Jenna startled awake. That same damn nightmare again. Once in a while it would just show up in her dreams turning wonderful scenes to horror ones. Looking at her bedside clock she noticed her alarm hadn’t gone off yet and she smiled to herself. Today had to be a good day because her eyes had opened themselves willingly before time. She would go to bed early and wake up late because, well because she could. There was a time she didn’t even have a roof over her head and such situations made you learn how to appreciate life. The world wasn’t going to be nice to you because you were young or vulnerable. It wasn’t going to say ‘Let’s let her grow up and learn how to take care of herself first before we throw shit her way’. No way. Life gave you whatever it felt like giving you despite your age, race, social status, hair colour, eyes and all that. You get what you get. If you’re lucky you’ll live a comfortable, sheltered life. If you’re not then well, shit. Figure it out yourself.
And Jenna was one of those people who figured it out themselves. It wasn’t easy but by being where she was at that moment it only meant one thing. That she had made it. She had plowed her way through the pile of shit that life had dumped on her head and she had truly made it. So every morning she tried to wake up early, the main word here being ‘try’, and she laughed. A real laugh that told life to shove it because even though it was unfair to her she had pulled through and came out on the top.
Today was extra special though. Jenna swung her legs over the bed and just sat there. If anyone had walked in and found her just sitting without even blinking they would have thought she was still asleep. But she knew she wasn’t. She just wanted to sit there and wait for her alarm to start ringing so that she could smugly turn it off. It was her way of telling everyone out there who was listening that she had accomplished something new. Of course in the back of her mind she knew it was stupid but she didn’t care. To her every little thing counted.
If she got any extra tips, she would share half of it with the beggars on the street. If she happened to see some kid looking through the window at all the nice arrangement they had at the bakery, she would sneak them something sweet. All the little things and random acts of kindness always meant something to her. Because she knew what it was like to have nothing. She knew what it was like to beg for money on the streets and have people sneer and push you aside like you were just nothing. She knew what it was like to feel like the breaths you were taking were your last ones. To be on the brink of death. And it wasn’t a nice feeling. It wasn’t something she wanted to experience again. So she helped whenever she could and rejoiced in her accomplishments. However little.
Jenna didn’t give the alarm time to ring. The moment her clock hit 5:30 she pressed the stop button. Doing her victory dance that lasted for ten seconds and looked like she was having a seizure, she put on her running gear and went on her morning run. She lived in one of those small apartments in Manhattan and that early in the morning there always a dozen people she passed. She didn’t mind being out in the dark alone because it she felt safe. With all the lights outside she was confident no one would try to mug her or do something. Besides people never really slept. Some businesses were already open.
After her morning run she went through her normal routine. Something else she rejoiced in. Shower then breakfast before she changed and left for work. She didn’t trust herself to dress before eating because she was a clutz. Many are the times she had to change again due to spilling coffee on herself. Checking her purse, she made sure she had everything then began her short walk to work. The bakery where she worked was a few blocks away and today she actually walked instead of running. She looked around the tall buildings and the people hurrying to get to their destinations and felt happy.
“Hi babe. You’re early today” Lily the other waitress said.
“I know. Isn’t it such a lovely day?” Jenna beamed.
“If you say so. Now since you’re early you can help me arrange the chairs and place the menus on the tables. Okay?”
“Sure. Let me get my apron on and we’ll get started.”
The ‘Goodies bakery’ was small with fifteen tables and twice the amount of chairs. It wasn’t a place people came in to eat but rather a pit stop. For the early risers, they wanted something to munch on while on their way to work or hot coffee. Others wanted goodies as the name suggested to take with them to the office or if you wanted to you could pre-order birthday cakes and the sort. So having just a few tables and chairs where people waited for their orders to be fulfilled seemed normal. Jenna and Lily worked together and when they were done they turned the closed sign to open.
