“Yeah, but I really used to go to Mondamin to get a cheesesteak with everything and fries from that place on the second level.”
“Mmmm. And then stop by the Great Cookie for a little quarter-pound bag of snickerdoodle cookies.”
“You're making me hungry.”
Realizing that they were both starving and didn't have any other plans, they stood in the hallway of their three-story apartment building for a few minutes, trying to decide exactly where they wanted to go for dinner. Erin had a quick and simple solution. She had the taste for a Meat Lover's pizza from Pizza Hut with a large order of fries from McDonald's.
Joel said, “No, I can do a lot better than that. Let me take you out for a nice seafood dinner at the Inner Harbor. We can go down to Legal Sea Foods or Phillips.”
“That's okay. I really have the taste for pizza and fries. This is such a spur-of-the-moment type of thing. We can do seafood tomorrow if you don't have anything planned.”
“I'm free to hang out with you whenever.”
“Don't get me wrong. I'd love to go downtown for dinner, but don't forget about the weather. I'd hate for us to get caught out there in the middle of the storm. We should just grab a quick bite to eat.”
Joel agreed, and they rode in his Jeep Cherokee to pick up their food. On the way to Pizza Hut Erin's cell phone rang. It was Kenya. Joel listened in on a couple of minutes of what seemed to be carefully coded girl talk. When Erin started telling Kenya about him, then she had his full attention. The excitement in her voice made Joel feel good. She gave Kenya a detailed and very flattering breakdown of his physical appearance. She actually described him as looking
. Then she went into specific details of how she and Joel met. Joel could tell that Erin and Kenya were close because Erin pretty much gave Kenya a minute-by-minute breakdown of nearly everything she experienced that day. Erin even told Kenya exactly where she and Joel were and how she planned to spend the rest of the evening with him, if he didn't mind. Right after that Kenya was dying to talk to Joel. They were introduced by cell phone.
When Erin first handed Joel her cell phone he was kind of reluctant to speak, but he and Kenya talked as if they had known each other for years. Kenya came across as very pleasant and somewhat flirtatious. Joel thought that it was weird and tried not to pay too much attention to Kenya. To him it was very stimulating meeting and connecting so fast with two friendly, energetic and intelligent women. Somehow everything just seemed to click.
After a few minutes or so Joel's overactive imagination took over. He started imagining Kenya profiling him on a government computer as they spoke, doing an in-depth background check to make sure her friend wasn't dealing with some weirdo-psycho-stalker type.
Joel handed the cell phone back to Erin. As they entered the restaurant, they placed their carryout order and sat down in a booth.
Erin and Kenya continued talking. Erin didn't want to seem rude so she soon cut her conversation with Kenya short. Erin asked Joel if it would be okay if she took a picture of him with her camera phone to send to Kenya. At first that kind of raised his suspicion and damn near confirmed his notion of the background check, but then he had to laugh at himself. He agreed to the picture and within a minute or so Erin was showing him a text message from Kenya saying,
Gurl, your new man is fineâa real yummy yum yum. Show Joel da pics in ur phone's gallery.
Erin and Joel laughed.
Then Erin showed Joel pictures of her and Kenya having fun. The pictures ranged from being very silly to serious. Erin had used the camera's special effects feature to make some of the pictures appear more animated and artistic. As Joel looked at the pictures he thought that Erin and Kenya were two very attractive women.
After showing Joel the pictures, Kenya called Erin back. Kenya started having an anxiety attack after speaking with Erin and Joel. She was incredibly homesick and she wanted to hang out with them so badly. She was down to her final week of training and Joel promised that the three of them would go out for dinner that following Friday night to welcome her back home. Kenya promised to leave Erin and Joel alone for the rest of the night. They both knew that Kenya couldn't and wouldn't stop calling. They told her that she could call back a couple more times throughout the night just in case her anxiety level got too high.
Joel was glad that the interference from Kenya had ceased for the moment. He looked at Erin and asked, “So, what do you like to do for fun?”
“I like to read African-American novels. I like going to the mall. It's not really about shopping every time, but it's a social thing too. I like going to the movies, checking out new restaurants and traveling. I like going to parks for walks or hiking. I'd love to go camping one day. I'm always open for new things. I like to dance, but I'm not big on clubbing. What do you like to do for fun?”
“I like going to sporting events with my buddies, Dave and Greg. I'm not big on gambling, but Atlantic City is my quick getaway for fights. I love boxing, college basketball, the NFL and the NBA. I like to work out at home or at the gym. I like going to concerts. I love going out to eat. I'm big on traveling and I'm even fine staying at home watching a movie.”
