What have I done? So upset by the day’s vexing shift I sought out a release and slept with JJ. I should have never picked him to help but my only alternative was texting Charlie. Knowing I didn’t want to contact Charlie again, I also didn’t necessarily want to screw up the only pseudo-friendship I had since coming to California either.
I couldn’t take this any farther with him. Although I looked forward to the conversations with him, I started to feel something for him but a relationship between us would be absurd. Me reaching out to him last night was to push him away. He was supposed to fuck me, make me hurt as I needed it to, and then I could leave him. I never planned on what happened after.
JJ couldn’t deliver the pain I needed, in essence, he told me he would never be able to hurt me, so why did I let him go on? The tenderness, the soft caresses, the kisses to my body even when I told him he couldn’t kiss me on the lips. The way he touched me. Oh God, I wanted it all. I craved it even though I shouldn’t. I use sex as punishment and didn’t deserve the tenderness he gave me.
The goosebumps. Good Lord, I haven’t had those in years. Surely not since an earlier part of my marriage when the sex was still new and exciting, and to imagine that JJ was able to give me them the first time we were together proved exciting as well as daunting.
The first and only time. Why did I tell him that he could see me tonight? I needed to stop this. It wouldn’t work and I would hurt him in the end. He didn’t know me although he thought he did. If he knew about my past, he would be disappointed in me. I lived a fallacious existence and was not the woman he thought I was. He had no clue the issues I brought upon myself in the past and when he found out he would never look at me the way he did now. The intelligent doctor that didn’t make mistakes. The false face I portrayed because the truth was too morose.
It felt so good to be in his arms though. He felt comfortable and for Christ’s sake, I slept at his house. I slept in his arms for five hours at a time. When was the last time I slept for a full five hours? Not since I gave up the sleep medication and even then, five was a stretch. No, I couldn’t let this happen anymore.
JJ’s words last night echoed in my ears. ‘Are you feeling better?’ I thought the only thing to make me feel better would be the rough sex I had craved but yes, he did make me forget. I forgot about my shitty day for the whole time I was with him. This latest revelation made my internal confusion much worse and by the time I got to my apartment and readied myself for the day ahead I was caught up in my own emotional turmoil.
Mercifully today’s shift went better than the last one. The internal struggle was with me for most of the day although I tried in vain to push it aside. I had this workday to get through and then one day off before coming back for the weekend, day shifts no less. The ones I usually loathed as most of the bureaucratic assholes were present, so I needed to focus.
I found myself both fearing and anticipating the end of the shift. After giving report to Dr. Blackmore, I settled down to finish my charting. After closing the last chart, I looked up at the clock and smiled to myself. Forty-seven minutes and by the time I changed clothes and made it to the parking lot I would be close to my fifty-eight minutes projected by JJ. Why did the thought amuse me? He studied me so closely I could only be impressed by his meticulosity.
JJ said he would watch me get to my car safely. He didn’t say whether he would talk to me or not. What would I rather? I was missing the bigger picture here. Instead of hoping we had a chance at a happily ever after, I needed to stop it before it got out of control. It would already be amazing if I didn’t scare him away with my antics yesterday but I couldn’t let this get to a point where I relied on him. Especially if he didn’t know my past.
Maybe he would never find out? It was a fool’s thought. Look at how well he knew my idiosyncrasies already. What was worse? Ending a relationship before it started and likely having it crumble altogether taking your heart with it, or getting even closer to a person who had the ability to break you with you already being bent and vulnerable?
No. In that instant, I knew it would be easier to go back to my life with Charlie as unpleasant as it was. I had risked getting close to others in the past and it never worked out. At least I knew what I was getting into with Charlie.
Walking out of the hospital my stomach twisted in a knot when I didn’t see him by my car. As I cautiously approached, I was relieved when I saw the flower on the windshield. The white rose of yesterday had a twin placed carefully under my windshield wiper. The thought of him still around pleased me although it shouldn’t. I took the rose out of its secure place and brought it up to my nose knowing he watched me now. Stuck deep in my thoughts, I couldn’t determine what I wanted to happen. Did I really want to push him away? Why was I also disappointed he wasn’t standing by my car when I left the building?
Snapping out of my introspection, I removed the keys from my jacket when I heard him behind me. “How did your shift go today?” Embarrassed with my relief I started to get mad at myself. I had no right to be happy, and to string him along just added to all the shitty things I was already responsible for.
“Fine.” One word, clipped and calculated.
