Cemeteries, Fireworks, & A Little Love For Sophie

I spent the 4th of July in the liveliest cemetery in the world. Yes, I’m talking about the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Home to Johnny Ramone, Douglass Fairbanks, Chris Cornell and venue for indie rock concerts, movie screenings and more. Last night we went to see the screening of Jurassic Park followed by a fireworks display choreographed to everything from Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now to the theme song of South Park’s creator’s movie, Team America: World Police. It. Was. A. Blast.

Is it weird to be partying among a bunch of graves and screening a movie against the wall of a mausoleum? A little. Some may wonder why they would want to be buried in a known party spot. Well, maybe they want to be part of the party. Or maybe Chris Cornell wanted to be buried next to Johnny Ramone (he is). But I’d like to think that maybe he wanted both. I think the people who are buried there want to be eternally part of the Los Angeles experience. They want to be within listening distance to the up and coming artists who play at the cemetery’s venues   and to rest under a sky that will occasionally be filled with fireworks.

And when you think about it that way, who wouldn’t want that? If you have to die why not be laid to rest in a place that is perpetually filled with joy, laughter and life?

Now, as for Sophie. I expect to have a rough release date by this time next week. But in the interim, enjoy these rough pages of CHAOS, DESIRE & A KICK-ASS CUPCAKE. If you haven’t read the pervious chapters, catch up by clicking here!

 

Chapter 8

“If you play tennis like a pro, it’s not fun to play with amateurs. By the same logic, I refuse to sleep with virgins.

–Dying To Laugh

 

 

 

By the time I got home I was sober enough to drive but exhausted enough to pass out. Still, I had managed to retrieve my car, drive to a 24 hour CVS, load up on dog food, poop bags and the like. Ms. Dogz, as I was now calling her, was calm enough, but occasionally she would let out a whine and once, when I looked back at her while at a stoplight, I noticed she was shaking.

When Ms. Dogz and I finally stumbled up my front steps and sort of fell through the door of my Victorian, Anatoly had already been home for hours. He was waiting for me in the living room, reading some WWII book on our leather couch, one foot propped up on the dark wood coffee table. “I thought you were going to call and have me come get you,” he said, not looking up quite yet as he marked his place in the book. Mr. Katz was snuggled up by his side but when my feline saw what I had brought with me, he was immediately on his feet, back arched.

Anatoly noticed and followed Mr. Katz’ glare. “You got a dog?” he asked, incredulously.

“Not exactly,” I hedged. “She needs a bath.”

Ms. Dogz managed to wiggle away from me but once her freedom was obtained she didn’t exactly go wild. Instead she carefully sniffed the area rug covering the recently re-polished hardwood floors, then the chair closest to her. Finally she approached Anatoly and Mr. Katz.

“You’re beautiful,” Anatoly told her, appreciatively. “But she’s right. You are in dire need of a bath.”

Mr. Katz leaned forward and swapped his claws across Ms. Dogz’ nose.

Ms. Dogz looked stunned and took several steps back as Anatoly swiftly picked up Mr. Katz, ignoring his flailing attempts to try to strike once more at his new adversary. “Looks like she needs a bath and a Band-Aid now. What’s her name?”

“I’m calling her Ms. Dogz. We’re just fostering her until I can figure out if she belongs to someone,” I said, side-stepping the question. I went up and examined Ms. Dogz’ nose. Only a minor scratch. Still, it was ironic that I had thought Mr. Katz would be the one who would need protection. Mr. Katz was the Lion King of Ashbury Heights.

Anatoly nodded and walked back to our only downstairs bedroom, otherwise known as my office, and shut Mr. Katz in there.

“I don’t want him to think he’s being replaced,” I said, urgently.

“He can stay in the office until he calms down. Where did you find her?”

“She was trapped,” I hedged. “Want to help me bathe her?”

He gave me a quizzical look.

