Authors: Salina Paine
Carlie and I met in high school, our junior year. Carlie was beautiful and funny, her bright hazel eyes, dirty blonde hair and sweet smile would make any boy feel certain emotions. What started as a physical attraction quickly turned into more. By graduation we had made plans to move in together. Once I was enlisted in the Navy, we were living in a small apartment, close to the hospital where she worked as a receptionist, while going to nursing school. She stood by me at every turn. Soon after I finished my enlistment we decided we wanted move again. I always wanted to go back to my hometown. I sent my resume to the local hospital and within three weeks we were packing our belongings into a U-Haul and heading to the sunny Florida panhandle. We stayed with my parents for a couple of weeks while the apartment we had found was being finished. Working at the local hospital was great, and being back home was even better.
After work I decide to go down to a little bar down the street to have a beer and unwind. Carlie is out with her new found friends for a, girls night out.
I'm sitting at the bar, drinking my beer when I hear a familiar voce. "Brandon, is that you?" He asks.
In turn around and there's Josh. "Yeah, man, it's me," I reply.
"How the hell are you?" He asks holding his hand up for a fist bump.
"I'm great, just got a job at the hospital and my girl is out with her friends."
"It's so good to see you, man. It's been a long time," he says smacking me on the back.
"Yes, it has. Grab a seat and have a beer with me," I say tipping my beer in his direction.
"I'll have to take a raincheck on that," he replies, "I was on my way to see Michelle."
"You son of a bitch, you're still with her?" I ask with a laugh.
"Yeah, sure am," he says with a wicked grin.
"Well, I'm at the parents house for about another week, get up with me," I say as he's heading towards the door.
I smile and shake my head. The wild one has finally been tamed. I finish my beer and glance at the clock. Its eleven o'clock and I've got to work in the morning so I head to the house. It's only about a quarter mile so I figure I'll just walk home. I worked too hard to get to where I am to get a DUI. The evening air is cool and crisp and sobers me up almost instantly. I get to the house and Carlies' car is still gone. My mom is sitting by the front window the way she always did when I was a teenager. I walk through the front door and she looks at me funny.
"You are home early, sweetheart," she says incredulously. I snicker at the look shes giving me.
"Mom, Im not a teenager anymore, besides six comes early in the morning."
She just shakes her head. "I'm so proud of you, son."
"Thanks." I say leaning down to hug her.
"I love you, goodnight." she says kissing my cheek.
I hard down the hallway to my room, kicking my shoes off and crawl into bed. It's about two I'm the morning when a thump and a form of laughter wakes me. Carlie comes stumbling over to the bed nearly tripping over my shoes. She crawls into bed beside me and the smell of stale cigarettes and booze overwhelm my senses.
"Carlie?" I ask.
"Yeah, it's me," she says laughing.
"I'm not trying to be mean, but could you at least change your clothes and brush your teeth? The smell is pretty potent."
She groans, "Ok," and grumbles all the way to the bathroom. I fall back to sleep and I am once again awoken by her. She snuggles up to me, licking my neck.
"Hey, please stop," I ask groggily.
"What? I don't turn you on anymore?" she asks angrily.
I groan loudly, "Carlie, you know you do. I've got to go to work in a few hours and you're wasted."
"Asshole," she mumbles, turning away from me.
I just sigh and close my eyes. When the alarm clock goes off I'm still exhausted. I get up, shower and get dressed. I look over to Carlie still passed out on the bed. Even with her hair a mess, and last nights makeup smeared, she's still beautiful. I walk over and kiss her lightly before leaving.
The walk to my truck is invigorating, the chilly air blowing in my face helps me focus through the exhaustion. I get to work and meet with my mentor, Dr. Iverson, he was my pediatrician as a child. The incessant humming of the equipment and constant paging are wearing on my nerves. After today I've got a couple days off and I am definitely going to need them. From a car accident to a kid with a broken arm, the day flies by.
It's just after dark when I start to leave and realize I've left my keys in my locker.
"Damn it," I mumble under my breath as I head back inside.
I'm in a hurry and not paying attention and slam right into this woman, practically knocking the breath out of her. .
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry," she says bending down to pick up the stack of papers I'd knocked out of her hands.
As I'm helping her gather everything together I accidentally touch her hand and the sensation that rips through me is indescribable. I shake it off quickly and apologize.
"I'm sorry, hope you haven't lost anything," I say as she walks away.
She shakes her head and smiles at me. I turn and walk to my locker, grab my keys and go back to the truck, I sigh sinking into the seat. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I look, and it's a text from Carlie.
"Hey, Babe. I'm sorry about last night. I'll see you when you get home."
