11. Things I Can Tell: The Other Story

The phone pings. Almost there. Come out and help.

He pushes his bare feet into sneakers and doesn’t bother to tie them. Outside, she pulls past in her father’s SUV, shoots a U in the street, and comes to a stop at the curb. The afternoon is warmer than it should be. The last crusted mounds of snow cling to the shadows under the eaves. Everything else is soft again. Somewhere close, a bird sings and sings.

“Help with what?” He calls. She steps out and goes around back to open the hatch. He squishes across the grass and down the driveway. Smirking a little out of the side of her face, she leans towards him without turning. She is busy shoving something sideways in the cargo area. He kisses the exposed cheek.

Inside the car, blue and brown plaid cushions flop forward. She tugs too hard at a wooden foot and one of the pillows escapes. He grabs it before it hits the damp street. The upholstered monstrosity is jammed up against the ceiling of the car. He stuffs the cushion in by the window and fits his hands around the back. She urges the front feet forward. It twists just enough and slides out in one smooth motion.

They stand there together holding the two ends of the chair and glance at each other. She cracks a grin. He begins walking backward up the driveway and she wobbles along.

“You bought me a chair?”

“No,” she huffs. “Hold on.” She sets down her end, adjusts her grip, and picks it back up. “I bought me a chair.”

“Shouldn’t I be meeting you at your house to do this, then?”

It is too wide for the door when they go through straight. They slow, back up, tilt the top. He guides it at an angle. The bottom corner catches on the door frame. He pulls without realizing it’s caught and she lets out a little yelp. The wooden foot has gashed the molding.

“Oh gosh, I’m sorry.”

He laughs. “You should be.” He steps over a pile of shoes and nudges aside a plastic bin of sports gear. The lid topples off and he almost slips on it. “You’ve comprised the integrity of this meticulously maintained home.” Once inside, they set the chair down in the narrow foyer. Reaching around, he pulls her into to the corner where he’s pinned and then folds her into a hug. Even though the sky has been clear, her hair smells like rain. “I’m on strike until you give me a clue. Am I storing this thing for you? What’s the deal?”

She leans back a little and warms her fingers on his bristled cheeks. She looks at him. “Hi,” she says.

He grins. “Hi.”

“Come here,” she says as she breaks free. She clambers over the chair and up the stairs. At the end of the hall, she clicks on the light to his room. The cat leaps up from a pile of laundry and darts past their legs. “It’s only me, dingbat,” she hollers. She walks around to the far side of his bed and pushes at the mattress. It scoots a few inches closer to the door. The she twists open the blinds on the small window behind her and muddy February light trickles into the room.

The corner breathes wider as she opens her arms into it.

“Here,” she says.

“You bought a chair for my room.”

“Yeah. But also, I bought a chair for my room.”

He shakes his head. Smiling but only halfway.

“This,” she says. She traces the small corner, its emptiness around her, with her hands. “This is my room.”

“And your chair.”

She shrugs and her face slides into and back out of one of its funhouse distortions, quick as a blink. She glances down and touches her fingers to the windowsill. A draft chills the wooden lip. “A place to write,” she says quickly. She hasn’t looked back up. “ReStore had this sort of side table, too. It’s really small and I’d like to sand it down. You wouldn’t believe how good a deal –”

“That’s so presumptuous,” he says. Now she looks up and her eyes register this blow. But he smiles. “I like it. I like that you presume. I want you to.” He starts to step around and stops a few feet short of her. “Can I come in?”

She lifts her hand from the windowsill and laces her fingers together. “Sure,” she says. “But take your shoes off. I just moved in and I want to keep things nice.”

He steps beside her and they stand leaning into each other, gazing out at the room. “It’s cozy in here,” he says.

“Isn’t it the perfect size for me? It took me a long time to find just the right place.”

His hand is on the small of her back. He feels her arch her spine into his touch. “How long do you think you’ll stay?”

She turns to to look up at him. His glasses are cocked a little on his nose and she straightens them. “The landlord hasn’t asked for a long-term lease. He’s letting me do this month-to-month.”

“He sounds like an idiot.”

“Oh, he is. But he’s good with a wrench.” She drops her voice. “Also, he’s sexy as shit.”

He groans and bends her back to kiss her once, hard. Then, into her hair, he whispers, “That is one ugly chair.”

She laughs and pulls away. “Well, good thing it’s not yours.”

“You’re crazy.” He takes her hand and leads her towards the hall. “Let’s see if we can make that monster fit.”

 

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