The aroma coming from the small kitchenette tickled my nose. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and tried to focus. I’d over done it. And I thought alcohol no longer affected me … I was wrong.
The night before, I’d wrestled with the same thoughts. It wasn’t confusion. I knew exactly what I had to do, but what I wanted insisted on carrying on an argument.
“Good morning.” The soft voice floated into the room.
A dream. The kind where I thought I’d woken … any minute I would open my eyes and stare at an empty room.
The hallucination I’d had the night before had seemed realistic. Sitting on my bed, spitting out one contradicting statement after another. One minute, I planned a life that included Jessie. A good life. The mob world far behind me, the next, I had no intentions of seeing her again. Knowing I’d be pulled into criminal activities, rather I wanted it or not.
I groaned. The way I’d spoken in that moment was nothing like me. Keeping my feelings and confusions secret was a gift I used often.
“I thought you were going to sleep all day.”
“Jessie? … What? How?”
Oh, shit. It wasn’t a dream.
“Surprise.” Meekly, she whispered as if she thought her presence would anger me.
My eyes scanned her from head to toe. She dressed casually, in a simple tank top and a pair of jean short. Her hair pulled up in a messy ponytail and she wore no makeup.
“You had an eventful night?”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “I’m really sorry about the club … and Spencer.”
“Thanks.” I diverted my eyes. Even though the guy had spent years working for me, his death triggered no sadness. Instead, I felt relieved. He’d been a constant headache. Still a man had died … maybe I was a coldhearted monster.
“That smells so good.” I nodded toward the stove and the breakfast she cooked at noon.
“I don’t think you have ever eaten my cooking.” Suddenly, I realized we’d never enjoyed a normal relationship. We hadn’t dated or spent nights together. Our entire romance had moved like a twister over our very existence.
“Yes I did.”
“Remember when you were sick that time.”
“How could I forget? You took care of me the whole time.” she smiled. “No man’s ever done that for me before. Not since my father and that was when I was a small child.”
“I had that left over chicken stuff you had in the fridge. What was that anyway?”
“Oh, my gosh. That was so long ago.” she said trying to think. “It was probably my own version of chicken alfredo.
“Your version?” I chuckled. “What do you do so different?” I chuckled, refusing to take my eyes from her. If it was another fantasy, I wanted to commit every detail to my memory.
“I’m not telling.” She half-heartedly joked, then bent to take fresh baked biscuits out of the oven.
The smell made my stomach complain. It was getting hungrier by the minute.
“Hey,” I moved from the bed and spun her around gently. “I haven’t gotten one of these from you yet.” I placed my lips on hers gently, pulled her close and rubbed a hand down her back.
“Mmm. I’ve missed that.” She fell against me. I gently caressed her cheek and stared into saddened and tired eyes, wishing I could read her mind. I didn’t want to think about what the last day had been for her. Or how the events had changed me in her eyes. “This is supposed to be over.”
“Sit.” I sat down at the small table and she served me a generous plate of eggs, sausage, grits, and a biscuit topped with gravy.
“Where is everyone?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “I made enough for everyone – they went out to the beach. They said they’d be back by the time I was done.”
They probably stayed away purposely, believing time alone would bring Jessie and I together. The solitude didn’t ease the awkwardness and it didn’t help us say what was on our mind.
“Oh this is heaven.” I spoke with a mouthful of food, chewing slowly to savor every morsel. I’d forgotten what a home cooked meal felt like. How it tasted and the way watching a woman cook turned me on.
Jessie picked at her food. Her head down, deep in thought.
“Should we talk?”
She shook her head slowly.
“Jessie, I am so sorry …”
“It’s not you, Sean.” She lifted her gaze. “It’s not what happened at De’Bris … it’s …” She took a deep breath. “I … just have something I have to figure out.”
“Okay.” What else could I say.
“Oh … and … um sorry about the hole in your sofa.”
“and your walls,” she added.
“Do I dare ask how?”
“I did it,” she said with a shrug, as if she did that sort of thing daily. “with your shotgun.”
“I’ve turned you into a monster.” I chuckled nervously.
“You didn’t turn me into anything.”
“Did I piss you off that bad?”
“It had nothing to do with you … a bunch of kids invaded the place. We found the camped out in the living room and they refused to leave.”
“Please tell me you didn’t shoot them.”
“I just scared them.”
“I have a feeling it had something to do with my sister.”
“I had to tell you about the bullets. The rest is none of your business.”
“In my house? It’s not my business?”
“That’s right. Mickie is not a little girl anymore, Sean and from what I understand, the house belongs to her too. She’s an adult, and you need to let her be one.
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