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The second my borrowed high-heels hit the sidewalk outside the restaurant I knew I’d made a mistake. My stomach twisted with the horror of what I’d done, how callous and selfish and unbelievably childish I’d been. I swayed on my feet and paused, secretly wanting Adam to come bursting out the door, to grab my arm and spin me about and apologize, to tell me his story and kiss me until I forgot it all.

But he didn’t.

I started walking vaguely in the direction of home but with no real destination in mind. I didn’t want to go home to the emptiness and the sound of Rhi and Adele’s voices on my machine, curious and prying. I just wanted to feel nothing for a time but the cool, spring air and the ever-present smell of the sea. My feet walked their own path and it wasn’t until I caught sight of a familiar, dirt-covered pick-up truck parked in front of a familiar bar that my mind snapped back to reality.

It was precisely what I needed: a drink and a kick in the ass. He’d give me both.

Joe sat at the end of the bar and looked for all the world just as I felt: something was wrong. I sat myself down on the empty stool beside him and he raised his head to blink furiously at me, trying to focus. If he was surprised to see me, it didn’t register on his face.

“Bad day?” I asked. It had to have been if it brought him to the city, he usually avoided it at all cost.

Joe snorted into his drink and emptied the remainder of its contents in one gulp. “Could say that. You too?”

I laughed and the coldness of it sounded alien, unlike me. “Buy a girl a drink?”

My older brother shot me a look that I couldn’t read. He eyed the short length of my dress and for a quick moment I was quite glad he couldn’t see the rest of it beneath my coat. He’d kill me for wearing it. “You meeting someone, Lil? On a date with that friend of yours?”

“Not anymore,” I said. My voice wobbled a little and Joe cocked an eyebrow. I knew what he was going to say before he said it.

“Didn’t work out, huh?”

There was more kindness in his tone than I’d been expecting. He must have had more to drink than was usual for him. He plunked his empty glass on the bar and instantly a pretty, brunette bartender appeared to clear it away. He ordered another and one for me without asking what it was I wanted. She brought the drinks with a silent swiftness I knew we both appreciated. No questions, no cheerful quips, just another round of rye and water on the rocks: Dad’s drink – Joe’s too, apparently.

“What’s your problem?” I asked, changing tack. I wasn’t ready to talk about Adam and me; besides, with Joe I could predict the entire conversation and most of it would revolve around ‘I-told-you-so’.

“Charlene dumped me.”

My head swiveled round to look at him. “I didn’t think you two were that serious. Mum gave me the impression it was just… casual.”

Joe took a slow sip of rye. “It was.”

My own swallow of rye and water went down smoothly and warmed me the entire way. “So what’s the problem?” Secretly I was glad she was gone. I didn’t like Charlene McMillan – never had. Even in high school she’d made me crazy. She wore too much make-up and was rude, loud, and too much like her mother.

Joe’s blue eyes were slightly glazed with drink when he turned them on me, but I could see a great deal in them. “It’s not that she’s gone, specifically,” he muttered. “It’s just that…” he paused and I sat on the edge of my barstool, waiting.

“Ever get the impression, Lil… that your life isn’t what you wanted it to be?”

I could feel my jaw drop. Joe chuckled a little at my expression and the noise warmed me up almost as much as the rye. “Yes, Joe. I get that impression on a daily basis. But you have the farm, isn’t that what you wanted? Dad’ll retire in a few years and then it will be yours, outright.”

He nodded. “That’s not what I meant. Yeah, I want the farm. It’s who I am. I guess what’s missing is a girl.”

“To be honest Joe, I don’t think that girl was Charlene.”

My brother laughed again. “Yeah, I know, she drove me around the bend too. It’s just that she understood where I came from, what my life’s like, what it’s always going to be like. Farming isn’t easy, and Charlene’s a farm girl, she gets that. But we were fightin’ a lot, and neither of us was happy.”

I couldn’t tell you which of us was more surprised when I reached out and patted Joe on the hand. I hadn’t voluntarily touched him in years. “You’ll find someone.”

“I’m thirty-one years old, Lilly and apart from the farm I got nothing to show for it.” Joe’s smile was sad. “I want a wife, I want kids. No woman in her right mind looks at me and thinks the same thing.”

“Why not?” I interjected, shocked.

