Authors: Lila Felix
About three o’clock, I decided to take a shower and actually put some real clothes for a change. I heard the phone ring over the spray of the shower and hurried to answer it, still desperate for human interaction, if only by phone.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Hi, it’s Ashland, from the other day? I’m at the door. Your mom said to call if you didn’t answer the door.”
I was dumbstruck. What the hell was she doing back here? I thought I’d nipped that in the bud. There was no way I was letting her back in here—no way. At least that’s what my illness said. My body apparently spoke another language. It wondered how her body would feel clutched in my arms. It yearned to hear her call my name in a breath between her lips and mine. It burned to get one more sensation of her smell.
Jesus Christ, I’ve lost my marbles.
“Yeah, um, hold on.” I fumbled down the stairs, taking two at a time, my brain protesting the entire way down. But my body couldn’t be moved on this one, and my heart was its commander.
I flung the door open and once again struggled for breath in her presence. Her hair was up today in a tangled ball atop her head. She had a white tank top and black shorts on. And there was luggage at her feet.
“What the hell?” My brain broke through the barrier.
“I don’t have much. There’s a few more things.” She grabbed both suitcases and ducked through my arm
Damn it! I need to start keeping better tabs on how I hold the door.
“Stop!” I yelled a little too loudly and she froze in place.
“I’m sorry but what’s going on?” She put her suitcases down before turning to face me.
“Well, the person you hired is unavailable. Your mom called this morning and hired me.”
“She did what? Stay here. Don’t move.”
I heard her murmur, “Jerk” under her breath. Good, if she thought I was a jerk, maybe she’d stay away from me—for her own good.
I could barely dial, I was so off base. “Hello?” my mother answered in her sticky sweet voice.
“Please explain.” That’s all I needed to say. She knew exactly to what I referred.
“Lucy was no longer available. So I hired Ashland. She’s got a clean criminal history. What’s the problem?”
I sat and cradled my forehead in my free hand. “Why is she here with suitcases?”
She huffed out a laugh, “Really, Breaker James? I hired a live in housekeeper. Were you confused about the live-in part?”
“I was ignorant of the live-in part. How could you, Mom?” I whispered the last part, not on purpose, just on the edge of what little sanity I had left.
“I’m sorry, Son. She’s gonna stay to her part of the house. And the way you make messes, she’ll be plenty busy.”
“Ok,” I said and ended the call. I had nothing left to say to her. I flew up the stairs, running from myself and my new housemate.
Later on, I went downstairs and Ashland was nowhere in sight. I peeked through the blinds and her car trunk was now shut, the back doors too. Her suitcases were missing from the spot I’d last seen them in. I went to the other side of the house, the part blacklisted as the guest side of the house, and found her there, sitting on the bed, surrounded by her things.
It took me three full minutes before I could speak, “I would’ve helped you.”
She cocked an eyebrow in my direction, “Yeah, because you’ve been so helpful thus far. Can I start unpacking or have you talked your mom out of my job?” She made lots of gestures with her hands. I convinced myself that the gestures were irritating but I had to bind the corners of my mouth to keep them straight. I’d really lost it if I thought the maid’s hand talking was cute.
“No, I talked to her. She assured me that you’d stay out of my way.”
She rolled her eyes, “Don’t worry, I won’t bother you.”
She got up and stalked towards me and my skin hummed with the need to know what she felt like but I dismissed it as a general lack of human touch. There was no way this girl was affecting me so much already.
“Goodbye, Breaker.” She said and then shut the door to her room in my face.
I didn’t hear her for the rest of the night. I even looked through the window to make sure her car was still in the drive once. It was. I crept halfway down the stairs and surveyed the living room and kitchen from my perch. She wasn’t anywhere to be seen or heard. Why did I even care?
About ten, I went downstairs to make myself a sandwich. She sat at the counter, dipping tater tots into a milkshake and eating them. It looked really good and I hadn’t had fast food in a long time. Another thing my family refused to do for me.
She looked over at me and began gathering her things up and got out of the chair.
“It’s fine. Stay—eat.” I said as I passed her.
I pulled out a plate, grabbed a napkin and a knife, intending to make a sandwich. I turned around, halfway wanting to apologize to her but she was gone, her food and milkshake, placed in the trash. And didn’t that just make me feel like a rat bastard.
But the more I thought about it, the more it became my mission—to keep her at a distance from me. A girl like that, obviously a good head on her shoulders and beautiful as all get out; the last thing she needed was a head case like me.
But I couldn’t imagine being outright mean to her. It just wasn’t in me. I could handle aloof and ice-cold but mean was a whole other animal. I would just have to avoid her the best I could. That may be hard considering I just had a passing thought of sticking my fingers in that milkshake and her slowly licking them off. I banged my head against the counter.
