The cold breeze coming from the window makes my whole body tremble as I remember how we forgot to shut it. I open my eyes for a second, noticing the weak morning sun illuminating our bodies. Jared sleeps on his side, facing me. His left hand resting under the pillow, while his right arm reaches for my body. I get closer to him, and his arm finally finds its way to rest on my waist.
The feeling of every sunday morning invades my chest, and I know Jared will wake up soon telling me he’s got to leave. I try to push the feeling away, concentrating on his face. On how peaceful he looks while asleep. His lips are partially parted, and I can’t help getting closer to rest mine on them for a second. Jared doesn’t react to my touch, and I’m glad, this way I can keep looking at him sleep.
The minutes pass and he finally starts to wake up. His grip on me tightens as he starts moving, a tired yawn escapes his mouth before resting his chin on my neck.
“Good morning” I mutter.
“Five more minutes” He whispers still sleepy.
I chuckle, with no intention of getting him out this bed any time soon.
“Sleep all you want, baby”
I’m pretty sure he doesn’t hear me. His breathing turns calm, showing me that he has fallen asleep in my arms. In the end, I fall asleep too, but not for long.
When I manage to open my eyes again, Jared is not by my side anymore. I stretch on the bed, trying to put the slumber aside. After yawning and rubbing my eyes at least a dozen times, I’m able to get up from the bed. I’m putting some clothes on when Jared appears through the bathroom door, noticing I’m already awake.
“Hey” He greets me, getting closer to hug me.
“You got dressed” I mutter.
“Oh, yes… I have to go” He pulls away from me, walking to the left side of the bed to take his things.
I don’t want him to leave. Not now, not ever. But I can’t say that. I’m the mistress. The lover. The side girl. The one he calls when he’s bored. When he fights with his girlfriend. The one who doesn’t get to keep him. The one who ends up alone.
I try to smile, walking toward him.
“Can’t you stay a while longer?” I ask him, wrapping my arms on his neck, “Just an hour”
“I can’t” He says, reaching my lips, “Kat’s waiting”
I nod, taking my arms off of him.
“Where does she think you are right now?” I ask him, sitting on my bed.
“At Shannon’s” He answers, sitting by my side.
The smile is no longer on my face, and I’m sure I look sad as hell. His hand cups my cheek, making me turn to face him.
“I’ll be back next week” He promises, just like every week.
“Why can’t you stay the week?” I ask, forgetting that I shouldn’t be asking him to stay, “At least the weekend”
“You know why”
“It doesn’t have to be like this” I mutter, “You come here every week looking sad, tired. Then, you leave happy. I make you happy. I send you happy to her arms, just so she can make you sad again”
“I don’t want to talk about this”
His hand leaves my cheek, and he’s on his feet again. I know him well enough to know that he may leave now, without finishing our conversation.
“Jared, please” I hold his hand, standing in front of him, “I never ask you this, I know my place. But please, just this time”
Jared runs his free hand on his hair, and without saying a word, the same hand cups my cheek, pulling me to his face. When his lips meet mine, I know he’s doing this to make me forget about asking him to stay. Because his lips are the one thing that can transport me to a happier place. Somewhere where is Jared and me alone. No girlfriend waiting for him.
“I love you” He whispers on my lips.
The look he gives me is unreadable. His hand manages to get off mine, and after a quick peck on my lips, he walks away from me, leaving me alone once again.
I don’t know how long I stand there, doing nothing but looking at the empty doorway. Why am I sad? It is always the same, I just have to let this go like I do every time this happens. I shrug away the feeling of pain while I walk to the bathroom, I’m in desperate need of relaxation. I lay there, letting the time pass by, my mind working on possible ways to keep Jared away from my thoughts. But nothing seems to work. I don’t want to cry, but I do it anyway. My hand goes straight to my mouth, trying to hold back all the whimpers. I knew it was going to be like this, I accepted his rules, and now I was paying the price.
