“You don’t get much more connected than when you’re burning up the mattress.”
“Yes, well, that’s assuming one burns it up. Personally . . .” She sniffed and stood, slipping the tissues into the pocket of her trousers where they didn’t presume to leave a bump. “When I speak of connection, I’m thinking of something more lasting than sex.”
“Not exactly, although that’s important to me. Family. Children. Things like that.” Once again she drew her shoulders back and gave Jodie a brush-off smile. “I’ve gone on long enough. I shouldn’t be imposing on you like this. I’m afraid you caught me at a bad time.”
“I get it! You want a kid!”
Dr. J. delved into her pocket and yanked out the tissues. Her bottom lip trembled, and her entire face crumpled as she dropped back into the chair. “Yesterday Craig told me that Pamela is pregnant. It’s not . . . I’m not jealous. To be honest, I don’t care enough about him anymore to be jealous. I didn’t really want to marry him; I don’t want to marry anybody. It’s just that . . .” Her voice faded. “It’s just . . .”
“It’s just that you want a kid of your own.”
She gave a jerky nod and bit her lip. “I’ve wanted a child for so long. And now I’m thirty-four, and my eggs are getting older by the minute, but it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to happen.”
Jodie glanced at the kitchen clock. She wanted to hear the rest of this, but pregame was starting. “Do you mind if I turn on your TV while we finish this?”
Dr. J. looked confused, as if she weren’t exactly sure what a TV was. “No, I suppose not.”
“Cool.” Jodie picked up her mug and headed for the living room. She sat down on the couch, put her mug on the coffee table, and fished the remote out from under some kind of brainy journal. A beer commercial was playing, so she hit the mute button.
“Are you serious about wanting a baby? Even though you’re single.”
Dr. Jane had her glasses on again. She sat in an overstuffed chair with a ruffle around the bottom and the clam-shell painting hanging right behind her head, the one with that fat, wet pearl. She pressed her legs together, her feet side by side, anklebones touching. She had great ankles, Jodie noticed, slender and well shaped.
Once again that back stiffened, as if somebody had strapped a board to it. “I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I don’t ever plan to marry—my work is too important to me—but I want a child more than anything. And I think I’d be a good mother. I guess today I realized I have no way to make it happen, and that’s hit me hard.”
“I got a couple of friends who are single moms. It’s not easy. Still, you’ve got a lot better paying job than they do, so it shouldn’t be so tough for you.”
“The economics aren’t a problem. My problem is that I can’t seem to come up with a way to go about it.”
Jodie stared at her. For a smart woman, she sure was dumb. “Are you talking about the guy?”
She nodded stiffly.
“There’ve got to be a lot of them hanging around that college. It’s no big deal. Invite one of them over, put on some music, give him a couple of beers, and nail him.”
“Oh, it couldn’t be anyone I know.”
“So pick up somebody in a bar or something.”
“I could never do that. I’d have to know his health history.” Her voice dropped. “Besides, I wouldn’t know how to pick someone up.”
Jodie couldn’t imagine anything easier, but she guessed she had a lot more going for her than Dr. J. “What about one of those, you know, sperm banks?”
“Absolutely not. Too many sperm donors are medical students.”
“I don’t want anyone who’s intelligent fathering my child.”
Jodie was so surprised, she neglected to turn up the volume on the pregame show, even though the beer commercial had ended and they’d begun to interview the Stars’ head coach, Chester “Duke” Raskin.
“You want somebody stupid to be the father of your kid?”
Dr. J. smiled. “I know that seems strange, but it’s very difficult for a child to grow up being smarter than everyone else. It makes it impossible to fit in, which is why I could never have had a child with someone as brilliant as Craig or even chance a sperm bank. I have to take into account my own genetic makeup and find a man who’ll compensate for it. But the men I meet are all brilliant.”
Dr. J. was one weird chick, Jodie decided. “You think because you’re so smart and everything that you’ve got to find somebody stupid?”
“I know I do. I can’t bear the idea that my child would have to go through what I did when I was growing up. Even now . . . Well, that’s neither here nor there. The point is, as much as I want a child, I can’t just think about myself.”
A new face on the screen caught Jodie’s attention. “Oh, jeez, wait a minute; I got to hear this.” She snatched the remote and hit the volume button.
Paul Fenneman, a network sportscaster, was doing a taped interview with Cal Bonner. Jodie knew for a fact that the Bomber hated Fenneman’s guts. The sportscaster had a reputation for asking stupid questions, and the Bomber didn’t have any patience with fools.
The interview had been pretaped in the parking lot of the Stars Compound, which was located on the outskirts of Naperville, the largest town in DuPage County. Fenneman spoke into the camera, looking real serious, like he was getting ready to cover a major war or something. “I’m speaking with Cal Bonner, the Stars’ All-Pro quarterback.”
The camera focused on Cal, and Jodie’s skin went clammy from a combination of lust and resentment. Damn, he was hot, even if he was getting old.
He stood in front of this big Harley hog wearing jeans and a tight black T-shirt that outlined one of the best sets of pecs on the team. Some of the guys were so pumped up they looked like they were getting ready to explode, but Cal was perfect. He had a great neck, too, muscular, but not one of those tree trunks like a lot of the players had. His brown hair had a little curl to it, and he wore it short so he didn’t have to bother with it. The Bomber was like that. He didn’t have any patience with stuff he thought was unimportant.
At a little over six feet, he was taller than some of the other quarterbacks. He was also quick, smart, and he had a telepathic ability to read defenses that only the finest players share. His legend had grown nearly as big as the great Joe Montana’s, and the fact that it didn’t look like Jodie would ever have number eighteen hanging in her closet was something she could never forgive.
“Cal, your team had four turnovers against the Patriots last week. What are you going to do against the Bills so that doesn’t happen again?”
Even for Paul Fenneman, that was a stupid question, and Jodie waited to see how the Bomber would handle it.
He scratched the side of his head as if the question was so complicated he had to think it over. The Bomber didn’t have any patience with people he didn’t respect, and he had a habit of emphasizing his hillbilly roots in situations like this.
He propped one boot up on the footpeg of the Harley and looked thoughtful. “Well, Paul, what we’re gonna have to do is hang on to the ball. Now, not having played the game yourself, you might not know this, but every time we let the other team take the ball away from us, it means we don’t have it ourselves. And that ain’t no way to put points on the board.”
Jodie chuckled. She had to hand it to the Bomber. He’d gotten old Paul right in the numbers with that one.
Paul didn’t appreciate being made to look like a fool. “I hear Coach Raskin’s been real happy with the way Kevin Tucker’s been looking in practice. You’re going to be thirty-six soon, which makes you an old man in a young man’s game. Any worries Kevin’ll be taking over as starter?”
For a fraction of a second, the Bomber’s face stiffened up like a big old poker, then he shrugged. “Shoot, Paul, this ol’ boy ain’t ready for the grave yet.”
“If only I could find somebody like him,” Dr. Jane whispered. “He’d be perfect.”
Jodie glanced over and saw her studying the television. “What are you talking about?”
Dr. J. gestured toward the screen. “That man. That football player. He’s healthy, physically attractive, and not very bright. Exactly what I’m looking for.”
“Are you talking about the Bomber?”
“Is that his name? I don’t know anything about football.”
“That’s Cal Bonner. He’s the starting quarterback for the Chicago Stars.”
“That’s right. I’ve seen his picture in the paper. Why can’t I meet a man like that? Someone who’s a bit of a dim bulb.”