Diego woke with a start as his phone rang next to his head. He rubbed his eyes with one hand while the other sought his phone. Damn, he thought. It was just a dream! And he thought the super babe subletting him a room was all about him in it, too.
He sat up when he saw it was an unknown local caller and answered it, hoping it was her. A fucking telemarketer? Just what time was it anyway? It was three in the afternoon, he discovered as he hung up on the rude bitch that stirred him from the most epic dream ever.
He saw he had a new text message and looked at it, hoping it was her. It was. Sansara texted him at ten in the morning: “Are you moving in or what?” Well, that was succinct and to the point. He wondered how long she’d been awake before she texted him. She sounds impatient, he thought.
He set his phone down and Max looked up at him hopefully, wagging his tail. “Can I have a moment to sort through this dream?” he asked his canine counterpart. Max laid his head down and just stared at him from the floor, waiting. He was a good bull dog.
He sat there, still as a statue, realizing he’d made quite the mess in his sleep shorts. That was an amazing dream, indeed, he thought. It was fresh, too, which was both relieving and gross. He hoped his ex-wife was at work like she was supposed to be. He stopped thinking for a minute to shoot a text to Manny, the friend who promised to help him move today. He should have realized it was a dream sooner, he chided himself, going back to reverie.
He had to face the facts: Sansara was the woman of his dreams. Literally, now, but even before that. She was different from other women and he couldn’t put his finger on it. The biggest difference he’d noted so far is that she didn’t demand comfort from him just because she was crying. When she cried, she didn’t do anything to try to lean on him without him begging her to do so. She seemed to want to avoid touching him. He thought back to when they met at Bar Louie and she touched him to heal him.
Maybe that’s what was getting to him. That sort of feeling during the deed would be over the top. He was half-listening for Tamara, he realized, so he got up to let Max out and check to see if he was home alone. Thank God he was. That dream… He needed to relive it, he thought, at least in his memories. He checked his phone and saw Manny replied. “I’m having dinner, chino. Be ready in 45.”
“Perfect. Shower time. 🙂 c u soon” he replied. He hopped in the shower. The kids would be picked up by Tammy’s mother today. She took them every Tuesday night to some strange church function that he never cared about. They used to be ecstatic over having an evening alone, honestly, but they grew apart some time ago.
While he was under the hot water, he started thinking about the psychological content of his dream. The part where Sansara told him that she hired a private investigator and found out that his wife was sleeping with her own ex for over a year. That was actually true, but he was the one who hired a P.I. on Tammy. He did it the day after she threw a fork at him and screamed, “I want a divorce!” He was angry about her sleeping around and then sleeping with him, too, without protection. He’d tested positive for gonorrhea shortly after they’d stopped living in the same bed, which made him irritable, to say the least.
She had no ground to stand upon to keep the house or the kids, but her parents were very possessive of the children. Diego’s parents had already passed from this plane of existence due to a drunk driving accident. He was in the car when it happened, too. A drunk driver collided with their family car. He tried not to remember the carnage in the aftermath of that accident. Ever since, he’d been against drunk driving.
Drunk walking, on the other hand, didn’t truly bother him. It was relaxing, the night walk he’d taken from Sansara’s back to the house he was giving to his ex-wife as a charitable donation.
Suddenly, the memory of the steamy sex scene in his dreams came to the surface. He bit his lip and stopped scrubbing himself completely mindlessly. Well, the ex would be gone for four more hours. She was a nurse and she never got to leave early, sadly. He looked down at his erection and shrugged, deciding to alleviate himself. He was about to actually face the woman and he wanted to be on his best behavior.
Too bad that didn’t mean he’d be on his best behavior in the shower. He replayed it, slowing his strokes down to simulate it the best he could. He couldn’t help himself, he thought of that beautiful woman in his arms, on his cock, begging for more with constant whimpering and screaming and… he blew his load, just like that.
That was going to be spank bank material for the rest of his life, he figured. Too bad it wasn’t real, he thought wistfully. He thought about how he’d offended her asking if she was sleeping around without tact. He sighed. That was not the way to woo a woman, son, he could hear echoing in his head. Diego had developed some self-talk in his father’s absence to emulate him, to finish raising himself. He was sixteen when the accident happened, so it wasn’t that difficult for him to fill in the blanks as he got older.
Little did he know how proud his parents were of how he continued to raise himself like they would have in their absence. If he ever spoke to Sansara about her gifts, he just might learn that. Because he thought so frequently of his parents, they never truly died in his heart or his head. He missed them anyway.
He wondered just then if Sansara had been cheated on as much as his dream had suggested. Something in the way she spoke told him that she accepted men are able to be nothing but complete savage animals. He actually already knew quite a bit about Sansara and Psycho Boy Ben from his private investigator. Enough to know that Ben had stepped out on her for the entire relationship, engaging in risky behavior behind her back. He wondered if she did test positive for anything, but then again since Tamara had slept with the asshole and then him and he didn’t have anything, he supposed she probably didn’t.
He wondered if Sansara had to deal with gonorrhea herself. If that’s how it ended. He’d like to think that wasn’t the final straw for that warrior of a woman. His instinct told him she was a fighter. Ugh. He admonished himself for having a wet dream about a woman who barely let him touch her the evening before. A woman who kicked him out by pelting him with a key to her place instead of coming back to lock him out. She must have really wanted to get away from him, he thought.
Yet, at ten in the morning, she texted him asking him if he was moving in or not. It was one text. He hadn’t responded in five hours and she still hadn’t texted again. He tried to imagine what a reiki master did all day, too. He thought about how she touched him to heal him. He thought about how she told him things about himself he didn’t think she should know. Psychic. Psychic and reiki master.
