"Sara, calm down," one of her roommates Susan said.
"I am calm."
"You act like this is a big deal."
"It is! He's coming here. You're meeting him."
"Why does that make you nervous?"
"I'm not sure he's going to have a very good time."
"He knows we're all the same age as you, right?"
"Yes," she said.
"And you said some of the guys he hangs out with are in their twenties."
"I know, it's just different."
"This is like an actual meet the friends date. He's coming here to you. Is that it?"
"It'll be all right, Sara, really. I'm sure he's thought on all of these things, too. Besides, there's going to be so many people here that it won't matter. That's what Memorial Day barbeques are for, easing the boyfriend in without the pressure of one-on-one time with anyone."
Their landlord had let them renew the lease on their house for a full year because all four of them wanted to stay here. It was close enough to campus they didn't have to walk unless the weather was real bad. Compared to other off-campus housing Sara had been to over her college career they had found not just a clean, well-kept house but a landlord who seemed intent on keeping his rental property that way. So, none of them had to move out for the summer only to move back in for the school year. Sara's parents' weren't thrilled she wasn't coming home, but it wasn't as if she'd never see them.
Sara went back to cleaning her room once Susan left. There wasn't a lot to do, but she had laundry to put away and her bed to make. She'd gone home the night before for Sunday dinner, bringing her laundry with her. She could do it here, but with four of them it seemed the washer and dryer were always getting used. Besides, her mom didn't mind.
It wasn't going to be as warm as they'd hoped it was going to be. Mid-sixties was what they were forecasting. Not really shorts weather, so she set out something a little warmer to wear before heading to take her shower.
He was in her bedroom when she got back in there.
"Hi," she said, completely surprised. She wasn't expecting him until the afternoon.
"Hey," he said, though he wasn't looking at her. "So, this is how you live."
"Well, it's temporary, but yeah."
"Your room at home?"
"House, too, I imagine?"
He nodded his head a little, running a hand over the top of her television set. She didn't have a cable box so didn't get anything but basic channels in here, but that didn't bother her.
"You found it obviously."
"Your directions were easy to follow."
"Right," she said, forgetting sometimes he'd grown up in the city so things that she wasn't used to he probably had no problem with.
"Where were you?"
"In the shower."
He turned to face her then. She wasn't expecting him to be here so she hadn't brought anything into the bathroom with her except her towel.
"I see that now," he said, eyes darkening a little. How that was even possible considering they were brown to begin with she wasn't sure, but she always knew when his thoughts were taking him to baser things. He walked to her then, a hand settling against her shoulder. "You walk around the house like that?" he asked.
"Well, no, the bathroom is just right there."
"You always come out of my bathroom already dressed."
"Well, sure," she said. "It's not my house."
"And that makes a difference because?"
"I don't know. You don't get dressed in front of me either."
"Only because you're usually still asleep when I have to get dressed."
"Oh," she said, not having thought on that as the reason.
"I missed you this morning."
"I doubt that," she said. He woke up before five o'clock every morning but Sunday. And while she'd never told him no or rebuffed his morning sex advances she wasn't always an active participant. He didn't seem to mind, but she just wasn't an early morning person.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because you probably actually got to work on time."
He shook his head. "No work today. It's a holiday."
"Oh," she said not having thought on that.
He tugged on the piece of towel she had tucked in to keep it in place, letting it fall to the floor at her feet. He sucked in a breath as he regarded her. He always seemed to be so astounded when he saw her naked. She wasn't sure why.
"Erik, we don't have time. People are going to start getting here any minute."
"I know," he said. "I just wanted to look."
She blushed deeply and he chuckled softly. He knelt in front of her, arms going to her hips as he closed his mouth over her nub. She cried out because he was really, really good at that.
"They're not going to come to your room, are they?"
"No. One of my roommates might come looking for me, though."
"Even knowing I'm up here with you?" He slid a finger inside of her and she clenched around him, wanting more of him in her. It was a natural instinct for her it seemed.
"I'm not sure they know we have sex."
