Scott has been in love with Tabitha, the single mother next door, almost since the first day he moved in. The problem is that Tabitha is in love with someone else ‘” a married man who has all the right excuses for why he’s still with his wife. And then one snowy Christmas Eve…
It was Christmas Eve, 1995, and, in Heritage, California, it was about as cold as it ever got. The mercury was hovering in the mid-thirties and a cold, freezing rain, driven by an artic wind from a low-pressure system over Oregon, was falling all over the area. There were reports that snow was falling as low as one thousand feet in the nearby Sierra Nevada foothills, dusting the exclusive Heritage suburbs of Cypress Hills and Andiron. There were even cautious predictions that as the temperature continued to drop in the late evening and early morning hours that snow might fall in Heritage itself. If true, this would be an extremely rare occurrence. At an average elevation of forty feet, Heritage had only received measurable snowfall six times in recorded history. And never had it snowed on Christmas.
Scott Black was twenty-seven years old on this most frigid evening. As he drove his battered, eight year old Chevy Cavalier home from his parent’s house just before nine o’clock, his nostalgia for a possible white Christmas was being overridden by the fact that he was freezing his ass off. The Cavalier’s heater had given up the fight about two months ago for reasons unknown and, as a struggling post-graduate student at UC Heritage, he couldn’t afford to even have anyone diagnose the problem, let alone fix it. He was shivering madly as he drove through the wet and mostly deserted streets, peering myopically through a windshield clouded with condensation from his exhalations. His only consolation was that the tape deck still worked. It was currently cranking out track three of one of his favorite albums of all time: Intemperance’s It’s In The Book. Those hometown boys really knew how to rock. It was a shame about what had become of them a few years before.
The neighborhood Scott lived in was not one of the best. It was in the suburb of Lemon Hill, in an area constructed in the early sixties. His street was called Cucamonga Avenue and consisted entirely of duplexes that had been converted to rentals more than a decade before. It wasn’t exactly a mansion in the sky but it was all he could afford on the bank teller’s salary he was being paid while working on his Master’s Degree in structural engineering. He lived in the left half of the duplex and shared a large driveway with the right half, which was occupied by a twenty-five year old woman named Tabitha Loggins and her six-year-old daughter, Katie. Tabitha — or Tabby to her friends — was a medical assistant who worked in a large, HMO sponsored practice in Shining Oaks. A gorgeous, well-built blonde who only displayed a few of the intelligence shortcomings usually associated with people of her hair-color, Scott had been more than infatuated with her since the moment he’d moved in just over nine months before.
Scott was prepared to be upset and irritated as he turned down Cucamonga and drove the last two hundred yards to the driveway. Tabby had told him several days before that her so-called “boyfriend” (she had even been known to refer to him as her “fiancé” a few times), Dr. John Williams, would be visiting on Christmas Eve in order to help her set up the Santa presents for Katie and to bask in the love of his future family. She had been very excited about this prospect, especially after the hurtful fiasco she’d endured just the week before at their office Christmas party. Whenever the ultra-charming, ultra-rich, and ultra-married Dr. Williams showed up at Tabby’s place for one of his visits he always parked his 1994 Lexus in the left side of the driveway, the part that belonged to Scott, thus blocking Scott’s access to his garage.
This parking problem was an issue that, months before, had already been discussed, compromised over, settled, and then the settlements disregarded. Dr. Williams refused to park his Lexus on the street in “a neighborhood like this”. As to why he thought someone would not break into his car because it was in the driveway, where it could not be observed from inside Tabby’s house, but would break into it out on the street, where it could be observed, had never been adequately explained. Tabby, trying to keep the peace with her “duplex-mate”, as she called Scott, had promised that when Dr. Williams was coming over she would move her Toyota Celica out into the street so the good doctor could park on her side of the driveway, thus leaving Scott’s side free and clear. It was a good plan on paper but somehow it never seemed to work out in practice. It was at least a weekly event that Scott would come home from work, or from school, or from the library and find Tabby’s Celica and Dr. Williams’ Lexus parked side by side, blocking his garage door entrance. He knew better than to knock on Tabby’s door at times such as these because it wouldn’t be answered. The doctor did not show up at her house to sit on the couch and watch television, after all.
Scott generally just sucked such events up and let them go. He would park his own car on the street until the doctor left and then move it into the garage where it belonged. If he did talk to Tabby about it later it was never in a stern manner. He found it impossible to remain mad at Tabby once he was actually in her presence and looking at that long blonde hair, at the shape of that gorgeous body, once he was listening to that sultry, sexy voice coming out of her mouth. Perhaps if she had been a stuck-up bitch like most of the truly magnificent women Scott had been acquainted with throughout his life it might have been different. But Tabby was far from a bitch. She was one of the sweetest, good-hearted women Scott had ever met and she liked Scott, not in that way unfortunately, but as a friend and confidant. They talked often and well, usually during the early evening hours on nights that Dr. Williams couldn’t seem to make an appearance. She invited him to have dinner with her and Katie a few times a month and he did the same for them. She told him of the frustrations she sometimes had to deal with in this “unconventional relationship” she was involved in. More than a few times she had cried on his shoulder after Dr. Williams had cancelled plans with her at the last moment or just failed to show up when he was expected or, most common, had been forced to delay the serving of the divorce papers to his wife for any number of financial, familial, or legal reasons.
“Sometimes, when I’m really feeling depressed about this,” she had confided to him just last week as she’d cried on his shoulder about the Christmas party debacle in which he’d showed up with his wife on his arm and had happily danced the night away with her while completely ignoring Tabitha all night, “I start to wonder if he isn’t just using me for sex.”
Scott had been able to suppress a sharp, contemptuous laugh from emerging from his mouth but he hadn’t been able to suppress a roll of the eyes. Fortunately her face had been buried in his shoulder at that moment and she’d missed it.
And, of course, the good doctor had charmed his way back into her graces the very next day by buying her a pair of diamond earring and explaining to her that his wife had insisted on going to the Christmas party and that he had to pretend to be happy so as to avoid fueling the rumors that were already passing around the office about he and Tabitha. She had known going into this that they couldn’t reveal their love for each other until the time was right, hadn’t she? She had agreed that she had and Dr. Williams’ Lexus had remained in the driveway until well past Scott’s bedtime that night, forcing him to leave his Cavalier out until the morning. When Tabby talked to Scott the next day she gleefully told him that the doctor had told her that the strife between himself and his wife had now reached the intolerable stage and he’d promised her that he would start looking into the divorce proceedings as soon as the new year began. By this time next year, that divorce would be complete and she would be the new Mrs. Williams. And furthermore, she had added, Dr. Williams had talked the current Mrs. Williams into taking their three children to Mill Valley for the holiday and that he, Dr. Williams, would be staying home.
“He said it’ll be just like we’re family,” Tabby had explained excitedly. “He’ll come over for Christmas Eve and we’ll have a big dinner and sit in front of the fire and let Katie open some of her presents and then, after she goes to bed he’ll help me set up all the Santa things. In the morning we’ll get up early and watch her open everything and then have Christmas dinner together. Oh, Scotty, it’s like a dream come true for me.”
“That sounds great,” Scott had said, feeling the familiar stab in his own heart he felt whenever she forgave and forgot the sleazebag adulterer’s latest escapade.
But now, as the duplex came into view, Scott saw that the left half of the driveway was conspicuously empty of a Lexus. The entire structure was lit up with the twinkling Christmas lights Scott himself had put up a few weeks before (complete with a large, inflatable Santa that was now blowing precariously back and forth in the gusty wind) but there was no doctormobile to be seen. Had he not shown up yet? Was he here as planned and had taken his ‘future family’ out for a ride? Or had he flaked on her yet again? As Scott pushed the remote control button on his dashboard and waited for the garage door to roll up on its track, he thought that the flaking out theory was, by far, the most likely. After all, Dr. Williams had a long history of flaking out even on non-holiday promises. Scott tried not to savor the gleeful emotion that accompanied this thought but he really couldn’t help it.
