This third installment of my short story, “Only Love” is partly truth (taken from my memoir Angel Hero, Murder in Hawai’i, A True Story) and partly fiction.
I don’t mention my breakup with Billy. I figure Vic the blue-eyed Adonis considers me safe because I’ve got a boyfriend. The grapevine has it that Vic runs from women who chase him, so I don’t chase. I can’t risk losing his friendship, which that has come to mean more to me than the air I breathe. Instead, I fantasize about this Prince Charming I’ve found after too many frogs, and scheme, and daydream.
I take a chance, casually mention to Vic, “There’s a movie I want to see, and Billy’s on Kauai working a construction job, and I don’t want to go alone.” Vic offers to go with me.
On a full-moon Saturday night, Vic and I double date with another fireman and his girlfriend. We meet at Vic’s “styling pad,” drink the Merlot he serves us in frosty glasses, listen to boss sounds on his old Victrola, Chuck Mangione, George Benson. Sitting beside Vic in the cold movie theater, I tremble with nervousness. He drives me home in his red Chevy pickup truck, shakes my hand, and says he had a good time.
“Me, too,” I say, although his nearness and my attraction to him had me shaking like a palm frond in a brisk trade wind the entire time.
He waves, drives away. I walk into my home alone, think, he didn’t try to kiss me, and cry, my eyes stinging. I try to convince myself I’m not his type, sniff, blow my nose. I tell myself we’re still bosom buddies, and that’s what really matters. But I don’t believe it.
During lunch with the firemen in the community room, I learn that Vic’s living with a pretty hairdresser. I tell myself Vic doesn’t know Billy and I are history, so why wouldn’t he be with someone else? Vic and I laugh, talk, swap stories about our significant others; my angry Billy, his manipulative Molly. Afraid Vic would shy away from me like a spooked horse if he knew I was single now, I am careful not to mention Billy’s absence.
Vic strides into the cold alarm room. His energy warms me. The instrument panels blink red, blue, green, yellow. I blink away tears. “Billy again?” Vic’s normally buoyant voice sounds flat.
I sniffle, nod, swivel in my red secretarial chair to face Vic, tell him about a fight Billy and I had, don’t mention it happened before Billy split. “Billy yells, ‘Damn haoles ripped off my people!’ I say, ‘I feel your pain.’ He screams, ‘No way can you understand!’ I shut up.”
“Why not tell Billy how that makes you feel?” Vic pulls a straight-back chair close to me. “Pussyfooting around ain’t no good way to live.” He points at his broad chest. “Take me now. I got no problem speaking my mind. Take Molly. I poured a can of oil on the hood of her car.”
“Really?” I tremble. I fear angry men. But I trust Vic, and force my lips to speak the question sitting on the tip of my mind, “What horrible thing did she do to deserve such harsh treatment?”
Vic raises an eyebrow. “Borrowed a hundred bucks, said she’ll give it back on payday. Payday rolls around. I say, ‘Where’s the green?’ She says, ‘You make more money than me. What’s a hundred bucks?’ I say, ‘Enough to cover what I’ll do to your car if you don’t pay me back.’ She laughs. ‘You’ll get over it.’”
“Wow. I wonder why Molly thought you’d roll over if she worked you like that.”
He frowns. “She pissed me off.”
“She ought to apologize, promise not to break a promise again.” I think, I would never do something like that to a man I loved.
He nods. “Yep, that’s what she ought to do. That’s what you’d do. Am I right, Liz? Apologize if you did wrong?”
I nod, flattered. “Still, I’m surprised at you, that you’d do such a thing.”
“Yeah?” He rubs his chin, looks embarrassed.
I am surprised, delighted. Vic listens to me!
Vic pauses, thinks about it, purses his lips, says, “You’re right. It was beneath me to do that. And not fair to Molly. But she lied, tried to take advantage of me.”
“That was wrong of her.”
Happiness rises in me like fizzy champagne. Vic hears me! Billy didn’t hear me. Oh, it feels so good to be heard. Maybe my dream will come true.
But Vic’s with Molly.