No one knew where she was tonight. Some friends of hers were meeting at a bar on Rush Street downtown. She'd said she might show up, and she supposed she still might. She wasn't planning on it, though. There was something she needed to do.
Why did she have to be twenty-one in order to do it?
She wasn't sure really. She'd thought on him over the years. She'd wondered how she could fully express to him what his kindness meant to her that night. She knew now that he wasn't really Thor. (She'd fantasized of him as Thor more times than she could count throughout the years, a very real face (and body) to go with the fictional character she loved.) Still, though, he'd been kind, saved their collective hides. If he hadn't been willing to shave the five dollars they were missing off their bill they would have had to call someone's parents. They all would have been in trouble.
She'd driven by the garage a few times over the years to reassure herself that he was still there. She felt better somehow knowing that he was. He worked late. The night they'd met him wasn't the only night he was at his garage long past the usual quitting hours of most people.
The bar just down the street seemed like a perfect place for him to go to unwind or grab a quick cold one on a break. She didn't know for certain he went there so she was taking a huge risk going in there by herself.
No riskier than climbing out her dad's building thirteen years ago had been, though. Her standards bar was set a little higher than most after that night. She'd survived. They'd survived. Her babysitter that night, Chris, had gotten them through it. She'd even gotten married out of the deal. Well, not right away, but eventually she and Joe found one another. The rest, as they say, was history. It was Chris and Joe meeting up again years later that gave Sara the idea to seek out her hero from the night. Not for the same purposes Chris sought Joe out, but the idea had been planted.
She entered the bar, scanning the smoky room for a minute before approaching the bar. She ordered herself a beer. It wasn't the type of place to order her usual Amaretto sour in. This was a working man's bar, some place her father would never be caught dead in. (And would probably read Sara the riot act if he knew she'd set foot in a place like this.) She doubted there wasn't anyone here who wasn't, as her mother called them, a blue-collar worker. Sara aside, obviously.
She sat on a stool, leaving as much space between her and the next guy on either side of her as she could. It wasn't that crowded in here so it wasn't difficult to do. She felt more than one pair of eyes on her as she took a sip of the foamy beer the bartender set in front of her. She wasn't fond of beer, but in high school and her first year or two of college it was all she'd had access to. Eventually, she'd become friends with people who were already legal and she'd been introduced to things like her now favorite Amaretto sour.
She scanned the dimly lit bar, eyes widening in recognition at the sight of him at a booth toward the back of the bar. He seemed to be alone. There was only one beer at the table. He didn't look very happy, but then he hadn't been very happy that night either. It was a tough life, mechanic by day and superhero by night. She'd even imagined once or twice what kind of car he had fixed up for his own personal use to aid him in fighting crime.
She paid the bartender before taking another sip of the beer, hoping to get the courage to approach him. That was why she'd come here, but now that she was here and he was as well it seemed she was running a little short on courage.
"You lost, sweetheart?" The guy seated to her left asked.
"No," she replied simply. She'd expected to be talked to and come on to.
"You sure?" He eyed her lecherously as she took another sip of her beer.
"Positive," she said. She glanced at him, but refused to meet his gaze square on. There was a game on the TV above the bar and she tried to focus her attention on that.
The beer gone she debated about what to do from here. He was here. She really hadn't thought much beyond seeing if he was here when she pictured coming here. She headed to the back where the restrooms were. She looked at him on the way and he looked back. No recognition apparent, she expected that. (Was in fact counting on it.) He liked what he saw, though, that much was evident. It could have had something to do with the fact she was the only woman in the bar that wasn't with someone else. She didn't think so, though.
She stared into the mirror for a few minutes, wondering if she shouldn't just leave. No one would know she'd chickened out.
Her spot at the bar was still open. She could buy another beer, listen to the guy to her left continue to hit on her. That wasn't appealing at all.
She slid into the seat across from his before she could talk herself out of it.
"You lost?" he said without looking up from the newspaper he was reading.
"Why does everyone keep asking me that?"
"We don't get many of your type here."
"Yeah, your type," he said.
"I don't think I'm a type. I'm just me."
He glanced at her over the top of the newspaper, regarding her intensely. He'd aged a bit she noticed now. He was probably mid-twenties that night so he had to be closer to forty than thirty now. His hair was still a little longer. His eyes were suspicious. Rightfully so, probably.
She noticed, too, even seated as he was her recollection of him being large wasn't wrong. He was a big guy. She'd always assumed it was her eight-year-old mind making him out to be larger than life. Glancing at the hands holding the newspaper, she imagined he had absolutely no problem holding a football.
"Your daddy know you're slumming?"
"I was thirsty, I stopped for a drink. Is that a crime?"
"I suppose it's not a crime, but it could be dangerous."
"Are you going to hurt me?"
He glanced at the others in the bar, taking a pull off his bottled beer. She'd chosen a draft earlier. She watched as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Well, I am talking to you, so yes. You."
"Donnie's younger than me."
"The one you were talking to at the bar," he said, tilting his beer bottle in that direction.
She scrunched her nose a little, glancing at the bar – and Donnie.
"I wasn't talking to him. He talked to me, I answered."
He slid his Cubs cap off, running his fingers through his hair before putting the cap back on. He signaled the bartender and Sara assumed that their conversation – and her time with him – was just about over. Evidently she wasn't a very good seductress. As if she'd tried before now. How hard could it be? Little did she know.
"What did he say?"
"He didn't ask your sign?"
She laughed. "No."
"If you come here often?"
"No, I don't think he'd need to ask that one."
She was ready to get up from the table, leave and rethink her plan. This wasn't working at all.
Or so she thought.
The bartender bringing another bottle of beer for him and setting another mug of beer in front of her made her rethink that.
"Thanks, Bill," he said.
He took a pull off his beer, eyes watching her intensely. The newspaper he'd been holding was folded up and pushed toward the wall now. She supposed that was a good indication that she had his attention.
"So, what are you doing here?"
She rolled her eyes, taking a sip of her beer.
"I told you. I was thirsty."
"Where are you from?"
"No bars more your style between there and here?"
She shrugged. "I'm at U Chicago."
"Of course you are."
"What's that mean?"
"You majoring in Sociology or something that you need to come to a place like this and see how the common folk unwind after their hard days?"
She didn't answer him, instead taking a sip of her beer and watching the game for a little bit again.
"You a Cubs fan?" he asked.
"Sure," she said. "I haven't been to a game yet this year and I think the closest they're ever going to get to a World Series was when they had Rick Sutcliffe, but I like them."
"Wow, you know Rick Sutcliffe?"
"I know of him, sure. I was too young to see him play."
"I have an older brother," she said.
"How much older?"
"I suppose he would've remembered Sutcliffe then."
"Yup," she said. "I'm sure I saw him play, but I just don't remember."
"So you like baseball. Anything else?"
"Sure, lots of things. And I'm not majoring in Sociology."
"What are you majoring in?"
"Psychology and Social Work."
"Hmm," he said, taking a sip of his beer. "You going to try and psychoanalyze me?"
She laughed softly. She had so many times over the years, but he wouldn't know that. Why had he been so mean at first that night? Clearly, they were in a bind and could have gotten him the last five dollars the next day if he needed it.
"You looking to take a walk on the wild side before graduating and settling down with Mr. Wonderful for a life of dullness and two point five kids? Getting back at a cheating boyfriend? Daddy cut you off from the trust fund?"
"No, none of those things."
She ran a fingertip along the rim of her mug as he asked his questions. None of those things were true, but she supposed she could understand why he'd think that. She clearly didn't belong here. She took a deep breath, deciding it was do or die time, and reached for him. She ran a fingertip over the back of his hand. He flinched a little, but didn't pull away or anything.
"I didn't come here to get drunk."
"No, not at all. I don't have staying very long on my mind either."
"You have somewhere to be?"
He was watching her finger pretty intensely. She smiled a little at that. She hadn't gotten the impression he was a very touchy feely guy the night they met. He was pretty scary, really, until the end there.
"I don't know. Do I?" she asked.
She lifted her hand away and took a sip of her beer.
"I know you heard me."
"You want to leave with me?"
"Is that a problem?"
"Not a problem necessarily, no. I think someone like Donnie over there would probably be better."
"Better? Are you saying that you're bad?"
He sputtered for a second.
"Only in the good kind of way, honey. Women your age."
"Don't worry about women my age. Well, any except me."
"What is your name?"
She gave a soft laugh. "Sara."
"Well, Sara, I'm Erik."
"Hi Erik," she said. She hadn't known his first name until now.
He took another pull, making a fist with the hand she'd touched.
"Want to get out of here?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
He left money on the table to cover both of their beers. He stood once she had. She was maybe on the short side of average height at five foot four inches. She'd never met anyone who was so much taller than her, though.
She felt eyes on her again. The guy he'd called Donnie was one set. There were others, though, all probably wondering why she was leaving with him of all the guys there. She wasn't sure he would have been her choice under normal circumstances. He didn't fall under what she'd consider her type.
"Don't leave with women often?" she asked once they were outside.
"I don't really go out of my way to talk to women."
"Not many sit down and talk to me either."
She smiled a little at that.
"Their loss," she said.
"Yes, because I'm such a catch."
"You haven't done anything to make me think that you're not, Erik."
He pinned her up against a pickup truck they'd stopped in front of. He settled his hands against the frame around the window as he leaned down to kiss her. She groaned, startled a little. How many times during junior high and even high school had she dreamt about this? Kissing him. Being kissed by him so thoroughly that her toes curled.
She reached up, hands skimming along his abdomen and chest to his shoulders. God, he felt good. Toned and hard and she suspected it was all from hard work and manual labor. She doubted he'd been inside a Bally's in his life. He hadn't had to be a member of any gym to look the way he did.
She wasn't sure how long he stood there kissing her. It seemed like a long time, though it was probably only a few minutes. His hand to her right slid down along the window of his pickup truck. His other hand did the same, only this one he slid to her back and lower to cup her ass. He tugged her to him as he used his free hand to open the pickup's passenger door.
He maneuvered her into the pickup truck, not seeming to have any difficulty lifting her to put her on the seat. She wrapped her legs around his thighs, rubbing her calves against him as she stopped him from pulling away. She wasn't done kissing him yet.
Rough and calloused fingertips worked the buttons on her blouse and she gasped softly, biting his lower lip as he slid his hand inside the blouse. She wasn't overly endowed, matching her rather slight height and build, so she'd gone without a bra tonight. He seemed to like that a lot.
"Thor," she murmured.
"What?" he said.
"There," she said as his thumb stroked her nipple just right.
"You know this would work a lot better somewhere I don’t have to worry about getting arrested for indecent exposure."
"You're not exposed."
"But I really, really want to be about now." He dropped his head, parting her blouse enough for him to kiss the top of her breast. "And I really, really want you to be, too."
"Then fix it," she whispered as his lips slid lower along her breast.
"Fix it?" He asked, capturing a nipple and grazing it with his tongue.
She laughed, lifting his head to look at him. "Take me where being exposed won't be a crime."
"Does it seem like I'm not sure?" she asked incredulously.
"And no spurned boyfriend or pissed off father is going to come after me with a shotgun?"
"I find that hard to believe."
"My dad doesn't even know where I am!"
"Not that part. I figured you wouldn’t be at a place like this with his blessing. The boyfriend part."
She sighed, not sure what to tell him without revealing too much. It was too soon.
"I don't know. You'd have to ask them, I guess."
She got bold then, bolder than she'd been to this point anyway. Because anyone who knew her would say she was bold beyond anything they thought she was capable of just by showing up at the bar tonight. She took his hand, placing it against her inner thigh. She slid it up a little, under her skirt. Her eyes fell closed and she practically hummed when his fingertips grazed her panties.
"You trying to see that I get arrested?" he asked, a fingertip sliding inside the elastic of her panties and grazing her labia.
"No, absolutely not."
He slid his hand out from under her skirt. She watched entranced as he licked his fingertip never taking his eyes off of her.
"I have an apartment just a couple of blocks away."
"And we're sitting here why?"
He chuckled softly, but he didn't look truly amused just then. He was looking at her as if he might like to devour her. She didn't mind the idea; she'd just never seen the look aimed at her before.
He stepped away from her then, her legs dropping from around him before he helped her shift to sitting the right way on his seat. She adjusted her skirt as best as she could while he went to the other side of the pickup.
She sat silently as he drove the short distance to his garage.
"Your apartment's here?" she asked. She'd never thought of that.
"Yes and no," he said, shutting off the engine. "I own the garage over there," he said, pointing to the building she already knew was his.
"I have an apartment above the garage."
"You live where you work?"
"Not normally. The apartment is for nights I have to pull an all-nighter and need a couple hours of shut eye. Or if I have too much to drink at Bill's down the street I can stumble back here instead of getting in my pickup truck and risking killing myself or someone else."
"And bringing home strange women?"
He chuckled, opening his door. She followed suit, getting out of her side and following him to the regular door that led to the garage versus the big garage door. He worked the lock, grabbed a flashlight from nearby inside. She heard four beeps, assuming he was turning off his alarm.
"Stairs are right here. The light leading up there is burnt out," he said, gesturing with the flashlight. "I wasn't planning on coming back here tonight so didn't change it before I left."
She followed him, a glance back at the garage for a second. God he'd scared her that night. It was the closest anyone had come to crushing her dreams about Thor and how awesome he was. She smiled a little, remembering him tossing her Thor helmet back to her claiming he'd left his at home. Of course he hadn't, he was being nice to a little girl and returning her idol's headgear to her. If it was possible to fall in love with someone in less than five minutes, Sara had done it that night.
"You all right?"
"Yeah, sorry," she said, forgetting for a moment what she was doing here.
The upstairs wasn't finished or anything other than a sectioned off area she imagined where the apartment he'd mentioned was. There were car parts and boxes everywhere else.
"This place is huge," she said. She'd had no idea.
"I've got space underneath, too."
"Wow," she said, remembering how he'd made his appearance that night. She wondered where that lift was in relation to where they stood now. Maybe sometime she'd ask him.
"I'm sure you're impressed," he said dryly.
She frowned. "Why do you do that?"
"Put yourself down like that?"
"I am what I am, honey. A mechanic."
"Who owns a garage."
"Still it is what it is."
"There's nothing wrong with it."
"You learn that in college? They teach you how everyone is supposed to contribute to society?"
She touched his back, flinching a little when he seemed surprised at the touch. She saw his grip on the flashlight loosen a little and she wondered if he really wasn't used to getting touched. Or if she'd just surprised him somehow.
