Keith woke drained. Praying, God, if I never do nothing else in life right, please don’t let me do this wrong. Please, keep me from screwing this up.
He looked over at a contentedly sighing Lesli. Got up, went into her living room, lit a cigarette and went to the window. Before long, she came right behind him.
“Oh, no,” she said. “This looks like the last bad experience I had with you.” Adding in soothing tones, “If you so much as turn your mouth to tell me you’ve got cold feet again, I will open that window and throw you out…sweetie.”
He leaned back against her. Passing her the cigarette. She took a drag. He turned. Staring at her face, body, losing himself in her eyes. She shook him. “You better say something I wanna hear.”
Keith cracked up and took her over to the love seat. “I want you to marry me.”
Lesli, in the middle of sitting down, lost her aim and landed flat on the carpet. She gasped wide-eyed. Then shot him a skeptical sneer. “If this is your idea of some kind of smarta*s line…”
He sat on the floor next to her. “Lesli Mari, I want to be with you for the rest of my life. But dammit, girl, you can’t control your jealousy. Or that temper.” She frowned. He grinned. “To tell you the truth, darlin’, I don’t even so much mind the temper. You kind of sexy when you get mad.”
“Focus. There’s all kinds of things in the world you can get mad at me about. But, baby, you know how many women I run into? It comes with the damned job.”
She was petulant. “I know.” Then her expression shifted. “Wait a minute. You’re sitting here with a straight face telling me the reason you wouldn’t live with me before is because I get jealous?” She got up and began to pace. Oh no, he thought. When that woman starts walking back and forth, all pure hell’s fixing to break loose. “Everybody gets jealous.”
“Les, not the way you do.”
“Oh, and I guess you’re an expert. Since, in our whole time together, you waited ’til we broke up to get jealous.”
“Woah, woah. Don’t tell me I ain’t get jealous. Every time you smiled at a man, I have to make myself not be upset.”
“You a light bulb? Lesli, I trust you. Feelins is feelins, but damn, they don’t has t’ be the only thing you act on. Not when you love the woman. When you really dig somebody.”
She quit pacing and stared down at him, her hips practically in his face. “You got jealous?”
“What you think? I’m human.” She reached down and pulled him up. “So, you’re saying that if I hadn’t been such a holy terror about those other broads, we wouldn’t’ve had to go through all this.”
“I’m sayin’, Les, I don’t want us to break up again. Ever.”
“Okay.” She gave him her characteristic, wizened smirk. “Tell you what. Since love is supposed to be so much about communication, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll do my best — no promises, but I don’t want to break up again, either — I’ll do my best to behave. Unlike a lot of women would, I never tried to change you. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t. Because, I fell in love with you just the way I found you. I’m sayin’ now, though, mister, I want you to stop being such a Sphinx.”
Lesli wrapped her arms around his waist. “Do you know how hard it is to read you? I never know what you’re thinking.”
“Well, I seldom think. You ain’t never figure that out?”
She gave him a frustrated glare, softened it with a smile. “Bulls**t. Just, baby, please. Would you talk to me more often? When you read me the riot act and threw me out of your place, do you realize, I almost begged to stay? You have never been that vocal. That ready and willing to go to war for how you feel. It was the first time I ever saw you break down and lose control. A whole different you.”
“You want me to lose control.”
She gave him an impatient frown. “Keith, I will kick your narrow behind. You know what I’m saying.”
“Okay,” he admitted, “I’m not the world’s greatest communicator.”
“So.” He went to shake her hand. “We got a deal?”
“No, fool, you just went and got yourself married.”
“You’re such a romantic.” They laughed, hugged, kissed. Then went back to bed.
Next week: Combining households: his place or hers?
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.