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Authors: Anita Diamant

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BOOK: Good Harbor
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He put her toes in his mouth, and she nearly laughed at the intensity of that pleasure.
He reached up her thighs, and up inside her. Fingers and tongue, turning her inside
out. He was practiced, and generous. He took his time and seemed to know just when
to apply a little more pressure. He cooed as she climaxed, “Ooh, Joycey.”

Joyce grinned at herself in the mirror on the way home. Her skin glowed. Her lips
glowed. She looked young. Was it really the most intense, satisfying orgasm she’d
ever had, or was it just new?

She painted three closets that afternoon. She finally lied outright to Frank when
he asked about her day. “Antique shopping,” she said. She slept for twelve hours and
woke up at eight-thirty, to Frank’s phone call.

Then Patrick called, as he said he would, at ten. “Give me a couple of hours to sleep.
I’m done in.”

He was waiting outside for her and kissed the back of her hand as he took the sack
of coffee and muffins from her. She sat on the folding chair in his room, watching
him eat.

He ate in big bites and drained the cup. Joyce watched him wipe his mouth with the
napkin. “You’re the cure for loneliness,” Patrick said, putting the cup back into
the bag.

He leaned against the wall, stretching his legs on the bed, and pulled a book from
his shelf, a big, dog-eared collection of contemporary Irish poems. “Come sit by me,
Joycey.” He patted the space beside him. “Let me read you something.” He read three
poems full of longing for a lover and for a green piece of land, which turned out
to be the same thing.

When he finished, he kissed her on the cheek and jumped up. “Back in a sec.”

He took off her clothes, standing up this time. Nuzzling her breasts, stroking her
thighs, kneeling before her, he steadied her with his hands when she swayed. There
was a moment when Joyce grew fearful that he would stop, or that he would do something
cruel. But that never happened.

Three days running, Joyce left his room high as a kite, but more and more perplexed.
As she drove back to Gloucester, she fretted over the way he never took off his clothes,
never let her touch him below the waist. He even stopped her from running her hands
under the shirt he never removed, holding her wrists, gently but emphatically, until
she stopped trying.

Joyce longed to give him what he gave her, but he refused. He shifted his weight when
she tried to lean against him. When she reached down for him, he shook his head no.

“Why?” she asked, panting, wanting him inside her.

“Your pleasure is my pleasure,” he said, removing his face from between her hands,
kissing a path down between her breasts, down to her toes and up to her clitoris,
where he stayed until she stopped him.

And he stopped only when she stopped him, when she was drenched, weak, sore with pleasure.
When she said, “Enough.” Or when it got to be two-thirty.

The lobster shift, he called it, three in the afternoon until eleven at night, though
often there was overtime until early in the morning. His regular route took him all
over the North Shore, though he’d been as far as Maine and New York City.

He told her that sometimes, too wound up to sleep after a long night, he would find
a spot and watch the sun rise over the ocean. Like the morning they had met at Halibut
Point. “I won’t go back there without you now,” Patrick said as they lay on top of
the threadbare sheets. “It’ll be our own piece of sky. On the edge of the morning,
the off-chance meeting of lonely hearts.”

Joyce shivered.

“You enjoy hearing me go on a bit, don’t ya?” he whispered, lips to her ear.

As she drove home, she plotted ways to pry off his shirt. She practiced asking him
why he wouldn’t get naked with her. Was he impotent? Did he have AIDS? Was he a priest?
Was there a camera in the room? Was he a psychopath setting her up for a brutal murder?

She’d think of something before their next time together. He was going on a three-day
run, all the way down through Connecticut, he said. He’d call at ten, the morning
he returned. Joyce didn’t know how she’d wait that long. She’d probably finish the
bedroom and start on the kitchen.

As the supermarket came into view, Joyce decided she couldn’t wait another minute
for a cold drink and pulled up to the soda machine out in front.

Rummaging through her wallet for change she heard her name.

“Joyce!”

It was Buddy Levine. “I am so glad to see you,” he said. “I’ve been meaning to call
and thank you. Kathleen’s been so blue at home lately, if you two weren’t spending
so much time together, I’d be a lot more worried about her.”

 

THE NEXT DAY
, Joyce showed up at Kathleen’s front door at noon. “I am taking you to lunch. No
excuses.”

Kathleen offered none. “You look good,” she said. “Is the writing going better?”

“No. But I did find a great little store in Rockport.” Joyce twirled around to show
off a new sundress. “Put on some shoes, and we’re out of here.”

They went to Traveler’s, a newly renovated restaurant on Main Street where the fish
sandwiches were served on sourdough rolls. Sitting under a ficus tree by the front
window, Joyce studied Kathleen’s face as she read the menu. The hollows in her cheeks
were too pronounced, and she seemed tense and vague. Joyce had seen Kathleen gripping
the door handle in the car all the way into town.

“How about a glass of wine?” Joyce asked.

“I’m fine, you know,” said Kathleen quickly. “I’m just ready for this treatment to
be over. It’s knocked me out.”

“Is it just fatigue, really?”

“I think so. Buddy is nagging me to go talk to someone. But I’ve got you, don’t I?”

“Yes, you do.” Joyce studied the menu. What could she say? “I’m sorry I’ve been too
busy not-quite-screwing my boyfriend to pick up on the hints you probably dropped
on the phone every day”? Or maybe, “Good thing I ran into Buddy, who spilled the beans
about your lying to him.”

There was a rap at the window. Kathleen waved at a young state trooper in full regalia:
black shiny boots, peaked cap, holstered gun. “Jimmy Parley,” she said to Joyce. “An
old student.” She motioned for him to come inside.

