Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mean Girls

I shoved the glass door open hard, letting it close fast behind me, shutting out the whistling wind.  It definitely didn't feel like December, but the wind was strong and angry.  I shivered, questioning my choice in wardrobe.  In other words, my lack of a jacket.  This wasn't unusual, as I chose to wait until it was below freezing every year before finally convincing myself that outerwear was necessary.

I flipped through the various keys on my keyring until I found the one I needed, to let me into the innards of the office.  I was finally at my "big girl" job.  I had gotten the job at Child Protective Services and was going through their extensive training program, but I was actually in the office this week.

I trudged back through the cubicle farm until I found my own special plot, tucked in the back corner, with no windows in sight.  All that was in my cubicle was a monitor, docking station which I'd be plugging my laptop onto shortly, a mouse, keyboard, and a large sheet of paper with "Welcome Aleah" printed on it in sterile permanent marker, with the names of my unit members autographed onto it.

All of my new coworkers had been nice enough, if not friendly.  A lady who had been there the longest, named Shirley, when I was introduced to her on my first day in the office said, "I'll bother remembering your name once you've been here more than a year."

Well.  Okay.

I threw my purse on a corner of my L-shaped desk and sat down hard in my chair.  I put my laptop on the docking station and turned it on, and waited for it to purr to life.  I leaned back and started scrolling through Facebook on my phone.  I wouldn't start carrying my own caseload for another 2 months while I went through the training process, so I didn't have a lot to do except see if I received any new emails and waited for my mentor to arrive and decide what I was doing for the day.

"Knock, Knock!"  a voice called out over my cubicle wall.

I grinned, despite myself.  My mentor, William, sat in the cubicle next to me.  He was tall (6'4"ish), with brown shaggy hair, built like a football player.  Very solid.  He was super goofy, and didn't take life too seriously.  He was a really good looking guy, but you could tell he didn't see it, so he didn't have the arrogance that a lot of times comes with good looks.  He wore a lot of Hawaiian print shirts (yes, even in December) that were too big for him.

He poked his head over the cubicle wall that separates us.  "Hey kiddo."

I rolled my eyes at him.  William was 5 years older than me, but you'd think he was 30 since he called me kiddo every time he saw me.  "Hey!"

"We're heading out into the field in about a half hour.  I have a bunch of investigations to initiate.  You ready?"

"Sure am!"

And with that his face disappeared behind his cubicle wall again.

I got up to use the bathroom before heading out.  On my way I passed two girls who work in my office- Stephanie and Mercedes- who didn't like me.  It's not that they had ever said they didn't, but I could tell by the way they looked at me and stopped whispering when I approached.  I was learning that being in an office was much like high school all over again.

After I was a couple cubicles past them, Mercedes called after me, "Hey, Aleah!"

I turned, hoping maybe they were actually being social.  "Hey, girls!"

Stephanie rolled her eyes.

"I like your shoes," Mercedes began, dryly, "what brand are they?"

I looked down at my shoes.  "Um, Diesel."

Mercedes crossed her arms over her chest.  "Let me guess, Nordstrom rack?"

I frowned, having a feeling where this was going.  "Actually, yes."

"Awww," Mercedes cooed, cocking her head to the side and smiling condescendingly at me.  "That's so sweet.  Your first big girl job, and you splurged on a pair of sale shoes?"

Stephanie laughed.

I fully turned my body to face the both of them at this point, and quickly looked them both up and down.  Fashion was something I was actually knowledgeable about, and they may have been used to being mean girls and getting away with it, but that wasn't going to happen with me.  I took a few steps towards them, so I was within arms' length of them.  I reached out and lightly touched Stephanie's purse she had looped over her forearm.  "Oh, Stephanie, where'd you get your purse?"

She puffed up her chest and spat, "Coach.  You don't even know what Coach is?"

I quickly put my fingers up to my mouth and fake gasped.  "Oh!  Well, next time you want to walk around flaunting your Coach bag, you should make sure it isn't a fake."  I was savvy enough to know the difference.  And, even though I didn't even own one, I still had been around them a lot.  Coach was actually my mom's bag of choice.

She opened her mouth to rebut, but I had already turned my attention to Mercedes.  "And Mercedes... I really like your dress.  Kate Spade, right?" 

She nodded.

"Yeah, it was really popular.  Two years ago."

She narrowed her eyes at me. 

"Well, good chat.  If you ever need some fashion tips, let me know!"  I then turned on my heel and kept walking to the bathroom. 

Once I was safe in the bathroom, I checked and made sure the stalls were all empty, and I took a few deep breaths.  I leaned on the counter, studying myself in the mirror.  My legs were shaking slightly.  I hated being bitchy.

But I also hated being walked all over.

I scooped some water up and into my mouth, went to the bathroom, and took my time washing my hands.  Once I felt I could walk without trembling, I left the bathroom, and noted the Bitch Squad was no where in sight.


Once I got home, I collapsed onto my couch.

My phone started ringing and I saw it was my dad calling.  I hit ignore.  I didn't feel like talking.  I felt tired. 

He called back again, immediately.  I sighed.  "Hello?"

"Aleah..." my dad's voice was shaky.  "I just found out grandpa was given only a day or two to live."

************************Author's Note************************

I'm posting this a little early, as a thank you for your patience.  The comments left about your excitement for my return were so sweet, and much needed.  I was honestly considering, as of today, to postpone my return until January.  I've had 3 of the most discouraging and saddening weeks of my life.  The next few posts may reflect that, as I'm healing and my writing will help me do that, I believe.  The day after I posted my last update post, I received a call from my uncle that my grandpa (dad's dad) had a day or two to live.  All of my family resides about 10 hours away from where I live, plus I was 2 hours away from home out of town for a training for work.  I left and drove there that night and got to see him before he passed, early morning the Sunday after.  While there, I got to visit all of my extended family.  Last week on Wednesday my grandma passed away (mom's mom).  And last Friday (on my birthday!), I was in a car accident that totaled my car.  It's been a rough, unbelievable, few weeks.  So, this is just to reiterate how much the sweet comments meant to me.  I'm excited to return and have missed you all!  I can't promise a consistent schedule right now, but I will attempt to post again, soon.

I also promise everything that was left off will be addressed.  I am picking up in current time, though, and needed to transition and put a few new characters into the story, so this was the ideal way to do it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

My Turn

The past week and a half had flown by.  We were in the hotel for longer than we'd initially thought we would be.  We were there for a week and two days.  Sarah, Aaron, and I played a lot of card and board games.  As boring as it would have seemed to have been, I wouldn't have wanted to be cooped up with anyone else.

We didn't talk about what happened with Aaron.  He was jumpy and I don't think he slept much.  He always laid in bed with me, with his arm around or over me.  Aaron and I were in one room; Sarah was in an adjoining room.  On either side of our rooms were the FBI agents that had driven us here.  There also was a constant watch located in the parking lot.

We found out our last day at the hotel, the reason it had taken longer than expected was because they had a hard time getting in touch with their guy on the inside who would have the information.  Once they spoke with him, they found out that Aaron's identify hadn't been shared beyond his little inner circle.  At least, not that had been discovered, yet.  Although, they all "reassured" Sarah and I that if his identity had been shared, a hit would have been put out on him and it would have reached the people still in, since they were higher up.

