In the Garden of Persephone (part 4)

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Xan drops in on Zach

 

Zach had noticed for the past few weeks that the mornings were getting darker. It would soon be time for baseball season to end and for winter training to start up again. During the snowy months, he lifted weights and did light cardiovascular work rather than running for miles in the sun.

He was about to get out of bed and put his running shoes on when he heard noises just under his window. Smiling to himself, he burrowed into his covers and waited. In a few seconds, he watched as an arm pushed his window open and then stifled a laugh as he saw Xan dive head first through and completing a neat somersault on entry.

“Ever the graceful debut,” he said.

Xan stood up to her full height and kicked her shoes off whilst simultaneously undoing the buttons of her jeans and pulling the shirt she was wearing over her head. In a matter of seconds, she was completely naked. Of course, she had Zach’s complete attention. She motioned for him to move over so she could slip into bed next to him. With intention, he only moved over a few inches so he could press her closer to him. She slid under him and pulled him on top of her.

“Easy does it, Xan,” he scolded as if she were hurting him. He nestled into her neck and for a few seconds, lost complete track of everything but her. As he was slowly returning to this world, she squirmed beneath him as if she suddenly wanted some space. She drew her face back from his to see him more clearly.

“I saw you speaking to the new girl,” she said.

“Which girl? The new girl?” he asked, teasing her.

“Yes.”

“I don’t know,” he said honestly. “I’m sure she hasn’t come across anyone panicking over earthquakes in Michigan before.

“I’m sure there are lots of things she hasn’t seen before.” She reached down and grabbed him roughly.

“Hey!”

She laughed. “She plays the euphonium.”

“What?”

Xan laughed again. “It’s a bit like a baritone but sounds sweeter, more full. Oh and she doesn’t have a father,” she added mysteriously.

“Oh,” he said as if it made sense. He sat up to head to the shower.

“Is your dad up?” Xan asked.

“Probably not, so try to not to sing too loudly.” It was Xan’s habit to practice her minor scales as she waited for the shower. “He thinks your singing sounds like it could be a harbinger of doom.” He stood up, reaching for his robes. Xan had no problem being naked but he didn’t like her looking at his body too closely. Lately his thighs had gotten more muscular but his calves remained skinny. He would have to work on those. Out of bed, Zach pulled the covers over Xan’s naked body as if to cover her up. As soon as he stopped fussing, she removed the covers again, exposing her breasts and stomach. Shaking his head, he headed for the shower.

Zach’s father was a mystery to him. Most fathers would object to having their son’s girlfriends over. Especially as Xan never spent the night but only arrived for a few minutes in the morning. He thought his father’s acceptance may have been because there was no mother to object. He had no excuse to linger in the shower and once he soaped up and rinsed off, he turned off the water and stepped out. Just as he pulled the towel around himself, Xan burst in. She was naked and sat down on the toilet and began to pee mightily.

“Ahhhhhhhh,” she said.

“Jeez Xan,” he said to her. “Don’t you have any dignity?”

“What good is dignity when you’re with the love of your life?” She farted, the sound magnified by the bowl.

“All right, I’m out of here.” Zach went out of the room to return to his bedroom to dress. Although his father was not the best of housekeepers, he always made sure Zach’s clothes were neatly folded. It was a precedent his mother had set before she left them to make a new life with his father’s boss. Zach’s father evidently thought if they could have clean clothes, they couldn’t miss the woman in their lives. He pulled out a pair of clean jeans and a T shirt. It was still practically summer and not cold enough to wear a sweater. As he dressed, he looked at Xan’s clothes, bunched together on the floor. Xan was the kind of person who viewed clothes as being purely functional. She didn’t care if what she was wearing made her look sloppy or even if she didn’t smell that nice. She only wore clothes to satisfy society’s need for primness. Once he was dressed, he picked up the shirt Xan had been wearing. It was the same one she had been wearing for the past few days and it was looking as if it could do with a good wash.

Xan came out of the shower, still dripping wet. She took her shirt from Zach and although still wet from the shower, pulled it over her head. There was the tell tale sign of leftover toothpaste in the corners of her mouth—he had always been unsure if she had her own toothbrush or if she just used his or his dad’s.

“Do you want some clean clothes?” he asked. “You can borrow one of my shirts.”

“No thanks, your clothes stink.”

Zach lifted his arm and sniffed his armpit carefully. “I do not,” he said.

“Well probably not to you but if I wear your shirt and I start to sweat, I stink.”

