I need to thank my editing team, PapaKilo14, Hal, Pixel the Cat, GeorgeAnderson and OldDave1951. You guys are the best in the business and keep me from making stupid mistakes. Harddaysknight is my mentor and gives me critical advice. SBrooks103x also gave me a prepost read and helped with the writing. I love you guys.
She was at one of those standup tables when I saw her, eating hot wings. I had just pulled out my chair at a single. There were only three singles in the place. Most of the tables were quads, and three of them were standup. She was by herself, and my eyes just slid over her without even registering what I was seeing. Then I did a double take. She was gorgeous!
She had long red hair, that sort of flaming orange you see sometimes. She had on a tight skirt and top that showed off all her advantages, and she had plenty of advantages. Some loser wandered over and tried to strike up a conversation with her. I saw her give him the brush-off. She was gorgeous! She was also lethal and deceptive, and she would break your heart. I knew because I’d been married to her for five years. Her name was Ripley, she worked for a huge radio station as their star attraction and I hoped she wouldn’t see me.
I ordered my pizza. The Cellar had a wood-fired pizza oven and they made good hot wings, too. I got a basket of the wings, a good dark beer and I was enjoying them, watching the Razorbacks play basketball on one of the big screens. I sensed danger, and when I looked around, there she was.
“Hello, Kaine,” she said. “Mind if I pull up a chair?” Her voice was everything I remembered, low, husky, sounding like she was giving you oral sex just by talking to you. It was good whiskey, a Dominican cigar and Nat King Cole on the stereo.
“Yeah, I kind of do, Ripley,” I said. “I’m trying to enjoy a good meal here.”
“Tough,” she said. “What’s it been, three years? How many times have I tried to call you? How many times have I showed up at your house, camped out at your office, tried to talk to you?”
“Way too many,” I told her. “I don’t have anything to say to you, Ripley. Why don’t you just leave me alone? If you try to sit down here, I’m leaving. They’ll stick you with the check.”
She threw back her head and laughed. It was a low, thrilling sound and at one time, it would have sent a jolt through me like nothing else in the universe. Now, it just made me sad. “I don’t mind that,” she said. “I think my credit card can stand it.” It could, too. She was probably making more than I was.
“You’re not stupid; you know I want nothing to do with you. What do you want, Ripley?” I asked her.
“I want to talk to you, find out how you’re doing, tell you what I’m up to, ask how Kelly and Sam are doing, how Atlas is getting along and tell you some things. What would it hurt? Am I that ugly that you can’t stand the sight of me? Are you still that mad at me? Do you still hate me that much?”
“Why?” I asked. “Why do you give a damn about Mom and Dad, or my dog? I’m not interested in what you’re doing. We’re not friends, Ripley. I’m sure you aren’t interested in my life and I damn sure am not interested in hearing anything you have to say. Leave me alone, Ripley, or I’ll tell the manager you’re stalking me.”
She cocked her head to one side and raised one eyebrow in that gesture I knew so well. She sighed. “Okay, Kaine. Have it your way. I guess I’ll just have to break out the big guns. Don’t move, now.” She went back to her table and I saw her get her phone out of her purse. She took the purse and went to the restroom.
I had no idea what the big guns were, and absolutely no interest in finding out. My pizza came and I told the guy to put it in a box, I was leaving. I followed him up to the counter, paid and left. Jesus, another evening shot to hell. I went home and took my pizza out by the pool. I put “Rubber Soul” on and got a few beers, throwing them in the cooler with some ice. I was enjoying the hell out of the pizza, leaning back on the lounge chair, listening to the Beatles when I heard the gate close. I have a wooden privacy fence and the gate has a spring on it to make sure Atlas doesn’t get out. I opened my eyes and groaned. It was her. What the hell was with this woman? Of course, she knew where I lived. She kept track of that. Then I realized something: she wasn’t alone.
