My ass was aching.
Actually, all of me ached, but my ass was the most pressing since I was currently sitting on it. I’d spent the entire day yesterday lazing about my apartment, trying to recuperate from my fall and waiting for the cable guy. I hadn’t done any of the writing I’d planned, and my refrigerator remained more barren than I was comfortable with.
So here I sat at my wobbly Ikea desk, researching the ethics of genetic testing, which was my special area of interest. Only nothing was coming. My fingers rested on the keyboard but I couldn’t get them to move.
I would have liked to say it was because of all the pain I was in—and to be honest, that was probably part of it—but I had something else on my mind. Or should I say someone.
My asshole neighbor, who I was sort of thinking wasn’t actually an asshole. It turned out I was the one who made a terrible first impression. I cringed when I thought of my churlish behavior yesterday. I didn’t do pain well. I wasn’t the type to grin and bear it. I was more scowl and complain about it. Which I had done a lot of. In front of a ridiculously hot man with a ridiculously silly name.
He probably wasn’t interested anyway. Not because I was chubby and he was chiseled. I’d been around the block a few times and knew when a man was checking out my ass—and Yo had most definitely been appreciative. Mostly, I thought it was a personality thing. He struck me as a funny, lighthearted guy, and I probably struck him as the exact opposite.
I could be fun; lighthearted was a bit trickier. I’d read too many studies on epidemics and medical laws for my heart not to be slightly weighed down.
Giving up on work, I took a shower and got dressed in my comfiest, warmest clothes, now on a mission to get food and Hanukkah candles. I’d missed lighting the candles the night before because all I had was a half-burned votive candle and that really wouldn’t cut it. Plus, I had yet to find my menorah in my piles of boxes. So that was the second part of today’s mission.
Wrapped in a coat and scarf, I opened my door and almost closed it again when the door across from me flew open at the same time.
“Sorry! Did I scare you?” Yo was mercifully wearing a shirt this time.
I pulled my scarf up higher, hoping to disguise what had to be a furious blush on my face. “Just startled.”
He leaned against his door frame, and I drank in the sight of him in slim-fitting jeans and a snug T-shirt. The man was long-limbed and lean muscled. I liked it. He was a tree I could climb for weeks and never get to the top of.
“You feeling better?”
Jerked out of my pervy reverie, I met his eyes, which were so soft with concern I felt a little guilty about objectifying him in my head. Only a little though.
“I’m okay. It mostly hurts to sit, so I’m going to attempt to walk to the grocery store. Otherwise I’ll be eating cardboard for dinner. Thanks for moving the bike, by the way.”
He ran a hand through his dark, curly hair, nodding. “Yeah, sure. I took it down to the basement.”
“Do you ride a lot?”
“Every day when the weather’s decent. And I have a trainer that turns it into a stationary bike that I use quite a bit in the winter.”
My heart sank. “So, you’re going to have to trek down to the basement to get your bike each time you want to ride it?”
“No big deal.” He smirked. “It’ll give my guns a workout.”
My eyes rolled before his words completely registered. And people wondered why men annoyed me so much. “I’m going to go now. See ya!”
I hurried down the stairs as fast as my injured leg and sore bum would take me. As I heard Yo chuckling merrily behind me, the possibility that he may have been fucking with me entered my mind. There was a chance he wasn’t actually the kind of guy who called his arms “guns”. Oh, please let that be true.
* * *
I was going to do Hanukkah right tonight. I had my potatoes and my onions for latkes, I’d bought jelly donuts—for tradition, obviously—and I had my candles.
My phone rang as I was in the middle of shredding a potato for the latkes.
“What’s up?” I answered.
“Nada mucho. How’s the new place?” Helena asked.
“Decent. Guess what I’m doing?”
I dropped the potato while my shoulders shook with laughter. “Helena...why would I answer the phone if I was masturbating?”
“Meh, I’ve had to multitask in the middle of a self-love sesh.”
“No, you haven’t!”
She snorted. “Okay, I haven’t. Even I wouldn’t do that shit.”
“Thank God, or I’d never be able to call you again.”
“Kill the suspense. What are you doing, darling sister?”
“I’m getting ready to make latkes! John emailed me his recipe earlier.”
“Oh, shit! Don’t burn the place down, okay, Riss? I just got rid of you.”
I was not known for my cooking skills, but I was pushing thirty. The time had come for me to learn.
“I have faith in myself, even if my pervy sister doesn’t,” I said.
“Why don’t you just come over here tonight?”
I sighed. “Maybe tomorrow. I do miss you guys already.”
“Well, at least tell me you found your menorah.”
I glanced over at my piles of boxes. “I have the candles!”
“Riss...unpack your shit!”
“I will! But I’m kind of injured right now.”
“Did you chop off your fucking finger when you were cutting the onions?”
“Why are you like this? No! I kind of flipped over my new neighbor’s deadly bike and fell on my ass.”
I told her the details of meeting Yo, all while she stayed suspiciously quiet. Quiet Helena was never good.
“I noticed a detail you left out,” she said.
“You didn’t say what he looks like.”
“He came to his door without a shirt on and I forgot for a minute that I was grievously injured.” I chewed my lip, measuring my words. Giving Helena too much information about men was never a good thing. Next thing I knew, she’d be writing a character named Yo, chained to a wall, having his gorgeous, tight ass flogged by a dominatrix coincidentally named Clarissa—she’d already used my actual name in a previous book.
“Do you like this new neighbor?” she asked.
“I don’t actually know anything about him besides his ridiculous name and that he’s objectively very attractive.”
I could almost hear her smirk over the phone. “So, you like him.”
“You’re hilarious, Riss. You don’t have to be so damn surly all the time. Sometimes it’s okay to be cheerful.”
I rubbed my forehead. I loved her, but sometimes she was impossible to talk to about the way I lived my life. My surly exterior had served me just fine so far.
“I’ve got to go. Kiss the kiddos for me and tell them Aunt Riss says happy Hanukkah!”
She finally let me go, but only after I promised to come over the next night for dinner. To tell the truth, as much as I had been ready to ditch the ‘burbs, I missed their crazy, loud, affectionate house. Going back there wouldn’t exactly be like pulling teeth.
Since I’d already been distracted from my latke making, I decided to go in search of my menorah. It was possible it was in with my books since I normally stored it on a bookshelf, so those were the first boxes I checked.
Not a menorah, candelabra, candlestick, or lantern in sight. Soon, I’d checked all the boxes and came up empty. I actually did find my collection of dreidels, and while I was happy about that, it wasn’t at all what I was looking for.
It would be certainly be tough to light the candles without somewhere to put them.
My eyes drifted to the wall I shared with Yo. He was a member of the tribe. Maybe he had a spare menorah? I guessed I’d have to suck up my pride and ask.