He pulled his car into the garage and then unloaded the leftover turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes his mother had insisted he take home with him. He walked into the house and found that his heater in here had apparently decided to give up its battle against the elements as well. This was hardly surprising. The heater worked fine when the temperature was in the fifties outside. When it dropped into the forties, however, it started to lose its will to live. When you started talking thirties, like it was now, you were lucky if you could keep it warm enough in the house to avoid seeing your breath.
“Eighteen more months,” Scott muttered as he stepped out the back door into the small yard and pulled a couple of pieces of firewood from a pile out there. Luckily he’d remembered to weigh down the tarp that covered the wood and it was reasonably dry. His plan was to get a blazing fire going and then sit in front of it and drink decaf coffee spiked with brandy until he felt warm enough to go to bed.
The phone started to ring. He looked at it, knowing that it was Tabby and that Dr. Williams had flaked out on her again. There was no one else who would be calling him right now except Tabby and Tabby wouldn’t be calling him on Christmas Eve unless something was wrong. He set the wood down by the fireplace and went to pick up the cordless handset.
“Hello?” he said casually.
“Hi, Scotty,” her voice said, it’s tone without much inflection. “It’s Tabby.”
“Oh hi, Tabby,” he said as if he hadn’t recognized her voice, as if he had so many women calling him day in and day out that he had to have a name attached to know which one of his bitches it was this time. “What’s up?”
“I saw you pull in,” she said. “I was just wondering how your Christmas Eve went. Did you have fun with your parents?”
“It was the usual,” he said. “My dad spent all night telling me how much money I could be making if I’d been working at his car dealership this year, my mom told me how skinny I was getting and unloaded a bunch of food on me, and my brother went on and on about how those damn capital gains taxes are going to kill him again this year. They all took turns telling me that taking out more student loans to get my master’s degree when I could’ve gotten a job as an engineer with just my bachelor’s was one of the worst financial decisions known to man.”
“Sounds like the usual,” she agreed. Not wanting to let her monopolize their previous discussions with descriptions of her own problems, Scott had spent more than a few hours telling her about his family, who were the constant thorn in his side.
“And… uh… how about yourself?” he asked. “I couldn’t help but notice that I was able to park my car in my garage. Did your holiday plans hit a snag?”
There was a brief silence followed by a sniffle. “Oh god, Scotty,” she said. “I’m sorry. I’m always dumping all my problems on you, aren’t I?”
“What are friends for?” he asked, trying to keep the bitterness out of the word ‘friends’. “He flaked on you again?”
“He went to Mill Valley with his family,” she said. “He didn’t even have the guts to call me and tell me in person. He sent me an email two hours ago from his fucking Hotmail account. He said his children were so sad that he couldn’t be there that he just had to go. He promises he’ll make it up to me.”
“An oldie but a goodie,” Scott said.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “I’m sorry things fell through for you.”
“And that’s not all,” she said. “The damn heater isn’t working in here and Katie and I are freezing. Not only that but…” she paused for a second and Scott heard her voice speaking softer, away from the phone. “Katie, hon,” she said. “Can you go get Mommy’s slippers out of my bedroom?”
“Okay, Mommy,” a faint voice replied.
A few seconds later Tabby’s voice whispered at him. “And that’s not the worst of it. He was supposed to help me set up all the stuff from Santa. I got Katie a bike and a dollhouse that needs to be put together. I don’t know how to do stuff like that. Scotty, hon, could you be a dear and come over to help me?”
“Help you put the toys together?” he asked. “Sure. What time does she go to bed?”
“She’ll probably stay up until about ten tonight, but can you come over now? Maybe with some of that firewood you have in your backyard?”
“Uh… sure,” he said. “I guess I could do that.”
“And not just for that either,” she said, her voice a little softer. “I really don’t want to be alone tonight, Scott. Neither does Katie. She’s always liked you and I thought… you know… that having you over here before she goes to bed would be… good for her. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah,” Scott said. “I know what you mean. I’ll be right over.”
“Thanks, Scotty,” she said. “You’re a dear.”
He showed up at her door fifteen minutes later, a large box of firewood in his arms and a couple of wrapped presents sitting atop the wood. Katie answered the door and her face lit up with happiness as she saw him. At six years old she was a small copy of her mother: blonde-haired, blue eyed, and almost achingly pretty. She was wearing a pair of thick green flannel pajamas with Santa Clauses and reindeer all over them.
“Scotty!” she squealed, jumping up and down. “Mommy said to let you in. What are those presents?”
“What presents?” he asked nonchalantly as he stepped into the living room.
“The presents you’re carrying!” she said.
“I don’t have any presents,” he said. “I just brought some wood over for a fire.”
“Those presents on top of the wood!” she exclaimed, exasperated.
“Oh… these?” he asked. “They’re just some presents for me.”
“For you?” she asked, furrowing her brow.
“Yeah,” he said. “I thought after I got the fire going I’d open them up and see what’s inside of them. It’s probably some shirts and socks and things from my mom.”
Katie wasn’t buying this. “Those are for me and Mommy,” she said slyly. “You’re too old to have a mom.”
He laughed, shaking his head. “Out of the mouths of children,” he said as he carried the box over to the fireplace and sat it down. “Why don’t you go put these under the tree, hon? Maybe later we’ll see what’s inside of them.”
“Okay,” she said brightly.
Tabby came out of the kitchen just as Katie dashed across the room with the presents. She was looking her usual lovely self tonight, Scott saw. She was wearing a pair of tight, low-riding jeans and a white turtleneck sweater with green Christmas trees on it. Her long blonde hair had been done up identically to Katie’s, in two braids that spilled over her shoulders and onto her breasts.
“You got us presents?” she asked, walking over to him. “You didn’t have to do that, Scott.”
“Sure I did,” he said. “You are my two favorite duplex-mates, aren’t you? I had to get you something.”
“I didn’t get you anything,” she said. “Now I feel bad.”
“Give me a hug and we’ll call it even,” he said.
She complied, putting her arms around him and hugging him tightly. He felt those pouty lips he’d fantasized so much about smack him wetly on his right cheek. He shuddered a little at the feel of her soft, luscious body against him, at the soft smell of her perfume.
“Are we even?” she asked.
“I think you overpaid,” he said, feeling flushed. “You have some change coming back to you.”
“Oh you,” she said, slapping at him playfully. “You’re such a flirt.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” he agreed. He turned serious. “Are you doing okay?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I think so,” she whispered. “It’s not like it’s the first time, huh?”
“Or even the second,” he added.
He got a fire going in the fireplace while she retreated to the kitchen and made him a drink. By the time it was starting to blaze she came back and handed him a steaming cup that smelled of chocolate and peppermint.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s called a snuggler,” she said.
She nodded. “Hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. Haven’t you ever had one before?”
“I don’t believe I have.”
“Just the thing for a Christmas Eve in front of the fire,” she said. “Drink up.”
He drank up. It was very good, the chocolate and peppermint flavors mixing well and with just enough of an alcohol kick to make him feel warm inside. Of course, being a guy, he could never admit to another guy that he’d actually consumed a drink called a “snuggler”, but Tabby would keep his secret.
“Can I open my present now?” asked Katie, who was sipping some hot chocolate of her own — a virgin snuggler, if you will.
Tabby gave a mock sigh. “Are you sure you want to open one now, sweetie?” she asked. “It’s not really Christmas yet, you know.”
“Yes yes yes!” Katie screamed. “You said I could. You promised!”
“I suppose I did,” she said. “Okay, go get one.”
Katie immediately tore across the room and picked up the one Scott had just brought over. “This one!” she yelled, carrying it back.
