A Holiday Treat pt. 2 (All I Want For Christmas…)
Continue the story with an early look into chapter 2 of My Silent New York Night...
The alarm went off and I jolted up out of bed.
There was an annoying beeping going off and it took a minute for me to realize where it was coming from. I quickly grabbed my phone and shut it off. Much better. I promptly fell back into my pillow with a loud groan.
I hated mornings as much as I hated the thought of leaving my warm bed. But I had that damn interview to get to and if I didn’t get my butt up now, I was going to be late.
With another groan, I pushed away the heavy covers and got out of bed. The smell of sausage and cheesy grits greeted me the moment I opened my door. Oh, I love you Nana. Suddenly, I was eager to get my shower out of the way. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and padded down to the bathroom, barely registering the light streaming underneath the door before I shoved it open.
A nude man was the last thing I expected to see.
Standing on my Nana’s peach-colored bathmat was nothing but stark naked man flesh—in all his male glory. My mouth fell open and I couldn’t quite seem to get the gasp that was trapped inside my throat out. I barely spared the navy blue hand towel in his hands a glance as I stared at him with what I was sure was a stupid look on my face.
I immediately snapped my gaping mouth shut, but I had less control over my eyes. His shoulders and arms were lean yet muscular, and try as I might, I couldn’t stop my gaze from following the trail of damp chest hair past his abdomen, down to his pelvis, and right to his—oh, my!
My face flushed with embarrassment until I finally came to my senses, shutting the door with more force than I intended. Embarrassment wasn’t the right word for it. I was mortified.
And wide awake now!
“Wow,” was all I could think to say before I pushed away from the door. I rushed to the kitchen to find my Nana by the sink.
I practically flew to her side. “Nana, we have a problem,” I began in a strained whisper.
She turned to me, concern in her brown eyes. “What’s the matter, chipmunk?”
“I think your new roommate just let her boyfriend spend the night.”
“I just saw a naked man in the bathroom. I think she let her boyfriend spend the night.”
“Yes! Her boyfriend.”
“Nana!” I took a deep breath, trying to control my rising frustration, and began again, slowly. “Nana, listen to me. I just went into the bathroom and found this strange man in there. I didn’t bring him home. I know you didn’t bring him home.” I hope! “So he has to be…” My words trailed off when Nana gave me a strange look then fell into the chair, laughing. I blew out a breath in frustration.
“Nana, this is not funny. She can’t just bring some strange man into our house! What if—” What if he had seen me naked! I winced in embarrassment just at the thought. He certainly would have gotten an eyeful.
“Ceese, you’re being silly, and it is too early for this foolishness.”
“You mean to tell me you let Meesha bring men home?”
Nana started laughing again. “The man you met in the bathroom is Meesha.”
I frowned. “Wait…what?”
“Don’t give me that crazy look. You heard me. Now, who did you think Meesha was?”
For a moment, I was at a loss for words. “Come on, Nana. Meesha? That sounds like a black girl with a quick weave.” Not at all like a tall, well-built—and well-hung—white guy with…what color were his eyes again?
“I thought you Hollywood types were supposed to be open-minded. What’s wrong with his name? Your fake name sounds like something out of a fairytale.”
“It isn’t fake. And at least mine was on purpose. Who names their son Meesha? What grown man lets himself be called Meesha!”
Her grandmother shrugged. “I don’t know, but apparently where he’s from that’s a popular name.”
“Where is he from?”
“I don’t remember, but it’s somewhere in Russia.”
Great. Now we had a foreign stranger in our home.
“Nana, are you sure this guy is legit? Did you or Joanne do a background check? What if he’s a Russian gangster running from the mob. We could all be in danger!”
“Ceese, you watch too much movies. That boy ain’t no gangster. He’s actually a student at Hunter College, and did I mention he’s working two jobs? He’s a hard worker with a good head on his shoulders. He’s a good boy.”
He was no boy.
An image of his naked body flashed in my mind and I blinked at the unexpected memory. Oh, no. I had just gotten a full look at the new roommate’s penis. How was I supposed to face him now? I closed my eyes in mortification and the visual of his broad, naked body flashed again in my head.
