from Never Promise Forever

Sunday morning, Rodney awoke to Ray’s mower. He was not disappointed when he looked out his bedroom window. Ray was scantily clad as usual and sweating away so he could get to his golf game. It gave Rodney an idea. He pulled brown denim shorts from his drawer and took a pair of scissors to them, shortening the leg openings to create “hot pants.” After masturbating in the shower, he walked around the house in the shorts, working up the courage to wear them outdoors. He decided that his mirror reflected a body that was tanned and toned enough to get away with showing as much skin as possible while mowing his lawn. Besides, he lied to himself, that way I can deepen my tan.

After lunch, he started on the back yard. There was no one around except Selena who came out on her deck and waved. “Howdy, neighbor.” She paused to look at him long and hard. Rodney wondered if she were comparing his physique to Ray’s, or just speculating on his prowess in bed.

He waved back and went on mowing. There was a lot of traffic on Aspen Drive for that time of day, all of it headed downhill. Then he remembered that the Bobs were having their party. He unplugged his electric mower and moved to the front yard. Brazenly, he mowed back and forth, wondering if anyone going to the party was looking at him the way he stared at Ray. Once, he looked up as two men were walking to the door; they waved. He waved back.

His property ended where he could see the six feet of deck extending beyond the Bobs’ house. Several men were seated or leaning on the railing, some with their shirts off. If Rodney wanted to see more, he had to mow Varda’s lawn. That, he decided, would not hold up in court; she would question what he was doing. Frustrated, he took his near naked body and his mower over to his side lawn on Aspen.

Why do I crave their attention so much? Why do I need it?

As he was finishing up, he noticed two women in pantsuits coming down the hill. He thought nothing of it except that walking was unusual in a neighborhood where everyone drove even the shortest distances. The two women paused on the sidewalk to watch Rodney mow while they conversed with each other.

Avram jogged by in running shorts, sweat dripping down his hairy chest. “How do, ladies?” He tipped an imaginary cap to them.

“We do very well, thank you.” They turned to look after him.

“May I help you?” Rodney called.

“Yes, you can. You can invite us inside for an iced tea.”

Rodney did a double take. He refused to recognize what his eyes saw. Two worlds collided, one overlaying the other in an impossible montage. He blushed bright red on every inch of his exposed flesh.

“Alice! Doris! What the hell are you doing here?”

“Oh, you know.” Alice flapped a hand. “We were in the area and stopped off to see if you were home. It was such a beautiful afternoon, we left the car at the top of Aspen Drive and decided to take a walk.”

“How’d you get my address?”

“Vee haff our vays,” Doris said in a mock German accent.

“Why didn’t you call?”

“Effect. We wanted to surprise you.”

“You certainly did. Come on in. I’ll get you those iced teas and jump in the shower. Won’t be a moment.”

Alice had been Rodney’s duplicate bridge partner for three years in Frankfurt. She was a Life Master and then some. She had refined his concept of the game, taught him strategy, and demonstrated its application to life. When other matters distracted him, specifically when Meg was preparing to leave him and the children for a job in London, Alice took up with Brett Hanson, an army specialist.

As Rodney rinsed off, he realized he was mortified. Not only had they seen him embarrassingly unclothed but, moments ago, he had overtly been trying to flirt with gay men going to the party.

But Alice and Doris don’t know that. Calm down. …It’s just so weird.

Refreshed, he joined the women in the living room. “So now,” he began, “what are you doing here?”

“I came to ask if you wanted to marry me.” Alice lowered her false lashes and raised them again.

Rodney waited a beat, deciding how to answer.

“Right. Of course, you did. Really, why aren’t you two in Frankfurt?”

“Well, I divorced the Colonel last year. And Doris and I decided we’d play in the D.C. National Tournament and look you up when it was over.”

“How did you get my address?”

“We told you we have our ways. Brett knows someone at NSA Europe, a specialist named Roark, Jamie Roark. He got it for me. Brett and I had dinner with him and his wife, Jessica. She’s a secretary at NSAEUR. They both had nice things to say about you.”

Good old Jamie. Still looking out for me. “Yes, they married while I was there. So you still play with Brett Hanson?”

“More than that,” Doris inserted. “He asked Alice to marry him.”

“Wha-at? He’s not yet thirty.”

“Last I heard, it was legal at twenty-nine,” Alice said dryly. “The heart wants what the heart wants. And mixing bridge and sex can be quite exhilarating.”

Ouch! Rodney felt the impact of that pointed jab; it resulted in a dead space in the conversation. Since he offered not a jot of protest to Alice’s marriage to Brett, her mission to Columbia had failed without yielding a glimmer of the results she was hoping for.

“So how is your other bridge friend, the one you were playing with when we met?” Alice asked.

“Marie Camden. The Camdens are in Stuttgart. I hear she’s having a baby.”

“That’s good.” Alice nodded her head with finality. “She wanted a child.”

No one had anything more to add.

“Would you like some more tea?” he asked.

Alice put her glass on the coffee table. “No, we’re good.” Idly, she turned the lazy Susan top. “We got what we came for. We have to get back to Dulles for a night flight.”

“I’ll walk out with you.”

He gave each woman a peck on the cheek and watched the two of them walk up Aspen. They waved at Avram on his way downhill. He did a little circular dance in the street to acknowledge them. Then they disappeared around the bend.

For a while Rodney stood dazed. He couldn’t believe they had come all that way to see him. With her deadpan bridge face and cold-as-steel logic, Alice had opened the bidding with one heart. Holding a yarborough—a hand with no value—Rodney passed. That ended the bidding.

He expected Alice wouldn’t fret over it too long; she’d just move to the next table and play the cards waiting for her there. She had taught him well. The golden rule for a good bridge player was never let poor performance on one hand affect your play on the next.


Rodney ate a leftover chicken breast for dinner and headed for Jeanine’s. On the way, he walked behind two men leaving the party. He looked at them analytically, trying to divine what made them gay; he imagined them holding each other in bed. There was nothing different about them except the deliberate way they dressed, as though they had bought their clothes off magazine covers.

The two men stopped at their parked car and Rodney walked on to Jeanine’s. She kissed him at the door and took him directly into her bedroom. He made savage love to her. She complied, thinking it was fun and different, but when he failed to slow down for a breath, she pushed him away.

“Rod, what’s wrong? Something’s different. You’re not making love to me; it’s more like at me.”

“You’re right. I guess I’m firing random bullets at moving targets today. I’m sorry, hon. I’ve had a rather disconcerting day.”

Remembering that he had nothing to prove, Rodney took a deep breath and relaxed. Jeanine created an environment that allowed him to do that. Concentrating on long sensuous arousal, he ensured they both experienced satisfying climaxes.