Chapter 23 - Privacy

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Joe put his finger over his lips as Caleb entered the apartment. Caleb glanced at the sofa and whispered, "Is she sleeping over?"

"I'm not waking her," Joe whispered back.

He stood and followed Caleb right into his room. Looking around he observed that it was a mess with papers strewn across the floor and video games piled on his desk that should be used for homework. The worst were the clothes littering the floor.

"I hope you know what's clean because I'm not lugging clean clothes to the laundromat to wash again..."

"Yeah, what do you want?" His voice was full of attitude.

"I wanted to know what you did tonight..."

"Nothing..."

"Nothing for four hours sounds pretty boring."

"I hung out with Gaby."

"Where?"

"Um... her basement."

"Is she your girlfriend?" Joe asked.

"I don't know. There's another guy that she hangs out with..."

"Is she screwing both of you?" Joe asked.

"Um, privacy! You want me to ask if you're doing my teacher."

"No, but you better wear a condom if you're going to fool around."

"Can you just shut up?" Caleb said.

"Shush," Joe reminded him.

"You're the one who invaded my space..."

Joe held up his hands and left Caleb's room. Ella was still asleep and he wished he could fit next to her. He really didn't want to go to bed with her on his sofa.

She had been out late the night before having drinks with Christa, Tony and his friend who went to meet Christa. He heard the evening went well and Christa was smiling when Joe saw her at school.

Joe had almost given up waiting up for Ella's call. By the time she had driven home, it was well past her work night bedtime. She was dragging all day while Christa was driving Ella crazy because she was full of energy. Apparently, she was going out with Dylan again.

Meanwhile, Ella came over and dozed off around nine. Joe had sat correcting paper and glancing at her every few minutes. She looked beautiful, but Joe was still pinching himself that she was there at all. Every so often after he glanced at her peaceful face, he would check his phone to see Caleb's whereabouts. He had been in one place all night not far from their apartment.

Joe debated and decided to move Ella. The biggest risk was not waking her, but her deciding to go home after she woke. She was so light that he could easily lift her. He knew that she had lost weight because of him. Her slight figure caused him guilt and so much regret.

When he lifted her, she stirred enough to nuzzle into his neck. He put her down on his bed and climbed in next to her. More nights than he could count he had longed to be sharing his bed with her. He gathered her in his arms and she nuzzled into him. He instantly regretted his decision for fear he would be too distracted to sleep, but her calming vanilla scent enveloped him and he drifted off.

He woke to her stirring beside him. He opened his eyes and she was looking at him.

"Were you watching me sleep?" he asked with a dry cotton mouth. She smiled and he added, "I watched you all night. I still have trouble believing you're here with me."

She reached up and caressed his cheek and said, "I kept thinking I would never see your peaceful face again. I'm sorry I fell asleep."

"You were tired..."

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