"Baby," Colin said, and already she was nervous, because who even called people baby anymore? It made her wonder if he'd called all those one-night girls baby to avoid saying the wrong name at a crucial moment. It made her wonder if she was really any different, or if it was just the fact that she had a great apartment with south-facing windows that kept him with her. Maybe he was just tired of putting in an effort, though given what she'd seen of him, he could probably be charming even in his sleep. "Babe," Colin continued, dropping a kiss on her hair. "Hey, Alleycat."
She squirmed a little, pleased. For a wall of muscle, he was surprisingly comfortable to sit on, and he radiated heat. She rubbed her cheek against the warm, coarse hair on his chest, which was more interesting than the grown men posturing like idiots on her TV. "Yeah?"
"Do you even like Mexican wrestling?"
"What –? Of course I do!"
"Really? You're totally into watching guys in masks and tights whale on each other?" He had the nerve to sound doubtful, so she didn't let the hand stroking up and down her spine comfort her even a little.
"Are you saying I'm not showing enough enthusiasm for our Sunday-morning ritual?"
"I'm saying that you make killer margaritas, but I don't want you to be bored. I wanna know who the girl who said she's herself around me really is."
He kissed her then and she sank into it, because goddamn but he was a champ at this. His lower lip was succulent, like it was so ripe it might burst between her teeth. His fingers were warm on the back of her neck, but the rubber band looped around his wrist snagged against her hair. "Wait, so when you said you loved me, you weren't sure?"
"I was sure about what I saw," he murmured, kissing her nose, her cheeks, her eyelids. "Now help me fill in the blanks."
Blanks might have been too kind a word, Ally thought. Colin was off rehearsing with Rooftop Memo; that chichi wedding had led to a lot of other gigs for the blueblood set, and she was on the floor in front of her closet with a glass of wine on one side of her, her journal and a pen on the other, and directly in front of her a large cardboard box (the one her stoneware dishes had been shipped in). She took a deep breath and pulled free the flaps of the box, all tucked under each other like a pinwheel.
Her Bang Box had clear strata a geologist (Evan Slater) would have loved. Here was the I Save Whales – Ask Me How! shirt she'd found in her hamper (Rick), a few layers down were a green-tinted visor and lifeguard whistle (Valerio), over there were the piercings she'd shoved into her face (Dave Hanson), and underneath those were the pins she'd made with George Bush's face on them (Tom Piper). There was a stack of pictures too, and she thought, flipping through them, that they should have made an awesome time-lapse image, but they didn't; she looked too different, relationship by relationship, to even be recognizable as the same girl in all of the images.
It was pretty gross, actually, seeing the proof that she'd so readily made herself into a lesser version of each of her boyfriends (and Julie), like they were all suns and she was just a moon, capable only of reflecting light.
"Ucchhh," she groaned, shoving everything back in the box and kicking it to the back of her closet. She downed the rest of her wine and flopped over onto her stomach; pulling her brick-red journal close and flipping it open, she continued the list titled Aunt Ally's Advice!. Number one was Don't get bangs. and she carefully printed on the following line: 2: Always be yourself.
"Daisy looks so good," Ally said, quiet and tucking her face into Colin's neck; she loved the way he smelled when he came in from band practice on the roof, all cold skin studded with sweat. "She has to pee every ten minutes, but she looks like she's walking on air every time she heads into the bathroom." Sculpting Daisy when she was ready to pop felt like the best idea Ally'd had in a long, long time. "I never believed in all that 'pregnancy glow' shit, but it's real."
"I know," Colin said, peeling dried clay from her fingers in long, satisfying strips. The care he took and the way her skin pulled taut to resist him made her shiver. "When Robin had Justin, she was just the same. Surprised the shit out of me, but she looked like she had a spotlight on her for the last three months. It was pretty magical, not gonna lie." He peeled the last strip of periwinkle from her ring finger and rolled it into a tiny ball. "I'm excited to be an uncle again."
"Oh," she said, not knowing how to respond. She'd been ready to bring him to Daisy's wedding and have him be in all the photos Mom was spending a fortune to have taken just so that she wouldn't be standing alone, but this casual assertion that he was part of her family threw her for a loop.
She looked up at him, surprised to find him looking back at her, uncertainty written all over his face. "Is that – is that okay?"
Ally could feel his heart pounding against hers, the beat as fast as it got when they were fucking. "I think so," she said, and his face went blank with what she thought was relief. Something occurred to her then, looking at his wiped-clean features. "As long as you remember that this" – she sketched her hands around her crotch – "is a magic-free zone. No magical spotlight for the Alleycat." She felt equipped to be an aunt, but not a mom. Not now, maybe not ever.
"No magic," he repeated, holding up his hand in some terrible approximation of the scout's honor sign. "I won't pull any quarters out of you."