When we were able to go back to Lincoln, Aaron was pulled into a lot of debriefing and meetings.  He even was flown out to Chicago for a couple of days. 

He came back earlier in the day today.  Although we had spent a little over a week in hotel together, we hadn't had sex, or touched sexually.  He just seemed tired.  He almost seemed resistant to anything happening, not that either of us had really tried.

Aaron had gotten a haircut, and was back to dressing like his normal, put together, GQ self.  But, he still seemed distant.  His eyes were missing their playful shine.  It seemed as if he was going through motions, but his heart wasn't in it.

He did ask if he could stay the night with me at my house.  Sarah had gone to visit her family this weekend, and fill them in as to why she was MIA for a week. 

"If you want to go stay in your own bed, I would understand," I gently said.

He shook his head.  "No, I need to be here with you."

We were curled up together on the couch.  I positioned so my face was in front of his.  "Aaron, you don't have to protect me.  It's okay.  I'll be safe here."

He pulled me into his body, and pressed his lips to my forehead.  "I just want to be with you."

I understood.  "I missed you, too."

He absently flipped through channels, watching a show only until the commercials came on, then flipping to something new.  Although I found that extremely annoying, I let him have it.  I knew it was mindless, and he probably wasn't even paying attention to anything when it was on.

After awhile we went up to bed.  I got ready and slid in between the sheets, and he got ready and then joined me, first placing his gun on the table next to his side of the bed.  I faced him, laying on my side.  He dropped onto his back, and held out his arm for me to put my head on.  I snuggled into him, and against him.  "I love you, Aleah."

I inhaled deeply, breathing him in.  "I love you, too."

It was quiet for awhile, and I thought maybe he'd fallen asleep.  But it surprised me when he asked, "Aleah?"


"I'm sorry."

"For what?" I was confused.

"I... there's a lot I need to apologize to you for.  But at the moment, mostly because I know I'm not myself right now."

"Thank you, but it's okay.  I'm sure whatever you went through was... life changing."

"To say the least," he humorlessly laughed.

I was hesitant to ask the next question, because part of me didn't want to know, but I asked anyway.  "Do you think you'll tell me someday what happened?"

He immediately said, "I will, I promise."  His voice was tinged with sadness.

I knew then, that it was my turn.  It was my turn to be there for him, the way he was for me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Temporary Home

My eyes widened and a smile broke my face in half. 


He looked like he'd just been through hell.  He had bags under his eyes, his hair was shaggy and unkempt, and he was dressed in super baggy jeans and a massive tshirt. 

I took a quick step towards him and jumped at him, and he caught me.  I wrapped my legs around his waist and kissed him hard.  He kissed me back, just as passionately, but cut the kiss short. 

He let go of my legs, letting me settle back to the floor.  I made eye contact with him and I could tell something was wrong.  His eyes were hard.

He looked at me, then at Sarah, and back at me.  "I don't have a lot of time to explain right now.  You both need to come with me."

I looked past Aaron and saw a blacked out, non-descript SUV parked along my curb.  I furrowed my brow at him.

"I'm serious, Aleah," he said sternly, but I could see the urgency written across his face. 

"Are we coming back?"

"I'm not sure."

Sarah asked, "Can we at least pack a bag?"

"No.  I promise I'll explain more in the car, but we have to go, now."

She and I exchanged a look, grabbed our phones and purses, slipped on flip flops we had by the door, and followed Aaron to the car.

The door opened as we got closer, Aaron climbed in first and we slid in behind him.  The front seats were filled by two men whom I didn't recognize.  They weren't smiling, were in street clothes, and I could see the driver had a gun on his waist.

I was in the middle between Sarah and Aaron, and Aaron slid his arm around my back protectively, and kissed the side of my head.  I turned and whispered in his ear, "What name am I supposed to call you?"

He cracked a half-grin at that.  "Aaron."

Sarah and I sat in silence as the driver navigated through town and got onto the highway.  We were headed south, away from Omaha and Lincoln.

I finally broke the silence, because Sarah and I were both nervous, as evidenced by our bouncing legs, me picking at my nails, and her twirling her hair.  "Sooo... um, it's really good to see you?"

Unknown man #2 in the passenger seat spoke, "Aaron, you can tell them, minimally, what's going on."

Aaron sighed, and I felt his body tense.  "Some things... didn't go as planned.  A few days ago, somehow, Tito or one of his men figured out who I was.  And they quickly figured out who you were, then."

His head dropped to his chest and he put his palm on his face.  "He was threatening you, and I reacted.  There was a shootout..."  He trailed off.

Unknown man #2 picked up where he left off.  "We think that the information Tito found out was contained between him, his girlfriend, and the other guy in the house.  Not Aaron's partner, but another guy who was involved in Tito's ring.  We aren't positive, though.  So until we can verify that, we are putting you three up in a hotel.  It shouldn't be too long, because we have some leaks, and also a few other carefully placed undercovers."

"How long is 'not too long?'" Sarah asked.  "I'm supposed to be at work on Monday."

"We're hoping by mid-week you guys will be back home, unless there's an issue.  When we get to your destination, I'll get your employer's information and take care of it for you."

"Is your friend, the guy from the bar, is he okay?" I asked.

"He's in the hospital."  Aaron didn't elaborate, and I didn't push.

We drove in silence the rest of the way until we pulled up to a little dingy hotel in the middle of nowhere.

Unknown #1, the driver, turned around and looked at us, "Well, here's your temporary home for the next few nights."

Sarah and I exchanged glances.  Aaron grabbed my hand, and opened the door to exit.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Something Just Feels Off

I jerked awake, my eyes opening wide.  Where was I?  I was laying on my side, facing a wall with a window on the edge of a foreign bed.  My eyes darted around wildly, trying to center my thoughts and remember where I was.

I had been asleep, deeply.  I felt more tired than I had before I'd gone to sleep, I think.

The dingy plainness of the room reminded me I was in a hotel.  I felt a random arm fling over my side, casually, but no other movement.  I squeezed my eyes shut tight, wondering if this was actually a dream.  I bit the inside of my cheek sharply, and the pain resonated through my senses, letting me know this was for real.

