Unwritten Rules, Page 2M.A. Stacie
I hung up on her, ending her hysterics.
I started browsing the web, but that was futile. I didn’t have any idea what I was looking for.
My interest in him had only gotten worse after he’d admitted he knew my name. He piqued my curiosity further.
To make matters worse, he’d not been at the mailboxes for the last three mornings. I hated the disappointment I felt when I noticed his mailbox was already empty; he was avoiding me. I didn’t think I’d been that obvious, had I?
I stood, pushing my chair away with the back of my knees and padded across to the open window. Sitting at the window allowed me the chance to hear his music clearer as it floated down with the light breeze. I watched the people bustling around on the street below me but only paid attention to Jonah. A couple walked past, smiling as they stared into each other’s eyes. It was the first time in a long time that I felt a pang of jealousy. I hadn’t been in any sort of relationship for two years, and in truth, I wasn’t looking for one now, though I missed the closeness.
My favorite times with Nathan had been in the morning – that moment when I woke before he did. I’d watch him sleeping, stroked his blond curls from his brow and slowly kissed him awake. I smiled at the memory. We had managed twenty-one months together before we began to drift apart. I often wondered if we’d have had more longevity if we had just remained friends, instead of trying to be more. I supposed that was academic now. I had loved him, loved the time we’d spent as a couple, but I missed him as a friend.
I shook my head, dislodging thoughts of Nathan and went back to my appreciation of Jonah’s skilled fingers. I could picture him plucking at the strings as he breathed the music. I sighed, making sure to keep each part of my body within the window frame, but I wanted to see him. I wanted to know what he looked like when he played. My heart began to race in reaction to the thoughts dancing through my head.
I tapped my mug, the silver rings I wore on three fingers chinking against the ceramic, and tried to talk myself out of climbing up the fire escape to his apartment. It wasn’t working though. I was at war with myself, having a full blown conversation in my head over whether or not Jonah would know I was there. If I was quiet enough, he’d be none the wiser. It was too tempting.
I swallowed my anxiety, placing my mug down and moving one leg outside of the window. I straddled the wooden frame, ignoring the voice that was screaming for me to stop. My breathing was shallow as I turned my torso and stood out on the fire escape. The breeze ruffled my skirt, and I shivered a little. Whether it was from the nervous exhilaration or the coolness of the wind, I wasn’t sure.
Regardless, it was making the hair on my arms stand on end.
I looked up the rusty ladder toward his apartment and tried again to talk myself out of climbing up the rungs. It was hopeless. I was like a moth drawn to a flame. With each strum of his guitar, I took a careful step up to his window. My knuckles were white from gripping so tightly, and some of the rust flakes were piercing my palm. I ignored them, knowing I only had two more steps before I would be able to see him.
I took a deep breath and peeked over the window ledge, almost falling off the metal steps at the sight before me.
Jonah had his back to me. He was wearing nothing but loose dark wash jeans. I gulped and drank him in. He was beautiful. His shoulders wide and toned, sweeping down to a muscled back and small waist. His skin was a smooth honey color, and my palms itched to touch him. I licked my lips as my eyes fixed on his ass. My skin began to prickle in awareness.
I wanted him.
I watched, holding my breath, as he swayed gently from one bare foot to the other. I could see the stars on his shoulders weren’t the only ink adorning his body. There was something large decorating his right side, and I squinted, trying to see what it was. He turned slightly obscuring my view, making me duck down and hide. The music didn’t falter, telling me he had no idea I was here. I blushed furiously at my childishness. It didn’t stop me from wanting more though. Jonah Quinn was addictive. I was like a kid with a bowl full of candy, wanting to gorge on it all. I peeked back over the window ledge, only to be disappointed when I saw he’d moved further from the window and stopped playing.
I moaned as he pulled the guitar strap over his head, his muscles taut on his torso.
Jonah’s eyes snapped in my direction, just as Meow jumped up. I froze, praying for someone to make me invisible. This could be mortifying.
“Hello, kitty-cat,” Jonah murmured.
I listened to his bare feet as they padded closer to the window. I took a step down the ladder, willing myself to be quiet. I should never have done this. It was wrong, yet I hadn’t been able to stop myself. I was acting like a stalker.
Meow began to purr in approval as jealousy swirled in my gut. How the hell could I be envious of a cat?
“Are you hungry again?” He continued.
Again? I bit back a hiss. It appeared Meow had been to see him before. My cat had made friends with my neighbor, when all I could ever get out of him was ‘Hi’ or ‘I know’. Meow was the one getting to nuzzle his neck and inhale his manly scent.
Oh my God, Elle, you’re losing it!
Angry at myself, along with my cat, I descended the steps, making sure to keep quiet. I really didn’t need to alert Jonah to my stalker tendencies now. I climbed back through my window into my own apartment and paced the floor. I had the perfect opportunity to go and talk to him right now. All I needed to do was go and ask him if he’d seen my cat. That wasn’t so difficult, was it? In an attempt to talk myself out of it, I reminded myself that there was a reason he was avoiding me. I’d probably only make matters worse by turning up at his front door.
