“Where are we going now?” I asked as I was in a cab yet again.
Derek titled his head and lifted an eyebrow. “Do you really think I’m going to tell you?”
I smiled. “Don’t play with me. Where are we going?”
“Look,” he said, “I promise I’m not kidnapping you, okay?”
I narrowed my eyes. “Must you continually answer my question with a question?”
I tried holding my laugh, but all of a sudden I burst into a snicker that failed to stifle. I shook my head and looked out the window again. After a while though, I just closed my eyes. So far, this date was going good, and our chemistry was starting to lean to the good side of halfway. It troubled me though, because I was confident that we wouldn’t gel. Maybe Derek was pulling out all the stops so that would happen. If this was average though, kudos to him!
When the cab slowed I opened my eyes and found myself parked in front of a tall industrial building. I looked around and then at Derek with a questioning gaze. Derek jolted his eyebrows up and down twice and then grinned. We both then got of the cab and watched it leave.
From the corner of my eye I saw Derek hold out his hand, but I pretended to not see it. Ignoring his gentleman-like gestures was probably the only way I could stop this chemistry lesson from reaching an A+.
“Come on,” Derek said after a moment, letting his hand fall back to his side.
I followed him into the elevator of the building. “What is this place?”
“A mutual friend of Nikki’s and I is an artist. A photographer to be exact. He’s letting us use his studio for tonight.”
“Use it for what?”
“For something that’ll hopefully be fun and interesting.”
I narrowed my eyes in speculation. Pondering what we could possibly be doing.
It hit me once we entered the apartment. The floor, hardwood, and everything else was definitely what the artist’s lofts in the movies looked like. In one corner of the large loft, a photography set up, complete with lights, a white wall and chair, was situated. The photographer, whose name was Frederick, was taking snaps of what appeared to be his wife.
Frederick had a black beard, but not one that was too long to be homeless looking or too short to be Mister Francois. His black hair was slicked black into a thin bun. Exactly how I pictured a stereotypical artist to look like, complete with a white shirt and jeans. His wife, a blue-eyed blonde, was clutching her stomach; masking the most proud and love infested grin I had ever seen.
Derek nudged me. “They take pictures every month of the development of the birth. She takes the pictures naked as well as clothed.”
“Does that mean we’re going to see her naked?”
Derek chuckled and shook his head. “Of course not.” Then he stopped short and furrowed his brows. “At least, I don’t think so.”
It was my turn to giggle. Our laughter caught the attention of the couple and they waved us over. I greeted both Frederick and his wife, Samara. Frederick took Derek aside to speak to him, gesturing here and there. I had the opportunity to speak to Samara, who was four months into her gestation period. She was an interior designer, and this was her first child. I always loved babies, but I’ve always wondered whether I’d be a good mother or not. More so, I wondered whether I only like babies as long as they weren’t mine or because they were the cutest little bundle of never-ending liquids blaster in the world.
“They’re leaving this place to us for the night,” Derek said.
“Where are they going?” I asked once I saw them leave.
Derek laughed. “You’re like a curious google map; wanting to know where everyone is going.”
I laughed with him. “Okay, at least answer me that.”
“Okay,” Derek said, “I gave them a room at the Culver Hotel.”
“Really?” that was the answer I was least expecting.
Derek nodded and grabbed a bottle of wine. “I had to pay for a room to have dinner there, although now I’m starting to think that they were just saying that to milk some dough out of me. Anyway, I eventually got a room for one night, figured it was a little too inappropriate for us, so I gave it to them.” He popped the cork at the end and then smiled. “Skill.”
I smiled back, but still distracted by what he just did. Dinner must have been expensive enough, so for him to pay for a room for another couple, not to mention two cab rides, was crazy. Was this guy made out of money? Was this the side he’s been wanting me to see this whole time?
He poured us both a glass and handed me mine. “Ready?” he asked.
I froze after I gulped loudly. “Ready for what?”
Derek threw his chin forward and looked behind me. I turned at the set in the corner of the room.
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked.
Derek shook his head. “Of course not,” he took my hand. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”
I’d rather dance in front of the jazz band plus the entire staff and guest of the hotel. For some reason, this was a lot more nerve-wracking.
“Derek, I’m so embarrassed,” I whined.
“Don’t be, you’ll enjoy it. To make you feel better, I’ll go first. How’s that?”
I thought about it for a moment. “Okay, fine.”
Derek sat at the stool, and then I began clicking away. My finger was going haywire as I shot a million and one shots. The light was perfect, the only room really well lit was this set. The kitchen was then lit by a faint light hanging overhead behind us. The curtains were closed, and oddly enough, I felt comfortable with Derek.
“Alrighty,” Derek slapped his hands together and then rubbed them, “now your turn.”
