I take Leslie home in my car.
She was quiet the entire way down into the parking garage, and she’s still quiet now. I glance at her away from the road—she’s playing with the cuffs on my jacket that’s still draped around her.
“Your car is really nice,” she says over the silence. “I’ve never been in an Aston Martin before.”
“It isn’t anything special.”
She laughs slightly. Hopefully she took my comment as sarcasm rather than being a rich asshole.
I ask her where she lives, and she tells me the address. Of course I don’t know where the hell the coordinates are when she tells me, so she points me in all the right directions there until, after twenty minutes, we make it in front of a nice apartment complex on a quiet street.
I park a couple cars away from the entrance. When I turn the ignition off, we sit in the dark quiet of my car.
Don’t be dumbass, Sebastian. Walk her up to her place.
“Thank you for the ride, Sebastian.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Leslie doesn’t move, and neither do I. Shit, why is it so hard to invite myself up to a girl’s home? It’s not like I’ve never done it before!
I think of a way to ask her if I can walk her up without ticking her off in anyway. See, women like Leslie often take on a load more than they can handle. And after the shit storm of tonight, I doubt she can carry herself any longer. It’s just convincing her that I want to help her out that’s going to be hard; that’s when the denial of everything sinks in.
“Would you like to come up?” she asks timidly. I can’t help but look at her, surprised.
Well, that was easy.
What can I say about Leslie’s apartment?
Well, it’s pretty big for one person. There’s an empty feeling when you walk inside, even though there’s plenty of furniture, plants, and other shit people fill their places with nowadays. I wouldn’t know what interests people when they decorate their homes—I had an interior designer pick out whatever fit well with the Spanish villa-style of my house and rode with it when Sarah thought it looked great.
I swear I hear barking when I first walk inside. Lo and behold, a Chihuahua runs up and starts yapping away at me the minute we walk through the door. I swear, this dog is probably the size of my—
“Pedro!” Leslie snaps at him. Little Pedro immediately stops making all the defensive noise and runs up underneath her dining room table.
“He’s a protective pup, isn’t he?” I say.
She shakes her head. “He was nothing like this before I left. It wasn’t until yesterday that he actually wanted to be around me.”
Leslie takes off her heels and places them on a mat to the left of the door. I follow her into her living room.
“Would you like anything? Food? Something to drink?”
I’m starving, but I feel weird about accepting anything from her.
“No, I’m not hungry. Thank you, though.”
Her eyes stare up at me a little while longer before she accepts my answer and looks away. “Okay.”
As she places her phone and bag on the coffee table, I think of something productive I could say. Does she want to talk about what happened? Should I leave? No, I can’t just leave—that’s a shitty thing for me to do. Leslie’s just such an enigma that I don’t know what to do. I know how to react to the person I knew for the past month. But the person I see now? Fuck no. I’m completely lost.
“Are you okay?” I ask for the second time tonight. I’m mentally beating myself up right now for asking such a dumb fucking question. Of course she isn’t okay, and of course she’s going to lie about it. C’mon, Sebastian. Use your brain for once.
“I’m fine,” she laughs shakily. “Just waiting for this day to become a memory, you know?”
“Believe me, I’ve had many days like that in my life. Too many, if I’m being completely honest.”
She laughs again, then looks around her apartment like it’s her first time seeing it. “Is it okay if I take a shower?”
“It’s not my house,” I reply with a smile—a smile she returns, thankfully.
She leaves down the hallway—after telling me where the remote for the TV is—and into what I assume is her bedroom before closing the door. I lounge on the couch and turn on the TV—anything to get my mind off the fact that Leslie is most likely naked just a room away.
Pedro (I think that’s his name) gradually comes from underneath the dining room table when Breaking Bad reruns play on the TV. There’s nothing good to watch; I’ve never watched this show, but even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to understand what’s going on with my mind buzzing about a million things a minute.
There’s some meth-head named Justin or Jesse who’s said “bitch” about four times in the last minute. That’s all I’ve been able to gather.
Chihuahua-guard-dog jumps at Leslie’s voice down the hall. He almost made it to the couch. Now, he’s running down the hall like she’s in trouble.
“Yeah?” I call back.
“Um…can you help me?”
This is when I prepare for anything.
I push myself up from the couch and make my way to her room. The light is on when I walk in, but that’s not the only thing that stuns my eyes—Leslie’s facial expression is defeated, slumping over with her dress halfway down her torso. There isn’t an ouch of shame or embarrassment on her face at the fact that the only thing on her from the waist up is her bra.
“The zipper is stuck in the back,” she mumbles. “Do you mind?”
God is testing me. He really must be testing me right now.
“I-I…y-yeah—I mean, no I don’t mind. Not at all.”
It’s taking all of my will-power not to stare at her chest. Fuck, she has really nice tits. Like really nice tits. And she’s wearing those really sexy red and black lace bras that are making my eyes hurt from trying not to look longer than I need to. Jesus, if she ever complains about her body, I swear to God.
Don’t get a boner, don’t get a boner, DO NOT get a boner, Sebastian, for fuck’s sake.
I help her with the zipper, which was actually pretty stuck, and head back to the living room. Pedro follows me back onto the couch.
“So now you want to be my friend?” I tell him. You know that thing Chihuahua’s do when they’re constantly shaking as if it’s colder than Jack Frost’s morning breath in the room? Yeah, Pedro here is doing that on the couch right now. I heard somewhere that Chihuahua’s do that because they’re holding in their shit. When I think of that, I want to laugh at the little guy. But he looks so pitiful that I’d feel like a dick if I did.
I sigh. “Your mom is making me feel really conflicted right now.”
