A Few Minutes Later
Salim & Camilla’s Townhouse | San Myshuno
Salim’s phone vibrated with a force as aggressive as the caller on the other end. It was like her energy had been channeled through the cell towers and dispersed throughout the mobile network. Traveling all the way from her apartment in the Spice Market to his in Garden Meadows — just to make sure he picked up. Because what she had to say to him, needed to be said, right now and she was not about to be put on the back burner…
“Salim!” Jesminder shouted through the phone, catching him completely off guard, “I do not appreciate having to lie to my friend.”
“Lie about wh—”
“YOU! And what you been doing,” she answered before he could get his full question out, “That whole story she told us you told her today made no damn sense.”
“I know, I didn’t mean to—”
“And how did you not know there was a fire where you were supposed to be at yesterday? Isn’t it your job to know the news? Isn’t that what you do? WRITE THE NEWS???”
“No, actually,” he attempted to elaborate on the actual nature of his job, “My job’s—”
“It doesn’t matter!” she cut him off yet again, “Listen, Salim,” she sighed, “we agreed to help you with this whole proposal surprise thing you’re doing for her and we’re happy to— we want to, but it’s real hard to get what we need from her when we can’t keep her focused on this fake baby shower we’re planning cause you can’t keep your alibis straight.”
“I know… You’re right.”
“So we’ll make sure we talk her down before she leaves, but when she gets home, you better work whatever magic you have to put this fire out or we, and by we, I mean you, are gonna have a problem.”
Later that Night
Salim & Camilla’s Townhouse | San Myshuno
As fluorescent flames from balloon shaped lights hanging from the ceiling faded, a soft, comforting glow, overlooked the girls who had just drifted off to sleep, while Salim quietly left the room, on his way downstairs, to put out that fire he and Jesminder spoke about earlier.
From the top of the stairs, he heard the abrupt silence of the TV, followed by a small clank from the remote hitting the coffee table and footsteps scurrying away from the living room.
When he reached the bottom, Camilla was in the kitchen, pretending to be busy with stuff she had no intention of doing anything with — her usual distraction of choice whenever she was mad at him.
He wasn’t at all surprised though. After what happened earlier, you could even say he was prepared for it — her being mad and everything — but just how mad? That’s what he needed to figure out. Fortunately, for him, he had a plan for situations just like this…
See, over the years, he’d experienced enough of these little episodes of hers to set up a numerical sliding scale, equipped with anger intensity levels and action plans to rectify whatever it is he did wrong.
So something like, almost-kind-of standing her up on Love Day because he got stuck at work? That was about a 3.5 and easily solved with flowers, a gift card or some other kind of small purchase.
But something like eating the last bag of Hot Cheetos especially while she was going through girl stuff, unusually temperamental and craving junk food? That was getting close to the danger zone, about a 7.2 but still fixable with a large Hawaiian BBQ pizza with extra bacon and a side of garlic sauce.
Now something like accidentally getting her hair wet while they were in the shower? That almost got him killed so he just knows not to ever make that mistake again.
This situation here though — inconsistencies with his explanation for his whereabouts — was new territory. Something he didn’t have a pre-packaged solution for. Something he needed to figure out how to fix, without completely blowing his cover, before he could even attempt to fix it. This is where his pre-apology evaluation process came into play:
Step 1: Attempt a Civil Conversation
“Are you going to run from me all night?” he asked from a safe distance in the living room.
“I’m not running from you,” she replied with her back turned, pulling out another handful of randomness from the cabinet.
“What do you call it then?”
“Coincidentally leaving the room whenever you come in,” she sat the items down on the counter, facing him for just a second, which was long enough for him to see that tiny smile form across her lips and give him the green light to proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Attempt Sharing the Same Space
“Can you sit with me, please?” he sat on the sofa, hoping she would join him.
“No. I’m busy,” she filled a measuring cup with flour and dumped it into the large mixing bowl in front of her.
“I’ll come in there with you then. If you want some help?” he stood up, awaiting her response.
“It’s your kitchen too,” she shrugged, “Do what you want.”
Her response was less than enthusiastic, but it wasn’t a no and that was a good sign.
It was still early, but if he had to guess, he would say she was sitting somewhere between a 3.6 and a 4.8, thanks to her friends smoothing things over for him, but he couldn’t give a solid score yet — which is exactly why the next step was so important in helping him figure out how to proceed.
Step 3: Attempt Physical Contact
If she was anything higher than a 5, touching her in any way was out of the question. Even something as innocent as accidentally tapping her elbow, could earn him a look so deadly, he’d regret most of his life’s decisions, so when his arm lightly grazing her stomach on its way around her waist triggered a shiver so strong, he felt it too, he knew he was on the right track or… maybe he wasn’t?
Change of plans…
He positioned himself behind her, his body pressed into hers, and his arms draped loosely around her waist. Enough space left between them for her to leave if she wanted but not enough to hide why she wouldn’t.
“What are you making?” he rested his chin on her shoulder.
“I haven’t decided yet,” she kept her head down, tracing little heart shapes in the drop of flour that had escaped from the bowl and onto the counter.
“Can I make a suggestion?” he planted soft kisses on the nape of her neck.
“No,” she declined his offer through shallow breaths, “I don’t want your suggestions.”
“Okay…” he whispered in her ear, brushing his lips in circles around her earlobe and tracing his finger around the waistline of her pants. “What do you want then?”
Her head tilted back, with her eyes slowly closing and her hand, out of pure habit, found it’s way in his hair — but still she fought to keep up this angry facade of hers, “Nothing…”
Nothing… That’s what she said anyway — but it was her who’s lead he was following and her who slid his hand from her waist to the inside of her panties and even though, he hadn’t even made it through the entire evaluation process yet, he was pretty sure, he knew what kind of apology would fix this one…
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