Love to Lightbulbs

Chapter 1: The Decision

I know you won’t believe it, but it wasn’t that I wanted to cheat, really. I was madly in love with my husband as much then as I was our entire life together. I miss him every day. I’d say it was more a goodbye. Goodbye to that part of my self. Goodbye to those instincts. Good bye to single me. One more time for the road and all that.

Don’t make that face, I was once young, too, you know.

“If you’re single it isn’t cheating,” some will say, but my husband and I were living together for ten years before we were married, as married as you can get without signing a piece of paper.

Are you married?

Well, the piece of paper makes a difference somehow, even though you know it doesn’t really. It requires a leap of faith, a trust in an unknown future. Without it, you’re living day by day making the choice to be together. Once you sign that piece of paper you are legally together, no matter your choice each day. It’s a subtle change, but it’s there none-the-less.

My wedding date had been planned for six months when I went to that conference five hours from home. I’d known about it for weeks. It was my last conference as a single woman, as Dr. Melissa May M.D. I was going to take my husband’s name once we married, something that was important enough to him that I deemed it an insignificant change for me that would make him immeasurably happy. Still, at my age, it was strange getting a new name. It was the death of Melissa May.

From the moment I met my husband I never dated another. Never entertained the idea. We were inseparable almost immediately and the “exclusive” was a given. And I was happy about that, I really was.

But still, there was a voice in my head telling me it was my last chance before I was married. It permeated my thoughts more than I like to admit now. A clock ticking, a nagging fear, maybe, of what lies ahead. Maybe I just wanted to see if I still had it.

Good god, Missy, we aren’t going to get through this if you’re going to keep acting all squeamish at the mention of sex. Do kids these days not have sex anymore?

Because the conference was only five hours away, I was driving. It was a long, mostly flat but beautiful drive through Nebraska and I blasted all my favorite songs, enjoying the sunshine and the solitude. I always liked a road trip.

A few hours out of town, I stopped at a Walmart. I bought an ABBA cd, some snacks for my room, and a box of condoms. It was like another part of me, the condoms. I was detached. I did not think about how it would break my future husband’s heart because I knew that already, and I knew I would never tell him. It would be one last time, just for me, before we spent the rest of our lives together. I knew it was wrong, I knew he would think it was wrong and I knew I DID think that. But somehow I felt it was my right. That the girl inside me deserved it. I’ve never changed my mind on that, by the way.

When I reached the hotel, I unloaded my cooler, bags, laptop and purse. I came wheeling into the lobby awkward and clumsy.

A man was vacuuming a rug in the lobby. I sized him up. He sized me up. I decided right there that he was the one, and somehow, I think he knew it, too.

Checked in, I unpacked and checked my emails and messages. Classes didn’t start until the following morning, so I decided to go for a walk. Back then we were always logging our steps, because medical insurance was so expensive and it was a way to earn a discount. Lucky you don’t have to worry about that these days.

On my way out I passed him, mopping a floor.

I smiled, he smiled. He had jet black curly hair and a closely trimmed beard. Just a smidge past a five o’clock shadow. He wasn’t tall, he was my height, which alarmingly meant our eyes were at the same level.

“Excuse me,” I said, “sorry,” tromping over his freshly mopped floor.

He waved me off, as if to say, “Just another day in the life of floor mopping.”

I imagined him a student, he was much younger than me, I thought- at least ten years, working his way through college. Maybe he’d never been kissed before!

A blush started on my face, it was quite ridiculous.

I was never a blusher like you.

I walked the lake path, enjoying the views even though it was November and chilly. I jogged when no one was looking, trying to get my heart rate up for thirty minutes. One thing about being a doctor, you’ve got to walk the talk. I got my workouts in like it or not, not only for the discount, but so I could look my patients in the eyes when I told them they needed to exercise. No one takes a fat doctor seriously. What? It’s true!

I peeled off my coat, sweating underneath my layers and sat down on a bench. My thoughts drifted, skirting past the love of my life stuck neatly into a compartment, and focused on him. How exactly, did I think I was going to pull this off?

Maybe I could drop a lightbulb, and then call to report I needed a new one. Surely the hotel would send him with a replacement. And then what? While I was old enough to know it didn’t take much to get a guy to sleep with you, I’d hate it if he was the one in fifty who felt offended by that assumption.

Why are you laughing? Have you tried it? When I was younger I used to think that you had to impress a guy to get him to sleep with you. I learned soon enough that he already wants to sleep with you, he’s just waiting for a thumbs up. If you offer him no strings attached, even better, you’re now the perfect woman!

So I walked back towards the hotel. I’d have to save the lightbulb plan for a day or two. Establish a connection first. That’s how you get to the “he already wants to sleep with you” phase.