“It’s hardly a glamorous life I live.” Joe swirled his rye in his glass before taking another drink; the was the same gesture I’d seen Dad make a million times and for a moment I could have leaned over and hugged Joe, but I didn’t. “I work 365 days a year, from halkalı escort before the sun rises ’til after it sets. There’s dirt under my nails that’ll never come out. I didn’t go to some fancy school like you or like Chuck. I don’t drive an expensive car. I don’t make a lot of money. What do I have to offer a girl except these?” He held out his hands, wide and calloused: farmer’s hands – sturdy, rough, and work-hardened. They looked like Dad’s.

“Some day, some one is going to think that that’s enough for her, Joe. More than enough.”

Joe clinked his drink against my own. “Hope you’re right, Lilly. Hope you’re right. I got a long life ahead of me, too fucking long to be alone.”

I drank to the sentiment. It seemed apt.

“Now,” Joe turned to me and gave what little of my outfit he could see from beneath my jacket another disapproving appraisal. “What say we have another one of these”, he wagged his almost empty tumbler of rye at me, “so you can tell me what your problem is, and we’ll see if we can’t sort you out.”

I nodded as Joe signaled for another round of drinks. “I don’t think we can sort this one out,” I admitted and then I told him everything I knew, almost everything that had happened, from the first second I saw Adam in the bar until the moment when I left him at the restaurant, although I left out the strictly intimate details. To his credit my brother didn’t say a word until I finished. Then he ordered two more drinks and settled back on his stool to look at me.

“Go ahead and say it,” I sighed.

Joe grinned. “Sorry, Lil. But I fucking told you so.”

“Yes, yes,” I conceded, the rye making the situation slightly more amusing than I should have found it. “You’re right, as always.”

Joe grinned. “That’s what a big brother likes to hear. Now,” his smile faded and he looked serious once more, the Joe I recognized. “What do you think you should do?”

“Me?” I sputtered, choking a little on my last sip of rye. “I have no idea what I’m going to do. I was hoping you could tell me.”

Joe shook his head. “That’s your problem Lil, always has been. You listen too much to what other people say. Mum, your friends – hell, even me. Have you ever once listened to yourself? Done something because you wanted to do it not because it was suggested to you?”

I was stunned into silence.

“That dress,” he muttered, still shaking his head. “That dress isn’t yours. Those shoes aren’t yours. The nails, the hair, the makeup. That’s not you, Lilly. I don’t know what you’re trying to prove, to yourself or to this Adam fellow, but I’d like to think I know you better than he does. This isn’t you Lilly.”

I took another numbing drink.

“Your whole life you’ve lived for other people, for their opinion of you. You live in fear of what they might say about you. The other night at the house, when I walked in on you and him – that was the first time you ever showed me any backbone. I was proud of you. Pissed off at you, but proud of you. If that’s the sort of person this Adam makes you… well, maybe you should consider that before you walk away.”

There didn’t seem to be much to say to that so I didn’t do anything but signal the bartender for another round of drinks. The two of us settled into an awkward silence. I think we both felt as if we’d said too much to each other. More words had passed between us over the course of an hour than had for more than a decade.

“You gonna call him?” Joe asked finally.

“I don’t think a phone call will fix this,” I admitted. I’d been thinking it for some time, but it felt good to say out loud. Joe nodded his agreement.

“Go back to the restaurant, Lil. Apologize at least. Even if you don’t want to see him again, you know you should apologize.”

I swiveled slightly in my stool so I could look at him. My big brother straightened his shoulders and looked back. His smile was a lot like my own, sheepish and unsure. “You’re right Joe, but that doesn’t make this any easier. If Adam’s the one with the criminal record, why do I feel like I’m the one who’s done something wrong?”

“Because you have,” Joe said with typical straightforwardness.

I coloured.

“If you want my opinion, which I’m not sure you do,” Joe smiled wryly, “you should have kept your mouth shut and let him tell you in his own time, in his own way. It’s not like you’ve been dating him for long, Lilly. You made a mistake with him tonight and even if you can’t forgive him for what he did, you gotta apologize for what you did.”

I pushed away my half-empty glass of rye. I hated when Joe was right, but this time I could at least understand that he was. “I’ll go back to the restaurant and see if he’s still there.”

Joe eyed my high-heeled feet with trepidation. “Want a ride?”

