I kept my eyes closed and bit my lip. I wasn’t ready to wake up from the epic night I had just endured. Correction; adventured. Last night with Eli was definitely adventurous. I turned my head silently over my eight hundred pillows to see his perfectly sculpted shoulder against my girly comforter. Why had I not remembered his body being covered in tattoos from the first night? I guess I could forgive myself considering the circumstances that found us naked just the weekend before. Had it only been a week since we’d first tumbled into each other? He was already comfortably asleep in my bed? Wasn’t that weird for a guy? Especially one like Eli who probably never let anyone ever see him out of control, let alone asleep and unaware. Stop, stop ruining everything, Kate, enjoy the hot guy in your bed. Eli inhaled and started to move, so I turned over, pretending to sleep. His fingers brushed the hair off my neck, leaving a trail of goosebumps. I smiled as he kissed me behind my ears and I prepared for my sultry turn around.
“Good morning,” he whispered against my cheek.
I rolled slowly, letting my hair fall partially in my face.
I wasn’t sure if it was the way the new light softened his features, or if he was actually relaxed, but he seemed so angelic laying there, admiring me the way he did. He ran a finger down the sides of my face and leaned in. His lips pressed against my forehead, his body twisting lazily out from the sheets.
“How are you feeling?” he asked against my kiss laden top lip.
“Pretty good,” I smiled.
He hummed in satisfaction and continued his inspection of my post date body. He was too big for my bed, and twisted his heavy legs in with mine to accommodate his size. A muscled arm wrapped around my waist and hugged me to him, his kisses adorning my shoulder, my body warming to the suggestion he was offering. His mouth was warm against my cool skin and I melted into the trail he left down my arm and across my stomach. In one sweeping motion he turned me onto my back and hovered over me, my fingers lacing into the knotted muscles across his back. I tucked my chin in as he stared at me, trying to put space between us.
“Really?” he laughed, “You’re choosing to be afraid of your morning breath now?”
I snuggled further into my pillow, trying not to giggle.
“Then, I shall give you the space you requested, m’dear.”
With a chivalrous grin he slid under the covers, wasting no time in settling hot between my legs. I grabbed the pillow behind me and let the sounds of the world fall away. If I was doomed to spend the rest of my days in bed like this I wouldn’t complain. His hands slithered out from the sheet and pushed it back, proudly displaying his act of magic. I could feel his fingertips rising in temperature as they crawled up my body, searching for something to hold on to. My breath was heavy as I tried to hang on, wanting to savor the wave of anticipation rising over my hips. It wasn’t going to happen, Eli knew how to work a lady’s bits. Slow and steady when the girl gets into it, never changing the rhythm or breaking the arc. He was a writer of the human body, and fulfilled everyone’s nail biting need to break at the end in a pique of glitter and awe. I could feel the dent I was making laying in bed like a corpse of satisfaction.
Through blurred eyes and tingling limb I watched Eli rise casually from bed, a freaking model of brawn and bristle, disappearing to the bathroom. I stretched my legs and curled into a ball on my side before sitting halfway out of bed, enjoying the fresh air on my chest. When he didn’t return from the bathroom, I suspected that was my cue to get the hell out of the blankets. I had a feeling he didn’t usually stay asleep as long as I did. I grabbed the closest shirt and underwear I could find and strolled down the tight hallway. I found him stretching thick thighs into his pants from last night. I bit my lip to keep from laughing about the way we’d stripped down to nothing before we’d made it beyond the living room. He smiled, watching me saunter to him.
“Do you even have to ask?” I said, plopping down on the couch.
He pulled on his shirt, buttoning it haphazardly before leaning over to kiss the top of my head.
“I’ll be right back.”
Eli slipped out of the door without a sound and without caring about his disheveled hair. Probably because he knew he could do a walk of shame and still look so good that not even the barista would notice he hadn’t brushed his teeth. I flipped on the television and scrolled aimlessly through the movies, trying to find something that would pass the time. I hit play on the one we had left last night and continued to enjoy the sappy, happily ever after ending that was bound to come. The predictability was nice, I liked knowing that in the end, everything would turn out okay. Someone’s life had to. I stared off, unable to think about the things Eli had drug out of me. Why was my life so sad? So sad that it drove me into the arms of the worst person possible. I picked up my phone from the coffee table, where Eli had forced it out of my hands. I’d have to tell Dee eventually, but for now I wanted to enjoy the gossip of sleeping with a new dude.
-Girl! Okay, see you tonight. Bring all the dirty details, Kate. You promised!