"Buddy," she said, reaching for his fly, "let's see what you're putting in me."
He grinned and twisted, tipping her back on the sofa, pulling her pajama bottoms down with one swift tug. "Patience, grasshopper," he said, licking up her thigh like a particularly friendly mutt and then pressing his face against her panties. She spread her knees a little to accommodate him, waiting for the touch of his tongue or his teeth, but he just breathed heavily against her until she was squirming, her feet curled around his sides, jostling him and wordlessly begging. It was only when she had her importuning fingers curled in his hair that he peeled her panties off, spread her open, and sucked and licked at her relentlessly until she was crying for mercy.
"Oh," she said again, "oh, oh, oh," until he kissed her and she sucked tangy sharpness off his tongue.
Sandor, Rooftop Memo's bassist, worked in IT; he actually knew Roger in a professional capacity and came down firmly on the smelling-his-fingers side of the debate. Sandor said he could step outside his comfort zone to build the band a decent website with samples of their original songs if the rest of them could put together some appealing visuals.
"Baby," Colin said, "you're an artist – maybe Rooftop Memo could be your muse?"
He still hadn't figured out not to call her that; he was just cute enough to get away with it. "Mmmaybe." She rummaged again in the junk-food cupboard. "Did you finish the avocado-oil chips?"
"Yup. I'll get more if you liked them."
"I didn't even get to taste them," she said.
"Look at that sad face!" Colin said, playing a dramatic minor chord on the battered keyboard he'd wheedled away from Trevor, who'd splurged on a new one after he got his bonus. Colin was actually using it to work out melodies and harmonies for the songs he was writing, but he seemed to get a big kick out of playing the soundtrack of their lives.
"Shut up," she said, laughing, looking at him in the late-afternoon sunlight, messy from his spiky hair to his thick socks. Sculpting him would make her happy. "Yeah, I'll do it."
A grin streaked across his face as he played a resounding cheer of a major chord, and as the tones dissolved in the air, she heard her phone chime. "That's Eddie's ringtone," she said, and they looked at each other, stopping and gazing for one long moment before they scrambled for the door.
"I don't understand this card," Mom said. "Is it a puzzle? Is it meant to be funny?"
"No, Mom," Ally said, calmly, because Mom sounded genuinely confused rather than critical. Colin's apple pancakes helped by giving her patience, even if he'd vamoosed before her mother showed up, claiming he didn't want to get in the way of the first visit she was making to the apartment, now also the world headquarters of GoldTooth Designs, LLC. "It's a birth announcement, just like Daisy requested."
"Birth announcements list all the details about the baby!" Mom protested. She hadn't touched her pancake, so Ally stuck a fork in it and lifted it to her own plate.
"So does this one. Look, there's a picture of Penelope, wrapped up in Daisy's old baby blanket, and then you can tell the time and date of her birth from the clock and calendar, and her length and weight from the marked-up yardstick and free weight. And the toy blocks spell out her name. It's fun."
"It is . . . creative," Mom acknowledged after staring at the card like she was still trying to decode it. "It's nice you would do this for your sister."
"She's not just my sister; she's also my client," Ally said, managing to keep a straight face. She had howled when Colin ripped off the Hair Club for Men slogan; Mom, of course, didn't bat an eye.
"So this is a real business? Making funny cards?" She looked around, finding the sculptures in their spot between the oversized windows. "And these figurines?"
"Yes, Mom. Dad helped me figure out the business license and everything. The online marketplace is substantial."
"Hmmm," Mom said, getting up to investigate further. She picked up the sculpture of a pregnant Daisy and smiled down at it. "This is very good, honey."
It took two tries for her voice to work. "Thanks, Mom."
Mom put Daisy down and scooped up Colin. "Watch out for this one, though. That is the smile of an absolute rake," she said, and Ally laughed so hard that even her mother joined in.
"I don't understand," Colin said. "You're a sculptor – why haven't we had our 'Unchained Melody' moment?"
Ally couldn't roll her eyes without breaking her focus on Sandor's floppy hair, to which she was adding cinnamon-colored highlights, but she made sure her voice conveyed every bit of her disdain. "Because I have standards. Note that I'm not asking you to fuck me on top of a piano."
"Since all I have is this dinky keyboard that we'd smash flat, that's probably a good thing," he agreed, playing a long and complicated-sounding trill that sounded like part of a period-drama score. "We could still have sex, though?"
"We could," she said, putting the finishing touches to Sandor, and then cleaning her workspace while Colin played a jaunty tune. "Okay," she said when she was done, "come and get it."
They ended up against the wall, his hands hot and hard against her hips. "I do love a woman with standards," he said, panting into her neck.
"Aren't you glad you met them?" she asked,
"Oh, Ally," he said, sliding her down onto his dick. "So, so glad."
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.
This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/457333.html.