LEESA CROSS-SMITH

Hold On, Hold On

My husband, Dominic, got angry the second time I ran away. Because I promised I’d never do it again and because I didn’t have a reason. Because I didn’t need a reason. Because because was my reason.

“I’m in Nashville with Cori,” I told him. And I was. I’d left our house in Kentucky early that morning. But I didn’t tell him Roscoe Pie was there, too. That was his God-given name, Roscoe Pie. The baseball player who came up to Nashville with his friend Parker James. They drove up from Austin, Texas. My best friend, Cori, lived in Nashville and she and PJ had been hooking up, whenever they could make it happen, ever since we met them in a Florida hotel bar a year before – the first time I ran away. Back when I went to Panama City Beach and Cori flew down, too.

Roscoe and I kissed. I was impressed that he was willing to come all the way up from Austin a year later to hang out with a girl he’d only kissed once. But let it be said that it was a pretty dope kiss. Fireworks, the right amount of tongue and the perfect synchronization of opening/closing our warm, wet, drunk mouths.

“So this is it? I’m gonna move my shit out. Or you’re gonna move your shit out. It doesn’t matter,” Dominic said.

“It matters,” I said into the phone. I was standing in front of the Ryman Theatre, holding Cori’s hand. We were both brown and bare-legged in our skirts and cowboy boots.

“Nothing matters to you,” he said.

I let go of Cori and held up my index finger. Hold on. Roscoe and PJ were hands-in-pockets, talking about something. I turned away to get some more privacy and Cori stepped closer to them. I walked over to the grassy side where some monster black tour buses were parked.

“Are you there?” I said into the phone.

“Violet, this isn’t fair and you know it’s not. And why you act like I should put up with it is beyond me,” he said, raising his voice. He never raised his voice. My toes tingled. I wished I was pregnant with his baby. Standing there in the grass, I wished part of him was inside of me. I wanted it. I told him that.

“What’s wrong with you? Why would you say that?”

“Because it’s true.”

“You wish you were pregnant?”

I nodded.

“You wish you were pregnant?” He asked again because he couldn’t hear nods over the phone.

“Kinda.”

“Why, so you could leave? Run off and not tell me and take our baby too?”

“No. Dominic, I love you.”

“Really? Well, I’m going out tonight,” he said.

“When I get back, will you get me pregnant?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Violet. I don’t know,” he said.

And that was good enough for me, it was.

“If you don’t feel good or it’s weird, we don’t have to hang out. But PJ was coming to see Cori anyway, and I wasn’t gonna pass up a chance to see you,” Roscoe said. He was taller than me so he had to lean down and say it close to my ear, but it wasn’t a whisper. His breath was hot on my neck and my thighs warmed, my hands started to sweat. I wiped them off on my skirt. Ok so I wanted Roscoe to get me pregnant, too. Dominic and I had had sex two days before and maybe if I had sex with Roscoe they could duke it out inside of me and see who was more determined, stronger. I wanted them both at the same time with their mouths all over me, fucking me, tearing me apart, leaving me for dead. Perfect. We could all go for breakfast together in the morning.

“I feel fine,” I smiled up at him. He smelled like expensive wood and that was 60% of why I was so attracted to him. The other 40% was: his insane body, his water-green eyes and the way he said things. The way he said my name, the way he said words like ‘street’ and ‘church’ and ‘okay.’ And when I say insane body I mean insane, specifically in the way that I love men’s bodies to look. Dom had one like it. Athletic and capable. I loved men who looked like they could do things. Fix a car, pitch a fastball, climb a tree, build a house, hold a baby. Their hands, their chests, their legs. A certain hardiness I was looking for, the absence of delicacy. I wanted them to be strong enough to hold me down but gentle-minded enough not to.

I could live off of flirting with Roscoe. Eat that instead of food. We walked, holding hands and not holding hands, smiling and not smiling, laughing and not laughing, talking and not talking. He’d grab my ass and I’d grab his, but not in that how can we sneak off fast enough way, but in that I love touching you and this is enough right now way.

“You’ve been married, right?” I asked Roscoe after we sat down across from Cori and PJ in a bar booth by the window. I looked over at them and wondered what it’d be like if we all ended up in bed together. I’d kissed Cori plenty of times and wanted to kiss her again, but I was scared to tell Dominic that stuff. He’d fixate on it and swear that I was a lesbian every time I brought Cori’s name up. I didn’t want to deal with it.

And I’m not saying PJ was my type at all because he really wasn’t, but he looked good sitting across from us, next to Cori like that. He put his elbows on the table and rested his head on his knuckles before he looked over at her, and I liked that too. My mind was all over the place, thoughts scattered like confetti on the floor, and while Roscoe answered my question, I took to sweeping everything back up. Putting it in the dustpan and shaking it out into the garbage where it would be safe and away for at least a little bit.

