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Author: Teresa Mummert
As I pulled behind her house, my nerves began to take over, something I wasn't accustom to. I was trained to make decisions based on facts and choose the path with least obstacles. There was nothing easy or logical about the situation I was getting myself into, but I couldn't turn away.
I climbed the steps to her second-story apartment and knocked on the door, jarring Jenn from her sleep.
March 17, 2010, 6:30 a.m.
"One minute," I called out as I slipped out of bed and pulled my brown terrycloth robe around me, securing it at the waist. I pushed my mop of messy brown hair from my face and made my way to the door.
"Shane?" I said as I pulled open the door, expecting instead to see my father. He smiled and shoved his hands deeper into the front pockets of his jeans.
"I couldn't sleep." He gave me a lopsided grin. I stepped back and waved my arm for him to enter.
"Me either." I yawned and he laughed at me as he made his way into the kitchen, looking around before sitting down at the kitchen table.
"Coffee?" I walked over to the counter and began my morning ritual of preparing a pot of coffee. "So, let me guess. You have insomnia?" I laughed to myself as I thought of his low blood sugar claim.
"Oh. Me too." The smell of coffee began to fill the tiny space. I took the seat across from him and began pulling on the petals of the fake bouquet in the center of the table. "You want to talk about it?"
Shane ran his hand over his hair and simply shook his head.
"All right. I will tell you about my dream." I pushed up from the table and grabbed a couple of coffee mugs from the cupboard.
"I was floating on my desk from work. Water was rising and everyone around me was panicking. I was trying to pull them onto my desk but they were screaming and losing it. My family was there." I sat a mug in front of Shane and grabbed him the cream and sugar.
I smiled and grabbed my mug before sitting back in my seat across from him.
"So what do you think that means?" I picked up the sugar container and began dumping it into my drink.
"It sounds like you feel like you need to save everyone. That or you really want to go swimming." He joked as he took the sugar from my hand before my cup overflowed.
"I feel like I'm drowning." I sighed as I looked down at the murky black liquid, warming my palms on the ceramic.
"What are your plans for today?" he asked as he took a small sip from his cup, burning his lip.
"No plans." I picked up my glass and blew over it to cool it down.
"Come on. You're on vacation; I'm on vacation. We have to do something fun."
I rolled my eyes before taking a small sip from my steaming mug.
"Don't you have to spend some time with your family?"
"Jake has work." He shrugged as he took a drink, cursing under his breath as he burnt himself. I couldn't help but giggle and got up to get him an ice cube. I dropped it into his mug and winked at him before folding my leg under myself and sitting back down.
"I should really be working on some reports as well. I am going to have a mountain of work waiting for me when I get back."
"You want to spend your vacation working?" He cocked his eyebrow before taking a small sip and smiling when it didn't burn him. "Well, I need a break, and you are the only one around here who has time for me."
"Aww…going with the pity route."
"Well, I have to get my way somehow." He smirked and sat his mug down on the table. "So what is it going to be? We could go fishing…"
I made a face at his suggestion and he laughed.
"We could go shopping."
"Not really my thing." I waved my hand at his idea.
"A woman who doesn't like to shop? We could take you into a Ripley's Believe it or Not and put you on display."
"I like to shop…sometimes." I rolled my eyes at him.
"Good. I need to get a few things. We can make it quick and figure out where to go from there."
"You're not going to take no for an answer, are you?" I asked as I stood and stretched my arms.
"No isn't a part of my vocabulary. Grab a sweater. It's cold out today."
I rolled my eyes as I made my way into my bedroom to find something to wear. I really could stand to go shopping for some new clothes. Nothing looked good. I pulled on a beige sweater and jeans.
"Good enough." I tugged my sweater over my shoulder as I walked back into the living room.
We drove about fifteen minutes outside of town to the Chelsea Mall. It was virtually empty for a Wednesday morning. As we got inside, we realized why. The stores wouldn't be opening for another half an hour.
"What are we going to do until the stores open?" I asked as I pulled my purse up onto my shoulder.
"There has to be something we can do." Shane began walking down the long hallway. The mall was virtually empty with the exception of a few mall walkers.
"What is it you need to buy?" I asked as my eyes scanned the windows of the stores we passed by.
"That would look good on you." Shane gestured to a floor-length white gown embellished with pearls along the bodice.
"That's a wedding gown. Not likely."
"I need to get a cell phone, and some clothes would be nice."
I nodded as we turned right down another hallway. Shane stopped at a giant mall directory kiosk and looked over the map.
"There!" He pointed to a yellow square, and I squinted my eyes to read the small print.
"You scared?" he asked as he bumped his shoulder into mine.
"Of what?" I drug my eyes up and down his muscular body as I crossed my arms over my chest.
