The Pizza Party
 
 
After four weeks of our get together plans being fouled up by sleet and poor road conditions, it looked as though the pizza party was finally going to happen.  I looked through my cupboards and I realized that the weekend staff had used the can of black olives that I’d planned on topping the pizzas with.  I was also short a can of sauce.  I picked up the phone and called Sarah.

     “ Hey there.”

     “ Hey back.”

     “ Have you done your shopping yet?”

     “ On my way out now.  Need something?”

     “ Yeah, weekend staff used my black olives and a can of sauce.” I said.  I wanted to tell her that I needed her.  I wanted to tell her I loved her.

     “ I’ll pick the stuff up and drop it off on my way back.”

     “ Great.  Thanks, Hon. Hey, you drive carefully please. “ Damn, I’d slipped and called her Hon.

     “ Will do.  See you soon.”  She said softly.

     “ Bye.”  I love you.  My tone reflected the unspoken.

     “ Bye.”  I heard her heart speaking to me.
We hadn’t seen each other since the Valentines dance.  My mind saw her constantly.  I woke to the sound of her voice.  When I slept I dreamed of her.  The nights when my mind spun with “her thought” windmills, I sat in the dark in my recliner, headphones lulling me with Natalie Cole’s rendition of The Very Thought of You.  I dreamed of holding her.   I saw her eyes burning into me, searching me, and awakening a part of me that I thought had died… giving life to me. My mind repeated the words of my Valentines poem:
 
 


I see you leaning against the wall, so tall, so pretty
Raven hair tied back, blue eyes penetrating my being
Your laugh that shakes me in ways I’ve never been shaken
Oh Baby, would you like to dance?

It’s Valentine’s Day
I want to touch you
Can’t figure out what’s wrong with me
Oh Baby, would you like to dance?

I want to breathe you in
I want to soak you up
I want to drink you
I want to melt into you

Married women aren’t supposed to feel this way
I stutter; I stammer; I stare at the floor
My body keeps screaming
Oh Baby, would you like to dance?

You’re two feet away from me
Can you feel me?
If I dared seek you, you would be my Valentine
Oh Baby, would you like to dance?

Waltz me ‘round
Teach me your steps
I want you
Only you… teach me

Ah, look what thoughts will do
I need more than thoughts
Make me tremble
Oh Baby, would you like to dance?

Open my door and I will fly to you
Open my door and I will fly to you
Open my door and I will fly to you
Oh Baby, would you like to dance?

I looked forward to the nightly phone calls.  I heard a car horn honk outside and knew the guys were home from work. I reluctantly put my thoughts on hold, donned my jacket, and headed out into the cold to guide them inside.

     “ Hey Guys.  How was work today?”

     “ Good. Take my coat off? Gotta pee.”

     “ We’ll be inside in a minute. Okay, step carefully guys there’s a little icy patch here.”
Once inside, I guided Larry to his room so he could take his coat off and get into his slippers.  I took Jim directly to the bathroom and checked to make sure he hadn’t had an accident.  I helped him with his coat and his boots while we were in the bathroom, then I put them away for him.  When Jim was through, Larry took his turn.

     “ What would you like for snack today?”

     “ Banana.” Replied Larry.

     “ What would you like Jim? A banana or cookies”

     “ Yeah.”

     “ Which one? Use a word, Jim.”

     “ Coooooooookiees” He smiled.

     “ I just love it when you tell me what you want.”

     “ Beth, TV?”

     “ Sure, what would you like to watch?”

     “GilliganSkipperMaryanne …..” He sang.

     “ What’s the name of the show, Larry?”

      “ Gilligan’s Island.”

      “Guess what, guys?”

      “What?”

     “ Matt and Josh are coming over for supper tonight.  Brian and Sarah will be here too.  We’re having pizza for supper and ice cream for dessert.”

     “ Pizza good.”

     “Yeah, piiiiiiza.”

     “ Good word, Jim.”  I served snacks.  Larry inhaled his banana.

     “ All done, Beth. TV?  GilliganSkipperMaryanne?”

     “ Take your plate to the sink, please.”

     “ Okay. TV?” 

     “ Yes. Jim are you finished?”

     “ Yeah.” He handed me his plate.

     “ Hey man, you can’t fool me.  Let’s take that plate and put it into the sink.”  He laughed and grabbed onto my arm to be guided into the kitchen.  On the way back to the living room, he started to tickle me.  I plunked him onto the couch and tickled him back, then ruffled his hair.
     “ Guys, I’ll be out in the kitchen getting stuff ready for supper.  Gotta make it look special for the company. Just yell if you need me.”

