The vibration of the cellphone in her purse had gotten her attention as she was walking down the subway station stairs.
Where are you?
She simply turned it off. There was the temptation to write back something snippy like that saying she had seen online… “Don’t push me away and then wonder where I went” but it just wasn’t worth it.
He had invited her for their weekly one on one dinner. He enjoyed cooking, but hated having to eat the same thing three or four days in a row when he cooked for himself. As usual, they had enjoyed a real feast she had been looking forward to all week, and now they were resting on the large couches, listening to his latest choice of music.
It seemed they had known each other for ever. But it had been only a couple of months, since she had moved in the building. And that’s how they had met, when, tired of the long hours of moving her stuff around to arrange her new home, she had noticed the corkscrew was nowhere to be found.
She could have postponed cheering to her new life in the big city, but she had reserved the very special bottle for this exact moment, and no other night could ever honor it just as well. So she had knocked on a few doors, not getting an answer, until she had stepped on his “Welcome” mat.
When he had opened the door, her recent vows not to let any man near her ever again had been shaken… He was incredibly handsome, in a very discrete way. Not a “yes, I know I’m a hunk” type of guy. Just a natural, with his light brown short short hair, and his stylish beard…
She had clumsily asked for a bottle opener, waving the good cuvée under his nose and he had recognized her great taste in wines right away.
-Are you really going to drink that by yourself?
He had invited himself over, offering to bring along some fancy snacks, and they had spent the first night of her new life together… They were on the same wavelength, not interested in “meeting” someone, and their friendship had set up in the most natural way. They connected on so many levels, it puzzled everybody how things had never evolved into anything more serious.
How could it have been more serious? She often wondered. Their friendship was almost fusional, and the only thing they didn’t share was their beds.
Tonight, she had joined him right after work, not even stopping by her own flat to leave her coat and purse. She enjoyed their Friday nights together, and he obviously looked forward to impress her every time with his cooking skills.
They often didn’t even talk all that much, somehow not really needing words. They just sat, side by side, enjoying the moment, occasionally sharing shenanigans or deep thoughts about life. He had a way to pull a good laugh out of her with the simplest things…
Tonight hadn’t been an exception to their tradition.
But while they were chilling on the large sofas, he had turned her way while she was slowly but surely drifting into a comfortable sleepiness. His smirk announced that he was up to something. Despite her almost overcoming drowsiness, he had gotten her attention right away.
-Sweetie… Scooch over here, will you?
She was intrigued, but she hid it well. She moved his way, laying against him, enjoying his embrace without the slightest after thought. He had slipped his fingers through her hair, with a softness she didn’t recognize from him.
-You know you’re the best right? – She had heard that one more than once. – There’s no one I’d trust more than you…
She was tempted to ask him what he wanted from her. His sudden sweet talk suggested he needed her to give him a hand with something… But what? He was beating about the bush, and the more he talked, the lower his voice got, ending in a soft murmur in the classy loft.
Was it the last sips of Beaujolais, or the dimmed lights? Or perhaps the way he gently squeezed her shoulder as if to keep her close to him? She was troubled but it was undeniable now. As unexpected as it was, it was there again. That “what if” feeling she once had a vicious cycle of hoping for, and fleeing from… She suddenly was seeing him in a totally different light, and it scared her.
She wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying anymore… Internally battling with herself to forget that warm feeling she now had while staring at the curling of his lips when he smiled, and the elegant way his free hand danced in the air to back his talking.
Suddenly, she noticed the odd look on his face, and she tried to focus back.
-Did you listen to anything I just told you? – No, indeed, I didn’t, she thought – Just tell me if you don’t want to take care of Hemingway while I am in Chicago, I’ll just take him to my Mom’s, you know it isn’t a problem…
Hemingway? Chicago?… Oh, right! She remembered the contract he had gotten with the American branch of their company. Of course she would take care of his cat while he was away for business…
-Are you disappointed? You look strange, honey…
She shook her head, sitting back straight on the couch, wishing she had never left her end of the sofa. She knew she now wouldn’t be able to forget the last ten minutes or so of her life, and his comment confirmed that he had read her like an open book.
-Were you giving me puppy eyes?? Oh.my,God! You were giving me puppy eyes!!
It obviously amused him to the highest level. He looked at her scrutinizing her slightest reaction.
-You’re hot for me? Really, babe?? – he giggled nervously – What about our “Alone, just not lonely” pact? Well…. That’s a surprise!
His mocking tone hurt more than she would have imagined. She had quite an ego, and he was punching it playfully, probably helped by the alcohol. She just wanted to melt and disappear in the wooden floor’s cracks. If only he could shut up already.
He stood up, and walked clumsily across the room, his proud gaze not leaving her for a second. He was glad. He had defeated her with his undeniable charms. They had played a dangerous seduction game, and she had lost.
-Excuse me, dear… I need to make a pit stop, but I’ll be right back, don’t you worry. -then lowering his voice again – You can wait in my room, I just might treat you, if that’s what you’d like?
Her cheeks were burning as he disappeared in the bathroom. Although she mostly felt hurt by his mocking ways, she still had failed herself and wondered for a second if he would honor his invitation, had she decided to accept it.
Instead, she had waited to hear the door lock, had grabbed the notebook on the coffee table and scribbled a nervous “Thanks for the dinner” and had stood up picking up her coat and purse, and jumping in her boots before leaving the flat, not looking back once…
She had been walking for an hour straight, pointlessly when she had finally stopped to sit on a bench in the subway station.
She was angry at herself. She had fucked things up in the worst way. She was so furious, she hadn’t been able to cry it out. She wished she could be home. But it was out of question, since he was just a couple of doors away.
He probably had gone to her place already. They had exchanged their spare keys in case of emergency. And the constant buzzing of her cellphone in her pocket gave her the idea he had considered the night’s events an emergency, and tried to check on her.
But she was far, though she ached to run back home.
He was the “love ’em, leave ’em” kind of guy. She knew that. She had heard his stories, and seen girls walking out of his loft in the morning… Many of them. Never the same twice. He was a great guy, just not the type she needed…
Hearing the subway entering the station, she decided it was time to go back.
Pulling herself together she promised herself she wouldn’t kneel down again. And if he tried the slightest move on her, to take her down, she’d pull the trigger first!
No one would mess with her mind again…
At least she hoped so.
Reaching in her pocket, she pulled out her cellphone one last time.
I’ve been an asshole. Come home. Pleeeeeease
He wasn’t a beggar, that she knew.
Everything else was just blurry in her mind….