…..”Did you get my e-mail?” Tarah asked.
“Yeah I did. I was just about to call you. It was really beautiful. I don’t know what to say. I feel honoured that I’ve become your litmus test. You should just do a compilation of your short stories for your first book. They’re all really great. I think a novel should come naturally and right now, this is what’s in you, so just go with the flow. You have enough of these short stories, for a really amazing compilation.” Alex replied.
“You think?” she asked.
“I know.” he replied confidently.
“Well thanks for that. You’re good for my ego.” she said.
He was thinking to himself that he was good for something else, but they’d developed such an amazing bond since she tried to talk him out of their friendship almost a year prior, that he didn’t want to do or say anything to mess with it. He really liked what they had, even though there were many moments, where he wished he could lay her down. Out of respect for her situation and fear of damaging their friendship, he kept most of the feelings he had for her to himself. He wasn’t always successful, but he tried really hard, to not paint the already obvious elephant that would appear in the room whenever they were together, hot pink with stripes.
They’d both had birthdays since then, both occasions celebrated in her office with greeting cards and store bought cakes. He’d never forget the day she asked him to come downstairs from his office to check her ‘temperamental’ computer, as she couldn’t get any work done. When he walked in to her dimly lit office, she threw confetti and sang happy birthday to him over a beautifully decorated chocolate butter rum cake. The light from the large candle in the middle gave her office a lovely glow. She remembered thinking it looked kind of romantic just before he’d walked in, but she didn’t get up from her desk fast enough, to turn back on the main light before his head peeked through the door.
They sat at her desk and ate the cake, that was just big enough for the two of them. It was a really lovely moment and after she’d given him the beautifully wrapped box with a long sleeved cotton hoodie, and a ‘you mean so much to me friend card’ he embraced her innocently in a thank you hug. Immediately, they were aware of the feelings they constantly seemed to suppress, as their hug lingered a bit past appropriate. Her head rested too comfortably between his chest, and his arms settled firmly at the small of her back, pulling her into him. She sighed heavily, enjoying the embrace she usually avoided. Her normally pumped up sense of confidence in regards to her ability to handle her emotions concerning him, deflated quickly. She realized it wasn’t going to be easy, probably ever, to be in his presence and sustain the bond they’d formed. It felt too good to be in his arms, no matter how innocent, and his body fit next to hers too perfectly. When he kissed her forehead, she moaned slightly, pushed him back and immediately went to switch on the lights.
“I know you gotta get back to work, so I won’t keep you.” she said needing him to leave.
“Yeah, but I really appreciate this. It was really sweet of you. I love you so much for this.” he said.
He couldn’t believe that last part of what he said came out of his mouth. It made his innards cringe and he could’ve just kicked himself for being so loose lipped. He did not want to scare her off, and that whole ‘I love you’ thing, even though innocent, was a sure way to send her running the other direction. They never addressed it, and the whole ostrich approach to their true feelings continued to be the status quo in their relationship.
When it was her day, she hoped Alex wouldn’t remember, as she’d only ever mentioned the date once, a long time prior to its passing. It had fallen on the weekend, but not met with much fan fare. She got what seemed like an after thought call late that Saturday afternoon from her husband, who was at work and had seemed to just remember. It was definitely no coincidence though, as she had just spoken to her mother, who asked how her day was going. She’d told her it was fine, but Lucas never acknowledged the day,… at least he hadn’t so far. Tarah forbade her mother from calling him, but as usual, her mother never listened to her, regardless of how earnestly she requested. He apologized and seemed sincere, but she didn’t make a fuss about it, which was norm, even if her feelings were really hurt. Tarah’s son had made her a really lovely card, and she decided to be satisfied with that.
The following Monday, Alex turned up at her office wearing a pointy party hat on his head, an already inflated balloon hanging off of his lip and a cake with the #21 sitting in the middle. She laughed her butt off.
“21 eh? You wish!” she said.
“Happy birthday baby.” he said, after removing the balloon from his mouth with his free hand.
