Word Count: 2,981
She could have stopped by the garage on her way to his house. Mr. Dawson was always nice to her. He always asked about Sara not that Chris had seen her since that night. She was nervous, though, and didn't want to show up at his garage without plans. He'd think something was wrong.
What if she was wrong? What if he was getting distant because he wasn't happy? Or just realized that she wasn't the one he wanted after all? It wouldn't be unreasonable to think that given how they met and everything. Maybe he'd met someone else, though she didn't think that was the case because she had a key to his house which he'd told her she could use any time. He wouldn't do that, give her access to his house, if there was someone else. Would he?
She parked in his garage using the opener he'd given her last winter. He'd insisted she park her new car in a garage when she was at his house so it didn't sit outside in the snow and the salt from the street crew. It was outside at school, but he still insisted. Another thing that pointed to him caring.
She started out watching TV, but was entirely too jumpy for that so she went to the kitchen to work on dinner for him. While his refrigerator wasn't bursting at the seams like her mother's was, he never lacked for something to eat. She noticed that especially when she'd seen the refrigerators of a few guys on campus' apartments this year. If they had anything but leftover pizza and carry out boxes it was shocking. Besides beer anyway.
Her mother had taught her all of the ins and outs of being a housewife while Chris was growing up. Certainly, she'd encouraged Chris to go to college and reach for more than staying home as she'd done once Chris had come, but she'd made sure the skills were there for Chris to use. So, figuring out something to make that would keep on the stove for a while in case he was really late with the odds and ends he had was fairly easy.
It was after nine o'clock when he got home. She could tell she'd surprised him, not just being there but having dinner ready. No doubt he would have heated up a TV dinner since it was so late when he got in.
"Did we have plans that I forgot about?"
"No," she said.
"All right," he said.
"Should I not have come?"
"No, of course not, Chris. That's not what I meant. Just you're here and dinner, too."
"I needed something to do while I waited to keep my mind off things," she admitted.
"I see," he said, regarding her with a nod. His eyes narrowed a little as if he wasn't too happy and she wondered what she'd done to cause that look. "Let me take a quick shower then you can unload what's on your mind."
"Okay," she said, refraining from offering to help him with the shower. He didn't appear to be in the mood, especially since he hadn't even given her a kiss.
She went back to the kitchen to heat everything up while he showered.
"It smells good. You didn't have to go out of your way for me."
"It wasn't," she said, having just finished setting the table for him when he walked in.
"You're not eating?"
"No, I had some earlier."
"Good," he said, taking one of the slices of bread she'd set out for him. He watched her as she watched him eat. He looked so intense and she wondered why. Bad day at work? She knew Mr. Dawson wasn't the easiest man to work for.
"So, is this the boom lowering then?"
"What?" she asked.
"What's on your mind, Chris?"
"I was going to wait until after you were finished eating."
"I can listen just as easily when I'm eating. May as well get it over with," he said.
"Well, all right. Why didn't you tell me my father told you that he had plans for Arthur Williams and me?"
"Figured it wasn't any of my business."
"Why wouldn't it be?"
"I don't know how you think. We met on a fluke, I'd get if I was a curiosity or something."
"How I think? A curiosity?" She frowned. "Have I ever lied to you? Led you to believe either of those things?"
"You never mentioned Arthur. I'm your first black guy; I know how your old man feels about me. It's not too farfetched to think that you'd come around to his way of thinking like you did college."
"I didn't mention him because there wasn't anything to mention. He's just a friend. And I went to college because it's the right thing to do. My father's going to pay for it, but only if I started right after high school. I'm not dumb, you know. I know how much it costs. Sure, I could get student loans and financial aid, but why do that when I don't have to?"
"I saw you two talking at that party."
"Yeah. It was when you went to the bathroom. He came over to say hi and ask about you. You do stand out, Joe, wherever I take you with people who know my father that's going to be the case."
"I what?" she asked.
"You laughed. He said something and you laughed."
"He probably told a joke. I honestly don't remember."
"You laughed like you do when Brenda's around."
He shrugged. "I've been around you while you're around different people to know you, read you. You're most comfortable with Brenda, at ease, and your laugh, too. You laughed that way with him."
"I've known Arthur for years. Since I was in grade school, maybe even longer. I honestly don't know. We're not best friends or anything, but I'm comfortable with him."
