15: The Dane’s Dog

I couldn’t wait until the next afternoon, I messaged him in the morning. I’m sure my desperation shot off the screen to him. An entire 24 hours went by and he didn’t answer. I did the usual rationalizations: he was busy at work, he lost his phone, he typed a message to me but forgot to hit send. Though those rationalizations comforted me for  short time once the 24 hour mark hit I regained my sanity and with it a truth the everyone knows but few wish to accept when dating: People have their cell phones with them every moment of the day. They are in their hands, their bags, on their desks at work. So unless you are dating someone who climbs mountains out of the service area for days at a time or is a hermit with no phone (neither of which seem date-able) there is no excuse. If they do not message you in a timely manner they did it intentionally. That, or you aren’t important enough to them to even think about.

None of that mattered to me as soon as he texted back. The Dane didn’t bother with an excuse for his lack of timeliness but instead slid right in to witty text banter which had me glued to the phone for the rest of the day, hurling messages at each other once every ten minutes while I tried to focus on my work. We messaged well in to the evening and then, the next morning, silence. Then the next day passed with no response, and the day after that.

And on the third day The Dane resurfaced, no excuses again, and this time with an invitation to his place. I accepted. He had me so anxiously awaiting his messages that the validation of his invitation was enough to turn all of my instincts off, my pantie grabber radars had gone silent, and I went to the door of The Dane that very night.

I walked in and was shocked. For such a meticulously kept man he did not have a meticulously kept apartment. However, all of that was forgotten the moment I saw a wet nose poke out of the doorway. There was a dog. The Dane had a dog. My romantic interest in him spiked again.

I entered the messy apartment, strewn with discarded clothes, dishes, and dog paraphernalia. My attention however was entirely fixed on the new dog in my life, Mia. She and I bonded quickly and soon we were engaged in an epic tug-of-war battle with growling, panting, and articles  of messiness flying everywhere. The Dane was surprisingly patient and accepting of my turn of attention. He was busy scooping ice cream and selecting a Netflix movie, laughing at the antics of Mia and I. Out fun was soon curtailed though when he put the two bowls of ice cream on the well littered coffee table and beckoned me over to begin watching his favourite movie.

The rest of the date was nice. We laughed at the movie, I was distracted several times by the dog, and the messiness of the apartment didn’t bother me the way that it should have. When the movie ended our faces became briefly attached but after a little while I pulled away to make my excuses for tomorrow’s early morning training commitments. As I walked away from his apartment I reflected on the evening and the niceties of it but my particular focus was on Mia. Should he and I end up being compatible I was very much looking forward to spending more time with her.

The online world of dating was not supplying me with the distractions that I so required however. The work training was still happening and I was doing my best to keep engaged. The Unintended was still there, in the rooms with me, but I had so far been successful in avoiding any interactions with him. My assumption was that he too was ignoring me, avoiding me, and that was fine by me. A friend of his however, one of the men who had been out with us that fateful night, had started sitting beside me at the training workshops. I was suspicious at first but seriously doubted that The Unintended would share his diabolical actions with anyone, this man couldn’t know. So we were polite, chatted, and had lunch together the past two days.  I was thankful to have a companion at the training and be distracted in person in addition to the distractions supplied to me by a screen.

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14: The Dane

The dregs of single society inhabit the land of dating apps and so to do the devastatingly handsome (which are often one and the same). It was my task to discern which boys were pantie grabbers, which were wife hunting, and which would be forever bound to cyberspace based relations. It is truly amazing what we believe can be assumed from three pictures, a geographical location, and 28 characters worth of text.

I began my search with painstaking time and attention, analyzing the grammatical correctness of potentially sarcastic tag lines, trying to decipher each boy’s height based on the background of their photos, all in an effort to find a boy (or boys) of quality whom I could interact with beyond the basic “how are you” introductory speeches. This process gleaned very little progress on my mission to distract myself. So, ever using ingenuity, I refined my analysis and began to swipe with less pragmatism and more instinct which essentially amounted to a mindless “hot or not” video game.

The Easter eggs of this video game were unexpected. In addition to boosting my confidence by having a plethora of men vying for my attention I also gained some great restaurant recommendations, one job offer, and several new followers on social media. The main objective of all of this work was to find a boy who was dashing, funny, knew the city well, and willing to be in a semi-committed (on his part) relationship with me whilst I built my new life in this new city. Once my life was built we would part ways amicably and I could move on to a more serious beau who I wasn’t introduced to by the internet.

