Monica almost balked at the door of the dress shop, whispering to David, “This is way too expensive. Isn’t there a K-mart or Walmart around here?”
David just gave her a look and pushed her through the door. A short round woman came up and bubbled effusively, “Good afternoon, are you looking for something in particular?”
Monica shrank back and mumbled, “Um… just looking.”
David gave her a gently push forward, “My wife is looking for a dress, something pretty to wear to church tomorrow.”
The saleswoman looked from David to Monica and for a tiny instant blinked, and then moved on, “Of course, I am sure we can find exactly what you are looking for.” She looked at Monica, “We have a nice selection in our petit department.”
Monica shrugged, “I usually shop in the kids sizes.”
The lady nodded and looked understanding, “I know. I can imagine it is hard to find much in the women’s departments in your size. I am sure we can find something you will like.” She beckoned gently to Monica, sensing her reluctance.
The first dress she pulled out from the rack had a scoop neck and Monica shook her head, “It has to have a high neck or be something I can wear a turtle neck under.” Her fingers touched the soft turtle neck that she had on under her blouse. She always wore high necked clothing to conceal the scars that reached up her chest. The sales lady paused and then put the dress back.
David spoke softly, “That was a pretty dress.”
Monica shot him a panicked look and whispered furiously, “David, I can’t wear something like that out, not where people can see, please.”
“Okay, okay pretty girl.”
The saleslady looked puzzled and finally asked, “Is there some problem?”
Monica swallowed and then spoke, her voice was soft but tense and shrill, “I have some scars on my chest and neck. I don’t like to have them show.” She felt David’s hand, gentle and warm, take her hand and hold it.
Instantly the lady nodded, “Oh, of course, that limits us a little, but I am sure we can find something. What about a little suit? You could wear any kind of blouse under it you would like, or maybe a skirt with a pretty cardigan. You can get a few separates and then you can mix and match. The right skirt can go from work to church to evening wear with just a different top.” She held up a small a-line black skirt, and then began to pull a selection of jackets and sweaters, talking quickly as she showed off a variety of looks. “See how this can be dressed up with a few accessories? Why don’t we go try on a few things?” Monica blinked and let herself be bustled off to a dressing room.
Monica found herself standing in front of a mirror looking at herself in a black, businesslike suit, with a high-collared white blouse. The saleslady had gotten David a chair and Monica looked over her shoulder at him with a pained look on her face and shook her head. David shook his head, “I think we are looking for something softer, more feminine.”
Instantly the saleslady agreed, “Yes, this is too conservative. I just wanted to start with this so you could see the versatility.” Monica found herself trying on a series of different blouses and sweaters and standing in front of David, her head a swirl of confusion.
Finally, when the lady started talking about scarves and jewelry, Monica found her lips quivering and she said in a tiny voice, “Whoa.”
Instantly he was up, “We’re done here.” He spoke crisply to the saleslady, “We will get that skirt, and…” He paused and pointed at a pretty blue blouse and cardigan, “…that blouse and sweater.”
Monica nervously whispered as they headed to the check out, “I still need stockings and shoes.”
David gave her a careful look, “Only if you are up to it.”
Numbly Monica nodded and pointed at a plain pair of black pumps with a buckle on the toe, “Do you have those in size five? And I need a pair of panty hose.” She did not protest when David put a pretty hand painted silk scarf on the counter, just wanting to be done and out of there. She forced herself to not listen as the lady totaled up the cost, telling herself to trust David and to stop worrying so much about money.
Once they were back in the Cadillac she leaned back in the seat. “That was not so much fun. I am much more of a Walmart kind of shopper. That lady just wore me out.”
“She reminded me of Junie when she decides something.”
Monica burst into giggles, “A little. But not so sweet.”
Once they were back in the hotel, Monica asked, “Could you just get a pizza and bring it back?”
“Of course, Pretty Girl.”
Monica took advantage of his absence to take a shower. She gathered all their dirty clothes and had them ready to take down to the utility room of the hotel. David was gone longer than she expected and when he came back he had a couple of bags in his hand as well as a pizza box. She looked at him curiously, “What did you get?”
