Seeing Leila outside the context of Windenburg is kind of surreal. I’m used to seeing her under the flashing lights of the dance floor or in the cool evening light as the old world lamps came on. In the bright light of my front lawn, she looked almost out of place.
Mom and Dad were so happy to finally meet her. They had Donovan ready to greet her too, which was what I was most excited about. I’d explained it to him as much as I could, but he’s still young. I don’t know if he really gets what girlfriend or boyfriend means.
Normally he runs straight up to strangers, and he’s so used to having people come in and out of the house. Today he hung back and watched. Mom and Dad were their usual happy hosts. They offered to show her around the house, and Dad was going to get started on lunch, but I reminded him we already had a date planned. Leila’s only spending a few days with us between job hunting. Besides, I’m her girlfriend. I can show her around.
As Mom and Dad headed into the kitchen, taking Donovan to his chair, Huey ran into the room. Leila didn’t hesitate to give him pets. He gave a happy bark, tail thumping against the ground, and he rolled over so she could get his belly. She grinned at me as I watched.
“My parents never let me have a pet,” she said. “I’m so jealous.”
I heard Mom moving the dog food around in the kitchen, and Huey raced away without a second thought. I shook my head.
“Some days it’s really nice,” I said.
I took her upstairs, pointing out paintings in the living room or the game set Aunt Mira left behind. We have so much stuff gathered up over the years, and she wanted to look at everything. Finally I took her into the guest room. It’d been May’s room years ago, completely redecorated since then.
“I hope it’s okay,” I said.
“You live in the nicest house I’ve ever been inside, and you ask me if it’s okay.” She grinned, looking around. “These are some really sweet digs.”
“It’s all yours as long as you’re here,” I said. “And I really appreciate you being cool about this whole meet-and-greet with my ex.”
She walked around the room a little before settling on the bed. I settled beside her, wondering for the hundredth time if it was cool offering her the guest bedroom. We’ve only seen each other when I was visiting Anastasia. Despite our initial connection, we hadn’t had the time or privacy for anything more intimate. I could offer her my bed, but was that too much too soon? Was the guest bed too cold? Did it make it seem like I didn’t want her?
“This place is severely amazing,” Leila continued, interrupting my anxiety train before it had time to leave the station. “And I’m weirdly excited to meet your ex. I want to scope him out. See what you’re into.”
I laughed. “Is my penchant for redheaded party animals not obvious enough?”
“It’s so cool that you have such an easy relationship with him,” she said. “I think I’ve burned nearly every bridge in Windenburg.”
“Well, we always have a bed ready for you,” I said.
She smiled and leaned in, and that panic overtook me again. Had that been an invitation? It’s been four years since I’ve been with anyone at all. I feel like I’ve forgotten everything about dating. I feel like I’ve forgotten everything about having sex. I thought I might get a crash course in it as her hand touched my thigh, and my phone went off. A text from Ernest. Time to go.
We settled into the booth of the same breakfast place we’ve always gone to. Ernest and Stacy were already there, and Leila was quick with the introductions. I grabbed for a menu, desperate for something to fidget with.
“It’s so good to finally meet you,” Ernest said to Leila. “I see all the pictures April posts.”
“Windenburg looks like so much fun,” Stacy said. “I’ve never been outside of Willow Creek.”
“It’s a neat town,” Leila said, “but I’m enjoying something different.”
I was trying my best not to stare at Stacy. I don’t want to say I’m jealous, because I’m not, but she’s so–she’s so unlike me. I feel like Ernest picked out my polar opposite somehow. She’s sweet, full figured, well read, helps out at the local animal shelter, and looks like she’s Suzy Homemaker. Looking at the two of them, they’re a perfect match. It’s so weird to think Ernest went for me when he so obviously deserves her.
“I’ve Internet stalked you too!” Leila said, and I brought my hand up to hide a smile. “The second I saw pictures of Donovan I had to see which lover boy brought that beauty into the world.”
“Ignore her.” I pushed her arms down. “She’s just being mean.”
