Mid-afternoon the day after my parents’ visit, I was jolted awake by someone knocking at my door. Still groggy, I dragged myself out of bed, and went to the door, lifting myself up on my toes to see through the peephole.
“Just a moment,” I yelled, suddenly very awake, and aware that I was very naked. I ran back to my room, where I pulled a tee shirt over my head and yanked on a pair of yoga pants, then returned to the door.
I knew that absence supposedly made the heart grow fonder, but… was there an equivalent for the throbbing between your thighs when you came back in contact with someone who used to make your body feel very, very good? His shoulders seemed wider, he seemed taller, his skin smoother, his face more handsome than it had been just a week ago. Like I was seeing him as he was before everything went wrong.
Carter just stood there for a moment, staring, before a smile began to play at the corners of his mouth.
“What is so funny?” I asked, placing a hand on my hip.
He pointed up to my hair, finally breaking into a full grin. “You’ve got a wine cork in your hair.”
My eyes went wide, and my hands went immediately into my hair to find and remove the cork. “What can I say, it was a wild night,” I said dryly, chuckling as I tossed it between my hands. The truth was that I’d uncorked the bottle while I was sitting in the bed, already half-asleep. I passed out before I had a single glass of the sure-to-be-ruined wine. “So… did you want something?”
“Um… yeah. Roman and Simone said they’ve been trying to call you… she went into labor about an hour ago.”
I gasped, bringing my hand up to my chest. “What? Are you serious! My goodness!” I turned and headed back into my apartment, wondering what in the world I’d done with my phone. “Don’t just stand there, you are letting the cold in from the hall. Come in, and close the door!”
Carter hesitated, and I could see the uncertainty playing on his face before he finally did step in, closing the door behind him. He hovered there, with his hands shoved in the pockets of his sweatpants as I dumped my purse on the counter, looking for my phone.
It was one of the last items to fall out, and it was so dead that it didn’t even immediately respond when I plugged it into my kitchen charger. I groaned, remembering that it had been low when I left work the previous evening, and my parents’ surprise appearance at my door had disrupted me from making sure it ended up on the charger.
“So, tell me what happened, is she doing okay, will the baby be here soon? How did she look?” I asked, leaving the phone in the kitchen and motioning for him to follow me into my room.
“Um… I don’t know how she looked,” Carter said, stopping at the door to my bathroom as I pulled out a brush to tackle my hair into a bun. “I haven’t been to the hospital.”
I paused, with the brush in midair. “Really? Why not?”
He shook his head. “I uh, I don’t do hospitals. Spent way too much time in them when my dad was sick.”
“Oh. That is understandable,” I said, nodding as I finished fixing my hair. “You never told me what was wrong with him.”
“Prostate cancer. He was in treatment a long time, then that stopped working,… then hospice care… So, yeah, no hospitals for me unless I’m on the gurney.”
“I see. I’m very sorry you went through that.”
Our eyes met in the mirror, and he tried to force a smile, but it turned into more of a grimace. Unsure of what to say next, I occupied my mouth by brushing my teeth while he updated me on Simone’s status, as relayed to him by Roman.
After I’d washed my face, he followed me into my room, hovering near the door while I pulled out weather appropriate clothes for the snow that had been falling for the last few days. I yanked off my tee shirt, and was pulling the straps of a bra over my shoulders when I realized that I’d just stripped half-naked in front of Carter.
Clutching the bra to my chest, I slowly turned my eyes to where he was, simultaneously disappointed and relieved that he was turned toward the hall, resting his shoulder in the doorframe. It was an incredibly strange feeling. On one hand, I was glad he was respectful enough to recognize my oversight when I did not, and not take advantage of my absent mindedness. On the other hand, I think a little part of me was almost disappointed that he was able to resist, when just a little over a month ago, he could not keep his eyes off me.
Shaking both thoughts from my head, I dressed quickly, then tapped him on the shoulder to let me pass, so that I could retrieve my phone from the kitchen.
“Thank you for coming to let me know,” I said, restocking my purse as I stood at the counter. “I do not know how long I would have slept, or how long it would have taken me to realize I was without a phone. I would have never forgiven myself for not being available for Simone.”
He smiled, and damnit, warmth washed through me with the strength of a tropical storm wave. “Yeah, I kinda figured that. I was a little scared you weren’t gonna answer for me and I was gonna have to just shout it to you through the door, but I manned up,” he said with a chuckle. “But nah, seriously… It was no hassle. It’s what friends do, right?”
I returned his smile, then nodded. “Yes. That is what friends do.”