Mike wasn't sure how it happened but El was always in his space.
Every day, either morning or evening, El managed to worm her way into Mike's apartment. It had been two weeks since the Bachelor final and apparently something was always wrong or broken in El's apartment. Today however, she didn't even come up with an excuse, she just waltzed in as soon as Mike opened the door and plopped down on the couch and changed the channel that Paladin had been watching. Of course Paladin had been none too pleased and meowed loudly until Mike told El to change it back.
Mike was sitting at his breakfast bar digging his spoon in to a container of yoghurt. It wasn't that Mike minded El's company, it's just that she was always there and it was leaving him feeling confused.
"What's that you're eating?" El said walking into the kitchen. "It looks good. Can I have one?"
Before Mike could answer, El was already opening the fridge door and looking inside. Sure why not, El. Mike thought sarcastically. You act as if you pay the rent for the damn apartment any way.
Mike was already in a foul mood. It had been a long tiresome day and one of his clients in Brooklyn had stiffed him again, the third time within 3 months. He had worked with this guy for nearly 18 months. In that time he had helped transform his garage business into one of the most promising new start ups this side of the East River. Mike got the feeling that the guy was starting to feel that he didn't need him anymore and was trying to give Mike the slip, instead of being up front and ending his services.
El pulled a stool out and sat on it and peeled back the the cover of the yoghurt. "Gluten free," she said as she read the label. "I hope it tastes good."
Mike didn't respond as his mind was miles away trying to figure out the best way to deal with his work problem.
"Oh you got some here. Let me get it." El reached over to wipe away the yoghurt on Mike's chin with her thumb. "Much better." She gave Mike a small smile and then went back to eating her yoghurt.
Mile looked at her blankly. "How come you're always over here? Don't you have any other friends?" the tone in his voice leaving no question as to its intent.
El slowly placed her spoon down in the yoghurt. "I have friends," she said quietly. "Why? Is there a problem with me being here?"
Mike frustrations erupted, how clueless could one person be. "Yes there's a problem. You're always here. You're always making excuses and barging in even when no one invited you. You just come in here and act as if you live here and I'm just suppose to put up with that." Mike spat. "And Paladin doesn't even like you and he tends to like everybody." All of the pent up anger rushed out of Mike and in that brief moment it had felt good to get it off his chest.
"I see." El's voice was barely above a whisper as she pushed back her stool and stood up. "I'll get out of your hair then. I know when I'm not wanted."
Mike blinked and observed El's face. He could tell that he had hurt El's feelings. El had been getting on his nerves a bit and leaving his feelings all over the place but he hadn't meant for it to come out so rudely.
"El, I'm sorry." He said hurriedly, as El walked past him to the door. "I didn't mean for it to come out like that."
"No, you meant it." She slipped on her shoes at the door. "That's how everyone sounds when they mean what they say." She placed her hand on the knob, twisting it to open the door. Looking back at Mike with glassy eyes "It's cool. I didn't mean to be a bother." And with that El walked out and closed the door behind her.
Mike stared at the closed door for a moment or two. The sudden quietness in the apartment felt weird. He hadn't meant to hurt El. He wouldn't have minded her coming over, only if she gave him a little prior notice. But even he knew from the way he had phrased it El would now think that he didn't want her over at all.
Mike shook his head trying to reassure himself with the knowledge that at least it got him some peace in the house for the time being. As he walked back to the living room he glanced into the kitchen and saw the half eaten yoghurt left by El and felt another twinge of guilt wash over him. He surmised that El hadn't meant any harm, was her being here really that bad.
He sat on the couch, brushing off some crumbs from potato chips that El had left behind. Paladin jumped into his lap and settled down. Mike stroked his soft fur. "It's just me and you again Pal." The television was on and Mike was free to be alone with his thoughts once more.
It had been three days since Mike last saw El. He had never noticed until now that he never saw El coming or going unless she was at his apartment. He had told Dustin what had happened and even Dustin thought that he had been a little harsh. Ok, he knew how he went about it sucked but was it so wrong of him to occasionally want some peace and quiet in his own home?
As he settled in for the night, and Paladin jumped on the bed next to him, even though he wasn't allowed to, he run through the bust up with El again, he decided that it probably had been for the best. His house remained undisturbed. His tv channels the same. His food untouched. Everything in his life had shifted right back into place before there was a El Hopper.
A few evenings later Mike was walking up the path to the apartment building when El came out the door. She was walking quickly with her head down as if she didn't want to be bothered.
"Hi El." Mike called out to her.
El snapped her head around. "Hi."
"How's it …." Mike never got to finish his sentence as El was already walking away down the path.
Ouch. He didn't expect that it would have been a complete one eighty from hot to cold. Then again he didn't know El.
When he got into his apartment, everything was the same as he had left it that morning. His books were in the same spot. Paladin was sitting in the same spot at the foot of the couch. His food was the same way that he had left it. He dropped his keys down on the coffee table. When the fuck did his life get so damn monotonous?
The air was sharp and crisp at five thirty in the morning. However, his shirt was stuck to his back and chest because of the sweat of his early morning run. He loved inhaling the fresh air before it was ruined by the gunk of day to day life.