It was a gut punch and a beautiful moment all at the same time. It had become the norm for him to refer to her as babes, but he did slip sometimes and say things like baby, and sweetie, and she loved it, but it did not help their situation in any way. She usually just tried to brush them off as ineffective, and convinced herself that that was just how he talked to females. It all seemed very natural to him, so she tried not to be to bothered by it.
“I didn’t think you’d remember.” she said smiling from ear to ear.
“Not remember? You kidding, I been scoping it out since you told me. Besides I knew with your complex and all, you would’ve never reminded me, so I was sure to jot it down. Oh yeah, feel my butt.” he said grinning widely.
“Excuse me?!” she replied in shock.
“Feel my butt, my hands are full. I got something back there for ya.”
Tarah couldn’t believe her ears.
“Get that stupid look off your face, its not like that, just go look.” he said, this time laughing.
She reluctantly walked behind him and was relieved when she saw a gift wrapped article sticking out the back of his pants. She pulled it out and ripped off the paper, and it was a leather journal with the name Tarah inscribed on the front. It was beautiful.
“It’s for you to write down your ideas, you know,..for your stories and novel and shit..”
He then went to put the cake down and threw the balloon in the corner. When he turned around, she studied his smiling face for a few seconds, then walked over to him and kissed him lightly on his lips. She didn’t know why she did it, but she couldn’t help herself. They both kept their hands at their sides, but he leaned in towards her and engaged the kiss further, tasting the sweetness of the juice she’d been drinking before he walked in. With her mind screaming at her, she eased back before things got out of control. They looked at each other not saying a word for the longest time.
“Thank you. I needed this.” she said.
“Your welcome.” he replied, feeling happy they’d kissed, though it was only slight, but suddenly very aware of how much further he wished he could take it.
“What did you do to celebrate?” he asked.
“Nothing she said”, still trying to smile.”
“He didn’t take you out or anything?” Alex asked.
“No, but it was fine.” she lied.
He saw the sadness creep into her face and decided not to push it, but he was a tad annoyed. Tarah never talked bad about Lucas to him. Never. But Alex knew there was a lot going on there. They would talk about her relationship, but she always downplayed it’s shortcomings. It seemed like undeserved loyalty to him, but he’d never been married, and was definitely in no place to cast judgement. In a moment of weakness he embraced her and kissed her forehead then said…
“I love you. I hope you know that.”
For whatever reason, what he said did not frighten her in anyway. It warmed her. He didn’t say it in a way that was scary or intimidating to her. She held him back tightly.
“I love you too.” she said.
He smiled. There was such a genuine feel to the moment, that it transcended any type of sexual undertone. It felt sincere, not desperate or impatient. It was what she needed. Their relationship went to a new but more comfortable level after that moment. It felt easier, they could talk more openly, no judgement, no pressure. Initially, her plan to get to know him better was more of a fault finding expedition, which would cause her to like him less in a romantic way, but it more than backfired. She cared for him more than ever.
Early one afternoon while trying to figure out the layout for her compilation, he called..
“Whaddup?” she answered.
“Bayabeeee..” he said like Vybez Kartel, which always made her laugh.
“What you want?” she asked playfully.
“I need your help.”
“I’m working on a project and I’m stuck.” he replied
“Well I can guarantee that I will be of absolutely no assistance to you in regards to fixing any techy problem you having upstairs.”
“I’m at home.”
“At home? Shouldn’t you be at work?”
“I should be, but I when I woke up this morning, I felt like day old dog shit. I thought I was catching the flu, but I feel a little better now, and I’m not sneezing or anything.” he replied.
“Well you should be resting. What you want me to help you with? Laying down?”
Tarah so walked into that pile. He snickered and she shook her head realizing what she’d just said.
“Na badda ansa meh.” she snickered.
“I’m tired of resting. I slept all morning. I took it upon myself to re-arrange my room a little, and it looks pretty good, but I’m having some decorative and placement issues, and I need your female perspective.”
“Dude, you live with your mom. She’s as female as it gets, why not ask her?”
