Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 79


A pair of headlights peer through the open blinds of the family room. Why do I have the jitters? I’m just going out with my friends...and Mike. I shouldn’t be nervous, but I am. It’s not like this is our first date.

It’s your first date as an actual couple. My subconscious reminds me.

“Ah, yay! He’s here!” Rachel exclaims with joy. Before Paul can climb out of his car, Rachel turns to me. “If you see me leave with Paul, it’s only because we want to be alone for a bit. I’ll have my phone on me, though, okay?”

I give her a look. “You’re not going know, are you?” My face scrunches with the thought.

Her gun-metal eyes widen, the pink gloss on her lips separate as her chin drops to the floor. She swats my arm. “No. We just want to hang out, talk, and just be around each other before I leave tomorrow.” I’d believe her more if she didn’t giggle at the end.

“Uh, huh.” I roll my eyes but smile at her. I’m glad she picked the baby pink dress; it flows so naturally on her. The color is a great contrast with her darker skin. The dress is fun, poise, and flirty – just like her.

There’s another set of headlights that turn into our driveway. Who could that be?

Knock, knock.

The door echoes through the house. Those two little knocks are the beginning of our last night of this year. I press down my dress with a sweaty palm and then twist the knob of the door to open it.

Paul is standing there with a wide smile and his hands in the pockets of his black slacks. His hair is still a bit messy, but it looks good on him. He’s wearing a baby pink tie over his light grey dress-shirt.

“Hi Elena, you look nice.” Paul rocks forward on his feet to greet me with a hug.

“You do too...” Just then, I notice him. He’s hidden in the dark behind Paul, but I see him. It was his truck that drove up in my driveway. Why didn’t he leave it in his? We could have just as easily walked over to it...

Pulling away from Paul’s embrace, he asks, “Is Rachel ready yet?”

Before I can answer, Rachel speaks up over my shoulder. “Yes! I’m right here.” She swings the door open further to see Paul. Before Paul can even look at her, she jumps into his arms.

Mike walks out of the shadows so I can see him. Of course, he’d be in all black, and the sleeves of his shirt are rolled up to his elbows, teasingly showing off some of his ink. But that’s not what nearly stops the beating in my chest; he is also wearing a bright champagne, crooked tie which matches my dress.

I never thought in a million years that a man like Mike would wear a tie. I have half expected him to be wearing black jeans with a hole in them and either a white t-shirt or some other shirt with the sleeves cut off. Maybe even with his leather jacket or his leather vest.

Instead, he’s wearing tighter black slacks, a tucked-in black button-down dress shirt, and a tie. My big, bad, biker boy is wearing a tie. I must admit that even if he showed up in his regular attire – he’d be just as adorable. This man could wear a paper bag and still look sexy.

The heels beneath me click as I walk up to him. “Look at you,” I say. “You are so cute.” I reach up around his neck to hold him in my arms. Is he wearing hair gel? With a bright smile, he closes the gap and squeezes me against him. This is my favorite place. I feel him nuzzle into my neck and hear him inhale the scented fragrance I put on.

“You are so gorgeous,” he whispers into my ear. His breath is hot, and it warms me up.

When our hug breaks, I reach for his tie and giggle.

“What?” His voice drops.

Those green eyes catch me when I say, “You look fantastic! It’s just...your tie is a little crooked.”

He bites off a curse word and brings his hands to the knot below his Adam’s apple. With his face down and scrunched up in efforts of trying to see what he’s doing, it reminds me of a little boy trying to break apart two stubborn pieces of tiny Legos that just won’t give. He’s like a frustrated little boy who’s trying not to lose his cool.

“I haven’t worn a tie in a very long time,” he confesses in a low shameful whisper.

“Here, let me,” I offer to rescue him from his embarrassment.

Mike drops his arms to his sides with a small sigh of giving up, then places his hands in his pockets. My hands and sights concentrate on the knot around his throat; I feel his eyes concentrate on me. I try not to falter under his stare, so I ask him, “Why did you bring your truck over?”

With the last fix of finally centering it, he reaches for my hands to hold them against his chest. I look up to meet his gaze. “I wanted to pick you up for our date. I’m trying to be a gentleman.”

