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I woke up in a daze, the night before seemed to be a distant memory, slowly I rose out of bed. “Ow,” I said as my head pounded. I hadn’t had a hangover in years, then again I hadn’t drunk that much in years. The memory of me celebrating and having a good time came to me like water rushing through a flood gate.
“Never again,” I said, slowly getting to my feet. With each step, my head felt like a jackhammer was working its way out of my skull.
I made it to the bathroom, and the sight that greeted me was worse than the feeling, there were puke stains on my shirt, and from what I could see through my wincing eyes I didn’t look good. “Shower, definitely need a shower,” I nodded as I got undressed.
After the shower and putting on clean clothes I felt almost human again, I hoped Ned was still in the house I had to thank him for taking care of me as well as putting the kid’s worries to rest. I got out of my room and heard people talking in the kitchen below one of them was Ned.
“No way,” Robert said as I entered the kitchen.
“Morning,” I said as I walked towards Ned, I wrapped my arms around him. “Thank you,” I smiled as I held onto him.
“You would have done the same,” Ned said as he patted me on the head.
“Ow,” I said as I retreated to one of the chairs.
“Here,” Ned said as he passed me a tall glass of orange juice.
“Do I have to?” I said, looking at everyone.
“Yes!” Robin said as she looked at me. “He took his medicine, now it’s your turn.”
“Fine,” I said, looking at the slimy orange liquid. The kids liked orange juice I hated it. But they were right I had to drink something to get rehydrated. I slammed it down as fast as I could, then looked at them. “There,” I smiled.
“Now eat,” Ned said as he passed me breakfast. “You cooked?”
“No we all did,” Thomas said. “Jack helped with the pancakes!”
I looked at Jack who was sitting near me, “You did huh?” I smiled. He still had a worried look on his face. “I am fine, just my head hurts, that’s all.”
Jack smiled as we all sat to eat breakfast except for Ned, who was still standing at the kitchen island. “I got to call a cab or get an uber,” he said as he looked at his phone. “I drove your car here,” he explained.
“Sit and eat breakfast and I will drive you back,” I said as I pointed at the empty chair.
“Yeah, sit tall guy,” Thomas said as he put a mouthful of sausage into his mouth.
“Okay,” Ned nodded.
It felt good having a man in the house again. Ned had become more than a friend. I didn’t know what I would do without him sometimes. He knew a lot about me somethings even Tina didn’t know, especially about the ex, I was confident if Ned ever met Stan he would gladly go back to prison with a smile on his face.
“So, what was the big No way?” I asked as we all piled into the minivan except for Robin, who had soccer practice. She had gotten onto her college team and was taking it seriously, she had never been into sports before, but soccer had made something click inside of her, and now it was all she talked about, even with her girlfriend.
“Can you believe Ned thinks that Call of Duty is better than Battlefront?” Thomas shouted.
“It is,” Ned said with a smile from the passenger seat. “There is no comparison.”
“Because you are wrong,” Robert chimed in.
“Mom? “Thomas asked.
“I do like Battlefront, but I never played the other one,” I shrugged.
“Traitor!” Ned said with a smile.
The argument went back and forth, and from the smiles, I saw I knew they were genuinely having fun. I tried to stay neutral. I got out of the van as I walked Ned up to his apartment.
“Thanks again,” I said. “Not just for the help, but also for putting Todd in his place,” I smiled as I looked up at him.
“Someone had to, might as well be me,” Ned replied.
“Still, the rest of us appreciate what you did, and you made a great impression on Tina,” I said, which was the most important of all, Tina bit her tongue for most of the night, but she had already sent me a text asking when could they meet him again.
“Anytime,” Ned said as he put the key into his door. I had been in his apartment before, and now it felt weird that I wasn’t going inside with him.
“I better go,” I said as I backed away. “The kids are waiting.”
“Right,” Ned said as he waved at me.
I walked down the stairs and got into the van.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“He is a great person,” Tina said as I met her for lunch. “Gary couldn’t stop talking about him, he wants him to come over for the game Thursday night,” she said with a smile that could light up a city block.
“Say you were wrong,” I said with a bigger smile.
“Again?” Tina shook her head.
“If you got to say I told you so, you would be saying it over and over again,” I nodded. “Now say it, again.”
