The promises she made her mother sends her into flight. . .
Scarred by her childhood, Lisa uses advice from her mother to dictate her life choices. After, “Never look back”, her mother told her to never let a man threaten her financial wellbeing. Lisa does what she promised her mother- she runs and finds out being vulnerable with the right person is not a bad thing after all.
It starts with a wrong number. . .
When Devin finds his wife Lisa of fifteen years has left with no warning. He seeks to find her by continuing to call and text the last cell telephone number he knows and reaches an empathetic listener. .Months later, he is still thinking of the woman that listened to him at one of the lowest points in his life. His curiosity piqued, he seeks her out and begins a journey to understanding what truelove feels like.
Two couples in a state of emotional flux –find out what happens next!
Lisa ran behind the moving men, directing where to place her furniture. “Hey! Watch how you lower that glass top!” she exclaimed as she nearly ran to the dining room. The movers were lowering the glass top to the base just as she entered the house. The top was extremely heavy and that alone would make it cost a fortune to replace, she continued grumbling. Eric could hear her from a connecting room and he began rolling his shoulders, in an effort to relieve some of the tension that was quickly building. “Yes, Ms. Grant,” said one of the men, thinking his response would soften the woman. But one look at her face and Eric knew instantly that they were in for a rough day on this job. Looking around at the sprawling two story Spanish accented home, it was huge and the layout alone could present its own unique challenges. However, he had no doubts about his crew. They were the epitome of professional; he knew it because whatever skills they didn’t have when they started, he equipped them with through many hours of training.
Mistakes did happen, of course, but that was why he had insurance. So what bothered him the most about this job, despite the quality of the things in place, was the petite little barracuda running around behind them, spouting words like, authentic, priceless, original and heirloom. What really irked him was the fact she hadn’t credited any of them with knowing the difference between what was “authentic” and as far as he could tell, everything, while expensive, was merely a reproduction. It was almost like she had spent an afternoon in a Bombay store. In fact, everything about this move seemed to have a rushed feel to it, starting with the fact that she’d only called three days before, but what business was it of his? He had encountered women like this one before—the Diva’s, he called them. He realized there was the professional that acquired new money and then immediately surrounded themselves with status symbols. Things that were purely to signify to other people they had it because they could, decisions like that rarely made people happy or if so, only in a transient way. He didn’t have anything against having nice things. He had a beautiful home himself. It was the place in people’s lives that things seemed to occupy, that was the problem. Instantly, he chided himself. Maybe if he hadn’t lost the most precious things in life to him, he may not feel too differently from the type of people he was now condemning. He sighed, and wished that he still had his precious gems and that he never knew what it was to have lost them. Suddenly, he could hear her sandals clicking on the tile. He tried to duck inside the library. But it was as if she had a heat seeking missile, the way she seemed to walk directly to where he was. He had turned to face the wall extended bookshelf.
“Hey! Are you sure you all are professionals? I have to tell you, I am a little concerned with the way they are placing my furniture. Do you realize those are Golden Cinema stone and granite tile floors? I’m afraid they are going to scratch the floors any minute.” Eric took time to inhale deeply, before responding. The truth was, he had been battling a migraine headache for the past hour, the exact moment that she’d had gotten on his last nerve.
“Ms. Grant, I assure you that my crew are well trained professionals. Since we are still speaking of something that hasn’t happened yet, I want to encourage you to think positively. Perhaps you could . . .use a few minutes to grab a cup of coffee or tea?” He knew the moment the last word left his mouth, it was the worst possible suggestion he could have made. The expression on her face told it all.
“If I came in here to ask your advice on how and when I should take a break, I could understand the reason behind a statement like that. However, the only expertise—and I use that statement loosely, that I hired you for is to make sure this move is smoothly, and expeditiously completed. That’s the only advice that you should be espousing and not to me—to them!” she said, while pointing out toward the hall to no one and yet everyone in particular.
“Yes ma’am,”” he managed to bite out, under a poorly composed guise of meekness. She promptly spun around on her heels, her glossy curls flowing behind her as she immediately began to light in to the first person she must have encountered.
He could hear her from where he stood, yelling at the top of her voice, “Listen, I worked hard for everything I have. I refuse to have them destroyed in a move!” Then lower but considerably audible, she added, “I knew I should have hired white people!”
That statement instantly cut Eric to the quick. He worked hard, and was always professional and insisted that his team do the same. The customer was always right. That was his motto. Doing their jobs well along with excellent customer service had done a lot to expand his business. Yet the statement that she made had always bothered him, when thrown from the mouths of fellow black people. It was as if the expectation of greatness couldn’t be expected among his own culture and he wanted to be among the many that discredited that far too prevalent attitude.
