Her bosom draped discreetly in a cream-colored blazer, Brandy scampered from her car to the motel office, purse in hand.
Simon waited, peering past the inefficient wipers at a complex of individual adobe units stained blood-red by the unrelenting rain, snagged, in effect, amidst a verdant concentration of lethal-looking cactus spines.
"So, youll be wanting it for the week, Miss?"
"Uh huh. Travelers cheques okay?"
"Fine, fine. Youll be in the residential sectionstill a few snowbirds left, so, if you wouldnt mind, please try to be quiet after ten oclock; no late-night swimming; a few other rules. Just courtesy, you know. Come and go as you please. I think youll find this a very peaceful place. Heres your key. And another for your husband."
"By the way, mornings theres always a fresh pot of coffee here in the office; just come in and help yourselves."
Brandy gathered her receipt and change, stepped across to the threshold, then hurried back to her designated 'spouse.'
She and Simon then drove around back to Number 8. They parked and commenced unloading the Volkswagen, Brandy rushing about playfully, dodging the rain drops, skirting puddles as if keeping dry were still an option.
Inside it was dark. The windows were small and few. Even after the garden-side curtains were parted a dusky ambiance matched the overcast out-of-doors. The earthen walls felt thick, palpably moist, as they muffled sounds of the storm, soaking up the roar of its ongoing torrent. The air itself felt irriguous and subtly fecund, like that of an underground grotto.
"I guess it could stand some airing out, huh?"
Brandy entered the bedroom and switched on a swamp-cooler lodged in the solitary windowbeside the solitary bedthen walked back out.
"Whoops. I forgot to ask about the sleeping accommodations. Do you mind sharing?"
His shrug was noncommittal. Was he pleased or apprehensive?
Brandy turned on the living room lamp, then commenced to explore. Though old and small, each room had seen some recent renovation. Furnishings, albeit humble, were tastefully arranged. Nothing matched; everything belonged. Little touches here and there contributed to an overall 'local' charm. On the mantle was an arrangement of straw flowers, reflected by a mirror set in a rustic, hand-carved frame. There were throw rugs on the floor of Hopi design, the floor itself made of handsome, if time-worn, terracotta tile. Cloaked with a square of Mexican-beaded taffeta, an inconspicuous television stood in one corner. Each door between rooms was painted a primary color: the bedrooms was blue; the bathrooms was yellow; the kitchens was red, lending the place a cheerful kindergarten quality. Layer upon layer of plastering had distorted the whitewashed walls, shrinking their cozy dimensions with blunted angles, a rounded, womb-like quality engulfing the road-weary occupants. Except for some dust and lingering mustiness, the premises were fastidiously neat and clean.
"I think we lucked out: no bugs; the toilet flushes; everything seems to work. Did you see those kitchen cupboards? They all have little windows so you can peek inside at the dishes. Oh, and look at our view! You can't see any of the other compartments from here; just trees and cactus. It's like we're here all by ourselves, like we're back in the desert. Except theres a bath! Boy, oh, boy, am I going to love whats nextsoaking, tip to toe, in a tub of scalding-hot water! Mind if I go first?"
Simons chivalrous bow conveyed 'be my guest.'
"I wont be long. Theres a dresser in the bedroom. Why not go and put away your things?"
Brandy grabbed her overnight bag and disappeared into the bathroom. Simon, backpack in hand, repaired to the lone double bed.
Did he mind if they shared it? The prospect both intrigued and made him cringe, drawn as he was to Brandy yet determined to stay uninvolved. Women, beautiful or otherwise, in Simon's opinion, were distractions, steering the soul from pleasures profound to pleasures profane. Little could he afford to be sidetracked now
by Brandy, bending over the bath water to test its sultry temperature, re-adjusting taps before returning to launder her underclothes afloat in the sink
a womans eyes already having cast back his reflection, warping it grotesquely as by a carnival-side-show mirror, rendering him distorted, justly culpable, yet scarcely recognizable
wringing out each garment, then hanging brassiere and panties over the shower curtain before loosening her sodden hair
save to himself
wiping a runny porthole in the fogged-up medicine-chest glass, wetting a washcloth, scrubbing away rain-streaked remnants of her morning make-up�
faults and psychic deformities all-too apparent
unpacking toiletries, setting shampoo, cr�me rinse, Johnsons baby oil, and a plastic disposable razor on the bathtubs beveled edge, replacing the complimentary soap with a lilac-scented bar of her own, then turning off the taps
flaws in his character evident even now as Simon sidled toward the bathrooms yellow door, a sliver of light escaping from underneath, the sounds of lazily lapping water drawing him closer to the presence within.
Jeezus, its so scalding it feels almost cold! Unless I move. Dont budge! Every little shift makes waves burn like fire.
The bath water scorched a deepening blush into Brandys milk-white skin, her bobbing breasts like a pair of parboiled life buoys, her hair afloat in a burnt sienna island of outward-reaching tendrils.
