Excerpt from Banded Together (Working Title)

Here’s an excerpt from my work-in-progress. 

Cecilia has inherited the family business which happens to be a band. They focus on doing events–weddings, parties and such. They also perform weekly at her brother’s bar. 

Miles is their newest member and her brother’s best friend and her long time nemesis. This is Miles’ first performance with the band (an anti-love Valentine event.)

When Miles suggested Brett Young’s “Mercy”, I thought it was an odd genre for him. I’ve known him to listen to Hip-Hop or rap or Post Rock. I don’t usually listen to contemporary country myself but hearing him sing this song now… It’s heartbreaking. Too beautiful to look away from. His voice changes it to an R&B sound but it’s just as mournful as the original.

Every person in the bar is holding their breath.

Only Tori’s piano accompanies our voices. The guitars are on stands at the back of the stage. Spencer and Raul started their break early, we’ll join them when we finish this song. It’s just Miles and me and Tori—who is playing like the notes are being pulled from her. Grief heavy in her gliding fingers.

I can’t take my eyes off of him. Did he listen to this song when Jasmine ended their relationship? Play it on a loop? The way some songs make it hurt worse and feel better at the same time.

He turns sad soulful eyes to me as I join him in the chorus. It shouldn’t take me by surprise after all the eye contact from Tuesday night. The two of us alone pretending to share more than our voices but it does. We have gone so long acting like the other person didn’t exist while in the same room, I’ve become sensitive to the sight of him. His eyes take me back to when I coveted his attention. When I’d take any interaction with him and store it like sustenance until the next chance meeting. The next time he and I would occupy place because Dan or my parents invited Miles. When I daydreamed about his smile lines and thought about him at night, discovering my body—wishing it was his hands and not mine. When my journals were filled with lyrics of longing and lust and hearts opening to love. Before…

I let the pain of that long ago wound to the surface. It’s not used to the light of day. It’s used to the shadows and deep hidden places of my soul. Where I shoved it. Where it fed on me.

I let him see it now.

Can he see it?

I hope he can. It’d be lighter to share the load. A weight I’m so used to carrying, I don’t remember what it’s like without it. And he’s one of the three people who knows. My stomach turns. My mouth starts to water, remembering—though that’s not the right word because I never actually forgot—why he or me… Why everything is sour.
Tears cling to my eyelashes as he sings the last note. At least to the on-lookers it just looks like I’m affected by the song.

Get it together, woman. You’re at work.

Tori plays her last chord.

My smile to the rapt audience is forced, but they’d never know it. I wait for their applause to die down before saying, “Well… we promise to bring you all back up after the break. You’re gonna love the second half! So much dancing!”

You and Me In Quarantine: Epilogue

From Marty Vee:

This is a RomCom novella I’m sharing in segments, about two people who don’t like each other getting quarantined together. I suggest starting at the beginning:

https://martyvee.com/2020/04/06/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-1/

But I’ll recap anyway:

Billie is a junior reporter for a local network and Edgar, her least favorite person, works in the same position at a competing network. They are quarantined together at his house. She recently found out that most of her previously conceived notions about him are based on someone else’s lies. As these things go, feelings got all involved and they did the deed. On Day 10 she asked the National Guard if she could grab provisions from her house and come back to Edgar’s. Then a video was circulated on Day 12 that confirms she is at Edgar’s house and his ex-wife turns the narrative very negatively against them on social-media. On Day 13, Billie asked Edgar to go to her home with her and he decided not to. So sad. But THEN she pulled a brilliant stunt with a new video and had an argument with the ex-wife AND THEN Edgar showed up at her house and they go through the rest of quarantine together. So happy.

I hope you enjoy it!

You and Me In Quarantine

Epilogue

There’s a tear in the vinyl booth Edgar and I are sitting in. We’re holding hands under the table on top of his thigh. I’m having a hard time not digging into my purse for hand sanitizer, but I just put it on after splaying the menu open on the table. It’s our first time eating out of the house since the Quarantine was lifted. The smell of onion and cooking meat wafting from the restaurant kitchen is tantalizing but I might not be able to eat through my anxiety.

The door to the outside opens and I look up to see my mom and dad walking in. She lets out an excited squeal and my dad shakes his head but I can see the humor in his eyes.

“Mom!” I exclaim as I stand to hug her.

Hug her. I get to hug my mom.

Seriously, I regret ever taking any hug from her for granted. I regret every time she hugged me and I only leaned my shoulder into her.

I’m making up for that now. I wrap her in my arms and rest my head on her shoulder. Her hair tickles my skin and I breathe in the smell of her hair spray. I feel her tears dampen the shoulder of my shirt. Her inhales are shaky. Her fingers stroking the hair down my back as she whispers, “My baby girl,” over and over.

I register that Edgar and my dad shook hands and are now standing awkwardly next to us.

I’m the first to pull back. My left-hand grabs Edgar’s arm as I say, “Mom, this is Edgar.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” She gushes and wraps him in her arms. I had warned him it was going to happen but he seems pleased by her friendliness anyway.

My dad takes the opportunity to crush me in his hold, his head resting on mine. “I missed you, Billie Goat.”

“I missed you too, Dad.”

When we sit down, I’m relieved to watch Mom pull hand sanitizer out of her purse. The little bottle gets passed around to all of us. The pungent smell of alcohol lingers for a few seconds.

I wonder if we’ll ever get to a point like before the virus.

Edgar drapes his arm across my shoulder and pulls me into his side. A satisfied hum vibrates in my throat and I watch both of my parents blink in amused surprise. It’ll take time for them to get used to me being unguarded with him. I stay there, my body formed to his side. His lips press against the top of my head.

I entwine our fingers, our palms pressed together and squeeze.

The future is unsure, but it always was. Some truths remain the same.

But sitting in a booth at my favorite cheap Mexican restaurant with my parents and the man I love, I feel different. Somehow, without the constant self-protection, I’m freer. I found someone who I can be free with.

Someone to be brave with, in an uncertain world.

 

From Marty Vee:

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you reading my little book. I have been so endeared by the positive feedback I’ve received. Such a joy.

When I started writing this, it felt like an escape from a stressful world. I hope that the reading of it has been just as much of an escape for you.

Shamelessly, I’m going to ask that if you have enjoyed You and Me In Quartantine you’ll share it with a friend or on your social media.

I wish you all the best!

With Love,

Marty Vee

You and Me In Quarantine: Day 14

From Marty Vee:

This is a RomCom novella I’m sharing in segments, about two people who don’t like each other getting quarantined together. I suggest starting at the beginning:

https://martyvee.com/2020/04/06/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-1/

But I’ll recap anyway:

Billie is a junior reporter for a local network and Edgar, her least favorite person, works in the same position at a competing network. They are quarantined together at his house. She recently found out that most of her previously conceived notions about him are based on someone else’s lies. As these things go, feelings got all involved and they did the deed. On Day 10 she asked the National Guard if she could grab provisions from her house and come back to Edgar’s. Then a video was circulated on Day 12 that confirms she is at Edgar’s house and his ex-wife turns the narrative very negatively against them on social-media. On Day 13, Billie asked Edgar to go to her home with her and he decided not to. So sad.

I hope you enjoy it!

You and Me In Quarantine

Day 14

It’s been almost twenty-four hours without Edgar. I wonder if you can go through with-drawls for a person. It would explain the physical ache in my chest and the way my skin feels empty. I have Amy Winehouse playing very loudly—I’ve skipped Valerie twice already, it’s too upbeat. The playlist ends and I start it over. There’s something about her heartbreaking self-destruction that appeals to my mood.

