"Your friend Megan doesn't seem to like me very much."
"Well, she thinks you're being sort of creepy for some reason."
Mr. Erikson glanced down at me with one of his eyebrows raised, giving him a slightly offended expression. The truth hurt sometimes, but what was I supposed to do, sugarcoat it for a grown man and baby him? Now I was starting to sound strangely like my mother. Good grief.
"Does she now," he murmured to himself. "We'll have to change that."
Something about the way he uttered the sentence made me squirm uncomfortably. It was almost malevolent, hinting that he would indeed make my best friend decide he was worthy of my affections and energy. But the driving force behind the entire prospect was to keep Megan from ever tattling on us, regardless of what ended up happening.
We stopped in front of a large apartment complex toward the heart of town, which was neither suspicious or openly friendly to the general public. I quickly hopped out of his Lexus and followed him inside the building where several people were milling around the warm front lobby, bathed in flickering white light. The stench of cigarettes clung parasitically to the stale air.
I drew my own assumptions as I stared at the group of downtrodden men and women: there was only about five of them, but I doubted I had seen anything more depressing in my sixteen years walking the earth. Maybe this place was a little creepier than I had previously imagined.
But we were moving out of the lobby at a relatively fast pace and were soon in an elevator by ourselves so the disgusting smell was a thing of the past. Mr. Erikson almost seemed to have forgotten I was there while the elevator climbed up several floors, and simply stared off into space blankly. However, he beckoned for me to follow when the cart finally stopped at floor six, then led me down to apartment seven B.
"Not the nicest place in the world, but I'm on tenure and they don't pay me very well," he laughed as he twisted the key in its lock.
I gave him a small smile and slipped into the apartment, which was astronomically cleaner than the building it happened to be housed in. The front hall immediately opened up to a living room with a comfortable-looking green couch that faced a flat screen TV and had a wooden coffee table placed before it. There was a corner next to me that probably led to another room, and three other doors directly linked to the living room.
One door was ajar to reveal a bathroom decorated in hues of blue, another was firmly shut (probably his bedroom), and the third was obviously functioning as a kitchen. But when I turned around the corner to inspect the fourth door, he tenderly took my bicep to tug me away.
"Private," he explained when I looked up at him quizzically, "and I don't want you to go in there."
I grinned. "Torture chamber?"
Mr. Erikson smiled back flatly at me and gestured toward the couch.
"Sit, I'll be back in a minute," he said.
So I perched on the green couch with my purse, surprised at how it sank down under my weight. Then I peeled off my coat and laid it on the sofa's arm while enjoying the fact that his entire apartment was immersed in the luxurious scent of cologne. There was another subtle aroma I couldn't quite place: it was definitely acidic, maybe some sort of cleaning solution.
He reappeared a few minutes later with a vodka bottle that, per usual, made my heart beat in overtime. Was he trying to get me drunk? But then I noticed the water bottle in his other hand that he promptly offered toward me, and I accepted it both begrudgingly and with relief.
"Is The Grudge okay?" he asked, bustling about the room.
I swallowed a bucketful of saliva when he flicked off the lights.
"Uh, yeah, sure," I muttered. Horror movies were definitely not my favorite.
Mr. Erikson started the DVD before sitting so close to me that our thighs were touching; I blushed through the darkness and kept my hands firmly folded on my lap. He reached up to pat me gently on the head, then gestured vaguely at the unopened water bottle lying next to my other thigh.
"Why don't you drink something?" he suggested.
"I'm not really thirsty. Meg and I-"
"-Aw, not even for me? I'd feel so much better."
I stared at him as he gave me a glib smile and wondered why he was pressuring me so drink the damn water. But the movie started quickly after that, so I acted as though I had forgotten in place of being absolutely terrified by the film now flickering across the television screen. I really, really hated all things to do with horror, and this would probably keep me up all night.
There was no denying that this was a classic horror film. After fifteen minutes, my eyes were glued to the screen in terror for what would happen next, and I kind of worried I was assume the fetal position whenever the black-haired girl popped up. But Mr. Erikson was happy as a clam sitting next to me while he sipped slowly from his bottle of vodka that I sort of wanted to steal. Why was he drinking, anyway? Didn't he have to bring me home?
When I recoiled away from the television screen like a complete baby, he smirked down at me, then lifted his arm from between us to slide it around my shoulders. The warm weight of his muscles made me feel secure for some reason or another, and I smiled gratefully at him. He winked and pressed his lips to the side of my head so I could smell his vodka-laced breath.
"Jess, I would never hurt you," he whispered into my ear.
I drew back a little when he nipped my earlobe playfully. "I know."
Mr. Erikson kissed my cheek again, then the side of my mouth. I knew it was a terrible idea to actually encourage the behavior, but I turned my head to the side so he kissed me on the lips again, just as gentle as he had been a week ago. This time he slipped his tongue into my mouth and eagerly explored the orifice, tugging away only briefly to put his vodka bottle on the coffee table.
I was trembling like a corroded water pipe about to burst as his tongue intertwined with mine; what in the hell was I supposed to do?! Logic told me to get away from him because this would obviously go in the wrong direction, but I couldn't make myself budge.
"I'm going to touch you," he said huskily. "Remember, there's nothing wrong with this."
"I don't think I want to."
"Jessie-bear, you're going to like it. Trust me." And then his hand was suddenly cupping my left breast ever so tenderly.
It surprised me when he physically shuddered, almost like someone who had been out in the cold too long. Mr. Erikson sighed contently as his thumb massaged my nipple through my t-shirt, and I couldn't stop my spine from arching at the sensation. He abandoned playing with my tongue to begin roughly nipping at my neck, which was slowly causing us to lean over until I was nearly flat on my back; he was trying to get in between my legs. . . .
My cell phone rang over the shrill screaming coming from the movie, shattering the incredibly charged moment into unrecognizable shards. Mr. Erikson pulled himself away from me just enough so our eyes could lock while we struggled to catch our breath, panting like two dogs.
"Sorry," I mumbled, flipping out my phone. When I spoke into the receiver, Mr. Erikson started kissing my neck again. "Hello?"
"Hey Jessica, how's it going?" Megan was shouting over a booming rap song that was probably shaking her entire house.
Mr. Erikson finally settled in between my legs, pinning me down merely with his weight.
"G . . . great," I breathed.
Megan laughed at something and I heard the pop of a bottle of booze being yanked away from her lips. She was hammered. "Awesome! I hope you come back later, there's a shit ton of people here."
I gasped and squeezed the back of Mr. Erikson's shirt into a ball with my fist when he started slowly rubbing his apparent arousal against me from within our jeans. There was no way this was happening to me right now. I was home, giggling with Megan about how stupid biology was, not moaning into the phone while she drunkenly squealed.
"Yeah," I managed, "maybe . . . later. . . ."
"Take off your pants," he crooned. "Let me touch you."
Megan suddenly stopped laughing.
"What the fuck is that?" she demanded. "What is he doing? You know what, I'll be over-"
Mr. Erikson easily flipped my phone from my grip and snapped it shut, then dropped the device onto the coffee table. He nuzzled his head underneath my chin, rhythmically grinding our pelvises together so I totally wrapped myself around him, clutching at his back helplessly.
"We should stop," I panted, "or Meg's going to kick my ass."
To my utter shock and dismay, the wonderful rubbing stopped.
"You're right," he sighed while disentangling our limbs. "She'll probably kick mine, too."
I scrambled to sit up next to him as he smooth his own hair, then reached over to fix mine and my glasses, which had become quite fogged up. Then he kissed me gently on the forehead, rose ot his feet, and vanished within the confines of the room I guessed was his bedroom.