Avery didn’t leave a message. I didn’t know if it was a good or bad sign, but it did allow me to ignore the fact she had tried to get in touch. I left my phone off until I had dropped Cait back off at the cabin, and headed to work. When the phone buzzed with a voicemail during the short drive over to the Lake Club I felt my nerves dancing in my stomach as I was waiting for the message to play. I remembered how Avery had appeared during my trip to Philadelphia, more fragile than I had ever seen her despite her perfectly maintained façade. It was a relief to hear Maureen’s voice, gently reminding me that I was supposed to be in by eleven, and that Reid McMahon had scheduled a lesson for the afternoon. I clicked the phone back off after pulling into the parking lot at the club, and told myself Avery had experienced a moment of weakness. She was fine, perhaps just a little lonely.
Halfway up the hill to the clubhouse that day I wanted to stop for a nap. I was exhausted. Cait had lasted about five minutes on the ride home before passing out, and back at the cabin she had barely mustered the strength to make it to my bed before collapsing again. When I said goodbye, she could only manage a sigh into a pillow, and a half-hearted wave. I was jealous that she had a few hours to sleep before she had to go to work. Not that my job was physically demanding, but it was the kind of day that I would have wanted to post up in front of the computer and be useless, but I knew I was facing a range session with Reid. The thought of it, walking towards the clubhouse, drained me. A dull ache was starting to form in my temples, and I didn’t know if was the last effects of Freddie’s complimentary wine, or if my body was simply rejecting the notion of only a few hours sleep.
“You seem a little distracted,” Reid mentioned. We were on the range, where we’d been for over an hour. He looked no worse for wear after hitting a hundred balls, but my feet were starting to ache and the bright sun had turned the dull ache in my temples into a roar.
“Do I?” I asked, trying to be nonchalant. Of course I was distracted. Reid had hit the last twenty balls perfectly. There wasn’t much for me to focus on.
“What’s on your mind, girl problems?” Reid asked. I don’t know if he was going for a fatherly or friendly tone, but he missed both.
I shook my head. “No, I’m good. Everything’s good. Feeling a little under the weather, that’s all.”
“Well why didn’t you say something? We could have done this another time,” Reid stepped away from the pile of balls he was hitting and leaned on his driver.
“I’m fine, really. I made it sound worse than it is,” I said. I tried to stand up straighter, create the illusion of alertness.
“Well let’s take a break at least,” Reid motioned for me to follow him, and he grabbed a couple bottles of water before heading to a bench at the far end of the range. The good news was that it was sitting in the shade provided by the small building that housed the range picker and a restroom. Reid sat down dramatically, and handed me a bottle of water. I thanked him, and took a seat.
“R.J.’s coming up this weekend. He actually asked me about it. I can’t remember him ever wanting to come up here. I guess I owe that to your coaching,” Reid said after we had sat for a moment in silence.
“Well, I don’t want to take the credit. Sometimes golf takes a while to get a hold of someone.”
“I agree, but you at least helped speed up the process.”
“It’s been nice seeing him get better,” I said truthfully.
“It certainly has. I just wanted something we could do together, I guess. Thinking selfishly,” Reid took a sip from his water, and leaned back slightly. “It’s just golf is a lifetime game, and I can’t tell you how many people I know now, at my age, that wish they’d picked it up sooner. You said it takes a while to take hold, but once it does, it’s pretty much there forever, don’t you think?”
“Sure,” I happily agreed, not knowing where Reid was headed.
There was another long pause in the conversation, perhaps a minute or two where we both sipped our water deliberately, and tried to think of something to say. It wasn’t unlike a first date.
“So don’t you think you’d like one more run at Q-School?” Reid finally asked. It sounded practiced, and out of nowhere, so I assumed he’d been running the question through his mind all afternoon. “You said it yourself, you never lose the bug, and for someone like you I think that includes competition. I talked to Randy. He said you guys tore up the pro-pro. I confess, I already knew you won when I asked him about it, but he said you played great. Were right at home out there.”
“Reid, there’s a big difference between a two-day better ball and Q-School. It was a good time, and I did like competing, but you have to find your level.”
