rayvanfox

summer in seatown

this is a work in progress about a group of kids in Seattle, most of whom are in love with each other, few of which have their gender specified.

excerpt:

At the last second Robin pulls away and I look up to see Jay’s silhouette walking toward the screen door of the coach house. I sigh as Robin untangles our limbs and scrambles to get up off the couch and answer the door. Before reaching it, Robin stops, turns around, catches my eye, and whispers ‘rain check’, then opens up just as Jay knocks.

‘Hey, friend,’ they kiss hello. On the cheek. Mine are burning.

‘Hiya folks, wasn’t sure if you were back here, till I heard the music…’ Jay smiles at me then raises an eyebrow into the Face (that half-amused, half-bemused face used on me so often these days), and shoots me a ‘whats going on?’ look, which I shrug off.

‘yeah, we were just–‘

Robin interrupts me with ‘–just finished playing the songs ourselves and wanted to hear the originals again.’ I cannot decipher the wink I receive on this. Is it a ‘do me a favor and go with this’ wink, or a ‘we have a secret between us’ wink? And I can’t decide which option I like less.

‘Yeah, that.’ I add, lamely, refusing to look Jay in the eye and knowing I will get hell for it at home later. ‘You’re back early, didn’t you stop by the store?’

‘Yeah, I got what you wanted. Got out early cuz the paper will be thin this week. So, what’ll we make for dinner? I’m hungry and I see you haven’t started without me…’

‘Sorry, we lost track of time.’ Robin stifles a giggle at this offering from me and Jay’s eyebrow arches at us both.

‘Well, shall we head to the kitchen?’ Jay notices Robin grabbing the ipod speaker dock, ‘Huh. Robin, dear? Have you taken to sleeping out here?’

Robin startles and flies out the door towards the house, delivering this statement over a shoulder, ‘Um, uh, no, actually. I just spend every waking moment out there.’ We are following close behind, through the yard, in the apartment door, and bump into Robin’s back at the kitchen doorway. ‘So much so that I haven’t done any work in here, obviously. Sorry, guys.’

‘Whatever’ and ‘It’s okay’ we chime in, consolidating dirty dishes and putting things back in cupboards.

Robin plugs in the speakers and puts on Nick Drake as Jay and I start scoping out our options.

‘Okay, Jay. I see some brown rice, couscous, um…elbow macaroni, and nutritional yeast? Oh, and tortilla chips.’

‘Those might be stale,’ Robin says, heading to the table with a sponge.

‘I don’t think so,’ I reach in and crack one in half, ‘they seem brittle enough for rock and roll.’

‘They’ll have to do. I see…hm. Well, I don’t see black beans, but there are chocolate chips and oatmeal, and…yes. All the necessary baking supplies. Grab the pasta.’

‘Is this almond milk good?’ Robin squints at my question with no idea of an answer. ‘It’s okay, here. Wash the salad greens and cut up this tomato.’

‘No, wait, Fox. Put it in the guac.’

‘Wha? oh…did you get two avocados and one tomato? Ha. I asked for the reverse, but I feel ya.’

‘Do you still want the salad?’ Robin isn’t quite following our kitchen choreography.

‘Yeah. Catch!’ Jay turns around and tosses a bag of trail mix at me. I look at it for a second and hand it to Robin.

‘Pick out the craisins, almonds, raisins and walnuts. Make two piles, one with the first two, the other with the second two.’

‘Get the coconut shreds too.’ Jay calls from deep in the pots and pans cabinet.

‘And, if they aren’t too shreddy, the coconut shreds in a third pile. Thanks, love.’ My hand lingers on Robin’s shoulder as I slide in next to Jay at the counter where the knife block and cutting board are. I mince garlic, finely chop onion, dice the tomato and the half of a random green pepper that is still good, while Jay seeds and mashes the avocado with lime juice and salt, tabasco, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper. We combine our efforts and set the bowl next to the chips on the table.

