Building Friction (Part 27)

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"Where were you last night?" Steph called me early on Sunday, odd for her.

"I went to see a movie," I said, sighing. I started to mentally prepare myself for the inquisition.

"You missed some important news," she said. "Sean got offered a role in a movie. He was really excited about it. He looked a little bummed that you weren't there."

I internally was grateful that the spotlight had been taken off of me. "Oh? Damn, I need to call him then. Although, come on... Sean doesn't get worked up about people not being around. At least, he tries damn hard not to show it."

"Yeah, but you know how it is when there's something important to share and someone is missing. So what movie did you go to see?" Her voice turned curious. It was more of what I was expecting.

"An older flick. One of those reprisals down in LA." I had been trying to write something all morning and couldn't think past last night and how easily Geoff and I had gotten along. We didn't talk about our friends and he didn't bring up Matt. It was just normal conversation, as if nothing had occurred between us in the past. Thinking about how it played out was starting to bother me.

"Hmm. And you went alone?" The tone of curiosity had been raised a notch.

"No," I started, not wanting to lie about going not going alone, and yet uncertain how to lie about who I really had gone with.

"Oh, so who'd you go with?" Steph's voice was now accusatory. I couldn't lie now even if I'd wanted to.

"Fuck. Look, I know that you're going to have something to say about it, but I'm telling you right now that it was no big deal..." I began to explain in a defensive manner.

"Oh, holy fucking Christ you are not going to tell me what I think you are going to tell me." I heard something shift in the background and gathered that Steph had just sat up straight in her chair.

"I went with Geoff. We watched The Blues Brothers. It was a midnight showing, we talked like friends. Yes, I am just as freaked out about it as you are." I started chewing on my thumb.

"I don't know if that's possible, Chlo. Geoff? After everything that's happened? Don't you find it a little bizarre that you're now making nice with the guy that you have this strange, albeit brief, history with? This guy who you fucked and dissed? This guy who tried to take your head off during a friendly game of volleyball and ended up getting his ass kicked by the guy that I thought was your boyfriend? Does none of this set off any of your 'What the fuck?' sensors?" Steph was racing through her words.

"Yes. All the bells. All the sirens. They're all going nuts. We have a lot to talk about. Honestly? I wonder if things hadn't gone the way they did the first night, if we wouldn't be fucking great together, and trust me... that thought scares me the most. Not even the thought. The mere fact that I'm thinking that thought." I paused and sighed hard.

"Wow. Well, I would think so," Steph's tone softened. "What's next?"

"Nothing's next. I'm done trying to plan any of this shit. Things are getting too weird for me to try and figure them out. I've been thinking about it all morning and it's fucking with my creative process."

"What about Matt?" Steph asked tentatively.

"I adore Matt. Matt is fucking awesome. You know that. I know that. How could someone NOT love the guy?"

"But...?" Steph could always read me like a book.

"But I wonder how much he wants me." I fidgeted in my seat.

"Oh no you don't. You wonder how much YOU want HIM." I heard shuffling in the background. "Fuck, I'm out of smokes, and this is a smoking moment."

"I have some," I said and then reached for my pack and lit what had to have been my 10th cigarette that morning.

"Shut up. I need them now, you goofy bitch." Steph laughed. "Back to my point. You like Matt. You know that he's a good choice, a safe choice. Hell, he really IS a great guy. If he was fucking you, I'm sure we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now."

"That makes me such a shit heel though, doesn't it? The fact that this hinges on sex? That eats at my gut more than anything." I exhaled a thick stream of smoke and then continued. "It really shouldn't matter. In fact, it should be a huge sign of respect. He wants to make sure that I'm worth it. That I get a chance to see that he's worth it."

"What do you think so far? Is he really worth waiting for?" Steph let out a tiny whoop. "Woo! Alex left his pack out! I'm saved!"

"I don't know. That's where I'm stopping myself. Honestly, is any guy worth it?"

I heard a lighter click. A contented sigh escaped Steph before she responded. "You're asking the wrong girl."

"You know what I fucking mean."

"I do. And I still say that you're asking the wrong girl. You know I'm just as bad if not worse than you are about the length of time that I wait to jump into bed with someone. I like getting a taste of the goods right away. I don't want to get stuck with something that's going to suck after I've developed emotions." I heard her open the sliding door to their backyard.

"We've already been over this," I sighed.

"Yeah, it's one of those conversations that we can never put a definitive end to." Steph was quiet for a moment. "I was so prepared to be mad at you over this Geoff thing. Start ranting about how this guy is wrong and you're screwing something good up. But you know what?"

"What?" I wasn't sure if I wanted to know her answer.

