Page 18

 Penelope Ward

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I had slept in my clothes, which were now wrinkled but would have plenty of time to go home, change and pack before my flight to L.A. tonight.
I snuck down the hallway to the kitchen, catching sight of Allison. She hadn’t noticed me yet. She had talk radio on low and was cooking at the stove, her long hair cascading down her back. This beautiful woman was making me breakfast and I was tempted to sneak up behind her and kiss her neck, but I just stood there staring, amazed at my willpower last night and amazed at how lucky I am to be here. There was no doubt in my mind that she was too f**king good for me, in every way.
I walked over to her and gave her a peck on the cheek. She jumped at the surprise of seeing me.
“Good morning.” She smiled.
“Good morning. Thanks for doing all this.” I wrapped my arm around her waist and kissed the top of her head. I couldn’t help myself.
“It’s the least I could do after what you did last night for me,” she said sweetly.
Allison separated the eggs onto two different plates and placed three slices of bacon onto each one. I grabbed two mugs from the cabinet to start pouring the coffee.
“Oh, do you mind grabbing that one for me?” She gestured to a different mug that had a picture of J.J. from the show Good Times on it. I shook my head and laughed out loud.
“This is your favorite mug?” I asked surprised.
“It is…I don’t know why, it puts me in a good mood.” She laughed.
That smile…Allison’s not J.J.’s…made me wish I wasn’t going to L.A. tonight.
I poured the coffee into the mugs, placed them on the table, then sat down.
Allison grabbed cream and sugar and two pieces of toast and joined me.
“These are the best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted,” I said, devouring them. It was the truth.
Allison grinned. “The key is to not mess with them too much when you’re cooking them and I add a dash of milk. I am glad you like them.”
I inhaled the breakfast and helped her clean up the table. We walked over to the couch and sat down, our bodies turned toward each other.
“Do you have to work at all today or just get ready for your trip?” Allison asked.
“No work—the office is closed until tomorrow. I wish I didn’t have to go to California.”
“Me too.” Allison grabbed my hand and I entwined my fingers with hers.
She gestured for my other hand, the one wrapped in gauze.
“We should take a look at that,” she said.
“I guess you are right.” I removed my good hand from hers and started to unwrap it until Allison stopped me.
She took over, unwrapping it carefully. It looked a lot better than I expected, but was still a little red and bloody.
She got up and returned with peroxide and cotton and began cleaning my hand.
She then did something that blew me away. Before wrapping the hand back in fresh gauze, she took my nasty looking hand up to her mouth and kissed it gently right on the wound, closing her eyes.
I closed my eyes, too, overwhelmed by the raw emotion I felt from that gesture, but didn’t do or say anything, just watched her as she wrapped my hand in gauze again.
“Thank you, Allison.” I whispered.
She couldn’t possibly imagine how much I needed to have her right now.
“You’re welcome.” She moved in toward me and placed her head on my shoulder. I pulled her close to me and we sat like that for a minute.
“Do you have to work at the diner today?” I asked.
“No, I would have been there by now. I took today off and go back tomorrow.”
We sat in silence for about a minute, then I turned to her and kissed her on the forehead when she looked up at me.
There was so much I wanted to say to her. I didn’t know where to begin.
“Allison…if you don’t mind my asking, was Nate your last boyfriend? Is there anyone else?”
She straightened herself up as if to prepare to answer my question.
“No, there isn’t. I haven’t dated anyone since Nate. The whole thing was just such a huge disappointment. Everything was so normal in the beginning with him. Alcoholism is a real beast.”
“Yeah, but not all alcoholics are violent. Had he tried anything like that before?” My body cringed at the thought.
“He never tried to rape me, but he did hit me, like I said, the one and only time before last night. That was it. I broke up with him the second he put his hand on me.”
“I am so sorry, but I am glad you were smart enough to leave,” I said, suddenly wanting to find Nate again and finish the job.
