Black Lipstick

When Kara Daniels was growing up, she would pray every winter for a blinding blizzard that would dump a whole mountain of snow on the entire town and make them cancel school. That way she could stay home and do whatever SHE wanted to do for a change instead of what her parents, her teachers and everyone else wanted her to do. Sometimes the snowfall would be lighter than expected and school would only be delayed a couple of hours instead of completely cancelled. Other times, though, an almost mystical precipitation would cover her world with pristine whiteness that stayed and stayed for long, cold sunlit days. Of course, that was the trouble with snow days. One never really knew how many inches to expect. Some things never change.

“So let me get this straight,” John Richman mused slowly into the phone. “You want ME, your platonic friend, your buddy, your pal…to go out on this…’date’ with you?”

“Well,” said Kara, “yeah. Like I said, I guess you could call it a date.”

“Whoa! Slow down now, Curly. Let’s get our terms straight here, okay? ‘Member me? I’m the guy you call when you have trouble with other guys. I’m the guy you call to fix your toilet. I’m the guy you call to help carry your groceries and paint your ceiling. I’m the guy you always said you could never actually date because I’m too damned important to you as a friend.”

“Okay! Fine! Whatever, dude! Forget it! Look, I just thought that I could maybe count on my closest male friend to be my escort to this stupid fuckin’ business dinner with the big boss from Chicago…”

“Date!” he corrected. “You distinctly said ‘date,’ not escort.”

“Fuck you! Just never mind, okay? It’s not like I really need to impress Boggs anyway. I could still walk right into that promotion next month. Yeah, right.”

“Well what happened to Keith?” he asked.

“Keith? Keith…? Oh that would be the-asshole-who-never-returned-my- Buffy–box-sets-and-stopped-taking-my-calls Keith.”

“I see. That’s still goin’ on, huh? Well, all righty, then. What about Roger? Good old Roger! You never ever have a bad word to say about Roger!”

“True…but his wife probably does. She called him on his cell phone last week just as we were right in the middle of…”

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! TMI! I got it. Let me just cross Roger off my list here.”

“You actually keep a list of my guys?” she asked rather indignantly.

“It’s called a figure of speech, dear. I was kidding.”

“Well, dammit, John, stop screwin’ around! Do you NOT want to go out with me? Would it be like some sort of torture or something? This is important to me! Are you gonna help me swing this promotion or not?”

“Oh, come on. Seriously, you know I’m there for you. It’s what I do. I JUST want to understand. Is this a real life ‘date’ date or just a…”

“AARGH! I am SO hangin’ up on you, asshole!” she said even as she clicked off, tossing her cordless phone across the room where it banged off the living room wall and landed on the couch. The whole idea of this business dinner with her boss, his wife and the big boss from Chicago had literally come up at almost the last minute and Kara had been stressing big time. She growled a bit after she tossed the phone but hurried to grab it when it rang again a minute later as she knew it would. “What?” she answered curtly.

“Well…uhh…”

“Make it good!”

“What time?” inquired John.

“Eight o’clock tomorrow night. I need you to pick me up here at my apartment.”

“You got it.”

“Thank you,” she said with a returning warmth and a loud sigh. “Why did that have to be so hard?”

Overnight, the weather conditions in the city changed. Temperatures fell from an unseasonable 60 to near zero and as Saturday evening approached, it was getting even colder. The snow had started before the weekend dawn, big thick, fluffy snowman snow, falling so fast and hard that the few people braving the streets were virtually blinded. Drifts built up quickly and early on the local stations began urging everyone to stay indoors.

For her part, Kara had spent that same frosty morning frantically trying on different combinations of clothes to get just the right look. She actually found it four separate times only to rip off the clothes in disgust after rethinking her decision. Nothing was right. In the afternoon, she had taken a long, leisurely, calming bath in an effort to convince her nerves that everything was going to be just fine. Her nerves went along with that theory long enough for her to fall fast asleep on her living room couch after putting on the very professional-looking navy blue suit she had finally chosen. Around six the phone rang, startling her into consciousness. It was her boss with the news that plans would have to be changed. After that, she tried and failed to get in touch with John who, as planned, finally arrived at her apartment door just before eight.

As she jerked open the door, Kara was already saying, “You dumbass! I’ve been trying to get hold of you. How many times have I told you you need to get a cell pho…” Her eyes finally bets10 focussed in on her friend. “Oh my God,” she said as she clutched her hands to her open mouth. “You look…you…look…” John smiled and spun a bit as if to model the look. He was wearing a perfectly fitting dark gray suit jacket with a matching shirt and an emerald green tie.