“I would, but as usual, she hot foot rass pon government street. I have no idea when she’s coming back here, and by no idea I mean after 9’o clock tonight. I wanna finish this now.”
“So I must leave my work to come to help you decorate your room?”
“Yeah. You know you wanna take a break. Come look in my face and make sure I’m ok and help me.”
“So we’re gonna be alone in your house? You think that’s wise?” Tarah asked.
“Nope, but lets try and see. Nothin’ beats a try. What you think I’m gonna jump you or something?”
“That’s EXACTLY what I’m thinking!” she said laughing hysterically.
“Be serious no man. I could really use some company. I promise I’ll behave. Haven’t I consistently been a good boy?”
“I guess so.” she said smiling.
“So you comin’? he asked.
“I’m not cummin’ yet.’ she whispered to herself, slightly turning the mouth piece away from her lips.
“What’d you say?” he asked.
“Nuthen’… Look gimme an hour. Lemme wrap up and I’ll come by. Jus’ mek sure you behave yaself.”
“Scouts honour.” he said.
“You were never a boy scout, so just please. Later.” she snickered.
“See you in a while.” he replied smiling.
She officially could get no more work done. She sat frozen in her chair thinking, she should’ve never agreed to that madness. She rationalized that it would have been the perfect test for their emotions, to see how they handled being in a less than ideal situation. She packed up her laptop and her papers after about 15 minutes then headed for his house.
When she pulled up in front, she became immediately self conscious about her attire. She was wearing an Ankara mini dress, which was very pretty,.. pretty enough to make her husband give her a second glance that morning, but some how seemed extremely inadequate while she stood outside his house. She exited her car which was parked on the side of the driveway, and immediately began tugging on the hem.
It was one thing to be wearing shorts, but her dress felt very non protective at that moment. While she was looking up at the house, trying to figure out how to get upstairs, he emerged on the gallery, shirtless, and looked to be only wearing boxer shorts. She shook her head aggressively as her internal ‘You better watch it alarm’ went off.
She grabbed her cell phone from her bag and called him.
“Yo,..you got here really fast. I thought you said an hour?” He said standing there staring directly at her.
“Sorry, I just decided to wrap up a bit early. I don’t want to leave here too late, so I figured the quicker I got here, the earlier I could leave….Um Alex, you think you could put some clothes ON!” she stressed on the on.
“I was. I only got out the shower a few minutes ago. I didn’t think you’d be here already. Why you sounding so pressed? Walk through the garage and take the stairs on the right. I’ll be clothed by the time you get upstairs. Cool?” he responded.
“Perfect.” she sighed and hung up.
“Dear Jesus, please give me strength.” she whispered., then followed his instructions.
It would be the first time she’d be going inside his house.
When she walked into the house, she was totally in love with the décor. His parents had amazing taste. She looked around the living room for a while, studying the family pictures, especially the ones with him as a child in them. She could see the same face on him now.
“Where are you?”, he yelled from down the hall.
She didn’t respond, but she made a b-line for the direction his voice came from. She could hear music with a heavy bass, getting louder.
She followed the bass and the smell of incense.
Tarah stood at his bedroom door, feeling the sudden urge to run like Forrest Gump. Alex was standing in the middle of his bed. He was wearing some loose fitting track pants and a wife beater. Though he complied and was fully covered, she could still see all of the definition in his arms and across his back and she eyed him all the way down to his feet, which were not Frankenstein like at all. They were actually quite beautiful.
“Dear God, help me”. she whispered.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
He turned to face his bedroom door and look at her. He smiled so widely it disarmed her.
“Wow , you look really pretty.” he said.
“And you don’t look sick at all”.. she replied with a big smile in kind.
“I told you I felt better, didn’t I.” he stared at her for a few more seconds, then returned his concentration to what he’d been doing.
Tarah didn’t respond, she just walked into his room and started looking around. It was… magnificent.
“Your mom did an amazing job in here.”
“Now you see how you are. What makes you think the look of my room was achieved by my mother?”
“Because nobody who could do this and achieve this look needs MY help. Remember the reason why I’m over here? Your decorating issue? Or did you lie to me?” she asked.
