Between octobers bk 1, savor the days series (page 5)

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The image in my large mirror showed the faceof a stranger. Her eyes were too bright, her cheeks too pink. Thetrace of an eager smile played at the edges of her lips. My handtouched her flushed face. It felt so warm.

I threw on the first dressy top I found andpaired it with comfy, faded jeans and black flats. Casual. Then, Ibrushed my hair and set it in a loose bun to keep it off my neck.Next, I applied mascara. The chances of ruining my makeup weresmall, but I still opted for the waterproof, to be safe. I evensplurged on eyeliner and a light shadow.

Caleb bounded into my line of sight as Ientered the long hallway. He stood, leaning his little head back tostare. I made a silly face and he giggled.

“Please tell my guest I will be ready toleave in a few minutes.” He agreed and took off.

Noah was on my mind. I knocked on the doorand opened it after a brief pause—my usual entrance. He was so usedto the intrusion that he rarely ascended to greet anyone on theother side. That worked exactly the way I designed it. By knocking,I gave the respect for his personal space; yet by opening the doormyself, I silently asserted my position of authority. At least,that was how I like to think of it. In any case, he didn’t seem tomind. I rested against the wall near his closet and looked aroundat the clutter on the floor and in the corners. He was sitting onhis bed, studiously playing online video games.

“You need to vacuum this room, Noah.”

He turned and his eyes perked up. “You lookpretty, Mom.” And back to the television.

I looked myself over, checking to make surehe was not being sarcastic, as there was always that chance and Iwasn’t catching on. Nothing was amiss. I decided he was serious.“Thank you. I want to ask you something.”

“Shoot.” He paused his game, giving me hisfull attention. Good kid.

“Are you . . .” I almost used the word‘okay’ but that didn’t fit. “Are you alright with me seeing a movietonight?” At the last second, I decided to exclude the name of mycompany. It wasn’t a date and I didn’t want Noah to think it was.But if I explained that, he may have thought I was being toodefensive.

“You mean am I alright with you dating? It’skind of a weird day to start, but no, I don’t mind.” A satiricalsmirk bent one corner of his mouth.

“This is not a date. It’s two adults, whohappen to be the opposite sex, enjoying each other’s company andagreeing to go to the same place at the same time. There’s nothingromantic about it.”

“Then why are you asking me?”

“You’ve been worried about me. I wantyou to know that I’m okay. I won’t get likethatever again, Noah.”

The corners of his eyes turned down as mywords reminded him of those first six months. “I know, Mom, and I’mglad you got Dad’s phone back. It was nice of him to bring it toyou.”

“And that’s the only reason I agreed to goto the movies with him.”

“Is he taking you to see one of his movies?”He whispered, “If he is, you should take a book.”

“I don’t know what we’re seeing.” My voicedropped to a whisper. “Are his films really that bad?”

He groaned. “Ugh, so stupid andpredictable.”

“But he’s a nice person.”

“Yeah,” he shrugged, “he made youlaugh; that’s got to count for something.”

“You’re a sweet boy, Noah.” I grabbed hischin and quickly kissed his forehead.

“Great. Pink lip gloss.” He rubbed thesplotch away with the back of his hand.

On my way to the living room, the distinctsound of muffled chuckles carried down the hall. Ever theNosey-Nellie, I stopped just shy of the living room entry.

“Let me see if I understand this. You’retelling me that your mother told you to tell me to go pee?” Evan’saccent was unmistakable. “It seems unlikely that she would directme—a grown up adult who has successfully coordinated his ownbathroom breaks for the past two decades—to tinkle.”

I stifled a giggle and stepped closer to themouth of the hallway.

“We always go pee before we leave.It’s the rules.” Caleb commanded.

There was a pause before Evan spoke again.“Cleaning house, eh? Oh, that cannot taste good.”

I leaned through the archway into the livingroom, curious at his sudden change in tone. Evan was in the samespot I left him. The corner of the couch monster. Beside him satCaleb, grinning. He held a large, green, gooey mass atop oneextended finger.

