Good advice, me thinks.

He left shortly after and I told Nat that we were going to Nik’s on Wednesday night for his birthday.

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She was excited about that. Nat loves a good party.

I also had to tell her a bit of news I didn’t dare tell her today at work.

It was around three o’clock this afternoon and I was getting a life-saving fix of caramel latte at Winnie’s when I was stopped by a very good looking man. He asked me out.

And here’s the weird thing.

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I said yes.

What the heck, you say?

Well, after today’s lunchtime kiss with Nik, my heart was fluttering.

Not a good sign.

I think I agreed to go on this date to distract myself from Nik.

If he wanted something with me, he’d let me know. And even then I wouldn’t be with him til I was sure he could be what I need.

So I have a date with Chad the Accountant on Thursday night. Which means I’ll miss Poker night.

I’m sure I won’t be missed anyways.

Nat sits on the sofa reading my e-reader. I clear my throat and begin, “So, I’ve got a date on Thursday.”

Nat’s body stills, she looks up from the e-reader and stares at me. After about ten seconds she does the exact opposite of what I think she’ll do. She smiles huge and yells out, “Finally! For the love of Pete, it’s about time woman!”

Uh, what?

“Uh, what are you talking about? I thought you’d be pissed!” I tell her.

She looks confused and utters, “Pissed? Why would I be pissed? I told you this morning to try things with Nik…”

I lower my eyes and cut her off with, “The date’s not with Nik.”

Silence.

A tormenting, long silence.

Then she sits up straight and explodes, “What the HELL is wrong with YOU?”

I flinch and start, “His name’s Chad and he’s an accountant. I met him at Winnie’s this afternoon.”

She lowers her eyes and shakes her head in disbelief. She queries, “Let me get this straight. The day after Nik’s birthday you’re going on a date…with someone who isn’t Nik.”

I nod then shrug and say, “It’s not like he cares. I’ve told you before he doesn’t want me and I freaked him out by kissing him this afternoon…”

She squawks, “You WHAT??!”

“…and then Chad asked me out and it seemed the perfect distraction from Nik…”

She flaps her arms in the air and wails, “Why would you do that??!”

“…and I think I might be in love with him!”

She gasps and covers her mouth with a hand. I hear a muffled sympathetic, “Oh, honey.”

I feel tears burn my eyes. I murmur, “Why does everything suck?!”

She stands up, walks to me and grips me tight in a bear hug. She tells me, “So you know when something really great comes along.”

My bff is Mister Miyagi.

Wednesday morning comes and I’m busy in the kitchen baking away. I sent Nat to Safira with my car so I can spend the entire morning preparing without rushing.

I can’t believe Nik gave in about the birthday cake!

Ceecee stopped me just before we had to leave to ask me, “Please make uncle Nik a birthday cake. He never gets one and it makes me sad. I want to show him how much we love him.”

So, here I am, baking a seven layer chocolate fudge caramel cake and I’m also baking a batch of white choc raspberry cupcakes to take as well. I made a last minute stop to the supermarket early this morning and came across some icing pens which I thought Ceecee would enjoy. So I’m taking the cupcakes for her to decorate. That’ll be her gift to her uncle who she loves more than anything.

I finish baking and turn off the oven. I have to wait a while to ice the cake. It needs to be completely cool.

I sit on the sofa and sigh with relief when I lift my legs onto it.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. Nat told me my going on a date the day after his birthday will really cut Nik deep. The thought of hurting Nik is enough to make my heart squeeze. I’m not sure what to do. I want to believe her but he hasn’t given me any indication that he’s interested in me as more than a friend. He ran from me and regretted our amazing kiss! That’s enough to say I’ve been friend-zoned, right?

I’m really regretting saying yes to going on a date with Chad. I’ll still go and give him a shot but I don’t see it going far.

I look up at the wall clock. Enough time has passed.

Le sigh.

Time to ice this monster cake.

I don’t know how this happened.

I just assumed when I told Tina to make a cake that it would be just Tina, Max, Ceecee, and myself.

