The thought of moving in with him seems so final, as if I would be sealing my fate. I know that once we take that step, the next step is marriage, and then I’d be looking at never having the chance to live alone. I’ve always had a roommate, and until I can afford my own place, I’ll be sharing an apartment with Tori. I haven’t told Hunter yet, but I really want to live alone for a year. It’s something I promised myself I would do before I got married. I don’t even turn twenty-two for a couple of weeks, so it’s not as if I’m in any hurry.
I take Hunter’s food to him in the living room.
“Why do you watch this?” he says to Tori. “All these women do is talk shit about each other and flip tables.”
“That’s exactly why I watch it,” Tori says, without taking her eyes off the TV.
Hunter winks at me and takes his food, then props his feet up on the coffee table. “Thanks, babe.” He turns toward the TV and begins eating. “Can you grab me a beer?”
I nod and walk back into the kitchen. I open the refrigerator door and look on the shelf where he always keeps his extra beer. I realize as I’m staring at “his” shelf that this is probably how it begins. First, he has a shelf in the refrigerator. Then he’ll have a toothbrush in the bathroom, a drawer in my dresser, and eventually, his stuff will infiltrate mine in so many ways it’ll be impossible for me ever to be on my own.
I run my hands up my arms, rubbing away the sudden onset of discomfort washing over me. I feel as if I’m watching my future play out in front of me. I’m not so sure I like what I’m imagining.
Am I ready for this?
Am I ready for this guy to be the guy I bring dinner to every night when he gets home from work?
Am I ready to fall into this comfortable life with him? One where I teach all day and he does people’s taxes, and then we come home and I cook dinner and I “grab him beers” while he props his feet up and calls me babe, and then we go to our bed and make love at approximately nine P.M. so we won’t be tired the next day, in order to wake up and get dressed and go to work and do it all over again?
“Earth to Sydney,” Hunter says. I hear him snap his fingers twice. “Beer? Please, babe?”
I quickly grab his beer, give it to him, then head straight to my bathroom. I turn the water on in the shower, but I don’t get in. Instead, I lock the door and sink to the floor.
We have a good relationship. He’s good to me, and I know he loves me. I just don’t understand why every time I think about a future with him, it’s not an exciting thought.
Maggie leans forward and kisses my forehead. “I need to go.”
I’m on my back with my head and shoulders partially propped against my headboard. She’s straddling my lap and looking down at me regretfully. I hate that we live so far apart now, but it makes the time we do spend together a lot more meaningful. I take her hands so she’ll shut up, and I pull her to me, hoping to persuade her not to leave just yet.
She laughs and shakes her head. She kisses me, but only briefly, and then she pulls away again. She slides off my lap, but I don’t let her make it very far before I lunge forward and pin her to the mattress. I point to her chest.
“You”—I lean in and kiss the tip of her nose—“need to stay one more night.”
“I can’t. I have class.”
I grab her wrists and pin her arms above her head, then press my lips to hers. I know she won’t stay another night. She’s never missed a day of class in her life, unless she was too sick to move. I sort of wish she was feeling a little sick right now, so I could make her stay in bed with me.
I slide my hands from her wrists delicately up her arms until I’m cupping her face. Then I give her one final kiss before I reluctantly pull away from her. “Go. And be careful. Let me know when you make it home.”
She nods and pushes herself off the bed. She reaches across me and grabs her shirt, then pulls it on over her head. I watch her as she walks around the room and gathers the clothes I pulled off her in a hurry.
After five years of dating, most couples would have moved in together by now. However, most peoples’ other halves aren’t Maggie. She’s so fiercely independent it’s almost intimidating. But it’s understandable, considering how her life has gone. She’s been caring for her grandfather since I met her. Before that, she spent the majority of her teenage years helping him care for her grandmother, who died when Maggie was sixteen. Now that her grandfather is in a nursing home, she finally has a chance to live alone while finishing school, and as much as I want her here with me, I also know how important this internship is for her. So for the next year, I’ll suck it up while she’s in San Antonio and I’m here in Austin. I’ll be damned if I ever move out of Austin, especially for San Antonio.
Unless she asked, of course.
“Tell your brother I said good luck.” She’s standing in my bedroom doorway, poised to leave. “And you need to quit beating yourself up, Ridge. Musicians have blocks, just like writers do. You’ll find your muse again. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
She smiles and backs out of my bedroom. I groan, knowing she’s trying to be positive with the whole writer’s block thing, but I can’t stop stressing about it. I don’t know if it’s because Brennan has so much riding on these songs now or if it’s because I’m completely tapped out, but the words just aren’t coming. Without lyrics I’m confident in, it’s hard to feel good about the actual musical aspect of writing.
My phone vibrates.. It’s a text from Brennan, which only makes me feel worse about the fact that I’m stuck.