He opened a door and let her pass through.
"The sheets are clean," he said, apparently he saw her glancing at the bed.
"I didn't think."
He shrugged. "I can imagine what may be crossing your mind about now. I'm the only one who sleeps here and I bring them home and wash them every time I use them."
"Erik, you don't have to."
"Yeah, I think I do. I see this isn't what you deserve, but I'm a man, honey. I'm not going to turn a willing woman away whatever her crazy reasons for coming home with me are, but my house is too far."
She found it hard to believe he lived very far from here. He didn't seem like the type to have a house clear across town from his garage. He'd want to be close by in case the alarm went off and he had to come down to investigate.
"Yeah, too far tonight anyway. Would take too long to get there."
He lifted her up then. She gave a soft shriek, wrapping her legs around him as he slanted his mouth over hers. Maybe he'd thought outside the bar she wasn't a sure thing and held back some. She wasn't sure, but this kiss was almost brutal in its intensity. Her lips parted at his prompting and there was his tongue, seeking hers out. She met his cautiously, letting him lead as he set her on the bed.
She whimpered softly, not wanting him to go anywhere.
He set the flashlight, now off, on a little table near the bed. His Cubs cap followed the flashlight. And then his shirt. There were a couple of windows in the room, but they were kind of high up so she couldn’t see real well. She didn't need to, though, to see that all the muscles and hardness about him she'd pictured over the years wasn't at all imagined or embellished. A light dusting of hair on his chest was accompanied by a light tuft disappearing into his jeans, which he was working on unzipping now.
He kicked his boots off and shed his jeans. If he expected her to turn away or to get up and say this wasn't what she wanted after all, he was not going to hear those things.
"No, don't," he said when she started working the buttons on her blouse. She hadn't buttoned the ones he'd undone in his pickup so she didn't have too many more to undo.
"I know. I want to do it."
"All right," she said, getting a warm feeling in the pit of her stomach that he wanted to touch her.
He stopped short of getting completely naked, leaving his boxers on before joining her on the bed. He brought her toward him so she was seated on top of him. She could feel very clearly that he was ready for this. She was, too, she was just nervous.
He worked the buttons on her blouse, letting it fall open so he could cup her breasts.
"Why no bra?"
She shrugged. "Flat-chested girls don't really need them."
"You're not flat-chested."
"I'm not upset about it or anything." She was stopped from saying more as he leaned up a little and brought his mouth to a nipple while his thumb stroked the other to a hardened state.
He slid her blouse off the rest of the way, letting it fall to the bed. He cupped her ass then, drawing her closer to him as he slid his mouth lower. He found the zipper on her skirt and worked it down. She slid beside him so he could slide it off.
"I like red," he quipped when he noticed her panties.
"Me, too," she whispered.
They joined her skirt and blouse and then he was there between her legs, causing her to cry out from the intensity feeling him lick and suck on her there caused. A finger joined his tongue, parting her lips and sliding inside of her which made her gasp.
"Mm hmm," she said, not sure she could talk just then.
He slid off the bed. She watched as he reached to the table, heard what must have been a drawer open and close, and then he shed his boxers. She wanted to touch him as he sat on the edge of the bed. She turned onto her side, letting a hand slide along his back and lower to his ass as he opened a rubber packet and slid it over his shaft.
He turned to face her then, hand skimming along her body as hers slid along his leg and hip.
"There are a million questions going through my mind right now," he said, sliding a finger inside of her and using his thumb to stroke her nub.
"There are?" she asked with a frown.
"Yes, you don't seem to be drunk."
"I'm not," she said quickly.
"That would be my biggest concern."
"I'm not drunk, Erik. I didn't even finish that second beer of mine you bought me."
"Nothing to drink before Bill's?"
He slid his finger out of her, tracing it along her thigh to her hip and along her stomach as he moved on top of her. He looked at her and she looked back, refusing to look away no matter how tempting it was just then to do that. He must have been okay with what he saw because he kissed her again.
He slid inside of her and she gripped his upper arms for all she was worth. She knew he wasn't out to hurt her. He'd done absolutely nothing to indicate he wanted to do that. He'd been kinder than she expected truthfully, considering this was a one-night stand. She leaned up, kissing his chest and darting her tongue along it until she reached one of his nipples. She latched onto it, licking and sucking which he seemed to enjoy quite a bit.
After a little while he rolled them so she was on top of him. She thought him being inside of her this way, hitting a spot that felt incredibly good was the best thing ever. He reached between her legs, stroking her nub as she worked his length in and out of her. She gripped his hips, getting braver and sliding herself over him harder and faster. She cried out as she finished, assuming her breathing would go back to normal eventually. He grabbed her hips, taking control of his thrusts now which she was fine with. She watched him, their gazes locked as he thrust up and into her deeper and deeper, faster and faster. His shoulders and chest were glistening and moist to the touch from his exertion. She couldn't imagine anything or anyone more beautiful just then as him gasping and groaning through gritted teeth as he finished.
She stayed like that, leaning on his chest while straddling him. She listened to his heart rate slow, running a fingertip along his chest. He moved her so she was beside him and stood from the bed. He left the room for a minute or two, returning to her and the bed.
He regarded her in the dark. She didn't need bright light to see the curiosity in his eyes just then.
"So you going to tell me what this was about."
"Not much to say. Maybe I just wanted good sex tonight."
"That'd be logical if I didn't know that you hadn't before tonight."
"You can tell that?"
"It's been a while I admit since I've been with a virgin, and maybe that's why it was so obvious to me, but yes."
"Oh," she said, not having counted on that.
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with it, but it does make me curious. I mean, girls in my neighborhood or this neighborhood, they wouldn't think twice of giving it away casually. You, though, don't strike me as the same kind of girl. College. Nice clothes. Articulate. Big brothers who teach them about baseball."
She ran a foot along his calf, glad he hadn't gotten dressed yet. She wasn't sure how this was supposed to work. Was she supposed to leave? He was talking to her, though, so that didn't seem right.
"So?" he prompted.
She ran a hand along his chest, lower to his stomach, and finally between his legs. She hadn't touched him before they'd had sex. He probably understood now why she hadn't, but it wasn't that she didn't want to.
"Do I need to have a reason?"
"I suppose not."
She sighed softly, reaching up to kiss his chest and then his mouth as she stroked his length. He wasn't hard at first, but that seemed to be changing pretty quickly.
"There was no one else it could have been for me except you."
"Come again?" he asked.
She laughed softly, kissing along his jaw to his ear. She circled it with her tongue, kissing it before moving to the side of his neck. She licked and sucked the skin there, groaning softly as he shifted on the bed to grant her better access.
"I met you before," she said.
"I'd remember meeting you, Sara."
"Maybe you wouldn't, I don't know," she said, not having thought on the fact that night may not have been as special to him as it was to her.
"Want to fill me in on the details then?"
"Well, it was a while ago."
"Okay," he said. "You're good at distracting me," he said with a chuckle.
"Not good enough evidently if you're still asking questions."
"Oh, you do very well."
"Yes. Want to lean over and grab me another one?"
"Sure," she said.
He slid a hand between her legs as she leaned over to reach for the drawer in question and the rubber packet in it.
"I thought you're the only one who sleeps here," she teased.
"A man's got to be prepared, honey. If I wasn't it would've been a very frustrating night for us both."
"I guess so," she said, handing him the packet. She leaned down to kiss him before he moved her next to him. He slid the rubber on before moving on top of her again. He found her neck, mimicking what she'd been doing a few minutes ago to his as he slid into her again.
"Too soon?" he asked at her soft gasp.
"No," she said quickly. "Not at all."
"Okay," he said as he pushed further into her.
"You just feel so good. Better than I imagined."
"You've imagined me?"
She laughed, burying her head against his chest. "More times than you probably want to know about or you'll think I'm insane."
"I don't know that I'd think you're insane. Odd choice in fantasies I suppose."
"Not to me you aren't."
"Sara," he murmured.
"You were my hero, Erik. Of course I only knew you as Mr. Dawson until tonight."
He didn't ask any more questions until they'd both finished again. She was glad for that, because she really wasn't sure how he'd react to finding out exactly who she was.
"You clearly have me at an advantage, Sara. So you either need to let me in on your secret or stop teasing me with it."
"You fixed our car one night."
"I fix a lot of cars, honey. You need to be more specific."
"We had a flat tire and a broken windshield."
He frowned slightly, shook his head as if he was trying to remember but couldn't.
"It was me, my brother, his friend, and our babysitter. You weren't going to give us our car because we were short money we owed you."
"You gave me your helmet."
"Yes," she said softly.
"That was you?" he asked.
"That was me."
"How old are you now?" he asked.
She chuckled. "I'm twenty-one."
"You're sure because it doesn't seem that long ago."
"It's been thirteen years."
"And you what?"
"I don’t know. You were my hero. You helped us. You gave me my helmet back, but still kept up the ruse that you really were Thor."
"I've driven by a couple of times, saw you were still in business. I stopped a few times, thinking I could just come in and tell you who I was, say thank you."
"This was your thanking me?"
"This was my needing to see you're for real."
"Because no one has come close to comparing to you. They've tried, but they always failed somehow."
"I'm not that good of a person, Sara."
"But you are! You were! You didn't have to do that, but you did. You saved our lives."
"I did nothing of the sort."
"You have no idea what we'd been through to that point that night and what we went through even afterward. It was crazy. One of those nights you read about and think it can't possibly be real. Mobsters trying to kill us and everything." She went on and told him everything, starting with Brenda's phone call that kicked off the night all the way to the end.
"That would explain the skeezy suit coming to my place after you left."
"I told them I didn't know anything about you. John had put the car under his name, but I could tell they didn't believe me. Had guys staked out of my garage for days afterward. I'm not sure why, your car was gone."
"Did they hurt you?"
"No," he said with a frown. "Now that you explain the situation I'm surprised they didn't, but no."
"I'm glad," she said. She hated the idea of someone hurting him because of them even if it would have happened years ago. "Anyway. I just had to see you and waiting until I was legal seemed important. I didn't want you looking at me like I was a kid."
"Well, there's no question you're not a kid anymore."
She blushed, settling her cheek against his chest to hide it from him.
"So the others?"
"My brother is married with one son and another baby on the way. Darryl is a video game designer, not married and probably never will be. Chris, my babysitter, is married to someone we met that night. No kids. She's a teacher."
"And you're finishing college soon?"
"I have another year left."
"And then what?"
"Well, that night got me thinking. That girl we met, the runaway that Darryl was hitting on before he knew she was a hooker. I want to help people like that. She clearly didn't want to be there anymore, but she thought she had no choice. I'm sure her parents would have taken her back, but then I was too young to ask why she'd run away. Maybe her father abused her or her mom did so going home wasn't an option."
"Right, I can see that."
"So, that's what I want to do."
"So you're going to stay in Chicago then?"
"I planned on it, yeah. I mean, this is where my family is. I can't imagine being far away from Brad."
"What about you?"
"No big brothers or little sisters. I'm an only child. My mom's gone. Dad's still around, but we don't talk much."
"Don't be. It wasn't a terrible life growing up, but we weren't close. I don't think they wanted kids at all, so when I came onto the scene they weren't sure what to make of me. They did the best they could, but they could've done better. I finished high school barely. The only thing that kept me going was auto class. Mom died, left me some life insurance money."
"And you bought this place?"
"I'm still sorry. I hear about families like that, but where I grew up things like that just didn't happen. After that night I never saw another prostitute ever."
"Come around these parts of Chicago and you will for sure."
"I've only ever come down here to come here and I've never gotten out of my car before."
They grew quiet. She wasn't sure what to make of the silence. He had his arm around her, though.
"So in my pickup truck earlier. I did hear you say Thor, didn't I?"
She giggled softly. "Yes. God you have no idea."
"It's all right, honey, I'll be your Thor."
"You need a cape and a helmet."
"I'm fresh out of capes, but the helmet. I told you I had one at home."
"Want to go home with me and see it?"
"That's just a line to get me home with you, isn't it? You don't really have a Thor helmet at your house?"
"Maybe I went out and bought one after that night."
"You weren't the only one affected by that night, Sara. Kids can be so honest and pure. The fact you were willing to give me, a total stranger who was acting like a complete douchebag to you guys, something that meant so much to you. Well, I needed a reminder people like that existed."
"You really bought one?"
"Come with me and find out."
"Hmm," she said. She hadn't been expecting that.
"Hey, if you have other things to do that's fine. Just say so."
"No, I don't. I just wasn't expecting…"
"What were you expecting?"
"Nothing really. I mean, I had to do this. Get you out of my system."
"And now that you have?" he asked. He wasn't playing fair at all, sliding his fingers over her nub teasingly.
"I think I may need a while longer for it to take."
"You are the God of Thunder after all."
"Did I make the earth shake for you, Sara?"
"You might have to prove to me it was real and not my imagination making it shake."
"Oh yeah? Is that right?"
Word Count: 2,565
He probably should have felt weird being attracted to her after finding out who she was, but it really didn't matter. She was legal and she'd sought him out. It wasn't as if he'd sat at home nights thinking he should check out whether he wanted to have sex with her over the years. He hadn't really thought on her much as the years passed. The helmet he'd purchased remained on a shelf in his living room. No one knew the story behind its sudden appearance in his house. That was about the extent of the reminder from that night he had. There'd been so many cars and customers who tried to scam their way out of paying their full bill since then.
He tried to be fair after that night, not so rigid. Even John noticed a difference in him, accused him more than once of growing soft. He didn't allow people to walk all over him or anything, but he took into account people didn't plan on things happening to their car and some maybe needed time to come up with the amount due.
He was a cranky young adult when he opened his garage. He was a cranky twenty-something when he'd met them. Nothing had changed about him in that time. He was still cranky, crankier maybe because there were times he got very tired of being alone.
He worked too hard. Even when he was at home he had projects he worked on. He lived in an old brownstone and he had been working for years on refurbishing everything about it to its original Turn of the Century décor. It was something to keep him occupied and out of trouble.
Going to Bill's was his only outlet the majority of the time. It was down the street from his garage, the beer was cold and cheap compared to bars closer to the more frequented neighborhoods of the city. He had friends there, but no one he talked to away from Bill's and the bowling alley they bowled at once a week for a league.
That's where he was tonight.
After bowling they'd move to the lounge to shoot some pool or darts while drinking a few more beers before calling it a night. It was the same every week, not that there was anything wrong with that exactly.
This week would be different, though.