Two professions nobody believed in, he figured. And yet, she had a massive house on the east side with a beautiful garden. The interior of what he’d seen was immaculately organized and clean. It was open and spacious, too.
The thought of her naked on his couch in her front room flitted through his brain. He shook his head at himself. This was going to amount to a lot of trouble, he thought. He was going to do something that would get him in trouble with her. He wondered if she’d bite him or not. Punch, kick, or scream? He had his money on something extremely violent happening if he touched her without her consent. That made it a little easier to control the little man, so to speak.
Plenty of people had pet names for their penises, but he didn’t use one very often. Chavez is what he called his when he was extremely drunk, but rarely otherwise. The mere thought of a naked landlord splashing into his conscious mind was enough to wake the little guy up again, despite the shower he just enjoyed.
He wondered if she was attracted to him at all. He thought about asking. He wondered what else she’d pelt at him if he pissed her off enough. He was getting used to the minor abuse of angry women, it seemed, though to be fair to his ex-wife, the remote only happened in a dream. Oh, of course, he thought. I dreamt of Tammy hitting me with the remote because Sansara pelted me with the key. Wait a minute, no. She really did that last night. That dream had him off his game… it was so realistic.
Did this mean he was wishing for crazy makeup sex with Tamara? He thought about it seriously just to be sure, but no. He wanted the Goth girl who was subletting to him, he was sure of that much. He wished Tamara hit him with anything while she was mad at him, that would have made it much clearer that he was in the doghouse. She was not one for communicating, sadly. Not until it was long over for her. Not until she had gonorrhea.
He shook his head. He couldn’t believe she was still seeing the dick who gave her an STI, either. He wondered briefly why Sansara never questioned why he accepted her story about Psycho Boy Ben without any more proof. He also wondered what it would be like for her to press her body against his. He was going in circles on this one. He shook his head and retrieved Max from the yard now that he was shaved and dressed.
He had ten minutes or so to cook up a breakfast, so he grabbed a bowl of cereal as he waited. He thought about how Sansara had ordered food delivery and how they ended up grilling for two. Every time he’d grilled for Tamara, she’d lazed about inside where it was cooler. And where the TV was, he noted. Tamara was into binge watching daily and being as lazy as possible, generally speaking. They had split the food making fifty-fifty, but he felt like he always went above and beyond and she just had no zeal when it came to creating a meal.
Sansara, on the other hand, was going to do it all by herself, like he was her guest. He supposed he was. There were no rules saying they had to dine together at all, which is how it ended up feeling like a date of some sort. And then there was drinking, though he supposed that he started that by proposing Bar Louie as their meeting place.
Argh! He rubbed his face with both hands. Another thought of her naked had crossed his mind. He really hoped she did not sleep in the nude. He was afraid he’d turn into a complete animal and coerce her into bed somehow. Or maybe he’d see her naked and be turned off, but he doubted that. It wasn’t like her t-shirt and skinny jeans left that much to his imagination.
He tried to think of her eyes instead, remembering they were like mirrors in his dream. Were her eyes really the color of mirrors? He tried to anchor himself in reality by remembering her eyes.
Thankfully, Manny just arrived. He let himself in, as customary. “Hey, chino, wassup?” Manny asked him. “You ready to move this couch, bro?”
“You bet,” Diego replied. He conned Max out of a resting place and told the dog to stay put. He thought about how relieved Tammy was that he was taking Max with him. He bet she thought the dog caused all the mess. She was going to be sorely mistaken!
The two men easily lifted the couch and took it to his beat up pickup truck. They were able to fit both halves in the truck, which was excellent. Diego told Max to be a good boy and the bros left to deliver Diego’s couch to Sansara’s living room.
Manny whistled when they pulled up to the curb. He let Diego drive since he was the one who knew where they were going already. “Wow, my man. This is like, a mansion. Who you stayin’ with? There’s gotta be at least two other people in there, amirite?” Although his friend was just trying to be friendly, he didn’t really appreciate the fact that he was going to have to tell his best friend that a single white woman owned the whole shebang and she currently lived alone.
“Right now, there’s just one lady in there,” Diego told Manny. His friend looked at him with one of those knowing smiles and nudged him.
“Hey dude, if it don’t work out with your new lady friend, lemme know… I could dig living in a mansion!” Diego just shook his head. It was pointless to try to convince Manny that she was just looking for someone to rent a room. And protect her from a jackass. Then again, that last half made it sound like romance would bloom any moment, he had to admit even to himself. He decided not to tell anyone that she desired a guard.
Diego walked up and unlocked the door. Manny looked at him appreciatively. “Wow, you got a key and everything.” He seemed to be intent to overlook the fact that Diego was supposed to pay rent. In fact, as if reading his mind, “Are you sure she ain’t looking for a gigolo, hombre?”
“I wish she was,” he said. “But let’s be respectful, she’s just inside, you know…” Oh shit, he just remembered she had a Ring doorbell, too. She had this recorded now. Shit. Now he’d be in it deep, he was sure of it. He hoped they’d walked too far away for their exchanges to be heard. They were already bringing up one half of the couch and he saw the blue light swirl of the doorbell.
“I hope she’s not going to be mad I brought a helping hand, honestly,” he told his compadre.
He was more than a little surprised to see her just inside on a yoga mat. She was doing a standing backbend and listening to music at a moderate volume. He listened for a moment as he and Manny positioned the first half of the couch, identifying it as “Odds Are” by Barenaked Ladies. He dug that tune. She wasn’t even in the way of moving in the couch, he thought, since she was on one side of the room.
