It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the lone source of light from the muted TV. She had woken suddenly to a loud noise, and found herself hunched over on the couch in her family room. What was meant to be a short twenty-minute nap lasted two hours.
Startled again by the noise, Charlie peeled herself off the couch quickly. She arched her back and cracked it before she switched on a few lights while heading to her apartment door. The old lock slid open easily for Charlie as she greeted her unexpected guest.
“Hey—” James cocked his head to the side, “Were you sleeping?”
Rubbing her eyes she mumbled no, making James chuckle.
“Well I hope you’re not too tired to eat, I practically cleaned out the Chinese place down the street,” he held up the large brown bag in his hands before motioning inside the apartment. "I wasn't sure what you liked."
James felt bad as he watched Charlie struggle to hide her yawn. She stepped to the side to let him in and closed the door. They stood in hallway while she took a moment or two to wake up.
There were two doors opposite the front door that led to a full bath and the other was where the laundry machine quietly hummed as it washed the items within. To the left of the front door were the kitchen and family room. And to the right was a single door that was slightly ajar, what James could only assume was the bedroom.
After a 360 tour from his perch inside the doorway he turned back to Charlie as she came to, eyeing the bag of food resting in his left arm. He laughed as she licked her lips in hunger.
“Lets eat!” Charlie led him into the kitchen and grabbed plates and silverware from various cabinets. James laid out the food on the counter top before he draped his jacket on the back of a nearby chair.
“What would you like to drink?” she asked from inside the fridge, her ass in the air. James couldn’t help but admire the view. “I’ve got water, orange juice… and one Natty Light,” she held up the beer like Vanna White.
He laughed, “Though you make it look very tasty, I think I’ll go with water,” Charlie pouted before trading the beer for a pitcher of water. “I'll never get rid of that Natty,” she sighed.
James took a seat next to Charlie at the breakfast bar, discreetly inching his stool a bit closer to hers as he sat down. Charlie was quick to claim all the broccoli and chicken, but as for the rest they helped themselves to the numerous dishes.
“How are you?” James asked, making small talk in between bites. “I haven’t seen you down at the grocery store recently, and Janet said she hasn't seen you either.”
Smooth man, he shook his head as Charlie giggled at him.
“Uh yea, I guess I haven’t needed to make a grocery run lately,” she picked up a bite of the sweet and sour chicken with her fork, “Been kind of busy lately,”
Turning slightly to the left towards Charlie, his knee brushed against the side of her leg. She didn’t move away and James kept his leg there.
“Have a lot going on at work? Where exactly is work for you—I actually don’t know anything about you really,” James admitted with a bashful smile. He was startled when Charlie’s fork clanged against her plate.
“Ok, I mean this with no intention to be rude," she smiled warmly, "Though I am enjoying this free meal. And I guess it’s always nice to have company for dinner, but what are you doing here?”
After dinner, and trying to sound as casual as possible in saying he wanted to see her again so he brought dinner, Charlie had insisted on doing the cleaning. That was fine with James who was left to himself. He happily sat back with his arms across his chest, and took in the sight before him.
Torn up light blue jeans sat low on Charlie’s hip. The grey t-shirt was a size too small, though James wasn’t about to complain. Her soft curves and flat stomach were playing peek-a-boo when she'd reach up into the overhead cabinets. His eyes fixed on how tight the shirt was across her chest as she moved around in the kitchen.
Standing at the sink in the island, Charlie was rinsing a plate with the spray when just a bit of water hit the plate at an odd angle and lightly sprayed her shirt. It was barely any and so cliche, but James couldn’t help himself as he licked his lips.
Calm down, boy. Let’s take this slow, he thought.
“Mind if I take a look around?” he asked over the clanging dishes, already up and wandering around before Charlie answered.
He studied the photos lined up on the TV console. There were a few of her and some girlfriends. At the bar and holding up shots, as kids, at a birthday party. Her smile always reached her eyes and long blond hair framed the face that James was growing to like more and more.
Another photo was a family one. There was no doubt that the woman who was holding Charlie close was her mother, she was her spitting image. On the other side of her mom was a young, good-looking guy who James assumed was her brother. No father though, he'd wait to ask about that until he got to know her better.
“You all look alike, he said softly, but loud enough for Charlie to hear, "You have the same smile,” He looked over his shoulder to see her smiling like she was proud.
