From across the table, Gabriel looked into Debbie’s straw colored eyes. Her frizzy permed hair and even the freckles spattered across her nose were straw colored. It seemed she was a straw person, stuffed like a scarecrow, worn and ragged, left in heat of summer and cold fall rain alone to face the crows, no one caring whether the crows stayed away or not. This scarecrow woman stuffed with weird ideas, like so many other women in suburbia, was there out of a new tradition. Bravely she had left her husband to define herself as an individual, but mainly because life with him had become unbearably boring and predictable. It was because of her they had sold everything they owned and split the money down the middle. Individually they lived two notches lower on the material totem pole.
No wonder she searched for a higher awareness, a consciousness on a different plane. The plane she existed on had bills to be paid, grease on the stove, windows needing washed, and the grass – the grass needed cut again. Hadn’t she done that just last week? Not only was Debbie mother and bread winner, she tried to serve as father figure, too, God forgive her. Angela, her eight-year-old daughter never would. Debbie had money problems. Still, at the end of the month, she had enough money left over for the amenities that made life bearable. Even enough for a crystal personally tuned to her personal vibrations by her channel, jolly old Demurtha. Debbie made a decent living, thank you, even if she was in hock over her head. She was modern woman, of the New Age, the pioneer stock of the ninety’s.
Debbie returned Gabriel’s gaze. Like dirty ice, his eyes were grey blue and cold. With high cheek bones and a strong, clean jaw line, Gabriel’s features reminded Debbie of windswept crags. She imagined a tiny mountain goat standing on the cord where he clinched his jaw. His eyes were frozen mountain lakes with the snow blown clear, and his breath the tingling wind of winter. But his lips were full and inviting. Somehow they reminded her of the sun, almost tropical. And as if standing on the edge of a high windswept cliff, she felt herself inwardly backing away. Like the wild places, there was too much about this man she didn’t know. Gabriel could have the soul of a grizzly bear, and she felt too much like a lamb.
After all, at thirty-seven, she was eight years his senior. Why was he so interested? Where was jolly Demurtha when she needed him most? She clutched the crystal on the thin gold chain about her neck.
Debbie wanted distance between herself and Gabriel. Gabriel sensed it even before their eyes unlocked. Debbie’s eyes had lost their harvest fullness. That glow in her cheeks, like the warm sun touching the freckles of straw across her nose, wasn’t quite as apparent as her lips tensed a bit.
“Whoa, come back here, Girl,” Gabriel said to himself. “I’ve made a conscious decision. I’m damned if I do, the same as if I don’t. No matter what happens now, I’m guilty. I might as well sample the pleasures. I don’t want to lose you now.” A voice in his subconscious tried to tell him it was one sin to want, it was yet another sin to do. The thought played at the dawning edge of his consciousness, never seeing the full daylight of his awareness. It slipped back into the night time of his mind, waiting to be found, perhaps in a dream.
Gabriel said, “There’s something about you I can’t quiet put my finger on. I feel comfortable, so at ease when I’m with you.” He wanted to tell her he felt as if he had known her all his life, but in his mind it sounded too contrived; it was a line he had used before. This was the first time he had felt it for real.
“Don’t fall in love. I’ll break your heart,” Debbie said. She said it to him but meant it for herself. Yet, when he smiled back at her, it was as the first feeble rays of sunlight were touching hoary grass on a frosty morning in the new day of her soul.
“Give it your best shot,” he said, steeling himself against the conquest. “I’m a big boy. I can handle it.
“We’ll see what the cards say,” she said.
Debbie walked into another room and returned carrying two pieces of silk fabric. She sat the folded orange silk cloth on the counter top and spread the blue one over the small wooden table. There were symbols embroidered in black and red on the blue cloth which reminded Gabriel of the signs of the Zodiac. Debbie took the orange cloth and carefully unfolded it to reveal a deck of cards. She placed the deck in an embroidered rectangle on the blue cloth.
“So those are going to tell my future,” Gabriel said.
“No. I’m going to tell your future. The cards are a tool. They help me to tune into your vibrations.” She looked at him defiantly. To do a successful reading, she had to have his cooperation. Skepticism was okay, as long as it wasn’t laced with sarcasm.
The exact words that ran through Gabriel’s mind were: “You’re so full of yourself.” But he was too drawn to this woman to risk saying what he really felt. Few relationships in their infancy can survive unabashed honesty.
Instead he said: “You must be a very sensitive person. You’ve probably pretty much read me already.” He dipped his head and smiled at her as if he had just bared his soul, as if she had looked inside him and seen all his secrets.
When Gabriel lifted his head, Debbie was taken aback by the highlights playing in his eyes. No longer where they a cold, ice blue. The ice had melted and his eyes were now the lipid turquoise of a tropical sea. She wanted to keep her distance but an undertow was sweeping her toward him.
