In episode #6, Carter got serious as she went toe-to-toe with Kenneth Stevenson’s wife. She aimed to be a professional in the meeting, but Mrs. Stevenson was a complete 180 of her seemingly sweet self, leaving Carter wanting to throttle her and Vince, and unleash her anger by seducing Kenneth.
In this episode, Carter goes out on a “date” with Kenneth and finds herself feeling something for him, a feeling that makes her want to lead him into her apartment for a little up close and personal time, but one of them gets a conscious and tries to slow down the attraction: is it Carter or Kenneth?
Cassie’s life is the somber yin to my vibrant yang. 123 Park Avenue reflects Cassie Deckart’s life to a tee. It is done up in whites and blacks and grays. There’s nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing splashy. She’s sophisticated. The total opposite of me except for when I’m made to dress up or “look nice.” Despite the difference between Cassie and me, I still try to infuse me into the apartment in some way. In Cassie’s 123, there is a small room dedicated to everything Cassie, and it’s her homage to family and achievement. All of my, Carter’s, awards and plaques are in there, digitally altered of course to reflect Cassie’s name.
I laugh when Interiors works on 123 for Nate or Raven. Nate only uses original photos because he wouldn’t dare alter his already magnificent self; however, every plaque, statue, award, picture of individual family members is fake. Raven transposes her face onto pictures of other people’s families, and not a stitch of her clothing is in Rachelle’s 123 Park Avenue apartment. She and Nate want to be as far removed from their alter egos as possible; whereas, it seems that if I don’t integrate mine, I can’t be effective.
After looking at the clock and realizing that Kenneth would arrive any minute, I rushed into the bathroom and checked myself in the full-length mirror for what had to be the fifteenth time in ten minutes. Funny thing is I still looked the same. My black shorts. My Orioles jersey. My hair pulled high atop my head with an orange and black scrunchie. No make up except for lip gloss. I was raring to go. I would be excited even if I wasn’t going to see Kenneth, but he was an added bonus.
I had managed to squelch a bit of my anger toward Mrs. Kenneth Stevenson. I was dating her husband tonight. That had to leave a bad taste in her mouth every time she swallowed.
The doorbell rang, and I snagged my lip gloss from the vanity and dropped it into my pocket. I slipped my cell phone into the other pocket. I lifted my jersey to make sure the wire was hooked securely on my bra and that the tiny device was taped into my bra in a way as to not cause detection from hugs or small embraces.
Though I tried to wait a few moments before opening the door, I raced to it and swung it open.
Mmm. No, double Mmm. No, better than a grande chocolate caramel latte with whipped cream Mmm. Kenneth did look good in jeans. He wore an orange Orioles t-shirt that hung loose on his firm chest and what had to be taut stomach. I could tell that at 42, he could rival any man my age. Besides age was nothing but a number, right?
Yeah, the only number I needed to remember was 5302; that would keep me from doing something utterly stupid.
“Hey,” I whispered.
“Hey back,” he said, smiling. “You look adorable.”
I grinned. “You don’t look too bad yourself. Come on in.”
When Kenneth stepped through, I caught a peek of his rear and oh, it was heavenly cased in his jeans. I wondered if he would be offended if I bit it. Just once. Only a small bite. I shut the door and fell into a fit of giggles.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
I turned, but I could not face him. I was afraid I would now look and stare at his crotch and wondered about that. I had to find a way to chill.
“I’m just being retarded,” I said. “Would you like a tour of the place?”
“If you don’t mind.”
“Wouldn’t mind in the least. Follow me.”
I could feel the heat of Kenneth’s stare behind me as he followed me from living room to kitchen, from den to bathroom, and finally my bedroom. We stood at my doorway, both of us staring at the four-poster bed that was illuminated by tiny ceiling lights.
“That’s nice,” he said.
I looked his way and found my face so close to his I could taste his mouthwash. At that moment, I wanted to be his mouthwash. I swallowed and imagined the taste.
“Thanks,” I whispered.