"Yeah, I got that. Your old man made it abundantly clear that there was a reason for that."
"You think I'd go out with you if I was," she shrugged. "What? Promised to someone else? Is that what you think?"
"I don't know what I think exactly. Figured you probably had through college to spread your wings and then that was that."
"And you were okay with that?"
He shrugged. "I love you, so yeah, figured I'd bide my time and enjoy it while it lasted. I'm not dumb either. Best thing to ever happen to me, I'm not going to break things off with you even if it meant getting my heart torn out."
"So, my father, a man you know is not at all in favor of our dating tells you that I'm somehow or in some way committed to someone and you don't think it's important enough to mention it to me? Ask me? Find out if it's true?"
"Well, not everyone dates someone with the intention of seeing it to anything more serious than dating."
"You think I'd have sex with you? Tell you I love you."
"Yeah, those I was having a little problem with, but we'd already been having sex by then. And loving someone doesn't mean you want to spend the rest of your life with them."
"My father would do anything he could think of to come between us. Do you get that? If he thought telling you I had syphilis would work, he'd probably do it."
He chuckled. "He choose the right moment when he knew I'd seen you two talking in a room full of people I was so out of my league with."
"Only because you think you are."
"I know I am, Chris. This is me. This house. The job. Coming home like I did tonight with grease, oil, and fluids all over my clothes and shoes. Sometimes I may be tired. Sometimes I may be in a bad mood."
"I love that about you. I love that you work hard. I love that you gave up something that brought you so much money for me. For those kids."
"What about your friends?"
"My real friends? The ones like Brenda? She loves you, too, because you make me happy. She didn't at first, I won't deny that but she does now. People like you met that night? Most of them aren't my friends. I know them and am nice to them, but that's it. That's not the life I need."
"And country clubs? Trips to Hawaii for Spring Break or Christmas vacation. That's way out of my league, Chris."
"I go because I can. You've been with me for over a year. You know I'm just as happy sitting in your backyard grilling hot dogs. Or at the beach on some lawn chairs. I'm not real good at golf to where I'd be upset if I couldn't do it again for a while. My mom would go with me if I really wanted to. Trips to Hawaii are great, but I'd be happy with Florida or something, too. In fact, I was going to ask if you wanted to go with me next spring. It seems like everyone goes to Daytona at least once for Spring Break while they're in college."
"I just see you with guys like that and can't help but think I'm holding you back, stopping you from having a better life."
"I want a happy life, Joe."
He pushed his plate to the middle of the table and stood, taking her hand in his.
He kissed her, deepening it almost immediately. She responded just as urgently. He hadn't kissed her like this in so long. Like he'd die if he didn't taste her immediately. He touched her, hands skimming along her body seemingly in no hurry to get to any place in particular. She loved the feel of his hands on her, evidence of how hard he worked with them.
Her back against the fridge, she arched into the palms of his hands. She gave a soft giggle when he discovered she didn't have a bra on. Her shorts and panties were quickly done away with. Her legs went around his waist as he lifted her up, his mouth making the most of access to her breasts without obstacles.
"I want you," he murmured, moving so she was against the wall instead of the fridge.
"You have me, I'm right here," she said.
He shook his head a little and she grew confused.
"What?" she asked.
"No, I want this. I want to come home to you."
"You can. Anytime."
"Joe," she whispered as he sank into her.
"I know you have college to finish, but just tell me it's in the realm of possibility that you'd marry me when you're done."
"Yes," she said.
They ended up on his stairs. She knew that hadn't been his plan, but he'd lost his footing and they'd landed there. She didn't care, though she imagined her back might tomorrow. It was worth it, to have him like this. Urgent and needy, wanting her. That'd been missing lately and she needed it just as surely as she needed to breathe. She wasn't sure what it said about her, but she wasn't going to look too deeply at it beyond the fact she liked it.
His bed was welcome when they finally got there.
"What time should I set the alarm for?" he asked.
"Don't need to."
"Mom knows I'm here."
"Yes, she's the one who told me what my dad said to you."
"How'd you get on the subject of that?"
"She was asking how things were going and I admitted I wasn't sure and why."
"So, you're here all night?"
"She said she'd tell Dad I'm staying at Brenda's."
"Wow. Remind me to thank her the next time I see her."
