Under The Covers Of Darkness

    The click of the retracting lock echoes in silence as the front door slides open into blackness. The dead-bolt slides back into position with a clack, breaking the stillness.

The Idea

Posted as part of a weekly exercise I've entitled, The Idea, to write a series of short stories that can act as standalone material, but are ultimately connected.

Section: Introduction
Section: The Start
Section: What About You?
Section: Under the Covers of Darkness
Section: Moving On
Section: That's Nice
Section: 122 To New York

    From his point of view the house is a black hole, his eyes are still adjusting from the moonlight. Darkness encases him except for the hellfire glow from a Emerson clock that alerts him that it’s midnight. The maroon light of the dial illuminates his features as the small mirror reflects his razor sharp jaw line and stoic grin.

    His narrowed eyes attempt to pierce the darkness, leaving only two slits that seem to be examining the house with X-ray vision. He only makes out a few outlines as he scans the room: a small table with some figurines, a large reclining chair and part of a leather sofa.  He looks to his left and sees a small key rack with two sets of keys dangling from the bottom two hooks.  

    One has a Spongebob Squarepants photo dangling from it. The other has the a miniature North Carolina license plate that reads Noah & Sarah.      

    The figure slinks further into the home. Only his starched white shirt is visible. He removes his black leather driving gloves revealing his dry, cracked hands.  Light seems to fear him as he walks. Shadows steal any image of his face. He's a specter moving unknown, through the home.  

    He bumps into a small table near the wall outside the foyer. The table screeches as it scrapes across the bamboo wood floor. A basket full of paperclips, rubber bands, pencils, and pens jerk. A small porcelain angel teeters on the edge and gravity gains the advantage. The man tries to catch the falling angel, but it and the silence shatters. The man’s breath catches in his throat. 

    He freezes. Unable to move on or retreat, seconds pass like molasses through a colander without sounds from any of the rooms. Once he’s confident the serenity of the rooms’ occupants are intact he continues.       

    A small night light in the center of the wall illuminates the hallway. The faint light reflects off the brushed nickel doorknobs on each of the four doors. He edges down the hall until he hears a voice emanating from the bedroom at the end. He stops and listens. There’s a familiarity to the male voice behind the black door and he decides to find out what is happening. He wants to ensure her slumber continues.    

    His footfalls hit the floor with the impact of a bowling ball on a memory foam mattress. There is no sound. There is no ripple in the air as though he doesn’t exist in this dimension.  He stops just before he reaches the door when the voice on the other side ceases.  

One. 

Two. 

Three.  

    Another voice speaks up.  “I’ve got great news.”  A second voice responds, “Am I getting out of here?”  To which the first man responds, “No, I just saved a ton of money on my car insurance.”  

    A breath escapes the man’s chapped lips, “just the t.v.,”  he whispers. He pauses to make sure the boy is asleep.  The door brushes against the carpet as he closes it. 

    He continues making his way towards the second room on his right, her room.     

    The floorboards creak in protest, attempting to reveal his presence. Reaching the porcelain white door he takes a deep breath and reaches with a weather-cracked hand to grip the brushed nickel doorknob. He opens the door a hair, like a kid peaking down the stairs on Christmas morning.    

    The violet curtains hang over the window like a Salvador Dalí painting. A small sliver of silver moonlight slices through a crack in the curtains, sluicing the purple-black haze with a path that reaches the bed. The alarm clock casts a soft aqua glow on her sleeping face, highlighting her soft cheeks and supple lips. Bundled into her hunter-green comforter, and sleeping on one side of the queen size bed she resembles a swaddled child.  She sleeps with her right arm groping the void next to her, searching for someone or something.  Her shallow breathing is the only sound.

    He pushes the door and it whooshes against the carpet and allows the diffused light from the hallway to slip into the serene gloom of the bedroom.  His yellow-green eyes pierce the darkness, and fixate on her.  His lips peal back to reveal his Cheshire Cat-like grin.   

    He’s alert for movement that indicates awareness of his presence. Gazing into the room, images and thoughts crash into his mind like Nascars at a speedway.  He pauses to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness. 

