come on, baby, you know you want it,” one of them kept telling me. I managed to get one leg free and I made a mess of his nuts with my knee. He screeched like a banshee and that pissed the other one off. He slapped the shit out of me and my head was spinning. I heard a kind of roar, and when I could see straight, I saw Talbot, mounted on top of the one that hit me, and he was turning the asshole’s face into mush.
“I’m going to kill you, you motherfucker,” he was screaming over and over. “You hit her, you son-of-a-bitch! No one touches Livy!” He was driving one fist after another into the guy’s face.
I was scared to death and I ran over and tackled Talbot off the guy. “Please, Talbot,” I begged. “Don’t kill him! Don’t hit him anymore. Take me home, please, Talbot!”
He had kind of a wild look in his eyes that faded when he saw who it was. Of course, he jumped up and hugged me. He tilted my face up so he could look at it.
“Are you okay, Livy? I saw that asshole hit you. I just got here and I didn’t know you were coming.”
“I’m okay, Talbot, just take me home. Stop calling me ‘Livy’,” I begged.
He had ridden his motorcycle, and I had to make him stop once on the way back to my apartment so I could puke. He held my head while I heaved my guts up, and cleaned me up with his handkerchief. I mean, who carries a handkerchief these days?
I don’t remember going into the apartment or getting in bed. I woke up the next morning and my mouth felt like rats had taken up residence in it. There was a trio of blacksmiths banging away on anvils inside my head and I felt like fried shit. I could smell bacon and Talbot stuck his head in.
“Hi, Livy,” he was all smiles. “Get that cute little black ass out of bed and come and eat breakfast.”
I moaned. “Talbot, you are the bane of my existence. What are you doing here?” I didn’t wait for an answer. I needed to puke! I jumped out of bed and made a run for the stool. I shrieked when I realized I was in my bra and panties and they were really small panties. I made my offering to the porcelain gods, and there was Talbot with a cool wet washcloth, cleaning me up.
“Damn, Livy,” he said. “You were really messed up. I’ve never seen you like that before.” He picked me up and carried me like a baby back to bed. I was too weak and too sick to protest. He covered me up and went away. I just laid there and suffered. He came back with a bottle of water and four ibuprofens. I was very glad to have them. I drank the whole bottle of water, took the pills, and collapsed back on the bed.
“What are you doing here, Talbot?” I asked him again. “Did you take my clothes off? If you groped me I’m going to kill you.”
He grinned. “I was afraid to leave you. You were messed up bad, Livy. Your clothes had puke on them, so I took them off and put you in bed. I kept checking on you. I didn’t grope you, but I wanted to. You’re pretty gropable. I’m bringing you your breakfast.”
I didn’t want breakfast; I just wanted to die in peace, preferably, somewhere far away from him.
He brought back a plate with scrambled eggs and bacon on it, and a glass of milk. I didn’t want it, but he fed the eggs to me, anyway. By the time I finished them, I was feeling better and I ate the bacon, too. It was salty and I was very thirsty, so I drank the milk.
“Why did you go to that party without me?” he asked. “You know I would have taken you, and I wouldn’t have allowed you to get that high.”
“Jesus Christ, Talbot!” I exploded. “Why do you do this to me? You know I don’t like you. You’re not my boyfriend! Why can’t you just leave me alone?”
He looked very hurt and I was instantly sorry. I wasn’t about to tell him that.
“That’s something I’ve never been able to figure out, Livy,” he said. “Why don’t you like me? You’re as sweet as an angel. You love everyone. You’re even nice to me and I bug you all the time. Why don’t you like me?”
“For one thing, you insist on calling me Livy and you know I hate it,” I yelled.
He grinned. “I just do it to pull your chain,” he said.
“Well, it pisses me off,” I told him. “You’re just too perfect, Talbot. Everything about you is just perfect and that pisses me off, too. You just slide along; you never put any effort into anything and everything you touch turns to gold. You just affect me like nails on a chalkboard. Why won’t you leave me alone?”
“Too perfect?” Talbot sort of snorted. “Does it help if I brush my hair backwards?” He ran a hand through his mop of curls. It made no difference whatsoever.
“Nope, that doesn’t change a thing. You’re still too perfect.”