I look around the room and try to figure out why my mom and sisters, Ghost, Trick, Nat, Lola, Mimi, and Tina are all here, too.

Ceecee sits at the dining table decorating the cupcakes Tina brought. That was nice of her.

I can’t stop thinking about yesterday’s soft kiss. I make the decision that I’ll kiss her tonight and go with the flow of things. Hopefully, she’ll tell me she wants me as much as I want her. But Tina’s a hard nut to crack because she’s normally affectionate. She’s not one of those girls who throw around affection to show she wants more with someone like most of the other girls I know.

Also, something with Tina is off tonight.

I turn to see her talking and laughing with my mom and sisters in the kitchen. They’re all busy bees tonight and if I’m being truthful. I’ve seen this scene in my head many times. I like it. But she’s avoiding me. I think the soft kiss she planted on me has made her a bit shy.

Mom made three different types of Paella for everyone’s dinner. I love my mom’s cooking. She’s Mexican and cooks with a lot of spices. Everything she makes is tasty and usually has a bit of heat to it. It’s comfort food. Well, to me it is. During my childhood, Mom made Mexican food at least four times a week. She would make Russian food to appease Dad a few times a week, too. I think she makes more Russian food now that Dad’s gone. Sort of making sure we still have the best of both cultures.

We eat, drink, and mingle. Then it’s time to cut the cake.

Tina brings out a mammoth of a cake. It’s really tall. And it’s covered with thick and gooey chocolate fudge. She tells everyone it’s a seven layer chocolate cake with alternating chocolate fudge and caramel cream throughout it. All the guys groan their approval.

I’m thirty five today.

It’s been nineteen years since my dad died. If anything could make this night perfect it would be to have him back for even just a moment. I’d like to hear what advice he would give me on this particular birthday.

Ceecee watches me with a huge smile on her face and claps excitedly.

I smile right back at her.

This one’s for you, kiddo.

The crowd sings happy birthday and I blow out my candles. According to Ceecee I need to make a wish, too. I close my eyes and wish.

I wish for Tina in my bed.

All the girls come up to me and kiss my forehead. After they’re done they all laugh at the amount of colored lips there are on it. They guys slap me on the back and wish me well.

Tina cuts the cake and we eat it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted apart from Tina’s mouth.

The sponge is soft and fluffy and the fudge is thick and sticky. It’s perfect. Not that I expected any less from Tina.

All the women help clean up the mess and wash the dishes to help out.

Mom and my sisters take their leave and Max puts Ceecee to bed over an hour after her bedtime. Cricket had a total ball tonight.

The rest of us move outside and we lounge on the outdoor patio drinking beer and joking around.

I look out to the yard and think about tonight.

I don’t regret it. It’s the first birthday I’ve celebrated in nineteen years and all that matters is that I’ve been surrounded by all the people who are important to me.

Splat

I have no idea which direction it came from.

I stand and cake falls off my face onto the floor.

What the heck?

I wipe icing off my face and look around at my friends.

The girls have their backs to me with shaking shoulders. They’re trying hard to contain their laughter. The guys don’t try so hard. Max is pointing and laughing at me. Ghost and Trick chuckle into their beers.

Happy Birthday to me.

I notice one person missing.

The goddamn slip of a woman is trying to give me the slip!

Game on, amiga…You just wait.

It’s getting really late and my friends start saying goodnight. But I haven’t seen Tina in a while.

In fact, I haven’t seen her since I got a face full of cake.

I seek out Nat and she explains, “She told me she was putting your present in your room. I don’t know what’s taking so long.”

Mimi and Lola say goodnight and Nat tells me she’ll get a ride with them so she won’t have to wait.

And then everyone’s gone.

I walk down the hall to my room and open the door. And there’s Tina passed out on my bed.

Well, it might not have been what you had in mind but you got your wish.

The poor thing looks exhausted. I think for once in her life, baking has drained her.

I walk quietly over to the bed and look at her.