"Oh, wow. You're competitive. Good to know." He winked as he put his arm over my shoulder and guided me toward the arcade. "So am I." His warm breath blowing across my cheek sent a chill through my entire body.
"You are going to be disappointed." I laughed as we walked into the dimly lit arcade and my eyes adjusted to the low lighting. I scanned the different games in hopes of finding something at witch I could actually beat Shane.
"How about air hockey?" I asked as I walked over to the table and ran my fingertips over the smooth plastic top.
"Excellent choice." Shane pulled his wallet from his back pocket and grabbed a dollar bill. He pushed it into the machine and it rumbled to life. I grabbed my paddle and Shane grabbed his with the puck from his side. "You ready for this?" he asked. I nodded, trying to keep myself from breaking out in laughter from his serious tone.
"Bring it!" As the words left my lips, Shane hit the puck, sending it sliding across the table so fast I barely saw it. It ricocheted off the right side and bounced back to him. He hit it again as my arm shot out and I was finally able to make contact with the puck. It wobbled on the table before taking flight. Shane ducked out of the way as it flew passed his head and hit the counter behind him.
"That's cheating." His face was dead serious and I burst out in a fit of giggles as he shook his head and retrieved the puck.
"I'm sorry. It's been years since I've played this."
"We need mood music." Shane slapped the puck on the table and headed for the jukebox along the wall. He stuck money in the slot and flipped through the pages of music as I tapped my foot.
"I'm not waiting all day!" I called over to him as he held up his finger to tell me to wait. I slapped my paddle down and headed over to him. He blocked the jukebox so I shoved him playfully with my hip as his first choice began to play through the speakers. "'Live Like We're Dying'? Really?" I laughed as I scanned over the choices of songs.
"It's on every time I get in the car. Don't judge. No chick music." He pushed back against me and I slid myself in front of him, blocking him from seeing what I was picking. His body pressed against mine from behind and his hands found their way to my hips. Our playfulness soon took on a different vibe. I cleared my throat as I stood up straight and punched in a few buttons for a song. "There." I turned around, face to face with him. Our eyes locked for a second before I looked down at the ground and slid my way out.
"We gonna play?" I asked as I picked up my paddle and leaned over the table.
"Hell yes." Shane hit the puck and I struggled to catch it as it flew to my side of the table.
"So, you have a sister." He called over the sound of the music, distracting me and the puck slid into the slot just behind my hands.
"Yup." I grabbed the puck and dropped it back on the table. "We are nothing alike." I tried to concentrate on the game.
"Makes sense. You're one of a kind." He hit the puck to my side, and this time it went straight into the hole.
"Stop trying to distract me," I groaned as I grabbed the puck and laid it on the table.
"If I wanted to distract you, I would."
"Not possible." I was too focused on wiping that smirk off his face. I hated losing.
Shane dropped his paddle on the table and grabbed the bottom of his shirt. He pulled it up over his head and hung it over the edge of the table. My eyes refused to listen to my brain as I drank in every ounce of his exposed muscled flesh, including the scar that stretched across his pectoral muscle. I didn't even care when he picked up his paddle again and hit the puck directly into the slot.
"I am not taking off my clothes in the middle of the mall." Shane looked around the room. The only other person here was the arcade manager who was busy working on an old arcade game on the other side of the floor.
He slowly rounded the corner of the table and walked toward me. I struggled to keep my breathing at a normal pace as my heart thudded in my chest. When he reached me, he stared down at me as the muscles in his jaw flexed. I couldn't form any words. He bent down and his breath blew across my lips. His hand slipped into the end of the table and he grabbed the small red disc and held it up between us with a smirk playing across his lips.
"I meant your turn to hit the puck. You suck at this game, Jenn." He laughed and I hit him in the chest with the back of my hand.
"Stay on your side of the table!"
He laughed as he walked away and I huffed.
"And keep your clothes on!"
He shook his head as he grabbed his shirt and pulled it down over his head.
"Where'd you get that scar?" I asked as it disappeared under his shirt.
"That's a story for another day."
"You don't share much."
"Not much to share." He shrugged and we began to play again as the song switched and my selection began. I hit the puck and it slid right into his side of the table as he made a face at me. "This is your plan? Drive me crazy with weird music? They don't even use these tactics at war anymore. It's inhumane."
"It's 'Fireflies.' I love this song." I stuck out my lower lip to pout as Shane laughed.
"Let's go get some shopping done."
I turned around to look out the door and watched as shoppers filed by.
"Fine. You quit, so I win."
"Not a chance. We can play again some other time." Shane's fingers looped around my arm and stopped me from walking. "Wait."
"What?" I laughed as I turned back to him and followed his eyes to a small photo booth on the left side of the arcade. "Oh, no. I take horrible pictures."
"You're serious? You want me to believe you are not photogenic?"
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