“Yes. I had never experienced violence in my life. It was just Mom and me since forever. A peaceful existence, until she died. Everything seemed to fall apart after that.” Allison looked down.
I hated seeing her sad. “Things fell apart in ways other than Nate?” I asked.
“Well, Nate happened and that’s also when I dropped out of school. My whole life just changed. I felt like I didn’t have a purpose and overall I just missed my Mom. It’s strange to not have her around to talk to anymore, to be alone. But I have been doing my best.”
I put my hand on her knee. “You’re not alone and I know she is watching over you. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a hand in my showing up last night.”
She smiled. “I would love to believe that, Cedric. Lately things have really turned around, especially since I met Callie and Lucas.”
I loved hearing that. “I wish I didn’t have to leave tonight,” I said.
Allison abruptly changed the subject.
“Cedric, what about you? Were you and Karyn serious?”
“No. I mean, we dated for a while exclusively, but the chemistry wasn’t there. To be honest, we couldn’t have been more different. I really want to settle down with someone who shares my family values, but mostly those feelings you need to have to want to be with someone forever, were not there for me with Karyn.”
“I see,” Allison said trying to process my answer.
I suddenly felt the urge to be honest with her. She deserved at least some honesty, seeing as though I didn’t have the balls to tell her the real reason I even met her in the first place.
“I have dated a lot of women, Allison, I am not gonna lie. Most of the women I have dated have been about sex and nothing more. I want more than that out of life now. Karyn was the closest I had come to a serious relationship, but that didn’t hit the mark, not by a long shot.”
“How many women are we talking?” Allison laughed nervously.
I hesitated, but I wanted to be up front.
“A lot…well into the double digits. But I was protected each and every time, with them, don’t worry. I always used, you know, condoms and get myself checked regularly. I wouldn’t put myself at risk like that or put anyone else at risk. I don’t want that life at all anymore though. I had gotten hurt after a relationship when I was younger and I vowed never to let that happen again. So, I let myself think that sex was all I wanted. But I am realizing more and more lately that it’s not all I want anymore.”
I stared at her trying to give her a subliminal message that she was what I wanted. I couldn’t tell her that yet in so many words.
“What do you want, Cedric?” Her blunt question startled me.
I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to process my answer.
“I want it all. I want to wake up in the morning next to someone who rocks my world in every way. Someone who I am so physically attracted to that I can’t keep my hands off her but who at the same time fulfills me in other ways, emotionally, on a deeper level. I want to be with someone who makes me never want to be with another single soul and someone who makes me want to be a better person.”
I want to be with you, but I don’t deserve you.
Allison and I spent a couple of hours on her couch, getting to know all that we missed in each other’s lives up until now.
She told me about growing up in the Roslindale section of Boston, how she used to dance and sing in the Boston Latin School show choir and how she almost married her high school boyfriend before realizing he wasn’t the one.
She opened up to me that her mother came out to her as g*y when she was a teenager and that her mother’s longtime partner had died when Allison was only five and that her mother never met anyone else or fell in love after that. She floored me with her openness and she seemed to trust me enough to tell me anything. That warmed my heart and hurt at the same time.
I told her about growing up in Dorchester with my family, showed her my bullet mark from the accidental drive by and we found out that we both used to go to Castle Island a lot as kids.
I told her as much as I could…up until Chicago. That was the point I had to stop or rather skipped right over. She opened up to me about everything and I gave her only half of myself. But it was too soon to tell her everything and I wasn’t ready to lose her just yet.
As a matter of fact, I couldn’t wait to see her again after my trip and I hadn’t even left her yet.
“It’s 1:00, you better get going if you need to pack,” Allison said.
“Shit. I do.”
I got up and she walked me to the door. I embraced her as hard as I could, pulling her mouth toward mine one last time. I could have stayed here all day, so I had to physically rip myself back with force and step away.
Allison stood in the doorway. “Bye, Cedric.”