    A door slams down the hallway. His head snaps towards the sound.  The whir of an exhaust fan begins, the bathroom light flicks on, and he hears the unmistakable sound of urine meeting water.  Moments pass and the toilet flushes.  

    “Did he see me?” he wonders.  As the child turns on the sink to wash his hands the man opens the bedroom door further, slides into the room, and closes the door behind him.  Outside, in the hallway the exhaust fan ceases and the boy returns to his room. 

    He’s amazed how sleep augments her beauty. How her hair falls across her face, allowing him a view of her full lips and her rounded cheekbones. Her left arm, lying on top of the blanket, reveals her bare shoulders, inspiring thoughts of her naked body and exciting his loins.    

    He moves from the door to the foot of the bed, into the purple shadows, and stands in front of the mirrored doors that conceals the closet. He unbuttons his shirt, letting it slide off his broad shoulders. He folds it and places it on a small bench beside the closet. He removes his worn Cole Haan Oxfords and lays them beside the bench. He is removing his pants when she stirs.  

    He stands motionless in the moonlight, waiting for a sign that she is awake. Satisfied, he removes his khakis. He folds and lays them on top of his shirt.  He takes off his socks and places them on top of his pile of folded clothes. Moving so he won’t wake her, he creeps to the empty side of the bed and steals back the covers.      

    The green satin sheets are cool against his bare skin. He positions his body under the covers to face her, where he lies silent for ten minutes, memorizing every inch of her soft skin. Every blemish that makeup is not covering, noticing each little item that makes her unique. The way the tip of her nose moves as she breathes, how she makes tiny noises as if she’s holding a conversation in her dream, the way her breasts sway as her chest rises and falls. With each second he falls more in love. The warmth of her body feels welcoming like an invitation from home. She makes no motion as he sidles closer to her.

    He reaches his hand to brush a strand of hair off her face. Centimeters away, her eyes flutter open.

     Surprise rushes to her face and eyes as she attempts to process the figure laying beside her. She feels his cold naked body lying next to her naked skin. His erection is hard against her leg. Two emerald eyes stare back and seem to freeze her like a tractor beam. Her heart hammers. Sweat materializes on her forehead. Her skin turns to ice as her voice catches in her throat like a rat caught in a trap.

    Thoughts careen through her mind while sleep scurries into the background. 

    “Fuck! Why didn’t Noah come home tonight? Shit! Of all days to be on a business trip. Fuck! What do I do? Why can’t I scream?”  

    Possible scenarios play out in her mind like subliminal messages and none of them are good. She smells his moist onion breath on her face as he lies beside her, continuing to stare. The hand that she saw when she awoke begins its search anew for her body when, suddenly the figure speaks in an ominous whisper.     

    “It’s okay. It’s me,” Noah says. “I took the red eye home. I couldn’t wait to see you so I rented a car and drove home.  Sorry if I scared you. I was trying not to wake you.”    

    “Noah?  You scared the ever-loving shit out of me. You should’ve called. I would have picked you up. At the very least you should have said something, instead of crawling in here like a fucking stalker.  My heart’s beating a thousand miles a minute. What time did you get home?”

    “About half an hour ago.  You looked so peaceful lying here. I didn’t want to wake you up.  I thought it’d be a nice surprise to wake up and have me laying here beside you.”

    “A surprise would have been flowers or breakfast in bed. This was fear inducing. I’m not going to sleep for hours.”    

    “I’m really sorry,” Noah says. “I didn’t want to scare you.”

    “So, how long have you been watching me sleep this time?”

    “The usual,” he replies. “One of these days I’m going to take a picture so you can see what I see. You get this look on your face like you’re planning a bank heist that will leave people wondering for years. I don’t think your dimples get more pronounced than they do when you sleep. I lay here wondering what you dream about.”     

    “You better never take a picture of me sleeping. Just to be sure I’m going to break your camera”  she says with a smile.      

    “That’s what you took away from that sentence?” he says. “Oh, speaking of breaking, I bumped into that table again and broke the angel I bought you.”  

“I’m going to move it into the back yard if you don’t learn to move around it – klutz.  You can make it up to me by making me breakfast in the morning.”

 “I can do that,” he says with a smile.  “How can I say no to that face, and those dimples.”  

