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The proposition, p.2
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       The Proposition, p.2

           Jessica Schlafer
 

  Chapter 2

  The next morning, I had a shower, clean clothes, and a greater sense of where I was and what I was doing. I made my way to the massive kitchen to get some breakfast and coffee; I also, desperately, needed a pain killer for the burns on my back. It was very early and I didn't think anyone else would be awake. I was still, mostly, on East Coast time. I was surprised when I walked into the kitchen and Nick was sitting on one of the bar stools. The room was mostly dark, except for the light from outside.

  "Hey," he said.

  "Hey," I jumped, suddenly remembering that I was wearing nothing but a tee shirt and panties.

  "Coffee?"

  "Yes, please."

  Nick got a cup out of a cabinet and poured me some coffee.

  "Black?"

  "Yes."

  I pulled myself up onto one of the bar stool and we drank our coffee in silence for a while. I finally broke the silence. "Are you always here this early?"

  "No, I'm NEVER here this early," he said. “Paul told me to be here.”

  “Oh,” was all I could muster.

  At that moment, thankfully, Paul decided to join us. “Good morning!” he sing-songed. He leaned over me to kiss the top of my head. “How did you sleep?”

  “Good, thank you. It’s a really nice room.”

  “All Mary’s doing! Good morning, Nick.”

  “’Mornin’.”

  “A man of few words,” Paul said. “We’re gonna get started today, if that’s okay with you Abbs?”

  “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” I said.

  “I’ll give you some money and you can go replace the clothes that are lost. The main goal today is to make it look like you’re definitely with Nick,” Paul wriggled his eyebrows. “The problem seems to be that whenever I leave you two alone, you don’t speak to each other, so no one is gonna believe you're together.”

  “Um, well, this is all kind of sudden,” I said. “A-and we do speak to each other. I know he’s from Tacoma…”

  “You need to make it convincing. Kissing, holding hands, the whole thing. Just as if any couple would act together.”

  “Paul, we should be fine,” I started.

  “You said she took acting classes,” Nick said, defensively. “She’ll be fine.”

  Paul jerked his head to face Nick, “Oh, I have no doubts about Abby,” he hissed. “It’s you I’m worried about.”

  I jumped up. “We’ll be fine. Long distance relationships are weird, I don't know…”

  Nick and Paul were standing face-to-face, sizing each other up. Finally, Nick looked away.

  “Good,” said Paul. "This has to be perfect."

  “I’m going to take a quick shower and get dressed. I’ll be ready in like 20 minutes. Is that ok, Nick?”

  “Yeah, I’ll just wait here.”

  For extra emphasis, I kissed Nick on the cheek as I ran into the other room.

  What in the hell have I gotten myself into? I thought.

  I took the fastest shower I could, threw my clothes back on, and ran downstairs. Nick and Paul were sitting in the kitchen, deep in conversation when I walked back in.

  “Hey, guys! Nick, I’m ready whenever you are.”

  Both men looked up and I saw Nick’s mouth open. Gawking. Nick was gawking at me! It felt pretty good, in that moment, to be gawked at! I had thrown my dress back on, from the flight. It was one of my favorite dresses, rather short, white with pink and blue flowers that made my blue eyes look bluer, if that were possible. It showed off my long legs. I didn't spend hours in the gym sculpting my body for no one to notice! I’m not one of those girls who can eat what I like without paying for it later. I’ve always been tall, at 5’11”, so with Nick being taller, wearing my only pair of shoes was no problem. The heels were small, only about one inch, but sometimes shorter men were uncomfortable. That was my past experience, anyway. I had thrown my long, dirty blonde hair into twin braids. I didn’t have any make up to put on; except for the lip gloss I had in my purse. My only dislike was my glasses. Blessed with terrible vision, I've had to wear glasses my whole life. And, to top it off, I was not a candidate for LASIK surgery. So, I made do with my sexy librarian glasses.

  Paul smiled appreciatively. “You look beautiful, sweetheart. Seeing you like this makes me miss your Aunt Lynne.”

  “Thank you, Paul,” I said. "Oh, do you have any pain killers or something? I'm sore from where I was burned yesterday."

  "Oh, sure," Paul said, walking to a cabinet and pulling out a bottle of Tylenol. "Here you go." I took two. "Are you in a lot of pain?"

  "No, I'm just uncomfortable," I said.

  “I see," he said. “Mary may have some aloe upstairs to put in it, if you’d like?”

  “Um, no, not right now. Maybe later, though. Before I go to bed. Thank you, though.”

  "You’re welcome.”

  “You ready, Abby?” Nick asked.

  “Yes, let’s go.”

  “So, just remember, it’s important to make people think you two are together. Got that, Abbs?” I nodded. “Nick?” He nodded. “Good. Get out of here, then.”

  We walked to Nick’s car, a Mercedes something. I didn’t know much about cars. I always lived in cities where you could take public transportation. He opened the door for me and I slid into the soft, leather seats. Nick climbed in on his side and started the car.

  “This is a great car,” I said. “Much nicer than the public transportation I always take.”

