Page 7

 Penelope Ward

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We both just sat in silence for several seconds and then he turned to me. The streetlights were shining on his blue eyes which were now glowing. He seemed like he wanted to say something and we stared at each other before Cedric spoke. “I hope this isn’t too personal, but do you know anything about where you came from?”
That caught me off guard. “You mean my biological parents?” I asked.
Cedric nodded tenderly looking into my eyes and whispered, “Yeah.”
His question surprised me, being that we had just met, but I felt comfortable enough with him to be open.
I shook my head. “I don’t know anything, actually. Mom always said it was a closed adoption, so it would be very difficult to find her or…them. I never really tried to find anything out. I never wanted to hurt Mom’s feelings and truthfully, in my eyes, she was my real mother in every way. I never knew anything else.”
That was the truth. I had no desire to meet the person or people that gave me away. My mother was everything to me and I never felt slighted until the day she died.
Cedric looked down at his shoes pondering my response and looked back up at me, his eyes seemingly staring into my soul. “Do you feel differently about it now that she’s gone?”
I broke from his intense gaze, looked at the ceiling of the car and thought about that for a moment. “I haven’t really given it much thought to be honest. Mom’s only been gone a little over a year. But no…I think my birth mother or birth parents probably would have found me by now if they were interested…and if they never wanted to find me, then I certainly don’t want to look for them. So, I think I’ll continue to leave well enough alone. Hopefully, someday I’ll start my own family, you know?”
Cedric nodded slowly, soaking in my answer then said in a low voice, “I am sure you’ll make a wonderful Mom someday.”
Chills ran down my spine at the sound of his soothing voice saying words that evoked so much emotion in me. I secretly wished he were right and that by some miracle of my imagination, he could be the one to give that to me someday. My feelings for him were growing by the nanosecond. It was strange to feel so close to someone I had just met.
“Thank you for that.” I smiled and was hopeful that we could drop the subject of my history. I have never been fully comfortable discussing it. Bringing up the subject of my birth parents is something I have always avoided. Talking about it seems to demean in some way the only true mother I have ever known. I could never fathom how a mother could give up her baby as easily as my birth mother must have given me up as a newborn.
I decided to change the subject. “I can’t believe all these years we lived in the same city and never crossed paths,” I said.
Cedric laughed, his eyes now turning mischievous. He looked down and shook his head. “I think that might be a relief on my end. I was a bit of a punk growing up. You wouldn’t have liked me then.”
“Oh really?” I said.
I just couldn’t get enough of looking at those eyes. He had a darkly impish grin on his face now.
God, he was drop dead gorgeous.
Then, he continued. “Seriously, looking back, I realize I was a bit of a dickhead when I was a kid, used to start fights and break windows. My friends used to joke that’s why my initials spelled cock. Cedric looked at me for a moment and then broke out in laughter as he waited for my reaction.
I shook my head and laughed. “What, now?”
“My middle initial is O, so Cedric and Callahan wrapped around that…you have C-O-C…cock.” He laughed.
“Ah…makes sense.” I continued laughing, then realized something. “Wait…your middle initial is O? My middle initial is O too!”
Cedric’s mouth dropped. “Really?”
I nodded and grinned. “Yes…my middle name is Ophelia.”
His eyes widened and glistened in amazement. “Allison…you’re friggin’ kidding me,” he said.
“No, I am not…what’s wrong with Ophelia?”
“Nothing at all. It’s absolutely beautiful…but when I tell you my middle name, well—”
“What…Cedric tell me…what is it? Oscar? Omar? O’Shaughnessy? Obi Wan Kenobi? Tell me!” I laughed, waiting in suspense.
Cedric put his hand on my headrest and moved in closer which startled me. I could feel his breath near my face when he said, “Allison…your middle name is Ophelia…”
“Yes…don’t tell me your middle name is Ophelia, too?” I joked.
Cedric shook his head. “No…not Ophelia…but—”
“But what?”