“Are you sure you don’t want to open the one in that box from me?” Tabby asked her playfully.
“No way!” Katie said. “That one feels like clothes!”
Scott and Tabby laughed while Katie went about the task of ripping open the wrapping paper with everything she had. Her eyes widened when she saw what was revealed. “A skydancer!” she yelled happily. “Just what I wanted! Look, Mommy, it’s a skydancer!”
Tabby was looking at Scott with something like awe. “How did you get your hands on a skydancer?” she asked. “Every store has been sold out of them for weeks.”
“I have my sources,” he said mysteriously, which was true. One of his brother’s clients was the K&L Toy Factory in the Heritage downtown mall. Scott had asked him to ask them set one aside a few weeks ago during the height of the skydancer madness.
“That was very sweet of you,” Tabby told him. “Katie, what do you say to Scotty?”
“Thanks, Scotty,” she said absently. “Can I play with it now?”
“It probably won’t work very well inside the house,” Scott told her. “The ceiling’s too low.”‘
“Awww,” she said, dejected.
“But how about you bring your mom her present and we’ll see what we can do.”
“Okay,” she said brightly, grabbing the wrapped present from beneath the tree.
Tabby unwrapped her present a little slower but with the same eagerness her daughter had displayed. She was also just as pleasantly surprised by what she found inside the package. She had complained to Scott on several occasions about not being able to listen to her favorite music in her car because all she had was a tape deck. Though it had cost him a bit more than he really could afford, he had gotten her a CD converter that plugged into the tape deck and would allow her to listen to her compact discs like a civilized person.
“Oh, Scotty,” she said, smiling happily. “You shouldn’t have.” She giggled a little. “But I’m glad you did. Thank you.” She leaned over and, for the second time that evening, planted a wet kiss on his cheek. As before he flushed and felt warmth spreading throughout his body, making him decide the money he’d spent had been well worth it.
Scott had been entirely correct about the ceiling being too low in the house. Katie’s first attempts to fly her new skydancer ended prematurely when it slammed into the ceiling and crashed to the ground. After some help from Scott and some simple experimentation, however, they were soon able to figure out the proper pull strength and angle of launch that allowed it to achieve an unimpeded, though short, flight from one end of the hallway to the other. Once discovered, Katie went about doing it over and over and over again.
Scott and Tabby watched her from in front of the fire, sipping from their snugglers.
“She didn’t get a present from John,” Tabby said with a sigh.
“Nothing?” Scott asked.
“He was supposed to bring something over today,” she said. “But, of course, since he’s in Mill Valley with his wife and kids right now I guess it slipped his mind.”
“I’m sorry,” Scott said. “You shouldn’t have to put up with that. Neither should Katie.”
She nodded. “It’s what I get for involving myself with a man who hasn’t left his wife yet,” she said. She shook her head angrily. “He didn’t forget to bring me a present though.”
“No,” she said. “He brought mine by yesterday. Of course he was on his way somewhere and couldn’t stay for more than five minutes, but he made sure I had the present.”
“What was it?” Scott asked.
“Do you want to see what it was?” she asked bitterly. “Wait here.”
She got up and disappeared down the hallway during one of Katie’s pre-flight cycles. When she came back she was carrying a small, flat white box with the distinctive lettering of Victoria’s Secret on it. She tossed it down in his lap. “How’s that for a Christmas present for the one you love?” she asked.
He opened the box and beheld a Santa hat with the words “Santa’s little helper” written across the white part in red. Beneath the hat was a very tiny piece of artificial silk lingerie designed to look like a sexy elf’s outfit. It was red with green trim. It had an extremely pronounced vee in the chest portion and a hemline that was less than three feet from the shoulders.
“Wow,” Scott said, holding it up and imagining what she would look like in it. The very thought gave him the beginnings of an erection. “Were you going to wear this for him tonight?”
She nodded. “I was going to,” she said. “Now I’m seriously thinking about tossing it into that fire, box and all.”
Scott shook his head. “The man is insane if he chose not to come over here and see you in this,” he said. “He’s absolutely insane.”
She blushed a little and tussled his hair with her fingers. “You’re sweet,” she said. “Do you really think I’d look good in it?”
“I strongly suspect you would,” he told her. “Of course, in order to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt I’d have to actually see you in it.”
She laughed, slapping at his shoulder again. “Nice try,” she said. She took the lingerie from his hands and stuffed it back in the box. She tossed the box over by the chair instead of throwing it into the fire.
Soon it was time to start coaxing Katie to bed so the ritual of setting up the Santa Clause toys could begin. Tabby was expert in this particular kind of persuasion and knew all the standard lines. She told Katie that Santa couldn’t come until she was asleep and that Santa would probably want to hit this particular part of the world first so he could get in and out before the weather worsened. Katie agreed with this logic and reminded both Tabby and Scott that they’d better get to bed soon too. She then left a plate of cookies and a glass of milk next to the fireplace, kissed her mother and Scott, and headed off to her bedroom.
“We’ll give her a half an hour or so to make sure she’s really asleep,” Tabby whispered to Scott. “She’s already up later than normal. Once she’s out she’ll be out for good. You could fire off a gun in her bedroom and she wouldn’t wake up.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Scott said, picking up another chunk of wood and tossing it onto the fire.
They sat on the floor close to the fireplace and basked in its warmth, staring into the flames.
“Thank you again for coming over to be with us tonight,” Tabby said.
“It was my pleasure,” he said truthfully. As always, he was thrilled just to be in the presence of Tabby even though he knew she saw him as nothing more than a friend.
“I thought Katie would be sad and disappointed when I told her that John wasn’t going to be able to be here tonight,” she said. “She wasn’t though. She didn’t even bat an eye.”
Scott couldn’t help himself. “Maybe she’s getting used to being disappointed by him,” he suggested.
Tabby sighed. “Maybe,” she said. “John has been somewhat of a trial these past few months. Sometimes I wonder just what the hell I’m doing.”
“What do you mean?” he asked casually.
“I love him,” she said, “but it’s really hard sometimes, like tonight for instance. He promises me that we’re going to be together soon, that he’s going to divorce his wife soon, that he’s going to be here for me on Christmas, and then he goes off to Mill Valley with his family. And it’s not like this is the first time this has happened either. He told me he’d spend Thanksgiving with me too, and Labor Day weekend, and the Fourth of July. But he always seems to have some reason to spend it with that bitch he’s married to.”
Scott resisted the urge to give her an eye roll. “I think you’ve hit on the key word of your problem, Tabby,” he said.
“What’s that?” she asked, not getting him.
“The word is ‘married’,” he said. “The doctor is married to another woman. He has a family.”
“He’s just staying married until the kids are old enough to handle a divorce,” Tabby insisted. They’d had this discussion before. “I would have never gotten involved with him if he were happily married. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he said. “I know you wouldn’t try to break up someone’s marriage, of course, but…”
“He and his wife don’t even sleep in the same bedroom anymore. They haven’t for almost two years now. They haven’t had sex for almost three years. She’s a total bitch, always demeaning him in front of other people, always trying to turn the kids against him, always spending all of his money. He said he thinks she might actually be cheating on him.”
“Cheating on him?” Scott asked. “That’s outrageous.”
“Isn’t it though?” she replied, completely missing his gentle sarcasm. “I can’t wait until he finally leaves that bitch.”
“Has it ever occurred to you, Tabby,” Scott said softly, “that maybe his wife isn’t the bitch he makes her out to be?”
She looked up at him, suspicion in her eyes. “What do you mean?” she asked. “Of course she’s a bitch. Why else would he be… you know… planning to leave her?”
Scott took a deep breath. Was she really this dumb, he wondered, or was she just pretending to be in order to assuage her own conscience? Surely, on some subconscious level at the very least, she had to suspect that her good doctor was really nothing more than a lecherous cheater trying to maintain an affair with a hot blonde, didn’t she?