I let myself cry for a couple of minutes, it is best to let all out in order to start all over again. By the time I get out of the bathtub, all the tears are gone, and I convince myself that I have to be strong. You didn’t have to fall in love, he told you that, and you did it anyways. Dumb. But he always tells me that he loves me, even though we agreed that we were going to forbid those words…
I decide to get some work done, Jared needs to stay out of my mind. And that’s what I do, I sit in front of my laptop with a bag of chips and a glass of soda. My inbox is full, and I end up spending my whole afternoon answering emails.
When I’m done, I turn off my laptop, putting some music on to change my mood. I don’t even notice how I start dancing through my whole living room. Bowie is ordering me to dance, and I obey him. I know my doorbell is ringing and I could not give a damn. I keep dancing, feeling the music pull my worries aside. Benatar follows Bowie, and I keep moving at my own pace. My eyes closed, my feet following the rhythm.
The seconds pass and I feel a pair of hands grabbing my waist. My eyes open immediately, finding Jared in front of me. I can see the bags under his eyes, how injected with blood those blue pearls look.
His lips intersect mine, holding me tight. His breathing is heavy, and I can feel desperation on his lips. When he pulls away from me, resting his forehead on my shoulder, I can’t help but cross my arms around his neck.
“What happened?” I ask him, whispering in his ear.
“You were right” He answers, holding me even tighter, “You are always right”
“I told her everything” Jared says, pulling away to look me in the eyes, “She punched me, broke one of my guitars… She threaten to call everybody and tell them what a scumbag I am”
“What… What did you do?” I ask, feeling a nod on my throat.
“Nothing, I let her do whatever she wanted to do. She called my mom and Shannon, screamed at them what an awful person I am” A single tear falls from his eye, and I’m quick to stop it midway his cheek, “I told her I- I love you”
I bite my lips, not knowing what to say. Maybe that I love him too, that I spent the whole afternoon crying, thinking that I wasn’t good enough for him.
“Please tell me that you love me, make all this worth it”
“I love you” I say, leaving quick kisses all over his face, “Why do you think I was asking you to stay?”
I can see something different on his eyes as he hears the words come out of my mouth. His already shining eyes do it in a completely different way.
“I want you” I whisper, “But I can’t do this without being sure that is serious. I don’t want more games, my heart has taken enough from you, Jared”
“I promise, swear it, all that you want, baby” He mutters, reaching for my lips.
“I’m not joking, Jared. I love you too much, and I really don’t want to spend another second without you”
“I know, me neither. Just… don’t break any of my guitars” He says, letting out a smirk.
“Jesus, I’m not an asshole, you know that” I laugh, cupping his face with my hands, “You are the asshole, for keeping me waiting while you were with that monster”
“Let’s not talk about Kat now, can we just cuddle for a good couple of hours? I really need to relax”
I nod, leading him to my couch.
“All the hours that you want, just promise me that you will not come back to that…”
Jared does not let me continue as his lips make their way back to mine.
I throw my phone across the room, seeing it crash against the couch and finally falling on the floor. I have reached every single one of my friends trying to find someone who could come with me to this boring family meeting I had in a few days, but everyone seemed to be occupied or taken. It’s not like I needed a booty call, I just wanted someone to help me survive a night with my family.
I stare at my phone, trying to decide whether I should go and see if I broke it or not, but I’m too frustrated to move an inch. When the phone comes to life, announcing a new call, I leave aside my frustration and run towards the damned device.
“Yes?!” I answer quickly, not even looking at the caller ID.
Not even a hello? Ok. “Emma?”
“Call Jared, he’d go with you”
I throw myself on the couch, letting out a deep sigh, “Jared doesn’t like to go out with me, he’s always avoiding me. Why would he want to go to this thing with me?”
“Just call him, please” Emma asks, probably a bit tired of my dateless situation, “You’ll thank me later”
Without even saying good bye, Emma hangs up on me. I stare at the phone, still processing Emma’s idea. Jared always looked bored around me, he didn’t even look me in the eyes the few times I was able to make him speak to me. The devil was handsome as hell, and going with him would be quite the experience, but I knew he’s answer even before searching for his name on my contacts.
