As tired as I was when I stumbled into my apartment, I didn get a second of sleep. Ryan stole every ounce of my tiredness, and invaded every corner of my thoughts. Whenever I closed my eyes, all I saw was him…his face right before he leaned in and kissed me…and the feelings it left me with. Those feelings kept me tossing and turning all night. It was an even mixture of confusion, excitement, fear and the craving for more.

Shame should be included in that medley of emotions, but surprisingly its nowhere to be found.

I should be ashamed of myself. Ashamed that I let him permeate through my rough barriers, when I know he doesn deserve it. Analyzing our very short timeline, all that sticks out to me is his pattern of inserting himself into my life with such conviction, only to dismiss me in the end. I mean seriously…he ignores me for weeks, then shows up at my door claiming hes done nothing but think about me, and then kisses me.

That kiss…**.

Im angry. So **ing angry at him, and his inconsistency.

And Im even angrier that we
e not kissing right now.

Maybe I just need some sleep.

”Good workout today, Alex? ” My doorman greets me, as I enter the lobby of my apartment building, a panting, sweaty mess.

”Amazing. ” I smile.

As soon as the sun started poking holes through the sky this morning, I got out of bed and went to the gym. Today, the treadmill was my scapegoat, as I took out all my feelings on it. I was looking to clear my head, and sweat Ryan out like a fever. It worked for a little while. Probably because theres not much other than oxygen thatll cross a persons mind when they
e out of breath. I guess I can thank my poor cardiovascular stamina for that one.

I can also thank Adrienne for letting me finally have a day off. Between the move, and my sudden start at work, I haven really had a full day to myself. A shopping spree, and stroll down Madison Avenue is calling my name, desperately urging me to spend some of my Big Girl Job money. I deserve at least that.

Departing from the elevator, I head towards my apartment. My keys are buried deep in my bag, which steals my focus trying to find them.

”Oh, sorry. ” I bump into somebody in front of my apartment. ”I didn mean t- ” I freeze in my tracks once I realize who the person is.

e joking, right? ”

In front of me is Ryan. I seemed to have startled him, which is pretty funny considering hes outside of my apartment.

”Hey. ” He releases a pent up breath. Like he hasn exhaled in thirty years. ”I was waiting for you. ”

At first, all I could do was stare. Mainly because I can believe hes actually here…standing in front of me. He looks good too…a casual sweatshirt and jeans has never left me so enamored.

”Oh. ” I finally speak up, my voice not as loud as Id like.

What I want to do is ask him how the ** he expected me to know he was here, but I don . Instead, I unlock the door and let my assumptions as to what hes here for run wild in my head.

”Yeah. Can I come in? ”

I nod, suddenly wishing I had picked more cute workout attire.

”Im a **ing idiot, ” he starts, pacing around my living room floor.

”Last night on my drive home…after the kiss…you
e a really good kisser by the way…I couldn stop thinking about you. Well, I should be more specific because Ive been thinking about you nonstop since Wilkys. I couldn stop thinking about why you seemed so upset with me in the first place. ”

Uh oh. Here it goes.

”It dawned on me that communication has been scarce on my part…which makes me look like a huge douche, but hear me out… ”

”Ryan… ”

”No…shh. ” He ushers me to be quiet.

”First, I should probably apologize for going ghost. It probably seems like I forgot about you or some shit, but I promise that could not be further from the truth. If anything, it took a lot out of me to not reach out. ”

All I can offer is a blank stare, as I try to follow his confusing line of reasoning.

”I wanted to check on you the moment I walked out of your door on Tuesday, but decided that waiting until Wednesday would be best. But then I remember Adrienne mentioning how busy everyone in the office would be preparing for the launch, and figured it would be best to stay out of your way all together. Thats why you haven heard from me. I was waiting until I saw you at the launch. I even had the owner of Wilkys stay open all night so we could celebrate with those horrendous martinis you like so much, after the event. ”

Hes nearly out of breath by the end of that rant. And as for me? My feelings are all over the place. My ambiguous feelings cease, as a bunch of thoughts spring forward.

He was thinking about you, Alex!

He wants you!

He looks so **ing good right now!

Those biceps…

His eyes stare into mine, a pensive expression written behind them. If I didn know any better, Id say hes…nervous?

”Its okay, Ryan. ” I finally reply. My throat is dry. I want to get a bottle of water from the fridge, but my feet feel physically stuck to the ground.

”You don owe me an explanation. ” I tell him, despite myself. Thats always been a habit of mine…to excuse people of behavior that I harshly condemn them for in my head.

My words strike him with confusion, his thick eyebrows furrowing, while he tilts his head to the side.

”Im not mad. Its just been a stressful week, and seeing you at the event caught me off guard. ” I pause. ”…which makes no sense, because you are her nephew after all. ”

The more I say out loud, the stupider I feel. Im so stupid for giving this man a reason to think he has to apologize to me. Stupid for getting worked up over one evening spent together. But most importantly, I feel the stupid urge to smile, knowing that I may have been on his mind as much as hes been on mine.

”Okay… ” he says slowly, ”and about last night… ”

”We don have to talk about it. ” I shake my head. ”We don even have to acknowledge that it happened. ”

I don know why I said that, but its too late to retract such a statement. And it probably is for the best. Ryan and I are two people who shouldn associate with each other. For starters, his aunt signs my checks every week. Thats enough of a reason that we shouldn entangle ourselves in whatever…this is.

