She purses her lips contemplatively. “Shampoo and conditioner, I prefer L'Oréal; it’s in a pink bottle, but it doesn’t matter really, just none of that shampoo+conditioner stuff—left the bottles I recently bought in the last motel. Oh! Also, get me a small bottle of Baby Oil.”
I raise a very interested brow. “Baby Oil? You have something in mind?”
“No!” She hits me gently on the arm with the back of her fingers, but all I notice is how her boob jiggled when she did it. “Definitely not! I just like to use it in the shower.”
I jot down: large bottle of baby oil (just in case)
“And maybe some snacks and a six-pack of water or non-lemon tea—something besides soda—and, oh!” She points her finger upwards. “Some beef jerky!”
I grin and jot that down, too.
“Yeah, I can’t think of anything else yet.”
“Well, if you do,” I say, pulling my phone from the leg pocket of my cargo shorts, “call me and let me know—what’s your number?”
She smiles and happily tells me while I call her from my phone. Her voice mail picks up and I say: Hey, babe, it’s me. I’ll be back in a bit; right now I’m a bit pre-occupied staring at this incredibly hot blonde sitting nak*d on a counter.
Camryn grins and blushes and pulls me between her suspended legs and kisses me hard.
“Oh shit! The water!” she says, noticing the tub close to overflowing.
I turn the water off quickly.
I set the phone and my grocery list on the counter and lift her into my arms.
“Andrew, I’m not crippled.” But she’s not exactly arguing with me, either.
I help her into the tub and she leans back into the warmth of it, letting her hair fall around her shoulders and into the water, too.
“I’ll be back in a few,” I say as I go to leave.
“You promise this time?”
That stops me in my tracks. I turn back to look across at her and this time she’s not joking. It makes me feel bad that she even has to ask, not because it offends me, but because I had to give her any reason to ask in the first place.
I look at her very seriously.
“Yes, I promise, babe. You’re kind of stuck with me, y’know that, right?”
She smiles sweetly, though it’s laced with mischief. “Damn the things I get myself into.”
I wink at her and leave.
SEX ALWAYS CHANGES EVERYTHING. It’s like you’re living in a bubble where everything is safe and flirty and often predictable. An attraction to the right kind of person can last forever when that intimate mystery is left in-tact, but the moment you sleep with someone, safe, flirty and predictable often become their opposites. Will the attraction die out now? Will we still want each other as much as we did before we had sex? Are either of us secretly thinking that we made a huge mistake and should’ve left things the way they were? No. Yes. And no. I know this because I feel it. It’s not overconfidence or the delusional dreams of a young, inexperienced woman with insecurity issues. It’s a blatant fact: Andrew Parrish and I were meant to meet on that bus in Kansas.
Coincidence is just a safe conformist for fate.
I soak in the bath for a while, but decide to get out before I start pruning. I am sore down there, but I’m perfectly capable of walking. I just think it’s sweet the way he feels the need to take care of me.
I slip on my gray pair of cotton shorts I bought on the road and a black tank-top. I make up the bed and straighten the room a little before grabbing my phone to check my messages: same random stuff from Natalie. Still nothing from my mom. I always leave my phone on vibrate. I can’t stand to hear a phone ring. It doesn’t matter if I could have any kind of ring tone I wanted; a ringing phone is like nails down a chalkboard to me. I head over to the window and pull the curtains open wide to let the bright sun flood the room and I lean on the windowsill, gazing down at New Orleans. I’ll never forget this place.
I think about Andrew and his father briefly, but shut it out of my mind. I’ll give him a few more days before I try talking to him about it again. He’ll hurt for a while, but I don’t want him unintentionally using me as a barrier. He has to deal with it sometime.
I set my phone down on the windowsill and scroll through my music. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to any of my stuff; surprisingly, I’ve not missed it much. Andrew’s classic rock has more than just grown on me; he’s made me kind of love it.
Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars. I stop on that one—my favorite for the past two months—and turn the speaker on, letting the music filter into the room with that folky-country style that is my guilty pleasure. I’m not much of a country music girl, but this band is an exception. I sing along with John and Joy, letting myself loose since I’m in the privacy of my room and I sing as loud as I can. I dance a little standing in front of the window. And when Joy’s solo begins, I sing along with her like I always do, trying to work my untrained voice to sound as velvety as hers does. I could never sound like her, but it makes me feel good to sing along.
My lips snap shut and my dancing body freezes when I notice Andrew leaning against the wall by the door, watching me. Grinning, of course.
I literally melt under the blush of my face.
He walks the rest of the way into the room now that he’s been caught and sets two plastic bags down on the TV stand.
