4. Maya

Maya hesitated to ring Levi’s doorbell. She’d been waiting on the little voice in her head to tell her that she could be anywhere else but on Levi’s porch. After a moment’s pause, she knocked instead.

Maybe he won’t hear it she told herself. It was a cold night. Too cold to be holding milkshakes in her hands. She’d gotten them on her way to his house. Maybe because it was too late to get him a coffee as she would on their morning commutes, or maybe because she was stalling, still giving the little voice of reason a chance to tell her not to go to Levi’s.

Maya started to worry that if she stood at his door any longer, she would start to look sketchy. Convinced that a minute more on his porch would prompt the neighborhood watch that in her mind, was eyeballing his house would call the police on her, she turned to leave. It was at that moment, Levi’s door opened.

“Maya?” he said surprised.

Maya felt her heart sink as she knew she had to turn around and reveal the two milkshakes in her hands.

“Hi,” she said trying to sound as normal as possible.

Probably realizing that Maya wasn’t going to say anymore, Levi invited Maya into his house, but he posed it as a question.

“Would you like to come in?”

There it was. Maya knew for sure that the little voice she’d been waiting on since the bright idea to drive to Levi’s house had entered her head, would for sure have something to say. But mum was the word. Maya couldn’t tell if the crickets she’d heard were real, or the only noise left in her conscience.

“I brought milkshakes,” Maya said relenting to the unfolding turn of events.

“I see that,” Levi said, also returning to his more comfortable sounding self. Until then, Maya hadn’t realized how nervous he’d sounded when he’d offered to invite her in and that maybe, he too was wrestling with the same demons she was.

Maya set the milkshakes on the kitchen counter. In the conversations she’d had with Levi on the train, on their morning commutes to Boston, she’d learned that Levi loved to cook, and had recently remodeled his kitchen to install hooks to hang a lot of the pots and pans. He’d also installed an eight-burner stove with a massive hood vent over it, and a sanitization machine, along with his dishwasher. Before Levi moved to Prudenceville, he had been a successful chef in Manhattan and had even owned his own restaurant but after his divorce, his wife got everything, and Levi was left to start all over again.

“What flavors do we have here?” Levi asked eyeing both milkshakes.

“Mint chocolate chip and Oreo,” Maya said, “I didn’t know what flavors you liked, and I definitely wasn’t bringing coffee over so, I figured I’d pick flavors everybody loves and, whichever one you prefer that’d be your milkshake.” 

“Not bad, you’re off to a good start but you guessed wrong so … I think that means you’re going to have to come back again with better guesses. If you keep bringing me treats like this, barge in whenever,” Levi said.

“I’m sorry to just barge in like this on you, it’s just … you’re the only friend I have that I feel like I can talk to. I can leave though, I won’t be offended at all if you think I should leave,” Maya offered.

“I couldn’t put you out after that lovely sentiment,” Levi said, “besides, I’ve liked my commutes to Boston a lot better since you moved here. I consider you a friend too, and it feels good to make new friends as an adult considering how often that happens.”

Maya chuckled. She was starting to feel a little better and as she did, she realized why the voice she’d been waiting to hear had remained quiet. It was because it had no reason to comment. The warmth and the pull she’d felt toward Levi was nothing more than that of a budding friendship.

“Excuse the mess,” Levi commented about the dishes in the sink, “can I get you something to go with your milkshake? I had Eggplant Parm for dinner and by the way, I make a killer Eggplant Parm. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried my version. I also have a Beef Stir Fry from last night and …”

“I’m good actually. I shouldn’t even be having the milkshake, I’m on a diet,” Maya interrupted not wanting him to go through any more trouble.

“Okay, so what I’m hearing is, yes to the Eggplant Parm,” Levi said and pulled a container out of the refrigerator “and you’ll try this new garlic bread recipe that I was experimenting with for your appetizer.”

Levi gave Maya a wink rather than a chance to protest, and took her jacket and hang it on the coat rack for her.

 Levi’s house had the sort of open floor plan where there weren’t any walls between the living room and the kitchen. His living room had an electric fireplace with a giant flat-screen T.V above the mantle and big sliding doors that went to a deck or a back yard, but Maya couldn’t tell because it was too dark outside.

