The moment I woke up, before I even opened my eyes, I knew I wasn’t in my own bed. The pillow under my head smelled sweet, like roses, not like my aftershave or even the lavender fabric softener Mama bought. I cracked my eyes open and – Alison. I didn’t have to wonder what had happened the night before; the proof was literally right in front of me.
I fumbled at the side of the bed and grabbed my boxers from the floor, pulling them on as I nearly fell onto the floor in my haste to get up. Shit. Oh, shit. We slept together. I tried to remember what exactly had led up to this moment, but I just had a hazy impression of dinner, wine, and then the two of us on the couch.
On the bed, Alison stirred, her grey eyes slowly opening. For the briefest moment, a soft smile curled her lips before her expression shifted to horrified shock. “Oh my god.” She jumped out of the bed in nothing but her underwear – oh sure, drunk Alison had had enough presence of mind to put something on after sex, but not drunk me – and gaped at me. “Did we? We had – oh my god.”
“Pretty much my train of thought.” I raked a hand through my hair. This was something I’d literally dreamed about for years but never like this. Wasn’t she dating someone? I thought maybe I remembered her mentioning they’d broken up. God, I hoped so. And on the tail end of that thought came another, more serious question. “Did I…I mean, did we…Are you on…?” Christ, I felt fourteen again.
Warmth suffused Alison’s face. “I am.”
I let out a rush of air. “Thank God.”
Alison pulled on a robe and chewed her lower lip. “So, that happened.”
“Yeah.” This was so completely not the way I’d wanted to go about this. I found my pants and jerked them up my legs. “I’ve, uh, I’ve gotta go.” I pulled on my shirt, nearly strangling myself trying to cram my head through the sleeve. “I just – I’ve got to – “
“Go,” she finished for me. “Yeah. I need to get ready for work anyway.”
I nodded and all but ran out of her bedroom. As I headed to the front door, I caught a flash of two empty wine glasses and an accompanying bottle of wine on the coffee table. Then I was outside, the bright morning sunlight making me aware of all the drinking I’d done the night before.
Squinting my eyes against the light, I called a cab and headed home. In the backseat, I scrubbed my face hard with my hands. On the one hand, yes, I was thrilled that this particular door had been opened with Alison and I. But on the other, I’d really like to remember having done it. What if Alison regretted it? What if I’d pushed her? This could have ruined any chance I’d ever have at something meaningful with her.
At home, I snuck into the house as quietly as I could, praying that my parents were asleep or occupied in other parts of the house.
Because why should my luck turn good now all of a sudden?
I cleared my throat, stalling out in the living room. “Yeah, Mom, it’s me.”
Mom came into the room, dressed for work. “You didn’t come home last night.”
If my face got any hotter, I was going to combust. “Alison and I drank a lot of wine. I just crashed on her couch.”
She didn’t look like she believed me for a moment. “I hope you were careful. With the drinking,” she added meaningfully after a moment.
Let the earth open up and swallow me now. “We, um, were.” I ducked into the bathroom, unable to look at her anymore. I knew most college students ended up walk-of-shaming-it in front of their parents, but I’d never thought I’d be one of them.
I got undressed and stepped into the shower, letting the hot water wash away the smell of Alison and what we’d done. It didn’t wash away my fears though, or tell me what the right thing to do was.
I sat in my room, trying in vain to read. As my eyes glossed over the page, I replayed the fragmented memories of that night with Alison and the next morning. It was pretty much all I’d done for the last two days. She’d called me a couple of times, but I’d let it go to voice mail. I knew I was being a pussy, but I couldn’t talk to her yet. I couldn’t help but be afraid that she was going to say, “Look, Luc, I really just like you as a friend. That night was a mistake. I don’t want to date you or anything.”
The memory reel started over. Eating and drinking at the dining table. We moved to the living room. Alison flirted with me? I couldn’t remember who had initiated the flirting, though. Fumbling for the bedroom…clothes hitting the floor. Then the impression of her skin against mine and it was total blackout until I woke up the next morning. I looked at her and…her eyes open and are soft, pleased, then turn horrified…
The gears in my head ground to a halt and screeched backwards. Soft, pleased, grey eyes looking at me fondly. For the briefest instant, she’d been happy to find me there? Maybe she hadn’t been calling to tell me bad news. The only way I’d know is if I talked to her.
I checked the time on my phone. She’d gotten off work fifteen minutes ago. If I left now, I’d get to her apartment right after she did.
In a hurry, I jumped to my feet and ran outside to grab the keys to Mama’s car. Time to nut up, Luc. This is what you’ve wanted for years.
I almost stalled out when I got to her apartment, the nerves in my gut settling into a leaden ball, weighing me down. I pushed past it and walked up to her door.
It opened to her surprised face. “Luc, hey.”
“I like you, Alison,” I blurted. Real smooth. I smiled sheepishly at her. “Sorry, that was a little blunt. But I do. I’ve liked you for a long time. I’m sorry I’ve been AWOL, but I got freaked after the other night – worried it wouldn’t mean as much to you as it meant to me.” I shifted on my feet, knowing I was rambling but unable to stop. “I’d really like to do this right. I’d like to take you out. Date you. So, uh, would you have dinner with me?”
A smile broke over her face. “Yes.”