After a long pause, I responded in an exhausted and dazed whisper. “Yeah.”
“Cedric, she’s amazing with Callie. I have never seen Callie so content. Callie is looking at her in the eyes and they are feeding each other dessert. It’s really cute, actually. And you were right about how you described her…holy Jesus. You have to get down here.”
“Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Caleb, I don’t know. I told you what happened when I went to the diner. She acted like she never f**king wanted to see me again. I still can’t figure out what happened. I’ve been a mess these past few weeks. I almost made a huge mistake tonight in my office with some girl because I have been so f**king down in the dumps over this. I can’t even process anything having to do with Allison right now, let alone show my face there.”
I closed my eyes for a few seconds and opened them.
“Well, I think she is only going to be here for about another hour, so if you decide to come down, you need to do it fast,” Caleb said.
“Ok, thanks.” I hung up the phone abruptly and walked in a daze down State Street to the garage where my car was parked. I disarmed the car and got in sitting there in silence for a minute, before starting the engine.
As I drove out of the garage, I hadn’t made my mind up about whether or not to go to my mother’s. I just started driving.
It made sense that Allison could have been assigned to work with Callie, but the possibility that it would happen had never occurred to me.
I decided to stop at home and change out of my work clothes, which reeked of Peggy-Rose’s vanilla scent.
I threw on a plain fitted white long-sleeve shirt, my favorite Levis, some brown shoes and a brown leather jacket.
I went into the master bath and threw some water over my face and wet down my hair.
I sat back on my bed bouncing my knees nervously. Should I stay or should I go? (Go ahead, sing the song.)
Without thinking further, I shot up, grabbed my keys and ran out the door.
Speeding down the side roads to my mother’s house, I had no idea what I was going say to her if she was still there, what I was going to do when I saw her or how she would react when she saw me. I wondered if she had even figured out that this was my family. Would she be shocked to see me show up out of the blue? So many thoughts raced through my head. But more than anything…I was excited to have a reason to see her again. Maybe she would be cold, maybe she didn’t want me in the way I wanted her, or would treat me like she did last time at the diner. But to be able to see her face again was something I simply couldn’t pass up.
I pulled into the spot across the street from my mother’s house. I could see the Christmas tree was lit up and the house was covered in lights. The bright lamplight from the living room shined through the window and silhouettes of people moved back and forth. As I approached the front door, I could see right into the house. No one noticed me looking in like a creeper.
Through the glass, I saw my mother and our family friend Bruno sitting on the couch talking.
I saw Caleb walk from the living room into the dining room holding a beer.
I waited continuing to stay by the window. No Allison. I was too late. She was gone. My heart sank.
I rang the doorbell and was greeted by my mother.
“Cedric! What a surprise, honey, come in. Did Caleb call you?” She beamed.
“Hi, Ma.” I hugged her tightly never wanting to let go.
“I didn’t even think to call you over, because you said you had been working so late this week. I am glad you decided to join us, honey.”
“Me too,” I sighed into my mother’s neck.
I greeted Bruno, Maria and Kurt who were now all sitting in the living room. Caleb must have been in the bathroom because I didn’t see him in the dining room or kitchen.
I decided to peek in on Callie who was surely in her room, playing on her iPad in bed away from the commotion of the guests.
As my fingers touched the doorknob to her room, the door swung open suddenly.
There was my beautiful sister.
She was riding piggyback on the shoulders of another beautiful woman.
My heart raced when I realized I was face to face with Allison.
Once I realized, Cedric was not going to show up, I started to relax. I had told Bettina I would stay until 9:30, so I had a little over an hour more to go.
Callie and I had finished dessert and retreated back to her room to play Connect Four while listening to her favorite Laurie Berkner Band c.d. I had discovered the Connect Four game was a good way to teach turn-taking and patience. I was red, Callie was black and each time before she threw in a piece she would have to say ‘my turn.’ Then, she would have to look at me and say ‘your turn’, before I would put my piece in.
When we finished the game and I was cleaning up the pieces, I felt the weight of a hundred and something pounds on my shoulders behind me.
Callie had jumped on me piggyback style and was giggling infectiously. I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically along with her. I decided to humor her and stand up, allowing her on my shoulders. She got a kick out of being up so high and watching us in the mirror this way. We made faces like this at each other in the mirror.
Callie looked down at me from atop my shoulders and said, “Show Mommy.”
“You want Mommy to see piggyback, Callie?” I asked.
“Yes!” She laughed.
I opened the door thankful for the high ceilings in the old house.
I could never have been prepared for what stood before me when the door opened.
I stood there frozen looking into Cedric’s blue eyes, which were the iciest crystal blue I had ever seen them.
His face was flushed and his eyes wide; he looked just as surprised to see me, as I was to see him.
“Allison,” he whispered and smiled warmly looking into my eyes, blinking rapidly as if to process this.
I barely got the words out. “Cedric.”
The weight of this shock and the weight of Callie nearly dropped me to the floor.
“Show Mommy!” Callie yelled breaking our awkward silence. Cedric and I both laughed nervously, eyes still on each other.
Cedric’s hand reached past me and up to caress his sister’s cheek. “Callie, are you having fun with Allison?” he asked as he stepped aside, letting us pass down the hall into the living room.
“Bettina, Callie wanted you to see this,” I said.
Cedric’s mother, who was heavy into conversation, Caleb and the company all clapped unanimously at the sight of Callie on top my shoulders.
I then sat down on the couch so that she could climb off of me. It felt as though the weight that lifted off my shoulders transferred to my chest with the way my heart was pounding.
Callie and I walked back over to her room and Cedric was sitting on her bed, waiting for us.
