Covered In Rain

 

John’s having nightmares about Lydia dying in a deadly terrorist attack. He’s too caught up in what could have happened to see that even though they are getting physically closer, he is slowly losing her. However, he may soon find that this is all for the best.

 

Pieces of paper were falling from the sky like thousands of wartime leaflets over the panicked New Yorkers. They were running away from the fallen towers, and making it difficult for John, who was heading in the opposite direction, to get through. Some of them tried to push him back, calling him a fool with a death wish, but he was determined to find Lydia even if he died trying. He croaked out her name several time while pushing aside the soot covered people and tripping over debris.

He made it to The Bookstore, which was about a block away from the towers, and saw that the entire front window display was blown in.

He called out for Lydia again, and almost immediately a woman flung herself into his arms and cried out, “John!” It wasn’t Lydia, but Mrs. Grote, Lydia’s boss and the owner of the bookstore. “I was in the basement and I… I–” But John couldn’t hear her anymore. He had turned to look into the store and saw a woman’s body lying out from underneath a bookcase.

“Shit!” He hopped through the broken window, stumbling over the scattered books and pulling the bookcase off of Lydia’s lifeless body.

 

John sat straight up in his bed, running his hand over his face and wiping the sweat on his comforter. He turned to check on Lydia, only to see she was gone. He could hear the television on in the other room and shook his head, not wanting to deal with another night of the same reports and stories about an event he knew far better than any anchorman.

He dragged himself out of bed and into the living room. Lydia, who was sitting on the couch watching the news, turned to look at him.

“It’s about time you woke up,” she smiled, then turned back to the television. “Thank God you were there helping up with inventory that day. Could you just imagine if–”

“Yes, I can,” John interrupted, leaning over the back of the couch and wrapping his arms over her shoulders. “Let’s not talk about it. What time is it?”

“Almost six-thirty.”

“In the morning? I only slept three hours?”

“Try fifteen. You kept tossing and turning, though. Bad dream?” She asked, concern in her voice. John wanted to tell her about the dream he’d had for the past three nights, but didn’t want to worry her anymore.

“I don’t remember,” John lied, kissing her before she could question him further. “I’m starving. How does Chinese sound?”

Lydia nodded, watching John stumble clumsily into the kitchen. While he was on the phone, he noticed the bottle of wine Lydia had bought on the fourth of July – even though she knew he didn’t drink. He figured now was as good a time as ever to start, so after ordering enough Chinese food to take them into the next week he filled two glasses with wine and headed back into the living room.

John plopped down onto the couch next to Lydia and she looked away from the news long enough to share a painful glance between their sore, red eyes. He handed her a glass as he pulled the blanket she was wrapped in over his shoulders. She set the glass down without drinking the wine and slid into his arms. He flinched, his muscles still aching, but still held her tighter than normal.

“Can we watch something else?” he asked, shifting uncomfortably. She let out same disapproving groan she had every time he had asked her the change the channel in the past three days, but still sat up and flicked off the television.

“You really should go to a doctor,” Lydia scolded, massaging John’s bare chest and biceps despite the obvious pain he was in.

“No,” he grunted, finishing his wine. “Those doctors have worse things to worry about than a few sore muscles.”

Lydia frowned and muttered, “It could be serious,” but otherwise dropped the subject.

John didn’t want to discuss Tuesday or hear anyone else talk about it, but the lack of background noise that the television provided was getting to him faster than he would have liked.

“Ok, I changed my mind,” John said, rubbing his forehead. “Turn the TV back on.”

“Mm,” Lydia groaned, planting butterfly kisses on John’s chest. “You know, it’s been like four days.”

“I dunno,” John leaned back on the couch, folding his arms behind his head and staring at the ceiling.

Lydia pouted, massaging his chest a little harder than he would have liked.

“C’mon, baby. You know that hurts,” he whined and tried to push her away, but she wrestled back into his arms and nestled against his chest. Again, he held her tightly, allowing his panicked mind to convince him that she wouldn’t be there if he let go.

“John, you’re hurting me.”

“Sorry,” he muttered, settling on rubbing her back. Every time his fingertips would travel over the small of her back, she would let out a quiet giggle. Her giggles soon became laughter as John’s fingers worked rapidly to find all of her sensitive spots.

“John,” she gasped into his chest, “I can’t breathe!”

John took Lydia’s momentary vulnerability as his opportunity to grab her by the waist and flip over so she was under him. She let out a yelp, that he interrupted with his lips, and pulled away long enough to shed her t-shirt and send it flying across the room. John saw that her bra and jeans kept her shirt company, knocking his glass of wine down in the process. He knew there was no better way to assure himself that – despite nightmares – she was still his than to make love to her, and she showed no sign of objection.

