Flicking his chin towards the black bag, he looks down at the tank I’m wearing a long moment before he replies, “Boxers.”
Rolling up a black pair, I throw them at him, and as soon as he catches them, he slams the door shut.
Curious as to what he was looking at, I turn my head to the side and look down at my oversized makeshift pajamas.
Oh, for the love of- Great. Just great.
Nox saw my sideboob.
My cheeks flush. At least he didn’t see nipple. Just pasty-white side-boob.
Side-boob won’t affect anything. What do I care? I’ve seen his bare ass. His mighty fine bare ass. I wonder what it would feel like. It looks like you could bounce a quarter off it.
As my mind wanders, Nox opens the door and asks, “Want a shower before breakfast?”
Wanting to get out of this confined space as quickly as possible, I spray myself with his deodorant before throwing it to him. He sprays himself and throws it back. I respond with, “Nah. Let’s go.”
Slipping on my now clean workout pants, Nox stops me with the stink eye and an, “Uh, no.”
Shaking his head, he looks down at my ensemble through furrowed brows. “You’re not going out like that, Lily. Put somethin’ else on.”
I’m not quite sure what the problem is here. “What’s wrong with what I’ve got on?”
Walking up to me, he pinches the bottom of the tank between his forefinger and thumb and announces, “This is not appropriate for down there.”
Ha! I know what this is about now. I chuckle while shaking my head slowly, “Is this because of this morning’s side-boob?”
His face turns confused. “Side- side-” Lifting his hands to his head, he rubs his temples slowly as if he’s getting a headache and mutters, “I’m not sure I wanna know, but what the fuck is side-boob?”
Rolling my eyes, I respond, “So you saw the side of my boob. It’s all good. I’ve seen you’re your ass, so we’re even. C’mon.”
Walking toward the door, Nox says firmly, “I’m serious, Lily. You’re not goin’ out like that. It’s just askin’ for trouble. Put on a damn bra.”
Who knew Nox was a prude?
I shoot back, “I don’t have a damn bra! If you remember, I didn’t exactly pack for this trip!”
Visibly calming himself, he breathes deeply and replies on an exhale, “Fine. That’s fine. Then you’ll just have to wear another tee or somethin’, because I can see- see- your- uh- side-boob.”
Score one: Lily.
Smiling angelically, I take the tee from his outstretched hand. My fingers brush his and I ask sweetly, “Why didn’t you just say so then?”
My brain claps and pulls an impressed face.
Did I just flirt with Nox?
Another big breakfast this morning goes down well. This time, I order the tomato and cheese omelet and it’s moist and fluffy. Just heavenly. Chasing that with Nox’s pancakes once again, and a glass of OJ, I watch while he orders yet another platter of sandwiches and flirts with the sweet waitress from the day before.
Why doesn’t he flirt with me like that?
I fight the urge to pout and let him drag me along. My belly’s getting the better of me again, half way there, he has to piggyback me. He says, “Maybe I should just buy you a wheelchair.”
I can’t help but laugh and laugh right in his ear.
It seems that food, mixed with copious amounts of horny, equals drunk.
Which brings us to now. Third day in our little love shack. Minus the love.
I’m secretly looking forward to going to bed tonight, just so I can feel those arms around me again. My mood has improved three-hundred percent. Nox’s by about thirty-seven percent.
That’s a fact. Don’t question my calculations.
A little joking over breakfast has set the speed for the day, and my heart skips a beat when I see him grabbing things from around the place. He puts some bills in his pocket and says, “Don’t go anywhere. Be right back.”
But... but… what?
“Where are you going?” I don’t even try to mask my fallen face.
“Out. Be right back.”
I’m suddenly fuming. “And what, Nox? I’m just meant to play the willing captive while you’re gone?”
Confusion mars his face and he mutters, “What the f-” Shaking his head, he places a hand on his hip and utters, “Let me put this in a way you’ll understand.”
Putting on his best bimbo, he bounces on his heel and says, “Like, tryna keep you safe here!”
