I sighed as I stared at the screen of my laptop. I chewed on my lower lip in concentration as I watched the little green bars that littered my screen go up and down. It was my job to keep them up. I could hear the tank screaming at one of our rogues for standing in front of Sindragosa. I scoffed and dropped a heal on the guy as he ran back to the raid and stammered an apology over Ventrilo.
A throat cleared behind me. Ben, my boyfriend of four years, wanted attention. He was just going to have to wait. Sometimes, video games are just that important. I grunted in response and glared at my screen. Our tank, infamous for getting worked up during boss fights, bellowed out "phase two!" I was glad for this, as my job was to stare at bars. I hardly could even tell you that the boss was an undead dragon. I steered my dwarf behind one of my frozen comrades and healed him through the damage.
Fingers tickled the back of my neck. I groaned in annoyance and shrugged them off. "Stop it," I instructed sternly.
"Stop what, Gerty?" a mage called back at me over my headset.
The fingers were back. I giggled and tried to keep my voice level as I intentionally pressed the button on my mouse which enabled my microphone, "Not you guys. Sorry."
"Last bomb!" the tank called out. He was not entertained by banter during raids, and he didn't like me anyway because I was female. Unfortunately for him, I was the best priest we had.
I shrugged off my boyfriend's fingers again as the dragon landed and concentrated on healing. I whimpered as his lips descended on the side of my throat in place of his fingers.
"Heal!" the tank screamed out. I searched for his bar, distracted. He screamed again. I let out a squeak as my boyfriend bit down gently and his arms snaked around my middle. The warrior called out for assistance a third time to no avail. My eyes fluttered shut. The game was no longer as important as it had been a few moments prior.
"What in the hell was that, Gertaline?" the enraged warrior was screaming over my headset.
"Sorry," I managed to get out. My voice sounded strained to me, and I knew that he could tell I wasn't sorry. "Distracted," I muttered quietly.
"Obviously," the man scoffed out. "This is why you don't take women on raids," he began ranting.
The raid leader groaned. "That's it. It's almost two. I have to work in the morning. Let's pick this up tomorrow."
My boyfriend heard. "Alt F4," he muttered into the crook of my neck as he kissed it. I shook my head and typed in the '/camp' command. He lifted his head as my character sat down and the game logged me out. His arms tightened around my slender waist and he lifted his head from my shoulder. "Oh, that's right. It doesn't work for you because you have one of those expensive boxes that only thinks it's a computer," he spat sarcastically.
I groaned. "Shut it, Ben."
He laughed. "When PC wants to play a game, Mac always feels left out unless it's made by Blizzard."
"Shut up, Ben," I insisted. "You made me wipe the raid."
"Oh, what a shame," he murmured and his fingers slipped under my tank top. He hadn't moved from his kneeling position behind my chair. "You're a woman. They're going to give you purples just for playing the game."
"That's not true at all," I retorted. "They're all pissed at me."
"It's just a game, Lydia," he insisted. He kissed my cheek gently and I sighed in defeat. "Come to bed," he suggested.
An annoyed, and surely unattractive, grunt was my response. My attempts at keeping a straight face were foiled when his fingers lightly brushed over my sides. I let out a giggle and tried to bat his hands away. It was fruitless; Ben was far stronger than me. He wrapped me tighter in his arms. My office chair rolled back flush against his chest. The leather I had not previously been leaning against was cool on my shoulders. "Beeeen," I whined, "I'm trying to finish this."
I shivered as his warm breath swept over my ear. He chuckled and nibbled on my ear lobe. "Are you?" His voice was amused.
"You really want sex this late?"
"I'm a man, Lydia." His fingers slid further up my shirt.
I grabbed his wrists and pulled his hands back down. "I have things to do, you goof."
I felt his arms leave me, and I sighed. I hated to disappoint him, but I had some designs that I intended to work on more after the raid ended. Truthfully, I felt a bit lonely whenever he stopped touching me. "Fine," he muttered. He sounded upset.
