“The elevator will take you back down without it,” I bark.
And feeling it in my palm, I spin on my heel and close my door, glancing through the peephole to make sure she’s actually left for good.
Looks like I need a new passkey.
Or a new house… Maybe the suburbs are better for us.
Mandy’s the first thing I see once I’m back inside. She’s on both her feet which is great. But she’s out of bed, which is not so great.
But she looks stronger on it, that’s for sure.
Or is it.
“Who was that?” she asks, trying to sound casual, but I can see how tense she is.
“Our ex-neighbor,” I smile, moving briskly to get to her, grabbing her gently, pulling her closer, and kissing her.
I’m glad when I hear her little squeak, her tiny mews of gratification once I lean down and have my lips on hers again.
Every time. I reflect. Every time I kiss her, it just feels better and better….
“Ex-neighbor?” Mandy asks once she’s getting her breath back, and I stand tall again.
My mind is reeling now.
“How strong are you on that foot?” I ask her suddenly. “Or can I still carry you everywhere?” I ask, not even hiding my delight now.
Because I know.
I just know that there’s not going to be another wasted second with Mandy. Fuck the suburbs too. I’m thinking about my lake house while we wait for our own dream home to get built.
“I can manage,” Mandy murmurs shyly, almost looking worried.
“Foxx, what is it?” she asks me, looking up. I can see she overheard our visitor and me at the door.
“Nothing bad,” is all I promise her, taking her arm and slipping back into doctor mode. I want her to show me how she is on this foot of hers.
“It feels fine. Just a little tender,” she says, wincing. And I tell her that if she’s wincing, it’s not fine.
“Other parts of me are tender too, Foxx,” she reminds me, and I feel color flush to my face.
“But that’s fine down there too,” she smiles. “Just…tender is all,” she says, and by the time we’re at the living room door, I let her walk on her own.
I study her gait from behind as well as that stunning ass of hers, peeking out at me with each of her steps from underneath another one of my shirts.
“See. I’m fine,” she says, quickly taking a seat and probing me again.
“What’s going on? Who was that just now?” she asks with suspense in her voice and more than just a little confusion on her face.
Moving over to her, I drop to one knee. Taking her hands in mine.
“Nobody,” I tell her honestly.
But that woman at the door just made me realize. This huge place up here in the middle of the city, is it really where we wanna raise our kids?
Do we want a doorman, a valet, and security, for god’s sake?
It’s fine for a professional bachelor, and I know Mandy does love the place.
But is it really home for her and our little ones?
“How would you feel if we went out? You need a few things, right?” I ask her, adding, “We could do some shopping on the way if we hurry.”
Glancing at my watch, I notice the time. It’s almost evening.
I need to walk in some fresh air feeling like this place, as big as it is, can’t contain how I suddenly feel. What I know I’ve felt all along since the second I laid eyes on her but could never tell Mandy until right now.
“Mandy… I love you,” I hear myself saying. My voice drops low but deep. The words rumble through the air and make her smile.
Her eyes instantly wet with tears as she hugs me.
“I mean it,” I tell her, hugging her so tight and saying it again, telling her a dozen times over.
“I love you, and I don’t wanna wait or feel bad. I don’t wanna tell myself I can’t say it. It’s how I feel, and it’s who I am now.”
“It’s who we are, right?” she asks, telling me she loves me too, but that she kinda already figured out how I feel.
“At least, I hoped you did…I mean, do,” she giggles, sniffing back her happy tears as I kiss them from her cheeks.
“I haven’t asked a lot about your past,” I explain, and her shoulders fall a little at the thought of life before us.
“And I haven’t volunteered too much about myself either. But it’s not because I don’t love you that I couldn’t say it. I just….”
“I understand, Foxx, I really do. And if it makes you feel better, being with you is the first time for me telling anyone either.”
Anyone else might ask if she never said it to her parents growing up. But my own gut and experience as an orphan tell me that we’re more alike than different when it comes to that, Mandy and I.