Welcome Home Ch. 01byAlisonBanks©
It was the middle of September when Lauren Blanco's plane touched down in her hometown. She had been gone for 3 years, but to her it felt like just an instant. She looked out onto the tarmac of the familiar Midway International Airport in Chicago, sighed heavily, and thought to herself, "This is it. You're home. No chance to run now." She smiled politely as the middle-aged man next to her grumbled something incomprehensible. He had been complaining about the flight to no one in particular the whole time they were in the air. "Some people are unsatisfiable," she thought as she feigned empathy for the man, failing to see the irony in her thoughts. Lauren left her home in search of something that didn't exist, a perfect life. At least she wrapped up her Bachelor's degree while living South; something no one else in her immediate family can claim.
As the plane cleared out, she dug for her sweater at the bottom of her bag. She laughed to herself at the thought of wearing a sweater in September, having become so acclimated to the heat of Texas. Just a few years ago she wouldn't dream of pulling out the warm clothes until it got below 55 degrees. How was she going to handle the rink after all this time, she wondered. Time will tell, time will tell. She repeated that phrase to herself over and over again for as long as she could remember. It helped soothe her anxiety somewhat when she was reminded that things have a way of working themselves out. As she grabbed her bag from the overhead bin, her stomach did flips. Trent, she remembered. She was supposed to meet Trent, her old teammate and coworker at the rink, tonight. Oh why did she promise that? She had just two hours to settle into her hotel room and then meet him at her favorite hot dog place in River North. Fuck.
The city was just as she remembered it. The ambiance was exactly the same, even if they have developed all her old stomping grounds into unrecognizable shells of their former selves. Lauren looked at her watch as she transferred from the Orange Line to the Red. "An hour and fifteen minutes, fuck," she whispered out loud. She was un-showered, exhausted, and she wouldn't be able to really settle in for a long while. Why did Trent have to be so subtly irresistible? "No biggie if you can't meet up tomorrow," Lauren remembered him saying, "but I will be in Toronto for a couple of weeks so it's either then or you'll have to wait..." He knew Lauren would never choose to wait. While Trent wasn't exactly immodest, he knew how to charm women... especially Lauren. They clicked so well, so many years ago, they both knew they would have a connection through anything.
"Late for something?" quipped a young professional, standing next to Lauren on the train platform. At about 5'10", thin but not wiry, in a tailored gray suit, Lauren found him to be nonthreatening, but also not very interesting. He had a stock hair cut, a veneered smile, and probably worked at the Board of Trade at some soul sucking job that he figures earns him the affection of all women who are at a "7 or above". She knew the type, and they were a dime a dozen in Chicago.
"Heh, no, just social obligations that never end," she replied, trying to be polite while absently looking at her phone. She wasn't in the mood to chat, and certainly not with this yuppie. He looked her up and down, obviously liking what he saw. Lauren was a petite girl, but had something very solid about her. At 5'3" and 120lbs, she wasn't very tall, but she stood up straight and had the body language of a very confident woman. Her shoulders were square and not slumped, her natural brown hair fell in waves around her shoulders and down her back, right around her bra strap. Her makeup was simple and brought out her big hazel eyes and naturally soft, plump lips. She looked put together, but effortless.
"Well if you ever have room in that schedule, you should give me a call," said the stranger as he handed her his card. His gaze went from her eyes down to her body. Her curvy frame wore the light gray jersey knit dress well. It clung to the curves of her breasts, down to her stomach, hips, and thighs. There wasn't much skin showing, but there didn't have to be. The fabric left little to the imagination, despite her having a sweater on and the dress being down to her knees. The relative chill of the Chicago air, combined with her growing excitement of her date with Trent caused her nipples to harden and her face and lips were colored light pink from natural flush.
Lauren smiled in her usual way, politely and tight lipped, and took his card. Jason Reinli, works at NYSE Euronext. Of course. She can read these guys from a mile away. Another day, another stock jock. She shoved the card into her pocket and let out a silent sigh of relief when he exited the train at the next station. After scrolling aimlessly up and down her smartphone menu screen, she finally decided to text Trent. She had let him message her three times before deciding what to say back.
Trent 5:55pm: Welcome home, bby girl! Saw your plane landed, txt me
Trent 6:21pm: See you at Portillo's at 8? Wanna get a drink or five after, meet up with the guys?
Trent 6:58pm: Yes? No? Maybe so?
It shouldn't be so hard to just act normal around someone you've known since you were 14, right? Their friendship started so easily, it flowed organically, never forced. Even when they didn't talk for a couple of years at a time, they simply picked up where they left off. Still, the thought of seeing Trent again gave her chills. She had her share of men while in Texas, but they didn't hold a candle to Trent, even though their relationship had always been, aside from one indescretion, platonic. It didn't matter, he was the person in which she compared all other men, whether it was conscious or not.
