Roger cringed and pressed his side . . . sick to his stomach when he awoke on Thanksgiving Day. A clawing and clenching pain hit him as he twisted out of bed to begin his morning rituals. Espresso would have to wait. He, with a heavy head filling with irritation, hoped the pain would pass. Missing Thanksgiving with Morton, who was picking Roger up at 1:00—so they could catch some football on the tube before the four o’clock dinner bell rung—and driving over to Sally’s home was a ticking worry.
He’d spent the last three Thanksgivings at Sally’s house. She, newly divorced back then, hurting, angry, spiteful even when speaking about her straying husband and his new mistress soon-to-be-wife who would be her kids’ second mother figure (she went on and on about this sticking point and Roger listened and many bottles of wine over many nights illuminated the years gone by). Roger considered themselves orphans. He brought out his weathered copy of the play from the box next to the hall closet, and sunk across his couch. Just opening the play and reading the first few lines soothed the ache in his stomach.
At the meeting before Thanksgiving, he’d left 75 copies of the play at the box office and stashed 25 away to give to people he thought of with great fondness around town. People were already talking the play up. Bubbling with excitement, people who acted or helped out with any future production were the first to race to the FITE theater to grab a copy. Most of the seventy-five copies were gone, and Roger had a message on his answering machine to make another hundred. The stage could only handle half that number, maybe a little more if everyone squeezed in and held their breath.
He scanned the local paper for news of the audition and what the Fidalgo Island Theater Ensemble planned. Usually, there were four plays in the first half of the year and four more that took over the summer and fall with the holiday production a beacon and gift the theater loved giving back to their patrons. The Queen’s Idle Fancy stood alone as the sole production, and this didn’t make sense to Roger. They were a small theater, but they had recently celebrated their 50th year as one of the most talented of small-town theater production houses. They made money. The house and the actors. That’s what it really came down to . . . money, theatrical costuming, current lighting and sound effects, fog machines, live musical accompaniment, and playbills, advertising, took up every squeaky dollar bill.
As he sat there, his stomach pain lessening, this is what Roger forgot . . . his memories now colliding and overlapping as if alive, one moment diving deep into darkness and fading.
What Roger would never remember was opening his door to a persistent knock after midnight. He couldn’t remember the knocking sound either. He simply concentrated on the play and thought about beginning to make sausage cashew stuffing, his own mother’s Thanksgiving recipe, rich, and a wonderful side dish to perfect and bring over to Sally’s house.
He had no memory of how Camoustra stood on his front porch, beckoning to him with a flat, wicked slash of a smile, soundlessly, lips opened, hair a Veronica-Lake mystery, slick from a light drizzle, wearing nothing but the sheerest black lingerie—lace corset, leggings, garters, see-through robe plastered to her heaving chest, onyx shoes high-heeled and, if Roger could remember his first thought upon seeing them, call-girlish. Her movement towards Roger froze him to the core—and then heat came, a burning need. A swath of hair blocked the right side of her face, and her left eye, a darkening brown-to-black, captured his remaining willpower.