It was like any other day. People streaming in wanting hot coffee and sweet treats. Others yelled while others snapped and the good ones left a tip. The bell on top of the door jingled alerting Jenna of a new customer. It was almost midday and the place was almost empty except for three customers who didn’t look to be in a hurry. Jenna had served them coffee with bagels and on her way back to the counter the door opened and then in walked in the most beautiful man she had ever seen. Her first thought was that he didn’t belong there.
He was in a three piece suit that clung to his body in a sinful way. His shoes looked expensive and his aura seemed to scream important. Since when do you read auras? Jenna questioned herself then shook the thought off. In front of her was God’s gift to women and she was questioning her aura reading skills? Scoffing she went back to checking him out not realizing he was actually in front of her looking amused. His hair was pitch black and swept away from his face. Not a single strand was out of place and for some weird reason she wanted to mess it up. She was curious how he looked like first thing in the morning. Was his hair all over the place like hers or was it that perfect?
“......nna. JENNA” Boris yelled at her bringing her out of her musings.
“What!” She snapped at him feeling annoyed for being interrupted.
“I said you should probably go and see if the new batch of cookies are ready.” He told her grinning. That son of a bitch knew she had been ogling their new customer and he was sending her to the kitchen so that he could hit on him first. Jenna gave him a look that conveyed ‘This is war’ then stomped off.
There was no new batch of cookies. In fact Luis was done for the day and he was getting ready to leave. Jenna almost yelled. How dare Boris trick her? Turning to leave Lily called her back and asked her to help drying the remaining dishes. Reluctantly Jenna went back and helped her friend looking back at the door every few seconds as if it was transparent and could show her if the elegant stranger was still there. She finished off as quickly as she could then almost ran back to the front. Her face fell when she saw Boris alone sulking. She approached him and when he looked up and saw her he snickered then handed her a plate with a slice of red velvet cake on it.
“He said to take it to him when you came out.” Boris told her.
Jenna spun around so fast she almost lost her balance. The stranger was in one of the tables next to a window. His gaze was on her and his lips were twitching looking like he was trying really hard not to laugh. It took her a few seconds to compose herself then taking the plate, Jenna concentrated on not tripping on her own feet and embarrassing herself. He still hadn’t looked away from her. In fact his eyes were glued to her and the more she approached him the more his gaze made her nervous.
“Can I get you anything else?” Jenna congratulated herself for not stammering.
“Sit.” he said that one word and it wasn’t a suggestion.
“Um I don’t normally do this. Sit with customers I mean.” She said feeling like she needed to explain herself or something.
“So you only ogle customers?” he asked looking serious but had Jenna known him she would have seen the twinkle in his eyes and realized he was teasing her.
Her face heated up tainting her cheeks pink. She didn’t know how to answer because if she said she did ogle customers then she would come off as creepy and if she said she didn’t normally do that then he would think he was special. Not that he wasn’t. He was hot and sexy and all Jenna could think about was the body underneath that expensive suit. Was it rough? Did he have chest hair? Was it black as his hair? Did he have a six pack or an eight pack? What was his skin like? Pale or tanned like his face? If tanned did that mean he sun bathed naked? Were his legs smooth or hairy? Jesus Christ Jenna. She scolded herself. She didn’t even know this man and she was ready to rip off his clothes.
“Are we done?” he asked startling her.
“Yes. Are we done undressing each other? Because that was what I was doing and judging by the blush on your face I assume your were doing the same.” Jenna could not have been more mortified.
“I think so.” she croaked out.
“You haven’t told me your name. Your badge says Jenna but for some reason I don’t think that suits you.”
“It’s Jennifer but I prefer Jenna or Jen.”
“Jennifer. That’s more like it. I’m Jeremiah and it’s a pleasure to meet and undress you with my eyes.” she flushed and taking pity on her he added “I’m joking. But I think it’s beautiful how you blush. I don’t remember the last time I saw a woman blush.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment then.” she said finally finding her voice.