Biting my lip to stop myself from laughing, his eyes darken as he strides over to me, trapping me between the door and his chest. He mutters, “Maybe you want that. Maybe you like the idea of being a captive. Being helpless.” Leaning forward, the tip of his nose brushes my earlobe and he whispers, “Does that turn you on, princess?”
I’m not sure what’s happening here. My hormones have gone haywire and my brain is drooling again. I manage to whisper back, “Now you’re just being a jerk.”
His body turns rock solid before he sighs, reaches for the handle, and leaves me in our honeymoon suite.
Alone and lonely.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Three days have passed and I’m back in the safe house slash safe mansion slash pentagon.
Not long after our close and extremely awkward encounter, Nox came back into our room and advised me to pack my shit. I told him I had no shit to pack.
He responded with, “Great. Then you’re ready to go.”
I asked, “Go where?”
Holding my eyes, he replied softly, “Home.”
And somehow, I just knew he meant my home away from home.
In saying that, nine hours later, we were back. And it’s good to be home.
Is it weird that I feel like this is home?
No. I don’t think so. Not when we arrived back and Boo ran over to me, hugging the life out of me for a solid minute, stroking my hair like long lost sisters being reunited. Not when a seriously relieved looking Rock picked me up and swung me around, telling me, “Great to have you back, babe.”
Nox spoke to them both for a moment in whispers and riddles, and I knew better to ask about what happened the day the alarms went off.
Which brings us to now.
Three days later and completely Nox free. Again.
I have a feeling he’s avoiding me. Again. But I’ve been spending most of my time with Boo, and that makes me happy.
“Oh, you bitc- Motherfu- Shitballs!”
Boo chuckles, “Oh relax. It isn’t that bad.”
I scoff, “Yeah, right, you freakin’ harlot.”
Boo laughs. I cringe and whimper, “Oh God. You’re actually enjoying this.”
When she stops, she asks, “Your sister never tried this?”
Fisting the sheets, I reply through gritted teeth, “Oh, she tried. I karate chopped her ass.”
She says, “I don’t get it.” I open my eyes to find her looking down at me, “The whole you don’t have friends thing. You’re pretty cool, Deedee.”
Taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, I explain, “Well, Dad was always overprotective. Then it got worse. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere without him or Mom. I never really understood it.” Till now, I think.
“I mean, what’s the worst that could happen from me going to a sleepover?” I sigh, “Eventually, the little friends I had stopped asking me to come over and drifted away from me. My sister was always there for me, though. She had this way about her. I guess she still does. She’s always been popular, so no one questioned why she wasn’t coming out to parties and stuff. She’d just pass it off with ‘I’ve got a better offer’ or ‘Nah, it’s not really my thing’. Well, Terah got sick of Dad’s rules and started sneaking out and I- I didn’t. I’d stay at home with my book boyfriends and that was fine by me. Ow! Stop that!”
Plucking another stray hair, she pulls back and says, “Done.”
Standing, I walk over to the mirror and check my newly shaped eyebrows.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
I look back at her through the mirror and state, “So much pain for this? It doesn’t even look like you plucked anything.”
Lying back on the bed, she says, “Oh, it’s noticeable, alright. You’re lucky. You’ve been blessed with a great shape. You should see mine when I don’t pluck.” She lifts her head and looks at my reflection in the mirror. “Scary. I’d have a unibrow in the shape of the McDonald’s m.”
Turning around, I lean back on the dresser and ask, “Why do you even bother? You work with men, and I’m sure they don’t care that you pluck.”
She smiles slyly and bats her lashes, “Oh, but my man would.”
Eeek! Her man! Swoon.
Bouncing over to the bed wearing an annoyingly cheeky smile, I ask in a sing-song voice, “Oh, yeah? Who is he?”
Her answer shocks me so much my mouth gapes. “Rock.”
Leaning forward, I whisper-hiss, “No way!”
Chuckling, she replies, “Way, baby.”
My mouth hangs open and she laughs. I sputter, “B- b- but you guys act like you don’t even like each other.”
