Previous – Liquid Courage
It’s almost time to go to Misa’s for dinner, but I’m stuck on the phone with dad listening to his concerns about mom.
“It’s unlike Khiana. She returned the money I sent her this month. All these years I supported her after our breakup. Now she doesn’t need me anymore?”
“When did you hear from her last?” I ask, feigning interest. Sounds like another pointless spat between exes I want zero involvement in.
“Last time I spoke to her was in that email chain about your placement test score.”
“Hmm.” My eyes burn a hole through my door. I’m ready to go.
“I’ve been calling her for days—nothing. I can’t get into her phone or trace it. The crown has ignored my calls to speak with her and access into their network is next to impossible now. Something’s going on. What did she say when you last spoke to her?”
I give myself a look over. I’m wearing dark pants, long-sleeve black collared shirt, white sneakers. Not too formal or casual.
I wonder what Misa will wear. Perhaps something dark too, and sexy.
I can’t wait.
“Emilian?” Dad asks.
“Uh, she was upset about my suspension, and that I’m going to work with you after graduation. We had words, then she hung up on me.”
“I don’t want to get into it.” I check the time. One minute until eight. “Hey, I have to–”
“Was she crying?”
“Damnit, Emilian.” He growls. “Why did you do that? Your momma is sensitive than I don’t know what.”
“You know how suffocating she is. Babying me and monitoring my grades. I couldn’t take the stress anymore.”
“Well… It’s because she lost me, so she tries to hold you tight. You’re her baby, but you’re also a young man with your own life now. Khiana will understand one day. Hopefully, once I find her ass.”
It’s eight and my heart plummets. Am I nervous? That never happens… Grim’s eat fear.
“Yeah, I’ll help too, of course.” Keep him talking instead. You don’t want to look too eager going to Misa’s right on time. “And hey, while I have you, let me give you a name. I’m having trouble finding info on this one.”
“Last name Hollow, first name Timothy. No middle. Five eleven, maybe. Blonde, blue eyes. Owns a yacht, registration TH561 based out of Summer Thorn.”
Misa’s disdain for Timothy was potent. I’m determined to find out everything I can to keep him away forever. Men like him always come back for the woman they lost.
I’ll be ready.
“Hmm. And your interest in this fellow is…?”
“Got it. I’ll get back to you on this Hollow man and you let me know if you hear from Khiana.”
“I will. Thanks.”
I pocket my phone, grab two bottles of wine, and head out.
Instantly, I’m hit with waves of garlic, basil, and tomatoes inches from Misa’s door. My stomach growls in response. The dinner she’s making smells incredible.
After a few deep breaths, I knock.
“Come in, it’s open!” Misa shouts over the muffled lo-fi hip hop playing inside.
I turn the knob.
Misa’s place is… like mine, but pink. Girly, but not too much.
On the walls there’s stunning color photography of sunsets, crashing waves, trees, and intimate close-ups of flowers. Potted and hanging plants compliment the space and her furniture is modern and cozy looking.
I keep walking and find Misa in the kitchen.
Her black hair is straightened and hangs to her waist. She’s wearing a strappy black dress she tugs down at the ends then leaps in the air to reach something from a top cabinet.
I set the bottles of wine on the counter and grab the paper towel roll for her with ease.
She turns red as she takes the roll. “Hi.”
A warm sense of relief grips my heart looking into her sparkling gray-blue eyes. What a beautiful woman…
“Thank you.” She smiles nervously. “I put these up there a while ago, then I lose my stool.”
“You’re welcome. How did you lose a stool?”
“If I knew it’d be found, right?” She giggles, and it sounds so honest, happy. Not fake or forced.
Dad always said I needed a funny woman in my life, since I’m so serious all the time.
“Good thing I’m here to help.” I grab the wine to open them. Misa grins and sets two wine glasses in front of me, then a corkscrew.
My hand touches hers as I take it.
“Thank you–” I manage before a timer squeals and she’s on the run. Only the light, soft vanilla scent of her perfume lingers in her absence.
I open the wine slowly, watching Misa happily move through the kitchen in her fuzzy black flip flops. She’s stirring and tasting things in bubbling pots. Her hips sway to the music while her forever sunflower watches from the counter, bopping side to side.
I feel… like I have everything I’ve ever wanted.
“Okay, dinner’s ready!” Misa says in a singsong voice.
This is home.
After two servings of pasta al pomodoro, romaine salad topped with balsamic vinaigrette, baked bread, and fragola pazzo for dessert each, we’re stuffed. It was incredible. I haven’t had cooking that good since, well, mom…
It’s a great night.
So far, we’ve been through one bottle of red and I know Misa is feeling it because she’s speaking louder and laughing nonstop as we lounge on the couch.
Everything from our likes, dislikes, and shared interests is out in the open. Misa’s animated and has made me laugh more than I can ever recall. My face is so sore it hurts to smile.
“Why were you mean to me when we first met?” Misa asks out of nowhere. She’s sitting on her knees beside me on the couch, clutching a blue throw pillow to her chest, eagerly awaiting my answer.
I exhale and stare out at the glittering bulb lights lining her patio. The door is wide open, and the gold light sprinkles into her living room.
“Well, I…” Our eyes meet. “I was in a dark place mood wise, always wanting to be alone. Plus, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation. Then, you came into class and slowly, answers appeared. Some I wasn’t ready for, so I lashed out, pushed back.”
“That I didn’t have to be alone. I could be happy if I wanted to.” I remember the last phone call with mom when I snapped at her. I love her, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t stand up for myself. I’d still be at home studying. “We always have a choice.”
“Are you happy now, Emilian?” Misa whispers.
I love how sweet her voice sounds when she says my name. E-mil-li-an.
“Because of you.”
There. I said it.
Misa’s eyes are wide as our dinner plates and bright as the moon. She sits on her butt and scoots closer to me. I put my arm around her. Glasses. I rip them off with my free hand and set them on the side table. She’s close, so I can still see her.
It gets quiet.
My fingers have a mind of their own as they slide through her thick hair, gliding along the side of her neck. She shivers and looks up at me. On instinct, my head lowers, eyes close. Our noses brush against each other first.
Misa giggles and I kiss her, my tongue sweeping through her open lips.
Finally, she’s mine…