"Isn't that the gal from the other night?" Bobby asked.
"What girl?" Tom asked.
"The one Dawson here left Bill's with."
"You left with a woman?" Tom asked.
"He didn't come back neither. Drove past his garage after last-call and his pickup was nowhere to be found. Sure looks like her," Bobby said.
"Sure does," Donnie said. "She's wearing jeans tonight, but I'd recognize that ass anywhere."
"What's her deal anyway? Showing up at Bill's was weird enough, but everyone gets thirsty. Here, though. Bowling doesn't seem like her thing," Chuck said.
"I invited her," Erik said.
Seven pairs of eyes landed on him, staring incredulously.
"What?" he shrugged as he palmed the resin bag in his right hand. He was watching her, too, as she made her way to the lounge, getting a beer more than likely as she had to have seen their group.
"You invited her?" Tom asked.
"Yeah," he said. "So?"
"Nothing," Tom said. Tom was probably the closest Erik had to a friend. Sometimes he'd stop by Dawson's garage after hours with a six pack and they'd shoot the shit until he knew he had to get home to avoid his wife calling out a search party.
"Does she even bowl?" Bobby asked.
"I didn't ask her to bowl with us. She's just going to hang out for a while. And you can stop looking at her ass, Donnie," Dawson said.
"You can't be serious," Donnie murmured.
"I think I kind of am."
No one else said a word as she walked toward their group. There was a table on the other side of the lanes area she stopped at, sliding her jacket off before taking a seat there. No beer tonight, he noticed, and he wondered what she was drinking. He noticed, too, the outline of a bra underneath the shirt she wore. So, she did wear them, just hadn't that night.
"Hi," he said, walking up to the table.
"Hi, I'm too early, aren't I?"
"No, there was no set time. I just have to bowl for a while."
"I should have come later."
"Sara, you're fine. You're certainly making the night more exciting than usual anyway."
"Mm, yes," he said with a shrug, lighting a cigarette. "You showing up here."
"Oh God, they're going to think I'm some crazy stalker girl or something, aren't they?"
"No, I told them I invited you."
"Well, that's good."
"Do you want something to eat?"
"No, I'm fine. I ate before coming here."
"Do you?" she asked.
"Want something to eat? Was that your way of asking me to get something?"
"No, I just didn't want you to drink on an empty stomach."
"I'm not going to drink that much, I have class tomorrow morning."
"Must be nice."
"It's just my Tuesday and Thursday schedule. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I start at nine o'clock."
"Better than eight."
"It is, I had a couple of those my freshman year and I swore I wouldn't again unless I absolutely had to."
"Not an early riser?"
"Only when there's sex involved it seems."
"It is a great way to start a day. Of course we didn't do much sleeping at all so I'm not so sure it counts as morning sex."
"It wasn't bad."
He stubbed out his cigarette and shook his head a little. "Not bad she says. That wasn't at all what you said that morning."
She blushed and he chuckled.
"What are you drinking anyway?"
"Dawson," his teammates called to him.
"My turn, I guess."
"No you're fine. I'll be right back."
She was pretty quiet when they moved to the lounge. It probably wasn't that unusual given she didn't know any of them but him and they could be a fairly rowdy, and crude, bunch. He wasn't a dart player, pool was more his speed but the table was occupied most of the night so when she asked him about darts he agreed. She was good, not great or anything, but clearly she'd played before tonight.
Eventually, it was time for him to call it a night. He had to be up before sunrise. He said his good nights and walked with her toward her car. He wasn't sure how he hadn't noticed she was driving a new Grand Prix the other morning when he took her back to her car.
She got a little hands-on in the parking lot, which he didn't mind one bit. He'd found it hard to keep his hands off of her himself in the bowling alley. He figured it was too soon to be all over her like that, so he'd controlled his urge. Apparently, she'd had urges, too, as her mouth found his and her hand reached for the front of his jeans.
"Sara," he murmured, breaking their kiss and stilling her hand on its quest to unzip his pants. "I don't have anything on me."
"Oh," she said, sounding disappointed at that confession. He wasn't accustomed to carrying condoms in his wallet anymore. He supposed maybe he should look into doing that again.
"I'm sorry, I didn't think." He drew away a little. "You'd want to have sex here?"
She shrugged. "Why not?"
"I don't know, just didn't expect it is all. Next week I'll bring one."
She gave a soft giggle, rubbing her cheek against his chest. "Just one? Besides I wasn't thinking of that right now."
"You weren't?" She sure had a funny way of thinking if she wasn't trying to get him to think about sex.
"No," she said, taking his hand and leading him in the direction of his pickup. She had parked near him he noticed. He got in and she did, too, stopping from starting the truck by setting her hand over his at the steering column. She dropped the same hand to his jeans again, working his belt followed by the button and zipper.
"Christ," he murmured as she slid his getting very happy to see her shaft from his boxers. His eyes fell closed and he clutched his steering wheel as she stroked him, remembering the way he'd shown her the other night that he liked. Not that there was a bad way to do it, but too tight of a grip without some lubrication could be bad.
Then he stopped thinking about anything but Sara as she took him into her mouth. She hadn't done much to him the other night, touching him seemed about as comfortable as she felt doing. That was okay with him, getting touched by her was exciting. Getting a blow job from her, though, was very, very exciting because while sex wasn't a problem for him to find the types of women he seemed to find weren't into much more than the deed.
He dropped a hand to her hair, hissing softly as she ran her tongue along his tip. He fought the urge to lift his hips off of his seat, pressing his length deeper into her mouth. It just felt so good.
"Unfasten your jeans for me," he murmured, reaching to cup her ass once she had. He slid his hand lower, sliding a finger into her groaning softly at how wet she was just from giving him head. She got off almost immediately and he didn't fool himself into thinking it was any great skill on his part that brought her there. He kept touching her, though. One thing he'd learned their first night together she could keep coming and coming as long as he kept stimulating her.
God, she was persistent. She wasn't letting up at all in going down on him. Maybe she wasn't expecting more from him than this tonight. He maneuvered himself a little, adjusting so that she could lick and kiss as low on his shaft as she could get.
"Sara," he ground out, hand at his steering wheel holding on for dear life. "I'm close."
She didn't stop. Did she not know what he meant?
"Sara, honey, you may want to stop."
She murmured something from around his shaft.
"You understand what I'm saying, Sara. I'm not going to be able hold off much longer."
She still didn't let up. He had to trust she understood. He couldn't get much blunter about it, and she had to know what the end result of going down on him would be. He just wasn't used to women willingly swallowing.
His finger inside of her stilled and his hips came off the bench seat of their own accord. She didn't stop or anything. And then he was coming and he felt her throat working around his length to swallow his seed.
She stopped for the most part but didn't move her mouth from around him. Her tongue lapped at him gently as if she knew he was too sensitive for much more than that just yet. Then her head was against his thigh, a fingertip replacing her tongue with a featherlike touch along his shaft.
What did one say after that? He hadn't been expecting it, but thank you seemed … rude.
"Wow," he said for lack of anything better to say.
"Mm hmm," she murmured.
"You're not mad at me?"
She sat up then, which meant he had to stop touching the bits on her he was fond of touching. Donnie was right, she had a very nice ass.
"Mad at you?"
"Yeah, for, finishing like that."
"Why would I be mad?"
He shrugged. "I don't know, not everyone likes doing that."
"You told me you were going to."
"Well, yeah, but I had no idea if you knew what I meant."
"Of course I knew what you meant. I'm not stupid, Erik."
"Hey," he said, gathering her onto his lap. Probably it was very good that he'd just come because having her seated on his lap like this would very likely plant ideas of saying screw the condom for this once. That was very, very dangerous thinking.
He kissed her then. She tried pulling away, which confused him.
"What? I can't kiss you?"
"I didn't think you'd want to."
"Because," she shrugged.
"Honey, you just had my dick in your mouth I think the time for being coy was probably gone about twenty minutes ago."
"You'll taste yourself."
"Yeah? You kissed me after I'd gone down on you."
"I know, I just didn't think guys liked that."
"Well, I wouldn't want you to save some and swap it into my mouth as part of a kiss or anything, no. Shit, if you can swallow it I'm fine with tasting myself on your lips."
"Now back to this I think you're stupid thing. I do not think that at all. You're by far the smartest person I know, I don't hang around with anyone else who went to or goes to college. I'm not so sure what you're doing hanging around with someone like me, but I'm not going to tell a pretty woman who wants to spend time with me to leave. I just wasn't sure if you knew what I was saying. I guess I wanted to be sure for next time that you know you still have a choice in that."
"I know. I wanted to."
"I get that, and that's fine." He kissed her and she kissed him back eagerly. "Let me assure you that there's nothing wrong you can do with me. All right? You're curious about something enough to try it I can pretty much assure you I'm game."
"You are, huh?"
"I can't think of anything."
"You going home tonight then I assume?"
"Why would you assume that?"
"Well, you wouldn't have needed to do that in my pickup if you were coming home with me."
"I brought a change of clothes."
"So, you just wanted to do that?"
"Yes," she shrugged, nuzzling against his neck. She was going to leave a hickey, but he didn't really care. He'd left her one the other night and it was still pretty visible tonight so he figured turnabout was fair play.
"Come home with me, Sara," he said after a few minutes of quiet between them. He enjoyed what she was doing to him and parts of him not zipped up and put back where they belong were definitely enjoying her attentions.
"You have to be up a lot earlier than I do."
"So? I'm not going to kick you out when I have to go."
"Positive. If this was some elaborate plan to steal my stuff well, then I'm an idiot so I deserve to get robbed."
"Well, then follow me back."
He waited for her to get in her car before leaving so she could get right behind him. He spotted Donnie in his car and waved to the other man as he left the parking lot.
Word Count: 3,597
"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.
Word Count: 4,861
Her mom knew. Sara wasn't sure how she knew, but at Father's Day brunch at their country club the looks her mother gave her spoke volumes.
Her father was at the bar, talking to a few of his golfing friends. Brad, his wife, Amanda, and their son, Brandon, had left a few minutes ago.
"Just tell me one thing, honey" her mother said.
"Okay," Sara said. She was going to ask to meet him, and Sara wasn't ready for that yet. She wasn't sure Erik was ready for that.
"You're being careful."
"I'm not a fool, Sara. One time I call and you're not at home first thing in the morning I can dismiss it. It seems it's every time I call, though."
"I go out, Mom."
"Don't avoid my question, dear."
"Yes," she said finally.
"Oh my God, you want details?"
"No, of course not, but you only have one year left. It's important you finish your schooling. I know how much your choice in degrees mean to you."
Her mom didn't really know. She'd hoped, of course, Sara would choose something brag-worthy. A social worker with a psychology degree was hardly that.
"I'm fine, Mom. Everything's fine."
"Who is he?"
"His name is Erik."
"Is he a student?"
"No," she said simply.
"Okay, none of my business. You've never dated before, a real relationship I just wanted to be sure you were being careful and not thinking with your heart."
"It's taken care of."
"Okay. I hope I can meet him sometime."
"Sometime, I'm sure you will."
"Your father's on his way back so let's talk about something else."
"Like what?" Sara asked.
"What else are you doing with your summer?"
"Nothing really. Reading some things. I'm volunteering at a crisis shelter a couple of days a week."
"Mom," she said. "It's what I want to do."
"I know that. I just wish there was a less dangerous way for you to do it."
"I'm not in any danger. It's a secure facility."
"Secure because they're worried someone's abusive husband, boyfriend, or father is going to come there."
Sara supposed her mother had a point there, but she never felt as though she was in any danger.
"Mom, I'm fine. I have so much time on my hands, I thought you'd be happy I'm doing some community service work."
"Of course, dear."
Sara sighed softly, standing from the table. She kissed her father on the cheek.
"Happy Father's Day, Dad."
"Thank you, sweetheart. I'm glad you could make it. Come by the house sometime this week for dinner since we're missing out on our Sunday dinner tonight."
"I will," she said, glancing at her mom. "Bye Mom."
"Bye, dear. Have a good rest of your day."
She loved her parents, but they just didn't understand her. Of course if she'd been able to tell them about that night with Chris Parker they might understand better. They would have thrown Chris in jail for endangering or something in the process.
She'd told Erik she'd meet him at Bill's after lunch. He was working on a project car, one he'd found at an auction he was going to fix up and sell. He wasn't making money to work on it since it was his car, so it was something he worked on as he could. Sara having plans with her family was a perfect opening for him to work on it all day.
She parked toward the end of the block. She didn't like parking right in front of Bill's. She'd done that once or twice and between getting urinated or thrown up on she'd had to wash her car afterward. She'd learned quickly.
She wasn't sure what to make of her conversation with her mom. She knew she had a boyfriend evidently, knew she was spending nights with him, and therefore having sex with him. Her only concern seemed to be that she was using protection so she was sure to graduate. Never mind she'd have to get pregnant right now for a baby to put a crimp in her graduation plans next May.
Erik glanced at his watch. Sara had said she'd be done with brunch around two o'clock, which would put her here around three. He'd never been with anyone – friends or otherwise – who had brunch. He wasn't even sure what brunch was comprised of. Just one of many aspects of Sara's life he was clueless about, which made him wonder when she'd grow tired of his cluelessness.
Their conversation at her house the night of Memorial Day had confounded him on many levels. He hadn't been certain to that point what she wanted from him. He didn't see a woman like her just casually having sex and sleeping with someone with the frequency they did. It wasn't just the sex he was interested in either. Well, anymore anyway. At first, well, he'd be a liar if he said regular sex by itself was great. He wasn't that much older than her, however, there was definitely a difference in sex drives. She could go all night and go to class the next day without a problem. He wasn’t so lucky like that anymore. He didn't believe in things like sexual peaks because he wanting her and not being able to deliver was never an issue. There were times he just had to choose to sleep instead.
He didn't consider himself boyfriend material. He couldn't even remember the last time he had someone he spent time with steadily. Years. He was always working and, well, he wasn't Mr. Personality so women just didn't flock to him. It seemed important to her, though, that they have those titles between them. She probably saw it as some sort of commitment, but really to him they were just words. Same as the people who cheated on their husbands or wives. You either were going to be monogamous with someone who slept beside you and looked at you as if they thought you were awesome or you weren't. He wasn't the type to stray.
He showered in the small bathroom he had at the garage and dressed in clean clothes he'd brought along. He had no idea what she'd want to do tonight. She hadn't mentioned anything specific so he pulled out his newspaper to look at what movies were playing and when. They didn't go out on many real dates, like movies, so maybe he could surprise her with something different tonight.