I was being specific and highly particular in this endeavour. Within the few days I met low to moderate success. Generally I would require 1-2 days (or 10-15 messages) of semi-consistent conversation with a potential match before agreeing to an in-person meeting. If they asked to meet too soon I would stop talking to them. If they took to long to ask me to meet I stopped talking to them. A few boys met all my criteria and I met them in person. Each was a short coffee date, an interview essentially, and with each one my process began to refine itself. The process was thus: be my naturally enchanting self, get them entirely hooked, lose interest in them because they fell to my wiles too easily, make a casual and believable exit, agree to see them again, ignore their future messages.

One boy defied my process. After the prerequisite 1-2 days of chatting during which I anxiously anticipated hearing back from him he invited me to dinner, not just coffee, and, counter to my rules, I accepted. There was an air of confidence about him I clearly divined from his online profile that was irresistible making it impossible to turn him down. The night of the date I dressed up slightly, just a casual amount as not to raise too much attention but enough to knock his socks off just a little. I walked up to the restaurant nervously but saw him nearly immediately. He was tall, extremely blonde, blue eyed, had bronzed skin, and a perfect smile greeting me. He opened his arms and before even saying hello we hugged. Physical contact – my first with any online matches.

As soon as we sat down we connected instantly. We shared interests in sports, TV shows, and music. I was endlessly impressed by his mastery of four languages and even more enchanted when he revealed that he was originally from the Denmark (impossible to discern given his impeccable English accent). He had moved several times as a child with his family, mastering a new language with each city, and was incredibly cultured. I barely spoke the entire date, so fascinated was I by his stories of travel and adventure. When he glanced at the time and reported it I was shocked to realize we had been sitting there for several hours. More shocking was the flood of disappointment I felt when he began making his excuses for leaving.

The Dane walked me to my car, hugged me goodbye, said he would see me again, and then he turned away. Leaving me wondering if I had just fallen victim to the exact process I had always used on my internet beaus. I wondered if I would actually see him again or if my messages would go ignored. Social dating rules dictated I could not message him until, at the very earliest, tomorrow afternoon. So, sadly, I would have to wait until then to know if I had become a victim of The Dane.

13: Future Promise

The next morning I came late to breakfast to avoid the rest of the people attending the training. After throwing a few food items into my bag I arrived at the large conference room, the generic kind every hotel has, and slipped in the door to find a seat just as the speaker began.

I dedicated myself entirely to what she was saying. It was, perhaps, the most concentrated I had ever been at a task related to my job. I wasn’t motivated by learning but by my need to completely ignore any nagging thought or image relating to the night before. When lunch came I excused myself from the people I was sitting beside and headed to the lobby with the intention of eating the food I had smuggled from breakfast, unwilling to enter the large communal room where our lunch would be provided. To ensure no one would approach me, I called Yasmine. At first she was surprised, we didn’t often call each other on work days, but I had fortunately caught her during her lunch hour. She was having drama with her boss again, a man who struggled to recognize or comprehend how a young female could do well at her job, so I was thoroughly distracted from my own musings  with her lengthy tale of sexism in the work place.

My afternoon progressed much the same, my concentration on the subject matter only broken  when a male voice asked a question causing my to flinch in my seat, hoping it wasn’t The Unintended speaking. When training for the day came to an end I was relieved. My mental energy had been totally spent and all I wanted to do was lie on the newly made bed of my hotel room, all evidence of the previous night stripped away by a conscientious maid. I once again detached myself from the throng of people heading into the room with our supper waiting and headed upstairs in the elevator.

I arrived to the hotel room perfection I had expected and flopped down on the bed. I ran through my options for the evening. I settled on room service and pay-per-view – the ultimate luxury (which my company would receive the bill for). As I waited for the knock on my door heralding the burger I had ordered I showered for the third time in 24 hours and was soon wrapped in a soft white robe with my hair dripping around my shoulders. I flicked through the channels looking for a movie. Settling on a sappy rom-com, I looked for another thing to do and picked up my notes from the day, reading them all the way through twice before setting them aside. Fortuitously my food arrived at that moment and for the next 2 hours I turned my brain off and my stomach on while I watched impossible situations play out on screen to a sound track heavy on the violins.