"I think I'd be in the exact same position if I were you. There IS something between you and Geoff. I can't agree that it's healthy, but it's undeniable. And the more that you try and convince yourself that it is, the bigger hurt you're in for later."

"I know. That's pretty much where I've stalled at today," I said, looking at my blank Windows screen and its flashing cursor, taunting me with what I hadn't written.

"So just promise me one thing. Promise me that you won't dive into anything too fast. Give yourself some time. And keep your mind open." I could hear Steph exhale hard.

"The last time you told me to keep my mind open, you set up that drunken bi-curious night with that bartender who worked with Jessie!" I had to laugh. Steph was always about setting people up. It didn't matter to her which two people or their genders, as long as she felt like she'd done them a service.

"Hey! You said you wanted to touch boobies!" Steph's rich laughter poured into my ear.

"I was drunk! And I do believe I said I wanted to touch YOUR boobies!" I laughed right back.

"Psssh. You could've touched my boobies any time you wanted. That chick had award winning boobies!" I could almost see Steph smiling right now.

"Yours are just as nice. Better even, since they're real."

"How do you always manage to steer me off topic?" She remarked.

"It's what I do best?" I said with a smile on my face.

Steph laughed. "I wouldn't put it at the top of the list, but yes, you're good at that. Deflecting away from expressing what's really going on in your head. But never mind. I'm going to let you deal with that as you see fit."

"I love you," I said, meaning it down to my core.

"Yep. And I love your goofy, emotionally repressive ass right back."


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Monday night I got a chance to see Matt finally. He managed to get the day off and rest up and once I was out of school, came to greet me with a bouquet of flowers.

"For not being around this weekend," he explained.

I took the flowers and inhaled their scent, overcome with a deep seeded feeling of guilt. "You didn't have to do this," I said.

"I know that. Haven't you ever had someone do something nice for you just because they wanted to?" He was grinning broadly, his dimple cutting into his cheek. The sight of it instantly melted away my doubts. This guy was an ace. Top shelf. One of the best prizes that a girl could snag.

I moved into his arms and hugged him tightly. He seemed caught off guard by the sudden gesture and had to catch his balance. When he did, he returned the hug in full. "Well, I missed you too," he softly cooed.

We went to get ice cream in the mall and wandered around window shopping while we ate it. Matt filled me in on some of the horror stories that had happened on his shifts over the weekend. He told me about having to set Aaron straight and then eventually fire him when he didn't show up the next day. "Man, that sucked," he said. "That guy was my friend. He was really cool when I first started working there. It's funny how people will change so quickly. And all because of a girl."

I almost choked on the bite of frozen dessert that I had been shoveling into my mouth at the time. I swallowed hard and regained my composure. "Men are funny that way," I commented blankly.

"Oh, you can't tell me that women aren't the same way! I've seen really cool chicks turn into psychopaths after some guy messed with their head. In fact, it's usually the cool ones who do. It's as if they don't know how to handle curveballs." Matt scooped up a bite and offered it to me. "What some of mine?"

I giggled seductively. "Yeah, I want some of yours."

Matt moved in, watching his spoon disappear and then reappear from my mouth. He watched me closely as I licked my upped lip and then closed his eyes and sighed. "You play me more 311 and you just might get yourself some." He leaned down and kissed me tenderly.

We ended up back at my apartment later in the evening, under the guise of dinner and another rented movie, but once again found ourselves extended over the length of my couch, bodies firmly pressed against each other in all the prerequisite places. I decided to just take it as it came, allowing Matt to make the advances. After almost an hour, he pulled back and looked at me.

"You're rather... um..." he searched for the word, "receptive tonight."

"I thought I was always receptive," I laughed.

"No, I meant you're not being as aggressive as I'd gotten used to. It feels different."

"I still think it feels pretty good, but if you're complaining..."

"No. I'm not. It just... something's off. Are you mad at me about something?" His nose wrinkled up.

"No. Why would you ask that?"

"I don't know." He shook his head. "I'm not sure. I just get this sense like something has changed."

"Well, I decided that I wasn't going to push you anymore. I figured that everything will just happen as it's supposed to." I was trying to push myself up on my elbows.

Matt sighed. "Alright, I'm an asshole."

"Why?" I snorted.

"Because..." he fumbled with the words. "I kind of like it when you push me. And that's not right. I'm such an asshole."

"Matt..."

"I told you I wasn't ready, and you're respecting that. Yet I'm sitting here tonight, acting pissy because you're not trying to stick your hands down my pants. Try and deny that that's not asshole-ish." His face looked strained with concern.

"Oh, shut up! You're just acting like every other horny high school girl does when she really wants to have sex but also knows she isn't ready. Your body wants one thing, your mind wants another."

"And that makes me an asshole."

