How (not) to do a meet-cute
Valentine's day inspiration... ! Why not? As a warning, I don't usually do *mushy/cute/funny* so we shall see?
Noelle wasn’t stalking.
No, because stalking would imply that she was a crazy person - and she wasn’t. So she lingered around in the hall. Maybe she took another minute to find her keys. And what if she almost broke her back bending backward every time she heard a footstep?
That wasn’t stalking - no sir, no! That was - merely - she was a friendly neighbor. Yes. A friendly neighbor. A concerned neighbor who wanted to make sure her unfairly good-looking next-door neighbor made it back home.
Was that crazy?
Okay. Fine. So she was stalking him a little.
But really, it wasn’t her fault the man was sex on a stick.
She’d run into him the day she moved in. He’d been walking out of his apartment - a shiny police badge hanging off his black leather belt - and she’d swooned. Dark unruly hair, piercing blue eyes, and a towering height of at least six feet tall.
Then again, with her being nothing more than barely five-feet-on-the-dot, anyone towered over her.
But that was so besides that point. The point was, she had stood there like an idiot, a giant cardboard box in her hands, while he ran off past her. There had been a brush of the shoulders, one he hadn’t noticed, and then he was gone. Not a glance, not a smile.
Ever since that day - a month ago - she’d been trying to force an encounter and make a memorable first impression. So far? She had failed miserably. His crazy hours didn’t help. She’d mostly catch him coming home, looking absolutely exhausted after an obvious way-too-long shift, and then she’d feel awkward bothering him for a chitchat.
He didn’t adhere to a normal schedule, meaning there was no way for her to plan to run into him. She had to leave it up to fate and well - fate? Fate hated her.
All of that wrapped together left her as a stalking mess.
Maybe she’d know his name by the end of the year.
She gave up, retrieving her key and unlocking her door. Noelle used her white ballerina-covered foot to kick the wooden door open, allowing her to pass through the tiny space. Her apartment wasn’t the biggest, but it was enough.
Anyway, it wasn’t like her salary allowed her to afford much more than this. For now, her master’s in Library sciences had only managed to land her a bookstore gig. It was better than nothing and it put food on the table, but it was a far stretch from her goal workplace of an academic library.
One day at a time.
Noelle sighed, dropping her keys in the yellow ceramic bowl at the entrance. Her dark bangs covered her face while the bottom of her long ponytail was glued to the nape of her neck. The day had been insanely humid and she had been on her feet for the last nine hours.
She raised her arm, swiping away a layer of sweat that had built it on her forehead. She forced her long bangs backward, glueing them to the top of her head, and finally plopped down on a little black chair.
Nothing was better than star-fishing on a chair.
Except for maybe a shower.
Yes, a shower.
She hurried to undress, discarding clothes and disrobing as she walked towards the bathroom. Noelle left the door open, peeling the green curtain away so that she could turn on the shower. She tested the water with her hand before slipping inside.
She let the water hit her body, unwinding all her muscles and freeing her from the sweat she had been covered in for hours.
She felt like a new woman.
Now that her muscles were not tight and aching, she was convinced that she could pass out and nap forever. Once she was done, she reached out for the silver round knob, turned off the water, and grabbed the nearest towel.
She wrapped the blue fabric around her body, her long wet dark locks hanging over her shoulders and dripping water on the white tiles of the floor. She was about to take another smaller cotton towel to dry her hair when suddenly she saw it.
Her heart stopped, her blood froze in her veins and she was done for, ready to die. Her entire body was shaking like a leaf while she desperately grabbed the green shower curtains, hanging on for dear life.
Oh god, it moved.
Her heart now raced while her mouth was like paste, the fear paralyzing her.
This was it. This was how she died.
As she kept on screaming, she became faintly aware of the sound of footsteps and shuffling, but her mind was too preoccupied with the threat in front of her to actually register and process any of it.
“Are you okay?”
And - that was not a familiar voice.
Her eyes left the imminent threat to travel to the left where… a very tall, dark, and handsome man was standing. He was holding a baseball bat, his captivating blue eyes searching the vicinity for a burglar or a murderer.
Except it wasn’t a tall, dark handsome stranger.
It was her tall, dark handsome neighbor.
The large muscles of his arms were tensed and bulging as he readied himself into a battle stance, his long powerful legs grounded into the floor. The whiteness of his t-shirt only served to highlight his tan skin and she suddenly found herself staring for a bit too long - until her brain reminded her of her clad state.
“GAH!” And now she was screaming for a whole new reason altogether.
“What, where?” he asked.
“You - what…”
Eyes widened. Mouth fell open.
“I- I heard screaming,” he finally defended as he dropped his baseball bat to the ground. “I- hm, I live next door. I’m - the neighbor... And I…”
“I’m naked,” she repeated again, never letting go of the curtains she was clutching for dear life. They were not a very opaque green - although combined with the towel - it - sorta - helped?