Robin tosses the salad with the craisins and almonds and finds a dressing or two in the fridge while Jay starts the water for pasta and heats some flour and nutritional yeast in a pan for the sauce. Next is slowly stirring in the almond milk, while I wash and chop the asparagus that will go in the boiling water about 5 minutes after the macaroni. Then I get mustard and margarine out of the fridge and add a heaping spoonful of each to the nut yeast mixture while Jay stirs and shakes in garlic salt and cumin. The water starts boiling so I dump in the pasta and we all start munching on chips and guacamole while it, and the asparagus that soon follows, cook.

‘Fox, did you and Jay talk about mac and cheez to go with the salad for dinner?’

‘Nope.’

‘Jay, how did you know I had tortilla chips in the cupboard to switch the avocado to tomato ratio?’

‘I didn’t.’

‘You two are ridiculous.’ Robin is shaking that shaggy head at us with a lopsided grin.

‘It made sense from what you had lying around, though. Which is not much, I might add.’ I raise my eyebrows at Robin who shrugs in a ‘there were more pressing matters’ sort of way.

‘And I read the text wrong, just assuming you wanted stuff for guacamole.’

‘Hm. So what do you have in mind for dessert?’ Robin chuckles as if that were a joke.

‘Raisin walnut oatmeal cookies?’ I venture.

‘Ah-ah-ah, there are chocolate chips.’ Jay corrects.

‘Chocolate chip, raisin, and walnut oatmeal cookies?’ Robin guesses.

‘Raisin walnut coconut oatmeal cookies topped with a chocolate drizzle.’ I respond.

‘Cinnamon raisin walnut oatmeal cookies dipped in a chili-spiced chocolate and almond milk ganache and sprinkled with shaved coconut!’ Jay crows.

‘And the winner is…’ Robin starts clapping as I bow low in deference to Jay and then go to pour the contents of the pot into the colander placed in the sink. As I throw the drained pasta and asparagus back into the pot, Jay scrapes the sauce from the pan on top of it, stirs, tastes, and adds a couple dashes of paprika.

We are about to sit down to eat when robin stands up and says, ‘Let’s serve ourselves and then take the food into the yard.’ We oblige. I turn the speakers toward the open window and raise the volume on Pink Moon while Robin grabs a bottle of wine and three glasses and Jay stacks loaded plates up a well-trained forearm. We step outside and I arrange the lawn chairs in a tight circle and bring the low table into the center. Jay sets the table while Robin opens the wine and I marvel at the simple beauty of this moment together.

The sun is a hand’s breadth from the horizon, but it’ll sink fast, and the horizontal glow is catching everyone and everything just right. The color and aroma of the food, the glint of the wine glasses, Jay and Robin’s tawny and dark heads both catching a bit of red fire in the orangey summer sun. We are all relaxed, comfortable with each other and the mundane interaction around this thrown-together meal. But it feels so very precious. Special in its sameness to so many other evenings, the habit of sharing our lives together so ingrained. I’m shocked by the swell of gratitude in me, warming my chest, filling my throat, my eyes, for just a second. I turn away so the others don’t see and I hear them giggle about some small clumsiness with the bottle opener. I hear a squeak and a smack and turn around to see the wine already poured and Robin’s face coming away from Jay’s, both of them smiling. That was a kiss, not the cork.

‘Thanks, dearest Jaybird,’ Robin almost whispers to Jay, then turns and comes close to me, putting a hand to my cheek. ‘You too, darling Kit. This is marvelous. Really.’ This is said while turning to grab Jay’s shoulder with a free hand, the other now on my neck. ‘I couldn’t have asked for a more lovely evening. Or more lovely people to share it with.’

‘It’s just mac and cheez, Rob.’ Jay says with a laugh.

‘I know, but look at this. It’s vegan and homemade, with fresh, organic asparagus and a smoked paprika garnish. And the salad has such delightful things in it. And practically everything is from what I had lying about the kitchen. You two are wizards.’

‘I’ll admit to being pretty good at pulling somewhat inspired meals out of even the most mediocre-ly stocked cupboard…’ Jay’s pride here is well founded.

