This post contains explicit content. You're welcome. :0)
Chapter 21 - Follow-up
The flap and squeak of bats in the upper rafters of the old colonial woke Cason. Dawn had just broken on the horizon and the small black residents were returning home. He lay there on the cot listening to them, their flap and rustle echoed in the empty upper floor. It was a game between he and they on where they kept their entrance, he would find it eventually. Most likely, he thought, at the next storm.
His mind began to shed the grogginess of sleep, even though it was Saturday and allowed to sleep in, his mind had been far from restful. Purchasing the old gal had been a good investment. No one knew that he’d saved up more than enough to purchase it. His surgery would have put a financial crimp in being able to buy the foreclosure, but someone had come through. They’d said it was a fund for vets that paid for it, but he knew better. When Sophie Sparling got her teeth sunk into something, she’d not let go until she got it.
He admired that about her.
Cason sighed and sat up on his cot. As soon as his mind touched her there was no peace left to be had. Making love to her against a tree in the middle of a goddamn country club estate wasn’t his finest moment. It also wasn’t his worst. He’d buried many things that he needed - wanted - over the years to fulfill his duty to his country and later a promise to his best friend. He’d never failed except with the promise. With her.
He got up and stretched, put his shirt and jeans on before padding into the torn apart kitchen. A single hot plate and coffee machine were the only appliances. Both were as old as sin.
Cason flipped the switch to the coffee maker, and thought of the good coffee Sophie had. That morning that he’d gone by her place he should have told her then. Should have told her when he was at her place again after surgery. It could have saved them both from the mess he got them into.
But she didn’t love him, not as long as he’d loved her. She had no idea, he was sure, on how hard it had been to leave her alone at the honoring gala. She’d been so much of his time overseas it made it hard. Hard to have all those memories get stirred up and not be able to talk with her like he had. Only this time it would have been be real.
It was his penance, his only penance left. A penance and a promise.
The warm brew of coffee filled the air as he looked out the large glazed window and over his wild yard, now becoming slowly lit with the rising sun. The soft light reminded him the way Sophie had looked that night in the forest. The moon had been bright and it dappled shimmering over her body. She’d been like a dream that had come to him. He’d allowed himself to believe it was all a dream. He felt his heart beat in his chest heavily as he thought of her, felt her again on his fingers. Felt her open to him, felt himself become one body with her.
His chest tightened with feeling each time he thought of it. Not a day had gone by that he didn’t toy with the idea of stopping by her place, just to talk after work. But every day he instead went to his broken down home and began to rebuild it. Each time he thought of going to her he picked up a hammer instead. The one phrase of advice that his mother ever gave him was good, she’d slur, “Just let sleeping dogs lie, ya hear?”
And he did.
Back at the coffee maker, Cason rinsed out his mug from the day prior and poured in fresh coffee.
The longer he stayed away from Sophie, the better. She’d forget, he’d forget and eventually it would all be water under the bridge. Just a hiccup in time. Nothing more than a passing fancy.
Cason tried to think of another cliche to what he knew deep down was more than just a passing fancy, but he couldn’t. The reality was, one night in the woods with Sophie Sparling made an indelible impression on his heart. One he’d never forget.
The morning birds had taken up in song as Cason shoved open the side shed’s doors and pulled out the table saw again. Fresh lumber had been delivered during the week and sat stacked neatly at the back of the shed. It was too early to begin cutting, the table saw would wake his neighbors three doors down as it ripped the wood he needed in two. Instead he went to work measuring the timber for the wall frame that would replace the existing rotted one in the kitchen. The door way would be widened so less overall sticks of wood were needed. He immersed himself that morning in measuring the details in the kitchen, then with those numbers went out and made ticks on the wood with his pencil. Once it was late enough to start the saw he’d have everything laid out.
Cason was halfway through the first frame when the hairs on the back of his neck went up. He paused with one hand on the two by four perched on the construction saw horses and looked up. The road seemed empty save for the few parked cars belonging to his neighbors that had been there all night.
Rarely his gut instinct was wrong so he waited, listening and watching. The massive trees lining the street were easy cover for anyone watching him. The feeling got stronger and slowly he let go of the wood and began to walk toward the house when she stepped out.
Cason stopped, his heart began hammering in his chest again, he was in deep shit.
