Night Watch

Short Story by Rob Mohr

women

 

With shock, John realized he had fallen in love with two women. “How could this happen?” he thought. Rebecca was due in a few minutes - worried he realized that he had no memory of what he had told Carla. I know I wrote it down somewhere. ‘Where is my pad? Did I scribble the information on scrap paper in the stack on my desk? Damn, I can never find anything. What did I tell her? Impossible - what if they both showed up?’

John headed for his sun room where, through the double french doors, he would be able to see the mountains beyond, and more important, the road leading up to his house. Outside, clouds shattered, settled into white clumps of sadness, while echoes of the thunder that had been intense an hour ago filled the space around him. He sought solitude, a moment of quiet, where he could sort through his dilemma-riddled reality. But darkness, and absence, gripped his mind and left him unable to reflect.  John’s tension dissipated as he slowed his breathing.

He considered the soft grey walls, the glare off the crystal glass, the soft curve of the mountains worn down by millions of years under eroding winds and endless rains. Images of Carla invaded his mind. He saw her as she had been several days before, seated in his leather lounge chair, one arm carefully placed across the frame, her white face tilted toward him, eyes dark, reflective and inquisitive, black hair stunning against the grey wall. He had felt overwhelmed by her presence.

“What are you up to now?” he had asked.  “Painting, every day,” she had answered.

An image of her standing in a paint splattered smock heightened his awareness of her studied intellect which had emerged in every aspect of their conversation. Independent, she occupied her own space. Under a calm surface she exuded wildness - a cat’s calm, purring presence, waiting for the right moment to jump. Just then she had looked at him with an intensity he had not experienced with other women. He knew that this woman would be important in his life. She, in turn, was drawn to him by his detailed, yet open, creative understanding of pre-Columbian peoples and their rich layered cultures. He was for her a proven scholar.

In contrast Rebecca, with a head full of unruly curls, was last seen one arm wrapped around her head, laid back on the Moroccan cushions that lined the soft felt of his dark grey couch. Her long tie-dyed skirt which flowed over the curve of her thigh, and patterned blouse, melded with the pillows. She and the couch had become one - a source of comfort, a dream image for times past, a budding hope for the future. Rebecca was comfortable, no surprises, without the tension or the imminent air of surprise that surrounds Carla.

Images of both women floated in and out as his mind drifted through a blue mood, introspective visions, and emerging futures. He breathed as if the air had become precious nectar that would awaken and renew his mind, a source of atmospheric electricity that would enable thought.  John, in that moment, without awareness of the time, fell asleep.                                                         

************

A persistent bell broke through the web of sleep. John jumped to his feet and headed for the door.

“Rebecca, God, right on time. Come in. How are you?” His nervousness was apparent.

“Were you asleep? You look as if you expected someone else.” She tossed her deep red shawl over his jade green chair. The effect was stunning.

“Well, asleep, but just for a moment.”

“What’s for supper? You said you were going to cook … I’m starved.”

Would you like a drink while I get started?”

“Love one. You remember - a gin and tonic with a twist of lemon.”

Just then the doorbell rang with and unexpected urgency.  “Is someone else coming?” asked Rebecca, curious. “I’ll get the door.”

John, a stricken look on his face, called out, “No, I’ll get it.” But he could see that Rebecca was already at the door. In the next moment the two women stood face to face.

“Is John here?” asked the tall elegant woman, who as she spoke, walked through the door into the living room. “Oh, there you are,” she quipped as she smiled at the startled pair.

“Carla, welcome, this is my friend Rebecca.” He watched as Carla studied the other woman who had walked over by the window for added effect.

“Interesting. A meal for three, is it?” Carla’s question carried a subtle hint of her amusement.

“Yes, wonderful ... I knew you two would enjoy each other. Carla would you like a drink?” He looked into Carla’s open gaze. Her eyes had the same intensity he had remembered from earlier.

“Yes, dear John, single malt, neat with two cubes of ice.” Thankful for the reprieve, John ducked into the kitchen. “I will get the dinner started,” he called back.

Both women, now with a drink in hand, began to study the other. Carla, her curiosity peaked, began to analyze Rebecca, aware of her sensuality with a suggestion of an experienced Jewish mother, which seemed to rationalize John’s interest in her. Not bad, she thought. And Rebecca, intrigued by the apparent delicacy and intelligence Carla radiated, considered just how she should interact with this new challenge. Clearly John had not intended this chance meeting.

“Rebecca, how long have you known John?”

“Several years now. We spend a lot of time together.” Not satisfied with her answer she rephrased, “we have had a steady relationship.”

Carla was quiet, reflective, while analyzing Rebecca’s words.

“And you, Carla, have you known him long?”

“No, just a few weeks. But I enjoy his company.” She turned slightly to reveal the curve of her body.

The chill in the room dissipated when the two women, now animated, began to exchange life experiences.

John stuck his head out the kitchen door and asked, “You ladies need another drink. The salad is made and the steaks ready to go on the fire.”

“No, we’re fine,” the women chimed in unison.

John relaxed, began to hum as he worked, until he heard a chorus of laughter followed by the distinct click of the front door being closed. He realized that no matter what happened from here on out, the course of his future had been forever changed.

 

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