“You’re the one who’s perfect, Livy ... I mean, Livingston. Have you looked at yourself lately? Well, maybe not this morning, but how about yesterday? You’re the sweetest person I know, at least when you’re not around me, and the smartest. Don’t you get it yet? I’m trying to keep up with you!”
I looked at him, expecting to have my headache made even worse by his blinding smile. Instead, he was looking at me seriously, puzzled and a little exasperated. Maybe if I pushed him now, he really would leave me alone.
“Go tell it to the Marines, Talbot,” I snorted. “I have to work damned hard for every grade I get, and for the shape this body is in. I have to work hardest of all to be nice enough to you to keep up my sweet reputation. You just sit there, not having to work at a thing. You were born perfect, Talbot, you live perfect, and you’ll die perfect, and you do it all without even breaking a sweat. Worst of all, now I owe you for last night. You make me sick.”
“No, that was the booze you put away last night,” he grinned.
“Don’t try to be funny, Talbot. This isn’t the time.”
“Okay, then. If you hate me so much, why do you talk about me as if I were Jesus?”
My mouth fell open. I couldn’t say a word. “Because He’s the only one I’ve ever heard of who’s that perfect. You don’t hate Him, do you?” I still couldn’t speak, so I just shook my head.
“Then why do you hate me? Would you like me better if I treated you like those two assholes did last night, so I wouldn’t be perfect anymore? I don’t think you really want a guy to bash you over the head with a club and drag you back to his cave, and I’m not really made like that, but if that’s what you want, I’ll try. Would that make me less perfect? Or, would that make me even more perfect? I’ve tried doing one thing to be less perfect, like calling you Livy, and that doesn’t work either, because you still think I’m perfect. How can I be perfect if I call you by a name you hate? Am I trying too hard not to be perfect and ending up being perfect? Does perfect mean what I think it means?” He heaved an exasperated sigh and ran a hand through his hair. It didn’t make any difference; it was still perfect.
“You do realize, don’t you, that all of this is total nonsense, and now you have me doing it, too?” He looked as if he’d just been told the sun would rise in the west tomorrow, and he just couldn’t handle it, and was asking me to make it all better.
Okay, I did feel just a little bit sorry for him just then. It was probably my weakened condition, and the fact that I did owe him for last night. Don’t get me wrong, though, I still hated him.
“Talbot, I know it doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make sense to me, so I don’t know why it would to you. You know what Mark Twain said: ‘We don’t reason where we feel, we just feel.’ All I know is, every time I’m around you, I just want to scream and run the other way. You make me angrier than anyone or anything else I know. I don’t know why, and I’ve never felt that way about anyone else in my life.” He got that hurt look again.
“I know that isn’t what you wanted to hear, but it’s true. For some reason, you’re just ... like nails on a chalkboard to me. So thank you for last night, but please, Talbot, please just leave me alone.”
He got serious. “I can’t, Livingston.”
“Why the hell not?” I asked.
He smiled and those white teeth flashed. “Because I love you,” he said.
My mouth fell open and I just sat there dumbfounded. I shook my head. I couldn’t have heard that right. “What did you just say?” I asked.
“I said, I love you,” he repeated.
“Jesus H. Christ!” I blew up. “Of all the stupid things anyone has ever said to me...” I didn’t get a chance to finish because he was kissing me. I was totally mortified, indignant and pissed off beyond belief. I struggled to get away but he was way stronger than me.
My lips felt like they were being bruised and he smelled really nice. I could feel the muscles flexing in his arms and shoulders beneath my fingers. That big mop of curly hair was fascinating and I just had to tangle my fingers in it. My heart was pounding and I felt his hand on the bare skin of my belly. I needed to gasp but he had my mouth. I panted a little through my nose and his fingers trailed fire up to my right breast. For some reason, my nipple was as hard as a little pebble and he pinched it, rolling it between his fingers. I reacted, involuntarily arching my back so he would take the whole mound into his hand while he played with the nipple. He pushed my bra up over it and suddenly he shifted until he could take the other nipple between his lips. He scraped it gently with his teeth and it made me groan. My pussy flooded and I was losing control.
“No,” I said. “Stop Talbot. Stop it!” I was insistent and he stopped and looked up at me.
“You don’t like it?” he asked.
