Food vs. Men – Chapter 8


If you haven’t read Chapters 1-7, you can find them here 

***Writer’s note: Dear reader, this story is unedited and a work in progress. No reproduction without permission. All characters, settings, and anything else pertaining to this story are purely fiction ***

food vs. men

 

Chapter 8

June 10th, 2018 (cont.)

 

Closing the bathroom door, I pause searching the restroom for patrons. Accessing there is no one else, I turn the lock for privacy. I only had one chance to corner Alyssa and I had waited until she was alone. Bathrooms were for girl talk and I was looking to talk.

Rounding the small wall of the bathroom, Alyssa’s black silk blouse is up high on her belly. Absentmindedly, she strokes her stomach caressing her fingers around in a circular motion over the small odd shaped bump taking shape. The size of an oblong melo, I stop dead in my tracks admiring the blooming awestruck features entangling before me. Her pale pink lips formed an O shape before settling softly in a smile as her light green eyes flashed with fascination.

“You’re…” I pause, gulping down the bombshell happening in the bathroom, “Pregnant?” I swallow, my heart picks up speed. Decorating my eyes, tears of explained joy mark the corners waiting for their sweet release.

Her fingers loosen grip on the silk blouse. The material drips down on her body resting in its rightful place.

“I am.” She whispers excitedly. “There were so many times I wanted to tell you. So many damn times, but I didn’t know how to bring myself to say anything… to anyone.” She hints, “Not even Dirk.”

“Alyssa, you have to tell him.” I say approaching her cautiously. Not that she was going to hit me, but because the subject is a sore one and knowing her, she would run into the stall locking the door.

A subject so sore, she believed it could never happen to her.

Growing up in abusive home, her father used to beat Cole, Alyssa, and her mom. He wasn’t a drunk. He wasn’t a drug addict. His drunken choice of drugs was inflicting pain on his children and wife. The last time Alyssa ever saw her father, she was sixteen. He beat her so badly, he stole her capability of ever having a child. Or that is what the doctor’s told her. They said her chances were between five to ten percent, not really being fully certain of the exact number.

“I’ve tried, Cassie. I’ve tried so many times.” Her eyes plead her reasoning, a reasoning I didn’t understand. “Remember when he said he didn’t want to have anymore children? Remember when I told him my chances?” I recalled the times. The heavy lengthy talks we had on the subject of her never having children and him never wanting anymore. “We had only been dating a few months before we agreed to no children. And when we got engaged, we stopped using protection. I convinced him for a month it would never happen. And look what happened!” She points to her stomach letting out an irritable breath. The gleam in her face replaces itself with sheer panic.

Sympathetically, my eyes presented her with sheer will, blinking a couple of tears trickle down my cheeks. “Alyssa, calm down.” Her breaths quicken in fear along with the rise and fall of her chest. Fear of losing Dirk. The only man she’s ever let in. The only man she’s ever loved.

“I can’t. I am scared. I’ve kept it a secret for sixteen weeks. I can continue my excuses and blow jobs for a little while longer.” She fans herself, fear flushing her cheeks.

“That’s entrapment.” My eyes disbelieving bulge out of my sockets. I heard her correctly, but wish I heard her incorrectly.

The corners of her mouth lift down in a frown, “It is! That shows you how scared I am.”

“Dirk might be a big intimidating guy. He might have told you he didn’t want kids and he might have said a lot of things. People go back on their words all the time. Words have a way of not only changing someone’s view, they also expand someone’s mind set. I bet, the news is going to make him so happy, he won’t even remember the conversation you both had. You have to give him a chance.”

She inhales and exhales, settling into a sigh, “You’re right. I am going out there and telling him now.”

That wasn’t what I had in mind, but okay.

“If that’s what you want to do.” I meekly swallow down my argument, infusing a smile on my face.

“I do. Will you be there?” Her eyes pool lines of trepidation.

“You need to do this one alone, but I will be near you, watching incase something happens.” I link our arms together.

I might not be standing with her when she tells Dirk, but I am standing up for her. There were things in life we had to do on our own. Facing our fears was one of them. We could always travel the distance with someone, but ultimately the journey and learning experience was something we had to deal with on our own.

Unlocking the bathroom door, she leads us out into the narrow hallway of the restaurant. Raw and cooked seafood hits my nostrils with hints of buttery goodness, my stomach lowly growled lurching for something to sustain my appetite.