She laughed into her hands as he finished showing off and handed her a bouquet of beautifully colored out of season flowers from behind his back. “I think they spraypaint these. Here ya go. I hope you like ’em.”

She took the flowers and clutched them to her chest. She nodded, near tears as she ushered him into her apartment and closed the door. “You know, if you hurry, maybe you can still get your deposit back,” she said quietly as they stood at the entrance to her tiny kitchen. Kara absentmindedly started arranging the new flowers in a vase.

“What deposit?” he asked as he stiffened up as if insulted, “This, my dear, is a suit, not a tux.”

“And your point?”

“My point is that you rent tuxes, not suits. This happens to be my very own.”

“Oh, really? How come I’ve never seen it?” she asked.

“Because the need for me to wear a suit doesn’t really come up all that often in life and you don’t, as a rule, tend to explore the back of my closet.”

“Well…there was that one time..,” she said with a little smirk.

“Stop that. Now why would I want to get my deposit back anyway?”

“I thought you just said…”

“I know, I know. I did. What I meant was why would I want to get my deposit back IF there was, in fact, a deposit to get back?”

“Well, why don’t you just say what you mean?” she responded, shaking her head. She looked down at the floor as she continued. “Dinner’s off.”

“Okay. I guess that’s a good reason. What the hell happened?”

“Have you looked outside lately? This freakin’ weather is even worse in Chicago. Bill called a little while ago to say that Mr. Boggs wouldn’t be able to fly out before Monday at the earliest. Thus, dinner’s off.”

“Oh, shit,” he said softly.

“I know! I know! My sentiments exactly! Two whole days of maximum level stress and worry and here we are all dressed up and nowhere to go.”

“Well, there’s certainly no reason you and I couldn’t still go out somewhere.”

“You know I hate to repeat myself but ‘Have you looked outside lately?’ Last I heard the radio was saying eight inches of snow already with more to come and the temps were expected to get down near twenty below tonight! That’s TWENTY below ZERO! Places are closing early if they were open at all. Where the fuck could we go?”

“All right. So we stay in and watch a movie. What’s so different about that from all the other times we’ve done it?” he asked with an attempt at a reassuring smile on his face.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said waving her arms haphazardly toward her friend, “You’re all dressed up for one thing.”

“Well, so are you, silly.”

“Yes, but I can change. I’ve got my entire wardrobe here, remember?”

“Well, look,” he said as he began unbuttoning, “I can take off the jacket if it makes you more comfortable. See? The tie comes off, too!” With that, he snapped the tie loose from his collar.

“A clip-on?” she laughed as he stood holding it like a trophy. “You were gonna wear a fucking clip-on to my big meeting?”

“Hey, I flunked boy scouts, okay? I couldn’t tie a knot if my life depended on it. But see…it’s just me, Kara. Same as always.”

Kara looked at her dear friend with a sincere appreciation for all that he had done for her, tonight and on so many other lonely nights. She started to say something deep, something heartfelt, something she had never really said to John before. Instead, she opened her mouth and heard herself say, “I’m hungry.”

“Ah, then with your kind permission, I shall cook for you, Miss. Show me to your frozen pizzas.”

“Ha, ha, ha! In the fridge, silly. I’m gonna change into something more comfortable, okay?”

“Now the plot thickens!” he joked, raising his eyebrows.

“Fuck you!” was her laughing response.

“Cool! Something to look forward to!”

“Kiss my ass!” she said laughing even harder now.

“That, too can be arranged my dear!” he said with a leer.

“Will you shut the fuck up with that shit? You know I hate that. I’ll be back.” With that, Kara closed the door to her bedroom.

John began digging through her freezer. “You know,” he spoke loud enough for her to hear, “I honestly believe we are living in the golden age of frozen pizzas. None of that cardboard crap like our grandparents had to eat for fun. Nuh-uh, buddy! We get the good stuff! Okay, here we go,” he continued as he pulled out the biggest box in the freezer, “One super colossal pizza with everything!”

“No tomatoes!” Kara called through the door. “You know I hate tomatoes!”

“It COMES with tomatoes, okay? Deal!”

“I cannot eat it with tomatoes!” came the response through the door. “Can’t you pick ’em off for me, please?”

” Fine. Fine. One super bets10 giriş colossal pizza with everything except tomatoes!”

“Oh, and no onions, either!”

“Grrrr…!” was what she heard as she exited her bedroom.

