“Can I get you guys anything?” The woman asked from the patio door.
John looked up at his wife. “Nah, Amy, I think we’re good. Thanks, babe.”
Aaron and John were sitting on John’s deck enjoying the weather and a few beers. It had been a couple weeks since Aaron had been able to catch up with his friend and that evening after work he headed over with a six pack. It was their ritual. Beer, shoot the shit. Like guys will do.
“So, you’ll bring her? Sunday?” John asked as he peeled the label from his beer bottle.
Aaron nodded and laughed. “I’ll check with her to see what her schedule is like this weekend.”
“It’s the Sixth Annual Butler Football Kickoff Barbecue. Don’t think you’re skipping this year, man.” John teased.
“I’ll be there. Wouldn’t miss it. Julia in tow, or not.” Aaron took a swig of beer.
“We want to meet this girl. Amy says she needs to scope her out…,” John said.
“Is that so?” Aaron said with a laugh.
“Make it happen, Evans.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Aaron finished off the beer and set it on the table.
On Wednesday night, Julia sat on the bed of her hotel room. That day had been her first time back to flying and she had gotten through three flights with relative ease. She was on a short trip; just an overnight stay in Kansas City. Dr. Andersen had recommended she start out with some light duty and her airline was willing to work with her to get only a couple short trips lined up before she went back full force. After checking in at the hotel and bringing some to-go food with her to the room, Julia had quickly taken a shower and gotten changed.
Leaning against the headboard, full from dinner and feeling like she was nearing tiredness, Julia brought her phone to her ear and waited.
“Hey!” Aaron said when he finally answered.
“How’d it go?” He asked.
“Not bad. Three flights. I’m in the hotel now.” She absentmindedly rolled the phone charging cord between her fingers.
“Good, glad to hear that. Early day tomorrow?”
“Um, I think my first flight is at nine. Not too early, thankfully.” She said with a laugh. “How was your day?”
“It went well. Had a couple beers with my buddy John after work.”
“Yeah? Nice. Home now?”
“I am. Just got here a few minutes ago.”
“So, I want to ask, what do you have going on this weekend? Sunday specifically…” He said quickly.
“Uh, let me think,” she paused. “I have another overnight on Friday I think, which puts me back in Denver on Saturday afternoon. Then, I don’t leave again until Tuesday.”
“So, you’re free Sunday?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Any chance you want to subject yourself to meeting some friends of mine at their football kickoff cook out?”
“I’d love to. That sounds good.”
“Really? Ok.” Julia thought she could hear a smile in Aaron’s voice.
“Yes, really. Do I need to wear body armor?” She joked.
Aaron laughed, a deep throaty laugh. “No, no, no… We’ll show up with a case of booze and some wings and they’ll love you for it.”
Julia smiled. “Ok, I can do that.”
They finished their conversation then and Julia turned in for the night. The prospect of meeting Aaron’s friends was exciting, but it was also a little nerve wracking. She went to sleep that night with Aaron on her mind.
“Oooooooh,” Holly said in a sing song voice. “The Friends,” she elaborated the word. “This is a step, Jules.”
Yeah, tell me about it.
Julia adjusted the phone pressed to her ear as she made her way down the concourse of Denver International Airport. She had landed about a half hour prior and called her friend to catch up.
“Oh, stop, Holly!” Julia laughed. “Is it weird that I’m sort of…nervous?” She pulled her black rolling suitcase and large tote bag behind her.
“No, it’s not weird. I think it’s good. It means that you care about their approval.” Holly said quickly.
“Ugh. This feels weird.” She groaned with a laugh.
“You’ll be fine. You always are. Just be yourself.” Holly said.
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll be fine.” Holly exited the airport and headed toward the employee parking lot.
“Tell me how it goes. I’ll be holed up in a hotel room in Oklahoma City tomorrow night. The fun capital of the world.” Holly smirked.
Julia smiled and neared the lot as she walked. “Oh, don’t worry…I will. Talk to you soon. Safe flight.”