She had seen something in him familiar. Though Debbie puzzled over it momentarily as it happened, she never became fully aware of this: that suddenly she felt comfortable with him because he had deliberately lied to her. She was comfortable with lies. Lies were the foundation of her personal philosophy. Like everyone, Debbie wanted to be special; for her, lies made it possible. And by the color that rose in her face and the smile that stretched thin her full lips, Gabriel knew he had made her feel special. But it was the fact that he lied, more than making her feel special, that melted the ice and brought the rose back to the cheeks of the straw lady. If he had done it with truth, she would have withered with humility, and he would have seemed colder and loftier than ever.
Color came to Gabriel’s face, also. Not out of guilt for having delivered a ‘line’, but out of embarrassment for her, for falling for it so wholeheartedly. The discomfiture made it easy for him to keep a straight face.
“I’m not sure I want to do this,” Gabriel said, finally.
“You were dreadfully interested in the Tarot at your sister’s party,” Debbie said.
“I still am. I’d like to know more about channeling and crystals, too, but I’m not sure I want to know the future. If the third card you turned up was the death card, would that mean I’m going to die?”
“Its meaning depends on which cards turn up near it. The death card means change. But even if I read death in your near future, I wouldn’t tell you. What I see in the cards is what has the propensity to happen, the future is malleable. Knowing that death held potential might make it inevitable for some. Understand?”
“Yeah, that makes me feel better because the third card is death. The first two I don’t know about.”
Out of curiosity Debbie had to look. She gave Gabriel a knowing smile. “Okay, what’s the trick? How did you know it was the third card?”
“I didn’t for sure. I have a feeling for the ace of spades, maybe the death card is like it. I still have the feeling. Shuffle the deck; I’ll pick it out again.”
“I don’t want your vibrations fouling my Tarot deck. I have a new pack of playing cards. Let’s see how lucky you are with them.”
Debbie got up from the table, walked over to the kitchen countertop, opened one drawer and then another, before finding the new pack of playing cards. She removed the cellophane using a long, neatly manicured, maroon fingernail. Gabriel watched the loose, dark brown slacks being pulled tight across her plump, round behind, as Debbie bent over to deposit the cellophane in a container under the sink. She carried a few extra pounds, but she carried them around the hips and breasts, and she carried them well. She was in the late summer of her youth, quickly approaching middle age when the vine is past its prime, but is laden with rich, luscious fruit. Gabriel was approaching the time when he would choose a young lady to cultivate, to nurture, who would bear him fruit and make his winter years bearable. But now he hadn’t the time or patience for husbandry, even though he desperately wanted to be past the lies and lines that made casual sex acceptable. Gabriel knew Mother Nature was a trickster, sex was not for fun, but for procreation and solidifying bonds. However, Mother Nature had made sure sex was fun and gave man hormones that screamed bloody murder when he wasn’t laughing his butt off.
Gabriel’s eyes were fixed on Debbie’s as she walked back to the table. Gabriel wasn’t tuned in to whatever feeble song his mores might be singing, his mind was filled with the bloody scream of hormones.
Debbie stood across the table looking down at Gabriel. “Into the living room, Sir.”
“What about my reading?”
“We have all evening,” she said.
Not all evening Gabriel hoped.
In the living room they sat three hand-breadths apart on the couch, with a large, solid looking coffee table in front of them. The art on the walls were original watercolors of fairy lands, like the originals of illustrations in a children’s book. A very thick headed, and red hued Wandering Jew sat on a stand in front of the picture window, with healthy, waxy leafed, dark green umbrella plants at either side. At one end of the room a wall of shelves held a state of the art stereo, in addition to porcelain knickknacks, magazines and books. The other end of the room opened into the kitchen. It was a room Gabriel felt comfortable in, a room arranged and decorated as he would do it, a place that could be his own changing only the art, the magazines, and the books.
Having removed the jokers, Debbie shuffled and then spread the deck of fifty-two on the coffee table. She looked at Gabriel knowing he could not pick out the ace of spades. She wanted to watch his ice blue eyes melt and run into a mud puddle as he foolishly tried to play the psychic.
Gabriel sat with his elbows on his knees, hands clasped, staring straight ahead past the Wandering Jew to the picture window. The window held Debbie’s and Gabriel’s reflection. Gabriel waited for the feeling, that knowing sensation. The mood was right, he knew it would come. He waited too long for Debbie, yet she said nothing, wanting no excuse for his failure.
Finally the sensation was there. Neither of them noticed when the street light blinked out across the street. He kept the same posture, turning only his head to look at Debbie. She caught her breath. His eyes shone brilliant blue with a light seeming to emanate from within, in a face like a slate washed clean, showing no emotion. Then an ever so slight smile cracked at the corner of his lips. Looking deep into her eyes, he reached down to the coffee table and turned over a card.
