Uncharted Waters

Part 7:

 

Jericho and I continued to talk well into the evening about his hobbies, past profession, and what he was going to school for. It was nice to talk to him completely outside of work. He had so much to say, and so much life experience. True, he was seven years older than myself, but it seemed like in those seven years he had also lived seven lives. Just about any subject under the sun Jericho knew about, and what he knew about he was always willing to share with others. Sometimes even before they asked. 

 

Because he had arrived about twenty minutes later than he was supposed to, we were only able to sit and talk for fifteen minutes or so before the dining room was closed. We both noticed as the manager came by and locked the doors. 

“Shit, they’re closed?” Jericho asked after the manager walked back behind the counter.

“Oh wow yeah. It’s ten. The dining room closes at ten.” I answered, finishing the last nugget.

“I thought they were open twenty four hours?” Jericho asked beginning to fidget in his seat.

“The drive thru is, but the dining room closes at ten. I ran into this problem before meeting some one here.” 

“Well… you want to come up to my place and watch a movie or something? I got a few good ones.” Jericho asked.

 

I was lost in my own thoughts and only half paying attention to the movies he listed off. Part of me was excited to go spend more time with him, and part of me was hesitant. I had just turned eighteen, and never really dated before. Even though this was just supposed to be hanging out, I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about going up to his apartment. It seemed really intimate to me, for some one who was just going to be a friend. Plus there was the fact that I didn’t even really know this man, and if we were going to be together alone that opened a whole world of scenarios that could end badly. 

 

My biggest fear with Jericho was an unwanted sexual advance. Especially since he had sort of corralled me into meeting with him even though he was dating some one else, completely against my better judgment. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for anything like that. Because the only relationship I had ever been in was an online one I hadn’t even experienced my first kiss. I didn’t know how I would react if he made a move on me, or that I was even ready for a sexual relationship. 

 

That was a completely separate issue in itself. I wasn’t even sure if I was still a virgin. In one of my more crazy moments several months before meeting Jericho, I had taken to bouts of intense dreams. I couldn’t distinguish them from reality, and during one of these dreams I was involved in a very quick sexual encounter. The next morning when I woke up, my entire bedroom smelled of the cologne I remembered in my dream, and I was naked from the waist down, my pajama pants tossed casually in a corner. I thought it was weird, but at the same time it wasn’t. As I walked out of my basement bedroom and headed up the stairs I noticed that the back door which I always checked and locked was sitting slightly ajar.

 

Again I didn’t think too much of it until I met up with the person in my dream later that afternoon and walked into the middle of a conversation something like this: “Where did you go last night, Jimmy?” Becca, Jimmy’s older sister asked.

“I don’t know. I take those Ambian pills and sleep walk all over the place. I woke up on the side of the road at like 6am this morning.” Jimmy answered. 

My heart skipped a beat. Maybe it HADN’T been a dream after all, but I couldn’t very well go in and ask if he had come to my house and slept with me. Especially if he didn’t remember what had happened. I knew I was slipping off of the edge of insanity but I had no idea how far I had gone. I chose to keep this secret to myself until right now writing it here. All things considered I didn’t feel like a virgin anymore after that fuzzy encounter, but I couldn’t be absolutely sure. If I wasn’t physically a virgin, emotionally I still was, and hadn’t yet made up my mind if I wanted to change that. 

 

I did know that I certainly didn’t want to sleep with anyone after four chicken nuggets and a movie, that much was clear. Determining how far Jericho would go while I was left vulnerable in his home was the main concern. He was still listing off movies, as my attention shifted back toward his voice and out of my own thoughts. One title he suggested I had really been wanting to see, and so it was decided that I would follow him up to his apartment and we would watch a movie.

We walked out to the parking lot and toward our cars.

“Do you want to just ride up there with me?” Jericho asked as he opened his driver’s side door.