“Dave, this isn’t your level. You can tell me stories about how good the other guys are all day, but I know how good you are. I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard about it.”
I put the cap on my water, and set it aside. I took a deep breath, not worried about showing my frustration. “Why is it so important to you that I try Q-School? I don’t understand why you want to help me so much.”
“Well, part of the reason is what I just told you. You’ve helped me start this connection with my son, but I just like helping people too. People I believe in. Someone helped me a long time ago, helped me get my life started, and I just feel like I am in a great position to return the favor.”
“I appreciate what you’re saying, and what you’re offering. I just don’t know,” I said. As tired as I was, and as nice as it felt to sit down, I was starting to feel a little antsy. I wanted to get back to the lesson.
“I know you’re worried about the money, about wasting my money or whoever’s money, and letting people down, but that’s not what you should be worried about. If you want one more chance, you should take it,” Reid said emphatically. He got up from the bench, and started casually swinging his driver.
I stood up as well, and looked skyward. I ran a hand through my hair, and then looked back at Reid.
“So what do you think? If you say no, I’m just going to bring you out here for a lesson every day until you’ve got so much money in your pocket you’ll go to Q-School just to get rid of some of it,” Reid laughed at this notion.
I knew that Reid was capable of something like this. He’d wear me down. He’d already been at it for some time, and that day on the range, I stopped putting up the fight. I told him I’d take his help, and try Q-School again.
Reid was ecstatic, and suddenly had no interest in continuing the lesson. He shook my hand vigorously and repeatedly, and then drove off. He called out over his shoulder that we’d discuss the details soon. I guess he was going to spread the news, go brag about the kid he was going to sponsor, embellish my talents, and talk of his pending connection to the PGA Tour. A moment after he drove off I had the urge to chase him down, and tell him I changed my mind, but I knew that the damage had been done. The wheels had been put in motion. Instead of chasing Reid down, I made my way back over to the bench, and collapsed into the inviting coolness of the shadows. I closed my eyes, and wondered how long it would be before someone back at the golf shop noticed I was missing.
I briefly dozed off, but the sound of the approaching golf cart startled me, and allowed me to avoid the embarrassment of being caught sleeping on the job. Duke drove right up on the tee box, and pulled to a stop directly in front of me. He looked me up and down, and then broke into a half-smile.
“You look like shit,” he said.
“About how I feel.”
“Sleep deprived. Drove back from Chicago this morning, didn’t get much sleep.”
“Sounds rough,” Duke said sarcastically. “Poor kid had to spend the night in Chicago with every old bastard in Dune Harbor’s wet dream, then he shows up to his marshmallow job, and some rich guy makes him take his money so he can go to Q-School. Did I just sum up your problems?” Duke looked at me accusingly, but then burst into deep, satisfied laugh.
“I wasn’t complaining. You started it. I’m just sitting here.”
“Right well sit here,” Duke laughed, and patted the seat next to him. “Reid came storming back, talking a mile a minute, then he realized he left you up here without a ride. I said you’d walk it, but then Reid said Baby wasn’t feeling too good.”
“I appreciate the ride, although I know you would have come out to give me a hard time anyway,” I slowly got up from the bench, stretched dramatically, and then hopped into the cart.
“Well, you’re probably right about that. I thought you were done with Q-School, though. You change your mind, or did he just wear you down?”
“I changed my mind,” I lied, marveling again at Duke’s uncommon insight.
“Well, guess that means you’ll be playing more. Maybe I can win some of my money back finally. You’ve been missing in action since you started playing Prince Charming. How’s Cait going to go for this? She ok dating a real golf pro? You know, someone that actually might have to spend some time at the golf course?”
“Not sure. I’ll find out tonight, I guess.”
“Wooo boy,” Duke whistled to add emphasis. “I should have left you out here to nap. You’re going to need to rest up for that conversation,” Duke laughed and pulled away.
