“So you’re staying here then,” Ally asked?
“Yeah, I guess, better than going back to my place. If I have to spend the next God knows how long listening to my upstairs neighbor practice for whatever theatre show she’s hoping to be in, I’m going to blow my brains out.” Lex made a gun gesture, pointing it to his head.
“Alright but you get the couch.”
“The couch? Ouch.”
The silence between them lingered a second longer than was comfortable.
Allie threw a couch pillow at Lex and giggled. He loved it when she smiled, and her laugh melted his heart. He wondered how he was going to quarantine with a woman he was madly in love with, as he deflected the flying pillow coming towards him.
“I’ll grab blankets and clear some space for you so you can unpack your bag. I’ll set it in my room for now.” Allie got up and walked into her bedroom to fetch blankets.
Lex picked up the pillow and silently screamed into it silently. Ugh, why can’t I just grow a pair, and tell her? I love you, Allie, see simple. Ahhhhh, he thought to himself. He pulled the pillow quickly as he heard her footsteps reapproach.
“You know, I’m kind of glad you came to stay. Who knows how long this is going to last. I don’t think we’ve spent more than two days apart since we met,” Allie said as she set the blankets on the coffee table and began to make the couch into a bed. ” We both know we would have gone crazy not being able to hang out. I don’t know what…” she trailed off.
“What don’t you know,” he asked?
“Nothing, nevermind. Here you are.” Allie gestured to the makeshift bed on the couch. “I’m going to turn in.” Allie stood, tucking a long, brown, curly lock behind her ear.
Lex couldn’t be sure, but he felt that she had lingered a moment longer than was normal. Is she sending me signals here and I keep missing it? Dude this is Allie, your best friend, he thought to himself. Allie took a step towards him and wrapped her arms around him, he embraced her. Before she let go, she placed a quick kiss on his cheek. Her lips on his skin felt like an electrical current through his body.
“I’m really glad you decided to stay. Good night Lex,” Allie said still standing in his arms. She pulled away and walked into her bedroom, shutting the door behind her. Lex took off his sweatshirt pants and socks, staying in his boxers and t-shirt. He had spent plenty of nights on Allie’s couch, through illness and break-ups. Lex climbed into the bed on the couch and stared up at the ceiling, the yellow street lamp cast a warm glow through the living room. It made him crazy that just on the other side of the door Allie laid in bed alone. He wanted to hold her in his arms and listen to her breathe softly.
Lex thought back to the night Allie had literally stumbled into his life. She tripped and fell off of the last step of the large porch at a college party. He had helped her to her feet, as Allie looked up to say thank you, she vomited all over him. Despite that, he helped her back to her dorm and left her with her mousey roommate, Ellen. Allie had utterly forgotten about Lex until she sat next to him in a public speaking course two days later. Lex had been cool about it and laughed it off. From that point on, the two of them had been inseparable but only as friends, nothing more. Both of them had been okay with that arrangement until recently. Lex found his feelings had grown into something more, but he was terrified to tell Allie. He worried about what would happen if she felt differently.
After graduation, Allie took a job in Seattle and Lex followed her. His parents died in a car accident during his senior year. As an only child, he was left without a family so, she became his family. Allie promised to stay in his life. They had spent their twenties building careers, and their friendship had been enough for both of them. Sure, there had been romantic relationships for both of them, but the relationships never lasted.
Lex finally fell asleep on the couch in the early hours of the morning. He woke to the smell of brewing coffee and the smell of Allie’s shampoo. He opened his eyes, registering it was morning but, he was still tired from the lack of a full night’s sleep.
“Here, coffee.” Allie held out a cup for him.
He propped up and grabbed the hot mug of coffee.
“Thanks.” he mumbled groggily.
“So how do you want to do this? I know we both have to work. I can take the bedroom, and you can use the kitchen table or the desk over there? I know you have to work too. I have a conference call here in a few minutes. Then maybe we can do lunch together? I have a veggie curry that I have been dying to make.”
Lex sat there not quite awake. “It’s your call. I mean put me where you want me. That sounds yummy. Lunch at noon then?”
“Sounds like a plan. Do you have any calls for work? Open plan living is great until it isn’t. Must remember this for the next place, it must be quarantine approved.” Allie joked.
Without thinking Lex reached up and grabbed her hand gently. She looked down at him.
“Thanks again for letting me quarantine with you,” he said.
Allie’s thumb rubbed over the back of his hand, it was a slight gesture but on that his body registered.