I eyed the arm that was draped over my waist, cautiously; the events of the past 24 hours were rushing back like a tidal wave, overtaking my thoughts.  As much as I wanted this arm around me, it came with a lot of repercussions.

~~~~~~~24 hours earlier~~~~~~~

Sarah and I had woken up early, and with hangovers, after downing a couple bottles of wine the night before.  Drowning our lonely sorrows.  However, something about wine makes me more hung over the next morning.  I think it dehydrates me.

We were trying to sneak through the grocery store as unseen as possible, in our sweats and oversized t-shirts, our hair looking like we had just woken up after sleeping on it.  Pretty much because we had.  We were craving biscuits and gravy, eggs, and bacon, so we were trying to pick up what we didn't have, so we could gorge ourselves without having to be in public for too long.

I felt uneasy while we were walking around, haphazardly throwing things into the cart, but blamed it on my pounding headache.  "We need Advil, too," I groaned to Sarah, who gave me a guttural caveman sound in agreement.

We were not fit for public.

I grabbed a carton of eggs, and was checking them for cracks when I felt I was being watched.  I looked up to see a man, about my height, slightly overweight, blatantly staring at me.  I squinted my eyes at him and gave him what I imagined to be a snarl-y look, and went back to my egg checking.

Like I said, not fit for public.  I'm not known for my friendliness and hospitality on the rare occasions I'm hungover. 

We trudged back towards the aisle with the medicines.  I was squatting, looking for a supersized bottle of Advil (because obviously we were going to need the largest size possible...), and Sarah was idly staring off in the distance, when I looked down the other end of the aisle and Mr. Judgey McJudgerson was standing there watching me (or us?) again.  He wasn't even trying to hide it by fake looking at items on the shelves.

"Sarah!" I whissped (whisper/hissed).  She was still blankly looking the other way.  "Sarah!"

She slowly forced her gaze to look down at me.  I grabbed a box of bottled Advil and stood up.  "Dude, check out Mr. Creepy behind us."  She started to turn and I grabbed her arm.  "Don't be obvious!"

She rolled her eyes at me, but started looking at the pregnancy tests, that were on the opposite side of the aisle.  I saw her look down there, and I looked up, and he was gone.  I frowned.  She turned and looked at me, and gave me A look. 

"I swear he was just down there."

"Yeah, okay," she said, again rolling her eyes. 

I scoffed and we headed towards self checkout.  While checking out, I saw him standing there again, by the door waiting to exit.  Still looking at me, but this time he was on the phone.

We went to leave and he was still standing there by the door.  Still staring.  As we walked past him, his gaze didn't leave mine.  I wasn't going to back down.  Right as we walked past him I snipped, "Take a picture, it'll last longer."

Sarah snapped at me, "Aleah. Rude!" at the same time the guy said, with a sneer on his face, "Already did."

Chills immediately ran up and down my spine and goosebumps popped up all over my body.  I gave him another long look, Sarah tightly gripped my upper arm and we sped walked out to my car.  I felt Sarah turn and look behind us.  "I don't see him," she said.  "And that was super creepy.  Although, that was probably uncalled for by you."

I ignored her last comment.  "Do you think I should call Brad?"

She scrunched up her face.  "Why?"

"Um, you DID just see what happened back there, right?"

"Duh.  But I think maybe you're being a little paranoid because of... you know... everything that's happened."

"Okay, if all that happened was the last exchange, I'd agree with you," I argued.  "However, you didn't see the other two times he was creepily staring at me."

She shrugged.  "You're right.  I didn't.  If you think you should, go ahead."

As I backed my car up, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the creeper standing back behind my car, holding out his phone.  I gasped.  "Sarah, the fucker just took a picture of my license plate."

She whipped her head around.  "Call Brad."

Since it was the weekend, I figured Brad wouldn't be in his office.  I called his cell, and he answered, his voice ringing through my car speakers.

"Hey Aleah, what can I do for you on this fine Saturday morning?"

I didn't waste time and immediately told Brad what had happened at the store, my body tensing up, as I recounted everything.

Brad's voice was light.  "Oh okay, can you tell me what he looked like?"

Sarah and I took turned describing him. 

When we were done, Brad said, "Alright Aleah, thanks for letting me know.  I'm sure it was just a uniform keeping an eye on you, but I'll call you back if there's anything to tell."

When I hung up, Sarah commented, "He didn't sound very worried."

"No, no he didn't.  But, something just feels off."


Sarah and I were wrapped up in blankets on opposite ends of the couch, binge watching The Walking Dead on Netflix in anticipation of the new season starting in a few weeks.  It was now late in the afternoon, and we'd been napping off and on, still in our pajamas.  I had my phone next to me, waiting to see if Brad got back to me, but he still hadn't.

I was trying to take the approach that "no news is good news," but I just couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. 

We were right at a tense moment in an episode, when there was a banging at the front door.  Sarah and I both jumped, and she let out a shriek.  We looked at each other, eyes wide.  "Who is it?" she whispered to me.

"How would I know?  I've been sitting right next to you!"

There was another pounding at the door.

We got up, together, and made our way to the door.  She grabbed one of my tennis racquets, and I grabbed another, which I kept in my bag next to the door.  We held them back, and I tentatively opened the door.  The racquet in my hand fell to the floor with a loud clatter, shock freezing me in place at who was standing on the other side.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

From a Distance

Sarah and Matt’s break up had come as a shock to me.  It stemmed from Sarah being at Matt’s house, and Matt was showering.  His phone had lit up with an incoming call from his ex-girlfriend, whose name Sarah happened to know.  She didn’t answer, however, she did get curious and opened his texts and read a quite lengthy text conversation that had occurred between the two of them that spanned over a week and a half or so.  The conversation wasn’t outright sexual, but there was subtle flirting with an open ended invitation from her for them to have dinner which he hadn’t turned down.  She was mad at the inappropriate conversation, and he was mad she had read his texts.  It blew up from there and they broke up and neither had spoken since.  Sarah was feeling guilty and felt that it was her fault, and she shouldn’t have read the messages. 

I tended to lean towards the side of my bestie, and be fiercely loyal to her, and said Matt shouldn’t have been text-humping his ex-girlfriend.  Maybe a little extreme wording... but maybe halfsies true.

After she had shared all this with me, I unfortunately had let my mind wander that night while in bed, and started imagining all the more-than-likely-inappropriate conversations Aaron was having in the name of his job, and I shuddered.

But that was a week ago. 

And the thoughts were still present.

My phone rang and it was Detective (Brad) Stratton.  He asked me to come and speak with him down at the station. 

Once I got there, he didn’t waste any time cutting right to the point.

“Did you see Aaron recently?”

I gulped.  “Yeah... I was planning on coming and telling you about it, I just got busy.  I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

“I’m not mad,” he quickly said.  “I understand why you would tell me, but unless his cover was blown, you would’ve had no reason to come speak with me immediately, I suppose.”

“Aaron and I did talk.  And he told me to tell you.  I was just scared of the repercussions for him, that he might get pulled if I did.”

“Oh, no, Aleah.  He’s in way too deep.  He’s not getting yanked out, yet.  But I do need to make you aware that the main person of interest that Aaron is after is trying to have one of the other undercovers find you.  It’s being handled, so you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, but I would avoid Omaha in case you run into them again.”