“Let’s start with this,” Scott said. “How do you know his wife is a bitch?”
“Because he’s told me hundreds of stories about how much of a bitch she is,” Tabby replied.
“Have you ever heard that she was a bitch from anyone else?” he asked. “The other people who work in your office, for instance? The other doctors that hang out with him?”
“No,” she said, “that’s because he pretends like he’s happy in front of all of them. They all think she’s this nice, proper doctor’s wife who takes care of their home and works with all these charities and the PTA and cooks dinner for him every night. I’m the only one he tells the real story to.”
“I see,” Scott said. “And has it ever occurred to you that maybe you’re the one being lied to, Tabby? That maybe she really is a nice, proper doctor’s wife?”
Her brow furrowed and she glared at him. “Lied to me? That doesn’t make sense. Why would he tell me she’s a bitch if she’s not?”
Scott shook his head in frustration. “Never mind, Tabby,” he said. “Forget I said anything.”
“No, tell me what you’re thinking,” she said. “If you know something I want to know.”
“I don’t know anything,” he said. “I’m just speculating, just trying to get you to think a little. It seems obvious that you don’t want to though, so why don’t we just drop it?”
“Tell me,” she insisted.
“You’re just going to get mad at me and not believe what I have to say. Let’s drop it and talk about something else until it’s time to put the presents together.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, both staring at the fire again. Finally Tabby said softly, “You think he’s just using me?”
“I know he’s just using you, Tabby,” Scott said. “And I think you know it too, you just don’t want to admit it to yourself.”
“But he told me he loves me,” she said. “He told me that we would be married as soon as his divorce is final.”
“The divorce he’s been talking about for the past year but that he’s never filed for?” Scott asked.
Her eyes widened a little. “You really think he’s lying?” she asked.
“Look, Tabby,” Scott said, “I’m a man and I know how men think, how men are. We’re assholes, most of us, capable of doing and saying anything in order to get sex from someone. I don’t think most women realize the depth of the conceit men can pull off in the name of getting their rocks off. I don’t think most women realize that happily married men cheat on their wives all the time.”
“Happily married men?” she asked. “If they’re happy, why would they cheat?”
“This is a foreign concept for some women,” Scott said. “Men cheat just because we like having sex with as many women as we can get away with. We all have this urge. The scrupulous among us suppress it when we’re in a committed relationship but it never goes away. The unscrupulous among us simply pursue the urge to varying degrees even if married. Some men only have short flings while out of town or something like that. Others, like your good doctor, will actually pursue long-term relationships with another woman. This is where the lies come in.”
Her face was expressionless as she stared at him. “Go on,” she said.
“Are you sure you want me to?”
She nodded. “Yes. Please do.”
“Okay,” he said. “Men like to joke about how they don’t know how women think, but that’s another lie. We may not know everything about what motivates you and some men really are clueless, as I’m sure you’ve encountered in your life, but when it comes to women’s attitudes about sex and relationships, we know much more than we generally let on.”
She obviously wasn’t buying this concept. “Oh really?” she said, her voice tinged with the slightest hint of anger.
“Really,” he confirmed. “We know, for instance, that most single women would never dream of sleeping with a happily married man. Am I wrong?”
“Well… no,” she said. “Then you would be a homewrecker. No one wants to do that.”
“Not consciously anyway. And since the sorts of happily married men who like to cheat tend to know this, they a use a pretty standardized set of lies and half-truths in order to convince their prey — that would be you, Tabby — to submit to their desires. Women like you have to believe that the man they are considering sleeping with is in a troubled marriage, that the wife is a bitch, that he’s unhappy. It’s sets this whole game in motion, the game of putting off the woman in question as long as possible while continuing to reap the rewards of the relationship — said rewards being extramarital sex.”
“So you’re saying that I mean nothing to him other than sex?” she asked.
“It’s not necessarily that black and white,” Scott said. “I’m sure he’s fond of you and has some genuine feelings of affection for you — after all, you are a sweetheart — but sex is the basis of his connection with you and it will probably never be anything else.”
She shook her head as if trying to ward off the unpleasant thoughts he was planting in there. “I can’t accept that,” she said. “I’m more to him than just some blonde bimbo he gets to tear a piece off of.”
“What is it that the two of you do whenever you manage to get together?” Scott asked.
She cast her eyes downward. “We have sex,” she said.
“Does he ever come over just to hang out with you and watch a movie?”
“No,” she said.
“Does he ever take you to the movies? Does he ever take you out to dinner? Does he ever take you to the art museum or the theater?”
“No,” she said. “He doesn’t.”
“And what did he get you for a Christmas present?”
“Lingerie,” she said blankly, still refusing to take her eyes off the carpet in front of her.
“And what is lingerie generally associated with?”
“Sex,” she said, a tear slipping from her eye and dropping to the floor.
Scott scooted a little closer to her and put his arm around her shoulder. He pulled her against him. She stiffened at first but finally allowed herself to merge with his body. “I’m sorry, Tabby,” he said. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just trying to get you to face a few facts about your Dr. Wonderful. I could be wrong about him, but I don’t think I am. And I’m tired of seeing you hurt all the time.”
She started crying in earnest now, burying her face in his shoulder. She sobbed and bawled for the better part of ten minutes before she finally lifted her face free.
“I feel like such an idiot,” she said. “He has been using me, hasn’t he?”
Scott nodded, brushing a smear of mascara away from her cheek. “It seems he’s one of the experts.”
“Yeah,” she said bitterly. “It would seem so.”
They sat like that for a while, not talking, both lost in their own thoughts. Scott enjoyed the feeling of her soft body cuddled against his but he was more elated with the fact that it seemed he had actually gotten through to her. She had actually acknowledged that Dr. Williams was using her for her body, that he was, in all likelihood, feeding her a bunch of bullshit day in and day out. Could it be that she would finally dump his ass? Could it be that she would finally free herself and that maybe, just maybe, he, Scott, the man who had pined after her ever since that first day she’d introduced herself to him as he was moving his boxes into the duplex, would actually get a shot? Would she finally see the good thing that had been sitting under her nose all this time?
“It’s getting late,” Tabby finally said. “Let me go check Katie real quick.”
“Okay,” he said, removing his arm from around her and letting her stand up.
While she was gone he picked up another log and threw it on the fire. It soon began to blaze brightly once again.
Setting up the bicycle was easy. It came in a box and most of the frame section was already in place. Scott had the wheels on and turning in less than ten minutes. When it was done, he wheeled it over by the Christmas tree and arranged it in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
“This is the one that’s gonna be a bitch,” Tabby said as she set the box containing the disassembled dollhouse before him. “It has one hundred and ninety three parts to it. I took a look in there when I first got it and knew I was out of my league.”
“Have no fear,” Scott said confidently as he opened the box and took out the directions. “Remember, I’m a structural engineer.”
“I’ll let you get to work then,” she said. “While you’re doing that, I’ll get Katie’s stocking stuffed and her other Santa stuff arranged.”
“Right,” he said, unfolding the directions and looking for the part that was printed in
Twenty minutes later he was cursing in frustration as he tried to decipher the nearly incomprehensible directions on how to assemble the inner walls of the four-foot dollhouse. Nothing seemed to fit the way it was supposed to and several times he installed something upside down, backwards, or in the wrong place. None of the parts were labeled with numbers or letters and the pictures of them in the assembly schematic looked like they had been drawn by a third grader on acid.
“How’s it going?” Tabby asked him when she finished her portion of the Santa duties.
“This freakin’ project should qualify as my master’s thesis,” he grumbled, trying furiously to line up two holes that didn’t seem to want to line up.
“How about another snuggler?” she asked.
“Bring it on,” he told her. “This time go heavy on the peppermint.”
