Author: Mere Nova PM
Elodie Jean-Samuel has returned her to native city of Chicago after four years of self-imposed exile. Now, she will learn that no matter what, you can always return home...and the man she's hopelessly in love with is all too happy to teach her.Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 20 - Words: 58,860 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 06-07-12 - Published: 04-20-12 - id: 3015191
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I can't remember getting home last night. I know that I got home last night.
All I know is that Benji trounced me at all every single fighting game I played him in…
And that Alex and I shared a kiss that nearly burnt me to ashes.
I'm still trembling.
How can I even describe it? I can't. On minute, I'm crying over my mistakes and the next minute, he's kissing me. Any urge to push him away and tell him off was eliminated in two seconds. I was all too happy to give in and all too happy to kiss him and deeply as I knew how…
This is insane. I must be out of my mind.
Whatever happened to my vow to keep my distance? A lot can happen in four days.
I don't know what I'm doing anymore. Kissing Alex was definitely not part of the itinerary for this trip. I expected to see him maybe once or twice, make a little small talk, get through the anniversary party and the wedding, and then go home. I did not expect to go on a city adventure in order to return his phone. I did not expect him to hold me during a thunderstorm.
I certainly did not expect to him to press his lips against mine, and for me to press back enthusiastically…
My God. If I keep this up, my thoughts will travel to dark and delicious places. Can't have that.
"Elodie, are you in there?" My mom saunters into my room without so much as a knock. Par for the course, I guess. She didn't do it when I was a resident, why would she do it now that I'm a guest? "Of course you are. You're still in bed."
"Good morning to you, too, Mom," I say, feigning drowsiness. The truth is, I've been in awake for a while now, thinking about that kiss. "What's up?"
"Your sister wants to spend the afternoon with you." This is an actuality rather than a suggestion.
"But I have plans." Emily and Andrew actually have wedding stuff to take care off, but she doesn't need to know that. "I can't."
My mom's voice is thick with guilt-inducing nutrients. "What's more important – friends are family? She wants to spend a little more time with you before she practically locks herself in the studio next week. This is the only chance she has before the party to spend time with her little sister."
"I see." See – an actuality, not a suggestion. "Wait, she's locking herself in her studio? Why, to finish your dress?"
"Oh that's already finished. Now, she has to catch up on her other stuff." Other stuff, huh? What a way to slow down a business, mom. "Anyway, she's coming over in a forty-five minutes to make yourself presentable. You know how she is about punctuality."
"Oh yeah, I know. She's a hard ass about it, and she gets that from you." My mom shoots me a dark glance. Any further attempts to be a smart ass are extinguished. "Sorry."
"Get up and get ready to for your sister," she commands me. "And don't be late."
She heads out and soundly shuts the door. You think I'm scary when I use my whisper? I've got nothing on my mother.
I put on a pretty cream dress, some kitten heels, and a chain purse, and head out to some chic restaurant downtown with Noelle. After the waiter takes our order, she attacks me questions.
"So, have you given any thought to my offer?"
She catches me in a mid-sip of water. I fight the urge to spit it all out. "Excuse me?"
"My offer? Have you given thought to it yet?"
"Whatever happened to no pressure?" I place my glass back on the table. "You told me there was no rush."
"I know what I said," she assures me. "I was checking to see if maybe you'd made a decision already. You know, to keep abreast of situation before I go into hiding."
Right. Sure. "I haven't made a decision yet. Truthfully, I haven't given it much thought."
"And why not?" she asks, taking offense. "Isn't it a good offer? Or has Vancouver made you too big for your britches now?"
"It's nothing like that!" I shake my head. Geez, she can get fired up so easily. It's just that I've…I've had a lot of other things on my mind."
"Oh." She calms down a little bit. "Such as?"
"Just…stuff." I sip my water nervously.
"'Just stuff', huh?" She narrows her eyes at me. "Like stuff related to, I don't know, Alex?"
What am I, an open book? "Just stuff," I insist.
"Oh, so you want to play it like that, hmm?" Her gaze burns holes through my back. She should consider becoming a professional interrogator. "All right. You don't have to tell me anything if you don't want me to."