As she hit the reply button on her phone her body became hot suddenly. She felt the heat rise from her stomach, up her through her chest, and finally settling on her face and neck. She wanted to take her sweater off, but didn't want to cause any unwanted attention as she already felt overwhelmed by a man who wasn't even standing near her.
Lauren 7:03pm: Portillo's 8pm Yes. Drinks after? Maybe. The guys? Not so much. Dig?
Not even a minute later, as she stared at her message, overanalyzing it, Trent wrote back:
Trent 7:04pm: Purrfect. See you there, kitten.
He always had these nicknames for her. She simply called him Trent, or when he was being particularly irritating, she'd call him "T-Bone". He hated that name. "Kitten," she whispered to herself. She bit her lip, still gazing at their simple exchange, thinking about how she'd love to let him make her purr.
"Grand and State is next. Doors open on the right at Grand and State."
As the familiar recording boomed, Lauren was snapped back into reality. Her stop was next and she needed to collect her things and her thoughts. Luckily her mother worked in the hotel business and secured her a lux room for the next month at a fancy downtown hotel, right off of the Red line. She was renting out her condo until the 1st of October, but she wanted to give herself some time to get the place cleaned up before she moved it, so a hotel it was. The hotel was less than a city block away, which was crucial in her time crunch.
She checked in with ease, and as quickly as it began, she was being escorted up to her room by a particularly attractive bell boy. No older than 21, she presumed. She looked at his smooth, chiseled jaw and wondered if he could even grow in a full beard. His hair was blonde and downy, his eyes smoldering green. He was all professional in his gaze. Strict eye contact, and a far away look. She thought to herself that he must be really well trained, or just gay. Maybe she wasn't his type. Either way, she tipped him $10, he dropped the bags on her bed, and let her know his name was Gary and to ring him directly if she needed anything. As Gary left and the door clicked behind him, Lauren looked around, amazed.
"Wow mom, a suite. Not just a suite, but THE suite. You sneaky woman..." Lauren requested the cheapest, easiest place to lay her head. She did pay a discounted rate, but how discounted? The room must have gone for $400 a night, easily. It was a one-bedroom suite, with a living room, a fire place, a jacuzzi tub right in the front room, floor to ceiling windows, high quality everything, and a room serivce menu that was probably way too expensive since it didn't have prices listed. "If you have to ask, you can't afford it," she reminded herself. Her phone vibrated on the dresser and she knew it was from Trent.
Trent 7:35pm: On my way! I'll be wearing that sexy little outfit you like...
Oh, Trent. He never failed at making her laugh. If only he knew that she found him sexy in anything. Even after the finished playing a game and he had that specific after-workout dude stench. It didn't stop her from wanting to nuzzle her face into his neck and reach down into his pants and... Fuck, Lauren, get it together. You have a half an hour to go...
It was 8:25 by the time she even left the hotel. A quick shower, not even washing her hair, was all she could manage. She freshened her makeup, sprayed some perfume in the air and walked her naked, freshly cleaned body into the mist. She picked up the jersey dress before deciding to look a bit less casual. Trent was leaving for Toronto and she wanted to really leave a mark on him before he left. She opened up her suitcase and pulled out her new black and white dress. Sleeveless to show off her tattoos which she knew he liked. Tight over her breasts and waist to show her hourglass curves. Flowy and flirty over her hips to leave something to the imagination. Since the dress came to her knees and she was feeling a bit sexy anyway, she opted for a garter and stocking combo instead of her usual bare-legged look. It was going to get a little chilly as the sun was pretty much set by 8pm. She threw on a pair of flats for walking, and rushed out the door. This look would have to do.
She smiled at Gary as she left the hotel. He smiled and nodded, but this time he took in all of her body. Lauren noticed this and it sent electricity through her entire body, settling between her legs. Between the excitement of being home, the adrenaline from seeing Trent after so long, and the flattery of being checked out by a guy she'd consider to be too attractive for her, she was overwhelmed.
She had barely gotten past the front door of her hotel before she was blindsided by Trent Boyd, in the flesh.
"Lauren!" he called out, as she stood like a deer in headlights.
"Trent! Holy fuck! How..."
Trent cut her off, "Your mom told me where you were staying and I thought I'd surprise you," he said with a smile. He explained that he got to the restaurant around 7:50 and knew she was going to take her sweet time getting over there, so he walked over to the hotel ten minutes ago.
"That bitch," Lauren quipped. She was not prepared to be confronted with that smile so quickly.
"Come here!" Trent said as his 6' frame grabbed her close to him and spun her around.
"Careful, dude, I'm dressed like a lady! I don't want to flash everyone, there's kids around haha!" She was sure that she didn't, as one of his arms scooped her by the thighs, securing her dress to her body. He must have felt her underpinnings, though, and it made her blush. It was funny how she was never a very shy girl, but the simplest touch from him could send her into a shivering spiral of nervousness, even after all of these years.
