Chapter Nineteen

The aroma of bacon wafted into my room and I awoke yet again to its beck and call. I had to check my bearings for a moment- I knew I had gone home so there is no way Sofia could be cooking breakfast again. I, in fact, was in my own apartment. My own bed. Alone.

Removing the sheets from around me I sprung out of bed and opened the door, wiping sleep from my eyes. The sizzle and hiss of fat grew louder as I walked around the wall and into the kitchen. No Sofia, but there was a woman standing over a frying pan. A brunette, short, slender, with smooth fair skin. She had no pants on but wasn’t naked. A plaid shirt went just past her small buttock. A shirt that was once mine but Ralph took a liking to.

She turned and faced me. She had light freckles around her nose and thick black framed glasses. Her lips were petite yet inviting. Her light hazel eyes burned into you. She smiled with all of her teeth. “I’m sorry, did I wake you?” She had a Brooklyn accent with a hint of Irish.

“You awoke the sleeping giant in my belly.”

“There’s plenty,” She said, gesturing with a hand. Please,” she motioned for me to take a seat at the counter top opposite the stove. My stove. Well, Ralph and mine.

I walked over to the fridge for some orange juice. “I can take care of that for you. Just have a seat, breakfast will be ready momentarily.”

I stared at her a moment and felt I had no choice but to obey this strangers requests in my own home. As I sat down feet began padding towards me from behind. “Oh good you’re up.” Ralph said. He then went behind the woman and planted several kisses on her neck and collarbone. The mysterious woman playfully giggled as Ralph then whispered in her ear.

“Umm,” I said, to which Ralph turned in my direction.

“Oh that’s right. I haven’t introduced you two yet.” Ralph planted a final kiss on her neck and then came around until he was standing beside me. “This is Clarissa. She’s a theater major and about to make it big on Broadway.”

This Clarissa person giggled again while saying “I haven’t even auditioned for anything yet.”

“I’ve seen your talents, my dear. You’re exquisite.” The tone of his voice reminded me of when he used to bait women for sex with ridiculous lines of high praise. And do you know what? It worked. Clarissa’s actions were evidence. It’s rather curious though, his current actions. Several years ago the women he teased were never brought back to his place. In fact, they were never seen in public. There was a term for such women…

“Breakfast is ready.” Clarissa put food on plates for Ralph and I, poured orange juice and coffee, and buttered toast. I looked over at my closest friend to see if I could figure out his angle- he always had one. Nothing was physically there. His usual expressions were covered by those of, to my surprise, happiness. Enjoyment even.

The two of them ogled each other while I ate in silence. As I got up to put my plate in the sink I heard my phone ring. I made it to my room in time to see that it was Melina. I answered it, she inquired about the possibility of a visit from her and Freddy, I said yes, she said they’ll be over in two hours.

Upon re-entering the kitchen I noticed Clarissa was absent. “She’s in the shower. Early afternoon class today.” Ralph said, shrugging and then resumed eating what appeared to be his second plate.

“Melina and Freddy will be here in two hours.”

“I meant to tell you, she’s called a couple of times. Dropped by once. All for your sake.”

“Why didn’t she just drop by the office? She knows she’s welcome. Hell her names on the list of people to just let up.”

He shrugged again, no words this time.

In the time between Clarissa leaving and our old friends arriving Ralph and I played the latest Madden game. He chose the Colts while I chose the 49ers. We went into overtime just as Melina and Freddy rang the doorbell. “It’s open!” Ralph yelled as he chose a play on his third down. John Madden’s voice spoke a script on the statistics of his chosen play which coincided with the amount of times he’s used it in the game- it didn’t fair well; interception. From deep in my own territory I managed to make it into Ralph’s with a minute-ten on the clock, one time out on my side with none on Ralph’s. My running game proved almost useless but I shuddered at the thought of a reverse interception when I’ve finally managed to get the ball on his side. I was forty-seven yards out on my third down. I chose a passing play. I gained only two yards. I decided to go for the field goal; what did I have to lose?

I almost forgot Melina and Freddy were in the room until Freddy said “why not fake punt it?”

“Who says I’m not?”

“I saw no such play appear on screen.”

“Perhaps I manipulated the plays.”

“Perhaps you’re shit out of luck, my friend.” Ralph said.

The snap proved it was, in fact, a field goal attempt. Lining up the power and direction gauges I let my character do his thing. The ball sailed in the air, spiraling in different directions. Ralph and I were silent as it approached the goal posts, hit the middle bar, somersaulted, and then finally went through. Game over. I beat Ralph twenty to seventeen. The only words that had had been uttered by the time the TV was turned off had been “son of a bitch” in a defeated tone.

I turned to Melina. “I hear you’ve been looking for me.”

“Yea, uhh, can we talk in private?”

“It’s that serious?”

“Well, not exactly. But I would feel more comfortable discussing this alone.”

I shrugged and lead her to my room. Shutting the door, I turned to her once again. “I ran into Wendy at the Met the other day. She told me the two of you are back together?”

Uh-oh. I wasn’t ready to let anyone in on my secret but since the proverbial cat is out of the bag…

“You could say as much.”

Melina shifted her feet. “So who is Sofia?”

What the-?! “Uhh,”

“Yes?”

Melina was the only woman I’ve had as a confidant. She knows when something is bothering me, and when I spill a white lie. Aware of my…misgivings? of women, I think it may be appropriate to let her in on what’s going on. She is, after all, a woman so this may not go well. I shall have to make up another white lie, commit it to memory, and hope for the best.

I told Melina the story of how Sofia and I met and then ended it with there being sexual tension between us that may have been obvious to Ralph, to which he speculated that she and I may have acted upon it. “But we didn’t. I wanted to, yet somehow I managed to withstand her praying mantis seduction.”

“Why?”

“Come again?”

“Why didn’t you act upon them?”

“Be…cause I’m with Wendy?”

“And why are you with Wendy?”

“I don’t see how-”

“She’s not good enough for you.”

“I’m confused.” To no end, too.

“Wendy is attractive and slightly witty but she is not up to your level. She actually has a hard time keeping up. Ralph mentioned this Sofia woman is older than you.”

“In her thirties.”

“And she is successful?”

“In a matter of speaking, sure.”

That is the kind of woman you need to be with. You’re ahead of most women our age and, quite honestly, I’m surprised I have lasted this long in your life.”

“Where is all of this coming from, Melina?”

She took a breath. “The first of my calls was due to my having found someone you may have thought interesting. But when I found out about Sofia via Ralph, I decided to drop the idea and convince you to pursue her instead. According to his description, when you cut out the male suggestive words, she’s quite a catch. You haven’t been one to need women, this is not old news to me. Maybe you’ve never looked at me as one which is why I’m still around. But I want to see you happy with something besides work. I’d like to see you in love.”

“Melina, I,”

“Just think about it, will you?”

She proceeded to shove her pinky in my face. I interlocked my pinky with hers. She was the only person I still did such a thing with. It was very sacred, and I always kept the promises made. But, could I keep this one?

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