 “Do you want me to turn off the fire? I know it gets warm but I’m obsessed,” Levi said to Maya.

 “No, it’s really pretty, and soothing actually,” Maya said.

 “Careful, those words will get you labeled as obsessed,” Levi warned.

Maya watched Levi from the living room heating up her food on the stove. They hadn’t been friends for more than a month, but Maya knew a little bit more than the basics about him. His grandparents moved from Japan to Honolulu, where he was born spent much of his life until he moved to New York for college. Why anybody would leave Hawaii, Maya couldn’t figure but as the saying goes, the grass is never greener where you’re at. Levi had said that New York had been a big adjustment for him with the weather but regardless, he’d loved everything about it and didn’t regret his decision to leave Hawaii. He’d see his family over holidays when they’d visit or when he’d travel to Oahu. He had a sister in San Diego, but they weren’t close. His sister stayed friends with his ex-wife but didn’t try to have much of a relationship with him, and only saw him during the holidays or family parties.

His hair was dark and up to his shoulders, he’d told Maya that he’d always liked it long. He was tall and lean with something of a build to him, especially around his shoulders and arms. He had fresh scent about him, that Maya always had to hold back the urge to sniff him like a crazy person, but complimented him endlessly on it. He had the sort of smile that could melt a girl along with kind, and gentle eyes.

 Levi looked up at Maya and smiled, releasing her from the trance she’d slipped into watching him. She’d been watching him but had somehow missed that he’d almost finished what he’d been doing. 

“You good,” he asked, and she nodded trying to hide her embarrassment, wondering if he knew he’d caught her staring.

 “Would you like me to help you,” Maya asked when he piled on a bunch of things to bring over to her. 

“Grab the milkshakes out of the fridge,” he’d told her, “grab the whipped cream too.”

*                    *                            *                            *

Levi hadn’t lied, you hadn’t lived until you tried his Eggplant Parm. The evening she was having with him, was the evening she and Isaiah were supposed to be having with Linda and Daryl.

It blew Maya’s mind that Levi knew Linda. Apparently, he was the Library Director where she also worked. It was a long way off from his career as a chef, but after he’d lost his restaurant to his ex-wife in the divorce, Levi hadn’t been eager to jump back into the cooking scene. He’d gotten whatever job he could and continued to work on his line of cookbooks. Isaiah had told Maya that everybody knew everybody, but Maya hadn’t believed it until she started to see it. Although, it wasn’t everybody knew everybody really but rather, everybody knew of everybody. Maya didn’t think these sorts of towns actually existed outside the realm of fiction.

“I love this new color,” Levi said and picked up strands of Maya’s hair close to her cheek. Even though his hand hadn’t touched her face, there was something warm about it.

“Thank you,” Maya said expecting Levi to take back his hand, but he didn’t, instead he looked directly into her eyes.

“Vera suggested it for some reason,” Maya said to break up the tension and tucked the hair he’d been holding behind her ear. Levi pulled his arm back with an ease that made Maya wonder if she was making a big deal out of nothing.

“What do you mean for some reason? This color brings out that inner fire about you,” he said making her sound ridiculous for doubting the color selection.

“Vera said that too,” Maya said eyeing him suspiciously “what inner fire do y’all think I have?”

Levi didn’t answer her but just smiled.

“Did Isaiah love it?” Levi asked.

Maya felt her shoulders slump. She’d forgotten about Isaiah and was actually having fun. But she answered his question.

“He thought it was flamboyant, attention-seeking and apparently it screams that I’m not over my twenties.”

A tear streamed down her cheek and surprised her. Isaiah could call her the worst name imaginable -which, the exact word was probably already floating around in her memory somewhere-but she’d never imagine shedding a tear. Around Levi for some reason, she found herself unable to hold back the tears.

She knew it was time to go.

“I’m so sorry,” Maya said scrambling to pick up her dishes. She tried to say more but was unable.

Levi got up just as she would have walked passed him and wrapped his arms around her in a sort of gentle lock. She tried to struggle through it, but Levi refused to budge. Maya did her best to try and compose herself but it was as if the harder she tried, the harder she’d cry.