"What?" he asked.
"It's never come up."
"Wouldn't they assume?"
"I don't know. They know I hadn't before you. One of my roommates tried like crazy to hook me up with people over the years."
"I'm very glad she failed."
He guided her to the floor, undoing his jeans enough to slide the rubber he'd pulled out of his wallet on and position himself behind her. They didn't do this position often. They both liked it, a lot, but he claimed he finished too fast this way. She didn't mind at all because he always felt incredibly good inside of her this way.
"So if I get dressed in your bedroom do I get that every time?"
"The sex or me behind you specifically?"
"You behind me."
"You do really like that, don't you? Barring my being sick or physically hurt somehow I think that can be arranged."
"All right, it's a deal," she said, moving to get dressed while he went to use her bathroom.
The party went fine. He got a couple of weird looks from people, but no one said anything to either of them or seemed to question why he was there.
It was well after dark, everyone was gone. The only ones left were her roommates and the dates they'd invited. They all had jackets on as it had gotten chilly once the sun went down. The keg they'd bought for the barbeque was just about out, which was good because Sara didn't think any of them would drink more of it tomorrow.
"So you're the reason we don't see as much of Sara anymore the past month or so," her roommate Betty said.
"I guess I am," he replied.
"We were beginning to wonder if you really existed," Susan's boyfriend and Sara's long-time classmate going back to elementary school Chad said.
He regarded her a little, wondering what she'd told them about him. "I'm just as real as the rest of you are."
"Sara's just never had a boyfriend before. Well, that I know of anyway and I've known her since well, forever. Geez, Kindergarten I think," Chad said.
Sara cringed inwardly at that. Erik already knew that so that wasn't what bothered her. Chad had labeled him as a boyfriend, though, which was something they hadn't quite gotten to yet. She wasn't sure what they were. It seemed like more than sex. The nights she didn't spend at his place he always called her to tell her good night. He took her out on dates. He'd even given her a flower one night. Its petals were pressed between the pages of one of her books to save. He took her to car auctions and stuff on weekends so they could spend time together they wouldn't be able to otherwise.
But boyfriend? It'd only been since around Opening Day of baseball they'd started doing whatever this was. It wasn't that long. Sure, she wanted him to be her boyfriend. She'd maybe implied things were more serious than they were to her roommates because she didn't want to admit she was having sex without some sort of commitment from the guy.
"Is that right?" Erik said.
"Thanks, Chad," Sara said softly.
"What? I didn't say anything wrong. Surely he has to know you are about as innocent as they come."
"Oh God, just shut up already," she said, fighting back the tears. She stood and went inside, trying not to be overly obvious about the fact she was getting as far away from the conversation as she could get. How embarrassing!
She went up to the bathroom, the one place in the house she could be pretty assured of not being disturbed. They had a half-bathroom downstairs that anyone who didn't live (or stay overnight) here used so she wasn't worried about someone not having access to a toilet.
She sat on the edge of the tub, wondering what she was supposed to do now. He was going to think. God, she had no idea what he was going to think. That she'd been walking around making him out to be this serious boyfriend. She should have known better than to bring him here to this party. She hadn't expected Chad to be the one to get a loose tongue after drinking all day, but there was the chance someone would say something embarrassing.
"Hey, Sara," Betty knocked on the door lightly.
"Yeah," she said, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket.
"Um, Erik wanted me to come find you."
"I'll bet he did," she murmured.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing. I'll be right down."
"Okay. He said something about needing to leave soon."
"Right," she said. "He works in the morning."
"You okay, hon?" Betty asked, her voice as close to a whisper as she could get it through a closed door.
"Don't let Chad bother you. He doesn't even know what he's saying. He didn't mean anything by it. We all like seeing you happy."
"You're so not helping," Sara said.
"Okay, I'm sorry. I just… Is there anything I can do?"
"Make the last half an hour go away?"
"Come on, no one will remember any of this tomorrow anyway."
Erik would because he wasn't even close to being drunk. She'd seen how much he could drink without being affected. He hadn't come close to reaching his limit today.
