Sunday evening, done with dinner with her old friend from high school, was the perfect time to stop by and say hello to another. She given thought to calling first, and she would have, `cept all she had was an address given to her by Mavis four months ago. She didn’t ask how Mavis knew where to find him, just accepted it and sent him an invitation to her college graduation.
She was perfectly okay receiving her diploma in the mail, but that of course was not acceptable to Mavis. “Five plus years, Sydney King and you are going to march across that stage and I’m going to be there to watch you,” she’d said. There was no way she could say no to that and truth be told, she was glad she’d hadn’t. What a rush walking across that stage had been, and a sense of pride at finishing something she’d dreamed of. He didn’t show not that she’d expected him too.
She was done, finally, the recipient of two degrees. Art and engineer as she planned. She had done what she’d set out to, what Graham had forced he too, from long time ago. She would be forever grateful to him for it and the reason she was driving to his home, to to say thanks, in person. She felt she had too.
According to her smartphone’s GPS, she was a mile from his house. She scanned the area around her, so very different from when she grew up here, more populated she thought. Older homes wore torn down and these more expensive looking homes had replaced them. She followed the British accented male voice of her GPS and made a left turn onto Turnball Lane.
The homes in this neighborhood were smaller than what he’d lived in before, which didn’t mean they were any less expensive. All new construction with limited grass, and cool designs. G’s home was in the middle of the second block, between two also newly built homes.
She was a little disappointed that he moved from his old home. Talk about coveting a house. So many memories, of her being tutored, the kid sister of his boy’s girlfriend. No going back, to his old home or those desires for them to be more. She so did, had seen herself all kinds of married to him. She could laugh at that now, and appreciate how much he worked to not interfere with her goal of getting to college.
She could cringe at her younger self sneaking into bed with him that one time. All behind her now, she was sure of it, she hoped anyway. Seeing him tonight would be a test of that for sure. First loves were tough to get over she’d heard, however one sided hers had been. It was something about this dude, a connection she felt to him. From the age of fourteen, he had captured her attention in a way that all the boys and men since hadn’t, and paying for her college only made it worse.
Loads of dating in college and he still lingered around in the back of her brain. Still, she was no longer that girl, had gotten away to grow up and into a young woman she was proud of.
She parked out in front, picked up her gift she’d wrapped for him and made her way up the side walk leading to his home, careful not to trip over feet as she maneuvered around the large slabs of stone that were placed on top of each other to form a walkway. Interesting was her thought of G’s home, followed by it was so him, modern. Stone of half of it, the part facing the front and the side was lass, large glass squares, opaque so you couldn’t see in. Was he home? The answer was yes if the light behind the glass was an indication. She hoped he was alone.
She’d dressed well. Unlike her child hood’s love of jeans and t-shirts, the adult Sydney preferred dresses that showcased her figure and with her hair, free and full, falling softly around on her head, bouncing with the force of her steps, she could make quite the impression. Had made quite the impression on a bunch of young boys in college. Of her ability to attract the male gaze she was sure of. She rang the doorbell and waited.
“Surprise,” She said, when it opened. Dang she thought, was life always going to be good for him?. Relaxed he appeared in his athletic shorts and a faded Rice University’s t-shirt. The same handsome dude. Muscle had thickened, filling out the slim boyhood body her young girl had grown up admiring. He’d changed, but only in a good way.
“Sydney King,” He said, his smile wide as he looked her over.
“In the flesh.” She said, smiling.
“Come in,” he said, opening the door wider.
“Sure.” She said, resisting the urge to stare at him and the inside of his home. So gorgeous and male was both the man and his inside living space. Wood, dark, tiled flooring and so many windows, floor to ceiling squares shaped glass overlooking the plain grass backyard.
He closed the door behind her, gave her the once over from head toe and back up, which for some reason he didn’t try to hide and okay she thought surprised and more than a little unsure what to make of it.
“So, I bet you’re wondering why I’m here.”
“To say hello?” he said.
“Yes,” she said, pushing a box rectangular in shape, covered in pink paper and tied with a white ribbon, into his stomach. “This as a small token of my appreciation for your funding of my education. For encouraging me to finish high school and college. I wouldn’t have done it without you. So, thanks. You were right! I needed to do it.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, and she could tell he meant it. That he was proud of her. He cleared his throat. “I knew your dreams remember.”
“I do,” she said, smiling. “Which was why I wanted to stop by to personally thank you for helping me to reach them.”
“You’re welcome. Congratulations.” He said, smiling, shaking his head, before he tore open the gift wrapping, letting it fall to the floor as he worked to free the contents. He smiled as he stared at a picture of her, dressed in her cap and gown, one hand outstretched toward the dean, accepting her diploma.
“Thank you.” He said, of the framed picture. She watched him smile at her picture, not sure she’d ever forget the look of pleasure on his face as he did so. He really wanted the best for her, which she’d known, but wow at having him in her corner, she thought. “It’s perfect.” He said. He opened his arm, and pulled her in for a hug.
“Your first kid though college, huh.” she said, into his neck, arms around his waist, and she could feel the old familiar pull that she always felt around him. What was it about this dude?
“Something like that,” he said, chuckling, releasing her.
“Well, without your financial support it would not have been possible.”