I just shake my head. She never has been able to hold her liquor and she is so rude and obnoxious when she's drunk. I put the car in reverse and leave the parking lot. The drive home is peaceful; no radio, pager or phone. I pull into the driveway and Carlie is on the front porch swing waiting. She smiles that sexy smile at me when I reach the top step. I collapse on the swing beside her and she begins rubbing my arm. Leaning in to kiss her, I catch a hint of her perfume, the subtle smell is intoxicating. I kiss her softly and her lips become hungry against mine.
"Whoa baby, take it easy," I say in a groan.
She smiles a devilish smile when she pulls away. She stands and takes my hand pulling me into the house.
"You're parents went out to dinner," she says leading me down the hallway to our room.
I press her up against the door bringing my lips to hers again. The taste of her mouth is a sweet mixture of mint and wine. She moans into my mouth as my tongue slips between her lips. I pull away breathless and open the door. I pick her up and carry her to the bed. She giggles as I crash down on top her. The sweet smell of her perfume and the softness of her skin is a dangerous mixture.
A soft knock on the door wakes me up. I look over at the clock and its four o'clock in the morning.
"Yeah?" I ask hoarsely.
"The hospital just called and said they need you," my mother says.
Why didn't they call or page me, I wonder to myself. I look at my phone and it's dead.
"Thanks Mom, I'm up. I'll call them when I'm on my way," I reply.
"Brandon, I'm sorry I had to wake you up, but I know how much this job means to you," she says.
Her footsteps disappear down the hallway as I stretch. I lean over kissing Carlie on the cheek.
"Baby, I got called into work," I whisper.
She nods barely opening her eyes. I shower and dress quickly, grabbing my phone as I walk out of the door. I look back at her and smile.
"Bran," she says sleepily.
"I love you."
"I love you, too," I say closing the door behind me.
I rush out to the kitchen stopping only for a moment to hug my mother. "Have a good day," she says. I nod, grabbing my keys.
I call Dr. Iverson once I'm on the road.
"Hey what's going on?"
"Dr. Simons' wife went into preterm labor so she's been sent via helicopter to a better equipped hospital in Pensacola."
"Damn, that's not good. I hope everyone will be ok."
"Yeah, me too. Sorry to have to call you in but were short as it is." Dr. Iverson replied.
"Its ok, man. I'll be there shortly."
"Alright, see ya later."
I hang up the phone with a heavy heart. Raina, Dr. Simmons wife, graduated a year after me. I try to focus the haze that has settled in my mind when I turn into the parking lot. It is going to be a long day. I get inside and start all my paperwork and prepare for my rounds.
Everything has been absolutely perfect since Jeff quit drinking. We have been going out, doing things together and he hasn't had any strange late night phone calls. Everything is going so well he even encouraged me to invite my cousin, Vanessa to visit. I haven't laid eyes on her in a few years but the moment she steps out of the car it feels like we haven't been apart.
"Jas, oh my God, youre looking so good!" She says pulling me into her embrace.
"You look great, too Ness," I reply as I pull away.
Standing there with her sends a small twinge of jealousy through me. Her blue eyes sparkle in the light, even under the cover of clouds, and her clear tan skin is just unbelievable.
"I should have known she would be in a dress," I mutter to myself. She shakes her head at me with a smirk and her thick blonde hair blows in the cool breeze. Vanessa was always pretty, but boy has she bloomed into a voluptuous beauty.
"It sure is cold down here, I thought Florida was supposed to be sunny and hot." she says wrapping her sweater around her.
"Its only January, it will start warming up soon," I reply leading her to the front door.
Jeff pulls up as we are heading inside. "I take it you're Vanessa," he says, stepping out of his truck, clearly trying to avert his eyes away from her chest.
"Yes, this is me," she says with a giggle and tucks her hair behind her ear coyly.
Jeff smiles and looks at me. "Umm... we better get all this stuff inside," he says taking her suitcase from her.
They walk in and I stand there in the doorway with my arms crossed. Drawing in a shallow breath I shake my head and close the door behind me. No matter what I try to do, I can't shake the green eyed monster within. The way they talk, the way they are shamelessly flirting pisses me off.
"Jasmine? What's wrong?" Jeff asks coming up behind me and rubbing my shoulders.
"Nothing," I reply, virtually through my teeth. He pulls me into him hugging me tightly. I smile as his warmth encompasses me.
Rolling over in bed I realize I'm alone. The coldness of his side of the bed jars me to full consciousness. Getting up to use the restroom I hear laughter coming from the front of the house. As I scamper my way down the hallway a thought crosses my mind, "No," I whisper to myself as I round the corner to the living room.