On Sunday afternoon, Julia took a final look in the mirror in her bathroom and took a deep breath. It was the day she would be meeting The Friends. She reached down into her makeup bag and pulled out a tube of mascara and applied another coat quickly. She then swiped on a rose colored lip stick and pursed her lips, making sure the color was even. Julia ran her fingers through her hair. She had curled it into soft waves and left it down around her shoulders.
The weather had turned cooler that week; the temperature had dropped considerably with the official arrival of autumn. As Julia looked in the mirror, she smoothed her top, a black scoop neck long sleeve, and adjusted the long necklace that hung from her neck. When she left the bathroom, Julia changed out of her lounge pants and wiggled into a pair of jeans before slipping her feet into a pair of flat black suede ankle boots. She grabbed a jacket from her closet and headed for the living room. Aaron would be picking her up at any minute and she didn’t want to make him wait. She felt comfortable with her clothes; simple, yet put together and stylish.
As she was nearing the kitchen she heard the doorbell ring. Caught off guard, Julia turned to the door. She knew it must be Aaron coming to the door, but she certainly wasn’t expecting him. Smiling she walked to the door and then opened it.
Aaron was there, a little ways back from the door. Both hands were on a push rim as he sat leaned back in the chair. He wore jeans with his sneakers and a blue shirt underneath a gray hooded jacket. His face looked to have a couple days’ worth of hair on it but his hair was tamed.
“Hi.” Julia said as she leaned against the door with a smile. “Do you want to come in for a minute?”
“Sure,” Aaron replied with a nod and he wheeled forward. Again, he grabbed a hold of the door frame and leaned back to pop up the front casters of the chair. He easily pulled himself over the door step and into the house. Julia closed the front door behind him.
Aaron immediately reached out to grab Julia’s hand and pulled her to him. She leaned down to hug him tightly and he quickly took her face in his hands for a kiss.
When they pulled apart, Aaron squeezed Julia’s hand. “I’ve missed you.” He said with a grin.
Julia smiled and cocked her head. “I missed you, too…” She then stood up and turned to walk away.
“I’ll just grab my bag really quick. Do you want anything before we go?” She asked as Aaron followed her to the kitchen.
“Nah, I’m good…thanks.” He said.
Julia grabbed her purse and slung it over her shoulder. She then reached for the box on the counter
and slid it toward her.
Aaron immediately started laughing. “A case of beer?”
“First impressions are everything, pal!” She said with a smirk.
“Give me that; I’ll hold it.” Aaron was shaking his head but had a smile on his face as he pulled down the box and set it on his lap.
Julia eyed the box he carried and wondered if it was too heavy. She knew it was heavy for her to carry, but she had no idea what it must be like for Aaron to hold it on his lap knowing he couldn’t feel his legs. She decided not to say anything about it; she figured he had carried many cases of beer in his day, as any normal red-blooded American male would.
“Between this and the wings in the car, they may not let you leave.” He said with a laugh as he turned back toward the front door.
Julia followed behind Aaron and he pulled open the front door. He did the same as he had the week before; leaned back to balance on his two larger wheels and then dropped down from the door step. This time, though, Julia noticed that he was careful to guide himself down with the case on his lap.
“Alright,” he said as they went down the walk to the driveway. “You ready?”
Julia placed a hand on Aaron’s shoulder as they went along and squeezed gently. “I am.”
The house was buzzing with people. There were several of Aaron’s friends in attendance and even a few people he didn’t recognize. He and Julia made their way out of the kitchen after dropping off the chicken wings and case of beer they brought. The atmosphere was lively; people were already partaking in the consumption of adult beverages. John had the large screen television in the living room tuned to the channel where the pre-game show was being broadcast. After mingling for a few minutes, Aaron felt a clap on his shoulder and his friend John greeted him and Julia.
“What’s going on, guys?” He said; his tone cheerful.
“John, this is Julia…,” Aaron introduced them to each other.
“It’s really good to meet you.” Julia said as she shook his hand.