Dustin had told him that Stacey had asked about him at the trivia night, when he stayed home to babysit El. Dustin had said that Stacey had been hinting at another possible reconnection between the two of them and Mike wasn't opposed to the idea. Stacey was typically pretty with overtly feminine features. She had dark brown hair, blue eyes and a kissable mouth.
Stacey, however, was too flighty to be in a relationship but as Dustin loved to remind him, he needed to get some, it had been a while and like most men he has needs. Maybe he would call Stacey later today.
As luck would have had it, when he got to his hallway, El was coming out of her apartment but the way she looked had Mike stopping and staring. She had a black baseball cap with her honey brown hair tied up high and pulled through the back of the cap. Gone was the oversized t shirts he was used to seeing her in and there in their place, a snug fitting sports bra and Mike couldn't help but stare at her body. It was such a change from what he had seen her in up until now. She had delicate shoulders and toned arms, he blushed lightly as he took in her prominent collar bones down to her ample chest in that god damn sports bra. His eyes continued down to a flat toned stomach. In short, El had one hell of a body hiding under those clothes she was wearing.
As she walked towards him, he noticed that El's shorts were sitting low enough to rest on her hip bones and cupped just under her ass cheeks, leaving a long exspanse of bare leg on show. Mike sucked in his bottom lip. El was hot. And he was now noticing after he had kicked her out of his apartment. He had the worst timing.
"Hi," Mike said with an enthusiastic smile. "Haven't seen you in a while."
El looked at him as if he had made a terrible joke. "Yeah, well I've been busy."
"Well I hope to see you around more," Mike said hoping that El would get the hint.
"Yeah, whatever. I have to start my run." El said bouncing up and down on the toes of her sneakers.
El took off without another word and Mike sighed.
Mike had forgotten all about calling Stacey when he got back to his apartment. Sure El had been a bit weird and she left him feeling all confused but with a body like that, Mike was more than willing to over look a few things. Mike pulled his clothes off as he got ready for the shower. His dick was half hard and resting against his thigh. He absent mindedly ran the palm of his hand over it as he waited for the shower to get to the right temperature.
He was getting ahead of himself he thought as he stepped into the shower. He didn't even know if El was even interested in men, much less him for that matter.
He scolded himself for being so shallow at how quickly he didn't mind El invading his space anymore. Well once she invaded it with no clothes on, he wouldn't have a problem in the world, the dark part of his brain muttered.
He caught himself stroking his length to complete hardness and then shook his head at his predicament. Well this wouldn't be the first time that he got himself off in the shower.
Dustin laughed at him the next time he saw him at the office. He had told him about his predicament, minus getting himself off in the shower of course.
"I swear. I don't even know how you manage to cockblock yourself." Dustin chuckled as he shook his head.
"I didn't mean to." Mike responded meekly in his defense.
"Well since you practically chewed her out the last time she was over, why don't you go over to her place apologize and ask her out to have a drink with you to talk, clear the air?" Dustin suggested.
Mike chewed his bottom lip nervously. "You think it would work?"
"It may or may not. I mean you don't really have anything to lose. She's already not speaking to you."
"I guess." Mike didn't sound that optimistic as he packed up his bag.
Dustin clapped his hand on Mike's shoulder. "Cheer up. If you strike out, there's always Stacey."
"How exciting." Mike responded dryly.
Dustin was right. What did he have to lose? He raised his fist and knocked three times hard on El's front door. He waited for a moment or two and then knocked again. An annoyed "I'm coming" sounded through the door.
As he heard the locks being unfastened, Mike felt a nervousness in his belly. He didn't know why he was so anxious. He was just asking El out for a drink to clear the air between them.
"Oh, hi." El clearly looked surprised as she peaked her head out of the barely opened door.
"Hi," Mike started. "I was wondering if..."
"El! Hurry up and come back here." A dark skinned girl came up behind El and wrapped her arms around her waist.
"I'll be with you in a second Mick," El said giving her a cheeky wink "I just need to see what my neighbour wants."
Wow. He had been reduced back down to neighbour. Not even Mike. The wind had been completely knocked out of his sails and now with two sets of waiting eyes on him, he had lost all confidence.
"Nothing. Um, sorry to bother you. Have a good night." Mike said hurriedly as he walked away, feeling his cheeks turning red with embarrassment.
Two hours and six beers later, he was sprawled across his couch, with Paladin cuddled into his side. His fingers raking through the short hair on Paladin's head. The television was on but if asked, he couldn't say what was showing. He had fucked up. Big time. It had been a month since the blow up and since then El acted as if he was a stranger. Even though he had asked for it, he didn't expect things to be quite so unpleasant.
El used to talk a mile a minute about a million different things but never about herself. And he could still recall clearly, the pain in El's large doe eyes when Mike told her how unwelcome her company was. He had been a fucking prick to El. If the shoe had been on the other foot, he guessed that he wouldn't speak to her either. Now El was next door with a woman, looking all cozy and getting up to who knows what. He guessed that he never really had a shot to begin with.
Mike's fingers raked through the soft hair on Paladin's back as the cat was contented to have Mike all to himself again. "I think that I've really fucked up Pal. I don't think there's any chance of getting El back in any way now."