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Romance Friendship

   He was a bad decision. No. He was worse than that. He was a train wreck decision that could only end in turmoil and disaster. 

    But, Oh. My. God. The way he touched her made her feel like a woman again. His hands were soft and held her as if they were handling glass. There was a power behind his embrace that made her heart race in a way that only a dangerous encounter could. Strong. Masculine. Bad. And oh-so-good. 

    It was her 39th birthday. It could have been the early June evening, the divorce, or the liquid courage but when she looked up from her front porch and saw her neighbor at his mailbox, she reached her hand above her head, waved, and smiled. He reciprocated the gesture and, as if led by animal instinct, they both crossed the street towards each other. She had noticed him before, out in his yard working on various things, usually shirtless. He was built like concrete with rock hard arms and a swollen chest that was inked on both sides just below the collarbone, and his complexion looked like smooth, dark honey. They made their way to the edge of her yard and once he was close enough, she couldn’t help but notice how piercingly blue his eyes were. Something she hadn’t been close enough to notice before. He had dark eyebrows that somewhat furrowed, and while they did seem to reveal a softer side, there was a streak of danger that danced across them. 

    “Hey. I’m Alexis. Your new neighbor.”, she said, reaching her hand out to shake his. 

    “Michael”, he replied while extending his hand out to meet hers. “Welcome to the neighborhood. You moved in about a month ago, right?”. 

    “Yes. I signed my lease in May. I’m not quite all settled in yet, but today is my birthday so I decided to get drunk tonight instead of unpack.”, she blurted. And then, as if her words were in some form of uncontrollable regurgitation, she continued, “I’m going through a divorce. We just moved here from Texas. I don’t really know anyone in the area yet. And divorce is hard. Marriage is hard too, though. My family only lives a few hours away from here. Are you from here? I really like all of your plants on your front porch. I wish I knew how to take care of plants. I’m awful at it.”

“God, Alexis. Shut up.”, she thought to herself. 

“Today is your birthday?”, was his reply.

“Yes. I’m 39 today.”, she said, hoping that was the only part he had paid any attention to. 

They were able to exchange some small talk and phone numbers before the sky made good on it’s threat and the rain slowly started coming down. 

“I better get inside”, she said. “I’m going to drink some more beer and practice some birthday self care. It was nice meeting you!”. And with that, she nervously skipped back across her yard, up her porch steps, and through her front door, feeling his eyes on her the whole way. 

    When she stepped inside where it was safe from his gaze, she walked into her bathroom and turned on the tub faucet as hot as it would go. Slipping out of her shorts and tank top, she caught a glimpse of herself in the full size mirror that hung on the wall. She had a small, petite figure and while she was hardly built like a curvy woman, her tiny body gave her a sort of delicacy that radiated a sexual, feminine energy.

“Great.” She said out loud to herself while inspecting her appearance in the reflection. “Of course I would finally meet someone in the neighborhood and I had to look like complete garbage.”.

Her brown frizzy hair hadn’t been washed in days and she had barely taken the time to spray some dry shampoo. She couldn’t think of the last time she had applied a full face of makeup and her clothes were filthy from unpacking, sweating, cleaning, and drinking. The stress from her divorce, and the years that life had served her, were starting to show through the lines between her eyebrows and on her forehead. And the bags under her eyes spoke volumes to her current condition. 

    She gave up looking at herself in the mirror, but continued to pick herself apart as she applied a face mask and stepped into the steaming hot bath. 

    Across the street, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. What she saw as brown, frizzy hair, he saw as beautiful, natural curly locks that fell perfectly around her face. He hadn’t noticed the wrinkles. Only the way her face seemed to be kissed by the southern sun. And those eyes. He couldn’t tell exactly what color they were. They seemed to be a deep brown, but every once in a while when she would turn her head a certain way, he would swear he could see specks of green. And while they seemed to dance like wild little fairies, there was a sadness to them. And he wondered who, in his right mind, would ever want to make a woman like that feel sad. He had only spoken to her for a few minutes. But her presence radiated an energy that consumed him. And he had to have more. 

She had just settled in to her bath when she heard the familiar ding come through on her phone. She dried off one hand and reached for it. It was from Michael. 

“I have a birthday present for you if you want to run outside and grab it really quick.”, was what the message read. 

Knowing he was probably out there right then, standing in the rain, she jumped out of the bath, dried off as quickly as she could, and grabbed the closest thing to throw over herself, which was a red satin house robe that wrapped around the waist and hit just above the knees. As she stepped out on her porch, there he stood, holding a small potted plant. 

“It’s a succulent.” He said, before she could say anything. “They’re really easy to take care of. And if it gets upset, just bring it back over to me and I can revive it for you.”. 

She took the plant from him and her face couldn’t help but express how adorable she thought he was. He had heard her. He was listening. In her efforts to avoid an awkward silence when they first met and all of her word vomit coming out, she was convinced that all he had caught was the part about it being her birthday. He had paid attention to everything she said. 

After the sweet surprise wore off, she remembered she was standing on her front porch, in the rain, wearing nothing but a house robe. 

“Oh my God. I’m sorry.”, she said, while pulling at her robe, ensuring it was as closed as it could get.  “I know this is inappropriate. I was just getting ready to take a bath when you texted so I grabbed the first thing I could reach because I didn’t want to make you wait in the rain.”. 

