As he gulped down the water, I watched his Adam’s apple moving up and down. I used the opportunity to glance over his sweaty body up close. The top of his underwear was sticking out of his jeans. The smell of him was intoxicating, a mix of cut wood, sweat and cologne. I thought about our talk the other night, how he’d confessed his sexual history. As much as it disturbed me, knowing he’d used that body to give a woman pleasure made me weak with desire. I could only imagine what that would feel like with him.
Elle would find out.
I was still looking down at his abs when he said, “Thank you.” My eyes immediately shot up to meet his incendiary stare.
He’d caught me checking him out.
His mouth curved into a smile as he handed me back the glass. “How have you been? I haven’t seen you much this week.”
“Yeah. I’ve been busy.”
“I have something for you,” he blurted out in a way that indicated he was anxiously waiting to say it.
“Yeah. Wait here, okay?”
Sevin ran over to where his truck was parked and grabbed something out of the open window.
He returned to where I was standing and handed me a CD.
“What is it?”
“If you like the Smiths, you’ll like some of the songs on here. I included a few Smiths songs—the ones from your favorite album, but there’s also The Lemonheads, The Pixies…and Pulp.”
“You made this?”
“Yeah. I made it for myself and burned you a copy.”
He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Number ten is my favorite.” Then, he walked away.
I immediately took it back to my room and dusted off my old portable CD player.
Lying down on my bed with the sun streaming in, I drowned out the world and listened to every song. When it got to number ten, I paid special attention, knowing he’d specifically called that one out.
The name of the song was Like a Friend. I later found out it was by Pulp. With each lyric, my eyes became heavier until they welled up in tears. The words described to a tee exactly how I’d been feeling about him. The singer was shouting out all his feelings about his friend, that she was everything he shouldn’t want, everything that was bad for him, but yet he couldn’t stop wanting her. He’d take what he could get even if that just meant being friends. Every single line spoke to me. It was the first time I realized that maybe I wasn’t alone in my torment. This situation—whatever was happening between us—was taking a toll on him, too.
I must have listened to the song five times before I went over to the window and looked down at him. At one point, he finally looked up and noticed me. He squinted his eyes to see me through the glare of the sun. I still had my headphones on. He knew I had heard number ten. The look on his face when our eyes locked only confirmed that number ten wasn’t just a song. It was his way of speaking to me.
The next morning, I was stretching outside of our front door, preparing to take my morning run. It was very foggy, but there was something so peaceful about running in that kind of opaque air before the world was even awake.
Hitting the gravelly pavement, I was about a quarter-mile into my route when I heard what seemed like the echo of my own footsteps. The sound got louder as it approached. My heart started to race.
Someone was running behind me.
I turned around to see a man wearing a black hoodie. Panic was starting to set in. As he got closer, the final recognition of his face slowed my breathing.
We said nothing to each other as we jogged side by side for the better part of a mile. When I finally turned to him, he glanced over at me. The black hood that was framing his face really accentuated the deep blue of his eyes. At one point, it became necessary for me to stop to catch my breath.
He unzipped his jacket and took a water bottle out, opening the cap and handing it to me. “You shouldn’t run without water.”
I took a small sip. “Thanks.”
He lifted the bottle to his mouth. I watched the movement of his tongue through the clear plastic as he sucked the water out. When he pulled it from his lips, it made a noise from the loss of suction. He handed it to me, his voice gruff. “Drink some more.”
This time when I drank from the bottle, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that my tongue was now where his had just been. Chills ran through me as his eyes stayed glued to my mouth. I handed the empty bottle back to him.
We continued our run. With each stride, the tension in the air turned thicker than the fog. It was like a strange form of foreplay that couldn’t be satisfied, so we’d run faster. When he looked at his watch and turned around to head back, I followed him.
We were almost back home. His breath was ragged when he suddenly said, “You always run this early by yourself?”
“I don’t like it. You saw how easily someone could come up behind you like I did. You shouldn’t do it alone anymore.” He looked over at me. “I’ll run with you.”
After that morning, it was a while before I ever had to run alone again.
I lived for those runs.
Every morning, I’d wait at my window until she ran across the property toward the road. When she was out of sight, I’d head out my door to catch up with her. It was important that if someone happened to wake up and look out, that they didn’t see us leaving together.