Chance pointed back behind us. “Did you see how much he shit just now? He was backed up for days!”
We both broke out into hysterical laughter, wiping tears from our eyes. When we finally calmed down, Chance started the car and drove toward the highway.
Somewhere in the middle of Arizona, Chance pulled into the parking lot of a pretty high end hotel about ten minutes off the interstate. After I got our room keys, we came up with a plan where I would distract the front desk clerk while Chance snuck the goat in. He’d wrapped him in one of my comforters and sped past the desk and into the elevator.
Chance had the door adjoining our separate rooms open when I got upstairs.
He’d already managed to put two Pull Ups on Esmerelda Snowflake, wrapping some tape around the top to secure them. Chance hadn’t noticed me, and I watched as the goat jumped into his arms and licked his face.
“Alright, buddy. Calm down. You’re a good mate, you know that? A good mate.”
“You’re being so sweet with him.”
Chance turned his head toward me suddenly, surprised to see me standing there. “Bugger’s growing on me.”
“I know the feeling.”
Because you’re growing on me.
“I was thinking I’d go out and get us something nice to eat. Do you like wine?”
“I do. I’ve actually been dying for a glass.”
“What kind do you like?”
“Any kind of white.”
“I like red. I’ll get both.”
“That sounds great.” I smiled. “Do you know where you’re going?”
“This map here says there’s a strip of restaurants and a liquor store about two miles down the road.”
“Alright. I think I’ll take a shower while you’re gone.”
“Okay. Any special requests for dinner?”
He left, and I retreated to the luxurious bathroom. As the hot water poured down on me, all of the emotions I’d been struggling with the past few days seemed to pummel me all at once. It hit me that we were on the final leg of this trip now. I still had no clue if Chance and I would simply go our separate ways once we got to his stop or if he was interested in more. Based on that phone call I’d overheard, clearly, there was something he was keeping from me. I never flat out asked him if there was currently someone else when he admitted to a “complicated” situation. Even knowing that was a possibility, I couldn’t help my feelings for him. Chance was the only thing that felt right about my life right now—the only thing that felt like home for as long as I could remember.
I threw a t-shirt on along with some cotton shorts and tried to watch a little HBO while I waited for Chance. Esmerelda Snowflake hopped on the bed next to me. An hour went by, but Chance hadn’t returned. With each passing minute, an uneasy feeling grew in my gut.
What if he never came back?
It was a foolish thought. He’d given me no reason to believe that. Still, my reaction was one of slight panic suddenly. Maybe I was just exhausted from the trip, a little delusional. When another half-hour passed, I called his phone. There was no answer.
With each minute, the panic grew, and my eyes started to swell. I couldn’t help it. I knew it was probably an overreaction, but I’d already lost control of my emotions in the shower, and his not returning was adding fuel to the fire.
The door suddenly opened, and I rushed to wipe my tears.
“My God, that was a cluster fuck,” he groaned.
Chance was holding two bags and dropped them down on the desk in my room when he noticed me frantically wiping my eyes.
“Aubrey, are you crying? Did something happen?”
“No. No, I’m fine. It’s nothing.”
He walked toward me. “It doesn’t look like nothing. What the hell is going on?”
“You were gone so long. I called your phone, and there was no answer. I started to think maybe…”
He blinked repeatedly. “You thought I wasn’t coming back?”
“It was just a fleeting thought. Deep down, I knew it was ridiculous but couldn’t seem to help it. It’s been a long trip, and I think I’m just tired.”
Chance gently wiped the tears from my eyes with his thumb. “I’m sorry you got scared.” He took my chin in his hands and turned my face to meet his eyes. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”
My heart raced as he pulled me into him. My body seemed to melt into his solid, warm frame. His heart thundered against mine as he hugged me tightly. I never wanted him to let me go. Don’t let me go.
When he pulled back, cold air replaced the warmth of his body. “Can we please erase this from memory? I asked. “It was a lapse in sanity.” I wiped the last of my tears and sniffled. “What took you so long, though?”
He didn’t answer. He was still just looking at me with a serious expression as he examined my face. He seemed to be contemplating something. I couldn’t recall him ever looking that serious before. Finally, he said, “I had to go to two different restaurants. The first one told me it would be an hour wait, and the second was no better.” He lifted his phone out of his pocket and connected it to a charger. “My phone died. That’s why you couldn’t reach me.”
I shook my head, muttering to myself, feeling so stupid for overreacting.
He handed me a cup. “Let’s forget this and have a nice dinner, eh?”
Trying my best attempt at a genuine smile, I said, “That sounds good.”
We sat across from each other at the small table in my room as we ate in silence. Chance had ordered three entrees from an Italian restaurant: eggplant lasagna, chicken parmesan and pasta primavera.
He poured wine into the two paper cups. “I know it’s a lot of food, but I figured he’d want to eat as well,” he said, placing a plate of food on the ground for Esmerelda Snowflake.
The tension in the air never let up all throughout dinner. I just kept pouring more Chardonnay to numb my feelings.
Chance went straight back to his room after we cleaned up. That left me feeling empty and confused, like maybe I’d freaked him out with my crying episode. Having had too much wine, I lay on my bed and stared up at the ceiling, which seemed to be slightly spinning. With my buzz granting me false courage, I got up and opened the adjoining door.
The shower was running while the goat waited outside the closed bathroom door. Lying down on Chance’s bed, I curled into the thick down-feathered pillow. When he emerged from the bathroom, he stopped short of the bed. He was wrapped in nothing but a white towel. His thick hair was wet and slicked back. Droplets of water slowly ran down his chest. So overcome with pent up desire, I licked my lips. My heart was beating out of my chest.
“What are you doing in here, Aubrey?”
I sat up suddenly. “Do you not want me here?”
He closed his eyes briefly then said, “It’s late. I think it’s better if you go back to your room.”
That was not like him.
My stomach dropped. Humiliated couldn’t even begin to describe how I felt as I said, “Oh. Yeah. You’re right. I didn’t realize how late it was.”
He just stood there, towering over me with his large hands gripping his sides as I walked past him.