“Yes, I do, and that’s the problem,” I told him. “I’m not doing this with you, Talbot. Put my bra back down.”
He did and then he took me in his arms and just held me, his fingers tracing up and down the bare skin of my back, giving me goosebumps.
“Thank you for what you did last night,” I told him. “What did you mean, ‘Nobody touches Livy’?”
He blushed. “I should have said Livingston,” he apologized.
“That’s not what I was talking about,” I said. “Why can’t anyone touch me?”
“You didn’t want them to,” he said. “You were fighting them. You messed Alex up pretty bad. He’s in the hospital having his nuts treated.” He chuckled. “You’re quite a tiger, Livy.” He was immediately contrite. “I meant Livingston. Why do you have a boy’s name?”
“That’s what my parents named me,” I said. “Do you envision yourself as my guardian angel, Talbot?”
“I’m not going to let anyone hurt you or make you do anything you don’t want to,” he said. “If you hadn’t been fighting them I wouldn’t have interfered. It would have broken my heart, but I’d have just walked away.”
I kissed his lips, just a quick peck. “Thank you for looking out for me,” I said.
“I want to do way more than that,” he looked into my eyes.
“I can’t imagine why,” I said. “I’ve never been anything more than civil to you, Talbot. I’ve never given you the slightest hint that I thought you were anything but an asshole.”
He laughed. “I know. Do you know that you’re the only girl I ever wanted that couldn’t stand the sight of me? I’ve never been turned down for a date unless the girl was already involved and I didn’t know it. I’ve loved you from the first day you moved here and you’ve never given me anything but, ‘drop dead, asshole.’ I’ve never been an asshole to you, though.”
“I know, it’s just me,” I said. “I know you’re a great guy, Talbot. Half the girls here get wet panties every time you walk by. Why don’t you go after one of them?”
“Because I’m in love with this fantastic little black girl,” he said. “She has this hair that looks like mine except it’s about a foot longer, these huge eyes that just drown me every time I look in them, the most luscious lips imaginable, the most incredibly firm tits I’ve ever seen, an ass that makes me weak in the knees and legs that are just spectacular.”
“Please, spare my blushes,” I told him. “It’s me, remember? I look in the mirror every day.”
“That’s what I love most about you,” he said. “You have no idea how incredibly hot you are.”
I snorted. “Thanks for the flattery,” I said. “Now, I want you to go home, Talbot. I’m going to sleep for about 24 hours. When I wake up, we’re going to forget all about these two days. Thing are going to go back to the way they were before. No, they’re not. You’re going to stop tormenting me. I don’t mind seeing you around a couple of times a week, but you get on my nerves any more than that. Do you understand?”
He grinned. “Sorry, no can do. I’m going to remember everything. I’m going to remember exactly how those little chocolate nipples taste and how firm your ass is under my fingers. I’m going to remember everything. And, I’m going to see you every day. I love you and I can’t stay away.”
“I’m going to tell the campus police you’re stalking me,” I told him.
“Okay,” he said. “Do you think they’ll arrest me?”
“I don’t want them to arrest you, I just want you to leave me alone,” I told him.
He didn’t and I didn’t tell the police. I transferred at semester. I told the coach I had a problem with my boyfriend and I couldn’t attend that school anymore. He released me from my commitment, and I didn’t have to sit out a year for track. I got an even better scholarship, and I absolutely forbade Dad and Mom from telling anyone where I was.
My life gradually reached some semblance of sanity. I went on dates like normal girls, I went to parties, and I went to school. I didn’t go home for six years. Dad and Mom came to see me and I missed the hell out of them. After I graduated, I was accepted into law school at SMU. I passed the bar and got a job offer back in Portland. I was a criminal defense attorney. I’d done internships in the prosecutor’s office in Ft. Worth and Dallas and I hated everything about it and everyone that worked there. What kind of people persecute others for a living? Yes, I said persecute. They were corrupt, self-aggrandizing, politically upwardly-mobile, full of self-importance and did I mention corrupt? I heard that at law school before I took the internships. The only people that went into prosecution were would-be politicians and the incompetent, people that couldn’t make it in private practice.