I laughed and tossed the phone back on the table and leaned against the arm of the couch. Something poked my rib and I turned around to see that I had landed on Eli’s jacket. Not wanting to wrinkle the fine material any more than I had, I moved it over. But what had poked me? I knew I shouldn’t, but I did anyway. It was his fault for being so secretive. I slipped my fingers into his inner coat pocket and pulled out a key. It shimmered in my hand and I looked out my windows to see if the sun had suddenly moved position. That was weird. I flipped it over only to see the do not duplicate etching. Curiouser and curiouser Mr. Don’t Tell Me Anything. It was heavy for a key; really heavy. I lifted it to the light and waited for the weird shimmer thing to happen again but it didn’t. Whatever. Another one of Eli’s weird things, I’m sure. I’d find out eventually. I tossed it back in his pocket and waited for him to return. I couldn’t think without caffeine in my veins, especially not about what he wasn’t telling me. The truth was, I didn’t really want to know. Not right now. I liked what was happening and I could forgive his persistent secrecy for a while if it meant getting to have this version of him around. The door opened and in he twirled with a huge bag and a tray of coffees. I’m pretty sure he was perfect. A god.
“Last weekend seemed so routine that I figured you would want some pastries too. Or were you going to be expecting Dee to bring them?”
The question was casual, but I knew he was wondering if he had to prepare to be fake. Was I that obviously in love with carbs? I resisted looking down at the tummy rolls I felt. I could pretend to be offended, or I could just not waste anyone’s time. I opened the bag and snatched out a poppyseed muffin while Eli found his way to the couch.
“No, Dee is my Sunday morning, no more dates to bitch about, date. But I will be meeting her tonight for drinks…” I trailed off, wanting to see his reaction.
He sipped his coffee, and I watched it’s black outline slosh from inside the cup. Did he ever indulge in anything? Was he going to take the bait out of curiosity? Didn’t he want to know what I had to say to her about him, or was he that certain about how I would relay the night? I slumped back a little let down by his nonchalance.
“Why do you watch this movie, Kate?”
Judgey Eli was back. And I was just a pumpkin again; boring, round, and predictably filled with seeds of yuck.
“I don’t know, because it’s sweet. It’s nice to escape, to relate to it for the time it plays. Because life never happens that way, and if it doesn’t happen that way, at least for ninety minutes you can fall into a place where it does and feel good. Why do you hate it so much?”
He turned to look at me, grabbing my thigh and pulling me closer to him. He hugged me into his side, so I had no choice but to rest my head against his chest and get cozy in his day-old body. He smelled different than I had expected. He wasn’t made up of old cologne and sweat like the result of our night would suggest. Instead, it was like the air of the coffeeshop had clung to his skin, and his clothes kept a lingering smoke in their threads. Not like cigarettes, but like campfires and flannel blankets. His warmth smelled like amber and made him so soothing, it was hard to focus on anything else.
“I never said I hated it. I just wanted to know why you watched movies like this. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions so quickly. There’s an entire world out there, and you know nothing about it, but you can learn if you let go of your judgements.”
I trailed a finger over his thigh. “Maybe I’d be less judgmental if you’d tell me about yourself, Eli. You leave me to make assumptions by never talking about yourself.”
If I had been any more distracted, I would have missed the slightest tensing of his body before he relaxed and maintained his affectionate mood.
“What is it that you want to know?” he asked quietly, keeping his focus on the movie.
“I don’t know, anything? Where did you grow up? What were your parents like? Why don’t you eat anything unhealthy for you? Why do you have your coffee black?”
“Those are all surface questions, Kate. They’re meaningless. My life isn’t built to incorporate that kind of information.”
I rolled my eyes, growing annoyed.
“Okay, why are you always so calculated?”
“I like to live with intention. It’s just my nature.”
“That’s not what I mean, you evasive butthole. It’s not gone unnoticed that you are always five steps ahead of the situation. Isn’t it exhausting to always have your guard up?”
“Who says my guard is up? I don’t find my personality taxing at all. In fact, I have an equal lack of understanding for the way you live. You have stripped awareness and sensory fulfillment from your every day life. I wouldn’t want to wake up either if I were ashamed of the way I was ruling my life.”
I rolled my eyes. I couldn’t tell if he intentionally wanted to piss me off or if he was too stupid to understand how offensive he was being.
“Why can you ask negative questions about how I conduct myself, but the second I mirror your action you are allowed to shut down?”
“I don’t know, Eli. I’d rather not do this.”
“That’s not part of the deal, Kate. I can’t waste my time in your reality. Get off the hamster wheel, or get off me.”
I sat up and found a new place on the couch. It hurt me to do it, but I wasn’t going to let him talk to me like I was less than he was. I stared at the screen, trying my hardest to just watch the movie instead of talking about his higher conscious pedestal.
To my surprise he didn’t push me into talking about anything more. In fact, he said nothing, content to watch the romance steaming up on the screen. God I hated silence.
“I am surprised that you enjoy this film.”
