Climb

By: Sophie Stern


Totally, completely perfect.

He holds me as he locks the front door to the studio, then he carries me to the hallway that leads to the back. He shuts off the front lights, closes the door to the hallway, and locks it.

“You still live upstairs, Sassy?”

“Yeah. I like to be close to work.”

“Don’t I know it.”

He carries me down the hallway, past my office, past the locker room, past the two dance rooms. He carries me past everything until he reaches the stairs.

“You want me to keep carrying you?” He asks. It’s a spiral staircase. There’s not a lot of room for carrying.

“I can walk,” I whisper, and he sets me down. I reach over and flick off the hallway lights. We’re cast into almost complete darkness, aside from the soft glow of light coming from upstairs.

“You be careful going up these stairs.”

“You, too.”

I turn and begin to walk up the stairs. I try not to shake my hips. I try not to worry about how my ass looks or whether I’m moving seductively enough, quickly enough. Elliott has walked behind me many times, but somehow, this is different.

I think we both know it.

I hear him climbing the stairs behind me. The climb has never felt so long or so awkward or so tense, but then we reach the second floor of the building and my wide, open space greets us.

He steps off the top step and smiles. I left the table lamp on, but the other lights are off.

“How can you tell?” I ask. I walk to the wall and flip the switch. Soon the rest of the lights come on. Elliott just nods.

“I had a feeling. Even before the lights came on, I just knew. Same old Sassy.”

“I might be different now.”

“Oh, you’re different all right. We both are. Not in the ways that matter, though,” he says.

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” he says. “I’m a little bit scarred. You’re a little bit tougher. Ain’t that right, Sassy McMittens? Isn’t that what you make your students call you?”

I nod. It’s a silly, silly nickname, but everyone likes it, including me.

“Yeah,” I tell him. “They all call me Professor McMittens.”

“Well, I know your real name, Sassy McMiller. I know your real name, Serenity.”

“It’s Sassy now.”

“You’ll always be Serenity to me,” he says.

Something in the air changes. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Something about the way he says I’ll always be Serenity sounds less like an observation and more like a promise.

Elliott is in the middle of the room and I’m by the wall, but he closes the space between us quickly and he wraps me up in a hug.

“I missed you, Serenity.”

“I missed you, too, airman.”

He holds me for a long time and for just a moment, I allow myself to forget about the day. I allow myself to forget about the time we were apart, about the way our reunion   didn’t go as planned, about the guy who harassed me and my girls.

For just a moment, I allow myself to feel safe.

For just a moment, everything else floats away.

Then Elliott kisses me on the forehead and pulls back.

“I know I was early,” he says. “Why don’t you go take your shower, sweetie? I know you like to take one after work. I’ll make us some drinks.”

“Drinks? Like tea?”

“If you like.”

“Maybe…maybe something stronger?” I suggest.

“What did you have in mind?”

“There’s whiskey on top of the fridge,” I say, then I quickly hurry out of the living room and into the bathroom, closing the door behind me.

Something tells me the night is going to go a lot differently than I expected it to.

Something tells me everything is about to get real.





Chapter 4




Elliott





Whiskey.

Fucking whiskey.

That’s what she wants?

Good dragons, this woman is going to be the death of me. I got in this morning and went back to my apartment. I showered, changed, and took a nap before coming to Sassy’s. It’s a good thing, too, because I don’t know if I’m level-headed enough to figure out how to get my sneakers off: much less a pair of boots.

Somehow, I manage to get out of my shoes and I pull my jacket off. I throw it over the back of the couch before heading into the kitchen to find this whiskey. As promised, it’s on top of the fridge, and I take a long swig before pouring it into two glasses.

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