Or was it Colton?
Please not Colton.
I really didn’t need him knowing that I was near caveman size when it came to my feet.
Flipping the light on inside, I quickly closed the door behind me and kicked off my ruined shoes. My pinched toes sighed in relief as I stared up at the narrow staircase directly in front of the door. More than anything I wanted to climb those steps and throw myself into my bed, but I felt disgustingly dirty and my throat felt like the Mojave Desert.
The section of townhouses had been built in the early nineties so the entire first floor rocked the whole open concept. The living room area was cozy with a couch and chair, situated around a TV and coffee table. The space opened right into a dining room that I honestly never used. Most of my dinners were on the couch. All the appliances had been new in the kitchen, and I’d fallen in love with the gray granite countertops the moment I walked into it.
I turned on the light in the kitchen and went straight to the fridge. Diets be damned. I picked up a can of Coke, popped the lid, and nearly drank all of it while the fridge door was still open, throwing out cold air.
“God,” I whispered, lowering the can slowly as I closed the fridge door. “Tonight…”
There were no words.
I turned around and walked out of the kitchen, carrying my can of soda and purse with me. As I walked back through the dining area, my gaze fell over the framed photos nailed to the wall. When I moved in, it had taken me nearly two years to hang those portraits.
Some were easier than others. Like the picture of me and the girls from college, standing in Times Square, or the really terrible college graduation photo. For some reason, I ended up looking cross-eyed in it. Most people would want to hide the photo, but it made me laugh.
It had made Kevin laugh.
My gaze tracked over to the photo of my parents. It had been taken in their home, in the kitchen I’d grown up in. It had been Thanksgiving morning and Dad had snuck up on Mom, wrapping his arms around her waist from behind. Both were smiling happily.
They passed away in a car accident my second year of college. It had been a huge blow, shattering. Dealing with the loss of both parents at once had been nearly impossible, but naïvely, I had believed that would be the only real loss I’d suffer. I mean, come on, what was the statistical probability of losing another loved one to something as unfair and unpredictable as another car accident?
The only photo I had hanging of Kevin was the one of him standing alone at our wedding, dressed in the tux he’d rented from a cheap wedding shop in town. It was outside, in the bright July sun, and he was more golden than blond. I loved this photo so much because it captured the warmth in his brown eyes.
That was Kevin. Always warm. Always welcoming. He was the kind of person who never met a stranger. I pressed my lips together as I stared at his boyishly handsome face. As the months had turned into years, it became harder and harder to pull his features from memory alone. The same with my parents. There were days when all of them would appear in my mind as clear as day, while other days they were nothing more than a ghost.
I’d loved Kevin. I still did. And I missed him. We had been high school sweethearts, and he’d been the only man I’d been with. Looking back, I knew we didn’t have the kind of passion that curled the toes or woke you up in the middle of the night, wet and ready, and we were simply…familiar with one another, but we loved each other.
And I didn’t regret a second I spent with him.
I just regretted the moments afterward because I knew that Kevin would’ve wanted me to move on, to find someone else to love. He wouldn’t want me to be alone.
My throat clogged and I briefly squeezed my eyes shut against the rush of tears. Holding it together, I trudged on, heading upstairs. There were three bedrooms, but one of them was barely large enough to hold a bed, so it had become my office. Which was perfect because the room faced the backyard and the garden down below, enabling me to procrastinate for hours when I should be working.
I passed the tiny hallway bedroom and entered the master at the front of the townhouse. The room was spacious, complete with its walk-in closet and attached master bath. The Jacuzzi tub had become my best friend forever since I moved in.
Flipping on the nightstand light, I walked my purse over to the dove-gray sitting chair near the door. I dug my phone out and then plugged it into the charger on the nightstand. All I wanted to do was plop face first onto the bed, but I went into the bathroom and peeled off my clothes. I started to dump them in the laundry basket, but instead, I rolled them up in a ball, panties and bra included, to take down to the trash in the morning. I didn’t want to wear the clothing again, let alone see it.
Tired, I cranked the water up and waited with my back to the mirror above the sink for the water to heat up to near scalding temps, the way I liked it.
I tried not to look at myself in the mirror when I was completely nude.
I didn’t like to see my reflection.
I wasn’t…comfortable with it.
It wasn’t the tiny dimples or the roundness of certain parts of my body that made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t physical. Or maybe it was, because I hadn’t felt…attached to my own skin in a while. I knew that sounded crazy, but it was almost like I no longer even knew my own body. It was something that I wore. I wasn’t intimate with it beyond using my trusty vibrator every so often. Maybe I’d just gone too long without intimacy.
And tonight, for the first time in years, I actually felt something when Colton had touched my chin. And how sad was that? The guy had touched my chin and that was the closest to physical interaction I’d gotten since Kevin.
This was the last thing I wanted to think about tonight. My body ached as if I had overexerted myself as I stepped under the steady spray. The shower felt like the longest of my life and slipping on the worn Penn State shirt and thin, cotton shorts was literally a chore.
Finally, after what felt like forever, I was in bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I stared at the silently spinning ceiling fan and I couldn’t stop thinking about the man who died tonight. Did he have a family? A wife who was going to be getting that horrific knock on the door? Did he have kids? Were his parents still alive and would soon be burying their son? Would they ever catch the man responsible?
Did I have something to fear?
Reaching over, I picked up the remote and turned the TV on, keeping the volume low, but it did nothing to stop the steady stream of thoughts.
I’d seen someone die.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I rolled over onto my side and for the first time in years, I cried myself to sleep.