No, I wanted to make sure people that were on the wrong side of the political spectrum got a fair shake. They wanted me bad at my firm, and they gave me a pretty sweet deal. My first case was defending a teacher accused of molesting the little girls in his second grade class. Some fat ugly skank in social services got carried away. Her methods were outlandish and she coerced tales out of those kids that were impossible. I mean, they were anatomically impossible. There was not a shred of physical evidence. It all rested on the testimony of second grade children. We got independent experts to examine the children and they all confessed that they made the stories up to keep the skank off their case. As long as they made her happy, she left them alone. If they tried to tell the truth, she threatened them.
When I showed up in court, who do you think the assistant District Attorney was? It was none other than Talbot McCoy. My instincts were right. No wonder I hated him. He called all his witnesses, played ridiculous videos and put the skank on the stand.
In the meantime, the good man, the dedicated teacher who had spent a year in jail, lost his wife, been denied the right to see his kids and had his life ruined, sat by me and sobbed. I took the skank apart. She was blubbering on the stand about being molested by a teacher when she was six, and repressed memories, by the time I got through with her. A jury of 12 of his peers declared him not guilty after two hours. Talbot came over to congratulate me after the show was over and, of course, the first thing he did was hug me.
“God, you look good, Livingston,” he said. “Where have you been? I looked everywhere for you. Your parents wouldn’t tell me where you were. Did you know I’m volunteering for your Dad as an assistant coach? Damn, I’ve missed you. Would you like to go to dinner and catch up?”
“No, Talbot, I wouldn’t,” I said. “You have the nerve to come over here and ask me to have dinner with you after what you just tried to do to my client? The man was obviously not guilty and you and that fat bitch tried to railroad him.”
He looked like his feelings were hurt. “I don’t get to pick my cases,” he said. “If the DA gives me a case, I have to make the best of it. I’m just doing my job, Livingston.”
“Well, your job sucks,” I told him. “Do you realize you just gave me the same excuse the Nazi prison guards gave for slaughtering people? Don’t speak to me outside professional bounds again. You need a new job, Talbot. Are you thinking about running for office?” I could tell by the embarrassed look on his face that he was. I was disgusted. “Jesus Christ, Talbot, what happened to you?” I walked away and left him standing there.
The next day we filed suit against the county, social services and the skank. They were very sorry and offered to settle. My client wanted it to all just go away. I didn’t think that was in his best interests. I wanted the skank’s license pulled, her public humiliation, a wrongful imprisonment against the county, a malicious prosecution against social services and the DA’s office and a huge cash settlement. They amended their offer several times. Finally my client took it against my advice. I got him everything but the DA’s office.
Three weeks later, I went to dinner at Mom’s and Talbot was sitting at the table when I walked in. I started out the door and Mom ran after me. She threw herself on me and begged me to stay. “I’m sorry, baby,” she was crying. “Your father and I love Talbot. He told us he had something he needed to say to you and you blocked his calls and refused to speak to him. I’ll make him leave if you want me to. We’ll never see him again. I’ll make your father fire him. Don’t shut us out, honey, please.”
I held her tightly. “That will never happen, Mom. I owe you my life. You took me in off the streets and I’ll love you and Dad forever. I just ... he makes me crazy, Mom. I think he is crazy. What could he possibly have to say to me?”
“I don’t know, honey. He wouldn’t say.” She hugged me and wiped the tears that were running down her cheeks. “Maybe you should just let him have his say. I’ll make him leave right after dinner.”
I kissed her on both eyes. My lips were wet with her tears and I kissed her lips. “Don’t cry, Mom. I’m sorry I made you cry. Don’t break my heart.”
She held me very tightly. “It’s your Dad and me that owe you everything,” she said. “You know we couldn’t have children. Then we got you and our lives were complete. You made us happy, Livingston. You’re my heart.”
We were both crying now, and it took us a minute to compose ourselves. Dad came looking for us and found us leaning against my car and blubbering. He came and held us and we straightened ourselves and went in. Talbot, of course, gave me a hug, and we started eating. Conversation was all football for a while, but Talbot kept glancing at me. Finally, Mom threw up her hands.
“For heaven’s sake, Talbot, spit it out.”