“I am going to be the best aunt in the history of aunts.” I squeeze her arm, truthfully consoling her quiet nerves.

“You are. I can see how much you’re going to spoil our child. He or she won’t even want to eat my cooking. That means you’ll have to cook all my meals seven days a week.” She lights sniffles on a laugh.

I laughing with her, she is right. No jar food would ever touch her child’s mouth.

“Is that Ellie and Landen?” Alyssa says as we round the corner.

Our party of eighteen took over the smallest room at the Bluegill. The maple wooden doors were closed for privacy, yet the open glass panels on the doors left room for vacancy. Standing in the one of the cornetheirs, Ellie and Landen were close. He bent down to meet her lips as she said something in his eat. Insightful, who knows. Flirty was definitely a possibility.

Three waiters passed us with trays of drinks and appetizers, we snuck in with them. My eyes stationed on Ellie and Landen like a hunter finding its prey. Territorial and protective.

Beautiful and petite, Ellie was a chameleon when it came to men. The handful of times, I had gone out with her, she changed her personality depending on the guy. Ranging from very perky with an annoying cackle or a shrill voice and lusty eyes. Currently, she sported one look. Lusty dark brown eyes.

Handing over her phone to Landen, his fingers lazily swiped as he studied the contents before him. Ellie stood on her tippy toes, Landen solidly stood a good seven inches over her. Her lips were moving, but I couldn’t make out what they were talking about.

Unchaining Alyssa’s hand, she didn’t fight for my hand back or call after me. The pull of them together brought me to them right when her hand touched on top of his, my heart deflated. Flopping and lifeless like a balloon after it’s had its share of fun.

“Impressive,” Landen eyes upcast, unapologetic.

I wish they were apologetic. He knew Ellie was flirting. He kept on going along with it.

“Have you seen that?” He turns the phone in my direction.

Thoroughly glancing over the picture but not too thoroughly, “Isn’t it amazing? Life like and has the B-movie budget look, staying true to the real thing?” I finish analyzing the picture I had seen so many times of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. The images were stunning, the work methodical and trained, how could someone not love seeing the pictures. The whole cake took her seventeen hours and four practice runs. She entered into a cake competition in Georgia taking first place and winning fifteen thousand dollars.

“And she built the structure herself.” Landen voice is inspired by the images.

Ellie giggles from his praise. I cringe masking it inwardly forcing it not to show outwardly.

“Very impressive.”

I knew how this was going to play out. We had a deal. I should be okay with this. I really should. His eyes said it all, friendly, open to her advances, and interested.

Ellie points and talks, zoning her out I work out the kink in my mind. I could see them as a couple. Working together to build structures for cakes and cupcake stands. A structured relationship. Building a foundation not set on a deal or something not finished from years ago. Ellie and Landen had a fresh start. A hollow empty shell rose deep within my belly, up my throat resting in the back.

Often times, I wondered what it was like for couples with open relationships. Obviously, they had to be open to trying new things and had a crap load of trust. There were rules and promises. Emotional and physical limits to protect them. Freedom and variety.

Weren’t all those things what Landen’s deal had offered me?

Well, he didn’t offer me a threesome, and if he did I would scream and run away. I was a monogamous person. One man and one woman sort of gal in the bedroom.

What Landen offered, I swiftly took and had to be open to all sorts of ideas and relationships that I never thought possible. He, himself was open to the idea. Setting limitations and boundaries before opting to offer me a deal.

The first set of rules was two years, ten dates. He could date in that time as well. If we had sex with another person, we’d be honest and tell each other. We also had to be honest with the person we were dating letting them know we were dating other people.

Our dates didn’t count towards my ten dates, those were saved for other men. If we started dating someone, we still had to keep in touch to keep our relationship healthy.

No keeping secrets and be open to new things. Basically, our deal was negotiated and iron clad for what it was. All the ground rules were covered.

In front of me, I could foresee Landen asking to date her. In order to pursue, he had to ask for my blessing. Or maybe he didn’t?

Could we be open and honest with one another throughout our deal? Rules are rules, but rules are often broken. Trust is smashed like a brick thrown through a window, leaving shards and fragments in its wake.

Lives are forever changed.

“Excuse me.” I murmur escaping the room closing in on me.

