Always Alone

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Chapter Seven

THANKSGIVING TURNED INTO A somber day. After my visit with Jess, I didn't feel up to part for the celebrations. But I feel at peace because I understand she's in a better place than before. I hadn't visited her in years, not willing myself to see her like that, wanting to only remember the charismatic girl who would bug me all the time.

It's harder to see her now since I live so far from her. But I was able to gather my hidden courage and paid her a visit for the first time in many years. Although she didn't answer to anything I said, I made it a point that now I can speak to her freely without being interrupted.

Ridding myself of sad memories, I unlock my front door and enter my new home. I plow down on the couch and close my eyes, listening to the sound of nothing.

Silence, a perk of living alone. Before my tranquility disappears tomorrow with rowdy kids getting in from the holidays, I decide to use the extra time I have to go to the gym.

I walk into the empty fitness center but for an older man with a beer belly on the treadmill who's sweating like he ran a 5K.

I smile at him and walk to the farthest machine at the end. After fifteen minutes of walking at a slow pace, I incline the treadmill and speed up to get into a sprint. Forty-five minutes later, the man leaves and I'm left alone in the massive gym thinking of all the scary movies I've watched over my lifetime. Like the one of a girl who was left alone in an empty gym at night and was beheaded by a serial killer

I decide to let the memory leave my brain because I know those are my leg muscles scaring the crap out of me to make me stop exercising. Better luck next time muscles.

Slowly coming to a walk, I get off the treadmill and head over to the leg press machine. Seeing the pictures on the right side of the equipment and thinking it's pretty self-explanatory, I sit on the cushioned seat, place my feet flat on the plate, and start with a modest amount of weights before gradually increasing the pounds.

I lift the weights until I can hardly feel my calves or thighs any longer. Absentmindedly, I reach for the handle with my casted thumb as I slowly free the weights off my feet, but I can't manage to reach the handle in time and lose control of my legs, letting the pounds clink loudly throughout the gym.

"Shit," I mutter, taking the earphones out of my ear and putting my phone on the floor, noticing Nike's in my peripheral vision.

The black shoes walk closer to me as the pulse in my chest trampolines to my throat. I can hear it drumming in my ears and not because I think I might get murdered. My cheeks flush, not just from working out. I can only imagine how horrible I must look, all sweaty with baby hair sticking to my forehead like Velcro.

"I'm beginning to think you do this on purpose." I look up from the shoes to muscular calves and my eyes keep traveling north until they land on a desirable curved smile. "You know, my eyes are up here."

I wipe the sweat off my brow with a shaky hand in hopes of looking as presentable as one can after their first full-on workout. My hands moist with the pungent smell of sweat and I cringe as I realize the guy I've been having sexual dreams about is right in front of me when I smell like the man's locker room after a football game.

I should've known the odds of seeing him here would be high, nonetheless, I don't understand why my heart's racing like a harass of horses galloping across a carpeted grass. Bringing myself back from my daze, I lick my dry lips and breathily ask, "Do what on purpose?"

His eyes glint with mischief, "Do questionable things to get my attention."

I look at him in shock. Me, doing outrageous things to get a guy's attention? I giggle at the ridiculous statement, trying my best to avoid a full-on laughter at his joke. I would never put myself out there and appear desperate when I'm not.

Some people think it's abject to be alone but to be honest, I enjoy my solitude. I'm not saying I'll go Matt Damon in The Martian because I'd like to have a family of my own, but there's no better way to get to know your unseen self than to be by yourself. And once you know who you truly are, you won't stand for anyone's bullshit.

"I'm actually starting to believe you're the black cat crossing my path," I tease and take a gulp of my water as the lump in my throat is dragged down.

The corner of his mouth upturns and the apples on his cheeks flex as he too laughs. His jubilant eyes narrow as they move to my hand. "So it was broken after all?"

"Yeah." I think back to when he suggested I go to the hospital and out of curiosity ask, "Are you a doctor?"

"Far from it." He sits down on the mat, resting his inked forearms on his knees. I've never been a fan of skin art, but on this man, it's the sexiest thing I've ever seen. "I'm a software developer."

"Wow, that's pretty cool."

His head tilts to the side as he seems to weigh my response. "I interact with computers all day, but you clearly have lots of people who love you.Your cast," he prompts, pointing to the scribbles on my hand.

"My kids did that." I look down at the get well and best teacher autographs.

I am loved.

His relaxed face disappears and frown lines crease his forehead. "How many kids do you have?"

"I have eighteen, and yes, they're a handful."

