The next few days at the office were a complete blur to me, Taryn and I went on as if nothing happened; avoiding each other like opposite charges on a circuit, but every time I caught a glimpse of her, the hot flashes began. I didn’t know what it was, but she was awakening senses in me I didn’t know I had. It was so completely different with Isabelle, when I met her, I knew I would fall in love with her, but she made it difficult to win her affection, that the end result was void of any feeling of satisfaction. Simply hearing Taryn’s voice made me more alert to the flow of blood coursing through my veins, I was conscious of everything she was doing to my body. This explosion of emotions affected me in the most inopportune times or places, but I wanted so badly to ask her on a date, to embrace her, to feel her lips on mine again, but I didn’t know how to approach her. I hadn’t intended to kiss her, I had acted merely on impulse and I wasn’t sure it was appropriate. So avoiding her allowed me to relish the moment longer, because I couldn’t help but feel like I was over stepping. Our kiss hadn’t felt forced or contrived, but what if she felt like she had no choice? No matter what I told myself and no matter how much I replayed it in my mind, it never sunk in. Do I actually deserve a second chance at love? My doubt at this answer kept me from speaking to Taryn altogether, which is why I avoided her.
Saturday came and I spent it like I always did…alone, catching up on chores and vegetating on the couch. My days off of work stretched seamlessly into each other, so much that I would be amiss if I said that Mondays rarely catch me off guard. Isabelle used to have our Saturdays and Sundays filled with day trips to museums, markets and book or antique sales. It was never my preferred places to spend time off, but I relished seeing her in her element, there were not many places she felt she could relax. Maybe, sifting through discarded items, took away her need to cope with her own “junk”, but after Isabelle died, I began to hate weekends. It was the only time I allowed myself to truly think about the void her absence had left. I accepted the weekly darkness which descended upon me, like a heavy mist, because in a bizarre way it was my only comfort or reminder of her.
Eleven thirty Sunday morning, in the middle of catching up on episodes of Ravens, my doorbell rings. I open the front door to find Taryn, radiating on my porch. She had small beads of sweat formulating on the tip of her nose and brow, her long hair was braided around the crown of her head, wearing a floral crop top and jean shorts which exposed her long slender legs.
“Oh hi!,” I stumble out, blinking. What was she doing here?
“Good morning!,” she flashes me her electric smile, “I really hope I’m not interrupting anything…I thought today was the perfect day to have a picnic, but I wasn’t about to have one alone, so I thought I would invite you to join me…if you’re free that is,” she looks down at her hands and blurts out. “I did wait three days to see if you’d ask me out, but since that didn’t look like it would happen I thought I’d do it myself,” she smiles up at me yet again.
Her smile is my undoing and I am suddenly full of life, “Is that right?”, I chime.
She plays along, “Yep, I’m a modern woman, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Besides, I do have selfish reasons for asking you. I bet you know some really gorgeous spots, so I figured I would capitalise and work my charm, obviously.”
“Charm, you say? The same charm that has you stalking your boss on a Sunday morning?”
“Yes, exactly that charm,” I was glad she was playing along, but suddenly aware of the intent behind our flirty conversation I become embarrassed.
“Ummm….yea….I’ll just get changed then… Come on in…,” I was still wrapping my head around the fact that I had only just thought of her and like magic, here she was at my front door.
“You didn’t have plans did you?” she asks, looking worried.
“Me? No, no. I never have plans. I was just vegetating, watching Raven, nothing special.”
“Ahh…I love that show, been watching since season one. What’s hotter than vampires and witches?”
“Well right now…You. You are pulling off that outfit remarkably well,” I say blushing.
“Ha! A crop top remarkable huh?! Thanks, I figured I would get to wearing it before I hit thirty, when I really shouldn’t be wearing a crop top…but I guess the gym is paying off,” she says as she taps her stomach.
I lower my gaze and then raise it back to her face, Why is she so self deprecating? But God was she breathtaking. Afraid I might embarrass myself further, I kill the mood by finding my exit, “Umm…I’m going to head upstairs and get changed….,” I felt the heat rising in my cheeks, I needed a breather. My feelings for her were coming on much too fast.
