College and Woodland

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Chapter 4

John Mayer- Daughters

Josh

I woke up earlier than I normally would this morning so we can make it to Ray’s before her dad gets there. Charlie and I pile into my truck without so much as a word to each other. I think he can tell I am slightly worried about today. It is one thing helping Ray move, its an entirely different thing to meet her father. I am just as nervous as I would be if I were meeting the father of someone I was dating. There was no second guessing my outfit, but there are definite nerves. I can see my hand shaking as I hold door of my truck. I can only imagine what a man like Ray’s father must be like to send his daughter not only to private high school but private college as well. He must be loaded. I don’t get the privileged rich girl vibe from Ray but that might just be because I have spent as little time as possible with her.

“You aren’t asking for her hand you know.” Charlie states watching me wipe my clammy hands on my jeans for the third time. I let him drive my truck, he got directions from Ray in a text this morning. I shoot him the best glare I can.

“I know that dick. I just don’t want him to hate us from the start ya know. It has to be hard to have his daughter moving in with strangers. I would like to be able to show him we aren’t fuck ups.” I could only imagine what her father thought of us, two musicians, one not even having gone to college. Both with long hair and tattoos, I know we don’t exactly appear to have our shit together, even though I manage a thriving business and Josh is working on his doctorate in botany. We look like any father’s nightmare. I seriously hope her father had a wild youth, or maybe he’s a Sons of Anarchy fan. Those would be the only things that might give me a little leeway in the 'we aren’t going to be horrible influences on your daughter' front. It doesn’t take us long to get to Ray’s. She is already stacking boxes on the deck of her ground level apartment when we pull up.

“Good morning guys, there is coffee and danishes for you on the counter inside.” She says while pulling her hair up into a ponytail. She looks like she got no sleep. I imagine she has been up all night packing. Charlie heads in and runs into Max walking out. If I didn’t know better I would say he was doing the walk of shame. He gets to Ray on the porch and gives her a hug.

“Sorry I can’t stay sweetie but say hello to Doug for me.” I hear him say in her ear. I feel like I a third wheel so I turn to follow Charlie inside to get some coffee but Max stops me. He motions for me to grab a box and starts walking to a little white car parked near my truck in the parking lot.

“Consider this your warning Doug barks but he doesn’t bite. Don’t try and be your hard-ass self around him and he might actually leave Ray up here today.” He heaves the box in the trunk of what must be Ray’s car. “I have the feeling you and Charlie are going to look out for Ray more than even I can. I am trusting you have nothing but noble intentions?”

“Are you sure you’re not her dad?” I laugh when I say it but he stays serious. I run my hands through my hair pulling it back and into a low pony tail so it’s not in my face while I am trying to work. Max looks at me and smirks, it’s not a good smirk. It says he is smarter than me and he knows it. I hate that look.

“Josh once you come to grips with how much you want that girl; there is a very real chance that you could hurt her. I am looking out for my friend. Also Doug is going to see how you look at her today and freak the fuck out.”

“Um you lost me. One: I do not want her, I can barely tolerate being in the same room as her. Two: How do I look at her that is so offensive?”

“You look at her like she is a glass of water and you haven't had a drink in years.” I really don’t know how to respond to him. I open my mouth but the words fail me. So I close it again and keep quiet. Shit, maybe he is smarter than me. Obviously everyone can see my attraction to her, dammit. He continues to give me the “you are dumb” look.

“I... I’ll work on that.” That’s all my brain can come up with. “I uh didn’t realize I was being…I mean…I don’t.” Fuck am I that transparent. I knew Charlie suspected but I was being an asshole more often than not. How could Max tell?

“Don’t worry Josh your secret is safe with me. I have a sixth sense about this stuff. Although Charlie suspects you might be attracted, he’s not as observant as I am. I know Ray thinks you hate her. That being said. Watch your shit today; and stop being an asshole to her for crying out loud you’re going to give the girl a complex. She already is breathtakingly shy. She doesn't need to be holed up in her shell any more.” He claps me on the shoulder then walks off to his car. He’s like Rafiki from Lion King, really wise, but the advice he gives comes out like a riddle.

The sliding glass door leading to the porch is still open when I return to the apartment complex. Charlie comes out with a mouthful of danish and hands me a small to go cup of coffee.

“Stace and Ray have everything packed up and labeled.There is not much for us to do but get the boxes in the cars, then from here to home.Can you believe this? Food, coffee, and the apartment is spotless. I think Ray might have a cleaning fetish.” Charlie says while looking over the piles of boxes and broken down furniture piled around Ray’s place. He is right it is spotless. If it weren’t for the piles of boxes. I can clearly see the carpeted floor is recently vacuumed and there is not a spot in the small kitchen that isn’t sparkling. I can only imagine what Ray and Stace thought about the state of our house when they looked at it. We clean major stuff, but I can’t remember the last time we vacuumed, or really scrubbed down the kitchen. I will have to put that on my list of shit that has to be done now that we will have ladies in the house for more than a night at a time. I take a cruise around the small apartment, next to the small kitchen there are two doors each leading into it’s own bedroom. The first one is empty, but I can hear Ray fretting to herself through a door to my left. She is standing in the middle of the room with an wrench in her hand looking at a set of twin beds and two small dressers.

“Hey,” I walk into what was her bedroom and take the wrench from her hand. “Why don’t you let me take apart the beds and you can direct Charlie as to what boxes he can load now and what can wait.” She gives me a concerned look, frowns and sighs.