She heard the wood creak outside the door, indicating Betty was walking away.
She flushed the toilet, washed her hands and blotted her face off before heading downstairs. Erik was in the living room when she got there, watching her curiously.
"I'll walk you out," she said for lack of anything else to say. It was inbred in her to be polite no matter what, walking your guest out was one of those things.
"Okay," he said, sounding confused.
"What's the matter, Sara?" he asked when they'd gotten to his pickup.
He set a finger at her chin, tilting her face up. "Come on, don't lie to me. What's wrong?"
"Nothing. It's nothing."
"You've been crying so it's clearly not nothing."
"It doesn't matter."
He frowned and looked rather pensive for a minute. He put his lift gate down and lifted her easily onto the edge of the bed of his pickup.
"You're mad at your friend."
"I'm not mad I just wish he'd known to keep his mouth shut."
"Because he said you've never had a boyfriend? I already know that."
"Yes, but that implies I have one now."
"Is that right?"
"And you don't want one, is that it?"
"No, that's not it at all."
"Then what, Sara?"
"Just never mind."
"No, I'm not going to never mind. First of all, you have your friend feeling bad, so bad I figured it was time for me to go so the source of his feeling bad wasn't around anymore. Second, I don't understand what's got you upset."
"I don't want you to think I've been walking around telling people that we're like this serious thing."
"Why would that bother me?"
"Because we're not!"
"Erik, come on, until six weeks ago you didn't even know I existed."
"Well, I knew you existed obviously because I met you that night years ago, but what does six weeks have to do with it?"
"It's awful fast, don't you think?"
He shrugged. "For some people, maybe. I don't invite any woman to come watch me bowl."
"Nope. Never. I certainly don't take them to car auctions either."
"Why do you take me then?"
"Because I like spending every minute I can with you. You have school, which I realize is done now for the summer, but the weekends were the time I knew I could have all day with you."
"You wanted all day with me?"
"I'm sorry. You have been with me the past six weeks, right?"
"You realize that I stay up later than I should every night I'm with you."
"Yes," she said softly.
"I take you out. I mean, okay, it's pizza and beer or dogs and beer, but I'm clearly not ashamed of you or anything."
"I didn't think that."
"Then what, Sara?"
"I was just embarrassed. Okay? I've been excited about having someone to spend my time with. I didn't want him to say anything more that would make you think I was making us sound more serious than we are."
"Has it occurred to you I don’t know how serious you want to be with me?"
"What? No. Why?"
"You're the one who told me you needed to get me out of your system."
"You let me pick you up in a bar!"
"You sought me out for that purpose, Sara. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I haven't been quite sure either what you want from me. You invited me here today. I was surprised."
"Until now you've never even told me where you lived. I have your phone number so could find out I suppose if I wanted to. I had to respect that maybe you didn't want me in your life. Not really."
"I do! I just, it's so much nicer going to you where we can be alone."
"So, it's not because he called me your boyfriend you're upset?"
"It's because you thought I'd be mad that he said I was that."
"I guess I feel like I'm a little too old to have a girlfriend."
"I understand," she said.
"Let me finish, Sara."
"Is that what you want? A boyfriend? Me in that way?"
"Well, yeah," she shrugged.
"Don't shrug and act like it's no big deal. I'm trying to understand what's really upsetting you."
"I thought you'd leave."
"Because he said I was your boyfriend?"
"Yes, because you'd think I was lying about you."
"Have you told your friends anything that's not true?"
"They don't know that I met you thirteen years ago."
"Then why would I leave?"
"Because boyfriend implies seriousness."
"Maybe I want seriousness, Sara."
"I'm only twenty-one."
"You don't think I know that? You don't think that's part of the reason I hold back? You don't think I don't look at any one of the guys who were here today and think that one or that one would be a far more suitable match for you."
"I don't want them."