My heart swells three sizes -I’m sure of it. My cheeks feel hot. Why am I blushing? His hand finds my face, with his thumb, he strokes my jaw as I lean into his touch and smile with adoration up at him.

“Wait! This is a picture moment!” Rachel exclaims with excitement. I sigh, but agree; there isn’t much protest from Mike. As Paul and Rachel gather around us for a group picture, I’m sure Mike’s gaze never leaves my face while I smile into the camera with my best friend and my new friend - Paul.

“Okay, you lovebirds, are you ready to go?” Paul yells from over his shoulder as he gets in the driver’s seat of his car next to us. Rachel laughs as she slides into the passenger seat beside him.

On the way down the road towards the club that Rachel found online, my belly starts to calm down from all the nervous butterflies. Being in Mike’s presence does that to me, although it could also be because his hand is resting over my lap and on my knee – his touch helps me feel confident and, as Rachel once said, whole.

I took special care when shaving my legs this morning. I made sure there was no patch of hair left around my pesky bony knees like last time. He probably thought it was cute, but it annoyed me. My knees were always difficult to shave without nicking myself.

“I’m surprised.” Mike’s voice fills the quiet cabin of the truck.

“About what?” I turn my head to look up at his glowing features from the dials on the dash.

“Paul and I thought that perhaps you and Rachel would want to spend her last night here together -you know -without us. I am also pretty sure that at some point tonight, they’ll leave us.” His voice is gentle and deep, as if wondering if I’m okay with tonight’s arrangements.

My hand gravitates to his hand, resting on my knee while my other wraps around his arm, hugging it close to my chest. “It’s all okay. It’s not like this will be the last time I see her. It may, however, be the last time Paul sees her. I don’t know... she really likes Paul, and she’s had a bad relationship before and... well, she just hopes that Paul won’t forget about her after she leaves.” Absentmindedly, my finger traces the inked verse, overtop the veins popping out from his hand.

“Trust me,” he says. “Paul won’t forget about Rachel. He’s pretty sure they’re meant to end up together.”

I feel my brows gravitate to each other. “How does he know?”

Mike shrugs a shoulder. “Most men just know those sorts of things right away, I guess.”

My finger stops over a protruding vein. He said most men. Men -plural. Does he count himself in that category?

“Most men?” The question comes out quizzical.

He leans into me slightly and kisses my forehead then gives me that wink, all while paying attention to the road. “Yeah, most men.”

“Do you think we’ll be able to get in with our fake IDs?” Rachel whispers to our group of four standing in line for the club.

“Hold up. Y’all have fake IDs?” Paul asks in disbelief. He almost can’t believe that two lovely ladies such as ourselves would have fake IDs.

Compliments of Rachel.

My eyes widen, then my finger points at Rachel. “Rachel did it. She brought them with her.”

Paul slings his arm around her shoulders before Rachel, and her wide eyes can talk back at me. “My girl’s a badass.” He smiles and kisses her cheek.

Mike wraps his arms around my waist from behind and lowers his mouth to my ear then whispers, “You have a fake ID too?”

Shyly, I nod my head. “She brought them with her, and I couldn’t say no,” I confess.

“You’re not as innocent as I thought you were. Accepting a fake ID, who knew you could be so easily corrupted,” he rasps. His teeth nibble on my ear, and I can’t help the giggle that escapes from my throat.

“Next!” The bouncer calls.

The bouncer is tall and is a very large guy. He looks like a professional wrestler – there doesn’t seem to be an ounce of body fat on him. He looks angry at the world, but I guess that’s because he has to look mean so no one will give him crap. The tattoos on his bulging arms look green against his dark skin; he has no facial hair but has a short buzz cut.

“IDs,” he orders while holding out his large hand.

With a racing heart, I hand him mine. Rachel, Mike, and Paul follow suit.

One Mississippi. The bouncer is inspecting the IDs. The fake IDs.

Two Mississippi. He looks up and eyes Rachel and me.

Three Mississippi. He looks back at the cards. We’re going to get caught – I know it.

Four Mississippi. I’m trying not to sweat.

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