Summary - I've been in many embarassing situations before, but this one topped the rest.
Author's Note : Hi everyone! I'm not dead, sorry, just been insanely busy. Anyway, I've been working on some stories, and chapters for the old ones, but this one-shot just came to me from nowhere and I've spent all day on it. I've purposely avoided a lot of the physical description the characters, simple because I want anyone to be able to connect with them, or imagine their own versions for the story. Hope you like it! Please let me know what you think!
Btw, I'm looking to find a beta. Anyone know how to do that/interested? Let me know! Thanks in advance!
Fifty Shades of Red
You'd think, with a past like mine, I'd be done with embarrassing myself. If documented, you'd assume all the 500 pages of When Lynne Made a Fool of Herself would be more than my share. You'd think that I, Lynne Meredith Swanson, with a Major in History, would learn from my own history.
When I was two, I stepped (more like crawled) in a large pile of dog-poo and smiled for the camera mommy was holding up.
When I was five, I was so glad I was able relieved my bladder after the long bus ride to school, I didn't notice I'd tucked my frock into my underpants until I got home.
When I was ten, I forgot the words to Puff the Magic Dragon, on stage and sang "Puff the mighty dragon loved to see the sea, he fumbled across and married some moss in a land called Ovary!" My parents contemplated changing their own last names just to avoid association. I've never sung in public since.
When I was fifteen, I walked into school without checking to see if I'd buttoned my shirt all the way up. My Disney Princess bra is still talk of all the reunions.
When I was seventeen, I opened the door to my crush holding a lovely bouquet in his hand, and proceeded to proclaim my endless love for him, until he cut me off and asked for my sister.
When I was twenty-two, last year, I leaned in for a hug as my then-boss put his hand out for a shake. The heat of the flush still hasn't left my cheeks.
Which brings me to the present situation. I'm standing in a very public corridor, in nothing more than my underwear. Why, you ask? Because, I explain, I am Lynne Meredith Swanson, and I am just that stupid or unlucky (call it what you will).
Fifteen minutes before, I was about to head for a shower, when I thought I heard someone at my door. Since I've recently moved to the city (I'd been here about two months – those who have, at any point, or are, looking for a place will know just how long it takes to find something decent, am I right?!) and barely started my new job, I was living in a building that was not-so-livable, until I found a better place – which should explain to you why the doorbell didn't work and why I had a "PLEASE KNOCK LOUDLY UNTIL SOMEONE OPENS" taped to the door.
I hated the place. It was entirely too small, there was no view, the rent was too high and it was too far from work. I'd looked around and shown interest in so many places, but I hardly heard back; and when I did, it came with a hike in rent. It wasn't even like I was looking on my own, I actually hired somebody to help me, but I guess I was just unlucky. Nevertheless, I kept looking.
I thought I heard the knock again, so I reached for my towel, which was hanging precariously near the window, (the only place in the apartment that got any sunlight), and whoosh! Of course it dropped to the ground, several stories below where I was; and no, not directly below either, it blew out towards the road, carried by the strong wind that was blowing that day.
I heard another knock. "Coming!" I squeaked and quickly dressed my mildly-wet self in the only dry pieces of cloth, underwear, before I hid myself behind my door and precariously opened it an inch. The knocking continued. That should have been my first sign. "Hello?" I called out, with no reply. Sign number two, ignored. "Hello?" now curious about the knocking, I leaned further into the gap that was expanding at my door.
Tap, tap, tap, tap. Finally, the curiosity got the better of me. I cautiously stepped outside and peered to see what was making the noise. I was only temporarily blinded by my partially wet hair, dancing with the wind, in front of my eyes – and suddenly, I felt a bump against my rear end as I was pushed out into the corridor, my door closing with a firm "click" behind me.
I winced, and my eye began to twitch.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I strongly petition surgically embedding your house keys into your wrist, or something. Because, there I stood, freezing to death, with no way to get back to my sanctuary on the other side of the wooden barrier – and of course, stuck in my undies.
Not the new lingerie I indulged in last month. Not the sensible, covering ensemble I usually wear under my clothes either. No, today was laundry day; I was wearing a two-year old, fading, red monstrosity that covered less than my own hands could. My sister had gifted the dancing-strawberries-matching-pair as a joke a few Christmases back, and they'd been so comfortable that I usually chose to wear them a night. Definitely for my eyes, only!
The tapping noise was gone, but it no longer mattered because I no longer cared. It was the reason I got locked out but it sure as he.. heck wasn't going to get me back in.