So before he thought better of it, he was walking toward her. “Uh, excuse me, Ms. Grant? May I speak with you for a moment?” Everyone within earshot immediately scurried. They probably knew she had finally reached their boss’s limit.
She turned and for the first time actually found herself noticing the face of the man that she’d been reprimanding almost since they’d arrived. She was taken a bit off guard as she felt pulled along into the gaze of the clearest brown eyes she’d ever seen. As her eyes flitted over his face, she could tell that he was way past irritated. For the first time in a long while, she felt just a bit intimidated. It kind of threw her momentarily, “Yes–Mr.? What is your name?”
“My name is Eric—just plain Eric. Now Ms. Grant, I can understand that you want the best service possible. However, you have to remember that moving is what we do. We understand that it involves more than simply transferring furniture from one place to another. We realize it’s more about moving the things that reflect your memories, it reflects the things that make your place a home. Yet despite the care we may take, things happen, unfortunately, that’s what insurance is for. At the end of the day, we want to please you. We want each bit of furniture exactly where you would like; therefore, your direction is expected.
“However, I will not tolerate you berating my employees or our race—that, is where I draw the line and if you insist on spouting phrases like the one you just made, where you expressed your racial preference as your choice of superiority when selecting a moving company, you will get your wish. Because the truth of the matter is, you chose this company, not because of the race, but because of how we managed to place you within our schedule before the end of the week and because of the rate we charge. Now if you’ll excuse me, I will get back to making sure your move is smoothly and expeditiously carried out—since it clearly is the only subject I should claim to have any expertise of.”
Then he abruptly walked away before he did any more damage. He was immediately regretful. He had never lost his temper with a customer before. The bad part was that he was going to have to apologize before they left her premises that day. In fact, he was probably going to have to send her a gift basket to appease her. Word of mouth was an essential part of advertisement.
Lisa continued to stand before him as she digested the words form this man, said gently in a level, yet forceful tone. She searched for words to respond. She sought to put this man—this blue-collar worker—in his place. The nerve of him, to speak to her as he had. But even if she could bring words to mind, they would be too late. She was suddenly facing his back as he walked away from her to rejoin his team while they arranged the last of her dining room.
“Uh. . .Eric, before you leave I’d like the name of your supervisor.” She had no intention of calling, but the phrase usually struck fear, at least momentarily, in most people. She watched as the toned broad back slowly turned to her.
“Sure thing, Ms. Grant. Did you have a complaint you’d like to leave with the supervisor or owner, as it were?”
“Yes, I certainly would. Please write his name and telephone number here.” She said as she thrust a pad and pen that she’d grabbed off the ledge of the half wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room.
It took him less than a second to cross to her and gently take the pad and scribble before returning it to her. Inside he chuckled as he awaited a final response, but from the corner of his eye he noticed she, without even so much as glancing at the pad, simply placed it back on the counter where it had been.
She seemed to get absorbed in unpacking a box of pictures and assortment of decorative items—the things that really made a house a home. Now that she was quiet he could, for the first time, see how truly attractive that she was. He noticed that her hair had been roller set, the way his sister tended to get hers done, and it was cute the way it seemed to swing at the slightest movement of her head. It shimmered with a soft sheen that made it look black, but at that moment, a ray of sun danced onto one of the curls, and he could see the subtle shades of brown that highlighted throughout. It lay against the soft pecan brown of her cheekbones, which held the most exotic shaped eyes that when they weren’t flashing anger, were quite beautiful. As she stood up from bending over a box of pictures, he noticed how she leaned all the way back and then placed both her hands into the small of her back.
He thought how odd that she did that. It was almost like…well, like she was pregnant. Then all of a sudden she seemed to wobble. As quick as Eric began moving, it still wasn’t fast enough to catch her before she crumpled to the floor, although it all seemed to happen in slow motion.
“Someone call 911,” he heard himself yelling as he lifted her head up and placed it into his lap. He began checking to make sure she was breathing and then checked her pulse points. Her pulse seemed quite rapid; her breathing seemed just a bit shallow or was it merely his imagination. He chided himself to be cautious, not to jump to a diagnosis since he wasn’t a doctor. He hadn’t even realized how he seemed to be holding his own breath until he breathed a sigh of relief upon her regaining consciousness. While it had only been a few minutes, it seemed so very much longer. Her lids began to flutter and she found herself staring up into brown eyes—those brown eyes. He watched, as the confusion seemed to settle across her face. Before she could panic or become angry, which in the short time that he’d made her acquaintance, he knew could very easily go either way—he thought he would calm her by attempting to explain.