     “Okay. GilliganSkipperMaryanne.”

     “ Enjoy the show.”

I went into the kitchen, grabbed a rag then went into the dining room and washed the table.  I heard the van pull into the driveway.  My heart rushed.  I dried my hands and tried my best to calm myself.  Sarah knocked at the door and I let her in.

     “ Hey there.” I smiled my so-happy-I-could-just-shit-the-stratosphere smile.

     “ Hey back.” She smiled back.

     “Come in.”

     “ Can’t stay long need to get the groceries home.”

     “ Don’t think anything will spoil out there today.  Want a quick cup of coffee?” I didn’t want her to leave.

     “ Could use the caffeine, I ‘spose.”

     “ Extra cream and sugar, right?” Our eyes hadn’t lost contact. “ Can I take your coat and hat?”

     “ Where?”

     “ Wise ass.”  She took off her hat and her raven hair cascaded over her shoulders.  My goddess she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.  My knees went weak and I felt the floor buckle beneath my feet. My mouth went dry; and, I swallowed hard.  There was a definite rush to my nether regions… so much for composure.  She reached out her hand to steady me.  Her touch sent shock waves through my being.

     “ You okay, Hon?”  It took everything I had not to spill my feelings out to her.

     “ Yeah, just lost my footing for a second there.”

     “ Right.  It’s wonderful to see you too.”

     “ Really?”

     “ Oh yes, really.”

     “ Good.  I feel better now.”

     “ Hey, you wanna take this ice cream before it melts all over the floor?”  I hadn’t noticed the bag in her hand.

     “ Sure.”  I was melting all over the floor.  Oh to be a big puddle with her.  I took the bag from her and sitting it on the counter, I removed the cans of sauce and olives. I put the ice cream in the freezer.  Sarah had gotten the cups from the cupboard and was pouring the coffee.

     “ I’m glad we got to see each other alone before we all came over tonight.  Wasn’t sure what my reaction would be.”

     “And?” There was bile in the back of my throat.

     “Oh, my.  I don’t think I could have masked my reaction to seeing you.  We need to be careful.”

     “ I know.”  I stood next to her at the kitchen counter; my arm brushed against her: I needed to feel her.  She didn’t move away.  We finished our coffee.

     “ Gotta get the groceries put away, make the salad and help Brian get the guys ready.  Josh has a surprise he’s bringing over…. The Absolute Very Best of Hulk Hogan.”

     “ Thrills, sounds like a guys’ night to me.”

     “ Yup.  They should have a blast.”

     “ You hurry back.” My eyes told her I loved her.

     “ See you in about an hour and a half. “  She smiled down at me and brushed a stray clump of hair back from my forehead.  Then she turned and left.  I hoped that maybe she loved me too. Seeing Sarah left me aching for more of her. 

I knew that even without Sarah in my life, I had some decisions to make.  My choice would be between life and existence.  If I chose to live, I risked losing my family; I risked losing my home; I risked losing my job.  If I chose to live, I gained me. If I chose to exist, I risked losing myself.  I took the piece of paper from my pocket, unfolded it, opened it and read: I am a lesbian.  I love Sarah Page.  My gut told me what my choice would be… my choice, my life, meant that I would rip my husband and my marriage apart.  That which I had held so sacred for the last twelve years would be cast aside, and I would pay dearly for my choice.

I went in the living room to check on the guys.  Nick was running a Gilligan’s Island marathon and Jim and Larry were thoroughly enjoying the treat.

     “How’s the show?”

     “Good, got supper?”

     “ I’ll be making the pizzas soon.  Josh and Matt will be here in a while.”

     “Brian?
    “ Brian and Sarah.”

     “ I like Brian… He’s funny.  GilliganSkipperMaryanne.”

     “Okay I’ll let you get back to your show.  I’m going to get stuff ready for the pizzas.  I’ll be in the kitchen”

     “Piiiiiiiiizaa” said Jim.

     “ I love to hear you talk, Jim.”