When Levi was sure she wouldn’t run off, he went and got Maya some tissues. The tears eventually dried out. Her chest felt sore and exhausted and she was too afraid to look in the mirror to see how badly her mascara had run.

“Do you mind if I use the bathroom,” Maya asked, and Levi immediately showed her where it was.

Maya washed her face and had to rinse the sink to make sure that none of the dye in her make-up stuck to it. Levi had been waiting outside the bathroom when she’d gotten out.

“How are you feeling?” Levi asked concerned.

Maya had never talked to Levi about Isaiah. She’d never needed to. Their chemistry had been so organic that they could talk about anything but him. She hadn’t been trying to keep Isaiah from Levi, Isaiah just never came up in their conversations. Levi knew that she was married to Isaiah, but what Maya hadn’t told him, or herself for that matter was that she’d been unhappy with the marriage.

Maya didn’t want to leave things off awkwardly with Levi and felt she owed him some kind of explanation, but she didn’t want to tell him too much either.

She told him about how dinner with Linda and Daryl had gone and opened up about her suspicions that any successful stride she’d made, had held open the door for all of Isaiah’s critical, mean, and belittling demons to fly into their marriage. The truth was it hadn’t started when Maya landed her job as a Pharmacist, or decided to try and lose some weight, but if she really thought about it, it started when she’d graduated with her Doctorate. The signs were always there, the flags were just a weak shade of red.

“You don’t need him,” Levi eventually said. It was then Maya took notice of his hand going up and down her back soothing her gently, or the fact that it’d had been the first time he’d commented since she’d started crying. They were still standing in the hallway right outside the bathroom.

“It’s why I came here, I wasn’t ready to go home just yet, but I should probably get going now,” Maya said feeling drained.

“If you ever need a place to spend the night, I have a spare room. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to,” Levi offered.

Maya hugged him. “Thank you,” she whispered to him trying to hold back tears.

Levi wrapped his arms tightly around Maya but when she felt her heartbeat start to quicken, she pulled away. 

“I hope you don’t mind if I take you up on that offer sooner than you think,” Maya said half trying to make a joke, but also realizing that it wasn’t a joke.

“Maya, you can spend the night here tonight if you’d like. Don’t go if you don’t want to,” Levi said to her earnestly. Maya thanked him again but went and got her purse from where they’d been sitting on the couch. She collected their dishes and put them away in the sink, but Levi wouldn’t let her do any more than that.

He brought her jacket to her and walked her to her car.

“Call me when you get there,” Levi said then emphasized, “not text, call.”

When Maya nodded, he kissed her hard on the cheek and wrapped her in his arms one more time, as if he was giving her a piece of himself to take with her.

Maya hugged him back, wishing that she didn’t have to leave.  

*                    *                            *                            *

When Maya pulled into the garage, she called Levi. He picked up the phone instantly as though he’d been expectantly waiting for her call. His voice alone was therapy. Their conversation had a few exchanges here and there but eventually, silence took over, and neither of them wanted to end the call. Eventually, Maya did so, reluctantly.

Normally the first one home would leave the garage light on for the other person but when she’d gotten home, Isaiah hadn’t left any of the lights on. Maya relied on her muscle memory to get her past his car and to the kitchen door without knocking into anything.

The kitchen was pitch black, but it was less of a hassle because the light switch was right by the door. The recycling was overflowing, and by the sink, Maya could see that Isaiah had washed only his dishes. That’s where they were as a couple. They were no longer working as a team. Maya had noticed Isaiah was doing things such as folding his laundry even though Maya washed all of their clothes together. He’d also stopped doing any of the chores around Catatouille, their cat because technically, it was Maya who’d wanted to adopt him. So Cat’s litter box would never be emptied or changed if Maya didn’t do it. Nor would there be food for him if Maya didn’t buy it. And that was another thing, groceries. Isaiah was only buying foods he liked and things he needed, but he wasn’t shopping for the house. Toiletries, trash bags, dish soap, hand soaps for the bathrooms, air fresheners, if Maya didn’t buy it, then the house didn’t have it.