I looked down at my hands, fidgeting in my lap. 

Brad leaned over and patted my shoulder.  “Keep your chin up, kid.  I know this is hard for you.  And I can already tell that you want to run out to Omaha and try to run into him again.  Don’t do it.  It won’t help the fake id that was created for you.  You were just visiting here and live in Florida.  I’m telling you this, just in case you do run into them again.  Your name is Kim Smith.”

I smiled at him.  “You guys could’ve chosen a better name for me at least.  Kim Smith?” I wrinkled my nose.

“Hey, we needed something very generic that would be next to impossible to search and find out that it really isn’t you.”

“Got it.”

“So tell me what happened with Aaron.”

I detailed what happened, only glossing over the bathroom experience (we met in the bathroom, and, um, talked briefly... and stuff).  Brad laughed when I told him my last exchange with the Tito guy.
We briefly touched base about Luke’s case.  Trial was officially scheduled for February.  For now.  It kept getting delayed.

Before I left, Brad made me promise to not go to Omaha, and if for some reason I had to, I was supposed to take Sarah, since she was my “cousin,” and Brad wanted to come along as my dad.  I told him I’d avoid it, and let him know if for some reason I couldn’t.

Even though I was still struggling with Aaron not being around, after speaking with Brad, I felt more secure knowing that I was being looked after from a distance.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

I Wouldn't Regret It: Aaron's Perspective

A/N: Hey all, I've decided that when I do bonuses on the weekend, they are going to be from Aaron's perspective, so that way we all have insight into what's going on with him :)  Hope that's okay!  If I need a bonus from Aleah, I'll post an additional one during the week, and as always, give you guys a head's up!  ~A


"Lorenzo, over here, brah," Jose called out to me.

I took one last, long look at the stargazer lilies and strode over to him.  "Sorry, man."

He raised his eyebrow at me and snickered.  "Didn't know you were so into flowers."

I shook my head.  We were at the store picking up groceries.  Jose and I usually went shopping for groceries on Sundays for our small apartment.  To our knowledge, Tito didn't know where it was, but we weren't sure, so we couldn't ever talk about personal things there.  That's why we talked (quietly) about real life when we shopped.  Still didn't use real names, and spoke in code a lot, but it helped being away from our families. 

Jose had been under for a lot longer than I had.  He had been more than a year when I came in.  This operation was originally for guns.  There was a huge illegal gun ring out of Omaha, ran by Tito.  I got brought in because it was discovered that there was also a secondary drug cartel, also being ran by Tito.  His big one was coke.  From what I'd learned so far, he would sell anything for the right price, but he mainly stuck with blow.  The story was that I was Jose's second cousin from Chicago, where I deal, though not quite as big time as Tito.  I was brought in, because before I was on the homicide unit with Brad, I had worked briefly in the narcotics unit in Lincoln.

Jose's real name was Brian.  He's really from LA, and on the PD there.  He's married and has a now 3 year old.  Luckily, for him, being more involved with the gun side, he got to fly around the country, and to travel to San Bernardino and Santa Barbara, so he would a lot of times leave his phone in the hotel room, in case it was tracked, and go overnight to see his family.

Originally it was thought that I would fly "back" to Chicago often, since that's allegedly where I'm from, giving me time to really go home and see Aleah.  However, turns out Tito really likes me and trusts me and asked me to stay out this way to be his right hand man.

We were part of the way through the store.  "Hey, 'Zo.  What was up with the girl in the bar a couple weeks ago?"

I rolled my eyes.  "When is Tito going to get off that?"

"No shit answer."  That was Jose's code for he wanted the truth, and he knew there was more to the story than I was letting on.

"Ok, so this is really fucked up," I ran my hand through my hair, then grabbed a bag of chips and threw them into the cart.  "It was my girlfriend."

"Are you fucking me?"  he looked at me incredulously. 

I shook my head.  "In the flesh."

Although we knew a lot of personal details about each other, one thing we kept private were names of anyone we knew, and our last names.  That way if something were to go down and the other was tortured, we didn't have to worry about personal details coming out.  We trusted each other, but it was just better this way.

"That's why I need Tito to let it go, and I keep blowing it off."

"Dude, he must be suspicious of something, because he asked me to find her."

I widened my eyes at him.  "Are you shitting me right now?  You can't do it."  I was starting to panic a little, internally.  "How would you anyway?  I had her leave there shortly after I spoke with her."

He sighed.  "He took a picture of her friend's license plate.  He said he thought you two looked at each other differently.  He didn't say he thought you knew each other, but he thought you two had a connection.  He said he 'just had a feeling' about it."

"What are you going to do?"

"I already contacted my home station.  They're getting me some fake papers with names, and it's going to trace to your girl with a fake name and she'll be living out on the east coast somewhere.  Don't worry, I got you.  I didn't want to involve some innocent girl in this, but now knowing who it really is, I'm definitely going to make sure all bases are covered."

I nodded at him, remaining cool on the outside, but internally I was still freaking out.  I decided I would somehow get a hold of Brad the next time I was meeting with my superiors, so he could look out for Aleah.

Because if anything happened to her, at the hands of Tito, I would kill him.

I wouldn't regret it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Worst of Both Worlds

"You're gonna fuck him again, and you're gonna like it," Tito said through gritted teeth, pressing the cold barrel of the gun under my chin, making my jaw hurt.

I felt the hot tears streak my face that were falling from my eyes, evidence of the fear that I was unwilling to verbalize.  I shook my head no.  

I wasn't sure where I was.  It was dark with a single light hanging from the ceiling.  I was pressed up against a wall with my hands tied behind my back.  

"Mmm," he growled, nipping at my ear.  "Would you rather have me instead?"

He licked my neck, and with his head to my side I saw over his shoulder and gasped.  There, under the light, blind folded and duct taped to a chair, was Aaron.

My eyes shot open and I sat up with a start.  My tank top was soaked in sweat, and I wiped at the real tears that had trailed down my face during the nightmare.  I looked over at my clock, and it was only 4 a.m.

It was more or less the same one every single night since I'd ran into Aaron and Tito at the bar.  I think I was nervous that something was going to happen, and was combining what Aaron had told me with Luke.  So Tito was the worst of both worlds right now.

I was tired from sleeping restlessly and waking up constantly.  I was having a hard time remaining optimistic due to the stress from my dreams.  I had an appointment with my therapist the next day, so I was hoping he would be able to help me out, as I was at a loss.  I had been doing a lot better, and so the medication I was originally on I had gone off of, but I was thinking about asking to be put back on it again.  Or at least some type of sleep aid to keep me asleep at night.  I also decided I needed to talk to Detective Stratton to let him know about my run-in with Aaron and Tito.

I'd had my interview a few weeks ago at the Department of Health and Human Services for a position investigating child abuse and neglect.  They told me that they were waiting for a new "cohort" to start training, and had some more applicants to interview, but as soon as they heard about the new cohort and had made a decision, they would give me a call.  I tried to focus on how my interview had gone, to distract myself from everything else.  It was easier to think about that than anything else.

Eventually I must have drifted off, as I woke up to the sun trying to break through my curtains.  I stretched and yawned, still tired.