I should be gracious. I am anything but. "I appreciate that."
"But…I'd like to remind me that as my little sister, you are required to share with me, your big sister, your innermost thoughts and feelings. Especially since I'm buying you lunch."
Emotional blackmail – she's a master at it. Between Emily's exuberant insistence and my sister's cunning, I can't keep any damn secrets.
I sigh in defeat. "I don't know where to begin."
"The beginning is a good idea." She raises her glass of red wine. "I'm all ears."
Of course, she is. In any case, I'm going to play this cool. "So, I took the invite to mom's party to Alex's house, and he agreed to go with me."
She sips and savors her wine. "Good, good. I knew he'd say yes."
"Right, so after I delivered the invitation we actually went out for a drive." I intentionally leave out the rain scene. "It was nice."
"Yeah, I bet it was." Noelle listens intently, sipping her glass of wine. "You must have been a basket case."
"I was, but he didn't know that. At least I don't think he did." I drink even more water. "Yesterday, I went to my friends' house with Emily and Andrew, and Alex tagged along. We just sat around and played video games all night."
"Sounds like you had fun." She's so calm. Why is she so calm? "Must be nice to be with your friends again."
"Alex kissed me last night!" So much for playing it cool. There is something about my sister's unearthly calmness that makes me sing like a canary. "And I kissed him back."
My sister puts down her glass. She looks like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. "Really, now?"
I nod. "Yeah, really."
She leans over, staring right at me. "Was it any good?"
"Ah…" My body goes hot at the thought of that kiss. I nod a little too much. "It wasn't good. It was amazing."
"Just as I suspected." She swirls her wine in the glass. "And you were afraid of him hating you. I bet he was dying to do that since you came back. Maybe even before."
"But isn't this bad?" I'm desperate to keep my wits in tact. "This is not what I expected to happen. I just thought I was here for mom and dad's party and Emily's wedding. Alex was not in the equation."
"Maybe not, but he's in there now. Though I don't believe that for a minute. If Alex weren't a part of the equation, you two wouldn't have locked lips last night."
"But he kissed me!"
"And you let him, didn't you?" I shrink back. She had me there. "Ummhmm, that's what I thought. Don't play the victim with me."
I bury my face in my hands. This is one big disaster – absolute madness. What do they say about the "best laid plans" again? I don't know, but it probably involves hell on earth. I can't think straight. Before I saw Alex again, I was pretty sure that I accepted how things ended and made it a point to respect his space since I was probably the last person he wanted to see. I thought that I would swallow any negative emotions so that I could be there for Emily – the last thing she needs is drama right now. After the wedding, I'd travel back to Vancouver, bittersweet but happy to have visited my home, even for a little bit.
Apparently, I was just kidding myself.
Every chance fate has had, it's put the two of us together. And in no time, we've gone from distance to a backseat lip lock that would inspire any romance novelist. I'm making up for lost time at the speed of light, and I can't stop it.
"I might have kissed him back, but this isn't good!" I can't hide my vexation. "Too many things are happening at once, and it's all happening so fast."
"So what?" she replies in nonchalance. "You still love him, and he still loves you. You're making up for lost time. What's wrong with that?"
"Everything!" Nothing. Nothing at all. But… "Ugh, it's just so confusing. I mean, I don't know what I'm doing…"
"You know what you're exactly what you're doing. You just don't realize it. It's called 'instinct' my dear, and they are doing exactly what they're supposed to do." She leans across the table and places her index finger on my forehead. "Here's some advice – let your instincts do what they are supposed do. Don't overthink it!"
She taps her finger hard on my forehead before sitting back down. I'm still not convinced. How am I supposed to deal with this? I don't know what I'm doing here…
"I'm scared," I say in a small voice.
"Well, duh." She gestures to the waiter for more wine. "But you don't need to be."
"I know I don't, but I am anyway. But I…" I stop myself from finishing that sentence – But I want him, too…
"And I'm telling you, you don't need to be. The situation favors you. He's in love with you, he waited four years for you, and he's an amazing kisser. It's game-set-match if you ask me."