“For someone oh-so-sore,” he mocks, his dimples deepening, “you sure were workin’ those hips.”
Still blushing, I try to distract from my little performance as much as possible by making my way over to the bags. “Yeah, well you shouldn’t be sneaking up on me like that.”
“I wasn’t sneaking,” he says, “just enjoying myself—you really do have a sweet voice.”
I blush harder, turning my back to him and rummaging through one bag.
“Thanks, baby, but I think you’re kinda biased.” I look back just long enough to playfully smirk at him.
“No, I mean it,” he says and he seems serious, “you aren’t as bad as you think you are.”
“Not as bad?” I turn around, holding a large bottle of Baby Oil. “What does that mean exactly, that you think I’m only a little bad?” I scoff at him and hold up the Baby Oil. “I said a small bottle.”
“Well, they were out of small bottles.”
“Uh huh.” I smirk again, setting the bottle on the TV stand.
“Well, no I don’t think you’re bad at all,” he says and I hear the bed squeak as he sits on the end of it.
I look at him through the mirror in front of me.
“Well you did good on the shampoo and conditioner,” I say, plucking the bottles out and setting them next to the Baby Oil. “But the body wash, not so much.”
“What?” He looks truly disappointed. “You said not liquid hand soap. That clearly says body wash across the front.” He points at it as if to justify.
“I’m just kidding,” I say, smiling gently at his reaction. “This is perfect.”
He looks relieved, letting his hand drop to his side on the bed.
“You should perform. At least once. Just to see what it’s like.”
I do not like that light-bulb moment he seems to be having right now. Not one bit.
“Ummm, yeah…no.” I shake my head at him through the mirror. “Kind of like eating bugs or becoming an astronaut for a day, that ain’t gonna happen.”
I reach inside the bag and pull out…oh no he didn’t….
“Why not?” he asks. “It’ll be an experience, something you never thought you’d do, but afterwards you’ll feel exhilarated.”
“What-the-hell-is-this?” I ask turning around, holding up a box of Vagisil in my fingers.
He looks incredibly uncomfortable. “It’s…well, you know,” he winces, “for your…girly parts.” He nods uneasily towards my ‘girly parts’.
My mouth falls open. “You think I smell? Have you seen me itching?” I’m trying not to laugh.
Andrew’s eyes pop wide open. “What—No! I just thought it might help with the soreness.” I’ve never seen him look so embarrassed, and at the same time, shocked. “Hey, it wasn’t exactly a comfortable thing standing in that particular aisle reading the labels and being a guy.” He starts gesturing with his hands. “I saw it was for that general area and I tossed it in the basket.”
I set the Vagisil down and walk over to him. “Well, that stuff isn’t exactly going to help with soreness due to…,” I purse my lips, “…‘excessive friction’, but it’s the thought that counts.” I sit on his lap, straddling his waist and lean in to kiss him.
He wraps his arms around my back.
“So, I guess it’s safe to assume we don’t need separate rooms anymore,” he says, smiling up at me.
With my hands locked around the back of his neck, I lean in and kiss him again. “I started to go over there to get your stuff myself while you were gone until I realized I threw your extra key on the floor when I stormed out of there last night.”
He slides his big hands down and grips my butt, pulling me closer. Then he kisses me in the hollow of my neck and stands up, taking me with him.
“I’ll go get it now,” he says, letting me slide carefully out of his grasp. “I figure it’ll take me a couple of days to learn to play that song and to learn the lyrics—you seem to have it down.”
I narrow my eyes at him in a sidelong glare. “Learn it why?”
His dimples deepen again. “If I do recall, you gave up your freedom after winning it at that game of pool.”
His expression is all but pure evil.
I shake my head slowly at first and then gradually harder as the realization of the situation starts to sink in.
“Your words were,” he nods once, “and I quote: I don’t want that freedom unless it comes to eating bugs or hanging my ass out the car window—sorry, babe, but you should learn when to keep your mouth shut.”
“No…Andrew,” I step away from him, crossing my arms, “you can’t make me sing in front of people. That’s just cruel.”
“To you or the audience?”
I stomp on his foot.
“I’m kidding! I’m kidding!” He laughs out loud.
“Well, you can’t make me do it.”
He cocks his head to one side, green eyes lit up with a little bit of everything that makes him irresistible. “No, I won’t force you to do anything, but…,” Oh great, now he’s fake-pouting. But worse, it’s working! “…I really, really, really wish that you would.” He cups my elbows in his hands and draws me close.
I snarl at him and grit my teeth behind my tightly-closed lips.
One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi.
I take a deep breath.
His face lights up.