I knew he was faking it, but that didn't keep me from stopping him. "Ben, wait."
I could nearly see the triumphant grin on his face. "Yes, dear?"
"I'll be in in a few minutes. Let me just save this project, okay?"
"Aww, you do love me."
"Of course I do, tardo."
"I know. If you recall, I'm not very patient. If you're not in bed in five minutes, I'm coming to get you." His voice got more distant as he left the room and headed to the bedroom we shared.
I closed the World of Warcraft and hurried to save my work in Photoshop. I had made much less progress than I'd hoped to for the night, but the deadline for that particular assignment was still a week away. I stared at the nearly blank page for a moment and let out a heavy sigh.
I could no longer hear Ben's incessant bitching, so I figured he was waiting in bed for me. A long, drawn out sigh escaped my lips as I waited for the machine to shut down. After a moment, my face was reflected in the glossy surface of the newly dark monitor. By my own judgment, I looked like hell. I'd taken off my makeup from work hours prior, and my shoulder length auburn hair was falling out of the French braid it'd been tied up in all day.
Ben and I were long past the stage of a relationship where both parties involved feel that everything about their appearance needs to be perfect to have sex with one another. He'd seen me at my best, certainly. However, we lived with one another. He'd also seen me at my worst. Despite my early fears, he was quick to tell me how wonderful I look after a rough night of drinking when I knew I looked worse for wear.
I smiled to myself and headed to bed. Sure, I'd be tired for work in the morning, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. Sometimes, you just need to spend some quality time with the man you love.
When I entered the room, Ben was waiting by the door without a shirt on. He was beaming. I stood on my toes to kiss him and ran my fingers through his short and practically cut brown hair. His arms wrapped around me tightly.
I heard him kick the door shut and grinned. We'd been living together for a year and a half. We lived alone, but he couldn't sleep unless the door was closed. He also did laundry every night before going to bed. I realized that I couldn't think of someone I got along with better than Ben as he tossed me onto the super soft mattress.
I woke to the heinous sound of our alarm going off at 7:46 in the morning. With a groan, I reached over to shut the device off. It was really fourteen minutes earlier than I had to wake up for work, but my own obsessive compulsive tendencies required me to make sure that the last two digits of every alarm were four and six. The idea of losing a quarter of an hour of sleep had really annoyed Ben at first, but it became morning cuddle time before too long.
His long arm dragged me, and all of the sheets I'd stolen during the night, over to his side of the bed. "G'mornin," he muttered sleepily and kissed the top of my head. I grinned and wrapped my own arms around his lanky form. We both agreed that cuddling at night and in the morning was awesome, but we needed plenty of room to sleep.
"Hey, you," I whispered back.
His eyes opened slowly. A lazy smile graced his face and I beamed. That smile was a big factor in my falling head over heels in love with Ben Sanders. I ran my fingers through his hair. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that I'd be happy waking up like that every morning. "I love you," he whispered and I knew he was thinking the same thing.
"Love you, too." We held one another until the second alarm went off nearly a quarter of an hour later and I groggily stumbled into the bathroom for a shower. I could feel his eyes on me as I moved. I'd gotten over my self consciousness around him sometime in the first year of our relationship.
After my shower, I moved to the kitchen to make breakfast. As I was leisurely eating my eggs and toast, Ben entered the room. I nearly laughed at the hideous brown coat he was wearing. "What are you wearing?"
He shrugged. "I'm a space cowboy."
I raised an eyebrow and took a sip from my glass of orange juice. The glass hid my smile. I knew he wore the coat because he still had an unhealthy obsession with Firefly, a television show that'd been cancelled years ago. "Okay. A, there are no cows in space. And, b, didn't you wear that like five years ago?"
"So?" He looked dumbfounded.
"Don't you think it's time to move on?" He frowned. "Really, Ben, people are going to start making fun of you."
My boyfriend didn't dignify me with a response. Instead, he grabbed the remaining eggs and toast from the counter. He pulled a fork from the dish rack and ate his breakfast near the sink. Ben ate much faster than me. He leaned down to kiss my forehead and bade me a good day at work.