“Interesting. I like sports and working out too.”
Joel asked, “What qualities do you look for in a boyfriend or husband?”
Joel's question made Erin's eyes widen. “Whoa. I had to duck because you threw some titles at me with that question.”
“Is that a problem?”
“No,” she lied, and put on a sugarcoated smile. In reality one of the last things she wanted right now was a boyfriend or a husband. All she really wanted was a friend who could show her a good time. When it came to a relationship, her intention was to move along as slowly as possible because she knew that her heart and mind weren't ready for another major upset. Erin had just gotten out of a stressful relationship two months earlier. She didn't know how to tell Joel her true intentions because the look in his eyes told her that he was looking to settle down with the right woman as soon as possible. She threw him a hint and said, “I like patience. That's a good quality.”
That definitely sounded like a subtle hint to Joel. “Patience? That's itâone word?”
Erin smiled. “That's all I need to say. I already see everything else I'm looking for in you, so there's no need for a long, drawn-out description. Now, what do you look for in a girlfriend or wife?”
Joel decided to throw a subtle hint of his own. “Honesty.”
Erin got his hint and laughed out loud. “Honesty. That's itâone word?”
“That one word goes a long way.” With a bit of sarcasm in his voice he caught himself mimicking Erin when he said, “I already see everything else I'm looking for in you, so there's no need for a long, drawn-out description.”
Erin burst out laughing and said, “I like you.”
Joel touched Erin's hand and then their fingers slowly intertwined. “I like you, too. You seem to be a good girl with the right amount of oomph.”
There was a definite connection being made. They shared a good amount of similarities. There were of course their subtle differences, but there was also enough healthy friction to spark a lot of interest and passion in their eyes.
Erin and Joel left Pizza Hut with a large Meat Lover's pizza and headed over to McDonald's drive-thru. Joel ended up ordering two super-sized fries and Cokes. They hurried back to his apartment while their food was still hot and fresh. Before going up to Joel's apartment, Erin grabbed her overnight bag from her car.
After washing their hands, Erin and Joel headed straight to his kitchen. Joel grabbed a couple of paper plates, paper towels and a plastic container of grated parmesan cheese. Erin picked up the salt and pepper shakers along with a giant bottle of Heinz ketchup. Joel told Erin to relax and make herself at home. She kicked off her shoes and picked a comfortable spot on the floor in front of Joel's chocolate leather sofa.
rin glanced around Joel's apartment. She loved the Afrocentric dÃ©cor that featured original paintings and sculptures from West Africa. There were several pieces of imported furniture situated around the roomâtables and chairs that varied in size and shape, which complemented each other nicely. The furniture was art and some of the art was actually furniture. Erin looked at the bookshelves lined with hundreds of books from almost every genre. She felt right at home as she took in the warmth and beauty of the contrasting earth tones.
“This is a really nice place you have.”
Erin surprised Joel when she suggested that they sit on the floor to eat. He clicked on his 42-inch plasma TV and joined her on the floor.
Erin combined their super-sized fries onto one plate. She was very meticulous about how the fries were placed on the plate, making sure they were all lined up in the same direction. Next, she carefully sprinkled an adequate amount of salt and pepper on them. She was starting to rub off on Joel. He poured a pool of ketchup onto the other plate, forming a near perfect circle. After all that thorough preparation with the fries, Joel quickly dashed the grated parmesan cheese on the pizza and they ended up eating it straight from the box.
Erin said, “The pizza is really good.”
“Yeah. So, I guess you're not really big on nutrition.”
“Not really. Kenya is the one who's big on nutrition. She makes sure that we follow a health-conscious diet. I've been eating just about everything since she's been gone and haven't gained a pound.”
Joel laughed, “But in the meantime you've probably been clogging up your arteries like crazy.”
“Yeah, I have to die from something. Food makes me feel so goodâwhy not die happy?”
“That's true. I read a bumper sticker the other day that read,
Eat healthy, exercise daily and die anyway.
Erin sipped her Coke and laughed at the same time, almost causing her to choke.
Joel and Erin were down to their last morsels of pizza and had only a few fries scattered on the plate they shared. Joel poured two glasses of white wine and they continued sitting on the floor with their backs resting against Joel's sofa. He flipped channels back and forth between the melodic videos on VH1 Soul and the smooth sounds of the R&B digital music channel.
Joel looked over at Erin's duffel bag and asked, “What's up with that bag you grabbed from your car?”