Diego and Manny went out the door again as she glanced at the two of them. He thought he saw her eyes do an appreciative sweep, but they were standing so close together he had no idea if it was for him or his buddy. He shut the door, leaving it so it was barely open and unlatched so they could push it open for the second half of the furniture delivery.
Manny was giving him eyebrows the whole time. “Ah, she’s a nice looking lady, bro. I’m telling you, if it don’t work out for you two, I’d die and go to heaven for her number.” Diego laughed at his friend’s comment, knowing he was being a bit over the top because he fancied himself a comedian. He was still laughing and shaking his head as they carried the second half of the couch inside. He was glad there were only a few steps to carry it up. Although it was light, it was incredibly bulky.
Crystal stopped doing yoga and rolled up her mat. She hadn’t been expecting company, it was obvious. Diego gulped. He probably should have texted her to tell her he was on his way. She was wearing so little clothing! There was nothing left to imagine, he thought. She was going to haunt his dreams forever.
“Shut the door,” she instructed without bothering to say hello to them first. She turned her music down to a very low volume. Manny gave him a surprised look as he strode over to the door and closed it. He’d forgotten the cats for a moment. Just then, Brinx jumped onto the couch. It wasn’t even put together yet!
She took a long drink from her water bottle before setting it down on a side table. It was frosted from condensation despite the air conditioning. “Looks like it’s no longer your couch, Diego,” Sansara drawled. “Brinx, will you let the boys do their job?” she asked the feline as she scooped him up into her arms. He perched in her embrace like that is what he angled for the entire time, rumbling with a purr as she stroked his fur.
Diego felt it was a bit of a slight to be called a boy. He couldn’t be sure what she meant by that, though he supposed men called a pair of ladies girls, too. Maybe she meant they looked young. That wouldn’t be so bad, since he was 38 already. She made him feel like stepping up to the plate and being a man, though. That’s the real reason it stung.
Manny took his hat off and gave her a bit of a bow. “Hi, miss. My name is Manny,” he introduced himself. She walked over to the two of them, jutting her hand out as she said, “Sansara.” Manny shook her hand, surprised when she matched his grip, which was too firm for a lady, he realized, and he eased up. She did the same.
“That’s a pretty name. What kind of name is it?” Manny asked amicably.
“A made-up one, I assure you, however I’ve also learned it’s the Sanskrit word for universe,” she replied. She reached over to the side table with her water bottle on it and retrieved one of her business cards, giving it to Manny. “This might answer more of your questions.”
Diego smirked as Manny read the card. “What’s this reiki stuff? Oh, cool, you’re a psychic! Do you know the future?”
Sansara grinned at him as she replied, “Only at $60 an hour.”
“Oh, damn. That’s a good gig, Miss Sansara,” he said. He flipped the card over to read the back. “Namaste,” he said out loud.
“That’s Ms. Sansara to you, and namaste,” she replied, placing her palms together as if to pray and bowing her head toward him.
“What’s it mean? Is it just a fancy way to say hello?” he asked her. Diego decided to stay quiet and just observe them. He’d wanted to know the same thing but had been too chicken shit to ask.
“It means the god in me greets the god in you,” she told him. “There are other ways to interpret it, most assuredly, but that is the way I wish to interpret it.” She pointed to a poster on the wall that had the true meaning written on it. It was more like a poem with a name than a true word.
My soul honors your soul.
I honor the place in you where
the entire Universe resides.
I honor the light, love, truth,
beauty and peace with you,
because it is also within me.
In sharing these things
we are united, we are the same,
we are one.
Manny read it a few times. Diego did, too, honestly. She read it out loud after a moment and when she got to the end, both of the men felt a tingling in their brains. They didn’t speak of it in front of her, but they would later when he took Manny out for a beer to thank him.
She spoke in a clear tone, her voice oddly ringing in the space. Brinx just stared at them as she read out loud, like he was completely aware that his owner was a goddess on Earth. And he, little Brinx, was a god. He was her equal.
“Okay, boys… when will you be back with the rest? Are you bringing Max tonight?” she asked, turning toward them, absentmindedly petting the cat like a Bond villain might.
The spell was broken. Manny looked at Diego as if to say, You talk, bro, I’m still chewing on what she said. “We’ll be back soon, sure. And yes, Bruno will be here, but I think he likes the name Max far more than the one I gave him. Manny, will you help me hook the pieces of couch together? Faster with two people, wey.”
Manny helped him without saying another word. Diego figured he probably thought she was fruit loops by now, considering her profession. He did wonder if she would pull a stunt on him like she did to Diego at the bar. He kind of hoped so in order to put his friend in his place.
“We’ll be back in about 15-20 minutes,” Diego informed her. She looked at them both with her eyes narrowed a little, though there was no trace of malice in her expression. It was more like scrutiny.
“That’s not very long. You don’t have very much to bring, do you?” They hadn’t really discussed what he had, she’d just told him he could bring the couch and he’d assumed she knew the rest. “Did she put you through the wringer?” Sansara asked him suddenly. He nodded, looking amused.
She looked at Manny again, sizing him up for sure this time, but not in an appreciative manner at all. “You’re sick,” she said without further ado. Manny looked taken aback. He hadn’t told anybody about being diagnosed with stage zero colon cancer yet. How did she know?
“I’ll have you both for dinner,” she declared as she walked away. She looked over her shoulder at them, “Unless you’re too chicken shit to stay now, boys.” And just like that, she was gone. Diego saw her walking into the cellar and wondered what she went down there for.