“I don’t know if she has fleas,” I said, quickly, not wanting to give him a chance to ask too many questions, “but I bought some Dawn dish soap because apparently Dawn kills fleas. Did you know that? Isn’t that weird?”

“Why don’t you want me to know where you found her?” Anatoly asked, flatly.

“I told you, she was trapped…inside.” I shifted my weight back onto my heels. “I really think we should wash her.”

“Inside where?”

I bit my lip and looked over at the dog.

“Inside where, Sophie?”

Immediately Ms. Dogz ears perked up and she trotted over to Anatoly’s side. It brought a small smile to his lips. He was such a sucker for dogs. He leaned down to look at her tags and then burst out laughing.

“I know what it says. We’re still calling her Ms. Dogz,” I said with a little smile.

“Have you called the number on the tag?” He asked.

“I have, but the person at that number…isn’t available.”

He shot me another look and then slowly straightened back to standing. “Why so cryptic tonight? Where exactly was she trapped?”

I swallowed hard, and then mumbled, “Inside an apartment.”

There was at least five seconds of silence. “You want to try that again?”

I held up my hands in a request for patience and understanding. “I didn’t do anything significantly illegal.”

Anatoly’s eyebrows shot up and then he muttered some Russian curse.

“Look, I can explain everything while we wash the dog.” I pulled out the Dawn and held it out for him as if the dish-soap would clarify everything. “We have to get rid of the theoretical fleas.”

***

In the upstairs hall bathroom, Anatoly and I were both on our knees, wet. This was the first time we had been in this position together when sex wasn’t involved. Although Anatoly did look like sex on a stick. He had removed his shoes, his socks, his shirt, so now it was just him in his jeans and a perfectly chiseled torso all wet from our efforts to clean this mutt. I was probably looking a little less enticing in bleach-stained yoga pants and a Race For A Cure 2012 t-shirt.

Mr. Katz had been freed from my office and was now sulking in our bedroom. Ms. Dogz was before us, in a tub full of soapy bubbles looking extremely unhappy. Almost as unhappy as Anatoly. I had told him the whole story. From beginning to end. As stories go, it wasn’t his favorite.

“This isn’t the big mystery you think it is,” Anatoly insisted as he massaged some of the soap into the dogs fur. “Anita and Aaron London are probably separated. He might not have even been wearing the ring, just carrying it around while they figured things out.”

“And he dropped it in the sink from his pocket?” I asked incredulously. Although the more I thought about it, the more and more likely it seemed that the couple had been separated. At the hospital Cat London had asked me why I hadn’t taken her father to the hospital sooner. I had assumed she meant sooner in the day, but now that I thought about it, I wasn’t sure she meant that at all. It was more than likely she meant I should have taken him earlier in the week, maybe even earlier in the month. Because if she had seen him recently surely she or Anita would have been the ones to take him to the hospital.

I scrubbed some more soap into Ms. Dogz neck. She gave me a look similar to the one my sister gave me when I set the table using paper napkins. It was a why-are-you-doing-this-to-me look. “Maybe London died of natural causes and Anita’s on the up and up,” I said. “But it’s also possible you’re wrong, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we look into that?”

“No.”

“No?” I balked. “You don’t believe there’s even the slightest chance your wrong?”

“It’s highly unlikely,” he amended. “But now, thanks to you, I have to track this woman down anyway and figure out how to explain to her why we have her husband’s dog. You know what you did was reckless, right? You could have called the SPCA.”

“I didn’t need to call anyone. I had a key.”. And it had been fun being reckless again.

“You understand we’re going to have to return her, yes?” I might have been mistaken, but I thought I heard just a tinge of regret in Anatoly’s voice. He had been wanting a dog for a while but I had been hesitant to impose something like that on Mr. Katz. It wasn’t an unrealistic concern. I could tell by the look Mr. Katz gave Ms. Dogz as she came out of the office that a dogicide was being plotted.