I dimly looked for something – anything – that I could use to cover up. I spotted an old newspaper a little down the corridor from me. With a swift look on either direction, I raced after it on tip-toes (as if it would help) and increased speed when I realized it was being blown away by the wind. Two doors from me I managed to catch it with my foot, and with evident relief, I bent down to pick it up, precisely when I heard something behind me. "Eek!" I screamed unconsciously.
I must have broken the fastest speed record as I quickly spun around, stood up and covered the front part of myself with the newspaper, all in one go. I was relieved to see that there was no one in front of me.
I sighed and turned, walking into a wall of muscle; because, let me remind you, I am Lynne Meredith Swanson. I almost bounced and landed on my rather delicate rear-end, when strong hands came to my rescue.
I had no doubt in my mind whom it could be. I knew my luck; it had to be the delicious Tom Denver Jr., the gorgeous playboy from 4E.
Tom Denver Jr., like me, had moved into the city until he could find a better place. He was some big-shot in some corporate company, despite being just a few years older to me, and left for work same time that I did in the mornings, wearing the most delicious suits I've ever seen in my life (I know I'm using the word "delicious" too much in association with Tom, but trust me, if you met Tom, it's the only word that would describe him and all things him, perfectly).
If you saw his suits, you'd wonder why he was living in a dump like this. Were all the penthouses at the Hilton fully booked? (Is the Hilton the best hotel around? See, that's how naïve I was about real estate!)
And the company he kept (can I get some hoots and whistles, please?) My God, the women simply put me and my modest upbringing to shame. I'm a fairly broad-minded person, so I mean this question in the purest of academic interest, HOW are they okay with wearing that, showing that, and being that? Then again, perhaps if I looked like they did, maybe my earrings could double as acceptable tops, too.
The frequency of semi-clad women had reduced lately, which is why I was surprised to see Tom up so early on a Saturday morning. Knowing his type, I expected him to wake just in time for a party, or something.
Yes, all these thoughts were running through my head as Tom pulled me up and helped me stand. I took in all the features of his oh-so-perfect face, his eyes strangely strained on mine.
When I heard the crunch of the newspaper at my feet, I understood why (I'm indecently clad, for heaven's sake! And I'd let go of the newspaper!), and dived to bring it up as my shield, yet again. I'm certain I'll get a call from NASA or the Noble Association Committee (Or whoever!) regarding my ability to move so fast; I put the speed of light to shame.
"Lynne?" he asked, completely surprised. Well, why not, considering the situation. I faintly registered that I'd managed to pull out of his hands during my acrobatic stunt to pull the newspaper up, and saw he was unconsciously rubbing a spot on his impressive bicep.
However, majority of my brain was busy singing "He knows my name!" to respond, and only when he repeated my name again, did I fight the urge to dance and focus on replying.
"Locked out" I managed feebly. Oh, brava, Lynne, I congratulated my eloquence. I wanted to smack myself on the forehead, but that would mean letting go of my only protection in the form of the newspaper, so I stood steady.
"Okay…?" he managed a question out of the word, but moved aside to let me in. I took one glance at his place, took a deep breath and thought, Into the den of the lion entered the brave sheep.
"Brave sheep?" he asked, closing the door behind me. This time, my palm really did connect with my face as I realized I said the words aloud. I officially declared this was the most embarrassing day ever (though, in a few years, this incident would be number two on my list, but that is another story entirely). I heard laughter and I peeked through my fingers to see Tom's head was thrown back as his throat gurgled sounds that made my ears tingle. God, he had a great laugh.
Finally, he looked at me again, his upper lip still quivering, and pulled off the reddish-maroon sweatshirt he was wearing. My jaw dropped as the muscles on his abs and chest rippled, and continued to gape at him as he handed his shirt to me.
I looked at him, then the shirt, then back at him. He wanted me to smell it?
"Put it on, you must be cold" he urged, his smirk so bright I was temporarily blinded. Realizing that indeed, I was cold, I accepted the sweatshirt and carefully pulled it on. I nearly drowned in it, but it covered so much that I was glad I had it. I wrapped my hands around my waist and looked down to see how much of my legs were visible.
'Are you as good from behind?' the absolutely ridiculous shirt read and my cheeks flushed with anger as he laughed again, spotting my reaction. On normal weekdays, Tom wore suits that made women weak in the knees. On weekends, he wore sweatshirts that made a woman want to whack him on the head with a broom.
"Really?" I demanded. He continued to laugh as he walked past me towards his room. He returned with another shirt on, this time it read 'I'll come if you'll come'. My hands balled into fists at my sides, but I told myself he was helping me and I had plenty of time to kill him if I wanted, when I was in my own clothes.
