I don’t know if I’ve ever been this hot-and-bothered before. Even my upper lip has beads of sweat forming. I sneak a glimpse of all his glorious-dark good looks and wonder what I’m doing here with him.
His eyes, so emerald green.
His hair, so luscious and rich and dark.
His body, so muscular and lean and tall.
His butt, so tight.
How is this man even possible? I actually have to wrap my arms around my body to keep from reaching out to him. I’m in serious trouble here. Drowning.
The Beginning of the End
Eight months earlier
I pull into the driveway of the two-story townhouse I’ve shared with my roommate, Julia, since we were sophomores in undergrad four years ago. While I wait for the garage door to open, I look up to the front balcony out of habit. It’s right off my bedroom, although it’s a high-walled one so you can’t see the street unless you’re standing up. I’ve spent many nights staring up at the stars from that balcony, contemplating my life choices.
I head in through the kitchen and grab a bottle of water out of the pantry before heading into the spacious dining/living/family room area where Julia’s handiwork at decorating is easy to admire. There are chairs and tables of different sizes and shapes strategically placed throughout, almost like an art installation—it’s aesthetically pleasing, but it means no room for the big-screen television I mostly watch sports on, and the occasional Irish or British television show. The big-screen’s been relegated to the upstairs “game room” that has no games—unless you count the board games under the cabinet. But, there’s a comfortable couch up there and a mini fridge, so all is good. Or it was, before law school started a month ago. Rockets and Texans have been replaced by con law and torts as the rulers of my life.
I can’t tell if Julia’s home. Everything seems quiet, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t here, soaking in her garden tub, one of her favorite pastimes on a Sunday afternoon after church. I’m Baptist and she’s Catholic, so we normally attend different churches, but she’s usually here by the time I get back, unless she’s gone for the entire weekend, which has been happening more and more lately.
Her bedroom is in the back with another balcony where we do a lot of semi-private sunbathing. But for the moment, I take a right at the top of the stairs and stop in front of her closed, white bathroom door. I rap quickly because I need to tell her what happened.
“Liv?” comes a curious voice from within.
“Yes, it’s me.” I reply briskly. “Who else would it be? I need to talk. Are you busy?”
“Come in, as long as you can stand to witness my sensational nakedness,” she quips. I was right about the tub soaking.
Julia’s realm looks as though she’s been in there all morning. Her skin is puckered and her avocado mask is sliding down her neck. I must look a little taken aback because she narrows her hazel eyes at me.
“What’s your problem?”
“Wow, exactly how long have you been soaking, Jules? You look a little overdone.”
“Well, I’ve refreshed the hot water five times if that gives you a clue.” She looks it too. Her skin is wrinkled and puckered. She looks more like an eighty-year-old instead of her twenty-two years.
I wonder what this is about. I know it isn’t a man, because she doesn’t have those type of issues. She’s definitely a “love ’em and leave ’em” kind of girl. But I’ve also known her long enough to know that she’ll tell me in her own good time. Besides, I’m dealing with my own minor calamity.
With a breath, I hesitantly begin, “I’m not sure there’s going to be a wedding.”
Julia raises a well-arched eyebrow, but doesn’t say anything.
I hurriedly continue on: “I think Kye’s having second thoughts and he’s not communicating with me. He seems really distant and closed off. Even at church this morning, he seemed distracted. I asked him if he wanted to have some lunch over here before I need to start reading for crim law and he said he needed to do something with his mom.
“He’s on his phone a lot too when I’m over there, but always in another room and mostly late at night. I saw a balled-up paper with “Kayla” written on it and a local phone number, which is weird because if it’s his ex-fiancee, then she should have a California area code.”
Julia purses her full lips and looks at me thoughtfully. “Have you asked him if he’s seeing his ex?” That’s Julia, always straight to the point.
“Why would I do that? If he’s carrying on with her, he’ll lie until the end of time. I think history proves that.”
The history I’m speaking of is a couple of years ago, when Kye and I first started our relationship. He always came over for dates, or picked me up from my townhouse if we were going out. We spent a lot of time together at school, too. For the first six months, I never saw where he lived but I wasn’t suspicious—I lived less than three miles from school and he lived out in a suburb with his mother.
I only met the woman once, at his niece’s dance recital, where she barely spoke to me and then promptly turned her head back to the front. It was a suspiciously frosty reception, my first suspicion against him in all honesty, but he explained it away as that she just wanted him to have his life totally together before embarking on a new relationship.
There’s a long story there too.
After a subtle hint from his godmother, a little investigation, and a message left by me on his home voicemail, turns out he was actually engaged (not to Kayla, this was a completely different engagement, let’s call her “engagement #2”) and that she lived with him…and his mother.
He completely tried to play it down like he was only doing her a favor until she could get back on her feet because he owed her (reference that long history I mentioned before-that they had their own separate bedrooms, they weren’t a couple, and there was no intention of ever being one again. I gave him an ultimatum to move out or we were done.
