Caught in the Storm Ch. 02byHotSprings22©
"Do you want me to organize your closet, Denver?" Her mother didn't even bother saying hello anymore, she always jumped right into how she could fix Denver's life.
"It's a mess, you should really learn to organize your clothes."
"They are organized." Denver could think of nothing wrong with her closet.
"Mom, why are you in my apartment?" Denver looked at her watch. It was already 2:45pm, and Denver had been in the library since 7:30 that morning trying to finish a research paper she had left for last minute. She rubbed her eyes and sighed deeply trying to imagine the drastic changes her mother had probably already made in her apartment.
"I came to drop off some clothes I bought for you, and I saw dishes in the sink, you never do the dishes, and I just kept going." Denver clenched her teeth.
"How long have you been there?"
"Oh, about three hours now. I went into your room to hang up the clothes and I couldn't believe the mess. What time are you coming back?"
"I don't know. I have a lot of work to do." Denver could hear things clanging together in the background.
"Well I can't do too much more because your brother's hockey game starts at 4 and I wanna get there early."
Denver's stomach did a flip-flop at the mention of her brother. She hadn't spoken to him since that night he was in her apartment, and she wasn't planning on it. Part of the reason she procrastinated doing her paper until Friday was so she'd have an excuse not to go to his game.
"Do you want me to wait for you so we can go to the game together? We are going to meet your father there."
"I'm not going."
"Oh, your brother said you were," her mother said sounding disappointed.
"Nope, I gotta finish this paper. It could take me all night." Denver blew out a breath trying not to get hysterical about her mother bothering her. "I gotta go mom."
"Okay Denver, if you finish early, stop by the game."
"Yep. Bye." Denver hung up the phone and tried to regain control of her breathing. Her mother was the controlling type, just like her brother, and no matter what she did she couldn't get them to butt out of her life.
She definitely needed to change the lock on her apartment.
Denver glanced down at the mess she made on the table. The laptop needed to be recharged, her butt was hurting and the words were starting to bleed together on the paper. She sighed and decided to finish the paper tomorrow. She pushed all her work for the afternoon into her bag, grabbed her laptop and headed for the door. The first thing on her 'to-do-list' was to stop by the hardware store and get a new lock -- possibly a deadbolt. If she had to give a spare key to someone, it was going to be her neighbor. She certainly learned her lesson.
It was after 4pm when Denver got to her apartment, so she knew she wouldn't chance running into her mother. She cringed when she opened the door, waiting to see the damage her mother had done. She dropped her bag and wanted to cry. Everything was in a different place. Her books and papers were moved, the textbooks she had stacked next to her computer were out of sight. In the kitchen her cabinets were rearranged and all her appliances had been removed from the counter. She opened the freezer to get the bottle of vodka that was sitting in the ice chest, but it wasn't there. Denver closed her eyes and tried to tell herself that her mother meant well. As she made her way to her room, Denver could feel her blood pressure rising.
She kicked the door open trying to take deep breaths but her breathing stopped when she saw her room. All the clothes were off the floor, her books were gone from the corner, and some of her pictures and posters had been removed from the walls. She walked over to the note that was stuck to her closet door and ripped it off.
"You need to look more like a young lady, so I bought you new clothes. I organized your closet so you will be able to find everything." Denver's heart dropped. She opened her closet and nothing was where she left it. Immediately she spotted the new clothes her mother bought her. It was a variety of sundresses and skirts with floral prints. Not something Denver hated, but something she would only wear if she had to. She looked down at her jeans and t-shirt and didn't think there was any reason to change.
With a sigh, Denver turned from her room. She was going to change the lock on the door right now.
It had taken Denver 35 minutes to figure out the lock she bought from the hardware store. After she was finished, she walked next door to Joe Sander's to tell him that she wanted him to keep her spare key. He was a 30 something bachelor who had already trusted Denver with his spare so she decided to return the favor. She didn't know much about him, but she knew he was single, and loved the ladies. He was never married and didn't have any children. She had only been in his apartment a few times and he was always polite. She even called on him the times she found large insects in her apartment, and he always came with a smile.