Movie over, stomach full, hair washed, and it was 8:00 pm. I wasn’t tired enough to go to sleep. I hadn’t brought a book with me, and I couldn’t push my luck by ordering a second pay-per-view movie on my company’s dime. Despite all of my efforts I was left to my thoughts and they immediately turned to the night before.

I was angry at myself for putting myself in that situation. Being taken for a night out with men I had just met, men I thought I could trust given our mutual connection through work, but strangers none the less. I was angry at myself for not stopping The Unintended’s flirtatious comments in their tracks, for allowing him to think he had a chance with me, for allowing myself to be touched and pulled in any direction he wanted whilst I excused his behavior in the name of dancing. These were all things I had done before, ignored men’s transgressions to keep the peace, to keep them happy, trying not to cause a stir. Things all women did so they weren’t called uptight, a tease, a bitch. But this time the boy didn’t go away, my girls didn’t rescue me from the creep at the bar, he had followed me into my room.

I had said the wrong things, done the wrong things, worn the wrong clothing, and trusted the wrong people. What had happened was my fault and I knew I would have to live with that. I would have to live with myself. I felt dirty and repulsive, but most of all I felt very alone.  I had no one I could tell, anyone I told would be just as disgusted with me as I was with myself. Whomever I told would no longer love me, be my friend, think of me in the same way again. I was the girl who got what she wanted from men. At least, that’s what people thought. But I hadn’t wanted this, the night before, the ugly man, The Unintended. No, I couldn’t tell anyone.

So instead I decided to channel the girl everyone thought I was. I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts or my memories and I didn’t have to be, I would get what I wanted. In my hand was the comforting blue light that ensured I had access to people far and near, loved or unloved, known, or unknown. So I wrote my name, added a picture, typed a flirtatious caption, and began swiping on the beautiful faces of the boys in my new city- future promise abound.

12: The Unintended

Being fully aware of the stagnation in my career, when an unexpected opportunity fell in my lap I took it with very few questions asked. The company I was working for was recruiting people to relocate to a big, snazzy city many kilometers away known for its night life and party scene. They offered a 3 week, all expense paid training course in the city and would pay moving expenses in exchange for a 2 year commitment to the new branch being opened in the new city.

For about 4 seconds I considered what I would be leaving behind in my small city and when nothing sprang immediately to mind I added myself to the list of interested employees. Several weeks, one application, and three phone interviews later I was hired on to be a team member at the new opening branch.

It was difficult breaking the news to my friends that I would be leaving. Eleanor and Yasmine knew how unhappy I was in my current job however and applauded in happiness when I told them the good news. My big move would only mean that wine night would take place over Skype and that they would have to visit me in my new sparkling city where the nightlife options were endless and pretty boys were aplenty. Besides, Eleanor was in a long term relationship with her future husband and Yasmine was spending so much time with The Carpenter I set her up with we were seeing each other less and less.

The three week training session began the very afternoon I arrived in my new city, suitcase in tow, with a welcome meeting and dinner. The beautiful thing about this training session was that people from across the country were in attendance. Though I was staying in the city, most other participants would be heading back to their home turfs armed with their new knowledge. The atmosphere was akin to summer camp but with its campers imbibing in excess and having access to hotel rooms.

I immediately set my sights on my conquest for the three week course. He was not as attractive as I normally tried for. In honesty, he was the best of the bunch which wasn’t saying a whole lot. He had blue eyes and spoke with a slight drawl that caught my immediate attention. Sitting around him was a pack of well dressed men who had clearly began the festivities earlier in the day and were roaring with laughter. My new peers.

After the formal introductions were made and the welcome speeches concluded we were all free to roam around and chat with each other while the waiters cleaned up our plates. It was at this moment that one of the men I had seen chatting with my eventual conquest approached me.

“The guys and I have decided we need to celebrate and are going out. You should come.” he said, all confidence.

He was very tall. Looking up I replied, “This isn’t enough of a celebration for you?”

“This?” he scoffed.”This is nothing. We’re in the big city now kid, time to see what trouble we can find.”