When I got back to the cabin that night, the only thing I wanted to do was go to sleep, but I forced myself through the rituals of picking at my dinner, and standing under the shower for a few minutes. Everything was a struggle. My limbs felt heavy. I found myself leaning against walls and doorframes contemplating naps, but finally I managed to crawl into bed, melting face first into a pillow. I inhaled deeply, and thought I could detect the lingering effects of Cait’s presence. The thought of her, the memories created by her scent, briefly reenergized me, and I rolled onto my back. I contemplated the possibility of waiting up for her. She had hoped to guilt Tina into allowing her to leave early, but I hadn’t heard any updates. Unsure of how long I would have to wait, I stared at the ceiling, and waited for the sound of her truck in the driveway.
I didn’t hear Cait come home. No more than five minutes after I resolved to try and stay awake I had succumb to my fatigue and fallen into a deep sleep. Early the next morning I awoke in the same position I last consciously remembered, only sometime during the night Cait had tucked herself in next to me. She wore only one of my t-shirts. She had begun to favor one in particular, the one she chose the first night she stayed over. Lying on her side, her head rested on my chest, and her right arm was wrapped tightly around me. Her right leg was bent at the knee, and thrown over me, finding a place to rest between my own legs. During the night she had kicked off the covers, and while my hand found a familiar place to rest on her back my eyes drifted to the curve of her hip, and the exposed skin of her upper thigh. I moved my face closer to the top of her head, and inhaled the scent I had tried to find in the pillow the night before. At that exact instant, she stirred.
“Morning,” Cait said, her voice breathy and still filled with sleep. She repositioned herself slightly, and began softly rubbing my chest. The leg that rested between mine began moving as well, keeping the same rhythm.
“Good Morning,” I answered, pulling Cait as close to me as possible. She responded by pressing herself into my hip, and after kissing my neck softly she rested her head on my chest once again. “This is a nice way to wake up,” I continued. “I didn’t hear you come in last night.”
“Sorry, I was trying to stay up,” I slid down the mattress slightly, bringing us face to face. I kissed Cait’s forehead, and then the tip of her nose.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m happy you were asleep. I was exhausted. You were the perfect pillow.”
“Unconsciously, I was happy to oblige, I pulled Cait on top of me, and she responded with a knowing smile, her hand wandering below the waistline of my boxer shorts. “Are you feeling refreshed now?” I asked.
“One hundred percent,” Cait said. She began rocking her hips, teasing me with the hypnotic motion. She slowly increased the pace of her movements, and then pulled the t-shirt over her head, the whole time her green eyes locked powerfully on mine. When she licked her lips, and flashed another coy smile I couldn’t contain my desire for her any longer. I deftly rolled her over onto her back, and began eagerly kissing her, my lips trying to be several places at once.
It was still early in the morning when we found ourselves wandering into the kitchen, suddenly desperate for something to eat. Cait suggested going to a diner, but the thought of getting dressed, and driving somewhere was unappealing to me. I still had a couple of hours before I had to leave for work, and I wanted to spend them in the cabin with Cait. A full breakfast was no replacement for lounging around half-dressed, and lazily enjoying each other’s company. I had one eye on the fridge, while the other watched Cait start some coffee. She had put on a threadbare white tank-top, and a pair of my boxers that naturally fell low on her hips. I marveled at her innate sexiness, her ability to transform seemingly mundane pieces of my own wardrobe.
“How’s it looking in there?” Cait asked, she came up behind me, and peeked into the fridge over my shoulder.
“Egg sandwiches on toast or the remnants of my penne vodka from last night,” I said.
“I think we better go with egg sandwiches.”
“Agreed,” I said, pulling the container of eggs from the fridge. I tossed Cait the loaf of bread, and she got to work on the toast. It may not have been gourmet, but it was terribly efficient.
“You really need a table,” Cait said a few minutes later while we ate on the couch. “I mean, like, one with chairs and what not.”
“You’re so high maintenance,” I answered.
Cait rolled her eyes, “It doesn’t have to be mahogany. I’d settle for a card table. It’d be nice to not have to hold my plate while I eat, plus it’s hard to talk to you like this. We’re like two assholes sitting on the same side of a booth.”
I laughed, and then said, “How come when there are two people they sit across from each other in a booth, but when two couples go out the couples sit next to each other.”
“I don’t think they always do,” Cait answered after thinking about it for a moment. “You’re just trying to change the subject anyway.”