After a couple more goofy shots, and then a shot-by-shot of Derek robot-ing his way over to the camera, he took over. I took one last (huge!) gulp of the wine, placed it on the floor and then hopped onto the stool.
“Just relax,” Derek said. “Don’t laugh, I’m in my zone,” he joked.
I laughed. “Are you an expert photographer, now?”
“I am an artiste!” Derek said, feigning a French accent. I laughed again. “I’ll have you know, that…” he moved over to me with a scarf he found on the living room couch and put it over my shoulder. “…my mother was a photographer.”
He seemed really intent on setting me up as if this was a professional shoot. “You’re mother?”
Then he looked at me, straight into my eyes. “This was how she met my father.” He went back to the camera. “My father was never the type to like pictures of himself, and yet the only woman that could take him out of his comfort zone, but still make him feel comfortable, was my mother. That’s how he knew she was something special. However, this whole photography lesson was on their second date when my mother had to set it up because my father did the first.”
“So I’m getting treated early,” I said. “Lucky me.”
Derek smiled and mumbled, almost low enough that I couldn’t hear, “only for a special someone.” It sounded like he was quoting his mother.
“Where is she now?” I asked. “Your mother?”
“She passed away when I was fourteen.”
“I’m so sorry.”
Derek shrugged and shook his head. “It’s fine,” he simply said.
“What about your father?”
“He…doesn’t remember me. I visit him here and there, Nikki even comes along. She’s a good sport.” He then smiled and I didn’t press further.
I smiled back. “That’s so sweet.”
“What about you?” he snapped another, and for some reason, this flash made me blink way more than usual.
“Umm…” I tried, “mother, father, brother.”
Derek laughed. “Sorry, I just imagined you saying that with a German accent just then.”
“Marzer, farzer, bruzzah, nien!” I joked. “’Nien’ is the only German word I know.”
“Someone once told me the words ‘I love you’ in German. It was the most disgusting sounding thing had ever heard.”
I laughed. “Remind me never to say ‘I love you’ in German then.” I closed my eyes, thinking that was kind of weird to mention. “You know, to, uh, someone.”
I heard giggling behind the camera, and then when I narrowed my eyes in that direction, he started laughing. I laughed with him.
“I feel like I’ve been up here for a considerable amount of time,” I said.
“Don’t rush an artiste!” he said, faking that French accent again.
Derek then stopped to play the iPod that Frederick left on the iPod dock and then came back. The song playing was Fade Out Line by Phoebe Killdeer and The Short Straws. Instead of moving back behind the camera, he strolled towards me. He smiled again as he took the scarf away. His smile was the kind of smile that made me smile. It was infectious. Some pieces of my hair fell on my face as I looked down to giggle. When I looked back up, Derek was brushing the strands away. His soft fingertips grazed my forehead and cheeks. At first it felt like he was setting me up for a different look, but then his expression changed. He continued stroking my cheeks, moving to my neck, letting his eyes cross my lips.
My smile, although still intact, changed its meaning into knowing anticipation. I used the foot rest of the stool to slowly lift myself and as I did, Derek positioned himself closer in between my legs. I placed my lips on his, feeling the yearning flowing out of him through his lips and into me.
I wobbled awkwardly on the stool, but fortunately it didn’t feel weird or embarrassing. Derek then lifted me at the legs, to which I responded by wrapping my legs around his waist. He placed me on the head rest of the couch, and at this angle, I could feel how hard he was. And my gosh was he hard!
“Wait,” he said in between my lips. He kissed me once and then again, and then parted. “Wait, wait, wait. I don’t know if this is right.”
“What do you mean?” I whispered.
Derek sighed, shaking his head. “I’m sorry to bring this up right now, especially since I’ve been wanting this for so long,” he moved backwards, creating some distance between us, “but are you even broken up with Daniel yet?”
I shrugged. “We’re on a break while long-distance. I think we’re broken up.”
Derek stared at me in contemplation. “Does he know that?”
“It’s over Derek.”
“Then what does that make me? The rebound guy?”
I shook my head. “No, I just…I just…”
“You just what?”
I hung my head. “I don’t know,” I muttered.
The pieces of hair fell all over my face again. Derek moved forwards, put his fingers under my chin and tilted my head to look at him. He moved the strands back, a soft smile appearing. I smiled back. He leaned down and then kissed me again, and we started up again as if we hadn’t finished. He slid his hand up my thigh, grazing my underwear. He then moved his fingers to the zipper of my dress, pulled it down and then lifted my dress over my head. I did the same to his shirt, when I exposed his bare chest, I kissed him. I let my pecks run a trail between his chest and onto his peck, slowly making my way towards the centre.
