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DROWNING (Part I of 3)

Ashton
I wake in a deep sweat.
The air is cold, chilling.
I rub my eyes, and swipe the remaining hairs off my forehead.
I search through the sheets to find Trey lying silently on the pillow; dreaming and smiling.
The curtains are whipping back in forth from the freezing December rain.
The sky is charcoal colored; lighting striking being a nightlight.
I wrap my arms around me and fidget with the lock on the window.
I wince as bits of my skin have been bitten by the catch of the windowpane.
Trey mumbles something in his sleep and squirms about.
I tip-toe to open the door, the floor is frighteningly arctic.
The office shirt that belongs to Trey fits loosely around my fragile body.
I manage to escape the wintry room that formally belongs to Trey, and now I’m faced with an even greater task; getting past Aubrey.
As I try to creep around the snoring men, I start to ponder on the thought of what type of person I am.
What an intolerable creature I may be.
Aubrey tosses in his slumber, he too is sweating profusely.
I stop a moment just to stare at his face; chiseled and painted with a caramel colored cream.
I hesitate to gently kiss his forehead, and then I consider that kissing him would wake him, and I want to be alone at this very moment.
I turn and carefully walk across the wooden-panel floors to the bathroom.
The steamy water seems too silent the noise in my head; then again, being in the shower alone is quiet and creepy.
As I reach for the shampoo, the thought of Tyson crosses my mind.
Before I imagine the sight of him, a knock rolls across the door.
Aubrey’s voice is muffled when he says, “Hey, Ash. Is that you in there?”
“Good morning to you, too.” I holler over the water.
“Sorry. Good morning.” He trips over words before saying, “Can I come in?”
Aubrey is sweet and sensitive, slender and muscular; his lips are moist when they meet mine.
The time seems to slow in the steam. Every moment inches to the second that Trey wakes up.
“Aubrey,” In response, he nods and smooches my neck. “Trey will be up any minute.”
He pauses, mid-kiss. “Right.”
“I don’t mean to upset you-“
“No.” he interrupts with disappointment in his voice. “I’ll see you later.”
He gives me a quick kiss and storms out of the bathroom, upset.
I give a sigh of both worry and disbelief.
Aubrey was never mine, yet always there. Whenever I would say good-bye to Trey, every time I look over his shoulder, Aubrey was standing behind Trey with a disappointed look on his face.
I always get mixed emotions from him. Some days Aubrey’s eyes are sparkling, and shining. Other days they are flecked with sadness or flamed with anger.
I step out of the bathroom, towel wrapped around my chest.
The air seems to have changed since I first woke up. Maybe because the vapor never followed me out or maybe it’s because Trey has woken. Another reason floats into my head as I mark the floor with my wet footsteps.
Aubrey said something.
And by judging the grip on my arm, he said something stupid.
Trey twists me around and catches my lips before picking me up and bouncing me on the couch next to Aubrey.
I pass a look at Aubrey; his face has tensed, jaw tightened.
Trey points his finger at Aubrey before saying, “You’re in love, huh?”
Aubrey glances at me and says, “I guess so.”
I stare in my lap, trying to figure out why I would have to be here in this conversation. This is obviously a man-to-man discussion. Why would a naked me have to be here.
My cheeks start to burn as the feeling of being watched flows over me.
I glimpse at Trey; a smile perched on his face. “Let’s celebrate.”
Aubrey sighs when Trey leaves the room.
I give a look at Aubrey and ask, “What was that all about? I missed something.”
Aubrey whispers, “I told him I was in love.”
I tense. “With who?”
He gives a quick look at the door. “I never told him. I said that I was in love with this really special girl, who makes me tingle every time I spot her. And a whiff of her knocks me out. I told him the girl was remarkable, made me feel like myself and not the Aubrey I pretend to be. When we kissed the ice around my heart melted. When I touched her skin my whole body was rushed with adrenaline.”
I smile. “So, who’s this girl?”
Footsteps approach and our conversation is cut short.
“We’re out of liquor. I’ll be back.” And with that, Trey was out of the door.
