Until November (Page 5)
"Nope, I ain’t going. You couldn’t pay me enough to go to a dance."
“Well, you don’t have to dance. You could just go listen to music.”
“Not happening, darlin’, and we’re not talking about it again.”
I giggle. Max is set in his ways. I know there will be no convincing him. We visit for a while longer until I look at the clock and see how late it is.
“Oh, crude, Max. Me and Beast better go. We have a few people to visit before dinner.”
"Alright, darlin’. See you in a few days,” he says while still petting Beast. “And see you too, boy."
Walking down the hall, the smell of cleaning supplies is overwhelming until we reach the assisted living units. Then, it’s like walking into a country club. The floors are beautiful printed carpet. There are fresh flowers on all tables along the wall. The whole place looks warm and inviting with sitting areas and cozy nooks to read. I can’t help but feel bad for the people who can’t afford to live on this side of the building.
“Alright, boy. One more stop. Remember, be good,” I say, looking down. He just looks at me then back towards the direction are walking. I was just dismissed by my dog.
Walking into Ms. Alice’s room always makes me happy. She has photos and things from all over the world on shelves and bookcases. Her husband was in the military and they traveled a lot. When he retired, they moved to town and opened a hardware store. They were married for sixty-two years and when her husband passed away, she refused to move in with her family. She moved here when she could no longer be on her own. But still, the room feels like a home.
“Hi, Ms. Alice. How are you?” I ask, leaning down and kissing her cheek.
“Oh, November. I’m wonderful. I was just talking to my grandson. He’s on his way to visit too."
“That’s nice. We won’t stay long, then. I just wanted to bring Beast by and say hi,” I tell her, sitting down.
"Hey, you handsome boy. Come here and give me some sugar,” she says, patting her leg. Beast walks to her and puts his head in her lap. “You are such a sweet thing just like your mama," she says, making me smile.
Beast is like my child. I feed him, love him, and make sure he is cared for. But I hope one day I find someone to have a real family with. I don’t want to be single for the rest of my life and become known as the crazy dog lady. Since I’m allergic to cats, I can’t even be the norm and have a million cats. Well, I could but then I’d just walk around with puffy eyes and a runny nose.
“I hope my grandson gets here soon. I would love you too meet him. He’s very handsome,” she tells me with a big smile on her face. I can see her mind racing with ways to hook us up. “I keep telling him he needs to settle down. He has never brought a girl home and he’s getting too old for all that playing around business that men these days do. I want great grandbabies before I leave this earth. Back in my day, it was normal to get married young. I was eighteen when I got married and I stayed married until I lost my James. I miss him every day and still love him. I want that for my grandsons."
“Well, I hope they all find the kind of love you had, Ms. Alice. It sounds beautiful,” I tell her truthfully. I can see the love that she still carries for her husband whenever she talks about him.
"What the f**k are you doing here?" I jump and Beast barks at the sound of the voice. I slowly turn around, praying I’m wrong.
"Asher James Mayson, you watch your mouth. Don’t talk to my guest like that," Ms. Alice scolds him. I can feel all the color drain out of my face and my stomach drops to my toes. Oh my God, he’s more beautiful than I remember in his dark green thermal with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows and the colorful tattoos on his arms are so bright that even his tan does nothing to take away from their beauty. His jeans are light blue overwashed and hug him perfectly. His light brown boots are so dirty that you would think he spent the day playing in the mud. Great! Just flipping great. He’s Ms. Alice’s grandson. Can my life get any worse?
“Hi,” I say, trying to smile but I know that I probably look like I’m in pain. I stand up, ready to bolt. “Come on Beast, Ms. Alice has a guest and we need to go to the store.” Yes, now I’m talking to my dog out loud in front of hot jerk face. Ugh, I’m such a loser. “Well, Ms. Alice, I’ll see you in a few days,” I say, leaning down to kiss her cheek.
“Okay, sweet girl," she says quietly. She looks like she wants to say something but she closes her mouth then glares at her grandson. I’m sure if she could have made him catch fire, she would have. If I could make him catch fire, I know I would. I turn and start walking down the short hall towards the exit when I feel pressure on my elbow.
"I’m gonna walk November out. I’ll be right back, Gran," Asher says from behind me.
Crap, crap, crap. “Umm… No… No, that’s okay,” I say, trying to pull my arm free from his touch. I can already feel his fingers burning into me.
"No, I’ll walk you," he whispers near my ear, causing goose bumps to breakout across my skin.
“Fine,” I mutter because I don’t want to cause a scene in front of Ms. Alice. I’m sure she likes me but not so sure she would like me ruining the chances of her having great grandchildren when I ‘accidently’ kick him in the nuts. She doesn’t say anything as we leave. She just waves goodbye with a face splitting smile. Oh, if she only knew.
