The ice-cold water splashed onto his head and ran down his bare chest, soaking the mattress around him. Bewildered, he leapt clear out of bed and stood beside the headboard shivering, totally naked and sopping wet.
He looked at her in amazement through the beads of water that dripped from his hair, the unmistakable residual smell of Pine Sol all around him and found that words initially failed him.
Mandy held the plastic pail and let it sway slightly by the handle, while she looked at him and stated calmly, even sweetly, “Who in the hell is Nichole?”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” he countered, reaching for the dirty clothes bin to retrieve a used drying towel. He shook out his hair, wiped his face with the towel, and wrapped it around his glistening thirty-two inch waist.
“I said… who is Nichole?” she repeated, remaining calm like the quiet before a tumultuous storm.
“Nichole? I don’t know a Nichole!” he said. “What is your frigging problem?” Waiting for an answer, he looked intently at her.
She stared back at him through eyes squinted by anger and said, “You are some piece of work.”
“Piece of work? How is it that I’m the one who’s always—”
“She’s the whore that just called here a few minutes ago, Donovan,” she interrupted yelling. “The one calling to speak to your dumb ass! Why don’t you just be a man about it and tell me who she is?” She challenged him and waited for her answer.
For an intense moment, they stood there muted, eyes locked, impulses from their brains misfiring, causing their tongues to sidestep words with the skill of the most agile kid on the dodge ball field.
“Do I look like a fool? Well?” she yelled. “Do I?” His vacant, thunderstruck expression in conjunction with his loss of speech only riled her more. “Oh! Okay, I get it. You want to play games, huh? All right, you son-of-a-bitch! I’ll show you how to play games!” She tossed the bucket, ran to his closet, and slid open the door, charging for his seasonally coordinated clothing rack, complete with matching hangers. Grabbing an armful of Gap long-sleeved shirts, leather jackets, and Abercrombie & Fitch pullovers. She brought them into the bathroom and tossed them into the tub.
Holding the full 3-quart jug of spring-scented bleach that had been stored under their bathroom sink, she began unscrewing the container precisely when he arrived at the doorway.
“Aw, come on! Don’t pull this shit today, Mandy.”
Furiously, she flung the yellow twist-off cap in his direction as he stepped toward her.
“Don’t what?” she asked angrily, tilting the bottle until the liquid hovered threateningly close to the rim.
“Hold on! Listen, damn it! There’s nothing going on, I swear.”
“Okay. Then why is she calling you? And how did she get this number?” With her hand on her hip, she commanded, “Explain that, Donovan!”
“I can’t explain. I don’t even know who she is. Did you ever think it could be Courtney just fucking with you again?” Regaining his composure, he grabbed a fresh pack of cigarettes from the now empty carton beneath Mandy’s school papers and old receipts that cluttered the top of the chest-of-drawers. “You know what a miserable bitch she is.” Edging closer into the bathroom, he rested his left shoulder against the doorframe and struck a match. “And look at you. You’re so damned gullible, you fall for her crap every time,” he said with a slight smirk.
All the while, he spoke in his most reassuring voice as he touched a second struck match to the tip of his cigarette. “You know how I feel about you. Why would you let someone mess with your head like this?”
She sat quietly on the casing of the porcelain tub dwelling on the situation, bleach still in hand. For a second, he suspected he would get a face full of Arrow. Instead, she opted to take a deep breath and slowly exhaled, unconsciously rotating the tennis bracelet he had surprised her with on their first Valentine’s Day together. While her lower lip quivered, tears trickled down her iced cappuccino tinted cheeks as she delicately set the bottle on the floor.
Between pitiful sobs, she rambled, “I’m sorry I got so angry but… this girl called and… I didn’t know who she was and… you going to Phoenix right after the car accident really pissed me off.”
“Is that what this is all about?” he asked. He moved toward the tub and sat next to her, resting his hand on her back, in an attempt to console her.
“That’s part of it, yeah,” she admitted, much more quietly than before, and eased closer to him.
“I told you, Mandy, I was given the assignment days before the accident,” he reminded her. “I couldn’t have turned it down once I had accepted it. Delgadillo would’ve had my ass for a mid-morning snack. Besides, I knew you were going to be alright.”
“Fine, Donovan, but don’t you try to gloss over this crap. I want to know what’s going on. And, if this is Courtney’s idea of some sick joke,” she stated, yanking the cigarette that dangled from the corner of his mouth, “then I’ve got the freakin’ punch-line.”
“If Courtney is behind this… I’ll find out. And I’ll make sure she won’t ever pull a stunt like this again. I give you my word. Just let me be the one to handle it, okay?”
Kneeling on one knee, eye to eye with her, he pleaded – sure that she was convinced.
“Good enough?” he asked, sliding his hand upward along her inner thigh while kissing her at the base of her throat.
As he stood, she kneeled and made his morning a pleasurable one. Donovan smiled in return thinking the cold shower in bed had been worth it.
© Daphne Marie Doucette/Wild Heart Scribe