I fell into a stupor as I stared at Kenneth staring at me. He had this dopey look on his face like a dorky high schooler that finally got a chance with the popular cheerleader and me, I just knew I was acting like Sandy Four-Eyes being escorted by the popular jock. It was the perfect moment for a kiss, for something to be said, but it ended when Kenneth stepped back and asked, “Shall we get going?”
I smiled and nodded. Leaving was a good thing. The bed was calling me and there was still a bit of anger left from dealing with Kenneth’s wife earlier.
“Let’s definitely get going,” I said. I took him by the hand and we took off for a night of O-R-I-O-L-E-S and whatever else might happen.
Kenneth and I sat out front of 123 Park Avenue in his white Lincoln Navigator in silence. In my head, I thought how cute it was that he would have the big SUV and I had the smaller one. They would look so cute together in our driveway. By the end of the game, I was definitely feeling something for Kenneth. It wasn’t love because I kept that away from me like a fatal STD, but it was something. We laughed, we told jokes, I drank way too many Coronas and Bud Lights, and we both ate enough of Boog’s barbeque to be full until next season.
“I really had a great time,” I said. I held my blown-up baseball bat in my hands; my new baseball cap rested on my lap.
“It’s the best time I had in a long time,” he said. “Well, since Satisfaction.”
I smiled, happy to be in the dark.
After a few more minutes of silence, I said, “Can I ask you something, Kenneth?”
“You told me your flaw was that you can’t say no.”
I swiveled around until I was face to face with him. “What in the hell does that mean? Who have you not said no to?”
He ran an index finger along the steering wheel and replied, “Everybody. I’m the doer. I make sure that everything and everyone is okay. If someone is hurting, I’m there and I don’t leave until they are okay.”
I wondered if that’s why he stayed with Cynthia. Did she beg him to stay? Did he, because of the kids, feel obligated to stay until she was strong enough to be on her own? But then the Cynthia I met didn’t seem to have a problem with being independent.
“I’m not that extreme,” I said, “but I have a bit of that do-gooder chromosome in me, too.”
“If it festers too much,” I added, “you’ll never get your own life back again. That’s if you ever had it to begin with.”
Kenneth sighed. “I know.”
I reached out and touched Kenneth’s right hand. He flinched, and I pulled back, embarrassed.
“Thanks for a great time, Kenneth,” I said quickly. “I’m going to get in the house.”
I opened the door, and Kenneth pulled me back inside.
“I’m sorry for that,” he said. “It wasn’t that your touch repulsed me or anything.”
I looked down; I felt wrong for touching him, hurt that he didn’t want my touch.
Though I couldn’t look at him yet, I managed to ask, “Is it about your wife?”
He waited a minute before answering, “Yes.”
I leaned against the door, giving Kenneth his space. “What does she think of you spending so much time without her?” I asked.
“I don’t know any more.”
“What does that mean?”
Kenneth laughed. “I’m a fucking cliché,” he said.
“Stop that, Kenneth. Just talk. What’s wrong?”
“Let me just preface this by saying this is not in any way a means for me to get you to feel sorry for me so that you’ll sleep with me.”
“Um,” I said nodding, “okay.”
He looked out his window and said, “My wife cares more about the image of her and me together than if we’re actually together in the same room.”
“I don’t believe that.”
He faced me and asked, “Why?”
Because you’re beautiful. Because so far, I’ve seen nothing but a sweet guy who wants to make some woman feel really loved. Because I don’t think any woman in her right mind would turn someone like you away.
“I just don’t,” I answered. “She’s not crazy. You’re a great catch.”
“You know, I really miss doing things like this with my wife,” he said.
He ran his fingers through his hair. “Going to ball games, sitting in the car in the middle of the night just talking. The simple little things that people take for granted.”
I felt the tiniest slither of my heart be torn away. I was the replacement wife until Cynthia came to her senses and realized what a great man she had.
“I feel like I need a friend,” he continued. “Someone I could do those things with, and you’re so sweet and fun.”
Right. The GIRL friend. My special lot in life. But this was good. It meant that he wasn’t going to cheat with me. He was being good to Cynthia.
I swallowed what was left of my pride and said, “Do you always look at your friends the way you’re looking at me now? The way you looked at me when we were outside my bedroom? The way you looked at me before you pulled me into your arms for a dance?”