“You’re a sweetheart, but you already know that,” she says. “Okay. I’m glad you’re home, it makes me feel safe, but you woke me up from this great dream I was having.”    

    “Oh yeah?  What was it about?”    

    “You.”     

    “Speaking of dreams and sleeping. We’ve got to do something about Rhett falling asleep with Letterman on.”      

    “In the morning dear. It’s time for bed. Welcome home. Now that you had your fun it’s time for mine.”  

    As she rolls over the last words she utters before falling asleep in his firm arms are, “Cuddle me.”

Discussion Items

(Leave your thoughts in the comments below)

Was the story believable? What was or wasn't?

Would you surprise your significant other in a similar fashion? 

Would you let your child watch Letterman on a school night?



Comment

Mike Loveday

I started my journalism career in college as an entertainment writer and eventually moved into the Sports Editor position. After graduation I worked as a Stringer for the Wilmington Star-News and covered Track & Field and Lacorsse. After eight months I was hired as a General Assignment Reporter for the Topsail Voice. In 2006, I was hired by Student Sports as a general assignment writer and moved into the role of Editor for MDVarsity.com. Purchased by ESPN in July 2008, Student Sports relaunched as ESPNRISE.com and I was promoted to the Contact Sports Editor in charge of football and lacrosse. In 2009, I took over lacrosse full-time. I am currently the Founder and COO of LaxRecords.com and the Mid-Atlantic reporter for US Lacrosse and where I manage the Nike/US Lacrosse Top 25 voting panel and a staff of four freelance journalists.

What About You?

"I don't want to be friends."

"You don't mean that."

"Yes. I do."

"You're just saying that because you're hurt and upset."

The Idea

Posted as part of a weekly exercise I've entitled, The Idea, to write a series of short stories that can act as standalone material, but are ultimately connected.

Section: Introduction
Section: The Start
Section: What About You?
Section: Under the Covers of Darkness
Section: Moving On
Section: That's Nice
Section: 122 To New York

"Ya think? I wonder what could be the reason for that."

"I didn't mean for it to happen this way."

"But you did mean for it to happen?"

"…"

"That's what I thought. All those times you told me I was insane for thinking this moment could happen. Fuck. I hate being right."

"I'm sorry. I just couldn't pretend anymore."

"I never wanted you to pretend. I wanted you to be happy. With me. It's all I've ever wanted. Do you have any idea how many days I've had to put a smile on my face when you come home? How many days I've sat in front of that computer, looking for a job and hoping that it's the last resume I'll have to send off? How the only thing I can think is how this isn't the way I wanted our lives together to start. How when I hear you complain about your commute to work that my heart aches because there isn't a goddamn thing I can do about it. Two months ago everything seemed fine, but now it's all going to shit and there's nothing I can do about it. This isn't what I wanted for us."

"I know."

”No. You don't. You just see the side of me you've chosen to see. And I know that's not all your fault. I'm a miserable bastard right now …"

"No you're not."

"Yes I am. I know because I can't stand to be around myself right now. I can't escape the confines of my own life. But I'm trying."

"I know you are."

"But you just don't care."

”I do care."

"It sure doesn't feel like it. It feels like you're running away when it gets tough. We're fucking engaged … Or were until the last five minutes … And you come home from work and tell me you don't want to be engaged anymore? It would have been nice to know that information six months ago."

"I did want to marry you. I just don't anymore. Maybe we can date. I just need time to myself."

"Date? The last thing I want to do is date my ex fiancé. There's two options. You stay and we try and work on this. I promise to try to be better. It's not going to happen overnight, but I promise I will try."

"Or?"

"Or, you go and we never see each other again."

"Don't say that. You're the person in this world that knows me better than anyone. I don't want to lose you."

"You should have thought about that before you kissed someone else then. Those are the choices. I know which one I want. What about you?"

