“What are you doing this weekend?”
I looked up to find Mandy staring at me with that intense expression of hers.
“I’m not sure, yet. Guess I’ll just stay in and watch a movie by myself,” was my noncommittal answer, stirring the contents of my coffee before taking a sip. With a quick glance at my watch, I groaned in realization. Our lunch break would be over in five minutes. Today was just one of those days – an eternity of cashing checks and making deposits. Sometimes I questioned my decision to become a bank teller. Was this really what was in store for the rest of my life?
“Oh, come on. Why don’t you go out with me and the girls? It’ll be a lot of fun. You can’t keep shutting yourself up in that apartment all the time. You’ll never meet someone,” she chided. “You can be my wing girl and we’ll both go home lucky. What do you say?” With a sly grin, Mandy leaned in and winked. “Unless, of course, you’re scared.”
“I’m not scared,” was my protest. “I’m just… not looking.”
Mandy rolled her eyes. “That’s the oldest excuse in the book, Janie. No one wants to be lonely. Come on, you won’t regret it.”
I bit my bottom lip, contemplating the options. The last time I went out with Mandy, she ditched me at the bar and I had to take a cab home by myself. The driver tried to hit on me the entire ride. I don’t want to relive that experience. But on the other hand, it would be a nice change of pace to find someone.
“I don’t know….”
“Why don’t you think about it?” urges my friend. “It’ll be fun.”
“Okay,” is my half-hearted answer. “I’ll keep it in mind.”
With that, our break was over. Now it was back to work for the both of us. For the rest of the day, I was on autopilot, barely thinking as I went through the motions with a smile plastered on my face. By the time my shift was over, exhaustion wracked my frame. My brain had turned into a pile of mush.
“You ready to go?” Mandy asked, dangling her keys in front of my face.
I nodded silently and together, we walked to her car. It was a beat-up Toyota Corolla that liked to break down at least once a month, but it was better than taking public transportation to work every day. I tried the subway for a week, but the masses of teeming people made me claustrophobic. By the end of each trip, I’d inevitably be nervous and trembling with beads of sweat breaking out on my brow. It was better to catch a ride with Mandy.
“Hurry up!” I shouted through the window, jumping from one foot to the other, trying to keep myself warm. It was unusually cold and the thin blouse I had on wasn’t doing much to protect me from the harsh winds.
“Hold on, the lock’s stuck again,” my friend mumbled.
I groaned. The last time this happened, I couldn’t get into her car for a good fifteen minutes.
“I’ll just ride in the back –”
I froze in place, hand outstretched. “What?”
“The back door’s having trouble too.”
“What? How?” I leaned down, looking at her through the window. “How the hell do you keep breaking the doors on your car? What are you doing in the backseat, anyway?” I paused, realization rushing to my brain. “Actually, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”
Mandy giggled. “Just give me a minute. I need to wiggle it loose.”
“Alright, just hurry up. I’m going to lose a toe soon.”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” she scoffed. “It’s not that cold.”
To my relief, Mandy managed to open the passenger door in record time. Quickly, I jumped inside only to sit on something. “Eww, what was that?” I asked, afraid of the answer. “I swear –”
“Calm down, it’s just a cinnamon roll. I was going to eat it for break, but I forgot it.” Without hesitation, she slid her hand under my butt, grabbing the smooshed dessert.
“Hey! Watch it.”
She smirked. “Janie, really, you have to stop being such a prude. It’s not a bad thing if someone touches your butt.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I just don’t want you touching my butt. I wouldn’t mind if someone else did, preferably someone male and sexy ….” My voice trailed off, mind wandering to the one man I had been thinking about all day.
Or Dr. Travis Knight, to be precise.
He was my neighbor who lived just across the hall. For months, we’d say our pleasantries, but our interactions never ventured much further than that. I was too shy to make a move and he seemed too busy for a girl like me. It’s a shame, really, because he’s the most attractive man I’ve ever seen in my life by far.
