"Uhh... it was nice, Mom. Mike's a sweet guy."
"But what?" I can't tell my mother that maybe Kellerman and I should just stick to sex.
"But what's the matter?"
"But nothing. It was nice. It was... just a little weird dating someone from work, that's all." Even weirder when the guy picks you up for your first date and you realize you've spent more time with him undressed than dressed. "Go to bed, Mom. I'm a little too old for you to be waiting up for me."
"Hi, Mrs. Cox. I'm here to pick up Julianna."
"Oh, you must be Mike. Come in, Julianna will be down in a minute." I follow her inside and take the proffered seat on the couch. This is just like freakin' high school. If Julianna's dad were still alive, he'd be giving me the Death Stare/Don't You Dare Be Screwing My Daughter look.
Julianna is flying down the stairs before my ass hits the couch.
"Ready?" She's wearing a dress. She owns a dress? Not the usual black pants or jeans. Julianna has great legs. Not like you've never seen them before, moron. But there's something about a woman's legs that makes them so beautiful when they're peeking out from under something. Dresses, skirts, shorts, and of course, sheets.
I'm up again and motion for Julianna to lead the way out the door. I open up the passenger side door for her and then walk around to my side. She's fidgeting with her purse.
"I'm not used to carrying one," she apologizes, noticing my gaze.
"Me, neither," is all I can offer up. I start the car and we head off.
We make a few pathetic stabs at conversation -- gossip about the guys in the office, the inevitable Scheiner Story, the fate of the Orioles -- but that's all they are. Pathetic.
I pull in. Julianna picked some psychological drama. We were kinda limited in our options. Nothing with cops in it, nothing with doctors in it, and Julianna really isn't the chick-flick type. I buy the tickets and Julianna picks up the popcorn and soda. It's a Thursday night and the theatre is mostly empty. We sit in the middle.
The movie's about a guy dating an older woman and the problems that causes. Julianna's older -- I haven't asked, but you don't finish medical school, a residency, and get enough work experience to be named Chief ME of any place bigger than Podunk and still be under 30. I don't have a problem with it if she doesn't -- women hit their sexual peak at 34, don't they?
Like it's supposed to happen, our hands meet in the popcorn bucket. And, for whatever reason, we both pull away, like we're teenagers or something. We've already humped like rabbits. I don't know why we're antsy. That's not right. I do know. We both don't want it to be just about the sex.
I don't want it to just be about the sex. Which was fantastic. I like Julianna. And not because she looks like an exotic version of Annie. She's smart, she's got a wicked sense of humor, and, for a woman who hangs around dead people all day, she's pretty good with the live ones. She can read my moods like a picture book. That, and she drinks real booze. No mudslides or fuzzy navels for my girl.
I reach over and put my arm around the back of her chair. She pauses for a moment and then decides to lean back on my arm. I don't think she's paying too much attention to the movie, either. She keeps fidgeting with the skirt of her dress, with her purse strap, with the straw in her soda.
The movie ends and we get up. I was going to suggest a walk since we're back in Fells Point -- maybe down to the Case Closed -- but it's pouring when we get out of the theatre. I tell her to stay under the marquee while I get the car and run like hell. I get to the Explorer and Julianna's right behind me. I unlock her side, help her in, and run around to mine.
We're both looking like drowned rats, so all it takes is one look at each other and we're both giggling like kids. It's the first not-tense moment we've had all night.
Julianna's bangs are plastered to her face and I move them out of the way with my fingers, rubbing my thumb against her cheekbone. She leans a little into my hand and I take that as a sign of acceptance. I take her face in my hands, lean in, and we kiss. Passionate and desperate and a little too hard, like all of our kisses, like the way we made love. Her fingers comb through my hair, pulling me closer.
I'm starting to feel a little warm and liquidy when she pulls back. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she smirks at me.
"We should get back and change into dry clothes."
"Or we can just leave them off," I smile back. Okay, I probably leered, but that was a great opening line.
"I've got to leave for Pittsburgh early in the morning," she sits back a little. "I told you, remember?"
I don't. "We can be quick," I manage not to leer this time.
"Mike, remember what I said about turning this into a normal relationship? New couples don't go to bed on the first date."
I try and hide my disappointment. I know that's what she said. That's what we both want. But we've already had sex. Great sex. I don't see why we can't incorporate that into a normal relationship. Normal couples make love, too.
Julianna's already reaching for her seatbelt, so I know the conversation is over. She looks at me, I smile and try not to look disappointed.
"Don't worry, Mike. I've been convinced to go to bed with a guy before the one-month anniversary," she's smiling at me. I really, really hope she's not planning on making us wait weeks.
"Great," I start the car and drive back to her place. We kiss for a few minutes with the car idling, and then she says goodnight.
I hope this works.
I hear Mom finishing her nightly routine and head into bed. I'm still wired, so I put some water up to boil. Dad's secret recipe for getting the chill out -- a little scotch, a little cream, a little honey, and some hot water. Tonight, I'm chilled to the bone, and it has nothing to do with having to dry off with a towel after getting in the door.
I wonder if things would be less awkward for me and Mike if we both weren't going through so much shit. He's got the arson thing -- although he's looked a little better the past few days -- and I'm still grieving. I can see Dad's chair sitting in the light coming in the window from the street lamp outside. I miss him so much, and I hate the fact that I never got to say goodbye.
Mike's close with his parents, much closer than I ever was to mine. I don't think Mike could ever leave his parents and move across the country. I picked colleges on the basis of how far away they were from Baltimore. I don't think Mike could understand my guilt, but he'd give me a big hug on general principles.
But it's not the puppy dog part of Kellerman that attracts me to him. It's the out of control part. The first time I saw him, he had this bewildered look on his face, this wild-eyed, confused, angry expression. It wasn't the doofy gaze of adoration I get from Bayliss. I don't think Mike even saw me, which is how I like it. I want to be the one who decides who is going after who.
And maybe that's why I was such a wreck tonight. Because sitting in the movie theatre in a dress and stockings, getting driven to and from and Mike opening doors for me, our roles were too defined. Guy seduces girl. I don't move like that.
I hate clingy relationships. I hate holding hands. I hate when a guy needs to walk down the street with his arm over my shoulders. I hate anything that reeks of me being marked out as some guy's possession. I want some distance, because I'm not ready to give myself up like that. And I have a hard time compromising. And I really don't think Kellerman's going to be able to deal with that.
The whiskey is starting to kick in and I'm feeling mellow enough to try and get some sleep. I'm not going to call Mike tomorrow. If he gets all mopey about it, that's his fault.