As Ross gazed at the tousled blond hair of his bedmate and felt her warmth beside him, it seemed the world was indeed improving in leaps and bounds he could not have imagined just a few days ago. The apparently worst event of his life—getting burned out of his abode—had catapulted him into the best event, happening upon an intoxicatingly volatile beauty who invited him to share her sofa and then her bed. And just maybe, he mused with increased pulse, maybe her life.
Grateful that he'd awakened before Alexia, Ross slipped from beneath her comforter and silently crept to the guest bathroom. Keenly cognizant that he was not his best upon awakening, Ross took a quick shower, shaved, and brushed the port-wine residue from his teeth. Donning his embroidered red and gold Chinese robe, he went to the kitchen in high spirits and greeted Hanover with an enthusiasm he hadn't bestowed on any pet since Andromeda the parrot had passed from life.
Carefully brewing two cups of strong but not too strong coffee, he searched through the cabinets until he found a tray and two plain-white coffee mugs emblazoned with a red Chinese New Year motif.
Placing the coffees on the tray with an oval dish of sugar and two small silver spoons, he entered his hostess/lover's darkened bedroom, set the tray on her nightstand and then gently closed the door to exclude all light but the dim slivers which seeped through the royal blue curtains.
Unable to restrain himself, he lightly stroked her hair, and she stirred ever so slightly. Extending his touch to her exposed cheek, he slipped his hands beneath the comforter and traced a long, slowly kneaded line from her shoulders to her ankles. She murmured approval, and did not protest when he shed his smoke-scented Chinese robe and crept into bed beside her.
While the freshly brewed coffee lost its heat, the bed sheets' temperature rose, and by the time Ross remembered the coffee it had long returned to room temperature.
There is a certain special strand of domestic bliss reserved for those who have lived alone who awaken to a thoughtfully sweet soul, and this strand ran through all four inhabitants of the first two floors of the Green Street house. Alexia felt it after she returned to bed from the bathroom and lay there in relaxed satiation, listening to the microwave beep as Ross warmed the coffee he'd made her. It was a small but signal joy, she mused, to hear someone else in her kitchen, someone who had made coffee for her that morning, entirely unbidden.
As Ross carried the tray into the bedroom—after asking his radiantly rumpled bedmate her morning beverage preferences, he'd warmed a small pitcher of soy milk and placed it beside the two steaming mugs of coffee—he too felt this unique ribbon of happiness brighten his whole being. It was beyond imagining: a tawny-haired beauty awaiting his small gift of coffee with eyes melting in gratitude.
Setting the tray down, he apologized that the coffee was reheated, and the two shared a wry recognition of just why it had been left to cool. It did not take much telepathy for each to sense that they'd passed through the first, and tightest, wormhole in any budding relationship: the morning after.
If the first powerful rush of curiosity and excitement had been fully consumed by the initial exploration of the other, then whatever hopes either had entertained for an enduring match were reduced to ashes. Despite the best feelings and sensitivities of the individuals, there was no way to rekindle curiosity and excitement of that order.
If, on the other hand, the pair found the spark of wonder and curiosity about their bedmate not just alive but burning with a quiet new intensity, then each emerged from the wormhole to dew-strewn vistas which beckoned with a tingling promise of hope.
Painfully alert to the possibility that Ross's attentiveness of the previous evening would vanish the morning after she'd given freely of herself, Alexia was profoundly moved to sense not the embers of guilty obligation and a visible desire to exit with a minimum of grace, but a sincere desire to please her, and perhaps reassure her.
Ross's fear centered on the possibility that Alexia, once deprived of the port's warm glow, would recoil from him in the harsh light of dawn. Even with his morning toiletries completed, he feared his true self would be a harsh disappointment to such an attractive woman. Thus he'd hoped to awaken her tenderer emotions before doubt had awakened to banish the evening's enchantment. In this he'd succeeded, it seemed, for her gratitude for the coffee exceeded the act's symbolic value.
Recalling the unmistakable sounds of passion in Robin's studio the previous night, Ross sighed and thought, Poor Kylie; I really hate to be the one to tell her that the guy she has moon-eyes for already has a lover. But given Robin's intervention on his behalf, Ross could not quite cast him as a hopeless cad; unless he'd lied to her, or raised her hopes falsely, then he might not be in the wrong at all. Nonetheless, Kylie would be heartbroken.
In a peculiar parallel, Kylie was at that moment lying contentedly beside Robin downstairs, musing on her own glad fortune and Ross's misfortunes.
Noting the cloud which passed over his wondrously radiant bedmate's expression, Robin asked solicitously, "Is something wrong?"
Kylie said quietly, "No, I was just thinking about poor Ross, all alone upstairs." Issuing a sigh which melded into a feline stretch, Kylie added, "He is just too eccentric to ever attract anyone. It's sad."
"Yes, it is," agreed Robin. "We've both been lonely, so we know how it feels."
"I also feel guilty that I haven't called him."
Robin kissed her bare shoulder and murmured, "It might be better to let him settle in alone for the weekend. You can call him on Monday."
Sitting up in his own stretch, he added, "What he really needs is to find a permanent place to live. But that can wait for next week."
The object of their pity, meanwhile, was pondering not the travails of finding a new affordable room but the extravagant fantasy that he might be allowed, nay, even invited, to stay exactly where he was at the moment: in Alexia's bedroom. Naturally circumspect about his own poverty and lack of prospects, he plied Alexia with questions which he reckoned were polite but not quite nosy: how long she'd lived on Green Street, when she'd begun fancying antique dolls, and the like.
It was downright spooky that so many of her predilections paralleled those of the she-devil GreenDollGal: antique dolls, classic film posters and a vast assortment of shoes.
The truly bizarre thought that perhaps his bedmate was GreenDollGal's twin sister came to him, for Ross had read that twins could be so similar that they buy identical coats, even though each could not possibly know of the other's purchase. Kylie had provided no description of GreenDollGal except the passing reference to her outsized sexual appetite, and Ross had dismissed this titillating intelligence as purely shoe-based speculation by his enthusiastic but not entirely reliable amateur detective.
If there was some karmic lesson in these odd parallels, Ross could not discern it; but it seemed yet more proof that there was great wisdom in withholding judgment based on superficial observations.
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