Fiction Friendship Romance

“Hi Liz.”

“Hey Dawn. Did you hear about the company’s holiday party yet? Do you know what you’re gonna wear?”

“Ah, no. I haven’t checked my emails yet. I just got home.”

Balancing my luggage and take-out Chinese food in one hand with my phone lodged between ear and shoulder, I dig through my purse for my apartment keys. It’s been a month I haven’t had to think of this place, or work.

I traded my mediocre reality for a fairytale life traveling throughout Italy, which has been a bucket list item for me for quite some time now. I’m glad I finally went. I delayed the trip multiple times, waiting for my ex to get his shit together but instead, he got his shit and got out. It took me too long to break up with him, but the thought of being alone scared me for the longest time. I had never lived alone. Then again, I guess I wasn’t completely alone with someone living a few feet from me in all directions of this over-populated apartment complex.

“Well, if you don’t have anything to wear, I have this beautiful dress I bought from that online boutique shop we love. You should wear it.” Liz says over the phone.

I drop my bags at the door, grab a drink, and head for my comfy sofa that I missed so much.

“That’s incredibly kind of you, Liz, but I don’t think I’ll go anyway.”

“What do you mean? You have to go. They’re raffling off stuff: gift cards, all-inclusive trips, electric cars – I know you need a car.”

Liz wasn’t entirely wrong, but she wasn’t entirely right either. I didn’t need a car. I used to think that, but now I just want a car, so I can escape the rat race of New York City. But, I can’t drive it across the Atlantic Ocean so if any of those raffles were of my interest, I'd put in for the all-inclusive trips.

I fill my mouth with an overflowing pile of chicken lo mein on a cheap plastic fork that is bound to break but doesn't get its second chance. The noodles taste so divine I can’t speak.

Italy’s food is amazing, but they don’t have Chinese food like Chinatown does here in NYC.

“Hello. You there?” Liz says.

“Yeah, I’m here.” I answer back between chews.

“I can come by tomorrow for you to try it on. We could go into Chinatown and grab a bite after. I know how much you like your Chinese food.”

Liz knows me well, almost too well, but if she really knew me, she would know I’m already eating Chinese food. That doesn’t mean I won’t eat it again tomorrow.

“Yeah, let’s plan for tomorrow then. I’ll text you.”

“Sounds good. Talk to you then. Glad you’re back.”

I let her hang up so I don’t have to touch my phone with my greasy fingers as I devour the last egg roll, thinking of the times I used to give my ex the last one when I actually wanted it.

I sit in silence after letting out a relaxed sigh, except it’s not the same silence as in Italy. Sirens and honking cars down below echo through the streets, but I don’t feel like turning on the TV to tune it out. Instead, I slump back into the sofa with a full belly and stare at the wall across the room.

A small light in my peripheral turns on and my attention detours to focus on it. Through the window across the courtyard just a few levels below, I see a tattooed, half-naked man pacing through his apartment picking up clothes from the floor and smelling them. He’s a good-looking man from this distance, with a lean muscular build and thick dark locks that he has to brush back with his fingers every time he leans over to pick up an article of clothing.

I watch as he puts on a black shirt, black socks, and a black leather jacket. He must like the color. He then grabs an all-black helmet and walks out of the window frame of my entertainment, and the light goes out.


The lights must've gone out behind my eyelids, too, because I wake to a sudden loud horn that lingers for a few seconds before a rolling mumble of profanity echoes from the street below. Even from the fifth floor, the street noise is loud in the "Big Apple."

I look out the window to see sunlight gently awakening the night sky as a flash of light catches my eye. It’s him again, and he's going through the same motions as before but in reverse. And this time he looks exhausted, like he’s had a rough night. It isn’t long before he disappears and the light goes out again, which cues me to get up off the sofa and get my shit together.

After a hot shower, I clean up the half-eaten Chinese food I left out and put away the clothes from my suitcase while Christmas music plays in the background.

Around midday I text Liz to come over, knowing it’ll take her about an hour to get ready and get here by subway. ‘See you soon’ is the response I get from her.

Attempting to get into the holiday spirit, I decide to whip up some homemade gingersnap cookies that I know Liz will love. The aroma fills the apartment with holiday cheer.

“Oh my gosh, it smells so good in here,” Liz says as she walks through the door without knocking. She’s lucky I love her. “What is it?”

“Gingersnap cookies. Just for you.”

“Aw, you shouldn’t have, but I’m so glad you did.” She grabs one from the first batch and her eyes roll to the back of her head as she sinks her teeth into it. “Oh, Dawn… these are lovely.”

“I knew you’d like them.”

Draped over her right arm was a large garment bag that instantly reminded me of a wedding dress for some odd reason. “What’s that?” I point at the bag.

“The dress.” She throws the last bite of her cookie into her mouth and brushes her hands into the kitchen sink. “Here. Try it on.” She hands the bag to me then grabs another cookie.

I unzip it just enough to see the contents inside. “Oh my.”

