hen Joel arrived at his apartment something led him directly to his bedroom. There were two messages on his answering machine. He immediately pressed Play, and the first message began, “What's up, Joel. It's Dave. Me and Greg are heading down to Club One around eleven tonight to meet up with some fine-ass honeys. We even got one for you. Stop acting all antisocial and shit. Get back at me if you wanna go. I'll probably hit you back on your cell. Hopefully you'll have it on. Peace.”
The answering machine beeped and the next message began. “Hi, Joel.”
Joel's heart stopped. Acid burned his stomach. He hadn't felt that searing sensation in weeks. He was too young and healthy for an ulcer and unprepared for an unexpected reminder from his past. It was his ex-girlfriend, Renee. For Joel, it felt strange thinking of her as his ex. Today marked six weeks, two days and eleven hours since Renee walked out of his life without a decent note or a phone call.
Joel paused Renee's message. He needed a quick distraction. He picked up his iHome audio system remote control. He hit the power button and began to listen to the smooth and relaxing sounds of Miles Davis as he took off his Kenneth Cole shoes and Brooks Brothers suit. His neatly pressed clothes were already laid out on his bed.
After showering, Joel put on a pair of khaki shorts, a short sleeve button-down Ralph Lauren Polo shirt and a pair of brown leather Cole Haan sandals. His outfit mirrored his demeanorâsimple and cool.
Joel pressed Play again and Renee's message continued, “I'm sure you already know who this is.” She laughed nervously. “Oh my God, this is so hard to do and I can't believe I'm calling you like this. I've rehearsed what I wanted to say in my mind a thousand times, but I still won't get it right. There's no real way to say I'm sorry. I was gonna call you on your cell, but I was afraid you might answer. It's easier this way. In case you were wondering, I'm okay. Thanks for calling my mother last month to check up on me. I mean ... I don't know what I mean. Sorry things had to end the way they did. God places certain people in our lives for a reason. Now, I understand. You helped prepare me for where I am right now. I know who I am and exactly what I want. You made me a better person and I love you for that. Thank you. If we ever cross paths again I hope you'll greet me with a smile and a warm embrace because we will always be friends. I wish you all the best and I know there's a special woman waiting out there for you somewhere. Have a blessed life. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I left a few things behind on my side of the closet. Feel free to donate them to Goodwill. My sister Cheryl will probably be giving you a call because she was interested in my old shoes and boots. Okay, Joel. Be blessed.”
Like a fool Joel started speaking to the answering machine, as if Renee could actually hear him. “Wow! That's it, huh? Your message seemed so genuine and straight from your cold heart, you little slut!”
Joel was pissed because he knew the real reason Renee was calling was to let him know her sister was interested in her old shoes. Then he thought the real reason she called was to rub her happiness in his face.
Before Joel could even take a moment to calm down his doorbell rang. The ring was so quick and faint that he almost ignored it. Within a few seconds there was a knock at his front door. The knock sounded hesitant and kind of unsure. His first impression was that it may have been a child. Joel raced to the door. He was in such a hurry to get rid of whoever it was that he didn't even look through the peephole.
Joel opened the door and in an instant he let go of two-and-a-half years. He thought,
Renee Who? What? When? How? And most of all, Why?
All of his ill feelings dissolved. The past was behind him. He was staring his future directly in the face and she was smiling beautifully right back at him. Joel absolutely loved what he saw.
Time seemed to be at a complete standstill, allowing Joel and the brown skinned beauty who stood in front of him the opportunity to conduct thorough surveys of each other before their first words were exchanged. His mind raced, etching significant and sufficient details about this angel. Her gleaming almond-shaped eyes expressed an obvious hint of attraction that her glowing smile quickly confirmed. Joel attempted to draw her in deeper with a gaze that conveyed an unmistakable signal of mutual attraction.
In a soft friendly tone she said, “Hi, my name is Erin McKoy and I just moved in across the hall in 2D.”
First impressions are long lasting and have a powerful influence when it comes to sparking the flames of passion. Pure chemistry is a key component of physical attraction. Pheromones filled the air and permeated Erin and Joel's senses.
Joel extended his hand, taking Erin's soft hand into his. He gently caressed her hand, looked down at their connection and immediately saw Erin as an extension of himself. They shared the exact same mahogany skin tone.
“Hi Erin, I'm Joel Davis. Welcome to the building.”
Erin maintained eye contact. With her hand still locked in Joel's sensual grip she said, “Thank you. It's nice to meet you, Joel.”
“It's nice to meet you too. I guess you want your hand back, huh?”
Erin liked the feel of Joel's hand. “Only if you're ready to let go.”
Joel smiled and said, “Umm, not really, but I'll let go as long as you promise not to go anywhere.”
Erin gave Joel the prettiest and brightest smile he'd ever seen and said, “Okay.”
Joel slowly let go of her hand. “You know what?”
“You're without a doubt the most beautiful thing I've seen all day. Thanks for making me smile.”
Erin blushed. “Thank you.” She acted as if she wanted to return the compliment, but instead she cleared her throat and quickly changed the subject. “The mailman accidentally left some of your mail in my mailbox. So I thought I'd bring it to you.” Erin handed Joel his mail.
He looked down and said, “Thanks. It's been hot and muggy all day. You wanna come inside for a cold drink?”
