Kat and Jessie were making their way through the masses after Philharmonic concert at the Disney Concert hall. Downtown L.A. was crowded with people exiting the venue and figuring out where they were going to settle in for late-night cocktails. The air was warm and Kat felt comfortable in her halter top dress that wrapped nicely around her body, extenuating curves that usually remained obscured by technical sailing clothes designed for boys. Kat often had thought about starting a sailing clothes line aimed towards woman. Nothing too cutsie, but stuff that wouldn’t make you feel like you were dressing up in your daddies work uniform. She was always secretly enjoyed it when she was able to show people she sailed with that she did, in fact, have a woman’s body underneath all those sailing clothes. Of course Jessie was well aware. The thought made he flush when she remembered exactly how much of her he’d seen.
“Where do you want to go next?” He asked her. Apparently he didn’t want the evening to end so earlier either.
“Have you been to Perch?” Kat asked. Perch wasn’t usually her scene, but after a sophisticated night like tonight, she thought something more upscale was in order.
“That’s a great idea. It’s walking distance from here. You going to be okay in those heels?” He teased her.
Kat never wore heels. The kitten heels she had on tonight were about a half an inch off the ground. If it wasn’t for the separation between heel and sole, it wouldn’t have even been technically called a heel. She never understood why woman put themselves through the misery of hobbling around in 3.5” inch heels, especially because they were always complaining about them by the end of the night. If you are going to put yourself through the torture of wearing those ridicules shoes, then at least have the decency to keep your mouth shut when they hurt you.
“I think I can manage.” She joked back.
The warm evening air felt great on Kat’s skin. She relished not having to wear a jacket. The marine layer always made Marina del Rey at least 10 degrees cooler than any other part of L.A., even a half a mile in at the PCH was always warmer. Always the gentleman in person, Jessie took Kat’s arm and directed her to the right side of him, so that she was walking on the inside of the sidewalk. ‘A gentleman never lets a woman walk on the outside’, he had told her once. ‘So that you are protected if something happens on the street. Or if an attacker approaches, you won’t be pushed into the street and I’ll be able to protect you.’ The thought of needing protection from a man, especially Jessie, intrinsically made her want to walk on the outside. But a small part of her, the part that was a woman, appreciated his chivalry, and so she walked on the inside without another word.
“So tell me Jessie, what have you been up to lately?” Kat asked as the two of them made their way down Grand, towards Forth Street. Luckily this was a downhill walk, otherwise the grade is so steep, she would have been struggling, even with the half inch heels. “Have you been dating anyone recently?”
Jessie gave her a sideways glance, like he knew she had been dying to ask that question. Which in fact, she had been.
“I’ve gone on a few dates. I don’t think you can say I’ve been ‘dating’ anyone. But, there have been a few girls in the rotation. No one compared to you though, Kat.” He avoided her glance during that last part.
“No need for insincere flattery, Jessie. You made yourself abundantly clear the last time we were going to go out. I can take a hint, but a little straight forward honesty would have been nice.” Kat realized she was sounding a little harsher than she wanted to, at that moment anyway. She didn’t want to spoil the night. But this had been bottling up for quite some time.
“Let’s not spoil the evening with regrets from the past. I am sorry for the way I treated you. But remember, we were never in a relationship.”
“We weren’t in a committed relationship, Jessie. But we were in a relationship, whether you’re mature enough to cope with that reality is a different matter. All relationships deserve respect and more importantly, I deserve respect.”
“You are 100 percent right and I do apologize. I hope that we can begin to look past that, because I have always enjoyed your company, more than any of the other girls that I’ve gone out with here and there. There is just something special with us. And I miss that. You keep be humble, point out my arrogance and self- righteousness and I appreciate that.”
Jessie stopped and pulled her by the arm he was holding and faced her. A little more forceful than she would have liked from any other date. But with Jessie, it was a reminder of his dominance in the bedroom. A dominance she longed for when she had been with other men. Their sexual encounters boarded on a dom/sub relationship. It wasn’t the first time she had explored that aspect of her sexual deviancies, but it definitely went above and beyond her past encounters and she loved it. It had got so intense that they even had implemented a “safe-word”, something you say during the course of sexual encounter that signals, “You have gone too far. We need to calm down.” Although Kat could never bring herself to use it. When his behavior had straddled the line of “acceptable” and “not acceptable”, Kat had always been willing to keep pushing. She never wanted to give Jessie the satisfaction of knowing he had crossed the line. And Kat could take it. Kat could always take it, and was usually begging for more. Even after a night that including rope play had left her with temporary nerve damage in her wrist and fingers. It was over a month before she was able to move her wrist again in its designed fashion. Jessie had been overly apologetic. His intention was never to seriously hurt her, they both just wanted to explore boundaries that had previously been left un-pushed. But in Kat’s opinion, the apology was completely unwarranted. She loved the reminders. Kat pushed all of this out of her mind and brought her attention back to Jessie’s less desirable behavior.