I made my way downstairs and saw Sarah was sitting on the couch, not at work.  "What are you doing here, slacker?" I asked through a yawn.

She shrugged, but didn't answer me and didn't look at me.  I poured a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and dumped milk in it.  I grabbed it, along with the box, for when I ate the cereal and then could add more to my leftover milk, and went into the living room.  I sat in a chair, and took in Sarah's appearance.  She still hadn't looked at me or spoken to me.  She looked rather disheveled, her blonde hair unkempt and matted from sleeping on it, smeared eye make-up, and wrapped up in a blanket.

"Are you sick?"

She shook her head no.

"Don't make me come over there and beat it out of you," I joked.

She then shot me a look, but burst into tears.

I looked at her alarmed.  I put my cereal aside, no longer important.  I got up and went over to her, and wrapped my arms around her, pulling her close to me.  "Sar, what is wrong?"

She sniffled.  "Matt and I broke up."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Split Decision

A/N:  I wanted to try something a little differently, and wrote this split between Aleah and Aaron's views.  It has their name before each section they are narrating.  This won't happen often.  However, if you love it, let me know and I can try this in the future, or if you hated it, let me know that, too, and I'll stay far, far away from doing this ever again :)  ~A



I recognized Tito from when I spilled that girl's drink accidentally.  I knew that this was my time to shine.  I had to for Aaron.  Although, really, for my own sake and safety, too.

I shot Tito an embarrassed look, which was more or less the truth, and turned to give Aaron one last hasty look, hoping it appeared full of lust.

I heard Tito compliment Aaron, and the sound of hands smacking together.  "Niiiice, 'Zo!"  I blushed.

Aaron responded, but I couldn't hear what he said.



"Yeah.  Guess I just needed a good fucking," I responded to Tito, while I watched Aleah walk away.  She played it off good enough.  Hopefully Tito wouldn't question her as more than some girl I hooked up with.

He asked me something, but I was lost watching her turn the corner back into the bar.

"Pendejo!  I'm talking to you," Tito pushed my shoulder.  His way of getting my attention.  It wasn't violent, just not friendly.


"That piece of ass that good, huh?  I asked if you got her number."

"Oh, right."  I started to see red, hearing Aleah referred to that way.  I took a deep breath, knowing this was just work, nothing personal."  "Yeah, she's hot, but there's a million more like her."

Tito scoffed.  "You looked at her different than you have any other bitch we've been around."

"Nah, man.  Just haven't hit it that hard in awhile."  I gave him a half grin and walked off, to get a drink and head back into the VIP.



When I rounded the corner out of view of Aaron and Tito, I quickened my pace.  As much as I desired to be with Aaron and watch him, even from a distance, I had a bad feeling about Tito.  Based on that feeling and Aaron's warning, I needed to get out of there.  Especially, I needed to get Rosa and Quinn out of there before a chance run-in with Aaron.

When I got into the karaoke bar, Rosa and Quinn were belting out "Sweet Caroline" to the rest of the bar, everyone singing along loudly with their glasses raised.  Despite what had just happened, I smiled and laughed at their drunken singing.

I sought out Sarah.  I found her at a small round high top with several drinks on it, all at least half full.  The song was almost over.  I needed to hurry and I needed to have Sarah help me.  She had driven and was the least drunk of all of us.  "Sar, we need to get out of here."

"Why?" She looked at her phone.  "It's not even 1 yet."

I picked up one of the drinks, "Is this one of theirs?"

She nodded her head, looking at me strangely.  I started chugging the drink.  I finished it and put it on the table.  "We need to go.  Now."

She saw the look on my face and nodded her head, and started drinking her drink.  I picked up the other one and dumped a little bit of it into the now other 2 empty glasses, making them all next to empty.  Rosa and Quinn just got back to the table.

"Oh, we're out!  I'll get the next round," Rosa said excitedly. 

Sarah faked a yawn.  "Actually, we probably should get going.  I have to work in the morning and we still have an hour drive back to Lincoln."  Lie.  Not about the drive, but about her working.

"Oh yeah, I forgot about that, Sarah.  I'm sorry!"  I was way over-acting.

Quinn nodded, seemingly empathetic.  "Oh yeah.  Sorry we kept you ladies out so late!  And thank you for driving, Sarah."

Rosa chimed in, "Yes, thank you.  Let's go.  It was so much fun!"

Their words were slightly slurred, but hopefully mine and Sarah's abrupt need to leave wouldn't seem so weird with the alcohol dulling their BS radars.



I was back at the table and had been for a few minutes.  Gina was pulling her normal overly-flirty act with me, since Tito wasn't around.  I didn't fully understand their relationship.  He slept around with whoever he wanted, she seemed to know but didn't say anything.  I think she was content having whatever she wanted at her beck and call.  I was getting disgusted though, with her purposely rubbing her nipple over my arm.  Since her tiny shirt was see through.  Why the hell did she think that was attractive?  Even if I was looking for someone to hook up with, dressing like that only made me assume she was dripping with gonorrhea or the hiv.  Fucking nasty.

I sighed, exasperated.  "Where's your boyfriend, Gina."

"Eh, who cares.  He'll be back when he gets back," she said, as she turned, once again rubbing her chest against me. 

I stood up, done.  "Wait, where you going?" she asked.

I looked at her.  My mom would slap me if she heard me talk to a female the way I was about to.  "None of your fucking business, Gina.  I don't answer to you."

I walked out, in search of Tito.  Seeing Aleah, although it had initially made me happier than I've been since I said bye to her in Philadelphia, had just put me in a really bad mood.  I was angry, and I couldn't even pinpoint why.



We were all out the door, almost to Sarah's car when I heard a voice yell out behind me. 

"Hey!  Hey, girl!"

I turned, and saw Tito jogging after us.

Just, no.

I stopped and turned to walk back to him, not wanting for any of the other three to hear whatever conversation was about to ensue.

I pretended to be super confused. "Can I help you?"

He smiled, slyly.  It sent shivers, and not the good kind, down my spine.  "My boy, Lorenzo, back there.  I think he wants your number, but was too shy to ask."

Internally, I froze, not sure what to do.  I decided to play hardball, instead.  I folded my arms over my chest.  "Well, if he wanted it so bad, he sure is doing a piss-poor job of asking for it."  Tito started to talk, but I quickly cut him off.  "Plus, he didn't seem so shy in the bathroom."

"Aw, come on.  He's a good-looking dude.  You wouldn't want to see him again?"

I knew then how to get him to leave it.  I shrugged my shoulders.  "He wasn't that good." And I walked away, my knees weak, and my legs shaking.



I quick walked out to Tito, as I saw he and Aleah walking away from each other.  "Tito, wha's up?"

He grinned and nodded his head back at Aleah.  "I tried to get her number for you."

I clenched my fists.  "And?"

"She said you weren't any good!" he guffawed.  He kept walking back towards the bar, his back to me.

"That bitch," I said, though I was grinning like a proud parent having witnessed their child just score the winning touchdown.  I sent a silent "thank you" to Aleah, hoping if she somehow felt it, she would know it was for more than just this moment.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

This Could Ruin Everything: Aaron's perspective

And we froze.


What were mere seconds felt like hours. We said nothing, but everything.

Everything inside of me wanted to gather her in my arms and hold her close, but on the outside I had to remain cold and aloof.  I couldn't have Tito or his girl, Gina, turn around and catch any type of interaction.  At best, Tito would try to take her home, despite Gina's presence.  At worst... well, lets not talk about at worst. If he suspects I'm anyone other than who I'm portraying to be, everyone either of us knows will be in witness protection for the rest of our lives.

This could ruin everything.

