The sheets smelled of Chanel and despair. The first rays of the sun had dripped through the blinds like melted butter and now lay on the floor in a little pool. It wasn’t like Ken to sleep in so late but he’d had a difficult night, to put it mildly.
Vanessa slipped out of bed and into the T-shirt he’d left on the chair. It covered her to mid-thigh. Most men would have found her exposed legs seductive. An erotic work of art.
She came around to his side of the bed. “I’m leaving,” she told the long form stretched beneath the covers, not checking to see if he was awake.
He was. He blinked open his eyes and reached out to trace a finger gently down her thigh. He so often communicated tactilely. “When will you be back?” he asked as if he didn’t know what her answer would be.
She willed herself to be immune to his touch. “I won’t,” she said without rancor or heat, although she doubted anyone would begrudge her the right to either.
He pushed away the covers then and sat up, his skin golden and glorious. Not many men could be considered beautiful and masculine at the same time the way he could.
What a waste, she thought, not for the first time.
“What more do you want from me?” he asked. Even though it was practically mid-morning, he sounded drained. Resigned.
She turned away. “We both know I want something you just can’t give.”
She’d rather endure his anger than carry his pain.
Vanessa had fallen for Ken Hutchinson the moment they’d met. But he’d been married to another woman at the time–Nancy, a girl he’d dated since high school. They were at a fundraiser for a local charity. She heard Nancy call him “Icarus” and when she asked why, Nancy blushed prettily and mumbled something it being a private joke from when she and Ken had studied Greek mythology together.
Whether it was because of his lofty ideals or because of his resemblance to an angel, Nancy didn’t elaborate. Either way, Van thought it suited him.
Several years later, their fathers–partners together at a law firm–arranged another meeting. Nancy and Ken had divorced, and it was clear Mr. Hutchinson had decided to play matchmaker. Her father, too, thought she’d been single a little too long for propriety.
Van usually balked at such arranged meetings but with Ken, she hadn’t minded. Ken was quiet yet polite to a fault that afternoon. She got the impression he wasn’t thrilled to be there, either.
Strangely enough, the matchmaking worked. Their families were thrilled when they announced their engagement.
Ken still had his head in the clouds, but Van felt she’d be able to keep his feet on the ground. Even when he explained he’d dropped out of college and was intent on joining the police force. Something about wanting to “make a difference the world.”
She’d gone along with his ideas, but still shared a silent understanding with their families that he was destined for bigger things. More tangible rewards. His mind burned brighter than anyone’s she’d ever met. Like her, he’d never be satisfied with an ordinary life.
Vanessa had the patience to wait, the resilience to endure. The beauty to change any man’s mind. No doubt it was what their fathers were counting on.
But there was one thing no one had counted on.
Starsky came waltzing up the stairs as she was going down. Waltzing–that’s what he did. As if no one had ever explained to him that he should take life one step at a time. They stopped and faced each other in the narrow hallway.
He looked down at her suitcase then into her eyes. He understood in an instant. She tried not to look way from his cobalt gaze, so full of passion. So much like Ken’s.
Starsky spoke first. “How can you do this to him?”
His question shook with pain and pleading–none of it for himself. His fingers carved into his palm.
“You’ve got it wrong, Starsky. I’m doing this for him.”
“He loves you,” he said. They both knew Starsky’s feelings for her were irrelevant.
“In his own way, yes.”
“And you love him.” It was inconceivable to Starsky that anyone could not love his beautiful, gentle, noble partner.
It was a thrust straight to Vanessa’s heart. She swayed infinitesimally toward the wall, the suitcase nearly slipping from her hand.
But then she caught herself. Someone else loved him more.
Starsky must have taken her silence for an answer because when she pushed past him, he let her go. At the bottom of the stairs she heard the snick of the door latch from the landing.
As the cab pulled away, Vanessa pictured the scene in her mind’s eye. Hutch slumped at the kitchen table, the late morning sun through the window glinting off his hair. Starsky would approach him quietly. He’d lay a hand on Hutch’s shoulder and Hutch would lean back into him. For a while, they wouldn’t need to talk. After that, the image dimmed.
With few exceptions, Hutch was prone to ignore his father’s advice. He was destined to fly too near the sun.