It was the way she said my name as she hung up that thrilled me the most. She said it like I was the only one who knew that softer side of her. With the wind at my back, I pulled onto the road, then darted in between cars on the way to my apartment. Time was ticking, and I had to finish a project for her. After a quick stop at the office supply store, I reached my building and dashed up the steps to my apartment, bumping into John on the landing for the second floor. His fist was raised in a knock on my door.
Rubbing my eyes as if the sight shocked me, I said, “Is it you, John? Or your twin brother, since you’ve never been known to request entry to my humble abode. You usually just enter.”
He raised the plastic shopping bag he was holding. “And to think I was about to replenish the milk I drank. I think I’ll keep it now.”
“Did you bring me cereal, too? It goes well with milk,” I said, as I unlocked the door and let him in. As the door fell shut, I swiped the bag from him, said thanks, and tucked the milk carton neatly on the shelf in the fridge.
“Funny how that slipped my mind,” he said, scratching his chin. “But I’m happy to check your cupboards and finish off whatever cereal you have.”
“Let’s take a raincheck on that. I need to do something right now before Jess comes over.”
He wiggled an eyebrow. “Be sure to leave a sock on the door. It’s the only sure-fire way to guarantee I won’t enter unannounced.”
I shook my head and laughed. “Good to know that socks, not locks, are where you draw the line at breaking and entering.”
“It’s not breaking in when you don’t lock it. Anyway, you up for volleyball tomorrow?”
“Would love to. But I need to get some stuff done first. Classes and the job hunt, you know.”
“Good luck, man,” he said and knocked his fist against mine before he left.
Then I emptied the contents of the bag from the office supply store and set to work.
* * *
* * *
The toothpick revealed that nirvana had been achieved. There was nothing on it, so I grabbed an oven mitt, then removed the pan and placed it on a cooling rack.
“Smells divine,” Anaka said, wafting the sweet scent of the creation into her nostrils.
“I’d give you some…but then I’d have to work you overtime as a screenwriter and make you come up with another suitable gift.”
“I’d be more than willing to be used for those skills. But, for now, tell me more about last night while we wait for this to cool,” she said, tugging me away from the kitchen and to the couch.
“Speaking of last night, we had a nice time on the couch,” I said, patting the cushion.
She grabbed my arm and yanked me up, then pulled me over to the table. “There better be a new couch delivered here by tomorrow,” she said, wagging her finger at me.
“Now. Details. I want them.”
As I shared bits and pieces of last night, my skin grew warm all over. But it wasn’t from the memories—oh so potent—of our physical connection. It was from telling the story of what he said, and the way he said it, and how we talked to each other. Like friends. Sure, I kissed him the first day I met him, and I kissed him so many times after that. But we became friends. And then we became more. Telling the story of how we said we were falling in love was like experiencing it all over again, and telling it reminded me, too, to trust the guy I was in love with. I’d trusted him with my heart, and I had to trust he had his reasons.
Whatever they were, the bottom line remained the same. No matter what, no matter how, I was going to find a way for him to stay.
* * *
Exactly one hour and twenty-five minutes after her call, I heard the most beautiful sound in the world. A knock on my door. For the briefest of moments, it occurred to me that John might be popping back over. But when I opened the door, it was Jess. She was wearing a short skirt and she was holding a cake.
It smelled delicious.
“I can bake,” she said, sounding like the girl I fell for. Confident. Brazen. Certain of herself.
“I see. Or rather, I smell. Smells good.”
“It’s chocolate cake.”
“I like chocolate cake.”
“I know. You told me the day I met you. And you told me again the day you asked me to go to the wedding,” she said, still standing in my door. Looking hot and edible and here. I quickly reached behind her and shut the door. Then I locked it, since that was classier than putting a sock on it and would serve the same purpose.