“I was not,” I protested. I set my plate on the coffee table, and then turned on the couch so I was facing Cait. “What about some nice TV trays. Would you settle for that?”
“Forget I mentioned it,” Cait said in a world-class monotone.
“Oh come on, I’m just teasing you. I just didn’t see much sense in getting a lot of furniture for this place, not knowing how long I was going to be around,” somewhere mid-sentence I realized what I was saying and my voice slightly changed tone.
Cait shot me a sideways glance, and I looked back at her nervously. “I know you’re not planning on staying the winter,” she said finally. Perhaps we both knew it, but neither of us had wanted to talk about it up to that point. I nodded, and waited to see if Cait had anything to add. “When exactly do you think you’ll be leaving?” She asked. She then put her plate aside, and we sat incorrectly on the sofa, facing each other.
“Well,” I started, of course in those few moments I was instantly hit with the reminder that I needed to tell Cait about Q-School. I wondered if it now was going to look like I was hiding it from her.
“There were multiple reasons I was trying to stay up last night. I did have something to tell you.”
“Something good?” Cait nervously gave herself a hug, wrapping her arms around her legs, and resting her chin on her knees.
“Yeah, I think so. I got talking to Reid again yesterday, and he convinced me, well we decided that I should go back and try Q-School again.” I paused, and waited for Cait’s reaction.
“I thought you were done with that.”
“I thought I was, but things have changed since I got here. I’ve started to feel a little differently. About my game, about a lot of things,” this was essentially true.
“So he convinced you,” Cait ignored my own edit, “meaning what? It’s basically his idea?”
“I guess it was his idea, but it’s my decision. I just, the guy is a generous guy, he wants to help me, and this is the only way he can think to do it I guess. I’d almost feel bad turning him down time after time, and maybe I did give it up to early,” I thought about this as I was saying it, and decided that it was true in a way. The circumstances surrounding my decision to quit competitive golf were not ordinary.
“Have you thought this through? I mean, all the consequences, what else Reid might want. What it would mean if you make it, or don’t make it,” Cait more than anything seemed concerned for me. She didn’t sound angry or confused, but she was certainly trying to figure out my change of heart.
“Yeah, I have. I’ve been thinking about all that stuff for years. Reid’s not the first guy who wanted to help, and I know how it works, but I think maybe, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to,” I paused again, feeling some emotion rising inside of me.
“Owe it to who?”
That is when I told Cait about Chris. I tried to keep it short, but it seemed like every story I started just led to another one. I told her all the good things first. How he’d really helped develop my game in Florida, the Amateur at Oakmont, and some other funny recollections. I told her that he had fallen in love with my sister, and how that had changed him. I talked about his loyalty, and belief in me, and then finally the story of how he passed away. Cait had listened intently from the beginning. She laughed at the funny moments, and then at the end when I was describing losing Chris I could see tears form in her eyes. She got up from the couch, and took the step or two over to me, and still standing, wrapped me in her arms.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” she said, kissing the top of my head. “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me that story.”
I pulled Cait onto my lap, and kissed her tear streaked cheeks. “I should have told you sooner,” I said.
“I understand,” she answered. “It’s the kind of thing where it never feels like the right time.”
“I guess so.”
“I think this is going to be your year at Q-School,” Cait said. “I think you’re ready to do it. It might have taken Reid’s encouragement, but I know you’ll do your best this time.”
The simple way she stated it, the instant belief she showed in me, nearly overwhelmed me. Fearing more tears, I half-heartedly said, “I just need to find a new caddy.”
Cait smiled at me sympathetically, and ran a hand through my hair. “Don’t look at me,” she joked. “I’m not qualified.”
I laughed, agreeing that she probably wasn’t suited for the job. Capable, but certainly not interested.
“But maybe I can visit while you’re in Florida?”
“You better,” I said.
“I won’t be a distraction?” Cait asked.
“Inspiration,” I answered.
Cait blushed slightly, and then kissed me deeply. “How long till you have to be at work?” she asked.
“I’ve got plenty of time,” I said standing up, taking Cait with me.
“You sure?” Cait clung to me, her legs wrapped tightly around my midsection.
“Plenty of time for me at least,” I joked, and carried her back into the bedroom.