“Okay? Yea I want to have the beds apart before my dad gets here. That way we can just load up. I meant to have all this done before you guys got here. I am so sorry to be inconveniencing you like this. I know you were supposed to work today.” She looks at her feet while she is saying it but I hook my index finger under her chin lifting her face so her eyes meet mine.

“It’s really not a problem Ray. It will only take me a couple minutes to get this apart.” I offer her a one armed hug like I have seen Charlie do often enough with her, but I can feel her body cringe and tighten against mine. Bad touch asshole. Maybe I need to be a little less like my cousin in the touching department. She sneaks out from under my arm and makes for the door I just came through. I can hear Charlie talking to another man on the porch. Ray’s face pales. This must be her dad. Deep breaths. I put on my most convincing responsible adult face. Yea if only I could hide all my tattoos, piercings and long hair.


Raychel

Did he just hug me? Why the hell is he suddenly being so nice on today of all days? He must feel bad because I was such a wreck yesterday and got basically abandoned by my best friend for the summer. I hear my dad’s voice boom from outside. Oh no Charlie is out there all by himself. I give Josh a pleading look before speed walking to the porch. Charlie and dad are shaking hands and smiling. I was right, Charlie could charm the pants off a nun, and he already has my dad eating out of his hands. One roommate down, one more to go.

“Hey daddy”, I say coming out of the apartment I can feel the Josh behind me. His physical presence a tangible thing to me.

“Hi baby. Charles here was just saying you met through Max?” Thanks god Charlie brought up Max, no better way to get on my Dad’s good side than to be friends with Max.

“Yea, Charlie and Josh, um this is Josh,” I turn and gesture behind me to Josh. ”Anyway they are my new boss’s nephews. They play every week at The Moon.” My dad looks behind me and I can see the frown lines on his forehead get a little deeper when he sees Josh. There is a pregnant pause before I feel Josh reach around me to shake Dad’s hand.

“It’s nice to meet you Mr.Baker.” Josh states straightening his posture.

My dad gives Josh “the look”. The one that sent Mark into a fetal position every time time it was pointed in his direction. But Josh doesn’t falter or break eye contact with dad. He meets dads’ stare and gives him a slight nod. If I wasn’t wholly invested the interaction I would have missed that. It was like they were communicating with some sort of man telepathy. There has been an agreement made between my overly protective father and a man who for all intents and purposes hates to be in the same room with me. Interesting. I look to Charlie for some kind of guidance in this testosterone filled moment but he looks just as baffled as I am.

After few beats the moment passes and everyone goes about picking up boxes to load for the move. There are no further words spoken between my dad and Josh except directions to my new house.


Dad and I are in my room trying to get my bed put together so I can finish unpacking everything on my own. He is distracted and keeps mumbling to himself.

“Dad, whats up? You are getting all Rainman on me here. Did we lose some of the bolts or something?”

“What, no we got everything.” He barely looks up from where he is working. I grab his hand before he can start working again and force him to meet my eyes.

“Seriously dad whats up?” I am using my soft voice, I have heard my mother use this voice with my father many times throughout the years when she needs to break open the hard exterior the Baker men seem to have.

“I worry about you is all. After Mark did what he did to you I wanted you to come home for the summer if for no other reason than I can protect you there.” I nod for him to keep going. ”Mom and I know you need some space to get yourself back together but it’s hard to know that you are here. Open to getting your little heart broken again, without anything I can really do about it.”

"I know dad but I will have to be strong no matter where I am. Whether it be here or at home I can’t stay locked in my room and never come into contact with guys.”

“Yeah and now you are going to be here in this house with two of them.” He states giving a slightly uncomfortable chuckle. ”They seem like alright guys, and I have a feeling Josh will not let anything untoward happen to you while you are here.” I am searching his eyes now, looking for the reason he seems to think Josh is the one who would protect me from anything. He mostly just gives me the cold shoulder, I doubt if I needed saving he would be the one to do it.

"I get along better with Charlie but Josh isn’t too bad. He reminds me of an old grizzly bear.” I am deflecting the actual comparison I make in my head...a wolf... beautiful and libel to turn on me at a moments notice. Dad gives me an understanding smirk.

"I have a good sense about people Ray, if anything happens over the next year and you need saving those boys won’t let me down.” He picks up his tools again and gets back to building my bed frame, mumbling to himself again.

I take the opportunity to leave him and grab the last few boxes from the living room downstairs to put in Stace’s bedroom. On my way out of her room I run right into a hard chest. “Oof.” I look up and a pair of deep chocolate eyes meet mine. Josh’s nostrils flare as he takes a deep breath and a step back towards our end of the hallway. He averts his gaze and grunts at me before looking behind me into the room.

“Is there anything else you need me for today? I have to get back to the store for my afternoon lessons.” I know he is talking to me but he can’t seem to keep eye contact.

“No actually I am great here. I cannot thank you enough for helping today. It would have taken my dad and I twice as long to get all this stuff here. I know my Dad doesn’t need to be lifting heavy boxes like this anymore than he already has.” I am rambling again and he is looking impatient. I digress. “So when you get home tonight consider dinner handled I am going to make something special for you and Charlie for being such a big help. You like Lasagna?” His eyes finally meet mine.

“Yea I like it, haven’t had a homemade lasagna in years.” I get just the slightest half smile from his lips as he walks past me and into his room. “I’ll stop and get some wine.”

I can hear my dad shout from my room. “She’s still underage. NO WINE!” Both Josh and I cringe at my dad overhearing our conversation and with a chuckle and agreement Josh closes his bedroom door and makes his way downstairs.

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