I didn’t mind Landen dating. I didn’t approve him dating my friend. Ellie and I had been friends for a couple of years and I didn’t want a guy to change our friendship. My list of friends was small, but I cherished each and every one.

The urge for cake struck me hard. Chocolate cake and milk to wash down the hollowness creeping up my throat. Settling for a nice tall screwdriver, I make my way to the bar. I was screwing myself saying yes he could date her might as well continue the trend with alcohol. I could see his interest forming into attraction. There was no stopping it. Well, there was, but I wasn’t ready to have Landen.

Ordering a rather tall screwdriver, the bartender sets my drink down on the bar and starts a tab.

Trembling, my hands pick up the drink. Not realizing I was anxious waiting for Landen ask so I can to give him the go ahead. Surfacing my nerves were a discombobulated mess as the orange alcoholic drink hit against the glass with each shake.

“Hey there,” Falcon greets me. Peering at him over the glass, he is standing a little too close for comfort.

If there was truly ever a moment I wanted to be alone, it was now. A drink, my thoughts, and trembling hands were all I could take. Swallowing half of the glass, the drink is sweet and bitter, a combination I absolutely loved.  

Placing it back on the bar. “Hey, Falcon.”

Falcon places his hand on top of mine. For two days, he has been sending me unwanted advances. Looks of interest. A creepy chill scattered across my spine. The age difference for starters. The way his hazel eyes blinked in satisfaction pleased with crossing a boundary.

Clearing his throat, his thin Adam’s apple bobs twice, “Want to buy me a drink?” He nods his head in the direction of my screwdriver, his long dark brown hair swaying along with it.

“You want an orange juice?” I swallow an uncomfortable hard lump removing my hand from below his. Linking both my hands around the glass, security washed over me in the form of hand safety.

“You know that’s not just orange juice.” His hand lifts brushing a strand of hair behind my ear as he steps closer into my personal bubble.

The tips of his shoes touch the right side of mine. His breath permeates in the air reeking of booze.

“For you it is.” I answer calmly backing away two inches sliding my drink along with me.

Not getting the hint, Falcon slinks along with me.

“Come on Cassie, I am best man. You’re made of honor. Don’t they always hook up after the wedding?”

He says “best man.” like it’s a hard job or something. Not a privilege or that at first he didn’t want it.

When Dirk asked Falcon, he declined. Then Dirk asked Landen, he accepted. Falcon found out, recanting his decision putting Landen as co-best man.

“I know, it’s such an exciting job to help your dad through his wedding,” I fake a smile knowing he hasn’t helped his dad with anything, “So I will buy you a drink. Orange juice or soda.”

He sighed impatiently, “I want what your having.” He slurs.

He’s drunk. Of all the days, he is drunk!

“I think you’ve had enough.” I grit through my teeth.

Sliding his hand down my arm, I still against his unfamiliar touch. “I’ve had enough when I said I’ve had enough.” He growls swaying side to side, losing his footing even though his feet are planted on the ground. Like his knees have buckled.

The alcohol he’s already consumed is taking a toll on his stick figure frame. His hands don’t stop skating along my arm, turning my skin a fire red as his fingers scrape alone my arm leaving scratch marks.

Bulging my arm away, I step back again crashing into someone behind me.

“We okay here?” Landen asks wrapping his arm around my waist bringing me in closer to him. Outwardly, I smile. Safe and comforted.

“Everything is cool.” Falcon says grabbing his stomach.

Falcon opens his mouth only to close it. Within seconds, he hunches over, his mouth opens wide. Not reacting fast enough, vomit expels from his mouth.

I cringe as the warm liquid congealed with bits of seafood land on my chiffon taupe dress skater dress. The flare in the skirt mats down from the weight of the vomit. Fighting a gag, the rancid smell wafts upwards as the vomit slides downwards along my calf, stopping at my silver slingback sandal.  

Falcon lines his vision with mine. Paralyzed with disgust my mouth hangs open, hands loose at my side. Long gone were my reflexes to jump or scatter away from him. The vomit had seemed to glue me in place.

The restaurant is quiet, my ears ringing loudly blocking out the sound of dishes rustling in the background. Darting my eyes to the right, the patrons seated at the tables nearest to the bar watch as Landen helps Falcon upright himself. Silently, I watch people murmuring and pointing. Moving my vision back over to Landen, his lips are moving, but I can’t hear what he is saying. It’s a show, the worst kind where people can’t look away because they are so interested to see what happens next.