“Does that mean you have someone in mind?” Mandy asked with a grin, turning on her car.
It rumbled loudly as the engine shook to life, sending vibrations running through my body. But when Mandy stopped turning the key, it sputtered and died.
“Dammit,” she hissed under her breath.
I leaned into my seat and closed my eyes, thankful that I wouldn’t have to answer her question.
On the third try, the car finally roared to life and stayed running, allowing Mandy to pull out of the lot and head home. “So, are you going to answer me or not?”
Crap, my friend hadn’t forgotten.
“I know that look, Janie,” she giggled. “You’re thinking about someone! Who is he? What’s his name? What does he look like? What does he do? Tell me everything!” Mandy assaulted me with her questions, eyes bright with curiosity. “Fess up.”
I bit my lip. “It’s no one.”
“Don’t do this to me, Janie. I’ll stop this car and hold you hostage until you tell me.”
My eyes widened. “You wouldn’t.”
“Try me,” my buddy smirked.
I groaned. “This is so unfair.”
Mandy grinned again. “Spill it.”
“Fine.” Nervously, I rubbed my palms against my knees, trying to wipe away the sweat that had accumulated there. My fingers shook. Why was I feeling this way? It was just a harmless crush – it wasn’t like he was going to notice me.
“You must really like him if it’s taking you this long,” Mandy commented, drumming her thumb against the steering wheel. “Are you guys dating yet?”
“Oh? A one-night stand then?”
“Then what is he? Or who is he?”
I bit my lip.
“Just my neighbor,” came my mumble. “It’s no big deal.”
But Mandy was already running with it.
“Ah ha, easy access. I like the way you think, girl.” She chuckled. “So what have you guys been up to? Is that why you’ve been spending so much time ‘alone’ in your apartment?” she asked with a wink.
“No. It’s not like that. Please don’t get the wrong idea.” My cheeks reddened at the thought. I’d be lying if I said I never fantasized about Dr. Travis in my apartment but that’s all they are – fantasies. He would never go for someone like me who was chubby with windblown curls and thick-framed glasses. That was pie in the sky, and I knew it. Most likely, Dr. Travis probably already had a girlfriend and I was wasting my time pining for him.
But Mandy interrupted my thoughts then.
“So, what’s it like then?” she asked curiously.
“We’re just neighbors. We say hi from across the hall. That’s it.”
“That’s it?” Mandy looked at me, disappointment painted on her features. “Here I was, thinking that you finally got some and you’re telling me that you only say hi to this guy? Come on, Janie, you can do better than that. Have you made a move yet?”
“No.” My cheeks flushed.
“I couldn’t.” Just the thought of approaching my neighbor made me incredibly nervous. “You know how shy I get.”
“Aww, babe.” She reached over and grabbed my hand, squeezing it gently. “You have nothing to be shy about. You’re beautiful and whoever this guy is, he’d be lucky to have you and you know it.”
I nodded gratefully.
“No buts, I want you to talk to him.”
“I don’t know,” was my mumble. A blush had traveled all over my face, turning me as red as a tomato. It felt like my skin was on fire. “What if he doesn’t like me?” the words tumbled out.
“Well, you’ll never know if you don’t try. What’s the worst that can happen?”
In that instant, a million scenarios swirled around in my head – none of them good. “I just think –”
“No. Don’t think. That’s your problem. You always overthink everything. You need to think with your heart for once.”
“Mandy, I’m not like you,” was my stiff reply, slightly offended. But my friend wasn’t bothered at all.
“That’s why I’m telling you to follow your heart,” she laughed. “If you were like me, you’d be thinking with your body.”
I rolled my eyes again.
“Is that all you want?” I asked. “The physical? Nothing else?”
“No, of course not, but for the time being, it’s a lot of fun. Plus, you’re only young once and I might as well enjoy myself while the men still flock my way.”
