Catch up here.
I stand on Chase’s concrete porch looking back at my old black Toyota Celica, sorely out of place, parked between his silver BMW Z4 and a white four-door Mercedes. He lives on the edge of downtown in an upscale neighborhood with wide three-story homes. It is a ten minute drive from my neighborhood in no traffic. I take a deep breath and turn to the blue door with a full glass panel. A sheer light blue curtain covers the glass on the other side. I press the doorbell with my index finger then nervously run a hand down my cotton navy wrap dress.
A splintering sound breaks the silence when the door opens to reveal Chase on the other side in jeans and a black v-neck t-shirt that makes his aquamarine eyes look lighter. A smile breaks out across his face. He holds his hand out and I accept it as I step up into his house and onto the wood floor.
“Welcome to my home,” he says warmly. “Would you like the grand tour?”
I inhale the garlicky aroma coming from the kitchen. “Sure.”
He keeps hold of my hand and leads me up the stairs. The guest room is the first room at the top of the stairs. The furniture is mission-style and the bed is covered with a thick down comforter in a tan duvet cover. His home office is across and down the hall a rosewood desk sits in the corner with a leather desk chair and a laptop. Three matching rosewood bookshelves line the opposite wall.
I run my fingers across the spines of the mix of science fiction/fantasy books and literature. “You’ve read all these?” I ask.
He nods. “When I’m not cooking, running, or going to the theater, I like to read.”
“No chick lit?” I smirk. “I thought a hopeless romantic like you would at least have Bridget Jones’ Diary,” I tease.
“Will romantic comedies on DVD suffice?” he asks as he leads me out of the room.
“It might. I prefer dramas, but a good RomCom now and then never hurt.”
“I will keep that in mind.”
A stark white bathroom with the exception of the navy towels and bath mat is at the end of the hall.
The master bedroom and bathroom take up the expanse of the third floor. French doors break up the wall facing the stairs and opens up to a balcony overlooking the back. The furniture is oversized and mahogany. A king size mattress lies on a solid mahogany platform between two windows across from the French doors. The bedding is a mix of deep green tones and above the oversized headboard hangs Hope, the abstract in greens, yellows, and burgundy that he bought.
A giant walk-in closet is next to the master bathroom on the far side of the room. It is full of mahogany cabinets, drawers, shoe racks, and clothes rods holding his neatly pressed shirts and suits. A full-length mirror covers a cabinet in the back of the closet.
The master bathroom floor and shower in the back is done in grey and tan slate. The shower takes up the back wall and is separated from the bathroom with just glass walls and doors. A long red cream marble counter with sink in the middle runs along the left wall with dark chocolate drawers and shelf underneath. A whirlpool bath sits on the right. A burgundy towel hangs on the towel rod inside the shower and more towels are folded and neatly stacked on the shelf under the counter.
He leads me back downstairs into the living room full of black leather furniture and a painting of another local artist on the only wall separating the living room from the kitchen. A TV hangs on the side wall in front of the sofa and chairs. The living room opens up to the dining room in the back corner. A large square walnut table fills the dining room with high-backed tan upholstered chairs surrounding it. The table is set with plain white dishes and simple silverware on tan placemats. A matching long side table sits under the window in the back of the dining room. A door to the backyard separates the kitchen at the breakfast bar from the dining room
The kitchen cabinets are finished in walnut and topped with tan marble. A matching island sits in the middle of the kitchen. Dark brown leather covered stools line the breakfast bar. A professional stainless steel oven and stove range sits next to the giant stainless steel refrigerator. A large window with a deep ledge over the sink looks out into the backyard. Potted herbs line the window ledge.
A half bathroom painted in slate grey and a utility room with a washer and dryer are to the right of the kitchen. A coat closet is built in under the stairs.
Chase uses two dark green hand towels to remove the baking pan from the oven. The garlic aroma becomes heavier as he cuts the lasagna with a sharp knife.
“It smells wonderful.” I lean closer to the bubbling lasagna and take a big whiff. “Do you need help with anything?”
“The salad is in the refrigerator.” He tips his head in the direction of the appliance then picks the pan up again and takes it into the dining room.
I take out the large white bowl and set it next to the lasagna on the table. Chase retrieves an uncorked bottle of wine from the kitchen and pours some of the red liquid into our wine glasses. He pulls out my chair and scoots it in under me as I sit.
“Thank you,” I say laying my napkin across my lap.
“My pleasure,” he returns as he sits. He gestures to the salad bowl. “Please.”
I use the wooden salad tongs to serve myself. It is a simple salad of mixed greens, grated carrots, and chopped mushrooms dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.
I pass him the salad and he trades it for the spatula. I move my plate closer to the pan and slide the spatula under the bottom of one of the portions Chase cut in the kitchen. I can see the layers of pasta, sausage, vegetables, and ricotta.
I brush my hair over my shoulders before I start in.
The salad is light and balances out the heaviness of the warm lasagna.
“I think you need to cook for me more often.”
He raises a brow. “Is that an offer?”
The left corner of my mouth lifts up. “Absolutely.”
“Tuesday it is,” I confirm and smile to myself.
“I’m just…content,” I sigh.
He runs the back of his fingers down my cheekbone. “I am, too.”
“Your house is beautiful, Chase, but it must be a pain to clean,” I say as I stab the salad with my fork.
“I might love to cook, but I hate cleaning. I have someone come in and clean for me on Fridays.”
“Must be nice,” I say with a hint of resentment.
“You know I don’t come from money,” he reproves.
“I know. I’m sorry,” I respond contritely.
“I’m not a lavish spender like some of my colleagues, Lara.” He sets his fork down and drills me with his aquamarine eyes. “I’m careful about how I spend and what I buy, but I don’t mind paying someone to do something for me. It means someone else is employed when I do.”
“I get it.” I cover his knee with my left hand. “My problem is all in my head. Sometimes, I feel like I never got out of the Southside. Like I’m still living at home, doing without and scrimping because it’s so ingrained in me. Being in this house for the first time makes me wonder how a man like you could be interested in a woman like me.”
He curls his hand around mine. “I am interested in you because you are smart, confident, and graceful. It has nothing to do with where you came from or where you are now.” He rubs his thumb over my hand. “And sometimes I feel like I’m still back in that small town trying to save up for college.”
“I’m really sorry, Chase.”
He squeezes my hand. “I don’t think anyone has taken me to task for spending my money before. Usually, they’re chiding me for not spending my money.”
“You’re hanging out in the wrong circles.”
He raises a brow. “Does that mean I need to quit my job?”
“Only if you want to.” I grin.
We spend the rest of dinner discussing the week ahead of us and carefully avoid any mention of Robin and tomorrow.
I help Chase wash dishes then we settle down on the sofa to watch an episode of American Masters on The Joffrey Ballet he saved on his DVR. Chase drapes his arm over my shoulder and he kisses my head as I nestle into him. I turn my head lazily to him and smile. His head moves in and his lips press against mine for a moment. He returns to his attention to the TV and squeezes me into him as I smile again.
©Debi Smith, 2014