Author: Teresa Mummert
"I do this weird thing," I sighed, as I thought of how my sister always looked better in all of our photos.
"Now we have to do this. I need to see the weird thing you do." He laughed as he pulled me to the booth. He slid inside and sat on the tiny bench, his large six-foot frame taking up the entire space.
"Where am I supposed to sit?"
Shane winked as he patted his leg with his hand.
"I am not sitting on your lap in an enclosed space." I held up my hands and took a step back.
Shane reached out and grabbed my wrist, pulling me toward him as I shook my head.
"I won't bite. Not unless you ask me to." He laughed as he slid a five-dollar bill into the money slot on the machine. I reluctantly sat on his leg, and he grabbed my shoulders and pulled my back against his chest. As we waited for the first picture to snap, I ran my hands through my hair and tried my best to smile without looking like I was crazy. All I could focus on was Shane's muscular body against me.
The first picture snapped and I was certain my eyes had closed from the flash.
"I told you. Horrible."
"You just need to relax. Look at me." I turned my head to the right and locked eyes with Shane, whose face was only an inch from mine. The picture snapped but I couldn't look away from him. His right hand brushed across my cheek as we both took a deep breath. His thumb ran over my lower lip and another picture snapped.
"Shane…" My voice was barely a whisper as my eyes searched his.
"Jenn…" He said as his lips lightly brushed against mine. My eyes fell closed as my fingers felt on his chest. The picture snapped and my eyes slowly opened to see Shane smiling.
"You have to pay extra to use my booth for alone time." A voice called from outside of the machine. My forehead fell against Shane's as I laughed and stood from his lap.
Waiting for our pictures to develop could easily be described as awkward. I couldn't get the stupid grin off my face and Shane's eyes stayed trained on me. As two strips of pictures fell into the picture catcher, I sneaked a glance at him. He pulled them from the slot and his eyes danced over the photos before he handed me my copy.
"You take beautiful pictures," he said as he stuck his into his back pocket.
"Thanks," I stuck my pictures in my purse as I nervously chewed on my lip. "Let's go get some shopping done."
We found several kiosks in the center of the mall for every cell phone company you could think of. Shane picked one and I people-watched as he and the man behind the counter went over the terms of the contract. Exhaustion began to set in as I listened to them, so I yawned and pointed to the Starbucks across hall.
"Need more coffee."
Shane laughed and shook his head as he continued to go over the deal.
I took off across the mall to the little Starbucks tucked between two clothing stores. The smell alone instantly woke me. I stood in line waiting my turn, occasionally glancing over my shoulder every to look at Shane. One minute he was leaning over the counter, the next he was gone. I scanned the area but was unable to locate him.
"Can I help you?" the barista asked from behind the counter.
"Two plain coffees, please. Venti."
He looked at me as though he didn't understand.
"The Verona one." I glanced up at the menu behind him. I grabbed a twenty from my wallet. I tapped my fingers on the counter as I waited for my change. A man with dirty blond hair rested his elbows on the counter next to me. He looked around my age. He smiled at me and I returned the favor as the barista sat my drinks on the counter.
"One of those for me?" he asked as an arm slid around my waist and Shane pulled me into his side.
"That's mine. Gonna have to find your own pretty lady to buy your coffee," Shane responded and took one of the cups from my hand.
"Where were you?" I asked as we made our way to the sugar and creamers.
"I went in that music store over there to buy something." He held up the small plastic bag for me to see.
"Oh…" I poured the sugar into my cup until Shane placed his finger on the bottom and tilted it back down so I couldn't add anymore. "Are you always such a control freak?" I stirred my coffee and pushed the lid back on it.
"You're either a leader or a follower," he said as he sipped at his coffee.
"No gray areas, huh?" I smirked as I breathed in the scent of my beverage.
His eyes raked over me before locking back on to mine.
"Nope," he replied as we stepped out into the open mall and began walking down the corridor.
"You're a control freak." I turned to walk into J.C. Penney.
"I'm not a control freak. I just prefer to be the one calling the shots."
"Uh, huh…" I ran my hand through a rack of men's T-shirts.
"In my job it could mean the difference between winning a mission and losing everything," he said as he pulled a green shirt from the rack and held it up to his chest. I crinkled my nose and he placed it back on the rack.
"At my job it is life at the top or rotting away in a small cubical." I rolled my eyes and pulled a baby blue shirt from the rack, holding it out for him.
He took it and looked it over.
"I'll talk to Jake."
"No!" I spun around and took the shirt from his hands. "I don't need anyone to fight my battles for me, so to speak."
He smirked and took the shirt back from my hands.
"I like this one." He began walking toward another rack. "Jake just needs things put into perspective. He's having a hard time and doesn't see that others are too."
"Shane, I know you feel like it is your place because Jake is your cousin, but I don't want to get ahead by taking the back way
. I need to do this on my own."