I keep catching myself staring into nothing, my brain lingering on moments with Edgar. There’s no way to change the past couple of days, so I wish I would stop looking for the places I went wrong. I need to stop thinking about what would have been correct.
It’s too much to hope that he’s still watching my videos. But I hope he sees the one that posted this morning. I could kiss Val for making that happen so quickly. I wouldn’t because there’s a pandemic and, even though I want to be friendly with her, I don’t want to be that friendly. But I appreciate her.

I was nervous when I sent the file, but her response was positive.

Libby and my mom both texted me to say they were proud. My dad actually called me to tell me that I had giant balls. “I don’t know how you walk with those big ol’ nuts.”

Deadpan, I answered, “Thanks, Dad. That was very weird.”

When Sofia called, I got to put my giant balls to the test. After a fortifying breath, and ensuring the phone call was being recorded, I answered, “Hello.”

Yeah, Hello.” The disdain in her voice matched mine.

“I don’t want to talk to you—”

Should’ve been a slut with someone else’s husband, then.” She interrupted me as I was saying, “and I’m recording this conversation.”

“Ex-husband.” I corrected.

Why would you do this to me? I trusted you!

“I didn’t do anything to you. You told me a lie and I acted out of ignorance.”

You’re little innocent act isn’t going to work. I see who you really are.”

“Who am I?”

An almost animal-like roar came through the line. “You’re a lying bitch! If you get anywhere near Edgar I’ll beat the shit out of you! Your whore mother won’t recognize you.”

It took a few seconds to process that this was a person I once considered a friend. Not a close friend, but a friend. All of her aggression was kept under a carefully orchestrated veil and now that it had been lifted I could look into the pit. It was dark and filled with dangerous creatures. Am I that terrible a judge of character? I hurt for Edgar all over again. How could he trust his own judgment after this woman?

I shook my head, I would not let her provoke me. This wasn’t a conversation, this was an attack. I considered the best way to show my strength. “Okay, do not call me again.”

That’s all you have to say to me?!

“You know what, no. I never want anything to do with you again. But if being with Edgar means never being rid of you, I’ll take him. He’s worth it. I want him more than I never want to see you. I know you won’t listen, but don’t contact me again—”

I don’t know why you think you can take him from me!” Her voice raised in volume and octave. I ripped the phone away from my ear.

“I’m hanging up.” I didn’t wait for her response before ending the phone call. I double-checked that the phone call recorded correctly and saved it to my computer. She continued calling. One missed call after another. Then she filled my voicemail. I saved all of those to my computer too. The text messages came next.

I turned my phone off.

I started researching restraining orders. It obviously hasn’t been perfectly successful for Edgar, but I need to do something.

Sofia is just one of the reasons I’m avoiding social media.

I’m also not ready to see if everyone is still railing against me or has changed perspectives. I don’t blame them. I’ve been just as guilty of flash outrage and believing lies. But I feel betrayed and I can’t forgive yet.

The opening beat of Back to Black begins tapping out of my speakers and the darkness surrounding my heart grows heavier; more oppressive. I hit the space bar on my keyboard to silence the song. But the weight is still there.

I remind myself that I have people who love me and even though I feel alone, I’m not. But good God, I feel alone.

My eyes and nose sting.

I take a deep breath and pull up the video I filmed last night, hoping it’ll redirect my thoughts. It’s a high-risk move, it will either work or send me spiraling. I stare at my makeup-less face on the screen. The redness of my eyes and my swollen skin. It’s not flattering but seeing it makes me feel strong. I look determined. I look like someone who can handle a dangerously volatile ex-wife. I hit the triangle hovering over my face and it begins playing.

“Hello, I’m Billie Sanchez and I have become the subject of vehement dislike on the Internet. Which under normal circumstances would be difficult but as that is the only form of socialization right now… it feels a little worse.

“I’m a local public figure and this is not my first time being blasted publicly. I’ve had my qualifications for my job called under question. I’ve been called terrible names because I don’t smile as much as people want me to. I’ve had my appearance ripped to shreds. But this is the first time that my personal life has taken the spotlight.

“I am not proud of the way I acted. I betrayed trust and let someone I’d like to remain close to down.”

On screen, I swallow and I remember it was because my throat was tightening but there’s no evidence of that on film.

“It’s not enough but to that person I’d like to make a public apology.”

In the recording, I stand straighter and square my shoulders. “Edgar, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I let someone else tell me who you were before I didn’t get to know you for myself. I repeated lies said about you and I’m embarrassed that I let them shape my opinions. I’m sorry I would have given into a bully instead of standing up for myself and you. You deserve to be treated better than that.

“I want to be the kind of person who isn’t afraid of doing the right thing, even if that means admitting when I’m wrong. I hope you can forgive me.”

My expression hardens. “As for the accusations towards me, that I’m duplicitous and fake. I would like to ask everyone making that assumption to take the time to get to know me. Consider, that sometimes information comes from an unreliable source. To the people who do know me, make up your mind for yourself. I can tell you from first-hand experience, making amends after the fact is not a comfortable position to be in.

“Lastly, I would like to address the claims that I broke up a marriage, but that statement is so wildly false I can’t even begin to point out its flaws and I wouldn’t want to air business that isn’t mine. So, unfortunately, I need to accept that I can’t correct this without sharing confidences. You’ll just have to take my word for it or the word of someone else. I’m powerless to your decision.”

“But,” I angled the phone so that it included the screen of my computer which is filled with screen-shots of text messages from Sofia. I had to blackout her name, but most of them are the corresponding texts she had already shared. Only this time without her side of the conversation retracted. On the mild side she says things like, “I can’t believe I married him. Worst. Decision. Ever.” She calls him names and then the texts turn nasty towards me.

I finish the thought I’d started before displaying the conversation, “this is an attack on my character and I won’t take it lying down.”

After a bland sign-off, the video ends.

Watching it, I wish I had put my apology to Edgar at the end. He’s the audience I really want to reach but it’s done now. Once again, I should have thought before I acted.

I’m not sure how long I stare into space, my thoughts untethered balloons floating away from me.

My heart skips a beat or two at the three chimes of my doorbell. My first thought is Sofia. She must have sneaked through the city and is in a deranged fit on my front porch. Then I remember how she enlisted me to pull off her scheme and my imagination conjures up a large angry man.

I’m not answering that door.

But how would Sofia know I’m home? She must think that I’m still at Edgar’s… I never did confirm that.

There are three soft taps on the door and a voice calls through, “Billie, it’s me.”

My jaw is somewhere on the carpeted floor between my feet.

Then he says, “Please open the door.”

My senses have become unreliable sources. “Edgar?”

Billie,” my name is almost a sigh. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah!” I cry. I climb over the back of the sofa instead of walking around it; too eager to see him than be embarrassed. I flip the deadbolt and the lock and swing the door open.
There he is. Right there.

A late Spring sunset casts golden light off of his black hair. He’s wearing jeans and a dark gray jacket unzipped over a white tshirt. His knuckles are white around the handle of a large suitcase. There’s relief in his expression but also uncertainty.

“What are you doing here? How are you here?” My mouth hangs open, loving the sight of him and not believing it.

“I’m sorry. I should’ve left with you yesterday. As soon as you pulled out of the driveway—” he ran his hand through his hair.

I can almost feel it between my fingers.

“I realized I’m an idiot.”

A slow smile grows on my lips and I watch one grow on his as he continues, “I called Sergeant Brown from the number in my phone and left a message with his assistant—is that what you call ‘em? I don’t know the army term for it. And when he called me back I… begged. Just groveled to let me come to you.”

I sigh a breathy laugh, hanging on every single one word. I may still be in shock at the actual sight of him.