“You see what I’m doing up here? This is what I need your help with.” he replied.
“What ARE you doing?”
“I’m tending to my galaxy.” he said.
“Your what?!” she asked feeling slightly disturbed.
He then stepped away from his position, so that she could get a better look at what he was doing.
“Are those stars?” she asked, squinting to finally notice the somewhat transparent objects stuck to wall and on the roof.
“Yes they are. Now come help me put the rest of them on.” he replied.
“Why are you doing that?”
“Because it makes in here look amazing at night. I was 6 when my mom started putting them in here. I guess I used to get scared sleeping by myself and it was a cool way to give me a bit of light and a distraction. She said I stopped sneaking into bed with her and dad the same night she put them in here. I thought it was really cool, ’cause I was really into Star Wars and The Last Star Fighter, so it went with the decor of my room then. I just kind of stuck with it, new look and all. Every year I change them, because after a while, they don’t illuminate the same, so this is me changing them now. Come help me, I got a galaxy of stars to freshen up and only two hands.” Alex said.
Tarah stood there and watched this beautiful, grown man, meticulously removing the back of the various sized stickers to expose the adhesive and stick them above his headboard and in his roof. He then turned around and extended his hand to her, inviting her to stand next to him in the middle of his gorgeous king sized bed. She reluctantly took her flats off, gripped his hand, and he pulled her up.
She turned away from him quickly, feeling very uncomfortable with the closeness. She picked up a couple of stars and began to follow his lead. She was a bit more random with her placements, but when he turned around and realized, he tried to direct her.
“You can’t just stick them all over. There’s gotta be some kind of pattern.” he said.
“Pattern?! How come? Stars in the sky are as random as it can get. You can’t put order to that.” she replied defensively.
“Yes you can, and you will. It’s my room and I don’t want them all over the place.”
“I think it’ll look better if they’re more random.” she said.
“Well, I KNOW they’ll look better if we concentrate on a particular area. Just listen to me nuh.”
“No. You asked me for my help and I’m giving it to you.” she replied in an annoyed tone.
“Why you gotta be so stubborn about EVERYTHING?! I know what I want.” Alex said.
“You don’t really want my help though. You just wanted me to come over here so you could annoy the shit outta me. I’m leaving. You can stick ya damn stars where….”
As she was talking, she dropped the rest of the stars that she’d been holding, back onto the bed, and made an attempt to leave. Tarah spun around and he grabbed her quickly, but it caused her to lose her balance and her legs began to wobble. Her footing on the mattress became unstable and she fell forward on him. Alex lost his balance as well and they both tumbled over onto their knees, then allowed themselves to fall flat onto the massive mattress. At first she laid there kind of irritated, then she suddenly began to laugh hysterically. He soon followed suit. He laid there looking at her and laughing with her for the longest while, then a familiar feeling overwhelmed him. Seeing her lay there so close to him on his bed, with her dress now hiked up almost revealing her panties, he couldn’t help himself.
Tarah felt her laughter silenced by a sudden kiss. It was light at first, but after a few seconds, she felt it deepen and become very intense, very quickly. To her surprise, she didn’t push him away in anger. She angled her body towards him and he moved closer. Soon they were no longer kissing with their bodies side by side, as he pulled her onto him and rolled to his back so that she could be on top. He then lifted her dress up to her waist, completely exposing her lower half. His hands busied themselves like braille, finally learning her contours and caressing her ass ever so gently. He’d dreamed of it many times and was totally in awe of a moment he thought he’d never get a chance to experience. Her mind was devoid of all thoughts except what she was feeling right then. The kiss deepened further still and she enjoyed the warmth of his hands all over her body. For a while he seemed content with their kissing, feeling as if he could do it forever, but that too became insufficient. Alex wanted more of her. He ripped his mouth away from hers …
“Can I take it off? Please. I just wanna see you. Please just let me see you.” he whispered.
