First Birthday – Chapter 19

CHAPTER NINETEEN

            On the drive down to Chicago I told Cait we were staying at the Best Western.  I was expecting some type of reaction to this, but she didn’t flinch.   She just nodded, and went back to flipping through a magazine.  I realized that it made no difference to her where we stayed, and I started to worry that I had overdone the preparations.  I had made the mistake of telling Freddie about my trip, and this resulted in a conversation a few days before about where I should stay, and what restaurant we should go to after the game. 

            “She’s not one of these broads that don’t eat meat, is she?”  Freddie asked.  He had wandered into the golf shop right before closing, but didn’t seem interested in a putting contest.  He was without his Scotty Cameron, armed only with a glass of Scotch. 

            “No, she’s carnivorous,” I laughed.  I was about to close everything up, but Freddie didn’t seem ready to go, so I just grabbed a seat behind the counter while Freddie wandered. 

            “That’s good.  You probably don’t know this, but you can tell how high maintenance a girl is by how she eats.  If’s she’s one of these broads that goes into a restaurant, and has thirty-fucking minute discussions with the waiter about substitutin’ this for that, what was this fucking chicken fed when it was a fucking little chicken, all that bullshit?  You might as well stab yourself in the fucking ear with your fork, cause she’ll just end up driving you crazy,” Freddie flipped through a rack of shirts, a look of distaste forming on his face. 

            “Speaking from personal experience Freddie?”  I asked. 

            “What’s that?”  He looked up, as if surprised I had any response at all. 

            “I said, Cait’s pretty easy going.” 

            “Well you’re lucky.  Hopefully, she’s just not trying to impress you.  They do that too you know.  So where you going to eat after the game?  You’re gonna go clean up, and eat like civilized people I hope,” Freddie sat down on top of a display table covered with pairs of plaid shorts that had proven to be a little too showy for the members of the Lake Club.  We hadn’t sold a single pair. 

            “We’re going out, I haven’t decided where.  I was trying to do some research on some places to eat.  I don’t know much about it.” 

            “Well, I save you a lot of time.  You have a meat-eater on your hands?  Take her to Gibson’s.  You want me to call a guy for you?  I’ll call a guy,” Freddie answered his own question, and took his phone from his pocket.  He went through a couple of gruff greetings, and then asked me what day we were going.  “What the fuck’s your last name again, kid?”   

            “Althouse.” 

            “Althouse.  Kid’s name is Althouse.  They’ll be in after the game, yeah, yeah fine.  That’s fine,” Freddie ended the call.  “Just show up after the game.  They’ll know you’re coming.  Monday night, no big deal, but this way you won’t get some shitty table, and maybe Cait’ll put out for you afterwards.  I’m assuming you’re still in the holding hands stage.” 

            “Thank’s Freddie,” I ignored his dig.  “So Gibson’s, right?” 

            “Yeah, Gibson’s, what are you retarded?  Don’t fuck this up, and not show kid.” 

            “We’ll be there,”

            “Good.  Well, I’ll let you get out of here,” Freddie started to rise from his seat, but then paused for a moment, and let out a thunderous fart.  “Might want to put that pair on sale,” he laughed heartily, and started to walk out of the shop. 

            “You sure you don’t need a new pair after that?”  I asked

            Freddie laughed, but then stopped abruptly while he paused at the door.  “And, kid, don’t cheap out on the hotel.  I know you’d probably be into fucking her on polyester for seventy-nine bucks a night, but girls don’t like that shit.  Do it right, stay at the James or one of those other fruity joints.  I know you got the cash for it.  You’ll be thankful when she’s prancing around in the complimentary robe, and begging you top hop in the Jacuzzi with her.” 

            Freddie didn’t wait for an answer he just slipped out, and I made a mental note to make a reservation at the James Hotel.  Who was I to challenge Freddie’s opinions on fruity joints?