"What's the special occasion?" he said with a warm smile when he opened the door.
Denver smiled back thinking that he must have gotten a gym membership, because she didn't remember him being that lean.
"I've decided you are the one to get my spare key so next time I need you to kill a bug, I don't have to take my eyes off it to open the door." She watched as he laughed, his smile reaching his eyes.
"You have dinner yet?" he asked leaning on the doorframe.
"I just ordered a pizza."
"I know, these walls are paper thin and I'm hungry." He said with a grin.
"Well in that case, come over when you hear the delivery man. I'll leave the door open."
Denver walked back into her apartment and for the first time was glad that her mother had decided to rearrange her apartment. Denver couldn't find anything, but it was clean.
A few minutes after Denver paid for the food Joe came with a six-pack of beer and a movie.
"Ghostbusters? Really?" Denver asked as she set the beer and pizza on the coffee table.
"Perfect beer and pizza movie." Denver smiled as she put the DVD into the player. They settled into their positions on the couch each taking a slice and a beer in hand. They ate and drank in silence.
The movie was over and Joe had dozed off about halfway through it and was lightly snoring. The clock on the DVD player was flashing 7:53 when Denver got up to put the DVD back in its case. She yawned and stretched watching Joe sleep. It was kinda nice having someone on her couch other than her brother or an annoying friend. Brothers and annoying friends felt comfortable enough in her presence to fart and burp and scratch their privates when they knew Denver was looking. Joe and Denver hadn't reached that comfort level yet and she was kind of happy about it.
She moved silently around her apartment cleaning up the mess they made. She plopped back down on the couch and channel surfed for a little while eventually settling on the Simpsons. You can never go wrong with the Simpsons.
Joe gave a loud snort and continued to sleep. Denver watched the rise and fall of his chest admiring how his black t-shirt stretched perfectly over his chest and stomach. Her eyes slid up his neck to his chin. Even in his sleep, he radiated confidence, his chin stood out defiant and strong. She studied the paper-thin scar that ran from his eyebrow to his ear and her mind went wild with scenarios of bar fights and drunken stupidity.
He had thin lips pressed together in a tight line and the beginning of a 5 o'clock shadow. Her eyes continued up to his nose, it seemed perfect for his face. Perfectly symmetrical and not too large for his manly features. Her eyes slid up a little further and locked on his gaze. Their eyes locked for a few beats and Denver could feel her face flush.
"See anything you like?" A hint of a smile tugging at the edge of his lips.
"Just wondering what you're doing on my couch on a Friday night."
"Can't a guy spend some time on a beautiful woman's couch without the third degree?" If it was possible, Denver's face heated even more. She wasn't sure if he was flirting, but it sure was making her uncomfortable. "How long have I been out?" he asked as he stretched.
"What was the last part of the movie you remember?"
"Good point. I didn't snore did I?"
"Only for the best parts." Joe smiled.
Denver glanced at the clock again. "It's past 8. No big date tonight?"
"I think I'm right where I need to be. This couch is amazing."
"Knock yourself out...again." Denver said with a chuckle.
Joe was getting ready to say something when the sound of the doorknob being shaken interrupted him. The door shook again and who ever was outside the door let out a muffled curse. Denver smiled then her heart dropped. She didn't need to guess who it was. Her guest knocked three times on the door, but Denver didn't move.
"Maybe you should get that." Joe said watching her face.
"He should go away eventually."
The door shook with the next three knocks. "Open the door, Denver. I can hear the TV."
Joe looked at her with raised eyebrows. She knew that her brother would stand out there all night to get his way so she pulled herself up from the couch and unlocked the door.
"Where were you tonight?" Mike demanded when she opened the door.
Mike pushed past her and stalked into her apartment. He nodded at Joe who was now standing in the middle of the living room. "Hey man, killing more bugs?" Mike knew Joe was only in Denver's apartment when she needed an exterminator.
