Kicking my brothers out wasn’t easy, but when they started to argue with each other over whose fault it was I snapped. I loved both of them, but they were making me crazy. The final straw was realizing that I was getting back to drinking more than I should have so I could sleep at night. After everything I’d been through, I didn’t need the stress and bad vibes those two had bouncing around my house. I needed peace and quiet again.
Since I didn’t know where Suzi lived, I was kind of at her mercy and couldn’t just stop by her house to surprise her. So, I called her instead. Voicemail picked up, prompting me to leave a message.
“Hey, it’s Rasul. If you’re not busy, I’d like to see you tonight. Call me back when you get a chance,” I said before I hung up. Hopefully she’d call.
Eric – as much as I hated to admit it – had a point about flirting. My game wasn’t on point like it should have been. I could only think it was because of my idiot brothers throwing me off.
While I waited for Suzi to call me back I decided to get a little workout in. There was a mini gym set up in my basement. Mostly weight lifting stuff. I was working my legs when my phone rang. I let the weight down and answered the phone.
“Hello, Legs,” I answered with a smile.
“Hi, Handsome,” she replied. I could hear her smile as well.
“How’s your day going so far?” I grabbed a towel to wipe my forehead.
“So far, so good. I was able to get the first chapter of my story mostly written. What are you up to?”
“I was doing leg presses before you called. But I’d much prefer to be doing something with you, if you have some time.”
“I think I can find some time for you. What are you thinking?”
“Oh that’s… that’s a dirty picture,” I chuckled. “But if you’re interested, I’d be happy to show you. I kicked out Larry and Curly yesterday.”
“Is that so? As much as I like them, it would be nice to hang out with just you,” she admitted.
“They were making me crazy, and I like you. I don’t want them to get in the way of what could be a good thing. Plus, they’re grown men. It’s time they stop acting like frat boys.” My brothers were younger than me, but not that young. Taj was going to be a father and Idris was… Idris, but he could peddle his crazy somewhere else.
“Well, I can be over there in an hour if you like,” she offered.
“An hour is good. I can come to your place if you want,” I offered. I was curious about where she lived.
“Uh… yeah, I guess you could come over here. It’s a bit of a mess right now…”
“It’s up to you. If you would rather come here, that’s okay. I won’t judge your mess.”
“I’ve just been writing all day and getting lax on my cleaning,” she chuckled. “You can come over. I’ll start cleaning up now.”
“Okay. Well I’ll get in the shower and I’ll see you in an hour. Just text me your address.”
“I will as soon as we hang up,” she promised. “I’ll see you soon.”
“See you soon.” The rest of my workout was going to have to wait. Seeing Suzi was way more important to me.
If I made a move and there was no spark, at least I’d know. I hoped that wasn’t the case, but there was only one way to find out.
On my way to Suzi’s house I stopped for flowers. They were just yellow daisies, but they were cheerful. Hopefully she liked flowers. I pulled into the driveway of a little ranch style house that was painted Robin’s egg blue and had white shutters and trim. There was a pair of rose bushes in the front and a big shade tree, shadowing most of the house. The front door was wide open.
She must have heard my motorcycle coming since Suzi was waiting for me behind the screen door.
“Legs,” I said once I was off my bike. She stepped outside in a pair of tiny shorts and a skimpy tank top.
“Hi,” she smiled as she started to walk toward me. “Glad you found the place okay.”
“Me too.” I grabbed the flowers from the saddlebag and handed them to her.
“Aww, thank you,” she said as she took the flowers. “I love daisies.”
“Good. I wasn’t sure,” I chuckled. It was a gamble that paid off. Then again, what woman was offended by a man bringing them flowers?
“Come in. I was able to get it mostly cleaned up. I also made dinner if you’re hungry.”
“I’m pretty much always hungry,” I said as I followed her toward the house. Her driveway was long and led to a detached two car garage.
When we walked in we were standing in the living room. It was completely open to the kitchen and dining area. The place had recently been remodeled. Dark granite was visible from where I was standing, and contrasted the white cabinets nicely. The counters and cabinets formed a U shape with the sink facing the living room. Sliding doors in the dining area led to a big backyard. I could see outdoor furniture on the patio or deck, and she had a hammock set up under two big trees.
“Nice house.” It wasn’t anywhere near as big as mine, but if she lived alone it was probably plenty of room for her.
“Thanks. It’s not much, but it works for me. I’m just one person after all,” she smiled. “I hope you don’t mind pork chops. I was in the mood.”
