Cheryl leaned over and playfully bit Alton on the chest.
“Don’t want you sleeping on me…Scratch my back…”
“Lower. Ooh, right there…yeah…What? It itches.”
“No. It’s that accent of yours…It’s the cutest damn thing…”
“Yeah?” Cheryl turned and kissed Alton on the lips. “You like the way I talk?”
“I do…I told you I had relatives in Baton Rouge, right? Cousins.”
Cheryl propped herself on her elbow and pushed the hair out of her eyes. “I didn’t know that. Where?”
“Yeah. They live by the University. Last summer, I was visiting and at breakfast, we’re at the table, you know, and my younger cousin, Annalise, she’s like 10 or 11, and she says, ‘Uncle Bo’ – that’s what they call me. She says, ‘Uncle Bo, pass the ‘lasses.’ I laughed and I said, ‘No, Annalise. Don’t say ‘lasses, say MO-lasses.’ And she looks at me, then says, ‘How can I say MO-lasses when I ain’t had none yet?’”
There was a dim light sneaking in through a part in the blinds that caught the gleam in Alton’s eye. “Unh-Unh.” Cheryl laughed and bit him again.
“Ow! That’s a true story,” he laughed.
It was the same gleam Cheryl had seen when they were first introduced. The same music in his laughter. The ache in her stomach was also the same ache. The racing of her heart, too, was just as it had been three months ago when they shared their first kiss. She adored him. She longed for the sweet comfort of his company. Thoughts of him distracted her throughout the day. The butterflies that gathered in her stomach whenever he called, made her feel girlish and unsophisticated and happy. She longed to be with him, to have the taste of him on her lips and his scent on her body. More than anything else, however, she yearned to know that he felt the same way. “Just ask,” her girlfriends advised. But she knew her heart couldn’t bear to hear his rejection, or worse, to hear him equivocate, or lie. “No,” She replied. “I think it’s better to just have a few laughs and leave it at that.”
A wave of melancholy washed over her. Cheryl looked away, afraid her eyes might betray her feelings. She felt tears well in her eyes, so she excused herself and made her way to the bathroom, stumbling over a pair of her shoes on the way. She sat on the commode, in the dark, for a long moment. Why are you being so silly? She asked herself. You’re a mature woman. Start acting like one. She gathered herself, taking a few deep breaths and then flushed, washed her hands, and splashed cold water on her face.
The apartment was still. The steady spray from the apartment complex sprinklers and the soft snore from Alton played in the corners of the bedroom. Cheryl crawled back into the bed and looked down at Alton sleeping peacefully. She spooned behind him and felt the warmth from his back. She buried her nose into the nape of his neck and inhaled the scent of his sweat. “I love you.” She whispered the words softly, so that only God could hear them.
Cheryl’s heart jumped as Alton rolled over to look at her. She opened her mouth to speak, but the breath had left her body.
“I love you too,” he whispered. He took her in his arms and kissed her, biting her gently on the lower lip. She smiled and then snuggled up in his arms and silently cried herself to sleep.