The deliveryman, on the other hand, seemed to think otherwise. Just as John stood up to remove his track pants, the doorbell rang. John looked at the door, then at his nearly naked girlfriend lying on the couch.

“The food,” he whispered.

“Ignore it,” Lydia purred, yanking at his pants in an effort to pull them down.

“I can’t. They know us.” John left Lydia frowning on the couch, grabbed his wallet, and rushed down the five flights of stairs to the lobby.

“John!” Yen, the deliveryman, greeted him enthusiastically.

John wondered why Yen was so excited to see him, until he saw Sally sitting at the desk by the mailboxes. Sally was John’s landlord’s middle-aged, single daughter who liked to gawk and drool every time she saw John. As John paid Yen, Sally craned her neck to stare at John’s shirtless form and the obvious bulge in his track pants.

“Later!” Yen all but shoved the bags into John’s arms and rushed out of the building, leaving John to fend for himself.

“Right–” John said, looking at Sally and smirking. “Back to sex with my girlfriend.” He hurried away, but not before he saw her lips tighten into a frown. He ran up the stairs, down the hall, and straight into his apartment. He smirked at Lydia, who was now completely naked on the couch, and dropped the bag of food on the table.

 

It wasn’t long before John noticed that Lydia had slowly begun moving herself into his apartment. It started small, with brushes. He came home from work one day to find her hairbrush on the sink and her toothbrush hanging next to his in the holder. He also noticed that her trips home to shower were becoming trips home to gather clothes and her dirty laundry had found its way into his hamper, right next to his favorite t-shirt that had somehow become covered in dust.

“Lydia?” John called out, holding up the shirt to see a huge rip in it. “Lydia!”

“Yeah John?” Lydia walked in the room, seeing the look on John’s face, “Oh, I was going to tell you…”

“When?”

“When I bought you a new one.” Lydia looked as though she were about to cry and John felt almost guilty for being upset. Had he been any other guy he would have told her to go home and never come back, but he was too soft for that. He was about to open his mouth to say something when she dropped the bomb, or at least what felt like the bomb.

“I know this might be a bad time to bring this up, but I’ve been thinking a lot about our living arrangement.”

“What about it?” John asked, sitting on the edge of his bed with his mangled shirt in one hand and a pair of Lydia’s underwear in the other.

“Well, I’ve been over here a lot lately. I mean, I haven’t really been home in the past month and a half.”

“I noticed,” John said, tossing the clothes aside and pulling her down onto his lap.

“And I was thinking, that it’s kinda of silly for me to pay for an apartment I’m not using and that it would be more practical if I were to move in here permanently.”

He knew that “No” was the correct response to Lydia’s proposition. He kept reminding himself that he was raised better than that, but still all he could do was pull her closer and say, “Yeah, it would.”

 

The sound of the alarm clock woke John, but even after he hit the snooze button several times, it still continued to ring. He hit the snooze button over and over,

Lydia rolled over, moaned, “John, the door,” and began pushing him out of the bed.

He sat straight up, noting the time of 4:14 AM and wondering aloud “Who the fuck–” as Lydia gave one final push and he found himself shuffling groggily out of the bedroom to answer the door. Wonder and worry clouded his mind as he grasped the door handle, unlocking the deadbolt, and flung the door open.

“Ben?”

John’s brother wandered aimlessly into the apartment, barely acknowledging his presence. John was about to say something, when Lydia emerged from the bedroom and turned on the light. After seeing the disheveled man with bloodshot eyes and dried tear streaks running down his face, she gave John a horrified look to which he responded by motioning for her to turn off the light and go back to bed. She nodded, but not before giving John another questioning look, flicked off the light and returned to bed.

“John, I’m–” Ben began, only to be interrupted by John pushing him down onto the couch and muttering, “I know.”

He forced Ben to lie down and pulled the fleece throw blanket over him. “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

“But John–”

“Tomorrow. Now get some sleep. You need it.” John left the room before Ben had a chance to say anything else and went back into his bedroom. Lydia gave him a questioning look and he just shook his head and climbed into bed, hoping she would take the hint and go back to sleep.

“Who is that?”

“My brother.”

“Doesn’t he realize it’s much too late to be invading our apartment?” Lydia nagged.

“Look, when you pay the rent, you can make that decision,” John snapped, gritting his teeth. “Until then, shut up and go to sleep.”