Cut the ties, Nina. You know it was for the best. Spinning around I met his sharp gaze. He dressed in a heavy shirt and jeans that hugged his body. Knowing how he looked underneath those clothes only made it worse to tear my gaze away. I settled on his hands but even they caused my heart to speed up. The way they worked my body to pleasure last night made it difficult to think.
“Good. It is about time you had a better shift.” I looked up into his gaze not wanting him to see my thoughts but afraid of how he knew me so well. Just as I thought, his turquoise eyes pierced me and I swallowed.
Firming up my backbone I tried to be rude in my reply, “I don’t need your ruth.” He furrowed his brows questioningly at me as I made my way to the driver’s side.
“Sesquipedalian.” I didn’t think I heard him correctly and turned back around. “A sesquipedalian is someone who uses big words.”
“I think you have that wrong. A sesquipedalian is a long word. A grandiloquent is someone who uses the sesquipedalian, usually in a bombastic nature.” He smiled and it placed the most handsome look on his face. His strong rugged features and the shaggy sandy blonde hair only added to the manly ambiance he set off. I found myself smiling too and then quickly looked away.
“You don’t use it to impress though.” Turning back up to his gaze he continued, “You use it as a barrier. To shut people down that are getting too close.” His correct deduction concerned me and made me nervous at the same time.
“What if I just like big words? There is nothing wrong with intelligence.” I couldn’t let him know that I used it as a defense mechanism. He might think I was using it against him now instead of truly wanting to cut the ties.
“No, there is nothing wrong with intelligence. Lucky for you I am a sapiosexual.” When my eyebrow quirked up he explained, “A person who finds intelligence sexually attractive or arousing.”
I laughed before I could stop it. He joined me in laughing and I couldn’t push back my thoughts of enjoying his company. The way we were last night or even the deleterious thoughts of how it could be in the future. Closing in on me like I was his helpless prey, I had no will to go against him anymore.
“What do you need tonight? A night alone? Some company without strings? A talk over a crappy salad?” He brought his hand up and stroked my face lightly searching my face.
He was giving me space and telling me he would be there for me. I couldn’t be more relieved and when I answered him back it was honest, “How about take out at my place with crappy television instead? I think you have had enough with perusing the dictionary for one day.” I loved how his eyes lit up and his smile brightened when I gave in.
After allowing him time to return to his car, I let him follow me home. The thought worried me as I have only let Charlie in on the knowledge of where I lived. JJ said he didn’t know where I lived before, and I believed him. Working as an emergency room physician had implications on having people know your address but I trusted him to be discreet. My building was secure. Well-lit with all the alarms and systems I could ask for but only one other person knew where I lived. Charlie was the only person to have access to my place. Now having JJ know where I lived seemed to be letting him one step closer to knowing the real me, and that in itself scared me.
He parked in the underground parking in my building next to me after I put in the code for him to access it. There were two spaces for my apartment and this was the first time my other space had been used. When we got out, I motioned to the elevator, and he came up behind and placed his hand on my low back to guide me, looking around as we went, somehow protecting me here as well. It shouldn’t surprise me he looked out for my safety even down in a secure building. Would he always be so safe with me? Did he know how I secretly loved him doing that?
We didn’t engage in small talk as we made our way up to my apartment as I understood him to be decoding my mood, trying to gauge what his presence here meant to me, and honestly, I was trying to do the same. I brought him here, now what did I want? The first thing though would be a shower — for myself. Although I kept thinking of his hands on me, I decided against asking him to join me and instead suggested Chinese food. Pointing out my favorite dish he agreed to call while I left for my bedroom and the adjoining bathroom.
A good thirty minutes later, I stood in front of him showered and dressed in lounging clothes with the ordered food already on the coffee table. “I didn’t know if you wanted to eat here or at your dining room table.”
I smirked, “This is fine. Besides, you are probably not used to such formal dining since you don’t even have dining room furniture.”
He nodded a little embarrassed, “Yeah well, I need to get the IRS off my back first now that I finished paying my sisters back.” The IRS? When he saw my look of concern he continued, “When I was all strung out I sold as much of my stuff as possible to buy more heroin. In my quest to get high I forgot about taxes too. I have a plan worked out with them now I’ve got more money coming in from the hit songs I produced so hopefully it shouldn’t take long now.”