Pedro still stares at me. Maybe he agrees that Leslie has ability to tamper with one’s emotions so harshly that you don’t know red from blue or right from wrong. What I know is, ever since I kissed her, I’ve been unsure of the best route in the long run. One minute I just want to have her close; touch her, feel her skin on my hands and her curves beneath my palms. But when I see how she is now, it makes me second guess whether or not inserting myself that way would do her any good?
All I want is for her to be okay.
Eventually, I become nosey when the TV disinterests me and I realize that I left my phone in my car. I walk around her living room, taking note of how immaculately clean her apartment is. I also take note of the bare walls; she has barely any pictures framed anywhere. She as one that is on a small table by the couch—a man holding a little girl with unruly brown hair, curls springing in every direction. The atmosphere looks rustic, though I never thought of her being one to love the outdoors; Tennessee is proof of that.
Subtle footsteps near from behind me. Leslie enters the room, her hair damp and tied up into a bun. Her innocent silk pajamas and exposed freckles make me smile; I have yet to meet a woman who can go from sexy to adorable in such a short period of time as she does; without even fucking trying.
I hold up the picture frame. “Is this you?”
She nods. “I was five in that picture. My Dad and I used to visit his family in Scotland all the time when I was younger.”
“First generation American?”
“Mhm. From both my mother and Father. My mom’s from Italy, but I’m sure you already know that.”
I think everyone at the party already knows by now, too.
I set the picture frame down. Leslie’s eyes look unsettlingly heavy.
“Do you want to talk about anything that happened tonight? That was—”
“I’m fine.” She says a little too quickly. “I’m okay, I swear. I’m a big girl. I can handle myself.”
“I know you can handle yourself, but you handle so much of everyone else that it…it…”
“It worries me. I’m worried about you. I mean, what happened tonight was some crazy shit and since I found you in your office, the only reaction you’ve had was to vent to me in a way that seemed like you didn’t intend to in the first place. Keeping all of that tucked inside you isn’t healthy, believe me.”
“I’m not one to outwardly express emotion. That’s just the way I am.”
“And how has that helped you so far?”
No answer. I sound like a dick; the last thing I want to do is hurt Leslie’s feelings by telling her shit she already knows. But it’s driving me crazy—she hasn’t cried, she hasn’t yelled or anything. She’s barely even talked about it. She wants to pretend like watching her scum-bag of an ex-boyfriend propose to a woman with an engagement ring he bought with a watch she bought him is no big deal; she wants to believe that her mother exposing things about her past to people who don’t even know her name is something to sweep underneath the rug.
“You should get back to the party. I’ve kept you long enough.”
“I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “I don’t like the idea of leaving you here.”
Leslie smiles at me reassuringly. “Sebastian, I’ll be fine.”
Her eyes say something different. I’m no psychiatrist or doctor or whatever, but the way she’s looking at me, it’s as if she wants to ask me something else instead.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m positive. Text me anything eventful that happens, though I’m sure the most eventful part of the evening has already past.”
I tell her that I need to get my coat first, then follow her into her bedroom where she hands it to me. We say our goodbyes before I leave her in her bedroom. She’s under the impression that I’m getting into my car and driving away. I’m smarter than that.
I leave the front door unlocked; I’m just going to my car to get my cell phone.
Everything is how it was left when I come back up to her apartment. The lights in the living room are on, the TV is still on Breaking Bad, and her bedroom door is open. Only difference is, the light in Leslie’s bedroom is off.
Pedro follows me down the hall. I peak into her bedroom; she’s sitting at the foot of her bed, holding her head down at her hands. All smiles and positive attitude is gone.
I knock on the door frame. Her head looks up in alarm, and she blinks a few times like she can’t believe I came back.
“Wh-what are you doing here?” she asks; her voice is faint. “I thought you were going back to the party?”
“I just went back down to my car to get my cell phone.” I raise an eyebrow at her playfully. “You really thought I was going to leave you here by yourself? I thought you had a little more faith in me?”
I’m happy that I made her laugh, at least. But suddenly her face twists into discomfort and sadness. From what I can see, her eyes mist over with tears.
I ask her one more time, hoping for an honest answer. “Are you okay, Leslie?”
She looks up at me, eyes big and victim to neglect, and shakes her head.
“No,” she answers with a brittle voice. And then she begins to cry.
I take full responsibility for being an advocate of avoiding people when they cry. Believe me, I’m the type of person that hates when people sob; it makes me uncomfortable. Every time some girl who was a good lay would cry to me about wanting something more or not understanding my fear for commitment, I would roll my eyes so hard I could have sworn I saw my brain cells dying. But this? This is…I can’t describe it. I just want to hold her. Fuck the expectations and the rules and the boundaries. She needs to be held, you know?
I hold my hand out to her. “Come here,” I beckon to her gently, and like magnet to iron, she wraps her arms around me; cries and cries into the fabric of my shirt until I can feel her tears soak through onto my chest. I return the embrace, tightly but not painfully—just enough to make her feel like she can be safe, for once.
I expected her to feel like her personality—strong, stubborn, independent. But she’s very small and fragile in my arms. It makes me believe that she’s hard as stone on the outside, but on the inside she’s soft, gentle and yearning for someone to see that. It’s just her exterior is so damn tough it’s hard for people to get through.
“Why haven’t you left yet?” she starts to ramble. “I’m such a pain in the ass and I’m such a mess and I don’t understand why you didn’t cut me off so long ago because I-I—”
“You’re still a pain in the ass,” I answer. “But not a big enough pain in the ass to be treated like shit. You deserve more than that. You’re…a royal pain in the ass.”
She laughs even harder than she did a minute ago.
“Do you think I’m a lost cause?” she asks me into my chest.
“No,” I respond. “I just think…I think that you have too much love bottled up inside of you that you haven’t given to anyone in a long time.”