From Marty Vee:
This is a romantic comedy novella I’m working on. I very much suggest reading from the beginning.
But I’ll give a quick recap just in case.
Billie has been trapped in quarantine with her workplace nemesis, Edgar. During a conversation on Day 5, she discovered that her opinion of him is greatly based on lies and manipulation from someone they both know.
Not that that’s at all relevant to life right now, but it is. Saturday.
I’ve had this twisted gross feeling in my gut all morning and it’s easily traced back to Sofia. Not only, did she use me to violate her restraining order but she lied to me over and over. That’s disturbing. But not as disturbing as how I believed her. Every time. I wanted to trust her. I wanted Edgar to be as terrible as she made him out to be. Gathered, when I met him he was surly and sullen. Over the past couple of years, I’ve watched from a skeptical distance as he’s brightened. But I wanted to believe in that first version of him that I’d met.
Admittedly, if I had a soon to be ex-wife who was corrupting my work and the people around me, I’d be a shitty version of myself, as well.
My heart gives an uncomfortable lurch thinking about how dark that time must have been for him.
I’m sitting criss-cross apple sauce on the living room floor. The laptop is on the coffee table, I’m trying to video chat with Libby. I need to get out of my head. It’s ringing, then it cuts off. No answer.
I’m about to try my parents, when her call comes through on my end. My disappointment turns into thrilling excitement instantaneously.
“Hey!” I can see my too excited face in the bottom right corner. But it matches the level of excitement on my best friend’s face.
“Oh my god! I miss you!” Libby has a deep voice, so even though this is said a few octaves higher than her normal voice it’s not what I’d call high pitched.
“I miss you so much! You have the best face! Like my favorite face in the whole wide world!”
“You have my favorite face!” She shakes her hand in front of the camera like she’s wiping something clean. “Okay, okay, okay, let’s get right to business, I’m totally in love with Candace from work and I’m pretty sure she’s in love with me.”
“Really?” I shift on my sit bones, excited energy coursing through my body. “Why do you say that?”
The only word I can think of to describe Libby’s smile is besotted. “I mean, I’m in love with her because she’s… amazing. I already had a crush on her and now, you know, I got to know her. She’s amazing.”
“You really like her.”
“I really like her.”
“Wow.” My heart might float away, it feels so light. I try to put on a bit of a hardass facade but something like my best friend having interest reciprocated, just brings me joy. “That’s so… I’m just super happy for you.”
Edgar comes out of his bedroom and heads to the kitchen.
I snap my fingers as an idea strikes me. “Libby, you should ask her on a virtual date, you could watch the same movie from your sofa and drink some wine while video chatting.”
“That is a cute idea.” Her blue eyes light up
“You should totally do that.”
She sucks on her top lip, it’s her thinking face. “I don’t know.”
“No, don’t ‘I don’t know’ you’re way out of this. Just do it. Come on, you know that’s a smooth move. Like, if some guy did that for me, right now I’d be butter.”
“Easy to spread?”
My come back is interrupted by a choking sound from the kitchen.
“Sorry,” Edgar is wiping his mouth on his arm, “spit take.”
“Are you eavesdropping?” And because I know that Libby is about to quote Samwise Gamgee, I look at her and say, “Don’t.”
She closes her mouth.
“And no, not ‘easy to spread,’ I just meant like soft and melty.”
“I wasn’t trying to, but I can hear,” he answers wiping down the counter.
“Well, since you know what’s going on, you wanna weigh in?”
“It’s a solid move.”
I look back at Libby. “See? Do it.”
I can hear her flicking the nail of her ring finger against the pad of her thumb, her nervous habit.
“Libs,” I console, “everyone is nervous when they ask someone out. You’re a total badass and if she doesn’t say yes I will Internet Troll her. Bad. Real bad.”
“Don’t do that,” she says but she’s smiling.
Edgar is heading back to his room but I have a question for him so I call out, “Hey Edgar, is your producer giving you shit about how you look in your at-home videos?”
