- Steele No Regrets
- Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000
Laura Holt-Steele stood at the kitchen sink, slightly hunched
over as she scrubbed pots and pans, erasing the remnants of another
fine dinner her husband had orchestrated. Divisions of labor
were finely drawn in their household, for which Laura was eternally
grateful. If she played her cards just so, she might never need
to cook another meal. Strains of the opening theme to The Way
We Were drifted down the stairs. She shook her head ruefully,
but with a smile playing across her lips. They had stopped in
Video Haven on the way home, which to Harry was a giant candy
store, with Laura playing the part of the over-indulgent Mom.
He eagerly scrutinized the New Releases while Laura chatted amicably
with a neighbor, surfacing triumphantly with the Streisand/Redford
vehicle in his hand.
"Laura, I challenge you to watch Streisand ply her trade
and not end up crying like a baby. Can't be done," Steele
declared once they piled into their "weekend car,"
as he referred to the Auburn.
It had been Harry who rallied for the house on the beach, but
it was Laura who had fallen in love with it. During the week
they remained in the city, still residing in Harry's condo, but
on the weekends they fled to Malibu. Laura never tired of their
long, sandy strolls, nor the sound of the waves washing over
the shore at night, nor the fresh salty suggestion in the air.
And while Harry tsk tsked over the sand they regularly tracked
in and the Laura of permanent dampness, he was secretly pleased
that he had chosen well, and that their home was such a source
of joy to Laura.
"Are you almost finished, Darling? Or shall I pause it?"
"Coming," she called, as she seized their half-finished
bottle of wine and two fresh glasses. She was in the mood alright,
but not for a night at the movies. As Laura turned to join Harry,
the light on the deck blinked on, activated automatically by
motion. Thinking the gulls had returned to decimate her bird
feeder once again, Laura tapped on the window pane with a free
index finger. When she realized what, or rather who had triggered
the light, she almost dropped the stemware and the bottle of
Opening the French door for her uninvited guest, Laura shrewdly
deduced that tonight probably wasn't her lucky night after all.
"Care for a glass of wine, Felicia?"
After his initial surprise, Harry went about fulfilling his duties
as host. Felicia did indeed wish for some wine, and as she looked
especially gaunt, he rustled up some cheese and crackers as well.
Steering the two women into the night air was an astute move
on his part, since the interior of the nevertheless spacious
home was a bit too small to contain both Laura and Felicia, at
least until an implied trucce of sorts was negotiated an agreed-upon
by all parties.
As Harry busied himself in the kitchen and then dragged three
beach chairs past the dunes, Laura trailed after him and Felicia,
all the while waging an internal battle. Whenever Felicia breezed
into their lives, it meant chaos and mayhem for Laura, as far
as she could tell. Granted, Felicia had left them to their own
devices since the wedding in Ireland. What a surprise that had
been, and not a pleasant one. When Laura began her ascent up
the aisle accompanied by Mendelssohn's tune, she spied Felicia
in the recesses of the little church in Glen Cree. Once she laid
eyes on her soon-to-be legitimate husband, she managed to forget
the evidence of Harry's past occupying the back row, but Laura
grew uneasy once again when the priest rhetorically inquired
whether anyone knew why Laura and Harry should not be joined
in Holy matrimony. Only Felicia held her tongue, and for that
Laura was grateful. In fact, Felicia must have slipped out of
the church before the priest made his pronouncement, because
she wasn't there when the couple made their triumphant march
past family and friends.
Laura's thoughts returned to the present. 'Ok,' Laura reasoned,
'maybe this can be a civil evening.' She relaxed almost imperceptibly,
but enough to cause Harry to issue a small sigh of relief. She
sank into his brief embrace as he draped his jacket around her.
The sun was setting, and had almost completely dropped below
the horizon. Harry arranged the chairs around the spot for their
customary beach bonfires, and he constructed one now. Laura dug
her toes into the cool sand, waiting to hear what Felicia had
to say. But the conversation was neither pointed nor heady. Rather,
it was breezy and light, and before long even Laura was laughing
along with Harry and Felicia as they reminisced about old times
not quite forgotten. The wine was finished, and another bottle
took its place.
The flames died down, the hours passed, and Laura found herself
in a magnanimous mood. She stifled a yawn and rose to her feet.
"I can't keep my eyes open another minute," she drawled.
"Yes, it is rather late," Harry opined, as he rose
to join his wife.
"No, you two stay and catch up," Laura answered, and
she meant it. "Felicia, I'll make up the bed in the guest
room for you."
"Thank you," replied a slightly baffled Felicia.
Laura willed herself not to turn around as she trailed back to
the house. Once inside, she tended to the guest room, making
it hospitable. Completing that task, Laura then prepared for
bed, cleansing her face, brushing her teeth, and flossing with
her customary care. But instead of donning the cotton nightgown
hanging behind the bathroom door, she liberated something silky
from the back of her closet.
Not entirely unwary, Harry was still startled by Felicia's query.
"Any regrets, Michael?"
He answered almost without thinking. "None whatsoever."
"I don't mean about Laura. I mean about us. Our past."
The words hung in the air.
Attempting to lighten the oppressive mood, but still needing
an answer to the question, Felicia asked, "Why did I ever
let you get away?"
"You didn't," he said flatly, not caring for the turn
the conversation was taking, but reluctant to end it on that
"You never had me. You never wanted anything more permanent
than a weekly room rate at the Ritz. And if you're trying to
convince yourself otherwise-----"
"No. You're right, of course. But. . . ."
"I suppose I'm the one with the regrets."
"Come now, Felicia. This isn't like you. What's happened?"
"What's happened?" she spat out. "Nothing. Everything.
A girls turns 40, and she can't entertain a bit of introspection?"
"40? You told me you were two years younger than I. And
last time I checked I was 32," Harry responded incredulously.
Trapped, Felicia turned to flirtatiousness. "Oh Michael,
what girl doesn't shave a year or two off her age? Besides, how
do you know your little Lulu hasn't done the same?"
"How do I know?" Harry echoed. "I know because
I know Laura. She couldn't, even if she wanted to. Lie to me,
that is. Whereas you, Felicia, I am painfully aware, are only
too expert at that particular attribute."
Harry stood and marched around the dying embers to plant his
feet firmly in front of Felicia's chair. "Felicia, you know
you never wanted me, at least not on any immutable basis. And
you know I never wanted you on those terms. So what's this all
Silence. The crickets had lots to chirp about, but Felicia had
trouble stringing together a sentence. Finally she said "It's
about me, Darling. Call it a mid-life cr- no don't call it that.
Call it one old friend turning to another when life has become
a bit. . . unkind."
"That you can always do."
Later, as Harry slipped between the sheets and made rather more
of a jostling than was entirely necessary, he clandestinely hoped
Laura was still awake. Or that he could wake her, entirely by
accident of course.
She stirred, and he trailed a hand down her body, his fingers
lightly grazing the silk. It came to rest on her hip, and as
she turned in his arms, he remembered all over again why he loved
"Thank you." And when her eyes formed the question,
he said simply "For trusting me."
Silk gave way to skin as the Steeles celebrated another night
(to be continued when time and ideas are more abundant)