“You have Donovan next weekend, right?” Stacy grinned at Ernest. “I’ve only met him a few times, but I’m so excited to spend a whole day with him. If that’s okay, April.”
“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “I trust Ernest. And if Leila is spending a few days with us, you deserve the weekend.”
“I’m really glad we’re doing this anyway.” Ernest put a hand on hers, looking at her–looking at her the way he used to look at me. I remember the way my chest tightened, like looking into a bright light in front of the whole auditorium. But Stacy gave him star eyes back. I glanced at Leila, who was giving me a smirk. I can tell when she wants to be snarky, and I bit my cheek to keep from smiling.
We got our food, and we kept talking. The more Stacy talked, the more I got why Ernest was so into her. She’s so sunny and sweet. Their combined positivity could power the sun.
I thought lunch would be weird, and it was, kind of. But it feels so nice being, like, four adults. Having a conversation with Ernest that didn’t evolve around potty training. To be a couple thinking about couple things. My whole life’s revolved around other people since I got pregnant. It’s so nice to do something for myself for once.
The first day with Leila here was amazing, even if we were exhausted by the end of it. We microwaved leftovers for dinner and watched a movie with Donovan. I left Leila to relax while I put Donovan to bed.
I’m so used to having the upstairs to myself. Leila was brushing her teeth as I pushed open the door to the bathroom, which wouldn’t have been so bad, if it weren’t for what she wore to bed. Or rather, how little of it she wore.
“Sorry,” I said, trying not to look. “I haven’t had to share this bathroom in a minute.”
She only laughed.
“It’s okay,” she said. “It could be way worse.”
It’s not like I’ve never seen a girl without her pants on before. But something about Leila completely throws me. She’s effervescent. She shines. In my boring bathroom with Donovan’s potty half a foot from us, she blew me away.
“Hey, can I ask you something?” She moved closer to me. “Do I make you nervous?”
I fidgeted. “I–I don’t mean to be nervous.”
“It’s just, like–” Now she looked nervous. “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable or anything. I’m fine sleeping in the guest room, but I was sort of excited to, you know… Get some private time.”
“Look,” I said, swallowing down my embarrassment. “The truth is I haven’t had a date since Donovan was born. It’s been four years since I’ve been with anyone.”
“Four years, really?” She snorted and stopped when she saw my face. “Sorry. I guess I can’t judge.”
“The point is,” I continued, “I’m, um, afraid, I guess. That I’m so out of practice. And around you I feel like–like I’m a teenager again. Like I’m back in that club, when we first met. I know that sounds stupid.”
She smiled and took my hands. Leila’s got this sexy smirk, and I could feel my heart beating faster.
“You are, without a doubt, the sexiest woman I’ve met,” she said. “And your flustered routine is super cute. And I’m absolutely certain that, even if you did lose your mojo, a fair amount of tutelage will get your right back on top.”
Now was my turn to laugh. “Is that your best line?”
“You want me to do better?” she asked.
No interruptions to stop us. No parents to walk in on us, no texts from the ex, and Donovan was safely put to bed. When her hand went up my thigh, I didn’t stop her. I found the skin beneath her shirt, she found the latch of my bra, and I felt the flush of her skin, the sweet scent of her, the warmth that flooded off of her.
It felt so, so good. I haven’t felt this good in ages. I haven’t had someone touch me like this in ages.
And in the end, we fell asleep together. I missed this too. Having someone next to me. Sharing a bed. Just being with someone.
Which never lasts long. Watcher, I hope Donovan didn’t hear any of that. He was upset over a nightmare he had. He’d been having them for weeks now. I bought him a little nightlight, but he still got me up in the middle of the night.
I comforted my baby. He didn’t question why there was someone in my bed. Maybe not everything about this week is about me.
As I put Donovan down to bed, I found myself imagining a future like this. With Leila. Sharing a bed with her, looking after Donovan, climbing back into a warm bed with my girlfriend.
It’s a really nice future to look forward to.