Manny stared at Diego, his eyes wide. “Dude, I ain’t tell nobody I’m sick yet. She’s gotta be legit. Let’s go get your shit already, I’ll take a lady’s hospitality any day… Especially a lady like that.” His hands moved through the air to trace the silhouette she’d displayed with her exercise clothing, looking real appreciative.
Diego hit him, a gentle love tap kind of hit, with a fist to his chest. “Knock it off, she’s a rape victim. Let’s go get Max and the rest of my shit already.” Manny looked real apologetic then. He’d had no idea. He stood straighter.
In the car, Manny asked him, “Was she coming onto both of us, dude? I can’t tell.”
“I can’t tell, either, but it doesn’t give you an excuse to act like an animal. I suspect she is used to getting her way and doesn’t care what it sounds like she’s saying. Read her card again, it says healer on it,” he urged his friend as he pulled up in front of his ex-house again.
“Oh, you’re right. Maybe that’s how she knew I was sick, but dude, it’s uncanny, bro,” Manny kept burbling. Diego was relieved that Tamara still hadn’t returned as of yet and shouldn’t for hours. He didn’t want to fuel her jealousy at all. He and Manny loaded the truck with his five bags, one of which was a thirty three gallon trash bag and a box that held Max’s belongings. He retrieved the leash and dog.
“Why do you guys call him Max?” Manny asked suddenly, the dog half in his lap as the passenger for the second trip.
“Funny story, hombre. She gave Max up for adoption. I adopted him from a friend of hers and named him Bruno, but he seems to like Max better,” he told his friend. Manny nodded.
“Hey, how cool is it this chick is feeding us both dinner? Will there be beer, you think?” Manny asked him.
Diego nodded before he verbalized, “Yeah, Blue Moon, probably. There were two left when I came home last night.” He said it before he realized that Manny would jump to the wrong conclusion out of hope for his best buddy. He merely whistled appreciatively. Diego shook his head.
“She was interviewing me as her future roommate,” he said. Manny heckled him some more, indicating he didn’t believe a word Diego said about the two of them not being a thing.
“Dude, she was checking you out earlier. I saw it myself! She’s got it bad for you, hombre. If only I was so lucky to be in your shoes. I wasn’t sure she was aiming that at you ’til she looked at me again, cuz when she looks at you her eyes go all soft around the edges.” Manny nudged his friend just as they pulled up.
Sansara was out on the patio, grilling, he noted. He poked Manny and then pointed toward her. “You be kind to her, she’s had a shitty life and she’s right there with a bunch of meat on that grill. All we gotta do is get everything up to my room and then come out. She’s a real southern belle, wouldn’t you know, and is used to doing everything herself to serve her guests. At least, that’s the best I can figure out so far.”
“Oh ho ho. Does that mean she squeezes her own lemonade?” Manny asked, squeezing the air with both hands. Diego shook his head at his low class friend. He got distracted just then as he saw Sansara twirl around. She seemed to be dancing as she was grilling… and that’s when she saw the two of them watching her.
She came over to the fence and blew a kiss at them. “MAX! Come here, baby!” she called as she punched in a code to open her garden gate.
Manny was eating his words just then. Maybe she just loved the dog so much. As soon as she called the canine, he lunged out the window of the parked truck and ran over to her, wagging his tail furiously the whole way. “Damn, bro. That’s cold.”
Diego laughed suddenly, unbuckling his seat belt and disembarking. “Come on, boy,” he said to his friend. Manny gave him a comic response that involved his hands touching his chest with a questioning look on his face, as if to say, Who? Me?
Manny kept his mouth shut after that about the woman making eyes at Diego. He decided he would observe and try to find evidence to support the fact that he was convinced that woman wanted his friend.
There was no way that Sansara had taken only fifteen minutes to prepare this meal, he thought as they all sat down at the patio table. They’d taken all of his belongings up to his room, which Manny was impressed at the size of, to be honest. In fact, Manny got a little nosy and found that another room on that same floor was an art studio. It had no less than fifteen canvases in a state of unfinished abstract painting, it seemed. In fact, Manny fell in love with one of them and asked him if she sold her art or not. Diego admitted he didn’t know.
Diego had taken a minute to check the kitchen to see if there really were paintings in there, since he hadn’t looked that closely. There were. And they were all signed, just like in his dream. That was a little creepy, he thought. He wondered if her basement was her closet, too, because she had changed before they returned.
She had a bucket of beer and ice out on the patio for the two of them. It seemed to him that she might have thought he had much more to bring, but on the other hand, she might just be excessive, too. Even though there were just three of them, she had a mountain of grill food ready just as they were pulling their chairs up. Brats, dogs, and sausages. No burgers today, but he couldn’t complain.
He smiled a little as he saw she’d already procured the hot sauce, horseradish, mustard, and relish. There were still no buns. Manny looked like he might be about to ask for one, so Diego told him, “Ms. Sansara thinks she’s celiac, Manny, so there aren’t any buns.”
Sansara looked at him apologetically. She pulled a Bud Light Lime from the beer bucket and opened it for herself.
In addition to the wieners, she’d bought tortilla chips, salsa verde, hot salsa, and a small mountain of charred vegetables. It looked like it was both broccoli and cauliflower. Daniel shook his head slightly, amazed that she went out of her way to make vegetables amidst the meat ‘fest she’d created for them.
“Dig in already, I’m starving,” she said comically. Diego noted she’d changed into something that was much more modest than what they’d found her in. He just thought about it… Why was she doing yoga in the front room? Didn’t she have somewhere else to do that? Was she waiting for him to show up and see her doing it?
