"I told you, the date was fine," I huffed as I picked apart my lunch.
I met Lara between classes per her request—I regretted that decision. She wanted details from Friday night, and I would have rather had my fingernails pulled out, one by one, with rusty pliers. I didn't want to relive that flop of a date or the mediocre sex that followed; even more so, I did not want to end up slipping and providing information about the off-duty cop.
After my Holden-induced orgasm Friday night, I knew I had to cut the cord with my thoughts toward the man. My wedding was in three months, and I was not going to see the engagement broken up over a whimsical feeling for a guy I'd never see again.
Lara rolled her eyes. "You told me it was fine, yes, but you didn't tell me any details."
"Why do you even need them? I mean, you don't like David, or me being with him."
"True. I think he's a horrible match for you, but I still want to know if you had a good time."
I sighed. "It was the usual, Lara."
"And, the usual usually has you bored out of your mind."
"Yeah," I shrugged.
I wished Lara was one of those friends I could lie to. I wish she were one of those friends that couldn't see past fake facial expressions, hidden meanings in words, or subtle shifts in demeanor.
"So, who's the dude?"
"The dude you met. There has to be one."
"There was no guy."
"You're lying. Stop lying to me."
I sighed. "I only said there was no guy because I'm not even thinking about Holden anymore."
"Oh, so this guy's name is Holden? What does Holden look like?"
"Green eyes, almost black hair, muscular, tall... Why does it even matter? It's not like I'm gonna see the man again."
She assessed me with tight eyes. "Maybe you should, Ken. I'm just saying," she threw her hands in front of her, seeing I was about to protest. "I'm sitting here looking at you, and it's crazy. You flip from forlorn to dreamy and back again. You have that glow about you. That's what you should have every day, Kennedy. You're not having that with David. I mean, you should've seen your face while talking about him. Again, forlorn. But when you talk about this, Holden, character..."
"You know David and I have little time for romance, Lara."
She sighed. "You can only make excuses for so long, Kennedy. Look, just think about it. Think about that glow in your heart and if you truly believe David can give you that. I'm not saying go off and date Holden on a whim, but marriage is a huge commitment. You should decide if that's something you want to make with David."
I held up my ring finger. "Obviously, it is a commitment I'm willing to make."
Lara stood up, hooking her bag over her shoulder. "No need to get bitchy. I'm just saying, you should think things over before going on with the wedding."
I sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm just messed up about it—Holden and my physical attraction to him...then he showed up in the dressing room. I—,"
"Holden in the what?" Lara shouted, making the entire restaurant look in our direction. I sent apologetic glances to the patrons as Lara hurried back into her seat.
"I followed him around Kohl's and he knew, so he cornered me in the dressing room."
"You followed him?" Her eyes were wide with shock. "Why?"
I sighed, knowing lying was out of the question. "I felt drawn to him. Like a calling. Everything in me wanted more of him—my mind, my body. It was weird, like we were magnets fighting our way toward each other. Well, more like I was fighting my way toward him."
"What do you mean?"
"I was in my underwear and bra and he didn't even bat an eye." My voice sounded sour even to myself.
"Maybe he was trying to be respectful. Well, as respectful as a man can be after barging into your dressing room."
I sighed and let my head fall into my waiting hands.
"You like him," Lara said.
"Does it matter? He's gone, and I'm engaged."
"Whatever's meant to be will be. I'm a strong believer in that."
That's what I was afraid of. I wasn't certain what was meant to be at this point.
I grabbed my bag off the floor and stood. "Look, I have some portfolio work to do and stuff, so I'll catch up with you later."
I walked in the direction of the art studio, but somehow ended up at David's workplace, getting off the elevator, and striding to his office. My fist rapped on the door, and I waited.
The door opened and there David stood. His brown hair was neatly combed, his shirt tucked in and tie in place. "Kennedy? What's going on?" he asked.
"I just wanted to stop by," I shrugged. "I was having lunch with Lara then I was going to the studio but I didn't really feel like it, so I thought I'd say hi."
His eyebrows furrowed. "Well, hi. Come in, come in." He ushered me into his office and closed the door behind him. "I'm on a call, but I take my lunch after," he sat in his large, swivel chair.
