What Ifs

I had been waiting, waiting on so many things. It was stupid really to wait on circumstances, or life, to suddenly happen and a series of events that would make my world as I knew it anew. I blame fairytales a bit for that, and maybe the rest on youth.

This evening I would do it. I would tell Rory I loved him. No, we weren’t dating. No, he didn’t seem to treat me in any special way, only as he always has. And no, I didn’t hear he was crushing on anyone else. That alone makes me feel a little hopeful, there may be a chance he could have feelings for me after all.

Kim is going to be here in an hour. I stare critically at my outfit choice, laid out on the bed: black leggings, cute silver tulle skirt, black and white paint smeared printed top. I have cute silver heels to match and lovely dangly silver earrings to complete the ensemble. I also curled my blonde hair into something rather romantic.

I had just clipped up one side of my hair with a sparkly barrette when the doorbell rang. It’s too early for Kim to be here so I’m wary, who comes for a visit on New Year’s Eve while the sun’s still up?

In my old sweats and my favourite off-the-shoulder sweater I crack open my apartment door to see who it is (with the chain on, I’m not an idiot). It’s fucking Rory. Of course, the day I’m supposed to transform into this beautiful vision of a woman he comes and sees me looking my worst. Wonderful. My stomach drops and I feel like shouting to the year, “This is how we’re going to end this?”

“Hey babe! Let me in for a bit?” He asks all smiles holding a large cloth tote.

Rory is standing there dressed in his usual style: a beanie tops brown hair that is curling out the sides like octopus tentacles, a blue flannel shirt hugs his muscular frame, the color bringing out his blue eyes. Tight jeans hug his legs perfectly and he’s wearing my favorite cowboy boots, the ones I bought him three Christmases ago. He raises the packed tote with a crooked smile and it hits me.

I know what this is.

He’s forgotten he was bringing a casserole to our potluck New Year’s Eve party, even though we set this up over a month ago. Typical. 

I roll my eyes so hard I’m impressed I don’t black out, and I hear him chuckle as I close the door and take the chain off.

“Come in, you rapscallion. If I had Memaw’s wooden spoon I’d beat your ass.” I sigh and he scoots in like I’m about to hit him.

“I’m sorry Livvy, it’s just been so hectic at work and I meant to get things started earlier but Amy texted me to remind me to bring my own serving spoon and I knew I was fucked because no spoon can help me if there is no food. Can you help me?” Rory puts the cloth tote, presumably full of groceries, on the counter in my kitchen/living room leaving me fuming by the front door.

“I’ve got an hour before Kim gets here. We’re getting ready for the party together and— get away from my fucking cake Rory!” I yell at him, running over to the kitchen to snatch the cover of the cake saver that protects my red velvet masterpiece from his hands.

“Wait, now, I just wanted to have a look!” He laughs maneuvering the cover high in the air.

Not at all put off, I leap up to snatch the cover of the cake saver from his hands, bracing myself on his shoulder to give me more height.

He lets me catch it after a few goes and I glare at him. 

“Last year, you dropped my trifle. In my glass trifle dish. The year before, we ended up burning my toffee cookies because you decided to turn them up so they would cook faster. I cannot trust you around my sweets, Rory Tucker so back off.” My hand is still on his shoulder and my chest is heaving from my mini tirade.

Rory’s blue eyes sparkle down at me and he’s wearing that lopsided grin of his, just one dimple, and one side of his smile doesn’t go as high as the other. He reaches out and puts some of my hair behind my ear, and I’m suddenly feeling a little less angry and a little more fuzzy-headed. 

“Your hair looks nice.” He pulls a curl and lets it spring out of his fingers. “And I’m sorry about the desserts. Can we call a truce?”

“I suppose,” I mumble and I let my hand slide off his shoulder.

I turn around to the counter and I replace the lid on the red velvet cake. My head always gets muddled around this man and I take a second to collect myself. 

Rory is getting the ingredients out of his bag. Looking them over, it’s clear to me he’s planning his Potluck Potato Casserole which has, among other things, two pounds of cheddar cheese. Good thing his people burn fat faster than a windmill spinning in a hurricane. Bastards.

I get out my Le Creuset Dutch Oven and reach over Rory for the butter to grease the sides. 

“I appreciate this, Livvy, I know you said Kim was coming by… I just know if I did this alone I’d be liable to forget about it, while doing something I probably shouldn’t be doing.” Rory walks over to the sink and begins to wash the potatoes in their skins placing the clean ones in a colander in the sink.

I finish buttering the dish and I put the lid on. Abby Cat is someplace taking advantage of the late afternoon sun but she loves butter. If I leave the Dutch oven open on the counter it could be disastrous. Rory is done rinsing the potatoes and he grabs a pot from my over-the-sink hanging rack to fill it with water.

I start chopping the onion, and of course tears well up in my eyes. Lovely. Cause everyone who’s anyone wants to be red-eyed and bleary around hot menfolk.

Once it’s all chopped up, I turn around to see Rory turning the front right stovetop burner on high and then he transfers the pot full of water from the sink to the stove. I watch him dump the potatoes in the pot. I sigh as water splashes on the ground and stove top. This man. Before I ask, he grabs the kitchen towel and starts to clean up. I can say I’ve improved his cooking etiquette these past couple of years. I can’t help but smile at the thought.

“Are you going to run off for forty-five minutes and come back when they’re boiled?” I ask him as I put some of the ingredients in my fridge; we don’t need the butter, cheese, and sour cream just yet.

“No, I was kind of hoping we could hang out before the party?” He smiles apologetically at me, and I remind myself that Kim’s on her way.

My phone beeps on the coffee table and I walk around him and the counter to the living space.