Manny had a point, he thought. Some things just didn’t add up. Unless she literally gave zero fucks about everything. He couldn’t rule out that possibility, he supposed. Another thing he noted is that she didn’t bother to sit like a lady. There was nothing wrong with what she was doing, mind you, but her legs were akimbo. She was wearing something closer to what he dreamt her in early in the afternoon, a maxi dress in black with grey skulls all over it. Skulls and daggers, actually. She had this childish red bow in her hair, too.
He’d need more empirical evidence, he thought. He couldn’t tell if she was being seductive or just being herself. There might be no difference, he mused, as he took in both Manny and Sansara from where he sat, deciding to focus on neither.
“Sugar,” she said to Manny suddenly. “Cancer is fed by sugar. You can starve it to death by avoiding all simple carbohydrates, really, and other carcinogens like food preservatives.”
He blinked at her, forkful of meat directly in front of his mouth. He chewed on the piece of brat thoughtfully as he regarded her. He nodded, finally.
“I’ll show you reiki after dinner,” she said, attacking her own bratwurst with gusto suddenly. Today, she added mustard to her plate, and she was eating salsa verde with chips. “Corn is too much sugar, by the way,” she told him as he went for a tortilla chip. “But in moderation, it’s okay, of course. Not while you are starving cancer, but you’re not leaving with cancer anyway.”
Manny and Diego looked at each other just then. Diego shook his head a little, not knowing what to say. “Now, wait a minute lady…” Manny began.
“For free,” she interjected. Manny sat back in his chair again, his argument defused.
“You’re one creepy bitch,” he said suddenly. He frowned at himself after he used the derogatory term.
“You’re one derogatory dick,” she replied, unshaken.
“What is your game, woman?” he asked angrily.
“What is yours?” she countered. She didn’t bother to wait for an answer. “I’m not playing games, yo. I won’t force you to be healed, but I am offering you healing from the kindness of my heart.”
Manny looked ashamed of himself. He looked at Diego for a rescue of some sort, but Diego was not about to come between his landlord and his friend. He was a big boy, after all, his pal.
“Mind if I turn on the game?” she asked them. They looked at each other, chewing furiously before nodding at her. She turned on a little radio she had brought out, which was already tuned in to the channel with the sports commentary for The Cardinals.
They ate in silence after that. Diego wanted to kiss her more now than before she put his friend in his place. A lesser person would have kicked Manny out by now, he thought. Such disrespect at her dinner table, no less. After she bought and made dinner for everyone. It wasn’t perfect, no; it could have used some hot dog buns, that’s for sure, but it was great compared to going out to dinner and paying thirty bucks for the same kind of meal for the same flavor. Plus, the beer was free. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, he thought.
He realized he’d been staring at her mouth for a little while and he looked away. She smiled suddenly; Molina just scored a home run. He saw Manny softening up, too, actually, as the Cards continued to give one of their stellar performances that evening. They were all finished eating and nursing beers, although she was still on her original one. Actually, now that he was looking at her again, she was looking a little green around the gills.
She excused herself abruptly and ran toward the patio door, but she ended up vomiting before she even got inside. Manny tried to ignore it altogether. He was not unsympathetic, he was merely trying to avoid joining her. She was on her knees then, holding her midsection as she rocked back and forth, unsure if she was going to have another round of upchucking.
Max sniffed at her and the mess on the patio curiously. Diego got up and went to her, touching her shoulder as he tried to ascertain if she’d be okay. He brought her a water bottle, which she opened and chugged from start to finish without stopping. He was impressed by that, trying not to smile for a moment before reminding himself of the gravity of the situation. Max was picking out meat chunks from her mess, disgustingly enough. That’s what you get from a scavenger, he thought.
She was crying, he realized, when she sobbed suddenly. She didn’t cry like this at all the other night when talking about subjects such as rape. Was she in pain? He crouched down next to her to try to look her in the eye, but she wouldn’t meet his gaze. She did her best to stop crying, instead.
“Crystal,” he said, hoping it was so soft that Manny wouldn’t hear it. “Are you alright?” She shook her head from side to side.
She pushed at Max’s snout, saying, “Don’t you eat that, you heathen. I made extra for you, dog.”
“Why don’t you let me get this, roommate?” he asked her, offering her a hand up. He’d noticed she hadn’t been drinking the beer quickly at all. Manny and he were on beer number three, which he made a note about getting his mate to sober up so he would be fit to drive. Manny knew that Diego was against drunk driving and the third beer is where they typically stopped to sober up.
Crystal looked up at him just then. The look on her face was hard to place. It could be a feral animal looking at him. She could be in heat or she could be ready to chew his face off. He desperately hoped for the former, of course, but said nothing. He watched it for himself this time as she looked into his eyes. Her expression softened slightly and her pupils dilated. She grabbed his hand and climbed to her feet. She could also just be sick, he reminded himself.
“I’ve never had that happen before,” she stated. “Thank you, Diego. There’s a hose over there,” she said and pointed to a hose reel. “It’s on already.” She went back to the patio table and sat down. “I’m sorry, Manny,” she said to him. “I will heal you now, if you are up to it.”
Manny shrugged at her as Diego hosed down the vomit. He’d seen much worse at concerts, he thought. Hell, he’d seen worse at a game once. He moved and saw in his periphery that Sansara stood behind Manny and placed her hands on his shoulders. He studied her, glancing between her and the mess as he hosed it down.