I stared at Aubrey, glacial.
I grabbed his hand and propped him up, pulling him close in a kiss.
“You know I love you.” I whispered.
“I know you do.” His breath was hot on my lips.
I pulled his face down and forced his lips to meet mine, once more.
I drag myself away from his scent, and walk to the bedroom.
I sit on the bed and come across a picture on Trey’s nightstand.
Three coffee-colored babies sit smiling at the camera. Ashlee, Camille, and Jordan all babies from the former boo.
I met their mother once. She was glassy eyed and was covered head to toe in sweat. Her stench scared me. She scanned me up and down, too. Making sure I was fit. She gave me some snide remark and left, leaving Trey with the kids to take care off. She was caught snorting ice at a party, and the court ordered Trey with sole custody. Since Trey doesn’t have all the room in the world, the kids currently reside at their grandmother’s house. I get to see their smiley faces every weekend, the only time I’m over here.
Speaking of which, I hear tiny, pit-patting footsteps and loud giggles.
I dress quickly and make them a fluffy, buttermilk pancakes.
I watch them as they chew bits, giggling, and with crumbs covering their faces, they begin to talk.
Jordan, being unable to talk yet, gives hiccupping giggles and shoves food into his mouth for attention.
Ashlee clears her maple syrup covered throat and says, “Ashton, I love you.”
“I love you, too.” I reply and peck her on the forehead.
“And you!” I state as I point at Camille.
“And who can forget you, the laughing and always bubbly! I love you, Jordan!” He acknowledges me with a wave and his pancake smeared hand to his mouth signaling a kiss.
It’s a regular thing to say I love you in this house. If it’s not shared, there will be chaos… and lots of it.
After the children are finished they are sent off to brush teeth and to be placed in morning baths, changed and then allowed to watch T.V. until considered nap time.
And when Jordan has finally shut his heavy eyes, Trey bursts through the door with flowers and a bottle of champagne in his hand.
“The flowers are for you my dear,” He hands the bouquet of daisies. “And the champagne is for celebrating the new found love!”
I glance at Aubrey and give him a quick smile.
The glasses are gathered, the bubbly is poured and we sit quietly smiling and awaiting conversation.
It takes an alarm clock to beep to let ice unthaw.
“Ash that was you. Off to work you go, love.” Trey says taking my hand and leading me toward the door.
I collect my things and give Trey a much needed kiss. And when I turn to say goodbye, I see Aubrey, hurt on his face, standing in the background.

Aubrey
I pull my face away from the door, and turn to sit down.
Trey meets me and sits beside me on the couch.
“So, man. Seriously, what’s this girl like?”
“She’s amazing.”
“Like how?” He asks.
“At everything. Her walk, the way she talks, and the way she acts. She’s just fantastic, man.”
He chuckles and gives me a sideways glance, “You love her, man?”
“Yeah. But, she ain’t mine.”
“What do you mean?” He sits up straight, and so do I.
“I mean, she’s taken. She’s locked in chains. Usually I’m the man to go and save her, but I know she’s loved by the right guy. I know she’s in love with the dude.”
“What’s the guy like? Do you know?”
“Man, he’s pretty sweet. He’s got another family though-“
He interrupts with a chuckle, “Are you serious?”
“Yeah, man. But, she’s totally serious with the dude. She’ll do anything for him, you know, true love?”
“Yeah, I get it. I get true love. And, I think I found my true love, Aubrey.”
I tense and gulp, trying to think of a sly remark, but I know the real answer, “Yeah, the chick you met at McDonald’s?”
“Nah, man. Ashton. I’m totally in love with her dude.”
I look down at my lap, scratch my head a few times and sigh. “Yeah, you’re for sure about this?”
I hear him give a quick hint of laughter when he says, “Tomorrow. I’m gonna do it tomorrow. When the kids leave and then you-“
I feel him watching me. “I’ll be gone by two. I have to go to another interview anyway.”
“Great. Everything is working out perfectly.”
I feel hot tears form in my eyes; my heart, frost bitten.
