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Rearview Mirror - Chapter 1

“Have you ever cheated on David?”

Sara nearly dropped her plastic fork into her plastic plate of plastic fast-food spaghetti. “What???”

Elise had been putting off this conversation for weeks, but she felt as if she would lose her mind if she didn’t talk to someone. “You’ve been together for, what, forever? And David was overseas all that time. Didn’t you get…” she couldn’t say the word “horny,” even when talking to her best friend of twenty years “…restless?”

“Where are you going with this?” Sara’s expression was somewhere between annoyed and concerned.

“I don’t know. Just a question.”

Sara looked down at her plate and sighed. “No, I haven’t”

“So you’ve never even considered it?”

“Christ, Elise, no, I haven’t! Is there something you need to share?”  Sara threw her fork into the plate, sending a tiny spray of marinara onto the table.

One would think this simple, slightly inappropriate question had been an accusation. Elise hadn’t expected this to be such a delicate topic. She should probably explain herself. “Drew Wilkins and I have been exchanging emails for about a month.”

“Drew, you mean Andrew? Andy? As in from high school?”

“Yeah, he goes by Drew now. He’s teaching at some music college in San Diego and he’s in a band on the side. I guess drummers can’t be named Andy.”

“So you’re thinking of having an affair with Andy?”

“No! Number one, he’s miles away. Number two, he’s married. He found me on Facebook and we started emailing. We’ve just been catching up.”

“Then why bring up affairs?”

“I don’t know, I guess it just reminded me that there were other men out there, well at least one, that once found me attractive. I can’t help being excited about hearing from him again, but I feel a little guilty for thinking about him so much. It’s not wrong just to think about someone else, is it?”

“Yes, it is. And I don’t see why you think you need other men to find you attractive. I thought Mike was the only man you cared about.”

Elise quickly figured out that this time her life-long best friend was not even reading the same book, let alone on the same page. “Never mind. Forget I said anything.”

“I’m telling you, Elise, you’re asking for trouble. You may not think of it as cheating, but an emotional affair can be just as devastating as a physical one. Let it go.” Sara got up from the table abruptly.  “I have a class at one. I’ll call you later.”

Elise sat there pondering why her question had upset her friend so much. They could usually talk about anything. It troubled her that Sara did not look her in the eye when she denied having cheated. Maybe there are some things you just can’t talk about, even with your best friend. She probably shouldn’t read too much into this. Finally she got up and headed home, hoping to check her email before Mike got home.

Mike. There’s certainly nothing wrong with Mike. Gorgeous, big blue eyes, black hair, and only a slight beer belly. He played soccer as a kid and still has those amazing soccer-player legs. Certainly nothing wrong with that package.

They met at the University of Michigan when he was a grad student and a teaching assistant for one of her design classes. After ten years of marriage, they were still partners in everything, even the architecture firm they both worked for. Their only child was a sweet little Border Collie mix named Gabby, whom they rescued from the pound. Mike, an animal lover through and through, wanted to take home every dog and cat he saw that day. There’s certainly nothing wrong with someone who loves animals, right?

So then, why was it that for the last month, she had lived for coming home and turning on the computer to find another email from Drew? Okay, she had always known him as Andy, but she liked Drew. It made him seem even more appealing, a little sexier. Drew. It was a sensual name, a masculine name, the name of someone who could sweep you off your feet.

Elise logged on and, sure enough, she had mail. When did he find all this time to write to her? He must goof off a lot at work because his emails always came during the day.

This time he had sent pictures. The first ones were of his wife. Tall, blonde, blue eyes, freakin’ model probably. She had a California tan, of course. She looked about 18. They had only been married a year and they were “trying.” How sweet.

Elise scrolled down the page until she found a shot of Andy, er, Drew with his band. “Oh-My-God!”

Gabby’s ears perked up as she looked up from her perch on the sofa, wondering why her mommy was talking to the computer.

In high school, Andy had been cute. But now, yum. His dark blonde hair fell to his shoulders in soft (but manly) curls. He was buff and tan, and she could only imagine that his emerald green eyes still sparkled the way they used to when he would tease her.