“It’s okay. I understand.”, he said with a charmingly sly smile, and he turned around and started walking back to his house. 

She sat the plant on her kitchen table and looked at it for a minute. She was currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker and settled on the name Wilhelmina for her new plant baby. “Mina” for short.  

As she climbed back in to what was now luke warm bath water, she felt a sense of excitement. It had been so long since a man had made her feel wanted. And the way that man looked at her, it was obvious he wanted her. 

She sat soaking, thinking. The past seven years were an emotional blur. Her husband had never made her feel wanted. He had actually gone out of his way to let her know how unwanted she was. Her makeup was never right. Her hair was too short. Too frizzy. Not dark enough. He didn’t like the way she dressed. Or how she accessorized. If she wore a waist trainer for three hours a day, he reminded her that Instagram models wear them for eight. Her breasts were too small. Her ass was too flat. She wasn’t smart enough. Or driven enough. And she always chose the wrong nail color. 

Ding. Her phone again. 

“Hey. If you don’t feel like drinking alone on your birthday, you’re more than welcome to walk over here and drink with me. And no worries about the house robe. It wasn’t inappropriate. You were covered.”. Sent from her neighbor, and signed with a wink face. 

She had two choices: Continue her lonely routine of getting drunk alone. Or shaving everything from top to tail, adding a couple squirts of perfume, and walking across the street to take a chance. 

The right amount of loneliness mixed with the right amount of liquid courage will make a woman do things she typically wouldn’t. She got out of the bath, put on a tank top with some shorts, added a touch of makeup, grabbed another beer, and crossed the road that led to her neighbors front door. 

The inside of his apartment resembled that of the outside, as far as plants go. Greenery everywhere. It smelled like nature and cologne. The only light was a small lamp that sat next to an oversized chair and a big speaker was playing Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” at an ambient volume. The walls were decorated with antique art and paintings. If there was ever a scene set for getting it on, this was it. 

There were no awkward silences. No need to break the ice. Everything just seemed to develop organically. They talked about art, kids, the past, and life. At one moment the chemistry and the alcohol became too much and he could no longer control himself. She was standing there, looking at his plants with her back to him, and she felt him walk up closely behind her. She held her breath, involuntarily, and when she did, she felt his lips on the back of her neck. 

“I’m sorry.” He said. “You said you just took a bath and I wanted to smell you…”.

She turned around and their eyes met. This was the first time she had been close enough to smell him. To feel his breath. Close enough to touch him. He was big enough to manhandle her. And knowing that aroused an animal instinct in her that she could not ignore. 

Without missing a beat and in a matter of seconds, her legs were wrapped around his waist, his arms were holding her up, and they were entangled in a chaotic embrace. He walked, carrying her, and pushed her back up against the front door. His mouth went from her lips to her neck and the chills that were sent through her body were almost too much for her to bare. 

How long it had been since a man touched her like this. Since a man made her feel wanted like this. Every ounce of energy in her body was activated and there was a pulse that rushed through her, almost making her ache. No matter how close he got, he still wasn’t close enough. 

“God it feels good to be a woman sometimes”, she thought to herself. But she felt like more than a woman. He made her feel like a goddess. And that turned her on even more. 

As if their time together had been set to a soundtrack, they slowly started moving their intimacy from up against the wall to the bedroom, leaving a trail of clothing behind them. 

She couldn’t believe she was about to sleep with a complete stranger. He couldn’t believe a woman like her would ever give him a chance. And yet, their night together carried on until the sun revealed itself the next day. When inhibitions are lowered and passion is flowing, sleep is a mere afterthought. 

When she opened his front door after she finally got the energy to execute the “walk of shame” home, the early morning hit different. While she did inevitably question her drunken birthday decision, she couldn’t help but let out a girlish, blush-y giggle on the short walk home. 

She had just hooked up with a complete stranger. Maybe it was the years of neglect in her marriage. Maybe it was the booze. Or maybe homeboy just knew exactly what he was doing. Regardless, she left feeling like a new woman. She left feeling worthy. She left feeling sexy. She left feeling alive. 

As she reached her front door, she turned around to glance back at the apartment she had just left. And there he stood on his porch, waving, wearing a pair of shorts and a giant smile. 

She walked through the front door and straight to the bathroom to turn on the shower. As she was getting undressed, she couldn’t help but think about life, and how attitudes and perceptions can change at the drop of a hat. Twenty-four hours ago, she had felt so unloved. So undesired. So worthless. Like no one would ever want her. 

And now? Life was about to get better. She had this strong, overwhelming feeling about it. She was taking her power back. It was scary, facing the unknown. But there was a liberation and freedom that came with it. 

She dropped her robe to step into the hot running water, but she paused when she saw her reflection in the mirror. This time, she didn’t critique all of her shortcomings. Instead, she smiled to herself and said, out loud, “Ups and Downs. Highs and lows. Swings and roundabouts. That’s life baby. And we’re just here long enough to ride the wave.”.  

July 22, 2022 22:56

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1 comment

Vj Hamilton
17:21 Aug 21, 2022

Great starting line: "He was a bad decision." Quite a saucy romance!

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