Page 14

 Penelope Ward

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Cedric returned to his seat next to me on the bed and the sexual tension was almost unbearable. This felt all sorts of wrong, especially with Callie sitting there next to us. Then again, the only naughty things actually happening were in my head; we weren’t actually doing anything wrong.
He turned his beautiful blue eyes toward mine again, “Allison, what I wanted to say before was—”
The door opened suddenly and in walked Bettina with two coffees. She knew how I liked mine since she often made coffee for me when I worked in the afternoons. She handed me a cup and handed Cedric his and left without saying a word, just smiling, as we thanked her.
“This is just what I needed,” I said as I took a sip of the hot coffee, thinking that what I really needed was a cold shower.
“Mmm.” Cedric purred into his mug as he sipped. Hearing him moan like that was so erotic and my ni**les felt it.
Just as Cedric was about to get the words out again, Callie started humming and jumping up and down on the bed. I could see she was watching a clip from Anderson Cooper 360 on the iPad when it happened. Some of Cedric’s coffee spilled on the lap of my dress.
Cedric freaked. “Oh, God…shit…Allison, I am so sorry. Are you okay?”
I lied. “It’s fine…this is a thick sweater material, it didn’t seep through to the skin.”
Truthfully, I probably lost some leg hair and may have lost feeling in my right thigh…but it’s all good.
Cedric rushed out of the room and returned with a wet dishrag. He began rubbing the area with it and I swear I thought I was going to die. He was rubbing the top of my thighs. He was so close to me at this point, I thought I was going to melt into him. I felt like a pile of mush with him touching me like this and my being able to smell not only the cologne, but the smell of him, being so close. I think I briefly closed my eyes and bit my bottom lip.
He finally stopped and threw the rag on the floor, shaking his head.
“I am really sorry,” he said again, sighing, but never taking his eyes off mine.
I felt like I must have turned fifty shades of red. “Cedric, it’s fine, really.”
I looked over at Callie to distract myself from him. A wave of sadness suddenly overcame me and something inside me told me I should go home. I was sitting here on a bed with my poor autistic client oblivious to the fact that I was getting off on her brother who happened to be someone else’s boyfriend. I got up suddenly.
“Cedric, I really have to go. I have an early morning at the diner tomorrow. It was nice catching up again.”
Before he could respond, I rushed out of the room, putting my mug on the kitchen counter. I kissed Bettina, who was still heavy in conversation talking in Italian now to Maria, grabbed my coat and ran out the door—literally—before Cedric could offer me a ride home.
The next train left at 9:45 and I should be able to make it if I jogged the five blocks to the station. That’s what I did.
I got there just in nick of time and hopped the train.
As I sat with my head leaning back on the wall behind my train seat, I started to cry. I was filled with so many emotions tonight, between my growing love for Callie, my lust for Cedric and the overall longing I felt to be part of a family like theirs.
My running wasn’t about how much I wanted to leave tonight…what was bothering me was how much I desperately wanted to stay.
As the train swayed, I thought about my mother and how much she loved me and hoped she was watching over me. We had so many good times, just the two of us. Memories of Mom flashed through my head as the train swayed and the tears fell: trips to Castle Island, mother and daughter Lifetime movie marathons, praying at St. John’s Church together, being able to confide in her about anything. I couldn’t have loved her more if she gave birth to me. As the thoughts of Mom continued, I thought about how I just want to do something in life that would have made her proud. I think she would be happy that I found Callie and Lucas and that I was making a difference in their lives.
Just then, my phone chimed and I looked down at a text that gave me the chills.
Allison, you are so beautiful inside and out. Your mother would be proud. That’s all I wanted to say. You left before I could. –Cedric.
Still reeling from the irony and timing of that text, after much internal debate, by the time I got back to my apartment, I had decided I would respond to him. I needed to find a way to acknowledge such a sweet sentiment without encouraging something that could never be. I plopped down on the sofa, noticing the eerie silence of my apartment, since Sonia had just left for the UK for the holidays. I wished she were here, so that I could tell her what happened. It was too late to call the UK.
I wanted to cry, looking at the text over and over. Cedric’s words could not have been more perfectly timed, since I had been deep in thought on the train about my mother when the text came in. The fact that he told me that my mother would be proud of me cut deep. The fact that he told me I was beautiful was the icing on the cake.
Tonight left me feeling very emotional.
I didn’t want to be alone this Christmas, which was Sunday, so I planned to have dinner at Danny’s house in Boston near Fenway Park and finally meet his new partner Paolo.
As I lay down, I tried to think about how to respond. Looking out the window at the Christmas lights adorning the house across the street, a tear fell down my cheek. Why did everything have to be so complicated? Why couldn’t Cedric be single? Why did he send me that text if he has a girlfriend? Why did it touch me so deeply?
As I pondered these things, I stared at my phone and turned it to camera mode. I could see my reflection in the screen and noticed mascara running down my cheeks. As I looked down at my red sweater dress, I noticed the stain from where Cedric spilled his coffee and decided I would definitely endure more burns if it meant being able to be close to him again.
I was struggling with my feelings over him tonight and the fact that even though he had a girlfriend, I couldn’t shake this connection. He apparently felt it too. It were those very feelings and my being able to sense his, that drove me out of there so fast.
Karyn Keller...I had to remember he had a girlfriend…I needed to snap out of this.
I unlocked my phone and clicked on his message and typed a response.
Cedric, thanks so much for those kind words. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy working with your sister.
A tear rolled down my cheek and I let out a deep breath. I immediately regretted the casual tone of that message, but it was too late. I had already sent it. A part of me felt I should have taken that opportunity to let him know how I truly felt, even if he had a girlfriend. He wasn’t married after all. My thoughts began to race and my heart pounded furiously because I knew what I was about to do.
