After the completion of our ill-fated card game, Michael and Timothy retired to their respective sleeping chambers on the second floor. Timothy went to his usual bedroom while Michael was in a large room with two full-size beds, one for him and one meant for me. George and I decided we weren't quite ready for bed yet, so we bade the other boys good-night and sat at the kitchen table a while longer. The rest of the house was just too damn cold.
George re-outfitted himself with the red Santa Claus hat that he wore while chopping wood outside, and moved closer to the stove to warm his hands.
"So you're a clarinetist, are you?" I said, shivering. The air seemed to grow ever more frigid by the second.
"Yep. And too bad I didn't bring one with me on this trip. I don't like to go too long without practicing; makes it easier to lose your lip."
"Yes, it is always tragic to lose one's lip. What kind of music are you working on?" I can never seem to resist a smart comment, especially where none is called for.
"My pianist and I are working up a recital of 19th century romance pieces. Some of it is really hard and requires a lot of fast tonguing."
"Fast tonguing?" Not being a wind player, I didn't know much about these things.
"Yes. Sometimes when you have fast sections you have to flick your tongue back and forth to play the different notes."
"Tongue flicking. Gee, you could really make the girls happy with that." I couldn't resist; it was just too easy.
"Well I can make the boys pretty happy too," George replied with a devilish grin.
Ha! I knew he liked me.
"Well, we'll just have to see about that," I answered, returning his play. Despite what he likes to tell everyone about how aggressive I was during our courtship, I maintain that it was George who started the whole dance.
After a bit, George announced he was ready to go to bed. I agreed that sounded like a good idea, and we exited the semi-frigid kitchen to retreat to our respective sleeping spaces, George's in the cozy living room next to the stove, and mine in the tundra that was the upstairs. I felt at least half of my face go numb as I made my way into the icy bedroom, and I momentarily feared for the health of my sleeping cousin who hadn't been feeling too well to begin with.
As I was fishing through my suitcase in the dark to feel for some warm sleeping clothes, I thought I was even beginning to lose sensation in my fingers. Enough was enough, I decided, and I marched back downstairs into the living room where George was busy stoking the wood stove's limp fire.
"How convenient for you that you'll be right next to the stove all night while the rest of us are up there freezing our butts off," I remarked.
"Well, would you rather sleep down here and feed the fire all night like I'm planning to do? How else do you think the house is going to get any heat at all?"
"As a matter of fact, yes, I would," I replied, sitting down on the tiny bed.
"Well you'll have to fight me for that spot, because I already called it."
"You already called it? That's very charming, George. The fact remains, however, that regardless of whatever school yard dibs game you think we're playing, I am not going back upstairs to sleep. It is too cold. I just moved back east from California and I'm not used to this kind of weather yet."
"Cry me a river." George started changing into his sleeping clothes while I remained on the bed.
I didn't really want to beg, but considering the circumstances I decided it wasn't necessarily beneath me.
"PLEASE don't make me go back upstairs. I will freeze to death. I'm serious. I could die up there, and then you'll have to blame yourself the rest of your days. I can't allow you to do that to yourself."
"I'll take my chances," he responded with not even a hint of sarcasm. "Good night, I'm going to sleep." George crawled right over me and got under the covers.
Silence for a few minutes.
"Get the light, would you?" George asked.
"I will. But I'm not going upstairs. I'm staying here with you."
"Whatever. Just close the damn light already. I'm exhausted."
"Ok." I turned out the light and changed into my sweatsuit. "You're going to have to move over," I said, lifting the covers.
"Move over where? Have you seen the size of this bed?" He laughed.
"I don't care. Anything will be better than sleeping alone in that cold room." I snuggled in next to George, who spontaneously wrapped his arms around my waist.
And that, Gentle Readers, is how it all began. It's also all you need to hear - although, for the record, nothing R-rated occurred until the end of the trip.
Which I won't be writing about.
So, Bubs, did we "meet cute?" I guess it's for you and my other Gentle Readers to decide.