My phone buzzes twice and vibrates off my thighs. The caller ID is one I would know even if half blind. It has an emoji with a serious black tie and briefcase next to the name. I swipe right.
Something clutters in the kitchen. Loudly.
‘Julia?’ Henry’s voice asks over the phone.
I cut him off and hush the device to silent mode. Hastily I kick the bottle from my feet and hear it sploosh all over the carpet.
I am on my knees, the band around my waist tightening between numbing fingers. Under the bed. It’s so stupid it’s almost Hollywood. But it will have to do. I have no closet. I have no attic. I have no fucking secret door that I can hide behind.
Moving the strands of the duvet to the side, I grip my way through the dust bunnies and old shoes and lean on my elbows for support. The screen lights up. I swipe left.
I am alone. And yet I am not alone.
I shut my eyes and do that thing we all do during times like these. I pray.
I hide inside the memories in my mind. Scrubbed pots and pans and dying flowers and mom’s shepherd’s pie and fresh custard apples and old school shoes and runny water behind the rusty tap and old newspapers and a tiny spatula and my first Prom dress and the last kiss on the cheek before running away from him and the acceptance letter to college and the late night phone call and the blinking laptop light and the…
Boots. Soft leather. Crunching glass.
This is it. Oh God, this is it. Please forgive me for being a bitch in high school. I didn’t mean not to make friends. I’m sorry I lied to my dad that day I played hooky. I am sorry for not donating to charity and drinking Starbucks on Monday mornings right outside the church.
Oh God, I am sorry for never closing my eyes when mom prayed. I am sorry I thought about Henry in those dirty ways. I’m-
Eyes wide open.
I know those boots.
I know that voice.
Heavy arms lift the bed’s covers up and a concerned, upside down face meets mine. Henry. He came. I am unlocked on the inside, and the tears do their thing.
‘Hey, hey… it’s alright. It’s okay.’
Warmth. Embrace. Safety.
‘I don’t know what it was… I… I… I was on the phone with you and then I heard a loud crash in the… in the kitchen… and I had to hide for I don’t know how long in there… and… oh God...’
Am I breaking down, or are his hands on my face?
They are on my face.
He glances at me and smiles.
‘I came here as fast as I could. The front door was open and intact. There’s nobody here besides me. I checked. You are safe. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m sorry.’
Those words are rare and few and far in between. The throb in my heart slows down. I smell his outdoorsy scent mixed with cologne. It beats harder, this time for something else. His touch.
I have not felt his skin on mine like this before. Fear is out of the window. This is something else.
And he feels it too.
Between us there is a simmering heat begging to be cooled. He searches for it with the tip of his lips. I help him. We find it together, at the same place, at the same time, and we merge. He tastes of old liquor and caged hunger. His nose rubs into mine, and I breathe him in. I am weightless. I am floating.
We lose it and stare into each other’s eyes. I see dilated beings begging to be closed. He shuts them. I do too.
We find that heat again, this time with dripping wetness of our own. His tongue explores my mouth. I back away, shy. He beckons me. Fingers go deep into my hair. Fingers go wider onto my robed body. I sigh into him.
‘I’m kinda naked underneath.’
He grins widely and asks, ‘Aren’t we all?’
My handsome boss strips me down easily. I watch as the soft hazy yellow light hits his solid frame. He is in a coat, a button-down shirt, khaki pants and a leather belt intact. Under the buckle is a bulge and it’s growing.
His fingers slide down my arms, the underside of the robe slithering off my skin like a sheet off a brand new car. I am cold. He fills that void.
Lips meld into one tangle for absolution, and his weight presses against my chest. My hand is above my head. I feel his bicep trace across my erect nipples, and he finds my other hand.
I am shackled by his grip. His tongue slithers across the space between my D cups, and his teeth remind my radiating nipples who he is.
My boss. Pinning me down. Unbuckling himself.