He cleared his throat a time or two. “Livingston, you were right,” he said. “You were right about everything. I thought about what you said about the Nazi death camp guards. I can’t imagine what could have happened to me to cause me to make that statement. As I thought, I realized I didn’t like myself very much. At first, I was furious at you. The more I thought about it the angrier I got. Then I figured out that it wasn’t you I was angry with, it was me. I don’t know what happened to me. That was exactly what the Nazi death camp guards said, ‘I was just doing my job.’ I had a talk with your father and I quit the DA’s office three days after you said those things to me. Thank God you got that man acquitted. I don’t know how I’d live with myself if I had won that case. That’s what I wanted to tell you.”
“What about politics?’ I asked. “What are you going to do?”
“I joined the public defender’s office.” He grinned ruefully and that playful boy that I’d always known was back. “I need some experience before I hang out my shingle. I’m going to get it right this time.”
Damn, now I was going to have to treat him decently again. “Okay, that’s good. I’m proud of you,” I told him.
“I’m sorry, Livingston. Do you forgive me?”
“You didn’t do anything to me,” I said. “It’s yourself you were killing. Yes, I forgive you.”
“Does that mean you’ll have dinner with me?” he looked hopeful.
“Jesus Christ, Talbot, give it a rest,” I told him. “I still don’t like you.”
“I can’t,” he was grinning at me.
“Wipe that stupid grin off your face,” I told him. “What the hell do you mean, ‘you can’t’?”
“I’d kind of like to know that myself,” Dad said.
“Coach, I’m in love with your daughter,” Talbot said. “I have been since we were juniors in high school. She hates me, but I can’t help it. I’m crazy about her.”
“See, Mom, I told you,” I said.
“No, I don’t see,” she retorted. “Why do you hate Talbot?”
“He annoys me,” I said. “He’s a supercilious bastard and he always has been.”
“No he’s not,” Dad said. “This has something to do with you, Liv. Are you not telling us something?”
“What is this, an inquisition?” I asked. “I’m defending myself in my own home to my own parents?”
“No, no, of course not,” Mom said. “If you don’t want to talk about it, we won’t. You men are going to leave Livingston alone.”
They knew better than to argue with Mom. We had dessert and we played party games for a couple of hours. It was a hoot and I had a good time. When I got up to go, Talbot got up, too. He walked me to my car and opened the door for me. He knelt in the door with his eyes level with mine.
“I’m not going to give up, Livy,” he said. “Have dinner with me.”
I laughed. “You’re a persistent son-of-a-bitch, Talbot. I’ll think about it. Don’t pester me, I mean it. It just pisses me off.”
“I won’t,” he promised. “You better tell me soon, though, or it will have to be McDonald’s. We Public Defenders aren’t highly compensated.”
I laughed. “I think you’re going to be just fine. You’ll hit the ground running. You’ve succeeded at everything you’ve ever done. State champ, remember?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “I’m the champ. So are you, Livy. Thanks. I’m glad you aren’t married.”
“How do you know I’m not?” I asked. His eyes fell to my hand and didn’t see a ring. I laughed. “Got you there.”
He chuckled. “Call me,” he said, and he shut the door.
I drove home and forgot about it. I was very busy for the next three weeks, and I never gave Talbot McCoy a thought. I was in a meeting with an assistant DA and she was very short with me. I asked the guy that was with me what had her panties in a bunch and he said it was probably she had heard Talbot was crazy about me and she had designs on him herself.
I texted him and told him I’d meet him for dinner if he’d let me buy. He called after ten minutes. We agreed on the place and I told him I’d meet him there.
“Christ, Livingston, give me a chance here,” he said. “Let me pick you up and take you on a date. Let me take you out for a drink and a dance afterward. I haven’t danced with you since we were prom king and queen. It didn’t kill you then, and it won’t kill you now.”
I had to laugh. “Okay, Talbot, you can pick me up.” I gave him the address and forgot about it. I didn’t forget Friday, and I was ready to go. The traditional little black dress doesn’t do that much for us dusky maidens, but a white one really makes my complexion pop. Talbot’s eyes nearly fell out of his head and he croaked something at me. It was very amusing.
“Close your mouth,” I said. “You look like a fool.”
He grinned. “I feel like a fool,” he said. “I don’t know why I do this to myself. I must be a masochist.”
“I figured that out a long time ago,” I told him. “We’re a perfect match, because I’m a sadist.”