She gave him a mock salute and disappeared into the kitchen. As soon as she was gone Scott managed to snap the wall into place only to have the wall he’d done before it collapse from the shockwave and bring two other walls down with it.
“Damn!” he barked, gritting his teeth in frustration.
“That doesn’t sound like something Santa should be saying,” came Tabby’s voice from the kitchen.
After more than ninety minutes of cursing, frustrating struggle (and two more snugglers, both heavy on the schnapps), Scott managed to finish the structure. Several times during the process he had looked over at Tabby, who had been working on putting the dollhouse’s furniture together, to find her gazing at him thoughtfully.
“Is something wrong?” he asked her once.
“No,” she had said, a secret smile on her face. “Just thinking.”
“Of good things or bad?” he’d asked.
“A little of both,” she told him.
They carefully carried the dollhouse over to the Christmas tree and set it down. They then spent another twenty minutes on their bellies, arranging the furniture inside of it. Tabby took issue with his interior decorating skills, accusing him of trying to set up her daughter’s dollhouse like “that bachelor pad you live in”.
“You’ll notice it didn’t come with any deer heads to mount on the wall,” she told him.
“There is a tiny gun cabinet though,” he said, holding up one of the pieces.
“That’s a wardrobe, you doof,” she said, giggling.
“It could be a gun cabinet,” he said.
As they completed this final stage of the project their hips and lower legs constantly came into contact with each other, as did their hands inside the dollhouse itself. Tabby seemed to make no effort to avoid these pleasant little collisions and in fact seemed to be orchestrating them at times. Scott began to feel warmer and warmer inside.
When they finally stood up, Tabby looked at the clock on the wall and groaned. “Twelve-thirty,” she said. “And you can bet your ass that Katie will be up before six.”
“I’d better let you get to bed,” Scott said, although he really didn’t want to leave.
“In a bit,” Tabby told him. “Why don’t we have one more snuggler first? One for the road?”
Scott made a show of thinking it over. “Okay,” he said at last. “You talked me into it.”
She smiled and disappeared into the kitchen. When she returned she found him standing by her living room window, looking out into the night.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Come look,” he told her. “It’s snowing.”
“Really?” she said, quickly setting the two steaming drinks down on the coffee table. She rushed to his side and looked out the window. Thick, white flakes were coming down out of the sky, blown by the still-considerable north wind. It wasn’t quite cold enough for it to stick in the streets or on the sidewalk but the lawn and the tree were both covered, as were the cars parked across the street. “It’s beautiful,” she said.
“A white Christmas,” Scott said. “I’ve only seen it snow here once before and that was when I was a kid. It kind of brings back memories of childhood.”
“Good memories?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said with a nod. “Back when I thought everything was perfect and life was fair.”
She looked at him and took his hand in hers, leaning her head on his shoulder. “I’m glad you were here to share this with me,” she said.
“Me too,” he said, trembling a little at the contact.
She tilted her head up and kissed him softly on the mouth, her pouty lips making slow, wet contact with his.
“That was nice,” he said, his heart hammering in his chest now. “What was it for?”
“You should never ask a girl a question like that,” she said. “You should just enjoy it.”
“I did,” he said. “Although it happened so fast…”
She smiled and kissed him again, her lips lingering on his considerably longer this time. He felt the very tip of her tongue reach out, just for the briefest second, and touch his upper lip.
“How about that one?” she asked, her blue eyes shining.
“Very enjoyable,” he croaked. “You taste nice.”
“You taste like peppermint,” she told him. “I’ll always associate that taste with the kiss you just gave me. What do you think about that?”
“I think I’m always going to associate Christmas and snow with you now.”
It was the right thing to say. She kissed him again, her tongue reaching out and flitting between his lips this time. He reached his own tongue out to meet it. They swirled them together a few times and then she pulled back.
“Do you still want to see what I look like in my Santa’s helper outfit?” she asked him.
He suddenly found it difficult to talk. “Uh… you mean… you want to put it on?”
She giggled. “That’s the best way I’ve found for someone to see what I look like in a particular article of clothing,” she said.
“Uh… well… sure,” he said. “If you really don’t… you know…”
She kissed him one more time, a quick kiss this time. “I might as well see how it fits,” she said. She walked over to where the box had been tossed and picked it up. She headed for her bedroom. Just before disappearing into the hall she turned to him. “Why don’t you get that fire blazing again?”
“Uh… sure,” he stammered, still wondering if this was some kind of joke. Was she going to come back with the outfit on over her clothes?
“I don’t want to freeze my little ass off, after all,” she said. “Stay by the fire and don’t turn around until I tell you to.”
“Right,” he said, walking over to the box of wood.
He threw one of the larger pieces into the fireplace and watched as it slowly caught and began to burn. His penis was a rigid pole in his pants as he replayed what had just happened in his mind — he had actually kissed Tabitha! — and what was about to happen. Was she really going to come out here dressed in that slinky, revealing lingerie? And if she did… if she did, what was going to happen after that?
His mouth was dry and his hands trembled at the very possibilities of that last question.
It seemed like it took forever. He sat and stared at the flames leaping from the wood and shivered despite the heat radiating out to him. He listened for the sound of footsteps but he heard nothing but the crackling and popping of the fire.
“Okay,” she suddenly said from behind him. “You can look now, but if you laugh at me I’m going to pour your drink over your head.”
He swallowed and then slowly turned around. His breath froze in his throat as he got a look at her. She had not put the outfit on over her clothes. She was wearing it exactly as it was intended to be worn — over her flesh. Her long, sexy legs were completely bare, the hem of the outfit falling very high on her upper thighs, so high that if she moved in the right way he would be able to see what was between those legs. The vee of the outfit revealed nearly half of her braless breasts in the middle part of the gap, enough that the inner edges of her areolas were plainly visible. He could see that her nipples were hard (from the cold? Or from something else?) and poking insistently at the artificial silk material. She had taken her blonde hair out of the braids it had been in all night and let it flow over her back and shoulders. Sitting atop her head was the Santa hat. On her face was a sexy smile.
“Well?” she asked, doing a little turn. As she did so the hem of the outfit came up just a bit, just for a half a second or so. In that half second, however, he had plainly seen the bare cheeks of her most lovely ass.
“You’re beautiful,” he said, staring, almost drooling. “The most beautiful creature I’ve ever laid eyes upon.”
“That was exactly the right thing to say,” she told him, walking forward until she was standing over his outstretched legs. Looking up at her he could now see up under the hem of the outfit. Her pubic area was visible to him, a wet, glistening slit shaved smooth on the sides and topped with a runway strip of curly blonde hair just a half-shade darker than that on her head.
“Oh lord,” he whispered in awe as he drank in the vision of her. His cock was now throbbing inside of his pants as his brain continued to debate whether this was a particularly vivid dream or not.
“You can touch me if you want,” she said softly, her hand reaching out to play with his hair. “I think I’d like feeling your hands on me.”
Slowly he reached out with trembling hands and placed them on her legs, just behind the knees. He groaned as he felt the soft, feminine flesh beneath his fingers — flesh he’d dreamed of touching countless times in the past, usually in the privacy of his bed while his cock was in his hand. He caressed upward onto the backs of her thighs, savoring every stroke of her skin, every minute change in the texture of it. He slid them around to the front of her thighs for a moment and then to the sides. From there he ran them upward, to her hips.
“Mmmm,” she sighed as he moved his hands around to the back and cupped the cheeks of her ass. “You have a nice touch.”
“Thank you,” he croaked, caressing and squeezing her ass, his eyes still glued to the wet slit of her vagina and the tuft of blonde hair above it. Unable to stand it anymore he scooted forward, leaning toward the junction of her legs. At the same time, he pulled her midsection to his face until his lips were less than half an inch before her slit. He could smell the crisp, clean odor of her musk; strong, very feminine, very sexy.
