Chapter Three

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Her eyes were bruised. Her lips were too. I'll kiss her for you. I'll kiss her for you. I'll drink your drink and eat your fruit. I'll play the fool, the fucking tool. Pass the time and break your rules. -Jack Killian

Chapter Three

Despite it being my second summer in Sacramento, I was again surprised by its length and its heat, and I watched as everything green around me shriveled and shared my despair. Sacramento took on a tormented energy under the oppression—a Vegas-vibe is how I thought of it. Stark. With cranky people everywhere.

Including Quinn.

I didn't know if it was his Irish blood, but Quinn did not suffer the heat with a genial attitude, as I had learned to do by long years in Vegas. He whined, going boneless on the couch in the late afternoon when the temperature hit it's high. I'd slap a cool rag on his forehead and aim a desktop fan directly at him while he made appeals for more popsicles.

I saw the want of winter in him, saw it clear, and wondered from which parent he'd gotten his storm.

Danny's visits slowed to once or twice a month, or less; the lack of air conditioning turning my bungalow into a suffocating hut where open windows and spinning fans did little to ease the swelter. He'd invited me to his condo and I'd declined.

Bettie brought over a kiddie pool, which we blew up and placed in the shade of the sycamore. We lounged under its lush canopy, alternately splashing and wilting in plastic lawn chairs. Devin showed up more often, being on summer break, and he would join us in the pool, his size making water stream over the side. He'd strip down to a wife-beater, but always left his jeans on, letting them get soaked, the heavy material pulling at his belt and exposing more of his boxer shorts.

Quinn used plastic buckets to pour water over Devin's head, and then squealed with delight when Devin shook it off like a dog, his chin-length hair flapping and sending drops wild.

We drank lemonade out of a margarita pitcher I'd gotten as a wedding gift a million years ago. I sliced summer fruit into the defrosted mix and set it up on a mosaic-topped folding table I'd found on clearance at Pier One.

Sometimes Jeanie wandered back to the bungalow from the main house and sat with us a bit before I had to leave for my shift. A tall girl with the perpetually long hair of an equestrienne, she wore riding boots even in summer. But she'd occasionally peel them off in order to stick her bare feet into the cool water.

She had a shy smile to match Devin's, and I think if he hadn't still been in high school, her having graduated in June, there might have been something to spark there. I caught the occasional prolonged glance from both of them, but only when the other wasn't watching.

She'd be starting at U.C. Davis soon, following both her parents into veterinary medicine.

On the nights Bettie and I didn't work together, she too could be caught lingering after I left and that made me feel an incredible lightness of soul. My house was a place people congregated. It was a place people wanted to be. There was music and laughter. Camaraderie.

I was proud. Of myself.

August heralded the return of the bell that rang hourly in the distance and Devin's visits were limited to afternoons when he stopped by after being released for the day.

Eleventh grade seemed to be a little easier for him, and he confessed to me that the ringleader of his enemies had been expelled in the first week and sent to a remedial school. He didn't need to hide anymore.

He'd started keeping things at my house. His guitar—or one of them—a couple of t-shirts he could change into after water fights, some school books he used to do homework at my kitchen table.

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