“I h-m, nice meeting you. I will be going now…” He was walking backward, his eyes closed and his arms stretched out in front of him to shield her from him even more.
She watched him walk away, his feet nearly exiting the bathroom when she cringed. Noelle knew she should let him leave, salvage what was left of her dignity but… did she really want to be left alone with that?
She was going to regret this.
He only half turned, which she hoped would help preserve some of her dignity, and he paused.
“There’s a hm, there’s a…”
“You know.” For god’s sake. He was going to make her say it. “There’s a spider on the counter.”
She watched as his eyes widened, and then it happened. He laughed loudly and bent over in a fit of laughter. A rich, deep laugh boomed through the small room, and tears of joy pooled at the corner of his eyes.
Ego? Bruised. “Yeah, when you’re done laughing… if you could just…”
Her mouth was twisted, her cheeks were red as blood and she could absolutely not meet his gaze. The word idiot did keep running on a loop in her head though. Would it be possible for her to simply melt into the ground until she disappeared?
He let out a few more chuckles before nodding his head. He leaned forward and grasped the tiny spider in his hand, cupping it without killing it. “I’ll escort it out for you.”
That was his last line of teasing before he turned around and finally exited her apartment, a burst of small laughter still shaking his entire body. Noelle crumbled to the ground and hid her face in her wet knees. She was not quite certain if she wanted to die of shame or fear.
Once the shame left her body, she wobbled back to her feet, her fingers barely grazing the counter where the enemy had been earlier.
She needed to learn how to lock her doors.
She peaked out of the doorway, inspecting and ensuring her loneliness, and once it felt safe, she stepped out. She ran to her bedroom and slammed the door shut.
At least she would be sure that this one was closed. She rummaged through some drawers and finally found a purple top and a pair of shorts that she hurried to put on. Once she was dressed she made a messy ponytail out of her wet hair and exited her bedroom in a flash.
She had to do some damage control.
She took a deep breath, hoping it might give her some sort of courage, and she stepped out of her apartment. She let her arms rest by her sides and then shook them to shake off the shiver from the earlier encounter with the evil spider.
She hated those things.
Once she felt better, she forced herself to knock at his door. It was a soft timid knock, but it should have been enough. She balanced herself from the balls of her feet to her toes as she waited patiently.
The door creaked as it opened only to reveal the same pair of piercing blue eyes as earlier. There was a big grin on his face as he leaned against the doorway. As she stare at it, feeling her inside melting like goo, she forgot that words existed.
His square jaw had a short stubble covering it and for a second she wondered if it was prickly.
She cringed. Daydream over… “It’s Noelle actually,” she corrected, her nose crunched up.
“I’m Jake,” he said as he offered her his hand.
She timidly shook it and quickly retracted her hand back.
“I’m not a crazy baseball bat murderer by the way.”
"Your bat," she exclaimed as she grabbed her head with her hands. “It’s still on my bathroom floor.”
She had completely forgotten about it, too mesmerized by the killer spider. And her hot neighbor in her bathroom while she was like - basically - naked.
He chuckled. “Keep it. If you’re gonna keep your door open like that, you should have a weapon.”
This time her expression shifted to one of annoyance as her eyebrows knitted. Her hands moved to her hips and she leaned forward. ”I forgot. I had a long day - and...” She raised a finger at him. “And who walks into people’s houses like that?”
He moved his hand to his back pocket, reached deep into it, and pulled out something she could not quite make out. “A cop?” he suggested as he showed her a shiny badge.
Oh. Right. Right. She’d been a little insulted and had allowed that tiny detail to slip her. Then again, she wasn’t supposed to know.
"And I’m an idiot who’s gonna go now,” she said as she hid her face in her hands, hoping to mask away her shame.
“Trust me, I’ve seen worse.”
"Yea.” He wrapped his arm around his head, palming at the nape of his neck. “And I made it worse. Sorry about breaking and entering. Force of habit when I hear someone scream. Especially in the building”
She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. “It’s my fault. Open door remember?”
“Yeah, you really need to stop doing that.”
“Did I mention the tired part?” Or the idiot part?
“Let’s not forget the part where you almost died.”
"It was huge!" Her eyes narrowed. “Where did you put it?”
He chuckled. “It’s outside, learning to live in the wild again.”
“It better be.”
Noelle knew she should find the use of ma’am maybe… insulting… but instead? The sultry tone of his voice was enough to send tingles all the way to her toes. Damn it. She wasn’t good at this. The second she had seen him, her stomach had done flips.
Part of her had hoped that once they actually talked he would turn out to be a dud… no such luck.
“Well, thanks for coming to my rescue.” Yup. 10/10 best flirter around. Damn it. She might as well have said, Hi I’m Noelle, I’m socially inept.
“Any time,” he answered with a small bow, clearly teasing her some more. “You live alone?”
She nodded. “First apartment without a roommate.”
