I watch as Jackson tilts his head towards Dustin’s ear.
I didn’t know what he whispered, but Dustin laughed.
“See? What did I tell you? This doesn’t feel so bad, right?”
My eyes motion towards Dustin’s earpiece.
“Right?” Jackson repeated with a grin.
Dustin nodded, “Right!”
“Loud and clear?” He shows off an okay sign.
Dustin looked at his stubby fingers and bent them into an okay sign. It didn’t work. Jackson laughed and stuck up a thumb. Dustin smiled and copied his action.
They pressed their thumbs together.
After Jackson returned, he spent the days convincing Dustin that the earpiece will help him. I asked him about his workplace, but he told me not to worry about it. How can I not worry? The man runs a multi-billion dollar corporation. When I felt a small body adjusting beside me, I looked down to see Crystal. She shoved her face further into my chest, “I love you.”
I exhaled softly, “I love you too.” I kissed the top of her head. For the past few days, Crystal had been clingy. She refused to leave my side - every ticking second is mommy’s time.
“Ding dong!” Amanda shouted. The front door opened, “Cousins here to visit!” I could hear young men taking off their large, filthy shoes.
“Aunt Piper!” That’s Walter, Amanda’s eldest boy. “Do you have any food?”
Food? Did he really ask me if I have any food? Who house does he think he’s in?
“Aunt Pip-” Walter stopped shouting, “Oh. We have visitors.” The two other boys entered from behind.
We? As in, this is his house?
Walter snapped his fingers, “Drake?”
“James,” Arden stood behind Walter.
“Isn’t it Jake?” Hayden question.
At least they’re getting closer.
“It’s Jack,” Amanda exhaled heavily, “Thank you so much for watching them.” She kissed and hugged me from behind, “Hey Jack.” She waved at him.
“Hey Crystal,” she messed up her hair.
Dustin smiled, “Hi!”
Ever since Dustin agreed to wear the earpiece, he had been much more cheerful. Then again, if I spent most of my life not hearing people, I would be grouchy all the time too.
Amanda placed a hand above her chest, “Don’t do this to me, Dustin. My heart can’t handle it.”
Dustin crawled onto Jackson’s lap and hid his face.
Amanda chuckles before she turns towards the three boys. “Be good at your aunt.”
“Mom,” Walter whined. “I’m sixteen. I don’t need a babysitter.”
“I agree. What you need is a job. You know so that you can pay for that wonderful house party.”
He puffed his cheeks, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was going to end that way.”
“Apologies are only for young men who didn’t shatter the flat screen.”
“It wasn’t me.”
She glared at Walter.
“I’m applying for a job,” he mumbled.
“And I’m not expecting anything less. Bye, boys.”
“Bye, mom,” they all said at the same time. Once the front door closed, they all turned towards me.
I grabbed a squeaky toy and squeezed it, “Want to play?”
They looked at the toys-infested house.
“I also have puzzles, but they’re recommended for 2-10.”
“They’re easy,” Crystal included. “Even you three can figure it out.”
“Can we play basketball in the front house?” Walter asked. He decided it wasn’t worth it to make a comeback to Crystal’s comment - smart boy.
I gasped, “And give you three the chances to flirt with girls? No. No. No. Not under my watch.”
“What girls?” Walter question. “I’ve never even seen another single soul on this street. Aunt Piper, I’m starting to think all the houses in this street are abandoned.”
“All the more reason you guys should stay inside and clean up.”
“Clean up?” Arden asked. “You just told us we could play with puzzles. This isn’t even our house!”
“Well, I don’t know about that. I heard you guys don’t clean at your house either.”
“Aunt Piper,” Walter whined.
“Basketball is in the garage.”
They all turned towards the garage.
I placed a finger in the air, “Pause.”
They turned back.
“You boys can play out there. Only if you bring Crystal and Dustin along with you.”
They all groaned.
“How rude!” Crystal folded her arms, “I didn’t want to play with your stinky pants anyways.”
They all look at each other before they lift their armpits and smell it. I pressed my fingers against my forehead.
“She doesn’t want to go,” Hayden said.
I grinned, “Thanks for convincing her.”
Walter leaned towards the couch, “Let’s go.” He sounds very persuasive. Sarcasm.
“I’ll let you sit on my shoulders, and we can pretend you dunked the ball.”
Crystal rubs her chin, “Ten times.”
“Three,” Hayden rebuttal.
“Eleven,” Crystal increased the number.
“Stop it,” Walter said.
“Hayden. Do you even know our cousin?” Arden asked.
Crystal leaned her head to the side and grinned massively.
“Oh yeah.” Hayden turned away and scratched his head. “Fifteen!”
“Deal!” Crystal shouted.
Walter and Arden faced palm.
Crystal got off the couch, “Come on, Dustin! You can watch me win!”
Dustin grabbed Crystal’s palm, and off they went to the front yard. When the front door closed, I expelled a sharp breath, and my body dropped onto the couch.
“Hey,” Jackson said.
I turned my head towards him.
He moves towards me, “Does...Does...um-” He looked away and scratched his head, “Does um...it still hurts?”
I sucked in my lips, “A little.”
Jackson placed his hands on my thighs, and when I didn’t move away, he massaged them. “Better?”
The attraction between us wasn’t a secret.
I could feel his fingers inching closer...closer...closer.
It feels good.
His face turned towards me, and he smiled slightly as his hands continued to massage my thighs.
“What wrong?” He chuckled, “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“The thing is-” I said. “I’m an emotional person.” Jackson stopped massaging my thighs. “I’ve tried.”