“I even convinced him to watch your post from this morning.” He shrugs. “The Sergeant is a self-proclaimed romantic and gave me clearance.”

“I can’t believe this.”

We just stand there staring at each other like giddy fools.

“I can’t go back home, so…” He shrugs one shoulder.

I have a tent you can put up in the backyard.”

“Thanks.”

“Sure thing.”

We go back to smiling at each other, breathing the same air. Existing in the same spot.
After a couple of breaths he says, “I really want to hold you, but I should wash my hands.”

I giggle, “Yeah.” I step back to let him in. He hefts the large suitcase with him. “So, like, three-quarters of that thing is food, isn’t it?”

“Only half, I used some restraint.”

We both laugh like it’s the funniest thing we’ve ever heard. Our joy making everything brighter.

He turns on the kitchen sink and lathers his hands with soap.

“So, how’d you get my address?” I ask trying to engage my mind in more than watching his skin rubbing against his skin.

The look he gives me through his eyelashes is so adorably bashful, it might actually stop my heart. “I got a pencil and shadowed the next post-it in the pad.”

“Like Nancy Drew?”

“I guess so.” He dries his hands on the towel hanging under the sink.

Turning, he faces me. I’m leaning one hip against the adjacent counter. He looks so good in my kitchen.

My face is lit up to its full wattage. I don’t even try to tone it down.

His fingers trail my jaw and his thumbs trace my lips. I grip his wrists and stare up into his large brown eyes. He presses his forehead to mine. My eyes close, I want to capture time.

I would extend this moment and spend the rest of my life in it.

I’m so busy trying to memorize the feel of him—warm and solid and here—that when he whispers, my eyes startle open.

“You said that if you were going to keep fucking up you wanted it to be because you’re brave.” His chest rises with a breath. “I want to be brave like you.”

Somehow, my smile grows. Any bigger and it won’t fit on my face.

“I love you too.” I watch him speak the words, as well as hear them.

That’s it. The last I can take before wrapping my arms around his neck and pressing my mouth to his.

 

From Marty Vee:

Thank you for reading! If you’re enjoying the story, please share it on your social media or with a friend. You can finish the story at:

https://martyvee.com/2020/05/18/you-and-me-in-quarantine-epilogue/

You and Me In Quarantine: Day 13

From Marty Vee:

This is a RomCom novella I’m sharing in segments, about two people who don’t like each other getting quarantined together. I suggest starting at the beginning:

https://martyvee.com/2020/04/06/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-1/

But I’ll recap anyway:

Billie is a junior reporter for a local network and Edgar, her least favorite person, works in the same position at a competing network. They are quarantined together at his house. She recently found out that most of her previously conceived notions about him are based on someone else’s lies. As these things go, feelings got all involved and they did the deed. On Day 10 she asked the National Guard if she could grab provisions from her house and come back to Edgar’s. Then a video was circulated on Day 12 that confirms she is at Edgar’s house and his ex-wife turns the narrative very negatively against them on social-media.

I hope you enjoy it!

You and Me In Quarantine

Day 13

When I finally forced myself out of the shower last night, the sofa was made into a bed. Edgar even laid a folded comforter under the sheet for extra cushion; that got me crying all over again.

We are avoiding each other with more efficiency than we ever have before. We’re magnets of opposite polarization. It confuses me when Edgar walks into the living room. For the barest of moments, I think maybe he’s coming to talk to me, but then he extends his phone towards me. I battle to hide my disappointment. Without making eye contact, I take the phone from him.

Panic pumps through my nervous system, thinking it might be Val. I press it to my ear. Instead of her cold voice, a man informs me of his name and rank, but my brain hasn’t caught up to comprehend him.

“Ma’am, I understand you’d like to go to your home and retrieve some items.”

I close the door to the spare room, the workout equipment smelling metallic and musty. “Actually, can I just go home?”

There’s a pause. “Yes ma’am, I was calling to confirm that you can go home if you please, but you cannot leave your home once you get there.”

I nod, even though he can’t see me. “Thank you.” He also can’t see the tears brimming my eyes or the way I clench my jaw to keep it from doing something stupid like wobbling.

“When can I leave?”

“I’ll ensure the soldiers at the correct checkpoints know to let you through.”

He tells me I have until “1800” to be at my home. I have to do the math to figure out that means six this evening.

“So, I can leave now?”

“Give me an hour to clear the checkpoints for you, but yes, you can leave shortly.”

“Just as long as I’m home by six.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Thank you, again.”

“Have a good day, ma’am.” He hangs up the phone.

I take a minute to wipe my cheeks dry and check that my eyes don’t look weepy, before I open the door and step into the hallway. The living room and kitchen are empty.

The thunk of my knuckles on Edgar’s bedroom door disrupts the silence that settled in the house like dust. I don’t wait for a response before I say, “Your phone is on the island.”

Retreating to my bathroom, I hear his door open. His bare feet make a quiet smacking sound on the hardwood floors. My eyes close as I picture him. There’s only a couple of feet and a wall and turmoil between us. He doesn’t go directly back into his room, I don’t hear him moving at all. I imagine him with a hand at the base of his neck, staring at the closed door of the bathroom. His eyebrows are drawn together and Crow’s feet by his eyes.

Or maybe he’s just checking his email.

I tug the scrunchy out of my hair. I open my eyes and notice my clothes washed and folded on the counter next to the sink. The sight rips my already aching chest open. I take off the clothes he let me borrow.

Once the water spraying from the showerhead is hot to the touch I step under it.

Day two of crying in the shower.

*****

It’s not like I have a lot to pack, but it’s been over three hours since my phone call with Commanding Officer What’s-His-Name and I still haven’t left yet. When I leave, I can’t come back. I haven’t told Edgar; I haven’t spoken to him since giving him his phone; which can hardly be considered a conversation.

My purse is slung over my shoulder, as I lean my left elbow on the counter. The pen Edgar used a few days ago to write the note for the soldiers is clutched in my right fist. There’s a blank post-it note that has grown to the size of a barn. It’s a looming, foreboding thing. I could just write, “Went home, thank you for your hospitality.”

But I can’t.

I’m not a coward. I may be feeling cowardly but I am not a coward.

My purse thunks on the kitchen floor. I turn and stride into the living room and snatch his laptop and power cord from the coffee table. In the spare room, I sit on the floor with my back to the wall. After opening Messenger, I call Libby.

Controlling my expression, I force my face blank. It’s a practice I’ve perfected for work but I struggle to keep the facade when her face fills the screen halfway through the second ring. I can tell by the look in her blue eyes that she sees right through me.

“Hey, Bill.” Her tone is gentle and loving.

It makes my throat constrict. “Hey,” I reply in a strained voice.

“Have you talked to him yet?” She has this way of launching right into a conversation. She doesn’t approach from the side of any issue, she strides directly into the fire.

I shake my head. “What would I say?”

“I thought we talked this out yesterday?”

“I don’t know.”

“Oh, ‘I don’t know.’” She quirks her pursed lips to the side and lifts an eyebrow at me.

I swallow and glare back at her.

“So, where ya at?”

I know she means emotionally, but I can’t answer that yet. “I can go home.”

She nods, she seems to understand something I don’t. “Billie, what do you want to happen here?”

“I don’t know,” I repeat.

“Yeah, you do.”

I shake my head.

“Yes, you do. You always know what you want.”

She’s right. I do know what I want. But I don’t know how to get it.

“Okay,” she sighs, “start at the beginning. What happened today?”

“Nothing. He’s been in his room and I’ve been in the living room. He handed me his phone so I could talk to the National Guard Officer. I have until six to get home. If I leave, I can’t come back.”

