Authors: Lila Felix
I got into her car and briefly thought about how much I missed my motorcycle. She started the car up and I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.
I couldn’t decide what this particular shade was. The best I could describe it was somewhere in between Kermit the Frog and pureed baby peas. He was stiff as a board, sitting in my passenger seat as if it were an electrocution chair. And when I pulled out onto the street, his complexion became more like lime margarita.
“Tell me about your family. You said you have sisters. What are their names? How old are they?”
He pinched his eyebrows for a millisecond and then cleared his throat. Good, it was working.
“I’m the oldest. I’m twenty two. Navy is next, she’s twenty. Naomi and Nela are fourteen, they’re twins.”
I had to keep this going; he wasn’t looking so green anymore.
“Were you in college before? What was your major?”
He finally relaxed his shoulders and started looking around at the world he’d been missing, “I was at LSU. I was a business major. I wanted to work at my dad’s company. But I’m still in school now, just online.”
“But you miss all the parties. You miss the pep rallies and the football games. You miss the silly people on game day, the tailgating. It can’t be the same.”
He turned to me, suddenly very interested in what I had to say. “You go to a lot of parties? Get drunk and all that stuff?”
Is that what he thought of me? That I was some party runner?
“No, people don’t really like me. I’ve got a couple of friends but I don’t really expose myself to alcohol. Can you imagine this voice on liquor? Glass would break, atmospheres would shatter, and tsunamis would break out worldwide.”
He didn’t answer, so I assumed his agreed, which was fine. I knew who I was.
After a few hours, I asked him if he was ready to go home and he simply nodded. I wouldn’t push him anymore tonight. He’d gone leaps and bounds with just getting in the car with me.
We entered the driveway and I started to get out but he put his hand on mine. “Can we just sit here for a minute? I just got used to it.”
“Yeah, no problem.” I shrugged. “Can I turn the music on?”
He nodded and I plugged my phone into the USB. Tell Me Baby by Phosphorescent came on. It was one of my favorite songs. Breaker put his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes. I didn’t know if that meant he liked the song or it annoyed him—my guess—annoyance. I flipped it to the next song and he perked up, “I liked that other song. Turn it back.”
I winked at him.
Why in the hell was I winking?
“Yes, your majesty.”
He smiled and returned his head to its previous position. We stayed there for so long I felt myself nodding off. “Hey, Ash, you’re falling asleep. Let’s go in.”
“Yeah, ok.” I reached to unplug my phone and saw he was holding it. I wasn’t falling asleep, I
had been asleep
“Oh, here sorry. I was just scrolling through your music.”
“Ah, you should hear me sing those songs. It’s worse than declawing a cat.”
His hand was on mine again, for the third time that night. “Why do you do that? Your voice is heaven to me. And lately, it’s brought me out of my hell. So do me a favor and quit downgrading the power of that sweet tone. I love it.”
He got out of the car and speed walked to the door. He went in and shut it behind him quickly. And for one of the few times in my life I was struck speechless.
I sat there and calmed myself before going back into the house. I almost hoped he had gone upstairs because my blush had taken over my chest and crept up my face. And I wasn’t ready to see it if he was simply flattering me since I was helping him. I wanted to hold onto the notion of his romantic gesture, if only for today. Not to mention there was a storm brewing inside me.
I’d always had this ideal of who I’d fall in love with. He would be tall and strong. He’d be full of self-confidence and would knock the breath out of me when he entered a room. So why did my belly swirl whenever Breaker was around and when he held my hand, why did it feel like the rest of my body bloomed beneath his hand?
I sneaked inside, calmed when I didn’t see him in the living room or the kitchen. I cleaned up our dinner mess as fast and as quickly as I could. I heard footsteps above me but I just needed a minute without him around to think.
Tomorrow, I needed to go see Stephanie. She would know what to do.
I woke up earlier than usual and went to get coffee the next day. I hadn’t even thought about it when I walked into the place but Ozark was there, waiting on me. He handed me my favorite drink and I accepted it. I sat at the table and contemplated my situation. Ozark had the looks I was after. Tall, classic handsome face, broad shoulders, but the spark wasn’t there. I’d never even noticed that he was flirting or trying to get my attention until he spelled it out on my coffee cup one morning.