“That may be Kim now, I don’t know if…” I begin but I stop after reading the text.

Sorry babe! Something’s come up, I’ll have to see you at the party. You always look beautiful and I don’t think you’ll need makeup to tell Rory how you really feel. Please don’t be mad at me. I’ll see you soon!

“Huh.” 

“What is it, Livvy? Is everything alright?” Rory comes around the counter and I shove my phone into my pocket.

He has a habit of reading my texts over my shoulders. 

“No it’s fine, it’s just… Kim can’t come. She doesn’t usually cancel, I hope she’s okay,” I muse and I go turn on the TV.

I sit on my gray suede sectional and Rory joins me.

“I’m sure she’s fine, Livvy. If it was an emergency, she wouldn’t have taken the time to text, you know?” He drapes himself comfortably on the sectional with his arm behind me on the back of the sectional. 

I sit with my legs up and crossed, leaning my chin on my hand. I’m scrolling through the channels and not really seeing anything interesting. I settle on the DIY Channel because we both like watching the shows on there. We plan houses and bet on how much things will auction for and it’s usually good fun.

I don’t really think about it when his arm comes down and wraps around me. I just adjust, swinging my legs out to the side on the sectional, and scoot over into his side. I lean on him slightly as we do. We are always comfortable like this.

On the TV, they are trying to buy a house for six hundred dollars and I admit I wish I could buy a house for six hundred myself.

Rory has not let go of my side and, honestly, I’m not going to complain. Usually he’s up for a bit of a cuddle but he lets go of me after I scoot over. 

He’s started to move his thumb back and forth on my side and it feels good.  Little shivers wash through me like gentle waves causing me to relax into him further. I almost let out a sigh of contentment but I stop myself.  What if he stops? He might notice what he’s doing. Would things be awkward? My heart beats a little faster.

We sit in relative peace until I realize that we should probably check on the potatoes.

I put my hand flat between us on the couch to brace myself as I turn towards Rory to tell him about the potatoes. His hand slides to my lower back and I’m in the process of getting up when he turns his body towards mine, his left leg bent.

Rory and I have hugged and cuddled before. This is different. It seems more intimate and a wave of heat crashes through me. This causes me to wobble a bit and I catch myself on his thigh with my other hand. Suddenly our faces are close, really close. I’m on my knees, falling on him, and I could not be more mortified. I almost forget to breathe and if I opened my mouth right now I swear all the butterflies would fly right out.  That’s okay though, I’ve seemed to have lost the ability to speak momentarily. Neither of us move until I break the spell.

“I’m sorry, Rory, I was just—“ 

His free hand reaches up to cup my face. His right arm lifts off my back and snakes around me, bringing me into his lap. My knees open to straddle his thighs.

Chest to chest, we now sit eye level and I can’t help but gasp. I may not be able to string coherent thoughts together.

“Rory, I—“

“Livvy, I—“

We both laugh, diffusing some of the tension, but Rory is still cupping my face, and now he is stroking my cheek with his thumb.

“Livvy, the last thing I want to do is make you uncomfortable. I care about you so much and our friendship has been the most positive thing in my life over the past four years. So I really really don’t want to fuck that up. But I’m very attracted to you, and if I don’t find out if you feel the same way, I might explode from the what ifs. So I’m asking you now, is there anyway you could possibly feel more for me than friendship?” 

I can tell he’s actually pretty nervous, and I can’t help but tease. “Do you pull all the girls you hope are into you onto your lap?”

He sighs and opens his mouth to explain but I decide to take the initiative. It’s now or never right? 

I lean to my left and kiss his cheek. His hand stills and falls away as I lightly kiss the side of his mouth. I sit back a little. Our noses touch and I lean in for a real kiss, but he beats me to it.

He pours all the what ifs into that kiss and I can’t help but do the same. His lips are firm, strong, and it doesn’t take long for the kiss to deepen. I get a little light-headed and I can feel the effect I have on him between my legs and I can’t help but shift in his lap. This causes a delicious friction that has him opening his mouth to let out a growl. I take advantage of this and our tongues collide. I know, without a doubt, that this was the right choice. 

My hands make it into his silky hair and he kisses my jaw then my neck. I moan as he scrapes the tender flesh with his teeth. I might just combust right there on the couch.

But I smell something burning, and though I’d really like to continue…

“Rory, the potatoes.” I sigh and he plants a kiss on my exposed shoulder.

I shift off his lap and he stands up. He goes into the kitchen and takes the potatoes off the burner. I stand up and make my way towards the kitchen. We may need to change his dish for the party in that case and I have a few ideas.

“Are they ruined?” I still feel flushed, like my skin is too tight.

“No, I think we can still use them but they are too hot yet to peel.” Rory turns to me and takes my hands in his.

“We could run them under the water to cool them off.” 

I look up at Rory and he leans down and kisses me again, slowly this time. 

I can feel this kiss all the way down in my toes. 

“Or,” he says pulling me towards the couch, “we can wait it out.”

Waiting doesn’t seem so bad now, in fact it’s rather perfect. Besides, this time, I ruined his dish, and trust me, I’m not even sorry.


Potluck Potato Casserole

2 lb. jacket boiled potatoes, peeled and chopped 10 oz. (2 cups) grated, sharp cheddar cheese

4 tbsp. melted butter 1 tsp. salt

2 cups crushed corn flakes mixed with 1/4 cup melted butter

1/4 tsp, pepper 1/2 cup chopped onion

1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted

Combine potatoes and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper, onion, soup, sour cream, cheese. Blend thoroughly. Pour into a greased casserole dish 9 X 13. Cover with crushed cornflakes mixed with melted butter. Bake 350˚ for 45 minutes.

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