“Does Edgar know any of that?”

“He knows I talked to the guy.”

“But not what the conversation consisted of?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my god, lady, talk to him.” I can hear the patients wearing thin in Libby’s voice.

“I want to go home.”

“Your deflection is next level.”

I’m not going to address that. “I almost left him a post-it note.”

Her mouth hangs open with the corners drawn down in horror. It would be comical if I wasn’t so broken.

“Like Berger in Sex and the City?” She whispers as if she’s afraid someone might overhear.

“No! Edgar and I weren’t in a relationship, so it’s not a breakup.”

“Oh, it’s a breakup if it’s on a post-it note. And not one you can come back from; that horse is in the ground, there’s no riding it anymore, kind of breakup.”

“That’s a little extreme.”

She shakes her head. “Okay, so why didn’t you do it?”

My teeth make a grinding screech and I have to purposefully unclench my jaw. “It felt like the wrong thing to do.”

“Because it is. So, I guess, congratulations on not doing it.”

It doesn’t take much, but my temper flares. “So what do I do?” I demand.

Her intake of breath is slow before she breathes it out through rounded lips. “Billie, what do you want?”

I don’t answer her.

She must take my silence to mean something. “Take what you want and work back from there. How do you get it?”

“This isn’t some mindful manifestation nonsense.”

“You’re right, this is putting on your big girl panties and doing what’s right.”

Her expression has shifted from gentle to firm. But it is still loving.

“Go talk to him,” she says in a tone that leaves no room for discussion, “tell him everything, about how you can leave but you can’t come back. And tell him what you want.”

“What if—”

She cuts me off. “If this goes any more tits up, do you want it to be because you were a chicken-shit, or do you want to know that you were truly courageous.”

I scoff. “Courageous is a bit much.”

“But chicken-shit, isn’t?”

“Shut up.” Rocks fill my stomach and it sinks. I hate being so wrong. It’s worse that I can’t figure out how to make it right. “Fine, I’ll talk to him.” I give a little wave. “Bye.”

“Hey!” She exclaims, offended.

“What?”

“You didn’t even ask me how my day’s going?”

“I’m sorry.” Ugh, I can’t stop being the worse! “How are—”

“I’m just messing with you.” A wide grin spreads on her face.

I tisk. “Bye.”

As I’m closing the laptop she says, “Loveyoubye!”

I freaking love her too.

*****

Outside of Edgar’s door, I hug his laptop to my chest. It’s still warm from my brief talk with Libby. It’s comforting. I feel pathetic taking comfort from a goddamn inanimate object, but when the shoe fits.

My fist keeps lifting a couple of inches away from the door but it never connects with the wood.

I’m about to make a fourth attempt, when he calls, “Just open it.”

So much for courageous.

My eyes squeeze shut, as I allow myself to cringe before fixing my face. The metal of the knob is cold in my palm. I twist it and swing the door open. With confidence, I don’t feel I lean against the door frame. I’m just holding the laptop, not cradling it like it’s the only thing that loves me.

He’s sitting on his unmade bed, his back propped against the headrest, a book pinched between his fingers and his glasses in his other hand. His Junior-Reporter-Face is on. It matches mine. I wonder if my lack of expression makes his heart feel like it’s being compressed into a too-tight box.

I don’t know how to start, but he saves me from figuring it out by asking, “What did the National Guard say?”

“I can leave but I can’t come back.”

If he has any physical response to this, I don’t see it.

“I have to be home by six.”

“You’re just on the other side of town, right?”

I nod.

“Plenty of time still.”

The space around my heart shrinks. Was that him politely telling me to leave?

“Thank you,” my voice is mostly normal, “for your hospitality.”

“You’re welcome.”

My instinct is to leave it at that; retrieve my purse off of the kitchen floor and go home to cry in solitude. But I also don’t want to tell Libby that I’m a chicken-shit, so… fuck it.

“I’m sorry.”

That shocks a blink out of him.

I might as well start at the beginning. “I’ve judged you incorrectly the entire time I’ve known you. I’ve said shit about you that I shouldn’t have said, shit that wasn’t true.” Inside, I’m a mess but I deliver this speech like I’m reading from a TelePrompter. “I’m sorry that I was so concerned about other peoples’ opinions of me that I’d push you to do something you’re uncomfortable with.”

His head tilts and a crease forms between his eyebrows.

Silence.

I’m staring at him and he’s looking back at me, void of emotion.

This was not the goal. This empty interaction. What do I have to do? I’m doing something totally wrong.

“Thank you for your apology.” His scripted response shines a cold light on my massive misstep. It’s clear what I have to do, but it goes against every one of my instincts.

I swallow.

Then little by little, I let him see me. The me that I keep hidden from everyone. The me that I don’t even show to Libby.

My shields fall away. It starts with the nonchalant way I’m holding the laptop; I let myself hug it against my chest. Then I stop controlling my breathing; it comes out shaky and uneven. My shoulders are hunched and my chin is wobbling. I look down at the floor as tears collect in my eyelashes.

Words break free from the vice grip of my throat in a strained whisper, I say, “I know I haven’t given you any reason to trust me, so I understand that you don’t. But I actually…” I need to take a deep breath. Oxygen fills my lungs and spreads through my body, searching for every hidden place that courage could be stored. I’ve never said this to anyone before they’ve said it to me. Fear wants to silence me. But I am not chicken-shit. “I actually love you.” I still can’t look at him. I’m watching my tears fall in heavy drops on the hardwood. “I know, it’s like, creepy to say that this quickly but I’ve fucked everything up by being afraid, so if I’m going to keep fucking up I want it to be because I was… brave.” The last word is strangled by a sob.

I am physically shaking. My body has released adrenalin; I want to run away so badly. “I want to go home,” I say, and the rest of my words are unintelligible. I try again, but it doesn’t work. Fuck, I have to get this out. “I want to go home,” I force out the words again, “and I want you to come with me.”

He’s been silent this whole time, I haven’t even heard the bed creak. When he clears his throat, my eyes look in his direction. His voice is husky as he asks, “Are you okay?”

I shake my head. “I feel like shit.”

“Yeah, me too.”

It makes my heart hurt worse knowing he’s in pain. “I’m sorry.”

“I know. Me too.”

The next wave of pain is coming, I can see it in the pinch of his eyebrows and controlled breathing. I’ve done too little too late and he’s given up on me. The sleeve of my hoodie is rough as I try to dry my cheeks. I won’t fall apart more. I won’t make it harder for him to do what he needs to do. Because even though I know this is over, I won’t call it. I’m not strong enough for that.

“You were right,” the words are forced through his clenched jaw, “I do have baggage. I’m… I had you built up in my head. You seem like you don’t care what anyone thinks and that’s something I liked about you.”

My lip might start bleeding, I’m biting it so hard. I will not sob. I will let him speak his mind and then I’ll run away. I can make it. I can survive this.

“But it wasn’t fair to hold you to what I imagined. Of course, you care what people think, we all do. I wanted you to be more than human and that’s bullshit.” His eyes soften. “Stop biting your lip, you’re going to hurt yourself.”

“I’m fine.”

“I know.” He inhales deeply. “Billie, you’re different than I thought you were.”

No. No. Nonononoooo.

“Okay.” I’m hyperventilating, I need to get out of here. “Thank you again. Bye.”

“Wait.”

I’m turning away from him, but I stop and turn back.

In his usual graceful, athletic way, he moves to stand. There’s no hesitation but there is caution. In two careful strides, he closes the distance between us. The laptop’s weight slips from my grasp into his. He places it on top of the dresser. My arms are crossed over my chest as he pulls me into a hug. His arms are firm and tight across my back. I let myself rest my forehead into the crook of his neck and feel his chest rise and fall against my forearms.