“It is a compliment. I wouldn’t say something if I didn’t mean it. Tell me about yourself Jennifer” she normally hated it when people called her Jennifer but hearing how her name rolled off his tongue, she wanted him to keep repeating it. Telling her life story to a total stranger would have been weird any other day. But today was different and the moment she had locked eyes with this stranger, something had clicked. Like a missing piece of a puzzle had finally been placed on her life and it fit perfectly because that was where it belonged.
“That is a long story that could take a while”
“Then it’s a good thing I have all the time in the world.”
He didn’t have time. In fact he had turned his phone off so as not to be bothered with all the calls that kept coming in. Sitting there with Jennifer, time seemed to fly. They had been talking for hours until one of the girls had alerted them that it was closing time. He had been sorely disappointed thinking his time was up since he really liked talking to her. Her voice was nice and her laugh touched him in places he didn’t know existed. His face must have given him away because she asked him to walk her home. At that his mood lifted and together they walked home.
“Do you normally walk this far everyday?” Jeremiah asked her.
“Truth?” at his raised eyebrow she continued. “I might have taken wrong turns a few times just to spend more time with you.” She replied blushing again.
“Is that so?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want you to think that I’m clingy or anything like that. I just don’t think I’ve enjoyed anyone’s company as much as I have with you in a long time.”
“Don’t apologize. I like your company too and wish time would stop so that I can stay right here in this moment with you.” he said
They walked together in silence and when they were in front of her building she stopped turning to face him. “This is me.” she said awkwardly clinging to his hand. She didn’t want to let it go in case he disappeared into thin air.
“I guess this is goodbye then.” he didn’t let go of her hand either.
They stared at each other for what felt like forever. A door opened and banged closed snapping them out of their bubble. She dropped his hand and turned to leave only to be spun around and slammed on his body. His hand went around her waist in a vice like grip while the other one went in her hair. His face was so close and she feel his rugged breathing on her cheek, nose, lips. This close she could smell his cologne. A woodsy scent with a hint of lemon or was it mint. She couldn’t decide. His eyes were perusing her face.
She had a speck of freckles under her eyes and the only reason he noticed them was because he was inches away from her. Her nose was small and perky but perfect while her lips were full. Her lower lip was slightly bigger than her upper one that was heart shaped. He brought his eyes back to her and the look in them snapped his last shred of control. It took everything in him to not ravish her lips. Instead he placed a small butterfly kiss on them then pulled back to give her control. He had made his move and the ball was in her court.
He didn’t have to wait long. She leaned in and kissed him. At first it was slow and exploratory. They sampled each other, determining each other’s flavour and taste. He tasted like the coffee he had been drinking and mint. She realized the mint was in his mouth not his cologne. She tasted sweet like the cake she had been nibbling all day. Add that to her strawberry scent and his senses were overwhelmed. He swiped his tongue along her lips asking for entrance and she opened her mouth immediately welcoming him. He deepened the kiss allowing his tongue to wrestle with hers. She was intoxicating and addictive. He realised he could kiss her forever and still not get enough.
Whatever he felt was new to him but he didn’t fear it. He welcomed the feeling wanting more. Whatever sour feelings he had felt that morning disappeared and all he was left with was her. He wanted everything she was offering and more. They broke apart for air and Jeremiah touched his forehead to hers while taking in huge lung fulls of air. She smiled at him and he smiled back.
“I need to stop or I won’t be able to control myself.” he rasped out shocking himself because he wasn’t the kind of man to stop himself. If he wanted something then he took it.
“Will I see you again?” Jenna asked trying hard not to drag him inside and tie him to her bed.
“Yes. I know where you work and where you live. Expect Your Own personal stalker for the rest of your life.” he pecked her lips then walked backwards. She laughed, shook her head then went inside. She felt like she was walking on air. Today was way different than she had imagined. Today her life had changed.
She just didn’t know if it was for the better or worse.