David pulled a small CD player out of a bag, “Dancing music pretty girl.” And then from another bag he pulled a scrabble game, “And something else to do when we get tired of dancing.”
“You seem to have thought of everything.”
“I don’t know about that. I forgot to ask you what kind of pizza you wanted.”
“I don’t really care. What kind did you get?”
David’s face was perfectly serious, “I got a supreme with extra jalapeño peppers.”
Monica’s voice was outraged, “Jalapeño peppers!” The corner of his mouth twitched and his eyes began to sparkle. Monica flew across the room and tackled him, “Oh no you didn’t!” She pounded on his chest in mock ferocity.
David caught her in his arms and swung her around. “I actually thought about it, but then I ordered them on the side.”
Monica wiggled out of his arms, “We need to do laundry. I don’t have enough quarters.” David dug through his pockets and together they pooled their change. Monica gathered up the armload of clothes and hurried down to the laundry room. As she pushed open the door, she jumped when a hand touched her shoulder, an involuntary yell of terror coming from her as she dropped the clothes and whirled around. David stood there frozen with a pair of socks in his hand. Monica looked at the clothes on the floor and muttered, “Shit.”
“I am sorry, Pretty Girl,” he held up the socks, “you dropped these.”
Monica took a deep shaky breath, trying to ignore the drumming in her chest. “Oh thanks.” She forced herself to grin, “You will be happy to hear that I am a lot less jumpy than I used to be. Maybe next time, you could say something before you sneak up on me like that.”
“Will do,” he leaned over and helped her pick up the clothes she had dropped. Together they sorted out the clothes together and started the washing machines.
“Do you think it will be okay to leave these things here? Or should I stay here?”
David laughed, “I doubt we need to stay here. Come on up to the room and eat some pizza before it gets completely cold.”
After the laundry was all folded and put away, David challenged her to a scrabble game. The score was closer than Monica had expected. David had a larger vocabulary than she did and frequently used words she was unfamiliar with but to her surprise he was a terrible speller. The third time she successfully challenged a word that just did not look right to her, he laughed and commented, “Irene always used to say that if I could spell I would be dangerous.”
He won but it was close. Monica squealed with giggles when he jumped up and began to dance a victory dance. His grin was teasing, “Hey a good sport would join in my excessive celebration.” Monica’s giggles turned to a delighted scream when he pulled her up and twirled her around the room.
When he slowed finally stopped, he kept her in his arms, grinning down at her flushed cheeks and bright eyes. Monica gasped, “Do you always dance like that when you win?”
David winked and drawled, “Only when I am so fortunate to have such a pretty gal to dance with.”
Monica felt her face blushing and then reaching up and twining her arms around his neck. She stared into his soft brown eyes, “Then perhaps the vanquished could offer the victor a kiss?”
“Then I would indeed be a lucky man.” His mouth was infinitely soft and gentle, the kiss deepened, their lips parting and tongues meeting tentatively touching and retreating only to touch again. Monica found herself lightly running her hand across the short hair on the back of his head and neck. It felt so soft, almost like velvet.
When their lips finally parted, Monica hid her face against his chest. Her voice was low and quivering, “Wow.”
David chuckled, “Yes, I am definitely remembering. Irene may have been the only woman I made love to, but I kissed half the girls in the parish before I settled down.”
“It must have broken a lot of hearts when Irene landed you.”
Together they began to rock and step, David waltzing her to a tune only he could hear. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the church on our wedding day.” He chuckled again, “There will be more than a few fine widow ladies gnashing their teeth when I roll into town with a beautiful young wife on my arm.”
Monica leaned against him, her eyes closed, letting him lead her in their slow silent dance. She murmured, “I like this. I could do it forever.”
“Sorry, Pretty Girl, I am only ready to commit to do this for thirty-seven years.”
Monica took another shower before bedtime and put on her freshly washed white nightgown. She fingered the satiny fabric of the lavender negligee. A fleeting feeling of frustration made her brow furrow up and she gave a little exasperated sigh as she shoved it back into her suitcase.
