Wednesday afternoon — 3:25 P.M.
“This was a very good idea,” Valerie said.
She lay naked on a mattress in his artist’s studio. The studio’s evaporative cooler worked over time but the small space was still hot. Mike was drawing flowers with ice cubes on her sweating body.
“Every actress needs her beauty nap,” Mike said.
“You’ve been very good for me,” Valerie said. Rolling over onto her side, she said, “I was wondering…”
“I’m going back to LA with you on Sunday,” he said.
Valerie’s hand flew to her mouth. Her eyes filled with tears.
“If the house is too small, we’ll have to get another. I’ll check out the garage to see if I can work there,” he continued. “It’s time.”
“What about Wes? What about…?”
“I don’t give a shit about Wes, Valerie. I’ve only ever, always cared about you.”
“What about hockey?”
“Now that’s a problem. We talked about it as a team. We used to only play Saturdays at midnight. We moved to Wednesday because the teams are better. But Colin thinks the better teams will move to…”
Valerie kissed him. One pulling kiss led to another. Valerie drew him on top of her. Taking her hands, he stretched her arms above her head while his mouth worked its way from her ear down her neck. She shifted, inviting their union, when he pulled back.
“Wait,” Mike said.
He kissed her then moved to the mattress. Concerned with his tone, Valerie sat up to look at him.
“That make-up guy? That Michael Moore? He said… Well, then I talked to Alex and she agreed… And…”
Mike shook his head and looked away from her. Valerie pressed his head back to look at her.
“He asked me what I was hiding from. With the beard. He said the scar’s not bad and hardly noticeable. Moore… He said I should…”
“Shave off your beard,” Valerie said.
“I’ve asked so much of you,” Valerie said. “I… We can cancel Oprah. You don’t have to…”
“I’ve practiced my interview, Val. I’m ready. Plus command wants me to tell my story. It’s important… I just…” Mike’s eyes scanned her face. “I’ve been hiding a long time.”
Valerie put her hand on his chin. Their eyes held for a moment.
“Will you… I bought all the stuff… John told me how to do it. His beard grows really fast, and Alex won’t kiss him with a beard. If he’s goes a week without shaving, he has…”
Valerie gave him a lingering kiss.
“I’d love to see your beautiful face again,” Valerie said. “Scar and all. Tell me what to do.”
He gave her a cordless electric razor. She yanked the sheet from the mattress and wound it around his neck to catch the hair. By his instruction, she clipped an inch at a time until only a quarter inch of stubble remained. She took his hand to feel the stubble.
“You’re sure?” Valerie asked.
“I can’t hide forever, Val. They just win that way,” he said. “I’m… It’s over. I want to live in the present with you.”
Holding his face, she leaned forward until their foreheads touched. She breathed in his scent, his warmth, then kissed his forehead. Moving without hesitation, she sprayed the foam into her hand. She worked with slow, gentle, delicate care. The sound of the razor scraping over his skin seemed to bounce off the walls.
Finally, she was done.
Letting out a breath, Valerie sat back. Her hand went to her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. Her gorgeous Mike had returned to her. Finally.
“That bad, huh?”
He hopped up and went to the pedestal sink. Checking himself in the mirror, he washed off the last of the shaving cream. He was rubbing some special ‘no bump’ cream over the place where his beard had been, when Valerie came up behind him. Her head peeked over his shoulder and their eyes held in the mirror.
In one movement, he spun around, lifted her from standing and carried her back to the mattress.
The retelling of Celia’s Puppies, Denver Cereal Volume 2, continues tomorrow…
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