An hour had gone by and she still wasn't there. He couldn't imagine brunch going until four o'clock in the afternoon. He didn't know her parents' phone number to call them. She had a cell phone, but she didn't usually turn it on unless she was calling out.
Working on his project car any longer was out of the question since he'd showered and changed. Certainly she couldn't be too much longer. He closed up and locked up, deciding to head to the bar for a drink. She'd know by the door being locked that he wasn't inside. His pickup still in front would tell her he hadn't left. She'd know where to find him.
He frowned a little when he spotted her car parked on the way to Bill's. Maybe she'd just gotten there and gone there first since she was later than she'd mentioned being.
"Hey," Dawson said as he entered Bill's.
"Hey, surprised to see you here on a Sunday," Bill said.
"Sara had Father's Day brunch with her family so I came to work on a car."
He glanced around the bar. Other than a couple of Sunday afternoon regulars watching a Cubs game the place was empty.
"Speaking of Sara. You haven't seen her, have you?" Dawson asked.
"No," Bill said. "Why?"
"Her car's outside, but she didn't come to the garage."
"She hasn't been in here."
"All right, thanks. If you see her."
"I'll holler down the street for you that I found her."
"Thanks," he said, heading outside again. He stopped at her car, felt the hood. It was cool to the touch so she had been there for a while. He scanned the street for any indication of where she might have gone. This was an industrial area, warehouses and businesses like his. Bill's wasn't the only bar around but it was the closest and the only he frequented. There were no stores or anything here she would have gone into.
He spotted her purse then, ran to it and picked it up. Okay, now he was really worried. Even more when he spotted one of her shoes. He'd been with her when she bought them to go with the skirt she'd bought for brunch today. So, he knew they were hers.
He went back to Bill's. "I need help," he said, holding up Sara's shoe and purse.
"What can I do for you?"
"Help me find her."
"This is her shoe and her purse but she's nowhere to be found."
It took the two of them close to an hour to find her. They'd focused on the few abandoned buildings that probably would have appealed to a homeless person to bring her to. He hadn't even thought of what he found as being a possibility.
"Christ," Bill said. "I'll call for an ambulance," he said, quickly leaving the alleyway.
Dawson slid his shirt off and draped it over her so she wasn't exposed. He knew he shouldn't touch anything, including her, but he had to do that much. He noticed blood on her hands and fought the urge to try and clean it off. She had cuts and bruises all over her face and arms. A couple of her nails were broken off right to the fingertip. He normally didn't pay much attention to her fingernails, but she'd painted them (and her toenails) the sexiest red last night so they were fresh on his mind.
An ambulance showed a bit later. They were never very speedy coming to this area. It wasn't exactly a great neighborhood, fights and mishaps happened all of the time.
"I'm riding with you," he told the paramedic once they'd loaded her onto a stretcher.
"Sir, I don't think."
"I'm riding along. I'm here. She's my" he paused with a shake of his head. "She's my girlfriend. I'm going with you and I'm not taking no for an answer."
He nodded his head a little. "You sit out of the way and stay out of my way so I can tend to her on the way to the hospital."
"I understand," he said as she was wheeled into the back of the ambulance.
"Any idea who did this?"
"No," Erik said quickly. He honestly couldn't even imagine. He didn't know everyone in the area. There were a couple of warehouses that changed employees as frequently as he changed shirts. Overall, though, there'd never been a real problem over any other area in the city. It had to be random, though, because he couldn't think of anyone in their right mind who knew Sara and would possibly want to hurt her.
Through some process of good fortune the nurse let him stay in her room versus the waiting room once they'd admitted her and taken her to an operating room. He didn't even want to picture why they needed to operate on her. So, to keep his mind off of what the endless possibilities could be he'd gone through her purse to find her address book and called her parents and her brother. She was going to be here overnight at least, so he had to call them. His dad would want to know if he was in the hospital and he hadn't lived at home in years. As much as he'd like to stay with her all night, he wasn't family so he doubted the hospital would let him.
That conversation had gone real well.
"Hi, um, is this Mrs. Anderson?"
'Yes, this is.'
"My name is Erik Dawson. I'm a friend of your daughter, Sara."
'I'm familiar with your name, Erik.' She was? Sara hadn't told him that her parents knew anything about him. 'Can I help you with something?'
"Uh, yeah, Sara's down here at Mercy Medical. I think you should probably come down.'
'Is she all right?'
"The doctor hasn't really told me anything. She's in surgery at the moment, that's all I know."
"It's really probably best you let the doctor tell you what happened. He'll give you more information than he'd give me anyway."
'Was she with you when this happened?'
"No, ma'am, she was coming to see me, but I wasn't with her, no."
'All right, we'll be right there.'
He'd hung up and called her brother. He couldn't remember him from that night. One of the boys had red hair. He only remembered that because John had talked about the kids a couple of times after that night and mentioned the redhead's question about how he'd lost his hand.
The conversation with her brother went about as well. Erik left out his last name in that phone call. He wasn't sure if Brad knew about him and he didn't want the kid to think Erik had anything to do with what happened to her.
The doctor hadn't offered him much information, not surprisingly since they weren't married or related. For all the doctor knew he had done this to her. He had mentioned plastic surgery for a couple of the cuts on her face, but he suspected the surgery she was going through now had nothing to do with her face. Erik would never have thought of plastic surgery versus just regular stitches, but he supposed on a pretty woman's face like Sara's scars weren't desirable things.
Her parents arrived. He heard them in the hall and left her room before there was that awkward moment of meeting them in an empty hospital room. They were talking to a nurse so he doubted they'd even noticed he came out of her room.
He pushed the button for the elevator, figured he could go down to the gift shop to buy her some flowers or something. People got flowers when they were in the hospital. The doors opened and he waited for the people getting off to step out before going in.
"Yeah?" he turned toward the voice.
"It is you. I wasn't sure. You're the one who called me?"
"You're her brother, Brad, right? Yeah, I called you."
"What are you doing here?"
"I rode with her here in the ambulance."
"What was she doing there anyway?"
He sighed. "Coming to see me."
"You?" Brad asked.
"Yes," he said. "Your parents are over there," Erik gestured in the direction of Sara's room. He stepped into the elevator then.
"Where are you going?"
"Downstairs for a while, figured I'd let the doctor talk to your parents without me hanging around."
"Okay," he said, though he sounded as if he wanted to say more.
"I'll see you later."
"You're coming back?"
"Well, yeah, unless they kick me out or something."
He frowned but let Erik go and walked in the direction of his parents.
He wasn't hungry, couldn't eat anyway. He couldn't find anything at the gift shop that suited such an occasion. Get well soon seemed kind of inappropriate to him given the circumstances. He got some change from a receptionist and walked to a bank of pay phones.
He called Bill to ask him to be sure Sara's car was locked and that there was nothing else of hers laying around outside. He had no idea what all she kept in her purse, but he'd seen her wallet and keys were in there when looking for her address book.
'Hey, Erik,' Bill said.
'You know, I was thinking on it after you left in the ambulance.'
"Thinking on what?"
'If I'd seen anything out of the ordinary. It was pretty slow being Father's Day and all.'
"And?" Erik demanded
'I didn't. Not really anyway. Listen, it might be nothing.'
"Let me determine if it's nothing, Bill."
'Donnie was here earlier and he was pretty plastered when he left.'
"Donnie?" No way was Bill suggesting Donnie had done this. Sure, Donnie drank too much, but he wouldn't do that to a friend. And while he and Donnie weren't best friends or anything beyond bowling nights they'd always gotten along.
'Yeah, you know this was the first Father's Day since his ex-wife put a restraining order out on him. He can't see his kids.'
"Oh," Erik said. "I didn't know that. They're divorced?" How had he missed that? He had no idea beyond the fact he wasn't the type to sit around and gossip. Hell, he wasn't even sure how old Donnie's kids were. He had heard the rumors about Donnie smacking his wife around more than once, but Erik wasn't even sure those rumors were true.
'Yes, for a while now. So he was drowning his sorrows.'
"His own fault if you ask me for hitting a woman."
'I couldn't agree more, but you know he's had his eye on Sara since the first time she came in here. He was not too pleased she left with you. He hasn't let anyone forget it either.'
"I've never heard him say anything."
'Well, of course he wouldn't to you or when you are here, but I've heard it. Others have, too.'
Erik shook his head, trying to picture it. "You don't think he'd really do that, do you? I mean, Jesus, that's taking being spiteful about getting rejected a little far, don't you think?"
'I really don't know what he's capable of, Erik. I used to not think so, but I've heard some stories since she filed for divorce that make me wonder if I ever knew him.'
"Huh," Erik said.
'Now I'm telling you this because maybe you can steer the police in his direction. I'm not telling you this so you can take things into your own hands. I know how you and John are about handling things, but you won't do her any good in jail, especially if I'm wrong in my thinking.'
"He's going to suspect you told me."
'Probably. So I lose a customer. If he actually did do this I don't want him here anyway.'
His next call was to his old friend John Pruitt who drove the wrecker for him. It was a great way to get business; people were always having car problems on the expressways around here. Sara's babysitter wasn't the only person driving without a spare tire.
'Pruitt,' he answered. He was on-duty so had his cell phone on him at all times.
"John, it's Dawson. I was hoping you could bring my pickup over to Mercer for me."
'Everything all right?'
'I can do that. Are you in the condition to drive home?'
"I'm not the patient."
'Oh," John said.
John hadn't been at all in favor of Erik's involvement with Sara at first. He was slowly warming up to the idea of them being in a relationship now that it was clear that Erik wasn't just using her for a regular piece of ass. Even though she was twenty-one now, John still seemed to have a protective streak for her.
'I see. Is she all right?'
"I'm not sure. She was in surgery when I came downstairs. Her parents and brother are up there waiting for the doctor."
'And you're talking to me?'
"Yes, I talked to her brother briefly, but they don't even know me. Figured it was best for me to stay out of the way for now."
'You ask me, you seeming to avoid them at a time like this is not a way to win over your girlfriend's parents."
"I'd thought of that."
'I'll bring your pickup truck, but you should go let them know you're not a bad guy. What room is she in?'
'I'll drop off my extra set of keys at the nurse's station when I bring it.'
'What are friends for?'
He stopped at the cafeteria and bought a cup of coffee. He was in no hurry to go back upstairs and meet her parents. No matter what John said he doubted meeting them under these circumstances would make a good impression. They'd forever look at him and think of this day in conjunction with meeting him. And while it'd only been a few months, Erik knew barring her deciding she wanted out of his life he wasn't walking away from her anytime soon. He wasn't stupid, didn't need to be beaten over the head to know when a good thing practically landed in his lap and was handed to him.
"There you are," Brad said, taking a seat across from him. "I thought you were coming back."
"I just had some phone calls to make. I rode here in the ambulance with her so am having a friend bring my pickup over here. You know him, John."
"I could've given you a lift home."
"I appreciate that, but it's way out of your way from Oak Park and I don't plan on leaving until they kick me out."
"Well, it's not like coming down here wasn't already out of the way. Boy does coming here bring back memories of the night we met you. I still don't know how we made it out alive."
"She told me about the night. I had no idea, of course. You all were very lucky I'd say."
"Luck or God, something, was on our side."
"Is she out of surgery? The doctor said something about plastic surgery on a couple of the deeper cuts to her face, I'm not sure if they were going to do that all at once or not."
"Yes, she's out, and of course, my parents will do whatever needs to be done. We're very grateful you found her."
"If she called when she was leaving brunch I would've known to look for her. I just thought your Father's Day thing was running long."
"No one thinks this is your fault, Mr. Dawson."
"Erik. I think you can call me Erik now."
"Right, sure. No one blames you. My mom wants to meet you."
"Maybe some other time."
"Because I don't think meeting me and from this day forward associating me with this day will be a very good thing for me."
"Oh. How did you find her?"
"I searched for her. I saw her purse on the ground near her car, knew she had to be around there somewhere."
"No, not today. I mean, I'm glad you did. Find her today, I mean. Who knows how long she would've been sitting out there if you hadn't. I meant how did you find her at all?"
"I didn't find her. Hell, you give me way more credit than that if you think I even remembered your names after that night let alone how to find any of you. I certainly didn't watch you guys leave that night and think 'Gee, I'll look that girl up once she's legal, I'll bet she'll be a real looker.' She was just a sweet kid."
"I was just wondering. I mean, the two of you. I never saw that happening. So you like ran into each other somewhere? Did she need her car fixed or something?"
"She found me near the garage one night."
"She what? Alone?"
"Yeah," he shrugged, taking a sip of his coffee. Brad had gotten himself a bottle of pop. He opened it and took a sip. "I don't know why."
"She always liked you."
"I'm glad. I mean, I'm glad I didn't ruin her dreams of Thor and what he was like."
"Are you serious about her?"
"As serious as I can be about someone I've been seeing exclusively for months now."
"Do you love her?"
"That's between Sara and me now, don't you think?"
"I'm asking for a reason, man."
"If you'd asked me in April if I thought it was possible I could I would have said no, but yes, I love her. And please don't give me some speech about how she's too young for me. Or that you're rich and I'm far from rich."
"I wasn't going to. Sara is one of the smartest and most down to earth people I know. She never dated in high school. I mean, she had dates but she was never one of those date around types. Since the night we met you, she's had her eye on getting her degrees and helping people. She's never strayed from that goal and she wouldn't let things like guys or partying stand in her way."
"I know. I mean, she's told me. I can't tell you how bad I feel that she's now among the people she wants to try and help. I'm still trying to work out how I fit into her life. I can't help but wonder once she's done with school and lands a good job. Well, I'm not so sure the novelty of someone like me won't wear off, but I'm not going anywhere if that's what you're asking. I had never thought about marriage and kids. I have a house so space isn't an issue; I just never considered that type of life for me."
"And you are now?"
"The idea has crossed my mind that I'd enjoy spending every day of my life with her, yeah."
He was quiet after that, taking a sip of his pop making Erik wonder what her brother was getting at.
"I'm not using her or anything. I treat her decent."
"I probably shouldn't tell you this. My mom would get mad at me."
"Tell me what?"
"The doctor," he paused. "Well, he said there was quite a bit of tearing and stuff. You know," Brad said, blushing. "Internally."
He cleared his throat. "Well, he said it was possible there'd be scarring."
"He's unable to say how bad it could be."
"What are you saying, Brad?"
Brad exhaled sharply. "She may not be able to get pregnant."