Back in the kitchen, I filled the sink with hot, soapy water; I re-scrubbed my cooking area and got my prep stuff out. I washed my hands; then I started chopping the veggies fairly finely.  I mixed them together so I could toss them on top of the pizzas.  When I was through, I put my utensils and cutting board into the sink.  I preheated the oven so the stovetop would be hot enough to set the pizza dough on while it rose. I washed my utensils and cleaned the counters. I washed my hands. Then, I poured the crust mixes into a bowl and stirring the mixture with a fork, and I gradually added hot water.  When the dough was ready, I placed a clean dishtowel over the bowl and set it on the stovetop.  I repeated the cleaning procedure, re-washed my hands and chopped the pepperoni. 

All the time, I replayed every nuance of Sarah’s visit: Those blue eyes that made me feel like a doe who’d been caught in a car’s headlights: unable to move, helpless, awaiting the head-on collision.  Seeing her hair cascading over her shoulders, I could not have fathomed that the lack of a hair tie could leave me weak kneed and shaking.  I still felt her hand on my arm.  The parts of me that she hadn’t put her hand on felt jealous…. They screamed with need.  Her smile that made me smile.  Her lips … I wanted them all over me.  When she wrapped her hand around her coffee cup, I longed to be that cup.  And in a little under an hour, I would have to share her.

I picked up the phone and dialed her number.  She answered.

     “ Hey there.”

     “ Hey back.” I heard the pleased tone in her voice and pictured her grinning at me.

     “ Um, I have about a quarter of a can of grated cheese do you think that will be enough?”

     “ Couldn’t wait, huh?” She chuckled softly.

      “ No.” I admitted.

     “ I'm glad you called. Brian’s helping Josh with his shoes, still within earshot.” This meant I talk and she would answer as best she could.

     “ I can’t put into words what it felt like to see you today.”

     “ I can understand that.” She spoke softly.  It felt as if she was whispering in my ear; and, my heart raced.

     “ So, I’m not going nuts.”

     “ I never said that.” She laughed and my soul opened to her.

     “ Wise ass.”

     “ Yup.”

     “ What are you doing now?”

     “ Putting the finishin’ touches on the salad.  I’ll bring some extra grated cheese to you.” Her tone changed back to friendly.

     “ I take it you’re no longer alone.”

     “ That’s right.”

     “ I’ll see you in a bit then.
     “ Yeah, we’re running a bit ahead of schedule… mind if we show a little early?”

     “ You could teleport yourself through this phone line right now and I wouldn’t mind a bit.” 

     “ Wouldn’t all those extra people inside your head be a bit confusing?”

     “ True, the one in there now is confused enough as it is.”

     “ I hear that.”  Silence on the line, a silence where I held her not wanting to let her go long enough to hang up the phone and drive here. In my mind, I traced her jawline with my fingertips until they rested beneath her chin.  I pulled her face to me and I kissed her.  I could hear her breathing. I was lost.

     “ Drive carefully.”

     “ Will do…. Soon.”

     “ Soon.”  I love you; my heart spoke.

I straightened up the kitchen and then headed into the bathroom.  Looking in the mirror, I combed my hair with my hand and checked for tooth crud.  I looked in on the guys on the way back through the living room.

     “ How’s it going?”

     “Good… supper?”

     “ I’m about to make the pizzas now…. Matt, Josh, Brian and Sarah will be here in a few minutes.  Jim do you need to use the toilet?”

     “Nooooo.”

     “Okay, I’m going to go make pizzas.”

I went back into the kitchen, cleaned my hands, then spread a coat of olive oil on the pizza pans.  I divided up the dough and greased my hands to spread the crust mixes on the pans. I heard the van pull into the driveway. Looking up, I saw Sarah looking at me through the window in the door.  When I was about to open the door, I realized that my hands were covered with olive oil and pizza dough.  I turned the doorknob with my elbows.  Sarah laughed and finished opening the door.

     “ All lubed up and no place to go, huh?”

     “ Wise ass.  Need any help getting stuff in?”  I love you, my eyes said, Come ’ere my body beckoned; I need you my heart cried. Her eyes searched; her smile answered. A slam of the van’s door jolted me. I stuffed what I was feeling… I lowered my gaze and put my professional mask in place.  Sarah closed her eyes and nodded her head slightly.  We had work to do.

     “ Josh can carry the salad… Yessah” She left to assist with her guys and I washed the gunk off my hands.  A few minutes later, Matt came in with his walker.

     “ Hi Matt” I signed using his name-sign: the letter "M" on my left shoulder.

     “Hello” Matt signed back and raised his hand for a “high five”. I met his gesture and asked for a “ low five”; when he was about to slap my hand, I pulled it away.  Then signed “gotcha”.