I stood staring at her just shaking my head in awe of her beauty. “I can’t wait to take you out Friday night,” I said.
“Me too. Text me when you get there, okay?” she said.
I was touched that she would be worrying about me. I knew I would be thinking about her every second of this trip.
Smelling him on my shirt for the hundredth time, I tried to imagine that he was still here. I still couldn’t believe everything that had happened in less than twenty-four hours, on Christmas, no less.
I had spent the day cleaning my apartment and doing laundry downstairs in a daze, replaying every moment since he burst through the door and saved me from Nate.
Sitting on the couch, I looked down at the two Alex and Ani charm bracelets that Cedric’s mother had given me for Christmas, admiring them for being the reason that Cedric came to me. Each silver bracelet had a single charm, one saying “Thank You” and the other had the Virgin Mary, an ode to both of our Catholic upbringings.
I looked down at my watch. Cedric’s flight was at 6:00, so he should be in L.A. sometime before midnight. I wanted to stay up to see if he would text me when he landed. I know that’s lame, but I couldn’t help myself. It was only 11:00, so I decided to watch the Sex and the City marathon to occupy my mind.
As I watched the character Samantha put sushi on all over her body to surprise her boyfriend Smith, my phone chimed and I grabbed it.
Cedric: Just landed. Can’t stop thinking about you.
My heart fluttered and I typed.
Allison: Me too. I miss you already. Get some rest. I know you must be tired.
Cedric: I am. Will you be around tomorrow night?
Allison: Yes. What do you have in mind?
Cedric: I’d like to Skype with you. Do you have Skype?
Allison: I do. Send me an invite. My Skype name is: AllisonAbraham1984
Cedric: Awesome. “See” you tomorrow night. Look for me about 10:00 your time. I should be done with my meetings by then. Good night.
Allison: Good night, Cedric.
I put the phone down and sighed. Oh, God…I had it bad for this man.
A few minutes passed and my phone chimed again. My heart melted at the single and last text from Cedric.
Cedric: ♥
It was a miracle that I was able to stop thinking about him long enough to sleep last night. When my alarm sounded, I jolted out of bed with a newfound zest for life. I hope I wasn’t setting myself up for heartbreak.
Cedric had told me he had been with a lot of women sexually. That sort of intimidates me.
I told him last night the truth, that I had only been with three men my entire life: my high school boyfriend Trent, my mid-twenties boyfriend Sean…and Nate. But at the same time, I couldn’t wait to experience what every one of Cedric’s women had.
“Allison, you look like you have something up your sleeve.” Delores turned to me as she wiped the diner counter.
“It’s that obvious, huh?” I smiled, not being able to contain the fact that I was on cloud nine.
“Is it a man?” Delores asked.
“Yes…It’s Cedric, actually,” I whispered as I poured a cup of coffee for a man at the counter.
“Cedric? The Cedric? Blue Eyes? I thought he had a girlfriend?”
“No, apparently, they had broken off after that picture I showed you was taken. It’s a long story.”
I tried to condense it as best I could and relayed what happened Christmas night to Delores.
“Honey, I don’t know how you resisted doing the deed with him. That guy is the hottest thing on two feet and he rescued you, at that. I have to give you credit. I would have been all over him like Ben Gay on an old person.” She laughed.
“Yeah, tell me about it. Believe me, it wasn’t easy. I am not sure how much longer I’ll be able to behave.” I winked.
Nervous anticipation consumed me at home that night. I brought home takeout sushi and forced it down, my excitement taking away my appetite. A glass of wine was definitely needed, so I opened a bottle of cold Pinot Grigio and poured myself a large one.
After I had loosened up, I wanted to feel sexy for my Skype session with Cedric, so I perused my closet for something cute to wear. I decided on a pale pink tank top that had a thin border of pink sequins on the top. My house was warm, so the tank top in the middle of winter wasn’t totally inappropriate. I put on a tighter sexy pair of jeans and left my feet bare.