Falcon grips onto Landen shoulders, slightly bending his head down. A hack saw sound followed by Landen moving back, only his isn’t fast enough when another round of liquid saturates an innocent victim who can’t hold their liquor.

 

The ceiling fan faintly swooshes rotating above my head. Every so often the metal at the end of the chain pull clanks against the integrated lighting sending a jolt of shock through my mind. Tucking my knees close to my chest, the arches of my feet rest on the edge of the chair in Landen’s dining room.

The aftermath of Falcon’s puking episodes broke up the dinner party before dinner was served. I had never seen Dirk so upset before. He was also embarrassed and quickly left the restaurant tugging Falcon by his ear behind him. Dirk owned and operated a bar, he dealt with drunks and pukers on a weekly basis. Daily even. Yet Falcon was his son and that was a whole new level of drunk. Familiar drunk. Tonight was a special night before his big day tomorrow, so I can’t imagine what is going on at his house right now.

Nursing my beer, Alyssa still hadn’t texted me back. We promised to contact each other as soon as we could. Leaving the restaurant in our puke stained clothes, neither of Landen or I had a spare set to change into, so we drove back to his place.

Altering showers, I went first and slid into one of his t-shirts and a pair of his boxers. Waiting on his bed, I looked around his room searching for clues about the man I didn’t really know, but made a life changing deal with. The room didn’t tell me much, the furniture was sparse. Two reading lamps placed on two black night stands in each side of the king size bed.  A large black chest of drawers stationed in front of the bed had a large television mounted on the wall above it. A black sheet acting as a curtain hung across the only window in the room, the street light outside let in an orange glow on the makeshift curtain. The light beige walls didn’t have a single picture or painting. The room didn’t tell me much other than Landen didn’t require much.

I watched Landen exit the shower in a pair of boxers and nothing else. He barely looked at me as he ruffled through his drawers pulling out a t-shirt of his own. On the side of his back a three inch scar, raised and pink caught my attention. The way it healed reminded me of the long scar on his arm just above his elbow. Sliding his shirt into place, I pretended to stare at my purple toe nails.

“I am going to get another one, you want one?” Zeke stands turning his attention to Landen and not me.

They were probably watching me knowing I hadn’t really touched the amber liquid in my bottle. The scar, the night, everything was on my mind. I was terrible company. A third wheel without a squeak.

“Sure,” Landen said handing over his empty bottle. Swiping it, Zeke made his way out of the dining room, ruffling my damp hair on the top of my head in passing.

Matting it back down, “Hungry?” Landen taps the top of my knee asking me the same question for the third time since we’ve got here.

“I don’t think I can look at food again.”

“Says the food blogger.” He grins taking my bottle of beer off the table. His swig is short, his eyes narrow he spits the beer back into the neck of the bottle.

“Its warm.” He smacks his lips in distaste.

I study their positioning and sound like they are going to tell me some unspoken rule or maybe ask me for permission to date Ellie.

Still bothered, I was jealous. Jealous of waiting. Jealous of questioning. Answers were all I gave a crap about right now.

“I didn’t tell you to drink it.” I fake a smile.

“Waste not want not, right?” He removes his hand from my knee, suddenly I miss his fingers on my skin.

“Not exactly, I don’t think I will be needing flat beer in the future.”

“Unless you need it as a fly catcher. Old beer does wonder for catching pesky flies.”

Scrunching my nose, that was definitely something I wouldn’t be doing. Landen amusingly snickers.

“You can also use flat beer to livin up your hair in the shower.” Zeke says setting Landen’s fresh bottle on the table.

I belly laugh. “You don’t even have hair Zeke, so does it do wonders for keeping yours away? Because if so, I think I will have to pass.”

“Are you sure?” Shaking his head, his hand waves across the side of his face like he is brushing away hair. “The B vitamins and proteins have done wonders for thickness and added bounce.” He continues his charade causing me to giggle.

“I am sure, I don’t want to take away from your hair care regimen.”

“Such a lady.” He responds taking a swig of his beer. Over the bottle, his vision lines with mine, I smile at him.

