Creating Two New Novels. Writing One Chapter Weekly. Podcasting As I Go. Welcome to The Experiment.
Chapter 3, Part 2 Summary: Ava meets Lily’s husband, Dominic. Lily learns what Claire really thinks of her relationship with Ava.
Jane’s Favorite Line: “Ouch.”
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Chapter 3 Part 2
“I’m not sure if it’s them knowing that’s shocking or their approval,” Lily confessed after Claire was out of sight. It felt surreal. Ava’s daughter reacted to Lily’s purpose for this visit as if she truly were no one other than Ava’s cousin. And now her housekeeper was just as welcoming. Standing naked wrapped in a towel while they held the conversation did not help calm the parallel universe effect.
“Oh, Claire doesn’t approve, she accepts. She told me she wouldn’t be much of a Christian if she didn’t at least warn me that my soul was in a compromised position for doing things to a woman that I should only be doing to a man. That was her kind-hearted way of letting me know I’m going to hell.”
Ava laughed. “Lily, you do have the most vivid facial expressions. Don’t be shocked. We’re a hop, skip and a jump away from the Bible belt. What did you expect?”
Lily wrapped her towel around herself tighter, although it hadn’t shown any signs of coming loose. The concept of same-sex-anything-but-friends being sinful hit too close to home. Her parents had barely spoken to her in the last nine years because of that mindset. She only heard from them twice a month when they made plans to pick up their grandson, Lily’s only and now seventeen-year-old child, Nathan.
“I guess I expected her not to say that to you.”
“Don’t be silly. That’s one of the reasons I hired her. Interviewing for housekeepers is torture. Claire was the only one who called me by my name instead of “Mrs.” as if I were someone important. She felt like family right off. And she’s felt that way since.”
“Yeah, but practically telling you that you’re going to hell…that sort of flies in the face of ‘going along to get along’, don’t you think?”
“That’s what you do with people you don’t have to put up with for long. I should know. I work with all kinds of people for different charities. Most are real nice, but a few, whew! I have to keep telling myself to smile and bear it and it’ll be all over in a few hours. At home, it’s nice to be able to disagree and move on without expecting the other person to change. Isn’t that what family’s all about?”
Not Lily’s. “Do you want to meet Dominic? I promised him we’d Skype everyday and it’s about that time.”
“Why, of course,” Ava didn’t pick up on Lily’s change of topic, but she did notice that the wet spots on her dress from hugging Lily had already dried. Good! She didn’t want to meet Lily’s husband for the first time looking disheveled.
Lily went to her open laptop sitting on the secretary desk. The desk faced a window that looked out into the neighborhood. Lily could see every house in the cul-da-sack as well as a few beyond. Millionaires need not apply. Dominic earned enough as a consultant to own a three-bedroom condo on the lake in the heart of downtown Chicago. He had more than enough left over to support Lily and Nathan without Lily ever needing to join the workforce herself. Needless to say, she was no stranger to higher living, but this was ridiculous. Every house was big enough to reintroduce the concept of extended families living together down to the great, great, great grandkids. Spouses and all.
Lily jiggled the mouse until the screen came to life. Her Skype window was open to Dominic’s profile by default. She smiled at his chosen photo. It was of the two of them on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. It was one of those fun, in the moment photos. Their heads were pressed together and tilted up to look at the camera Lily was holding above them. They both had the biggest smiles on their faces to mask the fear of heights they both shared. But it was a fear they had finally tackled together after years of being able to see the ride from their living room window , which was ironically located on the forty first floor. They both loved that moment.
She positioned the mouse over the “Call” button and pressed it. As the generic ringtone filled the air, Ava smoothed out those pesky invisible wrinkles in her dress and pushed back those unruly strands of hair that constantly fell towards her face. She had just finished when the ringing stopped and Dominic’s face filled the monitor.
“Mmmm, good morning, beautiful,” Dominic’s voice filled the room like soothing music.
“Good morning to you, too,” Lily didn’t have the same high school crush like grin that she had on for Ava earlier, but her smile was just as happy, but there was a different kind of energy to it. A calmer one. A familiar one.
It was only day one and she already missed him like crazy. Just looking at his creamy, peanut butter complexion made her want to lick the screen for a taste. And those light brown eyes. And, oh, God, his smile. The way his thin goatee perfectly framed his tempting lips.
“Why the towel?”
Why was she wearing the towel? Oh! Lily realized that Ava was standing too far to her right to be picked up by the computer’s camera. She waved Ava closer. Ava shyly stepped into view, embarrassed to have witnessed such an intimate conversation. One that would have been much more intimate had she not been there.