I nodded, not wanting to disrupt him. He was talking about a discrepancy in some records as I tip toed around the office. There were pictures of us on his desk, spanning from when we started dating all the way to just a couple nights ago when we went out for his birthday. The day I met Holden.
No. Not this, again! Everything I did since last Friday turned back to Holden. I couldn't shake him. I didn't even know if I wanted to shake him.
Of course you don't, my subconscious told me. Oh, yes I do, I argued back. Of course I wanted to shake Holden. His ring wasn't on my finger. I had to shake him and the spell he put on me.
David hung up the phone and turned toward me. "Did you want to go get some ice cream or something? I know you ate lunch with Lara already..."
"Actually, I was hoping we could have sex."
He did a double take as if he was checking it was me sitting on his couch. He scratched his head, looking mildly uncomfortable. "What?"
Honestly, I did a mental double take, as well. What was I really doing there at David's office? I kept telling myself I wanted him, but the part of me that was keen on telling the truth said I was there to prove a point. I had to prove to myself that David and I were meant to be together. I had to prove I was imagining the chemistry between Holden and me.
"Yeah. I was hoping we could have sex."
"Here? In my office?"
"Yeah. You scared?"
"No," he said, moving past me to lock the door. "It's just the middle of the day."
"And everybody will be gone for lunch," I shrugged.
"Well, lay down, then," he said.
"And you're sure?"
"Yeah," I said. "It'll be hot."
He brought his lips to mine and we began to kiss. The kiss started as usual, delicate and chaste, before it built into a sensual blending of lips; but I wanted more. I gripped David's hair between my fingers as I tried to urge him deeper into the embrace but he was resistant.
"Not too much, Kennedy," he warned around my lips before pulling away. I took that as an opportunity to kiss every exposed part of his skin: his face, his lips, his neck.
"Is this too much?"
"No," he said. "I'm ready."
"Umm, okay. I'm still getting there," I said, noting the dryness between my legs.
The brief sigh that left his mouth did not go unnoticed, but I decided to let it slide. "Lay back down," he instructed.
I did as he said, and he removed the barriers surrounding the apex of my thighs. After a few swipes of his tongue, I was relaxed and growing more comfortable with each caress. My groans filled the room until David tapped my lips with his fingers. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to concentrate on watching my noise output and was cursed with a visual of Holden.
My eyes snapped open. "I think I'm ready, now."
I could've sworn I heard David say "thank God," but that was a matter I did not want to explore. He released himself from his pants and eased into my warmth. The only sound that filled the room was his belt buckle clanging against itself.
I prayed for the tryst to be over. All I could see was Holden's face and all I could feel was the emptiness David left with his thrusting. The sex was nothing more than a duty to him. A routine duty. Will it be like this when we're married?
I caught him off guard, that's all it is, I told myself.
A few more strokes ended his probing of my vagina, and he pulled out, coming into a napkin he had waiting. I drew my underwear and pants up and looked in the mirror. There wasn't much to straighten on myself except my shirt.
"That was unexpected, but welcomed," David smiled.
I nodded and forced a smile, fighting back tears. "Yeah. I should really go. I need to work on my portfolio and stuff, but I'll talk to you later."
"Okay. Love you."
"Me too," I said, closing his office door.
I cried all the way back to campus.
Was it from the guilt I felt because Holden kept starring in any type of dream I had? Or was it guilt for not enjoying sex with David? I disregarded the last thought, knowing David did not enjoy most of the encounter, either—until he was getting pleasure, anyway.
I found an empty spot on the quad and laid out my portfolio papers. I had to make sense of the drawings and pictures of paintings before me. I had to put them in some type of order, in a way where they'd escalate and tell a story; the only story I saw was David's and mine. The pictures started off vibrant—like our relationship—with differing subjects. I saw everything as beautiful during that first year. The art steadily digressed into monochromatic stills—things that lacked imagination. I huffed. "There's no way I'm turning this shit in." I stacked the uninspired drawings and photographs of my paintings into a pile before moving on to more recent works I'd started. "This is better," I nodded. The pictures reminded me of better days. Of love, happiness...hope...I started these after I met Holden.
How could such a transformation occur over one meeting?
It was as if Holden was a hurricane. I was a neat little town—my buildings were quaint and orderly before the winds and waves of his masculinity tore through me. I was left a wreck.