Evan’s hand went to his stomach. “I alreadyate.” There was no trace of amusement in his pasty complexion.However, Caleb’s sneaky grin told me he thought it washilarious.

“Caleb,” I gasped, “go wash your hands!” Hejumped from the couch and ran towards me with his foul fingerflying high like a patriot’s flag.

“I am so sorry.”

Evan chuckled, raising his palms to indicateno apology was needed and it made me feel worse. I grabbed thebiohazard-bearing hand and led the attached boy to the restroom.Once he was properly chastised, cleaned and dried, I helped himblow his nose. The mucus was plentiful but clear. Probablyallergies.

After one last look in the mirror and aquick talk with Lily—she had fed Evan some leftover enchiladas andwas struggling with having to wash the fork—we set off for thetheater on our non-date.

The house lights went down just as weentered.

“Perfect timing,” Iwhispered.

Evan was carrying the largest bucket ofpopcorn they had as he led the way up the dark steps to the top ofthe highest section. I insisted on buying the snacks, since hesneakily purchased the movie tickets online before we left myhouse. I couldn’t see anything except the lighted strips at the endof each step, so I held onto his elbow until we reached our seatsin the center of the last row.

“I hope you like scary movies. This one issupposed to be really disturbing.”

He settled into his seat and offered me thepopcorn. I nodded and accepted though my hopes sank. Fear had neverheld much entertainment value for me. Not even as a kid. Anythingremotely spooky sent me into my dad’s lap.

The movie started after a solid fifteenminutes of previews, and that was the best thing I could say aboutit. There were a lot of previews.

In the beginning, things seemed alrightuntil I felt something buzzing near my ear. I swatted and Evanflinched as my fingers caught the tip of his nose. I apologized andasked what he wanted to say, but he just shook his head and I wastoo embarrassed to pursue the topic.

For the next ten minutes, my eyes were gluedto my lap as it opened with a gratuitous sex scene. As the filmwent on, it seemed that sex and violence dominated the plot, whichwas difficult to figure out. The only correlation seemed thateveryone being killed was either naked or getting there. At somepoint I sensed I was being surveilled and turned to find I wasright.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, why?” he whispered.

“You’re staring.”

He grinned awkwardly. “I was wondering whatyour natural hair color is.”

“Dirty blonde.” I knew the red locks weretoo bright to pass for natural, which was part of the appeal, butit seemed like a weird question, considering we were supposed to bewatching a movie. He misunderstood my expression and discreetlypopped a piece of gum in his mouth.

Determined not to waste thirty bucks, Ireally tried to watch the movie, but every few minutes there wassomething I found revolting.

An hour in, Evan offered an out. “Do youwant to go?” His minty breath made goose bumps on my neck.

“Do you mind?” I asked, lifting my hand torub them away.

He didn’t hesitate to rise and lead usout.

In the parking lot, the night air had becomeunexpectedly cold. I walked straight to the car. Evan followed,blowing into his fists to stave off the chill. I opened the backhatch of the Jeep and tossed him one of Noah’s jackets. He wasapprehensive at first but could not argue with my rhymingreason.

“It’s better to borrow than be sicktomorrow.”

He chuckled and slipped on the fluffy downjacket. “Sorry you didn’t like the movie. Next time, you canpick.”

A lump rose in my throat, seeing him inSol’s old jacket; one he gave Noah because it was too tight acrosshis shoulders.

“Are you alright?”

“Fine,” I nodded, swallowing the lump in mythroat.

“Do you want to watch something else or gosomewhere? There’s a great club not far from here.”

I sat in the Jeep’s open hatch.

“What would you like to do?”

“Don’t you ever feel like sitting down anddoing nothing?” It had been a long day. I was mentally andemotionally exhausted.

“Nothing is one of my favorite thingsto do.” His eyes locked on me as he leaned closer, bending toflatten the blanket we were sitting on. “What shall we talkabout?”

Despite the awful significance andcraziness, my terrible day had turned out alright. Actually, it wasthe best one I’d had in a long time. “Today was fun. Thankyou.”

