14 ~ Felix

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The laundry room was small, with only three washers and two dryers, bringing back memories of Felix's college days when she did battle with her roommates over the laundry schedule. She filled a washer with her clothes plus the items from Ryan's hamper. Other than having to separate whites from darks, she was discrete about it, making the pleasant discovery that he wore Calvin Klein briefs. From that point on, she imagined him in them. She had always been a sucker for male underwear ads.

Andy's texts had become sterile. I miss you and I hope you're safe. She figured Shane was snatching Andy's phone any time he felt like it. His friends were such jerks. When Felix returned to the laundry room to make the transfer, an unshaven man dressed in a plain white tee and reeking of cigarettes was hauling his clothes from a dryer. Her go-to response with a single stranger in unfamiliar surroundings was a brief greeting with no idle chit-chat, but he happened to be standing in front of the only available dryer.

"Will you be needing that dryer?" she asked, trying not to judge him based on the number of white tee shirts in his basket or the fact that they were stained.

He stopped what he was doing and gave her a full body scan. Felix's creep radar had her fingers flinching. "No, I'm done. Are you new to the building? I haven't seen you around. I'm sure I would have remembered."

Yeah, definitely a creep. "I'm just visiting a friend." She took cover behind her laundry basket, while he continued to gawk at her.

"Nice tats. I've got a few myself." He held out an arm to show her a vicious tiger detailed in orange ink. "Yours look tribal. Did you design them?"

"Yes. They're fractal equations."

"What? I've never heard of that technique."

"It involves computer generated graphics."

The man's face went blank and she knew she'd lost him. After a few moments of awkward silence, he hoisted his basket onto his shoulder. "Well, see you 'round."

Not if I can help it, she said under her breath.

Felix managed to avoid another creep encounter on her final trip to the laundry room, and she loaded her duffel with everything she currently owned, folding Ryan's clean clothes on the couch. He texted her when he was heading home, and she used the time to pack a cooler with a few food items for their trip. Fortunately, Ryan made reasonable snack food choices. She found bottled water, an unopened bag of pita chips, and a box of raisins. Felix couldn't help thinking of family picnics, and pretended her life was normal as she set everything on the kitchen counter.

"It looks like you've done this before." Ryan wore a smile as he walked into his apartment and surveyed the scene. "We'll only be gone a couple of days."

"You said it was an eleven hour drive," Felix explained. "I know men don't like to stop once they hit the freeway, so I'm bringing a few things to prevent starvation."

Ryan laughed. "You mean it's not just me and my dad who do that? I'll pack and we can get on the road."

Ryan's Impala wasn't your average Impala. It was a nineteen sixty-seven classic, midnight black with a chrome grill. Felix hated to admit it, but she felt like a gangster riding in it, and Ryan looked like a badass behind the wheel, with his hair brushed back in a wave and his Ray-Bans perched over his forehead. The sun had already set by the time they got on the road, but Ryan was determined to get business taken care of and get home in the shortest time possible.

Felix had promised to keep him awake on the drive down, and she entertained him with trivia, compliments of an app on her smart phone. When she noticed he was getting frustrated with the questions, she turned on the radio as a distraction. It wasn't until they pulled into a rest stop and her eyelids fluttered open that she realized she had dozed off.

"Damn. I'm sorry, Ryan. I didn't mean to fall asleep," she said, reaching for her water bottle.

"It's cool. Now, you'll be rested up to drive the next half of the trip." He threw her the keys before opening the door. "I gotta take a leak. You should probably do the same."

Felix smiled, feeling a little smug at his confidence in her. She had a hunch he didn't give many women permission to take control of his Impala, although she suspected he wasn't as choosy about his dick. So far, he hadn't made any moves on her. Was he being considerate of her delicate condition? He knew she had a boyfriend—had being the operative word. As much as she hated to admit it, Andy was ancient history.

Of course, Ryan could prove a challenging subject. Many of his go-to responses were flavored with his cop persona, and he appeared to have minimal experience with long-term relationships, but Felix had seen enough to decide Ryan was worth taking a chance on. She was no stranger to risks.


PLAYLIST SONG: Gaslighting Abbie by Steely Dan

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