“Ms. Grant, you fainted, and have been out for a couple of minutes. The EMT’s have been called and should be here shortly. As she attempted to rise, he gently but firmly held her in place. “Perhaps you should remain completely still until they arrive, particularly in your condition,” he added. Surprise lit up her face and she opened her mouth as if to speak just as the EMT’s were moving toward her.
“I feel much better. I actually don’t think it’s necessary to go to the hospital,” she said, while she was being examined.
“Are you sure you want to take that chance? Eric found himself asking. He surprised himself actually—he had learned from experience to not get involved and the fact that he had imposed himself into her life twice already, was completely out of character. Yet he knew that she was stubborn enough to ignore clear signs that she should be taking seriously.
He ignored the nagging pull of memories that he spent years burying. Somehow, this dragon of a woman had struck a chord with him. Maybe because he sensed that beneath all the huff was a very vulnerable person. However, she was full of surprises that day. He would have bet money and lost before he would have given her the benefit of the doubt in agreeing and yet she did.
“You are right. I should go.” She said it so softly that he nearly missed it and the softness that came over her face seemed in some ways, a look of resignation, although the first word that came to mind was defeat and that nearly made him chuckle out loud. “Is there anyone that I should call for you?” he offered after they had lifted her onto the gurney.
“No!” Then catching herself, she added, “No, I have no one to call, but thanks for offering. Especially after I wasn’t particularly kind. . . ”
Before he could respond, she simply fell unconscious again. Everything moved quickly after that, while they began moving her toward the ambulance and continued to monitor her vitals. After they took off for the hospital, Eric turned and directed his guys to move the last of her things within the house. Fortunately, he was able to find her house keys.
“Boss, we can continue putting her furniture in place if you like.” His brother and assistant manager, Ted said, as they stood by his side.
“Do what you can,” he said absently while continuing to stare into space. “I’m going to lock up the house and then take her the keys. We don’t need a liability on our hands.” He answered shaking himself back into reality.
Ted looked at him knowingly, but held his thoughts to himself. He could see already that somehow this woman had gotten under his brother’s skin. Yet another person he probably was going to try to save. He sighed, but then again it had been years since he tried to save anyone—even cared enough to. He just wished someone would care as much for him.
“Alright, T. Call me when you get home.”
“Tell the other guys we will regroup on our schedule for next week.”
“I’m just glad that the big man was here today. I’d hate to think what would have happened had the boss man not been here.”
“You would have done the same thing, I’m sure.”
Chapter 8. A Most Unexpected Turn of Events
Lana watched the subtle pastel colors change as they danced against the morning dawn. She felt content and yet her mind switched to the one person that had been occupying her thoughts of late. As the weeks rolled by, she found that he was very skilled at getting through her walls of inhibition although she’d carefully built them over the years due to betrayal and her distrust. He was the lone person of late that made her believe the real thing could exist, although it was too late for her. She simply enjoyed having him as a friend and if her support could help him to get over Lisa’s abandonment, then so be it. The question was how much support was she really willing to give. The chemistry between them was getting far too strong to ignore. She’d thought about backing up weeks ago, running would probably be more accurate. Except she realized that he fulfilled a part of her she hadn’t realized existed.
She liked having someone to think about and she liked knowing someone was thinking of her. She liked smiling and laughing suddenly over a memory of something he said or did. She didn’t remember anyone that could make her laugh as deep or spontaneously as he. Privately she called it a laugh ‘o’, short for laugh orgasm, because on more than one occasion, she’d instantly gotten a headache. Impulsively, she reached and dialed his number. It wasn’t quite eight. But it wasn’t unusual for them to share a brief conversation on a Sunday morning as they each eased into their day. Heck, she might even invite him to brunch, she was feeling brave today. Besides, she had a new little bistro in mind that she wanted to take him to, she thought as she smiled to herself.
Hearing a feminine voice answer shook her momentarily. It couldn’t be Lisa, but who? she wondered as she considered asking for him just to be sure she’d dialed the correct number. Yet glancing down at the display confirmed that she did indeed call the correct telephone number. “Hello! Hell-o-oh!” The voice persisted soon she heard what sounded like a rustle of the phone changing hands. Moments later, she heard the voice that was familiar. “This is Devin. . . Are you still there?”