But Breaker, I shuddered just thinking about his name. He wasn’t self-assured, he wasn’t cocky. He was handsome, but not someone I’d pick out in a crowd. But I sat there thinking about how I would engage him next and how I could get him to touch me again. And more importantly, whether or not he wanted to touch me.
Stephanie met me at the coffee shop and then we spent the day together. I told her everything. The great thing about Stephanie, as much as I loved to talk, she loved to listen. She sat there, stoic and engaged. She didn’t ‘mmhmm’ incessantly or nod like a bauble head—all signs the person across from you really wasn’t listening at all. She was the sponge and my words were the liquid.
“I don’t know Ash, if he doesn’t make your toes curl when you look at him, what’s the attraction.”
“Shallow much?” I said.
“I know. I was testing you. But now I’m serious. Your usual type is a mix of Vin Diesel and The Rock. But that’s just what’s in your brain. If this guy touches your hand and you almost come unglued, then there’s something to explore, don’t you think?”
I sighed, “Oh God, Ash, you really need to see what’s there. All this sighing, it’s not good for your lungs.”
“But what else? There’s got to be something else. You don’t just get all goo goo eyed in a week because a guy held your hand.”
I shrugged but I knew she wouldn’t let me get away with that simple answer.
“I guess I could just follow you over there and see what the deal is myself.” She sat back in the chair, her ante on the table.
“You wouldn’t dare.” I called her bluff.
“Try me.” She did this thing where she pretended to look at the state of her fingernails when everyone knew she went to the nail salon once a week.
I folded, “He likes my voice. Or that’s what I think I heard. And he doesn’t act like I talk too much. He—he acts like he likes to talk to me. And believe me, I was letting my blabber mouth flag fly high. I wasn’t trying not to talk too much like I usually do.”
“Just keep it cool, Cormier. Don’t freeze up. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
I rolled my eyes at her, “Thanks that really helps.”
“Let me ask you this. Does he get your little smart ass quips?”
I nodded a yes.
“Oh God, he’s gonna break your heart or make it whole. We need some retail therapy. Besides, Ozark asked me the other day to put a good word in for him. What is he, wanting to date you or interviewing for a job. Ugh…”
“This whole thing is wrecking my brain. Let’s go shopping.”
I bought a ton of clothes since I now had a good deal of money in the bank courtesy of Mrs. Collins. I hadn’t been shopping like that in years. And I got the chance to buy some new bikinis. I was still wearing the ones I had in high school. We decided to eat at the food court in the mall when it hit me. Breaker hadn’t eaten mall food in years either—travesty.
Stephanie left me there after a phone call from her boyfriend and I decided to get Breaker more of what he’d been missing. And then a gnawing thought hit me.
What if he’s just putting up with me because he’s starved for a woman’s attention?
Thirty minutes later I pulled into the driveway. I gathered all of my bags and walked into the house. Breaker wasn’t anywhere to be seen. I called his cell phone but got no answer. So I put all of his food in the refrigerator and wrote a note on a piece of paper from my purse.
In the beginning I didn’t mind writing him notes, but now, in just over a week’s time, it just didn’t sit well.
Decompression—that was the word I was looking for—decompression. If I came up too fast the panic would invade my lungs and coil through my veins. I sat in my room the next day until three or four o’clock just reading and being lazy. I hoped the aftershocks of making bounds to get out of the house would lessen—and I didn’t want Ash to think something was wrong with me. I walked downstairs and didn’t find her anywhere. Every time she left, this house was becoming more and more lonesome.
I went back upstairs after grabbing a plate of leftovers. I started working on the leather bag, the one I was making for her when the feeling hit my chest and rippled over the rest of me—what if she just pities me? What if she feels sorry for the pitiful shell of a man and considers me one of her projects, like this house. Maybe I’m just another pith of dust and she intends to annihilate me. I breathed deeply and tried to forget the feeling but it needled the back of my neck.
I heard her come in sometime later and ignored the ring of my cell phone. I wouldn’t be her little project and I couldn’t bear to see the look in her eyes if what I’d assumed was friendship had any twinge of sympathy in it. So I made up my mind then and there. I would have to try to ignore Ash, before she could burrow any further into my skin and leave me with the aftermath.