"He sort of implied it could be very difficult if the scarring was bad enough, yeah."
"Why would your mom get mad at you for telling me that?"
"Because it's kind of personal, don't you think?"
"Well, sure, but I'm involved with her. Can't get much more personal than that."
"And that wouldn't bother you?"
"Bother me? Well, of course it'd bother me, but not for the reason you think. It'd bother me because it's bad enough she went through this but to have to be reminded for the rest of her life that it happened won't be enjoyable I'm sure."
"He said might. I mean, he doesn't know. I don't know how it works. He's also going to have a nurse give her that pill."
"Yeah, you know that morning after pill."
He cleared his throat again. "I suppose before he gives her that pill and she finds out later she can't have kids I should ask you if there's the chance she could already be pregnant."
"As sure as I can be. Wouldn't the doctor check for that before administering it? To see if she is and how far along she'd be?"
"I can ask him to."
"So that's why you came down here?"
"Yes. I asked the nurse to hold off giving it to her until I could find you."
"As far as I know she's not, and it probably wouldn't have survived this anyway so go ahead and give it to her."
"She doesn't need to be violated any more than she already has been with another exam."
"The nurse said they could do an ultrasound to see."
He shook his head again. "No, just give her the pill. She needs to worry about healing not about a baby if there even is one, which I'm almost certain there isn't."
"All right. You can come up, you know."
"And meet your parents? I'm sure your dad will love me. I can just imagine what he's envisioned for Sara all these years and I'm not it."
"She likes you."
"How do you know?"
"Because my mom told me she mentioned you at the club today."
"Yes, she asked me if I knew you, assuming I guess I might have met you."
"She wouldn't have mentioned you if she wasn't serious about you."
"I'll meet them sometime I'm sure, Brad. Can you step back and look at this from where I'm sitting. Would you want your wife's parents to look at you, remembering something awful that happened to her every time they saw you?"
"Tell your mom you couldn't find me or something," he shrugged. "Some other time, at least when she's conscious and able to make the decision to have me meet them."
"All right," he sighed softly.
Word Count: 4,859
She went home to her parents' house once she'd been released from the hospital. To be expected, he supposed. She'd want to be somewhere familiar and safe. Her mother wanted her close, also something Erik could understand.
Unfortunately, that somewhere familiar and safe was quite a distance from him. They talked every night, but she didn't seem to want to visit him at his house. He couldn't blame her for not wanting to go back to his garage anytime soon. She didn't ask him to come see her either.
Weekends, the two days since at least May he was assured to see her came and went by a few times without seeing her. It gave him time to work on the car he'd bought to fix up, but he didn't want as much time as she was giving him. He wanted to understand.
"I think you should go see her," John said. John was watching him work on the car. He wasn’t sure when it was exactly that he realized John was very lonely and Erik no longer was. Somewhere over the course of the past few months anyway he'd realized his life was pretty good with someone in it.
"If she wanted me to come see her she'd ask me."
"I'm supposed to guess then what she wants?"
"She's a woman, Erik. They're a mystery. You think I would have wasted my time on my ex if I understood them?"
He had a point there. John had stuck it out with his cheating ex much longer than Erik ever would have. Erik wasn't sure why he had, John evidently wasn't either.
"I'd still have to see her parents."
"I'm not sure why you're avoiding that. You'll have to meet them eventually."
"Unless you're lying to me about the seriousness of what you feel for her, you'll meet them eventually."
"Maybe. That's assuming this doesn't change everything."
"Why should it?"
"Come on, John. She was coming to see me. It was very possibly someone I know."
"That's not your fault."
"She may not think that."
"Erik," John said.
"What? I'm not going there when her parents are home. I'm not letting our first conversation since she was discharged be with them hovering around."
"Then go there when they're not home."
"And I'm supposed to know when that is?"
"They work, don't they?"
"Most people I know who work normal jobs, ones I imagine her parents have, work during the day. Every weekday."
"I don't know, John."
"Maybe she doesn't think you want to see her."
"Why would she think that?"
"I don't know. I've heard stories over the years, you know, women in her situation. She might think you think she did something wrong. Or that it's her fault somehow."
"I don't say I understand this way of thinking, but I've heard that it happens."
"Well, it doesn't matter. I work when her parents work."
"You don't have to."
"I have a business to run. People need their cars."
"Sure. They're all done, aren't they?" John glanced around the garage to the cars that were there, Erik looked, too. Of course they were done; he always worked on his project last.
"So, you need to be open to get people their vehicles, right? Collect their money. So you get someone to help you out who you trust to lock up when done and not steal from you. You put up a sign saying you're closed for incoming business or whoever you get to sit here for you will tell anyone that their vehicle won't get looked at until the next day."
"You have someone in mind."
Erik didn't trust many people, certainly not with his garage. John was about the only one. John had keys to the garage and the alarm code for nights he was on wrecker duty. He had nothing to go home to anymore, so he typically stayed out until at least the bars closed before he stopped searching for business for the night. He'd never asked him to collect money, though. Of course, most people paid with a credit card or check anyway.
"You going to go see her if I do?"
"Bring her flowers or something if you do."
"That seems so dumb. I got her some in the hospital, but God it gave me a terrible feeling to buy them for her after that."
"Yes, well, it doesn't matter how they make you feel now does it?"
So, here it was Monday and he was driving to Oak Park. He didn't have much reason to drive into the suburbs. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd done so. This year? Probably not. Last year? Maybe.
He found her house with a little effort. He knew her address beforehand, looked on a street map before he'd left. A couple of wrong turns caused a bit of trouble, and made him realize that he was really, really out of his league even being here. Christ, what her parents would probably think of him when they did meet him.
He parked on the driveway. It was long and wide enough that he doubted anyone would have any trouble getting into the garage if they needed to. He grabbed the flowers and the book he'd bought her before making his way to the front door. The book was something he'd heard her talk about wanting to read.
He had no idea who Harry Dresden was, only knew from the clerk at the bookstore that the book was set in Chicago and about a wizard. He knew she was looking forward to the next Harry Potter book coming out, too, so he guessed she was into that type of story. It shouldn't surprise him, he supposed, that she liked fantasy-stuff given her infatuation with Thor as a kid.
He rang the bell, wondering what on earth he was doing here. And just what he would do if her mom or dad answered. She'd been home for almost three weeks now, so certainly they weren't still sitting home with her. Then, he didn't really know how protective and loving parents behaved typically.
She answered, eyes widening in surprise. She wasn't upset, though. That made him feel better.
"Hi," she said.
"Um, hi." She looked much better. "I thought I'd come see you."
"You're supposed to be at work."
"John Pruitt's helping me out, watching the garage until the cars due to be collected today are gone. Then he'll lock up for me."
She hadn't invited him in yet, and he wasn't sure what to make of that. Couple that with the fact their conversations had been getting shorter and shorter the last few days. Well, he wasn't sure what it all meant.
"Listen, if you don't want. I mean, I just dropped by unannounced. I can go. I just wanted to see you and give you these," he shrugged. He handed her the flowers and the book. God, that was hard to admit even to himself. To think he found it difficult to go only three weeks without seeing her. He would never have imagined it.
"No, sorry, I'm just surprised to see you here. Come in," she said, stepping aside.
"You're sure, Sara. I mean, if you don't want me here."
"I do. I just wasn't sure you'd want to come."
"Why not?" he asked.
"Well, I didn't think you'd be able to come during the week. That leaves weekends when my parents are home and I know you don't want to meet them."
"Is that what you think?"
She shrugged, closing the door behind him. He fell into step beside her as she led him to the living room.
"You think I don't want to meet them?"
"I don't know."
"I met your brother."
"He told me."
"Then he must have told you my reason for staying away from the hospital when I knew they'd be there."
"And you took that to mean I don't want to meet them? I just didn't want to meet them at that time. Not after that. They'd see me forever and think of that day."
She walked to the kitchen after he said that, returning a few minutes later with the flowers in a vase. It wasn't until now he took the time to notice what she was wearing. It was July in Chicago and she had sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt on. Not at all what he'd picture her wearing on a warm day like this.
"They're beautiful. Thank you." She took a seat on the chair next to the couch he'd sat on.
"The ones you gave me in the hospital were, too."
"Thanks. How are you?"
"I've missed you."
"Me, too," she said. "My mom thought I'd be better off coming here instead of going back to the house."
"She's probably right."
"I'll go back before school starts. Dad said he'd keep my part of the rent current for this month and next."
"That's nice of him."
"Yeah," she said.
God, this was hard. He really had no idea what to say to her exactly. His instinct was to hug her and keep her safe, but he'd evidently failed on that account.
He stood then, kneeling in front of her chair. He set his hands on the arms of the chair, avoiding touching her. He wasn't sure she'd want him to.
"I'm sorry," he said finally.
"This, what you're going through, it's my fault."
"Your fault? I don't think so."
"I shouldn't have let you come down there after that first night at Bill's. It's not a great neighborhood, I knew that."
"Like you could've stopped me if I wanted to, Erik."
"No, I suppose not. I'm still sorry."
"It's not your fault. It's not mine either."
"Of course not!"
She laughed softly.
"Why did you come here, Erik?"
"To see you. Three weeks is entirely too long. God, that's crazy, isn't it? I mean, four months ago I didn't even know you."
"I don't think it's crazy. I'm glad."
"I would have asked you to come stay with me, but I didn't think that'd go over."
"No," she said quickly.
"Maybe. I don't know. My mom would've been upset no matter how in control she seems to be knowing we have sex."
"She knows that?"
Sara shrugged, setting a hand at his head. She ran her fingers through his hair. He hadn't taken the time to trim it in the past few weeks so it was a little more unkempt than he usually wore it.
"She figured it out, I guess. Calls to my house to find out I wasn't home more than just one morning."
"Oh," he said.
"And you still think meeting them is a good idea?"
"Well, sure, they're not going to bite you."
He chuckled softly, setting his head on her lap so she could touch his hair easier.
"I've never felt so helpless or incapable of doing something before in my life."
"Erik, it's not your fault."
"That may take me a while to wrap my head around, but I do know one thing I realized because all of this."
"What?" she said.
"I love you, Sara."
"I love you, too. But I knew that I did thirteen years ago."
He chuckled. "Yeah, well, it's probably a very good thing I can't say the same."
"I know, too that I want to do everything in my power from this day forward to be sure you're safe and taken care of and no one can ever hurt you again."
"Erik." Her hand stilled in his hair at that.
"What? I do, Sara. I'm not saying you know tomorrow or anything, but I want you with me always. I want to come home to you."
"Stop. There are things."
"Brad told me."
"What your doctor said. The possibilities."
"Yes, he was, in a roundabout way, finding out if he should tell the nurse not to give you that morning-after pill."
"Well, if you were already pregnant that baby would have been lost."
"I told him I couldn't say for certain, but even if you were I wanted you to worry about yourself not about a pregnancy."
"I wasn't," she said quickly.
"Good," he said softly. He wasn't pro-life or anything, but he'd be a liar if he said there wasn't more than one time he questioned his telling Brad to give her the pill. What if she had been and she couldn't have any more? Would she hate him?
"I may not ever be able to."
"You act like it's no big deal."
"It's not to me. I want to be with you, kids or not makes me no difference."
"You say that now."
"I say that as someone who had no plans on having them to begin with, Sara. Besides, they said possibility. It's not one hundred percent. And you haven't seen a specialist, have you? I mean, he told Brad it was too early to tell what scarring there may be. So, you find out what information you can. I'm certainly not going to take their phrase of might as a reason to throw away my supply. I know a guy who got the chicken pox when he was twenty-one or twenty-two. He ran this super high fever and he was told that fevers that high could cause sterility. Four kids later obviously that wasn't an issue."
"Yes, that's a guy and totally different than what happened so I know that doesn't mean anything. I'm just saying, doctors aren't always right. They probably have to give you all the possibilities so you're prepared or not surprised if the worst happens."
"You can touch me, you know."
"Your hands, you haven't moved them."
"I didn't want to just touch you," he said, sliding his hands off the arm rests to her thighs.
"I know, but I want you to at least like this is okay."
He was quiet, touching her lightly while she did the same.
"Have you left the house since you got home?"
"Not really, no. I've gone into the backyard to read."
He'd thought somehow that would be the case.
"Hungry. Want to get something to eat?"
"I haven't showered."
"So, go shower I'll wait."
"What? You can't go out to eat?"
"No, I can. I just haven't really. I had bandages until last Friday."
"People get hurt, Sara, no one would have looked at you and assumed what happened to you."
"I know. My mom just thought it was best."
"Well the bandages are off. I'm not suggesting Le Francais or anything, just pizza or a burger."
"Le Francais is a little far."
"You've been there I'm sure."
"That doesn't surprise me. Was it as good as they say?"
She shrugged. "I was like ten. Dad had a client in town who wanted to eat there. I think at one point it had been rated the best restaurant in the country or something, so people from everywhere wanted to say they'd eaten there. It was okay, but I would rather have had a hot dog or something at the time. My parents and the client seemed to really enjoy it, though."
He chuckled. "I bet."
"You really want to take me to lunch?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"
"I don't know. I know you should be working."
"Seeing you today was more important."
She leaned down, kissing the top of his head. "Thank you."
"I'll be down in a few minutes."
"Take your time. I'm in no hurry."
He returned to the couch and then decided to look around a little. He'd towed cars from houses like this over the years, but hadn't ever really had a reason to be in one beyond standing at the front door to collect keys.
It was nice, as he expected. Sara's father obviously did well. He was an architect, and apparently a pretty good one.
"You can come up if you want to," she said a few minutes later. Obviously out of the shower. He walked up the stairs, following the sounds that led her to what was obviously her bedroom.
"Definitely nicer than your other one."
"You think so?"
"My mom hasn't changed it since I was like twelve and got new furniture. So, I feel like a kid again when I stay here."
She was dressed and everything, just sitting at her vanity to do her hair and put some makeup on. He always liked watching her do this stuff, even though he tried telling her at least fifty times now she didn't need to do it. She was beautiful the way she was.
"Wow," he said, taking a look at a bulletin board that had a whole bunch of drawings of Thor. "You really did have a thing for him growing up, didn't you?"
"Some of these…"
"Look kind of like you?"
"Yeah, once I met you Thor had a very real face for me to associate with my hero."
"Flattered and not creeped out?"
"Why would I be creeped out?"
"I don't know."
"You were a kid. If you were still drawing me like this, well, maybe."
She laughed. "I haven't drawn a Thor picture since I was in junior high."