Zeke is a good guy. Like Dirk, he is intimidating on the outside, but his personality takes away from his looks. On the right side of his hairline a tattoo of barb wire arches down to the base of his cheek. Only there are three lines of barbwire, darkened with sharp jagged pointy edges. He had more ink than what was on his face, Sporadically placed throughout his body. Two inches taller than me, he was coltish, lean and fast. He and Landen ran every morning before work. I was obscenely jealous of his thin muscles calves, and with all his missing hair, his conspicuous brown eyes were rich and sexy beneath long dark eyelashes.

I could see why Landen wanted me to date him, but I could tell I wasn’t his type.

The front door swung open, my eyes darted to a petite Asian woman in a short black leather skirt and tight black tank top gently shutting the door behind her. Zeke jerked his hand in her direction, she beckoned forth settling into his lap. She swiped the beer from his hand chugging a long draw until the bottle was spitting against her lips lifelessly.

“Song, you waste no time baby.” Zeke licked his lips gazing at her. Her eyes are oblong, swirled to a crisp autumn coloring. High cheekbones marked with blush reminding me of peppermint candy evenly distributed makes me wonder if I could pull off a color like that.

She sets the bottle back down, “You know it,” she replied her thin bright mocha stained colored lips tighten into a smile, while her eyes drill into mine.

“Song.” She said extending her hand across the table. Friendly, not overly bubbly. She seems nice.

Dropping my legs I meet her in the middle, “Cassie.” Looping my fingers in the palm of her hand, her grip is short but firm.

Arching her black drawn eyebrow, “I’ve heard so much about you.” She shoots Landen a happy look, he coyly smiles back. “All bad things of course,” She finishes taking her hand away to pull a thick joint and lighter from between her breasts.

I laugh.

Lighting the joint, a thick cloud of smoke bellows overhead only to rise and fan out from the blades rotating above. Turning the cherry of the joint in her mouth, her lips buckle in the middle of it before she blows outward and Zeke deeply inhales from his nose.

Side swiping my eyes away, I thickly swallow. The whole scenario was sexy, alluring and unknown to me. I had never smoked pot in my life. The things people could do with the stuff intrigued me to want to take a puff, especially if it ended in alluring and sexy like that. Landen drinks his beer immune to the display.

Song takes the joint out of her mouth, resting it in between her fingers, standing tall. Zeke gets up from his chair, and they walk hand in hand out of the room towards his with a thick trail of smoke following them.

“Ready for bed?” Landen stands from his chair the wood creaking from release. He sets his bottle on the table, “I still owe you a calf rub.”

“A double calf rub.” I add following him down the short hall to his open door.

“Double rub down it is.” I stop at the edge of the bed when he walks past me playfully shoving me back into the mattress.

My head bounces on the soft top. Loud drawn out moans come from across the hall, to drowned out the playtime Landen turns on the radio from his alarm clock.

It had been months since I was moaning like that. I missed sex. Of course when you’re not getting any you miss it.

Immersing himself closer to me, strong hands grip my calves working my muscles from tight to luxuriously unkinked. Flickering my eyes closed, I lean into the mattress enjoying the feel of his hands on my body. Losing my virginity to Landen wasn’t nearly as wonderful as his touch growing over the years, strong and mature. His hands worked in motions matching a cresting river after a storm, lulling aches I didn’t know were there.

“I was going to punch him.” Landen breaks the silence.

“You wouldn’t. Falcon is upset. You heard Dirk he isn’t taking the news well of them getting married. And he sure as heck won’t take the news of Alyssa being pregnant well either.” I slap my hand over my mouth.

“She’s what?” He stops massaging my leg waiting for me to confirm what I blurted out.

“She’s pregnant. Sixteen weeks and hasn’t told Dirk yet.”

Chewing on his bottom lip, he regenerates his fingers into gear on my calf muscle. “She’s pregnant and hasn’t told him yet?” I open my mouth when he cuts me off, “She’s trapping him?” His eyebrows arched, heavy contemplation creases along his face.

“It’s not our place to say anything.” I warn him. Really it wasn’t my place to say anything either, it slipped. “She is telling him tonight.”

“Good, no guy should ever be trapped into something if they don’t want to be.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes. It’s one thing for a guy to decline parenthood and another for him to be trapped into something and bolt afterwards. Both are two different scenarios, and both aren’t right. And both can cause a lot of anger, fighting, and resentment.”

