Focus, Dax. Look Up. (An Excerpt)

One of my favorite scenes in Everything She Ever Wanted is the Anaya family dinner where Dax has to face Harlow after their not-so-friendly first meeting three days earlier. And with the holiday season in full swing, it’s one of the scenes that always brings a smile to my face.

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“You forgot, didn’t you?” Sarah calls out from the dinner table the moment I step through the door before turning to look at our grandmother. “I told you he forgot. He was probably playing video games with the Villier brothers again.”

“So what if I was? I’m on vacation,” I mumble as I take the only available seat between Nana and my sister’s on-and-off-again boyfriend, Benny Turner, and father of their eight-year-old son, Dyami. Benny works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as an environmental protection specialist on climate change as it affects the tribes in the region.

After a round of hi’s and hello’s, Nana finally introduces me to our guest, who’s sitting right in front of me, flanked between Sarah and Dyami.

“Hello, Dax,” Harlow says as I mutter something that sounds like Hi. “Nice to see you again.”

She’s wearing a pink top that plays up her key assets—her flawless skin, pert nose, and big beautiful brown eyes. And then there are her full lips that she just now licks, and as my eyes drift lower, my gaze lands on her perfect tits.  Focus, Dax.  Look up.

“Oh, so you’ve both met?” Benny asks as I tear my gaze from Harlow’s tits to her face and meet her big brown eyes.  God, she’s beautiful.

“Yes, we have,” Harlow says. “Dax came by two days ago to say hello.”

“He did? That was sweet of him,” Sarah says, smiling as she ignores my scowl and I know she’s going to torment me all throughout dinner, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Not in front of a guest. “I never realized he took the time to say hello to any of his renters.”

“Stop it, Sarah,” Nana says. “Why don’t we say grace and eat before Dyami sneaks another piece of fry bread when he thinks no one is looking.”

“You guys didn’t have to wait for me,” I say sheepishly as soon as Nana finishes saying grace and begins to dish out the stew in bowls, handing each one to Sarah to pass around the table.

“And since when do you turn off your phone, mijo?” she asks, handing me a bowl of stew. “We’ve been trying to reach you for the past hour to remind you to be here before our guest arrived.”

I pull out my phone from my back pocket and place it on the table. “Turn off my phone? Why would I turn off my…” I pause, noticing that it’s dead. “Oh, shit–”

“No cussing at the table, and you know my rule about phones during dinner. All of them, off,” Nana says as I return the phone into my back pocket, as does Benny who makes a guilty face.

“So, were you working at the Pearl?” Benny asks as Harlow takes a warm tortilla from the serving plate in front of her. “Want a beer?”

“Sure,” I reply as he twists one open and hands it to me. “Nah, it’s currently rented, in case you didn’t know.”

Benny shakes his head. “Nope, guess I didn’t know that. I always thought you stayed at the Pearl whenever you’re in town.”

“Not right now,” Sarah says in a sing-song voice as she grins at Harlow, ignoring the glare I’m shooting her way.

“Unfortunately, I’m renting it right now,” Harlow finally speaks, and I pray she doesn’t mention anything about my little visit. I continue eating my stew, biting into the tortillas that Nana makes from scratch. I can’t wait to have some fresh fry bread for dessert. “I didn’t realize that Dax uses it for work. If I’d known–”

“—you’d still stay according to your original plans,” Nana says before glaring at me. “And don’t you dare let my grandson bully you into leaving early.”

“Dax? Bully you into leaving? Say it ain’t true?” Sarah teases, watching me squirm before she turns to look at Harlow. “Is it true?”

I stuff a tortilla in my mouth and pretend I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Sarah is eight years older than I am and has always loved teasing me since we were kids. She knows how much I hate it, and so she does it every time we see each other. If I glare at her, she’ll only keep doing it, but I’m not about to let her bully me into silence either, even if my mouth is full.

“I id not bully a-wone in-o leaving.”

“Don’t speak with your mouth full, mijo,” Nana says as Benny chuckles.

“Yeah, don’t talk with your mouth full, Uncle Dax,” Dyami chimes in just as Benny raises an eyebrow at his son.

“And you, too, young man.”

“Look, I’m sorry,” I blurt out as everyone at the table suddenly becomes quiet. I know they’re watching me as I take a deep breath and look at Harlow. I’m sure it’s no accident why Nana has me sitting right across from her. “I’m sorry I came over that day, Dr. James, but I swear, I was not trying to get you to leave early.”

“Call me Harlow,” she says, smiling before she pins her gaze on me. “So why did you come over?”

I open my mouth to speak but stop myself. Mentioning the suicide note and the gun would only tell her that I was there that night, and that’s the last thing I want anyone to know. “Does it matter now? I got my weeks wrong, that’s all, and that’s why I’m apologizing right now. And I don’t care if you forgive me or not, but I’m sorry.”

“Don’t you have your stuff over there?” Sarah asks. “Why don’t you just get them and do your work here?”

I shrug.  “That’s alright. I figure I’ll head back to Flagstaff tomorrow and come back in two weeks. That should make everyone happy.”

“YOU’RE LEAVING?!”

It’s a chorus of voices that catches me by surprise, just as I see the hurt expression that crosses Nana’s face.  I see her glance at me and then at Harlow just as I look away.

“But you can’t leave! You just got here, Uncle Dax!” Dyami exclaims. “Please stay!  I still need to beat you in Minecraft.”

I actually had no plans of leaving but for the first time, the crowd around the table is getting the best of me, and I hate it.  But it’s not their fault.  Sure, I may look like my sister’s easy target but she’s just Sarah, the hospice nurse who sees so much death that she has to balance all that sadness out with something or she’ll go crazy.  It’s one of the other reasons I look forward to coming home because when there are no guests around, I dish it back to her just as good.

No, it’s not them.  But the woman sitting across from me is making me nervous. She even makes the butterflies in my belly flutter, and right now, I’m not happy about that. She’s a beautiful woman, and so out of my league, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her since I first saw her on my bed that night. It’s not even about the damn gun and the damn note anymore for she’s apparently changed her mind about killing herself, and now here she is enjoying my grandmother’s cooking.

No, this is about me and my damn knight in shining armor act, wanting to save every fucking damsel in distress. Only this time, it’s different, and I can feel it in my bones.

With Harlow James and her damn tits, I’ll be the one who’ll need the saving.

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Photo of woman laughing by Lesly Juarez (Unsplash) and was one of two main inspiration photos for Harlow James

7 thoughts on “Focus, Dax. Look Up. (An Excerpt)

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