I snorted. “You’re not driving, not after all those drinks.” I pulled my apartment keys from my tiny handbag and slapped them down taksim escort on the bar. “You can stay at my place, it’s only a few more from here. You take the bed and I’ll sleep on the sofa when I get home. Promise me you won’t drive back out to the farm tonight.”

My brother nodded and fished his truck keys from his jeans pocket. He handed them to me and watched without words as I dropped them in my purse.

“Thank you,” I said softly and we both knew I meant for more than surrendering the keys to his truck.

Joe patted my arm. It was an awkward gesture but the kindness behind it brought tears to my eyes. “Go. Mend fences,” he said. “I’m gonna have another of these and then head to your place.”

“Feed the cat before you crawl into bed,” I advised. “Otherwise she won’t let you have a solid night’s sleep. Her food is in the cupboard under the sink.”

Joe smiled and said nothing. He emptied his rye with one gulp and reached for the remnants of mine.

“I am sorry about Charlene,” I said as I slipped off my barstool. The floor wobbled a little. I’d had more to drink than I thought.

“I’m not,” Joe grumbled.

I smiled at the lie. “See you when I get home.”

“Be careful,” he advised in his typical big-brotherly tone; it was slightly condescending, but I knew he meant well by it.

“Thanks for the drinks, Joe.”

“Figures you stick me with the tab,” he muttered as I turned to walk away; I laughed and his own chuckle followed me from the bar.

Adam wasn’t at the restaurant. The maitre’d eyed me with less regard than he had hours earlier and it was easy to see that he figured something had gone wrong. For my part, I just hoped I didn’t smell too much of rye. I’d had more to drink with Joe than I should have, and my walk from the bar back to La Langoustine Fâchée was considerably more wobbly than usual although the fresh air had cleared my head considerably.

“I need to talk to him,” I urged when the maitre d’ tried to turn me away. “Please. Can’t you just tell me where he lives?”

He begrudgingly gave me the address, more out of a desire to get rid of me than to help me I was certain, and I walked the few short blocks to Adam’s without taking in much of the surroundings except that it wasn’t a very nice part of town. The houses were just as old as those in my own neighbourhood, but shabbier and sort of forlorn; they still retained a little of their historic elegance beneath the peeling paint though, and everywhere was the thick, salty smell of the sea.

I’d been told Adam lived on the first floor and ‘around back’, which I took to mean the rear of the house. The walkway was dirt and gravel and I stumbled a little in the dark, trying to get my bearings. The veranda of the house at the given address was crooked and had been painted white at some point and I followed the line of the pale railing through the shadows. When I rounded the corner of the building to the back of the house Adam’s bike was parked on the small lawn and the smell of cigarette smoke wafted towards me on the breeze.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” I commented as I climbed the stairs to the rickety veranda. I leaned against the railing and tried to make Adam out in the darkness. He was seated on an old porch swing, not unlike the one my parents had on their farm, but in the dim light I could only see his feet propped up on the railing and the small, scarlet smolder of his cigarette.

“I don’t,” Adam said after a while. “I quit four years ago.”

“But now seemed like a good time to start up again?” I prompted.

He didn’t reply and I only felt worse as the silence stretched on.

“What do you want, Lilly?” he said finally, when he felt he’d made me wait long enough for things to become even more uncomfortable. There was a quick flash of his lighter as he lit another cigarette and in the sudden brilliance I could see the stony lines of his composed face.

“I ruined your beautiful dinner,” I said. It was a stupid thing to say and a blatant stating of the obvious, which I usually hate, but it was all I could think of at the moment.

“Yes,” Adam admitted coldly. “Yes, you did.”

Silence again.

“Can I sit down?” I asked after a few more minutes crawled by. My feet had begun to ache in my borrowed shoes.

“If you feel you must.”

There was enough room on the porch swing that I could sit without us touching, but I was completely aware of his physical presence nonetheless. I wanted to reach out and hold his hand, but the one nearest me was the one holding the cigarette and I had to settle for watching to progression of the lit tip travel back and forth to his mouth.

“You’re going to make yourself sick off of those,” I said, trying for levity and failing.

He shrugged and the movement of his broad shoulders made the swing sway gently. He pushed off the railing with his foot to keep the swing moving.

“Look,” I said into the darkness. “This isn’t easy for me şişli escort to do, but I think I owe you an apology.”

Adam didn’t respond and I stalled, so we swung in silence for a while.