“Maybe not. I mean, yes, if London had the dog before their supposed split, Anita will want her back,” I reasoned as I moved on to Ms. Dogz back. There were soapsuds clinging to Anatoly’s bicep and I was trying really, really hard not to stare. “On the other hand, if Ms. Dogz was Anita’s replacement…” I let my voice trail off, allowing Anatoly to fill in the blanks.

Anatoly reached for the hand shower, his arm brushing up against mine as he did although neither of us looked at one another. Ms. Dogz treated Anatoly to a baleful stare. I wondered how much she understood. If she was waiting for London to come knocking on the door and rescue her from this water torture.

“Anyway, you can’t say there isn’t any reason to at least consider the possibility that London sorta, kinda knew what he was talking about,” I pressed. “That maybe someone was out to get him. That he was being poisoned. He is dead, after all.”

“It wasn’t that long ago that you tried to convince me that Alex Kinsky sorta, kinda knew what he was talking about.” He turned on the stream and started rinsing the suds off Ms. Dogz. “But he was conning you. He almost ended up killing both of us.”

“First off, that has literally absolutely nothing to do with this,” I snapped. “Alex is a man with mafia-ties who offered to help me through criminal means. London was an individual who asked us for help through legal means. Secondly, Alex didn’t exactly con me. It’s just that he only gave me part of the story. Maybe that’s what London did.”

“London didn’t give us any story,” Anatoly corrected as he got off the last of the soap. I leaned over and drained the tub. My shirt was drenched and clinging to me in all sorts of inconvenient places. It might have been construed as an invitation if Anatoly bothered to take his eyes off the dog for one flippin’ second. “Ranting and raving is very different from story telling.”

I angrily swiped at a wet curl that was sticking to my cheek. “Why are you so resistant to even considering the possible veracity of the facts of this case?”

“What case?” Anatoly put the hand shower back with much more force than necessary. “For it to be a case, there has to be a client. London didn’t hire me–”

“Because you wouldn’t let him!” I jumped to my feet and grabbed a towel throwing it over a now confused-looking-but-fresh-smelling Ms. Dogz. She was probably wondering what new kind of mad house she had wandered into.

“I think we can both agree he won’t be paying me,” Anatoly continued as he vigorously dried her. “This isn’t our business. No one wants us involved and there’s no upside in forcing the issue. There most likely isn’t an issue to force.” He carefully helped Ms. Dogz out of the tub. She immediately shook herself off, splattering us both and making a mockery out of our attempts at drying. “We have no solid reason to believe that anyone poisoned or even stalked London. This is over. At least it would be if you hadn’t broken into his apartment and stolen his dog!”

Saved. I saved his dog!” I turned on my heel and stomped out of the bathroom. Ms. Dogz was right behind me, then in front of me, then behind me again as she sprinted up and down the hall in a burst of energy, shaking herself every two or three seconds, making sure the whole second floor shared in her bathing experience. I threw open our bedroom door with the energy of unbridled frustration. Ms. Dogz rushed into the room, startling Mr. Katz who had been curled up on the bed. He looked at the expression on my face, then at the wet dog and jumped to the floor, storming out of the room just as Anatoly stormed in.

“We have an obligation,” I said in a voice that wasn’t quite a yell, but loud enough to let the world know I wasn’t messing around.

“To whom?” Anatoly asked, coolly.

“To London.”

“He’s dead.”

“So what?” I snapped. Ms. Dogz had stopped running around, undoubtedly captivated by the strength of my argument. “That doesn’t change the fact that he asked us for help! It doesn’t mean we didn’t screw up when we blew him off! And it doesn’t mean we get to turn our backs on his dog!”

“Again, all you had to do was call the SPCA! Or you could have called the police and told them there’s a dog stuck in a dead man’s apartment! That’s what you do. What you don’t do is break into a man’s house! If you had been caught you could have ended up in jail or worse!”