“So it’s not me who stinks.”

“Relax, ball boy. It’s our combination that offends delicate little noses.”

“Maybe if you dried off. . .”

“What’s the problem, Zach? Something wrong with me now you’ve met Little Miss Hygiene?”

Zach was astounded. Did he mean the girl who she was talking about the previous morning? “What—“

“I saw you checking out her clean clothes, smelling the fabric conditioner.”

“Xan—“

“I don’t have a lot of clothes, okay?”

“It doesn’t matter, Xan.”

“And I got to work for a living.”

“No biggie—“

“It’s a biggie to me, you know. I’d like to swan around in clean clothes—“

“You can use the washer and drier here.”

“That’s not the point.” Xan’s chin jutted out defiantly. Money was always a sore point between them. He knew Xan had it tough, not having parents and all. His own father had tried to convince her to move in with them but she wouldn’t even consider it. He wondered if it would be worth the effort to try to set things straight then decided it would only leave to further misunderstandings.

“Let’s just get some breakfast. I’m hungry.”

Xan finishing pulling on the clothes she had worn the day before and slipped her shoes on. Her hair was wet but still wild and untamed. Did it matter what she wore? Zach wondered. She was a lot of fun to be with and he knew she worked hard. On top of all of that, he also understood she had a lot of pressure to keep her private life private—too many teachers would be only be too happy to play the hero and see to it that Xan would be moved into some sort of juvenile adoption home if they knew she lived in a small room above an abandoned garage. He glanced again at Xan who was now running her fingers through her hair. She didn’t know he knew about her living conditions. Zach couldn’t imagine Xan conforming to a rigid routine—she would surely fight them every step of the way, maybe even get herself into trouble for assaulting authority figures. He shuddered. Xan was very strong, very stubborn and very determined to live her life as independently as she could. Isn’t that what he admired about her? It really had nothing to do with what she wore. He vowed he would never say anything about her appearance ever again.

In the kitchen, Zach’s father was sleepily burning toast.

“Morning Pete,” Xan said. “How’s the head today?” She knew it was his father’s custom to drink a little too much in the evening.

“Morning Xan, no need to worry about me. How’s life in the chicken business?”

Xan shrugged. “Same as always,” She shrugged again. “Some day I’m going to own that grease pit.”

Zach and his father exchanged glances. Neither had any idea why she put so much effort into her particular ambition.

They sat down to juice and toast. Even though the toast was burned, Zach ate as if he hadn’t eaten for days. When he polished off the toast, he went to the fridge to make himself his standard 6 egg omelette. First, he separated the whites from the yolks, mixed in a tablespoon of cottage cheese, a bit of salsa. He dumped the yolks down the sink and sprayed his special frying pan with a light layer of low fat oil. This was something his baseball coach had recommended to the team in order to build muscle. He wished his calf muscles would reap the benefit. When he thought no one was watching, he looked down the back of his legs then flexed his foot to see if there was much of a difference. There wasn’t. As the eggs solidified in the pan, he gave them a shake. He hated his omelette to be browned so this was always the tricky bit: finding just the right moment to turn the whole thing over. Pushing the spatula through the mixture then patting the top so the eggs would stick together, he took a deep breath and flipped again. Deftly catching his omelette, he returned the pan to the heat for a few more seconds before sliding it onto his plate.

“I don’t know how you can eat that,” said his father. Without the yellow yolks, the omelette was pink from the salsa.

“It really isn’t so bad.”

“I hope I won’t have to make it for you one day,” Xan said. “I would hate to waste all those yolks. The poor little chickens.”

“I wonder if there is a way the yolks could be turned into chickens for Xan to cook in her restaurant,” Zach’s father teased.

“Not a chance,” said Xan. “It’s just a waste of a chicken’s life,” she added sadly.

“Yolks are where the fat and cholesterol are. The whites are pure protein. You’ll appreciate it when my muscles get bigger.”

“There’s only one muscle I’m interested in,” she muttered.

“Let me guess,” said his father quickly, “That muscle would be the one between his ears.” He did not like Xan’s lewd jokes but had learned that expressing disapproval too harshly would only result in her being more lewd.

“Not quite what I had in mind—“

“More juice?” his father asked.

“I’m good—“

“Eggs?” asked Zach. He made as if to give her some.

“Ew but—“

“Isn’t it time for you two to get to school?”

Zach finished his eggs with one mighty bite which he was still struggling to swallow as he pulled Xan to her feet.

 

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