I never realized just how much clothes could make a difference. Hang on, that didn't make sense. What I mean is, I never understood the whole 'fashion' thing until I realized how much more confident I looked and felt in my formals when I went to work, rather than something more casual. At my old job, I always dressed neatly but here I really took pride in the way I looked. My formals brought out the best of me, and it had nothing to do with the fact that Tom was the first person to see me every day – and therefore the only person to see me at my best, before I walked out into the wind, traffic and pollution.
"So… the lack of clothes… is there a story there or were you just trying to catch my attention? Because, let me just say, Miss Swanson, you had me at "Eek"" he smirked, interrupting my thoughts, his arms crossed against his chest, making it hard for me to concentrate.
Oh, I dimly registered; I'd introduced myself to him that first day in the elevator up, quite possibly under the same influence of the taut muscles under his shirt, about when I'd learnt his name. "I was about to go for a shower…" I trailed off, tugging at the hem of the shirt, not looking up. "And you got locked out, while doing that?" he asked. I knew it was a fair question, but I'd had enough embarrassment already. "It's a long story" I said, suddenly articulate because of the anger pulsing through my veins. "If you don't mind, could I phone the super?" I asked sweetly, only just concealing my irritation, as I cocked my head to one side.
"Sure" he said, and his lips twitched. All the anger I'd been directing at myself took a complete turn and pointed at him. I would have let him have it, had he not left the room, presumably to make the call or get the phone.
I let out a breath and took a moment to examine his place, saw it had the same molding wallpaper like mine, but his furniture was newer and more… clean? Efficient? Well, it took up lesser space and seemed a lot more comfortable than my Aunt Izzy's hand-me-down-sofa. I spotted a few photos carelessly littered around and noticed there were quite a few posters up the walls. I wasn't sure, but I think it was against the rules to nail anything into the walls in these apartments; and yet here Tom was, putting up a framed poster of The Dark Knight Rises between Fight Club and Reservoir Dogs.
My eyes narrowed at the hammer, placed on the stool beside where the frame was hanging. I picked it up and tested it against the nail. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Yup, there was my knocker, the cause of all my troubles.
He walked into the room, with me holding the hammer in the air, poised over the nail. "Oh, don't bother, it's holding" he said casually as he put the phone down. I turned with the hammer raised, when he said "the super said he'd need an hour to get here, apparently he's got some work. You could wait here if you like; I'll lend you some of my track pants"
Ever so casually, as if I hadn't plotted to use it on him, I put the hammer down and briefly thanked him. He ducked into his room again and produced a pair of pants. It was ridiculous how loose they were for me, but I was glad just to be decent again so I didn't complain.
"Would you like some coffee and breakfast?" he asked, signaling me to follow him into his rather small kitchen. Well, at least I had this over him; my kitchen was spotless while his was a mess. He repeated his question and I nodded, watching him pour me a mug full of brewing coffee. I accepted it and watched him quickly pull out a pan, cracking two eggs at a time and handling them as a professional would. I applauded as he tossed my breakfast into the air and deftly caught it and smiled as he slid the hot plate across towards me, digging out two forks as he joined me to wolf down the hot perfection.
Just like that, Tom and I bonded, with me trying to explain my, ahem, situation when he found me and him telling me how his Nanna was behind his love for cooking. He snorted – I never knew a snort could sound cute, but his did – when he heard how I chased after the newspaper; but he burst out laughing when the nozzle of the squeezy- bottle I was clutching came off and splattered ketchup everywhere, especially making sure to hit my nose, chin and a large part of my hair.
I pretended to scowl at him and reached for the kitchen roll I spotted, and he helped me wipe off most of the mess. When I was done, I looked up to him eyeing my face and saying "Uh…"
"What?" I asked, quickly tearing myself a new piece and wiping my face again. "Do I still have some on my face?" I rubbed all the spots I thought I'd missed once I heard his confirmation.
"Hang on, I'll get it" he said and wiped a small blob of ketchup from the slide of my lips with his finger, leaving a tingling sensation where his hand touched my face and a melting sensation when he proceeded to suck said finger.
It was like I was nineteen again, super-conscious and hor…hormonal. I wanted to reach across and kiss him, etiquette be da… darned, but I focused on the plate, taking another mouthful and savoring the taste.
I heard the doorbell buzz, and Tom got up to get the door, breaking the tension that had suddenly filled the air. He popped his head back in to say that the super was here and they were opening the door with the spare keys, so I followed him and watched as the super struggled with the lock to get it open.