There was a little shadow behind her. It had a mop of curly black hair about a foot long, fair skin, like Ripley’s, very blue eyes, and she was the most beautiful little girl I had ever seen. She seemed very, very shy. She tried to avoid letting me look directly at her by hiding behind Ripley. When Ripley stopped in front of me, the little shadow went around on the other side of her and held her hand. Ripley knelt down beside me and gently led the little shadow forward so that I could see her. Her eyes were looking at the ground and Ripley slowly tilted her little chin up with one finger so that our eyes met.
“Kaine, I’d like for you to meet Makenna,” she said. “Makenna, this is Kaine.”
I really had no idea what to say, so I stuck out my hand. What an idiot! Little girls don’t shake hands. This one did. She put her tiny little chubby hand in mine. I could see the baby dimples on the backs of her knuckles. “Hello, Kaine,” she said.
“Hello, Makenna,” I said. Brilliant, right? I’ve never known what to say to kids. Most areas of conversation that you would have with adults are just closed. “So, where do you work?” I asked her. She giggled. Now that was worth dying for. I wanted her to do it again.
“I don’t work, silly,” she said. She had the cutest little voice imaginable. It was low and sort of breathy, just a little bit hoarse sounding. I thought she was going to sound a lot like Ripley when she grew up. “I’m too little to work.”
“How old are you?” I asked. She held up three of those perfect little fingers. “Three, huh,” I said. “Wow, that’s a perfect age. You’re a very beautiful little girl, did you know that?”
She blinked those impossibly huge blue eyes. “Yes, I know,” she said. We both laughed. I looked up at Ripley.
She was watching us with the oddest expression on her face. “This is the big gun,” she said.
“What in the he ... what are you talking about, Ripley?” I asked.
“Look at her,” she said. “See her.”
I looked. She was gorgeous. I still had no idea what Ripley was talking about. She spoke. “Kaine, can I go swimming in your pool?”
“Um, sure, Makenna,” I said. “Right now?”
She nodded. “Your dress would get wet, honey,” Ripley said.
“Take it off?” Makenna suggested hopefully.
Ripley glanced at me. What the hell? I shrugged. “Okay, honey,” she said. “I’ll just stay here and talk to Kaine.”
Shit, now I was stuck. “Makenna, see that black three painted on the side of the pool?” I asked.
She looked. “What’s a three?” she asked.
I took one of those chubby little hands and traced the number in the palm. “It looks like that.”
She nodded. “Yes. I see it.”
“Don’t go past there,” I said.
“Okay,” she said. “Why?”
“It’s too deep for you past there,” I told her. She nodded again, kicked off her shoes, pulled her little white dress over her head and handed it to Ripley.
“Hold this, Mamma,” she said. She ran giggling to the steps in her panties and was splashing away in seconds. I was frozen. She had called Ripley “Mamma.”
When I could think again, Ripley was easing herself down into the chaise next to mine, one of my beers in one hand and a slice of my pizza in the other. “What the hell are you doing?” I said.
“Do you like her?” she asked. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she? She’s very sweet, too. I know you’re going to love her, Kaine.”
I sputtered for a minute. “Yes, she’s gorgeous. Mamma? She’s yours, Ripley? When did this happen?”
“Well, three years ago, obviously,” she laughed. “Yes, she’s mine, Kaine. She can be yours, too, if you’re interested.”
My brain was very stupid. “What’s that supposed to mean? What’s going on here, Ripley? Why did you bring her over here? Why are you here? You left me, remember? You needed to ‘find yourself.’ Why can’t you leave me alone?”
She laughed again. “Which one of those do you want me to answer first? How about this: I brought her here so she could meet her father. I’ve been trying to do that for three years, but you’re too big a coward to face me so I could introduce you. If you hadn’t run away at The Cellar, you’d have seen Kelly drop her off.”
I was going into panic mode. “Her father? I’m not ... what the ... fuck you, Ripley. I’m not a coward; can’t you get it through your head I don’t want to be around you? I think it’s time for you to leave.”
“I’m not leaving,” she said. “You’ll have to call the police to get rid of me. Do you really want to get rid of her?” She nodded in the direction of the pool. “You are her father, Kaine. Look at her; can’t you feel it?”
.... There is more of this story ...