In the spirit of my current GoodReads Giveaway, I offer you chapter one of One Night in Bridgeport…
June days in Bridgeport, California, begin with a chill that evaporates quickly into a dry, still heat pressing down on the town. It was just such a morning Lea Rogers woke to in her room at the Bridgeport Inn. Her body felt as though it was filled with lead. Besides the pounding, there was an undeniable pressure filling her skull that she had come to know so well from her just completed college days.
Lea needed a glass of cold water to wet her parched mouth, but she lay still for a few minutes, her eyes closed, thinking of the night before. She had had a great time with Jack. So great that she had done something she had sworn to herself she wouldn’t do when she decided to return to Bridgeport.
Unlike the guys she had dated and slept with while she was in college, she was attracted to Jack in a very real way. Most of the guys she had got to know while in Indiana weren’t much more than one-timers, guys she had met at frat parties or when she went out with friends. They were good for a little fun for a night. Maybe even a few weeks or months of hooking up. But she never got serious about any of them.
The night before had been different somehow. Jack seemed interested in her. When she talked, he listened. When he talked about something he enjoyed, like the early morning hours when he could get up, drink a cup of coffee, and read the paper while the rest of the world slept, there was a twinkle in his eyes almost as bright as the candle on the table. That glimmer and the sly smile he shared with her spread a feeling of warmth through her body. Lying in bed the following morning, she felt the warmth again.
When they had kissed, the electric charge that went through her body when his lips first touched hers was unlike anything she had ever felt. The memory of his lips lightly brushing hers sent the heat deeper. And the way his hands felt on her when he touched her had sent her over the edge. There came a point where she couldn’t stop and she gave in to how he made her feel as he touched and caressed her.
Although it had only been one night together, she felt something for him. A connection that went beyond anything she had ever really felt before. Was it love? Lea had long ago given up on the idea of love at first sight, but, based on the last twelve hours, Lea was willing to see what might happen.
Lea opened her eyes and turned over to the other side of the bed. A sliver of sunlight reached through a crack in the drapes and specks of dust danced in its beam. She was alone in the bed and the spot where Jack had hastily dropped his clothes the night before was empty. She sat up far too quickly, felt the hammer in her head, and settled back down on the pillow. Squeezing her eyes shut, Lea considered the emptiness of the room. No pants. No shoes. No Jack. Unlike the natural progression of a summer day in Bridgeport, the warmth she felt was replaced by a bolt of cold slicing through her.
Lea carefully slid out of bed and stood in the middle of the room. “Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me,” Lea muttered, her voice rising with each repeat of the phrase. Wrapping the blanket around her to ward off the cold that had sunk into her bones, she walked to the window.
Pulling the drapes open a little, hoping the view of the mountains would help revive her spirits, Lea saw Jack instead, throwing his bag in the back seat of his car. Before getting in, he looked up at the hotel. His hair disheveled, his clothes a wrinkled mess, he scanned the windows, stopping ever so slightly on the one Lea stood behind, blocked from his view by the layer of sheers, before pulling the driver’s door open and getting in. The slam of the door pulled Lea closer to the window and she watched him drive out of the lot towards Main Street, the road out of town.
“Well, that little son of a bitch,” Lea thought as she returned to the bed and lied down. Tears began to stream down her cheeks. Lea rolled over on her side and stared out the window again. From her spot on the bed, all she could see was the brightening blue sky and the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance.
When Lea was a child, she would look up at the snowcapped peaks and imagine what it would be like to wade through the snow, even during the heat of a long California summer. When she was troubled, she could always sit on the porch and look at the mountains and find peace in them. She now looked out the window and whispered, “Is it always going to be like this?” There was no answer that brought her the peace she sought.
Instead she began to feel violated. Cheap. Dirty. The memory of his touch on her skin no longer was of a tender caress, but instead she felt his hand on her like sandpaper scraping her skin raw. Lea jumped out of the bed and went into the shower, turning the water on as hot as she could tolerate and stood under the stream coming out of the showerhead. For a moment she didn’t move and allowed the heat to purge her skin of his touch. Not feeling it was enough, she grabbed the soap and began washing feverishly, scouring every inch of her body. Once, twice, three times. By the time she was finished and had turned the water off, her skin was a bright pink, but she had scraped the dirt off. She had washed the stink off. She had washed every possible trace of Jack off of her body.
He was gone. So be it. He was an asshole and she was better for having him disappear now than to learn it later on. Jack McGee was no better than the guys from college and maybe even worse. For a few hours she thought he was different and allowed herself to get sucked into a romantic idea for the first time in a long time. Back home, ready to settle down, she opened herself to him. Now he was gone, no better or different than the rest. She would move on and close this incredibly brief chapter of her life. It wasn’t even a chapter. It was a word or two in the story of her life.