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Amber stood in her driveway as Katelyn backed out. The drive back down the hill after their discussion had been subdued as Amber explained her memories to Kat, realizing how mistaken she had been when she woke. She was appalled at her accusations. Katelyn, being the awesome friend that she was, understood and gave her time to think.
But now she faced a new issue. It was early morning and she was about to enter the house where she lived with her father. There wasn’t going to be any way to sneak in, and he was going to know she’d been out all night. Sure, she was an adult, but her father, while loving, was very protective. Maybe even more so after what happened to her mother. “His house, his rules,” he had said once. Normally, it wasn’t a big deal as she wasn’t exactly the partying type. Plus, free room and board were hard to pass up when you hadn’t quite yet established yourself in a career. She took a deep breath and turned the key in the lock.
As she entered, she fully expected him to be in the kitchen. The party ran late and I stayed with Katelyn and Aaron was sitting on the tip of her tongue, but he wasn’t there. She listened but didn’t hear anything other than the ticking of the old clock in the hallway. She went upstairs and looked around the corner of his bedroom. The bed was made and there was no sign of him. She searched the rest of the house, but it was empty.
Making her way back downstairs, she stopped in the kitchen to grab something to eat and saw a note on the table:
A – Got a call that one of the generators went belly up at the auxiliary lab. They have samples that can’t thaw so I’m heading up there for an emergency repair. Probably won’t be back until late morning. Hope you had fun with your friends. – Dad
Her father could have just texted her, but he sometimes liked to do things ‘old school’. He “liked the flavor of handwritten notes over impersonal screens.”
Well, looks like I dodged a bullet there. No need to tell him I was out all night. Ugh, Spencer, how am I ever going to fix this?
Her phone rang and startled her. It was her father’s deep, gravelly voice. “Hey, Sweetie. Didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No, I’m up.”
“Oh, good. So, this job I’m on… it’s a nasty mess and I’m going to be here a while. People can’t make decent goddamn equipment anymore–damn seals are failing prematurely. Anyway, after this repair, they want me to head to the other five sites to ensure the same problem doesn’t happen there. Long story short, I’m probably going to be gone for the rest of the week, maybe longer if they don’t get the parts in quickly. Dale’s going to be stopping by later to pick up a suitcase for me. Can you pack me some clothes, my razor, toothbrush, that sort of thing? Make sure you throw in some warm clothes too.”
“Sure, Dad. No problem, I’ll get on it right now. If I have to head out, I’ll text Dale the garage code so he can get it.”
“Thanks. I’ll keep you posted.” Her father then muffled the mouthpiece and yelled something at someone off the line before coming back on. “Sorry about that. For all of their brains, some of these egghead scientists sure can’t grasp basic mechanics. I gotta go. Love ya.”
“You too, Dad. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. I’ll go grocery shopping after work.”
“Sounds good. And that reminds me–Sofia was going to stop by later today. She said something about bringing over a lasagna. I swear, that woman thinks I’d waste away if it wasn’t for her cooking. Anyway, be sure to give her a call so she doesn’t make it. That’s a lot of work, and I’d hate for her to waste her time.” He paused for a moment and then, somewhat hopefully, “But maybe next week? Bye, and thanks again–No, William! For Christ’s sake, you have to bleed the pressure first…” Click.
Amber smirked, imagining some young scientist in a lab coat cringing from her father’s gruff tone. He may be hard, but she guessed that by the time he was done, they’d learn a thing or two about the equipment he was working on. He always tried to teach those around him if they cared to listen. “Ain’t never a bad thing to learn a skill or two,” she could hear him saying while his head was buried in a piece of equipment.
So, Ms. Carlucci was bringing some lasagna by? Sofia Carlucci was a widow about her father’s age who lived nearby. She’d lost her husband to cancer some time ago and had met Amber’s father at a support group for grieving spouses. She’d found out he excelled in mechanical skills and asked if he could help fix her dishwasher. In return, she’d made him and Amber the best meatballs they’d ever had. Over time, the two had settled into this strange routine–something would need maintenance at her house, Dad would take care of it, and Sofia would bake something delicious. Despite her father’s grumblings, he never turned down one of her meals, and Amber believed he’d developed a fondness eryaman otele gelen escort for her. She wished they’d just admit they had feelings for each other, but she supposed that maybe they’d feel like it was somehow “cheating” on their deceased spouses. Not like I’m an expert on feelings and how to act on them, she thought miserably as she climbed the stairs to pack her father a bag.
