I wasn't sure what to do about it.
Sometimes I had myself convinced that this thing between us was real, that we had some profound connection that actually reached across age boundaries. That I was smitten enough, and she was mature enough, to make this work into something permanent.
I couldn't analyze that thought process for long, though. It didn't hold up against my logical brain's theory that every sad, lonely old man who had found themselves in this position had told themselves the exact same thing. There was a reason we did this: Because it felt infinitely better than the truth.
And the fact that she still slipped away, lying to me about her whereabouts, nearly every night, was hardly comforting.
As long as I ignored all the little lies, which I told myself firmly they were, things between us were going very smoothly.
Until every insecurity I had about her seemed to come to a head one morning a few weeks later.
It all started with one simple word, and the fact that I had such a hard time saying it to her.
That word was no, and I had never successfully used it on her before.
She'd stayed the night again, an incredible night, where she hadn't even gone out by herself, but instead stayed in and had dinner with me, followed by lots of something even better.
My mind was stuck firmly on that something better as I showered, Iris still tucked away in my bed, sleeping peacefully. I'd have loved to be there with her, in fact I'd overslept I'd been enjoying my own peaceful sleep so much.
The problem was, I had company coming, company that I didn't want her to meet. And vice versa. It was just…awkward.
I'd been booked to do a magazine interview months prior, one that featured photographs of me taken around my house. The interview would happen about a week after the photos were taken, which was scheduled for this unfortunate day.
I'd recommended the photographer they were using myself, as she was a local contact and somewhat of a friend.
Well, it was more complicated than that.
The photographer happened to be a very beautiful forty-one year old woman that I'd been planning to ask out just as soon as I got over my general bad attitude towards getting back in the dating pool. We'd worked together a few months ago, on my headshot, and we'd sort of hit it off.
We'd bonded over the fact that we'd both just escaped from bad marriages.
This photographer, Lourdes, and I had done a bit of flirting, and it had been my impression that she might not be averse to dating me.
I had no intention of asking Lourdes out now, not after everything that had happened, but I still couldn't stand to see her reaction to finding a girl like Iris ensconced in my house
She'd think I was a creep and rightfully so. I was determined to avoid that. But how, well, that was beyond me. It wasn't like I could kick Iris out, or even ask her to leave for a few hours. What would I say? What excuse could I make?
I finished showering and got dressed, in a foul mood.
I put on a deep navy suit with a dark gray dress shirt and a navy bow tie. I always felt a little smothered in suits, but I rarely had to wear them, so I couldn't complain. This one had been picked for me, every piece of it, and sent to me by the magazine doing the interview piece, so I couldn't even grumble about that.
She was stirring on the bed as I approached it.
"I, um, have a thing today," I said awkwardly, completely lost on what to tell her. I had no idea how to navigate this. Above all else, I didn't want her to think I was kicking her out of my house, even though I basically needed to and fast.
She blinked sleepy eyes at me, sitting up, the sheet wrapped around her na**d body. She took in my attire with a close, narrow eyed perusal. "Okay. I'll grab my things and get out of your hair," she finally said.
In terms of things she could say, that seemed at the top of the list of ones that worked in my favor.
Still, I felt like shit, and apparently I wasn't in any mood to work in my own favor.
She hadn't even asked for an explanation. But for some reason, I felt like I needed to give her one.
"I'm dressed like this because there's a photographer coming over to take pictures for a magazine interview I'm doing next week."
Her brows shot up, and she smiled. "That's amazing." She dropped the sheet, got out of bed, and moved into the closet, completely nude and comfortable with it.
I kept my distance. I didn't even own the suit I was wearing, and I could see us getting it very dirty in a hurry. If I were smart, I'd have taken her quickly before I showered, at least tried to get her out of my system for the time she'd be gone.
I made my way into the doorway of the closet after one long minute of debating what to do.
She was still naked, and digging through her big yellow purse, and then the small suitcase she'd taken to bringing with her overnight.
No matter how I nagged, she still kept everything packed. She wouldn't even hang up her nicer clothes. It was infuriating, but one thing I'd learned fast about Iris: she never gave in unless she wanted to.
I didn't see what she pulled out of her bags, too focused on her bare skin, as she moved around on the floor.
It would be so easy to take her like that. Just a button and a zipper away. If I was very careful, I could keep my borrowed suit pristine, I told myself.