8 ~ Felix

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Felix managed to keep it together while Ryan went through his spiel, making sure she knew how to operate a simple remote control and how to adjust the hot water in the bathtub. Once he left, she let herself fall to pieces, returning to her spot on the floor where she had spent the night blocking out images of a woman choking under the grip of powerful hands. She didn't know whose hands they were, but their familiarity haunted her.

After letting herself cry, she decided a hot shower wasn't a bad idea. Of course, she hadn't considered the fact that Ryan's shower would smell like the one she shared with Andy, stocked with toiletries offering her a manly scent. Ryan had Andy beat in the quantity department, however. Three body gels, four shampoos, a leave-in conditioner, and a skin scrub. She tried not to judge the guy. He cared about his hygiene. Just a man in his prime sampling the wares, particularly the silicone variety.

Shelly didn't come across as serious relationship material. She would have stayed to make sure Felix didn't stake a claim on her property. That's what Felix would have done, although she didn't know much about Ryan the person. He was all eye candy at that point, with a chiseled face and a great physique. Felix could definitely see herself staking a claim on him.

After her manly shower, Felix toweled off. Regardless of how she smelled, the last twenty-four hours of sweat and dirt had been removed, but she didn't exactly want to smell like a dude. Rummaging through her duffel, she retrieved her favorite body talc. Felix never made a trip without it. The scent reminded her of her mom, a connection she clung to, along with her phone. Not the one she used to talk to the assholes, the one she used to talk to her family, the family she shut out to keep them safe. Her parents thought she was still living in Cambridge, making visits problematic.

Dousing herself with powder, Felix looked over Ryan's collection of colognes. She only had to glance at the dark green glass and the globe-shaped lid for chills to wrack her body. It was the same cologne Andy wore, and she didn't need to smell it for the emotions to pour over her. For some stupid reason, she reached for the bottle, lifting the lid and holding it under her nose. A lump swelled in her throat as she imagined Andy sitting in a hotel room two thousand miles away, biting his cuticles as he worried himself sick. He had never been like the rest of them. He had a heart, or maybe she only convinced herself he had one because she was stuck with him.

Felix returned the bottle to the counter, grabbed her clothes, and left the bathroom. It held too many triggers. She had to stop thinking about Andy, unless she was considering going back to him, and that sounded less likely by the minute. To distract herself, she powered up Ryan's laptop and typed in his password Excalibur92. She figured he would change it after she left, but it was good of him to share something so personal when he knew she was keeping secrets. The first thing she did was open her bogus Facebook account, the one she set up using her childhood nickname, Miss Calculate, given to her by her sister, Cheryl. Felix had created the account to communicate with her sister and her parents while keeping Andy's ass-ociates out of the loop.

She pulled up Cheryl's account first and the announcement that greeted her had her jaw dropping in shock. After seven years and two kids, Cheryl and her longtime boyfriend were getting married. At Christmas, no less, in the snow-capped mountains of Montana. She quickly composed a congratulatory post, her fingers trembling as they moved across the keyboard. Would she be able to attend the wedding? What would her life look like in the next six months? As soon as she posted the message, her sister sent her a private message.

OMG, Felix! Where have you been? Do you ever answer your phone?

Felix could tell her sister's message had been sent via her cell phone, and she hoped like hell she wasn't driving and texting. Cheryl might be older than her, but she hadn't always been wiser.

Don't worry. I've just been super busy. I want to come to the wedding.

We're having it at a church we've been attending. I hope that doesn't put you off. I want to see you soooo bad. I miss you like crazy.

I have no problem with churches. The last time I checked, I wasn't possessed by evil spirits. I miss you too. Tell mom and dad I said hi and I'm doing fine.

Are you really?

Felix hesitated. She and Cheryl had always been able to share secrets. In fact, Cheryl was the only person she shared her drawings with because she knew Cheryl wouldn't judge her. Some of them were pretty disturbing. As far as sisters went, Cheryl was awesome, but this secret stretched beyond disturbing.

For the first time in a long time, I think I'm finally figuring out what I want. I'll try to keep in touch. I love you.

I love you too, Felicity.

The fact that Cheryl called her Felicity had Felix tearing up. She abandoned the laptop to stand at the window, taking in her surroundings through watery eyes. Ryan lived on a busy road, with plenty of crap to distract a person from having a break down. There was an alley directly across the street, and she counted at least four unsavories camped there. She also noticed a diner a few doors down with a neon sign that claimed they served fresh baked pies. Felix loved pie. Andy was more of a cake guy, but she never begrudged his preferences. Did Ryan like pie?

Felix's phone buzzed with a text. She really didn't want to hear from an asshole right now, but she had to look. It was from Ryan.

Just got out of court. You want Italian for lunch? I'll stop and get whatever sounds good to you.

At that moment, Felix realized she was receiving texts from a hot guy (yes, she was admitting Ryan was hot), and he was asking her preferences for lunch. It's not like Andy never did that, but Andy had been her first and only boyfriend. This was new territory for her. Not that Ryan was her boyfriend, he was just a friend who had opened his home to her without judgement or prejudice. He was probably wondering how long he would have to put up with her. She sent a text back before she analyzed herself into a corner.

Anything Italian sounds delicious. Don't forget the sausage. I love me some Italian sausage.

As soon as she sent the text, she wished she could take it back. Ryan's response made her face catch fire.

You read my mind. FYI – I'm half Italian.

PLAYLIST SONG: Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds

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