“Hey Devin,” Lana’s voice sounded small even to her, “I’m sorry to have called. . . so early. I really wanted nothing important. We can catch up later.” “No, hey!” he said, but realized without even looking at his phone that she had disconnected. His heart sank. He knew Lana would be hurt, and she, like himself, wouldn’t even know why. Nothing was defined between them, and yet it seemed to be a growing understanding that she was managing to trust him. They were learning to trust one another, they both realized what a big step it was.
Yet, he had become aware that something else was heating up between them nice and slow. Fermenting like a nice wine. He could call her back now and attempt to explain, but instinctively he realized that she wouldn’t be able to hear him. Then what would he say? She would vehemently deny anything he asked her. Turning toward Kecia, he just looked at her knowing his eyes would convey what he didn’t dare to try to articulate.
“What?” She asked in mock innocence.
“I really wish you didn’t answer my phone,” he said quietly while going back to doing his pushups.
“I was hoping it was Lisa so that I could give her a piece of my mind!” she hissed. He restrained himself from smiling, trying to make her see he was serious. But he couldn’t help but think how much she resembled an irate tabby at the moment with her auburn hair seeming to stand up just a bit.
“I can appreciate that, but I’m past Lisa or better yet, Lisa is my past. But you may have, in one brief moment wrecked it with the person I want very much in my future.”
Kecia, now sitting straight up in the chaise she’d been reclined on, responded to his statement. “Do tell, brother dear, do tell!”
The sense of confusion and hurt was beyond comprehension. She had definitely fallen into more than she had realized. Attempting to shake it off, she threw back the comforter and jumped up to get into the shower. She stayed beneath the water, hot as she could stand it until it began to cool. She washed her hair, scrubbing furiously and yet she realized no matter how much she did; it would not get that man out of her head. Unfortunately.
Within the hour, Lana was sitting at one of her favorite places in Richmond. Boat Lake in Byrd Park was particularly beautiful to her in the spring when the cherry blossoms were full and heavy. This morning felt great. It was a comfortably warm-mid sixties and hardly anyone else was there. She’d picked up a croissant and white chocolate latte’ from a diner off Cary Street and was savoring a little from each—even as she chided herself for her trusting heart once again. Maybe it was better to be alone than to keep putting herself in the same position of vulnerability.
“A penny for your thoughts,” said the voice that was haunting her mind and heart and pulling her from her reverie. She managed to remain nonchalant while trying to keep the hurt and pain from off her face. She didn’t have to ask how he’d found her, since they’d had lunch there many times. It wouldn’t have been hard for him to guess that if she wasn’t home that she could possibly be there. She kept her eyes straight forward and focused on the water fountain ahead. While trying to ignore the scent of his cologne that drifted toward her and she found her insides twisting.
She decided to play it out. Besides, why appear so emotionally invested when clearly he was not. “So what brings Mr. D out of his lair so early on a Sunday?” She levied dryly.
He slid onto the bench beside her and she could feel his deliberate gaze. “Oh, that’s simple. I had to get some advice and I thought to myself what better person than you to give it.”
“Is that right?” she queried risking a brief look in his direction.
“Truly,” he replied.
”I don’t know that I’m the best source for advice,” she quipped.
“Oh, I think you’d be the best for this,” he said, reaching for her hand. You see I have this friend who I’m fairly sure may have misunderstood a situation.”
“Are you sure about this?” she said, trying unsuccessfully to pull her hand back. “Because I know for a fact that some people may decide in such an instance to just keep it moving. Maybe your friend wouldn’t be as bothered by the issue as you think.”
“Just the same, I’d feel better if I could just run this situation past you,” he said, while he let his smile begin to open slowly, sort of like a flower bloom.
It was the smile that always made her want to smile, the one that, unfortunately, went straight to her heart. She almost hated that smile. Almost. “Okay I’m listening,” she said before turning back to look at the lake. She couldn’t be sure of the emotion that might display on her face.
“Recently, I became friends with the most beautiful woman—beautiful inside and out. She’s pretty smart, but there are a few things she doesn’t know.” He waited, hoping he hadn’t made the baiting so obvious.
Looking sharply at him she asked, “Well what doesn’t she know?”