When I reached the hotel, I hoped he wouldn’t be around to see me all sweaty, but there he was, making a fire in the lobby fireplace. We smiled and waved like we were old friends.

I bring my food when I travel whenever possible. Part of that is my sensitive stomach but another part is just that I hate the idea of not having food available immediately when I want it. Gluttony is one of those sins I’m guilty of.

I changed into fresh clothes, grabbed my soup and headed for the lobby microwave. I could have had a microwave delivered to my room, I knew, but that time I liked the excuse to go to the lobby. I tried not to think too much about it.

He, having successfully built a fire, was no where to be seen.

I took my warm soup back to the elevator. The doors opened and there he stood.

“Hello, again,” I said.

“Hi,” he answered, maneuvering a cart out of the elevator.

Well, I thought on my way up, I’m going to have to think of something besides hello.

Soup finished, I made a drink. Might as well enjoy myself in the luxury hotel. I only had one, though, because I was heading down to the pool.

I swam laps around the pool until almost closing time, then spent ten minutes in the sauna. As I exited the dressing room I ran into him again, coming to lock up the pool. We nodded awkwardly at each other, it WAS somehow getting weird without anything even happening.

I turned and watched him through the glass doors of the pool area. He headed to the sauna, opened the door, stepped in and turned out the light.

I knew then how I would get him.

Back in my room I made another drink, restless. I called the love of my life and wished him good night.

I was too wound up from swimming to sleep, so I headed back out into the hallway. I had a good buzz going by then, and had to be careful or I would feel like hell in the morning.

When I came to the elevators at the end of the hall, I noticed the floor was damp. He had been there recently.

I walked back down the hall to the door marked stairs, and took them very slowly to the next floor down. Peeked out, walked to the far elevators. Wet floor. I was following him.

I took the stairs again, slowly, not really knowing what I would do if I actually found him. How to explain being several floors from my own for no good reason? I wasn’t even carrying an ice bucket to make it look legit. It occurred to me that I was stalking him like a lion. Like a predator. I didn’t care.

I followed the trail of him until almost ground floor, at which point I took the stairs all the way down, looped around and met him at the elevator again.

“You must work a long day,” I said, when the doors opened.

Brilliant, Melissa, I thought to myself. Could you be more lame? It had been at least…mmmm, eleven years since I had attempted to pick up a guy?

“Just second shift,” he said.

“Have a good evening, then,” I sort of stammered, knowing my face was reddening again. What the hell was happening to me?

He cocked his head a little to the side, like he might want to ask me something but in the end he said, “You, too” and turned to go.

I returned to my room, thinking again of a blown lightbulb and talking myself out of it.

The next day found me wrapped up in class, fascinated by the content yet keeping a little part of my brain on the night ahead.

I smiled when I saw him in the lobby as I warmed my dinner. My whole plan was ruined if he wasn’t working that day. Phase one, check!

The love of my life called while I was walking the lake path again. I told him I wasn’t feeling well, that it had been a long day and that I was going to shower and go to bed. I felt a little guilty, honestly, but not enough to stop me. Like I said, I considered it my right.

So I only felt a tiny twinge as I checked off phase two.

I had some time to kill, then, before moving to the sauna, and I spent it drinking. It turned out I needed more liquid courage than anticipated.

I packed a small purse to take with me to the sauna, including two condoms.

Hey, you never know! It could happen twice!

I then took my purse, and the cocktail I’d made in a plastic water bottle down to the pool. There were a few others in the pool this time so I went straight to the sauna.

I luxuriated in the heat, sipping my beverage, watching the minutes tick by on the clock.

I turned the lights off in the sauna. There was plenty of light coming in through the window from the pool area and I thought it was better for what I had in mind. I had my swimsuit on so there wasn’t much left to remove, and who wanted a bright light shining on them in a swimsuit?

The heat and the alcohol were combining to make me flushed and giggle-y.

I was having a lot of bad thoughts. Imaging all sorts of things about to happen in the sauna. All the blood was rushing to the wrong parts and I was near ready to explode. I could have done it myself pretty easily by then but I waited. There was something delightful about the hunt.

There’s that blush again. Please tell me you own a BOB. You don’t know BOB? Battery Operated Boyfriend? Oh gosh all the girls I know have them, I mean, they did, anyway. You’ve got to take control of your own needs dear. Ok, ok, I’ll stop. I know what to get you for Christmas!

Finally, it was closing time. The others left the pool. I sipped my drink and waited. At five after, he came through the glass doors, locking them behind him. We were alone.

He looked over at the sauna, then clicked off the pool lights and headed into the dressing room. Damn, I thought, why hadn’t he come to the sauna?

I gathered up my purse, towel and beverage, a little wobbly, and headed through the dimly lit pool area to the women’s dressing room.