***

            Cait was a little disappointed that our seats weren’t in the bleachers.  Since it was my first visit to Wrigley Field she thought it would have been fitting to sit in the outfield with the true fans, but the vantage point from about twenty rows behind third base suited me fine.  Cait made sure we arrived early, and before the game we hit Murphy’s for a beer, checked out Waveland Avenue, and stopped for a bag of peanuts from a street vendor.  The peanuts had proven to be a critical purchase.  Once the game started Cait worked through them with a nervous energy, her deft fingers shelling them at a pace that reflected the tension of the game situation.  She hardly noticed my presence, stopping only to take an occasional sip from her beer. 

            I wasn’t quite so riveted.  I sat there in my obviously brand new Cubs t-shirt, and found myself unable to focus on one thing for more than a minute or two.  I watched the game, scanned the crowd, took in the atmosphere, but my gaze keep falling back to Cait.  I watched her watch, her weather beaten Cubs hat pulled low on her forehead, sitting on the edge of her seat.  The look her face, and the sound of the crowd told me everything I needed to know about what was going on in the game.  She caught me staring at her a few times, and smiled self-consciously before returning her attention to the game.  In between innings, a little more relaxed she talked about the game or filled me in on some of the nuances that she assumed I was missing. 

            With the score tied in the eighth inning I was starting to worry that a Cubs loss could in some ways ruin the rest of the night.  I didn’t think Cait would pout, or refuse to spend the night, but she had been so happy the entire day that I wanted it to remain perfect.  The Cubs offense didn’t seem to care about how my night was going to go.  They left runners stranded all afternoon, culminating in the seventh with back to back pop-ups to end a bases loaded threat.  When the last out settled in the second baseman’s glove, Cait let out a disgusted sigh, and perhaps involuntarily crushed the empty beer cup she held in one hand.  Out of peanuts, and past last-call I didn’t know how she would react to another failure in the eighth.  Luckily, a two-out shot into the gap pushed the Cubbies ahead, and they held on from there, allowing the crowd to leave happy. 

            “I’m glad they won,” Cait finally admitted.  She locked onto my arm as we walked back to where I had parked the car for an obscene rate just so I could prolong the surprise of the hotel. 

“So am I,” I said honestly.  “I think my shirt was probably lucky.”  I pulled Cait a little closer to me.  I was happy to have her close.  She had been so high after the game that I thought she might float away. 

“I think it probably was,” Cait paused for a moment before asking, “Are you sure we have plenty of time to make dinner?”  After the game we had joined the revelry in Wrigleyville for a couple hours.

“We’re fine.  We have all the time in the world,” I reassured her.  I was more concerned about finding the lot where I had parked, but at that exact moment my car appeared across a stretch of now empty parking spots.   

“Cause it doesn’t matter to me where we eat, we can go anywhere.” 

“I know, but I want to go somewhere nice,” I said, walking Cait around to the passenger side of the car.   

“Ok, me too,” Cait dropped her head onto my shoulder, and squeezed my hand before sliding into the car. 

Not long after, when we pulled up in front of the James Hotel Cait shot me a suspicious look, but she didn’t say anything until we got inside the room. 

“This is the nicest Best Western I’ve ever seen,” she said. 

“Probably in my top-five,” I teased.  “There’s one outside Charlotte that probably beats this.” 

“Why did you lie?”  Cait asked from the bedroom.  She had set her bag down on the couch, and started an unguided tour of the room. 

“I was just joking, but you didn’t realize it, so I didn’t say anything.  I thought I’d surprise you.” 

“Oh my god, I’m such a loser.  But, consider me surprised,” Cait appeared in the doorway to the bedroom.  “This is so nice.  Unnecessary, but nice.” 

“I thought we could both use a nice night away from the luxuries of the cabin,” I said, walking towards Cait.  I reached the doorway, and leaned into her, balancing us with a hand on her back. 

“I love the cabin,” Cait said.  She exhaled softly, and then barely touched her lips to mine, sliding a hand under my t-shirt in the process. 