She sat back, afraid she might be drooling on the keyboard. Why did he have to send pictures? She sure as hell wasn’t sending any back. Maybe she would find some shots of Britney or Christina and cut-and-paste her head on them.

She wasn’t even reading the email. She had been reduced to a pre-schooler, caring about nothing but the pictures. She scrolled back to the text of the message.

Thought I would send a few pics. Pics of Lisa are from her 30th birthday party – what a mess. The band played, if you can call it that. Don’t think we’ll ever make it to Carnegie Hall. But don’t I just look hot behind those drums. You know you still want me. LOL.

What was she supposed to say to that? Yes, you do. Yes, I do. Please fly cross-country right this moment and take me. Now.

She started to click on reply, and then realized there was more to the message. Maybe her subconscious was trying to get her to delete the email before she read all of it.

Seriously, though, if we were both single, what do you think? Would we have a chance again? I have to confess, I often think of the time we spent together and go into “what if” mode. I know we are both happily married, and I don’t mean to undermine that in any way, but do you ever think about us? We could have been really good together, you know…

There it was, can open, worms crawling out. Why did Sara always have to be right? Elise didn’t know what was going to come out when she clicked “Reply.”

Drew was actually involved with someone else when they had their little fling, so she shouldn’t have been so surprised, but she thought he had grown up some since then. Still, he was right, what they had was intense, and she often wondered what would have happened if they had pursued it.

***

New Year’s Eve, 1989. Elise and Sara decided to throw a party at Elise’s parents’ house. Elise’s parents always went into Ann Arbor for a big hotel party, so the girls knew they would have the house to themselves. The party was actually Sara’s idea. Elise had broken up with her high school boyfriend right before Christmas and was in too much of a funk to really care about New Year’s Eve. It was winter break of their freshman year of college. So aside from their high school friends that had gone to Michigan State like Sara (traitors, every one of them), and those that had gone to U of M like Elise (Go Blue!), everyone that had gone to Central or Eastern or, God forbid, even Wayne State was home too. Sara’s new boyfriend, David Shrock, was one of a select few at the party that hadn’t wandered the halls of Milan High. Being back in the bedroom community of Milan was charming for awhile, but it was definitely time to shake things up.

About twenty-five or thirty people showed up, and a couple of them were old enough to buy booze. Andy wasn’t, of course, he was the same age as Elise and Sara, but his date was, so she supplied the tequila. He always joked about her age, calling her Mrs. Robinson every chance he got. Her actual name was Robin, or Ronnie, or Randi, or something like that. They hooked up during pledge week. Andy dropped the fraternity, but kept her. She was a sorostitute through and through, a second year senior who never went to class. Her days were filled with sorority functions, and, as Elise later found out, screwing as many guys as she could.

Sara and Elise found some Jell-O in the pantry, so they decided to experiment with Jell-O shots, sampling the tequila bottle frequently in the process of making them. They both sauntered down the stairs into the den with plates full of little Dixie cups. Elise nearly tripped over Andy’s long legs. He was sprawled out on his belly next to the couch with a beer in hand.

“Oh shit, did I hurt you?” She giggled, grabbing the back of the couch for balance. That cheap tequila that what’s-her-name brought took no time in going to her head.

“Nah, come join me…” he tugged on the hem of her long, straight floral skirt (à la Pretty in Pink), pulling it down below her belly button and making the room swim just a little more.

Sara rolled her eyes and headed over to the other side of the room with her Jell-O shots. She had never been that fond of Andy, but she knew since he and Elise had been at U of M together, they had been hanging out a lot. It became obvious to her after several late night conversations that Elise was crushing on him, and she knew her friend was still in a pretty fragile place. Andy was probably not the ideal rebound. She would have to keep her eye on them. At least, she would have, if she could have focused her eyes on anything at all.

“Hang on.” Elise plunked the plate of Jell-O shots down on the coffee table and turned around slowly, holding the side of the couch and coffee table for balance as she lowered herself on to the floor next to him.

“Jesus Christ, how much have you had to drink?”

“Just what we drank while making the shots.” Elise reached up for a Jell-O shot, but Andy pulled her hand away, lacing his fingers between hers. He put his beer down and downed a shot.

