I stood on the landing, looking at the “C” in brass on the door for a few moments. I hadn’t had anywhere near as much bourbon as Shania had, but felt my head swimming. This was not a good situation, I thought. Still, maybe she’d go inside, fall into bed and go to sleep. That way I’d be spared any further emotional havoc this particular day. As I moved away from her door I shook my head to clear it. This had all been a bit much.
As I reached the landing to my own place I decided I might as well go get the replacement bottle. I had no intention of calling Shania once I returned to the apartment. Everything that had happened that day had been visceral and put my life into turmoil. I needed some time to sort things out. I was hoping she would simply sleep off her considerable buzz and allow me to re-evaluate the situation.
I was not, I told myself as I walked toward the package store, in love with her. Concerned? Certainly. Attracted? Without a doubt. Yet I was, at heart, a realist. I also had to recognize that in her current state of emotional turmoil, Shania was likely to grasp at various straws in an attempt to keep herself afloat in the maelstrom that had assaulted her personal life. The fact that she had misinterpreted my concern for her as a romantic attraction was evidence enough of that.
Tucking the brown bag under my arm, I noted I had not changed out of my suit and tie. That would be among my highest priorities upon returning to my apartment. My normal attire of slacks and Polo shirts would be much more comfortable as I attempted to ruminate through the morass my own personal life had become.
That kiss, though, I thought. It had nearly taken the top of my head off. It wasn’t that it was violent or forceful. It certainly was intense, though. And, I thought, running finger lightly across my lips, damned nice. I could get used to that. But, no, I said, smiling and shaking my head. Down that path was desolation. I was sure of it. Considering the age difference and the likelihood that her assets would attract the attention of many a suitor much more physically robust than myself, I shook my head one more time to clear out the thoughts of what discomfort lay at the end of that road as she left me for one with more appeal.
That was quick, I thought, realizing I had arrived at my door. I unlocked it and went straight to the cabinet, replacing the bourbon amongst the several bottle of other hootch I kept for emergencies. I strode into bedroom to change.
“Hey!” I heard the call from the living room. Damned if she hadn’t barged in.
“How did you get in?” I called out to her.
“You left the door unlocked. What are you doing?”
“Please don’t,” she said. Her voice sounded normal as she stood in the bedroom door. I was glad I’d merely removed my jacket, tie and shirt. I still had the modesty of my trousers.
“Suits aren’t me.”
“Please don’t change, though,” she said, grinning. “I like you as you are.”
“Can I put on a Polo and some slacks?”
“Silly. I meant I don’t want you to change from being who you are.”
“Oh,” I replied. “Sorry. Dense.”
She looked radiant, in a yellow sundress with a yellow and white headband in her hair and white sandals on her feet.
“You didn’t call,” she accused.
“I literally just got back. I was just going to change into something more comfortable.”
“Oh, and then you were going to call?”
I stopped and looked at her. “No. I won’t lie to you. I thought you would go sleep off your buzz.”
“Don’t you want to be around me anymore?”
“That’s not it, Shania.” I was uneasy about saying her name now. “Just let me change my trousers. I’ll be right out.”
“No,” she said stubbornly.
“I’m staying right here. You’ve got underwear on, don’t you? Just change your pants. I need to be near you.”
“You’re pushing the limits, my dear.”
“Please,” she said softly. “Let me stay.”
I waved my hand and dropped my trousers to the floor. I kicked off one leg at a time. I grabbed the khakis from the doorknob of the closet and stepped into them. I retrieved the dress pants from the floor shook them out and hung them on a suit hanger, placing the jacket over the top.
“You’re a neat freak.”
“Not really. It just keeps me from having to do massive clean-ups.” I hung the suit over the bar in the closet, crumpled the dress shirt and tossed it into the basket that served as a hamper. I turned and headed toward the door.
Shania looked up into my eyes. “I like your bed.”
I shook my head. “Not going there.”
“One day,” she said. “Then you’ll be mine forever.”
I chuckled. “You need to stop talking nonsense. The idea of us becoming a couple is beyond absurd.”
“You can tell me that you don’t want me, but everything you’ve done tells another story.”
“What have I done, Shania?” I said, somewhat more gruffly than I intended. “I helped you out when you were in trouble. I stood beside you when you were in need. I fed you more booze than I should have. Everything could fall under the category of a concerned friend.”
“You kissed me,” she said softly.
