INTO THE CANYON: A Chapter Book for Grown Ups - Chapter 2

Submitted by Virginia Watts on Fri, 05/04/2012 - 15:13

       Sage, or Salvia officinalis , a wild undershrub, has long been credited as a charm against evil, snakebites, and more.

Clifford’s hands fascinated her when he filled her glass…strong and broad, with an odd scar on the back of the left one. 
“Bad burn when I was a kid,” he said.
“Oh god,” she said.  “I’m sorry for staring.  It looks like that symbol for infinity.”
“Yeah, it does—or a lazy eight.  You okay?”
What had made her reveal so much?  Why did she feel she could tell him everything, anything?  He must have listened for an hour, nodding and refilling her glass, and offering her another napkin when she started to cry again.  Finally he ordered a cheese plate and some fruit, insisting she eat.
Kate picked up the shears again and started after the roses.  Why had she felt so safe with him?   He said they had met once before, but she couldn’t remember.  George used to listen like that, but George had disappeared months ago.  The dirty socks and dirty dishes were evidence that he was living in the house, but she rarely saw him, and when she did, they didn’t really talk.
That god-damned Adobe House had been the only thing on his mind.  Even he must realize that the University gets more PR mileage out of the Women’s Center than anything else, including his precious Adobe House.  When she learned he had voted against funding for the Center she was furious. 
And to make everything even harder, the graduate students who had volunteered to help with fund raising were always just -- there.  He was so kind, so concerned, so “fatherly.”  Hah.  She’d been there once, and it wasn’t anything paternal he was feeling then.  She was a graduate student, he was a newly-hired assistant professor.  He was so cautious about their relationship that they never appeared on campus together and he didn’t talk about her or their engagement to anyone.  She would tease him about it after they were married. 
He used to be so much wiser, and so circumspect.
The abandoned Adobe in a remote canyon was where they had first made love.   How many of those eager young students had he taken out there recently -- to “assess” the place, do a little “inventory?”  
She grabbed the clippers and severed an thick branch of pink rosebuds.  A thorn caught her leg and left a long, painful scratch. 

She went into the house for some band-aids and a glass of water.  Standing at the sink letting the water run cold, she thought about the oasis she found on Thursday, at lunch with Clifford.
They had talked for over two hours, and between them finished the bottle of wine.  Well, he had one glass, claiming he didn’t really care for white but remembering that she did.  Again, he listened. She poured out all of the frustrations of fund raising, teaching, and the political intrigues of the University that were swamping the faculty, as he poured the wine.  When his knee pressed hers under the table, she pressed back.  The thrill was electric, intoxicating.   She stopped talking.  For a long time they sat in silence.
Clifford was an exciting, intelligent man, attentive and obviously interested.  She reached out and traced the scar on the back of his hand with her finger.  He leaned toward her and the scent of him – that clean, herbal something – went to her head.

When he asked if they could see each other again, she said yes.   
                                                                                                                                                                             [to be continued]