Lines form in his forehead. “No, is yours?”
“Seriously?” Libby chimes in. “Why?”
Before launching into the whole thing, I pat the floor next to me for Edgar. “Come hang out, unless you’re busy.” I can’t imagine what he’d have on his calendar but I want to give him an out.
Libby’s eyes widen at me in a, Seriously? I haven’t gotten a chance to tell her what I learned yesterday.
With my returning look I try to express, Later.
“With what?” He chortles. Lowering himself to the floor, he crosses his ankles and leans back on his hands. “Hi, I’m Edgar.” He jerks his head up in greeting.
“Nice to meet you.” He’s got a cute shy smile on his face.
I adjust my angle so that I can speak to both of them. “Okay, so, she keeps on telling me to pull the camera back, so more of my body is in the shot.”
In the preview screen I can see him glare at nothing under the coffee table.
“But I can’t, you know, because I don’t have clothes. And she wants me to do more with my hair and makeup, which again, pretty limited on what I can do. To some extent, I get it. I’m a network reporter, my appearance is part of my job but…”
“You look great in them,” Libby states, “like someone I’d share a beer with.”
I snort at that. We love to joke about whether or not I look approachable. It usually depends on whether I’ve forgotten that I have Resting-Bitch-Face.
“I’ve seen your videos, you look fine,” Edgar adds.
“You watch my videos? Don’t you get enough of me during the day?”
He’s still not looking at the screen so I share a look with my best friend.
His lips quirk and he looks at me with half-lidded eyes. “What if I said no?”
I’m searching my brain for a response, I just keep coming up with static; like an old tuning radio with no frequency. And he’s just watching me. I can’t think with him looking at me like this. I remember another reason I dislike him, I don’t know how he found the switch but he can flip my brain right off.
“I’m gonna need popcorn for this,” Libby’s joke gives me something to pull my focus from his face.
That stupid hypnotic face.
“Hardy-harr.” I roll my eyes at her.
“Nah, you’re my competition,” he admits.
“Oh, so it’s research?” Libby leans towards the camera with a shit-eating grin on her face.
“Yeah,” he mirrors her expression, “research.
They share a laugh and I can’t tell if it’s at my expense. “I don’t like this.” I point between Libby and him before shoving at his very firm deltoid. I snatch my hand back before I do something embarrassing like squeeze. “You can go back to your room now.”
“But I love this so, Edgar, you can stay.” She points between me and him.
“Who’s side are you on?” I demand.
“Mine! I need entertainment.” She switches topics before I can argue, “So back to your producer, you feel like she wants more sex appeal out of you?”
“I think that’s the underlying message like maybe she wants me to sex it up to compete with Internet porn?”
“That’s not your fucking job.” The only other time I’ve heard this much anger in his voice was yesterday.
But Libby is already talking, “I’ve got an idea. Ed, we’re gonna need a button-up and a tie and you’re gonna have to be the cameraman. I’m thinking Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith minus the rain boots. We could go full Pretty Woman but we don’t want to break the Internet during a pandemic.”
“Thank you for the confidence boost but somehow I think my tits added to the plethora of tits that the World Wide Web already supplies, would be white noise.”
“It’s not a bad idea though,” Edgar’s tone is reasonable, “we could film it, see how it plays. Then I’d have to up my game.”
And then because I’m wondering if this is still a sore spot, I say, “Well, it’s already been established that you look so good naked.”
“Very, I said very. I look very good naked.” He’s being cool about it but I can see a slight blush rise on his throat. Then to Libby he says, “I’m judging by your silence she told you about that.”
“Oh yeah.” She answers quickly.
I widen my eyes and tilt my head at her.
“I mean, no.”
My eyes roll so hard my entire head lulls. I almost pull my neck out.
“I’m sorry! You have to tell me when I can’t say things!”
“We have had this conversation, just assume that you can’t say things.” This is something she’s heard me say before. I’m sure I’ll say it again. Whatever.