“It would have. You’d done what you needed to do. You always have, standing in the hall, waiting to ask me to tutor you. You remember?”
“I do.” She said, her smile rueful.
“You always find a way. You always have.”
“Maybe. Anyway, thanks.” She said, bending over to pick up the wrapping paper from the floor. It needed picking up, and she needed a place to hide her pleasured reaction to his words.
“So, you’re back for good?” He asked, watching her bent form as she made short work of picking up the wrapping paper. She looked perfect in her dress, a bold pink number, trimmed in white, simple and a compliment to the smooth brown of her skin. It hugged her curves and the right amount of ass that had apparently caught up with her legs. No more braids, instead it was hair thick and natural, forming a halo around her head and wow, someone had really grown up, he thought, taking in the physical changes again that accompanied her growth.
“I think so.” She said, standing upright again, meeting his gaze.
“Working?” He asked.
“Yes. I’m going to work for OCAAT” She said, chin up and bracing for his reaction of displeasure.
“OCAAT huh,” He said, his expression blank.
“It’s a good organization G.” the words rushing from her mouth, before she caught herself. She didn’t need anyone’s approval for her decisions she reminded herself. “It’s not engineering but it’s important work. I worked for them every summer. I like what they do for our kids. You know this. It’s the same from when we volunteered, except they’ve grown into a remarkable organization. The schools have really turned into something special, and the neighborhoods that surround them, are changing.” She said.
He could hear the excitement in her voice and the hesitation. “I know. I understand, it’s a good choice.” He said, nodding.
“For real,” she looked at him askance. “No what the hell Syd,” she said, in her best imitation of a male voice.
“I expected all kinds of responses, but not that one.” She added, and dang he was handsome when he smiled. How had she forgotten it’s impact.
“It’s your life and OCAAT is a great organization. Changing the world one child at a time.”
“Yes.” She said, pleased and still surprised again at the lack of anything remotely like the disappointment she’d expected.
“Any word from your sister?” He asked.
“Ah. . . no,” she said, surprised by the question. She rarely thought of her sister, or she tried not to think of Shelby King. Some days it was harder than others.
“How’s Crystal and Nico? Are they still living in Austin?” He asked.
“Nope, moved back to Hillsborough. I saw them last weekend. I kept in touch during college, saw them as often as I could during spring breaks and holidays. Nico’s the same Nico,” she said, smiling.
“I bet.” He said, smiling too, remembering she thought. The doorbell rang, interrupting whatever he was about to say.
“Expecting someone?” She asked.
“Yep.” He said with a grin or grimace, she couldn’t tell which. “Hey,” he said, to a woman, an Aster look alike if ever there was one, Sydney thought. The same as Caroline in college, when she’d gone up to see him that one time.
“Heather, this is a Sydney, a good friend of mine from high school.” He said, moving aside so she could enter.
“Hi. Nice to meet you,” Heather of the blond hair said, swinging it out of her face as she moved inside. She smiled, studying Sydney for signs of encroachment.
“Hi,” Sydney said, before returning her gaze to G. “Well I’m out. I didn’t plan to stay any longer than it took to drop that off.” She said, pointing to the picture in G’s hand. “Thanks again G,” she said.
“You’re welcome again. See you around.” He said, watching as she moved past Heather and through to the outside. She smiled one last time before she turned away.
“Hey,” he said, planting a kiss squarely on her lips. “A friend from high school that I used to tutor. She finished college this year,” he said, smiling, and closing the door.
“Helping the under privilege?”
“No, not at all.” He said, slightly irritated by her words. “We attended the same high school.” It had never been that, he thought.
“I didn’t mean to offend you.” She said, watching him.
“I’m not offended,” he said, smiling, and yeah he was. It didn’t matter as he and Heather weren’t that couple.
“What high school?”
“That’s a good school I hear, in a good neighborhood. A great place to raise kids.”
“It was. It is,” he said, smiling at the memory of his old student, friend, now an adult. A very beautiful adult just as the thought she’d be. He sort of always knew she would be a beauty when she grew up, Lori used to tell him that back then. Hell, the last time he saw her, at his apartment after her sister left, she’d was well into her change, but even his imaginings had not prepared him for this. Or maybe it was just him. She’d always had an impact on him, running down the street barefoot his first encounter with her, and as much as he kept her in the little sister, friend zone, for safety’s sake, he’d always known there was something about her that appealed to him, on a level he couldn’t understand or explain, especially at seventeen. He mostly felt a need to protect her, which he tried his best to do.
Anyway, things were different now, she was no longer a child, and the characteristics he liked in the teenage Sydney, her brain, her gumption, her heart were available in the adult version, and mixed in with a body fashioned in the way he like them fashioned and a lot to do with the reason he was still single. She had returned to town to work with OCAAT, not at all related to engineering. He knew the reason and if all went as planned, they’d be working together. Sydney didn’t know that yet, but she would soon enough.
“Hey, where’d you go?” Heather said, her expression cautious as she gazed back at him.
“What. Nowhere. I’m here, with you.”
“Doesn’t feel like it.” She said.
“My apologies then,” he said, pulling her close as he pushed his thoughts of Sydney to the back of his mind, to contemplate later, tonight it was a here and now, and Heather.