“I have to open in the morning, so I better just follow you.” I answered. I did have to open in the morning, but I really wanted to have my car as a sense of security, especially since I was taking such a leap of faith in going to his apartment in the first place.

“Oh, okay. I guess I’ll see you there then.” Jericho said as he hopped in and started his car. I also started mine and off we went.

 

Following Jericho was quite a challenging task as he zipped in and out of traffic on the interstate, and sped through yellow lights. I was able to keep up with him, but it was quite a ride. We arrived at his apartment and he patiently waited for me to find a parking spot and led me through the door.

“Here we are.” Jericho said unlocking the door, ushering me in, and pointing toward a cat sitting on a speaker tower glaring at me. “That’s Neo, the barking is Lizzie and Frank is around here somewhere. Uh I forgot to ask if you like dogs, is that okay?”

“Oh yeah. I used to show dogs in 4H. We’ve got three at home.” I answered stepping across the thresh hold and taking a few steps inside.

Jericho quickly followed me in and shut the door behind him, walking directly down a small hall way into the kitchen. I followed a few steps behind not really sure where to go or what to do.

 

“Elizabeth!” Jericho yelled as we walked around the corner to find a small Jack Russell Corgi mix sitting happily covered in her own excrement which was also flung through out most of the kitchen. “Oh my God, what the fuck? How does she keep doing this? I’m sorry. I’ve got to clean this up and give her a bath. You can make yourself at home. It won’t take very long.”

“It’s okay. I don’t mind.” I said as Jericho pushed past me holding the dog out at arms length and headed up the stairs.

 

I wandered back out into and around the living room taking in the scenery. It was almost like I had walked into the bedroom of an adolescent boy with various framed movie posters, mint collectable figures snuggly on shelves displayed proudly, shelves filled with movies of every genre from animation to romantic comedies, and a messy lived in, but relatively neat kitchen. The animals were loved and well cared for, and it was surprisingly tidy over all. Slightly cluttered, but no more than any busy young adult’s apartment would be.

 

He returned from giving Lizzie a bath and saw me awkwardly standing in the middle of the living room still taking everything in. He kind of paused on the stairs for a moment and asked: “Are you just going to stand there, or make yourself at home?”

“I’m just looking at your posters. I’ll sit down when you’re ready to start the movie.” I answered, which wasn’t entirely a lie. It was my first time just sort of being invited in then left to my own devices. Completely new territory which left me reserved and cautious. I knew Jericho, but I didn’t really KNOW Jericho, and here I was in his home late at night. 

He gave me a funny look then brushed past me as he walked back into the kitchen to take the dog outside, and clean up the mess she had left in her cage. I eventually did take a seat on the couch as the dog finished running around shaking the water out of her coat, and hopped up on the couch wagging her tail excitedly and licking my fingers.

 

Once he was finished cleaning out the dog cage, Jericho bounced into the living room and over to the shelf were he kept all of his massive movie collection. He grabbed the disk and popped it into the dvd player quickly returning to the couch. He sat at one end, and I scooted over toward the opposite end. 

“Why are you sitting all the way over there?” He asked, again giving me a puzzled expression. 

“What do you mean? I just sat down.” I replied, returning his puzzled expression.

He paused for a moment and then said: “Don’t sit over there. Come sit closer.” 

I looked at him with an obviously confused and slightly concerned expression, to which replied with a pat  on the cushion next to him and put his arm up on the back of the couch.

 

I wasn’t exactly sure what he was trying to accomplish or where things were really going, but I hopped up and sat next to him anyway. Not pressed up against him, but not very far away from him either. I was still very wary of him, and his intensions. He kept saying that this wasn’t a date, but how many people do you snuggle with on your couch while watching a movie? I don’t know if the implications he was throwing out were intentional, but from my point of view it certainly seemed like more than “coffee” between just friends. Which I kind of felt bad about in regards to Anya, but at the same time I could see Jericho’s point. She was leaving for Bulgaria in less that two weeks, and the chance of her getting a permenent visa were slim to none. It was going to end eventually, so I tried my best to remove it from my mind.

