Don't Ring the Doorbell
A young girl lost in a confusing time in her life finds herself swept up in a confusing and inappropriate relationship with an older man.
Don’t Ring the Doorbell.
The whole thing started a week after my 19th birthday. My mom was having a party, which she didn’t do very often, but I guess she was just in the mood for it. Our apartment was pretty small, and all her friends happened to be large men, so it got packed in there pretty quickly.
I had come home from a party and was pretty drunk. I had stopped at the 7-11 down the street on my way home to buy a pack of cigarettes and the guy didn’t ID me for the first time, so I was feeling pretty cocky. I fumbled a bit taking my shoes off at the door when I got in and was deafened by booming laughter and conversation over loud music coming from the living room. Once I finally kicked my shoes off, I went into the kitchen to get some water. That’s when I saw him.
I didn’t really think anything of him upon first glance and continued pouring the water into my glass and gulped it down, water spilling down my chin. He was focused, struggling to twist the cap off a beer. It seemed like he didn’t see me at first, his eyes fixed on the bottle. I turned toward him, leaning against the sink, watching, drinking. He finally looked up and saw me.
“Oh, sorry,” he said, doing a double take, “Rosie?”
“Yeah,” I said cautiously.
“Wow, I haven’t seen you since you were little. You must be like… what, twenty-something now?”
“Nineteen,” I said, taking another chug of water.
“Wow,” he said, his eyes scanning me from head to toe.
I felt a tingle go through my body. I knew what he was thinking. He was looking at me the same way guys looked at me all the time, especially older ones. I could tell he was about to start hitting on me, and part of me really wanted him to, probably the part that was countless drinks deep. I usually wanted them to, even if I wasn’t interested. It was entertaining to see grown men stumble over their words and try to impress me. I liked knowing that they were thinking about fucking me.
“I’m sorry, but I really don’t remember you,” I said, laughing. “Maybe one of those beers would help jog my memory?”
“Usually beer has the opposite effect for me, but I’m willing to give it a try. Plus, it seems like you’ve already had a few tonight, so if you do something stupid because you’re drunk, you can’t blame me for it.”
He handed me the beer he had already opened and reached into the fridge for another and uncapped it, more easily this time but still with a bit of difficulty. I took a big swig, maintaining eye contact. He raised his eyebrows, smiling and laughed, shaking his head a little. The song in the background ended, and the sound of people laughing and talking from the other room was suddenly very noticeable.
“Hey Frank, flip the record!” I heard my mom yell.
I shook my head in embarrassment and took another big sip.
“Sounds like your mom’s even drunker than you are. Like mother like daughter?” He smiled, revealing slightly crooked bottom teeth.
“She taught me everything I know about drinking, that’s for sure,” I said, laughing.
“You look a lot like her when she was your age. I’m Mike, by the way. Your mom and I were friends in high school and for a long time after that, but I moved away for a while and just got back last month.”
“Oh, yeah, she mentions you a lot. She’s happy you’re back.”
“I’m happy I’m back too.”
“Are you the one who just had a baby?”
“Uh,” he said, rubbing his forehead, “yeah, I did. Well, my wife did, I didn’t do anything.”
“Well, not nothing, surely. Unless she had an affair and it’s not even your kid,” I said. My heart sank a little at his mention of a wife, but the way he said it led me to believe maybe she wasn’t his wife anymore.
He laughed a booming laugh and his crystal-blue eyes crinkled at the corners, revealing his age.
My ears perked up as a new album started playing from the other room, and I started mumble-singing along to a Pixies song.
“You know this song?” Mike asked, surprised. I looked him in the eye again, downing the rest of my beer.
“All the records are mine,” I said.
He looked at me, blinking.
“Really?” he said. “I love the Pixies.”
I could tell he was smitten. That was all it took; playful banter, bust his balls a little bit, and then impressing him with my cool demeanor and great music taste. He was hooked. Whether it was the fact that I looked just like my mom when she was my age and it was bringing back some kind of weird sexual memories, or if he was just drunk and horny, I wasn’t sure. But either way, I could sense it. I felt my body flush with heat and decided to keep playing along.
“How about another beer?” I asked, moving closer to him, grinning and shaking my empty bottle.
“What am I gonna drink if you drink all my beer?” Mike said, eyebrow arched. He didn’t budge an inch as I got closer.