“While she may know that I have two sisters, she may not realize just how impulsive, passionate and incredibly protective of her older brother the younger one can be. This very sister decided to come over last night at the spur of the moment and ended up staying over. This is the very sister who when the phone rang, ran for it, hoping against all hopes that it would be Lisa. It seems she has a lot of pent up anger that she is dying to vent right upside Lisa’s head. Anyway, my dear friend happened to be the one that called and I fear,” he said while gingerly rubbing his thumb against her cheek, “I fear that she may have gotten the wrong impression when she heard a female’s voice on my phone.”
Lana felt her mouth suddenly go quite dry. “But uh. . .why would she have any opinion at all. You mentioned you two are just friends. I’m pretty sure that she would understand, even expect you to have needs . . . Uh . . . Did I really say that?”
He chuckled before saying, “Well see that may be another misunderstanding, see . . . she may not realize that I’m not a hook-up type of guy and since . . . well, my situation is what it is, meaning it’s not ideal for a relationship yet.”
At that moment Lana felt that weird feeling again as if his eyes could see straight through her into her mind—into her heart.
He decided to put them on pause, telling her all that he was feeling, realizing that he really wasn’t in any position to do anything about it, while also knowing she wasn’t ready and would only make her bolt. Yet he felt quite sure she understood exactly what he didn’t say.
“Okay, so anyway, do you think my friend who has somehow become a special part of my life would accept this explanation?” He asked, reaching for her hand again.
“I believe she is probably grown enough to accept whatever you would tell her.”
“Is that right?” He spun back at her, his voice deepening to an unbelievably sexy level. She felt a tightening within while she felt the peculiar impulse to run away.
“So what’s up for you today?” She finally got out attempting to break whatever this was humming between them. She stood up and began swatting her bottom to remove any residue clinging to her pants from the bench. He stood up immediately after. “No plans. What about you?” he asked as they moved toward her car.
“Just some tidying up around my place, a little cooking, and preparing for work next week.” She shrugged.
“Sooo pretty much gorging yourself on your sofa while watching movies all day, huhn?” He laughed while dodging as she attempted to swat at him. He thought about asking to tag along. He figured she wouldn’t refuse him. He also realized that it might overwhelm her. His instincts told him that she was quite aware of the energy that charged between them. He’d almost told her exactly how special she was to him and yet he realized not only would that scare her, but realized how unfair it would be, since he and Lisa were still unresolved. He would gladly divorce her if only he knew where she was. He suddenly felt more of an incentive to close the door on his past and embrace what may lay before him.
Upon reaching her car, he leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips. “I’ll call you later.” He knew that he shouldn’t push her like that, but he couldn’t resist. At least she didn’t try to pretend as if she didn’t understand who he was speaking about. Actually, that was only one of the things that he liked about her. She was so refreshingly real. She didn’t pretend to be anything that she wasn’t. With Lana you either liked her or not, and there were plenty of things to like about her. Aside from how much fun it was to hang out with her, he just loved to watch as her emotions danced over her face from uncertainty to revelation of a particular fact or situation.
He loved how he felt when he was around her—when they talked or just hung out. There was never any pressure. She made him feel good, he thought to himself. She made him want to be everything that she wanted—that she needed. He wanted her—plain and simple, and wondered how long it would take to convince her without chasing her away. Such was the age-old dilemma of risking friendship for more.
Even though Lana was alone, it was as Devin’s essence was still all around her. she felt cocooned in his cologne and the remembrance of his smile, his chuckle, and his touch. It left her feeling remiss that he hadn’t joined her. It didn’t take her long to act on the impulse to call him; she was already dialing before she could regret it.
“Yes ma’am?” he asked, adding, “What did you forget?”
Her mind told her to say, “You,” but as she wasn’t quite ready for the repercussions of such a bold statement, she found herself hesitating just a bit.
“Lana? You there?”
“Yeah-Hey! Sorry I was having a hard time with . . . uh swallowing a piece of gum.” she finally responded while becoming acutely aware of the sinking feeling in her gut. What a sorry and lame excuse that was. “Look, I was wondering if you’re not busy . . . maybe you could tag along and keep me company?”
He was careful to keep his smile out of his voice. “Sure, should we cook or order in, because you know you’re going to be hungry an hour from now,” he teased.
“Whatever!” she said as she laughed at his jest.
“Okay, Looney Tunes, see you soon!” he said before hanging up.
She was relieved that he had simplified something that filled her with uncertainty. Suddenly she realized that he seemed to have a knack for sensing her unease and usually took it upon himself to quickly diffuse her anxiety. It was one of his many qualities that made it hard to deny desiring his company in some form. Somehow, the person that started as a pesky nuisance was now a person she had made a part of her day. When they didn’t get to speak, she missed him. That was something she wished she could change. It was so much her M.O. to run at the slightest hint of emotional attachment. Yet somehow, something inside her head had altered.