Based on his reaction, it seems like thats not the response he was looking for.

Not the response he waited outside my door for God knows how long, for.

But he doesn protest. He just nods slowly, turning his heel towards the door.

”Be good, Alex. ”

His words are heavy. Like hes not telling me to have a nice afternoon, but rather have a nice life.

I don get a chance to respond, because hes already out of the door.

And I don stop him.

”Fuck me, ” I huff, collapsing on the couch. My hands fly over my face, shielding my vision. Despite the fact that I didn say or do anything wrong, I can help but feel like an idiot. Or like I made a huge mistake. Its all so confusing. The only thing Im sure of is that I simply don have time to waste feeling shitty. Not on my day off.

I take a few moments to breathe, before getting up and getting ready for the day.

Once Im done, its about three in the afternoon. If it were up to me I would have started my day much sooner but I needed to pamper myself after the whole Ryan incident. By the time Im finished, Im clean, prim and plucked, ready to take on the busy streets of Manhattan.

The heavy sensation on my chest lessens throughout the day, but doesn fully vanish. Not even as I waltz past all of the glorious stores on Madison. Shopping wise though, I did pretty good. A new pair of red bottoms have found a new home in my closet. It was an expensive, impulsive purchase that I justified with my sadness. The Ryan thing is only a small fragment of my discontents with life. As exciting as the move to New York has been, Its been equally draining. I left everything behind, in hopes of reinventing myself…to transform into the woman Ive always wanted to be. When I left home, I was sure that I was supposed to. Now, all that plagues my mind is uncertainty. And above all, I feel so lonely. I thought loneliness was the last thing Id feel in a city with millions of people, but the feeling is the most intense its ever been in my life.

You haven even been here a whole month, I tell myself. It will get better.

Do I believe that? Not entirely. But I replay the affirmation in my mind as I walk up the block, until I end up in front of the bar that Ryan took me to weeks ago. Wilkys.

For a moment, I pause in my tracks, staring at the faded sign. A light wind runs through my hair, while I contemplate entering or not. Its funny, he said this is where he comes when he wants to escape everyone. Here I am, not a single new contact made since I arrived, and yet I find myself pushing open the bars front door anyway.

Its dead tonight. I am literally the only one here. The bartender is also different this time. Once I walk in, Im greeted by an old man behind the bar.

”Hello. ” He greets me warmly, pulling his eyes from the counter in which he was previously wiping down.

”Hi. ” I smile back, and take a seat on the stool, placing my bag on the seat beside me. ”Can I have a shot of Patron and an ice water please? ”

The man acknowledges my order with a nod, and begins to prepare it. Chatty bartenders are not really my favorite, so Im thankful for the mans polite and quiet compliance. I try my hardest to forget about the last time I was here, especially since I just so happen to be sitting in the same exact seat.

To prevent my mood from dropping, I decide to call Grace. I can at least depend on her for some great human interaction. The phone rings a few times, before she answers.

”How quickly can you get on a plane to New York? ” Are the first words that leave my mouth. I don even give her a chance to say hello.

”Mmm, maybe in a month if things at work calm down. ”

I sink downwards into my seat.

”Fuck. ” I whisper. I was slightly serious about flying her out as soon as possible.

”Is everything okay? ” She asks. I can feel her concern through the phone.

”Yeah. I just miss you. ”

My drinks are soon placed in front of me.

”I miss you too, Alex. Everyone misses you. How are things? ”

”Things…are good. Work is good. Just busy. At least I have that to distract me from how much I miss you guys at home. Adrienne will not give me a break. ”

”Have you replaced me yet? ”

”Nobody could ever replace you, Grace. ”

I take a sip of the ice water, leaving the tequila alone for now. Now that I think about it, being sad, drunk and alone in the city isn probably the best idea.

”And nobody could ever replace you, Alex. I get off work in thirty minutes, can I call you when I get home? ”

”Yeah, of course. I love you. ”

”Love you. ”

As I press the button to end the call, the quiet ambiance of the bar is disrupted by shouting.

”Russo! Long time no see! ” Exclaims the previously timid old man. Its like a silent, invisible force plunged into him, igniting such livelihood. He rushes out from behind the bar.

”Wilky! You
e back! ” Says the person on the other side of the room.

A voice I recognize. A voice thats been playing over and over in my head.

My stomach drops to my knees.

Fuck ** **. This is so not what I need right now.

Turning my head slowly and painfully, lo and behold…Ryan is standing by the entrance, chatting up the old man.

I shouldn be surprised. This is his spot after all. If anything, its my attendance thats shocking. Him, and the bartender embrace each other before getting swept up in a conversation.

He doesn notice me yet, so I take the opportunity to stare. He wears a white button down shirt, with the first few buttons undone. Dress pants. Pen behind his ear, laptop clutched under his arm.

Fucking delectable. I swallow hard.

Hes likely coming from work.

The tequila shot in front of me steals my attention momentarily, as I down it without hesitation. I contemplate leaving cash on the counter and sneaking out of the back door, but by the time I look up, its already too late.

He sees me.

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