“You’d never guess it.”
“Give me a hint.”
He rubbed his chin and smiled. “Okay…it’s from Shakespeare too.”
My jaw dropped and I did guess it. “Oh my God…Othello? You’re telling me your middle name is…Othello?”
He nodded. “That’s exactly what I am telling you.”
This was really bizarre and hilarious.
“You mean to tell me we are both named after Shakespeare characters?” I stared at him in awe before thinking about it again for a few seconds. “Wait…are you shitting me?”
Cedric burst out laughing. “It would seem that way wouldn’t it, but unfortunately, I’m not. I swear on my father’s life,” he said.
Now, I knew he was being serious. You just don’t joke on someone’s life. “Wow,” I said.
Cedric seemed really amused by this coincidence too. “Wow is right…you’re telling me. My father was a huge Shakespeare fan and insisted on my middle name being Othello. The Othello board game was pretty big back then too. For some reason, he thought it was the coolest name. It started as a joke, really. My mom was dead set against it and one night, they were with some friends and she lost a bet and well…there you have it…Cedric Othello Callahan.”
“I guess maybe this is a sign we were meant to meet,” I said, immediately regretting the suggestive comment.
Cedric smiled, his white teeth glistening. “I think so, Allison Ophelia.”
He was so surprisingly easy to talk to and I didn’t want this night to end, but I was apprehensive about asking him to come upstairs.
No, there was no way I could do that.
Cedric turned the interior light on and reached across me to open the glove compartment when I got my closest interaction with his body yet, breathing him in. The heat beneath my ass from the seat was nothing compared to the warmth throughout my body as his hair sat inches from my nose. His arm brushed against me and I fantasized about pulling it towards me, putting his hands on me.
He looked frantically for something, eventually grabbing a pen. I spotted a pack of cigarettes in there as well. Strange…he didn’t seem like a smoker and I didn’t smell it in here.
Mmm…I think the cologne might be Cool Water.
“Aha…here it is,” he said grabbing a pen. “Do you happen to have a piece of paper in your bag?”
“Let me look.” I opened my purse and dug through all of the crap: hairspray, gum, mace, wallet, change…not one darn piece of paper?
“Ok, don’t worry about it. My phone is dead; otherwise I would enter your information that way. Here, give me your hand.”
Cedric reached out his palm and I placed my hand in his. He clicked the pen and began to write his cell phone number and email address carefully on top of my hand, while holding it steady with his. His hand was big, rough and warm. A wave of heat rushed through my body as he breathed out slowly and I felt his hot breath on my hand.
I never wanted him to stop writing, never wanted him to let me go. He did though, but not before squeezing my hand, a silent farewell gesture before he let it loose.
Then he just stared at me for a few seconds with his icy blue eyes and my ni**les got hard.
I cleared my throat. “Um…let me give you my information as well,” I said, grabbing his hand (ballsy, yes?) as he handed me the pen. My hand might have trembled a little as I wrote all of my information on his. I could have sworn his thumb brushed across my hand intentionally before I reluctantly pulled away.
Cedric turned the interior light off and we stood in silence for a few more seconds before he spoke. “Well, then…Allison, it was really great talking with you. Again, I am sorry about your having to look for the card and your missing the train…but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy your company on the ride home.”
“Me too…I mean…I enjoyed your company too. You have no idea. And thanks for, you know, looking into that contact at the special needs agency.”
I lingered a bit, hoping Cedric would ask me out. When he just continued to stare at me, I opened the car door, leaving him sitting there.
He flashed his beautiful teeth one last time as I shut the door.
As I walked up the stairs, Cedric started the car. Fiddling with my keys, I looked back, noticing he was still idling waiting for me to safely enter. When I cracked the door open, I turned around and waved and saw him wave back. Then, he took off.
I ran upstairs and when I entered the apartment, I realized Sonia hadn’t come home yet.