"MATT! That does NOT make you an asshole!" I pushed him off of me and he sat on the end of the couch, a defeated look miring his face. "Look. I want you. I decided that much already. It just took me a little time to know that I want ALL of you if I'm going to have you. I don't want only the body if the mind isn't playing in the game."

He scrunched up his brow at me. "Really?"

"Yes, really. So you're not an asshole. You're actually helping me to grow up."

He looked unconvinced. "Fine," I added, then moved over closer to him and ran the flat of my palm over the bulge in the front of his pants. "Mmmmm. Matt meat!"

We both burst out cackling at that. He pushed me back down into a recumbent position. His mouth peppered kisses along my neck and collarbone. "Mmmm. Choice cuts of Chloe!"

With that, we resumed our make-out session, lasting until late into the evening before I finally kicked him out so that I could get my sleep for work the next day.


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"So tell me more about his kisses," Malory was running a brush full of dye over a large chunk of my hair and asking me about Matt. "He's got a great looking mouth. Those lips have to feel pretty good."

I was in Malory's salon, having lowlights added to my hair. She worked with Claude, who was also a hairdresser.

"Oh, please tell!" Claude yelled over the steady hum of the hair dryer she was using on a client. "I need a little more excitement in my life!"

"Please, you know I don't kiss and tell." I watched as the two of them paused in their actions and caught each other's eye before bursting into raucous laughter.

"Yeah, right!" The said in unison.

"He's a phenomenal kisser, that's for sure. So I'm pretty positive that the rest will be at least at that level as well." I watched as Malory carefully folded the foil around the strands that she'd just painted.

"It doesn't always work out that way," she cautioned. "There are some great kissers who are lousy fucks."

"True, but there are never any lousy kissers who are good fucks, right?" I blew at an errant strand of hair that was getting into my eye.

"Oh my god, you're so right!" I heard Claude exclaim. The women whose hair she was blowing out looked to be around 80. I was glad that she most likely couldn't hear our conversation over the noise from the dryer. The frankness of discussions that went on in salons never ceased to surprise even me.

Right as Claude turned off the hair dryer, I heard my phone begin to blare "Ice, Ice, Baby," the ring tone I'd set for unknown numbers. Malory went to fish the phone out of my purse before I could explain that I didn't want to answer it.

"Chloe's phone, may I ask who's calling?" She greeted cheerily.

Her face wrinkled up and I waved my hands back and forth as a signal that I wasn't interested in taking the call. Her mouth came open in a small "O" of surprise at whatever the caller was speaking into her ear. She covered the mouthpiece with her hand and lowered the phone to hip level.

"It's someone named Monique. She's calling on behalf of Randolph Nelson from The Webber & Nelson Publishing Company." I could see Claude freeze out of the corner of my eye. Malory's face was dead calm. "Are you sure that don't want to take this?"

"Um, um..." I stammered. "Yeah, here, give it to me." I took the phone from her and held it as close to my head as I could without getting it covered in dye. "Hello?"

"Good afternoon. Am I speaking with Chloe from..." as I heard her quickly whip out the website address for where I posted, I mentally ordered flowers for my literary agent.

"Yes it is. How can I help you?" I started to bounce my leg nervously.

"My name is Monique Carlson. I'm calling on behalf of my boss, Mr Randolph Nelson of The Webber & Nelson Publishing Company. My boss would like to arrange a meeting with you to discuss possible publication of some of your works. How does a week from tomorrow sound?" Her voice was a tight clip. I could hear her clicking on a mouse, mostly likely bringing up the monthly appointment schedule for this man.

"Anything after 2:30 in the afternoon sounds great to me. I substitute teach during the day." My hands were starting to shake.

"OK, then. Next Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. We look forward to meeting you." Shortly after that, the line disconnected.

"Oh, tell me that's what I think it was!" Malory clapped her hands and started hopping up and down. Claude came over and joined her.

"You're gonna be famous! You're gonna be famous!" She started to chant.

"I've only got an appointment next Wednesday to meet with this guy. I don't know shit yet. I don't even know what he's read of mine. Fuck, if it's the website stuff, I don't know what I'll do. I can't use any of that on my own." I started chewing my thumbnail.

"Chloe," Malory hugged me gently while standing behind me and forced me to look at my reflection in the mirror. "This is big. You KNOW this is big."

I smiled back at her. Inside my head was screaming at me.

No, you don't! You don't know what this is! Don't get too excited!

"Shut up, brain," I muttered under my breath and continued to smile as the women around me started talking about how much money they were going to borrow from me once I was rolling in it. My heart thudded dully in my chest and my mouth instantly felt sapped of all of its moisture.

A publishing company. One that quoted my website and not my agent's name. What the hell were they looking at me for?

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