Smut Rating: (tame)

It has been three years, seven months, thirteen hours and twelve minutes since the crash. Besides my Peter, three others lost their lives and one was damaged beyond repair. Everyone told me to stop blaming myself. No one could have prevented the accident, not even the most skilled driver. The icy roads came too suddenly and I did everything I was supposed to.

But that didn’t stop the pain, nor the guilt. During the week I spent in the hospital afterwards, I promised there would never be another love in my heart. Peter was The One. No one would come after. Causing the death of my heart meant I wouldn’t allow more love in.

Most people told me I was being foolish. Peter wouldn’t want me to never love again. It didn’t matter, though. I knew my duty.

I kept to myself in the years following. The solitude of my apartment gave me the only comfort. A place to hide. A place to grieve.

That was until my new next-door neighbor came.

I saw him in passing several times, never speaking. He was beautiful; tall, handsome, dark and wavy hair and soulful brown eyes. He would smile as we passed in the tiny stairwell and it would light the whole space. He tried many times to befriend me, but just looking at him made my heart ache. He made me think thoughts I’d sworn off for good.

One day, he showed up on my door step after a long day of work. When I opened the door, my heart skipped a beat. I fought my instincts to close the door.

“Hey, neighbor,” he said jovially. “I’m a sales representative. Today I’m here to sell myself!” He noticed the slightly disgusted shock on my face and laughed. “Oh, hell, I just realized how that must have sounded. No, I mean, I was hoping I could somehow convince you to join me for dinner.”

I swallowed hard a couple of times before I could speak. “Look, dude, I don’t know you…”

He gave me a patient smile. “You’re right. You don’t. But I see you all the time, and you always look so down. No one so beautiful should be so sad.” He sighed with exasperation at himself. “Sorry, that was just about the cheesiest thing I’ve ever said. And you’re entitled to be sad if you are.” He sighed again. “This is coming off all wrong. I’m sorry.”

He seemed to be grasping at what to say. As he struggled, I felt a bit of laughter bubbling in my chest. For the first time in a long time, I felt myself smile.

“Yeah, you suck at this,” I said, squashing down laughter as I spoke. “I’m not sure if ‘sales’ is your calling.”

He grinned at me as he shrugged his shoulders. Red was beginning to stain his cheeks.

“I’d like to think I do alright.” He held out a hand to me. “My name is Devon, from 3B.”

I cautiously took his hand in mine. “Charolette, from 2A.”

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

“You, too.”

Devon took his hand away, slowly, as though afraid to break contact. “Now that we’ve met, maybe I can try again? I have some very cheap red wine and a questionable cut of steak we can call fillet mignon if you would like to join me for dinner.”

I admired his persistence if nothing else. It reminded me of the first time Peter asked me out all those years ago. My heart filled with warmth and sadness. The warmth was what egged me on.

“Okay, I guess. As long as you’re not a serial killer.”

“Last time I checked, I think I’m not.” He backed away, his grin becoming wider as he moved. “I’ll see you upstairs at 7:30, then?”

I nodded. “Sounds good.”

“Alright! I’ll go get everything set up.”

As he sprinted up the stairs, I closed the door with a smile. Giddiness and eagerness both hit me as I ran off to get ready.

On my way out the door at 7:25, I picked up the picture of Peter on my mantel. I pressed my lips to glass, leaving a lipstick stain behind.

“This isn’t goodbye,” I whispered to his smiling face. With a heavy sigh, I left my apartment and into an un-known future.