He moved in with his godparents that weekend.
Now, he lives nearer to campus than I do. Since then, mutual friends have told me engagement #2 was devastated and had no idea they weren’t getting married until he said he was moving. He still denies there was anything between them. When she saw our engagement picture in the newspaper, she called to congratulate him. He didn’t seemed phased, and she seemed sincere, so I lied to myself too in thinking she was just delusional and misconstrued his kindnesses.
“At least if you ask him if he’s been seeing Kayla, that would put him on notice,” Julia says from the tub, bringing me back to the present. “You don’t think there’s a possibility he actually cares for Kayla or is thinking about getting back together with her, do you? Isn’t she engaged or something too?”
“Yeah, I think she lives with her boyfriend or fiancee or whatever, but really, what does that mean to some people?” I huff and put my hands on my hips.
“If that’s where you’re coming from, I think we have some serious red flags here. I mean, even if it turns out to be nothing, if something like that is in the back of your head about your man, it can’t be a good sign.”
I was really thinking about Kayla, not Kye, but I don’t feel like clearing that up right now. I’m just so tired of guessing with no concrete answers. Would it be difficult for Kye to just be open for once, no matter the consequences? Anything else is cowardly.
Still, I haven’t spoken to him about it. Maybe that means I’m a coward too.
I run my hand through my hair and sigh. “Thanks for listening and for the advice, but I need to make lunch so I can hit the books.” On a whim, I crack a hard-won smile. “Are you joining me or will you be eating that avocado mask?”
I’m not entirely certain Julia sees the humor in what I just said, but she sinks back into her bubbles and replies that she’ll come down in a few minutes.
I go into my bedroom so I can change out of my church clothes, which consist of a pink sundress and strappy, low-heeled, beige sandals.
I love this townhouse and my room in particular. It’s huge and has a tremendous walk-in closet that I mostly use to store my books. My bathroom doesn’t have a garden tub, but I can live with that. I really don’t have time for soaking anyway.
I slip on some yoga pants and a T-shirt, slide into my thong sandals and I’m ready to go. I may have lived in Houston for the past five years, but I’m still a California girl at heart. They’re thongs, people, not flip-flops.
Julia loves the townhouse too, which is why she’s still rooming with me even after she’s finished undergrad and has a really awesome job as an entertainment reporter for a local newspaper. The pay isn’t astronomical, but the perks are really awesome: carte blanch to all the great events, concerts, parties, restaurants, and any other interesting happenings going on. There are cool junkets too-for my graduation present, for instance, we went to Puerto Rico. That was in December, and started I law school promptly after in January, so that was the last good time I was going to have for a while. Even now, Kye and I weren’t planning a honeymoon because of my schedule.
Kye didn’t come on the trip because he was working as a set dresser on a movie production that was filming here in town. I think that’s when he really got the bug to work in cinema. Ever since I met him two years ago, he had always wanted to be in the entertainment industry in some way, but hadn’t figured it out completely. His major is radio, television, and film, so he was thinking more road manager or something related to music, but now, it’s full-fledged director or bust. That was another reason why we weren’t planning a honeymoon—he plans to move to Los Angeles right after he graduates in May, which is exactly one week before we’re set to walk down the aisle.
I sigh again as I make my way down the stairs. What were we thinking? Law school, graduation, cross country move, and a wedding to boot. No wonder I feel stressed…and am probably making something out of nothing. “Borrowing trouble” as my mother would say…
I log into Pinterest on my phone and see what looks good for lunch. Something I can snack on later too, since I’ll be knee deep in reading the remainder of the night. I feel a little like Mexican, and not taking too much time either, so I pull up the first fast recipe I see-spinach enchiladas. Yep, that should do.
As I sit down to eat, Julia comes downstairs, doing her best prune imitation. She has put on a pair of jeans and a tank top, but no shoes.
“That smells yummy. What, no salad?”
“They’re spinach, you’re getting plenty of vegetables. You’ll be fine.”
“Hmm, I guess.” She actually looks forlorn, like she really thinks I’m getting up from my hot enchiladas to make her a salad. I just give her a little side eye and continue filling up, glad for some easy-to-understand company for once.
I’m at the desk in my room trying to concentrate on the cases in front of me, but I’m so incredibly sleepy. I finished eating about an hour ago and now all I can do is daydream about lying in my bed.
I guess a few minutes won’t hurt…
When I open my eyes again, my head is laying on the desk and it’s dark outside. My phone reveals it’s eight PM.
And there are no text or call from Kye.
That’s strange. I usually receive some sort of communication from him by this time of night. I could call him, but… I do have a lot of studying to do. I’ve already lost too much time napping, which is probably stress-related to this whole Kye situation anyway. I eye the stack of bricks that is my book pile, ever waiting for attention.
…Time to buckle down and get my reading done.
The next time I look at my phone, it’s three AM and still no call from Kye. I’m done for the night so I better get a few minutes’ shut-eye to have some semblance of having myself together when I head for school in less than five hours’ time.