“My mother would probably kill me, but I’m okay with it. I didn’t have pork until I moved out of my parents’ house,” I told her.
“Oh shoot, I wasn’t even thinking. Are you sure? I can always pull out a steak to cook for you,” she offered.
“I’m sure. After the things I saw overseas I don’t have much use for religion anymore. Besides, bacon is delicious.”
“Bacon is about the only thing I’m religious about these days,” she snickered.
“Well, dinner is ready and hot if you want to eat now,” she offered. “Unless you had other plans… your comment on the phone makes me think you do.”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think, but I don’t want to ruin dinner.”
“Is everything okay?” she asked with concern.
“Yeah, everything is fine. I’ve been off lately. It’s nothing you did. I don’t know if it’s my brothers or what.” I probably just should have kissed her, but that didn’t seem right for some reason.
“Okay, well if there’s something bothering you, I’m a good listener,” she told me. Suzi reached out to rub my arm.
“I’m not really one to get nervous. I mean, nervous and warzones don’t go together, you know? Then I get around you and I practically forget my name. It’s weird.” I liked her. I wasn’t sure if I was doing a very good job of getting that across.
Suzi gave me a soft smile as she shifted to stand in front of me.
“There’s no reason to be nervous around me, Handsome,” she said. She surprised me when she stood on her toes and pressed her lips to mine in a soft, lingering peck. “I like you too, but I wasn’t sure how you felt.”
“Sorry about that. I like you. A lot, actually. I’m not usually so tongue-tied and insecure about things, which I think is only making it worse.”
“A little bit,” she giggled. “Come on, let’s eat dinner and then we can see where tonight leads, how’s that?”
“Sounds like a good idea to me.” I followed her to the kitchen. “It smells great in here.”
“Thank you. Pork chops and broccoli are one of my favorite meals,” she said.
I actually hated broccoli but I ate it anyway because it was good for me. I took a seat at the table across from Suzi and we started to dish up our food.
“So, are you from here?” She lived in the next town over, but I detected a southern lilt to her voice.
“No, I’m from a tiny town in northern Louisiana. I stayed here when I graduated college,” she replied. “Would you like some butter for your broccoli?”
She got up from the table and went to the fridge. “Thirsty? I have beer, Coke, milk, water…”
“Water. It came to my attention the night before last that I’ve been drinking too much lately. I need to cut that out for a while.” That was probably an overshare, but she was easy to talk to. Things had a way of falling out of my mouth.
“There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back.” When she got back to the table she had a glass of ice water for me and a tub of whipped butter.
“It’s better than going down the rabbit hole.” Once was enough. I smeared a little butter on the broccoli and prayed it would make it taste a little better.
“Much better,” she nodded. She picked up a piece of broccoli with her hand and bit the top off.
Conversation stalled temporarily while we ate, but that was okay with me. Suzi was a good cook. The broccoli wasn’t even as awful as it usually was.
“Want some help cleaning up?” I offered.
“You can put the food away while I put the dishes in the dishwasher,” she said.
“Sure,” I nodded. “Just point me to your Tupperware.”
“Over the coffee maker.”
I picked up the dishes with leftovers to take them to the counter by the coffeemaker. While Suzi washed dishes and stacked them in the dishwasher I got the leftovers packed up and into the fridge for her. It was tempting to grab her hips, but I didn’t. With only one kiss under our belts, I wasn’t sure if it was too much. She didn’t seem like the aggressive type.
“Would you like to go take a seat in the living room?” she offered as she dried her hands.
“Sure. If you’re interested we could go for a ride. I don’t know how you feel about motorcycles.”
“I like motorcycles. I think going for a ride kinda defeats the purpose of hanging out since we can’t talk or anything,” she pointed out.
“True. Another time then.” I followed her to the living room and took a seat on her big leather couch with deep seats. It was good for a tall guy like me.
“I’d love to go for a ride one day soon.” When she joined me, Suzi curled her legs under herself. She was sitting close enough her knees were touching my thigh.
“I love the bike. I ride it as long as the weather permits. The truck is good for winter and towing the boat or my brother’s snow machines.” Idris loved those damn things. I still wasn’t sold on the cold weather, but I tolerated it.
“Your truck is nice too.” She pulled all of her hair to one side and started playing with the ends. “How long have you had your bike?”
“Since I got back from my first tour in Iraq. It was my present to myself for not dying,” I smiled. “The boat was for Iran.”
“I’m very happy you didn’t die too. I wouldn’t have met you,” she smiled back.