I ran my fingers through my curly hair impatiently.
J.J. would be rolling around laughing at me now if she could see me. She was certain I was stir crazy and needed a job outside of my apartment. Maybe in some respects she was right, because he was all too engrossing.
I walked toward the long mirror near the door, still debating whether or not to go and retrieve my cat. My reflection showed me what I already knew: I was tired. I pulled a tube of concealer from my small makeup pouch in an effort to erase the signs of fatigue. A quick sweep of gloss on my lips and a couple of clips in my hair made me look infinitely better.
I had my keys in hand and was closing the front door before I’d even accepted what I was about to do.
When Mrs. Kindle didn’t surprise me with a gift for Meow, I breathed a sigh of relief and scuttled toward the elevator. I jangled my keys in my hand nervously as I counted the seconds until it arrived. I needed to do this fast, before I acknowledged just how childish I was being.
I began chanting as I stepped into the steel cube.
You’re not really doing this. You’re not really doing this. You’re not really doing this.
Only I was, and no amount of denial was going to alter that. I exited the elevator and walked with purpose toward his front door. I checked my appearance in the brass plaque that showed the number to his apartment, and hesitating before I pressed the bell. I was positive my heart stopped beating from the instant my finger left the button.
I listened. When it seemed like no one was going to open the door, I turned to leave.
I swooned at the sound of my name on his lips, and I ached for him to say it again. I cleared my throat and turned.
He was still in the jeans, and hadn’t covered his torso. My eyes shot straight towards his crotch, and I had to bite my tongue to stop another moan escaping when I saw the way those jeans hung off his hip bones.
“Elle? Are you okay?” He questioned, his tone low and soft.
“Hmm... I... S-sorry,” I stuttered, working my gaze back up toward his face.
I wanted to study the black designs that marked his body, but forced myself to stop staring and meet his gaze instead. He raised his brows, an action that told me he didn’t want to repeat himself. The
proverbial ball was in my court then.
I took a deep breath, toying with my keys again, before blurting out, “Do you have my pussy? Oh God, cat!
Do you have my cat?”
Jonah’s cheeks turned pink, as he brought his thumb up to his mouth, placing the tip between his teeth. He was trying not to laugh, which only made my embarrassment worse.
“Is it black?”
“My cat?” I asked inanely.
Jonah nodded, still holding back a small smirk. I felt so dumb. I’d never had this kind of reaction to a man, not even Nathan.
“Yes, he’s b-black.”
He stepped aside, ushering me into his apartment and pointed over to the large sketching station. Meow was perched on top of it, purring and licking his paw. He glared, his beady eyes fixed on me as if annoyed by my interruption, before going back to his beautification. He seemed to be sitting on top of something that Jonah had been working on. There were various pencils scattered across the top, and what looked like scribbles on a large sheet of paper.
“Is that yours?”
He was a man of few words as he shuffled his feet, struggling to speak. I nodded and walked over to Meow, picking him up by his rounded belly. I cradled him like a baby and began mumbling to him.
“Sorry he disturbed you, and walked all over your... um... drawings.”
“It’s okay, they need to be tossed. They’re garbage. He’s good company – stays quiet while I work,”
he muttered, toeing the floor.
He was adorable.
I nodded, wondering if I should try to further the conversation. He seemed uncomfortable with my presence in his space though, so I stepped over to the door.
“Does it have a name?” He asked from behind me.
“You already know my name.”
“Oh!” I gasped. “Meow. He’s called Meow.”
He chuckled. He actually chuckled. Feeling pleased with myself, I did an internal happy dance.
“That’s original,” he smiled, sarcasm lacing his words.
I was startled by his change, because it was out of character from our previous interactions. Taken aback, I stumbled for a quick response. “My Ex named him. Though it suits him, a lot.”
I stepped out of the door, turning back to face him.
His blue eyes were glinting with humor, and I noticed two small dimples on either side of his mouth. They made my toes curl in delight.
“It does. I find his noises rather soothing.”
Jonah took hold of Meow’s paw, moving so close I could feel the heat rolling off him. I inhaled his scent, as he shook the cat’s paw.
“Good to see you, Meow.”
I giggled. It was reminiscent of a schoolgirl passing her crush in the hallway. I said goodbye and scurried over to the elevator. I couldn’t look back. I knew he hadn’t walked inside, because I hadn’t heard the door close. I watched the arrow flash, showing me the elevator was almost here. I should have taken the stairs. I wasn’t thinking straight.
Jonah scrambled my brain.
The doors opened and I stepped inside, but before they closed I heard him speak.
“It was nice talking to you, Elle.”
I let out a huge breath I didn’t know I was holding and sagged against the wall. The door slid closed, as Meow mewled his goodbye. I stroked his head, wanting to chastise him for going there in the first place. I slid down the wall, sitting in the corner as the elevator stopped on my floor. My obsession for Jonah had reached epic proportions. I was sneaking up fire escapes and making verbal passes at him.
I was going to have to move. I’d been wrong before, sex wouldn’t cure it. It would only make it worse, so moving was the only way out of this.