“I was wrong, just because he is a convict doesn’t make him a bad person,” Tina said as she looked at me.
“Good, and thank you,” I smiled.
It meant a lot to me güvenilir bahis that Tina respected my views as well as my friend. I was so glad I met Ned in the store that day, he had come into my life just when I needed someone to make me not think about Stan and how he treated me.
With Ned, all he thought about was me and what I thought, what I wanted and what I needed. It worked both ways, I knew him, I knew right now he was sleeping because he had to work the night shift, he would wake in just over three hours, text me, then eat his usual, then catch the forty-seven bus to work. There was nothing I didn’t know about him.
“So,” Tina said as she looked at me.
“What?” I asked as I looked back at her.
“You know what,” Tina said, shaking her head.
“I don’t know,” I said looking down at the table, “I know it’s stupid but,”
“He likes you, and you know that,” Tina stated.
“I like him too,” I admitted both to her and myself.
“Don’t say it’s Stan and what he did, you have gone through it all and come out smelling like roses,” Tina said.
She was right, of course, there was still some part of me that hated how he had made me feel about myself but with her help and the therapy I was through most of the worst parts. Now with Ned, I was more sure about myself and what I could accomplish. I loved my job as a teacher; I loved my new life.
“Is it because he is black?” Tina asked.
“Tina!” I said, looking around.
“What, we live in a small town, are you scared people are going to look at you dating a black guy and think and say things?” Tina said, not lowering her voice. “Fuck them!”
Tina didn’t swear often, but when she did, she meant every word. “They look at me because I am a therapist and I have tattoos and ride a bike on the weekends,” Tina said.
By bike she meant a huge Harley, it was how she met Gary, the tattooed from the neck down biker husband she married and cheated on. You wouldn’t know he had tattoos by the way he dressed on the weekdays and when he went bowling, but get him around his friends on the weekends, and the biker came out.
“You deserve to be happy, and I haven’t seen you as happy as you are when you are around him, something to think about,” Tina said as she finished her drink.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~
Tina left me thinking about a lot of things on the way back home. She was right about one thing. I was happy when I was around Ned. He could make me smile even when I didn’t feel like it. I had also noticed he liked talking to me. He would call for no reason at all, mostly when he was on the bus.
So why hadn’t we taken things to the next level? Was Tina, right? Was I scared what people would think of me? I saw and heard how people talked about others, especially those that dated outside their race. It wasn’t what I thought, but what about my kids?
Robin and Robert were dating others. Robin didn’t care what people thought about her and Shannon. I know Robert was thinking about taking his relationship with the Hispanic girl he had been casually seeing to the next level. Thomas and Jake were still young; they all seemed to like Ned.
“That’s it,” I said to myself I had decided to bring it to a family vote.
“About time!” Robin shouted at me as I brought it up.
“Yeah mom,” Robert said, shaking his head, “We knew this was coming from day one, we were just waiting for you to figure it out.”
“So, tall guy and you?” Thomas smiled. “You weren’t dating already?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “You guys are okay with this, if it happens?”
“Yes!” they all said in unison. Even Jake said yes, which surprised me, I wasn’t sure if he was going along with the others or if he understood what was going on.
“Okay then,” I said with a bit of disbelief, it had been a few months since I went out on a date, but this was more than a date. I was finally ready to take it seriously. Previous dates were to try and get the idea of Stan out of my head. Now I was finally willing to think about myself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~
I couldn’t believe it, I sat in silence as I tried to come to terms with the conversation I just had with Staci, we were going on a date, not just going out like we usually do, but this was a date. She had called me just as I got to the gym, and here I was still thinking about it.
“Where am I going to take her?” I said out loud the men’s locker room was empty.
I had no car, no money, but she knew all this, and still wanted to go on a date with me. That was the kind of women Staci was, she never asked me for anything, and when I told her I would pay her back, she would shake her head with that cute smile.
My phone went off. I looked at it and realized I had forgotten that I was meeting Robert, Staci’s son at my gym. He wanted to get leaner as well as gain some agility and speed so he could go from tight end to receiver.
“You ready?” I asked as I met him just outside the locker room.