“I don’t know, I think maybe you’ve had enough,” I said, attempting a wink. “I better take them away before you embarrass yourself.”
He laughed but didn’t make any moves to get me a beer. He kept looking at me and
I reached my arm around him to the fridge, my body close enough to his that I could feel his body heat against mine. I grabbed a beer and leaned back against the counter. I smiled, giggled, daring him to protest as I slowly twisted the cap off and brought the bottle to my lips. He just looked at me, smiling.
The sound of someone changing the record in the other room again filled the silence and we continued looking at each other. I suddenly was aware of how long we’d been silent for and I looked at my toes against the kitchen floor and flexed them. The new record started with a fuzzy scratch and Do You Realize??by The Flaming Lips came on. I jerked my head up and started singing along, louder this time. I looked toward the hallway, but was aware of his eyes still on my face. I licked my lips and met his eyes.
“What? Why are you staring?” I asked, feigning shock.
“I’m just really surprised you know this song, too. You have good taste in music.”
“Just because I’m young doesn’t mean I don’t know good music.”
“I see that.”
He laughed as my mom came bursting into the room, still yelling something behind her to someone in the other room. She whipped her head around, stumbling slightly as she saw me. Her glassy eyes lit up.
“Rosie! You’re home, good. I’m happy you made it home safe because I worry sometimes when you go out,” she slurred.
“Yeah right, looks like you’re doing just fine without me,” I said.
“No, these guys, they don’t know me like you know me. You’re my girl,” she said, taking my face in her hands. I looked out of my peripherals at Mike who was laughing quietly. My mom whipped around to face him.
“You’ll understand when your girl is all grown up and goes off in the night to party like this one. You’ll see.” She patted me on the head and continued on her way to the bathroom.
“So, it’s just a bunch of guys here?” I asked Mike.
“The way your mom likes it,” he said, nodding.
“That’s the way I like it, too,” I said, smirking.
“Oh yeah?” He took a step closer to me. “Interesting.”
I looked him in the eye and we were barely an inch apart, but my stomach fluttered. I brought my beer up to my lips only to find it empty. My heart was beating hard. I knew nothing would happen with my mom so close by, but the idea of it was thrilling to me. My eyes darted to my bedroom door, and I tried to think of the right thing to say or do next. Whatever Mike was thinking of, I was pretty confident I was thinking the same thing.
My mom came back out of the bathroom and around the corner into the kitchen, and I jumped back from Mike. I could feel my hands shaking, and I fumbled to find somewhere to put my empty bottle down.
“I’m gonna kick these guys out right away, Rosie, you can go to bed,” my mom said, oblivious to the sexual energy hanging thick in the air. She reached around Mike the way I did, but much less calculated, and grabbed a couple drinks from the fridge and carried them into the living room. A few male voices cheered, and she said, “last call boys! Then you gotta get out!”
I looked back at Mike, shrugging slightly. I started reluctantly walking away towards my bedroom but I felt like I was attached to him by an invisible tether, holding me back.
“Be good,” he said.
I turned my head around to say something back, but he was already on his way back to the living room.
The next day, I woke up at noon to a quiet apartment and an aching head. I got out of bed and stretched my neck, trying to relieve the headache, but the movement only made my vision spin and my stomach turn.
I went to the kitchen to get some water and found it exactly the way it had been last night: beer bottles with various levels of liquid scattered across the counter, and glasses with melted ice and lime wedges in pools of sticky condensation by the sink. It smelled like a brewery and a wave of nausea forced itself up from my stomach. I took a deep breath, got myself some water and padded into the living room to assess the damage. There was a man sleeping on the couch, mouth wide open, snoring. I remembered my interaction with Mike, and my stomach jumped. I leaned over carefully, trying to get a better look at the face that was shoved into the back cushion of the couch.
The man rolled over, grunting, and I got a good look at his face. Not Mike. I jumped back around the corner before he could open his eyes and I tiptoed back into my room. I stood in front of my mirror and examined my face, puffy from alcohol, with deep dark circles under my eyes. I ran a hand through my long blonde hair to find it knotted and my hand got stuck as I tried to rake it through.
I freed my hand and stepped closer to the mirror, peering into my own eyes. I poked at my cheeks and wiped the smudged makeup from my eyes. I tried to see what Mike saw last night. Did he see the girl with dull skin and sunken brown eyes that I saw looking back at me? It felt like that whole interaction could have been a dream. I sighed and stepped away from the mirror, falling back onto my bed, groaning. The sheets were tangled and coming off the mattress on one corner. I searched through the sea of fabric for my phone.