“No, darlin’. You kissed me.”
“You kissed me back.”
“Dear God, Shania,” I sighed. “You’re really being very difficult.”
“And you’re being very obtuse, darling Eric.”
“Just realistic, dear.” I turned toward the kitchen. “I suppose you want some more of that bourbon?”
“Just ginger ale. I took a couple of Tylenol so I wouldn’t have a headache.”
“I have ginger ale,” I acknowledged. I moved into the kitchen, found a water glass, plopped a couple of ice cubes in it, took the ginger ale from the refrigerator and poured half a glass. I waited for the bubbles to recede, and then filled the glass. I carried it to her in the living room and handed it to her. Her eyes captured mine.
“What?” I asked.
She smiled. “You can busy yourself with all the mundane tasks you like. But, when you’re all finished, I’m still going to be here.”
“That’s fine,” I said, my exhaustion coming through. “I invited you. I welcome you. You don’t need a reason, and your presence doesn’t make me uncomfortable.
“I like being with you. I want to be with you. And I know you want me to be here.”
“Are you sober enough to talk about this?”
“I think I am. I wasn’t really drunk before, you know. I just had a really good buzz going.”
“You said some things while you were buzzing that you’re going to regret tomorrow.”
“No I didn’t,” she said flatly.
“Shania,” I began.
“Velvet,” she interjected.
“For the love of God, Shania, would you stop?”
Very slowly, her eyes never leaving mine, she shook her head. “You know what I hear every time you say my name?”
“I’m afraid to ask.”
“I hear, ‘I love you.’ That’s what I hear.”
“That just what you want to hear,” I protested.
She held her glass in front of her, with only her eyes peeking above as she sipped, and shook her head very slowly again.
“Okay, look,” I said, taking a deep breath. “You’re stunning, gorgeous, young, and attractive. I’m drawn to you. Few men wouldn’t be. But, I can’t love you, Shania.”
“But you do.” Her voice was just above a whisper.
“It would make no sense,” I said in my most reasonable, rational, mature, adult voice. “In a few weeks, months, or years, some virile young man is going to come along and sweep you off your feet and carry you away to his mansion on the hill. Then where will I be?”
She continued to shake her head back and forth. “Don’t be a damned fool, Eric,” she said gently.
“That’s what I’m trying to prevent, Shania.”
“See? There it is again. ‘I love you.’”
“What?” I went into a panic.
“Just say it. Just say it instead of my name.”
My heart slowed down. Okay, I thought. She really didn’t just say that. She was just saying she heard it when I said her name.
“I’m trying to prevent being a damned old fool, my dear.” I was feeling proud of myself for avoiding her name. “When I fall in love, it will be with somebody I can count on being next to me forever. I’m not sure that’s the case with us. In fact, I’m pretty damned sure that’s not going to happen.”
“Because you are young and beautiful. Young and beautiful women have young and attractive men chasing them relentlessly. I do not want to be left behind, broken-hearted and bereft because the woman I love has left me for vitality and virility.”
“Want to know what I’ve learned?” she asked, carefully placing the glass on the coffee table.
“Sure,” I said, trying to sound more casual than I felt. “Tell me what you’ve learned.”
“I’ve learned the young and virile are also young and stupid.”
“Not all of them.”
“Shut up, Eric. I’m not finished.
“These young and virile guys make really bad decisions. They just don’t know any better. And they think women like me are decorations. None of them ever gave a horse’s ass what I thought about anything. Real men, men like you, Eric, don’t see us as bangles to be paraded around for the benefit of their egos. Real men like you have an appreciation for who we are, what we think, and how we feel.”
“Are you finished now?”
“Until you make some other stupid point I have to refute.”
I had never been in an argument I wanted to lose more than this one. If I packed away all reason and just let my heart rule, I knew I wanted to love this angel, and I wanted her to love me. I wanted her to be with me, for us to be partners. But the sheer improbability kept my intellect battling with my emotions.
“I don’t love you, Shania,” I began.
“Yes, you do,” she interrupted.
“God damn it!” I nearly shouted. “Stop it!”
“Deny it, Eric,” she snapped out at me. “Deny it all you want. But, I can see it. I can feel it. I felt it when you kissed me. I felt it when you took my arm. You want to protect me, to take care of me. God damn it, yourself, Eric. Just fucking admit it, will you?”
I shook my head in deep sorrow. “I can’t, Shania.”