Into my the hair at my temple, he says, “I like who you are. If my past was different, if I was who I used to be, but I’m not… You can only get me with the baggage.”

I look up at him with my tear-drenched eyes. “But you’re trying.”

“Is that enough?”

“Can anyone ask for more?” I thought I was already at my most pathetic, but then I realize there’s lower to sink.

“You should go home and think about that.”

“You won’t go with me?”

“It’s not a good idea.”

I shuffle away from him. He’s standing just within his bedroom and I’m just outside of it. It takes me a few seconds, but I force the insurmountable pain into a dark corner inside of me. I know it’s still visible in my eyes because when I meet his, he reaches for me.

“Don’t,” my voice is a broken whimper.

His chest falls in a exhale, both of his hands fist into his hair.

I clear my throat before forcing my voice level. “Thank you again. Bye, Edgar.”

My purse is where I left it. I swing it over my shoulder, ignoring the weight of his gaze following me. I keep my eyes fixed on the front door, then on the bright green budding leaves in the Spring sunshine.

With my car door closed behind me, I slip on my sunglasses and try to keep it together until I get home.

*****

My house feels unlived in when I get home. All of my things are where I left them. But I am not in the same state upon my return.

Charging my phone, is probably the best first step. I set it on the wireless charger and give my fridge the side-eye. That thing is going to stink and I do not have the willpower to deal with it. Is one more night really going to make any difference?

My phone screen goes white as it powers up. It asks for my pin code. It’s alive and I’m bombarded with messages. One text message stands out among them all.

 

Sophia: I’ll take you down Bitch

 

I could almost thank her for the clarity she’s given me.

A plan forms and I begin executing it, immediately.

 

From Marty Vee:

Thank you for reading! If you’re enjoying the story please share it with a friend.

Day 14 and an Epilogue will bring our story to an end next week.

You and Me In Quarantine: Day 12

From Marty Vee:

This is a Romantic Comedy novella I’m sharing in segments, about two people who don’t like each other getting quarantined together. I suggest starting at the beginning:

https://martyvee.com/2020/04/06/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-1/

But I’ll recap anyway:

Billie is a junior reporter for a local network and Edgar, her least favorite person, works in the same position at a competing network. They are quarantined together at his house. She recently found out that most of her previously conceived notions about him are based on someone else’s lies. As these things go, feelings got all involved and they did the deed. On Day 10 she asked some National Guard soldiers if she could grab some things from her home and come back to Edgar’s place.

I hope you enjoy it!

You and Me In Quarantine

Day 12

The hair at the top of Edgar’s neck is damp with sweat. He took off his shirt, a few minutes ago. And with it went my ability to pretend not to stare. His back is to me and I watch as he lowers into a deep lung. His arms simultaneously bending backward into a triceps press with dumbbells gripped in each hand. I might trip on the treadmill at the flex of muscle under his skin but I couldn’t look away if I wanted to.

And I do not want to.

His phone starts ringing. I resent the caller when he puts down the weights and strides to the phone. With one hand he answers the call, with the other he uses his discarded shirt to wipe away his sweat.

“Hey Mike.”

My eyes are still taking their fill. Edgar is standing in profile to me; tall and broad-shouldered, basketball shorts sitting low on his hips.

I watch as his posture straightens.

His eyes dart to mine. “Why would you ask me that?”

My eyebrows draw together, silently asking him what’s going on. He shakes his head. Does that mean, he’ll tell me later or that it’s bad?

“What video?”

I stumble mid-stride. My hand smacks the emergency stop and the treadmill slows. The blood in my veins does not, it’s pounding in my head. My vision narrows. I grab the rails on either side of me for support.

“Why would that be any of your business?”

Only hearing one side of the conversation is ratcheting up my anxiety.

“Has my work been neglected in any way?” Pause. “Then why would it make any difference to you or the network?”

The darkness around my vision partially recedes. Stepping to the floor, I begin pacing in front of the window. My focus remains on Edgar, I try to decipher every nuance in his body language; using it to build the other side of the conversation.

“That’s a stretch, Mike. Stay in your lane.”

Some corner of my brain appreciates Edgar’s solid backbone. He’s not asking for any forgiveness. Why would he? That part of me whispers. We haven’t done anything wrong.

“Yeah, I’m gonna call you back… No, I won’t answer any of your questions… Because you’re my producer and I don’t owe you any explanations.” He scoffs. “If this is a sex scandal then people will sensationalize anything.” He listens. “Look, Mike, I’m not blowing you off. I told you I’d call you back, so you’re gonna have to sit tight and wait.” With the jab of his thumb, he ends the phone call.

In a calming gesture that would be used on a scared animal, Edgar splays his hands between us. The phone is encircled by his left thumb and index finger. “Okay, this is not a big deal. Mike can be dramatic.”

“What’s going on?” I force my voice to sound dispassionate. It’s not convincing considering I can’t stop pacing.

“That was my producer. There’s a video.”

Ohnoohnoohno. “What video?”

“Some fan layered one of your videos on top of mine and there’s some imperfection in the wall lined up that more or less proves that you’re here.”

Goddamn it. I knew it.

“Sophia is blasting it all over social media, so it’s blown way out of proportion.”

My mouth goes dry.

“I think, the moral of the story here is, people have a lot of time on their hands.” He’s trying to joke, but I’m not able to see any humor.

I fan my hands at my face, I feel way too warm.

“What’s the big deal?” He asks.

My expression must convey the really I feel because he rolls his head back and stares at the ceiling.

“Alright.” My brain finally figures out what I need to do next. “Let’s watch this video and check out the damage, then I have to call my producer.” Fuuuck.

He follows me into the kitchen. He’s looking down at his phone—probably already taking in the dumpster fire we’ve been thrown into. I tap my nails on the island countertop waiting for the laptop to load. When it does, there’s the ting of messages loading into my email and messenger. I’ll deal with those later.

My notifications are going crazy.

I click on a response to a link Sophia tagged me and Edgar in. It seems like a good place to start. Ignoring the comments—but my eyes snag on the words “fake bitch”—I hit play on the video.

It is exactly as described; proof that I’m at Edgar’s house. That in itself wouldn’t be a big deal, but as I broaden my focus, I can see our real issue is how it has been circulated.
The original post makes a light-hearted joke about us being secret rival lovers. But then Sophia got her claws into it.

Her post is scathing.

She describes how while she and Edgar were still married, I started working with them. She claims that she could tell right away that he was falling in love with me and that it had ripped her heart out. That she never blamed me because she wasn’t ‘jealous woman.’ Also, she always saw me as a friend, that I was someone she could reach out to about the issues she had with her ex-husband. That I openly expressed dislike for the man—she even shares some screen-shots of text messages I’ve sent her.

It’s a whole book and she’s a strong storyteller.

Her sign off is something about how I’m duplicitous and I violated her trust.
Then the pin is out of the grenade and the comments are blowing me to bits. Some jabs go Edgar’s way, but mostly it’s me. I should stop reading them. They aren’t helping.
I’m feeling smaller and smaller after each one and there are hundreds.

“You okay?” He slips an arm around my waist, giving me a half hug.

I don’t look at him. “Can I use your phone?”

“Yeah.” He gives me a kiss on the temple that I’m not ready to accept. Then there’s a void where he was, I note that he’s going to his room, probably to give me privacy.
I have to open my email to get my producer’s number, it’s on her signature. There’s a couple of messages from her, one with the subject in all caps “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU??” I open it and read:

 

I keep getting your voicemail. Clearly, we need to damage control. Call me so I can help.