Jeff and Vanessa are sitting on the couch talking. The more I observe, the more I realize just how close they are. Jeff is sitting there in his pajama pants and shirtless, while Vanessa is in shorts and tank top ensemble, that leaves nothing to the imagination. Clearing my throat as I walk towards them and they both jump up.
"Sorry, I woke up and realized you weren't there. I thought something might be wrong but clearly it's not," I say turning to go back to bed.
I'm angry as I crawl back in bed, as every possible scenario plays out in my head, while I lay there staring into the darkness. The bedroom door creaks open and I turn over facing the wall. Jeff climbs into bed and snuggles up to me. Laying there limp I make no effort to reciprocate. He kisses my temple and pulls me closer.
"Jas," he whispers. I don't respond because if I do he will hear the hurt in my voice. "I love you," he says and kisses my cheek.
Laying there in the darkness, I listen to the slow rhythm of his breathing before sleep finally finds me.
The smell of bacon wakes me up and I reach over realizing Jeff isn't there. "Damn it," I mutter under my breath as I pull on a pair of sweat pants and a t shirt. I pull my hair up into a ponytail as I stomp down the hallway.
Vanessa is in the kitchen cooking and Jeff is sitting at the bar sipping his coffee. I walk over to the coffee pot without as much as a word.
"Someone is a still a real grump without their coffee, aren't they?" Vanessa says pointing the spatula at me.
I nod and roll my eyes as I climb on the barstool beside Jeff.
"So, Jas, since its ladies night at Bottlestopper, I was hoping you would go with me," she says.
"I don't know about that now, I'm not really into the club scene." I say.
"I don't mind, go ahead, have fun" Jeff says, winking at Vanessa.
She hasn't changed a bit, she still gets excited at the smallest things. I just stare at Jeff, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"What?" He whispers.
"I have to admit I'm surprised that you are ok with this," I reply with suspicion in my tone.
Jeff picks up on it quickly and rolls his eyes. "There's nothing to be suspicious about," he says, his tone soft, "I figured you two would like to catch up and have a little fun."
Bars and clubs are not my idea of fun, I'm more of a relax at home with a good movie and pizza kind of girl.
"I'll think about it," I finally say looking back and forth between the two of them.
Vanessa frowns at me and gives me the puppy dogs eyes.
"That doesn't work on me." I reply taking a sip of my coffee.
"Well... I'll just have to bug the ever living shit out of you until you buckle," she replies with a huge grin, raising her eyebrows at me.
I laugh knowing she means it, thats how persistent this woman is. In my freshman year of high school she convinced me to sneak out and walk almost five miles to her house so we could have a secret slumber party. I did it only to find out it was a make out party. I got the beating of my life for that, but it was worth it to play spin the bottle with Michael Smith. I would have gotten away with it if he would have known how to kiss but his braces cut my lip.
"I'll consider it, but right now I've got to get ready for work," I say heading to the bathroom.
Getting to work is a task. Waiting until the last possible moment, leary of leaving these two alone with each other, I have to take the backroads to work. Driving down this old dirt road gives me chills. Only moments from where I grew up I stop the car. I glance at the clock knowing I'm going to be late. Slowly letting off the break I turn down that old washboard driveway.
As the old run down trailer comes into view I feel my insides buzzing with fear, but noticing that my fathers rusty old truck is gone brings some relief. I put the car in park and step out onto the uneven ground. I watch as an aging face passes the window. Her graying hair is pulled back into a messy bun and there are circles under her eyes, deep and dark, but her eyes are still the same bright blue.
Making my way up rotting steps, the door creeps open. My mother steps out, butcher knife in hand.
"Mom, it's me," I say holding my hands up in front of me.
"Jasmine?" She looks at me and suddenly throws the knife into the grass and slings her arms around me. She sobs into my shoulder and I hold her tightly.
"Mom, I'm sorry I left," I say fighting the tears in my eyes.
"No, don't be sorry, everything your father and I put you through...," she says, her eyes looking me over.
"It's the past, I have forgiven you, but I can't forget." She nods clinging to me.
The fragility of the once strong, vivid woman in front of me breaks my heart.
"I haven't had even a sip of alcohol since you left," she says taking my face in her hands.
I smile a weak smile trying not to let the pools of tears that now fill my eyes fall.
"Won't you come in? I'll make you some breakfast," she says turning to go inside.
"I can't, I have to get to work, but I had to see you." She nods.
Walking away from my mother standing there with tears in her eyes was oddly comforting. Turning the car around I look back one last time promising myself I'd come back to see her soon.
