Falling for my Neighbor

By: Lila Younger

“But I really like it,” I say quickly. “Especially this spring roll. It’s so minty and healthy.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it. These satay skewers are my favorite. I didn’t think that there would be food this good here.”

I try one of the chicken skewers, jabbing the stick into a chunk of cucumber like Macon did.

“You must find Summerdale so boring,” I say. “I mean, you can get probably every kind of cuisine there right? And I bet there’s so much to do. Here we have the movies theatre that shows one movie a week.”

“I actually don’t mind the slower pace,” he says with an amused smile. “I grew up in Anderson. My dad’s actually the mayor. So I know all about small towns. That’s why I picked this place to raise Jamie.”

“Yeah, it’s not that bad,” I say softly. This is my home after all.

“So what about you? You’ve graduated already, but you’re not in school yet, are you?”

“No, I-“ my voice falters.

I look up at Macon, and he’s leaning forward, eyes intent on my face as if he really does want to know the answer. I swallow hard.

“My mom wants me to go to business school,” I begin again.

“But you don’t?” he prompts.

“No. That’s actually the last thing I want to do. She’d never approve, but I was thinking about Early Childhood Education.”

There, it’s out in the world. I can’t believe it. I feel a whoosh as a huge burden lifts off my shoulders. Because I do want this, very, very badly. And it feels really good to admit it out loud.

I glance up, and Macon’s nodding, like I’m making total sense.

“I can see it,” he says confidently. “You’re a natural with Jamie.”

Technically I haven’t taught Jamie anything, since she’s a year old, but his compliment still makes me glow.

“Did you always want to be the manager of a hotel?” I venture.

“Not exactly,” he says wryly. “To be honest, I followed someone else’s direction for my life too. Luckily, I’m enjoying it, but I had these big plans on becoming a tennis champion. It never happened because of a back injury. I didn’t have a shot at becoming one of the greats, so I figured I’d better retire before I ruined my back for good. It paid my way through college though, so it wasn’t all a waste. And then came Jamie, which detoured my plans further. I don’t regret that part though.”

We both look toward the baby monitor, where she’s sleeping. She’s curled up into a ball, her butt in the air. It’s the cutest thing in the world, even though it scared me half to death the first time because I thought she couldn’t breathe with her face down in the mattress like that.

“And now?” I ask softly.

“Now I’m going to finish my MBA, and see what happens,” he says slowly. “There will be some difficult choices ahead.”

I have a feeling that there’s a lot more to it than Macon is willing to talk about. I want to say something intelligent, but I’m almost ten years younger than he is. What possible life advice could I to him?

So I don’t try. Instead eat a bite of Pad Thai. It’s delicious, with a slightly sour note, but it’s balanced by the sweet shrimp and spiciness of the sauce. It’s amazing. How have I not had this before?

“Good right?” Macon says, shaking off the serious mood.

“Amazing! I can’t believe I’ve never had this.”

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Asian cuisine. There’s tons of stuff out there: dim sum, sushi, Indian food...”

We spend the rest of our dinner talking about food, about the funny and adorable things Jamie does, about music and our family and just about everything else that came to mind. I’m smiling so much my face hurts, and I’m having so much fun that I forget to be shy.

There’s only one moment when I think maybe something’s going to happen again. I’m leaning over for the last piece of spring roll, and the sauce is so far I really have to stretch. My v-neck t-shirt falls open, and my breasts are showing for sure. I straighten up quickly as soon as I realize it, and when I look up, Macon’s eyes are on me for a split second. They look intense, hungry almost, but then his eyes flicker away and I’m not sure if I’m imagining it. He shifts his body away from me, and I have to suppress a sigh.

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