“What are you doing?” she asked, a little breathless herself now.
“Something I’ve always dreamed of doing,” he said and then moved his face forward a little more. He stuck out his tongue and slowly licked her from the bottom of her slit to the top, tasting her tart juices, testing the slippery lips and the soft flesh just to the side of them.
“Oh my,” she squeaked, her legs wobbling a little. “You are being a naughty boy indeed, aren’t you?”
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” he promised and then licked her again, this time probing between those lips with his tongue.
“Oh… God that feels good,” she panted as he squeezed her ass cheeks and pulled her tighter against his face.
“Mmmm,” Scott moaned as he worked his tongue in and out of her a few times, savoring everything about the experience — her taste, her smell, the shape of her vagina, the moans and squeals coming from her mouth.
When her clitoris began to protrude from its hood he began to lick rapidly up and down her lips, just teasing the little nubbin with swipes of his tongue on the upswing. The wobble in her legs grew worse and he actually had to hold her up to keep her from falling.
“Yes… oh yessss, Scotty,” she moaned whenever contact with her clit was made.
His intent was to eat her to orgasm. Though not the most sexually experienced male on the planet — he had only been with four women at this point in his life — he considered himself well accomplished at the art of cunnilingus. It was an activity that he enjoyed immensely and — in true engineer fashion — had studied extensively on ever since reaching sexual maturity. His previous girlfriends had all allowed him to practice this particular aspect of lovemaking on them almost at will. He knew that a few minutes of licking and sucking at Tabby’s protruding clitoris would soon have her shuddering through a mind-blasting orgasm and he longed to experience that. Eating her blonde pussy was one of his favorite fantasies he employed during his jack-off sessions.
Tabby, however, had other plans. After only a few licks and sucks at her little nubbin she suddenly pushed his face away. She was staring down at him, her eyes full of passion, her face flushed. “Take out your cock,” she told him.
“Not just yet,” he told her, trying to put his mouth back on her slit.
She didn’t allow it. “Take out your cock!” she repeated, more sternly this time. “I want to sit on it and make myself come all over it.”
Well, there was certainly a lot to be said for that particular aspect of sex as well, wasn’t there? He quickly reached down and unsnapped his jeans, pushing them and his underwear down to his knees. The cock in question was as rigid as steel, throbbing with arousal, the veins bulging out, turning it an almost purple color.
Tabby reached down and put her soft hand on it, stroking it up and down a few times, testing the girth and length. It was of only average length and thickness but she seemed to like what she was feeling. “Oh yes,” she said. “I think this will do quite nicely.”
She slowly lowered herself down until she was sitting on his upper thighs, her legs spread out, her hands caressing his face. She leaned forward and kissed him, her tongue probing deeply into his mouth, a hot, heavy kiss of passion.
“Mmmm,” she said. “I love the taste of me on you. It makes me even hotter.”
He didn’t answer her. He kissed her again, sucking on her pouty lips and her tongue.
She took his cock in her hand again and then scooted herself forward. Soon he felt the head being rubbed against a soft, hot wetness. With a little scooch of her body and a thrust downward he felt himself enter her, just the head at first, but slowly, sensuously, kissing him all the while, she sank downward, engulfing him inside of her body.
“Uhhh,” was all Scott could say as the moment he’d dreamed of so many times became reality. He had just put his cock inside of Tabitha’s pussy! Though it didn’t physically feel much different than the other four pussies he’d been in, the psychological facet of the penetration was very powerful indeed. He was actually fucking Tabby!
“Mmm, nice,” Tabby whispered in his ear as she slowly began to move up and down on him. “Very nice. I can’t wait to come all over your cock. Do you want me to do that?”
“Yeah,” he whispered back, nibbling at her earlobe, licking at the side of her neck.
“Lay back,” she told him, pushing on his shoulders until he was lying flat on the carpet before the fire. “This won’t take long, not as hot as I am right now.”
“Okay,” he squeaked, his eyes looking down to where his cock and her swollen lips were joined. It was a truly beautiful sight.
She put her hands on his shoulders and began to thrust her pelvis up and down, slowly at first and then with considerable speed. With each thrust she would rotate her pelvis, grinding her pubis against his. When he tried to thrust back at her she shook her head.
“No,” she panted. “Let me do it. This is the only way I can come while fucking.”
He nodded, lying back and enjoying the ride. He put his hands on her breasts, pulling them through the opening in her Santa outfit (which she was still wearing the hat to). They were perfect breasts, firm yet soft, capped with pink, erect nipples. He rubbed his thumbs over them, testing their texture and size.
“Suck them,” she demanded, leaning forward a little to put them in range of his mouth. He gladly complied, taking the left one between his lips and suckling it like a baby.
“Oh yesss…” she panted, her thrusts speeding up, the grinds becoming harder and faster. “Keep sucking them… I can already… already… oh God.”
Scott, meanwhile, was using every ounce of self-control he possessed to keep from exploding within her before she was done. Between the feel of her clenching, grinding pussy on his cock, the smell of her thick, aroused musk in the air, the taste of her nipples in his mouth, and, most of all, the idea that it was Tabby he was fucking, had put him on a hair trigger. He didn’t resort to thinking about football scores or engineering equations to keep his orgasm at bay. This was too enjoyable of an experience to waste by not concentrating on it intensely. He did, however, keep his lower body muscles, particularly those in his pelvis, from clenching up. Clenching would bring the orgasm on faster than anything. By maintaining the discipline of bringing pleasure to his partner he managed to hang in there.
“Yess, yess, yesssssss!” Tabby yelled out as her thrusts suddenly became faster and more erratic. “I’m coming… Oh God, here it comes, Scotty! I’m gonna… I’m gonna… ohhhhhhh!”
As the orgasm blasted throughout her body she slammed up and down on him with enough force to actually bounce his pelvis into the air. He kept sucking her nipples, switching from one to the other, until the spasms and grunts and ecstatic mutterings finally died out. Sated, Tabby collapsed across his chest, her lips kissing all over his face and neck.
“That was so hot,” she said. “I’ve never come that fast before. It was just… mmmmm.”
“Glad I could be of assistance,” Scott said with feigned casualness. In fact, he was on the edge now and began to thrust up and down in small arcs, trying to keep the sensation going.
“It’s your turn now,” Tabby said. “I want you to come in me.”
“Okay,” he said, trying to increase the depth of his thrusts but hampered by her weight atop him.
“How do you want me?” Tabby asked him. “Do you want me on my back? Do you want to take me from behind? Do you want me to finish you off like this? It’s all about you now.”
Scott didn’t hesitate for an instant. In his favorite fantasy of fucking Tabby he always took her in a certain way. “Lay on your back,” he said. “I want to come in you while I’m looking down at your beautiful face.”
“Ohhh, yes,” she said, immediately squirming out from beneath him. She rolled over onto her back and spread her legs widely. “Like this?”
Scott looked at her swollen, wet pussy, at her beautiful legs open for his plunder, at her exposed breasts and their swollen nipples. “Yeah,” he said, pulling his shirt off and tossing it onto the couch. “Just like that.”
He quickly kicked off his shoes and took off his pants and underwear, leaving him naked before her. His cock, shiny with her juices, was still throbbing and almost painfully erect.
“Come on, Scotty,” Tabby told him, holding out her arms. “Put it in me. I want to feel that hot come spurting in my body.”
He lay down atop her, supporting himself on his forearms, his pelvis resting against hers. He felt her legs sliding up and down against the outside of his thighs and he shuddered a little.
“Do it to me, baby,” Tabby told him, leaning upward and licking at the side of his neck. “Fuck me.”
He put his cock between her legs and moved his hips up, down, all around until the head contacted her slick vaginal lips. Once in the channel he thrust forward, sinking into her in one stroke.