She had a cursory smile on her face as she walked up the over grown drive in her flats. Sophie pushed her sunglasses up atop her head and said, “I figured sneaking up on a war vet was far from a bright idea.”
He just watched her approach, he felt like the target of a heat seeking missile. There was nothing he could say that would ease the situation, nothing he could do that would make what was about to happen any better.
Sophie continued at his silence, “Well, a good morning to you too Cason. Why, yes this is a great, even beautiful morning, I agree.” She said, her smile going wolfish then fading.
“Good morning,” he managed.
“You look like you’re waiting for me to bludgeon you to death. That’s not what I was hoping for, I was hoping that you’d tell me to get the fuck off your property. That way I could tell you that you’d have to make me, then I’d be justified in calling you a cocksucker. You’d get mad that I called you that and come for me, then I could say later to the police that I was afraid that you were about to attack me and that was why I stun gunned you.”
Cason felt the smirk on his face, “I have a feeling this is how restraining orders get started.”
Sophie was quiet, quiet long enough that Cason felt the air begin to chill, he had to say something but anything he said he was afraid would come out as begging. He wanted to walk forward and touch her face. Despite her anger he had the overwhelming urge to kiss her softly like he had that night. To let every promise he’d ever made float away on the wind.
Instead he turned and went into the house. Sophie followed, “Why yes Cason I do want to come in. Why yes I’d love some coffee. And yes, there’s much to discuss.” She said in a sing song voice behind him. He recognized that sing song voice, it was the one that came out before the wrath set in.
“Coffee?” he said gesturing to the coffee maker.
Sophie put her purse down on the floor and stepping over pieces of wood picked up the carafe and looked around. “Mug?”
“Just the one.” He said pointing to his, outside on his waiting table saw.
She looked at him a long time, “Well I’m not going to drink it straight from the carafe.” She said and put it back with a thunk.
She stepped back over the wood and looked around, went to the window and looked out over the lawn then turned back to him and asked, “Why’d you fuck me then leave me? Why did you think we’re married with a child on the way at the doctor’s office and why did you write a years worth of letters to me and never once told me about them?”
Cason felt the situation slide sideways, “You found the letters…”
“Yes, I’ve read them all. Twice.”
“All. I take that back, I lied. I’ve read them at least ten times. What doesn’t add up Cason are the lies you told me about Ryan. The lies you told me about how you feel. It’s like you live a separate life then when your guard is down you’re yourself with me. All that aside though. I want to know why you fucked me the other night and—”
Cason felt his emotions rising to meet hers, “I didn’t fuck you Sophie. You’re not… it’s not like that.”
“Then what is it Cason?”
“I don’t know.”
Sophie folded her arms across her chest, “Bullshit. Why?”
“Sophie, I can’t—”
Cason felt his control slip then, completely leave him wild and exposed, “Because I’m completely in love with you. I’ve loved you longer than you’ve known I existed.”
Sophie’s arms fell to her side, “What?” She asked softly.
Cason continued, “I made a promise to your brother just before our strike mission in Afghanistan. I said I’d not get involved with you and when he died I promised I’d look out for you like he would. But I’m not him. You were always more than just a friend to me, you’ll never be a sister to me. You’ll always be more. Always. But I can’t, we can’t happen, I made a promise. I broke it just once with you that night, I’ll not do it again.”
Sophie just stood staring at him, her mind from the look in her eyes, was working at high speed.
“But,” she said, “Why would he make you promise something like that? Why then?”
Cason knew the time was up, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. Flipping it open he pulled out a tattered photograph from a hidden pocket behind his cards. He stepped and handed her the photo.
“I carried that with me overseas. My first deployment I started talking to you, that photograph, because things were shit. But talking to you made them better. I got flack for it so I started saying that you were my girl. That’s about the time I started writing letters to you.”
Sophie looked down at her high school senior portrait. The edges had been tattered and the image was soiled but it was clearly signed at the top in her childish hand writing, To my main man Cason. Then at the bottom in her loopy cursive, Love, Sophie.
She looked up at him then down to the picture trying to understand. “This is…” she said turning over the tattered photo. She heard him blow out a breath as she looked at the back, three dates were written on it.
“These dates are in your handwriting, what are they?”
Cason wanted to say that they didn’t matter, but the water he was in was already deep. It didn’t matter if it became bottomless.