Fifteen minutes and a whole lot of pacing and nail biting later, I emerge from upstairs, in a pale blue French Connection t-shirt, jeans and freshly applied hair gel. I’m attempting to pull off the “I just threw this together” look, but in truth I spent the majority of the fifteen minutes stress sweating. How could I be feeling this overwhelmed? She’s just a woman, Jon no big deal. Just take it easy. Yes, just the only woman I’ve actually NOTICED, I mean really noticed, since Isabelle. Was I this rusty? Shame Greg and I were not on speaking terms, he would probably have some random piece of advice that I wouldn’t use, but it would still help to calm me. Either way he was always better at this than me.
“So….where to?,” I attempt to ask nonchalantly as I walk back downstairs.
“I’m open to anything. I figured since I sprung a picnic date on you, I’d let you pick the spot.”
“A date, huh?,” my ears perk up.
“Yup. A real date. Unless you have any objections, but judging by the permanent red in your cheeks, I’m guessing you won’t. Perks of being darker skinned, you can’t see me blushing,” she said as she sticks her tongue out playfully.
“Maybe, but I’ve got the curly Afro to balance it out…just so I don’t get too cocky.”
“You’re hair is beautiful, I love your curls. Especially when it drapes around your face.” Something I can’t register flashes behind Taryn’s eyes, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be creepy, it’s just that you’re the first woman I’ve actually paid any attention to in the past five years or so. Everything about you is electric to me, I can’t explain it.”
“Don’t apologise. I love your honesty. It’s refreshing, I’m just not used to it,” she was a few steps closer to me, her face cocked slightly to one side. In one stride, I take her by the shoulders and she looks up at me invitingly and without thinking I say,
“I think I might be falling for you, Dr. Taryn Franklin-Dorough,” before she can respond, our lips meet in a passionate embrace. She wraps her arms around my neck and we stumble around my living room in a sort of blind, fumbling dance. My hands running up and down her lower back, her hands grabbing my recently coiffed hair. We falter and fondle our way around the furniture until a voice shocks us out of our shuffle.
“What the actual FUCK?! Are you two banging?!?,” Greg’s booming voice inserts a sharp coolness into the air; Taryn and I both expel from each other as if by force.
“Greg…,” my brain slowly catches up to my body; I soon recover and snap, “What are you doing in my house?!” My level of frustration with him had reached a new height.
“What are YOU doing making out with our employee?!,” his voice is accusatory.
“How the hell did you get in MY house!?,” I ask again this time angrier; the sudden change in adrenaline drains me.
“Wait!! Is that why you hired her? So you could get laid?,” he lets out a bellowing laugh, “Geez, Jon you refused to sleep with the escort based on some moral code, but banging staff is A-ok?!,” he chuckles sarcastically.
“It’s none of your goddamn business. I ask again, why the hell are you in MY house?!?,” I was raising my voice now.
In all the drama, I fail to notice Taryn slip out of the room, I had also missed the large suitcases Greg had trailing behind him. I have never been a violent man, but Greg was really pushing the limits of my patience and forcing me to reconsider.
“Well, since you insist on knowing the answer…Lee kicked me out,” he says as he throws himself down onto my sofa. “Can you believe that?!? My grandparents bought ME that house! I don’t know what she’s playing at, but needless to say I have no where to stay so I figured I’d crash at yours. Didn’t realise I would be interrupting a hump session. But by all means, do NOT let me interrupt, it looked like you too were just getting started, shall I get the popcorn?,” he taunts, looking around for a place to prop his feet, “At least one of us might get laid tonight,” he brings his index and middle fingers to his lips as an antagonizing smile creeps across his face; he was enjoying himself.
“You’re disgusting, you know that. You should be at home trying to win her back you ass hole, not here with a smug look on your face, can you be any more immature? You are such a jerk sometimes, why don’t you go find something or someone to do, especially now since you’ve so rudely interrupted my afternoon,” I spew aggressively. It was not in character for me to lose my temper, afraid Taryn would see this side of me, I abruptly stop speaking, ready to catch her eye and apologise, only to realize that she had already left. Grr, she seemed to have a habit of doing that.