“Why the fuck not?” She was obviously still angry.
“Because,” I said sadly, “if I love you, I will lose you.”
“Oh, you really are a fucking moron, aren’t you?” she slammed at me. “I’m, no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. You’re not a moron. You’re just…what? Are you afraid? Is that it? You’re afraid?”
“Christ, Shania,” I begged. “You’re an angel. You’re too beautiful for words. And you’ve got all that spirit and spunk. You’re bright, and beautiful, and smart, and purposeful. I love all of that about you. That’s why I can’t. You’re just so great. You’d be perfect for me if you weren’t so damned young.”
“Well, it’s too late, buster. The only thing that is going to keep you from loving me is if I disappear, and that ain’t happening. I’m here. And I’m here for as long as we can stand each other. But, listen to me.” Her words came in separate, staccato bursts, accented by her punching the air with a finger. “I ain’t leaving ‘til you kick my ass out.”
“Why are you fighting so hard for this?” I asked. “You don’t love me. Hell, you hardly know me.”
“How can any man be so incredibly wrong in one sentence?” she asked, looking up to the ceiling. Facing me she took a huge breath. “Okay, look. Maybe I don’t have all the ‘I’s dotted and the ‘t’s crossed like you do. But, there’s something, okay? When I broke down in the limo, you remember?”
“And you held me. You wrapped me up in your arms and I could feel it then. That’s when I started thinking, what the fuck was I crying for? I was weeping for the loss of a complete jerk who never really appreciated me. You held me and I felt protected. So, what was wrong with that? I realized then that if I just would let go and allow myself to surrender to the care and concern of the one person who was there for me…and then, when I heard you speak to me, say my name, well, I just knew. So, maybe I’m not IN love with you just yet, but I love you as the true friend you’ve turned out to be. I’ve been so wrapped up in worrying about what lay in the future for me that I’ve been blind. But, all the time, you were right here. And you are special, Eric. So let’s give this a chance, okay?”
“So you think this is all about fate or something?”
“I think I’d be crazy not to.” She stepped over to me and pressed a knee between mine, putting her hands on my shoulders. She knelt down until we were virtually at eye level.
“You remember that kiss upstairs?” she asked softly.
“Hard to forget,” I chuckled.
“Let’s do it again,” she suggested, “and see if we still have sparks.” She leaned forward and captured my lips with hers. I heard a little moan from her as her lips pressed between mine and I tasted them gently. Their softness was incredible and the pressure exquisite. Shania pulled back quickly.
“Oh, shit, Eric,” she whispered. “That is just too wonderful. Can you feel it?”
“Yeah, that’s really something,” I confessed.
“I want more,” she said, and locked herself onto me. I could feel her tongue pressing and opened for her. This time, it was a groan. She held my cheeks in her hands and pulled me to her, then slid her hands over my shoulders and around my neck.
The release was slower, more lingering this time.
“Do you always kiss like that?” she asked, sounding breathless.
“Well, you kiss me like that all the time and I’m in love with you by next Tuesday.”
I leaned in to kiss her again. This time our tongues tangled and battle against each other. I couldn’t get enough of her. At the same time I could feel my own arousal beginning. This has to stop, I thought, or I’m going to break my promise not to bed her tonight.
“Where are we going to get dinner?” I asked her.
“You’re thinking about food?” She sounded incredulous.
“I have to baby,” I whispered, “or I won’t be able to control myself.”
Shania came back for more. “I don’t want you to control yourself,” she whispered back. “I want you to let it all go and love me.”
“Shania, this is all spiraling out of control” I admitted. “You’re everything I’ve ever dreamed of, everything I’ve ever wanted.”
She held my face in her hands and looked into my eyes. “Say it for me, Eric. Say aloud what the name Shania has been saying for you in secret. Tell me.”
“I’m sorry, baby. I’ve seen you, watched you, ached for your pain and loneliness, and loved you forever. I know this is a bad time for you, and I’m selfish because I want you to know. But, I do love you, Shania. I hope you won’t hate me for it.”
This kiss was little more than a peck. “It’s not selfish, Eric. Who would have thought I could feel such joy on this day of all days. I’m so glad you love me. I have a life in front of me. We can have a life together.”
She stood in front of me, all blonde, tall, in the colors of bright sunshine and promise.
“So, what should we do about dinner?”
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<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/shania-pt-3.aspx">Shania, Pt. 3</a>