Amber dropped her father’s suitcase in the entryway. That’s one thing done. I really ought to suggest he keep a ‘go bag’. Maybe I’ll get one set up for his birthday… She tidied up a bit around the house and performed some other chores waiting for Dale. Just as she was about to text him to let him know she was going to head off to the store, he knocked on the door.
“Hey, Dale,” she said, opening the door. “Here’s his bag. I think this should be enough to carry him over. I even threw in some cookies as a surprise.”
Dale was an old Texan who had spent so many years outside, his skin was a leathery brown. He’d worked with her father for as long as she could remember and felt like an uncle. His rich voice and its twang always made her think he would fit more in a cowboy flick than setting up testing labs. “Hey, Darlin’. Ya shouldn’t have mentioned them cookies–I might just have to take ’em as payment for driving yer father his habiliments.” He grinned at her. Dale liked to really dial up the twang, but he was not some backwoods hillbilly with a limited vocabulary. They’d had a longstanding joke of throwing down unusual words.
“And that is why I also packed some… hmm… hold on…” she said, looking upward in concentration. “Ahh… I packed some comestibles for you as well.” She handed him a ziplock bag.
“Oooh, oatmeal raisin, mah favorite. Guess he’s off the hook this time.” He reached around to give her a hug and turned to leave. Pausing, he turned back around and asked, “Say, why you all dolled up at this time in the mornin’? It ain’t Sunday.”
Amber realized that she’d just gone from one thing to the other after arriving home and was still wearing her skirt and top from the night before. At least she had taken off her boots. She glanced up, caught his eye, and blushed. “Umm…”
Dale smiled and winked. “Ya know what, never mind.” He raised his hand as if to block whatever she was going to say. “I’ve seen a nice sunrise today. And I’ve seen some beautiful birds this mornin’. But what I ain’t seen is Ed’s not-so-little girl comin’ home after bein’ out all night. No, miss, I’m just gonna drive my truck, enjoy my cookies, and not worry about the things I ain’t seen today.” He walked to his truck and got in. “Take care, Darlin’,” he yelled out the window as he backed out.
Amber smiled and then yawned loudly as she closed the door. Christ, I’m tired, but it’s way too early to take a nap. She rubbed her thumbs against her temples trying to prevent the headache that was taking root. That was when she spotted the shopping list on the fridge. That’s it… I’ll go shopping now and then take a nap when I get back. Maybe after I sleep I’ll be able to figure this out. She headed upstairs, dropping off her purse at the corner of her bed. She slipped out of her skirt and top and put her hair up in a ponytail. After removing her makeup, she grabbed some jeans and her favorite t-shirt with a faded caffeine molecule on the front as she passed the dresser.
Closing the pantry door behind her, Amber gathered up the now empty grocery bags and tossed them in the recycling bin. The store had been abnormally busy, and it had taken far too long. She felt like her already low battery was drained far too much, but at least the house was stocked up and her father wouldn’t have to deal with it when he got home.
She contemplated just closing the blinds and lying down on the couch when a better idea struck her. She’d go run a bath and then she could just crash in her bed afterward. Then I don’t have to sleep in my clothes. She jogged upstairs in anticipation.
After turning on the water in the tub, she poured in some scented oil and bubble bath. As the steam billowed up in the room, a lavender aroma permeated the air. She shimmied out of her clothes, turned off the lights, and slipped her feet into the tub, gradually sinking her body beneath the bubbles as she acclimated to the hot water. As her muscles first tensed and then relaxed, she closed her eyes, trying to calm her mind and forget about the thoughts racing through her head as she gently washed her body. Unfortunately, her thoughts weren’t as considerate.
I can’t believe I accused him with so little evidence. I mean, it made sense at the time, but I don’t understand why I couldn’t remember. Was it the Jello? Was there something in there besides alcohol? Why didn’t I even think about something being in there when I ate it? It was just so damn noisy and hot and sincan escort I never go to parties. Ugh, I’m never eating Jello again.