Derek gently pushed me back and onto the couch, he then climbed on top of me, making his own trail of kisses over my chest. My body burned at each kiss, rising and rising until I was panting, both with excitement and nerves.
“Derek,” I breathed, closing my eyes.
“I know,” he whispered at my stomach.
Our underwear was still on, his pants were still on, and yet the anticipation made my skin crawl. Derek rose back up to my lips again. One kiss. Two kisses. I felt his knuckles on my thigh as he tugged at his pants; and then he looked down using both hands to unbuckle his belt.
“Stupid thing won’t come off,” he mumbled in frustration.
Was this a sign? In that moment, all these words were rushing into my mind…
‘I think we’re broken up,’ I said.
‘Does he know?’ Derek asked.
‘I don’t want you to fuck him,’ Daniel said.
They were all hitting me like highlighted fragments. Testaments of a betrayal, it seemed. Before I knew it, my eyes started watering, but I tried my hardest to not let Derek see. While he fiddled with the belt, I took the time to control my eyes and my breathing.
“I can’t do this,” I finally said, shaking my head in shame. “I can’t do this.”
Derek looked up. “What?” he asked. He looked disappointed.
“I’m not this girl,” I sniffed. “I can’t be this girl.”
Derek stroked my cheek and tried a reassuring smile. “But…you said so yourself, you guys are broken up. He doesn’t need to know about anything beyond that.”
I shook my head, a tear fell from the corner of my eye. “I can’t. This feels wrong. I’m sorry.”
Derek, with pleading eyes, finally put his forehead to my stomach and sighed. The warmth of his breath with the coolness of my body made me shiver. Then he lifted himself off, making space between us that I forgot could exist.
He stood and held out his hand. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”
On the drive there, we hadn’t said a word to each other. Our previous fun and games in the car had dissipated, replaced only by constant thought. A gentleman to the end though, Derek still led me up to the front of my door.
“Thank you, for an amazing night,” I said.
Derek chuckled. “You’re welcome. I’m glad you had fun.”
“At least I tried, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“I guess,” he shrugged, “I’ll see you around.”
I nodded. “Goodnight, Derek.” I bit my lip to keep myself from saying anymore. Saying anything I’d regret.
Derek leaned into me and pecked me on the cheek. I smiled at the gesture; when he noticed he smiled back. The night obviously didn’t go all well, but at least it wasn’t a total bust. More importantly, it let me know, without a shred of doubt, where Daniel and I were.
It was late at night, but I still called Daniel. After the second try and the third ring, he answered.
“Yeah,” I said, shakily.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” I heard the shifting of blankets.
“I think we need to admit to ourselves what this really is,” I said.
“This break,” I sniffed. “We both know it’s really a break up.”
Daniel was quiet for a while, and then, “oh Anna, I fucked up. I fucked up bad. I didn’t mean for this shit to happen. I didn’t mean…Samantha, you know, she poisoned my mind and I thought that you would benefit from this, and, well, I just fucked up.”
My forehead creased in confusion. “Slow down, what are you trying to say?”
Daniel sighed shakily. “Remember how I told you that I pushed her off immediately?”
“Well, oh jeez, I’ll just go ahead and say it. I ended up initiating again. I swear to you I didn’t have sex with her; but…we were definitely close to it.”
I was at a loss for words. And here I thought I was betraying him. My heart was racing so fast, that I felt like it was seconds away from bursting out of my chest.
“Yup,” I squeaked. “I’m here.”
“I really don’t know what I was thinking. I really didn’t want you to go out with Derek. I figured it was like punishment for my actions and that way, in some twisted way, it’d be okay. But I know it isn’t. I’m sorry for doing this to you, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I never ever mean to hurt you.” I must have stared into oblivion again, getting lost into nothing. “Anna?” he asked again.
My eyes focused. “This has always been a break up hasn’t it?”
“I guess it was.”
“There’s no way around it now.”
“It’s all done,” he agreed.
“I guess this is it then.”
“I guess so.”
I sighed one last time. “I’ll mail you the bracelet, Daniel.” Then I wondered. “Why did you even give me that bracelet to begin with?”
“I guess it was too soon.”
I closed my eyes and shook my head. “I guess so.”
“So this is it then?”
I nodded. “This is it. I hope…” my words got caught in my throat and tears started building up again. “I hope everything goes well with your mother.”
“I hope you find someone that’ll treat you better.”
That made me cry harder, because even though he did a shitty thing, he had always treated me the best.
“Bye,” he said.
I was exhausted from the night, so exhausted that a headache started to appear and I couldn’t cry anymore. I took off my dress and, like a zombie, crawled into bed to await the morning. I mumbled off into a slumber, wondering what the days ahead of me were to bring…