I typed again.
And I think you are beautiful too.
I waited and waited for a response, but it never came. Technically, he didn’t have to say anything, since I was responding to him. But I had hoped he would continue the dialog. The ball was in his court. I had no regrets. The first text was the message I thought was appropriate to send, followed by the second text that came from my heart. He could take either one and do what he pleased.
After an hour of lying on the couch staring at the Christmas lights across the street with my phone in my hand, I knew I wasn’t going to get a response, so I walked into my bedroom and tried to go to sleep.
I stared at the blazing fireplace in Caleb and Denise’s living room. It was Christmas and my entire family had gathered in New Hampshire to be together and celebrate.
Callie sat on the couch next to me playing on her iPad while Mom helped Denise cook in the kitchen. I could smell the ham cooking and couldn’t wait to sit down to a home cooked meal, especially when my mother was doing the cooking.
Caleb was stocking the bar down in the basement with drinks, since that was where we usually hung out and watched movies after dinner.
Denise had the house all decked out with garland and white lights. Their Christmas tree was huge…tall and fat with a strong pine scent. It was loaded underneath with presents we had opened after brunch this morning.
As Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas played on the iPod speaker, I looked at the fire and couldn’t help but think about what Allison was doing tonight. She didn’t have any family, so who was she with tonight? It took every ounce of my strength not to text her that very question right now.
I looked down at my phone and stared at the text she sent me in response to my message a few nights ago. And I think you’re beautiful too. My heart sank. It sank each of the dozens of times a day I stared at those words on my phone.
And I think you’re beautiful too.
I remembered when I received it, I had just returned home from Mom’s dinner party Thursday night. My body had been aching with pent up desire from sitting so close to her and then feeling her soft skin as I cleaned off the spilled coffee.
I had sent her my text twenty minutes before arriving back home that night. I had decided to text her just as I was walking out my mother’s door some time after Allison bolted, leaving me dumbfounded. I could sense that she was running from me that night, but why…I couldn’t understand. If she knew the truth about everything, then running would make sense, but under the circumstances, I couldn’t figure it out.
I had felt like I needed to tell her how I felt anyway because she mesmerized me. I couldn’t stay away and needed to get it off my chest. That night, I had texted her that I thought she was beautiful and I got no response, so I had pretty much given up and decided to drive home and call it a night.
So, later that evening, when I heard my text alert sound as I was taking off my clothes getting ready for bed, my heart had skipped a beat. It could have been anyone, but it was her.
The first text was a generic thank you, which made me feel like shit. Just as I was about to toss the phone across the bed in despair, the phone sounded again. I looked down and my heart started beating rapidly when I saw what she wrote.
And I think you’re beautiful too.
My heart kept pounding and my fingers were ready to starting frantically typing to pour my heart out to her. I wanted to text her back, but I hadn’t been able to put into words what I was feeling.
I remember starting to sweat and breathe heavily when the realization hit me that I actually might be able to have her if I wanted her. Those words she texted were the first confirmation I had received that she returned my feelings at all. Was I really ready to take the next step, knowing where it would lead—that I would inevitably break her heart?
I knew either I was going to tell her I was crazy about her right then and there or that I needed to stay away. There was no in between. This situation was black and white. In my heart, I wanted to let it all out and run to her wherever she was. But I didn’t. I never wrote anything back that night.
Every moment since that night has been consumed with thoughts of her. And now, three days later, it’s Christmas and all I can do is sit here by the fire and wonder about her, yet again.
What I have realized since the night of the text, is that I don’t really have a choice. I thought that by not responding, I could somehow make this situation easier or less complicated, but I can’t. Just the opposite happened, really. My draw to Allison is not a choice. It’s a completely uncontrollable pull that won’t go away, despite the consequences of acting on it. I will never stop wanting her. And I will inevitably hurt her either way, once she learns the truth, whether I am involved with her or not at the time. She is going to find out with or without me. Maybe just maybe, if I can show her who I am and get her to trust me, she will find it in her heart to see past everything. It’s a long shot, but it’s a dream I need to cling to right now. Because I know what I am about to do: I am about to lose control.
My ruminations were interrupted by the sound of my mother’s voice telling me that dinner was ready in the dining room. I pulled myself away from the fire and seated myself next to where Callie was already sitting at the table.
I helped serve my sister food and watched as she began devouring mashed potatoes before anyone else even sat down. I just laughed at how nice it must be to be Callie Callahan sometimes; to not give a shit about the consequences of anything.
As the rest of the family sat down, I led the table in prayer. “Bless Us Oh Lord for These Thine Gifts For Which We Are About To Receive…”
As I continued the prayer and held hands with my sister and mother, I felt truly blessed to be here with these wonderful people and wondered again, where Allison is without a family on Christmas.
We all sat down and began devouring the meal which consisted of ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, green bean casserole, cornbread and barbecued beans. Denise and my mother were amazing cooks and even better when cooking together.
The family dinner discussion ranged from what movie we would be watching later to the latest gossip from my mother’s church. I continued to stuff my face not contributing much to the conversations.
Then, my gluttonous consumption was interrupted by a shocking and abrupt question from my mother. “Cedric, what was going on between you and Allison the other night?” she asked.
Caleb’s eyes immediately darted toward mine, eager to see my response.
“Why do you ask?” I nervously asked and reached for another piece of bread and started to butter it.
“Well, I am not blind, son. I can see how gorgeous she is and happened to notice the fact that once you got a look at her, you didn’t leave her side all night in Callie’s room, except to change that light bulb. For the record, I think she is amazing and you would be stupid not to go after her.” She winked.