“Huh. Huh. It’s hot, isn’t it?” Liz nudges me with her elbow; her eyebrows raised with excitement.

The velvet, sapphire gown enriched the blue in my eyes the longer I stared, but it has a deep V neckline and all I can think about is how my big chest is going to fit in it.

“There’s no way my boobs are gonna fit in this.”

Liz waves her hand at me as she indulges in another cookie. “Oh, give it a try before you knock it down.”

I go into the other room to try it on and step out to show her. Its plunging cut is gorgeous and revealing at the same time, but the open back makes it so worth the reveal with a rhinestone strap stretching across my upper back. The elegant, soft fabric drapes over me perfectly, down to my toes, and I feel like a movie star.

“You look amazing, but I knew you would,” Liz says after her jaw drops, with another cookie in hand. “These things are almost as dangerous as you look.” She shakes a gingersnap at me. “And it looks like you like it, too.” She gives me tantalizing wide eyes. “Hello headlights!”

I cover my chest from slight embarrassment. “There’s no way I can wear a bra with this neckline and open back.”

“No need to worry. I have something to cover those high beams up. But… you are definitely wearing that to the holiday party.”

“It’s too sexy.”

“Exactly the point. It’s time you get your sexy self out there. It’s been half a year, Dawn. You deserve to be loved – and wowza – will you be loved in this dress. Give me a twirl.”

I do a gingerly twirl with my arms covering my chest. “I will be hit on, not loved. There’s a difference.”

“Psh. You’ll be noticed, which leads to love so yes, you’re wearing it.” She finishes the gingersnap in her hand and walks away from the plate. “Plus, I know you don’t have anything else to wear so…” She looks at me with a scrunched-up nose. “Now go take the sexy dress off, and let’s go get lunch before I eat all those cookies. I’m starving.”


We take a short walk to Chinatown, eat, talk about my travels through Italy, share a hug and our fortunes with another kind of cookie before she catches a taxi back to her and her fiancé's place across town.

“I’ll see you at work tomorrow. We have a meeting bright and early so be ready to be a zombie for most the morning.” She smiles with one eye open then sticks her tongue out.

“See you tomorrow.” I giggle back. “Oh, and Liz… thank you.”

“You know I love you, girl.” She winks and takes off.

There are only a few blocks between me and my apartment, so I walk with a smile on my face after a good day with a good friend, which is oddly difficult to have both in a city full of people.

Usually when I walk the city, I’m in my own world with earbuds in but instead, my mind is dancing in that sapphire dress... until it’s interrupted with an abrupt roar.

I jump like I’ve just seen a rat run across my path but instead I see a man straddle a motorcycle he’s just ignited. He must’ve seen me jump because a smile is creeping across his right cheek as he stares me down with eyes more dazzling than the rhinestones on the sapphire dress in my mind.

I’m glad he breaks eye contact to shake his hair back and fit his black helmet on, so I don’t feel like a complete lunatic. He’s no knight in shining armor but a dark knight he is, in all black on his dark horse.

He catches me staring and opens his face shield to reveal his hazel eyes that remind me of Tiger Eye gemstones. My anxiety wants me to turn away, but my heart can’t break the gaze. He’s a dream.

His eyes smile as he signals with his head for me to come take a ride, and something within me jumps.

I’ve never been on a motorcycle, let alone with a stranger.

I shake my head and wave my hand like there’s no way I would cross that threshold, but I’m oddly reminded of Italy and the fearless woman who embraced the unknown there.

After a split second, I breathe the words ‘fuck it’ and walk towards the dark knight. His eyes squint a smile as he unstraps the extra helmet he has attached to the back of his motorcycle and hands it to me without any words.

I must be fucking crazy to get on a bike with a guy I don’t even know, but I recognize he’s the half-naked man from my apartment complex, and something tells me to trust my instinct on this one.

We ride through the city during rush hour, stopping briefly at traffic lights, to then take off again. Each freshly greenlight intrigues a thrust within him as he rips at the throttle, jolting me but I think he's doing it purposefully so that I'm forced to tightly wrap my arms around his torso.

He feels strong, steady, and smells like a fragrant man should smell… musky and mysterious.

He eventually pulls over at a place with the name "Ferrara" repeated across the storefront, with one giant sign reading vertically on the outside of its brick exterior. I've seen it before but have never ventured in.

He hits the kill switch to his motorcycle, guides me off, and helps me remove my helmet after he removed his own.

A rush of thrill fills me, and I can’t help but smile. “That was exhilarating.”

He smiles and I see the light in his eyes. “What is your name, love? Zaffiro?”

“What did you just call me?” I spit out without giving my brain a chance to recognize the familiarity in his voice; that he sounds like an Italian, or at least is able to speak it fluently by the way the word elegantly flowed off his tongue. But then it would make stopping at an Italian bakery in Little Italy very coincidental, and nothing happens by coincidence.

He laughs, making the Adam’s apple in his throat dance. “You flashed me.”