“Should we skip dinner?” I asked, my hand on her back beginning to work its way under the waistline of her shorts.

“No, we’re going to need nourishment,” Cait kissed me deeply before removing her hand from my chest, and pulling away.  “I better get in the shower,” she said. 

“Can I come?” 

“Then we’d never make dinner,” Cait smiled.  She turned towards the bathroom, and after taking a couple of steps away from me she pulled her own t-shirt over her head, and let it drop to the floor.  She then spun, a full three-sixty, covering her bare breasts with her hands, before disappearing into the bathroom. 

I listened to the shower turn on, and then staggered over to the couch, where flushed, I looked for some distraction.  A complimentary copy of the Tribune was on the coffee table, and I eagerly picked it up.  It didn’t provide much relief from my sensual thoughts, and I even got up once, and started for the shower before returning to the couch.  Cait was still prone to unexpected moments of shyness, and if she had wanted me in that shower with her she would have left no doubt about it, pulling in me in after her.  It was better this way, I decided.  The building, almost intolerable levels of anticipation would only end up making the night better.  I had finally found a mildly interesting article, when I sensed Cait’s presence in the doorway.  Looking above the paper I could only see her face, and slicked back hair. 

“Do you think I got sunburnt?”  She asked. 

I lowered the paper, expecting to find her in a towel or robe, but she stood there without a stitch of clothing on.  My mouth hung slightly open while I sat in silence. 

“Did I?  Right here,” Cait put a hand to her neck, and then drew a line down to her cleavage. 

“Maybe a little,” I offered finally, surprised I could form a sentence. 

Cait, regarded this for a moment, and then frowned.  “Shower’s open,” she cooed, after disappearing out of sight. 

“You’re driving me crazy,” I called after her. 

“What?”  Only Cait’s head came back into sight. 

“You’re driving me crazy,” I said more flatly. 

“Well, that’s the idea,” Cait said seductively, and then disappeared again. 

Say what you want about Freddie.  Boorish, horseshit golf swing, prone to lapses of political incorrectness, but when we got to Gibson’s I was happy to know him.  First, they actually did have my name, which was a relief, and then we were shown to a table that wasn’t in a private area or anything, but certainly was secluded from the rest of the diners.  They were busy, especially in the bar area, but we were given our own little corner of peace and quiet.  This was the work of Freddie, no doubt, but I tried to act like that kind of thing happened to me all the time.

 I could no longer act so unimpressed, though, when a bottle of wine showed up at our table moments after we sat down.  My knowledge of wine at that point consisted of what I had seen in Sideways, but it didn’t take a sommelier to figure out it was a nice bottle.  Cait sat in silence while a small glass was poured for her, looking around anxiously, perhaps wondering what was going to show up next. 

“And, I was just about ready to get a Bud Light,” Cait whispered, leaning towards me when we were alone again. 

“Me too,” I admitted. 

“You’re telling me you didn’t plan all this?” 

“Not exactly,” I said, looking across the table at Cait.  In truth, I was lucky that Freddie had come through.  Cait looked the part far more than I did.  She wore a white dress, simple, elegant, one that may have never gotten a second glance had it  been on a hanger, but Cait elevated it to a fantasy.  It moved with her, fit her perfectly, and yielded no signs that she wore a thing underneath.  I had been staring since the ride down the elevator.   

“And what does that mean?” 

“Well Freddie helped me with the plans a little bit.  I think the wine, at the very least, is his doing.” 

“I guess all that bullshitting you do over there finally paid off,” Cait laughed, and tried a sip of her win.  “Wow, that’s so good, that even I know it’s good.” 

“It’s not too much?”  I asked. 

“I love it,” Cait said.  She reached a hand across the table, and our fingers interlocked. 

“Did I say you look amazing?” 

“A couple times,” Cait smiled, and took her hand away from mine, and reached up to her neck, adjusting a necklace that I hadn’t previously noticed. 