It had taken me a full twenty-four hours to convince myself that moving to another apartment building was not a feasible answer. It was rather drastic, and I had never been one for dramatics. I left that characteristic to my friend, J.J.
My reaction to Jonah continued to confuse me, because I was the sort of woman that went for what she wanted.
However, I couldn’t do that with him and had no real explanation why. I’d considered going back up to his apartment and apologizing, however I was far too embarrassed. I knew I couldn’t look him in the eyes again without turning a bright shade of red.
I was no better than a teenager.
As my feet pounded on the sidewalk, I wondered what he thought of me and our interaction. The bass of the dance music flooded my ears, setting my pace. I was feeling punchy today and needed to run it off. There was no reason for me to feel so hyperactive, because I was not expecting Jonah to be at the mailboxes when I got back. If he had any sense at all, he would avoid me after my blushing little girl routine. He was a shy person, and my asking random questions and making innuendos was cringe worthy.
I rounded the corner onto Amsterdam Avenue, trying to shed the shame I felt and focus on the music playing into my ears. The entrance to my building was just around the next corner, and my chest had begun to heave from the exertion. The street was starting to get busier, with people walking to work. I had to weave through them, dodging outstretched coffee cups and paper bags containing breakfast. This amount of people still made me edgy; I simply wasn’t used to it.
I slowed my pace as I turned onto West 70th Street. I counted the steps to my apartment and stopping outside my building. I leaned over, resting my hands on my knees and tried to regulate my breathing. As my hair flopped into my eyes, I heard someone mutter about me being in their way.
The one thing I hated about living in the city: people could be so rude. My mom would tell me to haul my ass back home, and be with nice, hospitable people. She never liked my decision to move to New York, and yet she understood my need for space and independence. I had scoured the classifieds for months, trying to locate the perfect apartment. I’d ended up here, the Upper West Side of the city in a small but comfortable one bedroom apartment. It was close to Central Park, and the building held the kind of character I had been searching for. Though I missed living by the sea, the move here had been needed for my business as well as my personal growth.
I stood up straight and tried to smooth my hair, when I was shoved into the wall by a passerby. I grunted as my elbow scraped the brick. Stinging pain began to shoot up my arm, making me blink, as I had to reach out to steady myself. I squealed when a man clamped his hands around my biceps and held me against the wall of my building. His breath smelled stale. I grimaced, trying to take in details of his appearance while fighting him off, but all I digested was dirty, dark brown hair. Fear ran down my spine with lightning quick speed. My blood ran cold in my veins, leaving me gasping and trying to speak. He pushed me again, this time with such force that my head snapped back, my ears ringing and my vision blurring.
In my head I was yelling for help, though I couldn’t make a sound. I was frozen – immobile from the horror of what was happening to me. I looked around frantically for someone, anyone to help, but the street was now deserted.
The panic made me numb; the fear left me rigid. When my attacker thrust his fingers into the elastic armband which held my iPod in place, it took me a few moments to react. I pulled my arm back, whimpering when I found my voice, and the floodgates opened.
“Help!” I screamed, fighting with everything I had in me.
The man fought hard, determined not to let go of my arm. My skin was pinched between his fingers, and the pain made my eyes fill with tears. I couldn’t see what was happening, though I wasn’t going to give up. I kicked out with my feet and tried desperately to bring my arm back to my side.
He was strong and pinned my shoulder to the bricks with his huge hand. My throat began to close as the reality of the situation sank in. He was going to hurt me, and no one was trying to stop him. Why me? And why now?
Only five minutes ago the street had a smattering of people; people who could have helped me. Now I was alone. I
winced when he raised his hand, his fist coming down on me in slow motion.
Oh my God!
I waited for the first painful contact.
But it never arrived.
There was a scuffling, followed by a bellow of rage. My heart was thundering against my chest as I cracked an eye open. The man was no longer near me, in fact no one was. I exhaled with relief and stared around in confusion. I rubbed my arm where my attacker had gripped it, wincing in pain, as I tried to work out what had happened.
The whole incident had been so quick – so furious, that I couldn’t seem to piece everything together.
“Are you okay?”
That voice... Jonah.
I whirled around to see his anxious expression.
His chest was heaving as if he’d been running too.
“I..um... uh... ”
“Did he get anything?” He questioned further. “Did he hurt you?”
Jonah’s tone was dominant, his expression fierce.
It was a complete contrast to his usual demeanor.
“You saw him?”
“I ran after him. I tried, but I lost him. I’m sorry.”
I cringed as he reached for me, backing up a step, my body trembling in shock. I stared at him, completely bewildered by what had just happened.
“Elle, let me help you upstairs. We need to call the police.”
At the sound of his soothing voice, my heart gave a double beat then slowed. The ringing in my ears quieted as the nausea began to disperse. He held his hand out to me, waiting until I took it.
A few people now began to walk past. A couple whispered to each other, looking straight at me. I felt like a car crash. Jonah nodded in their direction, and they immediately hushed. The mumbling resumed as they walked further down the road. I took a step closer to Jonah, my legs trembling. I was too upset to be amazed when his arm came around my shoulders. The connection with his body made my arm tingle, and I snuggled closer to his warmth.