“What?” I say quickly as I start to ask myself the same question after coming to the realization that I just rode on a motorcycle for the first time, with a hot stranger.

“Your dress.” He giggles. “You stay at the Saranac, yes? Your spark hit my eye, like the moon.” He points at his back as he explains, then continues after recognizing my pause. "You know... like a pizza pie?"

“Oh, um...” I’m at a loss for words as I feel his velvety accent pet my ears, wondering if he saw my bosoms in that dress or not. I envision the rhinestone strap on the upper back of the dress reinforcing their security and the odds of its tiny particles refracting light in his direction. Then I realize he's referencing Dean Martin through his words, which I find rather funny coming from an Italian man.

“Forgive me. I saw you through the window. You were the only light I saw.”

The way he said those simple words sounded so poetic, like it was a pickup line in a movie and he was Dean Martin. Or maybe I was just smitten over his Italian accent.

A part of me wanted to freak out about my invasion of privacy, while another part of me felt the confession as a sign of fate because I, too, was being a Peeping Tom.

“Yeah, the blue dress. That was me.”

He smiles as his head drops for a moment like he just watched his heart hit the pavement. He bites his lower lip on the way back up to look at me. “I'm Crepuscolo, but you can just call me Cres.” He holds out his hand like he’s some prince charming about to sweep me off my feet into the sunset.

“Cres?” I ask. He nods with a slow blink of his eyes. “I’m Dawn.” I reach my hand out to meet his and he grabs mine like a gentleman and kisses it softly.

“Very nice to meet you, Dawn.” He looks at me with an intensity I feel like I can’t handle but somehow do. “I would ask you out tonight, but I have to work so another time, if you’ll have me? For now, I will buy you the closest thing to my heart.”

“You move fast, don’t you?”

He laughs inside his throat. “Come on.” He winks and gestures for me to grab the inside of his bent elbow to walk inside the bakery together.

I'm overwhelmed by the familiar fragrance of fresh Italian pastries and suddenly get transported back in time.

After hearing him order in Italian while I attempt to inhale every scent of this place without looking like an addict, we hop back on the bike, riding through the city, dodging traffic left and right. When we get to the Saranac, he parks the bike on the street but doesn’t cut it off. Instead, he helps me off like a prince would his princess and walks me to the front of our building with a bag of cannoli.

I'm more concerned for his bike about to be stolen, running free like that, than my helmet hair but he doesn't seem bothered at all.

"I have to work now, but may I see you tomorrow?" He holds onto my hand with a gentle touch, awaiting my answer.

"I suppose, but I have to work tomorrow."

"When will you be free?"

I think poetically to myself what he means by the question, because I felt free in Italy just a few days ago. But I snap back to reality and answer. "I'm free after five."

He smiles and I swear I see a twinkling light in his Tiger Eyes. "I'll meet you right here tomorrow, at dusk."

I thought it was strange how he mentions dusk as a time, but we meet up the next day and venture into Little Italy again to enjoy pizza and cannoli. It's almost as good as it is in Italy, but not the same.

Days go by where we don't see each other but for brief moments in the evening. I find out he works security at a bar over in Brooklyn practically every night, and takes acting classes during the day when he's not sleeping.

I'm not exactly interested in a relationship right now, but I enjoy his presence when I'm granted his valuable free time. We never take our flirtatious rendezvous to each other's apartments or even get to first base.

It's not until the evening of the company holiday event that he sees me again, in our apartment lobby, dressed in that sapphire gown Liz got me. He doesn't say a word, but I can see the fire in his eyes intensifying as they elevate to meet mine.

As gorgeous as he is, I feel a slight insecurity. Then I get the same reaction Liz gave me when I first put on the dress.

"Wowza," he says, then kisses me for the first time with a passion so deep it ignites me from the inside. I'm glad Liz not only gave me something new and blue, but also gave me something to cover up the high beams.

November 18, 2023 04:34

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Tom Skye
22:29 Nov 19, 2023

Romantic stuff Jenni 😍 Impactful twist on the 'romantic stranger' idea. Makes me want to walk the streets until someone offers me a motorcycle ride. Great conversational prose which really put you in the MC's mind from the beginning. The pacing made the whole scenario totally believable. There wasn't any crazy drama or twists but the story was fascinating all the way through, and that is difficult to achieve. It always nice to put two cultures or locations side by side to give the story flavour and the inclusion of the Italy angle gave the...


Jenni Bradshaw
23:29 Nov 19, 2023

🥹 What a phenomenal comment! Thank you Tom! ;) I liked the rhythm of this one. I actually had way more detail in it, exceeding the 3k word limit, so there had to be some unfortunate cuts. Feels like I may have tugged on the throttle a bit too much with this one, and I mean that in multiple ways. 😂 But gosh, thank you so much for your sweet words! 😍🤩 You should definitely hitch a ride on a motorcycle sometime, but only if it feels right of course! It's thrilling! 😉


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