“But I wasn’t caught!” I took a step closer, glaring up into his eyes. “An animal was in trouble and so I did what needed to be done. It’s called being responsible.”

“Are you suggesting that I’m being irresponsible?”

“I’m suggesting that you’re being an asshole.”

“Careful, Sophie.”

Ms. Dogz perked up her ears. That animal’s insistence on responding to my name drove my agitation up to the next level.

“Or what?” I challenged, my hands now clenched into fists.

Anatoly stared down into my eyes, letting the silence stretch. I had forgotten how forceful his silences could be. He could infuse them with tension and threat…

…and sex. Anatoly could do with a silence what Otis Redding could do with a moan. Goosebumps were prickling my arms as my breath quickened. I was fully aware of the rhythm with which his uncovered chest was moving and yet my eyes were locked on his, absolutely unable to look anywhere else.

“Anatoly,” I whispered “I–”

But I didn’t get a chance to continue. In an instant I was up against the wall, my arms pinned above my head as his lips found my neck and his body pressed against mine. His mouth found that spot that made me positively squirm and I let out a little squeak as I was suddenly unable to speak. His lips moved up to my ear and as his teeth scraped gently against the lobe. When he released my arms he lifted me up so that I was still pressed against the wall. My legs wrapped themselves around his waist as my arms encircled his neck. I can’t remember the last time I wanted him this badly.

He crushed his mouth against mine, parting my lips with his tongue as I let my fingers run through his short, coarse hair. I bit down onto his lower lip, my nails digging into his flesh. There was an energy to this that had been missing lately. A whirl of excitement was spiraling up from my stomach through my ribcage, making my heart beat too fast and my breathing too shallow.

I loved it.

He moved me from the wall and half carried, half threw me on the bed. He was on top of me in an instant and my fingers immediately traveled to the button of his jeans, reaching into his pants, feeling the proof of his desire as my other hand greedily ran down his shoulders, his back, his beautiful biceps.

“Sophie,” he said in a growl as he began to lower his face toward mine.

Except our lips never touched because the dog shoved her face between ours, causing me to accidently press my mouth against black fur.

“Whaat da ferk!” I sputtered as I spit out wet fur. Anatoly busted out laughing, harder than he had in ages. I looked at him, looked at the dog, who looked back with innocent enthusiasm and in an instant I was giggling too, then laughing, then pretty much breathless with hysterics. Anatoly and I were both laughing like hyenas as Ms. Dogz pranced back and forth, periodically leaning in to lick one of our faces as she rejoiced in the commotion she’d caused.

“You might have to take a nickname,” Anatoly said as he sat up, wiping both dog slobber and tears from his face.

I scooted myself up, pressing my back against the headboard as I attempted to catch my breath. “I already gave her an alias,” I reminded him. “Ms. Dogz.”

“I’m not talking to the dog, I’m talking to you.”

I should take a nickname?” I balked, although I could feel the giggles threatening an encore. “I’m not giving up my name for a dog, not even if we get to keep her.”

“Well the dog clearly isn’t giving up her name for anyone,” Anatoly chuckled. “I could call you baby.”

Baby? What is this, a 1970s porno? Millennials use the word, Bae.”

“We’re too old to be Millennials.”

“Oh my God, there you go again, being all realistic and honest about our age.” I moved forward and straddled him, using my left hand to push him flat on the bed and my right hand to cover his mouth. “If you stop talking, I think we can make this work.”

I could feel his smile against my palm and then, without another word, he reached up, unhooking my bra, slowly pulling it off me so the straps tickled my skin, tossing it to the floor where, with a little luck, it wouldn’t become a chew toy.

He cupped my breasts, his thumbs moving slowly over my nipples until they reached for him. His eyes moved steadily up and down my body before finally, they once again locked with mine.

Without saying a word, he told me I was beautiful.

Anatoly really could do wonderful things with silence.

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