Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The soft hum of the refrigerator is all that disturbs the silence, that and the rhythmic clink of his spoon scraping the bowl with each dip for another bite. Every morning it is the same routine, up at 6:00, shit, shower and shave by 6:25 and maple brown sugar oatmeal by 6:30. Hector stares at the spoon in his hand and he sighs dropping it in the bowl. Padding over to the kitchen sink he washes the bowl and spoon.
“Hector?” Elissa’s voice sounds distant but not distant enough. Hector’s eyes widen as he looks around for something, anything to cover him. He grabs the dishtowel just as she bursts in and hides his nudity as best he can. “Ooooooo…” Elissa grins and leans against the door way. “Well, if this is how you have your morning oatmeal,” her eyes rake over his naked form hiding behind the dishtowel barely draped before his crotch. “Must be why I’m not invited for breakfast.”
“Get… don’t you… Elissa,” He fidgets turning beet red, “why are you here?”
“I brought coffee?” As if her statement wasn’t enough, she raises her left hand extending a cup towards him trying desperately not to allow her gaze to drift, maintaining eye contact with great difficulty. A prolonged moment of awkward silence lingers between them, Hector shifts and Elissa’s mind frantically looks for something to say. “You’ve been working out.” She flinches pulling the cup back to her as the words are blurted out before she can stop them.
“Elissa…” Her name is more of a groan than a spoken word. Hector looks toward the door behind her, his impeded escape. “Yes, okay I’ve been working out. You end up alone and you start to wonder why. You ask questions, like ‘what’s wrong with me that no one wants me?’ Next thing you know, you try things to improve yourself, like exercise…”
Elissa takes an involuntary step forward as she tries to reassure him. “Hec, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re-”
“Don’t…” He blurts the word out almost violently and they both flinch. “Please, just…” Hector runs his fingers through his hair no longer able to quite meet her gaze. “I wasn’t enough for Evangeline. And you… you don’t want me…” His words are thick with doubt, questions and he frowns. His embarrassment over his nakedness is forgotten as his discomfort shifts to the conversation instead. “Obviously I’m lacking some thing, some where.” He looks at the cups in her hands as if their mere existence is wrong or misplaced. “Whatever…” The defeat and resignation in that last word weighs heavily between them. He throws the dishtowel on the counter and moves past Elissa to his bedroom.
The smell of soap and maple lingers in the air as he brushes past. Elissa’s watches him move down the hall blushing at the thoughts his body stirs within her. His words spoken and unspoken tumble through her head causing her mind to reel with questions and doubts, ‘you don’t want me…’ Only she did want him, oh how she wantonly wanted him. He was vulnerable after the break up of his marriage and she was so lonely. Elissa had thrown herself at him under the guise of friendship.
Two people searching for something, both wanted to feel anything other than loneliness and pain. She walks to the counter setting the coffee cups down, gripping the tiles with both hands as she sways under the onslaught of memories of moments they shared: intimate quiet nights, soft spoken words, tender warm embraces and her cowardly betrayal. She stares at her hands as they tremble. She knew better than to encourage their personal relationship, yet she pursued him. Hector was her best friend, he trusted her, needed her and she failed him.
Her finger tips slip across her lips as the memory of the kiss they shared accusingly presses on her. So much passion, sorrow, fear, need, desperation and want in one very heated kiss. His passion and sorrow fiercely mingled with her fear, need and desperation. She panicked, he blamed himself and she let him. She hid behind work, they are partners and there should be a line you don’t cross. Somewhere in her convoluted mind she justified her actions and never looked back.
She looks behind her now towards the doorway Hector recently stormed through, the image of his defined hard body etched to memory flits before her and the realization of what they could have had dawns on her, “Wow…” This thought is immediately followed with the overpowering reality of the impact her selfish actions had on him. She let him down, she failed him. A tear falls, followed by a few others that she fights before she succeeds in the fight to hold back. “Oh Hector…”
As if responding to his name, he calls out from his bedroom breaking through her thoughts, “You still didn’t tell me why you’re here.”
She opens her mouth to speak then closes it with a snap. Looking down at her hands clutching her middle she hesitates before responding. She clears her throat and rubs at her eyes with the palm of her hands. “There’s been another death, we have victim number two and still no answers.” Elissa grabs her cup with a shaky hand and sips her coffee, waiting for him to emerge.
“Who died?” Hector still hasn’t come back to the kitchen.
Elissa mentally reprimands her own silly behavior. This is Hector. They’ve been partners for years. She needs to think of him and not her own mixed up feelings. With determination she wanders down the hall with both cups of coffee. She leans against the door frame watching the still shirtless man slide his pants over his hips. “Travis Knight was found face down in the pool at 06:10 by none other than our friendly gardener, Kingston Riley.”
Hector looks up in surprise, “Kingston Riley found pool boy?” His pants are still unzipped, resting low on his hips as he makes his way over to his dresser to grab socks. “I thought he told us yesterday that he wasn’t allowed to start work at the Hamilton estate until 10.” He finds a suitable pair and wanders to Elissa, grabbing his cup. “Thanks.”
The soap and maple scent is joined with a hint of coffee. Elissa fights to keep her eyes and mind from wandering as she nods. “Yes, well we’ll just have to ask the man what he was doing at the estate when we get there.”
Hector takes a sip of his coffee lost in thought. “Kingston finds Travis; Did Kingston show up early to kill Travis then claim to have found him or did someone call Kingston to the house early so he could find Travis?” Hector takes another drink of his coffee. Elissa watches his throat as he swallows. Her eyes are drawn to his muscle when they ripple as he moves. Her gaze travels down his chest following the light dusting trail of hair that tapers the lower it goes below his belly button. Her face warms as she remembers what is now hidden from view.
“Hmm…” Hector hands his cup back to her. She blinks staring at the cup before taking it without a word. “Do we know anything about his death or the time of death?”
He sits on the edge of his bed and pulls his socks on. Mesmerized Elissa watches him, “Travis Knight was last seen downtown at the Lucky Lounge. Nothing else is concrete until the coroner tells us otherwise.”
“Okay…” He gets up and crosses to the closet. Elissa swallows past the lump in her throat, clumsily turns on unsteady legs and starts out of his bedroom. “Elissa…”
Elissa stops without turning or looking at him. Her heart races as fast as her mind fills with enough thoughts and images and what ifs to make her head spin out of control. “Yes?”
Hector’s dress shirt still hangs open revealing his tone torso, his pants remain in place purely by his hips as he makes his way to her. He stands behind her, his voice lowers intimately, sincerely, filled with pent up emotions. His breath brushes lightly against her skin. “I’m not going to make the same mistakes again.” He once again takes his coffee cup from her only this time his hand closes over hers and he kisses her cheek.
The two stand together unmoving, his head lowered resting cheek against cheek as she leans back against him on unsteady legs. Both are breathless and silent, both are afraid to speak their feelings and afraid to hear what the other might say. His free hand slips hesitantly to her hip tugging gently encouraging her to turn around. His lips brush along her jaw, “Lis…”
Half way around, her free hand captures his with a small whimper. She lifts her gaze to meet his, her lips part with no sound forthcoming. She licks her lips and tries again. “Hec, I-” Elissa jumps when her cell phone rings. A small disappointed groan crosses her lips. Her cheeks burn red with guilt when she moves away from him. Hector wanders off to finish dressing and Elissa pulls out her cell phone. “Putnam.” She distractedly watches him as she listens. “We’re on our way…”