‘Which is all ours ever is anyway.’ I concede with a smirk.

‘However you succeeded, I’m infinitely grateful. Eating alone is second only to cooking for just myself in sure-fire ways of depressing me beyond belief. So again, thank you, my loveliest neighbors and dearest friends.’

We blow kisses to Robin who smiles and gestures for us to sit down and begin eating. No sooner have I picked up my fork and Robin has grabbed a dressing bottle, than Jay leaps up saying, ‘Oh, I almost forgot! Wait a second,’ rushes to the satchel left forgotten by the door, grabs something out of it and returns, all in a moment. Breathless, Jay holds both hands out to us cradling something nestled in waxed paper that looks like a white hunk of clay. Robin unfolds a corner and hooks a fingertip full, sniffs and tastes.

‘Goat cheese?’

‘From my co-worker’s mom’s farm on Vashon Island.’

‘Oh-so-local. Well done.’ I smell its grassy, salty tang.

‘It’s super-fresh. I’ve even met these goats. Have some, Fox.’

‘Maybe a tiny bit.’

‘It will go gorgeously on the salad.’ Jay crumbles some onto two plates, then looks at me for confirmation. ‘Does this meet your standards of sustainability, dear vegan of mine?’

‘Sure, what the hell. But just a little bit. And only cuz you’ve met the goats.’ I smirk.

‘I really have, we went to that farm on the last staff retreat. It was big and beautiful and the goats seemed really happy, roaming all over the fields. I’ve told you about it before, and how she makes each batch small and treats her goats like children. She’s a great lady. I’ll get you two to meet sometime.’

I can’t help smiling at Jay’s enthusiasm over this. They like to play as if I’m the only one with standards, but it’s so not true. ‘Okay, I’m sold. Lets eat, I’m starving.’

‘Lord have mercy, me too.’ Robin laughs.

We dig into the mac and cheez while it’s still hot and Robin makes this characteristic little sound of appreciation on the first bite. We’ve never eaten a meal together where there hasn’t been this little cross-between-a-mew-and-a-yum sound that starts out high in Robin’s register and drops down low, like surprise melting into pleasure. It never fails to make me smile. I look over at Jay who also notices how much Robin is enjoying the meal and say, ‘ya did good, kid.’ It’s true, the food is really tasty. The sauce is both creamy and spicy, the pasta and asparagus cooked just right.

Jay winks at me and swallows to say, ‘back atcha, champ.’

We are silent for a couple minutes, each of us prioritizing the sating of our hunger over conversation. Jay turns to Robin, who has an empty plate and a full mouth, and says, ‘there’s more in the pot on the kitchen table.’

Talking around the food, we hear, ‘Good, cuz I just realized I haven’t eaten all day.’ Robin gets up to go inside. ‘Anyone need anything? Water?’

‘Yeah, thanks.’ I say.

Jay calls out to Robin’s back, ‘Me too. And bring the mac out with you if you have enough hands?’ Robin grunts compliance while stepping inside. Jay turns to me and gives me a look I can’t quite read. ‘What’s the deal with Rob?’

‘What do you mean?’ I try not to blush.

‘I mean, should we be worried? Not eating, sleeping out in the coach house, doing whatever it was you were doing before I got here…’

‘Two corrections: one, Robin is doing a lot of not sleeping in the coach house, and two, we weren’t doing anything, we were just curled up on the couch together. Robin was feeling really sad about Wren. You know, still dealing with the getting-dumped-three-days-ago thing. So we were spooning and listening to Iron and Wine.’

‘Sure. Whatever. You’d think you could at least tell your housemate the truth…’ Jay’s combination of joking and fishing is not amusing.

‘Fine. Believe me or not, I don’t care. The eating thing is worrisome, though.’

‘Yeah, should we start making dinner parties a daily thing? I’m happy to–‘ Jay sees Robin appear carrying a tray with three water glasses, the mac and cheez pot, and the salad bowl and stops speaking. I nod and shrug at the same time, and take my last bite of macaroni.