      “ You’re silly”

     “ Happy to see you, Friend.  How are you?”

     “ Fine thanks. You?”

     “Tired… work, work, work.  Take your coat and hat?” He took his coat and hat off.  He looked at the pans on the counter.
     “Help bake pizza?”

     “ Yes, wash hands.”  By then the rest of the group was inside.

     “ Hey Beth.” Said Josh. He wore a pair of mirrored aviator-type sunglasses.

     “ What’s with the shades there, Mr. Cool? Great to see you.” Josh grinned broadly.

     “ Brought a surprise!”

     “ Oh yeah, what is it?  Can I take the salad?”  He handed me the bowl and I put it on the counter.

     “ Shhhhhh don’t tell the guys.”  He reached into the bag on the back of his wheelchair and pulled out a video cassette.

     “ Oh too cool!” I said then whispered, “ The Hulkster.  You want to go into the living room with the guys for a while?

     “ Sure.” He headed toward the living room.

     “ Hey Brian.”

     “ How goes it Beth?”

     “ Looking forward to the weekend, Bri.”

     “ Need me to set the table?”

     “Sure. You know where everything is. ”

     “ Figured you guys might want to watch the surprise that Josh brought while you ate dessert.  So if you want, you can set up the TV trays too.”

     “ That sounds too much like a plan.” He laughed.
     “ Let’s make it easy on the clean-up crew and use paper and plastic tonight.”

     “ Deal.  Think I’ll ask Larry if he wants to help out.” 

     “ You always were an adventuresome lad.” He nodded and walked off. A few minutes later, I heard a very loud “no”.

     “ Looks like the three of us to make pizza.”  I signed. 

     “ What do you want to do, Matt.” He pointed at the toppings.

     “ Fine.” Once again, I washed my hands.  Sarah was drying hers.

     “ Must do this a hundred times a freakin’ shift.” She commented without looking at me.

     “ Yessah, byjeezus.”  I laughed.

     “ So, you wanna lube yohwah self up an’ spread that dough ontah them pizza pans?  Gettin’ pretty gant heeyah”

     “ Cain’t have you staahvin’ tah deaf, nosuh.  Let’s get them sonovahoahs intah the oven.”

     “ Yessah.” I greased my hands with the olive oil and spread the dough onto the pans.  When I finished with a pan, I pushed it down the counter where Matt and Sarah sauced and topped the dough.  Sarah put the pizzas in the oven and set the timer. After we all got cleaned up, I asked Matt if he wanted to join the guys in the living room.  Sarah and I tagged along.

     “ Bri, did you get the closed captioning set okay?”

     “ Yup.”

     “ Got pizza?”

     “ In the oven, Larry. Be ready soon.”

     “ You’re all looking pretty hungry.  Glad I made the hugest pizzas in the entire state of Maine…” I spoke and Brian interpreted.

     “ Yeah right, Beth.” Josh laughed.

     “ Funny” Matt signed.

     “ Yessah, them pizzas was priddy big.”

     “ Pizzzzzza”

     “ GilliganSkipperMaryanne.”  Larry began rocking back and forth.  He wasn’t used to this many people talking at once.

     “ I’m gonna go check on the pizza.  You okay, Larry?”  I figured that once I was out of the room, the guys would all be staring at the TV.

     “ I’m okay.”

     “ Think I’ll leave you all to guy stuff too.”  Sarah and I backed off and stood in the doorway watching the men interact.  They all sat watching the TV in silence.

     “ They’re such a predictable species…. Think I’ll put on some fresh coffee, want some?”

     “ Haven’t had my 2 gallon quota for the day… guess so.”   I made the coffee and Sarah started washing the dishes.  She attempted to use the sprayer on the sink and no water came out.

     “ Been busted for a few days.”

     “ I’ll take a look at it.”  She opened the cupboard door, removing the cleaning stuff that was stored underneath, she then slid under the sink on her back.  The lower half of her long body was visible.  Her knees, bent and spread, gave me the most magnificent view of her jeans pressing tautly against her crotch.  I tried to look away; my eyes won out.  I fought my urge to crawl beneath the sink with her.  My body longed to feel the full length of her as it pressed against me with our faces, so close.  My heart pounded, sensory images flashed through my mind: The feel of her flannel shirt against my hand, her scent, the taste of her neck, the sound of her heart beat…. And those blue eyes that explored my psyche and left me wide open to her.  She slid out from under the sink. She took one look at me and I betrayed my thoughts with a blush.