 

I don’t have to look any further because her number is listed after that.

The phone is pressed to my ear and gets one full ring when she answers. “Hello?”

“Hey Val, it’s Billie. My phone is dead so I haven’t gotten your voicemails.”

Her tone is full of restraint. “Why is your phone dead?” I’m considering how much to share with her, when she continues, “Billie, just tell me the truth.”

“Do you really think this is that big of a deal?” I ask with forced confidence.

“That depends on how we spin it.”

I take a deep breath, then tell her everything—omitting Edgar’s personal life and the fact that we are sleeping together.

“Why didn’t you tell me all of this earlier? That’s why your appearance has been so casual? You don’t have any of your normal supplies.”

“Yeah, about that. I look fine in those videos.” I might be redirecting some of my aggression towards her.

“You do, but you usually put in more effort. The network was concerned that it looked like you were feeling scared or depressed and they wanted to convey more confidence to our viewers.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me that?” I demand.

“Because I thought you might be feeling scared or depressed, I didn’t want you to feel bad.” I can hear that she’s barely containing her irritation.
“Well, instead, I thought you wanted me to turn up the sex appeal and that felt like shit anyway.”

The speaker sounds like there’s a gust of wind on her side; probably her breathing hard.

I guess, we both could use to be more honest with the other.”

“I guess so.” I don’t sound convincing.

“So what exactly is your relationship with Edgar?”

“How is that relevant?”

“Billie, you are scraping away at my last nerve. It’s relevant because there’s a couple of ways we can spin this. We can claim you two are friends, despite all of the shit you’ve said about him, and you decided to shelter in place together. Or, we can say that this is a whirlwind relationship that swept you off your feet and the moon and the stars and all of that romantic shit.”

It’s what happened, but I don’t want to give that much of myself away for public consumption. “Again, why is that relevant?”

“Because,” she may be clenching her jaw, “it depends on how we play this out. We can work with his network and do a couple of joint videos to be cute and smooth things over. We need to have a plan of attack on how we deal with the ex-wife in all of this. She’s painting you in a really bad light and we need to get a hold of the narrative. So, are you in love or just friends?”

“We haven’t really talked about it.” I know what Edgar wants and I want to save face. I already look like a man stealing lying whore, is it better to pretend that there aren’t any romantic feelings? Will that affect our abilities to become public in the future? If we even have a future after this.

She sighs. “Look, I don’t know what the hell is going on here. You’re obviously not telling me everything. I know we aren’t friends, I know that you’ve never really warmed to me but I cannot help you if you freeze me out. Figure out your shit and call me back.”
The call ends.

I’m stewing because she’s right. I’m not warm to her and I don’t have a reason why. My only explanation is that I’m distant with most everybody. It takes me an abnormal amount of time to open up. Maybe that’s what I liked about Sophia; she didn’t want to know me, she wanted me to know her. Or the version of her that she painted.

*****

I open the door to Edgar’s room after a tentative knock.

Except for his messed up hair, he looks completely composed. His hands on his hips, he stands with feet shoulder-width apart by the window. My eyes land on the divot in the wall that had caused this whole mess.

“Are you okay?” His expression is full of concern.

I don’t want to answer that instead I say, “Val, said we have two options.”

He straightens his back and lifts his chin parallel to the floor. “Who’s Val?”

“My producer.”

“Oh, you’ve never referred to her by name.”

I know, because I’m a broken person that takes every measure to keep people at arm’s length.

“Well, she thinks we can either come out as friends or say we are in love. She would like to coordinate with your network.”

A crease forms between his eyebrows. “I don’t like this. I don’t want Sophia playing puppet master here.”

I have to swallow down a spike of rage. “Yet here we are.”

Muscles flex in his jaw. “Okay, yesterday you said you needed more time. We can say we’re friends.”

“But if we claim to be in love, I think public opinion is more likely to take our side.”

“I won’t do that.”

“Excuse me?”

“I read the post and some of the comments, I know you’re getting the brunt of this, I want to do whatever will help you. But I’m going to draw the line at pretending to be in love.”

“What’s the big deal? You were just saying yesterday you wanted to be exclusive.”

“Being exclusive and lying about how we feel are two different things.”

It’d be a lie for him? It takes the air out of my lungs.

He keeps going, “I want to establish our relationship on our terms, not because we were forced into it. Sophia has soured too many things in my life. I won’t do it. I’ll be your friend on camera, I’ll pretend to laugh about the things you’ve said about me, but I will not tell people we are in love unless that’s the truth.”

The flippant way he’s confessing his menial feelings is taking a shitty situation and making it worse. I thought he felt for me, what I feel for him—even if I haven’t given him any reason to know that. The worse version of myself is clawing to the surface. My basic instinct is to hurt him as much as he’s hurting me. But I resist.

“How do you see this playing out?”

“Ideally, we say nothing. We do our jobs and let this burn itself out.”

I shake my head. “How’s that been working for you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been waiting for this to burn out for years. You have a restraining order and still she’s forcing herself into your life. She warps people into hating you and you just keep taking this lying down. Just waiting for it to go away.”

“Look at the expert over here. You’ve been on the receiving end for twenty minutes and you know everything there is to know.”

“I know the way you’re handling it is wrong.”

“And you think lying would be better?”

“I never said I’d be lying.”

He and I both take a quick inhalation at my words. I watch his chest rise and then hold. There’s a buzzing in my ears. My mouth goes dry. I want to hide, like actually hide; maybe in a dark closet like a goddamn child.

“That’s fucking low.” His voice shrivels my insides, it’s sucking all of the oxygen from my lungs. “I thought it was fucked when you suggested claiming that shit to other people but to try and manipulate me like that? That is fucking low.”

“It’s not manipulation.”

“I can’t talk to you right now.”

“Oh, okay, so you’re using the maybe it’ll go away tactic for me too. Good. You know, I thought there was something between us. But you’re too busy throwing your baggage at me to hear what I’m saying.”

“What you are saying today is drastically different than what you were saying yesterday.

“Doesn’t make it not true!”

“Then where the fuck was it yesterday? Don’t make it out like I’m damaged goods when you’re claiming to love me because the spotlight is on you.”

“And aren’t you just being so noble? I wanna help you in any way but not really.” I know it’s the wrong words to say. It makes it sound like what he thinks is correct. But I’m too scared and hurt to pull back my attack. “You’re just, what was it you said yesterday, projecting all your shit about Sofia onto me. Instead of taking me at my word.”

“Your word?” Where there was heat in his voice a moment before, it’s turned to ice. “I read your words. That little conversation that you had with her; the shit you said about me, the names you called me. You haven’t even said the other words, just vaguely insinuated them.”

My heart is somewhere in my stomach.

His jaw is clenched like he’s fighting back saying more. We stand there staring at each other. I’m looking for any of the kindness that I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in his eyes.

It’s not there.

There’s nothing in his expression. I realize, I’m seeing his reporter face. A mask to hide everything. “I can’t talk about this, right now.” He says with the bland authority of a news-caster.

I don’t trust my voice not to shake, so I don’t speak. I turn and walk out of his room, closing his door behind me. Blinking my eyes, I struggle against the welling tears.

*****

I “spoke” with Libby; mostly a ranted and railed against the injustice of the whole mess. She listened and suggested that I “talk” to Edgar.

Yeah, no thanks.

I also emailed Val. She was not impressed with my decision to wait to respond. But if I addressed this now I’d end up crying either in outrage or consuming grief.

Disguised by the shower, I let myself sob. Powerless broken-hearted sobs.

