A/N: Double update (including previous chapter) today!
Maybe extending my time in California by only a week wasn’t enough because I’m already dreading the day Sebastien and I have to say goodbye. But, I do miss my family and friends and while spending time with Sebastien has made the distance a bit easier to handle, it’s still been difficult.
However, tonight I’ll be distracted from my homesickness because all I can feel is nerves. I’m going to be meeting Sebastien’s best friend Derrick and his wife Tasha. They’ve invited us over for dinner and I have no idea what this’ll be like. On one hand, I want to assume that they’ll be cool people and easy to get along with, especially considering that they are close friends of Sebastien’s, but that’s also what makes me nervous. If they don’t like me, then Sebastien and I probably wouldn’t work out. He obviously trusts them enough to know about the two of us without saying anything, so I imagine he’d trust their opinion of me.
There’s also the ongoing fact that I am dating this man and part of me is still in disbelief and I chide myself for it sometimes. It is incredibly annoying how I’ve been conditioned to believe that I don’t deserve to be happy simply for the way that I look.
“You look beautiful, darling.” Right on time, Sebastien enters the room as my thoughts start to devolve. I see him in the mirror as he approaches me from behind with his characteristically warm smile. I’m not sure if I should be cringing or flattered that we’re matching — he wears a black button up and jeans while I wear a black blouse and jeans.
Sebastien comes up and wraps his arms around me from behind, placing his head on my shoulder and admiring me in the mirror. “You’re nervous, aren’t you?”
I nod with a gulp.
“Don’t be. Derrick and Tasha are great people — I’d never introduce you to anyone that I think could cause you discomfort. Plus, Tasha’s passtime is making wine and she has some semi-sweet reds. Those are your favorite, aren’t they?”
“They are!” I chime and turn my head to kiss his cheek. I’m not even sure when I mentioned a favorite type of wine, so I imagine it was in passing. I can’t believe how attentive this man is.
Just when I pull away from the kiss on his cheek, Sebastien turns to take my lips and brings up one of his hands to hold the back of my head. We seem to get lost in the way our mouths have grown so accustomed to each other and move in sync. It’s not until I feel his hands begin to wander that I remember we have somewhere to be and break the kiss.
“We have to go soon, don’t we?”
Sebastien lets out a deep sigh before pecking my shoulder and letting me go. “You’re right... But don’t drink too much. We’ll finish this when we return.”
We arrive at Tasha and Derrick’s house for dinner and the mixture of knots and butterflies in my stomach have only gotten worse. I hold on tight to Sebastien as we approach the door of their home and before ringing the bell, he rubs my arm in a comforting motion and whispers words of assurance, “You’ll see when you meet them that there’s no need to be nervous. They are good people and I’m sure they’ll love you.”
I simply nod, unable to get any words out.
It’s not long after Sebastien rings the bell that a tall brown skin man and a woman of a similar shade answer the door. Derrick wears glasses and has long, freshly twisted locs that are pulled back in a low ponytail while his wife has her hair out in all its natural glory. Her curl pattern is a bit tighter than mine — maybe 4A or 4B. Her hair has a healthy shine to it and I make a mental note to ask her about her routine once I muster up the courage to do so.
“What’s up, Seb!” Derrick greets and Tasha follows with a similar welcome before the pair turn their attention to me.
“And you must be the famous Naomi Monroe that Seb will not shut up about!” Derrick chimes before reaching his hand out to shake mine.
“It is so nice to finally meet you!” Tasha beams and pulls me in for a tight hug. I’m caught off guard by the move and when I turn to look at Sebastien with confusion, all I see is an amused brow raised.
My gaze returns to Tasha and I give her and Derrick a warm smile. “It’s nice to meet you as well!”
“Come on inside,” she says. “Dinner is almost done.”
When they lead us into the house, I’m back holding onto Sebastien’s arm and we’re seated on the large green sectional in their living room with Tasha while Derrick goes to the kitchen to finish cooking.