Devin had touched something within her she hadn’t realized existed and that. rather than being scary, was simply surprisingly refreshing. It wasn’t long before they were pulling up in front of her house. He had followed her on to her porch.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” she said as she led the way inside.
He smiled. Quickly, his eyes darted around the townhouse, from the parquet floor that shone like honey glaze, to the rich colors of burgundy, wine and teal that complemented her crème damask textured sofas. An Indian accented rug seemed to pull in all the colors in the room.
“Please have a seat,” she invited, before turning to step into the kitchen. “Did you have that portion of the wall removed?” he asked as he viewed her through what was now a pass through that allowed for a counter under which she had placed two stools. The counter was adjacent to a large picture window that she had filled with potted plants. He admired her decorative plates that covered the walls. Her place was full of little touches that reflected her, that made it a home. He moved toward one of the high backed stools.
Pouring him a glass of lemonade and setting it before him, she asked, “Would you like me to make you brunch—a couple of omelets?” she asked as she pushed up her sleeves, washing her hands.
He smiled at her, not quite able to hide the surprised expression that lit up his face. “Sure thing, but only if you let me help,” he said sliding off the stool and moving into the kitchen with her. She was momentarily stunned, but smiled as she watched him duplicate her movements at the sink and even remembering which drawer from which she’d grabbed an apron only mere moments before. Continuing her perusal, she couldn’t keep from giggling. He being so masculine in the frilliest apron she had.
“What!” he said, feigning ignorance. “Okay so what else shall we have with our omelets?”
“Hmm, I was thinking some blintzes with whipped crème and berries, bacon and grapefruit. What do you think? “
“I actually think that is more than enough,” He said looking at her not even trying to mask his surprise. “You know there are so many facets to you. Somehow in all the ways that I envisioned—considering what I know of you—I didn’t ever see you domesticated.”
“You are funny.” She laughed.
“I’m serious, Lana. I guess I hadn’t given it much thought. Lisa really wasn’t one for the cooking and cleaning. You know, just on occasion,” he said, ducking his head as though he felt as if in that statement that he had said something wrong. “It’s just that most—well, a lot of women have careers and just aren’t into the cooking thing anymore. But you there with your apron, in this house,” he said, gesturing. “I don’t know—it just makes me smile,” he said shrugging.
“Wow! So never mind that I’m a black woman with an education, putting it down for myself in my own house. Nah, just seeing me in an apron in my kitchen is where I score points with you?” she taunted, winking before mixing in her batter for the crepes.
He paused for a moment before erupting into a fit of laughter. “You are right, I feel the need to apologize for some reason,” he said, while cracking eggs into a mixing bowl that he had found even before she could tell him. Now he stood before her open refrigerator grabbing things at will. He actually whooped at seeing a container of mushrooms. After placing an armful of things on the table, he looked at Lana expectantly. So, no witty rejoinder?” he asked, while chopping and dicing several of the vegetables he’d laid on the table.
Lana had suddenly found her thoughts were a million miles away. For just a second, she’d been thinking how nice it was that they were doing something like this. Strangely, while it felt comfortable, it was intimate in a way.
“Earth to Lana,” Devin teased while waving his hand in front of her face. She smiled in response and moved to pour the batter in the now heated skillet.
“I like the size of your kitchen—especially that window. It’s a good thing we’re at your place; I don’t know that we would have been comfortable with us both cooking in my kitchen.”
“I liked your kitchen. I liked your whole place, in fact,” she said, flipping the first crepe.
“Well, it wouldn’t have been impossible.” he said now, from behind her ear. She felt the chill as it danced down her neck and spine. “See, I’d just reach around you like this,” he said, as he poured the egg mixture into the now hot skillet beside hers. Then stressing his point, he slid an arm around her waist and used his other hand to fold the ingredients within, to lift the omelets and place them on the plate he’d placed on the narrow counter space between the stove and sink.
Lana had been unaware of the fact that she was holding her breath. Lifting her own crepe onto a platter beside his plate only seemed to bring her deeper into the crook of his arm. “Uh well, since we have plenty of space in my kitchen, it’s kind of good that we don’t have to uh, double up, so to speak,” she said, while managing to avoid looking at him. Instinctively she knew looking at him was dangerous, at least for her at that moment.
“Well how are we supposed to have the eggs, the crepes and the bacon done at the same time, if we don’t ah, as you say, ‘double up’?” When she didn’t respond, he called out to her again. “Lana?”