Shortly after he left, I realized that if I didn't hurry, I'd be late for work as well. I dashed to the bathroom to brush my teeth a second time –I've been paranoid about having bad breath since I was a child. Once I'd placed the dishes in the sink, I made the long and arduous trek to work.
I loved my job as a graphic designer. Though my high school friends thought I'd sold my soul to the callous business world and no longer made art for the sake of making art, I had a real career and they were all still working in the dead end jobs they got in high school. Most of my coworkers were awesome. My boss, on the other hand, was my mother.
I could hear her nagging before I even stepped into the office exactly two minutes and thirty seven seconds late. Her voice, god bless her, was worse than the sound of a fork and knife scraping against a plate. The scratchy and high pitched tone hit me like a ton of bricks as I stepped through the door. "Lydia Marie!" she bellowed. I winced. The entire office had learned my middle name ages prior. They were snickering a bit, glad the banshee had found her target for the day.
"Good morning to you, too, mom," I stated with a carefree smile. I gave her a quick hug and deposited my belongings at my desk. She was a pain to work for and had been worse to live with, but despite all her badgering she was still my mother. I loved her dearly.
I'd hardly even gotten to sit down and open my laptop when I heard the harsh click-clack of her overpriced designer heels on the tile. She was coming for me, and she was not happy. "You're late," she barked.
"It happens sometimes, mom." I didn't even turn to look at her. I was not so rude as to log in and start working on my project while my boss spoke to me.
"It never happened when you were living at home."
A groan nearly escaped my throat. She'd made that argument so many times I could nearly recite in my sleep how things were going to end. "I'm nearly thirty, mom."
"And still welcome with your father and me."
Sure, she loved me. She just hadn't gotten over the fact that I wasn't a baby in need of constant care anymore. "Thanks, mom."
"I don't understand why you're living in sin with that boy, anyway."
I bit my lower lip and took a deep breath. I told myself over and over again that she grew up in a different time and it was not proper to live with a man out of wedlock when she was my age. "I love Ben, mom." She was trying my patience. I was sure she could hear it in my voice.
"But when you give it to him, he has no reason to marry you! He'll just leave when you aren't pretty anymore."
I breathed in and out slowly. "Ben isn't like that and you know it."
"He's a boy. He only wants one thing." She practiced those lines long and hard in front of a mirror, I was certain.
"Well, I don't know what to tell you."
She laughed bitterly. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought she'd been scorned something terrible by the love of her life. "You dig your own grave, dear." It seemed that I'd been hearing things like that a lot lately. And if someone told me one more time that the crap I had to put up with on a daily basis suited my poor life decisions, I was going to snap.
I spun my office chair around to face her and stood slowly. I was only five foot three, but she'd shrunk quite a few inches in the thirty years since she was in her prime. That I could tower over her was most satisfying. I didn't smile, and my voice was quiet and even. "Ben does not stay with me simply for great sex, mother. I love him and he loves me. Times have changed since you were young, and it is no longer improper nor uncommon to live with your significant other out of wedlock. Perhaps, if you have further complaints about my living arrangements and relationship choices, you should wait until a more appropriate time and place than our office to bring them to me."
The imposing woman that I'd been afraid of for most of my life let out an offended huff and spun on her heels. I could have sworn I heard her mutter "Well, I never" as she trotted back to her private office. I let out a sigh and set to work. There was no doubt in my mind that I'd be getting a phone call from my father later about upsetting my mother. After fifty years, the man still hadn't figured out that he had married a manipulative harpy.
With my mood soured, I set to work and ignored all of my coworkers. I was still a bit tired from lack of sleep. My eyes couldn't stay focused. Staring at a computer screen for seven and a half hours didn't really help my case. By the time five in the evening rolled around, I had a headache.
