Daisy’s sitting outside the bedroom door when I open it. “Hey, girl.” I scoop her up before going to the kitchen. “Things are going to change around here. First, I think you may be getting a friend to play with,” I say, referring to another dog. “Then, we need to talk Sophie into moving in. Do you think you can help me with that?” I ask her. She doesn’t care about anything except that I’m paying attention to her.
I walk over to the bag I dropped inside the door and pull out my phone. I slide my finger across the screen and make a call I’ve been avoiding since I met Sophie. I love my mom, but I also know her. If she knew about Sophie before, she would have been demanding I bring her around, and I couldn’t do that. I needed to give Sophie time to get used to us being an us. Now, though? Now, I don’t care. There will be no more of her not doing shit because she’s afraid. I refuse to let her live the rest of her life like that.
“Hey, honey. Are you home?” my mom asks as soon as she picks up.
“Yeah. I got in a couple hours ago.” I walk into the kitchen, setting Daisy down before washing my hands and going to the fridge to grab a bottle of water.
“How was your trip? Did you have fun?”
“It was work, Ma. I wasn’t partying it up in Vegas,” I tell her with a chuckle.
“Well, you were in Vegas. Why wouldn’t you try to have some fun while you were there? You think I don’t know what you do in your free time?” I can see her in my head rolling her eyes. “I know how you and your brothers act when you’re single.”
“Yeah, Ma, but I’m not single anymore,” I declare, smiling.
“You guys are such man-whores. I swear—it’s a wonder one of you didn’t end up on that show 16 and Pregnant,” she says, completely missing what I just said.
“Ma, stop talking for a second and listen to me,” I say, waiting for her to stop rambling.
“I swear—Trojan owes me royalties for all the condoms I bought for you boys.”
“Ma, listen.” I shake my head.
“What?” she says, sounding annoyed.
“I found my girl, Ma.”
“What do you mean ‘found your girl’?”
“I mean I found the girl I’m going to marry.”
“Is it April Fool’s Day?” she asks jokingly, but I can hear shock and happiness in her voice.
“Nah. I wouldn’t joke with you about something like this.”
“When did you meet her? Who is she? When can I meet her?” she yells so loud I have to pull my phone from my ear.
“Her name is Sophie.” I laugh. “I met her when I found her phone and retuned it to her. She is beautiful, smart, and so sweet, Ma—so sweet I don’t even know how I got so lucky.”
“You love her,” she whispers in awe.
“More than love her.” I can’t even begin to explain the way I feel about Sophie, but I don’t think it’s normal love. It’s something more. I love my family, and I love my life, but what I feel for the girl who’s asleep in my bed right now goes beyond that.
“Oh, honey, I’m so happy for you,” she says quietly, “but you should try to take it slow.”
“Shit.” I look down at the ground. “I’ve been seeing her for a while now, Ma.”
“How long is a while?” she asks
“A few months,” I tell her softly.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I can hear the hurt in her voice. I knew this question was coming.
“She hasn’t had the easiest life, Mom. I needed to give her time to trust me without overwhelming her with everyone.”
“We wouldn’t overwhelm her,” she argues.
“Ma…” I say, the ‘who are you trying to kid?’ implied in my tone.
“Okay, okay,” she concedes. “So when do I get to meet her?”
“Soon.” I smile. “I’ll call you tomorrow and we can set up a time for us to come for dinner.”
“Okay, honey. I love you. And I’m so happy for you,” she whispers.
“Love you too, Ma. Talk to you tomorrow.”
“Later.” I hang up, setting my phone on the counter before looking at Daisy. “Let’s go to bed, girl.” I go back into the room and climb into bed with Sophie, who automatically curls into me. I hold her to me, kissing her hair before following her off to sleep.
“Hi.” I smile at David as he walks into the library. He’s a pleasant-enough guy; he asked me out a couple of times, but I just couldn’t go out with him. It’s not that he isn’t good-looking—he is—but he seems like he has to try too hard to be nice. It’s odd.
“Hey, Sophie. How are you?” He leans on the counter in front of me.
“Good, and you?” I ask, typing in the call number for another book a teacher asked me to check out for their classroom.
“I’m good. I was wondering if you’d want to go out and get a bite to eat after work?”
“No, sorry. I can’t.” I don’t even look up from what I’m doing when I respond.
“It must be hard for you moving to a new state all by yourself, living alone, and not having anyone around.”
“Pardon?” I ask, finally looking up at him.
His eyes appear darker, and something about him just seems…off. A shiver slides down my spine, and I sit back in the chair. Something is telling me to get away from him.
“Oh shit, I’m sorry. You look scared.” He laughs. “I didn’t mean anything, Sophie. Just that, if you need me, I’m here for you.”
“Thanks,” I wheeze out, finding it hard to breathe.
“See you around,” he says, smiling. He taps the top of the desk before leaving the library, and as soon as he’s out of sight, I grab my keys and bag, turn out the library lights, and lock the door before rushing down the hall and out to my car.
My hands are shaking as I open my door, and once inside, I engage the locks. I start my car and lift my head when I feel eyes on me, my eyes landing on David’s car a few spaces over. I can just barely make out David sitting in his car as he waves. I lift my hand quickly, put my car in drive, and speed out of the parking lot. By the time I reach Nico’s, the strange encounter with David is just that—a strange encounter. David’s always been nice. He knows I moved to Tennessee alone and was probably just worried about me being on my own all the time, and since he doesn’t know about Nico, that would be understandable, I convince myself.