The tall man did not have a pretty face but I gave him points for his confidence. Sensing an opportunity, I took him up on his offer, knowing that he would be bringing the other men, and the object of my attention, along with him.

An hour later I met the men in the lobby, dressed to kill, and noticed that no other women had been invited. When I inquired they all mumbled before the man who had invited me shouted, “We only invite the best! With legs like yours, you’re the only one worth our time.”

Cringing at the sexist undertones of this compliment I decided not to sting him with an insult above his intelligence. I followed the group of men into the cab that they had ordered and soon found myself standing on a street filled with mobs of women in tiny skirts just like mine and thumping bass from every doorway. Looking around to see all the action around me I stood for a moment, absorbing. Then I heard my name being called and looked up into the unattractive face that was speaking to me.

“The guys headed that way I think, follow me.” He said, grabbing my hand and heading in one direction. He took me to a yellow door with a bouncer outside of it. Looking at the hordes of people outside I noticed how young they were, it was a college bar.

“Are you sure this is where they went?” I asked.

“Ya, this is where they said they were going.” He said as he leaned over to the bouncer and paid his and my entrance charge.

Walking in there was a massive square dance floor with a DJ booth raised in the centre for maximum impact. Above a balcony ringed the outside so people with less dancing proclivities, or those wearing sky high heels, could take a break. Glancing around I could see none of the men who were in the cab with us. As I turned to find my unintended companion I felt a drink being thrust in my hand.

“Here, drink this, I got it for you.” The Unintended said, sipping on his similar drink.

“Thanks” I said, taking a sip. “The other guys don’t seem to be here, maybe they went next door?” I asked.

“You’re right, they aren’t. I must have got the place wrong. But now that I bought your entry we should stay for a while. Drink up!” He told me.

Seeing logic to this I obediently drank my drink and watched the young college kids scamper around me in differing degrees of drunkeness. The music playing was old, very old, and I was surprised these kids were dancing to it. Some of it was stuff their parents would have listened to when they were young. I felt the bubbles in my drink slowly enter my blood stream and the edges of the lights growing pleasantly blurry. The drink in my hand seemed to magically refill and, pleased by such a magical occurrence, I happily sipped my straw.

The next thing entering my consciousness was dancing, lots of dancing. The bass was moving through my toes up into my legs and taking me all across the dance floor. The Unintended was like a tether, his hands on my waist, not letting me roam too far away. At first I was angry and wanted to twirl on my own but I thought it would be rude if I said no so I let him hold me. Then I let him put his face against my neck. He said something to me then but I couldn’t hear him with all the buzzing in my head. I closed my eyes and let the buzzing take me away, hands raised above my head.

When I opened my eyes I was being pulled from a taxi. The Unintended was laughing at me, saying how much of a mess I was, and explained my behaviour to the taxi driver as he threw some bills at him. He bent to try and scoop me up but I leaned away, avoiding contact, confused as to where we were.

Trusting he knew where we were, I let him take my hand and guide me through the lobby and into the elevator. Recognizing the hotel we were all staying in and remembering my floor, I hit the button. The Unintended was still holding my hand in the elevator, his other hand toying with the zipper on my skirt. I tried to slink away but his grip tightened, forcing me back. When the elevator doors opened I turned around and mumbled a demure goodnight but when I tried to take my hand back he leaned in close to my face.

“I’m a gentleman, I take a lady to her door.” He whispered in an attempt to sound seductive. Nodding I headed in the direction of my room, careful to have one hand against the hallway wall so I wouldn’t lose my balance again. My senses were returning to me and I couldn’t understand how so few drinks could have left me so inebriated. Arriving at my door I fumbled in my purse to pull out my room key. I turned back to The Unintended to say a firm good night this time. Before I could he took the key from my hand, shuffled me aside, and unlocked the door as he pushed his way in, pulling me in behind him.

“I think it’s time to say good night.” I managed to say in a voice I thought was forceful.

“You could barely walk down the hall way, you can’t manage to get to bed yourself. I’ll help you.” He said, coming towards me.

“No.” I said. “I don’t want you to.” My voice growing smaller. “Please leave.”

“It’s not a matter of want, it’s a matter of need.” He said, leaning in so close I was forced to press my body against the wall. “And after all I spent on you tonight, I’ll need you to do some things too.”

