Short, I know. And I can't guarantee a post for the next couple of days, since I'll be busy. Don't hate me, please, if I leave you hanging.
I'm feeling pretty good. I mean, sure things could have gone better, gone a little more smoothly, but sometimes you just have to take it for what it's worth.
No doubt, I'm in over my head. This feels so different this time around. It's not bad, just very different, and definitely more overwhelming. Are there degrees of love? Can you be more in love with one person when you say you're in love, than you are with another person?
"I'd better get home and change into other clothes. And I need to take my contacts out," Max says as he rubs his eyes. "Do you want to go out for dinner?"
"It's Thanksgiving," I tell him. "Nothing's going to be open. I mean, you'd have to have made reservations already. I have stuff for a make-shift meal. It won't be a conventional Thanksgiving, but it will be good enough for me."
"Okay, baby. If it's good enough for you, it's good enough for me." He rolls off me and starts searching for his clothes. Now that I have space to breath again, I take the opportunity to let out a deep breath, exhaling some of my frustration and happiness. I have a feeling that life with Max is going to be a lot like this. Frustrating and happy, all at the same time.
While he begins to change, I swing my legs over the side of the bed and stretch before padding into the kitchen. Since I knew I was going to be spending the day alone, I didn't buy much in the way of Thanksgiving staples, but I had the bare necessities: a frozen turkey breast, gravy packets, instant mashed potatoes, and Stove Top stuffing. Of course, I had bought a pumpkin pie. If I had thought about spending the day with Max, I would have made it from scratch—and when I say from scratch, I mean from a can.
I search the cupboard for a can of corn, and when I find that, I figure our meal will be complete. Except brown-n-serve rolls! Everyone knows it's not Thanksgiving without those.
"Hey, Maxie. Would you mind terribly stopping by one of the stores, if they're open?"
"Sure. What do you need?" he asks, stepping into the kitchen area. His clothes are all wrinkled. I don't remember how he shed them last night, but he didn't hang them up or fold them.
"You look like a ragamuffin," I laugh, reaching out to try and smooth out some of the creases so he looks less like a homeless person and more respectable. His fingers reach out to play with the hem of the tee shirt I'm wearing, because that's all I'm wearing, besides my boy shorts.
"A ragamuffin," I inform him, trying to suppress another giggle as I look at the confusion on his face.
"Never mind," I say. "I don't have any rolls. Would you mind stopping for some?" I move away from him and look for my purse, so I can give him some money.
Max waves his hand in the air, dismissing my action. "Don't worry about it. Give me about an hour?"
"Okay. That's plenty of time." I look at the clock, and it's just after eleven. I can't believe it's that late in the day already. "We'll eat early, like around one?"
"That's early for dinner."
"The point is to eat early, and then eat pie a couple of hours later, and then eat left-overs again after that. At least, that's how we always did things in my family."
He smiles at me and begins to head for the door. "Whatever you say. You're the expert. I'll be right back," he promises.
I very cheesily blow him a kiss as he turns for the door, and then I move back into the kitchen to preheat the oven. I figure I'll jump in the shower while it warms up, and then I can throw in the turkey breast to start cooking. I hear the door open as I check the package before I turn the oven on to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Two and a half hours to cook this little thing? Oh well. I rip off the plastic wrapping to find netting around the frozen breast. Butterball has booby-trapped my turkey. Can I cook it like this? I reach for the scissors to perform surgery and free my turkey.
"Baby?" I hear Max call from the hallway. I thought he had left.
"Yeah?" I call back, wondering what he wants without making a move to see.
"Can you come here for a second?"
I groan quietly and roll my eyes, putting down the frozen puzzle. Cooking would be a lot easier if he wouldn't distract me. I turn the corner and look into the hallway, where I can see Max standing with the door open, looking out into the outside hallway rather than at my approach. "What is it?" I ask, continuing my walk to the doorway.
When I get to the threshold, I look at whatever is captivating Max's attention. There's a man on my doorstep. Like, Max, he's dressed in a suit, although his isn't wrinkled at all. Instead, it's crisply pressed and very professional looking. His dark hair is slick-backed and gelled, making it look almost black instead of brown. His hazel eyes flit from looking at Max to looking at me. When he sees me, the corner of his mouth pulls upward in a dark smirk. He proffers a bottle of white wine. I hate white wine; he knows that.
A few moments pass before I can speak, because I'm stunned silent. "How...? And why? What are you doing here?"
"I didn't want you to be alone on the holiday." Those eyes move up and down, taking in the entire length of my body and noticing that I'm only wearing a big, baggy tee shirt. He then looks at Max. "But it looks like you weren't."
"You know him?" Max asks, looking between the two of us.
"Yes," I whisper, thinking that maybe I'm dreaming. More like having a nightmare.
"Why don't you introduce us?" the other man suggests. His eyes are shining with mischief.
Max looks at me, wanting in our little secret. "Max, this is John. John," I say, with a sigh, "this is Max."
Charlotte blows me a kiss, and it makes me chuckle to myself. It's a silly little display of affection, and I can't believe it makes my heart skip a beat. I consider myself a romantic guy—at least moreso than the rest of my uncultured teammates—but I can't believe that such a simple gesture makes me feel this way.
I leave her in just her tee shirt, knowing I've got to get home and take out my contacts. They're killing me. A scalding hot shower sounds good right about now, too, in order to wash off the layer of sweat that builds up only after a hot night spent together with a feisty cat between the sheets.
Reaching out for the door knob, I throw open the door, but I'm met with someone else on the other side, looking at a piece of paper in his left hand while his right is poised to knock on the door.
This stranger gives me an odd look and then double-checks what's written on the paper in his hand. He looks back up at me and says, "I'm looking for Charlotte Bickley. Is this her apartment?"
Something about this doesn't seem right. Today is an American holiday, so this isn't a business call. No one's working today. So why is there a man, dressed in a suit, looking for Charlotte? And he's holding a bottle of wine. Why? She would have told me if she was expecting someone. In fact, she told me she was originally planning on spending the day alone.
I yell back into the apartment, but I never take my eyes off him. The hair on the back of my neck is standing on end, and I'm not sure why. "Baby?"
"Yeah?" she replies, as I hear her work in the kitchen.
"Can you come here for a second?" I ask.
The stranger folds the piece of paper and shoves it into his pocket, seemingly satisfied that he's found the right place. He pulls on the lapels of his jacket and cracks his neck as he waits.
"What is it?" she asks, rubbing her hands against the material of her shirt. I don't answer her, and she walks all the way over to me until she's standing beside me. Instantly, I feel as her body tenses beside me.
Something's definitely not right. He smiles, but it's not a happy expression. I don't want to say it's evil, but there's something wrong about it. This man looks between Charlotte and me, as if he's seeing something he shouldn't or like he's letting himself in on a secret. He stretches out his arm to hand Charlotte the bottle of wine in his hand, which she doesn't make a move to accept.
When Charlotte finally speaks, her voice sounds shaky. "How...? And why? What are you doing here?"
"I didn't want you to be alone on the holiday. But it looks like you weren't," he counters.
I'm missing something. I want so badly to know what these two know that I don't. "You know him?"
"Yes." Her answer is so quiet. All the alarms are going off, the lights and signs are flashing that something's wrong.
"Why don't you introduce us?" the other man suggests. His eyes are boring a hole into her almost; that's how intently he's looking at her. Observing her, like she's a specimen and he's trying to figure out how she's going to react.
She looks at me, looking back at her. Her face is pale and drawn. "Max, this is John. John, this is Max."
Suddenly it makes sense, but yet it doesn't. Now I know why she's so freaked out, but that doesn't explain what he's doing here.
John outstretches his free hand for me to shake. "It's to meet you," he says politely, as I take his hand and shake it quickly. It's cold and clammy. "Would you like to explain why you're fucking my girlfriend?"