“Nothing. That's my overnight bag.”
Joel smiled. “Where do you plan on sleeping tonight?”
Erin quickly replied, “My apartment. I got a sleeping bag across the hall.”
“I got a king-sized bed with fresh clean linen on itâright down the hall. You can have it and I'll sleep out here on the sofa.”
The modesty in Erin made her say, “No, we just met and I can't even begin to consider sleeping over here. Plus, I can't put you out of your own bed.”
“You're such a good girl. You can't even hide your wholesomenessâyou're oozing with it and I respect that. But can I corrupt you tonight and make you do some things you normally wouldn't do?”
Erin felt herself get a little turned on. She blushed and said, “No.”
“Grab your sleeping bag and stay over here if you'd like. Nobody is gonna judge you and I promise to be good.”
“Yeah, I bet. I can see one thing leading to another. If I agreed to stay here tonight I probably wouldn't even touch my sleeping bag. I can see us right now, cuddled up in your bed during the storm.”
“Ooh, that sounds real nice to me.”
“Me too, but I can't commit to anything like that yet. We'll see.”
Joel shrugged and sipped his wine. “All right. No pressure.”
“I'm glad you invited me over.”
Joel smiled, picked up a french fry and said, “I'm glad you're here with me. Sitting on the floor eating like this takes me back to another time.”
“And what time would that be?”
“When I was a kid, I used to sit on my living room floor and eat breakfast while watching Saturday morning cartoons. Some mornings I would make a tent using two dining room chairs along with my blanket and sheets.”
“Sounds fun. I noticed something about you.”
“What would that be?”
“You tell a lot of stories about when you were a kid.”
“Yeah, but I understand. I'm the same way. When we're kids we don't really appreciate our childhoods and can't wait to get older. When we're adults we love to reminisce about our childhoods and try our best to stay as young as possible.”
Joel smiled. “That's true, but I'm still a kid at heart and I never plan on changing.”
“I feel the same way.”
“I think we have a lot in common.”
Erin combed her fingers through her hair and said, “We do. I think we're very compatible.”
There was an awkward moment of silence. Joel couldn't really think of what to say next. He just stared at Erin and got lost in the beauty of her brown skin. Out of nowhere he asked, “Did you notice that we have the same skin tone?”
Erin was about to laugh until she held her arm up next to Joel's and said, “We sure do. Look at that, the same pretty brown skin.”
Erin looked down at her food and Joel looked down at his. He was finished. The expression on Erin's face told him that she was finished and hungered for something else besides food.
He looked at Erin and could see a change in her. Her modesty was gone. He felt himself drawn toward her and he could tell that she sensed the same magnetic attraction. Their body temperatures rose, passion heated up and was about to come to a rapid boil.
All of a sudden there was a loud explosion of thunder that echoed all around them. It caused the entire building to shake. The clouds couldn't hold back the rain any longer. It seemed as if the sky had cracked and began to spill out a steady downpour of the heaviest and loudest raindrops Joel and Erin had ever heard.
The thunder startled Erin and made her move closer to Joel. A Donnell Jones video came on the TV. They watched the dark stormy sky through the patio doors, as lightning created what appeared to their eyes as a split second glimpse of daylight. Heavy raindrops beat against the windows and rooftop. The wind blew so hard that it whistled.
Erin cuddled up even closer. She found comfort in Joel and the most perfect spot to rest her head between his muscular chest and shoulder. They were so close that they basically breathed each other's breath. Joel ran his hand up and down Erin's leg. He loved the way her feminine curves felt, along with her soft warm body pressed against his.
With his strong affectionate arm around Erin, Joel inhaled deeply, taking in her shower-fresh scent and said, “You feel and smell so good.”
Erin was in a dreamlike state when she said, “So do you.”
Joel whispered, “There are so many things that I like about you.” He slowly ran his fingers through Erin's hair. “Your hair is really pretty and I love your almond-shaped eyes.” He traced her perfectly arched eyebrows with his thumb. “Look at your cute little nose. And your kissable lips.”
Joel grabbed Erin by the chin, guided her to him and planted a gentle kiss on her lips. He took his time kissing, nibbling and sucking her lips. Things got wet and wild when he slipped his tongue inside.
Their tongues dancedâmoved with passion and grace. Their hands moved from their faces, to the backs of each other's necks and then to different body parts.
After a couple of minutes Joel eased back a little to try and gauge Erin's reaction. Her reaction was off the meter. They both appeared to be breathless.