She began washing her hair, focusing on massaging her scalp as she worked in the shampoo. The tension was painful as her fingers pressed against her hair. It hurt and felt good at the same time. Eventually, she slid her body down so that she could rinse. As her hair floated around her as if weightless, her breasts were exposed to the cooler air in the room. She shivered and covered them with her arms.
And why was I so forward? I mean, I kissed him! I asked for the back rub. I…I… It… was going so nicely, and I totally fell asleep. And then I’m a bitch the next morning. He’ll probably never want to talk to me again. It’s going to be so embarrassing the next time he stops by the office. Wait, what if he never stops by? What if it’s only that other guy… Rob? Rod? What is it with my memory?
She came up from being submerged, water trickling out of her hair in little rivulets across her shoulders. Her throbbing head felt like it was two sizes too small and her eyes felt like they were full of sand. She tried rubbing circles on her temples again, but it didn’t help much. She watched the trickles of water randomly skitter back and forth across her skin before hitting the bubbles floating on the water’s surface.
Okay, this isn’t solving anything. Take some deep breaths. Count. Focus on the feelings of your skin. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the tub. Breathing deeply and slowly, she could feel her heart slowing, her tension easing. Keeping her eyes closed, she ran the fingers of one hand up the opposite arm and back down and then switched, gently bringing focus to that point. God, this water feels wonderful…
Warm like his smile. The smile he gave me that next day when he came in to start the project. He was genuinely happy I was there. I’ve never had anyone smile like that when they looked at me. Okay, maybe Mom and Dad… and Kat. But even then, this was different. Practically a stranger and the way his eyes lit up…
Her heart gave a little twinge at the memory. And I’m pretty sure he blushed a bit before bidding me hello… a blush that wasn’t there when he said “Hi” to Cindy. It’s cute how he can be so knowledgeable and confident one minute and then when he looks at me, he just gets that grin and blushes.
The tension seemed to be easing a bit in her temples. She slid back down again, the water level just below her chin, the bubbles caressing her cheeks.
And these bubbles…
Soft like Spencer’s hands.
Spencer’s hands on my back. Caressing me. Firm, yet gentle. Gentle, but firm. Firmly holding me. His hands sliding along my shoulders, rubbing my back, holding me down. Leaning down. Nuzzling my ear… tracing his tongue along the edge. Edging down. Nibbles and soft kisses to my neck. Kissing the back of my neck…
Her phone quacked at her, causing her to jump; her eyes flashed open and the fantasy was lost. The tone told her it was Katelyn. Blinking rapidly to clear her eyes, she grabbed the towel by the side of the tub, dried her hand, and grabbed her phone. Man, this tub loses heat fast… the water’s already lukewarm.
KM: Hey, Besty. Just checking in. How r u? Any issues with your dad?
AL: OK. Been better. Dad’s not home. I was just taking a bath. You know – you’re the only one I’d answer to when sunk deep in the suds.
KM: I feel so special. 🙂 I’ll let you go so you can enjoy some “me time” if ya know what I mean! 😉
KM: Wanna meet later to talk?
Amber punched the dial button on the phone. Katelyn picked up at once, her voice slipping into a sultry tone, “Ooh are you wanting me to listen in instead?”
Amber laughed. “In your dreams. Is that all you ever think about?”
“Not ALL… but often enough. What can I say, a girl has needs.”
“Yeah, I know it. I’ve been your friend forever, remember. I know all your dirty little secrets. But seriously, the water was getting cool, so I’d figured I’d get out and we could chat now.”
Thinking about the rapidly cooling water, she put on her glasses and glanced at the clock. It took her a second to realize the time. “Crap, no wonder it’s cool. I must have dozed off. It felt like I was only in there for 10 minutes. Hold on a sec.” She opened the drain and quickly rinsed off. Putting the phone on speaker while she dried off, she said, “I must have been more tired than I thought. Now I’m in that weird state of tired AND alert.”
“Adrenaline will do that for you,” Kat’s voice echoed from the phone. “So, what would you like to talk about? How are you feeling?”
Amber picked up the phone and moved to the bedroom. I wasn’t going to wear anything for a nap, but elvankent escort it feels weird talking to Kat in the nude. Sweats are too much… And why should it be weird, it’s not like we haven’t changed in front of each other countless times…” She opted to split the difference and put on some underwear.
“You there?” Katelyn queried.
