Page 30 of RoomHate

He scratched his head. “I forgot to bring my coffee with me. Do you have any lying around?”

“Actually, I stopped drinking coffee fusion when I found out I was pregnant. The withdrawal was killer. I do have some half-caf in the cupboard.”

“I guess that’ll have to do for now.” He glanced over at Bea. “You don’t think all that fusion did anything to her, do you?”

“You mean why her sleeping is erratic?”

“I feel guilty getting you hooked on that shit. Neither of us knew what was going on.”

“Don’t even. It wasn’t your fault. Look at her. She’s fine.”

He rubbed his chin and grinned. “Yeah. She seems alright.”

“I’m gonna try to put her upstairs in the crib. Then, I’ll come down and make some coffee.”

“I’ve got it,” Justin said.

“You sure?”

“Yep.”

After I put Bea down, Justin was preparing two mugs when I returned to the kitchen.

“Still take cream and sugar?” he asked.

“Yeah. Thanks.”

“How is she?”

“Sleeping like a baby.”

“Good.” He slid my mug toward me.

I took a sip and asked the question I’d been dying to. “Why didn’t Jade come with you?”

“She’s got a regular role in a new musical called The Alley Cats. She can’t leave the city.”

“She’s not coming at all?”

“I’m not sure.”

“How long are you staying?”

He stirred his coffee and shook his head. “I don’t know.”

Dread filled me. Justin had only been here one day, and I was already sad for the day he’d be leaving me alone again.

“Well, I’m glad you’re here.”

We drank coffee in silence until I noticed Justin staring down at my breasts.

Coughing, he asked, “Did you spill coffee on yourself?”

I looked down and sure enough, breast milk was leaking from my nipples, forming two giant wet spots. “Shit. No. I’m leaking milk. I’d go change, but it’s just gonna happen again until she wakes up.”

“Jesus. I’m so glad I’m not a woman.”

God. I’m glad you’re not a woman, too.

“Welcome to my life.” When he continued to look down, I joked, “You don’t have to look. My eyes are up here.”

“Your tits are massive. You have to know that.”

“Oh, I’m quite aware. It’s a supply and demand issue. The more she drinks—which is all the time—the more I make. It’s all she wants to do when she’s awake.”

“I can’t say I blame her.”

I knew my face was turning red. What was happening to me? I couldn’t be a walking zombie on no sleep and deal with this infatuation again. I didn’t even feel sexy anymore. Nevertheless, I was falling right back into the pattern of lusting after this man.

“Well, even though my breasts are bigger, I’ve lost weight.”

“Oh, I noticed. You haven’t been eating?”

“Not as well as I should. I force myself to eat cheese sticks and raw vegetables, but I’m generally too drained to cook anything substantial.”

“When was the last time you had a home-cooked meal?”

“Can’t even remember. The only times I’ve bothered to cook is when the neighbor brings me seafood from the dock.”

“What neighbor?”

“Roger.”

“Roger.”

“Yes. He moved into the house that was vacant last summer. You know, the blue one?”

“Really…” He glared at me. “What else does he bring you?”

“Coffee sometimes.”

“Let me guess. He’s single.”

“Yes…divorced, but he’s just a friend. He’s been helpful. He actually assembled the crib for me.”

“Right. Of course he did. No guy does that shit without an ulterior motive, Amelia.”

“Not every guy’s the same.”

“And not every fucking girl looks like you. Trust me, that guy is waiting in the wings. Just be aware of that and be cautious.”

Feeling hot from the compliment, I cleared my throat. “Well, it wouldn’t matter if he had ulterior motives or not. Clearly, I’m in no condition to be with a man. I can’t even bathe half the time.”

“You shouldn’t be letting strange men into this house so easily. You’re in a very vulnerable position right now. This guy knows that.”

“Well, I was desperate for help, so…”

“You should have called me.”

“You’re in New York. That wouldn’t have made sense. He’s right next door.”

“I would have come for the day if you needed me.”

“I don’t want to be a burden on you, Justin. I need to find my own way.” Even though a part of me loved that he’d said that, another part was equally confused. “Just last summer you were suggesting that we avoid each other altogether.” My tone was bitter. “Forgive me if you weren’t the first person I thought to call when I needed help.”

His expression darkened. “Fuck, Amelia. Really? You’re gonna bring that up again? Do you really think that was what I truly wanted? I was drunk as shit that night and saying and doing anything I could to keep my fucking dick in my pants. I thought I already explained suggesting that to you was a mistake.”

“Okay. I’m sorry.” I held out my hands. “I don’t want to fight.”

“Good.” He exhaled and changed the subject. “So, I told Salvatore I could play a few nights here and there if he wanted. But I didn’t commit to anything long term.”

“Because you’re not sure how long you’re staying?”

“Right.”

“Well, he must be so happy to have you back even if just for a few nights.”

“Yeah. He was.”

“I wish I could go watch you play.”

“Why can’t you?”

“I can’t take Bea to Sandy’s. She’d start crying in the middle of your songs. And if I had to feed her there, it would be awkward.”

“So what if she cried? People will just have to deal with it. And you could go to the back room to feed her. You need to get the fuck out of the house.”

“Maybe I’ll consider it.”

He suddenly got up and put his mug in the sink. “I’ve got to get some work done. I’ll make dinner tonight, so don’t fill up on too many raw veggies.”

“That’ll be awesome.”

***

Bea slept for at least a few hours that afternoon, allowing me to get laundry and other chores done. Justin spent most of the day holed up in his room working.

When he finally came downstairs, he had just showered and was buttoning his black button-down shirt.

He looked too good to be staying home tonight. “Are you playing at Sandy’s?”

“No. Not tonight.”

“I didn’t think so. It’s just that you’re all dressed up.”

“You remember Tom from Sandy’s?”

“The old night manager?”

“Yeah. I told him I might meet him for a drink later at the Barking Crab. He wants to pick my brain about some music stuff.”

“I see.”

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