Chapter the Seventeenth, in which our hero Peter drunk-dials.
L’Homme is a relatively new men’s fragrance (2006) by Yves Saint Laurent. The top notes are citrus and ginger spice, fading into a base of cedar and basil. It is said to be “deeply masculine” with “the appeal of calm, inviting confidence.” Sounds like a description of Peter as he normally appears. But not tonight.
Over lunch with Andy at Sarafina’s, Cynthia said, “I slept with Peter. After the Scholars’ Day on Monday.”
“You did?” Andy gave her a strange look, as though she was not sure whether to be pleased. “Was it good?”
“It was beyond my wildest dreams,” said Cynthia. “I haven’t much to compare it with, but— I never could have imagined.”
“Well, sometimes there’s a benefit if a man is… experienced,” said Andy carefully.
“He’s experienced, all right. I know I can’t expect a commitment from a man like Peter… but oh, Andy, I’m in love with him. I can’t help it.” She looked up from her veggie sub with extra mustard, no mayo. “I’m in for trouble, aren’t I? I’m already chafing because he said he would call, but that was Tuesday morning, and now it’s been a week. Isn’t that an awfully long time?”
“Cyn.” Andy hesitated, and then said, “I went to work at Parnell last week on Friday. I saw Peter there. He was in Leslie Favreau’s office, with the door shut. He’s been there before. I think there’s something between them.”
Cynthia heart gave a couple of dull, jerky thuds and her chest tightened. She drew a deep breath and did her best to smile. “Thanks for telling me. I wish I could pretend he’s different, but I know he’s not.”
“What are you going to do?”
She took a bite of her sub. “I don’t know. Once I realized I was in love with him, I reasoned that if I was going to have the heartache, I might as well have the fun. But now that the heartache is starting, I’m not so sure.”
At work, she had to prod herself to stop thinking of Peter, in order to get through her daily tasks. All she wanted to do was stare into space and dream of him. And now, instead of enjoying pleasant dreams, she was tormented by the question of why he hadn’t called yet. Was she just another notch in his belt? Perhaps there would be no call, ever. In bed, he had seemed passionate, but also quite affectionate toward her, as though he genuinely cared. Maybe it was a technique that people talented at seduction used. Like all good liars, they believed what they said, at the moment they said it.
Cynthia went home. She still had a land line, but there was no message on her answering machine. She made dinner— an egg white omelette with spinach, garlic, two ounces of sharp cheddar, which she carefully weighed on her kitchen scale, and a half-glass of white wine. She played with Ursula, read several chapters of Middlemarch, and went to bed.
A buzzing noise awoke her from an intensely erotic dream in which she was sitting naked on Peter’s lap. Groggily, she looked at the time: 12:30 am. The noise came from her phone, which was set to vibrate. She picked it up and saw the identity of the caller.
“Hello Pussycat. Are you sleeping? Sorry, woke you.”
“Is something wrong?”
“I want to see you. Want to be with you. Have to be with you.” He sounded odd. Was his speech a little slurred?
“Peter, are you all right?”
“Be with you,” he said stubbornly.
“Where are you now?”
“Outside my building?” He agreed that he was outside her building, though he sounded a little uncertain. She went to a window that faced the street and peered down. Yes, there he was.
“Peter, I want you to come upstairs now. Come to my door, number fifteen. Remember, it’s on the third floor.” She stayed on the line until the call was cut off, and she opened the door as soon as she heard his knock. She took his coat. He was dressed in work clothes, but his tie was loose, his shirt was partly unbuttoned, and the signature flower in his lapel was missing. Even before he kissed her, she could smell the liquor on him. And… cigarettes.
“You smell like Marlboroughs, Peter. My brother used to smoke those.”
He perched on a barstool at her kitchen counter. “Gave them up years ago. Had a couple tonight, hours ago. Good nose, chérie.” He looked bleary-eyed, and she set a tall glass of water in front of him. “Want me to make coffee?” she asked. It occurred to her that she was wearing a nightshirt with cartoon kittens on it, and her legs weren’t shaved. Not particularly sexy, but it didn’t seem to matter at the moment.
“No. C’mere.” Obediently, she stepped into the circle of his arms. “Want you. The smell of you, Cyn,” he said, nuzzling her neck. “Take you to bed.”
“Not until you drink this water,” she said. “Or I can make you some bacon and eggs.” Her mother always said bacon and eggs were good when her father had too much to drink, which was often.
Standing up, he glared at her, raised the water glass to his lips, and drank about half of it. Then he put one arm around her waist, and bending, hooked the other around her knees, sweeping her off the floor. She cringed, but he didn’t seem to think she was heavy. He carried her to the bedroom, banging her head painfully against the doorframe in the process, dropped her on the bed, and collapsed onto her, smothering her with kisses. His technique as a lover suffered considerably when he was the worse for drink. There was a certain urgency that she found exciting, and of course, he was Peter, after all. Still fully clothed, he was fumbling at his zipper now.
“Wait, Peter, I’ll get a condom.” She reached into the nightstand drawer; after their night together she’d optimistically bought some of the brand he used, just in case. She pulled off her panties, and tore the foil on the condom, hoping she could figure out how to roll it onto him. But when she felt his crotch, there was no erection.
“Peter? Sweetie? Why don’t you just undress and lie down with me.”
“Damn.” He was had a hand on himself and was belatedly recognizing the problem. “Dammit! Wanted to be with you, Cyn.” He sounded tearful now. “I love you.”
Even though he was so obviously drunk, the words pierced her heart. “I love you too, Peter. Let’s take your tie off.” He was half-sitting up, but suddenly he seemed to fall backwards, his eyes closed. “Peter?” She sat watching him, wondering if she should try to move him onto his side, in case he vomited. His breathing became slower and deeper, and after a couple of minutes, he began to snore. Sighing, she removed his tie, and with some difficulty, his shirt, shoes, socks and trousers. He remained unconscious throughout.
Why had Peter gotten himself into this state? Was it something he did often? He said he hadn’t smoked for years, but had suddenly taken it up again tonight. Maybe something had happened to upset him. She lay awake beside him for a long time in the lamplight, stroking his dark hair and the stubble on his cheeks. Was there a hint of gray in his beard? He had a beautiful, broad chest with a fair amount of hair on it, and powerful shoulders. She chuckled softly at the memory of his carrying her to the bed. Perhaps she was losing weight. She refused to weigh herself, worried that she might become discouraged if there was too little progress, but her clothes were noticeably looser.
Finally she turned out the light and fell asleep, one hand still holding Peter’s upper arm. When she awoke in the morning he was gone, and there was a note scribbled on a blank page torn from her sketchbook: Pussycat. I’m not sure what happened last night, but I know I made a fool of myself. Let me make it up to you. Dinner at Maxime’s on Friday?
Copyright 2014 by Linnet Moss
Notes: Smoking for the first time in years. Disheveled clothing (!). Drunk dialing (!!). And inability to perform in bed (!!!) Something obviously has Peter way off balance.
For this episode I had to dig deep, way back to my misspent youth. I didn’t drunk dial anyone (not that I can recall, anyway) but I have received a few of those calls in my time. They seem to be a male specialty. Usually it’s just a matter of loneliness, perhaps nostalgia for an old girlfriend… someone or something they’ll have forgotten by the morning. But once in a while, there is more to the story.
I love the really old Marlborough ads, before they got into cowboys. The man always had a tattoo on the back of his hand, and an intrigued woman was often checking him out.
Thinking of doing a post on these old ads…