My eyes flew open.
“Nana, I still think you should do a background check. What’s his last name?”
“Markov,” said a male voice behind me.
I whirled around, instantly recognizing the deep baritone voice of the man who had helped me up last night. I groaned inwardly. Wonderful. He’s seen me fall on my butt and I’ve seen him naked.
But he continued staring at me with a curious yet polite expression on his face. A handsome face, at that, I begrudgingly admitted. I wondered if he recognized me. The amusement in his teal blue eyes said that he did.
He didn’t look like a young, fresh-faced college student—or the academic type. From what I’d just seen of him, he looked like he was no stranger to hard, physical…labor.
“Good morning, Meesha,” Nana greeted, snapping me out of my musings of him and his body. “Don’t mind my granddaughter. Ceese can be a little overprotective.”
“No problem, Ms. Gayle. Ceese is smart to be cautious.”
I hadn’t meant to blurt out those words, but he’d kept his gaze on me when he spoke and his intense scrutiny was unnerving. And I wasn’t sure how I felt about the easy familiarity in which he said my nickname. Besides, only my family and best friend called me “Ceese”.
“Ceese, don’t be rude,” Nana scolded me before turning to Meesha, who didn’t look at all offended. “Don’t mind her again, Meesha. She’s going through a name change phase. We all call her Ceese for short. Though, she’s still my little chipmunk. Just look at those cheeks.”
I rolled my eyes. “Nana, please.” I swore my Nana loved to embarrass me just for kicks. She and I both knew my cheeks hadn’t been chubby and round since the ninth grade.
But my Nana’s new roomie simply smiled politely and extended his hand to me. “Mischa Markov.”
He smiled knowingly at me. “Yes.”
I turned to my forever-getting-names-wrong grandmother. “Nana, it’s Mish-ka. Not Meesha.”
“That’s what I said.”
I shook my head and turned back to our new roommate. I promptly slipped my hand into his for a quick handshake then immediately pulled it away, still not quite able to make direct eye contact with him. My gaze centered on his chest, which was now covered with a black T-shirt and paired with dark jeans. I was acutely aware of my simple pink and purple polka dotted nightshirt I wore that came down to my mid-thigh. Barely.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Mischa, but I have an interview to get ready for.”
“Make sure you leave time to eat something before you go,” Nana instructed.
As much as the savory smells called out to me, I couldn’t imagine sitting at the kitchen table with a strange guy I’d just seen stark naked a few minutes ago. Not when the images were still forcing their way into my head.
“Thanks, Nana. But I’m running late. I’ll just grab something on the way there.” I turned to Mischa, still not able to meet his eyes. “Next time, could you try locking the door behind you?”
I didn’t miss the rise of his left eyebrow, but he simply inclined his head and muttered in his deep, alluring accent, “Maybe next time you can knock first.”
I narrowed my eyes at him before I marched out of the kitchen, my cheeks burning from another unexpected visual of him standing in the bathroom, holding nothing but a hand towel. As I moved passed him, he retorted in a tone only I could hear, “Or maybe you can join me.”
I made it up the last flight of stairs from the subway station and was greeted by a cold blast of the December air. I paused for a moment to regain my bearings.
It’s still so damn cold.
Not only did the icy air make it difficult to breath, but man...those stairs! Am I really that out of shape? I hadn’t realized how much walking and stair-climbing was required in this city until I been forced to do it all day.
Now that I was finally heading home, I couldn’t seem to walk there fast enough. I passed a horde of people huddled in long winter coats, others in fur-trimmed puffer jackets, all hurrying down the sidewalk. My neighborhood may not be as crowded as downtown, but this was New York City and there were always people rushing around. Then again, it was also after five o’clock on a Friday and I could imagine they were all eager to get home before the temperature dropped again.
God, I miss L.A.
No, you don’t, I instantly reminded myself. In Los Angeles, I may have been warm, but I had also been broke and a rent payment away from being homeless. At least here, in this loud and crowded city, I had a warm bed to sleep in and a steady job starting on Monday.