“Yeah, I prefer living myself. I’ve gotten pretty used to it.”
“Do you like me?” she asked out of the blue. “I mean, you said you do, but I’ve given you at least three really good opportunities tonight make a move and you don’t… do I smell bad or something?”
“No, not at all. You smell really good, actually. Like I said, it’s not you at all. My best friend told me I need to get my head out of my ass, but he’ll fuck anything with a vagina,” I told her. “I’m more interested in getting to know someone. Yeah, there should be chemistry but that’s not something I’m in a hurry to get too deep into. I guess if you’re in a place where you just want to have fun with someone this might not work out between us.”
Being on the same page and telling her what I was looking for might clear the air. If we weren’t looking for the same thing, there wasn’t much point in either one of us wasting time.
“I’m not just looking for fun. I could find that anywhere,” she said. “I like you a lot, Rasul, I was just concerned that you keep saying you like me too, but you haven’t even tried to kiss me. I’ve never hung out with a guy three times without a kiss or hand holding or something. It’s… different. I would also hate to get ten dates into it before our first kiss and then feel nothing when it happens.”
It wasn’t an ultimatum she was throwing down, but it was a clear message. One I wasn’t going to ignore. So I leaned over and kissed her. The spark caught almost immediately. My hands found their way into her hair and hers did the same with mine. She kissed back and wasn’t timid about it. Any worries I had about her not being aggressive or liking things aggressive disappeared as soon as her tongue touched mine.
Suzi pulled back after minute or so and breathed, “See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Now we know there’s a spark.”
“Not hard at all.” Not from the waist up, anyway. If she looked down it was another story.
“Oh… something’s hard,” she giggled. “And impressive.”
“Someday you’ll see for yourself.”
“I’m willing to wait,” she smiled. “I just didn’t want to be disappointed on date ten when you kissed me goodnight at the door,” Suzi teased.
“You know, that kiss could have been a fluke,” I suggested as I leaned closer to her.
“You’re right.” She tilted her head and licked my bottom lip. “How should we test?”
“I think another kiss is a good start.” I nipped at her bottom lip in response.
“Kissing is good.” She tilted her head to the side. The tip of her tongue traced my bottom lip before sliding into my mouth.
She was a good kisser. Confident and not at all afraid of going after what she wanted. Somehow she ended up straddling my legs. My hands wanted to move up her sides and I decided to let them. If she didn’t want them there she’d let me know. Suzi’s small frame felt even smaller on top of me. I figured out she liked it when I played with her hair, and not too long into our first make out session I located a spot on her neck that made her hips rock.
“Mmm,” she moaned as her fingers twined in my hair, holding me in place. “Are you sure you want to leave it at kissing?” Her hips rolled, rubbing her center over my erection.
“Believe me, I’m positive that the sex would be great, but I’m not going to rush into it,” I said. “I hope you’re okay with that.”
“I am.” She moved off of my lap. “I think it’s best that we slow down, then.”
“I think you’re probably right.” I was probably going to be really uncomfortable in a little while, but I’d survive. “So what do you like to do for fun?” She knew I played baseball and had my bike and my boat, but I didn’t know much about her.
“As much as I like being outdoors, I’m not really sporty. As you can probably tell by my car I like doing things like going to car shows and stuff,” she told me. “My favorite thing is reading, as you probably guessed by my bookshelf.”
“You do have a lot of books,” I agreed. Her bookshelf was massive, nearly occupying an entire wall. “My best friend is into cars. He’s got an old Mustang.”
“I have the Chevelle because my dad is a Chevy guy. I love Mustangs, though, and a few of the older Mopars… I can tell you’re not a car guy at all judging by the blank stare you’re giving me,” she laughed.
I laughed too and said, “I’m not a car guy, but I don’t mind hearing you talk about them. You light up a little bit when you’re talking about cars. That’s a good thing.”
“Sorry, I spent a lot of time around cars growing up. I don’t want to bore you with car talk.”
“You don’t need to apologize for liking what you like. You’re not boring me. Maybe you can actually get me interested. Numbnuts goes on and on about small block this and tire size that…”
“I assume Numbnuts is your best friend?”
“Yeah. Numbnuts, Northman, they’re similar enough, right?” I chuckled. “We were in the service together. I met him in basic training. Somehow we spent most of our enlistment in the same unit until he went to Afghanistan and I went to Iran.”
“And you guys found each other afterwards?” she said. “That’s pretty sweet is he like your Bubba?”