He didn’t really care that she’d just vomited all over the place. There had to be some gastrointestinal distress behind it, he figured. It was like a passing storm. One minute she looked fine, the next she was vomiting, and then she looked fine again. He wondered what exactly was wrong with her but it wasn’t his business to pry, not unless this became a regular occurrence.
Manny fell asleep as Sansara healed him. Fifteen minutes. She stood there for fifteen minutes with her hands on his shoulders. He didn’t say a single word that whole time, either. Diego replaced the hose and sat down again. He smiled when he saw Manny had fallen asleep. No drunk driving for that one, he thought.
Manny’s wife was likely to be waiting for him anxiously, knowing he and Diego always hit a bar after they did anything together. He texted her from Manny’s phone, “All done moving Diego. Be home soon, hot mama.” That was his signature. Hot mama. Manny called his wife a great many things, but not that, so she knew Diego was texting on his behalf.
“Thanks, D. Keep him safe!” was her almost immediate reply. He briefly wondered if Sansara would send a doggy bag home with Manny or not. She was picking up the food now and he set down his friend’s phone to help her. He thought he’d ask her for one in the kitchen.
He wanted to kiss her again. He didn’t care that she’d just vomited. The urge was incredibly strong. He decided to open his mouth and start talking, instead. “Say, you seem to have made quite a few of these. Would you mind parting with some for Camila, Manny’s wife?” he asked as she bagged up the remainder of the grilled items.
She placed the bag in the refrigerator as she replied, “Yeah, that’s fine. They sat out too long, though. I should have put them away before I healed him, I think. She’ll microwave them, right?”
Diego nodded. “I’m pretty sure she will.” She was drinking another bottle water just then, and just like the first one, she finished it without pause. If she always drank that much in one go, that might explain her frequent trips to the bathroom, he mused. He closed in on Sansara, being deliberate and slow in his approach.
She looked up at him questioningly as he got even closer to her, starting to edge backward as he invaded her bubble. She bumped up against the refrigerator door and stopped there. Diego stopped and waited, watching her face for a sign. Any sign. Back up! Kiss me! Anything would do. He desperately wanted to know one way or another if they could ever be anything more than roommates.
His countenance changed, it must have. Her expression became wary suddenly. That insidious dream just popped up in his head, reminding him what he yearned for so keenly. She made a finger gun and shot him twice, just like Max, saying, “Bang bang!”
He decided to go with it and played dead, sticking his tongue out and closing his eyes, his hands covering his heart as he playfully staggered backwards. She blew across the barrel of her finger gun while he peeked at her and he started laughing boisterously.
And that’s when Manny appeared, the very moment that made Diego laugh like a loon. He looked between the two and wondered what just happened. His buddy was loco and so was she, he figured. Still, Diego hadn’t laughed like that in a while. Maybe loco wasn’t so bad. Tamara damn near killed the dude, in his estimation, and he was glad he was free of that woman.
Crystal dropped her hand to her side, smiling softly at both of the men. Manny could swear that woman was hard as nails until she looked at his friend, but he didn’t want to push it. Diego didn’t want to hear it, that much was clear.
“Diego, my man, what can we do while I sober up?” Manny asked once his friend was done laughing and wiped the tears from his eyes. Just then, Crystal decided to go back to the patio and continue cleaning up. She left the men alone together, practically ignoring them.
“You want any coffee or anything? Sansara has decaf if you like,” he offered his friend.
“Nah, bro. Like, is there a TV somewhere?” Manny asked while Sansara was still outside.
“Not that I’ve seen,” Diego replied. “I haven’t been everywhere in the house. We could chat on the couch, prolly,” he offered.
“Dude, you know how close this is to my house? You need to come by more, Camila would love it,” Manny told his buddy. Diego didn’t have the heart to tell him that his wife would love it most if he came by while he wasn’t there. He avoided Camila like the plague because of that. He figured the “hot mama” thing started it, but Manny’s wife wasn’t his kind of lady. It began as a joke early on, but Camila threw herself at him at a party once and ever since then, he’d barely spoken to her. He made a note to just tell her it was Diego instead of using that phrase as a signature. Maybe she’d figure out that he’d never do his best friend dirty like that.
He hoped he was the only person she contemplated cheating on him with, but something made him doubt that. She constantly advertised all her assets all the time by wearing short skirts and spaghetti strap tank tops and little else most of the time. He didn’t want to be the one to tell Manny about the potential infidelity of his wife. In his experience, people don’t listen when they’re in love. It’s just a waste of breath and an invitation for an angry conversation that made everyone involved miserable. Most likely full of “you misunderstood my wife!” No, he didn’t think he misunderstood her hiking one of those skirts up to show him the goods.
“Sansara said you can take the leftovers home if you want to,” he told Manny, trying to move his mind off the subject. He didn’t care to remember that night. She’d had way too much wine and he hoped that was the one and only time Camila debased herself so.
His friend turned red, remembering what he had called the hostess. He covered his face. “Bro, what is wrong with me? I never insult the ladies like that.”
“Denial over your illness, maybe?” Diego tried to be delicate about his suggestion. Manny nodded, accepting his friend’s suggestion.
“It’s scary, man. They said stage zero is almost always curable, so it’s not that scary yet, but still. If it never stops growing, it could lead to surgery and radiation therapy and losing all my lustrous locks of hair, you know?” Even at a time like this, Manny was a joker. He nodded to his friend and patted his shoulder.
“You need to tell Camila, my friend. Maybe she’ll fawn over you and feed you grapes in bed or something silly. Maybe not grapes, actually — sounds like too much sugar. Figs, then.” Manny snickered at Diego.
