Julia reclined in the hammock on the screened in porch. She was wearing her lacy white macramé pullover with long sleeves that hung semi-loosely all the way down to the wrists. A red one-piece bathing suit completed her lazy afternoon ensemble. Her toenails, a bold crimson, were drying in the air circling down from the ceiling fan. The tips of her fingers were painted likewise, hands folded neatly across her middle.
Birds sang their lovely songs in the woods nearby. Sunshine crossed the screen on one side of the veranda, dappling the floor with yellow patches that rippled as the trees gently swayed.
She’d decided to do makeup today. By 9:30 a.m. her eyes were shaded in dark, misty colors, ringed by long black lashes, and her face blushing with subtle shades of pink and red. Such a luxury was against so many rules that her cowardly accomplice had decreed, although he hadn’t protested all that much, had he? It amused her to believe that maybe these things were inevitably her decision, that once Jason crossed a certain line he no longer had a vote in the process.
But she knew better. She was supposed to be a secret. If the secret got, out they would both suffer...her, most of all. He would hide her away like precious gold, perhaps too afraid to ever set her free again. So she didn’t push.
Still, Julia couldn’t help being such a curious girl. She liked to imagine how far she might go, if ever she decided that the secret didn’t matter anymore. When they talked, she shared these thoughts with him and saw the nervous tickle in the back of his mind. It was his weakness. For all the willpower he could muster, it was his singular desire to relinquish control over their combined fate. A part of him, she knew, wanted to see how far they could go, too.
Their one big difference was obvious: she had nothing to lose, while he had nearly everything. Could Julia even dare to compete? She'd never win.
But... she could have fun in the process.
“What would you do,” she asked him, “if a UPS driver or a meter reader walked around back here and saw us?”
Jason didn’t like to play the game sometimes. At least he didn’t like the way she played. So he ignored her, or tried to. She could tell he was getting worked up now, wondering if by some strange twist her words could come true and, poof! -- there would be old Bob the Meter Reader, exchanging shocked, arrested expressions, then taking in Julia’s desirable form lying seductively on the hammock. The secret would be out...
“It won’t happen,” he responded. “Stop it. You’re making me nervous.”
“You need to be a little nervous. You like what we do, you like the time we spend here so much, but you can’t enjoy yourself when we’re alone.”
“So if you want me to relax, why are you trying to make me nervous?”
“To get it out of your system.”
His reaction was both amused and frightened in its tone.
“Be a little more daring.”
“Any more daring than this,” he said, glancing around the veranda, the interior of which was visible from the back yard on every side, “and I’ll end up on Jerry Springer. Or worse.”
“See, that’s your problem,” Julia smiled, unimpressed. “You’re so wrapped up in you, you keep forgetting about us. You’re trying so hard to hide, you can’t really see yourself when we’re together. Why am I even here, if you’re so involved in you?”
He was silent for a moment. Then: “What do you think is the problem?”
“Well, for my money, it’s this,” she said, carefully choosing the right words. “You want me here because you think you need me. So I’m here, you are me and we are altogether, koo-koo-kachoo... Whatever. But if I’m going to be here with you, I can’t just pretend I don’t exist. It’s not healthy! I need a little recognition! Somebody has to know about me. I need identity, some love and a little flattery, just like you do when you’re not with me. Do you understand? Needing to be seen and loved and feeling like you belong somewhere? I feel guilty just being here sometimes, and that’s no way to be. We jump at creaking doors and passing cars like we’re committing some crime punishable by death, and most times I can’t stand it!”
He sighed. “Other people wouldn’t understand.”
“Somebody might. Somebody who loves you...”
“Who else better?”
He didn’t have a response.
“I don’t know if I can do this anymore then...” he said, like a broken record in her ears.
She knew his anger was just frustration, but it was hers too, and they both had a right to it. Her feelings were just as good as his.
“Maybe you should go, once and for all,” he sighed.
“Is that even up to you? You've tried before.”
“I mean it this time.”
“Fine. I’ll just go change...”
End, pt. V