JJ went on to explain how he fought to hold onto the house he loved even making some small improvements like ripping out the carpeting but not being able to redo the hardwoods underneath yet. He ended up throwing most of his furniture out that was left because it was in such bad shape and could only afford to paint the rooms. The house wasn’t too big for rock star status, only two bedrooms, but with it being on a beach by the ocean the taxes were enormous. He also talked about his sisters. I got to know a younger JJ who was the middle child. He told me of his father being his hero until the recent understanding of his alcoholism. His rough upbringing being in and out of housing projects and being poor did a lot to make him the jaded young musician that pushed him into drugs and women. He was so open and honest with every question I felt horrible in comparison. I didn’t think I would ever tell him about my past, hoping instead to always keep that part of me closed off to him.
Listening to JJ talk I realized he never saw himself as anything greater than that misguided youth of his past and it hurt. He turned his life around on a dime for a son who knew nothing about him, finally having a reason. He helped his sisters out, one who didn’t even thank him for it, and even worked with the younger musicians to come into his studio, warning them of the pitfalls ahead.
When his story segued with Carissa, the teen sensation so out of control he felt she would surely crash, I noticed his veiled concern for others. He suspected her parents drove her outrageous scandals and caused her to starve herself to maintain some semblance of control. His unreserved way of talking opened up the doors for my own worries about the young girls who came through the door of my department in much the same way. I might not remember their names but found it cathartic I could talk in general about some of the stuff weighing on my mind.
We talked as if old friends. I should be tired, but last night’s sleep did wonders to help my mood today as well as the other activities I participated in from last night. My time spent with him felt just like the first night at Franco’s restaurant. He was so easy to talk to and to relate to. We came from different worlds, but he made me feel at ease, almost better about myself and that said a lot. This man with all he had overcome, still felt as though he was unworthy. Unworthy of me? It seemed preposterous.
“Brown?” I came back to the conversation but his train of thought only confused me.
“Brown?” I countered.
He nodded, “I have been trying to guess your favorite color. Your car is dark blue but I keep seeing you in muted earthy colors. I know it isn’t green though.”
I laughed, “No, you are right. I hate green. Wearing it every day makes me want to avoid it like the plague.”
“Then what is it?”
I shook my head, “I can’t believe you don’t know already. If I tell you, you will know everything about me and I won’t be a challenge anymore.”
His aquamarine eyes sparkled as he leaned in and quietly added, “Not a chance.” I felt the heat between us and couldn’t tell if I wanted to lean in for a kiss or not but then I came to my senses. No kissing. That would be the final straw in pulling me under. The fear drove me back to clear thinking and I quickly shifted back knowing my sudden change in proximity hurt him a little.
Scrambling for anything to break the tension I asked, “What does JJ stand for? Surely your parents didn’t name you JJ?”
He smiled, “Now that is something I don’t disclose to just everyone.”
He piqued my interest, “Really. You can tell me about your heroin addiction and chlamydia outbreak but you can’t tell me your real name?”
Smirking he replied, “That stuff wasn’t as embarrassing.”
His comeback made me laugh out loud. The way he could make me almost giggle like a school girl amazed me and the way he hid his real name intrigued me. After finishing our meal, I grabbed the empty Chinese trays to dispose of them in the kitchen. I stretched and found my body happily stiff from being so enthralled with our conversation I barely moved a muscle the whole time. He misinterpreted it for being tired. “I should let you go. It is getting late and you need your sleep.” Amazingly I did feel like I could sleep. Like I could sleep for a whole night if not two.
He didn’t ask to stay with me or even made a move to be physical and I found myself back to second-guessing my ideals. Did he not want to stay? Did I want him to stay? Fear trapped me either way, but he took the choice out of my hands as he made his way towards the door. I should be relieved but I wasn’t.
“Thank you for supper, Mr. Harries.”
He turned back around, “Mr. Harries?”
My turn to smirk, “It is the only proper name I know for you since you won’t tell me what JJ stands for?”
He smiled, “I guess. But only if I can call you Dr. Snap.” Unable to hide my own smile we shared an intimate moment enough to make me sad about his departure.
Seeing him flee from my apartment I almost stopped him but instead caved on another issue. Before the door closed on his retreating form, I yelled out, “Orange.” He stopped briefly before he told me to have a good night and closed the door with a covert grin.
Lying in my bed in the dark there was a calmness I hadn’t felt before. No pressure. Even after I fucked up our first night together he was still there for me in any way I needed him. As much as this frightened me, I also found relief in it and the next day was the first time in forever my alarm woke me out of my slumber.