Laverne DeFazio stormed out of her apartment angrily, propelled soley by the indignation of her epiphany. Son of a ... Mentally, she slapped herself on the forhead. For anyone to pull one over on her was an insult, but for someone she'd known and trusted for years...
Carmine was skipping rope maniacally when she threw open the door to his apartment. Part of her paused to admire the picture he presented, sweating and clad only in sweatpants. The other part of her wanted to wring his well-muscled neck.
"You're good, Ragusa. I'll give you that."
He favored her with a sour look. "Meaning?"
Her eyes narrowed as she began to pace back and forth in his small apartment. "You almost had me fooled. You started nagging and picking earlier, and I just played right into you hands."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Laverne. It's late, and I gotta get some sleep tonight. You look tired--those aren't bags under your eyes, they're steamer trunks."
This time, she ignored the jab. "It's not going to work again, Carmine."
"Picking a fight. Walking away from this..."
He snorted and threw the rope to the ground as if in anger. "We should walk away from this. I thought we did earlier tonight. I thought all of this was settled and we could just go on like nothing happened."
Laverne shook her head. "We can't. And we shouldn't. I mean, no matter what happens, we should tell Shirley."
"That's the worse thing we could do! That's gonna hurt her."
"Secrets don't stay secrets forever, Carmine. Besides, it ain't fair to her."
"How is it fair to her to know that her best friend and her boyfriend fooled around?" he asked. "Especially when it turns out they're just..."
"Just friends?" Laverne let out a short, bitter laugh. "I know that's what you want me to believe--hell, I almost bought into it myself. But this isn't just friendship gone topsy turvy, and we both know it," she said, reaching for his hand.
He jumped back as if stung. "Laverne, we can't... You know why. "
"You don't want to hurt Shirley, I know that. I don't want to hurt her either. Lying to her--and to each other ain't the answer."
He stepped towards her and took her hands in his. "Shirley's not the only one I don't want to hurt. You should see yourself..."
"Baggy eyes and all?" she asked with a lopsided smile.
He closed his eyes as if in pain. "I'm sorry I said that. This is ripping my guts out, but I know it's a hundred times worse for you. I don't want to make you miserable, Laverne, and that's all that I see for us."
She looked at him in amazement. "Is that all you can see? I think we can be good together."
"Yeah, we probably can; but what if we're not? I mean it, what if we crash and burn in two weeks? Are you ready to throw away your best friend in the whole world over that?"
"No, I'm not. I might not have to. I ain't saying it will be easy, but Shirley's a lot stronger than you think."
"You seemed a lot more eager for us to be just friends a few hours ago. What changed?" Carmine asked.
She smiled faintly, acutely aware of the concern in his eyes and the warmth of his hands. "I ain't gonna lie, I felt really relieved at first. I thought how great it was going to be, with nothing changed, you and me just being friends, you and Shirley still dating on and off and..." Her last words trailed off as her voice caught.
Understanding dawned on his features. "You're jealous?"
She nodded. "Yeah. That's when it hit me, how much it was going to tear me apart seeing you with her."
Carmine's stage smile crept over his face. "You'll find somebody new" he said in a hollow tone that belied his true feelings. "Give yourself some credit."
Laverne rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Please, I know I'll find somebody new. I'll find a lot of new somebodies and we'll probably end up double dating," she said, allowing her voice to take an overtone of cruelty. "Can you handle that? You and Shirley sitting in the front seat of your car at the drive in and I'll be in the back seat..."
Anger flashed in his dark eyes as he grabbed her, suddenly. "Stop it!"
The taunting smirk on her face vanished. "I knew it. Your gonna be jealous too, aren't you?"
Carmine stepped away from her and took a deep breath. His eyes darted around nervously, looking everywhere but at her.
Boldly, she stepped towards him again, cupping his chin in her hands. "The way we feel, we're going to spend a long time lying to Shirley and hurting each other. Is that what you want?"
"You're exagerating. It won't be that bad..." he protested, weakly.
"Maybe not at first, but it will get that way pretty fast. Shirley's not stupid, Carmine. She'll figure it out, and hate us both even more for keeping our feelings a secret from her."
"Maybe if I..."
She laid her index finger against his lips. "Shhh... Just answer me honestly, please. Do you want to be with me as much as I want to be with you?"
His dark eyes focused on her unswervingly. "Yes."
Laverne smiled at him tenderly. "Then that's the answer. It ain't gonna be easy, but we have to tell her."
"When she get's home from Terri's tomorrow." At his quizzical look, she continued, "Shirley called me from Meckler's Department Store an hour ago. She finished Terri's shift for her and she's going to go over to Terri's house to help deliver the Schnoodles. She told me she was planning on staying the night..." Laverne looked into his eyes expectantly. The sudden gleam in their darkness didn't disappoint her.
"Oh?" Carmine asked, as his arms wrapped themselves around her and pulled her close.
"Yeah." The kittenish smile faded as the warmth of his body, and its implications, became apparent. "I'm serious about us, Carmine. I wouldn't be here otherwise."
His lips found hers. As the kiss ended, he murmured, "Oh god... I mean, I want..."
"Me too. Me too..." she responded before kissing him hungrily again. Their fifth kiss was better than the prior four. A shudder ran through Laverne's body as she considered the potency of the seventeenth and thirtieth kisses.
He stepped away from her, clearly misinterpreting her shiver as one of fear. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to push. We don't have to..."
Her lips cut off the rest of his sentence. "You ain't pushing me anywhere I don't want to go," she whispered against his lips as the kiss ended. "Or anywhere I ain't already been." Apprehension tickled in her gut. "Is that going to be a problem for you?"
"No," his whisper was harsh. "I love that you like to be touched--want to be touched," he whispered as his lips trailed down her neck and his hands began to roam. "I love it that you want me as much as I want you..." Further words were inaudible as he pressed himself harder against her flesh.
Dimly, Laverne was aware of the scent of his sweat, the sound of her skirt rustling, the wales of his corduroy sofa imprinting into her back; as wave after wave of pleasure overtook her. Somewhat sated, she rolled out from under him on the couch and returned the favor. Hearing his moans of pleasure was almost as intoxicating as her feelings when she cried out during her last and most intense spasm of pleasure.
Afterwards, she lay across him on his battered couch as their breathing gradually slowed, her tongue lightly flickering against the salty softness of his neck. Laverne smiled as his sleeping arms tightened around her, his protectiveness evident even in unconsciousness. Tomorrow would be difficult, she reflected. She prayed that she wouldn't lose her best friend for too long, and finally surrendered to a contented sleep.
To "The Third Door"
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