Simon, ashamed of carnal impulses, beat a hasty retreat into the living room. From his still-unbundled backpack he took out pen and paper.
as Brandy reached, with a languid arm, for her lilac-scented soap, and worked it into a lather along one elevated ankle, calf and thigh, then, utilizing her razor, cleared a stubble-free path
exchanging left for right, she proceeded to soap and shave her other leg
smooth, leisurely strokes exposing swells and elegant tapering
finished shifting sitting up she lathered either underarm, and recommenced shaving.
On her knees, now, Brandy soaped her pubes, guiding the razor adroitly.
Smooth as a nectarine, her lap submerged as she slumped back into the waters warm embrace
while Simon, backpack re-shouldered, propped his note atop the bedrooms dresser
"Hey, dont you run out on me now."
and summarily froze; the unexpected call served to counter his ascetic resolution.
After one last underwater sprawl, Brandy surfaced to shampoo her auburn hair
as Simon shed again his burden, crossed to the bed, and sat down resignedly, eyes closed, taking up a posture conducive to meditation.
Having turned on the shower for a post-bath rinse, Brandy initially flinched as the nozzle's spritz ran cold... then warm... then once again fiery. Soapsuds slithered down the rosy back and front of her freshly-tonsured body.
"Simon? You still out there?"
Stepping out of the tub, she cracked open the bathroom door. An illumining haze poured out and into the dusky bedroom, half of Simons face lit by in its glow.
"Oh, youre in here. I was worried you might have left or something. Just sit tight one more minute; Im almost through."
Reassured, she ducked back into the steam...
... as Simon, wrenched from his vision, blinked at its evanescent ghost...
... dried her hair, wrapped it turban-fashion in a towel, then squirted trails of baby oil over the length and breadth her squeaky-clean anatomy.
... his slow, deliberate blinks—inducing nothing extraordinary—bade him keep eyes closed. Refocusing on inner lids, Simon discerned ambiguous patterns... but nothing close to resembling the full-fledged apparition he half-hoped might reappear. Legs crossed, palms turned upward, spine erect, he breathed from his diaphragm gently in then out listening to the throb of his accelerated heartbeat watching waiting imagining until, once more, he heard his name intoned.
Brandy, as 'envisioned,' again sat across from him, wrapped in a terry cloth towel that mooned her ample breasts, her hair a limp, luxurious mass of liberated curls, her puckered lips restored to their natural pale-pick color.
Simon opened his eyes.
"The bathrooms all yours."
Brandy sat�for real�where his mind's-eye had projected her.
"If you want to use my stuff, feel free. Ive left a whole assortment over the sink."
Rising like a sleepwalker, Simon retrieved his backpack, then entered the steam-filled bathroom still captive to his dreamonly to find a nightmare of female accessories: tweezers, hairpins, nail clippers, body oils, mouthwash, toothpaste, talcum powder, deodorant, combs and brushes and curlers and untold species of cosmetics, an incredible array, or disarray, strewn as by some crack-brained apothecary none of it the least bit necessary, in his moonstruck opinion; Brandys natural beauty needed no enhancement finding it odd, then nostalgic, to be ensconced in such flagrant femininity memories from his childhood wafting back to mind of sneaking into his mothers vanity to explore her balms and unguents her aromatic bottles and titillating vials until, recalled to senses heightened by the ultra-humid atmosphere, Simon filled his lungs... then shed his clothes...
... while Brandy, out in the bedroom, found his propped-up note.
So, he really was about to hightail it out of here. Why? Honestly, men are so infuriating, this one especially. Its almost like hes afraid of getting close. Im starting to feel a bit sorry for Mister Hitchhiker. Not because hes mute, but because he's so alone.
Brandy set aside his mislaid memorandum. She could scarcely read it anyway; the room had grown quite dark. Weary from the drive, she reclined upon the bed, deciding to rest her eyes, if only for a moment. Sighing heavily, she stretched then curled up into a ball the towel around her, with wakefulness, lost its grip.
In the tub, down on hand and knee, Simon scrub-a-dub-dubbed his grungy shirt and trousers. He owned only two changes of clothing, and availed himself of every opportunity to keep them clean. Finished, he hung them alongside Brandys, then proceeded to scrub himself with the lavender soap. Hot showers were an infrequent luxury in his homeless existence, and though he tried to bathe daily, often it was a piece-meal affair in some service-station rest room. This standing completely nude under a steady stream of water was a real treat. And shampoo! Rich, lavishly lathering, genuine shampoo! As he rubbed his scalp into a cumulus cloud of lather, Simon hardly could restrain himself from singing right out loud. How very long it had been since last he heard his voice. Would he even recognize it? He used to laugh, he recalled, as well as to sing. How had life become so spiritlessly somber?
Upon stepping out into the bathrooms clammy confines, Simon once more inhaled Brandy's heady redolence... while in a dwindling pool of water left in the tub a pair of tattered wing fragments circled circled faster chased one another lickety-split then disappeared down the drain.