Brennan: It’s been weeks. Please tell me you have something.
Me: Working on it. How’s the tour?
Brennan: Good, but remind me not to allow Warren to schedule this many gigs on the next leg.
Me: Gigs are what gets your name out there.
Brennan: OUR name. I’m not telling you again to stop acting like you aren’t half of this.
Me: I won’t be half if I can’t work through this damn block.
Brennan: Maybe you should get out more. Cause some unnecessary drama in your life. Break up with Maggie for the sake of art. She’ll understand. Heartache helps with lyrical inspiration. Don’t you ever listen to country?
Me: Good idea. I’ll tell Maggie you suggested that.
Brennan: Nothing I say or do could ever make Maggie hate me. Give her a kiss for me, and get to writing. Our careers are resting squarely on your shoulders.
Brennan: Ah! Is that anger I detect in your text? Use it. Go write an angry song about how much you hate your little brother, then send it to me. ;)
Me: Yeah. I’ll give it to you after you finally get your shit out of your old bedroom. Bridgette’s sister might move in next month.
Brennan: Have you ever met Brandi?
Me: No. Do I want to?
Brennan: Only if you want to live with two Bridgettes.
Me: Oh, shit.
Brennan: Exactly. TTYL.
I close out the text to Brennan and open up a text to Warren.
Me: We’re good to go on the roommate search. Brennan says hell no to Brandi. I’ll let you break the news to Bridgette, since you two get along so well.
Warren: Well, motherfucker.
I laugh and hop off the bed, then head to the patio with my guitar. It’s almost eight, and I know she’ll be on her balcony. I don’t know how weird my actions are about to seem to her, but all I can do is try. I’ve got nothing to lose.
I’m mindlessly tapping my feet and singing along to his music with my made-up lyrics when he stops playing mid-song. He never stops mid-song, so naturally, I glance in his direction. He’s leaning forward, staring right at me. He holds up his index finger, as if to say, Hold on, and he sets his guitar beside him and runs into his apartment.
What the hell is he doing?
And oh, my God, why does the fact that he’s acknowledging me make me so nervous?
He comes back outside with a paper and a marker in his hands.
He’s writing. What the hell is he writing?
He holds up two sheets of paper, and I squint to get a good look at what he’s written.
A phone number.
Shit. His phone number?
When I don’t move for several seconds, he shakes the papers and points at them, then points back to me.
He’s insane. I’m not calling him. I can’t call him. I can’t do that to Hunter.
The guy shakes his head, then grabs a fresh sheet of paper and writes something else on it, then holds it up.
When I still don’t move, he flips the paper over and writes again.
I have a ?
A question. A text. Seems harmless enough. When he holds up the papers with his phone number again, I pull out my phone and enter his phone number. I stare at the screen for a few seconds, not really knowing what to say in the text, so I go with:
Me: What’s your question?
He looks down at his phone, and I can see him smile when he receives my text. He drops the paper and leans back in his chair, typing. When my phone vibrates, I hesitate a second before looking down at it.
Him: Do you sing in the shower?
I shake my head, confirming my initial suspicion. He’s a flirt. Of course he is, he’s a musician.
Me: I don’t know what kind of question that is, but if this is your attempt at flirting, I’ve got a boyfriend. Don’t waste your time.
I hit send and watch him read the text. He laughs, and this irritates me. Mostly because his smile is so . . . smiley. Is that even a word? I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s as if his whole face smiles right along with his mouth. I wonder what that smile looks like up close.
Him: Believe me, I know you have a boyfriend, and this is definitely not how I flirt. I just want to know if you sing in the shower. I happen to think highly of people who sing in the shower and need to know the answer to that question in order to decide if I want to ask you my next question.
I read the lengthy text, admiring his fast typing. Guys aren’t normally as skilled as girls when it comes to speed-texting, but his replies are almost instantaneous.
Me: Yes, I sing in the shower. Do you sing in the shower?
Him: No, I don’t.
Me: How can you think highly of people who sing in the shower if you don’t sing in the shower?
Him: Maybe the fact that I don’t sing in the shower is why I think highly of people who do sing in the shower.
This conversation isn’t going anywhere.
Me: Why did you need this vital piece of information from me?
He stretches his legs out and props his feet up on the edge of the patio, then stares at me for a few seconds before returning his attention to his phone.
Him: I want to know how you’re singing lyrics to my songs when I haven’t even added lyrics to them yet.
My cheeks instantly heat from embarrassment. Busted.
I stare at his text, then glance up at him. He’s watching me, expressionless.
Why the hell didn’t I think that he could see me sitting out here? I never thought he would notice me singing along to his music. Hell, until last night, I never thought he even noticed me. I inhale, wishing I’d never made eye contact with him to begin with. I don’t know why I find this embarrassing, but I do. It seems as if I’ve invaded his privacy in some way, and I hate that.