Gently urged, slowly persuaded, Zee edged a bit closer to the driver and tentatively kissed him at the corner of his mouth.
Drake watched from the back seat, out of the picture, gone, or dead.
Then Drake woke up.
Zee was still asleep.
By the time he got out of the shower, the dream had him way down. While he shaved, Drake started to climb.
On a beautiful August afternoon Drake and Zee made love for hours.
Drake picked up Zee and everything she wanted to bring from her parents' house and they moved into a little bohemian apartment. The kitchen had a large array of French windows that they left open at night so they could listen to someone playing the piano across the alley. One day a young man with a knife pretending to be a delivery boy tried to rape Zee but there was enough human left in him for Zee to talk him out of harming a girl six months pregnant.
When Drake got drunk and incredibly hung over Zee got him something cold for his head.
Drake made himself some coffee. He wanted to throw in a shot of Jameson's to take the edge off. There was no Jameson's.
After their first daughter was born Drake worked and painted in the afternoon or whenever he made time. He did not make a lot of money but Zee was able to be a mother all the time and learn to cook and begin to understand gardening.
Drake heard Zee in the bathroom.
Across the still lake, dawn began to gild the mountains below the crystal sky.
Drake belted his best blue jeans.
Zee and Drake lost their son. Before he was born something went wrong and he never lived in the world. Drake saw his dead unborn boy before the nurse took the stainless pan away. Zee and Drake never again spoke the name they had chosen.
Drake pulled on his favorite ostrich skin roper-heel boots.
When their second daughter began to walk and talk they lived in a great two-story house with much sunlight and a cottage room where Drake worked. Their first cat followed Zee everywhere. Ballet followed gym class as certainly as summer followed spring.
Drake went mad every spring. Some springs were worse than others, but every spring was a madness of madonnas or marijuana, martial arts or motorcycles, meditation or migration.
One Spring Drake and Zee and their girls moved to California.
Zee rustled in the small closet.
"You ready yet?"
"I'll go with this," Zee said.
Zee set out the Navajo turquoise thunderbird silver necklace he gave her the last time they visited Santa Fe. The La Fonda Hotel was the Drake and Zee world headquarters. The sunset was as spectacular from the La Fonda's rooftop bar as from anywhere on Earth and it snowed every early October they ever went there.
Before she put on her blouse Drake saw the scar on her shoulder where the gorgon had touched her. Zee had kept it from him too long and it was a near thing by the time she had surgery to remove the cancer. After that living nightmare Drake composed a little prayer of thanks he recited to himself at least once every day.
Drake stood on the balcony to breathe deeply and gather his chi. A wispy miasma drifted across the quiet surface of Lake Tahoe.
Sometimes their daughters asked Zee and Drake odd questions and then laughed between themselves. The girls were four years apart but they were tight, friends for life, even in high school. One evening as delightful as all the others when they ate out together, the girls tested an odd question or two over rumaki and spicy jellyfish.
The answers were as evasive as ever.
"Our Mom and Dad aren't married," the elder one advised the younger one.
Zee was finally ready.
Drake looked around the suite to see if they had everything and pocketed the room key.
Zee made sure they had everything and stepped into the hall. Drake followed her out and they dropped to the parking garage in the mirrored elevator.
The fine June morning was cool and fresh.
Drake fired the Mustang ragtop they both loved and wheeled onto Stateline. Drake and Zee turned east on King's Grade and rocketed straight down the mountain to Carson Valley and the Nevada capitol.
Both girls were out of college. The eldest daughter's wedding was coming up in August and her sister would be maid of honor. Younger sister had a boyfriend she would someday marry.
Drake and Zee parked the Mustang behind the Justice of the Peace office near the Nevada Capitol Building. There were always bars near state capitols.
Drake went across the street and got a shot of Jack Daniels. Zee did not want a shot. She never did. Drake set the shot glass upside down hard and smacked his lips.
Zee was as beautiful this June morning as that August afternoon.
Then Drake and Zee stepped into the Justice of the Peace office.
The clerk was a witness and after briefly lecturing them on the duties and responsibilities of marriage the Justice of the Peace pronounced Drake and Zee man and wife.
Drake and Zee hopped into their Mustang and pulled down the top. They drove to Virginia City faster than the law allowed. Drake and Zee had their Olde Tyme picture taken. They sat at the great window that overlooked the mines in the back of the Bucket of Blood and Drake drank vodka grapes while they waited for the photograph to develop. Drake smoked a cigar and Zee fanned the smoke away with a Nevada real estate brochure.
Tonight they would drink champagne in the Jacuzzi bubble bath at their suite in Tahoe and room service would bring dinner and more champagne.
On their way back up King's Grade, Zee edged a bit closer to Drake and tentatively kissed him at the corner of his mouth.
Then she kissed him again.
Nexial Quest (c) Pete Ahrens 1999 - 2004