Without the need for further explanation, George escorts Stella from the room. When I hear the door close, I turn away from Marcus and look out the window into the garden. His shoulder brushes against mine as he joins me admiring the spring bloom, coffee cup in hand.
“Your garden is beautiful. I particularly enjoy those burgundy colored flowers. What are those called?”
“Wine cups. Not a flower native to Nevada, but George has a special touch.”
Letting out a small sigh, I walk closer to the window. I don’t wish to discuss the finer points of gardening. “A roommate, Marcus?”
He sips the coffee and smiles. “There’s a price for freedom Ella. Nothing is free in America.”
The music changes and the first melancholy notes of Puccini: La bohéme begins to play. I hum quietly with the female lead, drifting into thoughts of Ray. There’s always a price for freedom, my love. Are you willing to pay the ante?
“Why can’t you be my roommate instead of this…trainee?” Marcus spits a bit of coffee and chokes on a hearty laugh. I place my hands on my hips and wait for him to control his fit of laughter.
“My apologies. I assure you this isn’t possible.”
“What about the poet?”
“Excuse me, did you say poet or pet?”
It’s my turn to laugh. The music selection repeats and I hum once again with the words.
“Is there a difference?”
He shrugs and wipes the coffee from the side of the cup with a handkerchief. “I don’t know if I can arrange that, Ella. Tell me, are you in a relationship with him? What does your husband think?”
I sigh again and return to the table. Taking a seat, I remove a cigarette from the pack and wait for Marcus to light it for me. Sucking in a deep drag, I close my eyes and enjoy the immediate sensation of lightheadedness that sweeps my brain.
“It’s a rare man that spends time with me and remains alive. The poet will keep me out of trouble, you might appreciate that point.”
“No, he won’t, Ella. But it is something of note that the boy remains alive. And what of your husband? You haven’t told me what he thinks.”
“My husband doesn’t control whom I fuck.”
“But does he know?”
Taking another drag, I stab Marcus with my eyes and count to ten. “Other than through the computer, my husband has no contact with the outside world. He doesn’t even know the poet exists.”
“Thank you, Ella.”
Tapping my phone, I change the music. I want something violent. Picking a new track from a metal band dedicated to a rather famous rapist, I increase the volume. “Make it happen, Marcus.”
“Perhaps I can secure the apartment next door for him. Would that be acceptable to you?”
I nod in answer and increase the volume even more. Typing a text, I send the message to George.
Bring me the poet.