“It’s a nice neighborhood.”
He was her neighbor. How could it not be nice? Although she was going to avoid screaming from now on because it appeared that her walls were paper thin. Hopefully, he was not a loud neighbor when he had… company.
God, now she wanted to cringe.
The last thing she wanted to hear was him in the throes of passion with another woman. So far, she hadn’t heard a thing which meant he either didn’t have company often or he didn’t bring screamers home.
Please god, let it be the first option.
“Yea, it seems so. Well,” she said as she clapped her thighs a little stronger than anticipated. “Thank you again.” Okay, Noelle. Time to walk away now.
Except she didn’t.
Her first remained planted into the ground, her eyes locked on his face. Now it’s awkward. Leave! Speak! DO SOMETHING! “Do- did you eat?”
Oh no. Not that, don’t say that. Her apartment was a mess. She was a mess. She couldn’t have him over.
“I was gonna order some pizza. If you want.”
Where was the off button on her mouth?
Oh. Oh was never a good sound.
“I was heading out soon. I have work.”
Yup. Never a good sound. The reasonable part of her wanted to believe him. It wasn’t that unbelievable to think he might have to go to work. She had heard him come in and out of his place at all hours.
Despite that perfectly logical explanation - and rejection - there was that nagging, self-doubting voice in the back of her head that kept screaming he was trying to let her down gently.
“No worries, I - I get that.” She began shuffling her feet, a smile plastered on her face. Could he tell the corners of her mouth were twitching? “Well. Thank you again.”
Noelle saw him open his mouth and she fought the urge to wince. She knew that expression; it was a bit of pity laced with guilt. That confirmed it; he was just trying to let her down nicely. Fudge on a stick. She felt like a freaking idiot.
If she was honest with herself, this was a fitting ending to a weird meeting. Why didn’t she thank him and walk away without embarrassing herself further? The whole shower-spider hadn’t been that awkward but she had made it that way.
All she did was offer him a little wave of the hand before walking back to her apartment.
She heard him start to say her name, but she pretended she didn’t as she hide back in the confine of her apartment. She slammed her back against the door, letting out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.
Where was the do-over button when you needed it?
She was so freaking late.
Of course, she had slept in. Her brain wouldn’t turn off the stupid dreams. Very. Very nice dreams - of the policeman persuasion.
Noelle was pulling her yellow hoodie over her head as she was heading down the stairs, her vision blocked. She felt it as it happened. The tip of her stupid ballerina shoes got caught in a crack in the concrete steps.
She meant to steady herself, she meant to grab the light wooden ramp and stop the fall that was coming but - her fingers never made it. She closed her eyes and braced herself for either the impact to come or her imminent death.
Whichever came first.
What came though, was her tumbling down and then, something hard. She winced every time she heard sounds of impact, her head shaking in every direction. Fortunately for her, the fall was much shorter than she initially anticipated.
And more trapping?
She could feel something around her waist, something holding her down. She dared to lift her head with only one eye cracked open and -
There it was.
The heroic cop, sprawled beneath her, his eyes closed and an expression of pain painted over his sharp features. His strong arms were wrapped around her protectively while she was nestled between his strong, imposing legs with her head on his stomach - on his abs.
His six-pack. His very nice, very defined six-pack.
Not the time, Noelle.
It took him a few seconds, but eventually, he revealed his blue orbs to her sight. He broke into a chuckle. ”Hi?”
She was going to die. She was going to melt into a puddle right now and die because there was no way this was happening to her - again. This was the second time she embarrassed herself in front of him…except this time was much worse because she nearly murdered him with her little stunt.
“I’m - I’m so sorry,” she babbled as she pressed her hands to his chest in a futile attempt to get back on her feet.
Her fingers glided across his chest like she was touching marble. Hard pecs. The kind only guys in the magazines had. Real-life men were not supposed to have a chest like that. Gah.
“I fell -I was running and oh god, are you okay?”
He plopped himself up on his elbows, forcing her to sit in between his legs. “A little bruised, but I’ll be fine. Ya alright?”
She nodded. “I - I tripped.”
He chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve been telling the owner to fix those stairs forever now.”
She watched him rub the back of his head, a hint of a wince on his features. “You’re hurt.”
“Nah, my head is pretty solid. Trust me. Are ya sure you’re okay?”
She nodded again. “I- I’m really sorry. My alarm didn’t ring and I’m -” Her eyes widened. “I’m late!” She jumped to her feet, nearly tripping on his legs. If she was late one more time, her boss would flip her lid. “I’m late, I’m so sorry! I’m late!”
He was still laying on the ground, his legs opened wide as she hopped around him, desperate to reach the last few steps. Noelle turned around, throwing an apologetic look his way and a little wave before disappearing from his view.
It was official - she didn’t stand a chance at captivating Jake.
So much for seducing the hot neighbor…
On the other hand, she could write a heck of a what-not-to-do book…