The Roommate's Baby

By: Penny Wylder

It's the lightweight straw that broke the camel's back.

Without explanation, without being able to say why I'm so emotional (because as close as we are, I didn't tell Cannon about any of these fertility plans I've been pursuing) I burst into tears then and there.

Cannon spins around, his expression comically surprised. He's handsome as hell, but right now he looks like a goof with the Ben and Jerry's spoon hanging out of his mouth, and his dark eyes wide as saucers beneath his artfully messy black shock of hair.

"Are you all right?" he asks through his mouthful of ice cream, so it sounds more like "Ah oo awright?"

Somehow that only makes me cry harder.

He drops the spoon and shoves off the couch, hurrying toward me. In seven years of knowing each another, and four years of living together in this very apartment, I don't think I have ever cried in front of him. Not once. I usually lock myself in my bathroom on the rare occasion when I get emotional, which isn't very often, and usually over some stupid work spat or problem.

Nothing like this.

He wraps his arms around me, enveloping me in his tight, familiar embrace. Cannon gives the best hugs. I never tell him that because it would only stoke his ego, but he does. He knows just how tightly to squeeze to let you know he's really there, that he really cares about you. I sink against his chest and breathe in his scent. He smells like the lavender detergent we use and the mint body wash he has in his bathroom, the one I always tease him about because he decorated the whole thing in black—black shower curtains, black towels, everything.

He also smells, underneath all that, like him. Like our apartment, like home. Like my familiar, safe, reassuring best friend.

I wrap my arms around his neck and cry harder.

Cannon rubs my back in slow circles, whispering shh over and over until my sobs finally diminish into hiccups, and then deep breaths, and then finally stop enough that I can lean back and wipe my eyes dry, composing myself. I've left a tear-stained patch on his shirt, and the moment I see it I gasp out an apology, which comes out half words half hiccups.

In response, he simply shakes his head and laughs. "Not a big deal, Rina," he insists, even as he reaches for the hem of his shirt and tugs it off over his head.

Not like I haven't seen him shirtless a million times before. Half the time he lounges around this apartment in his boxers, sometimes even when he has his latest one-night stands over, cooking breakfast in his briefs. But there's something different this time, after I just spent a solid minute in his arms, crying on his shoulder. It makes me look at him with fresh eyes: at his chiseled abs, his strong pecs, and the way his biceps bulge as he tosses his shirt over the back of the couch.

"See? Problem number one solved." He catches my hand and squeezes it lightly, drawing me backward with him toward the living room. "Now, talk to me. What on earth has got you this riled up? I didn't even know you knew how to cry."

I elbow him in the side even as I let him pull me down onto the couch, right beside him, his warm arm grazing my shoulder, his strong fingertips curled through mine. His thumb brushes the back of my hand, gentle and reassuring. It feels good. Better than good. It makes my stomach, already upset from everything I've been through today, tense all over again.

But for completely new reasons.

Cannon? I think to myself. Then I have to shake myself out of that thought. Ridiculous. We've been besties for years. We've lived together for years.

I've seen how he treats women. He hooks up all the time, practically any night we go bar-hopping together, we wind up back here with a new girl tagging along. But he never sees them again. I don't think I've ever seen the same girl in this apartment twice. He is not exactly the serious dating type.

Then again...

Neither am I. I've had all of one long-term boyfriend ever, and that didn't go as planned. Every other relationship I've had has just been a series of casual hookups that go on for a couple weeks or months at most, before we decide to call it quits.

We're similar, Cannon and I. It's why we get along so well, as roomies, as colleagues, as friends.

He wouldn't freak out like that guy in the parking lot, part of my brain comments. He's calm, chill, collected. I've never seen him get ruffled, not once, not ever. Not even when shit explodes at work and he's drowning under stress. He handles everything with his usual casual grin, like the world is one big funny, occasionally frustrating joke that he's in on.

Top Books