Authors: Kate Stewart
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Romance, #Contemporary
Oh, sweet lord.
“Nice party trick,” I said breathlessly, unable to hide my amazement at his small gesture.
“I only pick on the girls I like,” he whispered into my ear and continued to blow on the nape of my neck and around my ear. I shivered in delight at the sound of his voice and the feel of his breath on my skin.
The bass started thumping again, and the cloud I was just in where only Seth and I existed quickly dispersed into a massive climax of beats, hands, arms and legs. I watched him dance and loved every minute of it. Not only could he keep up with me, he was better than most of the guys out there. When the mix ended, I took my cue. I kissed his cheek, not something I ever normally do, and walked away.
I was at work after all. I had money to make. I had a new life to look forward to. I took up my half of the bar with ease. I concentrated on getting the job done, but my eyes wandered, every once in a while, to the guy in the white tee who I caught glancing my way more than once. As Dave broke down his set and the, ‘you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here’ lights came on, I looked up to see the table my eyes had drifted to half a dozen times, empty. He was gone and with him my smile. It had more of an effect on me than it should have. He’d left without saying goodbye?
“Last call!” Callie interrupted my thoughts behind me. I served the last drinks, closing out the open bar tabs, and quickly counted my till. Dave walked up just as I was wiping down the bar.
“Callie, thanks for staying. That was a hell of a rush.”
I had thought of asking her to crash at her place. And though we were friendly enough and shared a lot of our lives, we weren’t quite on that level yet. Dave was an easier sell.
“Afterparty at the house. I’ll see you there.” He had his arm around some stray that I had never met, nothing unusual. I gave him a nod and his new door prize a quick smile.
“I’ll be there as soon as I get out of here.”
“Alright, Laurs, be careful.”
I gave Callie a hug and gave the cash till to Gary to count down. While he checked me out, I realized how exhausted I really was. My Kamikaze buzz had worn off and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes from slipping closed.
I drove to Dave’s as quickly as I could, knowing I wouldn’t be able to get a wink of sleep with a full blown party in full swing by the time I’d arrived. He had done well enough for himself, having rented a two-story house a few miles from the heart of Deep Ellum. There were a ton of cars parked in the drive, but I’d managed to get my small Honda on a spot on the grass.
Of all Dave’s success, I was only jealous of one thing: his house. Though it was rented, it was an awesome house with a ton of character and kaleidoscope windows on the top floor. The walls were painted in shades of red, orange and purple. Framed posters of all his DJ events plastered the walls and the furniture was oversized and comfortable. It was a beautiful house with a retro feel and it was always lit with luminaries and Christmas lights. Dave knew how to throw a party and this one was far from under par.
The music pulsed throughout the house and I spotted the keg immediately upon my arrival. A group was gathered on the couch hitting a four foot bong and I made my way around them to the keg. I pumped myself a beer with one of the available cups and drank it quickly, trying to recapture the buzz from the club and failed. I was just too tired. I knew a majority of the crew and waved my hellos to them, but quickly retreated to the back of the house and settled on the back porch steps where it was the most peaceful. I needed a small amount of quiet to absorb the day’s events. I let my head fall in my hands and sat on the stoop, fighting the urge to lie right there on the hard concrete.
“Maybe you’re not so happy about your break up after all?”
The voice was familiar now and I smiled in my hands.
“No, no, I’m just really tired.” I kept my head in my hands and felt Seth’s arm drape around me. He was sitting next to me and pulled my head into his lap.
“Then sleep, mad bitch with the busted lip.”
“Whoa, what the hell?”
“Chill out, Laura. No one is going to hurt you.”
He ran his fingers through my hair. They were long and soothed me immediately. Any protest I had refused to pass my lips. Oh, how I liked this guy.
“So why are you here?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.
“Why are you here?” he fired back.
“Well, Dave is my brother and I live here now.”
“Well, Dave told my buddy about the party and here we are.”