"If you say so." I feel like I'm going to pass out from the tension. "Look, I know I sound irrational. I don't even know what I'm afraid of. If you asked me to explain it right now, I wouldn't be able to. It's just that…when he's close to me like that, it's like I can't breathe. And when he kissed me, I felt like I would spontaneously combust. It's…just…" I can't find the right word. I growl in frustration. "I don't even know what it is! All I know is that when I'm with him, I feel like I want to die."
"You know, when Shakespeare said 'to die', he was referring to a sexual orgasm."
"Noelle!" I hiss in a cutting whisper.
She seems unfazed by the stares she elicits after saying the world "orgasm" in a chi-chi restaurant. "Anyway, you sound like a broken record. Stop overthinking everything, just hook up with him already, let the past go, problem solved. Seriously, sis, just take the risk and thank me later."
"I'm glad you think it's so easy," I mumble.
"It is easy. You don't believe me?" I shake my head. "Okay, then, let me suggest this – after I drop you off, call him and ask him out. Then, while you two are out, just let yourself enjoy it and think positive thoughts. I guarantee that it'll be the easiest thing you've ever done in your life."
"No way!" I can't be alone with Alex again. I can't. I…we'll…oh my… "I can't do that."
"You can, and you will." Actuality, not a suggestion. "After lunch, we're going to go back to mom's house and you're going to call him. And then, you're going to go out with him and you're going to just relax and enjoy yourself."
Excitement begins to bloom. "This is crazy, Noelle. I won't do it."
"You know what, screw the house." She hands me her iPhone. "You call him now."
"What?" Flutter, flutter. "I am not doing this." She narrows her eyes. Oh crap, not the angry eyes! "No! You can't make me do it!" Her eyes narrow even more. My body goes cold. "Sis, please don't make me do this. Please, I'm begging you!"
"Call." Her command is stern and merciless. "Now."
I do what she says. I don't have a choice. With shaky fingers, I dial the number to his house under my sister's watchful eye. I maybe in a swanky restaurant but it feels like I'm in Hades.
"Hello?" Mr. Tsai answers the phone with his thick accent.
"Hi, Mrs. Tsai, it's Elodie calling." Pause. "Elodie Jèan-Samuel?"
"Oh – the girl Alex wants to marry." His matter-of-fact tone nearly makes me fall out of my chair. Mr. Tsai always scared me. He's only an inch or so taller than me, but he's a very imposing figure with a dour expression on his face. There's a grumpy old men, and then there's "give me a reason to beat the hell out of you" grumpy old men. Mr. Tsai is firmly the latter.
"Right." He also has a very long memory. "I'm sorry to trouble you, but would Alex happen to be home?"
"Alex is not here right now."
I'm taken aback by his gruffness. "He's not?"
"No. Went out shopping with his mother. He'll be back later."
Ah, sweet freedom! "Ah, I see. I guess I'll call back later…"
"Ask him for his cell phone number!" my sister hisses abruptly. "Tell you need to talk to him. It's important."
"Ah…" I don't know what's worse – my sister's prodding or Mr. Tsai's crabbiness. "Mr. Tsai, I don't mean to intrude, but I could I ask you for his cell phone number?" I choose my words very carefully. "It's important that I speak with him."
He gets really quiet. I shoot a terrified glance to my sister. Her eyes are marked with the phrase "stay the course". Screw the course – I want to hang up!
"What's this about?" he says finally.
"Ah…" My mind blanks out! What do I say? What on earth do I say? "Ah, well…"
My sister snatches the phone from my hands. "Hello, Mr. Tsai, this is Noelle Jèan-Samuel, Elodie's sister. How are you this afternoon?"
"What are you doing?" I whisper in panic.
She just continues on with her call. "I'm so sorry to trouble you like this, but it's important that we get a hold of Alex. He's escorting my sister to my parent's anniversary party next week, and we need to get him to the tuxedo shop for a fitting…Uh-huh…oh, so your wife has already informed you of it. So then you understand that due to the last-minute nature of this arrangement, we need to get a hold of him in order to get things squared away."
Noelle is glowing as she handles the cross Mr. Tsai. I watch in astonishment. In addition to being a fashion designer and a master interrogator, she should also consider a career in professional negotiation.
