A Games We Play Story
It was the morning after the first night they’d spent at his house rather than hers—which felt like a milestone of sorts. He’d gotten up while she was still asleep, slipped into a pair of jeans and went upstairs. His plan was to make her breakfast in bed. It was a good plan, but she derailed it a few minutes later, by tiptoeing up the stairs just as he was assembling their sandwiches.
“Hey,” she whispered from the doorway, tugging uselessly at the hem of her T-shirt, as she glanced around. “Is your brother gone?”
He smiled at the sight of her. She looked adorable with her cheeks still flushed with sleep and her hair scraped back from her face in a ponytail. But no matter how hard she tried, she was never going to get that shirt to stretch far enough to cover her lacy, red thong—which was very obviously the only other item of clothing she had on. “C’mon up. The coast is clear.”
“Something smells good,” she said inhaling deeply as she came to stand behind him. She wrapped her arms around his waist and peered over his arm at the food he was plating, distracting him with her closeness and her softness and her warmth. “Are those what I think they are?”
“If you think you’re looking at two of the greatest breakfast sandwiches ever invented, then yes, they absolutely are.”
Ooh, big talk,” she teased. “But can they live up to all that hype? That’s what I’m wondering.”
“True facts,” he responded. “And, yes, they can and will. Now, why don’t you pour us both some coffee from that pot over there while I finish up?” He’d fried some potatoes to accompany the sandwiches. Now he piled those on the plates as well, topping them with a dollop of sour cream and dusting of fresh-cut chives. A salad of fresh grapefruit and mint and a little bit of honey rounded out the meal and provided a balance for all the salt.
“That looks amazing,” she said as he slid the plates on the table and took the seat around the corner from hers.
“Thank you. But it’ll taste even better.” He gestured at the condiments and said, “So help yourself to a little SPK, and eat up!”
“Or a lot, if that’s what you prefer. No judgment here.”
“No. I mean, what did you say? SP…what?”
“Salt. Pepper. Ketchup,” he replied, pointing at each of them in turn. “The traditional condiments. Some people like hot sauce, but it’s not for me.”
Carly nodded. There was a mischievous twinkle in her eye as she said, “Yeah, I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to keep hot sauce away from your uh…meat.”
“Exactly.” He wasn’t entirely sure why that put such a big smile on her face, but since the sight of it had short-circuited his brain, he didn’t bother to try. He just dug into his own sandwich.
It was one of the better meals of his life, and one of his happiest moments ever, sitting at his mother’s kitchen table watching the woman he’d fallen in love with fall in love with some of his favorite foods.
She wolfed down several bites of sandwich, before licking her lips and saying, “Wow. This is…”
“Good?” he suggested.
“Amazing,” she corrected, in between additional bites. “But…pork roll. I don’t even know how to describe it.”
“It’s a question for the ages, all right.”
“It’s salty and tangy, a little smoky. But all of that seems so…inadequate. It’s not like anything I’ve ever had.”
“Nope.” He grinned at her attempts to describe the indescribable. “It’s entirely its own thing. Which is why I have some sympathy for #TeamTaylorHam. I mean, they’re still wrong of course, because it’s not ham, but then again, American Cheese isn’t cheese either, so…”
She frowned at him. “That’s a horrible analogy.”
“Very true,” he agreed, then watched as she cleared her plate in record time. “So I take it you liked it?”
“I really did.”
She sounded surprised, which did not surprise him at all. “I know they’re not in the same league as your sandwiches,” he told her, “But this is Jersey, you know what I mean? It’s home.”
“It’s you,” she said—which wasn’t wrong. “And I really appreciate your wanting to share that with me.”
“You’re welcome.” Always. “Are you ready for another?”
“Not right now.”
“Well then, can I get you something else?”
She flashed him another of those thought-derailing smiles and said, “Yes, actually. Now that you mention it. Because, as far as taste goes, I think I’d only rank it as my second favorite New Jersey product. And I think it’s time I had another taste of first place.”
“Tomatoes?” he guessed, not really surprised, because there really was no beating those—although bagels, pizza, blue crabs, and fresh corn all came pretty close—but definitely disappointed because it was only March, which was months too early for tomatoes!
“No, not tomatoes. We were talking about breakfast meat,” she said, shooting him an expectant look that left him mystified.
Were they? “But there isn’t any—” he said, breaking off again when she started to laugh. “What?”
“Omigod, I meant you,” she said with a nod at his lap.
“Oh.” The grin on his face was probably making him look goofy as fuck, but he couldn’t care less. “Good to know?”
She shook her head. “Here I am doing my best to flirt with you and it’s all just going over your head. Obviously, one of us is really bad at this. Or maybe both of us are?”
“I don’t think either of us are bad at any of this.” He crooked a finger at her. “But forget flirting for now. Maybe you should just come over here and let me give you another little taste test.”
“Good idea,” she said getting up from her chair and rounding the table to straddle his lap. “It is an important designation, after all. I wouldn’t want to be hasty in my decision making.”