‘Tarah pulled up in front of her house, rolled the front windows half way up, then reclined her car seat. She wanted to just enjoy a few moments of peace before she went inside. She could see the light from the television in her son’s room flickering and most of the lights in the house were off, except for the outside light. The clock on her dashboard said 4 minutes after 7. She turned up her stereo.
She closed her eyes and immediately, his shades-less face came to her. She smiled.
“It should be fukin’ illegal to be 23 and look that good.” she mumbled to herself.
“I shouldda let his lil young ass walk all the way to the damn bus station.” she mumbled to herself again.
She became immediately aware of this sudden frustration. She recognized that she was talking to herself and she couldn’t believe how much Alex seemed to affect her.
She immediately leaned over and began to feel between the passenger side seat and console for the lost article. She felt it, but it kept escaping her whenever she held it. She eventually leaned right over and pulled the side lever to completely pull the seat back and base forward. Tarah then reached behind and underneath it, to retrieve the shades. After she set the seat back into its proper position, she went back to recline in hers, and placed the shades on her lap. She closed her eyes and enjoyed letting the random option on her cd deck, play selections to entertain her.
She wondered why she couldn’t shake him from her mind, even for a few seconds. It was quite troubling actually. She thought about his smile, his lips, his eyes, the way he smelled, the tone of his voice and the sound of his sometimes reluctant laughter. To her, he tried to be reserved, but some of the things she said seemed to shock him, so he wasn’t able to be as serious as he wanted. She wondered if he was trying to impress her. He had though, without even trying and she didn’t know why. She needed to get this thing going on inside her immediately sorted. Could this be the beginning of a third life crisis. She sighed,.
“Bless his 23 year old heart..” she murmured.
She pulled the visor down so that she could look at the mirror, then put his shades on, to see what they would look like on her. They were a little big, but still kind of cute. She blew a playful kiss at her reflection, then sighed again.
“Ok Alex, you gotta get outta my head.. I’ll return these to you, and I gotta stop talking to you… and I gotta stop talking to myself..” she whispered while shaking her head vigorously, as if she was trying to shake the thoughts of him from her brain.
Tarah put all her windows all the way up, then turned off her car. She wanted to kiss her son and have a little chat with him before he fell asleep, if he hadn’t already. As she closed the front door of her house behind her, she heard a little voice yell out..
“Mom is that you?”
“And who else would it be?” she responded, with a smile that so far, no one but that little boy had been able to produce.
She said goodnight out loud, but there was no response from Lucas. She waited a little, then figured he was in the shower and hadn’t heard her. She went into her son’s room, looking forward to getting the world’s greatest hug.
“Looks like I made it just in time. You look like you’re ready for dreamland.”
“I was waiting for you. What took you so long?” Marco asked.
She thought for a second about what to say, but as usual, she had a hard time lying about, well, anything, so she said.
“I gave someone a lift home.”
“Do I know them?” he asked, ever the inquisitive one. She knew she should’ve just lied and said work.
“I doubt it.” Tarah responded.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” he asked again.
Tarah laughed and rolled her eyes.
“How is this your concern? Anyhow, when I talked to you on the phone today, you said you learned something new by grandma and you wanted to show me. So? What was it? Show me!”
She successfully changed the subject and eyes lit up as he’d just remembered the conversation.
“I learned how to movie kiss.” he said with a high pitch to his tone and a sparkle in his eyes.
“Excuse me?! Movie kiss?! What’s that?!” She replied shocked.
“Lemme show you!”
…And his little skinny, ninja turtle pajama clad body, jumped out of bed, threw his arms around his mother and pressed his lips hard on hers, then he started to shake his head left and right. He peeked one of his eyes open and spoke through his little pursed lips,..
“Mom, you gotta move your head from side to side and you gotta close your eyes. Then count to 10 in your head and say MUAH!”
Tarah was dying with laughter. She complied, complete with MUAH!
“Um Marco, you learned this today at grandma’s?”
“Yeah, on TV.”
“Yeah, this guy was kissing this lady, she they said I love you a lot, and I love you a lot, so I figured that’s how I should kiss you.”
“Did you see them do anything else?”