I arrived home late and looking quite ragged. Quite ready for a night of drinking cheap beer while slaying dragons in the World of Warcraft, I walked into the kitchen. I had fully intended to prepare dinner. Instead, Ben was already standing at the stove cooking god knows what. It certainly smelled good. "Hi?" I asked, wondering if aliens had abducted my boyfriend and decided to play a mean trick on me.
"Good morning, gorgeous," he said with a grin as he turned around. He looked tired, but he was grinning. The man had clearly been working hard at impressing me, something he hadn't done in years. The dishes were done. Pasta was boiling. Broccoli salad with cashews and red onions was already on the table. The smell of garlic bread in the oven invaded my nose and made me grin. Chicken was simmering in some sort of white wine and lemon sauce. Ben wearing a "kiss the cook" apron was the only thing that could possibly made the scene more ironic.
"What is going on?" I inquired.
"Go watch one of those crime dramas or something."
"Castle and Bones are both in the off season."
"There's always that show with Rogue from the X-Men."
"Sunday nights, dear. You're avoiding my question."
He didn't dignify my retort with a real answer. Ben simply pushed me out of the kitchen, made sure I sat on the couch, handed me the remote, and scampered back to his work. Half an hour into a rerun of House later, he was fetching me for dinner.
"How is it?" his voice seemed a bit edgy, but I chose to think nothing of it. Ben knew he didn't have to impress me, but maybe he was afraid that I didn't like his cooking.
"You made my favorite. You know I like it," I said with a reassuring grin as I sipped my glass of water. "It always tastes better when you cook."
"Says you. I like it better when you cook." He scratched his head. "But, you know, you always do. So I thought you deserve a break."
"That's sweet of you."
"Yeah. I uh… rough day?"
I raised an eyebrow. Ben was not acting like himself. "I guess. Why do you ask?"
"No reason. You just look tired."
I bit my lip and looked down. "Someone wore me out last night."
I felt his hand reach for mine over the table top. I swallowed the bite of penne pasta I'd been chewing on. "Maybe I could do that more often."
I raised my eyebrow. "More often? We have a pretty active sex life, Ben."
"I uh… that isn't really what I meant."
My face was heating up. I took another bite of pasta before responding. "What exactly did you mean, then?"
"I was thinking about it before, I swear."
"Thinking about what?" My throat felt tight. I nearly choked on my water. Ben was so nervous that he was making me nervous.
"Your mom called me an asshole today."
"She does that most days, to be fair."
"No, I mean she called me to tell me that she thinks I am an asshole."
I raised an eyebrow. "Well, she is bat shit insane."
"She had a valid point."
Ben never agreed with my mother. They got along worse than most mother and daughter in-laws. "Oh?" I asked cautiously.
"We're living in sin, you know," he stated so matter-of-factly that I wondered what had caused his change in mood.
"So she says."
"We should stop it."
My throat felt more tight than before. "We should?"
"I… see. So what exactly are you proposing here?" I asked. I knew my voice sounded hurt, though I tried my best to hide it.
"That's exactly what I'm doing."
"I… wait, what?"
"I'm saying we should stop living in sin. You know, make it official."
He took a deep breath and stood. "I guess what I'm saying is," he pulled a box out of his pocket, "I like it and I'd prefer to put a ring on it." He winked and handed me the box.
I opened it and stared. The diamond ring looking back at me was beautiful. It wasn't worth more than my parents' home like some girls imagine. It was simple, pretty, and suited me better than any piece of jewelry ever had. "Well, if you insist," I muttered and handed the box back to him. I was grinning as he took my left hand gently in his and slipped the ring over my ring finger.
"Most excellent," he stated.
"Yeah, okay Keanu." I'd been grinning so long and hard that my face was beginning to hurt. "We have to eat so I can go slay foes. Like that dragon you kept me from last night. Otherwise, I'll never get to bed."
He looked horrified. "Never?"
"That's what I said."
"You'll need your rest to break the news to your mother in the morning."
"I suppose that's true," I muttered as I finished my dinner and prepared for a night of general nerdiness.