“Couple years back I was, but not anymore,” he said.

“I’ve only been married for two years,” I said as the waitress plopped big glasses of ice water onto the cardboard coasters in front of us.

“And you’ve only run away twice,” he said, side-smiling.

“Found you both times,” I said, sipping from my straw.

One of my favorite things about being married to Dominic was drinking beer in bed. Usually we drank Tecate or some other spicy-light-foreign beer from a can. I didn’t order one of those that night. I ordered a Stella Artois, the finest lady around – tall, green and sweating. I took a big drink and opened my menu, watched it like it was a TV screen and would move or something. Roscoe asked me what I was thinking about.

“I can’t stop thinking about something,” I said.

“What?” He said. Leaned over. His bigger, heavier shoulder against mine. He took a drink from his beer too. PJ ordered four shots of whiskey when the waitress came back.

What I couldn’t stop thinking about: the weight of Roscoe’s body on top of mine. If he had a splash of freckles across the top of his back or beautiful feet or wrinkly knees or if his dick was as big as Dominic’s, and if it was swollen and standing up in his jeans right now in that booth next to me because I guarandamntee you if I had a dick, it would be. I was crazy horny and wanted to get drunk, so I could have sex with Roscoe without thinking about it so much. I couldn’t stop thinking about how he sounded when he came. Was he quiet? Gravely and ragged like truck rumbles or country thunder? I didn’t care if it would crush Dom (of course it would) or if it was adultery (of course it was.) I wanted it anyway. Maybe Dom was right. Maybe nothing mattered to me.

I looked down at Roscoe’s lap but everything looked normal. What did I know? He was confused and looked down too. Then he smiled over at me.

“What can’t you stop thinking about?” he asked and put one of his arms around my waist. The waitress came back with the shots.

I squinted at him, scrunched my nose up, and told him I couldn’t stop thinking about my husband. And whew that cooled things off for a minute or two until the whiskey heated it all right back up again.

It was a beautiful awful secret that I had been talking to Roscoe. I’d told Cori to give PJ my number, so he’d give it to Roscoe but she wouldn’t do it, so I snuck and got PJ’s number from her phone and texted him myself. PJ THIS IS VIOLET TELL ROSCOE TO TEXT ME IF THAT IS SOMETHING HE WOULD MAYBE WANNA DO BECAUSE IT IS SOMETHING I WOULD LIKE FOR HIM TO DO AND YES I AM STILL MARRIED ? Ok.

Cori didn’t get that mad about it. I told her immediately. She said I should think about things more before I did them. She was right. But Roscoe texted me and it was so sweet, it made my rabbit-heart skip.

Hey Violet look at me risking getting my ass kicked by your husband. Worth it? Worth it.

I started laughing in the kitchen. Dom walked past and asked me what was so funny, and I told him nothing. When he left the house to go to work, I texted Roscoe back and it said worth it. We didn’t talk a lot but sometimes in the middle of the week he’d text me and say hey and I’d text him hey back. We never called each other. And even when Dom and I had sex, which was a lot because that was something we always did well together, I never thought about Roscoe and only Roscoe. Whenever he entered my mind, it was always both him and Dom at the same time. So I didn’t feel bad.

I tried to give Dominic hints.

“I dated three baseball players,” I said once, leaning back in my chair. I put my pen down. We had both written down the people we’d had sex with. I wanted to do this before we got married but forgot on purpose. I had separate lists for the guys I dated but didn’t sleep with, guys I slept with but didn’t date, and guys I wanted to sleep with, but didn’t. I kept that last list on a slip of paper in my journal. I didn’t show it to Dom.

“You slept with three baseball players?” he asked, reaching for my pen and scribbling something out on his paper. We were at our kitchen table, our bare feet pressed against the coolness of the tile floor beneath us. The window was open and the neighbor’s dog was low-howling again, a new song of his I’d grown to love.

“I slept with one baseball player. I dated three,” I corrected him. ROSCOE PIE was written on my secret list. I wrote it down twice. Once in caps and once in lower case. His name was too special to write properly.

“How many people are on your list?” he asked.

“Which list?”

“How many lists do you have?” Dom smiled a little and stood to look over at my piece of paper, but I snatched it up and held it to my chest.

“Don’t cheat. I have two lists,” I said, explaining them to him. Told him I’d read the names of the people I’d actually had sex with.

“Read the baseball player’s name first,” he said. Dom loved baseball and couldn’t help himself.

“There’s one baseball player, one soccer player, an actor, a drummer and a bartender.”