She turned toward his voice, “Yes?”
But when he called her name again, she was well aware of his proximity and her heart began to beat faster than she could think. She felt panic overcome her and suddenly she knew she’d have to move away from him. “Oh! The pan is about to burn,” she exclaimed trying to sidestep around him. She quickly pushed at the arm that was blocking her in and simply lifted the pan off the burner to a cooler one.
“Don’t run,” he said his voice barely above a whisper. Then he lifted her chin so that their gazes met. “Please don’t run from me . . .” Slowly he lowered his head until their lips met. Gently he moved his lips against hers as if he had all the time in the world. He sensed her hesitation, but she hadn’t pulled away and until she did he was not going to give up. Slowly he pulled her against him so that their heartbeats mirrored each other’s, and gradually she was opening her mouth beneath the light pressure of his tongue tentatively tasting her lips and soon he was sweeping it throughout her mouth, letting the heat build between them. While it seemed longer, he knew it had only been a few moments before she ended the kiss. Still he held her, searching within her eyes for something. Regret? Fear? Desire? But she’d carefully shielded herself and he realized that he was on shaky ground. “That felt good to me. What about you?”
True to her nature, she found herself responding honestly. “It was good; but now what? Why’d you have to do it, Dev?” she asked, her eyes imploring his.
“Why?” he responded softly, “Because I just couldn’t resist acting on what my heart has been yearning for from the first. I know I’m not the only one feeling what is growing between us. Am I?”
Instinctually, she dropped her gaze away from his, away from emotions too strong for her to process, let alone reciprocate. Once again, she felt the firm tug of his fingers lifting her chin. “Look at me, Lana. Please don’t run away from this moment right here and now.”
“How can I not, Dev, when I’m not exactly sure what this is leading to.”
“I may have no right to, but I have developed feelings for you. Already I know that what I feel for you is something I’ve never felt before and I don’t find it the least bit scary. The possibility of what can be between you and me; I’d rather risk the journey than to close the door on something without trying.”
“What you hint at. . . what you suggest, I would welcome once you’ve resolved your situation. It’s easy for you to speak so resolutely about you and me when Lisa is out of sight. It makes me wonder how you’d feel if she were to suddenly return, and I don’t want to continually feel this uncertainty while all along, I’m becoming more emotionally involved with you. Can you understand that?”
“Yes, I understand it completely—just as long as you understand how I feel, and you realize that there will be times when I won’t be able to resist embracing you, attempting to kiss you and I don’t want to lose your friendship because it’s impossible to hide how I feel.”
“Okay, point made,” she responded, while her head seemed to involuntarily rest against his shoulder. Internally, she struggled with the fact that it felt as if it belonged there. “Well I guess we should get back to preparing brunch,” she giggled softly.
“I guess we should, but this feels so wonderful. I’m reluctant to pull away,” he said against her hair. “But if we don’t, and I mean like immediately, brunch won’t get made today. I don’t care what you say”. He laughed as he backed away and now began to prepare two more omelets.
So they continued as if nothing happened while the heat simmered just beneath the surface. But the feeling of accepting the possibility of love was like a drug and she was feeling quite euphoric despite her caution barometer going off inside her head. It was all she could do not to run into his arms and stay the way he had suggested. But her mind was still working, even if limited even while she fought against drowning in the feel good emotions all around them. Yet ironically, it was those feelings that also gave her pause. The other shoe always fell eventually. She was his support either until Lisa returned or until he met someone else. She was his distraction until one of the two happened. She didn’t fool herself. She realized she was attractive, but nowhere as beautiful as his wife, judging from the few pictures she’d seen of her in the apartment.
Surprisingly brunch was completed and they decided to keep it informal by fixing their plates and going to the living room to eat. She grabbed her favorite sofa and motioned for him to take the other one opposite hers. “Your spot for the rest of the day,” she said while winking. “Feel free to grab an afghan to pull across you if you want. Now choose: Mission Impossible, Michael Clayton or Ocean’s Eleven?”
“Hmm-you make it soo hard. Well since I plan to be here awhile, let’s shoot for them all,” he said, smiling. Lana opened her mouth to speak, but then wordlessly put the Mission Impossible DVD in. Then she grabbed her plate and leaned back on her sofa, while he laughed heartily aloud.
“I must put this on the calendar, the day when I made Lana speechless,” he said smiling, thwarting her effort to throw a pillow at him in response.