Mine was a stubborn lock. "Lift and then twist" I instructed, finally glad to end the ordeal. Except, ordeal was such a wrong word to use; I mean sure, I had some unexpected bad luck, but I'd really enjoyed spending time with Tom.
"Thanks!" I enthusiastically stepped into my front door, glad I was home. The super shrugged and walked away before I could ask him to take a look at my buzzer, and I decided I'd tackle him later about that. I smiled at Tom, who was staring amusedly at my note taped on the door. "Thanks for the clothes" I said "You'll get them back tomorrow, I'm doing the laundry today"
"You mentioned" he said, looking at me this time and returning my smile. "Okay then…" I was running out of things to say, but I didn't want our conversation to end. I didn't want to go back at trying to impress him with my formal dresses in the morning, and the cool nod of the head as we rode down the elevator in the morning… but what could I do or say? Could I invite him in? For what? We'd just had coffee and breakfast!
"Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?" Tom blurted out, apparently as anxious to see me again. My smile grew wider. "Great! I know this great place. You don't mind Italian food, right?" I shook my head. "I'll see you at seven?" he asked. "Okay" I confirmed and shut the door as he walked away.
The rest of the day passed in a blur, I vaguely remembered I had to go shopping to buy a new towel and maybe better underwear, but I can't tell you for sure if that is what I did. By five-thirty, I'd decided to stop pacing and spend time getting ready; by six I was fully dressed and forced myself to watch some TV. At seven sharp, I heard loud knocks on my door and I quickly stood up and answered it.
A lesser woman than I would have drooled. He looked amazing, wearing a casual suit with a soft maroon tie, coincidentally complimenting my burgundy dress. His eyes swept over me once as he said "You look fantastic!"
I blushed, but replied "Not so bad yourself, Denver". I grabbed my clutch and stole, took the hand he offered and walked with him to the elevator.
The ride to the restaurant was pleasant and we realized we had a lot in common, including our tastes in movies. "I've never met a woman who likes Fight Club!" he exclaimed. "You've probably been hanging out with all the wrong type of women" I smoothly replied, enjoying my victory at the scantily-clad models' expenses, the kinds who used to drape his arm every other night home.
It briefly occurred to me that I might be considered for that position myself, seeing as I would be going home with him tonight – well, except I planned to return to my own apartment once the evening was over. I wanted to take things slow.
Dinner was divine, and once I gave up all pretence of knowing what the items on the menu meant, I was able to enjoy having Tom order for me, and the breathtaking ambience, all at the same time. I insisted on dessert, which he found surprising, and almost refused to share my over-the-top soft, delicious, dark chocolate cake with him; until he made his puppy-dog expression, forcing me to give in. The cheat had nearly half my cake; if I hadn't swatted his hand away I'd probably have nothing left.
We finished earlier than we expected to, so he took me to a park where we sat watching the lights of the city. I began to shiver slightly and ever the chivalrous man, Tom handed me his coat. I reminded him I had my stole in his car, but he said he was too lazy to go get it, so I accepted his coat. "Besides" he replied "I'd like to have it back smelling of you"
I blushed at the compliment, looking down at my fingers, having nowhere else to look. The conversation dwindled into a silence; we sat quietly for a while taking in the noises of the city.
Slowly, he reached for my hand and asked me to spend the next day – Sunday – with him. I immediately agreed, my heart soaring with the clouds above. A while later, he suggested we head home and I complied, handing him back his jacket as we slipped into the warmth of his car.
He walked me to my door. What I mean is, yes, he had to cross me to go to his own place, but nonetheless he courteously waited as I fumbled around for my keys.
"Lynne" he caught my attention. "I have a confession to make"
I looked at him enquiringly.
"I know you've been looking for a place to move out to… and I sort of interfered with that" he spoke rather quickly, and it took time for the words to sink in.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, that first day when your agent Harry was leaving the apartment, I sort of… bumped into him in the elevator. And I heard you were looking for a place… so I kind of made a deal with him"
"WHAT?" I thundered.
Tom went on to explain how he "made a deal" with Harry, my rat of an agent, about that one particular apartment I'd likes so much, which apparently Tom wanted too.
"You did WHAT?!" I asked, remembering the apartment he was talking about and realizing how perfect I thought it had been for me. "Did you get it?!" I demanded, remembering how they'd come back to me with a much higher price – much more than I could afford.