“I hope everything works out great.” I stand and walk to the back to the bathroom, jump into the shower and visualize Ashton and me only a couple of hours ago, holding each other.
I shake my head at the image of us being together, without it being a secret.
I hear knocks on the door, and I am ushered out of the bathroom.
Trey and Mine’s shared closet is deserted, leaving me with the decision of pulling out dingy laundry and placing it over my body.
The smell isn’t retched, nor does that smell of clean linen posses them.
I spray a few sprits of cologne, grab my bag and head out of the door. Wishing that maybe, just maybe, a miracle could happen today.
Trey
The house is cold with no one but the kids around.
I’m really tired of watching every show on PBS and Disney Kids. I love my kids but, in the future I seriously hope that I don’t have to watch another episode of Barney and Friends.
With the children asleep in the next room, and the television on a low setting, I begin to imagine Tuesday night with Ashton; some flowers, maybe a little champagne. I knew the day that she walked into that café that I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. She was the only kind person who had ever walked into that joint, and she was a regular; always left great tips and got a Mocha frozen drink. She always made conversation as she waited for her drink, and she always looked great. Some days she would come in, sweaty and beat-up looking, telling the cashier that she just came from a great class at her neighborhood gym. She would always smile at me when I handed her the drink she ordered.
I never really talked to her until I was running late and she stayed and waited for me to get to my station to make her the usual drink she had. I had bumped into her as I was rushing to get behind the counter and start the long order of drinks, and instead of running to get there, we kind of stared at each other and she introduced herself, told me that I was her favorite drink-maker. After that, we always talked until she was running late for something she had to be to.
Meeting the kids was a stepping stone in our relationship. And she skipped right through it. Met Aimee and the kids, bought them things, took care of them, and loved them to death. I thought they would start off badly, and I would have to step in and take care of some things, but the only thing I had to take care of was Aimee. Aimee got jealous because the kids constantly wanted to be with me. And whenever she would go to pick them up at Momma’s house, the kids would whine until Aimee gave up and drove off to her next appointment. The kids love calling Ashton ‘Mom’ when Aimee’s not around. Aimee’s not a big fan of Ashton, but, I know for a fact, that an ex of mine is not going to get in the way of marrying the woman that I love, and most importantly, that my kids love.
I open my eyes and look at the clock, stand up and start to pick things off the floor that belong to my children, regretting the decision of not letting them say good-bye before they see Ashton again.
Aubrey
I zip my backpack and head out of the glass door of the office. I begin to walk down the street, shaking my head at the wind, pulling my hood over my head and my bag further up on my shoulder. I look up, and in the distance see Ashton’s car revving my way, I smile.
She pulls up and rolls down the window, “Well hello there? Do you need a ride sir?” she smiles and unlocks the door, “Get in you hoodlum.”
I chuckled and step into the car, pulling the door shut.
“How was your day?” She says as she pulls off into the street.
I shrug, “It was fine. I did the usual things, the usual job. You know the usual.” She laughs, as she always does at my corny jokes.
“Well, my day was amazing fun!” She says sarcastically, “I stuffed envelopes and answered calls; the usual things that I do at work.” She smiles and looks in my direction.
There’s a moment of silence as she swerves onto the highway, licking her lips. She keeps looking around, while continuing to drive and spots something in the distance. She bits her lower lip, “Aubrey, can you do me a favor?”
I look in the direction she’s looking. She’s looking at a darkened exit that no longer operates. I panic a little bit, and whimper, “With what?”
She doesn’t answer until she stops the car behind the broken exit sign, “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time now.”
She pulls off her jacket and throws it in the backseat, then unzips her pants and slides her panties down toward the gas pedal. Then she looks at me, want in her eyes, “For me?” She whimpers.
“I-I can’t, not with what happened today-“She cuts me off with an exciting kiss, and as we kiss she starts at the top my pants, working her fingers to unzip me.
When she’s done and my pants are on the floor, she climbs on top of me and we continue to kiss as she moves her body seductively.
I push her hair back then grab her waist and whisper, “I love you so much.”



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