I used to have the stupidest, fattest crush on Joe when we were younger. He was over all the time to hang out with Max, and by extension, me. I remember thinking Joe was probably the most handsome boy to every breathe, but I was too shy to ever act on my feelings. He was three years older than me, and I worried that he saw me more as his best friend’s annoying little sister than anything else. The day of his high school graduation, I’d dared to give him a kiss on the cheek to congratulate him. My face turned bright red when Joe looked at me, entirely surprised. I remembered my legs feeling like jelly and my heart was racing a mile a minute in my chest. He was moving on to big and better things, so I always assumed that was the last I’d ever see him.
That is, until he helped me move in.
I got out of the car and felt the air leave my lungs. Joe looked ridiculously amazing. It was kind of unfair, to be honest. He’d seriously beefed up since the last time I saw him, and the years had left his facial features harder and more defined. It was almost ridiculous how fantastic he looked, what with his tanned skin rippling over hard muscles. He was practically bursting out of his t-shirt, fabric clinging to the shape of his round biceps, large chest, broad shoulders, and tapering down toward his hips. A lot of his boyish charm had been replaced with the confidence of a young man in his prime, now sporting a faded undercut and five-o-clock shadow that seemed to add to the smolder of his dark brown eyes. The mere sight of him made me forget my entire vocabulary set, and I only managed to squeak out a tiny little ‘hey’ like some starstruck teenager. But my God, I’d be lying if I said watching Joe move my things into the apartment wasn’t an absolute treat.
It had been a couple of days since the move and most of my things were unpacked and tucked away neatly. I was standing in the kitchen, prepping what was supposed to be a nutritious breakfast of rolled oats and fresh fruit with a bit of almond milk. What it actually wound up being was several out-of-the-box strawberry Pop-Tarts that I’d been craving all night. There was so much that still needed to be done, and it was all starting to feel overwhelming. I needed to go find myself a job to save up as much as possible to take care of me and the baby financially before it arrived. I needed to go to all sort of Lamaze classes in order to prepare. Not to mention all the shopping that needed to be done to buy baby supplies and clothing.
I took an angry chomp into my Pop-Tart and sighed, staring mindlessly at a spot on the tiled kitchen floor. This would be so much easier if Chris hadn’t left. He’d been there for all the fun times, but wanted none of the responsibility. I scrolled through the wall of text messages I’d left him, still reeling at how he handled everything. Maybe chivalry really was dead, after all.
[Terri] Chris, please answer me.
[Terri] I know you’ve seen my messages. The little ‘seen’ icon shows up.
[Terri] I don’t know if I can do this without you. Why won’t you at least talk to me?
[Terri] My brother is helping me move back into the city. I’ll send you my address so you know where I’ll be.
[Terri] You know what, fine. Don’t talk to me. I can take care of the baby all by myself.
[Terri] Good riddance, you absolute jerk.
“There’s no going back now,” I grumbled bitterly to myself.
Three strong knocks rang out from my front door.
I raised a curious eyebrow. I wasn’t expecting any company today. If it had been my brother or my parents, they would have texted first. Maybe it was the landlord checking up on those issues I had with the apartment’s windows, which were jammed shut and refused to open. I unlocked the door and swung it open to find Joe standing there, half-turned like he was about to leave.
“Oh,” I mumbled, “hey. What’s up?”
“Chores,” he blurted out, cheeks dusted the faintest shade of pink.
“What?” I stuttered.
I was captivated by how good he looked in the black shirt he wore. The fabric was pulled tight over his frame, bulging muscles barely contained. When he moved to scratch behind his ear, I watched. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the motion, but it was weirdly captivating. I remembered that Joe was really athletic back in high school, having been a member of the soccer, football, and volleyball team. The guy liked to work out, and I could tell he’d been keeping up with his exercise regime.