He didn't answer. "Tom, did you get the apartment?" he flinched at the acid in my tone. "I did, but I clearly didn't take it – I mean I'm still here, aren't I? I'd have moved in right then, except…"
"Except what, you needed to embarrass the living daylights out of me?!" I screamed, noting that though his eyes flared, he didn't reply. I knew he wasn't responsible for what happened to me earlier that morning, but I was beyond caring. I did not like knowing I'd been tricked.
"Except I found you much too intriguing for words and decided to hang around and get to know you" he quietly replied. "Oh, thank you so much, I feel so much better for living in this shit-hole" I yelled, turning my back to him, scrambling open my door and violently shutting it behind me, without a word of goodbye.
I made sure when I locked it, it would be loud enough to be heard on the other side of the door. I expected him to bang on the door, but I heard nothing so I stomped my way to my bedroom, quickly changed and jumped into bed.
I tossed into bed until an hour later, when my answering machine picked up a message from Harry, saying the apartment I wanted to so much was available, would I be interested in looking at it tomorrow?
I leaned over to the side of my bed and tossed it at the machine, missing it by a mile and yet feeling the satisfaction as it bounced off a wall somewhere.
Yes, I was grateful for the gesture, but I was still mad.
I didn't realize I'd fallen asleep till I woke to loud pounding on the door. A glance at my watch told me it was hardly seven AM, so I groggily got out of bed and wondered briefly where my other slipper had gone to.
The incessant banging continued till I threw the door open, and found Tom with his hand in mid air, interrupted mid-thumping. He saw me and let the hand drop.
He was dressed in nothing more than boxer shorts. I wasn't sure, but I could faintly make out cherries on them, but I was extremely aware of his bare chest, strong legs and shaggy hair. When he grinned, it was like the sun was rising, and I found myself fully awake.
Unfortunately for him, this also meant I fully remembered the previous night, so I crossed my arms across my chest and asked him casually, "Yes?"
"Uh…" he said nervously, "I'm locked out"
The irony (or the planned irony) of the trick hardly escaped me. I had half a mind to shut the door on his face, but I had a feeling the fool had really locked himself out in attempt to talk to me. Remembering how nice he had been to me in my hour of need, I kept my stern expression but nodded him in.
I fetched his clothes – luckily washed and dried – for him to wear, and he seamlessly slipped into them. "I'll call the super" I said, but he stopped me by calling my name.
"Wait!" he continued. "What?" I snarled, turning back to him. He sighed. "I'm sorry, okay? I really, really am. That first day I saw you, when you moved in, you took my breath away. And when I saw Harry leaving your apartment, I knew my days with you were numbered. I'm not saying what I did was right, nor am I making excuses – I really am looking for an apartment too – but when I saw you, it was just…" he trailed off, staring at my shocked expression. "Look, I don't mean to sound creepy or stalker-like, but I noticed things about you, little things. Like how you're always ready at the exact same time, like clockwork. How you match your socks to your shirt, I've never seen anyone else do that. I know you are the reserved sort and that despite having friends, you don't seem to party too much. What I mean is, Lady in Red, I've been dying to get to know you and I'd like you to want to know me too. I really want you to forgive me and I promise, if you don't like that apartment I… took from you, well, I will help you out and make sure you find that perfect apartment you're looking for. I think you deserve at least that much from me"
All my life, I believed my knees were made of bones. I was wrong, they're made of sensitive rubber, ready to give-away at a speech like that.
I thought I was falling, but apparently my body thought otherwise, because I found myself hugging him. After an initial shock, Tom was hugging me back too. He buried his face in my neck and began muttering unending apologies, until I found a very effective way of shutting him up.
"Does this mean you forgive me?" he asked, his forehead leaning on mine. "We'll see" I grinned, pulling him down again.
A little while later, I pulled back again and asked "What did you mean by calling me 'Lady in Red'?"
He colored slightly, in the most adorable manner. "Um…" "Tell me!" I insisted.
"Well, it's just that I've begun to associate the color red with you. You wear red lipstick. Your face turns red every time I walk by with a girl"
"Used to" I scowled and corrected him. "Used to" he nodded and agreed, pulling me on his lap as we stumbled onto the couch. "Anyway, yesterday I found you on my doorstep in red underwear, and you blushed red with embarrassment"
"Then the ketchup incident" I said, catching on. "And last night's dress" he added, grinning slightly. "Is red your favorite color?" he asked me. "Is it yours?" I countered.
"It is now" he replied, snuggling into me.
"Mine too" I replied and laid my head on his, realizing that red too, was the color of love.
A/N: Yes, yes, cheesy and fluffy, I know, but I was in the mood for it. Feel free to point out any errors.