I said no again, I told him I didn’t want to, I told him to leave. But in the end, I did what he said.

 

11: The Old Friend

Eleanor and I were able to patch things up and come to a mutual agreement to never speak of The Brother’s and my romance, only this could maintain our friendship. It took a few weeks to make things right and a few harsh words delivered by the sweet and gracious Eleanor. After receiving some pointed criticisms on my approach to men she conceited that she would let me regal her with my boy drama as long as I never brought up her brother or went after someone close to her again. Point taken.

After such a disaster I set my sights on more easy pickings. Unwilling to put the effort into forging any new relationships I reverted to an old one that had long been waiting for my attention. He and I had been friends for many years, into our childhood. As adults however, I had always been with The Ex so nothing could bloom between us. Once, a few years ago, The Old Friend had made his desires for me all but known in a mysterious conversation about how he had grown up in recent years, become a handsome and desirable man, and that I should keep an eye on all his success to come. Stupidly, and in an effort to stir drama, I told this story to The Ex and he, of course, grew jealous and preferred me to no longer spend time with The Old Friend. I had received the dramatic intrigue I desired but at the cost of a friendship. He and I drifted apart with me no longer making efforts to see him and he becoming involved in his own life.

Based on his speech to me that fateful day I knew full well what sort of boy he was. He had grown up an ugly duckling but had suddenly become very attractive while we were teenagers. Armed with this new sense of self he turned into a conceited person, bent on gaining compliments from anyone who would offer them, and constantly bringing up his successes. His work industry as a publicist did nothing to remedy this and his ego had grown exponentially over the years.

I knew who he was and I knew what I wanted. I wanted to spend time with a boy who would require nothing of me besides my witty banter and my ability to turn heads. I reached out to him and got exactly what I wanted- an invitation to his apartment.

Now the best part about spending time with someone as egotistical as The Old Friend is your ability to totally set them on edge and keep wanting more by never giving them what they want – your adoration. I arrived and he took me on a tour of his, admittedly, beautiful apartment. My response? One of medium regard and a comment about my friend who had an even nicer apartment in the area. He then set in to a story about his most recent travels to a rarely traversed country and his office’s partnership with a company there. My response? A story about an exotic location I had been to the year before. Never admit wonder, rarely dispense compliments, and offer your own stories of intrigue without expectation of comment and you will have an egotistical boy hooked. And so I did.

After spending the night with him I received a message one week later once again inviting me back to his apartment for a “good time”. I told him last time wasn’t exactly that good so why would I be motivated to return? In this comment I was being genuinely truthful, it hadn’t been that good. He did not message me back.

Until a week later, with an invitation to a very grand hotel room he had access to for the night through his work. This hotel happened to be the nicest in the city and I had never actually seen a room inside so was very tempted. I agreed and joined him for the evening. The room was impeccable with a white and gold theme throughout, king size bed, Jacuzzi tub, and a balcony. The Old Friend had even ordered champagne for us. He reeked of desire for my adoration.

Based on his very apparent effort (he never did say why his office had the room for the night…) I felt it appropriate to dispense a few comments, peppered throughout the evening, of the wonderful time I was having and the beauty of the room. He practically beamed with my words, his ego satiated.

To this day The Old Friend is hooked. We don’t see each other often but we do see each other conveniently and he always, always, tries his best.

10: The Forever Man

There’s something about a secret relationship that makes it all the more thrilling. The Brother had already sent a message to my phone by the time Eleanor and I arrived at the restaurant to meet Yasmine. Since then we had been messaging four or five times each day. Considering our encounter had started with a smoldering wink I had expected our messages to be full of flirtatious innuendos and lustful invitations. I was surprised when the messages ended up being updates on our lives since we had last seen each other and catching up. Not to say the occasional innuendo didn’t sneak in.

Because we lived in a small city full of everyone knowing each other, The Brother invited me to see his new house. Normally I would have had some qualms about a first date being at the boy’s house but I wanted to continue living the secret so agreed. When I arrived I was greeted with fantastic aromas and an immediate growl in my stomach. He had cooked for me, a meal he knew I loved, and had even gone out and bought a dessert with mountains of whip cream. I was more than impressed, I was enchanted. What I had thought would be a check on my scandalous list of bedroom beaus was turning into a real first date.