Callie grabbed her iPad and sat next to her brother as he put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek. My heart hurt with a bittersweet joy at seeing how tender this masculine man could be with his sister.
Bettina had said just to let Callie have some down time with the iPad for the rest of the night until bed.
I sat down on the other side of Cedric and as always, I was intoxicated by the smell of him. Aside from a brief moment during our car ride, we had never been this physically close to one another.
After a bit of silence and both of us pretending to be transfixed on the video Callie was watching, Cedric turned to me. “Allison, I don’t know how I had no clue you were working here,” he said looking straight into my eyes.
I cleared my throat. “I haven’t mentioned to your mother that we had met each other, Cedric. I wanted to prove myself with your sister, without coming in with any expectations. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be good at this and didn’t want it to reflect poorly on you if it didn’t work out. I was told I would be working with someone named Calista before I came here. I know you referred to Callie in the car that night, so I didn’t realize until later on that first day when your mother used the nickname, that she was actually your sister.”
Cedric nodded, looking over at Callie for a few seconds and then turned back toward me. “It seems to me you’re doing an awesome job. I don’t think I have ever seen my sister this content.”
I smiled. “Thank you, that means a lot.” It did.
Cedric didn’t move his eyes from me for even a moment. “Are you still working at the diner?”
I cleared my throat, becoming nervous at the intensity of his stare. “Yes, this is my second job. I am still working with another young man as well after the diner on the days I don’t see Callie.”
Cedric nodded slowly as if to think about what to say next, then looked up at the headboard collage and flashed a smile at back at me. “So, you must have wondered what the Anderson Cooper fixation is all about,” he said laughing.
“Yes! What is that all about?”
Cedric shook his head in laughter. “No one can figure it out exactly. We think he might remind her of our dad, because of his white hair, maybe she misses him. But since she can’t tell us what she’s thinking, for the most part, no one knows for sure. A friend of a friend is his agent and I got her that autographed picture.”
“That’s very sweet…I wondered how she got that.” We laughed together until that dissipated into more staring.
Just as I was getting lost in his eyes, the light in Callie’s room started to flicker. It was almost as though the Awkward Gods were trying to intervene and save me from imminent death.
Then, the lights went out completely.
Here I was, sitting on Callie’s bed, next to Cedric, listening to the Wheels on the Bus song in the dark. I certainly could not have imagined this night ending up like this, not in a million years. But I knew I never wanted it to end.
“Ohhhhh…kay,” I said and we both laughed at the sudden darkness.
Callie remained unphased, the light of her iPad the only illumination in the room.
“Hang on, I’ll be right back,” Cedric said as he got up.
Cold air replaced Cedric’s warmth as he exited the room.
I didn’t want him to leave my side, even for a second. After being near him again for only minutes, I wondered how I would survive staying away from him ever again after tonight.
I shouldn’t have been having these thoughts, knowing he has a girlfriend but I can’t help being so attracted to this man. The resilience I had to stay away from him last time was nowhere to be found tonight.
I wanted him…badly.
And this beautiful man was so sweet to his sister. I would give anything to be with someone like him, to be with him in that way…to go with him, wherever he is going tonight.
Get a grip, Allison.
Cedric returned with a new light bulb and began twisting Callie’s light fixture off. As he replaced the bulb, the light returned. It was brighter than before. He seemed to be having issues with securing the fixture back over the light.
As he struggled with it, his white cotton shirt rode up high as he lifted his toned arms and…holy hell…I could see almost half of his bare right side torso. I was stunned to see a large tattoo there. As I suspected, it seems Blue Eyes does have a wild side.
I hadn’t thought it was possible to be more turned on by Cedric, but seeing this took it to a new level. It was hard to make out the image, but it seemed to be a cross with roses on a vine with thorns wrapped around it and the word ART in the middle. Not that I was looking closely or anything. Was he an artist? Art. Interesting.
“Ok, got it.” Cedric smiled as he finally twisted the fixture successfully and stepped down.
The curtain to his sexy side tattoo peepshow had officially closed.
“Let there be light,” I said. What a dork I could be sometimes.
Cedric sat back down in between Callie and me. This time, the side of his leg was pressed up firmly against mine and I immediately felt my underwear getting moist from the heat of his touch. His leg was not brushing against mine, it was pressing against me. He was deliberately sitting as close to me as possible and it made me crazy.
“Allison, can I tell you something?” he turned to me, his icy eyes were piercing into mine again and I started to sweat.
I barely got the words out. “Sure,” I said.
Just when Cedric was about to speak, Bettina entered the room and we both turned towards her in unison.
She smiled at us curiously. “I see you’ve met my son Cedric. He surprised us tonight.”
“Yes.” I smiled nervously offering nothing more.
“Allison, I was just going to say you could leave anytime you want, but if you two are chatting, feel free to stay as long as you like. Bruno just left. Maria and Kurt are staying for more pie and coffee,” she said.
“Mom, I’d love some coffee…Allison?” Cedric turned to me, his eyes seemingly urging me on me to stay.
“Sure, coffee would be great,” I said.
“Cedric, you come into the kitchen in about five minutes, it’ll be ready then,” Bettina said as she walked away back to her guests.
Just then, Caleb appeared at the door. “Sorry I didn’t get to spend much time with you little bro. I have to head back to Cow Hampshire.”
“Bye, buddy,” Cedric said as he stood up and they clasped hands. I saw Caleb give Cedric a knowing look. He was definitely thinking something was going on between us. I just couldn’t figure out if he was encouraging it or not, given his brother had a girlfriend.
Caleb reached for my hand. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Allison.”
“You too, Caleb,” I said as I shook his hand goodbye. His hands were strong and firm like Cedric’s.
Caleb shut the door behind him, which hadn’t been closed entirely all night…until now.