Waking up, the first thing I questioned was why I was looking up at a neon blue ceiling rather than a pink one. And then I questioned why my face felt like it did back in high school when Nick Rizotti was done trying to feel better about himself. I received my answers when the memories of the previous night finally came to mind.
“Right then,” I mumbled, getting to my feet and stretching out, wincing at the hunger pangs from missing dinner last night as well as my sore muscles and stiff joints. My couch was not the most comfortable thing on the planet, but it was better than the floor. I made my way to my bedroom and quietly opened the door to see that Dan was still fast asleep. He had moved during the night though and was sprawled across my bed. Upside down.
I had to bite back a laugh. He had literally rotated 180° and one pillow had been pushed – probably kicked – to the floor. The blanket was twisted around his legs, leaving his upper body visible. Including his slightly rounded stomach as his shirt had ridden up overnight. His mouth was hanging open, hair a ruffled mess, and I could even hear light whistling every time he breathed out. The scene was perfect.
I rushed out, quietly of course, and grabbed one of my many sketchbooks and a pencil. I grabbed my swivel chair and rolled it to where I had been standing, sitting down cross-legged, and beginning to draw the sight before me.
Creepy? Without a doubt. But I had to get the scene on paper at the very least. It was something raw, completely natural. No filters, directions, or influences. It was something undisturbed. A fragile thread of reality. And he did honestly look rather adorable and innocent.
I sketched efficiently, precise strokes, some dark some light, and the image of Dan gradually appeared on the paper.
I was so focused on getting the details of his crumpled shirt and my bed sheets right that I didn’t notice I wasn’t the only one conscious.
“What the hell?”
My eyes snapped to Dan’s face, wide and startled. He had a similar expression towards me but with fear and confusion.
“Uh, morning?” I tried, not sure what else to say. Dan blinked before twisting around until he was right side up and sitting on the edge of my bed, looking around the room.
“Where…where am I? And why the hell are you drawing me?” he demanded. His voice was raspy and he winced as he spoke.
“How about you take a shower, and I’ll make us breakfast before I answer all your questions and you answer some of mine. Deal?”
Dan stared at me for a moment. His brow furrowed and I felt mildly uncomfortable with how hard he was staring at me.
“Um, is there something on me?” I asked.
He blinked before something apparently came over him and he pointed at me with his jaw dropped, “You’re that guy, the guy from the bathroom yesterday!”
“So you do remember last night…” I mused. However, Dan frowned as he heard me.
“Last night? No, from lunch. With…with Jack.” He frowned and then winced, rubbing his temple, “What happened last night? Oh god. We didn’t sleep together, did we?”
I got up when I saw that Dan was beginning to panic. He was muttering under his breath and seemed to have forgotten I was in the room until I placed my hand on his shoulder cautiously.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay. We didn’t sleep together. And I really think you should try and get some food and water in you before we go over what you can’t remember. You were really drunk last night.”
Dan nodded and I helped him to his feet, guiding him to my bathroom and giving him a quick rundown of where everything was and grabbing him my bottle of aspirin.
“I’ll grab some clothes for you and leave it on my bed. When you’re ready, just come down to the kitchen. Do you prefer coffee or tea?”
“Coffee, please,” Dan replied before thanking me and closing the bathroom door behind him. I waited until I heard the shower start running before grabbing my sketchbook, putting it away, and then heading to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
Eggs, toast, a few slices of ham, and two cups of coffee were on the menu, easy and quick to make. I was just about to dish out the scrambled eggs onto two plates when Dan made his presence known.
I looked over my shoulder and smiled warmly at him, “Hey, feeling better? How are the clothes?”
“They’re fine,” he said, tugging at the hem of the shirt I lent him. It was a bit small on him, my frame more on the leaner side while he was a bit bulkier. It was one of my painting shirts, originally white but now some mixture of various shades of green and blue. The shorts I gave him seemed fine, a bit tight but most of my clothes were tight so there wasn’t much I could do there.
“Great. Take a seat and I’ll have these done in just a second,” I told him, nodding to the small square dining table.
“Can I help?” he asked, walking towards me instead of one of the two chairs.
I was about to shake my head but he noticed the coffee maker that was almost done. “Mugs are top right, but don’t take the black one that advertises a sex shop.”
Dan quirked a confused brow at my comment but didn’t say anything as he grabbed two mugs and set them on the counter. He saw the mug I was speaking about though. It was black and decorated with various sex toys and the store’s name emblazoned in white text bordered by hot pink. It was Yvette’s mug. I had a matching one of my own at her apartment.
We moved about in silence and were soon seated with piping hot plates of breakfast and a mug of coffee each. Dan pretty much inhaled his food, as did I. It was only when we were sipping at our coffee, his second mug and my first, did we finally talk.
“So what do you remember from last night?” I asked to start us off.
Dan frowned into his mug, “Not much… I went out to some bar and I was drinking. Some guys approached me at some point but, it’s really hazy.” He glanced at me, eyes trained on the visible bruising on my face that I hadn’t taken care of yet. “What…happened to you? Did I…?”
“Oh god, no, no you didn’t do this,” I assured him when guilt settled across his face. “It was, you were, there were these assholes last night. They got you pissed and took you to the bathroom.”
I stopped and watched his facial expression carefully as he tried to think back. His nibbled on his bottom lip, brow furrowed. He didn’t seem to be getting any recollection.
“They were going to take advantage of you,” I told him as carefully as I could.