I'm rushing into work, practically running and I don't see the man walking towards me. "Hey," he says, stopping me in my tracks with an embarrassed look on his face. It brings me out of my trance.
"Hi," I stammer.
I look up at him to fully see his expression and it stuns me. The soft green of his eyes, the fullness of his lips and that face.
"Are you alright?" He asks.
I nod, having no idea who he is. "I'm sorry," he says.
"What do you have to be sorry for?" I ask, confused.
"I wanted to apologize for running into you last night. I'm Brandon," he says reaching out his hand.
"Oh, nice to meet you," I respond, suddenly recognizing his voice. "No worries, no harm done," I say quickly turning to walk away. I look back over my shoulder and smile, realizing I'm going the wrong way. "Well, crap," I mutter, dashing into the nearest elevator. As I push the button I realize I never introduced myself.
The work day can't get over quick enough. All I have been able to think about was what those two have been doing back at home, or could be doing. I look up at the clock realizing the next fifteen minutes are going to feel like years.
"Oh come on, Jas," She collapses onto my bed, groaning. "It's going to be fun," The enthusiasm in her voice made me roll my eyes.
"No," I say. She bats her eyelashes at me and I can't help but laugh. Giving in I shake my head.
"Fine, but I have to text Jeff and let him know." I stalk off into the bathroom to clean up. I put on jeans and a cute top, brush through my hair and grab my shoes before walking into the bedroom.
Vanessas face is priceless, "I know that is NOT what you plan to wear, right?" She asks.
"What's wrong with my clothes?" I ask. "I thought this looked pretty damn good." Vanessa rolls her eyes at me and practically drags me over to the closet.
"Hmmmmm... she says sifting through my wardrobe.
Towards the back she finds a little black dress, she yanks it out and her eyes light up.
"This! This is the one!" She squeals.
The thin satin sheath slides down my skin as I put it on. The intricate lace comes up around my neck in a halter fashion, while the hemline sits at my upper thigh. The plunging neckline emphasizes my breasts, and the open back is cut clear down to my lower back.
I step out of the bathroom and she whistles at me. Feeling the redness covering my cheeks I giggle as I looked at myself in the full length mirror.
"Now that, my dear cousin, is proper attire for the club. Time to talk shoes," she says waggling her eyebrows.
She sits down in the middle of my closet and rummages through my shoes. Coming out with a pair of strappy silver heels, she smiles. I groan loudly knowing I'm a wreck in heels.
"Put them on," she commands and sits on the bed. I give her the dirtiest look I can manage and she just laughs. "Strut your stuff," she says with a grin, "you better get used to them. We are going to be out for a while."
I draw in a deep breath and take a few careful steps, looking completely awkward. She jumps up trying to contain her laughter.
"Here let me show you," she says demonstrating the right way to walk in heels.
She looks over at me as we wait in line to get in, "You look hot," she says with a smile.
"Thanks," I say looking down at my feet. She pats me on the shoulder and whispers,
"Damn Jas, look at these two guys over there," she says as we enter.
We get to the bar and I order a coke and her a shot of Jim Beam fire. I turn to hand her the shot and she grabs my hand and I almost drop my drink, but don't say anything: I don't want to ruin her night with my moods, so I just turn and look at the guys.
She makes a beeline for the two men sticking her chest out and flipping her hair. I glance at the one admitting, once again, that Ness has excellent taste in men. Before I can catch my thoughts one of the men greets us. I stammer "hello" and turn to Vanessa whose cheeks have turned another shade of red.
"Want to dance?" The man says and Vanessa immediately nods. She stands up, giving me a quick look before walking to the dance floor with the handsome stranger. I look up at the other man, who is standing in front of me, and I can tell he's undressing me with his eyes. It makes me uncomfortable and I know how Jeff would be if he saw this. I sit down at the nearest table because my feet are already screaming. The music is loud but there is a silence between us. He nods his head and looks to the dance floor.
"I can't, I have a boyfriend who would freak out, not to mention my poor feet," I say. He looks at me and smiles a panty soaking smile. How stupid of me to let her talk me into this.
"Whats your name?" He asks.
"Jasmine," I reply feeling the burn in my cheeks. My thoughts begin to wander.
"I'm Brandon Whitaker, he says and the strobe flashes on his eyes. They're a soft green hue and so familiar. Maybe the combination of the strobe lights and atmosphere is causing my imagination to run wild. He is so familiar, the eyes, the face, the voice. It hits me, this is the guy who tried to knock me out at the hospital.
"Do I know you?" He asks, cutting into my thoughts, and stretches his hand out for me, one touch and I just know it has to be the same guy.