I snorted. “Something like that. We kept in touch after we went our separate ways. It’s helpful to have someone around who gets it on bad days. I know he has them too. As much as I love my brothers, could you imagine those two in the military?”
“Hell no,” she laughed. “I’m sure Idris would end up shooting himself in the foot.”
“Or he and Taj would end up shooting each other,” I snickered. “But enough about those stooges. What about your brother? Jason, right? Are you close with him?”
“Yes, Jason. We’re pretty close. He came over yesterday for dinner,” she said. “After Mom and Gran died my dad and brother moved here to be closer to me. They knew I wasn’t going to move back to Louisiana and my dad wanted us all close. Jase is a sheriff and my dad opened up a new shop when they moved here.”
“That’s good. My parents went back to Turkey to take care of my grandparents. My older brother moved there last year.” Kahlil was the favorite.
“How long has it been since you’ve seen them?”
“I see them on video chat regularly, but it’s been almost three years since we were in the same room.”
“That’s sad,” she frowned. “I wouldn’t know what to do if I went that long without seeing my dad.”
“There’s a lot of things I don’t see eye to eye on with my parents. They weren’t thrilled when I enlisted. I think they expected me to be less American.” I didn’t know how else to describe it.
“They wanted a traditional son, that’s understandable. When I told my mom I wanted to be a writer she told me I needed to find something that pays the bills because she wasn’t going to take care of me the rest of my life. Parents want what’s best for them not what’s best for us.”
“I don’t know if it’s quite that, at least for me. My parents just had specific expectations that I haven’t met. They took it personally when my brother was bullied and called a terrorist. I get it, I do, but what happened… I couldn’t let my ancestry get in the way of doing the right thing. We just didn’t agree on what the right thing was,” I explained.
“Gotcha,” she nodded.
“I’ve learned it’s better to follow your own conscience and not someone else’s. If it was up to them I’d be married with six kids,” I said.
“You don’t want a basketball team full of kids?” she joked.
“I’d like them with a woman I choose.”
“Do they have a wife picked out for you?”
“They did once,” I admitted.
“They didn’t speak to me for a year when I refused to marry her. I’d just gotten out of the army and I wasn’t in a place to be anyone’s husband. The only intimate relationship I wanted was with Grey Goose.”
“Did you get heavy into the drinking after the Army?”
“For a while, yeah. At first I didn’t think it was a problem. You know, just cutting loose and enjoying not having artillery going off in the background. The party just never stopped for me, and eventually it started costing me friends and interfering with my life in a negative way. One day I woke up hungover as hell and Eric had dumped out all my booze, even the hidden stuff. I was pissed, but I realized I wouldn’t be pissed if he wasn’t right.”
“Sounds like a good friend,” she said, reaching over to soothingly rub my thigh.
“He’s a great friend. I’m sure you’ll meet him sometime. He’s the manager over at Monkey Bar.”
“Hmm, I think you’ve said that once upon a time. I’m sure I will meet him. I can’t wait,” she smiled. “I like getting to know you and what’s important to you.”
“It might not be the most exciting part of a new relationship, but I think it’s fun,” I smiled.
“It has to happen eventually, doesn’t it?” she smiled back.
“If you want something more than a few hot nights together. Although I’m looking forward to those too.”
“Me too,” she replied, leaning her head against the back of the couch.
“Have you had many serious relationships? I’m assuming you don’t have kids since you haven’t mentioned any.”
“I don’t have kids. I’ve had a small handful of serious relationships. I’ve been single for the last year. I tried dating a man that was way too old for me and he started to treat me like a child. I’m a grown ass woman, I can’t deal with that kind of treatment.”
“Yeah, I already have parents. I don’t need another mother.”
“Exactly. Have you had many serious relationships?”
“I have,” I nodded. “The last one was while I was drinking heavily. She was a terribly good enabler and all wrong for me. She didn’t think I needed to get sober and definitely didn’t want to do it with me. I’ve had girlfriends since then, but no one I’ve seen a big future with.”
She nodded and asked, “How long ago was that?”
“I was probably about your age when I broke up with her for good.”
She nodded again. “I’m going to get some more water; would you like some?”
I didn’t know if telling her all that stuff was good or bad, but it was my life. If she wanted something serious and she really wanted to know me she had to know it wasn’t all good stuff. If she’d lost her mom and grandmother she probably hadn’t had the easiest life either. Everyone had their tragedies, right? I wasn’t special.
When Suzi came back to the couch I pulled her close and kissed her. The nerves and hesitation I’d felt when I first got to her house were gone. It was a good feeling.