“Hey, you, too. Thanks for coming.” John’s smile was genuine, as was his handshake.
Aaron glanced between Julia and John and was feeling pretty good about the fact that they were meeting. Julia had become a priority in his life and it was important to him that she meet his best friend.
“Thank you for having me,” Julia smiled.
“Well, food is in the kitchen, burgers are on the grill, booze is in the cooler out back. Help yourselves.” John gave them both a nod and glanced toward the deck. “I’ll catch up with you in a little bit.”
Aaron looked up at Julia and smiled. “Are you hungry? We can go make a couple plates.”
“Sure,” Julia said.
They went to the busy kitchen and navigated their way along the counter, filling plates with typical football party food. They went out onto the deck and Aaron grabbed them both a drink. They found a couple empty seats at the large outdoor table and settled in to eat. At the table, Aaron introduced Julia to a few other people he knew and the conversation flowed freely for a while. John’s wife Amy found them as well and she sat down to talk. She and Julia had found they agreed on a few different topics, so Aaron just let them chat, amazed at how easy it seemed to be for them to connect right away.
Julia was talkative and friendly; her regular demeanor and Aaron enjoyed seeing her seem to be comfortable around his group of friends. The party soon moved inside for the start of the game and everyone found spots in the living room around the big TV. Aaron situated himself off to the side of the viewing area, a perfect spot to watch from. Instead of Julia finding a seat to pull over, she just sat down on the floor right beside him. A couple other people had sat down on the floor, too, not quite enough seats on the couches to go around.
Aaron put a comforting hand on Julia’s back as they watched the game. He was happy she had agreed to come and hang out and was pleased with how well she seemed to be blending with his group of friends.
Julia and Aaron had stayed until well after the other guests had gone home after the game. They sat out on the deck with John and Amy munching on leftovers and enjoying their drinks. They talked well into the evening, laughing, and sharing stories.
When it was time to call it a night, John pulled Aaron aside as they were leaving.
“Hey,” he said. “We like her. You did well. Keep this one around, would you?”
Aaron laughed and glanced at Amy and Julia saying their goodbyes a few feet away in the foyer. “Well, good, because I like her, too. And I do plan on keeping her around.”
The drive from John and Amy’s back to Julia’s house was about a twenty minute journey. They reviewed the day and Julia told Aaron how great it had been to meet his friends. She conveyed that she was way more comfortable then she thought she would have been and how she had a really good time. They talked for a little bit until a comfortable silence fell in the car. Neither Aaron nor Julia spoke, they just listened to the radio for a few miles.
After a while, Aaron spoke up. “Hey,” he said quietly.
“Hmm?” Julia turned to him.
“I have a suggestion I want to talk to you about…,” he let the sentence hang. Julia noticed that his grip on the steering wheel tightened as he spoke.
What is this? What is he thinking?
“I was thinking that maybe, you know, we could make this…official.” He glanced sideways at her.
Official. Ha. He’s adorable.
Julia smiled. “Are you saying that you want to,” she paused. “…be my boyfriend?” She enunciated the last word teasingly.
Aaron threw his head back with a deep laugh. “Aw, come on. Go easy on me, Julia.”
She reached out and squeezed his forearm. “I’m in. Let’s do it.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek, careful not to distract him from driving.
“Awesome. Because I’ve really always had this fantasy about dating a flight attendant…” Aaron shrugged a shoulder and smirked.
Julia mocked a gasp and smacked his upper arm. “I knew you were only in this for my flight benefits.”
Aaron laughed. “You know I’m kidding.” He pulled the vehicle up to the curb in front of Julia’s house and shut off the engine.
“Just kiss me already. You’re my boyfriend now. I can say these things.” She said as she turned to him, a twinkle of mischief apparent in her eyes.
“Yes, ma’am.” He was quick to take her face in his hands. He claimed her lips with a fierceness that she welcomed.
More to come! I have a pretty busy schedule coming up this week, so you all can expect the next installment on the 9th, two weeks from today. Thank you for reading!