Sinful Abandon(9)

By: Jeannine Colette

In my room, I close the door and lean my back against the cool frame. What the hell is wrong with me? A man gives me attention for an hour, and suddenly, I’m lowering my standards for a pair of blue eyes and a nice smile.

I toss on black yoga pants and a purple racerback tank. The built-in shelf bra will have to suffice. Grabbing a twenty from my nightstand, I walk out of the room. My plan is to go out there and tell Ryan that it’s time for him to leave.

When I open the door and step out onto the veranda, he turns to me. His body, that was leaning on the railing, straightens up. His chin rises, and when his eyes look at my simple outfit, he smiles a grin so endearing, two dimples appear, one on each of his cheeks. The look of appreciation on his face makes me forget what it was exactly I was going to say.

The twenty-dollar bill being scrunched in my hand brings me back to the here and now.

“Thank you for the ride.” I motion toward him to take the cash.

Those full lips purse to the side. “I’m not taking your money. It was an honor.” He looks over the veranda and onto the city. “Besides, you need the cash to pay for this place. Must cost you a fortune.”

He’s not lying. The apartment is less than the rent in New York, but so is my salary.

Ryan stretches his hands on the balcony and looks out at the lights of the buildings. For someone who grew up in Chicago, he is staring at it like he’s seeing it for the first time.

“I’ve always dreamed of having a place like this,” he says. “Someday. That’s the goal, you know. You and me, we’re not so different.”

I walk up to the balcony and take a spot next to him. “Oh, yeah?”

“Though I don’t plan to marry for money. I want to show my parents I can be something spectacular. Take care of them in their old age.”

“You have good parents? What’s that like?”

“Simple. Fun. Loving. My parents are hardworking, good people, very affectionate, and they believe in love ever after. They expect the best from us.”

“You must have been an angelic child.”

He lets out a laugh, shaking his head. “I was mischievous. My parents are deaf, so I spent a lot of time trying to get into trouble. I used to climb onto the roof of my house and pretend I was Spider-Man. The problem with having parents who can’t hear is that they can feel everything. The single shake of a shingle, and my mom would come running outside to yell at me.”

I smile, despite myself. I lean against the rail and inhale the fog rolling off the lake.

“You mentioned your dad, but what about your mom?” he asks with what sounds like honest interest.

“She left.” I look out onto the darkness of the lake. “My parents never hugged me. Hell, they never touched each other. Their conversations were usually arguments or, on a special occasion, laughter during a party they were throwing with their boozy friends. Even those ended in arguments though.” I pause and look down at my hands. “She used to say that something better was out there. That a man with money and a life was going to take care of her. Can’t blame her for leaving. I just always wondered why she hadn’t taken me with her.”

An uncomfortable silence passes between us. It’s uncomfortable because of me. I’ve never told anyone about my mom, never cared to. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been asked.

I run my hands along the railing and turn to Ryan.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he says.

I wave off his sincerity. “No big deal. Made me who I am today. Confident, successful, driven. I can do anything.”

“Yes, you can.” He turns back to the darkened body of water. “Lake Michigan is beautiful, don’t you think?”

“It’s all right.”

“So big and intimidating. And strong. It has a current many are surprised to see when they visit. They say it looks like the ocean.”

I shrug and look out at the lake. I never paid mind to it in the months I’ve been here.

He leans his body into the rail and stretches out toward me. “But it’s just a lake. What you can’t see is—far beyond the horizon, further than your eye can see—it touches various lakes and rivers, getting its strength from those around it. Its current stretches all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.” He stands straight and turns his body to me. “You’re like the lake. You think you can do it all on your own without love. But, deep down, there is a current inside you that runs rapid, reaching out, flowing into others. You just have to look beyond the horizon to see it.”