Just a Number(8)

By: A. D. Ryan

I can’t look him in the eye, because after countless fantasies and then this morning, his offer to “give me a ride” stirs up a world of inappropriate images. “Thank you, Owen. That would be great.”

After breakfast, I offer to clean up, and Dad heads upstairs to get ready for work. I wish he could stay home, because I love spending as much time with him as possible, but his job as a paramedic is very demanding, and he loves it, so I take what I can get.

I’ve just begun washing the dishes when Owen appears beside me with a dishtowel in his hand. I hand him the first dish, and when his fingers brush mine, a spark of desire shoots through me, settling deep in my stomach and inching its way down below. With a shaky breath, I look up to see that he looks just as stunned by this innocent touch. The only difference is shame fills his eyes before he tears them away from me, while I let my imagination run wild and visualize him pushing me up against the counter and having his way with me.

“Okay,” Dad says behind us, startling me. “I’m headed into work. Amy, I’ll leave the money for the groceries on the table. Don’t forget the pies.”

My shoulders slump, and I shake my head. “Dad, I’m not buying the pies. I’ll make them like Grandma used to.”

“No,” Dad argues. “You’re already going to be busy cooking. Just buy them, it’s fine.”

“Forget it. I’m making them. End. Of. Story.”

Shaking his head, he turns and heads away from the kitchen after dropping a stack of cash on the table and mutters, “So damn stubborn.”

“I wonder where I got that from!” I playfully shout after him. “Have a good day!”

The front door closes after his laugh, and I turn to Owen, leaning my hip against the counter and crossing my arms. “So, Dad wants pumpkin, but what’s your favorite kind of pie?”

His eyes nearly bug out of his head before I realize my unintended innuendo. I smile and try to laugh my way through it as I backpedal—something I seem to be doing a lot of this morning. “Clearly, that’s not what I meant. Wow, I’m really on a roll today, huh?”

“It’s fine,” Owen says, his blue eyes returning to their normal size. “I’ve apparently turned into a dirty old man who pounces on young girls while sleeping and reads a little too deeply into everything that’s said.”

“Who’s to say you did the pouncing?” I inquire teasingly. “If my dream was as real as it felt, I think it was me that instigated this whole thing—and, for the record, you’re not old.”

His eyes fall to the dishtowel in his hands, and he dries them roughly. “Old enough, Amy.” There’s something about his tone that throws me off; I don’t sense shame behind his statement, but...disappointment?

No, I tell myself, feeling a little silly. You’re reading too much into this. There’s no way that Owen Cavanagh, your father’s best friend, looks at you in that way.

“So, when did you want to head to the store?” Owen asks, changing the topic entirely.

“Um, let me shower quickly, and then we can go any time after that?” I suggest.

Owen nods. “Sure. I’d actually like to grab a shower, too. You go first.”

“Cool. Thanks.” I head upstairs and dig through my bag for my toiletries, grab a towel from the hall closet, and start the shower. As the bathroom fills with a warm fog, I undress, pull my hair from the ponytail, and step beneath the warm spray of water. Sighing in contentment, I realize just how much I missed the shower here; the one in my off-campus apartment has absolutely no water pressure.

While I would love nothing more than to stay in here, I don’t want to use up all of the hot water before Owen can have a turn, so I shut the water off after washing my hair and body. After quickly drying off, I get dressed and then comb my hair, leaving it down to dry. When I arrive downstairs, I find Owen on the living room couch, reading the paper.

“Okay, it’s all yours,” I tell him, climbing over the back of the couch and flopping down next to him, cross-legged. My knee brushes his thigh, and his gaze snaps to mine. Before he can make a big deal out of it, I smile and snatch the paper out of his hands. “Whatcha reading?”