“You must be the reason my wife left two boys to fend for themselves for a month.” Dominic was a charmer. He delivered the sentence in a way that was nothing more than a kind “good morning”, but it carried more friendliness to ease Ava’s apparent embarrassment.
It worked. Ava lifted her head and quickly pulled the strands of hair that fell over her face back behind her ears once again.
“She is!” Lily jumped in in order to use the moment to get a little harmless revenge. “This is my cousin, Ava.”
Ava’s mouth fell wide open.
“Now who has vivid expressions?” Lily teased.
“Lily, don’t poke fun at me.”
“‘Not me!’” Ava aided her.
“Right,” Lily cleared her throat and began again. “Who me?”
The couple laughed. Dominic felt like an outsider. But he smiled as if he had just witnessed the most adorable scene. And really, he had. The two were practically standing on top of each other in order to be seen by the camera’s limited field of vision. Their physical closeness coupled with the emotional closeness their playful call and response game presented did make an adorable scene. He wondered how they had come up with it. Had they been saying it for months? A few weeks? Dominic waited for their laughter to die down a bit.
“You could call it that. Everyone inside this house seems to know it’s a joke,” Lily laughed again and Ava barely had time to finish her last set of giggles before a fresh batch rolled out.
Dominic braced himself without letting his smile waver. He even laughed along. He knew how to handle feeling left out for a few moments or days when Lily was caught up in a new love interest. He had some practice over the last nine years. Reminder number one: it was just a feeling. Lily never truly put him second. He had formed a bulletproof plate over the front of his heart to keep that feeling from stabbing at it. Unfortunately, in some moments like this one the, “you’re second best”, feeling crept in from the back and did some damage. The current damage was no more than a scratch. He would work to keep it from getting worse over the next few weeks.
Ava was the first from the couple to recover enough to speak. She held on to Lily as she did to steady her weakened knees from the lack of oxygen their non-stop laughing had caused. “It’s just…I was a bit nervous when my husband met Lily and I introduced her as my cousin.”
“He believes my wife is your cousin?”
Dominic managed to ask the question without a single hint of the concern that Lily knew he was feeling. She managed to rush out a sentence between chuckles. “Oh, they don’t believe that at all. Apparently, Ava is the worst liar south of the Mississippi.”
More cryptic messages. He knew Lily wasn’t talking in circles on purpose. She was just caught up in the moment, but he did know when to bow out. He wasn’t going to be able to have a real conversation with the two of them while they were high on their “new relationship energy.” “New relationship energy,” was the term Lily used to explain this part of the dating new people process to him years ago. Most people probably know it as, “the honeymoon stage.” The only difference was that it could be hard as hell to swallow the fact that your wife is having a “honeymoon anything” with someone who is not you.
Dominic forced chuckled. “I’ll let you two young ladies get your day started.”
Those words snapped Ava into full hostess mode. Where had her manners gone? So much for acting like herself and not like a giddy school girl. “Not at all! I’ll have Lily all day long. You should have her for a few minutes at the very least.”
Ava’s diplomacy impressed Dominic. Nothing was plastic about his smile this time. “I hope we have a chance to talk at a later time, Ava.”
“You can count that egg before it’s hatch,” she smiled.
“Ava, don’t go,” Lily was still struggling to get her breath back under control, but she was managing. Slowly, but surely.
“Hush. You just come downstairs when you’re finished and we’ll head out. Nine thirty is the latest we can leave and still be on time. You have an hour,” she kissed Lily on her cheek. “Friends do that,” she said before Lily could protest. She turned back to Dominic. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
Ava left and Lily watched her go. What’s that saying? “I hate to see her go, but I love to watch her leave”. Yep. That was it. When she turned back around to face Dominic, her lower lip was in her mouth.
“Isn’t she a doll?”
“From what I can tell, yes. But-”
“Dominic, don’t start,” Lily warned. If she had pointed her finger at him and waved it up and down, the gesture would have complimented her tone nicely.
Dominic’s deep soothing voice had no fear of faltering. As long as he stayed calm and spoke on logical terms, not emotional ones, Lily would listen. “I’m not starting, Beautiful. I am concerned that your relationship with Ava hasn’t been made clear to her husband.”
“It’s clear. I spoke with him this morning,” she sat down on the leather chair and readjusted the camera to her new height.
Dominic waited for the screen to stop shaking. “And he approves?”
“Not exactly yet.”
“Yet. The key word is ‘yet’. Give him a few days to sleep on it.”
“Lily, I don’t want you down there causing problems in their lives.”
Dominic rubbed the back of his neck to ease the tension starting to form there. “Beautiful, I just want to make sure everyone is onboard before you pursue this much further.”
Lily rolled her eyes. “That’s what I’m doing. As you know, I’m not brand new at this.”