"Actually Denver and I watched a movie." Joe said standing with his hands in his pockets.
Denver wasn't sure but she thought she saw shock register on Mike's face, but it was gone too quickly for her to confirm it.
"I think I'm gonna get going." Joe thanked Denver for the pizza and he was gone. A minute later she heard his front door open and close.
She was left with Mike standing in the middle of the floor glaring hard at her. She didn't know what to do so she turned off the TV, and then wished she hadn't because there was nothing left to distract her from his intense gaze.
"Well what?" Denver was getting really sick of everyone always questioning her.
"For one, what's with the lock?"
"I changed it."
"I see that. Why?"
"Because I don't want you, mom or anyone else letting themselves in anymore."
"Why weren't you at the game?"
"I told you I was busy." She walked past him and he followed her into the kitchen. She opened the fridge for lack of something better to do and wished she hadn't because it was the smallest room in the apartment and he now had her cornered.
"Bullshit." Mike said through clenched teeth. Denver turned and stared at him. He must have come right from the game because his hair was still wet with sweat. He moved closer to her and his eyes darkened. "What was Joe doing in your apartment?"
The question caught Denver off guard. "He told you, we were watching a movie."
Mike moved closer and she could feel his heat and energy warming her body.
"Something going on between you two?" Mike demanded, his features hard.
Denver laughed, but Mike looked serious. If anything Joe was being polite by watching a movie with her, and he said he only asked to come over because her heard her order pizza.
"And if there is?" Denver wasn't going to let Mike know the truth that easily.
"Answer the question."
"Its none of your business." With some difficulty, she shouldered around him and made her way to the bathroom. She slammed the door in his face before he could get his foot in the door and she flicked the lock. She stood with her hands on the sink trying to figure out exactly what was going on.
Her stomach fluttered as she thought about how her brother was making her feel. Her toes got tingly and her head felt light. For as long as she could remember, she had a crush on her brother. He was always the star of everything, and she wasn't. Mike was perfect, everyone thought so, and Denver resented that deeply, and the fact that she had a crush on him made it worse. Often nights she had imagined what it would be like to be the object of his affection.
She shook her head trying to physically remove the thoughts from her head but try as she might, she couldn't figure out the game her brother was playing with her. She was sure that he had known for all these years of her crush on him, but he said nothing. She tried not to be alone with him, because she knew eventually she'd break down and confess her love in one way or another. That's why him suddenly invading her life at every chance he got was driving her insane. It was like he knew he was pushing her buttons and he kept applying the pressure hoping eventually she'd break.
Denver looked at herself in the mirror and resigned to not let him affect her like he did every other female he came into contact with. She brushed the stray hairs out of her eyes and squared her shoulders in the mirror. So what if she had a crush on her brother? She was sure it happened all the time; she'd just have to get over it.
She marched out of the bathroom not sure exactly sure what she was ready for, but she knew she was ready for something. She walked into the living room ready to put her brother in his place, and found herself alone. She looked around almost not believing that he had given up that easily. She called out his name, but there could have only been a few places that he would be hiding. When he didn't pop out. She figured he left.
She shrugged her shoulders and made her way to the kitchen hoping something had materialized in her fridge while she was in the bathroom. When she shut the door, she noticed a small sticky note on the fridge. People in her family were big on leaving notes for each other.
The note was simple. "This isn't over. We will finish this conversation."
Great she though, just great. She didn't feel as confident as she did when she came out the bathroom.
Denver awoke the next morning feeling energized but starved. She decided that she could tolerate a trip to her parents if it meant she could eat a real meal. She dressed and made her way across town with her stomach rumbling. She pulled into her parent's driveway and saw their SUV backed up to the garage with the hatch open. She walked around the back of the car and saw her dad loading suitcases into the trunk.
"Hey Daddy." She said as she watched him pack the truck. "Where ya goin?"
"Your mother thinks it'd be a good idea to spend a weekend away, so she rented a hotel room on the coast." Denver smiled, kissed her father on the cheek and walked inside.