An hour into it Devin got up and took their plates into the kitchen. Lana was quite certain that she heard him washing them. Returning into the living room he walked over to her. She looked up at him expectantly, allowing her puzzlement to show across her face, but she waited for him to speak.
“Do me a favor and slide up a bit.”
Blindly she obeyed him. Still she was quite surprised when he slid onto the sofa behind her allowing his legs to surround her. After leaning back against the arm of the sofa, he pulled her back so that she was now reclined against him.
“Now isn’t that better?” he whispered beside her ear, sending a single chill down the length of her neck.
She merely smiled in response. This is better, she thought, but she remained silent while giving in to her impulse to pull his arms tighter around her. What a wonderful Sunday this turned out to be, she thought to herself before losing herself in the movie. They remained close like that for the remainder of the afternoon between movies, sweet tea and popcorn. The intimacy was like a warm chrysalis around her.
They parted with a brief hug and light kiss after he helped put away the dishes he’d washed earlier. It was only while in her nightly shower, did her mind let the doubts that had lay just beneath the euphoria begin to surface. She had allowed herself to enjoy briefly that afternoon. Who was she fooling? This was a clear case of rebound if ever there was one, but that was what she seemed to be good at, making herself available to emotionally unavailable men. Only months ago this man was completely distraught over Lisa’s abandonment. While their friendship felt real, this other that they were attempting was completely unrealistic. She really enjoyed him as a friend, but taking it to another level clearly was a mistake. The idea of Lisa returning and him dropping her, was beyond words that she could summon. She’d let her heart be trampled enough in her life. She couldn’t experience it again. The fact that he’d made her feel things she hadn’t in years was a credit to him. Standing before the mirror unclothed made her quite resolved that taking this friendship to a sexual level would be an experience that could only lead to her feeling humiliated. She wasn’t a petite woman, but she was well toned. She was a curvy size 14, and while she was often complimented, she never felt quite pretty enough.
The thought did occur to her that if she didn’t like what she was seeing, perhaps she needed to get motivated to do something about it. The uncertainty that she’d let rule for most of her life, easily overtook her now. The memories of her mother tearing her down, melded into those of Brandon’s regular verbal slights. When they’d met in college in her freshmen year, he was a junior and she’d gotten caught up in his jock notoriety. He was the quarterback for their football team and it seemed just a matter of time before he would be scouted to a professional team. He was such a physically beautiful man, she’d counted herself fortunate to even be noticed by him. She was the envy of every girl. Little did they know the price she paid for the privilege. By the time he’d left her, there was little left of the self-esteem she’d tediously built upon leaving her mother’s house.
Years later, she was a prime example that self-esteem was a by-product of accomplishment. She’d passionately thrown her heart into her professional persona, even while her emotional part remained a bit stunted, inexperienced and gun shy, when it came to love. But ignorance would remain her bliss if it meant avoiding even the faintest possibility of experiencing the hurt of being betrayed again. Just like that, the hope that seemed to blossom only a few hours earlier, folded back within her heart. It was her last thought before clicking off her bedside light.
The joy that danced in Devin’s heart continued to grow with every reflection of that afternoon with Lana. The unexpected turn of events nearly made him want to have flowers delivered to his baby sister the next day, nearly. He thought grimly, considering what the other outcome could have been. That kiss they’d shared only increased his desire for her. He knew they’d decided, albeit unspoken, to take it slow. What he didn’t know was how he would be able to tamp down his desire to touch her and fold her within his arms every chance they were together. Now inside his condo, he hastened to step out onto his terrace. He just had to look up into the star jeweled sky knowing possibly that she might be looking at the same stars. He didn’t know where Lisa was at this moment, but her leaving, gave him the opportunity to experience feelings he never knew were possible.
He now realized the most he and Lisa shared in common was the mental strength to overcome their backgrounds and the ambition to push past their wildest dreams. Time had revealed it wasn’t made of the stuff that could grow with them into the persons they had become. He understood that now. The only thing he regretted was not having the opportunity to tell Lisa that. He no longer wished her ill. Yet a certain amount of anger existed as a result of having that option taken out of his hands.
Despite everything, they’d built a life together–overcome and reached goals together, argued and made love countless times and to have all that come down to finding a “Dear John” note that felt at the very least like all their years were a waste and that at the very most like she’d never loved him at all. Not even the youthful love that made him feel initially upon her deserting, that he wouldn’t survive, as his heart seem to break into a million pieces. Through that pain, had come his Lana and the very thought of her was helping him to heal. Now, he only hoped he could heal her.