"That late in life?"
"Yes. What can I say? He was a hard hero to forget about."
"I wish I could say I had someone like that."
"No one? Not even Superman?"
"Nah. Batman, I suppose, because he had a cool car and stuff, but even as a kid I was more curious about how to take something like that apart and fix it than anything else actually going on."
"I'm ready," she said.
As it turned out, she'd just put her hair up in a ponytail, which he preferred anyway. He loved her hair long, sure, but it was so much nicer without hairspray or mousse or whatever else she put in it.
Lunch turned into them spending time at a forest preserve not too far from her house. He wasn't ready to bring her home and so when she'd made the suggestion he'd jumped at the chance to spend longer with her. Bringing her home would mean he'd have to leave and, man, he didn't want to do that.
"Can I see you this weekend?" he asked once they'd gotten back to her parents place.
"If you want to."
"If I want to? I do want to. I'm just not sure what you want. I don't want to seem pushy or too possessive. I get that you might need some space."
"You're not pushy and I don't need that much space. Just maybe some, um, physical space."
"Hey, you held my hand, that was more than I was expecting today."
"Thank you," she said, opening the front door.
"You don't have to thank me."
"Sara, there you are. I was worried about you."
"I'm fine, Mom," she said. "Erik came to take me to lunch."
"This late in the day? And why didn't you leave a note?"
"I wasn't expecting to be gone this long. We went to Trailside Museum for a while. You're not even supposed to be home yet."
"I came home in between showings to see how you were doing."
"I'm sorry I worried you, Mom."
"Well, as long as you're okay and I guess you haven't been out much." Erik felt pretty on the spot. He supposed it was better than meeting both of them at once. "You must be Erik."
"I am," he said, taking her offered hand.
"Were you coming in?"
"I was really just walking Sara to the door."
"Come in, have some lemonade before you go."
"Sure," he said, following Sara inside.
"Brad tells me you were at the hospital when we were."
"I was a little upset you didn't come talk to us."
"I'm sorry about that. I just didn't want…"
"I said I was. I'm not now that I've thought about it."
"I'm sorry?" he said, taking the offered lemonade. It was a nice kitchen with a nice counter and stools to sit at in addition to the regular table. He could picture Sara sitting at the counter as a little girl, coloring pictures of Thor while watching her mom cook dinner. They were well-off, but she'd never mentioned things that the really rich people he knew of grew up with like cooks and stuff. Though he was sure they had cleaning help come in and clean this place.
"Well, I understand now is what I'm trying to say. It would've still been nice to meet you."
"I didn't want that night in your mind every time you saw me from that point forward."
"Sara says you own a garage."
"And have for some time?"
"Since I was eighteen. Not the same building, it took me a while to get the capital together for the place I have now."
"How long ago was that?"
"The first building."
"I, well, about sixteen years ago."
"She said it's quite impressive."
He glanced at Sara who shrugged.
"Well, I'm happy with it and proud of what I've accomplished. I think my mom would be, too."
"Uh, yeah, she died when I was pretty young and I bought my first place with some life insurance money of hers my dad gave me. I figured she'd like me to do what I was good at and love, too. So, can't get much better than that."
"Oh, I see. I'm sorry to hear about your mother."
"It's all right, but thank you."
"And you have no help?"
"So you closed your garage today to visit Sara?"
"I closed it to anything incoming, yeah. I have a friend who drives a wrecker for me. He opened up the garage today to get people their vehicles, but he probably locked up long ago."
"Well, I'm glad you were able to come see her."
"Me, too. I'm not used to going days without seeing her for a little while let alone weeks."
"We thought she'd recuperate at home better."
The conversation was relatively painless. He finished his lemonade, thanked her for the beverage. It was homemade, too, not the stuff out of a can he had at his house. He didn't have company over very often to offer such things to.
She seemed to understand when he said he needed to go to get ahead of the traffic. She even let Sara walk him to the door without watching them.
"Thank you for coming," she said.
"You don't have to thank me, Sara. I wanted to before."
"I know. I'm sorry."
He slid a hand to her cheek, brushing some hair away from her face. "You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for."
He leaned down, kissing her forehead lightly. She looked confused at that, really he was kind of testing to see if she'd flinch or something if he got too close to her. He brushed his lips over hers lightly.
"I meant what I said earlier, Sara."
"I love you."
"I meant it, too."
"Just making sure you know I wasn't just feeding you a line or telling you what the conversation called for. I'll see you this weekend?"
"My place maybe? I can pick you up if you want and have you home early."
"I can drive. My car is here."
"Right. Okay. Call me tonight before you go to bed?"
"And try not to argue with your mother."
"Me. She was nice, but I suspect that was a show."
"She's not evil."
"No, but you're her baby, twenty-one or not, and she's not just going to roll over and give up on all of the dreams she had for you."
"I've already shattered most of them with my choice in careers."
"I know, just don't fight with her."
"I won't," she said with a shake of her head.
She stood in the doorway, watching as he pulled out of their driveway. He waved one last time before turning onto the road.
Sara shut the door. She was beyond relieved he'd come. She wasn't sure he was ever going to. She understood not wanting to meet her parents and everything, but God it had to be his idea to come out here. She wasn't playing games or anything, but she had to know he really didn't think what happened was her fault somehow. Men were weird when it came to this stuff. She'd seen it working at the shelter she volunteered at, fathers treated their daughters a little differently thinking that somehow the violence was their fault.
"How did you two meet anyway?" her mother asked from the hallway.
"Mom," Sara said.
"What? You never told me. I think it's a logical question. Where on earth would your paths cross?"
"I was with a friend who needed her car fixed one day. Hers broke down on the expressway or near it anyway, his friend John towed us back to Erik's garage."
"And what? You just started dating a man fourteen years older than you?"
"I, Mom," she said. "I liked him. I don't care how old he is."
"And you don't see this as opportunistic?"
"You think he knew we had this house or anything like it when he asked me out? He has his own house. Not as nice as this one, but it's paid for. I certainly never thought I'd fall in love with him Mom, but it is what it is."
"You realize I'm not going to be the only one questioning these things, don’t you?"
"Mom, it's not like he's fifty or on his death bed."
"Your father deals with some very judgmental people."
"And that should affect my love life how?"
"Well, they'd find out."
"Who cares? Mom, really. This is why he didn't want to meet you. He knew you'd say this stuff. He's a good person and he works hard. Isn't that what you taught me was most important about life? It wasn't what someone did but that they did the best job they could while doing it? Or was that for anyone but someone I love."
"You've known him for a few months."
"Mom," Sara said.
"There is no such thing as love at first sight, Sara. It's just what people want you to think so you don't think things through logically. Your dreams."
"Are still my dreams. I'm not giving them up and he knows what they are."
"You don't think splitting your time between school and him won't interfere with your schoolwork?"
"No, because I didn't have a problem last spring studying for my finals or anything."
"You've never really had a boyfriend before."
Sara laughed at that. "That should tell you something about him, Mom."
"As long as he treats you decently."
"Did you tell him?"
"Yes," she said softly.
"He said it doesn't matter."
"Yes. Why does that surprise you? You, what? Think he's out to get me pregnant and leave me?"
"No. You said you were being careful and I know you're smart enough to know what that entails."
"He kissed you goodbye?"
"I'm asking because you haven't seen him since. How are you?"
She walked up to Sara then, hugging her. Sara hugged her mom back. "I don't know what you're going through. I can't begin to, but you have to be honest with him, Sara."
"I am, Mom."
"I mean about boundaries now. If you need time he needs to know that."
"Mother, he kissed me he didn't shove his tongue down my throat or try to have sex with me in the hallway."
"Don't be crude, Sara."
"You make it sound as if he wouldn't know I have boundaries right now, Mom."
"I'm just saying if you really love him and want to see this through you have to be honest with him. Don't assume he'll know this or that. It's very likely he won't."
"You're going to see him this weekend?"
"Why haven't you before this weekend? You're not a prisoner here."
"I know. I just kind of felt like he had to come here first."
"Well, I'm glad for your sake he did."
"You're not going to make him meet Dad anytime soon, are you?"
"No, I think one of us is enough for the time being. At least I have a face to put with the name. He is a rather large man, isn't he?"
Sara gave a soft laugh at that. "Yes."
"Well, if nothing else at least I can be assured he can keep you safe when he's with you."
Sara rolled her eyes a little at that, but she supposed there was truth in that statement.
Word Count: 3,256
She went back to her house at the beginning of August. She was ready. She loved her parents, but she just couldn't live with them anymore. Six weeks of being there and she was ready to scream. Her mom was worried and Sara tried to understand that, but her mom wanted her to live at home until graduation. She'd had a house since her sophomore year and she had no desire to have to conform to her parents' rules for the entire school year.
She unpacked the things she had to from being gone the past month. Things like her TV, stereo, computer, and stuff had stayed but her every day stuff like clothes and toiletries her mother had picked up for her while she was in the hospital.
None of her roommates knew what happened and Sara preferred to keep it that way. The police had arrested Donnie and evidently the skin they'd collected from under her fingernails matched his. He was in jail and would probably be there for a long time. Eventually, she'd have to testify. She absolutely was not going to tell her parents when that was going to happen because her lawyer told her in no uncertain terms that the fact she left the bar with Erik the night she met him would get brought up. She'd explained to her lawyer that she had actually known Erik before that night and he said that would certainly help matters. She, however, still didn't want her parents to hear that she'd left with him. They were paying his exorbitant fee, but she made him promise not to tell them either. He seemed to understand what she was trying to protect them from so he agreed. Whether he held true to his word was something she'd find out down the road.
It was great to see Betty, Susan, and Missy. She'd missed them. Susan she'd known since grade school. Betty and Missy she'd met her freshman year. The four of them decided to get a house together their sophomore year and it had worked out well for them. They had disagreements, but to this point it had never been over anything of significance. The power bill was too high so everyone had to work on turning lights off. Someone kept leaving their towel on the bathroom floor. Things like that. They each bought their own groceries and had cleaning responsibilities so things ran pretty smoothly. If someone was sick or was real busy with homework they pitched in. Susan was an art major so she had more and more projects as she closed in on her senior year.
She hadn't told Erik she was moving back, afraid he'd think badly of her if she changed her mind at the last minute. She wasn't one hundred percent positive she would go back so early until she'd packed up her car and driven out of her parents' driveway.
"I guess I don't have to ask where you're going or whether you'll be home tonight." Betty asked.
"No," Sara said.
"For a while there I was wondering if you were going to bail on our lease and move in with him."
"Really?" Sara asked, surprised for some reason Betty would think that.
"Just let us know if you do decide to do that."
"My parents would kill me."
"They'd probably get over it eventually. I guess it doesn't really matter for you since your dad is paying your rent. I guess if I didn't have to share a bathroom with three other women every day I wouldn't either. Tell the man I say hi and have fun tonight. I'm glad you're back by the way."
"Thank you," she said, leaving out the backdoor. Their garage was in an alley, which was a pain in the winter sometimes but they never had to worry about finding a parking space on the street like some other people she knew did. She'd take being unable to get out of her driveway on a snow day or two versus having to circle a block one hundred times on the hopes of finding a parking space within a mile of her place.
She drove to Erik's house. He'd given her a key last month in case she drove down to see him sometime when he wasn't expecting her. He didn't want her going to his garage again without him. She had no desire to go there, so he had nothing to worry about.
It was close to the time he'd leave the garage, assuming he left at closing time. She'd picked up some deli chicken and side dishes that he liked from Jewel. It was too hot to cook and she knew he probably didn't have much in his fridge that was edible. He wasn't great at grocery shopping. The chicken and the mashed potatoes and gravy would have to be warmed in his microwave, but it was better than turning on the oven or stove to cook something. She'd even stopped at Baskin Robbins and picked up a pint for each of them of their favorite flavors. She was a pralines n' cream girl. He preferred plain old chocolate.
It was after seven when he got home. He looked tired, but he didn't let that affect making it obvious that he was glad to see her.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi," she said.
"Everything okay?" he asked.
"Yes," she said with a soft laugh. "I can't surprise you?"
"Well, sure, you can anytime, honey, you know that. What's the occasion?"
"I moved back into my house today."
"Yes, I love my parents, but I think I might have killed them or myself if I stayed there much longer."
He chuckled. "Somehow I bet you'd have managed, but I can understand that feeling."
"I brought dinner."
"Sara," he said, though he didn't look upset at the idea of food.
"Chicken and stuff from Jewel."
"Their deli stuff?"
"That sounds great tonight. You haven't eaten yet?"
"No, I was waiting for you. You should look in the freezer, too."
He stepped into the kitchen to do just that.
"Wow, Baskin Robbins, too." He walked back to the doorway leading to the living room, leaning against the doorframe. "There a reason for this generosity of yours?"
"No, just felt like doing something nice for you."
"Positive. It's been a bad few weeks for both of us."
"I've missed you, but I knew you'd be back here eventually."
"Funny, Betty said she thought I was going to move in with you altogether."
"That Betty's a girl after my own heart. Which one was she?" he asked.
She laughed. "Tall, red hair."
"Ah yes, okay. What did you say?"
"I told her my parents would kill me."
"That the only thing that would stop you?"
"Well, right now?"
"No, just in general. I know it's kind of soon. I mean, I want you here, Sara. Every day. I want nothing more than to come home to you sitting on my couch like you were tonight for the rest of forever, but when you're ready."
"Maybe once I have a job."
"Mm, don't want to mooch off me?"
"Yeah, I don't think Dad would pay for me to live with you."
"Well, something to think about, though. And you can certainly stay here as many nights as you want."
"I know. I just."
"I don't expect anything, Sara. I miss sleeping with you."
"Not the rest of it?"
"Well, of course I do, I would be a liar if I said otherwise, but I understand that may not happen again for a while."
"You're too nice."
"Any man who'd get mad about something like that is not a real man."
"Maybe you're right, but you're still too nice."
"Maybe love has made me soft I don't know."
"So, you hungry?"
"Starving. I didn't get lunch today."
"I had this rush job, willing to pay extra for it, but it took me until almost four o'clock to finish it. I didn't work on anything else either, but they needed it before close of business today."
"You got it done?"
"Yes, and I suspect I'll get more business out of the deal, too."
"Yeah. Company vehicles."
"I didn't know you did that."
"Serviced vehicles? I am an all-purpose mechanic. I really don't care as long as I get to work on a car out of the deal."
"Well, good, I hope you get more business than you know what to do with."