“You know you really hurt me. I had never felt so irrelevant, especially from someone I cared so much about.”
“Kat, I am really sorry. I never wanted to make you feel that way. I’m just… Kat I’m just really fucked up sometimes. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I get that way, why I treat the people I care about so poorly. I get scared. I guess you could say I have a fear of commitment.”
“No Jessie, I have a fear of commitment. What you have is something different. Something pathological.”
Jessie let go of her arm and rubbed his hands through his hair, unsure of how he should react to this forward confrontation
“Listen, I’m having a fun night. I don’t really want to go into this right now either. Let’s not spoil the evening.” Kat relented.
“Let me make it up to you. Come, let’s go grab a drink.” Jessie took her arm in his again and the two of them continued their walk towards Perch.
“You do look fabulous tonight, if I haven’t told you yet.” Jessie complimented her.
“You have, but that thank you. You don’t look too bad yourself.” Kat responded.
They walked most the way in silence. Both reflecting on past wrongs and wondering if this would ever be able to work after everything that had happened between them in the past. When they got to Perch there was a long line down the sidewalk. Couples and groups of single ladies dressed to the nines waited behind the velvet ropes, laughing as though they had started the pre-party early.
“Ugh. A line. Perch is fun, but I don’t know if any place is worth waiting in a line that long.” Kat was disappointed.
“I completely agree. Come, let’s go somewhere where there definitely won’t be a line.” He walked her right past the velvet ropes and further down Hill.
“What do you have in mind?” Kat asked.
“You’ll see.” Jessie teased.
“Always one for secrecy. Would it kill you to fill me in on your little plans now and then?”
“Then the surprise would be ruined! But I promise you’ll like it. Do you trust me?”
‘Do you trust me?’ That was always the line that he had used on her. And she always went with it.
“For tonight, for this moment, I’ll trust you.”
The two of them strolled passed the line of well-dressed, young people at Perch, passed the rows of pop-up tents that lined the downtown streets, passed the crack peddlers and panhandlers and up 5th St, until they reached a very breathtaking, well-landscaped garden that was behind a beautiful, almost gothic looking hotel. There were security guards guarding the entrance to the garden. They let Jessie and Kat in without a word, apparently their well-groomed appearance signaled to the security that they were no threat. Inside the garden were many little paths, each leading down a different arrangement of flora and fauna, highlighting the gardens diverse horticultural treasures. Kat could hear music, but she couldn’t tell where it was coming from yet. Strings of twinkling lights hung from the trees and decorated the patio and gazebos. Little birdbaths were placed throughout the garden and gorgeous stone fountains and statues marked the entranceways to each of the individual walking paths. The park was surrounded by old stone architecture and Kat could see a couple gargoyles watching over them from the top of the hotel that must have been home to the restaurant catering this event.
“This place is beautiful!” She remarked to Jessie.
“I thought you’d like it. They have a live jazz band every Thursday and Friday. The security is just there to keep out the transient population that is so prominent in this area.”
The idea made Kat a little sad. Here they were, wondering around this remarkable little slice of Downtown Los Angeles, but they were only allowed in because of the clothes they were wearing.
“They don’t guard it so heavily during the day. Anyone is allowed in here, as long as they don’t pitch a tent at night.” Jessie explained as though reading Kat’s thoughts.
They came to a long pool of water that was fed by a gorgeous fountain and seemed to stretch the whole length of the small park. Kat instinctively took a seat, soaking in the exquisite scenery. She noticed that she could see part of the jazz band playing from where she was sitting, and a small group of very well dressed people, at least two decades older than the crowd they had seen lined up a Perch.
“They have a bar. Do you want me to get you a cocktail?” Jessie asked.
“That would be great. But nothing with rum tonight. How about a vodka soda?” She asked.
“Sounds perfect. Two vodka sodas on the way.”
Jessie maneuvered his way through the trees and out of sight, leaving Kat alone with her thoughts. The gentle sound of trickling water was immediately relaxing. You can take the girl out of the water, but you can’t take the water out of the girl. She was having a fun time. The concert was incredible. And Jessie had been a gentlemen the whole time. Making up for lost time, Kat supposed. It was almost enough to make her forget all of Jessie misdoings in the past. Almost.
Jessie quickly returned with two drinks in hand and passed one to Kat.
“Cheers” he said raising his glass to hers. “To new beginnings.”
“How about to the Spring 40 Nationals?” Kat countered with a smirk.
“Alright then, to the Spring 40 Nations!”
They glasses clinked in a way that made Kat think they must be crystal and they each took a sip. It was refreshing on a warm night like this.
“Have you ever done a National Championship?” Jessie asked her.
“I did the J-105’s a couple of years back. It was super intense. But we placed 20 out of 25 boats. Nothing to write home about. I’m hoping this year, with a better boat and a better crew, we’ll place a lot better.”