“Is that a new necklace?”  I asked.  I couldn’t remember ever seeing Cait in any jewelry besides earrings. 

“Hardly,” she continued to play with the necklace, and I noticed that it did appear to be old, possibly even antique.  “My mother gave this to me a long time ago.  Out of the blue, she claimed it was my grandmother’s.  I don’t know.  I guess I wanted to believe her.  She never gave me anything, I think you read about my typical birthday, well I was just so thrilled to get anything, that I’ve always kind of cherished it.  I only wear it on special occasions, whether it matches it nor not,” Cait let the necklace fall back into place, and leaned back slightly in her chair. 

“This is a special occasion?”  I asked. 

“Pretty special,” the thought of where we were, the day we’d already had seemed to lift Cait’s spirits again. 

“It looks great on you,” I said. 

Cait rolled her eyes a little, “You’d say the crown from the Burger King kid’s meal looked good on me right now.” 

“Well, maybe it would,” I laughed.  Cait smiled sweetly, and we were interrupted by our waiter.  Cait seemed a little relieved to have a break in the conversation.  Perhaps old necklaces and birthdays weren’t my best option for setting a mood.

The dinner could not have been better.  The food was perfectly prepared, and beautifully presented.  I managed to find more neutral topics of conversation, and as the dinner came to a close it became apparent that we were both in a little rush to get back to the hotel.    The temptation of the dessert menu was only enough to get us to take a towering piece of chocolate cake with us.  Perhaps, there would be time to eat it later. 

Cait was about one step inside the door to our room when I could no longer resist her, and began covering her with kisses, and trying to feel every inch of her simultaneously with my hands.  She matched my passion, undressing both of us as quickly as she could.  She met each one of my kisses while sliding out of her dress, and relieving me of my shirt and jacket.  As she went to work on my belt, I aggressively moved my hand over one of her breasts, and towards her neck.  Before I realized what I was doing, her necklace had caught between two of my fingers, and broken.  I recoiled from her, looking at the broken necklace in my careless hands. 

“I’ll have it fixed,” I said breathlessly. 

“It’s fine, just don’t stop kissing me,” Cait reinitiated our contact. 

“I’m sorry.” 

“I don’t care about the necklace.  I just want you,” Cait breathed into my ear, and nibbled at my neck.  It was all the encouragement I required at that moment.  I slid the necklace into the pocket of my pants, and then carried Cait into the bedroom. 

Hours later I was exhausted.  Still naked, and convinced that the days of anticipation and teasing had been well worth it, I stared at the ceiling of the hotel room, not wanting to yield to my fatigue.  I didn’t want the night to end.  As soon as I fell asleep that meant I was that much closer to driving back to Dune Harbor, a place that at that moment seemed decidedly unglamorous.  I think Cait shared my opinion, because she lay awake too, eating the cake we had taken with us from the restaurant.  The container was balanced precariously on her bare stomach, and she took infrequent, small bites, offering every third or so to me. 

“Isn’t there a rule about eating chocolate after a certain time,” Cait asked perhaps rhetorically.

“I think it’s so late that you can actually start eating it again,” I said. 

“It might be,” Cait laughed with a mouth full of chocolate.  “I don’t want to go to sleep but if I stay up I may finish this cake.”

“It is pretty fucking good,” I said as Cait dropped another piece into my mouth. 

“I think sex makes chocolate taste better.” 

“I thought it was chocolate makes sex taste better,” I joked. 

“That sounds pretty good too,” Cait laughed, and then exhaled audibly.  “Last bite,” she said.  “Do you want any more?” 

I shook my head, and Cait carefully lifted herself out of bed.  She closed the container the cake was in, and placed it on the nightstand.  She then got up, stretched her arms above her head, and walked into the bathroom.  As the door closed behind her my cell phone started buzzing.  I looked around, nearly in a panic before seeing it vibrating behind the leftover cake.  I leaned across the bed and looked at the display.  It was Avery.

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