"Not that much. I can do without missing out on time with you when it's been so limited lately."
"That is true. Seems a shame you bought that stuff. I could take you out somewhere."
"No, I was in the mood just to be alone with you tonight. Maybe go to bed early with you."
"You know exactly what to say. No arguments from me on that plan. I should shower, though. I didn't before I left."
"Okay. I'll start warming the chicken and mashed potatoes."
She knew the sounds of his house pretty well. Knew when he'd stepped into the bathroom to turn on the shower, letting it heat up. Then to his closet where he'd undress and put his dirty clothes in the bag there. Then over to his dresser so he could take off his watch and set his keys in the dish there for the morning. Then back to the bathroom and the shower which would be as warm as he liked it by now.
She made her way up the stairs once she heard him head into the bathroom again. This was another thing she wasn't sure she'd see to the end until she actually did it. She shed her clothes quickly, not bothering to pick them up or anything. If she thought too hard on this she'd go back downstairs and chalk it up to not being ready yet.
She missed him, though. Not just the sex, but the physical closeness of him.
"Jesus, Sara," he said when she drew the shower curtain back. "Make a little noise next time."
"Sorry," she said, stepping into the shower. He had one of those big antique stand-alone tubs with the shower curtain that went all the way around it. The shower head had been added by him she knew.
"It's okay, just holy shit I wasn't expecting you."
"You okay?" he asked.
"You don't sound so sure about that."
"I'm not. A little nervous."
"About being naked with me?"
"I love seeing you naked."
"Obviously," she said with a smile.
"Yeah, well, that part's a given, especially when it's been over a month since he's seen any action, but all of me loves it."
"You're sure? I'm not sure I'm ready…"
He shook his head. "Doesn't matter."
"Doesn't matter. I'm not going to pressure or push you, but I'm not going to stop looking at you as if I want you either, Sara, because I do. Every day. And if I stopped looking at you like that you'd start wondering if I've stopped," he said, carefully kneeling in front of her. He kissed her stomach, hands at either hip. "None of it matters. Nothing he did to you defines you or us."
"But nothing, Sara," he said as she ran her hands through his hair. He hadn't finished rinsing the shampoo out of his hair. She'd gotten good at washing his hair for him. It was one of those silly yet kind of sexy things she enjoyed doing for him. "I won't let him change anything between us, Sara. Nothing he did that day has anything to do with what we do together."
"I know that."
She leaned over and picked up his bar of Lava soap and his washcloth. She soaped it up and washed his shoulders and arms. Reaching for his back and his front before he stood so she could keep going to his legs. His legs didn't get nearly as dirty as his hands, arms, and face did. Occasionally, he wore a pair of jeans with a hole in them but overall his legs usually remained pretty clean.
"Thank you," he said when she'd finished.
"I miss you touching me."
She'd avoided touching anywhere private and while he seemed to notice that fact he didn't seem bothered by it, taking the soap and finishing the parts she didn't wash.
He reached for the soap at the side of the tub he kept for her. She didn't like the stuff he used, it felt rough and kind of funny on her skin. It got the grease and dirt off of him real well, though, so she understood why he used the stuff. He'd mentioned in the spring that it was good after working in the yard, too. She hadn't gotten to work on his yard with him too much this summer. A few times before Father's Day.
He turned the water off, toweled off and handed her a towel so she could do the same. It was odd that he had things in his bathroom set aside for her. A toothbrush, a towel, her own shampoo and soap, a hook on the back of the door. He handed her his robe, seeming to know the silky one she had here wasn't what she wanted to wear just now.
"Thank you. You still hungry?"
"Yeah," she shrugged. "Let me get dressed and I'll go down."
"Just wear that."
"You're just going to come back up here and go to bed. You are staying here, right?"
"Then just keep that on."
"I think I need to…"
"Wear what you need to, Sara."
She looked away from him then.
"Hey," he said, touching her chin lightly so she'd look at him. "It's all right."
"You're going to get so tired of this."
"Me being all over the place, sending you signals."
"I didn't get any mixed signals, Sara. I can take a shower with you without it leading to more. I can do all kinds of things with you without it leading to more, including watching you eat in my bathrobe. If you feel too exposed in that then put your clothes back on. We'll get through this. Together."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"That you'll get tired of all of it."
He picked her up then and she screeched. He knew she wasn't scared, but he'd surprised her. He carried her to the bed and set her down.
"Not going to happen, Sara. I don't know what I can do to make you believe that other than just be here for you every day and every night. I never thought I was missing out on anything not having a wife when most all of my friends did. I saw what John went through with his and figured why bother. I want to bother with you, every single thing that I can possibly think of to do with you I want. I certainly never thought I'd get lucky and end up with someone like you who looks at me the way you do. I'm still not sure I deserve it, that look you give me. Even today it's there and I love you for it. You have no idea how hard John had to work to force me to leave Donnie alone. I wanted to kill him for hurting you. If I could somehow take onto myself what he did to you so you could be free I would do it in a heartbeat."
"I wouldn't want you to."
"Because it'd make me sad to know you're hurting."
"Yeah, that's more than just kind of how I feel, Sara."
"I know," she said, reaching to her midsection. He was touching her there, arms around her but it was no different than he'd been touching her lately and she hadn't minded. She shook her head in a silent no when he started to pull away. Only then did he realize she was undoing the belt on the robe.
"I'll tell you when I need you to stop," she whispered.
She could see in his eyes that he wasn't going to question her on this. She knew she could trust him to treat her well and stop if and when she said stop. He only used his hands and his mouth and as the sun started to come up she realized she never uttered the word stop or no once during the night. Not even when he used his hand to bring himself off.
"Not sure what it is about you that makes me take two showers in less than twelve hours."
She laughed softly. "I had nothing to do with why you had to take one either time."
"The first one, no. The second one," he said, trailing a fingertip along her thigh. "That was all you."
She groaned softly.
"At least you get to sleep the day away."
"I know. I'm sorry."
He circled her ankle with his hand. "Honey, I wasn't asking for an apology or even complaining. Not sure I could do three or four of those nights in a row, but I can say that was one of the most enjoyable nights I've ever had."
"Even though we didn't. I mean, you didn't."
"Yeah, but not inside or on me."
"Doesn't matter. You let me touch you that was more than enjoyable. Obviously."
"It can't be the same."
"Ordinarily I'd agree with you and say that it's not as, heightened, as when it's you causing me to finish. Under the circumstances, though it was completely satisfying. I have no complaints besides it was still you causing me to just in a different way than we're both used to. I should wash the sheets later maybe."
"I can do it."
"You're going to be here that long?"
"I was thinking about it."
"Yeah? Like maybe being here to eat that chicken with me when I get home tonight?"
"I like the sound of this plan a lot."
"You do, huh?"
"Well, then I'll be here. I think there's a Cubs game on today."
"I'm sure there is." He leaned down and kissed her lightly. "I like the idea of you being here while I'm at work."
"In your house or your bed?" She slid her arms around his neck. It was probably the most assertive she'd been with him yet. Well, besides opening the robe last night, but that didn't really involve touching him.
"Both. Get some rest."
"You didn't get any more sleep than I did!"
"Yeah, well, I have work to keep me busy."
She drew herself to her knees and kissed him.
"Sara, that is not the way to make me keep my mind focused on going to work."
"I kind of don't want you to go to work today."
He exhaled sharply, hands at her hips to draw her away from him a little. "I wish I didn't have to, but I have cars to work on so I can pay the bills to keep a roof over my head. So that you'll have a roof over your head next year. I can't imagine I'd impress your parents much being homeless."
She laughed softly, kissing him. "I suppose not."
"I'll see you later."
"I'll be here."
"And I'll have that thought to distract me all day."
Word Count: 2,515
He didn't come to her house very often. Sometimes he'd pick her up if she had early class the next morning and he was taking her to dinner or something. There was really no reason for him to come here, though. When he did pick her up on nights like that he always came in for a while so it wasn't as if her roommates never spoke to him. They didn't really know him, though.
Tonight, though, she sort of had to be here. The four of them (with the help of their boyfriends) had spent all week decorating and cleaning the house for the Halloween party tonight. Halloween was on a Tuesday, but theirs wasn't the only party going on this weekend. They had lucked out that the weather was absolutely gorgeous today, so they could put the keg and some chairs outside like they had for Memorial Day. Tomorrow wasn't slated to be nearly as warm as today, so she expected a lot of people to pass through their doors tonight.
"Sara," Chad said after Erik had gotten there.
"Am I just now noticing that your boyfriend kind of looks like Thor?"
Sara couldn't help but giggle a little. "Why?"
"Well, I don't know. I guess I never stopped to think about it before, but tonight he's here in the cape and the helmet with the hammer. He's even blonde and rather built."
"I hadn't noticed."
"Come on. You were in love with Thor since we were little kids and you didn't notice this?"
"I notice it now," she said, watching as Erik made his way to her. He hadn't told her what he was dressing up as. She assumed, sort of, that he was going to go the minimum necessary like a mask or something.
There was no minimum involved in this costume. Unless you counted the fact the shirt he had on was only a tank top, leaving his arms from shoulder down completely bare. She couldn't deny she loved his arms.
"So it seems you're a lucky woman then," Chad said.
"Because you got one of the good ones. I had my doubts when Susan told me how old he was, but he seems good to you. And, no offense to Thor, but it takes a pretty confident man to walk into a college party looking like that."
"Oh come on, other people are dressed up."
"Not from head to toe," he said and she took a minute to look around the room and realize he was right. There was someone dressed as the pope, but he had tennis shoes on beneath his robe. There were some people who'd gone the mask route and nothing else. Some who had face paint on to make them look scary but nothing else. Very few had gone to the lengths he had to have a complete costume. She and her roommates had because it was their party.
Her costume of Joan of Arc sort of paled in comparison to his.
"Sara, he even has what looks like a very realistic copy of Molnar."
"Yeah, whatever," he said with a chuckle. Pretty pathetic she still knew the name of Thor's hammer.
"Hi," she said when he reached where she and Chad were standing.
"Hi," he said. "Good to see you again, Chad. Why are you staring at me Sara?"
"I just wasn't expecting."
"Am I not what you imagined?"
Was she supposed to answer that? Holy crap, she wanted to leave with him right now, go back to his place and his room and do things while he was wearing that costume that probably would result in his not being able to return it.
"You are everything that I imagined."
"That is good to know. And you are?"
"Not as eye catching, but Joan of Arc."
"A god and a saint, I'd say we did pretty well considering we didn't tell each other what our costumes were going to be."
"I'm not sure a saint should feel the way I'm feeling right now."
"Is that right? Is now a bad time to mention the shirt is mine?"
"Really?" she asked. She really, really liked the shirt. In addition to his arms the sides were open, too leaving all sorts of skin exposed. "God I was hoping you'd say that."
"Sara," he said with a chuckle. "It's not as if you haven't seen me."
"I know, it's just. You're him, Erik."
"Well, that was the point."
She reached up on her tiptoes and kissed him. "God, I love you."
"For dressing up as Thor?"
"No, yes, I mean, just yes, everything. All of it. You."
"I'm going to go find Susan," Chad interrupted.
"She was out back last I checked, getting something out of the garage I think."
"I'll start there. You kids have fun. Nice seeing you take a break from crime fighting once in a while, Thor," Chad said with a chuckle.
"I surprised you?"
"A good surprise?"
"God, yes. I feel kind of silly."
"I'm not a kid anymore."
"And I'm not a picture in a comic book, Sara."
"Believe me, I know."
"Better start mingling before your guests burn you at the stake."
"Ha! They don't do that anymore."
"I'd stop them anyway."
He winked. "You bet I would. Nothing better than saving a damsel in distress. They're all pliable in your arms then. The hero always gets the girl, haven't you heard?"
She poked his chest with a finger. "You don't need to save me for that to happen."
"You could save me."
"Find me a beer."
She laughed. "Yeah, follow Chad outside, the keg's out there."
"You'll be here?"
"Somewhere in here. Just look for the shiny sword."
"Yeah, about the shiny sword."
"Uh, can you not bring it to bed with you later?"
"Aw, is the big bad God of Thunder worried about the saint's sword?"
"You never know your God might tell you to pull a Delilah on me," he said with a chuckle.
"Never! I'd never cut your hair."
"Good to know. I'll see ya in a bit."
It was actually a real good party with a huge turnout. The weather probably helped. It wasn't every day in late October the temperature got into the seventies in Chicago so everyone wanted an excuse to be out. It got cooler once the sun went down, but people came and went from the backyard keeping the house a little less crowded – and from getting too hot.
It was far less laid back then Memorial Day had been. By the end of the night, they were all exhausted because there always seemed to be a crowd in the house, most of the time it was people they hardly knew if they knew them at all. Theirs was one of many houses in the area close to campus having parties so people just walked along the sidewalks until they spotted the next one. They more than made their money back on the keg with the number of cups they sold.
"You going to drive me home, Joan?" he said once they'd gotten most everything cleaned up. No food so it was just a matter of gathering up and throwing cups away. Nothing had been broken. The floors would need to be swept and mopped or vacuumed tomorrow, but that was about it.
"If you want me to I can."
"I think I probably had enough to drink to warrant letting you."
"Was the god feeling self-conscious tonight?"
"The god was trying not to beat up the two or three guys trying to make time with his woman."
"I didn't notice."
"Well, they're gone now."
"Yeah, I think Chad actually helped with that a couple of times."
"He did what?"
"He pointed me out to two of them. They didn't stick around very long after that."
She laughed. "I wouldn't have either if I was them."
"So," he said. "Getting me home safe after a night of raucous drinking is up to you tonight."
"Let's go then Thor before I make you sleep here."
"Hmm. That could be fun."
"Why?" she asked. He'd never expressed interest in staying the night here.
"Well, how many times do I get to make your dreams come true? Thor falling asleep in your bed had to be one at some point."
"Oh God. I'm so not answering that beyond saying I wake up to you in your bed. That's better than any dream, Erik. Trust me."
He chuckled as they left the house. She'd driven his pickup truck once, but that was only for a couple of blocks. She was a good driver and everything, but the pickup was his baby. And it, as he liked to say, hauled ass so she had to be careful. She hadn't had more than one or two beers all night, but she knew the Chicago Police Department would be out in full force all weekend.
She used his keys to unlock his door once they'd gotten there. He set the Mjolnir replica down by the door. Where on earth had he rented the costume? It had to be a rental. She knew there was a pretty famous costume shop in a Northwestern suburb, but she wasn't sure they carried Thor costumes. Then, maybe for Halloween they stocked all kinds of stuff.