When I found it, I scrolled through the notifications of missed texts, tags on Instagram from the party the night before, and then opened Facebook. I saw that I had a friend request and opened it. Mike Foster. My heart leapt, and I could feel myself smiling. I tapped on his profile. There wasn’t a lot there, but he did post pretty frequently. I tapped his profile pictures and scrolled through them all, going back to 2006 to a picture of him and my mom.
He looked way younger in the picture and was smiling goofily, his arm slung around my mom’s small frame. She was sticking her tongue out, a beer in her hand. I wondered when the picture was taken. It looked a lot older than 2006. In the bottom corner I noticed little orange numbers indicating the date. August 5th, 1999. I would have just been born a few months before this picture was taken.
I went back to the main screen of his profile and accepted the request. I kept poking around his profile when a message request popped up at the top of the screen. I opened it immediately.
Mike: Hey, I hope you don’t think it’s weird I added you.
Me: Why would I think that’s weird?
Mike: I just thought you might. I’ve been thinking about you a lot since last night.
Me: Oh yeah?
Mike: Yeah. I’m wondering what other kind of music you like.
Me: Hmm… that’s a loaded question. I feel like your expectations are very high and I might let you down now.
Mike: I don’t think you could do that.
Me: Okay, let me think of a top ten list and I’ll get back to you.
Mike: Okay, don’t take too long.
He and I went back and forth for a few days after that, the conversation stopping and starting, depending on which one of us was busy at any given time, but the conversation always picked up around midnight. The conversations were always very flirty and started verging on sexual the more we carried on. Then finally, after a few days of not talking, one night he messaged me out of the blue at 11 pm.
Mike: Want to come over?
I stared at the screen for a while, wondering if it was some kind of joke. I thought of my mom. He started typing, then stopped. Then I started typing, then stopped. I watched the minutes on the clock change on my phone several times. Then I typed out a response and finally hit send.
When I got to his house, he opened the door before I even had a chance to knock.
“Sorry, I forgot to tell you not to ring the doorbell. The baby is sleeping and I really don’t want her to interrupt us.”
I was taken aback by his brazen mention of his daughter, but I brushed it off and stepped inside.
He invited me into the kitchen and started pouring a glass of wine.
“Do you want some?” he asked. I nodded, looking around. It was a nice house. It was a little messy with baby stuff all over the place, but it was decorated very well. Definitely a woman’s touch. He took a sip of his wine, and I did the same. He was looking at me with intense eyes. I wasn’t sure if he was already a little drunk or if it was something else, but he had an almost crazed look in his eye.
He looked at me some more, and I took another sip. I didn’t really like wine, but I pretended to enjoy it, making a yum noise. He got up to put a record on, browsing through a small collection before settling on the same Pixies record that played at my house. I watched him closely as I drank my wine.
He wasn’t necessarily what I would call attractive, but he wasn’t bad looking. He looked like a guy in his early forties who was a babe when he was younger and had a hard time letting go of his glory days. He had a bit of a beer belly, and his unkempt beard spread all the way down his neck, speckled with grey. There was something about him, though, that I was very attracted to. Maybe it was just because I knew how much he wanted me, and how good he would feel if he bedded a 19-year-old. They were always very excited about that possibility.
He took another sip of his wine and then set it down on the coffee table and embraced me, seemingly in all one motion. Before I even had a chance to react, his mouth was on mine. His lips led mine softly and they fit together perfectly. He teased my mouth open with his, tracing his tongue on mine. I let out an involuntary moan, surprising myself, and he pulled me closer to him. My body was electric, and it felt like my every nerve ending was on fire. I had never felt that before with a guy, and I was feverish with desire for the way he made me feel.
He pressed himself into me, and I could feel him getting harder. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was have sex with him. It was all I could think about and I felt an animalistic power take over me. I ran my hands all over his back and into his hair, groaning. We kissed feverishly, and he began walking me backwards towards the couch. We stumbled but didn’t miss a beat and he lay me down, holding himself above me.
“You are so fucking beautiful,” he whispered, kissing me hard before I could say anything in return. His words were kindling on the fire, and I felt it burn deeper inside me as we continued on.
After, we lay side by side on the couch, naked, looking at the ceiling. He turned to look at me, still breathing heavy.
