Stella woke up the next morning to the smell of fresh pancakes. For a moment she thought that she was still asleep; dreaming of` Aunt May’s cooking. But when she walked out of her bedroom she found Brandon behind the stove.
“Good morning,” Brandon smiled as he flipped a pancake in the pan.
“I never knew you could cook,” Stella stood watching Brandon in awe.
“I picked up a few tricks from watching Norman.” Brandon explained.
Stella moved closer into the kitchen to watch Brandon. He looked like a natural. Stella also noticed that Brandon was still wearing his boxer shorts and t-shirt from last night. Stella found herself staring at Brandon’s muscular arms more than she should have.
“I wanted to make you some breakfast to thank you for letting me sleep on your couch.” Brandon put the fresh pancakes on a plate for Stella. “You are almost out of milk though. I barely had enough for the recipe.”
“Yeah, my fridge is pretty bare,” Stella admitted. “I don’t cook at all. Aunt May tried to teach me once, but I almost burned the house down. I usually eat at the hospital cafeteria or I’ll order a pizza. Vito’s Pizzeria has gotten to know me so well that they named a pizza after me.”
“So what’s your plan?” Stella asked with a mouth full of pancakes. It had been a long time since she has had something for breakfast besides cold cereal.
“I’m not entirely sure,” Brandon sipped his orange juice. “I want to find a job, but no one is going to hire me wearing torn up jeans.”
“Every Sunday I have dinner with my aunts, but in the mean time we can go shopping.” Stella loves shopping. Plus she needed some retail therapy after the brutal week of school. “And before you even protest, you need to know that I want to do this.”
Stella reached across the table and took a hold of Brandon’s hand, “you risked your life to save mine, and I could never repay that. So instead let me help you. We can get you a few new things to wear and you can stay on my couch for as long as you want to.”
Brandon still protested anyway, but in the end Stella won and they spent the morning at the mall getting new clothes, shoes, and everything else he needed. He was grateful, but Brandon couldn’t help but notice the awkwardness between them.
Brandon loves Stella; he always has and he always will. Unfortunately for him, he could tell that the feeling wasn’t mutual. She acted nice and pleasant, but Stella had walls up to keep her from getting close (both physically and emotionally).
The Seasons and their significant others all showed up at Stella’s home around 6pm. And you can imagine how surprised they all were when Brandon greeted them at the door.
“Brandon,” April, May, and June greeted him with a friendly hug as they introduced him to their boyfriends. “it has been a long time. How have you been?”
The men talked to Brandon about sports, and cooking, and comics while the women talked to Stella in her room.
“We are not judging,” May started the conversation, “we are just a little surprised to find you living with your ex-boyfriend.”
“First off, we are not living together the way you think we are,” Stella was on the defense, although she wasn’t sure why. “Brandon is sleeping on the couch. Secondly, he saved my life. This is literally the least that I could do for him. Thirdly, we are just friends. He is only staying here until he can afford to get a place of his own.”
“Or until you realize that you love him,” June interjected.
“I don’t love him,” Stella finally said what she had been feeling for a long time, “yes, I was in love with him at one time in my life. I also trusted him. And he betrayed that trust. I don’t know if I can ever forgive that”.
The dinner was spent in joyous conversation. May offered to give Brandon a few cooking lessons, while June offered to see if the stadium was hiring. But when everyone left, the awkwardness returned.
“I have to get up early tomorrow,” Stella retreated into her bedroom. And once again Brandon was alone in the dark. What Stella didn’t know was that Brandon had overhead the conversation with her aunts. And the way she emphasized the “just friends” part cut him like a knife.
“I don’t blame her for not trusting me,” Brandon thought as he put his head down to sleep, “but I will show her that I am not a failure.”