“Oh yesss,” she sighed, her hands running up and down his bare back. “That feels so good.”
He began to thrust in and out of her, feeling the clench and release of her muscles once more, feeling the grind of his pubis against hers. She thrust back at him, matching his rhythm exactly, seeming to pump on his cock with her body. She moaned and grunted as he thrust into her, her blue eyes staring up at him, her mouth open and panting.
“Are you gonna come for me, Scotty,” she asked him, thrusting extra-hard back at him. “Are you gonna shoot your come in Tabby’s pussy?”
Scott felt his orgasm trying to kick into gear, demanding to be released. He tried with every ounce of self-control to keep it at bay a little longer. This simply felt too good, too erotic. He was slamming his cock in and out of Tabby, the most beautiful girl he’d ever known, the girl he’d fantasized about for almost a year, the girl he thought he’d never have a snowball’s chance in hell with. He didn’t want it to end.
But trying to hold back turned out to be as futile as trying to tell the sun not to rise. Looking down at her beautiful face, at her gorgeous blonde hair, at her bouncing breasts and hard nipples, feeling the exquisite sensation of her warm pussy caressing and releasing his turgid cock, smelling the overwhelming, musky odor of their union, was simply too much to bear. He began to pant and thrust harder into her and the orgasm began to rise up within him.
“Yes, Scotty!” Tabby encouraged, grabbing his ass and pulling him down harder into her body. “Come in me, baby! Come in Tabby’s pussy.”
“Ohhhh, God,” he groaned as one of the most powerful orgasms of his life spread throughout his body. He trembled all over as waves and waves of pure pleasure washed over him. It almost seemed for a moment that he was going to pass out, the peak went so high.
“Yessss!” Tabby yelled. “Oh God, yessss!”
He exploded, sending spurt after spurt of hot semen jetting from his body and into hers. With every blast he gave her she moaned, her fingernails raking into the cheeks of his ass.
Finally, sweating, panting, sated, he collapsed atop her, kissing her face, her pouty lips. She returned his kisses eagerly, her hands now caressing his back lovingly.
“That was incredible,” he said when he was capable of speech again. He was still atop her, his softening manhood still inside of her.
“It was,” she agreed, kissing his nose, his cheek. “I came just as you did. I’ve never come in this position before. I’ve never come twice in one session before.”
They kissed again, gently at first but then with renewed passion. Soon he felt his cock starting to harden once more. Instinctively he began to gently thrust within her again, making it even harder.
“Oh my,” Tabby said, surprised. “Are you ready to go again?”
“More than ready,” he told her, kissing her ear while he began to speed up his thrusts.
“This is a pleasant surprise,” she said as she began to thrust back at him.
They made love in front of the fire for the next forty minutes, utilizing a variety of positions. She got on top of him again and rode him to her third orgasm of the night. After that she got on her hands and knees and he fucked her almost brutally from behind, his hands gripping that perfect ass and occasionally reaching forward to squeeze and palpate one of her swinging tits. When he reached around her waist and rubbed on her clitoris with his finger she came again, an explosion that took her completely by surprise and made her scream out so loudly they feared that Katie might have heard. Katie didn’t. Once making sure of this they finished up with Scott on top of her again, her legs stretched backward as far as they could go, his pelvis slamming into her until he poured himself out into her body once again.
After, they lay side-by-side on the floor, their arms around each other, the heat of the now-dying fire caressing their naked bodies. They stared up at the ceiling, not talking, just being.
Finally Scott looked at her. “I love you, Tabby,” he said softly. “No matter what else happens I just wanted you to know that.”
She smiled. “I know,” she said, touching his nose with one manicured nail. “And I love you as well. I just never realized how much before.”
It was nearly two in the morning before Scott walked back home. His house was cold and empty but he slept like a baby that night.
Scott spent Christmas day with Tabitha and Katie, getting up at six o’clock in the morning and sharing coffee with Tabby while Katie fawned over all the things Santa had brought her. There was still snow on the ground and they tried to build a snowman, but it was too wet to really stick together and the best they could manage was a brief snowball fight on the front lawn. By the time noon rolled around the snow was mostly melted and what remained was nothing but a slushy mess. There would be no more of the white powder in Heritage County for the next nine years.
Tabitha made sandwiches for them for lunch and after the plates were put away and the mess cleaned up Scott taught Katie the basics of her new bicycle. Tabitha watched from the porch, occasionally snapping a picture of their antics with her camera, mostly just smiling in a melancholy way.
When Katie lay down for a nap at two o’clock, Scott and Tabby retired to Tabby’s bedroom and spent the better part of an hour making slow, sweet love to each other. It wasn’t as intense as what they’d shared the night before, but it was much more emotional. Or so it seemed anyway.
When Scott went home that night he was totally and completely in love with his neighbor. She was the woman he wanted to spend his life with and now that she’d seen Dr. Williams for what he really was it was starting to seem like that just might be in the cards.
Unfortunately, that was not to be. On the afternoon of the twenty-seventh of December Scott came home from a trip to the grocery store to find a familiar Lexus parked in front of his garage door. The very sight of it sent a sharp stab of jealousy, fear, and disappointment into his heart. He tried to tell himself that the doctor’s visit was just the final visit, that Tabby was officially breaking up with him, officially telling him to move on down the road. But this was not to be either. The Lexus stayed in the driveway until well into the evening hours.
He didn’t see her or talk to her again for the next three days. When they did finally run into each other she was as cold as ice to him.
“You didn’t break up with him?” Scott asked her, although it was not a question.
“You mean I didn’t buy those lies you told me,” she said angrily.
“The lies I told you?”
“I can’t believe I let you convince me that John was just using me,” she said. “I can’t believe I bought all that crap you handed me. Well, it worked. You got your piece of ass off of me. Now don’t ever talk to me again.”
“Tabby,” he said.
“It’s Tabitha to you,” she said. “Not get away from me.”
“You at least owe me an explanation,” he said.
“I don’t owe you anything,” she said. “I feel like such an idiot for letting you fuck me, for falling for those lines of yours.”
“Let me guess,” Scott said bitterly. “He came by here, brought you and Katie some presents, apologized for missing Christmas, and then you accused him of just using you for sex. He told you that wasn’t true and promised to take you out for New Year’s Eve and that he’s already got his lawyer working on the divorce papers — he just needs a little more time.”
She flushed as he made this speech, telling him that he had pretty much hit the nail on the head. “What were you doing?” she accused. “Listening through the wall with a stethoscope?”
“No,” he said simply. “And what’s going to happen when he flakes on you for New Year’s Eve?”
“He won’t,” she said. “He promised.”
Scott nodded, knowing that tears would be forming in his eyes in a few seconds and not wanting her to see them. “I wish you the best of luck then. Give me a call when you want to talk.”
“I won’t be giving you any more calls,” she said. “I don’t ever want to talk to you again. I’ll never forgive you for tricking me into sleeping with you, Scott. Never.”
Scott simply turned away and went home. He barely got the door closed behind him before the tears started.
He spent New Year’s Eve alone, much of it looking out the window toward Tabitha’s section of the duplex. Dr. Williams’ Lexus never showed up. He had flaked on her again. But she never called him and asked him to come over.
For the next six weeks the Lexus appeared sporadically in Scott’s driveway, once or twice a week, sometimes three times a week, usually just during the early evening hours, but once it stayed over there the entire night. Scott wondered how the doctor had managed to pull that one off. Had he told his wife he was out of town on business? Was his wife out of town on a venture of her own?
He never found out because Tabitha was no longer speaking to him in any way. She didn’t call him, didn’t come over to his house, didn’t ask him for any favors. If they happened to be outside at the same time checking their mail or coming or going in their vehicles, she went to great pains to avoid making any sort of eye contact with him. It saddened him whenever he saw her and angered him whenever he saw the Lexus parked in front of the house. For a time he seriously considered finding a way to make contact with Dr. Williams’ wife to let her know how her husband was really spending those late nights at the office, but in the end he didn’t make the effort, knowing deep inside that it really wouldn’t do much to help his situation.