I watch his name for a few seconds, but I’m already in a tight situation, being rejected by Jared wouldn’t affect me as much as I would expect. I dial the number, waiting only a matter of seconds before hearing his voice on the other side of the line.
He sounds confused, and I would be too if I suddenly receive a phone call from him.
“Hey, Jared” My voice sounds trembly, I’m nervous when I shouldn’t be, there’s no reason for me to be like this, right?
“Oh, hi, how are you?”
“Um… Fine, I guess. You?”
“Fine too, thanks”
Most awkward conversation of my life. We have been on the phone for 10 seconds and it is the most we have talked in the last two years since Emma introduced us.
“Is everything alright?” He asks me, breaking the uncomfortable silence between us.
“Yes, I just… Well, I wanted to ask you something”
“Ok, go ahead” His voice sounds calm, the confusion left behind by hints of curiosity.
“Next friday I have a meeting, a family meeting” I start, “My family can be a bit… complicated and it is hard for me to face them alone. So… I was wondering if you…”
“Yes” He interrupts me, but is the only thing that he says. Jared suddenly shuts and I can hear him sigh through the line.
“Oh… “ I mutter, surprised by his quick answer, “Ok, then”
“Do I have to wear something in particular?”
“Not really, just avoid anything too colorful” I pause for a second, trying to recover my breath, “Thank you so much, Jared, I really appreciate it”
“It’s alright” He says, and I can feel the hint of a smile, even through the phone, “I guess I’ll see you friday then”
After saying my goodbyes to Jared I call Emma to thank her for the idea. She just laughs and recalls the fact that she said I would be thanking her later.
Friday comes faster than I expect. It’s almost five o’clock and I’m checking my reflection on the mirror. I’ve changed my clothes at least six times, and a seventh was coming.
The meeting starts at six and I still can’t decide what to wear. Great.
By the time I choose a simple black cocktail dress, my ring is already announcing Jared’s arrival. I quickly get on my heels and run downstairs. I freeze once I open the door.
“Hey” He greets me, a shy smile appears on his lips as he gives me one quick looks before avoiding my eyes completely.
Jared is dressed full on black. His jacket, shirt, trousers, his boots. All black. Except for the red plaid shirt tied around his hips.
I know I’m taking too long to ask him to come inside, but my eyes can’t look away from his eyes. His hair is falling on his shoulders, the wind moves it slightly to his face, and a sudden urge to come closer and put the strings of hair behind his ear is too much for me.
I look away, opening the door for him.
“I’ll be right back”
I try to smile, but I know the thing that appears on my face is a terrible attempt.
Back in my room, I grab my purse and phone. One last look in the mirror and I make sure to breath properly before going back to Jared.
He’s waiting by my door, checking his phone, smiling at something he just received. I want to ask, but I most certainly can’t.
“Ok, are you ready?” I ask him, feeling nervous but not knowing if the meeting or Jared was the real cause.
“Yeah, let’s go”
We get in his car, and I give him the address to my parents house. Half of the drive there we spent it in silence. Jared doesn’t look at me, he’s just concentrates on the rode, and I try to calm my nerves.
“Why are you so nervous?” He asks me, his eyes still on the road.
“I told you, they can be complicated” I shrug, “They always ask the wrong questions”
“All relatives do” He laughs, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time I hear it. And I want him to do it again.
“I know, but you’ll see…”
By the time we arrive, it’s already past six. My mother was gonna kill me. Jared parks right outside the house and helps me get out of the car. Our hands touch for a couple of seconds, and it feels way too good. But not so much when he slips it away, putting both inside his pockets.
I shrug the moment off and walk him to the front door, which I don’t even get to knock when I see my mom in front of us crossing her arms.