“I think so, too,” he whispered, tracing my hairline with his fingers around my face. I was beginning to melt into him. Though it was completely ridiculous to feel so at ease with him so quickly, he had a way about him. His fingertips traced their way down to my bruised lips and I kissed them before I realized what I was doing. I felt his chest heave and quickly raised my head, bumping his chin, hard.
“Ow!” he shouted and cursed under his breath, cupping his chin. His eyes were gleaming. I had really gotten him good.
“Oh shit, Seth. I am so sorry.”
His eyes narrowed. “Did you do that on purpose, mad bitch with a busted lip?”
“I… no, of course not!” I cupped his hand on his chin and mouthed I’m sorry again, and his eyes relaxed. He started to chuckle and resumed threading his fingers through my hair. I felt sticky and my hair was slightly tangled from the sweat of dancing, but it didn’t seem to bother him. I met his eyes and the gesture became more awkward due to the fact that we were now face to face. I couldn’t break our stare any more than he could. It was so obvious to both of us. I wanted him and he definitely wanted me. I felt him leaning into me and our lips met briefly. A loud burst of noise came from behind us as two party goers walked out the back door and brushed past us on the steps, completely oblivious to interrupting our kiss. I turned to him as if to apologize for the interruption, even though I had no reason to. Those eyes. Those damn beautiful eyes instantly grabbed me and I was right back there with him.
I had never in my life felt an attraction this strong. I wondered if he felt the same. It was undeniable. I was sober, and that was a first in a long time at three o’clock in the morning on any given night. I studied him, looking for signs that he might be drunk. Nothing but the scent of beer on his breath indicated as much, but I wasn’t a beat around the bush type of girl. I broke the silence.
“Are you drunk?”
“No, not at all.”
“Do you want to go to my place to get some sleep?”
“What? Oh come on!” I stood up instantly turning off the vibe I felt for him. Was he crazy?
“Laura, I didn’t mean it that way.”
I didn’t know why I had taken such offense. It wasn’t like I was the spokesperson for safe sex or just say no. I was far from it. I’d almost cheated on Chris, twice. I was tired. I needed sleep. My eyes bore into his and I knew he was sincere about his offer, but I wasn’t dumb enough to take him up on it.
“No, I know you mean well. I just, ya know…” I trailed off, but sat back down next to him to let him know I was no longer upset about the fact he had just tried to take me home. God, I needed sleep. How I loved it. I missed it. It was almost as important as making an impression on the beautiful guy sitting next to me. He lowered my head again into to his lap. This time I kept my mouth shut, enjoying his fingers in my hair.
I woke the next morning with an abrupt ‘oh shit, do I have all my clothes on where am I’ mentality. It was something that had become more constant over the last few years of drug use, and it never settled well with me. I was at Dave’s, on his couch, clothes on, safe. I let out a long breath. The sun was peering in through the living room window and I looked at Dave’s wall clock: 12:30 P.M. I vowed right then and there that when I got my own place, there would be no more of this waking up scared shit. It was for the birds. It didn’t matter if I had decided to lend a deaf ear to the said rules and morals of the world. This was one of those things that I wasn’t comfortable with.
Truth is, I was pretty tired of the drugs and the booze. I started way earlier than most of my friends that were just now discovering the wonders of them. It was getting old. I would still bartend as long as possible. The money was too good. I would worry about the direction of my life later. For now, this was my life. Knowing I could still get plenty of sleep, I opted to set out to look for a place—my own place. I smiled, feeling the now familiar sting of my lips and ignoring it. I grabbed my toothbrush out of my backpack and a clean change of clothes. Dave’s bathroom was disgusting. I barely felt clean after a shower. I took my tip money from the night before and counted it. One hundred and eighty-three dollars was not bad. I looked first at a group of apartments close to my job. It would save on gas and I liked the area, but they were too pricey. I made good money, but I could not guarantee the same wage when the summer ended. I had to be smart about this. I was on my own.
