It’s been three weeks since I moved to Tennessee. Three weeks of living with Kenton, who I don’t see very often, and when I do, he’s usually leaving for work or coming in before going to bed. One of the longest talks we’ve had was the other day when he came in and told me that he had something for me and to meet him out front. I tucked my Kindle away and followed him out of the house, down the front steps, to a small VW Beetle.
“My cousin’s wife just got rid of it. You don’t have a car, and I know it’s not an easy trek to town.”
I looked from the car, to him, then back again.
“Here’s the key. It has a full tank of gas, new tires, plus a tune-up,” he told me, holding out the key between his large fingers. “This is the part where you say, ‘Thank you,’” he grumbled, looking at me then at the keys in his hand.
“Um…I… Thank you,” I whispered, taking the keys from him with shaky fingers.
He nodded, looking like he was going to say something else, but instead, he left me standing there, looking at the car, dumbfounded by the act of generosity. No one had ever done anything like that for me before.
From that day on, I tried to help where I could. I tried to cook a couple of times, but that was a disaster, so I settled on showing my appreciation in other ways. I kept the house clean, went to the grocery store if I noticed things running low, and even did laundry if I saw it piling up. He told me that I didn’t need to do everything I was doing, but I ignored him. I knew he appreciated my help. He was always busy and seemed to be running himself ragged.
When we did have moments to talk, he smiled more and seemed more at ease with me. I lived for the stolen moments I had with him. It was stupid, but I felt like a lost puppy looking for a bone. I hated and loved that he made me feel like that. I had wondered for a long time if I had somehow become asexual. I hadn’t been interested in a guy since my first and last boyfriend.
I walk down the stairs, going into the kitchen to grab some much-needed coffee. I just got off the phone. The hospital I worked at in Vegas has agreed to transfer my hours to a hospital they are affiliated with in Nashville. Then I called the hospital in Nashville, and they want me to start as soon as possible. My shift will be eleven to seven a.m. They told me that, after I’m on staff for a while, I can change up my schedule. It doesn’t matter to me what hours I work, just as long as I’m working.
I’m on cloud nine; I can’t wait to get back to work. Nursing is something I love doing and am really good at.
I hit the bottom landing of the stairs and go around the corner into the kitchen. Kenton is standing at the stove on the phone. His back is to me, so I take a second to admire him.
Today’s jeans are light blue and faded in all the right spots. His red T-shirt fits him snugly, showing off his muscles while enhancing his tan. His head turns towards me; his golden eyes hit mine and then do a head-to-toe sweep.
“You want coffee?” he rumbles out, his deep voice making my girly parts tingle.
I hear him say goodbye to whoever’s on the phone before he sets it on the counter. His eyes look me over again and his mouth starts to twitch.
“You want coffee?” he asks again, this time a small smirk playing on his lips.
“I…um… Yes please,” I tell him, walking fully into the kitchen.
His house is older, the kitchen showing the wear and tear of having been around for so long. Everything is clean but in major need of updating. The cabinets are a light wood, and the counters are some old laminate that has started chipping around the edges. The fridge, stove, and dishwasher are white and desperately need to be replaced.
He hands me a cup of coffee, and I quickly add milk and sugar before hopping up on the counter, sitting across from him, praying that I don’t continue to make a fool out of myself.
“What’s your plan for the day?” he asks, looking at me from over the top of his coffee cup.
“I need to go shopping. I left all my work clothes back home and I just got a job in Nashville,” I tell him, smiling.
His cup lowers as his hand turns white on the handle. “Like I told you before, I don’t want randoms in my house.”
My face heats and I take a breath, needing to make sure I understand what he’s saying before I flip out and kick him in the balls. “What do you mean by ‘randoms’?” I ask, keeping my voice light.
He studies me for a second like he’s debating his next words. Smart man. “Guys from the strip club.”
Apparently he’s not that smart. I take another breath as my stomach turns. “Don’t worry. I don’t bring my work home with me,” I tell him, dumping out the almost-full cup of coffee into the sink. I jump off the counter, putting the cup in the dishwasher before grabbing my bag and heading for the door.
I’m used to being judged, but for some reason, it coming from him makes me feel sick. I hate that he somehow has that kind of power over me. I hate that I want him to take a second to get to know me.
I get into the Beetle, telling myself that, as soon as I get back, I’m going to find out the value of the car he got me and give him the money for it.
I quickly ask Siri where I can find a store to buy scrubs, and once I have the directions pulled up, I put the car in drive, do a U-turn in front of the house, and head into town. First, I go to the scrubs shop and spend over five hundred dollars. Who doesn’t need cute scrubs?
When I’m done with that, I go to a nearby nail salon and get a manicure and pedicure. Then I come across a small soul food restaurant and have barbecue ribs and homemade macaroni and cheese. For dessert, I have made-from-scratch peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Now that I can eat whatever I want without worrying about my appearance, I plan on eating everything I’ve been denied.
When I was growing up and competing in beauty pageants, there wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t have a competition. My mom was very strict about what I ate. Everything was premeasured and my calorie intake was no more than what was necessary to survive. I didn’t even know what sugar tasted like until I turned sixteen. Then, when I moved to Vegas and my jobs all required me to have a certain image, I stuck with my old habits.
But now? Fuck that! I’m going to eat—and eat everything. After eating, I’m not ready to go home, so I go to the movies, buy a ticket, and sit in the dark theater alone, watching as a young woman is attacked by an evil spirit. Well, I think that’s what it is… About halfway through, I fall asleep. I wake up to screaming and have no clue what is going on, so I get up and leave.