Or maybe he planned that far ahead when she'd told him about the party at the beginning of September and ordered it.
"Do I get to help with the rest?" she asked.
"By all means," he said, heading for the stairs.
"Someone has to make sure the house is locked up."
"It should be, but you can check again if you want. You know where to find me when you're done."
She did. She stopped in his bathroom before going to his bed.
He'd taken his boots off, but the rest remained and she had absolutely no complaints about that at all.
"God you're gorgeous like this," she said.
"Sara," he said with a shake of his head.
"You are! It's not the costume so much as you wearing stuff that accentuates how big and strong you are."
"Hmm," he said as she worked his clothes off, leaving the shirt for last.
"When did you get undressed?" he asked.
She gave a soft laugh. "Before I came to bed."
"And I'm just now noticing this?"
"I guess so."
"Did I pass out or something?"
"No, I think you're just feeling good and were anticipating my undressing you."
"That's definitely something to anticipate."
"You're biased," she said, moving to straddle him.
"So are you."
She kissed his stomach, chuckling softly as his muscles rippled and flexed under her mouth.
"Just wasn't expecting that."
She pushed the shirt up slowly, kissing each new inch of exposed skin as she went. God, she loved the feel and taste of him. It'd been so long since she'd done this she hadn't realized how much she loved it until going without for months.
She gripped the wristbands he still had on as she reached his chest. She found a nipple, taking it between her teeth as she slid herself over his length.
She licked his nipple before letting it go, rubbing her cheek against his chest before sitting up to take him further inside of her. It had been months so she wasn't used to him anymore. She was slow about it, letting her body adjust to his size again.
"Sara," he whispered again.
She opened her eyes to meet his. He was smiling but she saw concern there, too.
"You realize I'm, uh, bare."
"I know," she said softly.
"You sure you want to do it like this tonight?"
"Yes," she said softly as she settled herself completely over him. She held herself still, keeping him deep inside of her where she loved the feel of him. He was being very good, too. She'd let go of his wrists, but he seemed to understand she needed the control in full tonight.
"Can I help?" he asked, settling his hand at his abdomen inches away from touching her. She nodded in response, biting her lower lip as she concentrated on the different depths she could take him this way. She finished almost as soon as he touched her, which he very obviously enjoyed.
"I'm glad it's not just me who's beyond excited right now," he murmured. "You realize I've never been in someone bare before, right?"
"Yes, you told me."
"Just making sure because I don't want this one time to cause you to think it's not worth doing without one again."
"Why would I?"
"Not going to last very long."
"Good thing tomorrow is Saturday and we have all night."
"One last question, because I am close."
She laughed. "Should I be offended you can talk coherently at a time like this?"
"No! I need to be sure. Your parents?"
She shrugged. "They'd deal and probably understand in the long run why I didn't want to wait and have a doctor tell me later if I'd tried sooner the scarring may not have been that bad that I could have."
"We don't know you won't be able to later."
"We don’t know I will be able to now or later."
"Sara," he said, propping himself up on his elbows a little. "Look at me," he said.
"No, I mean me. Look at me. I told you I want you either way. Kids or no kids make me no difference. I want to spend the rest of my life trying to give them to you even if ten doctors tell us we can't."
"Having a baby right out of college."
"People do it."
"I imagine some do, sure. I have friends from high school who got married right out of high school and had kids."
"We do this tonight and this weekend, we're getting married next week."
"I told you I'm willing to try when you're ready. I wasn't expecting it to be now, I figured next year maybe when you were done with school. I said I would and I'm not complaining. I want to have ten babies with you, Sara, you know that. I'm not having even one of them without being married first. You deserve better than people thinking I knocked you up as if I'm clueless about how to prevent such things."
"Okay," she said.
"Okay what?" he asked. "You've got to be pretty clear with your answer here, honey. Because if the okay is an 'okay I'll stop because I don't want to marry you' I need to pull out of you like right now."
"No, it's an okay I want to marry you and try for ten babies."
"I'll talk to my priest tomorrow."
"Monday," she said with a little laugh as she clenched around him, causing him to groan. "You're not going anywhere tomorrow."
"Mm hmm. Are you mad?"
"Yes," he said, but she could tell he was lying. He didn't say anything again for hours.
Word Count: 992
"Negative I take it," he asked a few weeks later.
"Yes," she said softly.
"It's all right, Sara," he said gathering her onto his lap. His bathroom floor was not the most comfortable to sit on, but he seemed to sense she wasn't ready to move from her spot next to his tub.
"So, that leads us to our plan. I'm glad we waited until you knew."
"Well, I really don't want to get married because there's a baby possibly on the way. I don't want anyone to think that's why we got married."
"You know I want to, right? It's only been six months…"
"Almost seven," she said, rubbing her eyes on his sleeve.
"Almost seven," he said with a chuckle. "I was pretty ready to throw in the towel on my bachelor lifestyle by May."
"Your parents, your mom especially, would be upset if we eloped or had just a small service. You can't lie to me, Sara, I know moms like yours and they live to see their daughter get married."
"So, we do it right. Go talk to them. Set a date. Get a dress and rent a tuxedo. Order flowers and invitations. Have a reception at your country club I imagine. Once you've graduated."
"And this?" she said, showing him the pregnancy test box.
"It's a few months, Sara. You have a doctor appointment in a few weeks, right?"
"So, I'm sure they'll be able to tell you more now than they could in June. I'm sure they'll be able to give you an idea if it's an issue. I mean, he didn't use a knife or anything else sharp inside of you."
"No," she said.
"It'll be fine."
"Why didn't it work then?"
"Honey, I know it happens, but people don't always get pregnant after just one try."
"It was more than one."
"You know what I mean. Maybe the timing was off. I mean, there has to be an egg in the right place, right?"
"Once we're married we'll talk to the doctor and find out what the best times are for trying. I've never had to worry about it, so don't know these things. We'll find out, though. I'll become an expert on it if that's what it takes. Hell, forget asking her, we can try every day if that's what you want."
"What I want, huh?"
"Well, yeah, I have a job, things to do around the house, and stuff. Tough responsibility being at your beck and call sexually."
"Right," she said with a laugh.
"There's the trial to think about, too. You going there not married and pregnant wouldn't look good."
She exhaled sharply. That was coming up sooner than she wanted to think about. "You're right."
"So, I'm not throwing away my supply away just yet."
"No," she said.
"We'll talk to your parents on Thanksgiving."
"They're going to think…"
"Which is exactly why I'm glad it was negative today."
"Glad isn't the right word, but I think there's a part of you somewhere that thinks you needed to do this for me."
"Well, you should know."
"I'll know when you know. I want you, Sara, the rest doesn't matter."
"I want to believe you."
"You stressing over it can't help either. So, no more talking about it until you've seen your doctor and you have some answers beyond what an ER rotation doctor told you. Remember what you told me about the doctor there who'd treated Brad?"
She laughed. "Yes, they told us he died."
"That should tell you how overworked they are. I'm not saying he didn't do a thorough job or anything, I'm sure he did. I can't see a mark on your face so they did a fantastic job, but they're still busy with a hundred other patients waiting to see them."
"I know," she said, resting her head against his shoulder.
"So, talk to the parents, talk to the doctor, ace your last two semesters of school, graduate, and then become my wife. Sounds like a pretty good six-month plan to me."
"Me, too," she said.
"That also means you get some input on the house."
"What about the house?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe some new furniture and stuff."
"Well, that's what registrations are for."
She laughed, nuzzling against his shoulder. "Yes, gift registries."
"You don't go to weddings?"
"Haven't been to many and I certainly never knew about a gift registry. I just gave them a check."
"Well, some people will do that, too."
"How big we talking here?"
He chuckled. "No. The wedding."
"Oh, I don't know. Brad and Amanda had like three hundred guests."
"I'm sorry, three hundred guests? As in three hundred people to see them get married?"
"And this is not unusual to you?"
"Well, assuming Amanda accounted for half of that, I can say with ease ours won't be nearly that big."
"My dad will make up for your slim guest list, I'm sure. I know there were some family friends they had to exclude."
"Christ. Maybe we should just elope."
"My parents would hate you."
"I don't have to live with your parents."
"No, but I suspect your life, our lives, would be much easier if they like you."
"Thank you," she whispered, kissing his jaw.
"What are you thanking me for?"
"For talking to me. For making me calm down." She turned on his lap so she was facing him. "For being patient with me."
"Love is patient and kind, or at least that's what I was taught growing up."
"For loving me."
"I can honestly say that's the easiest and best thing I've done in my life."
"You started way before me."
"Not the real you. That came much later."
"I'm glad I lived up to the hype."
"You did way better than that."
Word Count: 1,262
"What's this?" Erik asked Brad.
"I don't know, Sara asked me to put it on your plate," Brad said with a shrug.
Erik lifted the small box and shook it. It didn't make any noise.
"Where is she anyway?"
"Uh, I think Susan said they were going to the bathroom."
"Together? Really? Tonight she leaves me on my own so they can go to the bathroom together?"
Brad chuckled softly. "She needs help with her dress. The train and stuff. I don't know, Erik, I just know Amanda did the same thing."
"Oh," he said not having thought of that at all. He supposed going to the bathroom in a full-blown wedding gown wasn't as easy for her as it was for him in his tuxedo trousers.
"Well, I could have helped her."
Brad shook his head a little. "This is the kind of help I think women just prefer not to ask us for. Ever."
He untied the ribbon, chuckling to himself that she'd wrapped it with the same ribbon that she, her mother, and her numerous friends had used on their favors. There was way more that went into a wedding than he'd ever dreamed of. Fortunately, all he had to do was show up at the church on time. He would have helped, but she, her mother, and sister-in-law didn't seem to need his help.
He opened the box, squinting as he regarded the picture.
"What is it?" Brad asked.
"I'm not sure," he said.
Brad glanced over Erik's shoulder to look. "Oh," he said.
Erik scanned the room, still no sign of Sara.
"You know what this is?" Erik asked.
"Uh yeah," Brad said cautiously. "You don't?"
"No. Tell me?"
"I think you should probably ask Sara."
"Okay," he said, noticing now Sara's name was at the top of the paper. "How much longer does this cocktail hour go on?"
"About twenty minutes, but they're obviously not going to start without you guys."
"I'll be right back then."
"Don't forget this, she obviously wanted you to have it," Brad said, handing him the paper.
Okay, it was some sort of medical thing. An X-ray or something. He got that, and had to assume it was nothing bad. She wouldn't leave something like that on his dinner plate.
"Sara," he said, entering the bathroom. Her country club offered them a large bathroom exclusively for them; really it was for her because he didn't need any extra space.
"Just a minute," her friend and maid of honor Susan said.
She came out a few minutes later with Susan behind her, holding her train in her hands. She started working on refastening it.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi," she said.
He walked toward them. "Susan, can we have a few minutes. I can finish refastening the train. It's just snaps, right?" He could certainly handle snaps.
"I, okay, I'm almost done actually," she said, appearing confused. "You guys know dinner starts in like fifteen minutes, right?"
Erik chuckled. "As much as I can't wait to get her out of her dress, Susan, I assure you I have no plans on doing anything at the moment except talk to my wife."
"Okay then," she said.
"Thanks, Susan," Sara said.
"Sure. Remind me when I get married to go with a shorter train."
"I will," Sara said.
"So," he said once Susan left.
"Brad seems to know what this is," he said, showing her the picture.
"I would imagine he would."
"Well, he's probably seen a couple before."
"Everything's all right?"
"Yes," she said with a frown, clearly perplexed by the question.
"I'm confused I guess. What is it?"
"It's your wedding present."
"Well, I guessed that. I was figuring a lighter or something. I'm not quite sure what to do with this."
"Well," she said, walking to him. She took the picture from him. "Tape it like this into the cover of a baby book and underneath it write FIRST PICTURE."
"There's no baby here, Sara."
"Well, of course there is," she said with a laugh. She pointed to the two little arrows on the picture with maybe a quarter of an inch of space between them. "I certainly didn't see it at first either, so you're not alone, but there it is."
"That's like a, I don't even know what that is. You're sure?"
"I'm sure. There's the, um, amniotic sac."
"When did you find out?"
"And you waited until now to tell me?"
"Well, I haven't really seen you all week."
"Hey, that was your idea to stay with your parents this week, not mine."
She laughed. "I know. It made my mom feel better that I wasn't sleeping with you the night before we got married."
He rolled his eyes.
"So," he said. "What does this mean?"
"Well, it means we're going to have a baby in about thirty-four weeks."
"But we weren't even trying. I mean, I guess I didn't use a rubber every time, but most of the time."
"I don't know. My doctor told me when I saw her that may be when it happens because stress can cause things not to work so well."
"I tried telling you that."
"I know. You were right. You were both right."
"Are you feeling all right?"
"Yes, a little nauseous."
"Oh, is that why you were in here?"
"Have you told anyone else?"
"No, I figured I'd wait a couple of months."
"He won't say anything until I have. He'll know I want to tell my parents."
"They're going to be happy," he said. "Happy for you that you're able to, I mean. Probably not so happy that I'm the father."
"I know, and they will be happy you're the father, Erik. My dad is funny that way, but he doesn't hate you. Trust me; he wouldn't have paid for this whole thing if he did."
"Speaking of your parents, that reminds me we have a few hundred people out there who are probably getting very hungry about now."
"Yeah. I'm sorry, I thought you'd figure it out."
"If I'd had a reason to ever see one before now maybe. Why'd they do the ultrasound? They don't usually this soon, do they?"
"Well, the reason my doctor put on the forms was to verify how far along I was. I knew, though, pretty much. She knew I had to see for myself that I really was."
"That was nice of her."
"Yeah, she's pretty nice."
"Thanks for telling me."
"Not a lame wedding gift?"
"Oh, I don't consider this my wedding gift."
"You don't? Hmm, why not?"
"Because I still have to unwrap you later."
"There's a lot to unwrap."
"I'm beginning to realize that," he said, helping her with the little bit of her train once they stepped outside of the bathroom. It fastened up in a bustle-like thing (like he knew what the hell a bustle was until hearing her talk about it with her mother on what to do with the train after the ceremony) but there was still quite a bit of it that trailed on the floor.
He offered her his arm, which she took. "So, just saying right now, if it's a boy."
"I'm just making it clear and letting you know that there is absolutely nothing you could do to convince me that doing this wouldn’t result in him getting beat up every day of school."
"We are not naming him Thor."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com