  “You don’t have a car?”

  “I don’t drive,” I said.

  “You're kidding?”

  “No, I’ve always lived in cities with great public transportation. I’ve never had to drive.”

  “I’ve never met an adult who didn’t drive,” Nick said, completely in awe. “Do you know how to drive?”

  “My dad tried to teach me once when I was like 17, but I didn’t like it.”

  “Wow, that’s blowing my mind right now.”

  I laughed, “Wait until I tell you that I’ve never seen an actual cow before. Or that I’ve only ever been swimming in the ocean or in a pool. No lakes, rivers, ponds, or whatever. People are always shocked by that.”

  Nick was laughing, “You need to stop, I don’t know if my heart can take all that in one day.”

  “I’ll make it my goal to blow your mind once a day,” I said.

  “Wow, there are so many ways that statement can be taken……” he trailed off.

  “All right, perv.” I laughed. “Well, take it how you’d like to, I suppose.” I thought about it. “Wait, I keep digging myself in deeper, don’t I?”

  “Oh yeah, you totally are.”

  “Well, try not to laugh so hard you crash the car,” I laughed. “Where are we going?”

  “The mall, word will travel quickly if we’re seen together there.”

  I suddenly remembered I was with Nick to do a job, not to have fun. After a short time, we pulled into a large shopping mall. Nick expertly maneuvered the Mercedes into a parking spot near one of the mall entrances.

  “We’re here,” Nick said, as he parked and got out of the car.

  I looked around and then got out after Nick. We started walking to the mall together. As we got to the entrance, an idea struck me. “I’m gonna hold your hand.”

  “Huh?" Nick said. "Oh, okay.”

  I grasped Nick’s hand and we walked into the mall. Almost immediately I realized that people were watching us. Nick either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

  “People are staring,” I whispered.

  “They’re not used to seeing me with someone.”

  “You don’t date?” I asked, quite shocked. Nick was very good looking.

  “Not in a long time.”

  “That’s too bad.”

  We walked from store to store, picking up a lot of clothes that I needed and some that I didn’t. When I went into Victoria’s Secret, Ni
ck stayed outside. After I made my purchases, I went back outside and noticed three men walking toward Nick and I.

  “Yo, Nick. What’s going on, man?” The middle one said.

  “Sup? Sup?” Nick said.

  Each took turn doing their handshake-hug variation when the attention was put on me.

  “Who is this hottie you got here, Nick?” Ben asked

  “This is my girl, Abby.” I slinked myself up next to him, pressing on his back and shoulder with my body. Nick kissed my cheek. “Abbs, this is Ben, Neil, and Dmitry.”

  “How’d a hot piece of ass like you end up with this guy?” Ben asked, looking at me like I was a piece of meat.

  They all laughed and I decided I didn’t like them immediately. “Baby, wait ‘till you see what I just got in Victoria’s Secret.” I tried my best to sound sexy. I hadn’t had much practice.

  “I can’t wait,” Nick said. He leaned toward me and kissed me on the mouth, it was fast and it was only for the other men present, but I felt something behind that kiss.

  “Why don’t we all get out of here and have you put on a fashion show for us, hot stuff?” Neil said.

  "Back the fuck off, man," Nick said, defensively.

  "Come on, man. I was just joking," Neil said. "It's cool. You gonna be at The Winfield later?"

  Nick ran his hand through his hair. "I don't know, man."

  "Come on down, bring your hottie," Ben said, licking his lips as he looked me up and down, making me very uncomfortable.

  "I don't know," Nick started.

  "What's The Winfield?" I asked.

  "It's the hottest club in town," Ben said. "You should drag this guy out. He hasn't been since..."

  Neil cut him off. "It's been a while, hasn't it, dude?"

  "Yeah, I don't know, man. I guess we'll see what happens," Nick said.

  "Oh please, Nick," I begged, jumping up and down. "It'll be fun!"

  "All right, man. Hey, if you do decide to come, I'll put your names on the list," Neil said.

  "Thanks, man," Nick said.

  The four men did their handshake-hugs again.

  "Miss Abby," Dmitry said, taking my hand and kissing it. "I do hope we'll see you again."

  I could only smile. I've never had my hand kissed like that, by a complete stranger. What a strange sensation!

  Nick looked at me and smiled. "I think that'll work."

  "Yeah?"

  He laughed and picked up my bags. "Do you have everything you need yet?"

  "Not yet. I need to get something to wear to a club now. And I need to get shoes! And a new iPad! And some bathroom supplies!"

  "Christ," he said, laughing. "Come on then."

  We spent the remainder of the afternoon spending Paul's money, buying a whole new wardrobe. So far, from what I could tell, Nick's wardrobe was very casual. Looked like lots of jeans and lots of tee shirts. I talked him into buying something new to wear to the club. I had long ago decided that we'd go to the club that night. In my mind, there were a lot more things we'd have to do to convince people that we were together. Especially if they wanted this Merritt guy to try be distracted by me. What a strange and convoluted situation I was in!

 
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