Though cleaning office buildings wasn’t necessarily what I had planned to do when I returned to New York, at least my bank account wouldn’t look pathetic anymore.
Evidently, the interview had immediately turned into a new hire orientation. I’d essentially spent the rest of my Friday filling out paperwork, meeting my new supervisor, and picking up my job assignment and uniform.
At least I would have this weekend to myself before I embarked on my thrilling profession as nightly cleaning woman.
As I neared Nana’s brownstone, the mixed aroma of sautéed spices and grilled meat teased my senses. I immediately recognized the smell of my favorite halal restaurant. I paused, debating whether I should spend my last ten bucks there when someone called out to me.
I looked up and immediately recognized those tall, slender legs walking toward me. Even with her long, curly hair piled in a messy bun on top of her head and bundled in a puffer jacket, huge cowl scarf, and black leggings, my old best friend looked chic and stylish. In that moment, I wished I had on something just as cute and chic than my boring interview suit and wool cap.
My best friend Joanne Vega paused in front of me before she threw her arms around me and pulled me into a tight hug. “Oh my God, Ceese! I can’t believe it’s you!”
I was taken aback by the hug, but immediately returned it. I hadn’t expected her to be this enthused to see me, after a year of barely speaking. But then Joanne had never been one to hold grudges and I had almost forgotten how fun-loving and easy-going she was. Apparently, I had been the only one feeling resentful by our lack of communication and I suddenly felt guilty for not doing a better job in maintaining our friendship.
Joanne pulled back and studied me, a wide smile on her pretty, light brown face. “I heard you were coming back, but I didn’t believe it. When did you get in?”
Why didn’t she believe it? “My flight got in last night. LA was fun, but I figured it was time I explored other avenues,” I added. Like not being broke.
“Well, I’m glad you’re back, chica. I’ve missed you!”
I laughed when Joanne pulled me into another excited hug. “I’ve missed you too, girl. It’s been too long.”
“Yes, it has! I know Hollywood kept you busy, but now that you’re back home, there should be no excuses on why we can’t hang out.”
I glanced away sheepishly. Is that what my family and friends thought? That I’d been too busy for them? “I hear you’ve been going to church with Nana on Sunday’s. How about we do brunch after?”
“Yes! But only if you promise to do my make-up after.”
“For my vlog. I’m doing a video on my favorite winter looks and I need to look good for my subbies.”
I stared at her, incredulous. “You have a video blog?”
Joanne laughed. “Don’t look so surprised. I may not be so good with computers, but I know how to work a camera and the internet.”
“No, it’s not that,” I rushed out, still surprised. Joanne had certainly grown from the shy, awkward girl she’d once been. “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have subscribed too.”
Joanne shrugged. “I’ve only had it for about two-three years now. It’s still new but I’m getting new subscribers every day and having lots of fun with it.”
“That’s awesome Joanne.” It was great to see my bestie break out of her shell. She had always been a bit shy when we were growing up and even though I would tell her she reminded me of a Puerto Rican Jessica Alba, she had always hid her beauty behind frumpy clothes. I was happy to see Joanne let herself shine now, but I couldn’t help the disappointment that came over me.
Am I the only one not doing anything with my life?
“I would be happy to help you with your make-up,” I added, burying my self-pity as deep as I could.
“No, I don’t want you to help me. I want you to do it for me. You obviously picked up some mad skills, girl,” Joanne said, studying my face. “You look gorgeous.”
I frowned. “I do?”
Joanne rolled her eyes. “Girl, you know you do. Did you just come from an audition?”
Ha! I wish. “No, I had a job interview. Downtown.” I couldn’t quite bring myself to divulge exactly for what just yet.
“Well, I want you to make me look like this on Sunday,” Joanne said, motioning toward my face with her index finger.
I smiled, flattered. “I think I can do that.”
It had been a long day today, but I was glad to see the painstaking care I’d taken with my looks that morning had not only paid off, but had held up.
For a split second, I wondered if Mischa Markov would take notice, then instantly recoiled at the thought.
Get a grip, Ceese, I scolded myself. You’re acting like you want him or something.
And I didn’t.
Check back tomorrow for a special look into chapter 3.