Home > Becoming Chloe(10)

Becoming Chloe(10)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

“Take your panties off and put them to soak in the sink,” I say, and then I go into Raymond’s bedroom to get a pair of his Jockey shorts.

He’s facing away from me, looking out the window, removing the smoking jacket. I like it better when he’s all tucked under the covers when I get in. He glances over his shoulder, watches me take a pair of light-blue Jockeys out of his underwear drawer, but says nothing.

Chloe is naked, dipping her toe in the water, when I get back to her.

“Wait for the bubbles,” I say.

I find the bubble bath under the sink and squirt about three baths’ worth into her water. Bubbles roar up out of nowhere. Threaten to take over the world.

“Jordy? Do princesses ever take baths with no bubbles?”

“Oh, I doubt that. Put these on when you’re done,” I say, and hold up the Jockeys for her to see. I turn off the water, purposely leaving the bath a little low in case Chloe splashes.

She reaches out and puts her hand through the fly opening. “Jordy, what would I use this for?”

“You won’t. But they’re clean. Now I want you to stay in here the whole time, and not come in the bedroom once. Not for any reason. And I want you to sing the whole time. That way I’ll know where you are.”

“What should I sing?”

“Anything you want. You pick something. Have a nice bubble bath, Chlo.”

As I join Raymond in bed I hear her sing the first few lines of “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”

We’re naked under the covers together. “She has a lovely voice,” Raymond says. This is the first I realize that we’re both listening to Chloe’s song. I can hear Chloe get to the end of that long song and start over again at the beginning. That same song again. Chloe never chooses two different things both on the same day. “I know she’s your girlfriend, but it’s okay.”

“She’s not, though, Raymond. It’s not like that with us.”

“Either way, it’s okay.”

Raymond doesn’t believe I’m really gay, because of Chloe. I don’t work too hard to convince him. If he knew I really was, then he’d know it really was just him. I mean, he’s fifty-something to my seventeen, for Christ’s sake. It’s not Raymond’s fault he’s fifty. It’s not my fault I can’t feel much for him. We’re all just running around being exactly what we are.

Then silence. No “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” I wait two beats, three. I’m just about to jump out of bed when I hear the first couple of random chords on Raymond’s big grand piano. Chloe has a flair for almost all creative things, like singing. But in this case she’s curious about the piano. Not trying to make music so much as noise. Playing it the way a small dog would if you put him up there to tramp around on the keys.

“What’s wrong with her?” Raymond asks. Then right away I know he can feel my body tighten up, and he pulls back to his own side of the bed a ways. “I’m sorry, I just meant—” Raymond is a little bit afraid of me. The way it should be.

“Nothing is wrong with her. Why would you say a thing like that?”

“I just meant . . . She just seems . . . childlike.”

“So? What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing,” he says. “Nothing at all.”

I sit up on the edge of his bed and begin to dress. “I’ll bring the underwear back. Clean.”

“Don’t bother,” Raymond says. “It’s okay. So. Listen. Are you doing okay this week? Financially, I mean. Are you having an okay week financially?”

“Well, not really, Raymond, no. Frankly, things are tight. Frankly, if you could help out a little, that would be great.”

“You know I never mind helping out.”

“You know you’re never obligated.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” Raymond says.

We go through this same little dance every week. Just so we both know that we both know that all the rules are still in place. Just to keep making sure all those loose ends lie down exactly the way they’re supposed to.

He gives me four clean twenties. “I hope this will help your situation,” he says.

“Very much, Raymond. You’re a dear to help out.”

I kiss him on the lips and he sighs.

I’m pulling her down the street by her hand. We’re walking fast, crossing against the lights. Stopping traffic. “What do you want to eat, Chlo?”

“Something good.”

“Well, of course,” I say. “We all want to eat something good. What I’m asking is, what kind of food do you think would be good right now?”

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