“Come on, Beast. Asher is walking us out,” I say then bite my tongue. I really need to work on not talking to my dog in front of people. Once out the door, I pull my elbow from his grip. “Look, I’m sorry. I had no idea that she is your grandma. I just bring Beast here to see anyone who wants the company. I watched a show on TV about animals visiting with people in hospitals and nursing homes and how much joy it brought them. So I figured, I’d give it a try. I have a beautiful dog who loves attention, so why not, you know.”
Asher’s not saying anything and I realize I’m rambling. Crap. “So we’re just gonna go.” I turn to leave but he grabs my hand, pulling me back.
"Hey, not so fast. You caught just surprised me. I didn’t expect I would see you here."
“Well, I really like your grandma and she likes Beast so if you just tell me the days you’re gonna come, I’ll make sure not to show up then.”
"That’s not gonna work for me.”
“Okay,” I say, feeling my shoulders slump. “Well, have a good day.” And don’t fall off a cliff. I say it under my breath as I turn to walk off again.
“Meet me tonight," he says and I know that I must have heard him wrong. His rough voice and his southern accent are making it hard to concentrate on what he is saying. I swear I heard him wrong. I look over my shoulder.
“What?” I ask, scrunching my nose.
"You, me, tonight, beer, a game of pool?"
“Um…" Nope, didn’t hear him wrong. I look around to make sure that it’s still just me and him in the parking lot.
“It’s just a beer,” he says, smiling.
“You’re kind of a jerk,” I tell him. It’s something he probably hears all the time.
"I can be but it’s still just a beer, November.” The way he says my name makes me think that this is a lot more than just a beer and a game of pool. Plus, when a guy admits that they are a jerk, is that really a good thing? “Just meet me at the Stumble In at seven,” he says, taking a step closer to me. All of the sudden, I can feel the heat from his body, smell the scent of his cologne and I can finally make out the color of his eyes.
“Light blue with gold flecks,” I mumble to myself. My lips part and my eyes glaze over. All my senses are on overload.
“Pardon?” he asks and I realize that I just said that out loud.
“Nothing,” I mumble, still staring at him. I realize that I probably look like an idiot so I take a step back. He smiles, revealing one perfect dimple and I know in that moment that I am so screwed. Crap!
“Meet me at seven,” he repeats, taking a step closer to me. His hand comes up, moving my hair to behind my ear, and I’m totally lost. Just floating away in a hot guy fog.
“Um…” I blink, trying to pull myself together. “Okay, seven,” I say, wondering what the heck just happened. The words are out and I need to get away from him and his Jedi mind tricks. I turn to go but get tugged back. I almost fall on my butt when I turn my head and see Asher squat down to pet Beast.
“Alright, babe. Seven. See you then." His smile gets bigger, like he knows something I don’t. He stands from his squatting position and winks. I turn around because I need to go, go, go before I throw myself at him and ask him to help me give Ms. Alice great grandbabies.
“Come on, Beast.” I tug on his leash but he wants to stay with Asher. “I know the feeling, boy,” I whisper.
Walking into my dad’s house, I’m assaulted by the smell of garlic and butter. I stop in my tracks when I realize that he’s home. “Crap,” I whisper to myself. Dad’s home. Of course, he’s home. We have dinner together every night. I try to act normal as I walk into the kitchen. My dad is standing in front of the stove, wearing an apron that looks like a girl in a bikini. I start laughing. "Hey, now. What’s so funny?" he asks, smiling.
“Nothing, Daddy,” I say, giggling.
"I’ll have you know that your uncle got this for me."
“I’m sure Uncle Joe did,” I say, smirking. Uncle Joe is a funny guy.
“Well, I like it. I look hot," he says, holding his hands out to his sides.
“That you do,” I agree, shaking my head. “So what are we having?” I ask, hopping up on the counter.
“Shrimp Alfredo, garlic bread and salad."
“Yum. Sounds good. I’m leaving at six thirty to head to the Stumble In,” I say, glad that it sounds casual.
"The Stumble In? Why are you going to the bar on a Thursday. I’m not driving you to drink already, am I?"
“Um… No, I’m meeting someone there?” I say, asking rather than telling him. Please don’t ask who, I pray.
“Is that a question or are you meeting someone?”
“Well, I um…ran into Asher at the nursing home when I was visiting his grandmother and he asked me to meet him.”
“You’re meeting Asher at the bar?" he asks with a look on his face that doesn’t bode well for me.
“Yeah, it’s just a beer, Dad,” I say, using Asher’s words.
"I don’t know how I feel about this. I know you’re not a kid but Asher is not the kind of guy I expected you to date. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good man.” He shakes his head. “Just promise me you’ll be careful. I don’t want to see you hurt.”
“Promise, Dad,” I say quietly. The last thing I need is to get my heart trampled on again. Been there, done that. And Asher’s boots look like they would do a lot more damage than my ex’s. “Besides, Dad, he knows I’m new in town and feels bad for me or something.”
“Or something,” he says under his breath and I ignore him.