Amber realized she’d zoned out for a moment. “Oh… sorry, I was just trying to decide… never mind. What was I saying? Oh, yeah, well, physically I’m exhausted and my internal clock is all screwed up. Emotionally… I feel pretty wrung out, you know.” Katelyn murmured an assent. “And Spencer’s probably never going to want to see me again.”
Katelyn waited for a second and then realized Amber was done. “Well, it’s hard to say. Guys can be so different. I mean, I had never met him until last night. I only know what you’ve told me about his visits to the office. But he seemed pretty nice. Do you think he’s the type to hold a grudge after that kind of accusation?”
Amber’s heart sank and her breath hitched at the thought.
“Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” said Katelyn, apologizing. “That… I didn’t mean it like that. I meant… Shit, I really screwed that up.”
Amber wiped her eyes and sniffed. “No, it’s true. It just hurts to think about, you know. You didn’t really screw up, I did when I acted that way. I mean, you know me and if I did something like that to you, you’d at least have years of background and would hopefully be able to balance that out. But Spence… he… we have flirted and chatted and, you know, stuff like that. But it’s all just there at the office, often with other people are around. He doesn’t really know me like you do. I mean, he invited us all last night, so maybe he was just trying to make friends or something. He was polite, but he never made a move on me. I… well, I made the move on him. I kissed him. What if that was more than he wanted? I don’t know why I did it–maybe there was something else in that Jello.” She took a deep breath to try and calm her voice.
“Well, as to the Jello, I’d assume there was alcohol, but maybe there was something else. You said it was salty and I don’t think Jello shots normally are. There’s going to be a reckoning with Steve when I get the chance. But as for not knowing why you kissed him… I do. You like him–simple as that. You’ve been talking about this guy for weeks, your inhibitions were lowered, you had the opportunity, and you took it. When was this, by the way?”
Amber fell back against her pillow, her damp hair feeling cool on the pillowcase. “When you and Aaron were ‘looking at the moon’. Is that what the kids call it these days? More like ‘lookin’ for some moan.'”
Katelyn laughed. “I wondered what had happened when we came back in. You had a look on your face like we’d caught your hand in the cookie jar. You’re so cute when you blush.”
Amber smiled. “Okay, fine. Yes, I’ve been interested in him. But why would I make a move like that? It’s not me. I mean, that’s more like something you would do. And we still don’t know if he holds a grudge or if he was embarrassed or angry or what about the whole situation.”
“Like I would do? What, be a bit forward and express what I want? Yeah, maybe. No one’s going to argue about whether I’m the more outgoing of the two. But being quieter or a bit shy or introverted or whatever you want to label it doesn’t mean you can’t express what you want. You’re awesome and you deserve it. And I don’t mean that in some flippant or shallow ‘everybody’s awesome’ way.”
Amber sighed, which triggered a massive yawn. “Thanks.”
“Hey, why don’t you get some rest and we’ll meet up later and talk some more about it and figure out your plan. Your yawns are practically sucking air through the phone.”
Amber yawned again, even longer and louder. “Okay, okay. I’ll text you later. Love ya.” She hung up the phone and plumped the pillow under her head. As she pulled the blanket up over her body, she closed her eyes and could feel herself already starting to fade away.
Soft sheets… so cozy.
There was a knock at the front door. Her eyes popped open. W. T. F!
She contemplated ignoring it and closed her eyes again. They rang the bell.
I JUST WANT SOME FUCKING SLEEP! In a dazed huff, Amber was halfway across the room before realizing she wasn’t wearing much. She grabbed her jeans and t-shirt and yanked them on as the bell rang a second time. Stomping down the stairs, she swung the door open, ready to blast the interloper with such a profane tirade that a sailor would blush.
The older woman on the porch was just turning away. She halted as the door opened. In her hands, Sofia Carlucci held a glass baking dish wrapped in foil. “Buongiorno, Amber. Is your father home?”
The diatribe on Amber’s lips shriveled instantly like a seedling in a drought and her voice choked. “Ahh… he, uh…” Her eyes swiveled down to the baking dish. “Oh, crap! I am… I am so, so sorry, Ms. Carlucci. Come in, come in. I completely forgot. I am sooo sorry. I really fuh… um, screwed up.” She hung her head, sighing.
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