Comment

Mike Loveday

I started my journalism career in college as an entertainment writer and eventually moved into the Sports Editor position. After graduation I worked as a Stringer for the Wilmington Star-News and covered Track & Field and Lacorsse. After eight months I was hired as a General Assignment Reporter for the Topsail Voice. In 2006, I was hired by Student Sports as a general assignment writer and moved into the role of Editor for MDVarsity.com. Purchased by ESPN in July 2008, Student Sports relaunched as ESPNRISE.com and I was promoted to the Contact Sports Editor in charge of football and lacrosse. In 2009, I took over lacrosse full-time. I am currently the Founder and COO of LaxRecords.com and the Mid-Atlantic reporter for US Lacrosse and where I manage the Nike/US Lacrosse Top 25 voting panel and a staff of four freelance journalists.

The Start

It always starts with a smile and ends with a giggle. 

Somewhere between those innocent expressions is the excursion of my heart into a battlefield of love and hope.

I’ve never understood my luck with women.  I think I know all the little things that make them happy. I bring home their favorite movie and flowers for no reason. I do the dishes, ask about their day and listen to their answer. I even snuggle without the expectation of sex. But somehow all my relationships have ended the same, the inevitable breakup.  

The Idea

Posted as part of a weekly exercise I've entitled, The Idea, to write a series of short stories that can act as standalone material, but are ultimately connected.

Section: Introduction
Section: The Start
Section: What About You?
Section: Under the Covers of Darkness
Section: Moving On
Section: That's Nice
Section: 122 To New York

I'm late for another date and stuck in traffic with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company, and my memories to betray me. 

Since I have time and it's been on my mind I'll catch you up to date. 

I think I’m experienced for my age, 30.  I’ve had four girlfriends post-high school, two of which lasted for more than three years.  I loved two of those, but not my first one, whom I stuck with, like gum under an eighth graders desk, for more than a year.  But I think I came through those years a better man ... if by better I meant hollowed out with no confidence.

The one constant in my life has been music. It's the best relationship I've ever been in, but even my tastes changed over the years. You can almost tell what frame of mind and my age at the time by what albums I bought at the time. 

In high school it was Metallica and heavy metal. In my late teens, after my first sexual experience (experience covers all manner of sins), I got into 90s R&B so much that I believed I was cool enough to woo women. In reality I was a pimple faced teenager who was only getting the ladies their order of cheese fries and asking what size shoes they wore.

Now I’m 30 and single, again. What is it about two people that make them stick together?  I’ve met girls that under different circumstances I would marry in a second (because that's always a good idea) only to watch them walk out of my life forever.  

I’m a history major of sorts.  I figure the best way to find out where I’m going to wind up is to look at the wreckage I've left behind.  Love is a strange thing, and I’m nowhere close to figuring it out, but I want to.  After all there’s one thing that’s the same in all my failed relationships — me.

Seinfeld is my favorite show and George Costanza, in my opinion, is the greatest character to ever grace the big or small screen. That said, my favorite Costanza line is, "I don't see a situation ever occurring where I will ever have sex again." My life is starting to look a little Constanzian.

And to what do I owe this newfound insight into my future? I have female comrades who I think keep me around because I'm humorous, sexy, witty and ask how high when they say jump, but something occurred to me one evening out with "the gals." I'm the gay friend who's harmless, non-threatening and won't try to take advantage of them. Of course, this is beside the fact that I'm not gay. ... Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Watching my friends interact with guys at the bar led me to several conclusions and have me convinced that I will never again be accepted for employment at Vandelay industries.

First, I lack an accent. Few things melt a woman like a man with an accent. And no I'm not talking, "Darla, git me some of dem tater skinz" kind of accent. I'm talking about Hugh Grant, Jason Statham and George Clooney. Okay, so Clooney doesn't have an accent, but he's speaking a language that most guys would give their left arm to learn. I see only one solution to this dilemma; relocation. If I move to England where everyone has an English accent I would be the guy with the cute American accent. So you see it's not so much that I lack an accent, I'm just living on the wrong continent.

Second, I’m not quote-hot-unqoute. I've heard many adjectives to describe me: cute, kind, unselfish. My all-time personal favorite is obedient. But I've never been hot. Being obedient could have some positives. I could enter myself into the Westminster Dog Show. The last winner got retired to stud! This is a career that I can get into. Where was that job description on career day? Only in this career could Albert Einstein and Arnold Schwarzenegger be in equal demand.