“First date, engagement and wedding.”
He tapped the side of his head, “Just up here, so I’d remember.”
“I don’t understand…”
Cason sighed, “My first unit was tight. The guys all had girls and all I had was your picture. They saw the photo one day and I just said you were my girl. As our time went by the guys all came back from RnR engaged, it seemed harmless then.” He sighed and crossed his arms then, “We were assigned to a special ops team in the remote foothills north of the country. When we were up there, nothing happened for days. Then one day four guys with AK’s came over the ridge on a suicide mission. It was over quick but the gunner next to me caught a bullet with his face. It was the first time I’d seen someone I knew die. I’d known him and one second he was there and in the next he was on the ground dead.”
Sophie let the quiet fill the room. Cason, she could feel was far from done.
“It was a low casualty scenario, but for me it scared the shit out of me. That’s when I wrote to you, that’s when you became real to me. It started out as some careless thing, then it turned into something I needed. You became a real part of me Sophie, and I don’t expect you to return even a fraction of those feelings in real life, but you can do us a favor and not say I fucked you.”
Sophie nodded, “Then you call a lady after you’ve been with her. If you cared for me—”
He held up his hand, “Stop. I do care for you. I also know that your brother died and my last words to him were that I promise to look out for you like a sister. I failed him there.”
“What? Why would you promise him that? And I’m sure he didn’t mean for you to not care for me.”
“Love you.” He said, “I don’t care for you Soph, I love you. Period.”
Sophie just nodded, it was a lot for her to take in, and it was far from what she’d gone there expecting.
“But why would he ask that of you?”
“I’d gotten used to taking your picture out with my other unit and when we were joined up with Ryan’s I didn’t stop. He came into the bunk area and saw your photo. We were all hyped up on adrenaline and he put two and two together and raged.” Cason shrugged then, “I’d have done the same thing if I had been him. He knew me from when we were kids.”
“He remembered your reputation as a bad boy.”
“It wasn’t a reputation. I fucked anything on two legs because I didn’t think myself worthy of you. The first second I saw you I wanted to be with you. My life was hell with my mother, I knew I had not even a chance in hell in having you notice me.”
Sophie gave him a half smile, “So pretending started early for you.”
“It happens when you have no control over the shit storm you’re stuck in.”
“So you went from the fire to the frying pan.”
“You could say that.” He said taking a deep breath then continuing, “Your brother that day, raged and we didn’t patch things up until he was bleeding all over the fucking place. I promised him as I…” he said and stopped.
Sophie watched the darkness of that memory turn his gray eyes to slate.
“I promised him that I’d not touch you. I promised him I’d look after you. I also promised God that he could have my life for his - but that didn’t happen.”
Sophie sat on the window ledge and looked down at the dusty floor, the hardwoods had been lovingly laid at some point. Time had roughened them and beaten them, but they still held the promise of beauty. A promise that could be held with just a little hard work.
She looked back up to find Cason’s gaze on her.
“Now what do we do?” he asked softly.
She gave him a soft smile, “Are you planning on refinishing these hardwoods?”
He looked down then back to her, “That’s the plan.”
“Good, because they’re beautiful, you can’t see it now because it’s been roughed up and tattered from years of wear. But they can shine again.” She said and looked around the inside of the rundown old home. The bones were solid and it still held the glory it had been built with, but it was only visible by those with the eye for it. “This house is a really good investment. Both monetarily and… and for you. I can see now that you need this Cason. I also see that you’ve made a promise you won’t be able to keep. Not because you’re not strong enough to keep it, but that you made it about me. You made a promise that turned out to be for me too. I see now why you lied about leaving my brother to die, it’s how you felt, not really what you did. And in a way it was easier for you to keep your promise to my brother if I hated you. It was smart.”
“Not smart enough apparently.” He said and pulling over a work bucket, flipped it over and sat, resting his elbows on his knees.
“Your heart wasn’t in it.”
The corner of his mouth tugged back into a half smile, “True.”
“I’d like to be friends Cason.”
He shook his head, “I can’t Soph. I either have you and break a promise to your brother or you’re out of the picture. It’s best you be out of the picture.”