“But don’t you want someone special?” I asked, puzzled.
“Every girl does,” Mandy replied. “And I’ll find mine – eventually. And so will you, silly. But you have to talk to him first at least.”
I was going to say something but then realized we were already parked outside my apartment building. In fact, we had arrived five minutes ago. “Thanks for the ride,” was my rueful response.
Mandy winked at me.
“Don’t mention it.”
Quickly, I scrambled out of the car. “I’ll see you on Monday.”
“Alright, and don’t forget what I told you! Talk to him!” She shouted at me as I walked away. “You won’t regret it!” My friend was still yelling words of encouragement when I pushed through the revolving doors into the lobby.
Finally safe, I breathed a sigh of relief. I love Mandy because she’s my best friend but sometimes the girl was exhausting to be around. Ready for a much-needed shower, I hurried toward the elevator. To my surprise, Dr. Travis was standing there.
Oh god. Immediately, a hot warmth spread across my cheeks, leaving me tongue-tied. I stared at my shoes, unable to look up while shuffling along the hall. After my conversation with Mandy, approaching him felt incredibly awkward, like he’d know what we had talked about.
But it was all in my head because Travis was completely at ease.
“Hey,” said as soon as he spotted me.
“Hey,” I mumbled back, timidly stealing a look at the gorgeous physician. His azure eyes were electric, his hardened body dressed casually in pale blue scrubs that couldn’t hide the width of his shoulders or the length of his legs.
“It’s cold out there, huh?” Effortlessly, he struck up small talk while smiling as if he genuinely wanted to hear my response.
“Yeah…” I answered, voice falling flat. This was my chance to talk to him and already I was failing – miserably.
“It hasn’t been this cold in quite a while. I had to break out my favorite scarf this morning. It’s a little lame to admit this but my mom made it for me when I first went to med school. I’ve kept it ever since,” he chuckled, the sound echoing through the lobby.
It sent a shiver running through my spine as I snuck a look at the scarf. It was a homey green wool with a matching emerald fringe.
“That’s not lame at all,” I said. “Actually, that’s pretty cute.”
“You think so?” he asked wryly. “Not too feminine?”
I nodded. “Some guys are too macho to wear something their moms made for them, but I think it says a lot that you’ve kept it all this time. You must really love her.”
“I do.” His smile deepened.
But before I could say anything else, the elevator dinged.
“Ladies first.” He waved his hand, ushering me inside.
I blushed, taken aback by his gentlemanly ways. People had always told me that chivalry was dead, but I guess not.
Quickly, I stepped inside, pressing the button to our floor. As soon as the doors slid shut, my heart quickened. I was alone with Travis, in a small, cramped space to boot. Anything could happen.
I started getting hot, beads of sweat forming on the back of my neck. I didn’t know if this was my arousal acting up or my claustrophobia, to be honest. Either way, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him, heart beating so fast I feared it would explode out of my chest.
To make matters worse, the handsome male was staring right back, holding me with his intense blue gaze. My skin prickled with nervous excitement. For a moment, it felt like the world had come to a screeching halt. Like two magnets, we were moving together, getting closer and closer, the forces of attraction pulling us together inevitably.
And then, it was over.
The doors dinged open, and the magic of the moment was ruined.
Awkwardly, I stepped out, shooting him a shy smile. Travis was already striding down the hall towards his pad.
“Have a nice night,” Travis said with a wave before disappearing into his apartment.
I sighed. So much for making a move. It was just me, alone again, a curvy girl whose attempts at flirting had fallen flat. But what was I expecting? After all, Travis was an accomplished medical doctor who saved lives every day. Plus, he probably had half the girls in the city begging for his attention. Me, on the other hand? I was a curvy brunette with not much going for me other than my ability to read fifteen romance novels a week. Not exactly what Dr. Travis was looking for, I was sure. And with another sigh, I disappeared into my own apartment … disappointed as usual.