Her back is flat against the wall, not an inch of space between our chests as I press into her deeper and deeper. Then she’s clenching me, holding me inside as she comes with a high whimper. And I’m right there with her—crying her name as every nerve in my body explodes in a rapturous frenzy.
Dee kisses me again. Slower this time, almost tenderly. I don’t let her go right away, but I bury my face in the crook of her neck, content to stay right here with her. All day if I could.
She nuzzles my ear with her lips and whispers, “Good morning.”
I turn, so we’re both directly under the spray, and eventually I loosen my embrace and set her down. Wearing ludicrously satisfied smiles, we wash each other slowly then step out into the steamy bathroom.
As I towel off, I glance at my watch. “Shit, I’m gonna be late.”
Dee rubs her hair with the cotton cloth. “Late for what?”
I smirk. “I’ve got a date.”
For all of Delores’s insistence that she doesn’t want to be serious, it’s obvious my statement bugs the hell out of her. Her elegant shoulders stiffen, her chin rises, her eyes darken and narrow. She tries her best to keep her voice nonchalant.
“Oh, a date? That’s nice. Good for you.”
I grasp her hips and pull her up against me so she’s got nowhere to look but at my grinning face. “You want to join us?”
She tries to pull away. “It’s a little soon for a threesome, don’t you think?”
My ears perk right up. “You’ve done a threesome?”
On second thought, I don’t want to know.
“Never mind. Don’t answer that. Although I like where your thoughts are headed. I’m not asking for a threesome. I’m asking you to come to the zoo . . .”
I squeeze her hips. “. . . with Mackenzie and me.”
Dee processes my words. Then she smiles—a relieved, grateful smile. She thinks a moment more. “Won’t Miss The-Dry-Cleaners-Will-Never-Get-That-Out have a problem with me tagging along?”
Many families are way too involved in each other’s business. You know the kind I mean. Sisters who refuse to speak to each other because one married a guy the other didn’t like. Brothers who come to blows because of a bitchy girlfriend, and friends who fall out of touch because someone refused to listen to advice that was never asked for in the first frigging place.
Even if Alexandra full-out hated Dee’s guts, out of respect for me, she’d never show it. For months, Drew tried to tell me Rosaline wasn’t the girl I thought she was, and even though I didn’t believe him, even though he turned out to be right, he didn’t rub my face in it.
The best kinds of families try to stop a train wreck—but if they can’t, they still show up to give first aid to the walking wounded.
“You’ll be with me. She’ll be fine with it.”
Alexandra and Steven’s east side condo is a gorgeous place—I think it was featured in Architectural Digest or something. Despite the grandeur of it, Lexi still manages to make it feel like a home, not a museum. She opens the door for Dee and me, and we walk into the shiny, marble-floored entryway.
On her best behavior, Dee says, “Hello, Alexandra. It’s so nice to see you again.”
“Delores—what a surprise. You’ll be joining Matthew and Mackenzie at the zoo today?”
Lexi smiles, but there’s a teasing shine in her eyes. “That’s nice. Only, I do try to discourage Mackenzie from throwing her food, so please remember to set a positive example.”
I put my arm around Dee. “We’ll try to control ourselves . . . but I make no promises.”
At that moment, Mackenzie comes riding into the foyer. She drives her red, bell-ringing tricycle around the circular mahogany table in the center of the room, shaking the ornate arrangement of orchids and lilies in their vase. Reminds me of Danny Torrance from The Shining but without the hair-raising eeriness.
Mackenzie parks the trike and climbs her denim-overall-wearing self off. “Hi, Uncle Matthew!”
I get a hug.
“Hey, princess.” I tilt my head in Delores’s direction. “This is my friend Dee. She’s going to come to the zoo with us today, all right?”
Mackenzie’s never been a shy kid—she’s confident and candid, no matter where she is or who she’s with. Traits that run strong in her family.
“Hi, Miss Dee.” The “Miss” is all Alexandra. She’s drilled titles of respect into Mackenzie’s head since she learned to talk.
Delores waves. Then Mackenzie zeroes in on the black fur vest she’s wearing. She reaches out and pets it—like a rabbit. Then she asks, “Is that your Halloween costume?”
Dee’s wearing tight white pants, a white top, and black sneakers that someone Bejeweled within an inch of their lives. With the vest, I can see why Mackenzie might think it’s a costume—a Dalmatian, or a zebra.
“Mackenzie, that’s rude,” Lexi admonishes.
But Dee waves her hand. “No, it’s fine.” She crouches down to eye level with Mackenzie. “I like to dress like every day is Halloween.”
Mackenzie’s face brightens. “That’s cool. Can I do that, Momma?”
Alexandra shakes her head. “No. You only get to be Frankenberry once a year.”
With that, I get handed a neutral-colored man-purse with all the essentials that have to be in reach whenever any child Mackenzie’s age leaves the house. And we head to the zoo.
When I was a kid, I thought zoos were pretty f**ked up. You take a bear, or a lion—the king of the jungle—and lock him in a 300 by 300 foot cage, add some greenery, and expect him to be happy? Wild animals are meant to be . . . wild. As I got older, I realized that a lot of the animals were rescued because they were sick or injured and wouldn’t survive on the outside anyway. Although there’s something to be said for nature taking its course, now I look at zoos as a wildlife retirement home where lions and tigers and bears get to live out the last of their days being cared for and catered to.
It may not be as exciting as living in the wild . . . but it sure beats being dead.
Dee, Mackenzie, and I spend the afternoon visiting all the exhibits in the Central Park Zoo—the lions, the reptile house. Unlike every other woman I know, Dee actually likes snakes. When she was a kid, she wanted a boa constrictor for her birthday, but her mother said no. Her cousin bought her a rubber one in consolation.