“Ew. A drummer?” Dominic said, shaking his head.

“I know, right?”

“Read the baseball player’s name first,” he said again.

“Cooper Nichols.”

“What position did he play?” Dom lifted his chin up.

“Shortstop.”

He thought about it for a moment before nodding quickly.

“Keep going,” Dom said. And I did.

Matt Clark. Andy Brown. Brent Christmas. And Welby Knight.

“Dominic Ryder,” I said aloud as I wrote his name at the bottom of the list.

“So…five before me,” Dominic said my number.

“Your list is longer. I’m jealous,” I said.

“Don’t be. I used to go to a lot of music festivals, that’s all,” he said, shrugging. Smiling. Cutest thing. I didn’t want to leave him when he was like that. How could I? Why would I? Sunset-light and honeysuckle-wind slipping in the window. He was my man, dammit. And a good one. Look how good! He’d forgiven me for running away from him the first time and for kissing Roscoe Pie.

Dominic rubbed his hand across his newly-buzzed head and I reached out for him. He leaned forward so I could pet it. So I could feel the prickles.

Both Roscoe and PJ had played in the major leagues before retiring. It was easy for me to convince them to play baseball at midnight.

I grabbed Roscoe’s ass and we were both pretty giggly, walking down Broadway not giving a shit about anything but being together in Nashville and not giving a shit about anything.

“We’ll go to Walmart or something and get a bat, some gloves and a ball. Should we get two balls?” I said, widening my eyes. PJ turned around to smile at me. Told me he had a ball and a couple of gloves in his truck. Cori was holding his hand and she stopped fast and swung around like a pretty little door on a well-greased hinge.

“You’ve got two balls back there and I’ve got two balls up here. We only need one baseball,” she said. And we all laughed because it was raunchy and dumb and so were we.

PJ was sober enough to drive so we went to Walmart and got a bat and some beer. Drove around, found a baseball field. PJ parked the truck and we got out. I took Cori’s arm and told her I needed to talk. The guys walked through the fence gate towards the diamond and we got in the back of the pickup.

“I texted Dom. Told him exactly where we were,” I told her.

“He’s coming to Nashville? Is that what you want? Him to come here so he and Roscoe can beat the shit out of each other? Violet, what the hell are you doing?”

I sat on the tailgate and she spread her legs and straddle-sat behind me, started braiding my hair. I shrugged. The field lights came on. Roscoe and PJ smiled at us from over by the fuse box, and then they started talking to each other and looking up.

“I want to have sex with Roscoe in that dugout over there,” I pointed, “and after that I want Dom to come and take me home,” I said. I got goosebumps saying it. Blame it on the flooding of the field lights and how I said it and Cori, braiding my hair. Blame it on what I said.

Cori was quiet.

“I want a home run,” I said.

Cori didn’t say anything.

“I want a grand slam,” I said, starting to laugh. I spread my arms.

Cori’s laugh back was with me, not at me. And I was glad. That laugh lifted me.

When the braid was finished, we walked over to where the guys were. Roscoe lifted up his leg and pitched a super-fast ball to PJ and PJ swung and missed. Roscoe threw again and PJ knicked it. The comfort of that smack-gunshot sound. Roscoe jumped and caught the ball.

I went right over to Roscoe and kissed him. Kissed him hard and he lifted me up. He sighed into my mouth and I loved it I loved it I loved it. It was the second time we’d kissed, and I thought about how I’d be just peaches just swell just fine with him on the dirty dugout bench, while I was waiting for Dom to come and save me. My husband was coming for me, hunting me. I knew it. I wanted him to. Everything I’d done and said – those were breadcrumbs. Those were the buzzing, flashing FIND ME FOLLOW ME GET ME BACK lights.

“I can’t stop thinking about something,” I said to Roscoe again. He grinned at me, tugged my new braid.

And I thought about how maybe if Dom got there a little too early, he’d catch the end of it. He’d stand there and watch Roscoe’s ass tighten and let go, my skirt hitched up somewhere by my ribcage, my brown legs and cowboy boots wilding up into the hot-breath night air. My panties pushed to the side like they were nothing. I’d say hold on, hold on to Dominic and he’d stand there and watch us panting like animals. My mouth pressed against Roscoe’s ear, begging underneath that tight sky and half-moon.

Maybe before he threw me over his shoulder, took me home, got me pregnant and made me a good, decent wife and mom, my husband would stand there and wait until I was finished. On the drive back home I’d feel a little bad, tell him what a good boy he was. Make promises, pat his head. Let his rough, pink tongue lick my hand.

[BIO]: Leesa is the co-founder and editor of Whiskey Paper. She lives in Kentucky.

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