Lydia huffed, turning her back to him and muttering about what an asshole he was. John frowned, moving closer to her in the bed. She slid away, laying right on the edge of the bed and when he tried to pull her in to him, she elbowed him hard in the chest.

“Baby,” John sighed, “he’s just now coming to realize and accept something that I’ve know for years. Can you please just bare with it?”

Lydia frowned, but still allowed John to pull her into his arms.

“Of course, dear. I can.” Lydia agreed, curling up in John’s armed and closing her eyes.

John lay wake long after Lydia fell asleep, staring at the ceiling at and thinking selfishly about how Ben’s circumstances were only going to further complicate his relationship with his parents, especially if they found out about his current living arrangement.

 

The next morning, John and Lydia woke up to the smell of bacon. John smiled, knowing there was nothing better to get Lydia out of one of her moods than a home cooked breakfast. The smell grew stronger and Lydia slipped out of bed and followed it into the kitchen with John close behind her.

 

“While we’re at my parents’ it’s probably not a good idea to mention that we’re living together. They wouldn’t be happy.”

Lydia looked up abruptly from the apple pie she had baked for John’s parents’ Thanksgiving dinner, “So we’re going to lie to them?”

John shook his head. He didn’t want to lie to his parents, but he knew they would have a very adverse reaction to even the thought of their son living with a girlfriend and that it wouldn’t help to have them angry when he asked them for money. His living arrangement with Lydia had brought with it more bills as well as an increase in the rent that should have been, but wasn’t, shared equally. He understood that it had taken a while for the Grotes to rebuild and reopen The Bookstore, and that business hadn’t fully recovered to what it had been in previous years. However, Lydia had mentioned getting a new job on a number of occasions, but was still yet to fill out a single application.

“Just don’t mention it.”

“And if they ask?”

John shrugged, “Then yeah, I guess. Lie to them.”

Lydia nodded, tightening her grip on the pie. John could tell she was uncomfortable with the situation, but he had been much more uneasy about her moving in and still wished he had the nerve about him to tell her no.

“Do they think you’re a twenty-three year old virgin or something?” Lydia asked with a laugh.

John snickered, then looked at her and said in a serious voice, “Yeah, they do.”

“What about me?”

“Oh, I told them you were.”

“So I should act all naďve and innocent while I’m around them?”

“If that’s possible,” John retorted. Lydia laughed uncomfortably, and John could tell he just said the wrong thing, but she did nothing to reprimand him. She just rested her head against the window and watched the road go by while playing with the cellophane covering the pie. He immediately felt bad for insulting her, but he knew how she was and that it would be impossible for her to act as naďve as it would take to impress his parents, especially since she had a terribly difficult time keeping her hands off him.

“I didn’t mean–” John began, not sure what he wanted to say. “You just don’t know my parents. They’re very… conservative.”

“So they’re going to think I’m a whore?”

“No,” John said uncertainly. Lydia sighed.

“By the standards they raised you with, am I a whore?”

“Lyd–”

“So yes?”

John shrugged, “Well, yes, but so am I.”

“Well that’s reassuring,” Lydia relied sarcastically. “They’ll hate me, but they’ll hate you just the same.”

“More like disown,” John forced a laugh as he turned the car up the driveway. His mother was standing on the porch, her hands clasped together and a huge smile on her face.

“We can do this,” John said more for his own benefit than Lydia’s. “It’s only five days.”

“Oh John, you’re so thin!” Margaret exclaimed, hurrying over to the car as John and Lydia got out. John laughed, knowing he could gain three hundred pounds and she would still say that, and threw his arms around her.

“How are you, mom?”

“Worried sick for you! I don’t understand how you can stay in that city any longer! When are you moving back to Connecticut?”

“Mom, this is Lydia,” John said, ignoring his mother’s question.

“You’re a twig too! With all those people there mustn’t be any food left!”

John just laughed and asked, “How’s Dad?”

“He got your message,” Margaret said, giving John a stern and knowing look. “He’s in his office. Go on, I’ll help Lydia unpack.”

“Thanks,” he kissed Lydia, who turned her head so his lips landed on her cheek, and hurried into the house, heading straight to his father’s office.

“Your mother’s been worried sick,” Richard said as soon John stepped into the room, not looking up from the gin and tonic he was swirling around in his glass.

John said nothing, plopping down in a chair opposite his father at the desk. He felt like he was back in high school, sitting in the principal’s office awaiting punishment for some deed that he was sure to be punished for again when he got home and the other principal found out. The irony of his father’s job and the situation made him uneasy, and he showed it by shifting in his seat several times before his father spoke again.