She let go of his hand and turned back towards the kitchen. If he had not known her better, he could’ve sworn he saw a hint of embarrassment on her face. He shrugged it off, and picked up his phone and saw he didn’t have to start work for an hour.
“Why do you start out here? I’m going to grab a shower and then I can log-on to work from the bedroom if that’s cool,” Lex asked as before he took a sip of the hot coffee.
“That will work.”
Lex stood up and set the coffee down on the tabe. He began to fold up the blankets from the bed on the couch when he noticed Allie staring at him.
“Just leave’em. There’s no use in putting it all away, unless you really want to.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to leave a mess in your livingroom.”
“You mean your, bedroom.” Allie smiled.
He smiled back as he made his way to the master bathroom; the other bathroom in the apartment was only a powder room. He shut Allie’s bedroom door and walked into her bathroom. Turning on the water, he held out his hand to test the temperature. There was something so intimate about being her private space that Lex tried to push out of his head as he washed. He stepped out of the shower and dried himself, hanging the towel on the back of the bathroom door. She had left his bag just inside the door of her room, so it wasn’t in the way. He stepped into the bedroom to see Allie standing in the bedroom with tears in her eyes and a look of surprise on her face.
“Oh sorry, I thought you were still in the shower,” she said as she turned around quickly.
They had been close enough to see each other in various states of undress, but neither had seen each other completely naked until now. Lex darted back behind the bathroom door and grabbed the towel from the back, pulling it around his waist before he reemerged. In that quick moment, Allie had made her way out of the bedroom. He dug a t-shirt out from the top of his bag, a pair of boxers and a pair of jeans, and threw them on quickly. Lex walked out into the open-plan living, dining, kitchen area. Allie stood at the kitchen counter with her back to him.
He walked up to her softly asking, “Hey Al, are you okay?”
She turned to look at him, his initial read of her face correct. She wiped a tear from her cheek. “Sorry I thought you were still in the shower. I was looking for the employee handbook for my company. I’ve been fired. No warning, just done. Four years with them, and now I’m out on my ass. Lex, what am I going to to do?’
“It will be okay. You’re a brilliant grant writer and if this whole quarantine and economic depression are going to be as bad as they’re saying, babe, your brilliance is going to be in high demand. We’ll get through this together.”
Allie turned and hugged him tightly. There was something different about this hug than the many others they had shared before, although Lex couldn’t put his finger on it. He held her as she cried, reassuring her again that everything would be alright. She stayed tightly cradled in his arms.
“Al, your my best friend, I’ve got you, if you need it. You will land on your feet, I know you will.”
“Thanks but, Lex you’ve got responsibilities too. You cannot support me.”
“Al, my parents left me a mountain of money.”
“No! No way are you spending your inheritance to support me! No way, I mean it!”
“I make enough from my job alone to support both of us. Look at me,” he tipped her chin up, something he had never done before as he still held her in his arms. Her teary blue eyes and soft pink lips took his next statement out of his mind. All he could focus on were those eyes. Without warning, she leant up and kissed him. A real kiss, her tongue brushing over his lips gently.
He felt her push out of his arms as she backed away.
“I.. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that…” she said embarassed.
Lex stepped forward and pulled her back into his arm, this time kissing her. He searched her body for any sign of resistance but found none. In fact the deeper he kissed her, the more her body seemed to melt into his. Breathless, they stepped away from each other.
“Woah where did that come from,” Allie asked with an embarrassed smile on her face.
Panicked that he had misread the situation he wasn’t sure what to say.
“I.. Al.. I.. Are you mad?”
She tucked a curl behind her ear as she stared at him.
“What was that,” she asked?
Tell her you coward, tell her you love her, his inner voice screamed.
“It was.. Why?” his replied, not making sense.
“Because baby this changes everything,” Allie said as she wiped a new tear from her cheek. “I’ve wanted you to do that for so long.”
Without waiting for her next word he pulled her back into his embrace and kissed her again like he had crossed the desert and her mouth was a cool spring. Almost fifteen years of pent up passion lived behind their lips. He never wanted to stop kissing Allie, ever again but he knew he had to tell her. He stopped and pulled his lips away from hers, still keeping her in his arms.
“I love you Allie Brookman. I have for so long. We don’t know what the future holds with this quarantine, but I am by your side. Where you go I go. I love you.”
Her face lit up as she smiled at him, her smile sly with a hint of mischief. He looked at her quizzically.
“I love you to Lex. This quarantine is going to be fun. Come on,” she said as she grabbed his hand leading him into her bedroom.