Another too tempting smile crossed my lips. I had practically moved from my parent’s house into a friend’s, then straight to Chris. I picked up a paper and chocolate milk from the gas station. I found a cottage-style, one story duplex apartment about five miles away from Dave. I decided to drive by to check it out. I walked up and peeked into the window when I heard a voice sound behind me.
“Can I help you?”
“Oh, um, sorry, I saw this was for rent and I was…being nosey. I am looking for a place.”
I turned to look at the lady and practically saw her gasp at my mouth. She was a total Barbie. Great.
“I’m Marcia, the owner.” Great, a Brady name to go with a Barbie.
“I’m Laura. Nice to meet you.” I suddenly felt self-conscious about my clothing choice: cut-off shorts, a pink form fitting tank and flip flops. This was Texas in June, and she was wearing a white pant suit and was completely decked out in makeup and hair.
She sized me up with a small amount of distaste, but her eyes went soft again when they fell on my mouth. Bingo. I was playing this card. “Well, Laura, let’s take a look around.”
Like I had done a thousand times in the last twenty-four hours, I smiled and winced, but this time it paid off more than I could have imagined. Her hand draped around me as if I was some victim.
“He didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t take it anymore.” I whispered to her, following closely behind her.
“Oh, you poor baby. I won’t ask details. I will ask how bad the situation is. Do you have a place to live now?”
We stepped inside and with one look around, I claimed the place as my own. It was perfect. It was spacious with hardwood floors, high ceilings, blank walls, all the appliances, and the price was right.
“I’ve been sleeping in my car in the park, to be honest. I’m saving up. I have a job. I’ve been working there for close to a year. You can call.”
“Oh you poor thing. God, what an animal!”
She showed me the bedroom, which was a nice size, and the adjoining bathroom, which was huge. Yes, this would all be mine.
“I can give you everything I have now and have the rest by the end of the week. I have my job as a reference and I can get more if you need them. This will be my first place on my own as far as renting, so I don’t have anything as far as that type of reference goes. I trusted him.” I purposely made my voice crack and pursed my lips so my eyes watered. That was all it took. Marcia Barbie was putty in my hands.
Thank you, Seth!
“It’s yours, Laura, once I verify your job and one reference. I’ll waive the deposit because it looks like you could use a break. I’ll keep the electricity on for a month until you can get it switched and pay me what’s due. You can move in tomorrow as long as you have a month’s rent.”
“Thank you!” I hugged her. Surprised by my reaction, she patted my shoulder and gave me words I am sure she thought were encouraging.
“Honey, we just have to stay strong when things like this happen.”
“No pets, no parties, no drugs, and no late rent payments.”
I gave her Gary’s phone number and Callie’s as well as a reference and she assured me once she had checked it out she would page me and we could sign a lease at noon the next day. I had to come up with two hundred and twenty-seven dollars by tomorrow. Shit. I would do it. I could do it. I had to do it. This was too good to pass up.
I went home and woke up Dave, who gave me more than a mouthful as we piled into my Civic to get the rest of my things from Chris. I had nothing to take to my new place. When we walked in, I had to admit, my guilt tugged at me. I only took what I brought as promised. Well, almost. I took toilet paper and a few plates and pieces of silverware; things we had two of. I left the key and kissed my life with Chris goodbye.
I was booming Snoop Dog’s
Murder Was the Case
as I drove into the work parking lot that night. My spirits were high and my confidence in life in general renewed. I had spent a few extra minutes getting ready. My hair was blow dried perfectly straight around my shoulders. I had dusted my green eyes with a little more shimmering brown eye shadow than usual and laid the mascara on heavy, as well as the liquid liner. I wore my tee twisted in back and pumped the girls up in my push up bra. My black shorts were a little too short, but I had money to make and if there was ever a time to use my sexuality it was now, damn it. I was so close. My lips were carefully covered with a light gloss. They were hopeless, but I did the best I could. I slipped on my thigh high boots and sauntered into work, a woman on a mission.