Through her eyes I saw the whole spectrum of emotions:  joy, hurt, confusion, anger, fear, and lastly, realization.  I held her gaze just enough, but not anywhere near enough.  I quickly looked her up and down.  Damn, she looks gorgeous.  I want to touch every inch of her body with every inch of mine, but alas...

I was about to head back into the middle bar, when my eyes darted past her to see who she was with.  Well, fuck.  Just, fuck. 

My mother was there, too?  How in the hell, and why?

I closed my eyes and pushed through the door, praying that only Aleah saw me.  I also sent a silent message to her, that she would avert anyone she was with away from me.

As I stalked back to the bar to get Gina another drink, I grabbed a pen sitting on someone's receipt left on the bar, and a napkin, and scribbled a quick message.  I looked to see Aleah making her way through the bar, watching me closely, with Sarah, my mom, and Rosa following behind.  I turned my back to them, hoping they don't notice me.  Aleah was in front and I turned my head to the right to see her start to brush past me, and I stuffed the napkin into her hand, while she was next to me. 

I waited until her group made their way into the karaoke bar, and I went back to where Tito, Jose, and Gina were.  They were set up in VIP of course.  I couldn't even believe this place had a "VIP" section.  And they already had a harem of what Jose and I refer to as "vultures."  The girls that want to be part of what you are.  I didn't even want to be at this fucking place to begin with tonight.  Gina had made us food before we left, and every time she cooks I get sick.  Every.  Single.  Time.

The good news is, Tito and Gina both know it, so when I disappear in 10 minutes to meet Aleah, they won't come looking for me.

I know I look distracted, and I catch Tito watching me.  I nod a "what's up" at him.  He hollers over at me, "Selection here not good enough?" as he gestures to the 5 or 6 girls that have gathered.  I give him a half smile of approval, while inside my stomach is churning.  And this time, not from Gina's cooking.

My undercover orders are to act as "when in Rome."  In order for me to be trusted and get into the inner circle, I have to play and look the part.  So far, I'd managed to not fuck any girls.  I can't do it to Aleah.  I love her.  I constantly have girls surrounding me who aren't leaving much to the imagination in how they're dressed.  Some of them are really good looking, and if I was single, I would happily, and fully, be playing the part.  One of my earliest tests after meeting Tito, was trying to show I was not hiding anything and had no ties to anyone, so I could do his bidding as needed.  While Tito had a gun pointed at me, without flinching, I had to let some whore blow me.  I didn't finish.  I couldn't.  I had to block out my surroundings and think about Aleah only in order to even get it up. But finishing wasn't the point.  I had to prove to Tito that I had nothing to lose.  On the outside, I was fine.  On the inside I was crying, because I have one, who is my everything, to lose.  There would be a lot of questionable things I had to do or participate in while playing my role.  There were certain rules I couldn't break, others I could toe the line, and some my superiors would look the other way. 

I look at my burner phone.  One minute.  I break away from the two girls that are laying it on thick with me, and go over to Tito. I lean down so he can hear me and say, "Gina's cooking."  I stand back up and he laughs, and I head to the middle bar, where the bathroom is.

I don't know what architect built this joint, but they're an idiot.  However, I'm thanking them at that moment.  The bathrooms there were single bathrooms.  The girls' had a line, of course.

I push open the guys' bathroom door and look behind me to see Aleah taking quick steps in shoes that are ungodly high towards the bathroom. I can't hide the smile, though, at seeing her.

I check behind her and didn't see anyone I recognize.  I held the door open for her, and she entered.  I closed it, locked it, and immediately turned to her and pushed her against the wall, pressing my mouth hard against hers. 

I wanted to taste her, feel her, breath her in.  I needed to. 

She kissed me back, just as hungrily.  I grab her waist, having forgotten how perfectly it fits inside the grip of my hands.  The kissing lasts minutes.  Hell, I don't know, maybe hours.  Realistically, though, minutes.

I reluctantly pull away, but rest my forehead against hers.

"Aaron," she whispers.  I place a finger over her mouth, silencing her.

"I love you.  Please don't say my name."  I pause.  "I love you.  You look amazing.  I've missed you so much.  I love you."

I feel her muscles relax.  "I love you.  When are you coming home."  It was a statement.

I sighed.  "Not soon enough.  I'm not sure.  It could be awhile.  Unfortunately, a long time.  Did I mention I've missed you?"

She smiled.  I would do anything to make her smile, to keep her smiling, to be able to see her smile.

Before she could say anything, I continued.  "Aleah, you need to listen to me.  These people I'm working with... they're bad.  They're extremely dangerous.  I'm in deep and can't get out right now.  But they can have no knowledge of who you are, or who I am.  I'm not sure how long we'll be here tonight, but I need you to get out of here.  Get my mom out of here.  I can't risk Sarah, my mom, or Rosa seeing me and blowing my cover.  If you see me in here again, don't look at me.  Pretend I don't exist tonight."  The deep sadness that clouded her face caused a part of me to die right then.  "Please be strong.  There's so much I want to tell you, and so much I want to ask you, but I just don't have time right now.  If you ever think there's someone following you or watching you, or anything, let Brad know immediately.  There's another guy I'm undercover with, his name is Jose.  Well, his real name isn't, but that's a whole other story. I just want you to know I'm not alone, and we're looking out for each other."

She nodded her head, but I could see the fear etched across her forehead, and trailing through her eyes.  I kissed her gently, again, first on the forehead, then the tip of the nose, and finally on her lips. 

I stepped back to look her up and down and take her fully in, knowing that I may not see her for a long time.  I want the image of her burned into my brain.  I see a tear make its way slowly down her face.  I brushed it off with my thumb, letting my hand linger on her cheek.  "Babe, I know this is hard.  At least until you get home, I need you to be strong.  And especially walking out of this bathroom, I need you to act like everything is okay.  Or, rather, act like we just met and I fucked the life out of you.  If anyone is out there who knows me, I can't have them think I know you."

"I wish you would," she quietly said.

"You wish I would what?"

She smiled sadly at me, but there was a slightly mischievous look behind the sadness.  She shyly said, "You know... fuck the life out of me."

She blushed and I laughed, moving closer to her.  I love the innocent side of her.  The spontaneous, adventurous side, too.  I side nodded to our surroundings.  "Really?  In here?"

I saw her briefly look around the bathroom, and back at me.  "I mean, you want to make it look believable when we walk out of here, right?"

I studied her face closely.  She looked so innocent, yet truly like she wanted to help.  And beneath it all, she looked as if she really just wanted me with her for as long as possible. 

I didn't answer her.  I kiss her in response.  I'm already ready for her; I was the minute I laid eyes on her.  I unbutton my jeans, and unzip them, pushing them and my boxer briefs down to my knees.  She coils a hand around me and I moan into her mouth.  I roughly push her short things to the side, and feel she has no panties on.  I smile into our kiss, and let a finger feel her.  She's just as ready for me.  I push that finger into her and she intakes a breath, sharply.  I remove it, and she lets go of me, and I guide myself into her gently.  I know this isn't going to take long, for either of us.  I press my thumb against her as I thrust.

She presses her mouth into my shoulder and makes some muffled noises, or something.  I don't know, I can't focus on much other than her tightening around me, putting the cherry on top of this cake, as I quietly groan her name into her ear.  We stay like that for a time, me supporting her, and I can sense she's shaky.