“I don’t know, man. Camila don’t look at me like she used to,” Manny admitted. “That’s why I said what I did about that phone number.” Although he was vague, Diego knew exactly what he was talking about. Crystal was coming and going, cleaning up the patio on her lonesome. She’d brought everything in it seemed, but he could hear the hose spraying the patio again.
“I’m the wrong guy to ask for advice,” he said and wiggled his naked left hand at Manny.
“Yeah, no kidding, bro. I gotta tell you, I never liked that skank whore you dated, not since that day she called you home in the middle of your own birthday party she refused to come to. That was such an amazing party, too, and I think you even drove drunk that night you absolute dummy.” He jabbed Diego in the chest with his pointer finger. It was a most unfriendly gesture, he noted, as he registered the pain from it.
“You’re right, I wasn’t completely sober. I felt terrible for an entire year after that, too. I was mad at Tammy for doing it to me, too. I should have gotten a taxi, though, and that’s on me,” Diego replied.
“No, dude, your bitch shoulda been at your fucking party, driving your drunk ass home while she stayed sober,” Manny rebutted.
Manny saw Sansara in the doorway just then, knowing she overheard what he said. She nodded at him, which he took for a sign of agreement. He smiled at the white woman. She had the hots for Diego, she had to, or she wouldn’t just stand there all quiet like, eavesdropping. That’s what he thought, anyway. She held up a frosty-looking bottle of water and he nodded at her.
“Hey, Sansara, thanks, mamacita. That looks amazing right about now. You mind bagging up that food for the road? I think it won’t be too much longer before I’m ready to walk home,” he said pointedly at Diego. “And maybe a beer, too, if it’s not too imposin’.”
Diego was wounded. His friend was right and he knew it. He lived just a few blocks away. Since Manny himself had brought up the idea Camila could be cheating on him, he thought about telling him about the fact she came onto him later. He was going to be mad he didn’t tell it straight away, he knew, but at least he could get it off his chest.
“If you like, you can take two beers. You’re only shorting Diego, as it turns out that I can’t drink them.” Sansara winked at Manny as she handed him the water bottle. She offered another water to Diego, which he accepted gratefully.
“You’re a nice lady,” Manny said suddenly. “I hope I didn’t offend you earlier. I hate the idea of being sick.”
“You’ll kick it,” Sansara replied. “I have faith in you.” With that, she turned around and walked off to retrieve the leftovers and three beers, assuming Diego would keep drinking. It seemed like men typically liked four beers unless they were celebrating something.
Manny looked at Diego meaningfully and as soon as their hostess was out of earshot he said, “I swear if you screw this one up, I’m swooping in.” Diego laughed at him.
“Screw what up?” He dropped his voice real low, watching the door. “I tried to kiss her earlier but the vibe wasn’t right.”
Manny looked at him. He was impressed his bro had the cajones to try to kiss his landlord right after moving in with her. “You’re gonna be a’ight,” he said. “It’ll happen when it’s s’posed to happen.”
His friend stood up as Sansara glided back into the room with the leftovers in a reusable cloth bag. Diego looked at the woman in amazement. Where did she stash those? He heard a clink as the bag exchanged hands and realized there was more than one beer in there. The Blue Moon in her other hand came at him.
Mixed signals! He wished she’d be consistent. He wished she’d do something overt, like sitting on his lap.
“Manny, if they don’t give you advice on how to change your diet to kick cancer, please come back. I’m a certified nutritionist,” she told him. “Free. I have a print out packet that has everything you need to know. And no lectures. They don’t work anyway. Tell Camila I say hello and absolutely warm these brats up in the microwave to fully heated through before you eat them or you’ll have short term unpleasantness. Also, thank you for sharing dinner with me.”
Diego was unsure what to think. Manny hadn’t mentioned Camila in earshot of Sansara the whole evening. Just while they were on the couch and she’d made herself busy… unless she wasn’t as busy as she pretended to be. Or that psychic thing. Hmm. He wondered if she really was psychic or a mind reader or what. He might just have to pay that $60 for an hour of her professional time to see what happened.
He made a note that he wasn’t going to let her clean up anymore, not if she made the whole dinner by herself. He had to pitch in somehow. He would not be a lazy bum. He could see how it was possible that every man she’d ever dated was lazy, making her do everything for everyone while they kicked back and watched her serve them.
If he wanted her to consider him for marriage, he needed to step up. He could already see she was a lady of high caliber. She didn’t even blink at Manny when he insulted her from the blind spot of his fear. Manny could definitely tell he liked her. He wondered if he was just as obvious to anyone. Was he wearing his heart on his sleeve? He hoped so, actually. He didn’t want her to look at anyone else ever again for romantic companionship. Or any companionship.
“Diego, I’ll see you later, bro,” he said, making a gesture to indicate he should call sometime soon as he exited the house. Sansara shut the door gently behind him and locked the door, chaining it as well. There were three locks on that door. The door knob, the dead bolt, and the chain.
Diego wanted to pull that woman into his lap and lavish her with attention until she melted into a puddle of goo in his arms. He was staring at her as he sipped his beer, but she had her eyes closed and was leaning against the front door. She looked beyond tired.
“You okay, beautiful?” he murmured, but evidently not loud enough because he didn’t get a response. So, he stood up and meandered over to her and repeated himself, dropping the compliment in case she’d ignored him the first time because of it.
“I don’t think I can ever drink beer again, so not really,” she said, her eyes still closed. She had to know how close he was getting, but she didn’t move.