‘Here you are, my fine feathered friends. Seconds, anyone?’

‘Not for me, but go ahead. You two can finish it. I’m moving on to the salad course.’ Truth is, I’m just not that hungry. I keep remembering that almost-kissing moment right before Jay showed up and it makes me catch my breath. And bringing it up just now made the mac and cheez I ate erupt into butterflies. Feeding them greens might calm them down.

As the sun turns everything in the sky a different shade of pink every minute, we laugh and drink wine and talk about music and life and music and art and music and love and music. Made to Love Magic is the evening’s soundtrack and it keeps us in a state of joyful melancholy that seems fitting for a mild July evening when folks are taking care to create camaraderie as one of them mends a broken heart.

As dark approaches, Robin says, ‘so was that cookie idea just a game of one-upmanship, or is it going to be brought to fruition?’

‘Jay wouldn’t front on you, it’ll totally happen.’ I say, as Jay makes affirmative noises while draining a wine glass.

‘Well, I’ll clear up the dishes so you magicians can get to work.’

‘I’m in, let’s do this.’ Jay has a tipsy gleam in the eye that catches mine and I smile slow and wide.

I turn on the oven and set out ingredients and implements as Jay pulls up an oatmeal cookie recipe on the smartphone for reference. ‘This one calls for a ½ cup of butter. Is there enough vegan margarine in the fridge?’

‘Yep. Just. And it looks like we can do flax seeds and water for the eggs.’

‘Awesome.’ Then, looking up for a second, Jay says, ‘Where’s Robin?’

I look around to see the light switch off in the coach house. ‘Coming, I think.’

‘Wouldn’t you have been wanted for that?’ Jay says with an excess of eyebrow waggle.

I reach out and point one way with my right hand. ‘The gutter is over here.’ then I point way over the other way with my left hand. ‘And the truth is over here.’ Jay just stands there, twinkling at me. ‘Take your mind from over here,’ I wave my right hand, ‘and put it closer to here.’ I wave my left. I’m answered by Jay’s tongue sticking out.

Robin walks back in with a guitar and sits down at the table to play for us while we bake. I start measuring while Jay mixes and Robin improvises lyrics over a new chord progression that’s still getting worked out. By the third verse, about ‘eating your cookie’ (the first two were about ‘tossing your salad’ and ‘making mac and jiz’) the loaded cookie sheets are getting put in the oven.

‘Good lord, Robin. Is there ever a moment when you aren’t thinking about sex?’ I joke.

‘Why would there be?’ Robin replies. I make a scoffing noise. Robin looks past me and says, ‘Jay, back me up here.’

Jay is setting the egg timer but looks up for a second, totally deadpan, and says, ‘I certainly can’t imagine a reason,’ then looks back down to deliver, ‘but the real question is whether there is ever a moment when Fox is thinking about it.’

‘No fair, Jay. You know that I do.’

‘No, not just thinking about how much you like your crushes, or want to kiss them, but about actually having sex. Naked in a bed, making each other come, sex.’

‘This is ridiculous. I’m not gonna tell you that. Let’s make this ganache already.’

Robin winks at me as Jay completely lets go of the conversation to delve into ganache prep. It’s the simplest thing ever, as I explain to Robin, just a matter of heating up almond milk till it’s hot but not boiling, then pouring it over chocolate chips and mixing until smooth. Jay stirs in a dash or two of chili powder and lets it sit while Robin makes tea. When the cookies are done and cooled for a few minutes, we dip them in the thickening ganache and set them on waxed paper to set while Robin sprinkles Coconut shreds on top.

Then we take a full plate and our mugs outside. Jay turns on the white Christmas lights that have been strung in rows from the low branches of the tree as Robin lights some votives on the table.

Then, before they are quite cooled, we feast on the cookies. Robin’s happy sound has an edge of moan in it, making Jay and I laugh and high five.