After she feels stable, she loosens her grip on me.  She looks at me, shyly, again, and makes her way to the toilet.  She cleans herself off, and I get myself straightened back up. 

Before we walk out, I put my hands on her cheeks.  "I love you, sweet girl.  When it gets hard, or the nights seem long, remember that."

I unlock the bathroom door, taking one more long look at her.  Her hair is slightly disheveled looking, but I don't fix it.  When I open the door, I'm glad I hadn't.  Because standing there, was Tito.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Like Being in College Again

Sarah wrinkled her nose at me.  "Was it awkward?"

I shrugged my shoulders.  "Not really.  I was surprised, because Aaron never mentioned his mom was a lesbian.  I really liked her and her partner a lot."

I was straightening my hair, getting ready to meet Quinn and Rosa out at a bar.  They wanted to get drinks, and it was their last night in town.  They were flying out late afternoon the next day. 

Sarah was going along, too.  I had made sure they were okay with it.  I didn't want to feel like a third wheel.

"So, isn't it weird you never met or spoke with either of them, and his mom just randomly calls you?  Do you think it's really her?"  Sarah looked skeptical.

I laughed.  "This isn't some conspiracy theory, Sar.  Aaron told me his mom's name was Quinn.  He has a picture of his family at his house.  Like, an old family picture with his mom and dad in it.  Obviously it's really old, and in the picture her hair was darker, but I think it looked like her, from what I remember."

"Okay..." She still looked doubtful.

An hour and a half later we were at a "sophisticated" bar in Omaha, sipping martinis.  Since Rosa had never been to Nebraska, Quinn wanted her to see Omaha, since it was much bigger than Lincoln, and they were used to going out in Chicago, so Omaha was a bit more their speed.

I wasn't sure where the night was going to take us, so I was dressed to fit in (almost) anywhere in a romper and purple pumps.  Sarah was dressed similarly and Rosa and Quinn were in fitted tiny dresses.  I had a feeling they both always looked like they had just stepped out of a photo shoot.

We talked about Sarah's and my plans for the foreseeable future, what Quinn and Rosa do for a living (Quinn is a lawyer, Rosa is a podiatrist), and Quinn told us about Aaron's sisters.  She said they expressed wanting to meet me sometime, too, as she had called and told them about meeting me.  She said she didn't tell them before she left, as they would have tried to come along, and she didn't want to overwhelm me.

After a couple of martinis, they wanted to move on.  They said they wanted to go somewhere "interesting" and different from what they're used to, in order to people watch.  Sarah and I smirked at each other, because we knew just the place.  Quinn and Rosa said most of the places they go out to were high-class places, such as martini bars, jazz lounges, country clubs, etc.  Even though I (or rather, my parents) could afford to live like that, I didn't often.  I enjoyed those places, and would go with my parents or Zach and his family and sometimes my friends, but in recent years, I was more used to hanging out with my (financially challenged) college friends and going to honky-tonk dive bars for penny pitcher night.

Sarah and I laughed, reminiscing about such nights, and shared some stories with Quinn and Rosa as we drove to the next place.  Sarah and I had only been to the next bar twice.  Both times had turned into quite the experience.  The first time was when I was dating Derek, and we went with some of our friends and Derek.  Derek had gotten into a fight, because some guy didn't like the way I was looking at his girlfriend.  Or rather, she had called me some choice words in the bathroom because I had stumbled (thanks, alcohol!) into her when opening the door, and then when I got out, as soon as I was next to Derek, here comes her boyfriend threatening me, because I "looked at his girl wrong."  The second time, I was with Sarah and some girls from the track team, and a random girl sat down at our table, sobbing, and going through her phone showing us her "modeling" pictures.  AKA, her friend who was trying to start a photography business wanted to take modeling pictures because she was "so pretty she should be a model" and really they looked like a Wal-Mart studio had done them.  If Wal-Mart even had a photo studio.  But she didn't understand why none of agencies they were sent to weren't picking her up, and she wanted us to give her validation.  I guess.

I knew that I was way overdressed as we handed our ID's to the bouncer.  But hey, at least I wasn't alone.  This was one of the last bars in Omaha that allowed smoking inside, so we were all going to smell like an ashtray when we left, too.  I turned to see the looks on Rosa and Quinn's faces, and wasn't disappointed.  I laughed at the mixed expressions of awe and shock.  The bar is one floor, but three large rooms, doors separating them.  Karaoke takes place in the far right room and is usually an eclectic mix of people, the middle room (the one the door is attached to, so we had entered) was filled with people in their 50s, some wearing overalls, and playing country music.  The room to our left had a tiny dance floor completed with a "cage," tables, the lights down low, and played 90's and beyond rap music. 

It was only 10:50 p.m., so I knew the rap room wouldn't be super busy.  It wouldn't start filling up until closer to midnight.  I told them we could start in there.  We made our way to the bar.  I immediately ordered 4 shots of Goldschlager.  Quinn took it, thanking me, but Rosa seemed hesitant.  I shouted over the loud country music, "Trust me, you'll thank me later, and will make the night more enjoyable!"

We clinked shot glasses and downed it.  Then we got a couple of pitchers and made our way into the nearly empty rap room. 

When we sat, Quinn put her hand on my shoulder and said with a big smile on her face, "I didn't even know places like this existed!"

Rosa chimed in, saying that drinking like this and being around Sarah and I took her back in time and made her feel young again.  "It's like being in college again!."  She was grinning ear to ear, so I took it as a good thing.

Truthfully, I was a little concerned taking them to that bar that they really wouldn't have fun, but because they seemed "classier," I had gotten the impression from the conversations we'd had that they were wild in college and enjoyed stepping outside of their box every now and then.

Slowly, people started trickling in, and we watched and joked and talked.  Quinn and Rosa invited Sarah and I out to Chicago to visit sometime soon, and then I could meet Aaron's sisters.  About an hour later, we were a few pitchers in, and had done another round of shots.  We were all a little on the drunk side, and Quinn wanted to karaoke, so we stood to move to the karaoke room. I led the way through the now thickened crows.  I opened the door to the door to enter the country room.  I had my head turned facing behind me to tell Sarah to not lose the other two, and I ran hard into someone, stumbling back a couple steps, knocking into Sarah.  Her cup of beer spilled between us, sloshing us both with beer, her front and my back. 

The half-notdrunk side of me told me that it wasn't the person's fault I had run into, because I wasn't looking.  The half-intoxicated side of me said it was.

I whipped my head around, my eyes darting from the floor up the length of the person in front of me.  She was in sky high heels (not like my pumps, but think of platform stripper heels), a tiny skirt baring covering her vajay, and a crop top that was apparently see through in the black lights with her nipples half showing through.  Her icy glare let me know that as annoyed as I was with this situation, she was ready to take off her earrings and throw down.

She held up a hand at me and shouted, "Oh bitch, I can't even!"  And that's when I noticed the empty cup in her hand.  Well... no wonder why her crop top looked super see-through.  Not only was it white, but it was now very wet.

"Ummm..." I started.  The drunk part of me wanted to laugh, now.  The sober part was considering apologizing.

But before I could get out anything else, she turned to the man behind her.  "Tito, this bitch just dumped my drink all over me."

"Whoa, it was an accident-"

She acted like I hadn't even said a word.  "And THEN she laughed!"