 

Half way through the movie I started to nod off. Not because I was uninterested but because it was nearly two in the morning and I was exhausted. I had worked all day, then made my way over to the other side of town to spend time with Jericho. 

“You can lay your head on me if you want to.” Jericho said as he shifted slightly giving me more of a pillow in his chest and under the crook of his arm as opposed to his shoulder.

Again in my mind it was a little odd for some one spending time with me as “just friends”, but because I was so tired I took up his offer, scooted a little closer and laid my head on his chest snuggling up under his arm, and closed my eyes. A few moments later his arm came down off of the couch and around behind me leaving his hand to rest on my thigh. It startled me and I tensed but kept my eyes closed. He started to move his hand back and forth across my leg sending a rush of hormones flooding into my blood stream. I had never felt that way before. It was intoxicating, and I really liked it. It was as if now that we occupied the same physical space the emotions and attraction that I had felt from afar in all of my other encounters with Jericho was now intensified ten fold. Where I was uncertain before I wasn’t any longer. I was ready for whatever the night might bring as long as I could get a little more of these feelings. Much to my disappointment his hand on my leg was as far as it went until the movie finished and he got up to turn off the TV. 

 

I sat up and stretched, and he got up to turn off the TV. By this point it was going on 3am, and I was already dreading the fact that I had to report to work in less than five hours. I yawned and ruffled my hair in an attempt to wake myself up. Jericho who had disappeared into the kitchen returned took one look at me as I pulled my purse to my side and pulled out my phone. 

“You look really tired. Are you okay to drive?” He asked.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. It’s not that far.” I answered with a yawn.

“You can stay here if you want, I don’t mind.” He offered.

 

I thought about the drive home, which wasn’t all that far, but it was late and I was exhausted. I had only sort of half napped on Jericho, but other than that I had been awake for nearly twenty four hours. If I made my way home it would take an additional half an hour plus away from my sleep time, so I eventually nodded and accepted his offer which led to: “Do you want to come up stairs with me? Or… I mean, you can always stay down here on the couch… it’s up to you. The bed is probably a lot more comfortable though.”

I hesitated. Unsure if this was an invitation to a more comfortable place to sleep, or something else since he had been so apt to snuggle and caress my thigh. 

“Or, you can have the bed and I can sleep down here on the couch. I mean I just want you to be comfortable.”

“No it’s okay. I can just take the couch.”

 

Jericho shrugged and started up the stairs as I brushed some animal hair off of the couch and looked around for a pillow or a blanket to get comfortable and settle in for the night. As he was half way up the stairs, he paused and turned around peering over the banister. 

“Hey, what if I slept on top of the blankets? Would you come up stairs with me? I mean I don’t want it to be weird or anything for you, I just don’t think the couch is very comfortable and I would feel better if you came upstairs. Only if you want to, of course.” Jericho asked nervously. 

 

I could see that he was conflicted by me sleeping on the couch, but I couldn’t quite figure out exactly why. At his insistence of sleeping on top of the blankets, and making me as comfortable as possible I decided to join him. I’m not sure why I let him convince me ending up in his bed was the better of the two options, but he was true to his word.

“Hey could you do me a favor when you leave tomorrow?” Jericho asked as we settled into the bed and our eyes adjusted to the dark.

“Sure, what’s that?” I asked.

“Could you make sure you lock the door behind you? I’ve had some trouble with people breaking in. They don’t ever do anything, they just sort of like stand there and… look at me, but I just want to make sure the door is locked.” Jericho explained.

“Yeah, I can do that. Why are people breaking in?” 

“Oh, this other girl who used to live here. Her boyfriend and some of his friends. It was a whole thing. She broke up with him, and some how it was my fault so they’ve been trying to break in and scare me.” Jericho explained quietly. 