“No. Grandma changed the channel.”
“So you know you’re too young to kiss girls like that right?”
“Why would I kiss girls like that. I don’t like them. They’re annoying.”
“You know I’m a girl right?”
“No, you’re my mom.”
She was satisfied.
“You got 15 minutes. 8 o’clock, TV goes off ok?” Tarah reminded.
“I know mom. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
She smiled really hard as she exited Marco’s room. When she walked into her room, Lucas sat on the bed with his back towards the door.
“Goodnight.” she said again.
He answered this time, but it was more grunt like than human.
“How was your day?” she asked.
“It was ok.” he replied point blank, nothing further.
She shook her head, knowing she should have grown accustomed to that type of reaction. He barely noticed she was there, unless he needed her for something. She headed straight for the shower, and as she stood beneath the warmth of the water, she began to feel relaxed. She snickered out loud at the conversation she’d just had with her son, but then as she began to lather up and touch herself, Alex’s face came back to her.
“This shit needs to stop.” she murmured.
Tarah dried and lotioned herself in the bathroom, and decidedly exited the bathroom naked. Lucas looked at her briefly, then pointed his attention back to the television. She laid there hoping to feel his touch for the longest while, then drifted off to sleep with her last emotion being disappointment. When she woke up the following morning, he was already gone. She checked her clock and it said 6:30, which meant Marco was still sound asleep. She went over to his room to check on him, and he was still nestled into his cocoon. She was happy to have a bit of the morning to herself, because when Marco woke up, the focus shifted to everything being about him, until he went to his grandmother’s.
Tarah went back to her room, opened her bedroom door that lead to her balcony, then sat on her bed, staring outside at the beautiful morning, wondering how she had so much, and was still feeling so empty. It was a very unsettling feeling. It felt like things in her life were about to change, but she didn’t know how.
For the longest time, she sat there very still, in awe of how beautiful the morning was, and how still everything was except her thoughts. She was very confused by the feeling of emptiness that had taken over, and had been taking over for quite some time. She felt extremely lonely and she didn’t know how to fill the void. There was only so much she could write. There was only so much frustration she could put on a sheet of paper. Tarah laid down on her sheet with the sunlight beaming into her room, and suddenly his face came to her again. As she laid there in the perfect morning, consciously or unconsciously, her fingers found their way down between her thighs, with beautiful but unwanted thoughts, guiding the motions of her fingers….
Tarah sat at her desk, not really able to get much work done that morning. It was already after 1 in the afternoon, and she considered the day officially unproductive. She began tinkering with the shades on her desk and decided that it was best to give the shades back to him ASAP, and not wait until the end of the day. As a matter of fact, she would give them back to him and immediately leave, instead of the time she’d grown accustomed to, which was the time he finished working. She called the number for his work place and asked to speak with him, but when they asked her if she was referring to Harper or Chambers, the only thing she could think to say was,
“Errrm, the really good looking one that always wears shades?”
The gentleman on the other end of the line began to laugh, then said hold on. She was so embarrassed. She immediately realized two things. One was, whoever that person was who answered the phone, they were gonna tell him that she referred to him as really good looking, and two, that she was all bothered by a man, whose last name she hadn’t known. She knew for sure he was Alex Chambers when she heard his voice. She also knew for sure he was told about the conversation, because of the snicker in his voice. They both decided not to address it.
“I have your shades in my office. Could you come and get them now?”
“Sure, but I could wait ’til this afternoon after work you know.” he replied.
“Nah, I may be leaving early today. I know you probably feel like a fish outta water without them, so I don’t want you to have to wait any longer.”
“Ok, gimme 10 minutes. I’ll finish what I’m doing first. What office am I coming to?”
“It’ll be #42. No name, just # 42 on the door.” she said.
“Aight, see you in a bit.”
Tarah jumped slightly when she heard a light knock on her door. For whatever reason, she grabbed the mirror out of her top drawer and quickly checked her face before telling him to come in. In her mind it was supposed to be him coming into her office, she would cordially give him a nice kiss off, with a speech about needing to keep their distance, but we can still say hi kind of bull, he’d be ok with it, then he’d leave, and things would go back to business as usual. She knew eventually she’d stop thinking about him and that she’d be fine. That was how it was supposed to go. Nice and Easy.