     “ Caught yah lookin’. “ Her face flushed and she dazzled me with a grin.

     “Um… did you find out what was wrong with the hose?”  I looked down at the floor.

     “Just a little kink.”  She stepped toward me; a foot of space separated us… a mere foot that might as well have been a hundred yards.  My body screamed across the chasm, begging her to cross. The oven timer buzzed; I startled.

     “ Saved by the bell… I think.” Damned reality. 

     “ Yeah, ‘spose we have to feed 'em.”  She grabbed the oven mitts and placed the pizza pans atop potholders that lay on the counter.  She then took the cutter and sliced the pizzas; she separated the pieces as she cut so they would cool more quickly.  I went into the living room.

     “ Food.”  The all got up and headed to the dining room.  Brian guided Jim to the table.

     “ We have root beer and orange.  Who wants what to drink?”  Brian interpreted.   I poured the drink choices while Sarah served the pizza and salad.

     “ Watch out it’s hot.” She reminded.

     “ Pizza good.” Said Larry as he stuffed some into his mouth.

     “Slow down, please.”  I reminded.

     “ Okay. Eat slow. Don’t wanna choke.”  Brian grabbed a plate and a couple of slices of pizza.

     “ News is on.”

     “ ’Kay just remember you get both TV tray and gentlemen clean up for that….”

     “ You drive a hard bargain.”

     “ If you were from here, you’d have learned to dickah.”

     “ Believe me Lady, I know how to dick-hah.”  He laughed.

     “ Eeeewww.  I don’t even wanna go there, Bri.”

     “ Your loss.”  I’d forgotten the way we used to banter.  He left the room.

     “ We might as well eat while it’s hot too.”  She served us both.  We stood as near to the door as possible to let the guys eat in peace.

     “ Guess what, Larry” Josh beamed excitedly.

     “ What?”

     “ Brought a surprise for after supper.”

     “ What?”

     “ Don’t know if I should tell you yet.”

     “ What?”

     “Okay.”   He removed the video from his bag… “See.”  He showed Larry.

     “ No.”

     “ Sorry, I forgot.  It’s a movie! Hulk Hogan wrestling.”

     “ Good.  More pizza.”

     “ Who else wants more.”  Silly question… I served every one and brought the empty pans back into the kitchen. I cleaned the counter and washed my hands.  I had my own surprise for dessert.  I took the jars of marshmallow, hot fudge and maraschino cherries out of the cupboard.  The crushed pineapple and whipped topping were in the fridge and put them on the counter.  I placed a pan of water on the stove, loosened the lids on the fudge and marshmallow jars and placed them in the water to heat; then, turned the burner on low.  I got the bananas from the fruit basket on the dining room hutch.  Sarah raised her eyebrows and followed me back into the kitchen.  Seeing what I was up to, she picked up the trashcan and went back to the guys.

     “ Anyone finished?”  The men put their dishes in the trash.  She then assisted Jim into the living room.  The others followed.

     “ You’re up Brian.  Don’t worry, you get dessert too.” She came back into the kitchen and washed her hands.

     “ You wanna get the ice cream out to soften?”  The bananas were already sliced into the bowls.  I tried to open the jar of cherries... the lid was tough.  Sarah gestured for me to hand her the jar.  She slammed the bottom with her palm and the seal broke; she loosened the lid and handed me the jar.

     “Such a woman.” I shook my head and batted my eyes in mock admiration.

     “ Don’t you forget it.”

     “ No need to worry about that.”  I turned the burner off and got the jars from the water.

     “ Careful, don’t want you burning yourself.”  We made the sundaes and delivered them to the living room.  Hulk Hogan had just jumped from the top rope and clotheslined Andre The Giant.  Brian gave the play-by-play to Jim and Larry. We were barely noticed.

     “Ice cream” and they all started to eat.  Sarah and I decided to have our ice cream and coffee in the kitchen.  We made our sundaes.  Sarah scooped up a big spoonful of hers and the cherry slid onto the floor.

     “Oh Shit.”

     “Here, take mine.”  I put my cherry on top of her ice cream. She almost dropped the bowl on the floor.  I reached over and touched her hand to help her steady. Her hand trembled; our fingers interlaced.   I couldn’t take my eyes from her face… her mouth was agape.  I fed her the cherry.  My eyes met hers-- holding back nothing.  She groaned.

     “ We need to talk.” She said.

     " I'll call you…."

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