If it's been quiet around here, it's not because we haven't been busy. We have to be, since even in Jersey, rent isn't cheap. I have been busting my ass to get referrals for my mediocre photography, which has gotten off the ground thanks to Alexa -- having an absolutely gorgeous woman linking you in her Insta posts really does a lot for your profile.
In celebration, Alexa and Ryan invited me and "April" out to dinner at a restaurant Ryan knew - a real up and coming hipster place. Pete didn't want to go, knowing how crappy Ryan had been and that he still hadn't been caught, but I was insistent. I didn't want to feel like a third wheel, and I still have trouble relating to guys as guys - in mixed company they're not so bad but if I have to have a one-on-one conversation with Ryan it's likely he'll say something that turns my stomach.
Plus, there were certain thoughts that I wanted to avoid having when Alexa is around.
Honestly, it's been hard to process, because when I'm around her, my hormones go off like a neon sign saying "YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO THIS!" But I get a churning feeling in my gut because I'm not a guy and if I'm lucky I won't be much longer so there would be no point in pursuing someone like her. Or anyone. Plus, she's with Ryan, even though he doesn't deserve her. And when I see them together it just pains me.
I had hoped that being "in character" with April would distract me enough, but really, compounding a secret with a lie just turns out to quadruple the negative feelings. I was constantly wondering what my body language was saying, if I was staring too long at Alexa, not looking over at April enough., if I was "passing" as male with Ryan, while simultaneously feeling the urge to fight him.
Ryan asked n innocent question about our relationship, April and Me - asking about how the last time he heard about me, I was dating that older woman. I tried to wave it off as jut a fling (and not let on that it involved a serious heartbreak) and that April, who in cover story I was with for years, was my true love. But it was hard to say those things and mean it.
Pete looked lovely, taking the opportunity to make himself very pretty and sophisticated, wearing beautiful earrings and a silvery, low-cut dress that he said was the nicest thing April owned and that he didn't think he'd get a chance to wear... any guy would be lucky to have a woman like that on his arm. I wished I could have appreciated it but I was far too distracted.
Pete deserved to be congratulated too. He had found a new job in short order, unsurprising based on April's resume and his own capabilities. It's a short-term contract too, which always sounds like such a ripoff but works out perfectly since it ends just as we are supposed to be going to the Inn this summer.
After we parted ways it was a long ride out of the city. Now it was Pete's turn to seem distant and distracted. I asked what was wrong.
"Well, I'm a little let down," he sighed. "I shouldn't be surprised, and I'm not taking it personally or anything, but... I kind of thought this would work."
"This," he said, gesturing to his body, his dress, his hair and makeup. "Its... a lot, don't you think? Put a lot of work in here. I know I can't compete with Alexa - hell, if I was still on the guy side of the equation I'd be eyeing her all night the way you were. But I thought maybe I could draw some of that attention for myself."
He sighed. "It's stupid. I feel like an idiot for... thinking... anything, I guess. It's been a long time since I liked anyone as much as I like you, Jenn. I'm a romantic at heart, but just like you, I care too much to trick anyone into being with me while I look like someone else. The only shot at happiness either of us has is with someone like us."
I was shocked. We've been getting along well as "housemates" and really enjoying each other's company... I guess I just thought that was where it ended. But I appreciated that he was being open and honest with me.
I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind. We're two people of compatible sexes sharing a space. I've seen "April" in all but the fullest state of undress, gotten familiar with his habits and quirks, shared jokes. It has been a little bit like a relationship - the settled, later parts. It's just that, after years with David, maybe I was hoping to be swept off my feet again. Or sweep someone off their feet.
I took my time in crafting my response as a long silence fell between us. "I just think..." I said, treading lightly to be sure if this really was what I thought, "If we're only... you know... together... because that's the easiest, or only option... is that healthy? Don't we deserve better?"
He smiled - oh, wow, how that smile lights up a room, if I'm being honest - "This has been a hreat month for me, Jenn. What could possibly be better than this?"
He touched my hand. Those soft little fingers on my rough ones.
I felt warmth inside me.
My heart started beating faster.
I wanted to kiss her right there and then.
Why... why not?
I leaned over and pressed my lips to hers. I hadn't kissed anyone in a little while, and I haven't kissed anyone new in a long while - I mean, technically, when I kissed David as Lena for the first time that was someone new, but this was something else.
I can't deny it was better. Whether because, on a shallow level, I'm more attracted to April than I was to Lena (who had beauty, but you know, the age thing and being my first "woman",) or because I was just so excited for someone to be thinking of me that way again... it was long, and hungry and passionate before we knew it.
We made out all night, and when we weren't making out we were talking like old friends, unburdening ourselves in ways we hadn't yet in all the weeks we'd been living together. I didn't know if it would just end up being one night of passion, or something more, but my eyes felt opened for the first time.
"So, does this mean," I asked around 3 AM, "I can start sleeping in the bed?"
She flashed pink-red: "Let's just take it one step at a time, okay? We have months."
Fair enough, I said...
We did fall asleep in each other's arms, though, sitting upright in a position that felt comfortable at first but left me sore in the morning.
I had left my phone in the other room. When I checked it in the morning, there was a long text from Alexa.
There was a bit of preamble, but essentially it was saying how she's never had a guyfriend like me before, and there she's starting to wonder if there's something there - a better connection than she has with Ryan. She says, she hates herself for thinking it but maybe I feel the same way and that's why I seem so indifferent about April.
She said she was sorry for putting it out there if I didn't feel the same way, but she couldn't get it out of her head.
My heart sank at that... talk about terrible timing.