As February rolled on, Scott tried to tell himself that he was over her, that she was a hopelessly delusional woman, perhaps a little fucked up in the head, and that it was time to start writing her off as nothing more than a pleasant memory of Christmas 1995. Yes, he had thought he was in love with her but he had been wrong. It had been nothing more than infatuation of the sort that a man felt when dealing with a woman who was far out his league. It was time to start moving on with his life, to start meeting other women.
As much as he tried to tell himself he no longer felt anything for her, however, he couldn’t help but notice that Dr. Williams’ Lexus was conspicuously absent from the driveway on February 14 — Valentine’s Day. Yet another holiday — this one the epitome of romantic holidays — that the doctor was spending with his wife instead of the woman he allegedly loved. Scott didn’t bother to deny the feeling of satisfaction at the doctor’s no-show on this particular day. What do you think of your ‘fiancé’ now, Tabby?
Two days later the Lexus was there when Scott came home from work. Scott sighed as he parked his car in the street and trudged into the house. He had to hand it to the doctor. He was nothing if not punctual. It was time for the obligatory post-holiday visit, apology, smoothing over, and sex marathon, and here he was, right on time.
But when Scott went in the house and set his backpack of books down on his kitchen table he detected something he’d never heard before. The sound of angry voices locked in argument was drifting through the walls of the duplex. He could not make out the actual words of the argument but he could make out the tone. This was not a simple lover’s spat he was hearing. This was a knock down, drag out argument to the death.
It went on for the better part of thirty minutes and then came to a sudden, lethal halt. A minute or so later the entire duplex shook with the violent slamming of Tabby’s front door. Unable to help himself Scott went over to his window and peered outside. He got there just in time to see the Lexus backing rapidly out of the driveway and then tearing off down the street. He caught a glimpse of the doctor’s face as it shot by. The face was angry and hurt.
Scott waited for one week and then two for the Lexus to reappear in the driveway. It never did. What had happened? he wondered, trying to tell himself it was nothing but simple curiosity. Had they finally broken up? Had she finally reached the point that she couldn’t delude herself any more?
He got his answer a few days later. It was Sunday, the one day of the week that Scott had neither work or school to go to, and he was sitting at his kitchen table trying to compose a little more of his master’s thesis when the doorbell rang. Wearing nothing but sweatpants and an old T-shirt, his hair scraggly and uncombed, his face unshaven, he went and opened it, readying himself to send whatever salesman or religious fanatic he found on his or her way. But it wasn’t a salesman or a religion peddler standing on his porch. It was Tabby. She was dressed in a pair of denim shorts and a halter-top, her long blonde hair cascading over her shoulders. He felt his heart hammer in his chest just seeing her.
“Hi, Scott,” she said shyly.
“Hi, uh… Tabitha,” he said. “What can I… uh… do for you?”
She looked a little sad at his formal use of her name but made no mention of it. “I’m… uh… I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating you lately,” she told him, seeming to force the words out of her mouth. “I’ve been… unfair and I apologize.”
“Okay,” he said slowly, neither accepting nor rejecting her apology. He decided to play it cool. “Was there something you needed?”
“Well, mostly I wanted to apologize to you,” she said. “I also wanted to ask if I could use you as a reference.”
She nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m applying for a couple of jobs at other medical offices.”
“Oh really?” he said.
“Yeah,” she said. “It seems I’m no longer welcome at the office I work in now.”
“I see,” he said.
She sighed. “You’ve probably noticed that John doesn’t come by anymore,” she said.
“I noticed that I can park in my garage these days,” Scott said and then, unable to help himself, he added, “Did he decide not to divorce his wife after all?”
He felt immediately sorry when tears started to fall from her eyes and her carefully controlled expression collapsed into a mask of misery. “Oh God,” she said, shaking her head. “Scotty, I’m so sorry for the way I treated you. You were right about him the whole fucking time.”
He hesitated for a moment and then stepped forward, taking her in his arms and hugging her against his body. Soon her tears were burning into his shoulder once again, her mascara staining yet another of his shirts.
“Why don’t you come inside,” he said, guiding her through the door. She came willingly enough. They sat on the couch and she cried for more than fifteen minutes straight. He patted her back consolingly and told her it was going to be all right.
“I gave him the ultimatum,” she finally said. “He flaked out on me for Valentine’s Day and then came over a few days later to give me some cheap, piece of shit necklace and try to make up with me. I told him I was tired of being jerked off all the time and that he would never visit me again until I saw some divorce papers and either he or his wife moved out of that house.”
“And he rejected your ultimatum?”
“He tried to smooth talk his way out of it again,” she said. “He told me that it was a bad time to separate because the kids were in school and he didn’t want to disrupt them right now because it might affect their grades. As soon as they were done with this school year in June, he would file.”
“Uh huh,” Scott said, still patting her back, still feeling her body against his.
“But I kept thinking about all of the things you said to me… you know… that night.”
“I remember,” he said.
“And I realized that you were right all along. I gave him the ultimatum again and then we started arguing.” She sighed. “Eventually he got mad enough at me to blurt out that he had no intention of ever leaving his wife, that I was just some slut who liked his cock and that I should’ve known all along that he wasn’t serious about us ever being married.”
“And what did you do?” Scott asked.
“I tried to kick him in the balls,” she said. “He blocked my foot at the last second. A good thing or he might have lost them. I was that mad.”
“Good for you,” Scott said.
“I also called his wife on the phone later that night,” she said. “I feel kind of bad about that now but when I did it…” She smiled a little. “When I did it, man, did it feel good.”
“What did you tell her?” Scott asked.
“That her husband has been fucking me for the past eighteen months,” she said. “I described certain scars and birthmarks on his body that only someone who had been intimate with him would know about. I described certain things he does and says during sex. She must’ve believed me because he came in with a black eye the next day and she filed for divorce last week.”
“She filed for divorce?”
Tabitha nodded, smiling. “Kind of ironic, isn’t it?” she asked. “Of course he tried to get me back once his wife kicked him out of the house. He started giving me all this bullshit about fate working in strange ways and about how he could now officially be together with me.”
“And your response was?”
“I blackened his other eye,” she said.
They laughed together.
“So anyway,” she said, “things have become a bit uncomfortable for me at that office lately. That’s why I need to use you as a reference.”
“I’m yours to use,” he told her.
She kissed him lightly on the cheek. “That’s not very funny,” she said.
Things went back to normal between them over the next month. She was hired as a medical assistant at another office building for almost as much money as she’d been making before and she vowed to stay away from married doctors. And, since all of the doctors in this particular practice were married, that kind of ruled out doctors in general.
It was on an early April day when a wet storm, the last of the season as it turned out, rolled into the Heritage area from the Pacific Ocean. All day long, rain poured from the sky in sheets while an icy wind dropped the temperature more than twenty degrees below the average for that particular time of year.
Shortly after Scott came home from work that night his telephone rang. It was Tabby inviting him over for dinner that night.
“Sure,” he said. “I was just going to heat up some leftovers, but I know a better offer when I hear one.”
“I’ll see you in about an hour then?” she asked.
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Oh, and do you have any firewood left over from the winter?” she asked.
“Firewood? Sure, I have about half a cord left.”
“Why don’t you bring some over,” she suggested lightly. “Maybe after Katie goes to bed you can build a fire.”
He was already feeling warm all over.
Scott has been in love with Tabitha, the single mother next door, almost since the first day he moved in. The problem is that Tabitha is in love with someone else ‘” a married man who has all the right excuses for why he’s still with his wife. And then one snowy Christmas Eve…