Nodding, she smiles sadly, “Technically, we aren’t allowed to see each other. It’s...” She actually lifts her hands and does slow quotation mark actions with her fingers, “…fraternizing. Nox knows, but he said he can’t really do anything about it unless it affects our work, which I would never let happen anyways. And what with Rock and Nox being best friends, I think Nox is actually happy to see that Rock’s got something good in this life.”
Confused by that last statement, I ask quietly, “What do you mean in this life?
Boo searches my face a while. She looks unsure before answering me quietly, “Babe, we don’t exist.”
Confused even more now, my brow furrows as I ask, “Come again?”
She lies back down with her arms resting behind her head. Looking up at the ceiling, she explains, “This thing - what we do - protection and elimination. We don’t work for anyone. We work for ourselves. I guess you could call it a made-up business. We all have titles within our sector, but the sector doesn’t actually exist. We’re all privately employed and we get paid a lot to do what we do. The condition of being employed this way is to be unseen, and our circle to be impenetrable. So everyone you’ve met here, they don’t have any form of real identification. Every document, ID card, and bank account we have is under a false name.” Turning her head to face me, she finishes with, “We don’t exist.”
Holy shit, that’s insane.
Staring right back at her, I surmise, “So everyone I’ve met here is going under a fake name?”
She nods and I ask, “What happened to who you were? You know, who you used to be?”
Smiling a sad smile, she responds quietly, “She died, babe. We all did.”
My heart squeezes as I whisper, “Well, that sucks.”
Boo turns to her side and we look at each other for a moment. We’re having a silent conversation.
My mouth droops and I frown slightly. I’m sorry, boo. That really does suck.
She shrugs slightly and winks. It’s okay. I’m okay with it.
Playing with my fingertips, I blurt out, “Constance? You chose the name Constance?”
She bursts into laughter and I do, too. We laugh together a short while before her face softens and she replies quietly, “It was my mom’s name. My way of never forgetting her. She was a Connie so it never felt right calling myself that. One day, Rock told me I was quiet as a ghost so he nicknamed me Boo, and I’ve been Boo ever since.” Suddenly sobering, she asks, “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Shaking my head, I tell her, “Not unless he’s the fictional kind. It’s just me and my books.”
Her face turns thoughtful, her eyes sad. She murmurs, “Must get lonely.”
Smiling, I say just as quietly, “I could say the same for you.”
She smiles back. “Touché.”
We both lay back down on the bed with a sigh. I guess my life isn’t so bad.
At least I’m not dead.
Excusing myself to get something to eat for me and Boo, I run into the kitchen and my sock-covered feet, and slide to a stop only an inch away from Nox.
His blue eyes flash. “Where you goin’ so quick, princess?”
Today is one of the rare days he doesn’t have on a shirt.
My eyes strain as I beg them to remain fixed on his face and not his broad and solid chest, which is deliciously damp with perspiration.
“Just getting something to eat.”
Nodding, he says genuinely, “Glad your appetite’s back.”
Nodding in return, I respond sincerely, “Me, too.”
And then nothing.
A loooong awkward silence.
Moving around him to the pantry, my brain reminds me that we have something to discuss with him. Just as he moves to leave the huge kitchen, which suddenly feels about as big as a mailbox, I call out, “Actually, I’ve been meaning to ask if you spoke to Mitch about me talking to my sister.”
Face void of emotion, he leans his hip on the counter. “No. Not yet.” Reaching over the counter, he picks up an apple and plays with it.
I’m a little pissed at this. He said he would try. My face turns to steel. I walk around the kitchen slamming the pantry shut, and open and close the drawers far too quickly, wanting the noise to convey my mood right now.
Nox sees right through me. “Why’re you pissed, now?”
Losing my patience, I shout, “Know what would make me happy, Nox? Knowing my sister is okay! I like Boo, no, I love Boo, but she isn’t my sister, and you think I don’t know what you’re doing, and that makes you so much more of a dick! Know what would make me better than happy? Actually speaking to her and hearing for myself that she’s alive and well. Not shoving a substitute under my nose.”