“You mean…you got into a fight to…”
I nodded, waiting for it to sink in and for Dan’s reaction. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for him to get angry.
“Why? You don’t even know me!” he yelled, slamming his palms down on the tabletop. “Why the hell would you get hurt for someone who deserved it?”
I frowned, “Deserved it? What are you talking about? You were completely drunk, barely conscious, and those two homophobic assholes were going to rape you.”
Dan clenched his hands and dropped his head as he got to his feet. “I have to go. I’m sorry for getting you hurt, but next time, please just mind your own business.”
He moved away and it took me a moment to realize what was happening before I shot up after him. “Dan, wait!” I called, grabbing his wrist before he could make it to the door of my apartment. “Calm down and take a few deep breaths. We can—”
My phone began ringing, cutting me off, and we both and glanced to my coffee table where I had set it last night. Keeping my hand wrapped around Dan’s wrist, I leveled him with a soft stare, “Please…I’m going to be out of my mind with worry if you just leave right now without us talking properly. And we need to talk about what we’re going to do about the police.”
Dan chewed on his lip again, a habit apparently, and looked me briefly in the eyes before glancing away. He didn’t say anything but I could feel some tension leave his body and he wasn’t trying to pull away from my grip any longer.
Still, I continued to let my phone ring behind us until he nodded hesitantly, “Okay.”
I smiled at him, relieved, and gently guided him to the couch, getting him to sit down while I grabbed my phone and finally accepted the call from Yvette.
“Morning, how are you?” I said into the receiver, motioning for Dan to stay put while I went back to the kitchen to grab our coffees, hugging my phone between my ear and shoulder so I could carry the two mugs.
“I’m good, how about you and, Dan, was it?”
I handed Dan his coffee as I answered, “Yeah, we’re, we’re good. Hey, I’ve still got my stuff at your place, yeah? You going to be around later today so I can pick them up?”
“Yes, I’ve still got my own work to do for tomorrow, I went straight to sleep last night. Come by whenever, I’ll probably be home and even if I’m not, you’ve got a copy of my key.”
“Thanks, Evie, see you later.”
“Â bientôt, mon chou.”
I sat down on the table, facing Dan. He was looking down at his mug that he had yet to touch his lips to after storming out of my kitchen.
“How do you know my name?” he interrupted.
I blinked. “Oh, right. I never introduced myself. Sorry. I’m Lesley, Lesley Malone. And, well, it was after our first…meeting.”
“Jack,” Dan sighed.
“Actually, it was Carson,” I corrected. “Jack was… well it was while you two were talking. After I left the bathroom. Carson said he had thought he saw someone who looked like you and well. Yeah…”
“So, you’re pitying the loser who tried to propose to his fuck buddy, then, huh.”
I blinked, startled, “What?”
Dan gave a small self-deprecating smile, “Didn’t you all get the details of how much I fucked up?”
“Okay, hold the phone. All Carson and Jack told me and Tim was that you two used to sleep together before Jack cut things off. There was no mention of proposals. And even if there had been, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to marry someone you’re in love with.” I shifted closer to Dan so our knees knocked together gently. My coffee and phone were left beside me as I leaned forward, placing my hands on his knees and catching his surprised gaze. “Seriously, Dan, are you okay? You’re really worrying me.”
“Why?” he whispered.
I frowned faintly, “Why what?”
“Why do you care? You don’t even know me!”
I moved back and shrugged, smiling a little, “My best friend likes to say I’m a bleeding heart with a hero complex. I just get affected by other people’s emotions a bit more than I probably should, but if I can help anyone in anyway, I really don’t care.”
Dan just stared at me before sighing and looking back down, “I’m fine. Yesterday was just a really bad day and I wanted to forget about things. I’m sorry for causing you so much trouble and imposing, but I need to go home. I’ve got a lot of work for tomorrow. You mentioned the police?”
I bit the inside of my cheek before nodding, “Yeah. They wanted our statements last night but I convinced them to let me get you someplace safe. They have my number and said they’d call me sometime today to come down and answer some questions. They’ll want to talk to you too.”
Dan chewed on his lip with a renewed vigor. It looked painful and I was worried he’d start bleeding. “Did they say how they were going to get a hold of me?”
I shook my head, “It was pretty rushed last night. They’ll probably assume that I’ll have your contact details – which I would like to have, by the way.”
Dan hesitated before reciting his number for me. I stored it and then sent a text, his phone beeping in response.
With that settled I flashed him a grin, “I’ll call you when they call me, yeah?” He nodded and glanced at his watch. “You need to go now?”
He nodded, “Yeah. I…” He trailed off and I didn’t push.
“Do you need a ride?” I asked, getting to my feet.
Dan shook his head, “I’ll grab a cab.” He got to his feet and then frowned at the clothes he was wearing. “Uh.”
“Don’t worry about it. We can trade back another day,” I told him, walking to the door. I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder and tease, “Or you could just keep them. They look good on you.”
Dan stared at me in open shock and puzzlement for a moment before hurrying to catch up to me at the elevator. We waited in silence until the doors slid open and he slid inside.
“Um. See you, I guess. I’ll wash your clothes and give them back as soon as I can,” he said.
I waved him off, “It’s fine. And, Dan, if you ever need anything, or just someone to vent to, you have my number now.” I stared directly into his eyes that were wide in surprise until he nodded slowly. I smiled and waved as the doors closed, “See you around.”
Just as the doors shut, I swear I saw him flash the briefest of smiles.