By Friday, I can’t fucking wait to see Avery again. Sure, we’ve been texting almost nonstop since the weekend, but that is nowhere near the same as seeing her. She’s supposed to come over tonight to spend the weekend with me, but that’s still like six hours away.
I decide to surprise her at work with lunch. I’m like ninety-ninety percent sure fuckwit Rich never did that. I grab some Chinese takeout and head over to her office building. I take the elevator up to the fifth floor where she works. The receptionist glances at me, then back at her computer screen. Her eyes come back up with a double-take. My heart stops as I wonder if the double-take is because she thinks I’m good-looking or if she recognizes me. I don’t want that right now.
She doesn’t do anything that would indicate that she knows who I am. Instead, she just basically purrs at me while fluttering her eyelashes. She looks a little more desperate than attractive.
“Good afternoon, how can I help you?”
“Yes, I’m looking for Avery Jones,” I reply politely.
The receptionist’s flirty smile falters and is replaced with something akin to looks Kendra uses to kill the recipient. She scoffs, then pushes some buttons on her phone.
“You have a visitor,” she says nastily.
I give the rude receptionist a smile, then step back to wait for Avery to appear. I see her before she sees me. No ripped jeans today or nerdy t-shirt. She wears regular blue jeans and a top fit for work. She’s still got her Converse on, though. They’re lavender today to match her shirt.
Avery looks around, confused, for a second before her eyes land on mine. A huge smile breaks out on her face as she walks toward me. I lean in to kiss her quickly.
“Do you have time to have lunch with me? I couldn’t wait until tonight to see you,” I say, holding up the bag.
“Yes, please! I’m starving. There are some picnic tables outside. We should eat out there.”
I gesture for her to lead the way and we step into the elevator. Avery grabs my free hand as the door opens leading back to the lobby. She pulls me to the picnic tables where quite a few people are sitting having lunch too. We pick a free table and I pull out the food to separate.
“I hope Chinese is okay,” I mumble as I work.
“Perfect. Thank you for bringing lunch. I forgot mine today, which means I would have eaten you out of your house tonight,” Avery replies, digging right into her noodles with the chopsticks I had her.
“I’ll make sure to buy extra groceries for this weekend. Just so I have enough food for you,” I say with a smile. Avery nudges my shoulder playfully.
“So, how was dinner with your mom and sister?” I ask after a silent minute of us just eating.
“As good as expected. I missed Drew, though.”
“Drew is your sister’s husband?” I ask. She smiles when she talks about him. I wonder if I should be jealous. Is it out of the ordinary for girls to have crushes on their brother-in-law?
“Yeah. They got married when I was eighteen. He’s been like a big brother to me. I wish I had grown up with him instead of Harper. He sees the bullshit they say, so he’s my partner when I’m there. He doesn’t make me feel odd or anything like they do.”
“I’d like to meet him,” I say without thinking. Shit! Am I ready to meet the family? I didn’t think so. This is going kinda fast.
“That’s good news because they want to meet you, too,” Avery says, biting at her lip.
“You told them about me?” I ask. Equal parts happiness and nervousness flow through my body. Happy that she talked about me and nervous about what she said.
“I told Drew about our date and Mom eavesdropped. She insisted that if we’re going to continue to sleep together, she needed to meet you.”
I nearly choke on the sip of soda I just took. My eyes widen as I look at her. I didn’t know she had such an open relationship is her mom and sister.
“You told them we had sex?” I choke again just thinking about it. Usually, I’m very unapologetic about that kind of thing, but since this is the first relationship I’ve been in since Kendra and only the second in my life, I’m in freshwaters here. I don’t know what the etiquette is, but sleeping with someone the night I met them may not be the best way to get in good with the parents.
“I didn’t. They asked, and I told them it was none of their business because it absolutely is not, but they assumed my nonanswer was answer enough,” she replies looking like she just sucked on a lemon.
I relax, knowing it wasn’t Avery that ratted us out. I can handle presumptuous parents/siblings. I’ve been dealing with them my whole life. I chuckle and kiss Avery until the scowl she has turns into a smile.
“So, when am I supposed to be meeting them?”
“Next weekend. They want to have dinner again at Harper’s house. I told them I would ask if you’re free,” she says.
“For you, I am always free. You’re the only person I hang out with anyway,” I reply kissing her temple.
“What about Tom?”
“We’re work friends, not really hang out outside of work friends. All my friends live elsewhere,” I answer with a sigh. I miss them. I wish they would visit soon. They’re supposed to be coming for Christmas this year if they aren’t backing out of our agreement, but that’s still like four months away.
“I’m honored you like me enough to hang out with me then,” she says, laying her head on my shoulder.
“You’re kinda fun and the sex is pretty great,” I say with a laugh. She punches my shoulder, but there’s a smile on her face.
Lunch finishes way too soon when Avery has to get back up to work. I want to walk her up but she insists I need to get back to work too so I relent with a kiss at the door.
“See you tonight,” she breathes when I pull back.
I toss her a smile as I walk away. She opens the door to go inside and I’m sort of left floundering. I don’t remember the last time I smiled this genuinely this much. Sure, after the breakup, I tried to maintain my smiley, jokey self in front of my friends so they didn’t worry too much. I mean, they all had so much going on. What with Brooke and Evan fighting Mr. Van Holsten for Summer and Sweets and Kristie trying to finish medical school, they had so much more important things to worry about than me. I know they wouldn’t see it that way, but that’s how I felt.
Any smiles I gave them weren’t genuine though. They were the best imitation of the ones I used to give… before. Before Kendra crushed me. Before I did a whole three-sixty on my life. Just before. But now that Avery snuck her way into my life, the smiles I give are genuine. They are the closest to the old me as possible, except not quite.
These new smiles are better because I finally feel like I’m in a good place in my life. Even if I was happy before with Kendra, there was always something missing. She is the great pretender and, in hindsight, I could feel that throughout our thirteen years together.
My life was not where I wanted it to be either. I was destined to be miserable taking over my dad’s job one day. Though I didn’t say much about it all, those expectations weighed heavily on me. Now that I’ve shed them, I’m free for the first time. Free to choose what I want to do for a job, free to live where I want to live, free to be with who I want to be with and I really want to be with Avery.
She makes me feel lighter and happier than I’ve ever felt. The happy-go-lucky Noah is back and better than ever. I might have been able to get there on my own, but whoever said getting a little help was a bad thing?