Chapter 5: Neighbourly Love

Ellie had gotten home earlier than usual; she had also woken up a couple of hours early to make sure she would finish everything on time. As soon as she entered her apartment, she rushed to take a shower. After lathering herself with lightly scented moisturizer, she stood in front of her closet in matching underwear. She most definitely could not be cast as the lead of Beauty and the Beast.

Diego was actually coming over for a drink. No more sneaking glances at him from then on. Before all of that though, she had to figure out what to wear. It was a weird date as it was happening in her apartment. Running out of time, she went for a loose blouse and high-waisted jeans that weren’t so tight that they would be awkward to slip off in case of emergency panty dropping. Casual but sexy.

She snacked on cucumbers and hummus while applying makeup - this was no time for a bloated stomach or any weird happenings.

She set up a platter of cheese, crackers and grapes on the living room table. Thinking the setup needed to look more sexy, she added a plate of chocolates and macarons she had picked up on her way back from work.

After spraying herself with the perfume she reserved for attracting the male specie, she set up her laptop in the kitchen to do some work while waiting. Quickly enough, as per her habit, she lost herself into her work. It was a quarter past the meeting time and she had heard nothing from him.

It was too good to be true, she knew it. He had confirmed too eagerly and too early. But she didn’t think he would have the guts to completely ghost her as her neighbour. This wasn’t very neighbourhood-friendly. She was too tense from slouching over her computer so she poured herself a bit of the scotch and leaned back into her chair.

The numbers and words on her screen lost their meaning the longer she looked at them. It was time to close shop for the day. She finished the drink and closed her eyes.

Two soft knocks. She jerked up, knocking her knee against the table in the process. Biting back a swear, she limped to the front door. Striking a pose she deemed effortlessly sexy, she opened the door.

Diego smiled, “Hey Elena.” Under brown strands of wavy hair, his green eyes peered into her soul.

The door was wide open now and she stood aside to let him in. “Hi Diego, come in.”

He smelled of fresh air and cologne. “I brought a bottle of Cabernet, so we wouldn’t drink all of yours.”

“You shouldn’t have, I have enough to quench any thirst.” She internally thanked her sister and Odin for this opportunity. “Settle in please, I’ll bring glasses.”

He followed behind her as she went into the kitchen. “Were you working?” He asked as he picked up some of her papers.

Glasses and bottle opener in hand, she gave him a quick side glance. “Yeah, boring stuff really. I’m sure your photography is much more exciting.”

He laughed, “You’d be surprised at how stagnant it can also be. What are you listening to?” As she walked back to the living room, she heard him click on her mousepad and assumed he had opened her Spotify.

“Jazz. It helps me focus.” He came up close behind her, so close she could feel his body heat. She cleared her throat. He reached his hand forward and handed her a cellphone.

“Keon is calling you,” he said, she could hear his smile - visibly he was amused at her reaction.

“Oh.” She set up the glasses on the table before sitting on the couch. After ignoring her brother’s call, she patted the couch, “Come sit.”

The music still played from her computer’s speaker - and she was glad for it. She grabbed the bottle opener and stabbed it into the cork. All of her attention was on this particular action, twisting and twisting, in an attempt to ignore Diego’s gaze. He reached for a piece of chocolate and bit into it. She could see him from the corner of her eye.

“You know,” he started, “you do have a great profile.”

The wine trickled loudly into the glass. “Thank you,” she managed to say. He had taken out his phone to take a picture of her.

“Don’t worry, I won’t Instagram it.” He slid closer to her to show her the picture. It was a good picture of her: with the window in the background, you could clearly see the profile of her pouring the wine. Romance flowed through the simple picture.

“If you won’t, you can send it to me. I will.” She joked as she handed him a glass.

Sitting on the couch and staring at each other, Elena took in his bronzed skin, his fitted jeans, the way he held his glass and the way his index finger kept going up and down the broad glass.

He looked up to the ceiling, “I usually charge for my pictures.”

Sipping the wine, she answered without thinking, “I wouldn’t mind paying you.” His eyebrows arched. She downed her glass, “more wine?”

Before he had time to answer, she had poured more in both glasses.

“We never toasted,” he said. His eyes locked on hers, he continued, “to neighbours.”

“To neighbours,” she echoed before they both sipped.

They kept talking about neighbourhood stuff, like how the couple from across the street always bought new furniture after a particularly intense fight. As the wine in the bottle depleted, the space between them got progressively smaller.

She could see his chest rising with every breath. Under that shirt, she knew there was a well-built body. She diverted her gaze and sipped some more wine. He put his glass on the table; her eyes followed his arm pushing his hair back. Her gaze trailed down to his rosy lips. He was so close to her that she barely had to move to kiss him - but she didn’t.

He smiled at her, his eyes slowly going down her body. Was this what they called ‘fuck-me-eyes’? It was working. He reached for her own glass and put it down on the table. She stopped breathing. When he turned back toward her, he put his arms around her, pulling her to him and kissed her.

It was all it took to unleash what Elena had been holding back.

They slowly (not so slowly) moved to her bedroom, and soon enough (so Ellie thought), it was due time for her to use the bathroom (read: pee after sex = no UTIs). She took the opportunity to grab her phone to waste some time while on the toilet. What had seemed to her only 30 minutes had actually been 2 hours. She quickly texted her friends that fact.

Lastly, she took the time to text her brother whom she had ignored earlier: “What’s up?”

His answer came - did he have nothing else to do?: “Yo, Max told me you got transferred to Dublin. Call me. What’s up with that? Why didn’t you tell me? So cool.”

She stifled a grunt: “UGH. Don’t remind me, please. It’s not exciting. Haven’t taken the job yet. I’m on a date now, so call you tomorrow. ”

“Ahaha, let’s be real. You have no choice. Who’s the dude?” Keon replied.

“Diego. The hot neighbour. Bye.” She typed her reply quickly. After flushing the toilet, she dropped her phone in her laundry basket and skipped back to her bedroom.