School was out, and I was back to working full time at the garage. I worked 6 days a week. For one thing, I needed the money, but I also felt like I owed it to Uncle Ray. Besides, I still had a lot to learn.
Rose had a summer job with the city. Her evenings and weekends were free. We still had breakfast together, every day, and she continued to walk me down to the garage, before catching a bus downtown.
We were both a little worried that we were spending too much time together.
– “We won’t get stale, will we?” she wondered. “I don’t want you to get tired of me.”
– “I won’t.”
– “How can you be so sure?”
– “Well, first and foremost, because you’re not a chatterbox. You never talk just for the sake of talking. And because I’m perfectly comfortable being with you even when we’re not talking. I just like being in the same room with you. Remember last Sunday?”
We had spent the afternoon in the living room, with the door to the balcony open, and a cool breeze blowing through. Rose was reading something by Ursula K. LeGuin, and I was starting yet another book she’d passed me: Papillon. It was about a guy sentenced to prison in French Guiana.
Rose had a great knack for picking books I’d like. When I’d looked up, after reading for an hour or so, I just felt this wave of affection for her wash over me. I might be explaining it wrong – but I felt lucky, and loved, and absolutely sure that I was in the right place.
After reading for another hour or so, I stood up, and took Rose by the hand. I led her into her bedroom, and made love to her again.
Rose remembered. I had tried to explain the wave that came over me. It made her very, very happy.
We had one other concern. After making love for 27 days straight, we both worried that we might fall into some sort of rut. We didn’t want to make love to a schedule, or go to be together just because we felt we had to.
– “Variety is good.” said Rose. We tried quickies, and just cuddling or holding each other before we fell asleep. I wasn’t so good at that last bit; when I held Rose, I got hard, and I wanted her.
She was fairly conservative in her tastes. One evening, I attacked her in the living room while Laurie was doing the dishes in the kitchen. I could have sworn that Rose had an earth-shattering orgasm as I ate her on the couch, but she panicked when I turned her around and started to fuck her from behind. She was clearly uncomfortable, so we moved to my bedroom.
But she was always willing to try to please me, to learn what I liked.
– “I wish you’d been my first.” she said.
I should have known that something was up when Rose missed breakfast. I checked her room, but she’d gotten up super early, and was already gone. It was odd, though, because she didn’t have to work on a Saturday, and she hadn’t said anything to me the day before.
Last night, she’d gone out with a couple of girlfriends, while I hung out with Eli. By the time I’d got home, she was already in, and her bedroom door was closed, so I didn’t disturb her. But it was strange that she would leave in the morning without saying a word to me. It was so odd, that I asked Laurie if she knew where Rose was.
– “I didn’t hear her go out.” said Laurie. She looked a little worse for wear.
– “You okay?”
She jerked a thumb at Rina’s bedroom. “You-know-who had company last night. All three of us were awake until the early hours of the morning. Didn’t you hear it?”
I hadn’t. Rose and I had talked Rina into oiling her bed springs, which helped – a bit.
There was no point disturbing Rina if she had a boyfriend over. I went to work, wondering what had happened. It was one of the mixed blessings of the era before cell phones. I had no way to reach Rose, to ask Rose where she was … because I didn’t know where she was.
I called the apartment on my lunch break, but no one answered the phone.
After a long day, I walked home in the sweltering heat. As I went up the stairs, I called out “Rose? You home?”
Laurie and Rina were sitting at the kitchen table. They looked … like they had just come from a funeral.
– “What happened?”
– “She left a note on your desk.” said Laurie.
– “What?” I had no idea what that meant. But I went to my room, to find an envelope with my name on it. I tore it open.
I wish you would raise the level of your ambitions. Getting laid isn’t a high enough aspiration for someone like you. You’re a great guy, Joe, and I truly believe that you could make some girl very happy.
I will always remember the good times we had, and what you did for me.
I had no idea what this meant – or where it was coming from. On a hunch, I went to her room. The bed was neatly made. But her closet had been thinned out. I checked the bathroom: her toiletries were missing.
– “She’s gone.” I said, to my roommates.