I started tearing off my clothes and ran to the bathroom to see what I looked like. Not bad. The mascara was a little runny, but for having worked all day, I guess I looked somewhat presentable.
I turned on the faucet to the bathtub and I pulled off my socks. If I thought he was amazing before, I was speechless now. In that short time, Cedric managed to make me laugh, almost cry and possibly gave me a job lead. Not to mention, my underwear is soaked from just the touch of his hand on mine. The only thing that could have made tonight better, is if he had actually asked me out.
I poured lavender bath salts in the water and waited for it to fill up. As I entered the white ceramic tub, I smelled my hands, which were coated in Cedric’s cologne and made sure not to dip them in the water, so it wouldn’t wash away. I smelled him as I soaked the rest of my body and fantasized, imagining a different ending to our night: one where I had asked him if he wanted to come upstairs. I knew I couldn’t have done that, but I couldn’t help wishing I were that kind of girl. Because if I were, he might be here with me right now and I wouldn’t feel this tremendous loneliness.
I then burst out laughing at the crazy thought of Sonia coming home seeing me mounting Blue Eyes on the couch. I think she is gonna have a heart attack as it is when I tell her about my more platonic ride.
I pulled into the parking space in back of my brownstone, but couldn’t get out the car. I was paralyzed by thoughts of her, running our entire conversation from the ride over and over in my head. I shut off the car and listened only to the sounds of the city night, shutting my eyes. Church bells in the distance rang to signify the start of a new hour…it was one in the morning
When I opened my eyes, I reached over to pull out the cigarettes from the glove compartment, lit one and took a long drag. I couldn’t give a f**k about the repercussions of smoking right now.
Even though the October weather in Boston was cold, I was sweating from the intense anxiety that had overcome me. I needed that cigarette.
She had no family. She was alone.
Even though she’s a waitress, you’d think she’d come across as unattainable and materialistic, based on her stunning looks. That couldn’t be further from the truth. She’s a person with a passion for helping people and a humble upbringing much like my own. She was so easy to talk to and made my normally frigid soul feel warm inside.
I wanted more.
I don’t even know what that means.
I only know that every emotion I was capable of feeling, belonged to her when I looked into those mammoth eyes. Nothing else mattered in those forty minutes, no one else existed.
No other woman, not even the one I had considered my first love, had ever made me feel like that. It was an instant connection I have never experienced before with anyone at all. But realistically, I knew I couldn’t ever have more with Allison. Because I could never be with someone like her and deceive her. I’ve already deceived her, though, haven’t I, making her believe our meeting in the first place was coincidental?
She had already lost everything. And if she knew the whole story, she wouldn’t want to be with me. But at the same time, I couldn’t just walk away and never see her again. Even if that made the most sense, I felt that it would be physically impossible for me to stay away now that I’ve met her.
I needed more time, even if it meant just being her friend. Friend. There was nothing friendly about the raging hard-on I was trying to fight when I touched her skin.
I wanted her so badly it physically hurt.
I nearly lost it when I could feel her soft breath on my neck as I leaned over her to look for a pen. I wanted to feel her breath all over me.
And that is wrong on so many levels.
I did have a girlfriend after all. Oh, yeah…that minor detail. I remembered that I had lied to Karyn. Karyn didn’t deserve a boyfriend that deceived her either. As superficial as Karyn can be at times, underneath it all she was a decent person who told me she was in love with me even though I never returned the sentiment. I’ve lied to her so many times in the past month since I became obsessed with Allison.
Before this, I had vowed to at least try and be a better person, try to think about settling down, if not for myself, for Mom and Callie. I am thirty-four for fuck’s sake. I had spent most of the past decade drowning my sorrows in the wrong women. It had always been just sex with each and every one of them, many of them just one-night stands, with no emotional connection. I didn’t want anything more than that. I just needed sex to wash away the pain and devastation I had endured so many years ago. Karyn is the first long-term relationship I have had in a very long time, but even with her, the emotional connection just isn’t there.