“That is a real shame, yeah. Would it help if I quit drinking it, too?” he asked her. Her head tilted back slightly as she stood there. In fact, it looked like she was stretching her neck. He wondered if that was for him or not. He decided to err on the side of caution and just stay put, a mere eighteen inches away from her.
“Yeah, probably. I’m sick of being sick, I’ll tell you that,” she said as her eyes opened to slits. He could tell she was looking at him, but he didn’t want to spook her again. If that’s what happened the first time, anyway.
“Boof!” Max was ready to come in. Shoot, he thought. Someone would have to let the pupper inside. He wanted to trail a fingertip over her neck, but instead, he said, “I’ll get him!” and ambled over to the patio door to let his fur buddy inside.
Crystal bit her lip as she watched him walk away, admiring his back side. His shoulders were very broad. That wasn’t the first time she noticed it, either, but the shirt he wore today was more like a second skin than a modest covering. At least, around the shoulders. His waist was narrower and the shirt billowed there. And that led her eyes to his tight ass.
Yup, that was certainly a prime specimen of the human species, she thought. She moved to sit on his couch once he was no longer in sight. Tantalizing, in a word. She knew he was flirting with her but she knew men didn’t acknowledge they were in love with her until she wanted to brain them with a brick, too, so she thought she’d make him wait. And wait. And wait some more.
She was with Psycho Boy Ben for four and a half years and he never once acknowledged he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. If she had to wait that long to get the guy, well… she’d have to wait that long. That’s all there was to it. She didn’t have to share her body while she waited, she knew that now after about a thousand hours of therapy. In fact, her therapist insisted that she could continue to be celibate even after marriage. She didn’t understand why anyone would do that. She didn’t think anyone would want her like that. It was always all about sex. Always.
She wanted love. She needed love. True Love, like the kind you only find in The Princess Bride. She thought about Diego playing dead for her as Max jumped onto the couch and put his head on her lap. She patted the dog idly, deep in thought. Diego watched her from the doorway, leaning against the wall. She had the thousand yard stare going on. He had to admit, Max was much happier with her than he was his ex-wife.
He decided to come in and sit down on the other side of Max. She shivered suddenly and he wondered if she was cold. “I have bad news!” she said, getting up from the couch. Max sighed as he slid off her lap. She had to pee again, yup. She didn’t add that part, she just went to the restroom. It wasn’t hurried this time like before, he noted.
He shook his head suddenly. Wait a minute! He dreamt that! He dreamed her saying that to him. Did she say that to him last night? He tried to remember. Instead, the idea of the two of them engaged on a changing table came back to mind. He wondered if he asked for the grand tour if she would be amenable or not. He wanted to know if what he saw in his dream was really how her house was laid out.
She never took long using the facilities, it seemed. Except this time. Maybe she wasn’t passing water this time, he thought, while his mind simultaneously went right into the gutter. His pants became uncomfortably tight as the dream sequence unfolded in his head again, starting with spilling coffee on her. He squirmed a little before crossing his leg, resting his ankle on the opposite knee.
She definitely was not wearing a bra for yoga, he mused. He hadn’t noticed that consciously yesterday but it was impossible to ignore since she’d been in clothes that fit her like a second skin. It didn’t look like she had on underwear, either, though that could just be an optical illusion. He hadn’t been rude enough to check out her chest since she changed, but he had a feeling she didn’t wear bras.
He cleared his throat and squirmed again, still uncomfortable. She was still gone, too. His erection was getting harder to hide, he thought as he looked down at himself. He decided to go to the second floor bathroom just then. He set his beer down, as if to say, “I’ll be right back.” He took the stairs two at a time and walked into the bathroom.
This was going to be impossible, clearly. He was going to end up working out his attraction with his hands multiple times a day at this rate. Maybe he should just ask her to marry him, he thought with the logical part of his mind while he daydreamed of receiving a blowjob. He thought about rushing it, but decided, ultimately, they were roommates and he didn’t really need to explain his absence to her, just like she didn’t need to explain her absence to him.
Little could he know that she was masturbating in that bathroom, excited beyond measure because of his wandering mind, because of his gutter bathing. She was daydreaming about him earlier while she used her toys, around the middle of the afternoon. Daydreaming about him taking her on top of her laundry table. She knew men didn’t care as much about consent as women did, so she often lived by the idea of begging for forgiveness instead of asking for permission.
The problem was, that notion was rape. She realized that after many, many hours of therapy. Otherwise, she would have touched Diego inappropriately by now. She did her best not to even think about him, but she was failing terribly. She wanted him, but unless he said he wanted her… what was the point in fantasizing and daydreaming? She kept trying to talk herself out of it, trying to stop herself from wanting the forbidden fruit. Her own tenant.
Just then, the idea of receiving cunnilingus was pushed into her head and she moaned loudly as she came. Where did that come from? The idea persisted in her mind despite her best efforts to clear her head. She was so aroused that just a little bit of manual manipulation would put her over the edge again. She was hyper aware of her body, too; her hardened nipples were dragging against the cloth of her shirt. She closed her eyes and gave into the sensations she was feeling, whimpering rather audibly as she tried to sate her raging desire.
Meanwhile, Diego was having a very similar experience thinking about her mouth on his cock and her eyes locked onto his. He wondered if she would spit or swallow as he continued to imagine her wet, hot orifice all around his erect flesh and the sensations that would come with as she ministered oral. Before he knew it, he was at the precipice, ready to bust a nut. And that’s when he heard her cry out from the bathroom below him. It pushed him over the edge.
They came at the same time.
What was she doing, masturbating in the bathroom? In fact, what was he doing? They could have been together!