“Okay, okay. Onions are fine. Whatever.” John looked at her admiringly. She had changed into a pair of baggy red drawstring sweat pants and a gray sweatshirt with a faded STAR WARS logo. Her hair was mussed up from pulling on the shirt and she hadn’t bothered to put shoes back on. He suddenly and surprisingly felt himself stiffening in his tight dress pants as he looked at the single sexiest sight he’d ever seen.

“So what do we want to watch, oh great pizza chef?” she asked in a mocking tone.

“Pick something. You always make the most interesting choices.”

“Why, thank you,” she said sincerely. “That’s sweet.”

“Now I didn’t say ‘good,’ I said ‘interesting’ but, hey…OWW!” In the middle of his flip comment, Kara had picked up the throw pillow from the couch and smacked him across the head with it fairly hard.

“Maybe that’ll teach you not to ruin a moment, loser!” she said only half kidding.

“Oh, I doubt that. By my calculations, you’ve hit me with that pillow 74 times now in three years and yet here I am, still doing stuff that apparently makes you feel the need to smack me with it again.”

“Exactly! If you act like that around other girls, no wonder you hardly ever get laid. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You should just learn to be GOOD to women…me in particular since I’m the one with the pillow.”

“You know, that’s funny,” he tossed off quietly as he stood directly in front of her, “’cause I just keep hoping that eventually, you’ll learn to be BAD to me.” They stood just a breath apart at that moment and time inexplicably froze. Kara’s eyes locked onto John’s but her mind went suddenly blank. Just for a second, she thought she felt an unexpected but welcome itch between her legs. John tried to form a coherent thought but his mind felt swirly and confused as if the blood were rushing to another portion of his anatomy. A buzzer in the kitchen cut the tension as if cued by some cosmic referee. “It…uh…suddenly seems really hot in here,” John stated flatly.

“That’s ’cause the oven’s ready, dear.”

“Oh…Uh, yeah! Right. I’d better just…uh…go put the pizza in. I’ll be right back.”

“Yeah. Okay. I’ll find us a movie.” Then she added loud enough for him to hear in the kitchen, “And don’t forget to pick off the tomatoes!”

“I can’t do that when its frozen solid, Miss Particular; They chip. I’ll get ’em when it’s done. Besides,” he added as he returned to the living room after inserting the pizza, “did you know that tomatoes used to be called ‘love apples’ and that they were considered to be a true aphrodisiac?”

“No, I did not but that’s all the more reason to pick ’em off,” she said with a raised eyebrow.

Kara then plopped down on the left side of her grandmother’s ancient plush couch with John following her and plopping down on the right. As always, he left a suitable distance between the two of them. As she fiddled with various remotes, he asked her “What did you pick?”

“I can’t decide.”

“Aw, man! I was hoping for some good porn.”

“Wha…? I don’t have any good porn, you jerk!”

“Cool! BAD porn’s even better! Hehehehehehe!” Kara picked up the pillow but this time her friend was expecting it, blocking his head with his arms in mock horror. Thus, seeing an opening, she whacked him in the crotch with her weapon of choice. “Oh, shit!” he offered in real surprise, “What the hell was that for?”

As he winced in overexaggerated pain, she stomped her feet and giggled like a teenager. “Sorry! Sorry! I am SOOOO sorry!” she laughed. After they both calmed down a little, Kara took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry. It’s just…For some reason, I guess I’m having trouble concentrating, y’know?”

“All the stress and all?”

“Well, yeah, but this all still feels kinda weird to me. No offense.”

“Oh, none taken,” he reassured.

“Good,” was her response. Changing the subject quickly, she went on with, “Hey, let’s just see what’s on, okay? I mean, there’s always a Gilligan’s Island rerun on somewhere. Just nice, safe, totally brainless entertainment to get our minds off…err…the stress.”

“Works for me. I always loved that stupid show,” John added with a sense of relief as Kara flipped the channels with a nervous speed.

“Me, too. I always wanted to be Mary Ann,” she said keeping her eye on the screen.

“That’s funny,” said John, “I always wanted to be Ginger. HEY! Don’t hit me! Oh, look, Iron Chef!”

“It’s NOT Gilligan!”

“No, but it kept you from swatting me with that pillow again.”

She turned and looked at him with a fake scowl before going on with, “Hey. I have a question. Something I’ve always wondered about. If the Professor could build a satellite TV hookup out of palm trees and coconuts, how come he couldn’t patch up the bets10 güvenilir mi hole in their boat?”

“Ah, the age old question! Just ask yourself what chance a boring scientist like that would have to even talk to a couple of babes like Mary Ann and Ginger in the real world, let alone…” Instead of finishing his sentence, her friend made a circle out of the fingers of his left hand and ran the stiffened index finger of his right back and forth through it.