This is gonna suck ass.
I was told not to start working until Monday morning. She gave me those instructions along with a lot of others. Some of her requests were outlandish, but she was paying me more per month than I’d make all summer at the restaurant. So Sunday morning, I went out for breakfast. It went against everything in me not to ask the other person in the house to come with me or if I could bring him something back. But I was told it would further his affliction, so I obeyed.
After breakfast, I went to the library just for fun since I’d taken the last of my finals. I ran some other errands here and there. I stopped at the coffee shop and couldn’t help myself from getting him one too. It wasn’t even my first day on this new job and I had already broken the rules.
And he was such an ass—I mean if he was any more of an ass, he’d be saddled and ridden in a small pueblo in Mexico. But I’d always been taught to kill them with kindness. And that’s what I would have to do here—kill his jerkiness with niceties.
I didn’t know what he liked, but everyone like caramel, right? So that’s what I got him, a blended frap with caramel and hoped it melted away the ice a little bit.
I walked in to music blaring. I’d heard it from outside but thought certainly it wasn’t coming from the house I now lived in. There was nothing I could do about it but I was sure it bothered the neighbors. The coffee was melting in my hands, so I decided to go upstairs and give him the peace offering myself. I walked up the stairs, trying to be as loud as I could. I didn’t want to take a chance on walking in on any questionable situation.
I followed the sound of Mikky Ekko flowing down the hallway, singing about wanting to be pulled down by a woman. It was a song I’d heard before on Stephanie’s playlist. It came from the other side of a closed door and I knocked several times with no answer. I was beginning to believe this guy didn’t know the meaning of a knock on a door.
So I opened the door a crack and instantly blushed at what I saw. Breaker was dancing in a pair of navy blue boxer briefs, nothing else, and singing the words into a water bottle. I watched in absolute fascination as the muscles and ligaments in his back moved and swayed as he did. And I wanted to hunt down the inventor of boxer briefs and kiss him. I decided not to alienate myself anymore and I snuck back downstairs and called him on his phone, hoping that somehow he could hear it over the music. It rang several times before he answered and I asked him as kindly as I could muster to please come downstairs. He turned down the music and said to give him a minute.
He came down the stairs and I already had a plan in place. I would tell him I got him a coffee and bolt—no questions, no normal mouth running Ash.
I didn’t even look at him. I knew my mouth had a mind of her own and it wanted to do a whole lot more than talk to him. He dropped down after the last step and just stared at me.
“I got you caramel. I didn’t know what kind you liked. Hell, I don’t even know if you like coffee at all. Maybe you don’t even drink coffee? I guess I could’ve called you but I didn’t want to bug you like I’m doing right now running my damned mouth. I’ll shut up now.”
If it wouldn’t look perfectly insane, I wanted to punch myself in the pie hole right then.
I turned to walk away but was halted by his voice. I closed my eyes and listened intently. Maybe we could get through a freakin’ conversation without incident.
“I haven’t had one of those in years. Thank you.”
I almost fainted. He said thank you and everything. It was true, coffee was a miracle worker. As I turned back around, he plucked it from the countertop, took a long drag from the straw, and closed his eyes. A shiver raced down my body imagining that was the face he made in all degrees and situations of pleasure.
He looked over to me, “Possum walk over your grave?”
“Huh?” I was looking at a tiny drop of whipped cream on his lip, thinking about how good he and the cream would taste together and he was talking about beady eyed rodents?
“My grandma used to say that when someone shivered. She would say that a possum walked over your grave.”
I turned to stalk away again, “Trust me;” I yelled over my shoulder, “I shivered for a totally different reason, Breaker.” I didn’t stop until I reached my room and shut the door behind me. One of these days my mouth was gonna get me into some serious trouble.
And if Breaker was trouble, I wouldn’t mind it one bit.
The next morning, I woke up early and took a shower all alone in a private bathroom. My Dad always told me I would get used to all the people in the dorms, I would learn to cope but I never had. I found a way around it. While I was out the day before, I stopped at my father’s business and bought all the cleaning supplies I would need. I was given a credit card by Mrs. Collins and I killed two birds with one stone. I gave my Dad some business and I got everything I needed to clean the house for a long time. My Dad started the commercial cleaning business when I was a baby and years later coupled it with a janitorial warehouse store. But more and more companies were using in house employees to clean and that part of the business slowly fizzled out. But he still had the store. My mother helped as long as she could but eventually her state of mind stultified her. She’d tried to commit suicide many times but my dad refused to commit her, his need for her so powerful, even in her altered state. Three days before I turned twelve she succeeded in her suicide plan. My father hadn’t been the same since.