She was speechless. Her lack of response to him was an indication of a yes and before she knew it, he pulled her dress over her shoulders and head, leaving her in only her panties. He didn’t really get to see her, but he could feel her entire body and he was instantly hard. Tarah began kissing his neck and his collar bone and she moved her hands beneath his vest, feeling every single contour of his chest. Alex reached down and grabbed the hem of it, pulling it over his head in one swift motion, allowing the upper part of their bodies to touch without obstruction. When she began to kiss his chest, he thought he was going to go insane. Neither of them could believe what was happening and neither of them could believe that no one was stepping on the brakes. When Alex began to kiss her breasts, a little bit of clarity started to surface, but it felt so good to feel his hands and his mouth on her, she was still at a loss for halting words. As she lay on top of him, his hands traveled her body from her neck to her ass. When she felt his fingers slip inside her underwear, tears unintentionally began to fall from her eyes. A sound of sheer pleasure escaped her lips when she felt one of his fingers slowly move inside her core.
“Oh my God.” she sighed.
Alex rolled her onto her back, nestled himself between her legs and began to kiss her intensely again. His kisses trailed all the way down to the waist line of her panties and lingered there for a while, but when he still moved further south and she felt him kissing her privates through the fabric of her underwear, she began to sob. It scared him, but not enough to completely stop his exploration. He moved back up and re-settled himself between her legs, letting her feel how hard he really was. He kissed her until her lips hurt. Tarah immediately came to her senses when he thrust forward, and she felt exactly what she was going to have to deal with. Her panties and his track pants, were no match for what he had happening underneath. She ripped her lips away from his in shock.
“Stopstopstop, please,..oh my God!” she was breathless.
“Are you ok?” he whispered.
“No I’m not..oh my God! What’s that?! she asked.
“What’s what?” he asked.
She reached down in between them and cautiously felt him.
“Is that all you?” she asked in horror.
He was immediately embarrassed, but the look on his face said it all.
“Are you fuckin’ kidding me?!” she asked.
He rested his head in her neck and began to chuckle.
He slowly and reluctantly rolled off of her onto his back, and she quickly grabbed his vest to cover her upper body. Tarah laid back down with her head on his chest and looked down at his groin area in fright. His pants were hoisted up because of his massive erection, but it just looked so unreal to her.
Alex took her hand and put it on his privates, and let her grip it over the fabric of his track pants, like one of the old G.I Joe action figures. Her middle finger and her thumb barely touched. At this point she was more curious than turned on.
“May I see it?” she asked sounding like a child.
He didn’t say a word. He just pushed his pants down so that he could expose himself, so she could see the entire thing.
‘ARE YOU FUCKIN’ KIDDING ME?! How the hell do you cart that log around?” she was genuinely in shock.
He didn’t mean to, but what she said caused him to laugh uncontrollably. He quickly covered himself, and tried to mentally will his penis to go down. She wasn’t the first person he scared, but her reaction was definitely one for the books. Tarah felt really embarrassed by her own reaction, especially as she was supposed to be the older, more mature one. The entire experience was completely new for her. It felt so good to be in his arms, so comfortable, but so wrong. Confidently, they thought enough time had passed where they were strong enough to deal with their circumstance. They thought they’d built up enough barriers, to protect themselves from their emotions and each other, but in one afternoon, it was all shot to hell. Alex felt his chest getting wet because of her tears and he knew that she was truly overwhelmed.
“You wanna leave don’t you?” he asked
“I don’t wanna leave. That’s the problem, but I have to.” she replied.
She looked up at him, and he kissed her deeply again.
“I love you.” he said, then left her in his room to get dressed.
Though they didn’t have sex, Tarah walked out of that room a different person. He stood in his parent’s living room waiting for her. He embraced her and kissed her once more. Very deeply and passionately,… enough to make him want to change his mind and take her right back to the room she’d just come from, but he let her go. He had to. They both knew at that moment, that things with their friendship could never be the same again.
She drove home in silence. All she could stand to hear, were the thoughts in her head, and the memory of how his breathing sounded when he was touching her. She needed to have a shower. She needed to wash him off. She was so wet, she could feel it on her thighs….