“What’s the matter, Pretty Girl?”
“I just hate that I am having my period now. I want…” Monica couldn’t finish the sentence.
David’s hands were firm on her shoulders, “I want too, Pretty Girl. It’s only a few days a month. I can wait.” His fingers began to work at the tension in her shoulders, massaging her muscles. Monica moaned in pleasure as he slowly worked his way up her neck and worked at the knots at the base of her skull. He leaned closer, kissed her neck and whispered, “Come lie down on the bed and I will rub your back.”
Monica lay down on the bed, self-consciously smoothing down her nightgown around her legs. Her voice suddenly tense, “You don’t have to…”
His voice was soothing, “And what if I want to? Would you let me do this for you?” As he spoke he carefully pulled the blankets up over her legs, up to her waist, wordlessly communicating that he would only go so far and no further.
Monica swallowed down her words, thinking to herself that in many ways he was using the same words she had expressed when she had wanted to touch him, give him pleasure. She took a deep breath and sagged softly under his hands, and mumbled, “It does feel good.”
“The physical therapist that worked with Irene showed me how to do this; she had a lot of back pain.”
“Mmm… hmmm….” No longer wanting to even work up the energy to say words, Monica thought to herself that this was a good thing, a really good thing. The sensations of his fingers working at her seemed to melt her whole body, sending waves of warmth and tingles through her. She could feel her body responding, the soft, slow warmth of growing need making her loins ache and throb. But it was easy and relaxed, and she was just happy to know her body was cooperating with the sensual mood, not growing stiff or numb. When a small amount of warm fluid seeped from her and soaked into her pad, she did not stiffen, just wondered idly if it was menstrual fluid or the natural moisture of her body wanting to make love. It was like his touch banished all fear.
When Monica woke the pale light from early morning was coming in through the windows. She was alone in the bed and could hear the sound of the shower running. She lay still, carefully holding her pad close against her crotch. She counted back in her head, almost two days, three more to go. When David came out, she scooted quickly into the bathroom, pausing for only the quickest of kisses before shutting herself in the bathroom.
When she came out he was wearing one of his FBI agent suits. She quickly pulled on the new clothes. The blue high necked blouse and sweater matched the color of her eyes. When she held up the scarf, looking at it wondering if she should tie it around her neck, David spoke up. “I was going to take you to a Catholic Church this time. Sometimes in more traditional churches it is expected for women to wear a hat or a scarf. Irene always wore one. It is silly, but I just wanted you to have something.”
Monica’s voice was shy, “Okay, but I sure don’t know much about that kind of stuff. How will I know what to do?”
David laughed, “Don’t worry, Pretty Girl, just follow my lead. But let’s not worry about that right now. Let’s go out for breakfast today and then go to church.”
“Will we have time to come back here after we eat, before we go to the service?”
“Sure, Pretty Girl, we can do that.”
There was something about the service was struck Monica as being somehow soothing. They sat near the back, and the church was beautiful, with the soft grey light of the rainy day, warmed and somehow enlivened by the stained glass windows. She did not listen so much to the words of the priest, just sat quietly letting the calm rhythms of his speech soak into her. She stood and sat and kneeled when David did. The singing was the best, leaning against him, sharing the same hymnal, following along with him as he traced out the words with his finger tip, her soft uncertain soprano blending with his confident baritone.
After they left Monica was in a quiet and peaceful mood. When David asked her what she thought, she looked thoughtful and murmured, “It was beautiful.” Then her eyes widened, “You know that Bob talks about infinity like you talk about God, and he says that you can sense the infinity of the universe in the beauty all around us.” She smiled and reached out and took his hand, “Whatever it was, it was there in that place, in the light and the words and the music. I am glad I went. Thank you for taking me.”
David looked thoughtful, “It is funny how in many ways Bob is one of the most spiritual of people I have met, even though he spends way too much of his time talking to trees.” Monica’s laugh was a soft bell ringing.