“Because you’re so intellectual, so modern, all hard angles and shades of gray. This plot is dependent on feminine emotion and driven by vulnerability and worry and all the things you are not interested in.”
“I am interested in them. What I’m not interested in is living the same day repetitively and calling it a life. Look at this story. It’s only predictable because we’ve seen stories that are told in the same timeline. Yes, that is something I find uninspiring. However, the human connection, how each person relates and reacts to familiar situations fascinates me. Perhaps I am drawn by love because it’s an experience I know little about, Kate. It’s why I am so infatuated with you. You are so human, so dictated by your impulses and delights. You remind me that we are of this Earth and of this flesh, not just the mind and spirit.”
I was blushing. I wasn’t prepared for his compliments, or anyone’s for that matter. I had been an outcast my entire life, never living up to the standards of the people around me. For once I didn’t feel like a complete disappointment and I wasn’t sure how to react.
“Will you come back here and finish the movie in my arms?”
I sighed, unable to let go of my stubbornness completely and crawled back to my spot against his side. I looked at the tattoos crawling from under his shirt, trying to figure out what they meant. Anytime I had the chance to see them fully, I was always a little too distracted.
“Tell me about your tattoos. What do they mean?”
“They help me remember why I’m here, what purpose I serve. Some of them log what I’ve learned so I don’t forget.”
“What’s your purpose?” Maybe I was getting somewhere.
“Are you not content to watch this movie with me?”
I sat up. “I’ve already seen it.”
“I didn’t want this day to be about me. I intended it to be about you, and helping you, like I promised.”
“Why is it so hard to tell me about yourself? Maybe I’d be more willing to go on your little journey if I felt like I knew something about you, Eli. Your good looks and charm will bore me, eventually. You know, same day calling it a life?”
He laughed. It was a sound not often created by him and its richness was contagious. I smiled myself, playfully batting at his chest.
“Shock me,” I pleaded.
“My purpose is complex and most of what I do I’m not allowed to talk about. But I’ve dedicated life to the study of DNA, the dormancy of its majority, and epigenetics. ”
Well, I was shocked. But wait. Something wasn’t adding up.
“I thought you owned a theater.”
“But you’re a scientist.”
“I am many things, Kate ,” he chuckled.
“Is this why you have a ton of fighting cancer stuff on your Instagram?”
“That’s part of it, yes.”
“What’s the other part? Why do you smoke then? I smelled it on your lips last night.”
“My mother died from cancer.”
I laid off. He had stiffened significantly in his seat as I rapid fire interrogated him. I knew how he felt and wasn’t going to play his game just to get back at him. It wasn’t who I wanted to be. Not to Eli.
“I’m sorry, Eli.”
He shrugged uncomfortably.
“Can we watch together now? This is my favorite part.”
I smiled weakly and sat closer to him, no less understanding of who he was. There was no hiding his pain in the loss of his mother. Maybe that’s why he took such a great interest in my family life. If he was suffering from the loss, then who I was to deny him a little love and comfort? I refocused on the film. I wanted to see his favorite part. The end? Really? The happy ending? I never would have guessed. Maybe there was more pain inside of enlightened Eli than I originally thought. His jacket started to buzz and he looked at it for a ring or two before bending over me to reach into the pocket. It was the first time I had ever seen him pick up a phone. The nature of his expression changed as he glanced at the incoming call.
“I have to take this,” he said, excusing himself to walk out the door. It wasn’t long before he was back and picking up his jacket.
“I have to go, Kate.”
“Why? Can’t it wait a little longer? I was just starting to crack your codes,” I teased.
I couldn’t tell if he was sad to go, or worried. It was strange to see the expression on his face. Poor form for my sexy secret agent. I was cracking him indeed, and I did not want to stop.
“I’m sorry, Kate, I don’t have much of a choice.”
“Fine. After you’re done, give me a call, and meet Dee and I for drinks. You can tell us more about your science projects, random affection for theater, and what that key goes to,” I prodded, jerking my chin towards the inside pocket of his jacket.
Suddenly, his features went dark, animalistic like the first night I chased after him in the alley. He leaned in close to me, sharp eyed and foreboding.
“Do not ever go through my things again.”
It wasn’t a warning, it was a threat, a reminder of who he could be. Who he was, still. I swallowed hard, unable to hide the way his aggression affected me.
“Shit, okay. Sorry,” I stuttered. “It’s just a stupid shining key.”
Something I said sparked his interest, glimmering across his eyes and vanishing just as quickly. There was nothing left to stare into but the pitless dark seeds of a man who I didn’t know. He lingered a moment longer, nostrils flared, as if he were absorbing the scent of my fear. I could see him analyzing, manipulating, planning out his next move. He stood and walked towards the door, but before leaving he turned to look over his shoulder.
“Maybe it’ll be easier to just show you who I am.”
And he was gone.