“May I interest you in some wine?” Tasha directs her question to me. “Seb told us that you enjoy semi-sweet reds and that just so happens to be what I make here. I have a few bottles that are at room temp and some slightly chilled.”
“Oh, um... I could go for some wine. And room temp is good.” Hopefully it’ll help me relax a bit so I’m not so uptight. My first impression of Tasha and Derrick is that they are very friendly people, but my nerves is eating away at most of my logic right now and I am way too tense.
“Coming right up!” she says, rising to her feet and walking toward their basement, which acts as her wine cellar.
“Nothing for me?!” Sebastien question, feigning offense.
“You’re driving!” Tasha counters. “You will not have a single sip of this wine while you’re here. You know how strong it is.”
“Fine,” he surrenders and Tasha goes off to fetch the wine from their basement.
After she leaves and it’s just the two of us in here, Sebastien caresses my arm and asks, “Are you okay, dear? You still seem tense. What’s your impression of them?”
“I’m fine,” I assure. “I’m still nervous, but I really do like them already.”
“That’s good to hear.”
When Tasha comes back up the steps, Derrick walks in from the kitchen.
“Perfect timing! Dinner is ready.”
Dinner went well and Naomi is downstairs with Tasha to look at the wine cellar while Derrick and I are upstairs chatting.
“Now that I’ve met her in person and have seen you two together, I see exactly what you mean, Seb. You and Naomi mesh really well,” Derrick comments with an approving nod.
“Oh, so you just had to see in person?” I respond with a challenging brow raised.
“You know what I mean, man... Even with the women you’ve dated in the past, it seemed like it was forced, but seeing the way you and Naomi interact, it just looks so natural.”
“Because it feels natural. I know that the age gap is there, but honestly, I’ve never felt this right with anyone before.”
“As long as you’re happy, that’s what’s most important. And I like Naomi. I see the way you look at her and the way she looks at you. Just make sure to keep pacing yourself. You’re going on 40 and she’s 23. While you’re old enough to know exactly what you want immediately, it’s probably not going to be the same for her. You know?”
“Yes, you’re right. She’s very clearly new to this, but I’m already aware that I want to sp—”
“Sebastieeennnnn,” Naomi sings as she enters the room and wraps her arms around my shoulders from behind the couch and kisses me on the cheek. “I love their wine cellar! Will you help me build one in me and Gigi’s apartment?”
All I can do is chuckle and when I turn to see Tasha, she also has an amused smile.
“I think wine cellars tend to work best in houses, dear.”
She whines something unintelligible as she buries her face in my neck and I decide it’s time for us to go.
“Come on, let’s go home.”
“Thank you so much!” Naomi repeats for probably the eighth time since we left Derrick and Tasha’s house. She really liked the wine and I think this is the first time I’ve seen her drink so much. “That was so much fun! I love Tasha and Derrick! And especially Tasha! Er— I don’t mean that in a mean way... Whatever, I love them both! Such awesome people!”
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, baby.”
Her grin is wide and she is giggling nonstop as I help her into the house. “Oh! I forgot to call you ‘sir!’ Or are we on a break from that... sir?”
“No, there’s no need for that,” I reply. “You’ve had too much to drink for any play. Here, let me help you up the stairs.”
Naomi stares up at me with that vulnerable look in her eyes she gets at times before hooking her arm with the one I’ve offered her and allowing me to guide her to my room. When we get there, she lets go of me and stumbles over to the bed, laying down on her back with her arms wide open and staring at the ceiling.
“Sebastien... you’re a smart man,” she begins. “Please explain to me why drinking makes me so lazy? I don’t even want to move from this spot — not even to get undressed.”
“Well, you did have wine in particular and it makes us want to relax... Sometimes too much.” I walk over to Naomi and sit next to her on the bed. “Let me help you.”
“Okay, but no funny business, sir.“She has a slight pout when she says it and I can’t help the chuckle that escapes me. My first experience with a drunk Naomi and of course all she does is get more adorable.