"I imagine that's more than she wants," she said with a laugh.
"Well, while you were at it you should have gotten a few more nights furlough out of her."
"I'm sure we can work something out once in a while."
"I hope so."
"Joe?" She kissed his chest and his shoulder before looking at him.
"Yeah," he said.
"Please don't do that again."
He froze. "I'm sorry, baby, I couldn't help myself. Did I hurt you? I'll make it up to you, I promise. As gentle as you want."
"Not that," she said, blushing. "No, you didn't hurt me. I mean assume that anything anyone tells you is how I feel or true."
"I won't, baby."
"I'll be honest," he said.
"I'm not sure I can wait three years."
"Because it's entirely too long that I know we'll have to be living by your parents rules. Your mom's being nice tonight I get that, but she can't cover for you repeatedly. I really do like having you here when I come home from work."
"You just want dinner."
"That's a definite perk, but I'll take you waiting for me in my bed over dinner any time."
"It's not that far to school where you couldn't live here and still go there."
"No, it's not. I managed to see you and go home to my parents during the week a lot last year."
"So, you'd do it?"
"Are you serious?"
He stood from the bed and walked to his chested drawers, returning to the bed a minute later.
"This should tell you how serious I am," he said, opening the jewelry box.
"Joe," she said, looking from the ring to him.
"We don't have to decide when right away so long as I know you want to."
"I do. I said yes."
"That was kind of hypothetical."
"My answer is the same, hypothetical or otherwise."
"Yeah," she said, touching the ring. "Were you going to put it on me?"
"Yeah, sure. It's all right? You like it? I wasn't sure. Hard to gauge comparing what my friends wives have to what your mom and stuff has."
"Joe, it's perfect. You picked it out so of course I like it," she said as he slid it on her finger. It was perfect. "It's beautiful," she said, holding her hand out in front of her so she could look at it on her finger. She brought her hand to her chest, glancing at him.
"What?" he asked.
"You're not going to take it away are you?"
"I don't know. Change your mind."
"No," he said with a chuckle. "I don't think you have to worry about me changing my mind. You've got a good life ahead of you. You stand to have a good career as a nurse, making a good amount of money. You've read all the warning labels that come with me, so you think about when you want to and tell me, I'm there. If we have to get you a place there during the school year we'll do that."
"Yeah? And you don't? Have a good life ahead of you I mean?"
"Come on. There are garages other than Mr. Dawson's. You can work your way up to bigger and better ones like the place my dad brings his car to. I know those guys make decent money and they don't come home as dirty as you do."
"You're right, but it may not happen."
"You'd be okay with that, making more money than me?"
"Yeah. I mean, we both know there's things I could do to make more than you, but I won't do that."
"And I'd worry that you'd be in danger because of me."
She ran her hand across his chest. She always liked the way they looked together, her skin against his but the glitter of the diamond made it especially good tonight.
"So, I pick a date?"
"Yes. Dawson likes you, so I'm sure I could swing time off whatever break you want."
"Well, I have close to three months now."
"Yeah, I know."
"Yeah. My dad's never going to pay for a wedding for us anyway, so that sort of rules out anything but eloping. Or something very small. Just a few friends."
"That doesn't seem right."
"We can have a party afterward here."
"People are going to think you're pregnant or something."
"Let them think that. Nine months from now when I don't have a baby they'll know they were wrong."
"Or you lost it."
"And when we're still together they'll figure out they were wrong. I'm going to spend most of my time here with you anyway now that I know why you were acting so strange."
"Yeah, that was me being paranoid you wanted the clean-cut, white guy."
"I had a chance at that. Sesame Plexor can have all of those guys she wants."
"Is that right?"
"As long as she leaves you alone."
"I don't think I could stomach being in the same room as someone with that name."
"You, Joe Gipp, are a good and smart man."
"So you keep telling me. Talk to your mom and get her opinion on it before we make any decisions."
"One more thing," he said as he slid his hand between her legs.
"Yeah. I've never made love to a fiancée before."
"Care to help me change that?"
"I don't know. My mom would tell me we should wait until we're married."
"Just consider it practice for the wedding night so we can get full enjoyment out of it."
"I suppose I could make an exception."
"Just this once."
"Maybe more than once if you're really good this time."
"Oh, baby, I plan on being very, very good every time for the next sixty years."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com