6:00 pm – continued
She gave him a thankful smile as he took the other two bags and hoisted them into the dumpster. Slamming the top of it back down and dusting his hands off, he gave her a grin. Feeling considerably lighter, they headed back inside and into the waiting elevator.
“You’re okay with pork, right?” she asked.
She shrugged. “My ex couldn’t stand it. I haven’t had it in three years and I’m dying to sink my teeth into a good pork roast. I used my mom’s recipe. It’s the best in the world, my absolute favorite dish.”
He laughed as he leaned against one wall of the elevator. “I’m kind of surprised you’re not having dinner with your family.”
“Well, my brother got married this morning and then we had lunch with my grandparents, so the family’s already had a last meal together. And I think my grandparents were planning on playing all of their favorite board games. My mom wanted to be alone. I’m assuming she’s lying by my dad’s grave all night. At least, that’s where she was headed after my grandparents’ party. He died a few months ago in an accident. My mom hasn’t been the same since. My brother and his husband are having their first and last dinner as a married couple together after a long afternoon of parties with both families, so I’m on my own. I guess you could say I’m glad for the company.”
He bowed to her as they passed the second floor. “I’m happy to oblige.”
Stacie laughed. “What about you? You mentioned a mother and sister.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I’m sure my mom’s going to just sit in front of her TV and watch repeats all night. That’s what she usually does. Like I said, she doesn’t believe this is the end of the world. I had lunch with my sister and her family and I think they’re planning on being with her husband’s family tonight.” He lowered her voice and put a hand up next to his mouth as though he were going to share a secret. “They’re much more functional than my family is.”
She laughed again as the elevator dinged and let them off on the fourth floor. They made their way down the hall and she opened her door, realizing she hadn’t locked it behind her. Fortunately, nothing looked disturbed, and she doubted anyone would want anything from her now practically bare apartment, anyways. Closing the door behind him, she invited him to make himself comfortable and then she went to pull her roast from the oven. Smiling happily to herself, she hurriedly finished making dinner and set the little dining table placed between the living room and the kitchen.
They enjoyed a quiet dinner together, sharing stories of their childhoods and what they had been up to since becoming responsible adults. Since they would be dead at midnight, they weren’t too interested in determining whether they would be compatible or not. There wouldn’t be time for a real relationship, but they were nevertheless glad they were going to be together for the rest of their lives.
As they finished their meal and wine, Ryan placed a hand across her plate as she tried to pick it up as she rose.
“Let me put the dishes away. I know we’re all going to be dead at midnight, but I like leaving tidy homes. I’ll clean up so you can take your time and get dressed.”
She smiled at him, a little surprised, but grateful for his thoughtfulness and generosity. “Thanks, Ryan. That’s really sweet of you. But don’t you need to get ready?”
He shrugged. “Not really. I’m already dressed and this is my favorite outfit, so I’m happy to die in it.”
She shrugged. “Well, okay, then. I’ll be out in a little bit.”
“Take your time. You should look your absolute best tonight. I mean, not that you usually don’t, but I hope you know what I mean.”
She laughed. “Don’t worry, Ryan. I do.”
With a little wave of her fingers, she vanished into her bedroom and he collected the dishes and took them over to her sink. By the time he was finished washing them, Stacie was emerging from her bedroom, fully dressed and ready to go.
“Wow,” he said, drying his hands on a plain beige dish towel. “You’re really fast.”
She gave him a shy smile. “I never really took long to get dressed.” Spinning in a slow circle, she asked, “What do you think?”
He surveyed her as she turned around again, this time in the opposite direction. She had changed into a thigh-length red dress with a deep V neckline. It was cinched at the waist with a slender black belt. She had her hair down and it tumbled down her back with a gentle curl at the ends. He face was lightly made up and it only served to highlight her natural beauty. On her feet she wore strappy black sandals with a three inch high heel.
“You look great, Stacie,” he said, openly admiring her. “I think every guy will be jealous of me tonight.”
She smiled and they headed for the door. “Thanks, Ryan.”
Stacie grabbed her car keys from the basket she had placed on the small, half circle table sitting by the door. She glanced over her shoulder at Ryan with a smile as she turned the doorknob and yanked open the door. Turning back to the doorway, though, made her gasp and step back, almost planting a heel on Ryan’s toes. The poor man had to dance back to avoid her heel and to keep from colliding with her back.
Before her, in the hallway, Brant stood with a bouquet of red roses, dressed in a charcoal gray suit that matched his eyes, and an apologetic smile spread over his face that slowly vanished as he caught sight of Ryan. His eyes immediately turned to a steely gray and his jaw tightened at the sight of another man standing behind Stacie.
Stacie folded her arms across her chest. “Oh, this is going to be good,” she muttered to herself. Clearing her throat and narrowing her eyes slightly, she asked, “What are you doing here, Brant? Where’s that dream girl you dumped me for?”
“Well, I, uh,” he stammered, his fingers tightening around the stems of the blood red roses.
She grinned. “I take it you never found her so now you’re running back to me. Well, sorry, buddy, I moved on.”
“Stacie, I’m really sorry. I should never have dumped you.”
“Well, sorry, Brant. Like I said, I’ve moved on.” She reached behind her and linked her arm around Ryan, pulling him forward, letting Ryan close the door behind him. “Meet my new boyfriend, Ryan.”
Brant stammered a hello as the new couple danced around him and headed down the hallway. Stacie inwardly smiled to herself while Ryan looked a little dazed before his expression became concerned.
“Did you really mean that back there?” he asked. “That I’m your new boyfriend?”
She smiled up at him and linked her arm through his. “Yeah. Yeah, I meant it. You’re a great guy and I do really want to spend this last night with you. I mean it, Ryan.”
He smiled down at her. “You’ll get no argument from me.”
Leaving Brant still standing in front of his ex-girlfriend’s door, Stacie and Ryan stepped into the elevator that had just delivered Brant to the fourth floor. The one good thing to Brant’s sudden reappearance was that they didn’t have to wait for the elevator.