“Dirk wouldn’t bolt or feel trapped.” I counter.

“Would you do that to me if you were in that position?”

“No, but I am not Alyssa. She has her reasoning even if I don’t understand it. And you would never be in that position because I don’t want kids.”

“Ever?”

Arching myself up on my elbows, “Yes, ever. I work with kids daily that is enough for me. It was one of the reasons why I went into social work to help kids because I never wanted kids. Imagine having a child and neither parents wanting it, or family, so what happens? That child becomes a ward of the state. Out of anyone in that scenario, the child is trapped into a life they didn’t ask for, without parents or family, and they suffer through so much. Seeing that has made me not regret my choice. And then there are personal selfish reasons, like wanting to travel or owning too many cats and dogs who could be my children.”

“You could do all those things and have kids.”

This is one of the reasons why I agreed to our deal. Landen wanted to jump aboard and I was still at the edge debating to jump ship. I made my decision long ago. Sometimes when I went on dates and knew it wouldn’t work out, I would tell guys I didn’t want kids. Hoping to meet someone like minded in that aspect of life meant there is someone out there who is just taboo against the social norms we have created for couples. There are people who see marriage and kids in their future and those who see fulfilling their lives in other ways.

“I could, but it doesn’t appeal to me.” He shifts on the bed uncomfortably, possibly regretting our deal.

“Landen, tell me about your scars?” I ask changing the subject.

Some scars we hide like the ones I carried from heartbreak or smaller scars like the one on his back. It’s the larger scars we notice the most. The injuries that carry burdens of our biggest pain and a lengthy healing that catch people’s wandering eyes the most.

Bringing my leg back onto the bed, steadily he lifts the other one onto his shoulder, his drifting chocolate eyes land on my crotch.

“Eyes up here big boy.” I flicker my finger in an upwards motion.

He laughs biding his time. A flicker of inner contemplation runs along the lines of his face bring up the conception of past events.

“I’m not ready to talk about my scars with you.” Tentatively his grip tightens around my calf muscle, along with the muscles in his jaw tensing with agitation and devastation.

“Why not?” I ask lifting myself up higher on my elbows, suddenly feeling an onslaught of hurt that he doesn’t want to share. All the things I have shared with him — reasons why I write about my dates, how he hurt me – topics that not only crush me — but built me made it seem like they were gossip. Insight. Trival to him.

“When I share my past with you, it won’t be on a deal. I will share it once your I know you’re in my life for the long haul.” He lowers my leg carefully dropping himself between me, resting his elbows on each side of me.

My news of not wanting children didn’t bother him too much to think of the long haul. Good to know.

Brushing strands of loose hair away from my face, his lips softly brush against the small of my neck. Catching my breath against the weight of his body, his breathing parallels my own.

“And when and if I’m yours, your past will become my past. Your scars will walk alongside me, Landen. Whatever you did, whatever hardships you faced in prison don’t define who you are in your heart. Don’t take away from the person I once knew. Sure you’re older and did things you regret. We all do.” I whisper into his neck breathing him in.  

Not just the scent of his body wash. I am breathing in the way his body lies on top of mine. The cozy way he fits between my legs and rhythmic pattern of our breathing. Him on top of me is a blessing, warm and whole creating a world between us I didn’t believe existed anymore.

A large part of me wanted to break our deal. Stop all the nonsense, let go and exist only in the cocoon of his embrace. The smaller part of me wanted to search for someone else, afraid there was another man who could be my body cocoon.

Games are only fun when you aren’t opening yourself up to vulnerability. Landen has a vulnerability, a sweet weak spot that could destroy him.

Me.

He sighs laying his head on the small of my breast, “I did things I wasn’t proud of to survive. Things happened out of my control. Everyday I live with flashing images of what happen, Cas. Everyday regret follows me. The only thing I don’t regret is having my mom tell me about you. Hearing about you became a way for me to survive. The only way for me to break out of prison mentally. I can’t tell you how many times I thought about our summer together. That month gave me warmth and love I didn’t want to remember existed.” He stops talking as I wrap my arms around his back being his protective envelope.

Scared if he looked up at me, I would break down and cry the only thing I could do was rub comforting strokes on his back. Listen and console the words he is hiding to protect me.

