Jason and the team are getting dinner ready and Jason gives in to despair, thinking about Orchid.
“Not a bad idea. We can coordinate that tomorrow. I think his input would be very useful.”
“Thank you. I apologize for the nosedive into the pity pool. Not my best behavior.” He wiped his eyes on the back of his hand. “Blame the fucking onions.”
Greg thumped him on the back. Taylor squeezed his arm.
“You lot are the best friends I’ve ever had. What’s that say for me, eh?” He rubbed his eyes again and washed his hands.
“Says a hell of a lot about you, Jason,” Greg said. “We’re a close bunch. We’ve accepted you like one of us—I think I can speak for all of us on that. You may not wear a badge, but you’re one of the team. Don’t you think, Tay?”
“I do,” she replied. “Not easy to accomplish in a couple days. Greg, go see how the burgers are coming, huh? I’m going to check the beans.” She turned to the oven, taking out a couple pot holders.
Greg glanced at the two of them, then walked out to the deck.
“He’s right,” she said. “We’re very close. And you are like one of us. You’ve become part of our team without even trying, Jason. We can do this, but only with your help. You’re our ace in the hole.”
She pulled the beans out and set them down before shutting the oven door. Taking the mitts off, she put her hands on either side of his face.
“You can do this. We’re here.”
“I really want to kiss you, Taylor.”
“I know. But the guys are coming in.”
“Bloody hell,” he muttered, moving quickly away.
“Put it away!” Greg yelled, covering his eyes. “Put up that lethal weapon, Jason, before I call the cops!”
“Not killed anyone with it yet,” Jason laughed, grabbing his crotch. “Damn thing’s withering from disuse.”
They joked and laughed more on that subject, bantering back and forth making sexual jokes. Even Taylor got in the game, teasing each of the men about his self-perceived gifts.
“What I want to know,” Greg said, leaning across the table toward Taylor. “Does size matter? I mean, there’s the jokes and all. But really?”
“Well,” she swallowed her potato salad. “I’m not that much of an expert. But I have to say, that yes, to an extent. It’s got to be big enough to get to those hard to reach places. And trust me, nothing run on batteries does the job like the home grown variety.”
The men were stunned. She usually didn’t speak so openly about sex.
“What have you done with the real Taylor?” Greg asked, staring at her.
“Yeah—but you usually don’t answer.”
She shrugged, swirling her tea in her glass. “Men talk about sex all the time. What makes you think women are any different?”
“How much do you talk?” Greg wanted to know, suddenly worried.
“Don’t panic, cowboy. If they ask about you, I make things up. You’ll be glad to know that I’ve been very complimentary.”
“Thanks.” He sounded offended. “You couldn’t just go through with it and tell the truth?”
“Does it really matter?”
“Yes! Because in my version, I’m actually getting laid!”
She laughed, punching his shoulder.
“Why didn’t you ever?” He asked quietly. “We were so close.” He seemed to have forgotten the others.
They sat silently, waiting to see what she would say. All of them, including Jason, were curious.
Taylor must have felt she owned Greg an explanation. She fiddled with her glass some more, then focused on his eyes.
“I had a horrible relationship go belly up on me a few years ago—before I met any of you. It was terribly, dangerously abusive. I had a tough time getting out. A couple good friends finally intervened and got me away from him. But it was ages before I could stand to be around anyone. And men terrified me. Lots of therapy, friendly advice, and spiritual guidance, I’m getting past it. But it’s been really hard. I made myself a promise that I wasn’t going to get involved like that again until I was sure I was ready. I really thought I was, Greg. But each time we got close, I knew I wasn’t. And I’m so sorry, because you’re one of the greatest guys I know. I wish it could have been you. I really do.”
She got up from the table and ran to the restroom next to the basement stairs. They could hear her crying, but none of them made any move to go after her until Jason stood. He motioned with his head for the men to go to the other room. They moved silently away. Tapping on the door, he waited until she unlocked it.
“I knew it would be you,” she said quietly, sitting on the closed toilet lid.
Jason leaned on the sink, folding his arms.
“You’re the only one brave enough to come in.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes with her fingers.
“Or dumb enough.” He handed her the guest towel.
© Dellani Oakes