 

From Marty Vee:

Thank you for reading! If you are enjoying the story, please share it with a friend. You can continue on to Day 13 at: https://martyvee.com/2020/05/11/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-13/

You and Me In Quarantine: Day 11

From Marty Vee:

This is a RomCom novella I’m sharing in segments, about two people who don’t like each other getting quarantined together. I suggest starting at the beginning:

https://martyvee.com/2020/04/06/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-1/

But I’ll recap anyway:

Billie is a junior reporter for a local network and Edgar, her least favorite person, works in the same position at a competing network. They are quarantined together at his house. She recently found out that most of her previously conceived notions about him are based on someone else’s lies. As these things go, feelings got all involved and they did the deed. On Day 10 she asked some National Guard soldiers if she could grab some things from her home and come back to Edgar’s place.

I hope you enjoy it!

Day 11

I’m looking at social media, not for any purpose other than passing time and the addictive nature of scrolling. My butt is going numb because this sofa doesn’t allow for blood flow.

The bike shorts he lent me the other day are the only things I want to wear anymore. My makeup is “done” and my hair is in a long braid over one shoulder. I just emailed a video to my producer. My anxiety about the video I filmed in Edgar’s bedroom has gone away. It was ridiculous anyway. Obviously, no one found us out. I can make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.

Edgar is on his phone next to me. He’s wearing basketball shorts and a thread-worn tshirt. I’m surprised he isn’t shirtless more often. I don’t understand why he’d cover any of his skin up. Maybe I could get him to stop.

He half smiles at a text message and it makes my lips twitch upwards.

“Who you talkin’ to?” I ask.

“Cat.”

“Who’s Cat?”

He rolls his eyes and his shoulders tense. “Right, Cat as in Cathrin is my friend. Kitty is the shitty name Sofia calls her.”

“What’s wrong with the name Kitty?”

“Nothing, but it’s not her name.” There’s a bite to his words, that could be directed towards his ex-wife, but it feels directed at me.

“What are you two talkin’ about?”

He looks at me out of the corner of his eye. “Are you checking up on me?”

“Excuse me?”

“Are you checking up on me?”

“What does that mean?”

“Nothing is going on between me and Cat.”

What the hell is going on here? “Yeah, that’s cool.” I add because I want to cut this off at the knees, “You know I have guy friends, right?”

He closes his eyes and shakes his head, his neck turning red. “Shit, sorry. I…” His head shakes again. “I just, I guess that’d be called projection.”

“Something with Sofia?”

His blush has risen to his cheeks. “Yeah, she’d get jealous anytime I talked to a woman. Sorry.”

I shrug. “It’s okay.”

I look back at the computer screen, but my mind is focused elsewhere. It’ unsettling, how quickly he landed on that accusation. I guess, he did admit that it had nothing to do with me. I want to brush it off, but I can’t yet.

Also, how serious are we in his mind? I like him way more than I’m comfortable with but we haven’t discussed being exclusive or anything.

“I freaked you out,” he cringes.

It’s then that I realize, I’m scowling at the keyboard. “I’m fine,” I lie.

“You sure?”

“Yeah.” Then because I want to decipher where we stand, I add, “This is just casual anyway.”

He goes still, the color drains from his face. “Is it?”

“I mean, I like you.”

The muscles in his jaw flex. “But you just want to be casual?”

“I don’t know, I guess I haven’t really thought much about it.” That’s mostly true. Sure, last night I laid awake dreading what my feelings for him mean. Bu that was only one night. “It seems a bit early to call, right?”

The tension in him relaxes. “If you think so.” He says this without any resentment, he almost sounds relieved.

“What does that mean?”

“I’ve got time in spades, if all you need is time, I can be patient.”

“Feeling pretty confident, there?”

One dark eyebrow lifts towards his hairline. “Do I have a reason not to be?”

I don’t want to lie to him but I also don’t want to tell him, “no,” I just roll my eyes instead.

We watch each other for a few seconds. I’m expecting him to lean over and maul me, in the way that I like. Instead, he puts his arm around my shoulder and scoots closer to me. His thigh is pressed alongside mine. I can feel his muscular side against my arm. It’s pleasant, but there aren’t any sexual intensions. It’s contact for contact’s sake. For intimacy.

In his other hand, he holds out his phone for me to see. “Sometimes, Cat and I just send each other stupid memes.”

I’m reading the through them, one after another. My finger scrolls the images up, each meme lamer than the last. “These are terrible.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Do you send each other any funny ones?”

He nods. “When they’re relevant but mostly, it’s this.”

“So… you’re just a total nerd with her.”

He gives me a proud closed mouth smile and an eager nod. “Full embrace.”

I laugh but I’m also shaking my head. He’s so damn sweet.

“She encourages you to be totally you,” I observe.

The goofy expression on his face morphs as he considers this. “Yeah.”

“That’s a good friend.”

“She is. What about you? Is that Libby for you?”

“For sure,” I answer.

“What’s your favorite thing about her?”

I don’t have to think long, before telling him, “She’s so open with her affection. It makes me feel more comfortable with mine.”

“Ugh. I really like you.” His hand on my shoulder squeezes.

“There is no through-line on your conversation today.” I’m picking on him but inside I’m glowing; surprised he can’t see it.

His large brown eyes roam over my face before they land on mine. “You’re complicated and I like it.”

“You would think after Sophia, you’d want simple.”

“She gave the impression of being simple; open book. It wasn’t real.”

I have an itchy feeling in my gut. I’m not an open book, that’s for sure, but I’m not exactly what I seem either. People assume that I’m confident, without any insecurities. I don’t show the full range of my emotions to anyone. Being vulnerable is one of my biggest fears, so I’m not.

“I’ve had a lot of therapy,” Edgar admits. “It’s hard to have your trust violated like that and then it hasn’t fully stopped, with her… continuing to force a relationship, despite how fucked up it is.”

“I’ve considered therapy.” The words are out of my mouth before I even realize the thought. He’s sharing with ease, it’s provoking the same out of me. But I don’t want to take the words back, not yet at least.

I don’t know when or how I became so self-protecting but it has definitely affected my relationships. My childhood self was always mitigating any uncomfortable exposed emotions; learning how to keep from crying, learning how to laugh when something hurt.

Learning how to keep people out.

I don’t know how else to be. It’s ruined past romances, but I don’t want it to ruin this. I want this, with Edgar. My feelings for him have become something with its own life. They breathe their own air. They’re going to start speaking for me soon. I’m way past liking him. It happened so fast.

If he told me that he loved me, I would say it back.

I would mean it.

“It’s challenging, but it’s worth it.” He shrugs.

“Wanna watch something?” I jerk my head towards the TV. I can’t keep talking about this, with all of these dangerous thoughts in my head.

His unabashedly gentle expression warms a few degrees. The phone in his hand lands on the coffee table with a thud, then he pinches the computer on my lap closed and sets it on the floor. Anticipating heat stirs in my gut. I watch as he slowly leans towards my propped knees. His hand glides down my no longer smooth shin.

My head falls onto the backrest, loving the feel of his warm skin on mine.

Then he stops.

I snap my eyes open and look at him. A mischievous goofy grin on his beautiful mouth.

“The fuck?” I demand.

“You said you wanted to watch something.” He’s holding a remote control out to me.

“I’ll make you pay for this.”

“Looking forward to it.” But he settles in next to me.

The sofa is as comfortable as it could ever be.

 

From Marty Vee:

Thank you for reading! If you’re enjoying the story please share it with a friend.