Erin was typically shy and felt that she had already been forward enough. It had taken a few minutes for her to build up the courage just to knock on his door. She didn't think that it was appropriate to come inside so soon. With apprehension she said, “No, I'm fine.” She quickly picked up on the look of disappointment in Joel's eyes. She needed a way to restore his faith. “I need to run back downstairs and bring in a few boxes ...
three huge boxes,
” Erin said with a little sly grin.
Joel caught the hint. He licked his lips and asked, “You need any help?”
“Are you ready for me to grab those huge boxes right now?”
Erin quickly replied, “Yeah, if I'm not interrupting anything.”
Joel felt inside his front pocket to make sure he had his keys. The last thing he needed was to be locked out of his apartment. He shrugged and said, “I wasn't doing anything at all. I'm ready.”
“Thanks a lot. The boxes are down in my car.”
Erin led the way downstairs and out to her car. Joel thought that she was really cute. At first glance he usually knew whether he was interested in a woman or not. He knew how far he'd like things to go and things he could actually envision himself doing to her and allowing her to do to him. Erin possessed a lot of important physical qualities that Joel found attractive in a woman. She had gorgeous facial features, like an even glowing skin tone, dark expressive eyes and a cute little button nose. She had shiny black shoulder-length hair with plenty of body. Joel thought that Erin's soft voice and pleasant easygoing personality were a nice touch. She seemed dainty, practical and somewhat subtleâyet very appealing. There was something so right about the way she looked in her formfitting pink T-shirt. Joel loved the way she moved in her denim shorts and the way they fit. He just couldn't take his eyes off of her perky breasts, narrow waistline, shapely hips, thighs and her sexy apple bottom.
When Erin and Joel got outside they noticed that the sky was full of ominous-looking clouds. Daylight was quickly fading. The wind had kicked up a little and it wasn't as muggy as earlier. The weather had been hot and humid all week and now a major storm was brewing.
Erin said, “Looks like we got a temporary break from the heat and humidity.”
Joel looked at her and thought,
Hopefully, things are about to heat up between us
He said, “Yeah, but we're about to be hit by a major storm system.”
“I'm praying that the storm won't last too long because I have a moving company delivering my furniture and other belongings tomorrow morning. I was just kidding when I said huge boxes. All I have right now are a few small boxes filled with fragile things I didn't really trust the movers to handle.”
Joel laughed and said, “Uh-oh. So, you're gonna trust me, a total stranger with a minimal amount of moving experience to handle your most delicate possessions in the world?”
Erin smiled. “Yeah. I can just look at you and tell you're good with your hands, and judging from the way you gripped my hand earlier, I'm sure you know how to be very gentle.”
Joel couldn't hide his smile. “I like you already. You've got me all excited about you moving into the building ... right across the hall, too.”
Erin flashed her contagious smile again and said, “Sounds fun and convenient, right?”
“I'm not even gonna lie. Yeah, it does sound fun and convenient. Oh, in case you were wondering, I'm single.”
“I already know. Ms. Benson from downstairs gave me the scoop.”
“Dag, that old lady is like a reporter from
“No, she wasn't like that. She was just being friendly. We happened to end up at the mailbox at the same time and started talking. She filled me in on everybody in the building.”
“I bet she did all that within two minutes.”
“Pretty much. Actually, she filled me in on everybody in something like ninety seconds or less.” A tiny look of skepticism came over her face. “Maybe you're right about the
“Hopefully she didn't say anything too bad about me? But then again, whatever she said couldn't have been too bad because you were brave enough to knock on my door.”
“Brave? Shoot, I was scared half to death knocking on your front door.”
“Oh yeah, I could tell. You rang the bell and knocked so softly that I was about to completely ignore you.”
“Just for that I won't tell you everything Ms. Benson said about you. Anyway, a girl has to keep something to herself.”
“That's cool because I know she told you some good stuff.”
Erin twisted her lips. “Yeah, she might have said that you were a pretty boy with a muscular body and she might have called you a good catch.”
Joel beamed with confidence. “Really? I don't know about the pretty boy part, but I do have a few muscles here and there. I dunno ... I might be a good catch. Somebody may have mentioned that to me before.”
“Is that right?”
Joel smiled. “Yeah. You
have a boyfriend or anything, do you?”
“No. Just a roommate.”
“Male or female?”
“Her name is Kenya. She works for NSA, you know, National Security Agency?” Erin asked as she unlocked the trunk of her car.
Joel reached into the back of her little gray Mitsubishi Eclipse and pulled out two boxes and she grabbed the other. He said, “Yeah, I know a lot about NSA. I remember that Will Smith movie,
Enemy of the State
. Kenya must be a real serious kind of girl.”
“Actually she's a nut, but really sweet. That's my girl. I forgot about
Enemy of the State
. It was pretty goodâreal informative. Made me think about how easily the government can tap into someone's life and even ruin them if they want. I don't even associate Kenya with creepy government people like that.”
Erin and Joel headed up to her apartment carrying the boxes.
Joel asked, “Where's Kenya now?”
With a slight grin, Erin asked, “What, you need her help with those little boxes or something? Don't tell me you're getting tired already, muscle man.”
They both laughed.
“No, I'm all right.” Joel paused for a second and said, “Girl, I can carry you and all these boxes if I wanted to.”
“Psssss, yeah right.” She laughed and said, “Nah, I believe you.” A curious expression appeared on her face. “I'll have to keep that in mind.”
Joel smiled and said, “Look at you. I mentioned carrying you and these boxes and all of a sudden you look like you're thinking about something real sexy.”