A month later Natalia ran down the street beside Chris. He was dressed in his usually gray sweats. Natalia was dressed in dark pink tight pants and a pink sports bra. She came to a stop and nearly toppled over, placing her hands on her knees and gasping for air.
“I feel like your goal is to kill me,” she said through pants.
“Oh come on. I know you’re no stranger to working out.” Chris jogged in place.
Natalia straightened and placed her hands on her hips and inhaled deeply. She did workout but not nearly as strenuously as Chris had been pushing her lately. Chris draped his arm around her shoulders.
“Come on, let’s go get cleaned up and then we’ll just relax.”
“Can there be pizza involved?” she asked as they walked to the front door.
“Pizza after working out?”
“Think of it like a reward.”
Chris laughed. “Alright, I’ll order pizza.”
“Yay,” Natalia clapped enthusiastically.
They laughed as they stepped off the elevator. Natalia turned to head to her apartment and her smile dropped when she found her mother walking towards her.
“Ma, what are you doing here?”
“Well, I feel like I haven’t seen or spoken to you and your sisters in weeks, so I thought I would stop by and see you and Tanya,” Natima said eyeing Chris.
“Natanya moved out like a week ago,” Natalia said tilting her head to the side so that her mother would focus on her and not Chris.
“Really? I thought the house was being renovated?”
“It is but she decided to be there while it was.” Natima’s eyes drifted back to Chris. “Ma, this is my neighbor Chris. Chris, this is my mother Natima.” Natalia decided to give introductions because it seemed that her mother wasn’t going to leave without one.
“How are you ma’am?” Chris asked offering his hand.
“Just fine, thank you,” Natima said shaking his hand. “It seems that you’re busy. Why don’t you give me a call? Sooner than later.” She didn’t wait for a response and stepped onto the elevator. Natalia waved goodbye to her mother and shook her head.
“Okay, I’m going to go shower and I’ll be right down,” Natalia said backing away.
“And I’ll order the pizza.” Chris turned and headed down to his apartment.
Natalia and Chris sat on the floor across from each other the end credits of a movie scrolling and the pizza box sitting between them.
“I see you eyeing that last slice of pizza,” Chris said looking at the TV.
“Like you haven’t been?” Natalia asked.
“I would say ladies first, but since I did pay for it,” Chris reached for the pizza and Natalia caught his hand.
“Rock, paper, scissors,” she said.
“Come on,” she laughed. “Rock, paper, scissors.”
It was a challenge. One she was sure that he would accept. They had gotten to know each other well over the past month and during all the time they spent together, it was nothing but fun. Enjoying each other’s company.
“You’re on. Best out of three.”
They both positioned themselves on their knees. Stares that said this little game is about to get serious. One hand went behind their backs and they counted down. “Rock. Paper. Scissor. Shoot.” Natalia formed her hand into a fist representing a rock and Chris laid his hand flat for paper.
“Typical. Paper covers rock,” Chris said tauntingly.
Their hands went back behind their back. Again they threw them out. Natalia scissors. Chris paper.
“Oh, now who’s typical?”
They put their hands behind their backs and then threw them out. Chris had presented scissors and Natalia went back to rock. Her arms shot up in the air in victory.
“Yes!” she exclaimed. She swooped down and grabbed the last slice of pizza and took a big bite.
“How does running five miles sound?” Chris asked.
Natalia turned scornful eyes on him. “You wouldn’t dare,” she said around her pizza.
Chris wagged his eyebrows at her playfully.
Natalia laid across her bed flipping mindlessly through a magazine. She barely read the articles but focused on the advertisements. It was important for her to stay up to date with what other advertisers were doing. She glanced up when she heard a knock at her door. Natalia jumped out of bed and pulled a pair of cut-off shorts on over her lace panties and ran to the door. Chris stood on the other side sweat beading his forehead.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Nothing? Why? What’s up?” she asked in a rush. They spent all of their free time together and Natalia thought they both needed a little break from each other. While her sisters were apparently busy, her weekend was wide open, so she planned on staying in. Alone. Chris standing outside her door meant that plan was slowly spiraling down the drain.
“The AC in my apartment is busted.”
“Oh,” she heard her plan making that final suction noise as it was flushed away. “Want to hang out over here?”
“No. I have a better idea.”
“What?” He grabbed her hand without answering her and pulled her from the apartment. They headed down the hall towards his apartment but didn’t stop. Chris opened the door to the stairwell and lead her up to the roof.
Natalia looked around confused and she noticed tow bins filled with water balloons on opposite sides of the roof along with water guns.
“Um, what is this?” she asked pointing to the guns and balloons.
“It’s like ninety degrees. I have no air, so I thought we could cool off.”
“You expect me to play with water guns?”
“I mean, you don’t have to but,” he picked up one of the guns. “That would just leave you soaked.”