You can continue to Day 12 at: https://martyvee.com/2020/05/11/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-12/

You and Me In Quarantine: Day 10

From Marty Vee:

This is a RomCom novella I’m sharing in segments, about two people who don’t like each other getting quarantined together. I suggest starting at the beginning:

https://martyvee.com/2020/04/06/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-1/

But I’ll recap anyway:

Billie is a junior reporter for a local network and Edgar, her least favorite person, works in the same position at a competing network. They are quarantined together at his house. She recently found out that most of her previously conceived notions about him are based on someone else’s lies. As these things go, feelings got all involved and they did the deed.

I hope you enjoy it!

Day 10

The video I filmed in Edgar’s room yesterday posted almost an hour ago. I felt paranoid, so I watched it again for anything that would expose I’m at his house. There’s a slight shadowy divot in the wall over my right shoulder. It’s nothing noticeable if you’re not staring at the background of the shot. Also, the imperfection would still have to be in one of his shots; he’d have to film in almost the same location as me, and he’s taller so the angle would be different.

This is ridiculous. I need to calm down.

My producer didn’t give me any crap for my appearance, that’s maybe a good thing. Either she has come to terms that this is as good as it’s going to get or I’m going to get a talking to when this is all over.

Edgar and I are in his bed. We haven’t bothered with the sofa today, because it is where comfort goes to die. I’m doing Suduko in one of those cheap books you can buy at the checkout, while he reads a new novel out loud. Because he’s the most indulgent person or I’m just spoiled.

He’s wearing his reading glasses. I fixated on how delectable and studious he looks. But I can focus almost seventy percent of my attention on other things now.

A fog-horn blaring from his phone makes me jump. “What the hell is that?”

He reads the screen. “A message from the Governor. The quarantine has been extended.”

I knew it was going to happen; the spread of the virus hasn’t diminished enough. I feel… conflicted. There’s disappointment; I miss my friends and family and I really want everyone to be safe. I also want some of my own possessions. I want my clothes and my phone. He’s been very accommodating, but there’s nothing like my over worn sweater. I’d kill to put on a pair of jeans.

But I’m fairly pleased. It means more time with Edgar. I don’t know what to call our relationship or how it’ll change when we aren’t forced to co-habitat.

One thing is certain, I’m not ready to be public.

I’ve spent years talking trash about him. I need to figure out how to backtrack on some of that smack before people know that I not only don’t hate him but I like him. I like him a lot. More than I know how to handle.

The Crow’s feet by his eyes appear as he squints into the middle distance.

I assume I’m reading his mind, when I ask, “What are we gonna do about food?”

His face relaxes and he shrugs. “There’s canned and dry goods in the spare bedroom closet. We’re good for a couple more weeks. It’s not the healthiest living, but we’ll live.”

“My God! How were you ever going to eat through it by yourself?”

“They said to prepare, I prepared.”

“For the Apocalypse?”

He gives me that “you’re so cute” smile. Bastard.

“I was just thinking, that you must be feeling trapped,” he explains.

I stretch to buy myself some time while I think that over. “You’re just as trapped as I am.”

He’s quiet for a few breaths. His eyes on mine. My stomach feels queasy, wondering what he’s going to say next. I can already feel how sweet it’s going to be. And then he says, “Being with you doesn’t feel like a trap at all.”

Okay, I was basically thinking that but I can’t tell him. “Ugh, you’re so mushy.”

“Do you hate it?”

I sigh. “I want to.”

“But you don’t?” There’s the smallest lift of his lips.

It pains me but I admit, “Not particularly.”

He makes a sound like he’s tasted something delicious. He sets the book and his glasses down and crawls over me. With a fist pressed into the mattress on either side of my hips he bends his head down and takes my yoga pants into his teeth, scraping my skin through the fabric. My mind goes fully offline, as I watch him tug them downward, revealing a sliver of skin just under my stomach. Teeth and lips scrape on the newly exposed flesh.

My lungs release a shaky breath.

We both startle at a loud, authoritative, knock on the front door. We look in that direction.

His head swivels back towards me. “What the hell was that?”

I sputter a laugh.

He crawls over me to stand and I follow, much less gracefully.  There’s an amused expression in his eye as I get tangled in the covers and almost fall.

“Don’t,” I demand.

“How did I not know you’re clumsy?”

“Shut up.”

“All this time, I thought I was paying attention.”

“It’s beds and trampolines, I’m really bad at soft flat surfaces.”

“And dancing.”

I hold up a warning finger. “I am a spectacular dancer!”

I am not.

“Well, you’ve got a style,” he concedes.

My humor comes out in a honk.

He hugs me against his chest and kisses my temple. “I loved dancing with you.”

The knock comes again, louder this time.

With my hand in his, he walks to the front door. At the kitchen island, I let go of his hand to lean against the counter with my arms crossed over my chest. I didn’t put my bra on today, so I’d like to disguise that fact from the unexpected intruder.

On the front porch, stands two soldiers in uniform with masks over their mouths. The one closest to us speaks in a clear voice. “Hello, we just want to check-in that you have all the provisions that you need.”

Edgar begins to nod, but I interrupt him. “Actually, I, uh—I could—It was—” Okay, get a grip. I didn’t expect this, I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts together. Full sentences, now. “I wasn’t expecting to be here.” I twirl one finger around to encompass Edgar’s house. “So, I don’t have any of my own clothes and I have a ton of food at my house. Can I go grab that stuff and come back?”

I see the two soldiers share unsure looks over Edgar’s shoulder. His pupils might as well turn into little hearts. I glance at him and quickly away. My stomach does a flip. In my peripheral vision, I can see him fighting against a smile. The smile is winning.

It’s pulling at the loose strands of my heart like it’s a marionette and that smile is the puppet master.

“We’ll have to speak to our commanding officer,” the second soldier states, “Can we get a phone number? And your address?”

“Sure,” Edgar nods, “should I write it down?” When they tell him yes, he grabs the pad of post-it notes and pen from beside the fridge and jots his number on it with my name above. I recite my address for him to add.

“I wouldn’t expect a response until tomorrow at the earliest but more likely a couple of days,” the first soldier takes the post-it with a gloved hand and stuffs it in her chest pocket.

“Thank you,” Edgar and I say in unison.

They give a polite wave.

When the door is closed, Edgar goes to the kitchen sink to wash his hands. His back is to me, as he speaks, “Grab stuff and come back, huh?”

“Would that be okay?”

He snorts. “I already told you, I want you here.” He reaches for a towel.

“I really called your bluff if you didn’t mean it.”

Rounding the island, he’s looking at me like a starving man looks at a snack. “I meant it.”

The distance between us is gone. He bends at the knees and throws me over his shoulder in a fireman hold.

In shock, I squeal. I’m not used to being picked up, because I’m a grown person, but I do not hate it.

His strides are quick and I watch the floor as we approach the bed. He throws me down on to it, before covering me with his body. His mouth swallowing my laughter.

*****

Edgar has been asleep for a while, he’s making a soft almost snoring sound in my ear. The pressure of his chest against my back rising and falling, roots me. And I know I could plant myself here. Not only does it feel like he wants it. But more importantly, I do.

I want to claim him as mine. I want to be his.

Without warning or my permission, I’m falling in love with him. It’s approached me with such speed that I didn’t see it coming. Now that it’s so close, I don’t think I can step out of its way. It’ll either carry me with it or obliterate me.

He heaves a sigh. His arm tightens around my waist.

I close my eyes to the swell of conflicting emotions.

 

From Marty Vee:

Thank you for reading! If you are enjoying the story, please share it with a friend. You can continue on to Day 11 at:

https://martyvee.com/2020/05/04/you-and-me-in-quarantine-day-11/