“You are late” She blurts, giving me a severe look, “It’s 6:15”
“It’s only 15…” I try to say, but she shuts me raising both hands.
“No excuses, now get inside”
The only thing I can do is nod and get inside the house, Jared following me in silence. She takes us to the backyard where my whole family laugh, eat and joke about anything.
“Ok, now I get it” Jared whispers in my ear, “Is this your whole family?”
“No, there are always those who prefer to send postcards” I shrug, counting at least 30 people in there, “Thanks for being my backup”
“No problem” He laughs, and I cringe at the sound.
During the first couple of minutes we are invisible. My family is too busy to notice us next to one of the tables, and I thank that. Jared is quiet, as always, and looks around amazed. My little cousins are running around ruining my mom’s flowers. The teens sit apart, looking annoyed at all the old ones. And the adults drink and eat like it’s the end of the world.
“Your family ain’t like this?” I ask him to break the ice.
“No, it’s just my mother, brother and I” He says with a smile, and his eyes finally looking at mine, “I think I’ve never seen this ammount of people in a backyard”
“When I was little it was worse, the ones that send postcards used to come too” I drink the rest of the white wine in my cup for dramatic effect, piercing his eyes with mine, “It was awful”
Jared laughs and I feel proud of myself. Well done, well done.
“Do you want me to get you a plate? You haven’t eaten a thing”
“I’m okay” He mumbles, looking at the food in the table.
“Jared, come on, you have to eat”
I grab him by the arm so we can stand by the center of the table. When I take a plate, I notice how distress he looks, rubbing his hand on the back of his neck.
“Ok, what’s going on?”
“Your mom likes her meat” He mutters close to my ear, and I take it the funny way before realizing what he really means.
“Shit, I forgot” I say, stopping my laugh in a second, “I’m so sorry Jared, I forgot you were vegan. God, my mom do loves her meat. Shit, shit, shit”
“Hey, it’s okay” He stops me, grabbing the plate on my hands, “I’m sure there’s something I can eat”
“Jesus, Jared, even the salad has meat. God, I’m so sorry. Wait here, I’ll find you something to eat”
After naming half of Jesus’ family between apologies, I leave Jared alone before he stops me again, and I run to another table on the other side of the backyard. The food in here looks less meaty, and a bit more appropriated for Jared. I end up putting some salad in a plate and all the other things that look like they don’t have any animal in them. Satisfied by my effort, I return to the place where I left Jared only to find my little cousins trying to steal some cake.
“God, they found him”
My cousins give me a look probably thinking I’m crazy, but I leave them behind trying to find Jared in the sea of people.
This is the moment when I realize that our backyard is way too small for the family I have; that some of my uncles are too tall and I’m too small; and that some of my aunts can’t stand another second without showing me pictures of their new grandchildren.
This is why I hate these meetings. Too many people trying to catch up with the rebel daughter and niece that they only see in rare occasions.
After what feels like an hour, I catch a glimpse of Jared’s hair. He’s with a group of men in the center of the sea, a glass of wine resting on his hand. When I reach the group, I receive quick hugs and “I haven’t seen you in forever”, accompanied by the not so appealing “Look how much you’ve changed!”. Jared catches the plate on my hands before I throw it to the ground due to the infinite hugs.
“I found this boy abandoned next to the table” My uncle Mark talks with his usual loud voice, grabbing me by the shoulders, “A really nice boy”
“What happened to Sam?” Tom asks starting with the forbidden questions, and I don’t expect less from the cousin that used to pull my ponytails and braids, “I thought he was giving you THE ring”
“We broke up” I blurt with the same tone of voice my mother used with me not long ago, “There wasn’t any ring”
“Good, I didn’t like him” My uncle laughs, too loud, and too exaggerated, making my whole body move with his. I just want him to let me go and crunch in a corner, “He had too many muscles. That wasn’t natural. You can’t have a relationship with my niece and spend your whole day in the gym. It’s a Sin”
The rest of the group agrees with him, and I look amazed at the group of men discussing my love life. Jared tries to hide a smile behind his cup, but I notice it.