“You wouldn’t?” It was like a dare and Chris was happy to accept it. He pumped the gun and then sprayed her in the chest, effectively soaking her. Natalia yelped in surprise.
“I can’t believe you did that!” Chris aimed again and Natalia dived for her gun and took aim at him.
They ran around the roof spraying each other with the water guns. When they were empty, they threw water balloons back and forth. By the time all of the balloons were gone, the roof was covered in water and balloon fragments and Natalia and Chris were soaked from head to toe and laughing hysterically.
They headed back down to their floor, trailing water behind them. Natalia started to walk past Chris’ apartment. “Come on,” he said holding the door open. “You know where the bathroom is. I’ll grab you something to put on.” Chris went off to his room and Natalia turned to the bathroom.
Chris walked to the bathroom carrying a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. He was still dressed in his wet clothes. He stopped outside the bathroom door, which was partially open. He stood motionless for a moment watching Natalia, her back to him. She draped her wet shirt over the side of his tub and unfastened her shorts. She pushed them down her legs, which took some effort because the water was making them stick to her. The shorts followed her shirt to the side of the tub. She reached behind her to unclasp her bra and Chris cleared his throat, stopping her.
Natalia looked over her shoulder at Chris. He held out the clothes not saying anything. “Thank you,” she said taking them. Chris pulled the door closed. She put the clothes on the edge of the sink and removed her bra and panties, laying them with her other clothes to dry, or at least until she headed back to her apartment. She grabbed Chris’ shirt and pulled it over her head, inhaling his scent in the process. she lift the collar of the shirt to her nose and inhaled deeply. She liked the way he smelled. Always did. It was so wonderfully male. And that surprised her. Being intoxicated by the scent of a man. One man in particular had to be a bad sign. She dropped the collar and slipped into the sweats. They were too big for her so she had to roll the waist a couple of times to keep them secured to her waist.
Natalia left the bathroom and found Chris in the living room, on the floor dressed in dry clothes. She laughed when she saw a deck of UNO cards on the coffee table.
“I believe we have a tournament to get back to,” he said looking up at her.
“See, the problem is, I think you cheat.” Natalia plopped down across from him.
“I do not cheat.”
“Then how is it that you always win?” Natalia picked up the beer he offered her and took a big swig.
“Cause I’m just a better player.”
Chris laughed as he dealt out the cards. The sheet of paper they used to keep score had him clearly in the lead ten to three. The game started out slow and quiet. Neither of them spoke. Both too busy thinking. Natalia thought about trying to get through the game quickly so that she could back to her apartment. The deck got smaller and Natalia had a full hand. Chris put down a draw four card and announced the new color. Natalia rolled her eyes and picked up four new cards. While she did, Chris put down a skip.
“You better not,” she said.
He smiled at her and started putting his cards down, one at a time. “Skip,skip, reverse, reverse, UNO, out.”
Natalia dropped all of her cards down annoyed and fell back on the floor. “I hate playing with you.”
Chris laughed and got up to answer his intercom. “Be right back,” he said and left the apartment. Natalia finished her beer and shuffled the cards. Though she wanted to leave, she dealt the cards out for another game. Chris returned ten minutes later with Chinese food. He handed Natalia the food he order for her and a new drink.
They sat and played another round. Natalia threw her final card down triumphantly, “Out!” She jumped to her feet and threw her arms up. “I won! I won!” She did a little dance, mocking Chris with her victory. He let it go on for a minute before grabbing her around the waist and pulling her down beside him.
“You are a terrible winner,” he said.
“Whatever. You’re just mad that I kicked you butt,” she breathed heavily beside him. Chris leaned forward and gave her her point before sitting back against the couch. Their shoulders bumped. Natalia could smell him. She closed her eyes and took slow breaths.
“What do you want to watch?” Chris asked grabbing the remote.
“Something funny,” she said.
He turned the TV on and searched for something to watch. They sat closely and Chris made no attempt to move. Natalia wondered if she should but opted against it. She liked being close to him. Even if they were only friends.
The second movie ended and Chris looked down at Natalia. Her head rested on his shoulder and she breathed evenly, sleeping. She looked so peaceful. Chris turned the TV off and moved slowly careful not to wake her. He raised his arm under her head and put the other one under her legs and picked her up. He carried her into the bedroom and placed her slowly onto the bed. He turned off the lights and climbed in beside her.
Natalia woke before the sun had fully risen. Her head rested on Chris chest and her arm was draped over him. She slowly lifted the cover and saw that they were both still fully dressed. Her face turned up in agony and she slowly raised her head and tried to sit up.
“Where are you going?” Chris asked groggily. His eyes were still shut and he didn’t move.
“I was going to head home,” Natalia said quietly.
“”You have to work?”
So go back to sleep,” he said. Chris put his arm back around her and gave her a slight push. Natalia laid back on his chest. He pulled her close and she could hear his breathing even out as he fell back to sleep. She laid there for a while before drifting back to sleep.
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