He was gathering wet towels from various stalls when I ran into him. He froze, towels in his hands. He looked me directly in the face, and I looked directly into his. We were maybe one foot apart, running into each other as we had.

“I was in the sauna,” I said.

“I didn’t come to the sauna because the lights were out,” he said, “otherwise I would have.”

“I know,” I answered.

I took a step closer, what little step I could take in the foot between us.

“What’s your name?”

“Nathan,” he hesitated and then said, “Yours?”

“Melissa,” I said.

We stared into each other’s faces as if we could see our destinies written there.

Chapter 2: The Girl

I think for as long as I live I’ll never really be able to explain it. I don’t know what it was. It was like I’d never seen her before and yet I knew her. Like somehow I was embarrassed about things we’d never done. Even though she wasn’t anyone I knew, I walked around feeling like the first girl I ever kissed was staying at the hotel.

You know that feeling, right? First kiss?

It was easy to find out who she was. I’d seen her check in. I wanted to offer to carry her bags, the way she was struggling with them and that rolling cooler, but my embarrassment over tingling things that no one else could see kept me from doing it.

I’m sorry, I don’t mean to embarrass you. I was a young man then, those sorts of things happened all the time. You know that about boys at your age, don’t you? You want me to leave those details out?

Ok, well, I made sure I shut the vacuum off in time for them to tell her which room she was in and how to get there.

I found her name easily enough in the system. A doctor, it turned out. I, being only a student at the time, knew she was way out of my league. Dr. Melissa May. It kind of reminded me of that one Rod Stewart song, Maggie May, so I started humming it to myself, changing Maggie to Melissa, even though it didn’t really fit.

I’d also noticed she was wearing a ring. Whether or not it was a wedding ring I couldn’t tell, but that it was there was undeniable.

I comforted myself singing Melissa May as I worked. I kept running into her that first day.

From the get go it was weird. I guess “weird” makes it sound bad, but I don’t mean it in a bad way. It was only that her mere presence made me feel all nervous and I swear SHE was blushing.

I can still picture her when she came back from her run, her hair jumbled in a ball on her head, a shiny sheen covering her neck. She’d taken off her coat, and I could see her nipples through her t-shirt, in direct defiance of the rest of her body claiming it was overheated. I tried not to look and focused on the fire I was trying to start in the lobby fireplace. Back then I hardly had any experience with women, having had just the one girlfriend.

I attacked my jobs with a fury that night, putting my feelings into physical labor. I decided to mop all the floors on all the levels. This would keep me out of the lobby at least.

I’d only done a couple of floors when I started feeling like I was being followed. I can’t explain it, only that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I took my earbuds out and listened. I heard the door for the stairs open and I quickly unlocked the storage closet by the elevator and stepped inside, closing the door almost completely. I kept my foot against the bottom, leaving a minuscule crack to peek through.

I saw her slowly peer around the corner before stepping onto the freshly mopped floor. She paced around in a slow circle while I held my breath. She sniffed the air as if she were a cat on a hunt, and then she left as quietly as she came, taking the door for the stairs again.

I exited the closet and punched the button for the elevator. I’d about lost my head by then, thinking she’d been looking for me. The mop became Melissa May, and I danced her around every floor, twirling and even dipping her from time to time.

I know what you think of me because I know what I think of myself, but that night I was the Prince from every Disney movie, dancing with my princess.

I grew up with sisters. We watched a lot of Disney. I’m not ashamed to admit I liked them, why should a little boy not want to be a Prince as much as a little girl wants to be a Princess?

Of course, I had a girlfriend at the time. High School sweethearts, my wife and I.

I know what you’re thinking but the truth is I didn’t think much about my future wife those couple of days. I had a way of putting her in a compartment. Her love was like the sunshine, a given every day, and I have never stopped being grateful for that, despite what you may be thinking.

Melissa was not physical lust. I mean, it was physical lust, too, but the second we met each other’s eyes that first day we were already bound by something bigger, something neither of us could probably have explained then. It was like we knew then that our future selves were going meet. I know it’s a silly word but I’d call it destiny.

I began to think about how I could get her alone. Maybe I could make up an excuse to visit her room- a lightbulb? I could say the previous inhabitant had mentioned a light was out.

But then what was I going to do? Kick off my shoes and stay a while, like we were old friends? I knew I only had a few days, assuming she was there for the medical conference, like just about everyone else in the hotel.

This next part, I’m not too proud of. I hate it that I tarnished what we had with something so vile.

I saw her leave in the morning because it was my one day off class and I was working a double shift to get my hours in. I took the master maintenance key and, ensuring no one was looking, I let myself into her room. She had the “Do Not Disturb” sign out so I knew no maids would be busting in.

