Confession is Good for the Steele
Date: Thursday, June 01, 2000
Michael Bledsoe <>

"Confession Is Good For The Steele"
Michael Bledsoe

Lightning raced across the sky in a great jagged display that caught Laura's breath. Or was it the light touch of lips on the nape of her neck. The rain was beating down on the roof and windows, making a natural music that was overpowering the romantic music playing in the background.

The meal had been perfect, but the atmosphere inside the darkened apartment was electric. A fire blazed cheerfully in the grate and Laura's heart did pounding flip-flops inside her chest. It felt as if it were going to burst out of her ribcage at any moment.

She took a quick, was it too quick it was only meant to seem playful, step away from the pretender who was capturing her soul. Her smile was an attempt at languidity, but felt more jittery. His blue eyes that seemed to go on forever locked onto her eyes and she had to move again. It almost seemed as if she would fall forever if she looked into those eyes too long. Maybe it was already too late.

Laura had felt something the night she first danced with Special Agent Ben Pearson. As he held her tightly that night, it felt as if she were going to be electrocuted. The touch of his body against her's still sent jolts through her. She had to do something quickly, or she would never be able to remain separate and aloof.

"Mister Steele, tonight was to be a celebration."

"I was a bit curious about that, Laura," he said rolling the brandy snifter gracefully in his hands. "You said it was a celebration, but you never said a celebration of what. But, as always," he said with his boyish grin covering his face, "I'm willing to go along."

"Yes, Mister Steele, today is your birthday." It was her turn to grin.

"Oh, really," he said. The fingers of his right hand left the snifter and stroked his chin wistfully. It was a move that Laura had come to know well.

"Yes, when I created you, I had to flesh out the character, so to speak, and one of the things I created was your birthdate. It was May 16th, 1953. So, happy birthday, Mister Steele." She went over to the coat rack, where she had carefully placed her wrap when she had arrived and withdrew a gaily-decorated package.

"An album, Laura?" Steele asked, taking in the shape and size of the present.

"Well, open it and see."

His long fingers skillfully removed the wrapping paper. Beneath the paper lay the logos for "Casablanca." He seemed mystified for a moment and looked up to Laura.

"It's a laser disk, Mister Steele. I was told that unlike vinyl albums, it would last nearly forever, as long as you don't take a nail to it." For some reason, maybe the drink, maybe the occasion, or maybe it was just the man before her, she felt giddy as a schoolgirl. She could feel a giggle building inside her.

"Thank you, Miss Holt. I will treasure it forever, but I don't have a laser disk player."

"Yes, you do. It's the rest of my present and it is out in the Rabbit." She glanced meaningfully out the window at the pouring rain before she continued, "I just didn't want to bring it in yet."

"Yes, yes, I understand," he said with a glitter in his eyes. "Maybe we could do something until the rain slackens." He set his drink on the coffee table and grabbed some pillows and tossed them on the rug before the fire.

Laura glanced away from him, the pillows and the crackling fireplace just in time to see a streak of lightning strike a transformer across the street. Fire erupted on the pole only to be extinguished by the rain, as the lights in the whole neighborhood went out. The sounds of the explosion roiled around the apartment buildings, only slightly muffled by the downpour.

Laura found herself tightly held by a pair of steady arms. The little electric thrill was still there, but there was an empty feeling of cold in the pit of her being. The years rippled around her and memories sprang unbidden into her head. Her mouth was cotton dry and she knew that she must confess her secret.

"Mister Steele, when I was a child I ran away from home."

Steele chuckles, "Ah yes. Abigail told me about the laundry hamper."

"No, no, no! Not that time." There is no humor in Laura's manner now. "I was a little older, taking piano lessons from Mr. Rose." There was wistfulness in her tone, but cold flatness also. "Mr. Rose was handsome, literate, and safe. Everything a lonely middle child could want. He made me feel special, like I had a gift."

Steele was silent, his nostrils flared and something deep passed across his face, but Laura couldn't read it. She was still caught in the throws of her memory.

"It was a rainy night, much like this one. I had had a fight with my mother. I never seemed good enough, but when I was with Mr. Rose, I was special." The words were slowing as they tumbled from her mouth and her voice took on a hoarseness. The strong emotions were causing her to tremble.

"I was soaked when I arrived, having walked six miles to get there. He had already gone to bed, but the lights came on and he answered the door. I must have looked like a drowned rat. He rushed me into the bathroom and tried to dry me off, but something went wrong."
"He was dressed in loose pajamas and as he toweled, I could see that he was becoming excited. His drying turned into fondling and I knew that I had turned a corner that should not have been turned. I was young, but I thought I was old enough." She paused, "He always seemed so safe."

She was silent and rage ran through Steele. He wanted to protect her, but how can you protect someone from their past.

"Laura..." he started, but her fingers stroked his lips.

"Not yet," she said.

"He took me home and drove off quickly. The next day he recommended another piano teacher to my mother and made excuses of too many students." Now her eyes were flashing. "It was just another abandonment for Laura. Love her and leave her." There was silence, even the rain had stopped, but tears leaked from her eyes.

Steele's heart was rent, but he realized that if he spoke now it would cost him many of the gains he had made in this relationship.

"Mister Steele, or whoever you are, just remember that. I am more trusting than I seem, but I am scarred. It takes little to twist the hurt and bring it all back." She paused again. "It takes you so little to bring back the pain of those losses in my life."

The lights came back on then and changed the mood, but Steele knew that tonight was not the night. There was a need in him that was filled by her pain, but until he had proven himself, he might never be able to reciprocate.

Maybe, one day.