We spent the majority of the evening laughing at memories from our shared past or gossiping about people we had both gone to school with. I was completely relaxed and in the moment when I was startled by the suddenly hungry look in his eyes (which happened to be approaching rapidly). We kissed, there in his parent’s rental house, and eventually found ourselves bereft of clothes in a bed that had shortly before been made up perfectly.

Things escalated quickly after that with me spending nearly every night at his place, both of us too afraid to take our new romance into the public eye. However, about a week later, he sent me a message asking me on a date. Inviting me to dinner and a show to be exact – very romantic. Surprised, I asked him why suddenly the shift in publicity. Calling to explain, I eventually received the shocking details of the dinner he had had the previous night with Eleanor, asking her permission to date me. I was floored. I had a mass of different emotions running through my chest. Some of disbelief, sadness at the loss of secrecy, titillation at the friend drama this could create, fear at Eleanor’s possible anger, and a soft glowing at knowing this boy cared enough about me to rock his family dynamic. With a rapidly beating heart I agreed to the date and hung up the phone, mouth agape, in awe at what I had stumbled in to. Could this be a real relationship?

The Brother came to my house to pick me up on the evening of our date and I immediately sensed something different. It was an undefinable quality that I couldn’t place but held a distinct shift. As the night wore on I began to identify where the shift was coming from. The Brother had taken on a more serious quality in his conversation and mannerisms. He seemed earnest and insistent in a way that he hadn’t been before during our secret intrigue moments together. I was realizing slowly that The Brother I had in my mind, the flirtatious rouge who loved women and behaved recklessly, was perhaps not the person I was spending time with.

When we returned to his home this became scathingly clear. Laying in bed he told me all about his long term goals in his career and his dream to find a wife he could come home to, who could have his kids, and be someone his parents loved. Frozen dread took hold of my heart as the life he was describing seemed to include me as a main feature. That was why he had asked Eleanor her permission, he saw me sticking around in a potentially permanent way. He had become the Forever Man, wanting me by his side, not the taboo best friend’s brother. I  acted my way through the rest of the evening, smiling where it was expected and giving him the assurances he needed that he had not scared me with his talk of commitment. In truth my brain was a puddle of fright and all I wanted to do was leave that house.

The next day I didn’t message him. Or the day after that. How was I supposed to end this thing with my best friend’s brother that was never supposed to be a thing? Why did I put myself in this mess? Why was I so terrible at reading boys’ intentions, my own intentions? And, perhaps more importantly, why did I react so badly to talk of commitment – something other girls seemed to swoon for?

Eventually the brother called me, confused at my silence and demanding we see each other. I agreed and had him come to my office over my lunch break. I figured I would at least have an escape for what I knew would be a horrendous conversation by claiming I had to return to work. I sat down across from him at the food court adjacent to my office building and listened to him ask about why I had gone silent on him. I waited patiently and then delivered my blow – No, I could not commit to him. He begged me to take a step back, pretend I hadn’t heard the things he said about out future. No, I could not do that. Then, his final plea, could we continue sleeping together. No, we could not.

Less than five minutes after I sat down across from him I stood and headed back to my office and the packed lunch I had waiting for me. I planned to call Eleanor that night, repairing any damage I had caused by chasing her brother, The Forever Man.

9: The Brother

When I was with The Ex I had a secret mental list that I never told anyone about but, in hindsight, am sure everyone in a relationship has had. It was a list of the boys I would have liked to date and/or slept with while I was The Ex. Being the moral and committed girlfriend I was I never did pursue the boys on my list but soon enough an opportunity presented itself in my current single state to go after one of the boys on the list.

Eleanor still lived with her parents in the home she grew up in. Hers was my favourite place to spend time at because her mother was always offering us snacks and taking away our dirty dishes. It was the closest I would get to living with hired help. I had been coming to Eleanor’s house for over half my life and her family was more than accustomed to waking up in the morning to me, unkept and snoring, sprawled on their living room couch.

On this particular day I was sitting on a stool, leaning against the counter of her kitchen and watching her spoon ice cream into her bowl after serving me mine. She was still in school and her program sounded like the stuff of nightmares. Night classes, practicums, internship applications, essays, and competitive classmates often made her overwhelmed.  We were taking tonight to relax, just us two, and eat sugar infused food sure to make us sick. I was listening attentively, spoon dangling from my hand, when the front door opened and in walked The Brother.

