Installment 1: Thea

I smiled as he rolled over and into my view.  “I can’t believe how lucky I am to be with you,” Nathan whispered in my ear as I stretched my arms around his neck, drawing his lips to mine for a good morning kiss.  I smiled against his mouth, loving that this was the way I started my day.

“I know just how you feel, love,” came my contented reply.  I threw back the covers and rotated my hips toward the edge of the bed.  I pretended to fight as I felt his arms snake around my waist.  I knew I was late to work already, but just didn’t give a damn.  His fingers curved, ready to pounce, and I curled into a ball as I anticipated the torture that was about to come.  His tickle attacks were fierce and delightful.  I laughed loudly as his relentless assault began.  He climbed over me, straddling me to trap me under him.  My laughter faded as I realized he was making a horrible noise.

“Ah… Ah… Ah,” the metallic drone came from his mouth.  Suddenly my carefree morning turned to horror.  My heart started to race as I watched his mouth take an awkward O-shape.  “Ah… Ah… Ah.”  Each sound was exactly like the last one, same duration, tone, volume.  As soon as I felt the fear rise into my throat, I startled awake.

That damn alarm I thought to myself, rolling over, dreading the start of my lonely day.  No beautiful green eyes or tickle fights to delight me prior to drudging off to work.  Only me.  In my one-bedroom apartment.  Alone.

I sighed to myself as I slid my feet into my slippers and shuffled toward the bathroom.  I reached into the shower, checking to get the temperature before sliding in and starting my day.

I snuck through the office and into my desk right at 8 on the dot.  Thank God I don’t have to clock in anymore I thought as I looked out at my team.  A pang of guilt ran through me, knowing they’d been here for at least 30 minutes.  You stay later, and work from home I reasoned with myself, but it did little to alleviate the feeling.  Why do I set these ridiculous standards?… Because you should be able to meet them…  I shook my head, as if I could loosen this never-ending internal dialogue out through my ears.  Just get to work before you have something else to feel sorry about… and with that, I started my day.

The smells of others’ lunches slowly wafted through the office just as my phone buzzed.  I swiped to see what caused the distraction.  “Lunch?” Ender is a man of few words, but this one happens to be my favorite… well, after dessert.  I chuckled at my humor… I need to get out more.

I picked up my phone, typing always requires two hands… I wonder if everyone has these types of idiosyncracies… “Depends on where… any thoughts?”  I hate deciding and hoped Ender would take the lead.

I watched the dot bubble appear… Thank God for Apple. “Taco Bell… We both know it’s your fav even though you pretend otherwise.”  He knows me too well.  Damn him.  “Fine.  Meet at your car in 5; no more than 30.  I have a ton of work to do.”

Ender’s leaning against his car, smiling, as I walked toward him.  “Yeah, yeah… we both know you have guilty pleasures too.” I called out wryly.  He looked too smug for my taste with his khakis and shades against the navy of his coupe.

“I don’t know why you act like those are bad things, Thea.  Maybe that’s what makes women from Venus.  Their innate need to hide pleasure.  Men just accept it and move on.  It’s why we’re the fairer sex.”  He didn’t look away from the road, but didn’t need to to know that I loved/hated when he’s like this.

“Don’t you ever choose silence?” I fired back, giggling at his raised eyebrow.  He doesn’t have an off switch, but that’s nice when you need someone to drown out your thoughts.

“Why would I when my thoughts are so accurate and insightful?”  He signaled to pull into the drive thru.  “Now what do you want?”

“Where’s the chivalry? What if I wanted a table with white cloths and candlelight?  Give me a #5 with a large Baja Blast, no ice.”

“If you wanted class, we wouldn’t be at The Bell.  As for charm, that’s why you’ve got me.”  Ender paid as we arrived at the first window.

“Why do you insist on paying?” The feminist in my hated feeling inferior in any way, but the lazy part of me was just glad I didn’t have to dig my wallet from my bag.  You really should clean that out tonight…

“Because I’m such a good friend.  Besides, if I pay this time, it’ll be your turn when we actually make it to a place that uses tablecloths.”  He offered up a mischievous smile again from under his sunglasses.

“This was a terrible idea.  I’m never going to make it through this without spilling, and I hate doing laundry.”

“Anyone who’s seen your bedroom would know that.  It’s probably a disease that causes you to shop rather than launder, right?  I mean, that sounds like a legit thing.  You should probably get that checked out.” He clucked his tongue as he passed the greasy bag onto my lap.

He parked, “Get out, I have to get back to real work.”

“I’d be angry, but you paid, so I guess I should just keep quiet about how I manage a team and make more money than you, right?”

“Yeah, I’d say you probably should… unless you’re trying to slap a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Such drama,” I mockingly folded my hand to my chest in mock offense.  “Thanks again for forcing me away from my desk… and for paying.”  I climbed out and started toward the door.

“Guess I’ll just have to find a way for you to pay me back.” Ender called after me, wagging his eyebrows suggestively.

I should’ve known better than to look behind me while walking, klutz that I am.   Wham.  I collided with a wall, crushing my soda against my white button-down blouse and dropping my bag.  I gasped, looking up to see the only thing worse than a wall. Nathan. 

“Nathan…” It came out breathy.  I closed my eyes, inhaled through my nose sharply, and shook my head to clear my dream from entering my thoughts.  “I’m so sorry!  Did I get you?”  As I asked, I saw his shirt clinging to his chest, drenched from my embarrassing gaff.  Without thinking, I began patting his chest as if my hands contained magical sponge properties and could soak up the liquid, all while releasing a stream of consciousness… “I shouldn’t’ve been looking behind me.  I’m such a klutz.  I can’t believe I’ve ruined both our days.  Please let me pay for your dry cleaning or replacement clothes.”

“Stop.” His voice was friendly as he put a hand over mine, effectively trapping it against his body and ending my awkward patting.  With the other he reached under my chin and pulled my face up, requiring my eyes to meet his.  Green.  “It’s totally fine.  No one’s day is ruined.  If anything, my day just got better.”  He raised his eyebrows as his eyes traveled below my face.  Confused, I followed his gaze and realized my blouse is not only sticky, but now entirely see-through.  Thank God I wore a lacy bra today.

I pulled my hands from his sticky grip and began patting my own body, trying to hide both my breasts and face as I felt my cheeks heat.

“I’m sorry; that was absolutely out of line.  I didn’t mean for that to come out, or to make you uncomfortable.  I say we call this whole situation a draw, go ring out our shirts, and try to get through the rest of the day by hiding in our offices.  Deal?”

“I’d say yes, but there’s no way I’m NOT covering your expenses… even getting home is going to make your car sticky.”  Saying the word sticky brought unwanted fantasies of Nathan drizzled in syrup, his green eyes watching as I lick it off him.  I blushed fiercely and shook my head.

“How about you buy me dinner?”  He dipped his head to catch my eyes, smiling.  “I promise to pick a place equivalent to my out of pocket on this run-in.  You can’t say no, I see your ruined lunch on the ground, so I know you’re going to be hungry.  I’ll email you later with the details.”  He smiled ruefully, “Right now, I have to visit the little boys’ room to see about damage control.”  And with that he walked away, leaving me with my mouth hanging open.

Close your mouth and wipe that stupid grin off your face.  You can’t be so obvious with other people around.  But my pep talk was useless.  I practically skipped to the ladies room to text Sara for an emergency friendtervention, both a reality check and wardrobe discussion would be necessary in the next few hours.

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