"Ah, wonderful. I am very thankful for this." She pulls out a pen and paper from her purse and starts scribbling numbers down. I can't believe! He told her the number! She read it back to him. "Is that correct? Ah, yes, wonderful! Just wonderful! It was so lovely to speak with you, Mr. Tsai. You must allow me the pleasure of making you a custom tie. I'll make one that it suits your relaxed personality. Thank you once again…goodbye now."
She ends the call and slides the piece of paper and the phone over to my side of the table. "Here – call it. Unless you feel like you'll bomb this call, too."
I love her…but I really don't like her sometimes. "You better be glad you're my sister," I mumble very, very quietly.
"What was that?"
"Nothing!" I grab the phone and start dialing numbers again. Let's get this over with.
One ring. Then another. And then another. I begin to think that fate deems me worthy of its mercy…when he answers. "Hello?"
"Ah…Alex, hi." I brace myself for impact.
"Elodie?" He sounds surprised and elated. "Hey. How did you get my number?"
"Um, we just called your dad at home, and he was gracious enough to provide it."
"Ah, I see. That must have been interesting for you."
"You don't know the half of it." I decide not to tell him about my sister's negotiation skills. The stern look on her face tells me I made the right decision. "So, um, I was calling because…" My voice trails.
"Because…" he picks it right back up.
"Because…" My sister gestures for me to keep going. "Because we should get you to the tux shop so you can pick out something for my parent's party next week."
"Oh? Well, I was planning to do that today, after I finished helping my mom at the store."
"Oh, that's perfect." My sister starts gesturing wildly. "Ah, ah, actually, no, that's not good, not good at all."
"Is not?" he asks, confused.
"N-no." My sister starts snapping at me, as if to say, "this is your chance!" "Well, what I mean is that, you know, I should be there to help you pick you tux, just like you were there to help me pick my dress."
"Is that so?" I can hear the grin spreading across his face.
"Yeah, definitely. I-In fact, we should totally make a day out of it." My sister gives me the "thumbs-up" sign. "You know, like, go to Mitsuwa for lunch, maybe even some green tea mousse cake and Ramune? And, you know, I could translate the TV shows for you, if you want…"
Is he…laughing? "Are you asking me out on a date?"
"What?" My laughter is high-pitched and borderline maniacal. "A date? No, no, nothing like that. That sounds so formal, the word 'date'. My parents' anniversary party, that's a date!"
"That's a 'date'? I thought I was just escorting you to keep the dirty old men away. Nice to know how you really feel."
"Oh…" I want to bang my head into the table. This is now how I wanted to spend my Saturday! The pangs of insecurity surprise me. "Wait, don't you consider next Saturday to be a date?"
"I absolutely think it is. I just wasn't sure if you did. But now that I do know, I'm really looking forward to that…and tomorrow."
"But tomorrow isn't a date!" His words are like an acceptance of an invitation – my stumbling, bumbling invitation. "It's just a casual outing between two good friends."
"Two friends who just happened to share a kiss last night." His matter-of-fact tone rivals his fathers. "I don't know about you, but I saw fireworks."
My breath hitches. It's miraculous that I haven't burst into smoldering flames. "Right, well, is that a 'yes' or a 'no'?"
"It is most definitely a 'yes' and then some."
"Great. Then I'll meet you at your house at one?" My sister beams from ear-to-ear. I'm too overwhelmed to smile.
"I'm looking forward to it. I guess I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah. Tomorrow. See you."
I end the call, sliding my sister's phone back to her. She has the biggest triumphant smile on her face. I'm sure Alex has a similar smile, wherever he may be.
"There, that wasn't hard, was it?" she says in a half-serious, half-mocking tone. I look past her, searching for a waiter. "What are you doing?"
"I need a drink!" The waiter appears with our lunch entrees, which seemed to take forever in coming. "Thanks, but is it possible you could bring me one, no wait, two shots of Petron Tequila Blanco?"
"What?" My sister eyes are bulging. "Tequila? At this hour?"
I stare at her, unapologetic. "I need a pick-me-up, and it's been that kind of day."