Trent laughed at the thought of Lauren dressed like a lady. The last time they saw each other she was 19, packing up a truck headed for Texas. She was in a pair of thrift store jeans, an old t-shirt from a team picnic, her hair in a pony tail, without a stitch of makeup. She may have even been wearing a pair of her little brother's shoes that he grew out of. Definitely beautiful, but nothing compared to how she looked this evening. He was glad he had opted for a clean outfit. Nothing too fancy, just a black fitted dress shirt untucked, and some dark wash jeans. He did make sure to comb his hair and put on a splash of aftershave. He laughed at himself for wanting to look nice for her. Trent figured that Lauren loved him like a brother and not much more, but that wasn't enough to keep him from trying to look good for her. Maybe this time things can be different.
"You hungry?" Lauren asked, looking up at Trent. He shrugged as she told him she didn't have much of an appetite. She held back the reason for this sudden appetite loss: Trent looked HOT. He got a flattering haircut after growing his hair out long for so many years, it looked like he lost his baby-fat and put on a bit of muscle, and his too-tight dress shirt showed that off. She wondered if he wore that on purpose or if that is his sole "nice shirt" that he wears to weddings, funerals, and dates. Dates, she sighed. I wish this was a date, it's been so fucking long. Was that cologne she smelled?
"Fuck it," she said, "let's go to this champagne bar and catch up. I missed you, T..." She grabbed his hand, nothing out of the ordinary, but this time she felt a static charge between them. She figured she was imagining it and shook the thought out of her head. They walked the block laughing and joking about how natural their friendship is, how they hadn't seen each other in years and before that they we pretty distant since Trent had a possessive girlfriend right before Lauren moved. He was only "allowed" to help during her move because he told him girlfriend at the time that he was "helping a former teammate move." Not totally a lie, but the girlfriend didn't know that there was ever a female in the league that was traditionally reserved for men.
The bar was crowded but not too packed on a Thursday night. Trent whispered to the waitress before Lauren could order a glass, and feigned ignorance when Lauren complained that her order wasn't taken.
"Eh, shitty service at $15 a glass is Chicago. Don't you remember this place?" Trent reminded her.
"You're right! This was the spot where the waitress was drunk and ended up hitting on Tony the whole night! How awkward!" How could Lauren forget that this was the restaurant that fueled her breakup from her last real boyfriend. She had gone in with a fake ID that they never even checked until she was pulling a scantily clad blond waitress off of her boyfriend by the pony tail. Good riddance to the both of them, she thought.
Their current waitress, however, turned out to be much more professional than the last girl. She brought out a bucket, two glasses, and a bottle of Laurent-Perrier cuvee Rose. Holy shit. It wasn't just the bottle of champagne that probably cost over $300, but that he remembered the type.
Her body shivered and brought her back to her 18th birthday party. It was the 4th of July, and no one had shown up besides Trent and they drank this same exact bottle together as they got as close as they had ever been. Her face was burning. Did he remember? They both admit to the soft kiss they shared on top of her flat roof as the watched the fireworks. They both laughed it off afterwards when they were less drunk in the morning. She never brought up what happened after that: the deep, pining kiss they shared. The throb in his pants that she could feel as she pressed her body close to his. How he almost ripped the buttons off of her shirt as he tried to take it off, but she just flung it over her head and accidentally threw it off the building. Trent unhooking her bra with such ease. How she pulled away from him just enough to let her bra fall to the ground. The heat of that early July evening causing them to sweat more than usual. His lips closing in on her nipples as they hardened involuntarily in his mouth, her salty skin responding to his touch. She may have been piss drunk on champagne and apple schnapps, but she remembered the way he looked up at her with those big green eyes. She remembered pretending to be asleep that night as he softly curled her hair around his fingers, confessing his love for her, explaining why it could never be... Funny, she forgot the reasons why for these fleeting moments on her roof, and it took everything in her body to not beg him to reconsider at that moment as he held her "sleeping" body in his arms. They never spoke about anything more than the kiss, and both of them laughed it off. She was only 18, and barely. He was 22, fresh out of college. It would never work.
"Are you okay, dude?" Trent asked Lauren while snapping his fingers next to her ear. She looked at the bottle of champagne, with an almost horrified look on her face. He was worried that he went too far with the bottle. He knew she liked Rose, and she liked the bubbly, so he went for it. He just got a huge promotion at work, hence his trip to Toronto, so he thought he'd splurge on his friend who just got into town... she didn't think she was going to have to pay for it, did she?
"Yeah dude," she responded. He loved calling her dude and it cracked her up every time. She was far from a dude, but she supposed that she was just one of the guys now. "I'm fine. You're sneaky is all. So sneaky."
Lauren held up her glass as he filled it, and with a smile and a wink she declared, "To us."
"To us!" Trent excitedly replied, as they clinked glasses and took a sip.
It was sweeter than he remembered.
...To Be Continued