March 18, 2010, 11:00 a.m.
"No," Jenn whined and I couldn't help but laugh. I wasn't used to being told no from anyone. At my job, I was the one in charge and people took orders from me as if they were life and death. They usually were.
"No?" I repeated her word into my phone and shook my head.
"You heard me. It is early, Shane. It's the weekend."
"That's why we need to get ready. May is making brunch and I want you to join me."
"I promise you that Jake will be nice to you. This isn't work and you are my guest. Besides, I have been standing outside of your door for ten minutes." I laughed as I heard her feet on the hardwood floor before the door in front of me flew open. I hung up my cell phone and slid it into my pocket.
"Why didn't you knock?"
"Where is the fun in that?" I winked at her as I walked inside her apartment and pulled off my heavy coat. Jenn's hair hung wildly around her face and she was dressed in an oversized T-shirt and by the looks of it, nothing else. My heart began to beat double-time in my chest.
Jenn crossed her arms over her chest, preparing to argue with me.
"Maybe I have plans today."
My heart sank into my stomach. I had hoped to spend every day of my leave with her. I still told myself it was to make sure she was okay, but in truth, I needed her as much as she needed me.
"Oh," I sighed as I shoved my hands in my pockets and looked down to the floor. "What are your plans?" Raising my eyes to hers, I noticed she was trying to hide a smirk.
"I'm going to the movies," she said with a shrug. "You are welcome to join me." She turned to enter the kitchen and I followed, laying my coat over the back of the chair before sliding into my usual seat.
"Sure. You mind swinging by Jake's for brunch first?" I asked as she set a cup down in front of me and began making coffee.
"Sure." Her smile was mischievous and I sat forward in my seat as I narrowed my eyes at her.
"You're up to something."
"Me?" She turned around, her baby blue eyes were wide, and I felt myself getting lost in them.
"What?" she asked nervously as she sucked her lower lip between her teeth, something she did whenever she was feeling self-conscious.
"Nothing," I managed to say, when all my brain could think about was pushing my lips against hers. I wanted to taste them, know how their softness felt against mine, but I forced myself to stay in my seat. I took a deep breath, angry with myself for looking at her that way. I wanted to protect her, but I also needed to protect myself. "What time is the movie?"
"It's at three, but I want to get there early so I can get some good seats." She grabbed the pot and began filling my cup.
"So is this like a date?" I asked. She jerked her head up, spilling hot coffee over my hands. "Oww! Shit!" I jumped up from my seat and made my way to the sink to run my hands under some cold water.
"I'm so sorry!" Jenn grabbed my hands and inspected my fingers.
"It's fine. I'll live." I smiled at the look of panic on her face. "So…it's not a date. Message received."
She laughed as she playfully hit me on the arm and grabbed the sponge to clean up the coffee mess. I pulled up my baby blue T-shirt that we bought the day before and dried my hands on it as Jenn's eyes scanned my stomach.
"I have towels." She sat down in her seat and took a small sip from her coffee before adding more sugar. I smirked as I grabbed an ice cube from her freezer and dropped it in my mug.
"What movie are we going to see?"
"Remember Me. What time is brunch?"
Jenn jumped from her seat and ran into her bedroom.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she yelled out through the cracked door as she changed clothes.
"I did. Brunch is generally between breakfast and lunch." I laughed as I took another drink from my coffee. Jenn reappeared in jeans and a white T-shirt, her fingers combing through her long hair.
The trip to Jake's was nerve-racking. He didn't want me spending time with her and here I was throwing it in his face. May was more than eager to meet the girl who was "pulling me out of my funk," as she put it. I explained that Jenn was just a friend, someone who needed to know that someone else cared. And I did care, which made the entire situation more complicated.
"We should have brought something." Jenn eyed me nervously as I turned off the car.
"Well, I brought you, so I am covered." I laughed and she smacked me playfully on the arm.
"I'm serious. I am at my boss's house and didn't bring a side dish."
"They know I didn't ask you to come until this morning. They understand. May makes enough food for an entire army. Don't worry."
"There's not an entire army in there, is there?" she asked and I chuckled.
"Let's go." I got out and made my way to her side of the car, pulling the door open for her.
She stepped out and as our eyes locked, my heart rate accelerated. Jenn was one of the curveballs Jake had warned me about.
"What?" she asked nervously as she ran her fingers through her hair.
"Nothing. You look great. Come on."
March 18, 2010, 2:45 p.m.
"A large popcorn and a Coke, please," Shane said as I grabbed a pack of licorice for the movie.
"Thanks for coming with me." I grabbed the popcorn and he took the drink.
"Are you kidding? I wouldn't miss this movie for anything. What's it called? Forget Me?" I laughed and threw a piece of popcorn at him.