I start by removing her shoes and then her jeans. When I make my way up to her shirt and get a closer look at her face again, I realize that Naomi is... crying?
“Naomi!” I say urgently. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? Did I do something?”
“No! I mean... yes! No...” Naomi sits up and looks at me with tears running down her face. “You’re so good to me. Why are you so good to me?!”
My brows tense when I look at her with confusion. “What do you mean? Why wouldn’t I be good to you?”
“I just mean...” A wince comes from her and she sniffles. “Thank you for being so good to me... Ugh! I get so emotional when I drink too much... sorry.”
I kiss her on the cheek and wrap my arms around her. “It’s what you deserve. You shouldn’t thank me. And why are you acting like this is one-sided as if I’m doing you a favor? You’re just as good to me.”
“I guess I’m just so used to it being one-sided...”
“Sebastien,” she says as her bottom lip quivers. “It’s just that... People who look like me... The reason so few people see the chemistry between us...” She exhales deeply as if trying to break the shakiness of her voice. “I’m a fat Black woman and every image of undesirability points back to me!”
Naomi appears to regret the words as soon as she blurts them out and immediately retreats. “Sorry,” she whispers and stands from the bed on wobbly legs. “I drank to much...”
Before she can walk away, I grab her arm and pull her back toward me. I look up at her and reach to wipe the tears from her eyes as she stands between my legs. “Naomi... You are the most desirable person I have ever met and I am so sorry that you’ve been made to feel the opposite.”
“It’s not your fault,” she mumbles, averting her gaze.
“Let me help you into your pajamas and then we’ll go to bed, dear... We can talk more about this when you’re sober.”
||||Naomi Monroe ||||
When my eyes flutter open, I’m met with a massive headache. I definitely got a bit carried away with the wine last night and when I realize my eyes are puffy, the memories start pouring in of what I said to Sebastien. Drunk me is way too talkative and emotional. I said things to him that I would never say sober.
I hope that stupid moment of self-pity didn’t ruin this.
He’s not in bed, but I hear the shower running. I look at my phone on the nightstand and realize that it’s almost mid-day and I immediately groan. Although we’re on a staycation, I still like to be up early to have at least a somewhat productive day. I swing my legs off the bed and set my feet flat on the floor with my elbows on my knees.
I massage my temples as I figure out how I can get Sebastien to forget about what I said last night. Even if it was true, that doesn’t change the fact that it was embarrassing as all hell. Trying to convince him I was joking is definitely not an option. Whatever. I’ll just be direct and tell him to forget what I said and that it was the wine talking.
“Are you okay, dear?”
I look up to see Sebastien fresh out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. Concern decorates his face and now not only do I feel embarrassed, but also guilty because I do not want to stress this man out.
“Y-yeah, I’m fine,” I reply, the sleepiness still in my voice.
He approaches and sits next to me in bed. “Naomi, what you said to me last night, it bothers me... I never want you to feel undesirable.”
“No, it’s fine. Please forget about what I said. It’s embarrassing, honestly, that I blurted that out. You didn’t need to hear all that.”
“Yes, I did,” he replies flatly.
“It was something that I needed to hear. Naomi, I had no idea why you’d always seem so thankful, even when I did the simplest things for you and now I know why. You don’t come off as a woman with low self-esteem, Naomi, but it does seem like you’re hyper-aware of what others may or may not be thinking of you — of how the world sees you. It also explains that exchange you had with Alana when she found out about us.”
I ponder his words for several moments. He does have a point. I got over hating the way I look years ago, but I am always acutely aware of the fact that when many people look at me, they likely don’t have positive thoughts about my appearance.
“I know it’s easier said that done,” Sebastien continues. “But try not to think about that. And focus only on the opinions of those who matter to you. I know it’s rather generic advice, but it is incredibly effective when you’re able to put it in practice.”
“Yup,” I scoff. “Definitely easier said than done.”
A/N: Thanks for reading!