He walked in, smiled beautifully, with his eyes bright and brown. He also carried what had to be his lunch, because it smelled divine, instantly reminding her of her hunger. Alex sat in the chair directly in front of her desk and stared at her, completely disarming her.
“What are you working on?” he asked.
“Right now, I’m trying to get my concentration back.”
She seriously contemplated how honest she should be with him. Then literally said fuck it. She was a grown woman and tippy-toeing was not her style, at least it shouldn’t be.
“Maybe this shit is all in my head, but there is this thing…. between me and you and I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s kind of creeping me out. I mean that not in a bad way, and maybe you can completely put the kibosh on what might be my brain turning to mush, but I think you’re attracted to me. Am I wrong?”
She wished she hadn’t said a damn thing, because he immediately became unreadable. Her mind began to scramble for something to redeem, what may have come off as her cocky or egotistical ramblings.
“I mean I know I could be wrong, don’t get me wrong, just let me know if I’m waaay off base…”
“You’re not wrong.” He said in a very matter of fact tone.
She was relieved and not all at the same time. Then she didn’t know what to say.
“So what if I’m attracted to you? Why shouldn’t I be? I think you’re beautiful.” he said.
Her belly did a somersault. It had been a long time since she’d heard a man say that. Well in this case man boy…but she was too old to let a go to compliment like ‘you’re beautiful’ shake her in any way. It was hardly original.
“Your problem isn’t that I’m attracted to you. If that was the case, you’d have a really serious situation, cause I’m sure a lot more men than me are attracted to you as well. Your problem is that you’re attracted to me.” He said that with the utmost confidence.
Now she really didn’t know what to say. She also wanted to smack the cocky smirk off of his face, because she knew that he knew, he’d just read her like an eye chart, from the look on his face. She gasped in horror.
“I don’t think we can continue being friends.”
“I don’t see why. Have I ever disrespected you? Have I ever been forward? We’ve been friends for a couple of months, tell me what I’ve done or said in any of our conversations to make you feel like we can’t be friends. It can’t be my age freaking you out? Is it that?” he asked.
There was an almost pained tone to his questions.
“It is and it isn’t. I mean, I dunno. It bothers me. I can’t lie.”
“Why? Do you think I’m too immature? I thought we had great conversations.” he replied.
“We do!” Tarah said.
“Well, I think you’re being stupid. If you really want to stop having contact with me, look me in my eyes and tell me straight up, ‘I never wanna talk to you again’.”
As confident as he’d sounded, he held his breath a little, because he was nervous that she would indeed say she didn’t want to talk to him ever again.
“You know that’s not what I mean. I don’t not wanna talk to you ever again.” She said.
She heard herself talking, and couldn’t believe her own ears. She had wanted to end all contact before, but seeing him there in front of her, she decided that she needed a different angle. She really did like their conversations, he had never been disrespectful, and she knew the problem was truly hers and not his. Right then and there she needed a new game plan.
“I’m sorry. I am.” she said.
He smiled in victory and she rolled her eyes at the agony of her colossal defeat. She knew that if she’d continued any further, two things would have happened. They may indeed NEVER speak again, and in the moment, that thought seemed a lot more unbearable than it did earlier. Also, he would see how much she was truly attracted to him through further protests, or too much dissection of the friendship. Tarah didn’t need him to observe her feelings under a microscope. She then decided that her next course of action, was to figure out how to unlike him. Maybe he had a foul tattoo, maybe he had disgusting Frankenstein feet, maybe he had a flatulence problem, something would eventually come up to make him less perfect and easier to dislike. Superficial yes, but she had to try something. She would never discover it from a distance, and would probably always have a lingering feeling of desire. If he was close, she’d figure out his ‘faults’ then mentally get the situation in regards to how she felt sorted. Would’ve been easier if there was an ‘Unlike’ button for him like in facebook though. He reached forward and picked up his shades off of her desk and put them on. She smiled at him and shook her head wondering if she’d just lost her ‘get out of jail free card’ with this relationship.
“So what are you working on?” he asked as though they didn’t just have the conversation they’d just had.