“These are good, but I think you need to lay off. You’re a lightweight.”

She started laughing. “Lightweight? Yeah, right. Look at this.” She nodded to her belly, slightly exposed now that her skirt had slid down and her pink sweater had ridden up. “I’m no lightweight.”

Andy released her hand and gently touched her belly, tracing her belly button with his finger. “You’re perfect. I like a woman with curves.”

“Watch out. Dangerous curves ahead.” She giggled again, even though he wasn’t tickling her at all. Quite the opposite, really. “Where’s Robbie?”

“Who?”

“You know, that Chi Ho you came with.” Elise covered her mouth with her hand. “I’m sorry, did I just say that?”

Andy grinned, his eyes sparkling like always, even in this glorious state of intoxication they were both approaching. He grabbed another shot.

“I mean, I guess I should thank her for the tequila, right.” Elise pushed her short dark brown hair (à la Demi Moore in Ghost) back away from her face while barely balancing herself on the arm she leaned on. Her arms were feeling much like the Jell-O in the shots, and lying on the floor with a hot guy was not making them any more stable.

“I think she went off looking for more music. She said she could only take so much Madonna.”

Elise burst out laughing. She heard the opening riff of “Wild Wild West” by The Escape Club start up. “Oh, man, I was gonna play that right at midnight, that would have been cool.” Tapping her fingers against her thigh and bobbing her head (and, remarkably, not crashing into the coffee table) she started singing along, making up the words she didn’t quite know.

Andy decided to chime in on the next verse. “’Give me give me Wild West, give me give me safe sex?’” He looked into her eyes, hand still on her belly, eyebrows raised suggestively.

Elise’s giggles became uncontrollable and her arm finally gave out as she collapsed onto his chest. He slid his hand down over her hips and started nuzzling her neck.

“What are you doing?” She rolled away a little bit, but couldn’t bring herself to really pull away like she meant it (because, of course, she didn’t mean it. Not in the least.)

“Shh, just relax.” He pulled her into him again and began kissing her neck. His lips were so warm. All of him was just so warm and comfortable; it made her forget about the four inches of snow outside. She slid her hands up under his sweater and he gasped.

“What?”

“Your hands are a little cold.” He took them into his, enveloping them with his strong drummer’s hands, and held them for a few seconds. Then he returned them to his back. “That’s better.” He continued kissing her neck, sliding his hands up the back of her sweater toward the closure of her bra.

“Aren’t you afraid she’ll see us?” Elise had somehow forgotten there were other people in the room until just now, when his hands on her bare back made her acutely aware of her nipples. She suddenly realized that Sara and David had noticed them, and were whispering over in the corner.

“Do you want to go somewhere more private?” he whispered, lips still on her neck.

“We can go up to my room…” Oh, God, was she making a big mistake? She and Andy had been friends since tenth grade. What were they doing on the floor, making out, with all these people around? But, even more importantly, would all these people notice if they snuck off?

“That sounds like a plan.” He slid away from her and got to his feet, taking her hand in his and helping her up. Elise looked back as they slipped up the stairs. Sara shot her a very dirty look and started to make her way across the room, but Elise quickly turned away. David put his hand on Sara’s arm and whispered something to her, and Sara hesitated for a moment, then followed him back over to the loveseat in the opposite corner of the room.

Elise and Andy darted quickly past the living room where Ronnie/Robbie (oh whatever) had her back turned to them as she rifled through someone’s cassette case, then hurried down the hall to Elise’s bedroom. Elise shut the door behind them and locked it, leaning against it for balance. Her head was mostly cleared from the alcohol but slightly fuzzy from her racing hormones. Andy turned toward her, raising her hands above her head as he pushed her against the door and kissed her.  Her doubts melted away in the warmth of his kiss. His lips and tongue felt like home, like everything she ever needed.

***

Gabby’s sharp bark jolted Elise out of her fugue. “Shoulda, woulda, coulda…” she typed back, fingers shaking. The line from a recent rerun of “Sex and the City” was all she could come up with. She quickly hit “send” and logged off. She knew that bark, followed by frenzied tail-wagging, meant Mike was home.


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