Sara was standing at the kitchen sink, her arms up to her elbows in dishwater, trying to find that last fork she knew was in there. What a long day. There were several depositions that Mr. Hart had been taking that required her presence and then it was her responsibility to get the transcripts typed up and filed, ready to go to the judge the next day. She had a headache and all she wanted was to sit down and put her feet up, but when she got home the kitchen was a mess. James had obviously been at the house for lunch and had used a number of pots and pans and all of it was sitting out on the counters.
She wanted to just leave it, but she also wanted to make chicken marsala for supper. She had been craving it all day and nothing else was going to do for her belly but that she make it. And so she needed the kitchen to make the meal.
“Ugh!” she exclaimed as dishwater sloshed out of the sink onto her shirt and skirt. She was soaked. Rather than take the time to go to her room to change, she just stripped out of her shirt and skirt right there in the kitchen. James wasn’t coming home early tonight and it was her house, damn it, why shouldn’t she stand in the kitchen in her bra and underwear.
In the two months since James had come to live in her house, she had been so careful to be modest around him. She always wore a bra out of her room, and never walked around in her robe, always pajama pants and a shirt. She didn’t have a problem with it, but because she did not want things to be weird between them, she had tried to be very careful. When she thought about it later, it seemed ironic that events played out as they did, considering how careful she had always been.
James walked into the house to loud music blaring from the kitchen. “Oh no,” he thought, remembering how he left the counters. “She’s going to be pissed about having to clean up.”
Though he had come home to just pick up some paperwork he had forgotten earlier, he figured that the best thing to do was to go and talk with Sara and help her with whatever cleaning was left to do. As he stepped into the kitchen, he was met with a half-naked woman’s backside. Sara was cleaning the sink and dancing and singing while she worked. And she was doing it all in her bra and panties.
He wasn’t sure what to do. He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to stride across the room, wrap her in his arms, bend her backwards and kiss her until her toes curled. But he just stood there and stared which was probably just as bad because at that moment Sara turned around, mid-tune and spotted James standing in the doorway.
She opened her mouth to speak, closed it, then opened it again to say, “Well, I got wet while I was cleaning up your mess. I didn’t know you’d be home. Besides, it’s my house anyway and if I want to stand in the kitchen half-naked then that’s what I’ll do.”
James still couldn’t speak. He had now been treated to a view of all of her and she was so beautiful. His fighting had worked well for a while, but now he knew that he was losing, and losing fast. Her hair had started out the day in a bun, but little wisps of it were now drifting down over her neck. Her smooth skin made him want to reach out and touch it. And her breasts were obviously swelling with her pregnancy because they seemed to be having a hard time staying in the confines of the bra she was wearing.
Her stomach was tight, but was just beginning to swell with the baby. She looked so vibrant and proud standing there with her chin held up high. As if she noticed his gaze on her belly, her hands covered it and her eyes looked hurt.
“I know, I…,” she said, her eyes sad. “Just let me go get dressed.” She came towards him to leave the kitchen.
James reached out and grabbed her arm. “You, Sara Carraway, are…You are pregnant. You are a widow.” He was standing so close to her now, he could smell her shampoo and her perfume, see the tops of her breasts. “And you are…beautiful.” He couldn’t resist putting his hand on her slightly swollen stomach. Her eyes shot up to his, questioning the truthfulness of his statement. He knew she didn’t believe him. But he thought he knew a way to make her understand.
Her mouth just wasn’t that far from his, he thought later, remembering the moment when their lips met. How could he leave her feeling the way she felt? He needed her to know that he found her attractive, beautiful, lovely. So he did tell her, with a kiss. And she had kissed him back. Her arms had gone up around his neck and her fingers had curled in his hair. James had wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer - wanting to take away that sad look in her eyes. Then the doorbell rang.
When it did, Sara pulled back and pushed against him and backed away, a look of horror on her face. He held up his hands and moved out of the doorway.
“Sara, I’m sorry. I —” The look she gave him stopped his words. She ran past him into her room and slammed the door. He stood and collected himself for a minute then went to the front door. It was Jane. A package had been delivered during the day and she had signed for it, for Sara.
“Thanks, Miss Jane. I think that Sara is resting. I’m heading back to work, but I’ll put it on the table where Sara will see it.”
Jane looked concerned. That woman was like a psychic when it came to sensing distress. “Is everything all right, James? Is Sara okay?”
“Yes, ma’am. Like I said, she’s resting. Thanks again.”
“All right, you’re welcome.” James closed the door, leaning against it. The woman wouldn’t have to be a psychic to sense there was something wrong with him. He could feel how out of breath he was. He reached up and realized his hair was out of place in the back. Surely she wouldn’t guess. Surely.
He went to Sara’s door and knocked. “Sara?” No answer. “Listen, that was Miss Jane. She brought your package. I’ve left it on the table in the kitchen.” He walked away from the door, prepared to leave and return to work. But he had to try once more.
“Sara, please, won’t you talk to me? I’m so sorry. I never meant to make you do something you weren’t ready for. I care too much for you to do that. Please?” He put his ear to the door and could make out the sounds of muffled crying. What could he do? Break down the door? Declare his love? He wasn’t even sure that was what he felt. There were so many emotions and feelings and responsibilities tied up in what he felt for Sara, that he didn’t know what to call this storm within him.
He was certainly attracted to her. The further along she got in her pregnancy, the more she seemed to glow. He knew she didn’t see it, but he did. He also knew that any kind of romantic relationship was too much for her right now. And if he really did care about her, then making her hate herself was not the way to helping her. So he would give her what she needed most, some space.
When Sara finally came out of her room hours later, there was no sign of James. He wasn’t in the living room and the door to his bedroom was open. Sara walked into the kitchen to get a bottle of water. On the fridge was a note:
After work tonight, I’m going home to Oden for a few days. My mom needed some help with a project.
Enjoy the empty house,
Sara wasn’t sure what to think. At first she was mad. How dare he leave and prevent her from yelling at him? She had quite a few things to say to him and he was just trying to avoid a confrontation. Sara took the bottle of water and walked out to the porch. She sat on the swing and thought more about the note. Perhaps he was giving her what she needed. Distance. From him and the emotions and feelings that he brought out in her.
If that was his intention, then he was doing her a favor. And by the time he returned, she would have her emotions in check. There’s no way she would let what happened in the kitchen between them, happen again.