“Look at you,” she said, shaking his big hand.

“Hey, Mrs. Levine. You know my little girl is going to kindergarten next year?”

“Impossible. Alyssa, isn’t it?”

“Yes!”

“Hard to believe. Forgive me, Jimmy, this is my friend Joyce Tabachnik. She bought
the Loquasto house over on Forest. Near where your cousin Bob lives.”

The trooper shook Joyce’s hand, then asked Kathleen, “How are you, uh, feeling these
days?”

“I’m going to be fine,” Kathleen said firmly.

“Good. Well, that’s what I heard. Good. Well, I’ve got to go, but say hi to Mr. Levine
and tell Hal he better call the next time he’s up.”

“Tell Cynthia I said hello, too.

“I remember him in kindergarten,” Kathleen said. “Such a shy little guy. He fell sound
asleep once during story time. He graduated a year after Hal. Now look at him. And
a father.”

Their food came, and Kathleen relaxed a little. She told Joyce her neighbor had brought
over three more marijuana cigarettes. “For my appetite,” Kathleen said. “I guess Louisa
thinks I need fattening up.”

“I’d have to agree with her there,” said Joyce. “But who is this Louisa person? A
drug dealer?”

Kathleen laughed. “You should see Louisa; the epitome of the genteel New England lady.
She must be nearly eighty. But when her husband had stomach cancer a few years ago,
the marijuana helped him get through the chemo.” Louisa Moore Bendix’s life was a
great story, from her grandmother the prohibitionist to her great-grandchildren who
lived in Kuwait. Joyce listened gratefully, realizing how little she had to talk about.

Nina loved camp, but her notes were unremarkable. And what can you say about painting?
Frank was still missing in action, and this wasn’t the best time to begin a conversation
about her marriage. Most of all, Joyce didn’t want to talk about the only thing on
her mind. I’ve been so obsessed with Patrick, I didn’t even notice that Kathleen was
in trouble.

Kathleen started to fold her napkin.

“Oh, no,” said Joyce, “we’re having dessert.”

“Tell me again how blue tastes of chocolate,” Kathleen teased, as Joyce coaxed her
into finishing the brownie sundae, taking every bite as a personal victory. Kathleen’s
watch was loose on her wrist.

As they got into the car, Joyce said, “Let’s go for a walk. Doctor’s orders.”

Kathleen tucked her hands under her thighs to avoid gripping the handle again and
said with a heavy sigh, “I don’t know.”

Joyce pretended not to hear and turned toward her house. “We can stop and pick up
a couple of hats. And I want to show you inside.”

“Maybe I’ll just wait in the car.”

“Please come in for a minute? No one’s seen it yet.”

“What do you mean? Surely Frank’s seen it.”

Joyce shook her head.

“He hasn’t been up at all?”

“No.”

“But it’s been weeks, hasn’t it?”

“A few, I guess. He’s busy at work.”

Kathleen wondered whether she should ask about Frank again. “Mind your business” had
been the motto of her childhood. But now that seemed like a failing in a friend.

Joyce’s face betrayed nothing as she swung the car into her driveway and got out.
“Ta-da,” she sang out as they walked into the house.

The living room, empty except for a beanbag chair and an off-white rug, was honey-colored
— almost golden — in the full light.

“Wonderful,” Kathleen said.

“Come see.” Joyce gestured for her to follow down the hall. Her office, a translucent
pink, was bare except for a calendar over an uncluttered desk.

“How pretty,” Kathleen said in the bathroom.

“Don’t look at this,” said Joyce, closing the door on the paint cans and ladder in
the master bedroom.

Nina’s room looked the most lived-in, with posters on the walls and a low platform
bed made up with purple sheets, which looked cool against the pale blue walls. She
misses her daughter, Kathleen thought.

The kitchen floor was lined with newspaper. Joyce had finished the cabinets and walls
in a rich tan. Random swatches of dark purple bloomed in several spots below the chair
rail. “I still haven’t quite decided whether I can live with this color,” she said,
handing Kathleen a long-sleeved shirt and one of Nina’s baseball caps.

“It’s lovely. The colors are so perfect. Where did you get the idea to paint that
one wall darker in the living room?”

“I hired a decorator to tell me what to do,” Joyce said a little sheepishly.

“But why hasn’t Frank seen it?” Kathleen asked softly. “He hasn’t even been up on
weekends?”

“He’s too busy.” Joyce waved her hand as if she were shooing a bug. “I don’t even
care anymore.”

“You don’t care?”

“Let’s go to the beach.”

Kathleen was quiet as they drove over the hill, concerned and confused about the way
Joyce had answered — or hadn’t answered — her questions about Frank.

“I’m going to drop you off and park,” Joyce said.

Kathleen crossed the bridge and sat down to wait. It was a sun-worshiper’s day, hot
and almost cloudless, with a cooling offshore breeze. Kathleen shuddered with pleasure
as the warmth soaked through her clothes. She buried her hands in the sand, wiggling
her fingers down through the soft, sun-baked layer, pushing into the cool, packed
surface beneath.

“I feel like a vampire released from the curse of doom,” Kathleen said, wiping her
hands as Joyce sat down. “I’ve been avoiding the sun. I wonder if that’s making things
even worse.”

“Things?”

“The treatments, I guess. And August. It’s almost August. August is . . .” Kathleen
stopped. Why tell her? she thought.

Joyce tried to find Kathleen’s eyes under the brim of the hat.

“August is hard for me.”

BOOK: Good Harbor
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