“No, I know better than that,” he said. “You’re perfect, Livy. You’ve always been perfect.”
“Talbot!” I warned him. “If you call me Livy one more time, I’m going back in and you can go eat at McDonald’s by yourself.”
He laughed. “Sorry about that. I keep forgetting. I’ll try really hard.”
I liked his car. It was an old MG, in perfect shape and I thought it would be fun to drive. We drove about five minutes and he pulled into McDonald’s and parked. I just looked at him. It was my turn to look like a fool with my mouth open.
He burst out laughing and nearly choked. “You should see the look on your face,” he wheezed. “You really thought I was taking you to McDonald’s, didn’t you?”
The man was infuriating! “Okay, ha, ha,” I said. “Very funny, Talbot. Where are you taking me?”
“Only high class for my girl,” he said. “We’re going to Wendy’s.” That set him off again. He wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. Who has a handkerchief these days? Then, I remembered. Talbot always carried a handkerchief. That was what he had cleaned me up with that night when he rescued me when I was puking my guts out. I remembered what had happened the next morning, too.
“Talbot, did I ever thank you for rescuing me that night I got so wasted at the party?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he gave me that boyish grin. “You kissed me and let me feel you up, remember?”
I blushed furiously. Yes, black people can blush. “You asshole,” I half yelled. “You practically raped me! I’ve been traumatized ever since. Where are we eating? I’m starving!”
“Someplace with a salad bar,” he said. “Your Dad told me your butt is getting fat and you’re worried about it.”
I hated him. I hated my Dad, too. He was going to catch hell for this. “Well, you and Dad can both kiss my fat ass,” I told him. “I want fish, and pasta! Get moving.”
He took me to Joe’s, and it was very good. I was having a good time, too, in spite of being in the company of a creature I hated. He was as witty and charming as ever, smoking hot, too. Those big brown eyes, all that hair, those huge muscles and still as smart as ever.
He told me about how work at the public defender’s office was going. He was defending homeless people, drug addicts and immigrants. He thought it was very rewarding and he was feeling very good about himself. I was happy for him and very gratified that he was enjoying his position, especially since I had made it impossible for him to stay in the persecutor’s office and live with himself.
He took me to a club and we had a great time. That is, until we ran into some asshole that had a problem with us.
“What’s a fine sister like you doing with white bread here?” he asked. “Let’s you and me get out on the floor, bust some moves and LaMartin make you forget all about white boy.”
“Drop dead, Asshole,” I told him.
I turned back to Talbot. “Want to dance?” I asked him. “We haven’t danced since high school prom.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said.
“I’m talking to you, bitch.” LaMartin was still alive. I had told him to drop dead; he hadn’t listened. That was a mistake.
I stood up. “Well, since you’re such a dominant, intelligent man, how can I say no to that?” I said. “You brothers sure know how to talk to a sister and get her all hot and bothered.”
He smiled like a fool, oblivious to my sarcasm, and took me by the elbow, pulling me up against him. I used the momentum and kneed him in the balls with everything I had. My father is a football coach and I’ve been lifting weights every day since I was 12. LaMartin was going to need help. I held out my hand to Talbot and he took it with a grin. “I’ve seen that move before,” he said.
We stepped over LaMartin, and moved to the dance floor. “I don’t think we should go back to that booth,” he said, nodding in that direction. There were a couple of bouncers dragging LaMartin off, and a third one looking around, trying to spot whoever was responsible for Lamartin’s condition. I ducked my head into Talbot’s chest and giggled.
“God, you’re sexy, Liv ... Livingston,” he said. “You have the cutest giggle. I’ve always loved it. Why didn’t you knee me in the balls that morning I ‘practically raped you’?”
“I was off my game,” I grinned up at him. “I was hungover, badly, remember? Besides, you made me breakfast.”
“I’d like to make you breakfast again,” he said. “Spend the night with me and I will.”
“Are you nuts?” I couldn’t believe he said that. “Jesus Christ, Talbot, just when I was beginning to think you got it.”
He looked shocked. “Got what? What’s wrong? I just told you I’d like to have you spend the night!”
“Why would I want to spend the night with someone I can just barely tolerate?” I said. “You may have weaseled your way into Mom and Dad’s hearts, but not mine.”