“Yeah, um, all I did was buy you lunch youcouldn’t finish, get you trapped in the bathroom, and take you to amovie you didn’t like. I should be thanking you for putting up withme.”

“That’s not true. I chose the bathroom.”

We both laughed heartily.

“Truthfully, Evan, I’ve had more fun todaythan in the past year, so thank you.” I placed my hand on hisshoulder, leaning in. I was planning a playful nudge, but, that’snot what happened.

My whole life, I could never see what wascoming until it was too late. That night was no different. Theempty parking lot and emotion, it created an intimacy I wasn’taware of. And combined with Evan’s proximity, his prowess, and goodlooks, it’s no small wonder things advanced, but his reaction stillcame as a complete surprise.

He turned, his hands felt so warm, movingsilkily and with lightning speed through my hair and down my neck.He drew one hand around my back and pulled me closer. I raised myown hands automatically, spinning as the feel of his full, softlips prevented any use of the good sense God gave me. It was theawareness of his touch, the tingling response it provoked thatjolted me back from the brink.

It was wrong. All wrong. My hands weretouching a stranger. How could they, and so deliberately?

“Stop.” It was just a whisper, but his gripon me relaxed.

He slowly leaned away. “That was . . . not agood idea.”

I felt myself flinch at his admission andshook my head. “It’s my fault. I send mixed signals.” I covered mytingling lips with my hand.

“No, you’re fine. Better than fine.” Hesmiled, “I was the one. You were simply being nice and I tookadvantage, so I am, truly, very sorry.”

We took turns offering apologies for thenext few minutes before deciding it might be best to forget thewhole thing. Evan thought the fault was his, but I knew it wasreally mine.

“In order to avoid the predictable, awkwardsilence . . .” he skipped over the unnecessary explanation with anironic pause that made me giggle. “ . . . I think you should tellme more about yourself.” He grinned, expectant. And I smiledback

He had a talent for inflicting me with joy.There was no other way to explain it. I mean, here it was, theone-year anniversary of the sudden death of my beloved husband andhigh school sweetheart, and I had just been kissed for the firsttime, by someone that I was not Solomon. And we both agreed itnever should have happened. But I needed to be sure that heunderstood.

“I need to explain something.”

“Go on.” He cleared his throat and took outa pack of cigarettes, presenting me with a look that asked forpermission, which I granted, before he lit up.

“That—” I had no words for what justhappened, so I gestured into the great beyond, “can’t happenagain.”

“What exactly does ‘that’ mean?”

“I can’t think about—I mean . . . jeez, thisis going to sound bad no matter how I say it.” I sighed, “I thinkyou are really nice. You’re super funny and handsome, and I liketalking to you. We would probably be great friends, but—”

“You don’t want to be friends?” His eyesseemed black under his furrowed brow.

“No. I mean, yes. Of course I do!” Myobjection came a little louder than I intended. I sounded like apetulant child. “But I—I can’t offer anything beyond that.”

“Understandable . . . and somewhatagreeable. You are a bit of a mess.” He grinned ruefully, giving mea sidelong glance.

The look was so soft and sweet, it made mychest expand. And I laughed. “Okay, so we agree.”

“Now, you were on the verge of divulgingyour deepest, darkest secrets?”

“Hey, you’ve been inside my house, you metmy whole family. I say it’s your turn.”

His brow furrowed again, drawing linesacross his forehead. “Where would you like me to start?”

“Where are you from?”

“Essex.”

A world away. “I thought everyone aroundLondon spoke cockney. How come you have such a smooth accent?”

“I was told to work on it so Americans wouldunderstand me. Do you like my accent?” He smiled, raising oneeyebrow in a way that made me want to relax every muscle in mybody.

“It’s very charming. Why did you leaveEssex?”

“My mother passed, as I told you, and I camehere with my good friend Marcus to try my hand at acting.”

“Why acting?”

He shrugged. “She always told me I could doanything. She being my mother, Sylvia, encouraged me to try. Iguess I wanted to prove to myself she was right.” His eyes becamewistful. “She thought very highly of me.”

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