Inseparable Strangers

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Authors: Jill Patten
over just the slightest.
    “I’ll have some
breakfast for you when you get out,” I told him as he walked into the bathroom.
    An hour later, I
heard the bathroom door open. Finally. I was starting to worry that he’d
fallen asleep and drowned in my bathtub. Wouldn’t that had been a pile of shit,
going through the trouble to save his damn life only for him to die in my tub
two days later?
    During that hour,
I’d cooked eggs and bacon, and had sourdough toast on the side. Without
waiting, I ate while it was still warm and placed the rest of it in the
microwave. When he emerged from the bathroom, a swarm of magnolias swirled out
the door and dispersed throughout the house. “You smell nice,” I said, as I
turned around to face him, not expecting to find a pleasantly groomed man
standing before me. His face was tanned and smooth, a far cry from the layers
of dirt previously caked on. I would’ve thought for sure it would be weathered
and beaten. His long, sandy brown, not dirty blond hair was pulled back into a
braid. The matted up mess I’d thought to be dreads were just the opposite. They
were from weeks of not bathing. A chill ran up my spine from the thoughts of what
kind of bugs could’ve been living in his head, and what remnants were thriving
in my porcelain tub. The repulsive beard was still intact, but it was no longer
full of dried blood and food.
    My compliment took
me by surprise, and apparently it did him too. His green eyes widened, then
easily relaxed as a crooked smile pulled to the side of his mouth. 
    “Do you feel
    He ran his hands
over his face then lightly grabbed his beard as his hand gently slid down the
length. “God, yes. So much better. I forgot how great it feels to be clean,” he
admitted, continuing to graze his fingers through his beard. I wasn’t one to
enjoy a man with a beard. A five o’clock shadow was more my style, but he wore
it well. It gave him some sort of sex appeal. Maybe it was the way he stroked
it. I could vision him stroking something else. God, I so need to get laid.
    He stopped
stroking his beard when he saw me watching him. “Thank you.”
    Hopefully, he was
thanking me for the bath and not my gawking while thinking dirty thoughts. I
shrugged, “Not a problem at all.” If he only knew I was more appreciative of
his bath than he was. “So, how bad are the injuries?” I asked in order to deter
my attention away from his bruised hand stroking his beard again.
    He dropped his
hand from his face and I sighed with relief. “I’d say I definitely broke at
least two ribs, and there are bruises all along my abdomen, side and back. I
have several lacerations on my knees and shin. They’ve scabbed up nicely
though. Nothing I’ve not dealt with before,” he said nonchalantly.
    “Do you need any
ointment or bandages?”
    “No, I’ll be fine.
Just one of those things you have to allow to heal on its own.”
    It surprised me
how we were able to talk comfortably to one another being the strangers we
were. I didn’t talk this much to anyone except my father and on occasion,
Victoria. The contentment I found with Aaron should be alarming but, oddly I
found it soothing. Most of the time people pissed me off, and I hated their
company, but I didn’t feel that with him. “I made bacon and eggs. Would you
like some?” I asked, pointing my thumb toward the kitchen.
    Normally I
couldn’t make out his facial expressions from the hair on his face, but this
time a hint of teeth told me he was actually smiling. “Yes, that would be greatly
appreciated. Thank you.” I guess bacon and eggs were a step up from the tomato
soup, and probably anything he’d eaten in who knew how long.
    His smile was
contagious and I found myself doing the same thing. “I also have sourdough
bread if you’d like some toasted with butter.”
    He nodded, “No,
thank you.”
    Aaron sat down at
the bar while I warmed the remaining food in the microwave. “So, how long have
you been in

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