 Any time Maya confronted him about any of it, it always blew up out of proportion. Maya had the stiff back to prove it from when he’d pushed her from the bathroom doorway and into one of their wall paintings, earlier that week. But that was the norm with their arguments. Explosive outbursts, yelling, pushing and shoving at each other. Physically, Maya wasn’t going to let Isaiah walk over her. She knew Isaiah was stronger than her, but she had mass and stamina on him. When Isaiah started to realize this, he stopped poking at her during their arguments however once in a while, he’d still try and pull a fast one on her and, as evidenced by the stiffness in her back, once in a while he’d succeed.

Any other night Maya would have caved and picked up whatever slack Isaiah had left her before going to bed, but instead, she picked up Catatouille and got back in her car. She made sure to call this time and Levi picked up again immediately.

“Did you mean it when you said I could stay in your spare room?” she asked.

“Yes,” Levi replied.

“Can my cat stay over too?”

 “Yes, your cat is welcome here as well,” Levi said again, “see you soon?”

 “Yeah, I’ll be right there,” Maya said to him.

 The garage lights went on and standing in the kitchen doorway was Isaiah. Maya ignored him and turned on the garage door, but Isaiah used his switch and turned it off. Maya turned it on again but Isaiah turned it off. Irritated, Maya got out of the car.

“Stop doing that!” she demanded.

“Why is Catatouille in the car,” he asked completely ignoring her demand.

Maya got out her cellphone from her pocket and opened her Uber App. She knew it was ridiculous to Uber ten minutes away from her house but Isaiah wasn’t going to relent. She got ecstatic when she saw that there was an Uber driver close by. She booked her ride and waited.

“Who’s the guy you were just talking to about a spare room? Is there something wrong with the rooms at your house?” Isaiah asked.

 “How do you know about that?” Maya asked, “did you put something in my car to eavesdrop on me with?”

Maya got Catatouille out of the car and tried the garage door one more time, but Isaiah closed it again.

“Stop!” Maya tried to say but her irritation fell on deaf ears.

Maya walked to the kitchen door but Isaiah blocked her at every turn like it was a game they were playing taunting,

“Is that all you really got!”

Her phone started to ring and Maya knew that was her Uber driver.

“Move!” she eventually cried angrily to Isaiah.

“If you think things are going to be different with him, they won’t be,” Isaiah said through his teeth at her “you don’t know how to be in a normal relationship and that’s why you and I work. Sooner or later you’ll introduce him to dysfunction, and he’ll kick you out of his life. You may be a cute puppy now but in reality, you’re also dirty, muddy and flea-ridden. He only thinks he can love somebody like you but wait until he meets the real you.”                       

Isaiah stepped out of the way and made room for her to pass, watching to see what she’d do. But all Maya could do, was stand there frozen with tears streaming down her face. He had a point. Levi didn’t yet know the real her and if she cared about him, she’d keep him from it.

“Arf, arf!” Isaiah barked at her seemingly pleased with himself, before heading back inside.

 Maya lowered Catatouille when Isaiah was gone and let him jump out of her hands. She wiped the tears from her eyes before canceling the Uber, then hesitated before she called Levi. She took breath as she listened to the phone ring.

 “Never mind,” is all she said when he picked up the phone and hang up on him immediately, before he had the chance to say anything.

Note from the writer: Where have I been? I’m sorry guys, in as much as writing is my passion, these blocks are real >_<

If you’ve read my previous stuff, you’ll notice that I’ve changed my writing style. I’ve been told that the dialogue in my writing is cool but it really slows me down because I don’t actually like to put all the meat and bones in the dialogue. I’m going for that juicy writing 😉 so I gotta spread it out evenly throughout the text.

Secondly, I’m learning to identify when a block occurs. It’s one thing to be blocked, but it’s something else to realize that it’s a block. Fun fact: This was supposed to be Hazel’s week, not Maya’s. I don’t know when I’ll get to share Hazel with you, but I’m not going to try and force it. I did and look what happened. A two week hiatus.

Lastly, I didn’t look at my schedule when I picked a day to be posting stories. Wednesday’s works a lot better for me so I’ll make that change on the site’s info page. Thanks for reading and have a good week 🙂

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