There was a knock at the door and ten seconds later, the doorbell rang. Tad Blackwell hated when people did that. Tad went to answer the door, wondering who would want to visit him at nine o'clock on a pleasant and, so far, uneventful Christmas Eve. He didn't have many friends.
The sight of Alice Tucker in a low cut, red dress and stiletto heels caused his internal temperature to rise like the mercury in a thermometer on a torrid summer afternoon. Tad's brown eyes grew large and round as a pair of traffic lights and he stared at her with a goofy grin on his face.
Alice blushed. "Aren't you going to invite me in?" she asked in a tender, teasing tone.
Tad expected her to head for the sofa. Instead, she walked to the tall, wooden bookcase in the corner. Tad cringed inwardly, but he managed to remain calm and cool, as he watched Alice rifle through the small collection of magazines he'd stacked on the bottom shelf. She did the same to the little pile of DVDs on the other side of the shelf. She glanced over her bare shoulder at Tad's television set and his DVD player.
Alice's knees cracked sharply, as she rose to her feet. She smiled at Tad and said, "Just checking."
Tad watched her disappear around the corner. He heard her walk into his bedroom and the sound of the light clicking on. A dresser drawer creaked open, and then another. Tad held his breath.
The bedroom light clicked off. Alice padded down the hall to the bathroom. He heard her open the medicine cabinet and one of the doors under the sink. Her heavy footsteps sounded ominous on the thinly carpeted floor. Tad braced himself as he watched her enter the kitchen. She checked out the contents of his refrigerator and poked her nose in his cabinets. Quick and quiet as a cat, she crossed the dining room. She opened the door and stuck her head inside Tad's utility closet. She returned to the living room. Her pale, blue eyes sparkled in the sharp glare of Tad's old, brass floor lamp, and she wore a satisfied smile on her face.
Alice sat down next to Tad on the sofa, so close, that he felt the hard, round bulge of her hip nestle warm and firm against his hip. With one heavy hand, she patted his knee. She sighed, as if she'd just completed an arduous task.
She leaned close to Tad and sniffed his neck. "Mmmm...you smell nice."
Tad couldn't help but laugh. "Thank you. You smell pretty good, yourself."
"So, how long has it been---four months?"
"At least. Too long."
"Ah, that's sweet. Did you miss me that much?"
"Well, I missed you, too. Can I have a drink? I'm parched."
Tad bounced to his feet and rushed to the kitchen. He returned with two cold cans of Michelob.
Alice frowned. "Those aren't left over from the last time I was here, are they?"
"Oh, no. I drank those weeks ago. I bought these the other day, just in case."
"So you've been expecting me."
"Well, yeah. Hoping, anyway."
Alice tilted her head and drank a quick slug of her beer. She set her can on Tad's antigue coffee table.
"I ran into an old friend of yours last night," she said.
"Oh, yeah? Who's that?"
"Pastor Delaney stopped at Hennessey's for a sandwich and a beer while I was there. She wanted to know if we were still seeing each other."
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her the truth. That we hadn't seen each other in a couple months."
"Tad, Pastor Delaney told me what you did. She said you told her you went to her for counseling and prayer because you loved me and didn't want to lose me because of that garbage in your life."
A tear welled in Tad's eye and a lump formed in his throat. He wanted to look away. But he forced himself to look straight into Alice's eyes.
"I wish you would've told me you were going to try and get some help," Alice said. "You don't know how bad it makes me feel now for leaving you. You know I didn't want to leave you. But like I told you then, I just can't compete with that trash. No woman can. We shouldn't have to."
She said, "Tad, I still love you, too. And if you really are sincere about trying to rid your life of that horrible garbage for good, then I guess the least I can do is stand by you and support you, and encourage you all I can."
"You mean that?" Tad asked.
"But what if I backslide?"
"You haven't, have you?"
"Not yet, thank God."
"I just checked your entire apartment. You're not hiding anything on me, are you?"
"What if I checked your computer?"
"You wouldn't find anything there, either."
"Well, then, if you ever do backslide, I guess I'll just have to kick your cute little butt and send you back to Pastor Delaney. I'm sure she'll know what to do with you."
Tad laughed. "I think I can live with that."
"Good. Oh, and just so you know. First thing tomorrow morning, I'm moving in. No more living apart. You need a wife real bad. Now, kiss me quick, you fool, before I change my mind."
Tad smiled at Alice as his mouth sought hers. Sometimes, he thought, all a man needed was someone to love him and understand him, and help him discover who he really was. And he was happy to say he had found that someone in Alice Tucker.
The words of an old song popped into his head. "Reunited...and it feels so good!..." His smile grew even bigger, as he kissed his future wife a second time. And a third.