I heard the word hot 27 times in the span of an hour and we weren't even eating spicy foods. I concluded that hotness depends on a couple factors. 

You must be at least 6-foot-3. If you fall under this rule it's equal of not being tall enough to ride the "it's a small world" ride at Disney World. Finally, and this is the most difficult. You must look like you stepped off the pages of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. I look like I just stepped off the pages of the George Foreman Grill "before" page.

You must wear your baseball cap backwards and it must read something clever like FBI or 420. Because at a bar you need to be witty and funny in three letters or less as attention spans decrease as alcohol intake increases.          

And that brings us to No. 3. I don't have a number three, but since all catastrophes happen in triples (celebrity deaths, baseball strikes), this should too. In reality the first two items are enough to disqualify me from the midnight Olympics. 

After all, "My father was a quitter, my grandfather was a quitter, I was raised to give up. It's one of the few things I do well."

1 Comment

Mike Loveday

I started my journalism career in college as an entertainment writer and eventually moved into the Sports Editor position. After graduation I worked as a Stringer for the Wilmington Star-News and covered Track & Field and Lacorsse. After eight months I was hired as a General Assignment Reporter for the Topsail Voice. In 2006, I was hired by Student Sports as a general assignment writer and moved into the role of Editor for MDVarsity.com. Purchased by ESPN in July 2008, Student Sports relaunched as ESPNRISE.com and I was promoted to the Contact Sports Editor in charge of football and lacrosse. In 2009, I took over lacrosse full-time. I am currently the Founder and COO of LaxRecords.com and the Mid-Atlantic reporter for US Lacrosse and where I manage the Nike/US Lacrosse Top 25 voting panel and a staff of four freelance journalists.

The Idea

"A man has an idea. The idea attracts others, like minded. The idea expands. ..." -- quote from The Crow

I'm not sure why this quote keeps popping into my head the last few days, but as I've been contemplating what I'm about to do it's been rolling around my skull. Plus, it's just a great line delivered so wonderfully and how many times have I ever been able to use it?

I like to say I've been 'noodling' on a novel, but that's bullshit. I've put a few hundred thousand words onto a page (several pages actually) over the years, but never been satisfied. Or I've just never had the balls to put it out there. It's easier to sit on something like I'm a hen hoping that egg I laid will become a chick. Hope is a dangerous thing ... I will resist one of my favorite Shawshank Redemption quotes here. 

I recently read B.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories and loved it. That combined with several disconnected story ideas in my head has led me to this point. The idea is to write a series of short stories that can act as standalone material, but are connected. The goal is for each story or chapter to be enjoyed by itself. No need to read further if you don't want to. But the more you read the more you learn about the character and his motivations. 

I'm not sure why this appeals to me. I mean, if I'm going to write one continuous series of events involving the same character, why not write a novel? I don't have a real answer to that question, other than this idea feels right to me. With a series of shorts I have some freedom. I don't need to follow a contiguous line that leads to a penultimate event. It feels more like life. A series of seemingly random events that make up a lifetime.

I already have a few pieces written and as it turns out I've been working towards this type of story format for the last twenty years ... fuck. I'm getting old.  The idea is to release one new chapter each week with no cap on the amount. 

I want to put a caveat in here that if I get busy I may not post one week, but if I do that I've built in an excuse. So once a week it is. 

“Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get in an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
— Kurt Vonnegut in If This Isn't Nice, What Is?


Comment

Mike Loveday

I started my journalism career in college as an entertainment writer and eventually moved into the Sports Editor position. After graduation I worked as a Stringer for the Wilmington Star-News and covered Track & Field and Lacorsse. After eight months I was hired as a General Assignment Reporter for the Topsail Voice. In 2006, I was hired by Student Sports as a general assignment writer and moved into the role of Editor for MDVarsity.com. Purchased by ESPN in July 2008, Student Sports relaunched as ESPNRISE.com and I was promoted to the Contact Sports Editor in charge of football and lacrosse. In 2009, I took over lacrosse full-time. I am currently the Founder and COO of LaxRecords.com and the Mid-Atlantic reporter for US Lacrosse and where I manage the Nike/US Lacrosse Top 25 voting panel and a staff of four freelance journalists.