He moved along with the tour of her family room. The walls were painted a pale lime green, giving the room a soft glow even at night. Two orange and plush looking chairs winged a modern, khaki colored couch. Accents in the cream curtains, the swanky rug and personal accessories were what made the area cozy and stylish.
James sat down on the couch and sunk into the cushions. He was looking at the vintage wooden trunk that acted as a coffee table when his eyes glanced over the numerous papers and photos scattered on top. He narrowed in on what looked to be a seating chart. He scooted a paper over to read what t was, ‘Wedding Reception Seating Chart.’
It was like tunnel vision—he couldn’t see anything else but the wedding plans laid out before him.
Holy shit, she’s getting married! Damn, what a lucky son of a bitch. Wait, he’s not here. Which means he’ll come home. To find another man in his house, hitting on his woman… I. Am. Outta. Here.
James shot off the couch and paced for a few steps. He rubbed the back of his neck, a habit of his whenever he’s nervous.
“James, are you ok?”
James must not have noticed her walk up beside him. He stumbled to the side and into a table by the chair. His quick reflexes came in handy to catch the lamp that almost shattered on the hardwood floor.
“Who? Me? Oh yea. Yea, I’m great,” he rambled, “Nice place,” Charlie eyed him. He looked nervous and kept eying the front door.
Ok, I don’t get you. You come to my place unannounced and now you’re trying to escape me as if I've got a disease. She stuck her hands in her the back pockets of jeans, keeping her head down slightly. “If you have to get going… thanks for dinner...”
James cleared his throat, looking over his shoulder at the coffee table. “I just don’t want to keep you from your wedding plans,” he pointed.
Charlie couldn’t help it as her face fell and she rolled her eyes. “Ugh,” she tilted her head to the side, running her hands down her face, “I can’t wait for it to be over!”
James took a step back and his hand pulled away from grabbing his jacket. “Shouldn’t you be excited? It is a big day,”
“I mean, I guess I am,” Charlie shrugged. She walked over to the charts and papers giving them a once over. “I was doing it as a favor, but it's just been one crazy mess. She totally owes me,”
She took a seat on the couch and looked up to see James step in front of her. His head thrashed from side to side, “I didn’t know gay marriage was legal in Pennsylvania,”
“Gay? Tori isn’t gay,” Charlie couldn’t help but laugh.
“Yea? She’s the one you met for a quick second the other day at the coffee shop. Well she's gone by Victoria ever since college. Apparently Tori isn’t feminine enough for her,” she scoffed, “She thinks I’m a tomboy for going by Charlie instead of Charlotte. ‘What if someone sees your name and thinks you’re a guy? That would be so embarrassing,'Cause you're not!'" Charlie mocked. "Thanks for stating the obvious Tor,"
Quit rambling! You’re being ridiculous, ugh!.
James plopped down on the couch next to her, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
One damn good-looking Cheshire cat, she involuntarily thought.
“What about you?” he asked.
“Me? I prefer Charlie. I think it's cute! And I just, I don’t like how I got my name,” her smile faltered a bit but if James noticed he didn’t say a thing.
Instead, he chuckled at her. “No, silly. I mean marriage.”
“Oh! Oh. No, that’s not really for me,” Charlie put her hands up defensively.
James peered over his shoulder at her as he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. His wide shoulders stretched the fabric of his white button-up. He had a five o'clock shadow, and boy did it work for him. His hair was spiked up a bit and was a little long, brushing against the tips of his ears. She had to sit on her hands to stop her fingers from playing with it.
“So there’s no special man in your life?”
Charlie smiled shyly. “No,” She looked up and her eyes met with James’. “But there is this guy I met at the grocery store,”
He sat back and laid an arm across the back of the couch.
When did he get so close?
“Is that so?” James asked all cocky.
“Yea. Kind of cute, but a bit of a stalker. Kind of creepy.” she said with a straight face.
James just smiled. “I don’t stalk, I just run into you in a premeditated manner,”
Charlie laughed loudly and her head fell back slightly. Her giggle faded out and she looked back at him and sighed.
Woah. Did he just lick his lips? Stop staring at his mouth, look away from his lips. Stop!
What? Did I say something funny? Did he say something funny? Shit. Laugh, or he’ll notice you’re not paying attention!
She let a small, light laugh escape.
He licked ‘em again! He knows I'm staring!
James leaned in close, his face only a few inches from hers. "If you ask me, I think Charlie is a sexy name for a girl," he winked.
Well shit, take me now!