“I can see that the promise means a lot to you. But I don’t think you’re meeting the intent of the promise. Which I’m sure was not to cause me pain.” She said then stood, “As Ryan’s sister and a woman who’s very likely fallen for you I humbly request you break your promise to my bother and make me one instead.”
Cason looked up at her, “And what’s that?”
“That you care for me,” Sophie paused clarifying, “That you love me in both spirit and in action Cason McPherson.” She said and pulling her sunglasses off her head added, “I’ll be around this weekend, let me know what you decide.”
Sophie turned and left through the open kitchen door, leaving the tattered photo of herself on the windowsill of the kitchen. She wasn’t sure if Cason could see her racing pulse or the shake of adrenaline in her system. She’d never done anything like that in her life, been so bare with someone. It was both refreshing and frightening. He could very easily let her go with just a note on her voicemail saying that he chose his original promise. She hoped he’d see that they were at their core, the same promise.
The sun had risen higher and began to warm the air and evaporate the dew off the wild landscape of Cason’s lawn. She hadn’t lied about the house being perfect for him, it was in every aspect. She pulled the keys from her pocket as she made her way down the driveway. Sophie heard the crunch of gravel under Cason’s boot behind her.
She turned as he approached, his hands were in his pockets, “Love you in what way?”
Sophie waited until he was closer, “In the way that it means Cason. It means just that.”
He stopped just in front of her, his gray t-shirt tight across his upper chest with his hands in his pockets. The darkness had left his eyes and the morning sun rising behind him made him seem to glow as he stood before her. “I think it should be a two way promise.”
She pushed her sunglasses back, and looked up at him, “Two way promise?”
“You promise to love me in both spirit and action if I do the same.”
“Sure.” She said.
Cason got closer his voice lowered, “I want to hear you say it.”
“I’ll care for you in both spirit and in action. With love.”
A smile tugged the corner of his mouth, “That’s not what I said. Say it Soph.”
“I did. I’ll care for you—”
Cason leaned in and without touching her save for his lips to her temple whispered, “Love.” He said and kissed her there.
Sophie was paralyzed. The warmth of him, softly kissing her melted her joints. His lips gently kissed her again on her brow as he said, “Say it…”
“I. I l-love you in both spirit and action.” She said and with one hand brought it up to push him away but as her hand touched the solid body of Cason under the softness of his t-shirt she pulled him in instead.
Cason’s hands came up then and wrapped around her in a hug, pulling her in close to him. “This feels so good.” He said and tilting her chin up, kissed her again.
She felt the warmth of his kiss slide down into her belly and easy the hardness that had settled in on her heart in the past few days.
“Promise me you won’t ever leave me high and dry like that again? Promise that you’ll get a cell phone so that I can call you, and promis—” Sophie said, her words cut short by Cason’s lips again.
His hand went to the side of her face as he pulled back, “I have nothing left to keep from you. I promise you Sophie, that I’ll love you in both spirit and in action. I may not get a cell phone, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you, it means that I’ll be with you at every moment I can and there’s no need to call me because I’ll be right next to you.”
Sophie smiled, “Good.” She said and kissed him again, “But I will need a phone number for you. It’s the twenty-first century, you need a phone.”
“Mmmmm, we’ll negotiate on that.” He said and pulled her in again, as her head tucked under his chin he asked, “What are you doing for the rest of the day?”
“I was planning on fighting with you then setting fire to your truck. But now, that’s all canceled so I’m free.” Sophie said and leaning back in his arms asked, “What’d you have in mind?”
“I want to show you the house.”
“Just the house?”
A grin cracked across his features, “There’s nothing in the house except for my cot. I might like to show you a good time in a softer place. Somewhere with purple sheets and furry rugs.”
“Sounds nice. And for the record, those are eggplant colored sheets and genuine lambskin rugs.”
“I don’t think it matters,” he said then leaned down and nuzzled the crook of her neck, “Not when you’re on your ba—”
Sophie kissed him then, deeply, savoring the feel of his wide shoulders and up where she wrapped her arms around his neck and opened her mouth to take him deeper.
Cason groaned and she felt his hand on her backside grip her tighter, his fingers digging in, pressing her hard against him.
There in the driveway, the sun rose, slants of it’s shimmering warmth crisscrossed over the yard and warmed the air fully. Birds called to one another and high in the sycamore trees where they flitted and rose, welcoming the day.