“I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novel, but I don’t know where to begin. Writing for magazines is my bread and butter, but I think something is missing. I’m not as satisfied as I used to be. I feel as if there is more for me, but I just,… I dunno,..maybe I’m second guessing my self too much, or thinking too much.”
Alex made a mental note of the ‘not as satisfied as I used to be part’. He wondered if she’d just been talking about work.
“Is that what you’re trying to do right now?” he asked.
“I was, then it ended up being a poem.” she smiled.
“Can I see it?” he asked.
“No.” She quickly replied.
Tarah never showed anyone her personal pieces. It was like cutting a piece of her flesh and putting it on a plate. He didn’t press. He figured now wouldn’t be a wise time to push his luck.
“Have you ordered lunch?” he asked.
“I have actually, they should be calling me anytime now to come outside and get it.”
“What’d you order?”
“Seafood pasta.” she replied.
Then her cell rang.
“Speak a da devil. I’ll be right back.” she said.
She headed for the main entrance to the building to go and get her food. The moment she closed the door, he peeked at some of the papers on her desk. They were all pieces that she’d written, and one in particular caught his attention. He tried to slightly shift some of the papers to get a better view of it. Everything was kind of scattered, so he doubted that she would realize if a few papers were moved a couple centimeters.
‘You felt just like how I knew you would feel,…soft-tender, rough- hard, smooth-silky,…experienced, familiar…………. perfect…..Glorious…
As I take in all of you, and your style,…the coconut and herb smell of your surroundings,…the pictures of your family on the wall,…the stack of books and scattered paper on the table in the corner,..filled with your handwriting,…the coolness of your sheets on my back,..as you press what i hope to become life into my body. The look on your face when you are feeling pleasure,..the little sighs that I can see and feel you trying to muffle in vain, and the sweat that can only come from total exertion,…
I love you….. ‘
He was afraid he’d get caught snooping, so he didn’t try to read the whole thing, but seeing her most personal words, was almost as if she’d undressed a little in front of him. He ran his hand across the paper as if he was touching her skin, sighed deeply, then sat down quickly before she re-emerged. Tarah opened the other door in her office that lead to a small veranda at the back of the building. That little space outside was the main reason she took that office. She thought it was perfect for the times when Marco was with her and he wanted to play, but she didn’t want him distracting her. She’d put a table and 2 comfortable cushiony chairs out there when she’d initially taken over the space, so that they could eat together and enjoy the breeze.
“We can go outside. Come on.” she said.
They sat outside and she put her bare feet up on the low wall while they ate. He stared at her feet and her beautifully exposed legs and shook his head at how comfortable and unaware she was in his presence. He gave her some of his mother’s lasagna and she gave him some of her pasta. Their conversation flowed from his mother’s cooking, to their jobs, to her writing. They tried to not get too deep about anything, always changing the subject every time it felt as if it would. He never took his shades off, it was his protection from her long analytic stares. He happened to glimpse his watch, and saw a time of 2:27.
“I have to get back to work. Do you know what time’you’re gonna leave?”
“I dunno, normal time I guess. I’ll see what other ideas I can suss out. Why, you need a ride home?” she asked.
“You’re offering me? You sure?” he asked.
“Yeah I’m sure.” she smiled shaking her head, not sure at all.
“One more thing. Can I have your phone number?” he asked.
“Later.”she smiled shaking her head.
That evening she took him home, they barely spoke, but there was a strange level of contentment in the car. As he was about to get out, he touched her leg and said.
“You don’t need to worry.”
There was electricity in his touch, but maybe she was the one feeling the spark. She knew she was the one who had to get her feelings in check. He seemed fine and able to cope. She reached behind his seat and pulled an envelope out of her handbag and handed it to him.
“You can open it when you get inside.” she said..
As soon as he got out, she drove off. No time to linger.
When he got inside, he took 2 sheets from the envelope she’d given him. The first one read,
‘I know you were reading this, so here’s the whole thing. Finish it then call me and tell me what you think.’
At the bottom of her note was a big smile and her digits. The second sheet of paper was the entire poem he’d glimpsed earlier. He smiled widely…..