“Why do you say ninety percent?” I asked Mitch.
“’Cause the other ten percent of the male population is gay,” he answered the faucet. I blinked at his head in confusion at his words, he straightened, putting the wrench down and lifting his other hand. Between an attractive index finger and thumb was a small, round, black plastic doohickey with a hole in the middle that had some shredding at the edges. “You need a new washer,” he informed me.
I looked from the doohickey to him. “I don’t have one of those.”
He grinned straight out and my breath got caught in my throat. “No, don’t reckon you do,” he told me. “Gotta go to the hardware store.” Then he flicked the doohickey in my bathroom trash bin and started to exit the room.
I stared at his well-formed back but my body jolted and I hurried after him.
“No,” I called. “You don’t have to do that. The water is off now and I have another bathroom.” He kept walking and I kept following him and talking. “I’ll pop by the Management Office tomorrow and let them know what’s up so they can come fix it.”
He had my door open. He stopped in it and turned back to me so I stopped too.
“No, I’ll go by the Management Office tomorrow and tell them how I feel about them lettin’ a single woman who pays for their service and has lived in their complex for six years go without a callback when she needs somethin’ important done. And tonight, I’ll go to the hardware store, get a washer, come back and fix your faucet.”
“You don’t have to do that,” I assured him courteously.
“You’re right but I’m doin’ it,” he told me firmly.
Okay then. Seeing as his firm was very firm, I decided to let that go.
“Let me get you some money.” I looked around trying to remember where I put my purse. “You shouldn’t be out money on this.”
“Mara, you can buy about a hundred washers for four dollars.”
My head turned to him. I stared at him then asked, “Really?”
He grinned at me again, my breath caught in my throat again and he answered, “Yeah, really. I think I got it covered.”
“Um… thanks,” I replied without anything else to say.
He tipped his chin and said, “I’ll be back.”
Then I was staring at my closed door.
I did this blankly for awhile. Then I did it for awhile wishing I’d shared with someone that I was in love with my Ten Point Five neighbor so I could call them or race across the breezeway and ask them what I should do now.
It took a while but I decided to act naturally. So Mitch had been in my house. He’d grinned at me. I’d discovered he had beautiful hands and beautiful eyelashes to match all the other beautiful things about him. He actually was a nice guy and didn’t just communicate this knowledge with a warm smile, what with turning off my water, going to get his tools, finding my shredded doohickey, planning to have a word at the office on my behalf and then heading out to the hardware store to buy me another doohickey. So what? After he fixed my faucet, he’d be back in his apartment and I’d be in mine. Maybe I might say something more than “morning” to him in the mornings. And maybe he’d say my name again sometime in the future. But that would be it.
So I did what I normally did. I changed my clothes, taking off my skirt, blouse and heels and putting on a pair of jeans and a Chicago Cubs t-shirt. I pulled the pins out of my chignon, sifted my fingers through my hair and pulled it back in a ponytail with a red ponytail holder to go with the red accents in my Cubs tee. Then I lit the scented candles in my living room and turned on music, going with my “Chill Out at Home Part Trois” playlist that included some really good tunes. After that I started to make dinner.
I was cutting up veggies for stir fry when there was a knock on the door and my head came up. I spied the candles, heard The Allman Brothers singing “Midnight Rider” and immediately panicked. I burned candles and listened to music all the time. I was a sensory person and I liked the sounds and smells. But now I wondered if he’d think he’d walked into a Two Point Five setting the mood for an illegal maneuver on a Ten Point Five.
No time to do anything about it now. He’d smell it anyway and he had to hear the music through the door.
I rushed to the door, did the peephole thing and opened it, coming to stand at its edge.
“Hey,” I greeted, trying to sound cool. “You’re back.”
His eyes dropped to my chest and I lost all semblance of cool. There wasn’t much to lose but what little existed was quickly history.