Authors: Dana Aynn Levin
Remembering that we were missing political science, I called Professor Dennison, as
suming I’d get his voice mail. Instead he answered. By the end of the conversation the professor was telling me to take good care of my girlfriend.
If Professor Dennison
assumed Eli was my girlfriend, did others as well?
At the dining hall I was forced to endure Shane asking, “How’s your new girlfriend?” followed by filing Rachel, Chloe and Cam in on every detail.
What was it with everyone today? Normally nobody bothered me about my friendship with Eli. Just because she was injured and needed help, didn’t change anything. They knew I was with Juliette. I hurried back to the dorm with sandwiches.
p, Elizabeth’s crammed closet. Like a life-sized Barbie doll, she owned an outfit for every possible occasion. I pulled out an apricot colored short-sleeved polo shirt dress, perfect for Indian summer. I also grabbed light blue cotton yoga pants and a royal blue tank top for her to sleep in tonight.
Eli didn’t know it, but with those drugs playing with her mind, she was sleeping with me. Otherwise I w
ouldn’t sleep for worrying. My full-sized bed had room.
After taking a few more items including unde
rwear, I returned to my suite. On the walk down, I reflected that for a girl who, as far as I knew, had never let anyone see her underwear, Elizabeth owned the prettiest, sexiest sets. Every piece came as a matched set in the softest, silkiest fabrics. There was a color to match every mood.
I didn’t know
the mood Elizabeth would be in. The white lace set would remind me of her virgin state and how I’d better keep her that way.
zabeth flirted earlier, it was the painkillers. There was no excuse for the desire I had felt. I was completely sober.
Before entering my room I made the phone call I d
readed, but needed to make, telling Juliette that Elizabeth was convalescing in my room.
Eli didn’t like Juliette.
She felt we had nothing in common. Eli was almost right. Juliette and I had enough in common to keep seeing each other. But Juliette didn’t know that she was not a keeper. Our relationship was casual enough that if it ended tomorrow, I wouldn’t miss her.
e answered on the second ring. I got right to the point.
“Dan,” she fin
ally said in a clipped voice, “I’ve had all I’m going to take of you and Elizabeth. Every time I see you, you’re with her. Something is going on but you deny it by saying you’re just old friends. But it’s there Dan, and I’ve had enough.”
Juliette,” I protested. Was she ending our relationship? That never happened to me.
“Dan, please,” she answered more forcefully that I tho
ught she was capable of doing. “Sunday, I arrived at The Cellar and you were holding her in your arms dancing. It was a love song, Dan!”
I had been paying attention only to Eli. I hadn’t noticed the music.
“Yes. And that was my regular shift.
Everyone working at The Cellar knows I’m seeing you. It was humiliating.”
I enjoy dancing, and you weren’t there. It was innocent dancing.” Had Juliette seen me kiss Elizabeth?
“It was far from innocent.” Juliette’s ire was rising.
“Dan, it wasn’t just that you were holding her in your arms, but the way you were looking at each other. Dan, she loves you.”
zabeth always has,” I answered.
ldhood. So you’ve said,” responded an exasperated Juliette. “Now you tell me she’s sleeping in your bed. Even I’ve never slept in your bed! Do you expect me to believe that’s innocent too?”
“I expect you to believe me. I’m being honest.
I’ve never lied to you. Juliette, I can’t date a woman who doesn’t trust me and refuses to understand my complicated relationship with Eli.”
“It looks as t
hough you’ve made your choice. Elizabeth wins, Dan.”
“Juliette…” I knew I had lo
st, but perhaps I had instead won.
“No woman is going to understand your ‘complicated
relationship’ with Elizabeth. So admit to it already. You will never be happy with any girl until you do.”
I, Daniel Newman, was single once more. Well, not really. I did have Eli. She was a more satisfying companion than ten girlfriends put together. What I was lacking was a sex partner.
I tip-toed into my ro
om replaying the conversation. Juliette might be right. I had dropped everything when Eli called. I didn’t hesitate for a moment. Eli needed me; of course I came running.
Elizabeth lay sleepi
ng, the ice pack on her ankle. Ten perfect, pedicured toes greeted me when I gently removed it. Not a chip of magenta polish was missing.
Curled up on her side, Elizabeth’s silken auburn hair falling across her fa
ce, I couldn’t help but smile. I carefully smoothed her hair back. So beautiful. So peaceful.
I sat down on the bed next to Eli and pr
opped myself against the wall. I opened the assigned film history book and glanced at her before beginning.
My eyes flitted b
etween the book and Elizabeth. When I realized I was reading the same paragraph for the fifth time, I gave up. All I could do was stare at Eli and watch her breathe.
Could they be right? The nurse, the profess
ors, Juliette, hell, everyone? Did they see something I was missing, or was perhaps avoiding?
I never had a girlfriend
, only several longer-term flings. I would classify Juliette as one, but I doubted she realized it, or how I cringed whenever anyone referred to her as my girlfriend. The ownership implied by the word didn’t sit right. It sat just fine when Dr. Nash and the nurse applied it to Elizabeth
I’d known many pretty girls, but I never
trusted whether they wanted me or coveted entry into the world of Steven Newman. These future trophy wives assumed all I cared about was their looks when what mattered was intellect and soul. None had touched my heart.
avoided the pressures of having a girlfriend. They were clingy, and they wanted to change you to fit their ideal. Juliette had tried, and that was after only one month. Now I was relieved that it was ended.
The roast beef sandwich I picked up at the dining hall, my first since meeting Julie
tte, felt wickedly rebellious. As soon as Eli was up to it, I’d have to take her to a local steak house I’d heard was good.
Why wouldn’t I invite Shane or Cam to the steak house?
ld Elizabeth be my girlfriend? The thought unnerved me. We were already the closest of friends and Elizabeth was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. She had an amazing figure and soft skin I loved to touch.
izabeth sleep was mesmerizing. How enjoyable seducing her would be. Now that she had removed her tights, she was wearing nothing underneath my shirt.
softness, I was getting hard. I wanted Elizabeth so badly I found myself reaching over to her. I deftly unbuttoned the first button on her shirt. She didn’t stir, but I knew what would wake her. I went for the next button.
Crap! The phone. What a time for an interruption. I answered before the next ring.
Elizabeth should only be woken when I wanted her to.
“Hello,” I mumbled, barely audible.
I’d forgotten I’d left her a message. The sound of her voice embarrassed me. Would Randi guess that I had just begun undressing her daughter? Randi and Mike trusted me to be Elizabeth’s brother. These had not been brotherly thoughts.
“Is something wrong?” Randi fretted.
I did not often call her.
I explained Elizabeth’s injury.
“The pain pills are working. Eli’s sleeping.”
“I’m glad she has you.
I’d be frantic if she was alone.”
“Don’t worry Randi.
I am Elizabeth’s most humble servant.”
“Danny, I’m sure
you’d rather be out partying. It’s Friday.”
“No, not really,” I
answered automatically. Then I realized it was the truth. I wanted to be with Elizabeth. I could party next week when she recovered.
s sleeping in my room tonight. I’ll take the floor. The meds made her pretty loopy. I’ll worry too much if she’s not with me.”
“Thank you, Danny.
I’ll sleep better too if she’s with you,” Randi responded, oblivious to what she had interrupted by her call.
Guilt is a powerful emotion.
Randi’s impeccable timing had to be a sign, a sign that Elizabeth must remain hands-off.
Elizabeth woke a couple of hours later
refreshed and in less pain. To my relief she didn’t notice the open shirt button.
“I’m starving,” she complained.
“We’ll have an early dinner after we ice your ankle.” I eased Elizabeth into a sitting position and applied a fresh ice pack.
er warm smile melted my heart. “You take such good care of me, Danny.”
gled inside, not a good thing. What was wrong with me? I thought Randi’s call had chilled me.
“How’s your pain?”
I asked Eli when I removed the ice twenty minutes later.
“I think it’s improvi
ng,” Eli answered tentatively. “I want to move it, but…”
I took her small hands. “Eli, don’t,” I warned.
“Give it time.”
I don’t like being an invalid. I’m a burden.”
“Not at al
l, Eli. I enjoy taking care of you. This is what friends do.” I emphasized the word friends as much for myself as for her.
Then I dried her ankle an
d re-wrapped it. “There you go. Time to get dressed.”
“Then get out,” she playfully ordered me.
“Don’t you need my help?” I teased.
“Danny! Are you trying for a free show?”
Was I that transparent?
“A boy can try,” I laughed.
“Okay. You get two points for trying, but lose three points for being snarky.”
Eli, you’re killing me!” I loved our easy, playful banter.
“Can you please hand me my clothes?” Eli giggled.
I handed her the neatly folded bundle. Then I stood glued in place watching her, waiting. Eli looked at me, amused. “Daniel, please go,” she finally demanded.
“Right. I’m out there.” Flustered, I left the room. I never get flustered.
Eli had this strange new power over me.
Did Danny want something more? Possibly? Maybe yes.
I blushed at the bra and panty set he had brought. Made of the finest white silk lace, I was goaded into the purchase by Steff and Emma.
Before parting for college, we were shopping in Beverly Hills. Steff spotted the set on a mannequin in the window of a boutique on Rodeo Drive. The ultra-feminine bra was a revealing push-up. Its matching panty was a revealing thong. The girls insisted I buy them.
Steff and Emma had each had boyfriends in high school. My friends were obsessed with my lack of experience and aimed to change it.
“The perfect ensemble for the big night,” Emma had declared.
That was disappointing. The big night should be more spontaneous. I shouldn’t know hours earlier to select the right underwear.
Steff had clinched the sale. “You will want these,” she had insisted, because, “Someday you will meet a guy who makes you get over Danny.”
I smirked at the memory less than two months earlier, and hugged Danny’s shirt close to me. His scent on the cotton was intoxicating and left me grinning like a fool. I had yet to tell either Steff or Emma that Danny was at Donnelly.
In spite of my ankle, I was gleeful. Steff and Emma would die if they knew I was sitting on Danny’s bed wearing nothing but his shirt ready to put on the white lace ensemble. The girls wouldn’t believe I had him waiting on me hand and foot either.
What was he thinking? The set had been near the bottom of the drawer. Danny had obviously been looking for what pleased him. Did Danny want me to model? The thought sent a shiver through me as I struggled to pull on the thong. Perhaps Danny was hoping I’d ask for his assistance. I blushed.
After slipping the dress over my head, I hobbled to the bureau to use Danny’s hairbrush. My ponytail, sweat dampened from dance class would have to do.
I opened the door. “Hi!” I called out.
Danny was speaking with Shane. His eyes opened wide, enjoying the body-skimming shape of the short dress. I smiled with satisfaction.
“Eli,” he gasped, “You look great. Doesn’t she look great, Shane?”
Shane smirked, enjoying Danny’s reaction.
“Whatever. Except for an ankle the size of an orange, your girlfriend looks great.”
“I’m not his girlfriend,” I protested.
“Whatever. Live in whatever alternate reality you want,” Shane muttered.
“Can we go to dinner? I’m starving.”
“Of course you are,” Shane teased.
“Elizabeth never ate lunch,” Danny growled. Then he was at my side. “Let me help you, Sweetheart.”
I let go of the doorframe and grasped Danny’s shoulder for support. With his hand holding my waist, I felt safer.
“Can you please bring me my crutches?” I asked.
Danny lifted me up and sat me on the chair. Shane rolled his eyes. “You’re such a couple,” he taunted. Danny and I glared at him.
Then Danny entered his room and brought the crutches. “Thanks,” I said, letting Danny help me to my feet.
“I’ll drive if you want. The health center gave you a handicapped pass.”
“It’s nice to know that at least in room 313 chivalry is not dead,” Shane said.
Danny and I chose to ignore his lame attempt at humor.
“Let’s walk. I need to get used to these.”
“This, I want to see. Can I come too?” Shane asked. “Unless I’d be intruding.”
It was slow going to the dining hall. I stopped frequently. My frustration increased.
“I’ve got to master this,” I complained when I stopped yet again.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s your first time. I’ll help you, hon,” Danny said with kindness filling his eyes. His words melted my heart.
Danny skimmed my jaw with his fingertips and smiled. My knees weakened.
Once we arrived at the dining hall, Danny led me to our table. He helped me to the chair at the end and placed my crutches on the floor. Then Danny gently lifted my right foot and set it down on a chair he had moved into place for that purpose.
Danny’s eyes were twinkling like fine gems, his electric smile lighting up both his face and mine. I beamed while meeting his gaze.
“I’ll get your dinner.” As Danny straightened, he brushed his lips against mine. We exchanged smiles again and Danny squeezed my shoulder as he passed.
My eyes followed Danny as he walked away. Before he left my line of sight, Danny turned back and grinned. The warmth from his smile radiated throughout me and I knew my smile and glow were here to stay.
“What’s going on?” Rachel interrupted my reverie. I turned to see her amused expression.
“Nothing,” I abruptly answered. The color rose in my cheeks.
“Right,” she said in disbelief. Rachel seated herself two chairs down.
Soon Danny returned and set our dinners down. From his vantage sitting beside me, Danny studied my every movement. Later, he caught me trying to hide a spasm of pain when a fleeting grimace crossed my face.
“Eli?” Danny raised an eyebrow, concerned.
“Just a little throbbing,” I answered, though it was more than a little. I didn’t want Danny to worry, or worse, insist that I take more painkillers.
Using caution, I lifted my foot an inch. I sucked in, holding my breath in anticipation of an increase in the pain that didn’t come.
This might actually help.
“Hey, Elizabeth,” Cam joked from across the table, “Get your stinky foot out of my face. I’m trying to eat.”
Then Cam tickled the bottom of my foot. Reflexively, my foot pointed sending a spasm of pain through me.
“My ankle!” I cried.
“Eli!” Danny exclaimed.
Everyone stopped and starred. I couldn’t hold back. Pain tore through me. Tears spilled down my face. Danny cradled me to his chest for comfort. I cried into his shirt, his thumb stroked my shoulder.
“Cam, what the hell did you do that for?” Danny snapped, his anger showing through narrow, dark sapphires. “Eli’s ankle is shot.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was so bad,” Cam answered contritely.
“It’s almost broken, dickhead,” Danny shot back.
Aiming to lower the tension, I lifted my head and lied. “The pain’s subsiding,” I said slowly and Danny relaxed.
Later, everyone was going to The Cellar except for Danny and I. I felt miserable ruining his evening.
“You don’t have to stay with me,” I told Danny as we slowly walked back to Berkeley Hall after dinner.
“I want to, Eli,” Danny insisted. “I won’t enjoy myself if you’re not there.”
“I mean it, Danny. I’ll feel guilty if you’re stuck in with me.”
“And I’ll feel guilty if I’m not with you.”