“Piper,” he said my name so softly, so endearing.
“I’ve tried so hard to hide it.”
He placed his hand on my cheek and rubbed it tenderly.
I closed my eyes, “But, I couldn’t.” My breaths came out deep and shaky, “You shouldn’t be here, not with a woman like me. I don’t...belong.”
“I know,” he responded.
When I opened my eyes, I was drowned in a shade of deep blue.
“Was it hard?” He asked.
“How could you breathe?”
The glamorous life.
One of a kind design.
It was an extravagant life that everyone wanted. A dream you don’t want to wake up. That is until the dream becomes a reality.
I hated it - his world.
I kiss him.
But it doesn’t mean I hate him.
Jackson wrapped his hand around my head and bought me closer. This attraction is what I wanted - there’s no denying it - and yet in these moments, I panicked.
I shouldn’t push this directionless relationship any further.
There’s no happy ending for us.
But I couldn’t run. I tried. Each time I start to escape, the universe spirals, and I end up in his arms again.
I know I’m not the type of person who is emotionally independent. I require someone who willingly holds my hands and tells me everything will be okay.
But, is it so bad?
To be emotionally dependent.
To form strong bonds.
At least, I won’t betray others.
I’m too afraid.
Jackson’s body rests above mine, and I found myself devoured by his warmth. His waist rubbed in between my legs, and he swallowed my moans.
I tilted my head and breathed heavily, “Jackson. The kids are still outside.” When I felt the suction from the lips, I moved away. “Jackson!” I told him to leave no marks where others could see.
He backed away, but before I could say another word, he carried me and rushed upstairs. Jackson kicked the bedroom door close and threw me on the bed.
“Lock,” I said.
“Shit,” he grumbled and rushed towards the door. Once it locked, he grabbed the hem of his shirt and took it off.
Jackson grinned, “You like?” He’s teasing me.
Whenever Jackson and I rolled between the sheets, it’s always nighttime. So, I never got a good look at his body. I forgot how tight everything seems to be.
I smirked, “It’s fine.”
He crawled on top of the bed, “It’s fine?”
I shrugged, “Yeah. Fine. I mean, it doesn’t show that you’re insecure.”
“I’m not insecure.”
“I’m not vain.”
“And have way too much time on your hands.”
He rested on his knees in front of me, “You’re stereotyping people like me.”
“People like you?”
“People who look like me.”
“White? What? I’m not racist! I have white friends!”
He cocked a brow, “Piper.” I laid on the bed, and he hovered over me. His head rested on the crook of my neck, “Maybe,” he mumbled. “Maybe I am a bit insecure.”
I ran my fingers down his hair, “I’m joking.”
“I know.” His arms wrapped around my waist. “What type of bodies do you like?”
“What I like doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to me.”
“What do you like?” I asked.
“I like you.”
It was in that moment of absolute stillness that I felt his heartbeats pressed against my chest. The wind rushed into the room and the realization that I forgot to close the window last night came into mind.
Then, another thought arrived.
My fingernails dug against the frame of the window while his hands held my hips. His waist thrust into me repeatedly as I bit the edge of the window curtains.
In those frozen seconds, I could hear his low and heavy breaths beside my ear.
“What are you thinking about?” His voice brought me back to reality.
“We left the window open.”
Jackson’s head turned towards the frames, “I thought I closed it,” he mumbled.
Loud laughter erupted into the room.
“You’re a meanie! Gimme the ball!” Crystal shouted.
“You want the ball?” Arden’s voice. ”Jump for it.”
“Jump for it? Jump for it!” I can tell Crystal is getting angry.
Laughter rolled into the room once more.
“What do I look like?” Crystal shouted. “A bunny?!”
“She kicked me!” Arden screamed. “You kicked my balls!” I can imagine Arden laying on the ground with his hands covering his private parts as Crystal stuck her tongue at him.
“No one messes with Crystal! No one!"
When I felt the bed moving, I turned my attention back towards Jackson. Steadily, sweet chuckles made their way into my ear.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
Jackson got off of me and wiped the tears from the edge of his eyes. “Nothing.”
I settled behind him, “That doesn’t sound like nothing.”
“It’s just-” he chuckled, “Didn’t you hear her?”
“I mean, did you hear how she handled the situation?”
“Crystal. She-” he exhaled a soft breath, “You know, she’s going to become a strong woman.”
He smiled, “Hopefully, that will keep those boys away.”
I placed a hand on his cheek and turned his head towards me. The smile on his face was still there, but it meant something different. “Jackson.”
He held my hand, “I’m not expecting anything.”
No matter how many times he reassured me that he would never expect anything more, I could never accept that answer.
Because his eyes tell differently.
His eyes tell me that there’s hope.
Hope for us.
Hope for a family.
But I can’t give that to him.
His hands cup my cheeks, “I’m happy with where we stand.”
For how long?
For how long can he claim to be happy until it’s not enough.
What if he wants more?
I can’t give him more.
“I’m happy,” he said. “If you would give me a bumpy couch to sleep on whenever I visit. That’s all I want.”
“This isn’t fair for you.”
Jackson is reaching his 40s.
By now, he should have a wife.
“It’s fair to me,” he said. He runs his finger against my hair, “What do you want me to do? Find someone? Make a family? But, what if that doesn’t make me happy?”
“I don’t want to live the life society tells me to live because somehow that life will make me happy. Do you know what makes me happy? Being here makes me happy.”