“Don’t, Lilly,” he interrupted and I stopped, mid-thought; my mouth shut with a snap. “I just want to sit here for a while. Think you can be quiet for a little while?”

I nodded although he mustn’t have been able to see me very well in the darkness. The swing continued to swing and the two of us sat side by side in silence for countless minutes. It had to have been midnight at least and I could feel the chill of the harbour air through my thin trench coat, but I didn’t want to shiver.

“Here,” Adam said. His voice was gruff but there was the soft brush of fabric into my hands and I found myself holding what I suspected was his suit jacket and which smelled wonderfully like Adam. I shrugged myself into the fabric, bumping into Adam in the process. It was much more snug under the coat, still warm as it was from his body, and my next shiver wasn’t from the cold.

Adam snaked his arm across the back of the swing and even through the layers of fabric separating us, I could feel his hand brush my shoulder.

“Am I forgiven?” I whispered.

Adam didn’t answer, but his hand reached up to stroke my neck beneath my collar. I shivered again and settled into the crook of his arm. He didn’t push me away, which I took as a good sign.

I tilted my chin up, and by the light of the latest cigarette I could see the outline of Adam’s jaw and chin; his lips were set at a determined line, but the hardness in his features I’d seen earlier over dinner was gone.

“Are you going to do the story?” he asked in a low, quiet tone.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “It’s not my sort of story in the first place, but I wasn’t given a choice. Please believe me when I say I didn’t set out to snoop on you. It’s all just awful co-incidence.”

Adam didn’t say anything right away and for a moment I wasn’t sure he believed me, but he’d wrapped one of my escaped curls around his finger to play absentmindedly with it and the gentle touch was comforting.

“Couldn’t you tell your boss it was a conflict of interest?”

I laughed softly. “I’m a journalist Adam, not a doctor or a lawyer. I don’t think it works like that. I could refuse the assignment, but I’m not sure how my boss would react to that. Probably bump me down to writing obituaries.”

There was silence again for a while. I desperately wanted to keep talking, to hash everything out until nothing was left unsaid between us, but that was very obviously not Adam’s style of communication. It was difficult to bite my tongue. I could almost feel the itch of curiosity like it was a physical thing. Half of me wanted to question Adam until he confessed the whole sordid tale, but the other half enjoyed the feather-light brush of his fingers across my neck and was afraid he’d stop if I spoke.

It must have been the rye I’d consumed with Joe but my eyelids seemed to get heavier and heavier as each minute slipped by, so much so that I almost could have thought I imagined the first brush of Adam’s lips against my cheek.

I turned my head lazily to find Adam watching me with interest. My eyes had adjusted a little to the darkness of the porch, but I wished I could see just how green his eyes were, wished I could read what they were saying that his lips were not.

I kissed him. Everything happened so fast that looking back, I can’t be sure of the sequence of events, but we were kissing frantically before I knew it. The unrelenting heat of Adam’s tongue and lips made me moan and arch against him as if we were kissing for the first time. There was a fierceness behind the kiss which frightened me, not because of Adam and who he was and what he’d done, but because I didn’t think I capable of reciprocating just as hungrily, but I did.

Every time Adam tried to retreat I followed, diving into another kiss which he took up with a moan. I wrapped his necktie around my hand to keep him from escaping and pressed myself against him as much as I could. I wanted to taste everything his mouth offered me. The combination of his kisses and the rye made me dizzy but I pushed on, coming up for short, panting breaths when I could, but never staying away from his kisses for long.

His cock was hard beneath his dress pants. I could feel it press against my hip when I angled myself towards him and I couldn’t resist the urge to touch him. I stroked the length of him through the fabric, loving how hard he was for me. He groaned with each teasing pass and I could have sworn he grew bigger.

Adam’s hands strayed up into my hair, pulling it gently free from the bobby pins that kept it trapped. Each scrape of his fingers against my scalp made me shiver. The old swing creaked and groaned beneath us as our passion grew more frantic. I traced the seam of his zipper, frustrated by the lack of contact between our skin; slowly I eased down the fly of his trousers. I wanted to see him.

“W-wait – Lilly,” Adam gasped, as I worked his button free and spread open the front of his pants. My hands were searching frantically for the button on his boxer shorts and I growled with frustration when I couldn’t get my chilled fingers to work.

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