“I should get home.” I said, not moving. He leaned over and brushed the hair from my face.
“Thank you,” he said.
I laughed. “For what?”
“This.” He kissed me, and then got up, getting dressed. I did the same. We said our goodbyes and I slunk out the door into the night.
I opened the door to my apartment slowly, but right away I heard my mom in the kitchen. I didn’t know what I would say if she asked me where I was. I hoped she just wouldn’t ask, but my brain started scrambling for realistic excuses.
“Where were you?” she asked immediately. She didn’t sound mad, so I sat down at one of the stools at the kitchen island.
“Out with some friends.” I answered without looking at her. She didn’t say anything, just kept washing dishes.
“Hey, how come that Mike guy that was here the other day knew me when I was a baby, but I’ve never met him before?” I asked, trying to sound casual.
“Well, he was a friend of your dad’s and then when he and I split up…things got messy… your dad got jealous and then he moved away, and we lost touch.”
“Oh,” I said, looking at my hands, picking at my nails, wanting to get off the subject of my dad, and desperately hoping she wouldn’t say that they’d dated.
“I’m glad to be able to see him again; he was always such a good friend of mine. He and his wife just had a baby, but I haven’t met her yet.”
My ears started ringing. I thought back to his apartment, with the grey painted walls and accent pieces expertly placed around the room. I thought of his large hands on my body, and his soft lips that molded perfectly to mine when he kissed me.
“The baby, that is. Actually, I don’t think I’ve met his wife either,” she continued. Her voice sounded like it was under water.
“Did you date him?” I managed to ask.
She laughed. “No, we never did. He wanted to, I think, but I was always taken. I think it’s for the best because he ended up being a very good friend. He’s very smart and talented though. He’s a writer.”
“Really? Like books?” I asked.
“Yeah, a few. He also wrote a column for the Globe and Mail for a while, and that’s why he moved away.”
I wondered why he didn’t mention that to me.
“I’m thinking of inviting him and his wife over here for dinner soon, You should try and be here for it,” she said.
I imagined that scenario and felt immediately ill. I jumped off the stool and grabbed my jacket.
“Rosie, where are you going?”
I ignored her and kept walking out the door, leaving my shoes untied. I pushed my way out the front door and lit a cigarette as soon as I stepped out. I pulled out my phone and started going through my old chats with Mike.
I guess that’s why he always Facebook messaged instead of texted. Maybe things with his wife weren’t good? I mean, obviously they weren’t if he was cheating on her. I wondered if she maybe knew, and just didn’t care? Or maybe they had an open relationship? I couldn’t believe I was someone’s mistress. Even though I knew this whole time he was married, he hadn’t mentioned her or anything about his marriage since that first night I met him.
I felt light headed from smoking too fast, and I sat on the front step, worried I might pass out. The sky had turned a dark grey and it felt like it was going to rain.
I wondered what his wife looked like. I wondered what her name was. I tried to put a face to her, to see if it would push me to message him and tell him it was over, that I wasn’t this person. But I liked him. I liked that he didn’t feel the need to talk all the time. I liked that he made me feel special, like I was smart and cool. No one else had ever made me feel that way and I liked that he liked the things I said and laughed at my jokes. I liked how effortless it was with him.
I forced myself to think of his wife. And I forced myself to think of his baby daughter, who would grow up without knowing what her father was really like. Or maybe she would know, and she would have the exact same experience as I did. That would be even worse, because I know how it feels. Those thoughts should have been more than enough for me to block him and never see him again.
But then I found myself in his living room again, kissing him, trying not to wake up his infant daughter. His hand still twisted in my hair, he pulled my head backwards and kissed my neck, whispering into my ear. Goosebumps crawled across my skin, lighting the path for his hands as they travelled across my smooth skin.
Our meetups became frequent, and then not. And then often again. I got used to him messaging me late at night and dropping everything to go see him. Sometimes his daughter was there, sometimes she wasn’t. But I never saw her. Not there, anyway. One day, after a night of heavy drinking and a day spent in bed only getting up to puke, I mustered the strength to go to the grocery store to get Gatorade. I was coming around the corner out of an aisle and he was standing in line with a woman who was carrying a baby, and pushing a cart full of food.