“Lily,” Dominic paused to make sure is next words would come out calm and even, “we are brand new to this. Your past girlfriends were single and childless. You never dated a married woman with a husband and a child before.”
“The word ‘married’ indicates ‘husband’.” Lily claims this is her “dry wit”, but everyone else calls it, “smart-mouthed”. She knew they were probably more accurate.
“Look! There is a first time for everything.”
“And firsts come with trials and errors. I don’t want that error to result in an affair and a broken home.”
“Wow. You are making a mountain out of a molehill, Dominic. I won’t touch Ava unless he says it okay. You know that. She knows that. And he knows that. Lets drop it. Where’s Nate?”
“Nowhere to be found,” Dominic had no choice but to go with the flow when Lily jumped topics like this. To get her to jump back was an impossible task. “I came home last night to an empty condo and a hungry dog, but I expected nothing less, did you?”
Lily didn’t expect anything less and Dominic knew it. With Lily off chasing her castle in the sky dream of a wife holding her left hand and a husband holding her right, Nathan was bound to disappear like Houdini. Dominic didn’t mind. Nathan was a good kid who graduated high school six months early. And, quite honestly, Dominic was relieved not to have to deal with his son’s disapproving side remarks right then. Not after the long workday he had yesterday. And not when he was trying to wrap his own mind around Lily’s ever evolving ideal romance. He was grateful for the happy golden retriever who greeted him with a wagging tail and a wet tongue at one in the morning.
“I bet you missed me,” Lily fished for a compliment.
“You always make bets you know you’ll win.”
“Yet, you didn’t call me.”
“I wanted to. I tried to get home by ten before you passed out, but-“
“I know. I checked. Only because you said you would get off early.”
“I’m sorry. I-”
“No need for ‘sorry’s. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for ten years and I’m a damn fool.”
Dominic looked hurt. Lily felt guilt. She loved that man. And she loved that he worked so hard to provide for her and Nate. She hoped she showed appreciation for this fact more often than she showed irritation because of his eighty plus hour workweek. But comments like the one she just made was more salt on an old wound that would more than likely never have the chance to heal. She hurried on.
“Besides, you know me. I’m asleep by ten like clockwork. I was so tired yesterday that I didn’t even eat dinner. At six I crawled in bed to relax for five minutes, but was out for the rest of the night.”
This was true. Even if Lily had been home, she would have left a home cooked dinner on a warming plate for him. She would have set the dinning room table before going to bed so he could eat comfortably. After he ate, Dominic always slid out of his suit and into bed next to his eccentric wife. His kiss on the back of her neck would have awakened her enough for her to snuggle into him and ask how the rest of his day had gone since they had last spoke. Depending on the night, she would be able to stay awake long enough to hear the answer.
Dominic rubbed the back of his neck once again in the silence. Lily glanced at the time on the bottom right hand corner of her screen. It was awkward. Lily never managed to back pedal successfully out of the, “you’re never home because you work too much” accusation. She tried another route.
“Looks like we still have forty minutes. I think I know a way to kill the time.”
Lily stood up and a second later Dominic watched the white cotton towel whoosh passed his screen. The screen now showed Lily’s belly button down to mid-thigh. Dominic followed Lily’s right hand slide from her waist to in between her thighs and pause there for a moment. He smiled. He pushed his chair away from his desk until his lap had cleared it. Lily heard the sound of his zipper coming down. Now, she had succeeded at backpedaling. She sat back down with her petite breast and above in view.
“You’re not going to let me see?” she playfully whined. That poor bottom lip of hers. She was going to draw blood from it before the next five weeks were up.
Dominic held her gaze. Sex always shifted the upper hand from Lily to him. She craved it and would all but literally sacrifice her first-born son, Nate, to have Dominic satisfy her. Dominic enjoyed the power exchange. Even if it did only last as long as they were wrapped in each other’s arms. “We should store up this sexual tension until we see each other again,” he taunted her. “After a few weeks, it’ll be explosive.”
Lily closed her eyes, leaned back into the leather chair and slipped three fingers into her moist opening. “I hope to have sex way before then.”
Ouch. That comment left a wound deeper than a scratch on the back of Dominic’s heart. He knew she was referring to sex with Ava. Not a thought he wanted her to be considering in this moment with him. He quietly re-zipped his black slacks and placed his papers for work inside of his briefcase while simultaneously describing to Lily exactly how he would make love to her if they were together. Lily didn’t notice Dominic hadn’t joined in on what was supposed to be a mutual masturbation session. Her eyes remained closed during his entire narration. She listened to his soothing voice and moved her fingers to produce the movements Dominic was saying he would make if he were inside of her.