She’s gorgeous. Lying on her side, her knees drawn up to her chest with an arm under her head as a pillow, her hair long dark hair sprawled out on the covers. Not a stitch of makeup on her face and still beautiful.

There is a blue bag resting slightly under her. I have to lift her hand by the wrist to get it out. I empty the contents lightly on my bed so as not to wake her.

When I pick up the first item, I have to bite my lip to stop myself from laughing out loud.

She bought me pajamas. Not just any pajamas. The tops and bottoms have the young Simba from The Lion King on them. They’re bright yellow and say ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ all over it. They look like kids pajamas, only bigger.

The other item is wrapped. I open it as quietly as I can. It’s a magic eight ball. There is a post-it note on it.

For all those times you need a second opinion at work. Keep it on your desk. Love Tina x

I smile to myself. I love it. I lean over her sleeping form and plant a whisper soft kiss on her lips.

Looks like that will have to do as the kiss I promised I’d give her tonight because she’s passed out cold.

I undress and put my new pajama pants on. They’re actually comfortable.

I make a snap decision and start undressing Tina. I take off her sandals, unbutton her jeans and slowly lower them down her legs. When I straighten myself slightly, I realize my face is right in front of her panty covered sex. I don’t know what possesses me but I lean forward and bury my nose lightly in all that is Tina. I breathe her in like she’s an inhaler to an asthmatic.

My pupils dilate and within seconds, I’m rock hard.

That was smart. Bravo.

She smells perfect and I want to taste her. I’m drunk on her.

I busy myself with removing her blouse and once that’s off all I can do is stare at her.

All she’s left wearing is a white lace bra and plain white cotton panties. Her body is curvy and soft and her skin is pale as a porcelain doll. She looks innocent, almost virginal.

And I want to muss her up real bad.

Fuck me! Why did I think this was a good idea?

Restraining myself, I take the pajama top and slide it over her head and arms. I’m beginning to think a marching band could come through here and she still wouldn’t wake.

I turn down the covers, pick her up and set her back down on the sheet. I hop in behind her and pull her back to my chest.

I sigh. My body warms and I’m instantly relaxed.

I smile, shut my eyes, and fall asleep.

I wake to find I’m in bed alone and there is a note on the pillow beside me.

I’m so sorry for passing out on you last night. Glad to see you’re wearing your new jammies, though! Thank you for taking care of me. You’re the best. Love Tina xxxxxxxxxx P.S. Cake in the face is a tradition in my family…now you’ll have good luck for a whole year :)

Cake in the face is a family tradition? I smile. I’ll have to get her back on her birthday.

And I got ten kisses that time. Nice.

I wonder what she thought when she woke up seeing I’d undressed her. She didn’t sound angry in the note. She even thanked me for looking after her.

I smile like an idiot.

It’s Thursday. Poker night tonight.

Can’t wait to see her.

It’s eight thirty-ish. The Thai restaurant I’m at is really nice. I caught a cab over so Nat could take my car home then to Nik’s.

I’m sitting across from Chad the Accountant who is telling me about his stamp collection. He says I can come see it some time. He just needs to make sure his Mom isn’t home.

If someone were telling me this, I’d be in fits of laughter. But it’s not so funny when you’re a part of said funny story.

Merlin’s beard…How did I get in this mess?

“So, you work at a clothing store?” he asks while picking at his food.

I look up and smile enthusiastically, “Yeah. I own the store. It’s called Safira. I work with my best friends. I love it.”

He looks thoughtful then asks, “Would there be any changing your mind about your profession?”

I lean back in my chair and try not to glare at him. Instead, I inquire, “What do you mean, Chad?”

It’s such a shame. He’s a great looking guy. But when he opens his mouth and the verbal diarrhea shoots out at you, you realize why he’s still single. Well, that, and the stamp collection…and still living with his Mom at thirty eight.

He smiles at me and says, “Well, I don’t know if I could be with a woman who spends all her time around clothing. There is a huge problem in America regarding women who obsessively shop. I’d like to know that wouldn’t be an option with my wife. So, would changing your profession be an option?” He raises his eyebrows expectantly.

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