The remainder of my Sunday and subsequently the rest of my weekend was spent listening to Greg sermonize about how preposterous it was for Lee to kick him out of his own home. How he was a great catch and for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to be with him, after all he had had so many offers from other women, he had lost count. To Greg, this was all temporary and as soon as her hormones had “leveled” themselves out, she would take him back. He wasn’t interested in what I had to say or the fact that he had cheated and maintained numerous relations outside of his seven year relationship with Lee, that was beside the point. After about three hours of tuning him out, I decide to actually engage with him in an attempt to dig deeper,
“Honestly now, are you actually remorseful for cheating on her?”
“Not as much as you probably think I should be. Shit happens and I won’t apologize for that, besides its in the past. To top it off, Cassandra won’t even talk to me, no thanks to you,” he scoffed.
“What, you thought you would remain friends? Send each other post cards? Greg she believed you guys had a future, that you were in a legitimate relationship, can you honestly blame her?”
“I don’t know…just didn’t think she’d go ape on me, I mean she knew about Lee from the start…,” he sighs.
“Wait a minute, if Cassandra isn’t talking to you where did you go last week and who were you with?! You’ve got women waiting at your beck and call?”, too much information was coming out- I wasn’t sure I wanted to know more.
“I have a couple, Jon. That’s all you should know…shit, at least Sam keeps her mouth shut when it counts,” he mutters under his breath.
“EXCUSE ME?!?,” I put down my glass of beer angrily, “You’ve slept with Sam?!? Your receptionist, Sam?! Holy shit Greg, you really WILL screw anyone who moves,” I mutter incredulously. “Just how many women have you cheated on Lee with?,” just when I thought I knew everything about Greg and could no longer be shocked by his antics, he throws another one in. The shock waves ripple through me as I felt the full extent of his infidelities sink in.
“Is it really important?,” he replies morosely, interrupting my thoughts.
“For Christ sakes!!! Does your relationship with Lee mean so little to you?,” I was flabbergasted. In a failed attempt to contain my anger, I ask, “Does this list of women stop at two? Are we talking under ten? Or like high double digits?,” I am met with silence for what feels like hours. I shout his name, “Greg!!,” my body betrays me and I am up on my feet, pacing the room. I can’t digest this kind of information comfortably. “You have been in a relationship with Lee since college, have you EVER been faithful to her?”
Greg laughs again, this time I’m sure out of nervousness, I was hitting a nerve.
“Are you going to answer?”
“Jon, I think you know the answer. I’m surprised you’re acting this way. I don’t know what you want me to say, but what I do know is that I certainly didn’t come here for a therapy session,” he answers dryly.
“You are unbelievable!! All these years! YEARS Greg!! You have tampered with her life, her EMOTIONS. MY feelings even. You KNEW how I felt about Lee in college and you still went for her, I got over my hurt and now you’re telling me that she was nothing but another conquest for you? Just one you decided to keep for the cheap thrills?”
“I never said that…I mean…she was different…smart and funny….,” he scratches his head, “you’re right, I knew how much you liked her and I could see she liked you too, but I don’t know…I guess I was jealous of your friendship, I was jealous I’d be pushed out. So I found a way to sort of always be included…I knew you would have never betrayed our friendship…it was maybe too easy,” his voice was changing. “Jon, you have money, good looks, you had awesome grades, I just couldn’t let you have the girl too…I didn’t think it would turn into anything important. My heart was never in it…I guess I sorta got stuck…and now it’s seven years later, I have a kid on the way…it’s finally hit me. I don’t know who I really am and what I really want…I just didn’t want to hurt her so I kept denying it. In the end, it’s the exact opposite of what I had intended…I don’t know…I guess I’m kinda messed up?,” Greg looks up at me sheepishly.
I on the other hand, am dumbstruck, this man was beyond belief, not only had he purposefully taken Lee from me back then, he was then rubbing salt in my wound by disrespecting the best thing that had ever happened to us.
“This your way of coping with your insecurities? You mess her up so badly she won’t love anyone else? I knew you were a selfish person, Greg, I just never thought you would be malicious too. You’ve changed…I can’t quite put my finger on when, but you’re ruthless,” I stop to look at his face as the last words fall out of my mouth.