She called out for her mother and found her standing in the kitchen watering the plants over the sink. Her mother kissed her on the cheek and handed her a list of things she needed her to do while they were gone. Denver looked at the list and sighed. There were about fifteen things on the list that she absolutely had to do before the weekend was over.
Her mother kissed her again and left the number of the hotel they'd be staying at on the counter. She told her to call if there was an emergency, and then her mother was out the door. Denver stood in the living room watching as the truck backed out of the driveway and pulled into the street. At least now Denver could get some food.
She went back to the kitchen, pulled out some lunchmeat and made herself a sandwich. She plopped down in the living room and turned on the TV. Denver had been watching television for a while when she heard a lawnmower start somewhere close to the house. When she got up and went to the kitchen to get another drink, she looked out the window and thought whoever was about to mow the lawn better hurry because dark and angry clouds were rolling overhead.
She stood in the window admiring her mother's garden, when she saw her brother push the lawn mower past the window. She had a brief moment of panic and wanted to bolt for the door, but she couldn't. It was likely he already knew she was there, and his truck was probably blocking the driveway. So she did what any sensible person in this situation would do. She got a bottle of wine out of the cellar and popped the cork. There was nothing left to do but wait until he was finished, and with any luck, he'd leave without coming inside.
Denver had polished off more than half the bottle of wine by the time she heard the patter of rain smacking the windows. It started out slowly and rose to a dull roar, hypnotizing her. She was reaching for her glass when the back door banged open and her brother stepped into the house. She took a deep breath, the alcohol helping her to remain calm. She swallowed hard as she listened to his footfalls as they moved closer and closer the living room.
The couch Denver was sitting on had a clear view of the hallway leading from the back door to the living room, and she saw when her brother spotted her sitting on the couch. She held his gaze waiting for him to say something, anything. She watched as his shirt clung to his chest and the water slid down his arms. She looked at the puddle of water that was starting to form at his feet. She was still waiting for him to say something when he turned and headed back toward the kitchen.
Denver listened as Mike thudded around the kitchen and she heard him open and shut the refrigerator door. Her heart pounded in her ears as she heard him moving back toward the living room. He walked into the room, set two six-packs on the coffee table and sat next to her on the couch. She watched as Mike pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it in a wet heap on the floor. Her mother would drop dead if she saw him do that.
He wiped some water off his face and ran a hand through his wet hair. "So, what's the deal with you and Joe?" Mike asked in a quiet voice.
"There is no deal."
Denver was shocked into silence as Mike grabbed the remote and flipped through the channels like nothing was wrong. Denver had forgotten the TV was on.
The rain was hitting the side of the house harder now and she prayed it wouldn't thunder. She loved the rain, but a childhood fear of thunder had always reduced her to a sniveling baby, and that was the last thing she needed to be in front of her brother. The wind had picked up and it felt as if the house was groaning under the pressure. Denver let out an involuntary yelp as she saw a flash of lightening brighten the sky.
She reached behind her and pulled the blanket off the back of the couch and threw it at her brother. "Here, you must be cold." She watched Mike as he took the blanket and wrapped it around himself.
Denver focused her attention on the television trying not to let the sound of the rain and the flashes of lightening get to her. She knew sooner or later, thunder was coming.
"Are you still afraid of thunder?" Mike asked barely above a whisper.
Denver nodded bringing her knees up to her chest. She didn't want to look at him because she knew he would be smiling at her, silently mocking her irrational fear.
Denver turned to her brother wondering if her was serious. When she was little, she used to run to his room late at night and climb into bed. He hadn't comforted her like that in years.
When Denver didn't move, he motioned her closer with his arm, holding the blanket away from his body. Slowly and cautiously she eased her way closer to her brother. She slid under the blanket and pressed herself to her brother's bare chest listening to his heart hammer in his chest.
She jumped as a loud clap of thunder sounded and he held her tighter. He rubbed her bare arms trying to stop her from shaking.
"What do you want to watch?" Denver knew he was trying to take her mind off the thunder, but it wasn't working.