Protecting me from what? Himself, his past, or…

“Do you think I will run away hearing the things you did?” The question sat front and center on my mind.

He rolls off of me laying flat on his back, our cocoon vanishing, now he was a side shield.

“Only time will tell.” He whispers up to the ceiling.

Drawing me into the crook of his arm, his free hand clicks off the bedside lamp.

I guess we are done talking about this. Tightly squeezing my eyes closed practically begging for more darkness, I wondered if this was a game we should be playing?

I wondered a lot of things. Like Landen said, only time would tell.

 

I woke to light green numbers on the alarm clock sequencing in number change. Freeing myself from Landen’s grip, his body twitches as he switches from his back to a side sleeping position.

Everything in me wanted to stay beside him and watch him sleep. To be wrapped in our cocoon of whatever was happening between us. But I couldn’t wake up next to him knowing if time was short lived between us because of our deal. Crawling off the bed, the large alarm clock gave off enough light for me to switch out of his clothes and back into my freshly washed dress.

Purse and sandals in one hand, I watched Landen stir then settle, the first sign of peace all night. The fluorescent green numbers switched minutes, and I knew I had to leave. Phone in my other hand, I check to see if Alyssa messaged me letting me know she told Dirk she was pregnant. She didn’t text.

My phone acted as a mini light navigating me through the darkness as I searched the internet to call a taxi.

“Doing a sleep and run?” Zeke turns on the light in the living room causing me to jump back in the crook of the wall.

“Seriously Zeke, it’s half past five. Do you go around scaring all your house guests?” I ask coming off the wall.

“Only the ones who sleep and run on my best friend in the wee hours of the morning with a guilty look on her face.” He crosses his arms while sitting, the stance of his body allows his small frame to look bigger than it really is.

“I don’t have a guilty look!” I whisper falling into the chair next to the sofa.

Their house was definitely a bachelor pad. Large flat screen on an even larger television stand. One couch, one overstuffed chair. Barely anything hanging on the walls. Shoes littered the space next to the front door and the curtains hanging on the expansive windows had seen better days.

“You do. It’s a permanent mix of guilt and elation.” Studying him, I wait for him to loosen up and uncross his arms.

He doesn’t.

“I don’t have either. I need a ride home, can you give me one?” Leaning back into the chair, my fingers slip on my clean sandals.

Sitting forward he finally releases his crossed arms for a new placement, elbows on knees. “Only a guilty elated woman would ask me that when she has a perfectly good man in his room willing to take her home.”

“Would you stop already? There is no guilt.” Lie. “I just need a ride home and I don’t want to burden Landen. He twitched a lot in his sleep, like his muscles and mind wouldn’t relax. He seemed to finally let up once I left the bed.” Not a lie. “Zeke he won’t even tell me about his past. How can I trust him if he doesn’t trust me?”

Exhausted from lack of sleep, exasperated from Zeke’s accusations, I just wanted to go home to shower and change. I still had to get to Lit and start cooking and finish putting the final touches on the decorations. Maybe squeeze in a thirty minute snooze fest before the wedding tonight.

Zeke grunts in understanding. He also doesn’t relay any information as to why he understands.

“A

“I will give you a ride home. But if he yells at me, I will yell at you.”

“Good to know.”

Zeke leaves the couch, when I notice a picture on the end table of Zeke, Landen, and another guy that could be Zeke’s twin. Their height, facial expressions, and lack of hair matched one another. They were all standing in front of a chain link fence, arms linked around each other’s shoulders, each wearing orange prison scrubs smiling against the gray backdrop.

“Ready?” Zeke asks bringing my attention away from the picture.

“Yeah.” Lifting myself from the chair, “Zeke who is that guy in the picture with you and Landen?”

“That’s my twin brother Zane.” A ping of sadness edged across his face as he looks at the picture. “Does he live here too?”

“No, he’s dead.” He says not wanting me to miss the hard bitter tone in his voice.

A lump of sadness hits my chest like one hard brick being thrown at it.

“Ready?” He asks again moving to the door.

Glancing at the picture one last time, vividly I knew Zane was the reason for Landen keeping his past hidden from me and Zeke’s bitter tone. I just didn’t know the full reason behind it.

 


Thank you so much for reading Chapter 8! Don’t forget to like, share, or comment, I’d LOVE to hear from you!!

much love

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