Word count, start of day -- 40,400
I made an excuse for Gwen that would account for an indeterminate absence on a Sunday morning. It was tax season, so it seemed reasonable for me to be gone most of the day. Plus, the phone was set up to give the "office is closed" message, and you had to dial a specific extension to get a phone to ring. And I had recently learned how to retrieve voice messages on my extension from any phone. So I was set, and with an odd mixture of confidence and extreme nervousness, I headed on over to the Garden Arms Apartment complex on Gateway Drive.
Annie answered the door clad in a pair of faded blue jeans and a Kansas City Royals baseball jersey. Her hair was pulled back into a powder blue scrunchie that matched the blue of the script on the jersey. Her hair was at least three inches longer than when I had first met her maybe four or five inches longer. It had a slight curl to it, not like a perm or anything. It was more like a, uh, what did they call it? A wave? A body wave, that was it. It had a nice normal looking body wave to it and was a less bold red. More of a brownish-tinged red or something. Hell, what did I know? She was a knockout and I was standing outside her door. What else mattered?
"Come on in," she said with a smile. She swept her arms around the small entrance way. "Welcome to my new home," she said. It sounded a little sarcastic, a little bitter. She closed the door and kissed me, pulling me into her.
I wedged myself up against her at the foyer wall and returned the kiss. I pulled back from her and said with a laugh, "Nice welcome, that. Thank you."
Annie smiled her face-lighting smile and said, "I am so glad you could make it."
"It does not look like you have too many boxes here," I said, looking past her into the rest of the apartment. As a matter of fact, the big open room was almost empty. The kitchen, off to the left as I entered, had only a handful of boxes stacked in it.
"You should see my bedroom," she said, then quickly seemed to correct herself. "The bedrooms, mine and Erin's. That's where the boxes are."
"It's a two-bedroom?" I asked. She nodded, then gave me the grand tour. Hallway, kitchen, empty big living room. Off to the right of the living room was a hallway that had bedrooms at either end, separated by a full bath. I would guess the place was ten years old. It was still holding together, just showing a few signs of aging here and there. Worn paint, a chipped corner, little things like that.
We ended in Annie's bedroom. I wondered briefly if this was a message of some sort. I was here to help her unpack. I did not think was euphemism, as if "unpacking boxes" was what the kids were calling it nowadays. "What do you think?" she asked vaguely.
I interpreted this as broadly as possible, and I said the apartment was nice.
She nodded. "It's not like my house was, but I am the one who moved out." I moved right in to her and hugged her. She said, "I thought we could start in Erin's room and then see far we go. I didn't know how long you could stay or how long this would take, so I also went ahead and rented a movie." She shrugged. "You know, if we had time, I thought it would be nice. And I can order out for lunch." She looked at me before going on, almost apologetically. "I don't have much in the fridge. I figured Erin and I would go out to the grocery store tonight to stock up the kitchen."
"Anything you want to do is fine. I'm here to help." I couldn't believe she was worried about being a good hostess. I nodded. "A movie would be great. What do you have?"
Annie moved into me again and kissed me. "You are a good friend, Brian." Then she stepped back and spoke. "I remember twenty questions, too. You said you had never seen 'Saint Elmo's Fire, right?" This was true enough. "I got it."
"Sounds great. Incentive to move fast."
We made Erin's bed in cartoon character sheets and a plush purple comforter. She had slept with her mom the night before, but Annie wanted her daughter's bedroom ready for her the next night she was over. "I have to make this feel a little like home for her, as much as I can." She went on to explain that she and Dennis divided much of Erin's furniture, clothing, and toys between the two apartments. Annie's version of kindness of Dennis was a complete fifty-fifty split of the housing for Erin, at least during the time that they were still married. I hung the drapes while Annie put away Erin's clothes. We agreed on where to hang the pictures and how to position the desk lamp and the night stand. "It looks great, Brian. Thanks," she said, giving me a quick and light peck on the lips.
"You're welcome, honey," I answered, then froze. I tried to cover myself by saying, "You're welcome, Annie," and pretending that I was just repeating myself.
She eyed my suspiciously. "Honey is okay, Brian."
I nodded. God, this was confusing. We moved into the kitchen and cleared it enough to position the table under the light fixture. She found plates and silverware and even some napkins. It was just after noon by this point, and she asked where she should call to get lunch. "There is a Chinese place around the corner," she said, handing me a menu, "and of course the pizza places will all deliver here." We settled on the Chinese and she phoned in the order. "Twenty minutes," she said, brushing past me and sitting on one end of the long sofa, which was the only piece of furniture in the living room.
I joined her and put my arm around her. I pointed with the other hand at the blank wall that faced us across the room. "Nice view," I joked. She tugged at my face and pulled it towards her. She give me a hot, sexy look. "Then close your eyes, you won't have to see it," she said, kissing me. It was not long before I felt her tongue probing me, running over my mouth, sending Richter scale tremors through my body. She slowly pushed me down on the sofa and hovered over me, kissing me harder. I reached up with a hand and pulled out the hair band, letting her red locks fall around her and over her soft face. I ran my fingers rhythmically through her hair. She lifted up and I opened my eyes. "Can I look now?" I said and winked at her. She smiled and nodded.
"Good," I said, letting my eyes run all over her body, her face, and her hair. "I like what I see."
She smiled and fell into my embrace and I held her until the food came. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, I couldn't tell how long we were lying there waiting for chicken cashew and spring rolls.
Time was standing still for me.