“Absolutely, Tyrone took my spot türkçe bahis at starting tight end,” Robert said with a bit of anger in his voice. “I want to start, not sit on the bench.”
“An open receiver spot, huh?” I asked as we went out back.
“Yeah,” Robert replied as I started him off on some suicides. Back and forth, he ran as a person possessed. Then I had him doing jumping from the ground to high stands. He was a natural.
Routine after routine Robert was knocking them out of the park, everything I threw at him he took in stride, even when he was tired, beat and dripping with sweat he pushed forward, even when I saw him about to give up something clicked and he was back in full form.
“Alright,” I said as I stopped him on doing some squats. “You really want that spot don’t you?”
“Yeah,” Robert said winded from the hell I just put him through, he chugged the water from his bottle. Sweat poured down his face.
“What else?” I asked, knowing that look he gave on the last squat. “Something else is driving you to start right?”
Robert chuckled as he looked at me.
“A girl,” I smiled.
Robert nodded. “Tyrone’s ex,” he smiled.
“Oh,” I nodded “Interesting, he took your position, now you want to take his girl?”
“They aren’t seeing each other anymore,” Robert nodded. “We have gone on a few dates and I think if I get the starting receiver position it will cement things, you know?”
“Of course, some girls love jocks,” I nodded. “Well, lets get you that position huh?”
We went back to working out. Robert was a man possessed while I was distracted. Robert had the girl he wanted. He just wanted to put the icing on the cake, so to speak. While I wanted someone that made a lot more money than I did, had a place to call home, while I rented a small studio apartment. She had a car; I rode the bus everywhere. She had a great job. I cleaned up after people.
What did she see in me? I knew what I saw in her, and it was well above physical attraction, even though there was a lot to like about her physically. Staci was the definition of the women next door, she would give the shirt off her back to anyone, and she was always nice to people. Even though the scarlet red hair did show it’s devil side when push came to shove, she was still polite about it, which made it even scarier.
Even after the workout and Robert went home, my mind still lingered on the date to come. It was set for a Saturday, one of the few Saturdays that I had off. I knew it was coming and no matter how hard I tried to think about it or not think about it, that Saturday would be here.
I tried to take a nap, but all I could think about was her, she had taken up all my thoughts for many days now. I don’t know when it happened my thoughts from her being just a friend to me wanting more. I knew about her past and what her ex-husband had done to her and the rest of the family. If I met him in person, I would. I couldn’t think about that. Going back to prison wouldn’t help my standing with Staci.
I looked down at my phone as it went off, there was only one person it could be, sure enough, it was Staci.
‘Are you over thinking this as much as I am?’ the text read.
I smiled, misery loves company it would seem.
‘Yes, can’t stop,’ I replied.
‘Good, it’s a big step and I hope it’s a good one,’ she replied.
I started to reply, but I didn’t know what to say.
‘Get some sleep,’ Staci sent ‘Nothing we can do until Saturday.’
She was right of course, nothing I could do to prevent or make Saturday from coming any faster or any slower. So, I laid back down and sleep slowly overcame me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~
“No!” Robin said as I came out of my room, she had been standing there waiting for me it would seem.
“What?” I asked as she looked at me with a stern look.
“You always wear that,” Robin said as she looked at me up and down.
“What’s wrong with the way I look?” I asked.
“You look like you’re going to the grocery store to pick up milk, not like you are going on a date with a guy you’ve been thinking about for the last four days!” Robin said as she spun me around and pushed me towards my bedroom door.
I was wearing my favourite black jeans and blacktop. Obviously, Robin thought there was something wrong with it.
I sat down on the bed as Robing went into my walk-in closet. “No, definitely not, maybe, hell no, what the hell is this, seriously mom?” She said as she went through my clothes.
“What?” I asked as I got up to look.
“Stay!” Robin shouted as she peeped her head out to look at me. “Okay, now we are getting warmer, please say you have a black bra on?”
“Of course, wait, why?” I asked as I looked up at her.
“Keep everything else but put this on,” Robin said as she held up a black mesh top that I had worn once to a concert.
“No way, it will show everything,” I said, staring at it.
“That’s the point mom, he has seen nearly everything in your wardrobe, güvenilir bahis siteleri except for this,” Robin said as she stared at me.