When we have each eaten three and are sipping tea, our feet all propped up on the table, our ankles tangled, Robin looks sweetly at us and says, ‘I’m so glad you two are here. The house has been so empty the past few days.’ Robin puts a hand on my knee in the semi-dark, accompanied by a little squeeze. And then, moves it slightly further up my thigh and leaves it there. The mac and cheese butterflies start twirling the cookie ones around my stomach dance floor. I try, and fail, (of course, of all times) to not think about sex.

Jay brings my mind back to serious matters by saying, ‘It feels good to be here with you, hon. Sounds like this week has been rough, and I’m happy to bring over some cheer.’ Jay grabs Robin’s foot to get and maintain eye contact. ‘If you need anything, let us know. We’re aware that Wren is in good hands, and though no one is taking sides here, we wanna make sure you are supported and loved too, sweetheart.’

Robin laughs off Jays sincere speech with ‘Well, anytime you wanna make me dinner, I won’t complain.’

‘How about tomorrow?’ Jay is not ready to joke yet. Neither am I.

‘Seriously, Robin. Jay and I are here for you. We will be happy to come over, or if you feel comfortable being next door to Wren, you can come to our house whenever you feel lonely. We can have a sleepover. Jay will make super-yummy popcorn and we can build a fort.’

‘Hm, that sounds really nice. Can we all puppy-pile and watch a movie afterward?’ Robin starts to smile.

‘Yep. Cuddle puddles are my favorite.’ I respond with a grin.

‘Mmm. Mine too, Kitten. Can it be a dirty movie?’ The smile shifts to a lecherous leer and my grin starts to wilt.

Jay laughs. ‘Watch out, Robin. Get this one into a situation that could lead to a threesome and our little Fox will hightail it out of there so fast your head will spin.’

I flush to the neck at this. ‘Shut up, Jay.’

‘It’s true.’ When Jay is joking the hardest, it feels like serious mode. This cuts more than I want it to.

‘Oh, I know this already, Wren and I used to try to get Fox into our bed often and were always denied…it was so sad. Raven used to laugh at us for trying…’

‘Stop it, Robin.’ Now they are both playing mean. wtf?

‘I’m not lying, Fox.’

‘You guys used to tease me all the time. It made me so embarrassed, having it pointed out that I wasn’t as experienced or anything as all of you.’

‘We weren’t teasing, honey, we were propositioning.’

Oh good lord, do not let that be true.

‘Geez, Fox. Can’t you tell the difference?’ Jay is laughing at me, but with the Face.

‘No, okay? Look. Leave me alone about this. Both of you, Please.’

‘Okay, whatever you want, buddy. I’m gonna go start on the dishes.’ Jay gets up, ruffles my hair, clears the table, and walks into the house. Robin watches the screen door close then turns towards me.

I preempt with, ‘I’m serious, Robin. Don’t say anything.’

‘Oh, Kit. I’m sorry…’ My embarrassment does not take well to being coddled and Robin’s face is dangerously soft around the eyes.

‘Don’t.’ I’ve pulled my legs up under me, looking at the grass around my shoes in front of my chair.

Robin comes to sit on the edge of the table right in front of me, a hand on each of my knees. ‘Fox, darling, I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable. Just now, or earlier, or anytime in the past. I forget how new you are to this.’

‘It’s okay, but leave it alone now or I’ll get angry.’

‘Okay, okay.’ Robin puts a hand on my shoulder and leans in to kiss my forehead. Then my temple. Then just behind my earlobe.

‘Robin…’ I reprimand, a bit menacingly. I am not in the mood to be won over right now, especially not like this.

Robin pulls back a bit and looks me in the eye. ‘Rain check.’ I look away, flushed.

Robin gets up. ‘I’m gonna go help Jay clean up. You wanna stay out here or come in?’

‘I’ll stay. You go.’ I guess I succeed in removing any negative energy from my voice because Robin nods serenely and puts a hand on my knee again while standing up, then on my shoulder while walking away.

I sit in the yard and watch my two friends through the lighted window, laughing and joking and touching, comfortable with each other and themselves. And I’m so jealous. I mean, envious. Well, both, really.

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