The man's body instantly shuts down, leaving his mouth wide open with unblinking eyes. Why is he so shocked? Most teachers are self-contained with a class of twenty-five students and teach all subjects throughout the day.

I try to reassure him that it's okay, that I'm fine with all the students I have, "They're not all mine." But that only results in his eyes broadening. He clearly has strong views on the education system.

After an awkward silence, it finally dawns on me that he must think I literally have eighteen kids. Oh, God. I shake my head and quickly add, "No, no. I'm a teacher."

It's as if his body has defrosted and he's come back to life. His chest expands as he intakes a breath and his lips curl into a devilish smirk.

"Ah, I get it now. So, after a long day with screaming kids you can't castigate, you came over here and punched the bag—" he points to the heavy bag and continues, "—visualizing your students."

Stupefied by his wit and dulcet voice, I don't manage an answer and indulge in the sound of his voice. It's as mellifluous as a madrigal choir singing on a Sunday morning. All I want to do is sit in the pew and listen to the music.

"So you're not denying it?" He raises a dark eyebrow, drawing me back to reality.

"I really do love my kids—students," I clarify so that there's no confusion.

"How come I've never seen you here before?"

"I recently started working as a teacher," I joke. "Just trying to tone my body." I shrug, not wanting to tell a stranger—an attractive stranger, my whole life story.

"You have a pretty good body, why come to the gym?" he states nonchalantly.

I never thought I'd experience a hot flash this early in life, but as his eyes roam my body, an overpowering string of warmth rushes to my face. A gust of perspiration starts to build up my neck.

"I could say the same thing about you." It's only when I see his brash smile that I realize I've been flirting with him. "I mean, you haven't seen me naked, so you wouldn't know."

I mentally bash my head on the treadmill. What is wrong with me?

He probably has a girlfriend. I figured out long ago that all hot guys are taken and this one's as hot as the Sahara Desert. Tightly closing my eyes, I bite my bottom lip as I try to erase the last two sentences that came out of my mouth.

The man stands up from the mat and with one step, his lower abdomen is in front of me. What is he going to do? My heart starts shaking like an addict going through withdrawal. I can feel it rupturing my auricles.

I'm afraid to look into his eye and only focus on his white shirt that attaches to his skin like Velcro whenever he swallows air into his lungs. My legs instinctively open as he puts both hands I either side of my body, pressing them on the cushioned seat.

His strong arms encompass me as his face gets millimeters from mine and I finally have the guts to look up. Our pale eyes lock.

"I'm Devin," he states as his nose moves to my chin and just when I think he's going to kiss me, it trails to the left, gently brushing my jaw until I feel his warm breath on my ear.

Devin's body surrounds me like music. I'm able to hear the vibrations created by the two of us at the proximity of our bodies. Something wet touches my lobe as I picture him licking his lips as he says, "And I'd love to see you naked."

I swallow the moisture building up in my mouth. I don't know how to answer that. What kind of response does that statement solicit? How dare he say that? Should I be mad or flattered? I mean, I was the one flirting with him, so I walked right into his trap, rather, he walked into my insensible trap. The more I think about it the angrier I become.

I gave Devin the illusion that I was a mischievous flirt, no wonder he's propositioning sex. Devin's a stranger, a hot stranger nonetheless, but I wasn't raised to strut myself into other people.

Love goes over lust, always, not the other way around. Physical doesn't last forever as appearance is just a vessel that sooner or later will deteriorate to dust in the ground.

"I'm Genevieve and I don't think so," I assure him, pushing off his firm chest.

Devin stumbles a few feet back. He takes the opportunity to examine my body like it's the forbidden fruit and he wants a poisonous bite. All the molecules in my blood surge through my body as it shunts to my ears.

I need to get out of here. Frantically look for my phone, I find it on the floor next to his shoes and reach down to grab it just as MC Hammer's, U Can't Touch This, bursts through the atmosphere.

What the Heavens?

Peering down I notice Devin's foot is stepping on my earphones and made them disconnect from my iPhone. Great, now I have to buy new earphones.

Lowering down the volume does nothing to calm my embarrassment and when I hear Devin guffawing his brains out, I stump to him and slap his rock-hard chest.

He chuckles harder and tremulously says, "I get it. You're off limits. I won't touch you."

"Idiot." I roll my eyes and walk to the door as I bite my lip to prevent my giggle from hitting his ears.

"Come on, you have to admit it's pretty funny."

Turning around, I give Devin a laughing smile and leave him to die of a cardiac arrest. I honestly doubt I'll see him tomorrow. As I step through the walking trail on my way home, I stop at a tree and rest my back on its bark. In only seconds, I explode into a heart-wrenching laughter.

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