She did have a point I had worn a lot of my best clothes to go out on the town with him. We had gone everywhere, movies, dinners, pool halls, where could we go now that would make it different. “Okay,” I nodded. If this was going to be a date, I had to be a bit more daring.
I looked in the mirror as I put it on, the back was a solid black, but the front was a see-through black mesh, he would be able to see my cleavage, as well as my black bra, underneath the bra line, was the same solid black as the back of it.
“Well?” Robin said as she stood behind me.
“I forgot how good the girls look in this,” I said as I twisted around the sides were black as well.
“He will be putty in your hands,” Robin said. “He does like big boobs doesn’t he?”
“Oh yeah,” I nodded. I had caught him staring at them more than a couple of occasions. Tonight I would be giving him a reason to stare longer. “There is a black leather jacket in there somewhere,” I said as I wanted to have some cover before the big reveal.
“So,” I said, standing in front of the mirror with the jacket on.
“Much better,” Robin said as she stood behind me.
“Keep everyone…” I started to say as I headed for the door.
“We know,” Robin and Robert said in unison. Sometimes I thought they shared one mind, they were twins of course, but sometimes I thought they were just too cute. Both of them knew what the other was thinking before they thought it.
“And…” I started to say as I opened the door.
“We won’t, and we will,” they said as they looked at me.
“I guess I am more nervous than I should be, huh?” I said, holding onto the door. The other two were upstairs in their rooms. If this were a typical night out with Ned, I would be out the door, in my car and driving away. But tonight was much different.
“Butterflies?” Robert asked as he nodded to his sister.
Robing was the one that could talk to me about anything, but Robert, boy I knew I was in trouble. He was the one that anchored me to reality. Robin was there for me when everything happened, but Robert was the one that finally got me to move out here. My grip on the doorknob tightened.
“Just a date,” Robert said in his familiar voice when he talked to me like an adult. “You have the car, so it goes sideways, leave.”
“But it’s Ned, you guys like Ned,” I said standing still. “Jack, even likes him, Jack doesn’t like anyone!”
“We will get over it, three weeks from now if Ned doesn’t show up, all of us will be saying who is Ned?” Robert smiled with a shrug.
“I know, but,” I started to say. “Am I the town joke?”
Robert smiled. He knew this was coming. When I got here I went on a semi date with the town flirt, then I ditched him for the town bully, now I was going for the town’s criminal, well I couldn’t say town’s because he lived in the city, but the premise was still the same.
“No,” Robert said as he leaned against the wall. “Mistaken, probably, lonely, most definitely, joke, no one thinks you’re a joke.”
I nodded. In this big house and with all my kids, I still felt lonely. Ned had filled a huge part of it, from the day we started talking there was nothing I couldn’t say to him. How I felt about Stan’s rise to porn fame. How I thought about the kids and their future.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Robert said as he looked at my hand. “Hope you have a good time.”
I slowly nodded my head and released the door. The cold night air greeted me as I walked down the stairs to the car.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She was going to be here in just over an hour from now, and I still hadn’t decided what to wear, most of my clothes she had seen already and it weren’t like I made the money that I could just go out and buy another outfit just for the night. Plus, there was the other problem. Every guy knew the problem a raging hard-on every time I thought about how the night would end. My thoughts were racing from a slap in the face, a long, lonely drive home, or a trip to a steamy hotel room.
Of course, my rational mind knew it would end with the two of us going our separate ways as friends, which was the right thing, of course. As much as I tried to be upbeat about my chances, I knew I was in the friend zone, and there was no way out of it. This night was just because she knew I wanted more and wanted to put things to the test if she felt the same way.
“Okay,” I said as I picked out the dark black pants, a dark blue top and the black jacket to match.
Now I had only one thing to take care of before I got dressed.
I sat on the edge of the bed and took out the lotion I always used when I thought of her. Within seconds I was furiously matching the tempo I thought about it if I ever got to fuck her from behind, grabbing that long red hair and pulling it back as our bodies collided over and over again. Quickly I reached for the tissues and covered myself up as I came.
“Now to get ready,” I said as I caught my breath.
It didn’t take long for the text message to come that she was coming into my apartment complex. I ran downstairs to meet her.
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