"I get that. And it's flattering as hell that you feel that way, but you're not the only one who's in unfamiliar territory here. I mean, the people I know, they know I'm involved with you. They haven't asked me if you're my girlfriend, I think they just assume that's the case. So have I, I guess."
"If you want me to start introducing you as my girlfriend, if that would make you feel better, I can. I just figured my actions toward you, the way I look at you tells anyone better than a label ever could how I feel about you."
"I just wasn’t expecting him to say that in front of you."
"I'm sorry he embarrassed you, but you're done with school now so I guess it's kind of important we get this sort of thing out of the way."
"What do you mean?"
"You're going to have time on your hands now that you didn't have because you were in classes. I'm still going to be stuck working."
"You sure you want a boyfriend who can't take you to Oak Street Beach or a Cubs game at the drop of a hat?"
"That doesn't matter to me."
"You're sure you don't want to see other people, I guess is what I'm getting at."
"I've never had a boyfriend before but suddenly after spending time with you and having regular sex with you, you what? Think I'd want to see what else is out there?"
"You don't know me very well."
"I know you pretty well, Sara, and I guess I've just been dreading this time coming up. I can't leave my job."
"I know that."
"You're free as a bird for the next three months."
"Free as a bird to spend my nights with you because I don't have homework or early class the next day."
"There is that benefit."
"I could bring you lunch sometimes."
"I'm not sure that would be a good idea."
He chuckled, sitting next to her on the tail gate.
"I wouldn’t want you to leave and I doubt I'd be content with just lunch." He slid his hand into hers, lacing his fingers through hers.
"Even while you're at work?"
"Even while I'm at work. All I have to do is look at you, Sara. Making up for a long time without, I guess."
"This is so weird."
"I never pictured this happening. I wasn't even sure I was going to tell you who I was that night or come back another time and tell you."
"Honey, I'm glad you told me. I would've missed out on a good thing."
"You think so?"
"I know so."
"No worries. I understand where you were coming from. You're free to tell your friends whatever makes you feel comfortable with our relationship. Now if you're marrying us off then maybe I should be clued in on that."
She gave a soft laugh, resting her head against his shoulder.
"I'm a little young."
"I guess you are. That's good that means we have time to get there on our own."
"You can come home with me if you want."
"I think I should stay here tonight."
"You sure?" He tugged her onto his lap; her legs went around him instinctively. This was also one of her favorite positions. She wrapped her arms around his neck. "It's not often I get to make love to my girlfriend."
"Think it'd be different."
"I think knowing we're both emotionally invested in this could prove to be fun, yeah."
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm positive. I should help Betty, Susan, and Cassie clean up, though."
"Oh, right, I hadn't thought of that."
She slid a fingertip along the nape of his neck, leaning into kiss him. He kissed her back instantly, deepening it quickly.
"Meet me at the garage tomorrow? I'll bring a change of clothes, shower there, and we can go out for dinner."
"And, Sara," he said, grazing her neck with his teeth.
"You can bring more than one set of clothes to my house, you know? Maybe a toothbrush and some shampoo."
"I think I can find room for a few things, yeah. I don't want you to have to leave out of necessity until school starts again."
"On that note, I should go if you're not coming home with me."
"I'll see you tomorrow."
"I can't wait."
He kissed her, standing from the lift gate with her in his arms before setting her down.
"Drive safe," she said.
She walked back to the house, but stood outside on the front porch until he'd turned off their street.
"Everything okay now?" Betty asked.
"Good. He seems like a nice guy."
"Kind of quiet."
"Never going to be a doctor or anything."
"No," she said softly, shutting the door behind her.
"Just making sure you see that."
"I see it."
She absolutely saw it, though she hadn't seen this happening at all. Falling in love with him. Real love, not just the gushy eight-year-old feeling of love she'd had for him because he gave her the helmet back. She wasn't sure what she was going to do. She'd have to say it eventually or she'd feel as though she was lying to him.
She went into the kitchen then to help the others clean up the mess from the day. It wasn't that bad. They'd used paper plates and plastic utensils, so just about everything could be thrown. There was still stuff to pick up, though.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com