My eyes widened.  I definitely did not laugh.  I may have been thinking about it.  I may have had a smile playing on my lips.  But I hadn't laughed.  Yet.

I looked at Tito.  He had on a lot of gold chains.  He was wearing a super tight shirt that was barely clinging together around his very defined muscles.  He sighed.  He looked me up and down.  Then rolled his eyes.  "I'll get you another one."

"But I wanna dance," she whined.

I was quickly sobering up and even more quickly losing any humor I'd found in the situation.

"Fine.  Jose or Lorenzo can get it."  He looked at me, pointedly.  "Excuse us."

I stepped out of the doorway, pushing Sarah back with my hand.  I glanced at Rosa and Quinn and they were a few feet behind, chatting, seemingly oblivious to what had just happened.  As Tito and girl walked past us, Tito turned behind him and called out, "Jose, Zo, one of you go get my girl another drink."

Two guys were coming through the door, with a few girls dressed similarly to Tito's girl.  The first one turned to the second one, "Zo, get another drink for Tito's girl, you're last in."  When first guy (Jose?) was through the door, the second guy (Lorenzo?) stopped to turn back and head to the bar.  But before he did, we made eye contact.

And we froze.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Meeting Quinn

I smoothed my skirt down, nervously.  My palms were sweaty.  I always got nervous meeting parents of significant others anyway, but now that it was happening alone?  My stomach was churning. 

Especially, because I tended to get along better with dads.  I grew up playing with the boys, and so I was good at talking about "boy subjects."  I was more girlie since going to college, but I still was more comfortable talking sports, food, and outdoors-y things.

Aaron's mom was coming into town to check on his place, since he'd left it in a hurry.  Luckily, he didn't have any animals.  I had a key and was stopping in twice a week to get his mail, but I guess she wanted to check in to make sure there wasn't anything major going on.  She blamed it on "mothering him" which she said he hated, but she couldn't help it.

We were meeting at an upscale organic bistro that was only open until early afternoon, serving breakfast and brunch items.  I had gotten us a table and was sipping water, as I wasn't sure how relaxed she would be, though really I wanted to be drinking a bloody instead, to calm my nerves.

I was smoothing my skirt down, once again, when I heard a soft, "Aleah?" from behind me.  I turned my head, to see a gorgeous older blonde standing there, smiling.  I stood up and bent slightly to greet her with a hug. 

"You must be Quinn," I smiled.  "I love your dress!"  She was wearing a Banana Republic dress that I had actually tried on when trying to find something to wear for my interview, but hadn't ended up buying.  Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a sleek, high pony, and she had on black pumps with a green clutch.  In her pumps, she was a couple inches shorter than me. Knowing Aaron is 28, his mom looked way younger than to have a 28 year old.  She reminded me of Heather Locklear.

"Oh, thank you, dear.  I see what my son sees in you, you are absolutely stunning."

I blushed, as we sat back down.  "Thank you... Aaron is an amazing guy."

She smiled, proudly.  "He is."  Her facial expression turned more serious.  "And growing up with a bunch of women, he better be treating you right, because he knows how.  And if he doesn't, let me know."  Then she laughed.

"Oh, I will, but he treats me very well."

She smiled, and looked like she was about to respond, but her eyes drifted past me, warming at whoever she saw.  She stood, and pulled out the chair next to her at our table.  I looked to see an equally as beautiful Hispanic woman approaching, and sit in the chair that was pulled out.  The woman smiled at me and stuck her hand out, which I grabbed and shook.  "Hi, I'm Rosa," she said.

Quinn jumped in, "Oh Aleah, I forgot to mention that Rosa, my girlfriend, would be joining us!"

I smiled and told them that was not a problem.  I was surprised, though, as Aaron had never mentioned that his mom was in a relationship, or in one with a woman.

Quinn spoke, "I was going to come alone, but Rosa wanted to meet you, too, so of course I couldn't say no!"

"And I'm so glad I was able to come along!  Aaron deserves a wonderful girl, and he's spoken so highly of you."

Again, I blushed.  "Oh, well, thank you.  I've really wanted to meet his family, but unfortunately, timing just was inconvenient, and then he left."

His mom looked troubled, then.  "Yes.  Do you know where he is, or have you spoken with Aaron?"

"No," I said, shaking my head.  "Not since shortly after leaving Philadelphia."

"Aaron didn't go into details, but he mentioned that you had a lot going on and he was worried about you." Quinn continued, jumping right in.  I could appreciate how direct she was.  "He said that he was considering not taking the job, but thought it was best in the long run."

I looked down at the table.  I didn't realize he was actually considering not taking the job because of  me.  I looked back, meeting each of their questioning eyes.  "There was a situation... I was assaulted.  And Aaron showed up and kept it from becoming more than it already was.  And the guy who... who almost really hurt me, he had been bonded out of jail and was running around loose when Aaron had to leave."

Rosa and Quinn's eyes were wide.  Quinn reached over and laid her hand on top of mine.  "I'm so sorry to hear that, Aleah.  I wish Aaron would've shared so I could've reached out sooner, but I understand why he didn't.  That's your story to tell."

"Thanks.  It was hard, but Aaron was my rock.  I know that sounds super corny.  But it's true.  So it's been really difficult not having him here, now."  I decided to quickly change the subject, though, because I didn't want to start crying the first time I meet his mom.  "Anyway, how is your visit going?"

Rosa smiled, knowingly.  "It's been good.  This is my first time even visiting Nebraska.  There's a lot of corn," she stated, matter-of-factly.

I laughed.  "It's true.  I swear there's more than corn here... like amazing steak houses!"

She and Quinn both laughed, then.  Quinn said, "I love a good steak, but Rosa here..." She shook her head and smiled at her.  "Rosa is a vegetarian."  And she rolled her eyes, playfully.

"Oh!  I'm sorry for..."

Rosa cut me off, "Oh, don't apologize.  It's not because I think there's anything wrong with it.  It's purely for health reasons."

"How long have you two been together?" I asked.

Rosa nudged Quinn with her shoulder, "It's your turn to tell our tale!"

Quinn smiled back at her.  "You're so ridiculous, sometimes.  Rosa and I were best friends in high school.  We each got married in college and lost touch.  We ran into each other a few years after we each had been divorced after she moved back to Aurora."  She must have seen a blank look on my face, so she clarified.  "Aurora is where we live.  It's a suburb outside of Chicago.  It's our hometown.  So it was like we'd never lost touch, and we picked back up where we left off... well, and a little more.  I always knew I loved her and wanted her friendship.  I just didn't know that she was what I needed in my life, too."  Rosa lightly touched her arm, and they smiled at each other.

Rosa jumped in, then.  "But, what she didn't know then," she nodded her head towards Quinn, "was that I had always been in love with her, and was just waiting, and hoping, that she'd eventually feel the same way for me!  And to answer your question, we've been together for 10 years."

"So, do you have any kids?" I asked Rosa.

She shook her head.  "No.  I always knew who I really was.  When I saw Quinn move on with a husband, I tried to convince myself that I could be happy with a husband, too.  How foolish was my thinking back then?  Anyway, my marriage didn't last long, and there weren't any kids."

The rest of brunch went by smoothly, and they shared a lot of stories from Aaron as a child and growing up.  As we were parting ways and saying goodbye, Quinn said they weren't flying out for another few days, and she'd like to get together again before then, if I'd be up for it.

"Of course!" I replied.  I felt like this may be the first boyfriend's mother, since Zach's mom, that I could actually get along with and like.

She hugged me goodbye, and told me she'd touch base the next day so we could set up plans.