“Don’t look so pleased with yourself,” I direct at him, “I tell her everything. Poor woman has to hear about how I wash my hair.”
“Riveting subject,” Libby says in the driest voice possible.
But Edgar makes a sound between a hmm and purr. “How do you wash your hair?”
He’s doing that heavy-lidded eye thing again! My brain’s going offline. Stop it!
“Is hair washing a kink for you?” I ask trying to mimic Libby’s dry tone.
“Learning new things about myself every day.”
“You need to go.” Because I cannot think.
“Alright, I’ll leave you to it. Libby, it was a pleasure to meet you.”
She fans her fingers then snaps them into two fists. “I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this.”
He gives her another one of his friendly smirks and waves as he walks off camera.
She just looks at me for a little while, her fingers interlaced in front of her mouth. I know she’s waiting for the sound of his bedroom door closing. When it does she says quietly, “There’s so much to unpack there.”
I told Libby about all of yesterday’s revelations. There’s no describing how wide her eyes grew. Then she went on to say that he likes me. I told her it’s possible that he has the hots for me but I very much doubt he feels anything else.
Her response was, “Woman, sometimes you are so dumb.”
We fought about that for a while. Not her calling me dumb—she doesn’t actually think that and I’m clever as fuck, so I don’t care about that. We fought about how she thinks Edgar likes me. I told her to supply evidence and she said she just knew. Like that’s an acceptable argument. I pointed out how he’d sent the gloating drink after he won the award this year and that he hadn’t ever made any moves toward me.
“He knew you hated him,” she pointed out.
“I’m not convinced that’s past tense,” I told her.
She rolled her eyes. “Alright, so you’re at that place where you don’t want to accept that you were wrong so you’re being stubborn for no reason.”
“I’m not being stubborn.”
“We have to change the subject, I cannot keep fighting with you about this.”
My mouth clamped shut but I was stewing, I couldn’t think of anything else to talk about. She seemed to be equally unable to move the conversation on. We ended the chat shortly after that, with her promising to ask Candace out.
I’m about to take a shower but my leg hair is getting pretty unreal, so I knock on Edgar’s bedroom door.
He’s propped on one elbow on top of his white down comforter, music playing from his phone. His finger is pinched between the pages of a book. It’s a different book than he was reading to me the other night. He slips his reading glasses off before looking at me.
“Did you finish the other book?” I ask.
“Nah, I’m waiting for you.”
He shrugs. “You haven’t worked on your puzzle in a couple of days.”
I ask the question I came to ask. “Do you have any disposable razors?”
“Nah, I use a safety razor.”
“Fuck,” I say under my breath.
“You can use it if you want.”
“I tried one a couple of months ago, I couldn’t figure it out. It was like I wasn’t doing anything at all.”
“I could do it for you.” Then he adds, “If that’s not weird.”
Is it weird…? I’m somewhere between apprehensive and, I guess, desire.
“Sorry,” he looks at the white fabric he has pinched between two fingers, “it’s weird, pretend I didn’t say anything.”
“No, actually, if you would. Please.”
He nods and checks the page number of the book he’s reading before removing his finger.
Oh, so we’re doing this right now?
On his way out of his bedroom, he pulls open his third dresser drawer. He tosses a pair of biking shorts at me. The door closes behind him and I change from his sweats into the shorts—which are so comfortable they may come up missing when I can finally return home. They fit tight around my thighs, so I don’t have to worry about him getting an eye full.
So that’s good.
There’s a soft knock on the door and I take a second to reevaluate that this is what I want to do—it’s a surprisingly hard yes. I could not possibly say why, but my stomach is full of excited butterflies. When I open the door, Edgar’s holding one of the kitchen table chairs under one arm.
His eyes make a quick pass up my legs to my face and then they do not stray from there.
“This is what you wanna do, right?” He asks.
“Do you not want to? You don’t have to.”
“No, I don’t mind.”
“Okay, cool.” I lead the way into his bathroom.