The baby was fussing, and the woman was arguing with him. He looked completely exhausted. His blue eyes had a grey haze and were underlined by dark circles. I hoped I’d be able to sneak by without him seeing me, but he caught my eye and the woman followed his gaze to me. I was suddenly very aware of last night’s makeup on my face, and my beer breath that was mixed with stale cigarettes.
I walked over, knowing it would make it much weirder if I didn’t. He introduced me to his wife—who was surprisingly thin for having a very young baby—who had blonde hair and was wearing trendy overalls. She carried the squirming baby firmly on her hip. I smiled politely as he explained to her who I was. The baby stopped fussing, finally, and stared at me when I spoke, as if she recognized my voice.
My heart stopped as I waited for his wife to acknowledge me. She told me it was nice to meet me, and I said the same. I waited for her to say something else to me, but she turned back to Mike with the same annoyed look she had when I’d spotted them.
“Can you please try and help with her, or at least do the groceries? I can’t really do everything at once.” Her voice dripped with venom and Mike looked like he’d been stung. He didn’t answer but started loading the groceries onto the belt. I stood awkwardly, waiting to make my escape, my heart beating fast.
I finally made eye contact with him and held it for several seconds before the baby started making noise again. He shot me an apologetic look before turning to shush the baby. I took that opportunity to excuse myself and I hurried away as fast as I could, my entire body shaking. When I tried to hand the cashier a $5 bill to pay for my Gatorade that I didn’t even want anymore, I dropped it on the floor and struggled to pick it up, the line of people growing impatient behind me.
There was a stretch of time before the grocery store incident when he stopped messaging me for a while, and I would just watch him from afar on Facebook and try to decipher secret codes hidden in his posts. I’d see his comments on friends’ posts that seemed normal, but I read into each one, comparing them to comments from weeks earlier when he and I were in the thick of our affair. I was happy to know he seemed to be doing okay, but why did he suddenly stop talking to me? Was he having issues at home? Maybe he and his wife were thinking about getting a divorce. Was that what I wanted, though? I didn’t think so. I could never be in a real relationship with him, the age difference was way too big. Not to mention my mom’s reaction. I bit my thumbnail down so far that it started to bleed, but I kept scrolling.
I looked at our last messages. He had sent me the music video from some obscure 90s band we had talked about once at his house. It was right after he threw me onto the kitchen island and fucked me. The sex had gotten better and better every time. He was so eager to please. We were getting dressed when he asked if I’d ever heard of this band. I told him I hadn’t, and he told me he thought I would really like them.
I listened to the song again, my eyes tearing up a little. I wiped the tears away angrily, and a little too aggressively. Why was I sad about him? I groaned and got up from my bed, tossing my phone onto it. I grabbed my purse and went outside. I lit a cigarette and sat on the front steps.
I sighed loudly, exhaling cigarette smoke into the air. Maybe he finally realized that I wasn’t actually anything special; I was just young, and he was sick of fucking his 40-year-old wife. And I made it very easy for him.
After several more weeks had passed, and he still hadn’t messaged me, I decided it was time to move on. It was for the best, anyway. I went to a party one night and found myself drunkenly hooking up with a guy who had bullied me in high school.
“You’re so hot,” he said between hurriedly shoving his tongue into my mouth.
“Thanks,” I said, trying to slow him down, but failing. I tried not to think about the cruel things he used to shout at me as I walked through the halls at school, and pretended he was someone else.
I let him have sex with me on the dirty old mattress in the basement, but I found myself imagining Mike. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to pretend this boy’s clammy hands that were pawing roughly at my body were Mike’s strong ones, gently tracing the curves of my body, hitting all the right spots.
I had several more encounters like this one, searching tirelessly for the feeling that I got from Mike, the one that made me feel like I was worth something. I never found it, and I just kept waiting for him to summon me again, ready to drop everything for him.
A few days after the encounter with Mike and his wife at the grocery store, he messaged me. He apologized for the encounter, and for leaving me hanging for so long. I told him it was fine, and that I had been busy anyway. After that, I stopped answering. He kept trying for a while, but he eventually gave up. He continued to follow me from afar on social media, liking my posts, and sometimes commenting or replying. He still talked to my mom once in a while, but it seemed like they were gradually losing touch again.
One day, he messaged me out of the blue.
Mike: I finally found that album I was telling you about that time. At this awesome record shop, I’d never heard of before. I wish you had been there with me, you would have loved it. I hope all is well with you.
I looked at that message several times, trying to come up with an appropriate response.
But I had nothing to say.