"Even more reason to forget about him," I said, filing my drawings back into their respective folders.
When I dealt solely with David, I had a plan. Everything in my life was laid out in color-coded piles; all I had to do was follow the instructions. But Holden had to come into the same Kohl's as me, on the same day, at the same time...it was a conspiracy to break up a happy couple! Sure, we had our issues to resolve before we were married, but every couple has problems.
This time, I have to leave Holden alone, for real, I told myself. If I think about him, I can't let it effect David and me. I can't let a man I talked to once dictate my relationship.
I nodded, resolved within myself to get my life in order. I walked to my car with a brand new spring in my step. I started up the engine and pulled out of the parking lot. "And good riddance, Holden," I laughed... until I saw a police cruiser behind me.
My heart raced and I cursed. Tension shot through my body and had me gripping the steering wheel hard enough I feared I would develop carpal tunnel.
"All right. That is freaking it!" I huffed.
I had barely made it off campus, and I was already set to return. The stress, tension, and anxiety I felt had to be dealt with, and there was only one acceptable way I knew how: the gym. I detested working out almost as much as Lara hated being the maid of honor in a wedding she didn't approve of, but it was the best option I had. The other option had me writhing on my bed, moaning a name that didn't belong to my fiancé.
I dug through the trunk of my car in the hope of finding suitable workout attire. I was not left disappointed. Last summer, Lara and I attempted to train for a 5k and failed miserably; hence, the reason for finding running shoes and gym clothes where they, otherwise, wouldn't be.
I tossed the clothes over my shoulder and sped walked into the gym where the doorman stopped me. I flashed my student ID and kept moving. Going to the gym, for me, was like ending up on a side of town I'd never ventured to before. I knew where nothing was, but was grateful for the signs that pointed me toward my goal. I found the bathroom and was able to change and toss my belongings into an empty locker.
David showed me a circuit back in his workout phase, so I attempted to replicate it with some leg lifts on a machine followed by running a mile on the track. I spent some time on a thigh machine I couldn't name before deciding to cool down on the stationary bike. Amy Winehouse just started crooning in my ears about an unholy war when I sat down. I picked a workout from the bike's menu and was given a warning, telling me I was limited to twenty minutes on the machine. I shrugged, knowing I wouldn't need the entire time.
I was peddling for about ten minutes when I felt the presence of another person around me. I checked the timer on the corner of the machine's screen and kept pedaling. There were open machines all around, and if they really wanted this one, they would just have to wait.
Or so I thought.
There was a tap on my shoulder. I removed my ear buds and stopped pedaling. I turned to the right and was met by a set of green eyes—the same green eyes that helped me to orgasm last night.
"I knew we'd see each other again, Kennedy," he smiled.
"Did you follow me here?" I asked, remembering the police cruiser I saw on the way to the gym.
He continued to smile. "No. I come here regularly."
"Great," I sighed, trying to look at anything that wasn't him.
"So," he said, sitting on the bike next to me, sweat making every surface of his body gleam, "what brings lady Kennedy here?"
I motioned to the bike. "Obviously, I came to work out."
"It looks like you did an okay job. You could be sweating a little more. I could give you a good work out."
Everything south of my waistline clenched. I played it off. "Right."
"No, really. I follow a routine used by almost every fit cop out there. It's intense, if you're looking for that."
"Why does how I work out even concern you?"
"This gym is expensive. I want you to get your money's worth," he shrugged.
"I'm a student, so it's built into tuition. Of course, I'll have to pay it back later when I make all the big bucks," I rolled my eyes.
"Ahh. So, you're a student here at Illinois State? I love learning new things."
I couldn't help but smile at the gleam in his eyes. "So, you caught me. I'm a student here. What are you doing here? I doubt you take classes."
"I don't. I just enjoy this gym a lot better than the others. It's like I have to get into a pissing contest with the guys at the other places—older men in the midst of their midlife crises." He shook his head. "They want to impress their younger counterparts so they try to act tougher than what they are."
"I have to say, I don't know the type," I chuckled.
"And she laughs!" Holden threw his hands up before motioning to me. "Look, people! She laughs!"
"Shut up, Holden." The way his name rolled off my tongue sent chills over my spine.
"Only if you agree to let me buy you a drink."
I flinched. "I don't drink."
"I meant from downstairs. There's a Jamba Juice down there."
"I don't know," I said, getting up from the bike. My brain didn't know, but my body was sure it wanted more than a drink.
"Are you done working out?"
"I am now."
"Well, then, humor me. It'll only take a second."
"I, somehow, doubt that."
"It's on your way out...and mine."
I went with my body. "One drink," I said, grabbing my iPod and shoving it into the pocket in my shorts.
Holden's answering smile made my head lighter. "After you, Kennedy," he motioned grandly toward the stairs.
I shook my head, a smile still plastered on my face.
If I were being honest, I would say I was enjoying my time with Holden. He made me laugh and forget the stresses of senior year, job-hunting, and my portfolio. It helped that he seemed to enjoy himself, too.
"So, you been stalking any other men recently?" He had a devilish smile on his face as his eyes danced. He enjoyed seeing me uncomfortable.
"Ha, ha," I rolled my eyes. "No, actually. I've been keeping to myself. I have my portfolio due real soon, so I've been busy working on that."
"A portfolio? So, you're an artist, or something of the like?" he asked before taking a sip from his cup. The way his lips formed around the straw made my flesh heat.
"I guess you could say that."
"So, you're an art major," he deduced. "What do you want to do with that degree?"
"Become an art teacher at my old high school."
"Most people never want to return to their high school and here you are, spending all this time and money to go back. Why?" The way he cocked his head to the side while assessing me led me to believe he held a genuine interest in my life. It made me spill my guts.
"I think it started when the art room went through extensive renovations during my senior year. They wanted to turn it into a doctor's office...all cold and clinical... as opposed to a room to inspire creativity. For our last project of the year, we had to pick a door to paint before it was to be removed. They were tearing everything apart, so we actually got to keep the doors. I still have mine." I sighed before continuing. "I loved and hated the project. I loved the fact we could paint whatever we wanted, and on furniture nonetheless; but I hated it because it was like we were saying goodbye to the arts at Bloomington High School. Then I heard my favorite teacher—whose passion for art and creativity was beyond comprehension— was retiring. I knew someone had to step up."
I looked up from the beverage to see Holden staring intently into my eyes. It prompted me to continue.
"There are better artists out there than me, but they're off chasing dreams in graphic design, animation, and other things. My passion is to teach the next generation of artists how to explore their craft— how to appreciate and how to create art. They don't need another wrestling coach teaching art class. They need someone who lives and breathes art. This isn't just a part time gig to get money for drinking on the weekends. This is the air I breathe—the food I eat," I shrugged. "Art is life. For me, anyway."
"Such passion. Such drive." Holden stood and clapped, making my cheeks heat. "That high school would be lucky to have you. I don't know much about art, but you make me want to learn more. Inspiring, really." When I didn't respond, he continued. "So, where does the Ring Giver fit into all of this?"
"The guy that gave you that." He pointed to my engagement ring.
My good mood started to trickle away. I didn't want to talk about David at that moment—not just because of the bogus sex we had that afternoon; but, because I was enjoying myself. My time with Holden had caused me to forget about the office tryst and the negative emotions that plagued me for the afternoon. Holden elicited my first smile for the day, and now he was sending me back to Frownsville.
"He's happy if I'm happy," I muttered.
"That sounds like a lie."
Tension crept up my back and through my neck to my shoulders. "Whatever."
"So, what's he like?"
My eyes tightened as I cocked my head to the side. "Do you really want to know?"
"Yes and no. I just want to know what would make you call him your boyfriend back in Kohl's when you have that globe sitting on your hand."
"It was a momentary brain fart due to you catching me off guard."
"So, you love this man, then?"
I exhaled harshly. "I cannot even believe you just asked me that. I've talked to you all of twice and you're hounding me for information about my fiancé. That's rude."
He contemplated this. "Probably. So, what's his name?"
He was adamant, I'd give him that. "Okay, I'm leaving."
"Wait. Kennedy. Don't go."
The plea in his voice pierced me, but I couldn't stay any longer. "I really have to go anyway. Thanks for the drink," I said before leaving the gym.
I tried not to allow myself to think for the rest of the night. When I arrived to my apartment, I showered, played with my dog some, and called it a night. My dreams, however, were not something I could control. I dreamt of muscle shirts and green eyes.
May 14, 2018 in romance