He directs me to sit on the chair that he placed facing the tub and has me prop my feet up on its edge. He turns on the hot water and soaks two towels, then wraps each of my legs in one. It’s quite the treatment. I did not put this much effort into my attempts with a safety razor.
Lining a couple of bottles on the ledge, he takes a seat next to them. He indicates for me to place my left foot on his right leg.
My throat is getting tight. I have to force my breathing normal, which makes me feel like I’m slowly suffocating. My heart rate is elevated too; it’s thrumming in my ear.
With slow deliberation, he unwraps my leg. He tosses the dripping towel on the tile floor of the shower. I jump a little at the smack it makes.
His eyes narrow at me, his lips parted. “You okay?”
“I’m fine, I just didn’t expect that.” My voice is not breathy, thank god. I just sound annoyed. Which is fine.
“You wanna put it on?” He asks holding a bottle of shaving cream up to me.
“No, you know how much you need. And just, you know, from the knee down.”
His hands spread the cream in a thin layer on my skin, it’s smooth and light. Then he’s wiping his fingers and palm clean on the towel around my right leg. He starts at my ankle cupping my heel in his left palm which is warm and strong. The strokes are short and careful with very little pressure.
He’s in no hurry.
And I am here for it.
That left hand encircles my ankle next. The razor cleans away at my calf and shin, the skin sensitive to the air and his warm breath. Which climbs up with his progress.
When his focus shifts to my knee, he takes a handful of my upper calf and I feel it in my core. His exhales are now spreading from the inside of my knee to my inner thigh.
I have to press my lips tight to keep any embarrassing sounds from escaping my mouth.
When he’s finally done, he takes the towel from around my right leg and uses it to wipe off any excess shaving cream. He holds the jar of moisturizer towards me.
I shake my head and breath out one syllable, “You.”
I watch his chest rise and fall. The smell of sandalwood fills my nose as he pumps it into his palm. His hands work the lotion into my skin with firm downward motions but it won’t all soak in. He nods towards my fist in my lap. “Your hand.” I give it to him.
“Your hands are dry,” he observes as he rubs my hand between both of his.
“All the handwashing.”
“Do you need more lotion in your bathroom?” His voice is low if I wasn’t sitting so close to him I’d have a hard time making out the words.
“No, I just forget to put it on.” I might as well be whispering too.
We’re both watching where our hands meet. I’m either fascinated by it or avoiding eye contact.
“Have you done this before?” I regret asking because he glances up at me through his eyelashes. I’m trapped in them.
“Shaved a woman’s legs?”
My voice is gone. Fuck, he’s so handsome—all hating him aside, he is so handsome. Luckily, I can nod my response.
“No.” He grabs the shaving cream again and his attention shifts away from my face.
Killl meee. There’s a whole other leg.
I swallow and hope my voice has decided to return to me. “You’re good at it.”
I watch his Adam’s apple bob in response.
So, I’m trying to ignore the residual aching between my thighs; tension is still begging for a release. What will forever be called “The Shaving Incident” was over an hour ago. I planted myself on the sofa—I thought the physical discomfort would help my body move past the wanting. It’s yet to be effective. Currently, my back hurts and I’m still all squirrelly. His laptop is open on my propped knees and I’m scrolling social media.
I decided not to take a shower. I don’t want to wash off the smell of his lotion, it’s different than what’s in my bathroom. In his shorts my smooth legs are exposed, I keep absentmindedly rubbing my fingers up and down my shin.
Edgar is making dinner, the smells of sauteed onions and garlic have my mouth watering. The food situation is still stocked but approaching sparse. We’ll have to be more creative next week about how we prepare our meals.
I hear him pulling plates from the cupboards. The smell of food grows stronger, and then he’s holding a plate with some chicken and red sauce out to me. After setting the laptop on the coffee table I take the offered plate.
I mumble a thank you to the food.
We aren’t making eye contact yet.
From Marty Vee:
Thank you for reading! If you are enjoying the story, please share it with a friend.
Keep reading on to Day 7: