“Guess what.” Lizzie slammed the front door behind her and sprawled herself across Gordon’s lap. He’d been warring with words in his mind, which really meant that he was sipping on a beer and considering the possibility of playing a video game. Of course he couldn’t humor those impulses when she was putting him on the spot like that, so he just had to narrow his eyes at her like he had any clue what she was going on about.
“You’ve finally decided to get breast implants?”
She swatted his chest but didn’t abandon his lap, so he knew that she had to be excited if she avoided taking offense. “I got a job today,” she revealed, too excited to endure the path his train of thought would take. “No more working in the bar when it’s convenient.”
There was a sinking feeling in his chest before he could muster up the excitement to match her own. To him, a job meant being stuck in one place, wedded to one employer and that superior’s drive rather than his own. It seemed like slow, voluntary suicide to him, but he knew that not everyone had goals like his own. For Lizzie, it was the opportunity to make more money and maybe make her way up the corporate ladder. She’d done poorly in school, so there were fewer chances for her out there than most. “I start on Monday,” she added when he was still quiet.
“That’s brilliant,” he told her, hoping that he sounded convincing. In his ideal world, she would follow him from town to town, cheering him on from the crowd every day. To make their relationship work, she’d upended her life to crash in his apartment, and he hadn’t managed to secure steady employment in the meantime. One of them had to bring in enough money for the rent, and she had taken on that burden without a single complaint. “What will you be doing while I’m caught up missing you?”
She rolled her eyes but was more than used to his melodrama by this point. “I’ll just be doing office assistant work. Answering phones, sorting mail, running errands. It’ll be nice though. If I do that well, maybe I’ll get appointed to a better position. Even if I don’t, it’s experience so I can always move on to a better job. I’m not qualified at all for this, but I think the guy who interviewed me really liked me. Or at least he liked my tits enough to think they’re needed around the office.”
Gordon tried not to let his jealous side flare up, but the idea of someone else getting to see her during the hours that he was isolated for her made him grit his teeth a little. “Well, if he starts to get too awful, just remember that you can file a sexual harassment lawsuit against him, and then we’ll never have to work again. No pressure.”
She giggled and pressed her palms against his cheeks, smashing his face up in a rather unattractive manner. “At least tell me that you’re proud of me.”
“I’m incredibly proud of you.” His features softened as he realized how important this was for her. When she’d moved to Brooklyn, he had been the only person she had in her corner. Her family had been enraged by the spontaneous decision to move in with her new boyfriend, and he had been so stunned by his ability to call her his own that he hadn’t protested taking the relationship to the next level. She’d taken initiative since arriving, putting her bartending experience to good use, but she’d kept an eye out for something with better hours and pay. “I’d be more proud if you found a way to make money by just having sex with me though,” he informed her.
“I think for that, I’d have to charge you for sex, and if the money’s just coming out of my own pocket, it’s not accomplishing anything,” she told him before she pecked him on the tip of his nose. “Now you get to fuck a secretary. Think of all the fantasies you get to live out.”
“And all the fantasies your boss will get to live out.”
“Not until Monday.” She eased herself off his lap with feline agility and tried not to grin too widely. “I think we should do some celebrating though. What do you think?”
“I think I want to know what you’re thinking about in terms of celebration.”
She gave him a tiny smirk and then pulled off her dress in response. Underneath, she had worn a bra and pair of panties that matched, black and lace-trimmed with golden polka dots trying to capture additional attention. “So, you want to go shopping?” he asked, doing his best to look perplexed.
She pressed her full lips together firmly and scowled, but it didn’t last long. She understood him and his need to push her to her emotional limits, and unlike most women, she seemed to relish in it. She didn’t acknowledge his question, instead stepping forward to grab the hem of his shirt and coax it up over his head. The t-shirt caught on his chin, his nose, but he didn’t dare complain lest she give up and retreat to put on her clothes. He could never predict how she’d react, and he loved that challenging part of her. He just needed to know when exactly to engage it.
“Are you proud of me?” When she posed the question, this time she seemed much more vulnerable. There wasn’t room for teasing when their clothes were coming off. They’d only been in something resembling a proper relationship for a few months, fucking for far longer than that, and sometimes it felt more natural for them to come together than it did to have a conversation. They had to push themselves to balance the physical with the emotional.
But sometimes there were no words for what they wanted or needed from one another. “You’re a better person than I am, Lizzie,” he whispered as he stood to kiss her. Her body pressed against him with a desperate hunger, a need for approval. They meant more to each other than ever before, and even as she made new connections in New York, he was forever her anchor to the city.
There was a certain sadness that always manifested itself within her when he insulted himself. She thought he was a beautiful person and had always seen his potential, but actually getting him to understand that was difficult. She saw the possibilities for his future, but he was forever aware of the shortcomings of his past. She didn’t know every dark corner, all of the things that had gone wrong and had become patterns in his life. “I’m not better,” she murmured against his mouth. “We just make each other better.”
A protest climbed up to his lips immediately, but she placed her hands on his shoulders, an unspoken plea for him to bend down to reach her level. Already they had built their own vocabulary with touches rather than words, their bodies coming to understand one another even as they still learned one another’s personalities. Since she’d moved in, they’d occupied a sort of fantasy world where he got to come home to a woman he could see himself loving. They weren’t ruled by bosses but could just lounge about and be creative.
But the bills wouldn’t pay for themselves, and it hadn’t taken long for them to get to this point. She would be the responsible one for his sake, and he had to remind himself that she wasn’t pulling away from him by getting a job. Instead it was an investment of faith in him. She would buckle down and find a way to take care of the logistics so he could focus on his album’s approaching release, the make or break moment for the band.
She found his hands and guided them to the clasp of her bra. He could feel the heat of her body beneath his fingertips, pulling him back to the present. He couldn’t worry like he always used to. It was easy to focus on the negativity in his life when he was alone, but day in and day out, he woke up to her. To push her away when she was actually excited to support him would be foolish, and he understood that. “Lizzie.”
“Don’t.” She pushed the straps off her arms and took a step forward. “You don’t have to say anything else.”
So he didn’t.