Cason broke the kiss first, his eye’s glistening silver as he looked down at Sophie, “I think we better do something else… otherwise…”
Sophie rested her head against his chest, “Otherwise, you’ll put me up against a tree?”
“A tree, a wall, a floor, my truck, the lawn…”
Laughing she looked up at him, “I see, well then - care to show me your house? Then we can head back to my place for breakfast?”
“Sounds like a plan.” He said and gave her a single chaste kiss before saying, “I think it might be better if we keep our hands off each other until then.”
“Agreed, splinters in the backside are no fun.” She said and followed him then into the house.
Sophie breathed deeply as she stepped back into the kitchen, “I think I might have to rethink not using a straw for that coffee you brewed,” she said and pulled out the carafe from the coffee maker and breathed in its aroma deeply.
“Oh ya.” Cason said before turning around and retrieving his sole mug from the table saw and returning. He rinsed it and poured Sophie a cup while she inspected the kitchen in detail.
She said aloud, “I think I know what to get you for a house warming present.”
“No, well, yes. But a mug might be good for starters.”
“Make it pink so I’ll know the difference between yours and mine.” He said and handed her a fresh cup of coffee.
“Thanks.” She said taking it and wrapping her hands about it took a sip.
“About gifts…” Cason started, “Thank you for paying for my op.”
She looked at his hip then to him, “Hmmmm? What are you talking about?”
“Soph…” he started then added, “Vet Relief Fund, was creative but I know you.”
She shrugged, “Dunno what you’re talking about. I think the wall here should just be removed completely, that way you have an open kitchen and living room layout. Put a counter top here to separate the two rooms and you have massive amount of space for shelving and pantry against this far wall here.” She said and ran her hands through the air imagining it.
Cason nodded, “You’re not off the hook Sparling, I know you paid for it and some how I’ll pay you back.”
She looked at him then, “Pay me back? That could take you a while and I have a few things in mind.”
Cason smiled at her fully then, “We agreed to wait until your place.”
“Just wanting to make sure it hadn’t slipped your mind.”
“Slipped my mind?” he asked incredulous, then stepped for her.
She squeaked and stepped back through the door way and into the empty living room, “No… now remember what we agree—”
She was cut off as Cason followed her and gently put her back up against the peeling wallpapered wall, and took the coffee mug from her hand and put it down before putting his mouth to hers again.
“I think I could get used to this.” He said after a few moments of non-verbal talking.
“Mmmm, I was thinking the same thing.” She said softly then gave him a quick soft kiss at the side of his mouth, then the other. “I do want to see the rest of your house though.”
He smiled down at her and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear, “This is the living room.”
“Upstairs is the second floor.”
“Yup. Incredible how going up one story makes a second level. This house does that well.”
“I see… can I see it?”
“If you really think that we’ll be leaving my apartment for anything other than a natural disaster, you’re kidding yourself.”
Sophie laughed, “We’re a mess. Grown adults who can barely walk through a house without—” she said groaning.
Cason pressed his hard-on against her pelvis, and put his mouth to hers again, “Fuck breakfast.” He paused for just a moment to take the mug from her hand and put it down.
“That sounds like the right kind of breakfast.” She said as his hand found the hem of her shirt and slipped under cupping her breast. “Oh no, please. Now.”
His voice was hoarse as he said, “Is it no, or please or now?”
“Yes.” She said and pulled his shirt off up over his head.
Tossing it aside, Cason undid the button of her jeans as she slipped her own shirt off. Their mouths found each other again as their clothes hit the floor.
“Never in a million years did I ever think that I’d find aged wallpaper so erotic.” Sophie said as she helped Cason unzip the fly of his jeans.
As she pulled down his underwear releasing him, Cason groaned and pressed up against her.
“Please.” She groaned and lifted a leg up to his hip.
Gripping both her thighs Cason lifted and bracing against the wall slipped into her.
They both gasped for air and rode the wave of pleasure that being joined at the hip again brought. Sophie groaned as Cason thrusted, the rhythmic sound of her rear hitting the wall echoed through the house.
The two made love against the wall, holding each other, gripping hard until they shuddered in release and slid to the floor.
Breathing heavy they held each other in embrace; Sophie’s legs wrapped around Cason’s waist as he held her. Their voices were soft, muted, as they spoke against each other’s skin, “I love you.”