“So, you are Jared, right?” Tom asks, and I prepare myself for the new round of questions.
Jared nods to Tom as I try to get off my uncle.
“What’s up with your plate? You don’t eat meat?”
“No, I’m vegan”
The look on everyone’s face is unpayable, the whole group shuts looking at him like he’s crazy. I laugh, leading the surprised looks to my face now.
“You stopped dating muscle guy to date a vegan?!” Uncle Phil asks me completely in shock. He’s too religious for his own good and I avoid him like the plague.
I don’t get to tell him that we are… wait, we are not even friends.
“What about seafood?” Tom asks him, Jared shakes his head finishing his wine, “You only eat salad?”
“No, there’s plenty of meals you can elaborate with…”
“But meat is so tasty” Uncle Mark interrupts him, and he sounds really offended.
“What do you eat?” Tom keeps with the questions and I just want to choke him.
“Well, nothing with a face or a mother” Jared answers with a smile, and I burst in laugh again.
“Hey, you have a face” Tom teases, pointing a finger at me, “What about…?”
“Tom, just shut up” I cut him off before he can even continue with his question, “Enough, alright?”
I manage to let go of my uncle’s grip, walking to stand by Jared’s side.
“Why do you have to act so offended? Don’t you get bored of being so close minded?” I hear Jared whispering my name to stop me, but I choose to ignore him, “And then you wonder why I don’t come to this crappy gatherings”
I know I’m being too harsh, but they deserve it. The last time I came to one of this gatherings was with Sam, my ex boyfriend, and they spent the whole evening asking him to do stupid things like show his muscles and tell them stories because they thought his scottish accent was ‘funny’. But not this time, and not to Jared.
I grab Jared by the arm to pull him out the circle of idiots, finally reaching the same spot by the table. He’s avoiding my eyes again by putting the things on his hands on the table, so I cup his cheeks to make him look at me.
“I’m sorry about that, I told you they were complicated”
“They seemed nice when they offered me to join them” He shrugs, “But I don’t think you should have spoke to them that way, I don’t want you to get in trouble”
“Hey, I brought you here, it’s my responsibility to stand for you in front of this crazy family”
“Are you sure you aren’t adopted?” He asks me with a laugh. God, that laugh.
“Oh, I ask myself the same question everytime I come here” I laugh too, “Eat your food, you look hungry”
We sit close to my teen cousins, mainly because they look more interested on their phones than us. I drink at least two cups of white wine before we start talking again. Jared asks me about my relatives, my childhood with them and this leads to me asking him the same kind of questions.
His laughs makes my body react in a really positive way, and I try to get him to laugh a lot during our evening. He shows his more outgoing side with me, but I can still see the same old Jared who avoids my eyes every now and then.
“Why do you always do that?” I ask him grabbing his chin to make him face me again.
“Avoid my eyes”
“Oh, that” He mutters avoiding my eyes once again.
“There. Do you even notice you are doing it?” I laugh.
“Not really” He answers sincerely.
“There you are” My mother interrupts us, crossing her arms again, “Have you talked to your grandmother? She’s asking for you”
“I’ll go in a minute”
“Now” She blurts.
“God, mom, I’m coming, ok?!”
“So, you are going to squeal at me now? Tom already told me what you did”
“Mom, don’t you think I’m too old to be scolded by you?” I mutter standing to place myself in front of her, “All you do is demonstrate what a disgrace I am for you”
“If you would behave…”
“You know what? Just stop” I shut her, grabbing Jared’s hand to pull him out of his chair, “I’ll go say hi to Granny and I’ll leave. I’m done”
Jared doesn’t let go of my hand while we walk inside the house. My gran is seated in front of the tv in the living room, watching an emergency room program.
“What is your Granny doing here alone?” Jared asks me when I stop by the door frame.