Kenneth wouldn’t answer. He just stared at me with a look that had so much longing and want in it, I needed to push his seat back, straddle him, and make both of our pains go away.
“I really do want to keep you as a friend, Cassie,” Kenneth said. “You have been the first person I’ve talked to in a while about anything.”
“What about your friends?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Their advice is to get laid. I tried to tell them that men our age don’t do that. They just laughed.”
And so did I. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just that you’re at the prime age to find a trophy girlfriend, get a sports car, and throw your lovely family and home away.”
“What can I say? I’m not the typical smarmy guy.”
And that makes me so attracted to you, I thought.
“I don’t want to disrespect you, Cassie,” Kenneth said. “I don’t want to disrespect my marriage either. I’m sorry for however I may be looking at you. I will work hard to not look that way anymore, okay?”
I stared at him. I wanted to kiss the cleft in his chin. I wanted to brush back his thick hair. Get it from hanging too low around his eyes.
I nodded. “’k. So we’ll be friends?”
“If you’re okay with that.”
He smiled. “Then let a friend open a door for a friend.”
He jumped from the car and trotted around to my door to open it. He took my hand and helped me from the car. He shut the door and walked me to my apartment.
“I really had a great time tonight,” I said. And I had. The game, the conversation, the food, the laughter, the glances. It was a true first date. Well, minus a few discrepancies.
“I had a great time, too.”
“I’ll call ya?” I asked.
Kenneth leaned in to hug me, and I had to fight my inner woman to keep from holding him too tight or for too long.
He let me go, but not before dropping a chaste kiss to my forehead.
I waved before going inside. I closed the door and fell against it, my hands pressed firmly against my chest.
It was times like this, and this being when I was sexually frustrated and needed stimulation that I wished I was one of those chicks who had a stable of FB meat. Almost every female I knew had at least one FB on their list, someone to give them sexual satisfaction so that the idea of being alone and lonely didn’t hurt too much.
“Someone needs a cold shower.”
I opened my eyes and found Rico walking into the living room, eating a banana.
“How do you just show up?” I asked.
“That’s what I get paid for.”
He dropped onto the black sofa and added, “This investigation needs to be over. He’s not cheating on his wife. I mean hell, he had someone like you hit on him, more than once, and he did nothing.”
“I did not hit on him, Rico.” I threw my hands on my hips and gave him my meanest mug.
He fell over on his side in hysterics.
“Girl, quit tripping,” he came back with. “I saw you trying to feed him some of your chili and onion dog.”
“Well,” I offered and shrugged, “he got the BBQ sandwich first. I wanted him to taste how good the hot dog was.”
“Yeah. Sure. I’m thinking you wanted a tasted of his dog.”
I ran to the sofa and fell on top of Rico.
“Say that again,” I said. “I dare ya.”
“Okay, mama.” Rico laughed. “You a mean ass girl. That’s why you don’t have no man.”
I sat beside Rico and said, “No, that’s not why. I don’t have a man because I don’t want a man. There is a difference, my friend.”
“Well, I don’t have time to talk about the ongoing saga that is your non-existent love life.”
“Hey.” I swatted Rico’s arm. “That was mean.”
“I call it like I see it.” He stood and turned to face me. He reached out his arm and pulled me from the sofa. “I have a wifey to get home to.”
“Go.” I turned him and pushed him toward the door. “Go play matrimonial bliss. Tell Daria I said hi and that I’ll be over to One Body soon.”
“Will do.” Rico leaned in and planted a warm kiss on my cheek. I smiled. It was nice having him and Vince care so much about me. “Hopefully Mrs. Stevenson will call this thing off.”
“We can hope.”
I watched Rico get into his truck, and as I shut the door, I thought to myself, Cynthia’s not going to stop this. Maybe she was wearing a tough façade at the meeting with me and Vince. Maybe she was the fragile, low self-esteem having woman I saw on the video. Whoever she was, Cynthia seemed hell bent on wanting to find Kenneth guilty even if it was by her own doing. If that’s how she wanted it, that would be fine with me. Would be even finer if her husband thought I was more than all the good qualities she used to have.