“Seriously? Is that what the hole is downstairs?” I asked, rolling over to see Jericho as we spoke.

“Hole? Oh the wall? No… I went out of town for the weekend and had some one watch Lizzie for me, when I came back the hole was in the wall. I don’t know what happened. I was pretty pissed, so I don’t talk to him anymore.” Jericho explained. “Lizzie hasn’t been the same since either.”

“Hmm… maybe it’s a Lizzie sized hold in the wall then?” I asked.

“Maybe… I wouldn’t doubt it.” Jericho kind of mumbled his voice full of sleep.

“Yeah… well I’m pretty tired and I have to get up in like four hours. I should probably go to sleep. Goodnight.” I said, as I rolled over and closed my eyes.

“Goodnight.” Jericho replied as he also rolled over, respectfully on top of the blankets. 

It wasn’t long before Jericho was snoring softly beside me. I had closed my eyes, but sleep alluded me. Partially because I was still busy taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Jericho’s world. He slept with a fan on beside the bed, which I wasn’t used to. That coupled with his body heat radiating against my back, and the sweet smell of sweat, testosterone and laundry, my brain refused to shut off. It was an oddly comforting combination of things that I never expected would put me at ease and arouse me at the same time. 

 

I fidgeted around trying to get comfortable, really wanting to snuggle up to Jericho, but not sure what kind of message that would send. I was ready and willing to comply if he made a move, but I wasn’t going to take any initiative. From my understanding of how sexual relationships worked at the time, the men made the first move, and I didn’t want to do anything to ruin our friendship. I had wanted to be with Jericho for so long, now that I had him in my reach it was exhilarating and scary all at the same time. I was ecstatic that I was laying here next to my “Love at First Sight”, but I was afraid to do anything that might mess up my chances. 

 

While I desperately tried to get my brain to shut off and get some much needed sleep, I rolled over and took the opportunity to really study Jericho. I don’t know why it mattered to me, but the shape of his ears really caught my eye. It seemed perfect to me, much like the rest of Jericho. Physically I had never met anyone who inspired such intense feelings of attraction. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Even after being attracted to others before, it was like Jericho and I were meant to be. As I thought about that, my mind wandered to my List.

 

Right after I got out of Middle School one of our first school assignments was to take several days and figure out a list of characteristics we wanted in our future husbands. Because I was raised in an Evangelical Christian home, both myself and my sisters were encouraged to pray about during our Bible Study time. We were also encouraged to keep it private, and not share it or turn it in. After many days of consideration I whipped up a list. Unfortunately I lost it many years ago so I don’t specifically remember all sixty items on the list, but I remember that some of them didn’t make any sense at the time to me, until I started spending time with Jericho. The more I got to know him, the more items slowly ticked off my list. That coupled with the feelings that overwhelmed me when I was with him pretty much sealed the deal. He was my One. That was the only explanation. Realizing that, a goofy smile spread across my face, and I was finally able to settle into a fitful sleep, filled with vivid dreams.

   

I woke with the sun, crawled quietly out of bed being sure not to disturb Jericho, and made my way downstairs and to my car. I remembered to lock the door and made sure it was shut securely behind me. It was several hours before I had to report to work, but I really had to use the bathroom and because Jericho had closed all the doors upstairs with the exception of his bedroom door I decided to head out. It didn’t feel right snooping around while he was asleep, especially since he was worried about people breaking in. I didn’t want to scare him shuffling around looking for the bathroom. 

 

I stopped for breakfast at the McDonald’s where we had met the night before, feeling genuinely happy for the first time in quite a long time. I was trying to get my feelings in check since Jericho and I were only friends, but even that excited me. Maybe if we weren’t supposed to be together right now, at least by getting my foot in the door things would work out down the line. I was tired, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t wait to see Jericho again. Even if it was just at work. Finishing my breakfast, I freshened up my hair in the bathroom and headed off to work.