He looks up at me calmly, unfazed and says, “You don’t know the half of it.”
“This isn’t some kind of joke, why the hell are you quoting a movie?!,” I was suddenly hit with the urge to be as far away from him as possible. “I’m going for a jog,” I declare as I look around the room, “I guess make yourself at home…” Before he could reply, I was out of the room, but not fast enough to hear him shout.
“Yea, I don’t blame you. All that sexual frustration, gotta have an outlet somehow. Don’t mind me, I’ll just stay here…alone…while you get it on.”
I don’t bother getting changed and slam my front door, this gives me great satisfaction, till I realise that it was my very own door that I had slammed. I mutter a few expletives under my breath and begin to jog. I didn’t want to think about Greg any more, but I equally didn’t want to think about Taryn either. How the hell am I supposed to bridge this gap? Not only do I have to apologise for Greg’s behaviour, I have to make ammends for standing her up. Should I call her? Text? Do I just ignore it and soon enough it’ll go away? I pick up speed and take a right on Davis street and head towards the entrance to Casablanca Park. In order to expel my frustration, I decide to do drills; 45 minutes later I am exhausted, drenched in sweat, but calm and assured of my decision.
Remembering her address, from when I dropped her off, I completely ignore the voice suggesting that a shower would be best, I walk confidently to Taryn’s house. My script perfectly planned out in my head, I bravely buzz her doorbell and wait. Clearing my throat, in preparation for the big reveal, I hear the clicking of the latch and my heart begins to thud in my ears. A heavy set and heavily tattooed young man of approximately 6 feet opens the door and stares inquiringly at me, I follow his eyes as he assesses my sweat filled and out of breath appearance, he even takes a small step back…did I look as bad as I smelt?
I am undeterred, “Hi, my name is Jon, I’m here to see Taryn, is she home?,” my nerves betray me and my voice cracks when I utter her name.
“Well, she didn’t tell me we were having guests. Jon you say? How do you know my wife?,” he probes.
“I’m sorry…WIFE?!? I must have the wrong house. I didn’t mean to bother you, but is this Taryn Franklin-Dorough’s house?! Doctor Franklin-Dorough?!” Of all the things I could find out about her, I didn’t expect this one, a few hours ago we were making out in my living and now I’m finding out she’s MARRIED? Today could not get any worse.
“Yes. That’s the one. Sexy as hell, with a fiery personality, that’s her,” his voice lowers suddenly, “so tell me who the fuck you are again?,” a small smile creeping up in the corner of his mouth.
Suddenly, a familiar voice from behind me interrupts my staggered thoughts, “Who exactly is sexy as hell, with a feisty personality?,” she echoes.
I stutter, “…I, Taryn…I…”, I attempt to gather my words together.
She quickly reads the situation and let’s out a bellowing laugh, “He didn’t tell you that were married, did he?,” she closes the distance between us and takes a few steps closer to him and says again, “Did you Marcus?,” this time with more force. When she receives nothing but a sheepish look from Marcus, she turns back towards me and clarifies.
“Jon, Marcus. Marcus, Jon,” another sheepish smile. “This is my little brother Marcus, who has come down to help me move in, as you have probably already encountered he thinks he’s a comedian. He is one of the main reasons I’m single. Just when I thought moving here would get me some action,” she scoffs as she flashes me a cheeky smile. And like that she saunters past Marcus and pushes open her front door, she looks back at me and asks, “Are you coming in or not?”
My surprise is evident as it takes me a few more seconds for my body to catch up with my brain. “I would love to, but I’ve just had a jog…,” I look down at myself, I have sweat drenched what would have been a perfectly presentable shirt. “I probably even smell…”.
“You do,” interjected Marcus.
I flash him a sympathetic look and continue, “Besides, you have company. I wouldn’t want to interrupt.”
“Oh don’t be silly! Marcus was just leaving-he has a three hour drive ahead of him and I just went grocery shopping, I can whip up anything you like. I would be offended if you didn’t,” she persisted in her beautiful sing song voice.
I let out a small chuckle and run up her front steps, “Oh I wouldn’t want to do that.”