“They were NOT doing THAT!” she stated flatly as she dropped the remote down on the couch.

“What are you talking about?” He explained, “All those years trapped on that island and you really think Mr. and Mrs. Howell were the only ones getting any? Geez!”

“Well, okay, suppose the Professor was getting it on with both of the girls, where does that leave Gilligan and the Skipper, huh, smartass?”

“HAH!”

“What ‘HAH?”‘ she asked, cocking her head at an angle to show she resented his attitude.

“Everbody knows Gilligan and the Skipper were gay for each other!” he laughed.

“Not ‘everybody.’ I’m ‘everybody’ and I never knew that.” She glanced away and folded her arms across her chest. “Don’t believe it either,” she mumbled. After a minute she continued with, “I guess I always assumed Gilligan was sleeping with Mary Ann and maybe the Skipper was fooling around with Mrs. Howell.”

John and Kara both laughed at that one with Kara ending with a giant sigh. “This is not working, is it?” John asked.

“Not really, no. You want to watch the weather reports?” she asked even as she lighted on the local weather channel.

“…expected to end by morning with a total accumulation of 10-12 thick inches of the white stuff. I’ll be honest with you, though, we really don’t know how many inches to expect at this time. We haven’t seen this kind of February around this area since the Blizzard of ’77. WDKR reminds you that all non-emergency travel is prohibited as we are at Level…”

Kara hit the mute button. “Ten to twelve inches. Geez!”

“Sound interesting to ya?” John sneered even as he crossed his legs to hide his own bulging erection.

“I know it’s a stretch but could you be serious for just, like, half a second? I guess if you didn’t live just a couple doors down you wouldn’t have gotten here either. Hey, how come you didn’t have a coat?”

“Damn! I forgot! I stripped off the coat and boots out in the hallway. Figured I could pick ’em up when we left and then since we didn’t go, I forgot all about ’em.”

Kara laughed as she rose and headed to the door. Opening it, she saw a big gray overcoat and snow boots seemingly melting onto the hall carpet just to the left of her entranceway. She dragged them in and tossed them in her bathtub. “MEN! UGH! You’re all animals!”

“Hey, what time is it?” he asked.

“Well, the old clock on the bathroom wall said about 8:20 or so,” she answered. “Got somewhere to go?”

“No, silly. Just watchin’ the time on the pizza. Should be done in a few. I’m getting hungry now just smelling it.” He sniffed the air and his friend followed suit.

“Yeah…I put off eating all day ’cause I was so nervous.”

“I know what you mean,” was his comment.

“Really? Well, what do YOU mean? Why were you nervous? It’s MY promotion on the line.”

” Well,” he stammered, “I just…I mean…Look, you know! This was like…gonna be our first real date and I wanted it to be kinda special. Memorable, y’know?”

“Oh, it’s memorable all right,” she droned dejectedly. ” Snowed in on Main Street.”

“Come on! You understand what I’m trying to say, don’t you?” He looked her straight in the eyes and waited for a response. Soon enough, she lowered her defenses just a little.

“I…I…I guess I do. I mean, I was too wrapped up in worrying about Boggs to be all that nervous about …well…US! When you think about it though…”

“I know. I get it.”

“It’s just that…” She looked him in the eye this time and the tension in the room was palpable. He couldn’t stand it.

“Hey,” he said loudly in a less than subtle attempt at a subject change, “You remember the very first time we went out a few years ago right after you first moved in?”

“Yeah…I think so. It was when we went to the RenFest in Glennbrook, right?”

“That’s it!” he verified. “You had been wanting to go and you didn’t know anybody around here to go with…”

“Plus I didn’t have a car…”

“Right,” John continued nostalgically, “and then you…” He sniffed the air again.

“Pizza?” she presumed.

“No. I think it’s you. My God, you smell just fucking incredible,” he said dryly as he looked deeply into her dark green eyes.

“John…”

Suddenly John’s attitude changed as he wondered if he’d gone too far. “Kara, I’m sorry,” he mumbled quickly, shaking his entire body as if trying to shake off a momentary possession. “This is too…I mean I don’t wanna…” All the while, Kara just stood blankly watching his face as he floundered around. Then she leaned in and quieted him with a quick, unexpected and noisy kiss on the lips. John reached his hand up to his cheek as if to help close his mouth which had fallen open in surprise. A smile began to rise on Kara’s face but fate’s sense of timing being what it is, that’s when the oven alarm went off again.

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