“She doesn’t like to be here, that’s the only thing that convinces me I’m not adopted”
“We should have stayed with her the whole evening”
We sit by her side and it takes her a couple of seconds to realize we are in the same room as her. Her arms go straight to my neck, holding me tight against her telling me how much she has missed me. I tell her the same before introducing her to Jared. I expect her to do the same face she did when I introduced her to Sam, a mix of confusion and displeasure, but it is the complete opposite.
“It’s really nice to meet you” Jared says, holding her hands on his.
“You have really nice hair” She says, and we both laugh, “You have to tell me what conditioner you use”
“Oh, I don’t use any”
“You don’t” She asks in shock, “I have to stop using conditioner then, I want my hair as shiny as yours”
“How are you, Gran? Have you been feeling better?”
“The legs keep hurting, but I think I already got used to it” She shrugs and turns to Jared, “Are you her boyfriend?”
“Oh no” He says a bit uncomfortable, “We are just friends”
“What?” She asks angry turning to face me, “Why isn’t he your boyfriend? Are you blind? He’s gorgeous!”
“Gran!” I shout, feeling my face blush, so I cover it with my hands.
“Ask her to be your girlfriend, you look like a really nice boy” She says to Jared with a really sweet voice, “And you have dealt with all those idiots outside, you already passed Granny’s test just because of that”
I uncover my face just in time to see Jared getting closer to my Gran’s ear to whisper, “I would but I don’t think she would want to”
“What are you talking about?” I ask him in shock, “You don’t talk to me, you don’t even look at me”
“And why do you think is that, you dummy?” My Gran asks me, slapping my shoulder playfully, “He’s mad about you, how come you haven’t noticed?”
“Jared?” I ask him in disbelief, he just smiles shily.
“I’m 85 years old and I noticed in two seconds!” She shakes her head frustrated, “You are as blind as a bat”
“Can you tell mom we had to leave?” I ask my Gran before leaving a kiss on her forehead, “I love you”
“I love you too, batsy”
I take Jared’s arm to make him stand from his seat, pushing him outside as he says goodbye to my grandmother. When I close the door behind us, I wrap my hands on his neck.
“What?” He asks me with a confused laugh, and that’s all it takes.
I have to get on my tiptoes to be able to reach his lips, but the feeling of completeness that invades my chest makes me forget about everything that isn’t our lips playing together. All the shyness disappears when Jared wraps his hands on my waist, pushing me against the door. His whole body is pressed against mine, and it feels too good. Questions of how I never noticed how attracted I felt towards Jared start invade my head as the kiss ceases its intensity. I like this, I like him, and apparently he likes me. Reason why the first words that come out of my mouth after our kiss end are probably not the ones he expected.
“You should have told me” I scold him, delivering playful punches on his chest.
“You were with Sam…”
“Sam and I broke up six months ago, try again”
“You didn’t seem interested in me” He tries again, with a soft laugh invading my senses.
“How would I ever show any interest in you if you never even looked me in the eyes?” I punch him one last time, “Ok, try again”
“You are not shy, I’ve seen you with girls, and the way you pushed me! Don’t be foolish, you are not shy”
“I am” He whispers, searching for my lips, “I may have or haven’t try to get you jealous”
“Well, it didn’t work” I laugh, “Now kiss me before you start avoiding my eyes and any type of human contact again”
He does as I request, touching my lips with an indelible smile. The kiss continues for a good five minutes when he stops completely pulling away in just a second.
“Let’s have a date” He suggests, I laugh and try to reach for him but he avoids me, “Come on, let’s go and have dinner somewhere nice”
“Yeah, we are already dressed”
“Sounds good” I accept offering him my hand, “It has to be a nice place, we need a good site to make us forget this awful evening”
“Oh, I can make you forget” He mutters, pushing me against his car, reaching for my lips again. His lips are soft, and I forget everything about his excuses for not talking to me, because he was giving me all the attention I wanted right now and it was perfect.
As I climb to his car, I make a mental note reminding me to call Emma and thank her again.