At first, I just stood by the door. It smelled sweet and flowery and I spotted a candle on the windowsill. “Night blooming jasmine”, I remember.

I’d brought a light bulb with me in the event someone caught me out, although I’d still have to explain why I’d entered a room with a sign out.

I walked over to her pillow on the bed and inhaled, it smelled faintly of coconut. I checked out the novel on her bedside stand, an author I’d read before, and gently fingered the silk robe she’d left on the bed.

Oh a whim, I opened the bedside drawer. Inside there was a new box of condoms, never opened. I closed the drawer again.

I looked at her toiletries, messy on the bathroom counter, sniffed her body wash to see what it smelled like.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about sleeping with her. I was looking at that bed, imagining us there together. The blood was moving to all the wrong parts of my body but I resisted doing anything that any normal person would’ve considered creepy. I know, it was creepy to even be there but I guess I mean creepy-er.

There was something about her that made me want to keep it- unsullied as it were. She was a princess.

Sorry, you told me to put the details in. Are you uncomfortable? I can stop.

Ok. So instead, I stole a few hairs from her hairbrush, tucked them into my front shirt pocket, looked around one last time, and left.

I considered it for the best when I didn’t see her all day or night, except once when she came down to heat her food. There she was smiling at me again. I vacuumed and mopped, lit the fireplace and brought extra towels to a family of five.

As I headed towards the pool to close up, I made a wish that she would be there. I pictured her in the sauna, that sheen of sweat I’d seen on her before. When I’d met her coming out of the pool the day before she had a towel wrapped around her, and I wondered what her swimsuit looked like. How much of her skin it would show. How much of her it wouldn’t.

To my disappointment, the sauna lights were off and my fantasies dashed. I headed to the locker room to clean up after the endless slobs who could not be counted on to put a towel in the designated bins. I used to think I could tell the ones that would leave their towels, just by the look of them.

I didn’t hear her come in, which is why I ran almost directly into her as I exited a changing stall.

Her swimsuit was black and white. Her skin was shiny, just like I’d imagined and lots of it was showing. She looked warm and flushed, and she made no move to cover herself, just stood there a foot from me, water droplets, or maybe it was sweat, sliding down between the cleavage I could now so clearly see.

I clutched the towels in front of me like a shield.

“I was in the sauna,” she said.

I mumbled something about not checking the sauna because the lights were off and found I could not look away from her face.

“I know,” she said.

“What’s your name?”

I told her my name and then, realizing I wasn’t supposed to know hers, asked her for it.

She goes by Melissa, not Missy like you.

She took a step closer to me. I dropped the towels. Another six inches and we’d be touching. I could hardly stand it. We stood there, staring into each other faces like they were the moon and all the stars.

Chapter 3: The Truth

Omaha Gazette

Lightbulb Killer Denied Parole

Nathan Green, the man more commonly known as “The Lightbulb Killer” was denied parole for a second time today. Families of Green’s 17 victims arrived and filled the court, giving heart wrenching statement after statement about the women they loved who were taken from them too soon at the hands of Green.

Green, who is serving multiple life sentences, declined to speak, letting his attorney speak for him.

“Mr. Green has been a model prisoner,” Attorney Fred Smith lobbied, “he attends regular church services, volunteers with the literacy program, helping other inmates learn to read, and finished his history degree while incarcerated. He is currently working on a book with esteemed author Missy May, in order that he might influence others like him in a positive manner.”

The Honorable Judge Sheridan took only a short recess before returning to deny Parole.

“I cannot, in good conscience and in memory of all the victims, release a man into the world who has admitted to stalking women like prey, tricking them, assaulting them, and then killing them.”

Green made no comment as he was led away. If required to serve his entire sentence, he will likely die incarcerated.

Missy May, great great niece of the now infamous Melissa May Shaw, whom Green credits with giving him the idea to use a burned out lightbulb to gain entrance to women’s hotel rooms, plans to release a book next year detailing the life of convicted killer Nathan Green.

Dr. Melissa (May) Shaw, who resides at an assisted living facility in Western Nebraska, declined to comment on today’s events.

Chapter 4: The End

In that second, so close to him that I could feel his breath, I knew I had him.

And then I saw the face of the man I loved.

It had been about the hunt, after all, and wanting to know if I still had it. Now I knew I did, I didn’t really want it.

I looked away first, and when I looked back I saw it. My destiny was still there in his face and it was sinister.

“Excuse me,” I said, turning to get past him.

He almost reached for me then, but he seemed to change his mind and stepped aside.

I ran all the way to my room, bolted the chain. Called my husband. Threw the condoms in the trash.

And that was it. The next day I checked out before class so I didn’t have to come back, and I never thought about it again until I saw him on the news.

The lightbulb thing, that really got to me, you know?

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