I had not seen The Brother in a few years because he had moved away for a job opportunity. He was six years older than us, dashingly handsome, and completely reckless with his money. When we were teenagers we had teased him mercilessly for all the girls he would sneak into their parent’s basement but secretly I had wished to be one of those girls. He was already solidly on my list of wishful love connections when something sparked between us while I was with The Ex.

Right before he had moved away I had been invited to dinner with his family, a bon voyage dinner. Eleanor was supposed to pick me up but was working late so she had sent The Brother. Not expecting to see him, I had turned beet red when he showed up at my door and was barely able to mutter a greeting. The way he looked at me made me realize that my crush had not been as secret as I thought. During the car ride he asked me lots of questions about The Ex, what he did for work, what our plans were, did I really see it lasting. Right before he parked the car outside of the restaurant he had said something about one day I would want to know a real man and, when I was ready, he would be waiting.

The incident had not computed with my view of the world at the time. I, the young little sister’s friend, could not possibly have been on The Brother’s radar and yet his words made it sound as though I was. Confused, I didn’t think about it closely until he had already moved away and, at that point, my opportunity to know a real man was gone.

Eleanor hadn’t noticed I stopped listening to her long ago and that I was caught up in my recollections. She was still talking all about the lazy classmates she was forced to do a project with. The Brother came into the kitchen and immediately opened the fridge.

“Hi Eleanor, hi Eleanor’s friend.” He said, not even looking up at us, playing the aloof big brother.

“Eleanor’s friend, really? Pretty sure you know my name by now. Or is your skull thicker than I thought?” I said. Without even thinking I was sliding back into the teasing brat of years before. Realizing what I had done I put on my big girl face and re-approached the conversation.

“How is the job away, all glitz and glamour I’m sure.” I said, flashing a smile when his head finally appeared from inside the refrigerator.

“Not all it was cracked up to me, I’m moving back. I was just dropping my things off at my new house and wanted a snack.” He said, biting into the left-over pizza in his hand.

“A new house, that must be pretty exciting.” I said, trying to generator more conversation with him.

“I guess. See you around!” He said as he walked away, pizza in hand.

“Since when is he back?” I asked Eleanor after he had left the room.

“Only about a week, not long. Something happened with his job but I’m not sure what. He’s living in one of my parent’s rental houses now.” She said, grabbing her now full bowl of ice cream and heading toward the TV room, expecting me to follow.

The next week I spent a lot of time at Eleanor’s house. Even if she couldn’t spend time with me and had to study I was there, sitting in her living room, playing with her dog, chatting with her parents, and awaiting The Brother’s return.

His return could not have been at a more perfect moment. Eleanor and I were getting ready to meet Yasmine at a restaurant for her birthday. I was ready to go, hair curled, low cut shirt on, and heels waiting by the door. Eleanor was upstairs putting the finishing touches to her make-up. I was standing at the front door, getting annoyed at Eleanor for making us late, when I was quite literally knocked off my feet by the door opening suddenly and flinging me back onto the floor.

“Oh! Sorry, I didn’t know you would be there.” The Brother said, coming in with boxes in his hands. Setting down the mystery packages he extended his hand to help me to my feet. “You and Eleanor going out on the town I see.” He said, looking me up and down in what I chose to believe was a lustful way. I nodded yes, unprepared to deliver anything with enough panache to make the moment what I wanted it to be. “Meeting Yasmine and your boyfriend there I’m guessing?” He asked, grey eyes looking straight into mine.

Recycling the epic line I had used on the human dirt bag Football Player, I coyly said, “What boyfriend?” and dropped a wink. I was honestly shocked at how forward I had just been. Seems my confidence was at even loftier heights than I had thought.

“Is that so?” he said, a smile spreading across his face.

Eleanor’s footsteps hit the steps from above and he and I both jumped back as though we were about to get caught in a compromising position.

“Ready to go? We’re going to be late!” She said, rushing down the steps, not registering The Brother was there. Her shoes were on and she was pulling open the door before I had a chance to respond. About to follow her outside I looked up into those grey eyes again.

“See you soon.” he said, dropping a wink full of unsaid promise.