Debbie gave an involuntary shudder. How had he picked the ace of spades?
Gabriel read the fear and the awe in Debbie’s face. Without being consciously aware of what he did, he let down the opaque edges of his mind and revealed to Debbie for a brief moment what was in him. She felt the ice and the high places. It was him, not a façade. She felt a warm sea breeze, a baby’s soft, smooth flesh, strong arms and a passion that threatened to consume him. Wickedly she embraced the passion, rolling it over in her mind, unafraid its heat would turn her to ashes; for she did not see herself as a straw lady.
Sometime later Debbie found herself staring at the ace of spades, unaware how much time passed. And without knowing from where the understanding came she felt she knew Gabriel.
Looking back into Gabriel’s eyes, the brilliant blue now replaced by ice, she gave a long deep sigh, “How did you do that?” Meaning not only picking the card but how she felt now.
“You’re the one with the vibrations and the Tarot deck. You have a crystal personally tuned to your vibrations by your Channeler. You tell me how I did it.”
“Not the card, your eyes and how you made me feel. For a second your eyes seemed to be glowing blue. And I feel like you dropped your defenses and let me in your mind. I feel like I know you. Really know you.”
“You do know me. I’m Gabriel.” And Gabriel kissed her.
Pressed moist lips with tongues wetly dancing, strong arms passionately holding soft yielding flesh, the Straw Lady felt the Ice Man’s fire and welcomed it. They were lost unto themselves, stepping off into a nether world where only the two of them existed. A world with its own physical laws: for every kiss on the neck there is a tingle, and for every hug an embrace returned, the longer the embrace the more molten the bodies, there is only couch and bedroom, nothing in-between exists, and only one relevant dimension which lies on a horizontal plane.
Gabriel slid off the couch cradling Debbie in his arms, and using his legs, holding his back straight, picked her up. He swayed momentarily under her weight. Debbie was about to protest, then held him tighter about the shoulders as he carried her through the kitchen into a hallway to the second bedroom on the right which he somehow sensed was hers.
He fell with her awkwardly onto the bed, breathing more deeply from desire than from the exertion of carrying her.
Oh, what manner of man is this, Debbie wondered. I hardly know him. How does he know where to touch me? He reads my body like a page of music and makes me sing, she thought. How does he know!
He knows me like he knows the ace of spades Debbie realized.
Shining blue eyes! Debbie grabbed the sides of his face and lifted his head. Gabriel looked down at her with eyes that glowed cobalt blue.
Debbie’s hands moved to Gabriel’s shoulders as she held him at bay.
Gabriel raised to his knees. “My, what is it?” Gabriel asked, suddenly confused.
Debbie clutched the crystal on the gold chain with both hands. Then she removed one hand and pointed to the mirror.
As Gabriel turned his head, the light faded from his eyes. He looked into the mirror and saw only his silhouette against the reflection of the light on the night stand.
“A blue light was shining from your eyes,” Debbie said, not knowing whether to be afraid or embrace the experience. She crawled to the far side of the bed near the light and the night stand. She opened the night stand drawer, but took nothing out, not sure what effect the gun would have on this manner of being. “Who, what are you?”
“I’m Gabriel, and I’m a man. A man that wants you very much,” he said as he pulled his shirt over his head.
The dim glow of the night stand light cast shadows that accentuated his rippling stomach muscles, well-defined chest, and sinewy arms.
He leaned over beautiful body, on hands and knees as she struggled to remove his belt. Finally, he could take it no longer and jumped out of the bed and stood holding onto the night stand as he removed his pants. As he hopped on one leg he glanced down and saw the revolver in the drawer. Why had she opened the night stand drawer and made the comment about his eyes glowing blue?
No doubt they had made a connection, and she was indeed incredibly beautiful, especially naked, and they wanted each other madly.
His skin tightened and the hairs on his body stood on end as the straw woman beckoned him back into bed, and said, “Your eyes are glowing blue. What are you? Who are you?”
He looked down at the gun in the night stand and into the bedroom mirror just in case his eyes were glowing blue.
She began to moan and writhe in bed as he grabbed his shirt and put back on his pants. He didn’t stop at the living room door when he thought he heard guttural sounds coming from the bedroom.
Gabriel gave one departing glance at the house as he pulled the jeep out of the driveway onto the street. Had there been a television in the bedroom he hadn’t noticed? There seemed to be an eerie blue light streaming from her bedroom window. Rounding the corner one block over, Gabriel down shifted to second as he passed under a street light which was flashing crazily on and off. His heart beat madly as he began to try to rationalize the events of the evening.