“I take it you’re alright, though, despite all the worry you’ve put your mother through. You seem to be all in one piece.”

“Yeah, we’re – I’m alright.”

“’We’re?’ Things are starting to get serious with Lydia, then?”

“Uh, yeah. Pretty serious.” John shifted again in the chair, drumming his fingers on his knee.

“But not too serious?”

“No,” he spat out hastily. “No, not too serious.”

“I see,” Richard looked at John as though he knew he was lying, “and how long have you been dating her?”

“Since March.”

“Are the two of you living together?”

“Of course not, Dad. Geez. What kind of a man do you think I am?” John tried to sound convincing.

“Right, and how much of the money you’re going to ask me for is going to support her?”

“Dad…”

“I mean it, how much of it?” Richard demanded.

John sighed, “About a hundred. Things have been slow at The Bookstore and she hasn’t been able to take many shifts, but things should be picking up soon now that the Christmas season is coming up. And I’ll pay you back.”

Richard nodded, “I see.” He set his glass down on the desk, but instead of resting properly, it tipped over and spilled all over his paperwork. “Oh sugar.”

John snickered and the tension seemed to lift, until Richard snapped up and yelled, “What are you laughing at? Make yourself useful and go get me some paper towels.”

“Ok,” John said, unable to wipe the smirk off his face. He hurried from the room and into the kitchen, where his mother and Lydia were finishing up with dinner.

“Will you tell your father that dinner’s ready?” Margaret asked as John gathered clumps of paper towels from the roll.

“What did you make?”

“Your favorite dish,” Lydia replied in the shyest voice he had ever heard.

“Sounds delicious,” he kissed her and her whole body blushed. Holy crap, she’s laying it on thick. I didn’t even know she could do that. He rushed from the room before they could see that he was surprised, among other things, by Lydia’s behavior.

“It’s about time,” Richard grabbed the paper towels from his son’s hands as soon as he came back into the room.

“Dinner’s ready.”

“Oh, good. You go wash up. I’ll be right there.”

John nodded, turning to leave.

“Oh, and son?”

“Yeah Dad?

”It’s really good to know you’re safe.”

“Thanks Dad.” John left the room and took the stairs two at a time to the upstairs bathroom. He bumped into Lydia in the hall and grabbed her around the waist. He pulled her back towards the bedrooms and out of the sight of anyone who happened to walk past the foot of the staircase and kissed her hard. She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip and intensified the kiss, grinding his hips against hers. Her gasp broke their kiss, and his lips found her ear and breathed, “You can’t do that anymore.”

“Do what?” Lydia asked innocently, smirking.

“That! If you don’t cut it out I’m not going to make it through the weekend.”

“Oh, John, don’t be silly. Now go wash up for dinner,” she instructed, slapping his chest playfully before gliding out of his grasp and disappearing down the stairs.

 

"What are you, five? It was just a silly nightmare, you didn't have to make me look like some whore."

“I didn’t make you look like anything they weren’t already thinking.” John spat, gripping the steering wheel. Lydia’s jaw dropped and she turned and punched John as hard as she could, hitting him in the jaw. He yelled out in pain and swerved the car over four lanes to the side of the road.

“Are you fucking nuts?” He yelled, punching the dashboard. She just stared at him as though she were surprised about what she had just done. Never hit a woman. Never hit a woman. The thought repeating itself over and over in his mind was all he could do to keep from slapping her.

“Well?” he yelled when she didn’t respond. Instead of answering him, she swung open the car door and ran. John just sat there, watching her run off toward the trees with his mouth hanging open. “This bitch is crazy.”

When he finally realized she wasn’t coming back, he turned off the car and went after her.

He was halfway across the field when he heard the sirens and the voices yelling at him to stop. There was barely any time for him to react when one of the cops jumped on him, forcing him face down into the frosted grass. The second cop grabbed John’s arms, forcing them behind his back so the first could cuff him. By the time they dragged him to his feet, Lydia have made her way back to them.

“Is this really necessary?” John asked, squirming under the pressure of the handcuffs. Lydia reached out to wipe the dirt from his face, but the cop yanked him away.

“Do you know what reckless driving and obstructing traffic is? How about attempted kidnapping and resisting arrest?”

“Attempted kidnapping?” John yelled. “Are you kidding– She was in the car with me. Lydia, tell them.” Lydia just stood there, staring blankly at him and not saying anything. “Lydia!”

“C’mon, to the station with ya.” The first cop pulled John toward the police car while the second read him his rights. Lydia followed close behind, but did nothing more than stare at John’s hunched form and wrap her coat closer to her body.