“With you on the foredeck, and me on the mainsail, I don’t see how we can’t kick some ass!” The two of them sat in silence together listening to the jazz band.
“I did see a shark in the water during that regatta. That was pretty cool.” Kat laughed.
“Ha! Well, if you can’t come home with a trophy, at least you got to see some cool sea life. You know, I bought a canoe. You should come out with me on it sometime.”
“I’ve never canoed. I’ve only kayaked. Sounds fun though.
“Well, if I could teach you bow, I could certainly teach you how to open-ocean canoe!”
“Oh my God. You’d like to think you taught me bow. Jeeze, I would have loved to have you teach me. You were always too busy. Must feel good to take credit for someone else’s rock-star reputation though. Arrogant Son of bitch!”
“There’s the Kat I love.” Jessie ribbed her. “You got to admit though, you wouldn’t be where you are today if it wasn’t for me”
“Keep telling yourself that. Why did I even agree to go out with you again? Maybe we should call this an early night.”
Kat put her drink down and began to stand up.
“Kat, sit down. I’m just teasing you. Man, your hot buttons haven’t changed a bit. I’m just kidding. You have done an amazing job proving to the whole Marina how great you are up there. I can’t take credit for that. Besides, either you’re born with it, or you’re not. Foredeck isn’t one of those positions you can fake. All I did was show you how good you can look up there. You did the rest.”
Kat sat back down. “Foredeck does get all the good photos, huh?”
“Damn right they do. Camera’s suck that shit up. And you do look like a rock star up there.”
“Didn’t you once tell me there are no rock stars in Marina del Rey?” Kay teased.
“I meant, there are no rock stars except you and me.” Jessie laughed.
“Haha. Yeah, I’ll go along with that one.” Kat smiled. She was completely at ease again. “So, how did you find this place anyway?” Kat asked “It’s tucked away in the middle of nowhere, six blocks from Skid Row!”
“I had a friend who had a wedding here. I wanted to invite you, but you weren’t speaking to me at the time.”
“Ah, well, I’m sure you deserved it.” Kat pointed out.
“Yes, I’m sure I did. Kat, I really am sorry. I’m too old to being playing games like that. The truth is, I really like you Kat. From the first moment I met you, I liked you. I know my action are not defendable. It’s just, I never learned how to treat girls when I was younger. My mom was the only woman in my life. I always liked girls, but you know, I used to be a lot heavier. I’ve told you that in the past, but Kat, I lost 110 pounds. Before I lost the weight, pretty girls like you didn’t give me the time of day. Then, all of the sudden, once the weight was off, I was starting to get attention and I didn’t know how to handle it. I never dreamed that a girl like you would be interested in me. I didn’t want to get my heart broken either, so I took the offensive. I hurt you before you could hurt me. I don’t blame you at all for not putting up with my childish antics. I deserved the cold shoulder and everything else. Which only made me like you more. You are beautiful, smart, a rock-star on the bow, and when you stood up for yourself and said ‘No more!’ I even liked you more. You aren’t one of those girls that just needs to be with a man. If anything, you prefer to be by yourself. And I respect that. A lot.”
“So you showed your respect for me by lying and standing me up?”
“I couldn’t believe that you would want me in return, at least not in the long run. I convinced myself that you were using me as a fling and that I could do the same thing, you use like a fling. Like something that wasn’t going to last anyway.”
“Well, maybe it was just a fling. But even still, standing me up all those times, and lying about it.”
“I was covering up my feelings from myself and you. But I know that doesn’t excuse anything. I’m just happy that you are giving me a second chance now. Thank you Kat.”
Kat nudge a little closer to him on the bench. He took the opportunity to put his arm around her waist.
“I don’t know if it’s a second chance yet. I don’t know if I’m even going to go out with you again. But we don’t need to know where this thing is going. I’m not the best with commitment either, as you know. But despite all of your wicked behavior, I still like you. I still watch you on the boat. I still think about what could have happened. But I’m not going to let you off the hook for anything anymore. One wrong move Jessie, and there is no third or fourth chances, even if there is a second.”
“Kat, you continue to amaze me. Your ability to forgive is super human. Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. Let’s see how this all plays out. We’ve got a major race to prepare for. That needs to stay on the forefront of both our minds. I don’t want any distractions. If you start your game playing again, this has to stop immediately.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more Kat.” He reached up and touched her cheek. The gesture made her blush and look away. His gentle fingers moved her head back to face his. She closed her eyes as he drew in for a kiss. It was a long kiss, a sweet kiss. The kind that she fondly remembered when she was alone at night. Different then the rough, dominate kind that had become so frequent toward the end of their affair. At first she was a little reserved, but soon she gave in entirely. They sat together on that bench, listening the jazz band and the chirping of the little birds who made their homes in the surrounding trees. And from that moment, she felt it all again. Everything about him that made her surrender to his charms.