“You know you’re more than welcome to stay.”
She blushed, debating. Should she? Could she? She remembered earlier, watching him through her lazy eyes. He folded his dress clothing strategically and placed them neatly on his bed by her bare feet. His music was playing and she began to enjoy it. The soothing melody and the crooning and eeriness of the lead singer’s voice resonated in her ears. She didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics, although she did catch a couple of phrases: You and me together we can do anything baby, you and me together can do anything yes, yes. She wondered if it was just the song he liked or if the lyrics meant anything at all to him.
They didn’t speak. The only other sounds were that of the wind breezing by the dried up leaves two floors below and his quiet footsteps as he shuffled in his gray and worn, woolen socks across his dark-stained, slippery, hardwood floor.
She rested with her hand propped up on her chin, her elbow acting as the base. Her arm rubbed against his down pillow and its sleek blue and black striped case. She was relaxed lounging on his bed; it was much more comfortable than her own. The crisp blue sheets were soft to the touch. She assumed the duvet was warm at night.
It was surprisingly a while before he noticed her staring at him. Once he did he smirked. His mouth cocked to one side and he raised an eyebrow.
She tilted her chin down and looked up at him through her almond eyes. A strand of hair fell across her brow, she brushed it away. He pushed air out through his partially open lips, he loved when she did that; her short and silky hair managed to somehow fall into her eyes; her frustration with her hair always amused him.
He stopped and stared back-mid fold of a finely pressed dress shirt. Their eyes locked – as if a in a staring contest, but without the competition. He broke away first and continued to fold the navy button down. He placed it on top of the pile of clothing. She looked at the colors, all dark and neutral: hues of blues, blacks, whites and grays. Even now in the comfort of his flat, in his sweatpants and chunky warm sweater he wore gray and navy.
She nudged the pile with her periwinkle painted toes.
He saw this and his mouth dropped open in an exaggerated surprise; he took her foot, squeezed it and shook it about. Once he saw her serious stare change to her usual soft, bashful glance, he loosened his grip but still held onto her tiny perfect foot. When his hand touched her, even her feet, the tips of his fingers tingled and his stomach dropped and turned. He waited until he saw her lips part to show her slight smile…
And there it was. It grew as she saw his crooked smile appear. They stared at each other, this time she was the first to blink, but he didn’t mind, he loved the curve of her long lashes. He shook his head slightly to wake him from his thoughts and set back to his work. He shuffled across the room, picked out a shirt for his business trip and began to fold it – strategically. It was a new shirt, light blue; in the store he remembered her say she would love to see him in more colors. He placed it on his bed with the pile of other neatly folded clothing. His hand grazed her toes accidentally. He looked up and saw her smile at him.
Even though they were the only ones physically in the room they were not alone. Lying on his bed was his slim, white laptop, the portal to his other world. They heard the ringing from the computer; his colleague was calling, unusually late, probably about the conference. He lowered the volume of the music, tapped a few buttons, and she heard the voice of his friend. They greeted each other lightly with a joke. He patted the space next to him, beckoning her to get closer. He wanted her close to him, close to his world.
She wished to draw closer, but held back. Her mouth twisted into a coy smile as he encouraged her. He was still acknowledging her being there; he asked questions about what to wear for the meeting on Thursday and if the tie matched the dress shirt. She mumbled her answers to him; he jokingly put a hand to his ear as if he couldn’t hear.
His friend heard her voice through the lens of the computer; and asked if someone was there. She looked at him with a raised brow and he coolly answered, yes; they locked eyes. He didn’t mind his friend was aware of her presence. In fact it gave him great pleasure affirming that she was there with him and someone had witnessed it. She was able to see his friend from a strained angle, though she was unsure if he could see her. There was a brief beat of silence and then the friend casually returned to the business subject.
She looked around his room which was large for a three bedroom flat. The walls were a silver-gray complemented by the icy blue and black bedding. She looked around the room as the two men talked. The moonlight filtered through the black curtains hanging on the windows, as she looked at the two side tables, both with matching lamps which gave off a bright-white glow through the black shade. An identical one sat on his black and frosted, glass desk. Papers were neat and orderly. His wardrobe was open; the large suitcase lay open on the wooden floor, airing out. Next to the black wardrobe was a large, black and leather wing-back chair, which was currently used to house his slung over belts and de-couple socks. There was a single painting on the wall above his bed: modern art of blue, gray and black streaks. She grinned at this. She thought for a moment and realized the room seemed so stale and lifeless; she would buy him a plant to liven it up. All this she noticed. His ears were tiny and his hands were delicate. She also noticed his stubbornness, a characteristic they shared, and he only admitted he was wrong with a joke.
She wasn’t the only observant one. While he was talking with his friend, the conversation he was partially paying attention to, he watched her fidget. Her eyes darted around the room. She was getting restless; he wasn’t sure if it was boredom or if she was uncomfortable with his friend’s ‘presence’. He wondered what she was thinking; he didn’t hear his friend’s question so he made a non-committal reply, we’ll see. He saw her hand dance across his duvet. He wondered if she liked the silkiness as he did. She rolled over and reached out to touch the side table, the one with his alarm clock and Panerai watch he purchased for himself. He was proud of that watch; it was his very first reward for his business accomplishments. His mouth drew into a smile as she strapped it on her wrist, her back was toward him; she probably thought he didn’t see, but he did. When she walked over to his desk she glided her slender fingers over the frosted glass. He wished it was him she was touching. Her fingers trailed over to two black picture frames. One was a photo of his dog back at his parents’ house, the other of him and his sister at a baseball game. His friend knew he was distracted and abruptly ended their conversation; their business could wait until the meeting.
Her quirky mannerisms were not lost in his thoughts. He found it amusing that when she laughed she threw her head back and closed her eyes in delight. He knew her routine of fixing her choppy hair. She’d look once at the reflection, glance down, look back and with her slender index finger aggressively push back the bothersome strands. Her fingers and toes were always painted, a variation of the same hue, and usually the fingernails were chipped. He wondered how that happened. He observed even now, the way she toyed with her silver ringers on her fingers, one on each of the middle. Was is a conscious habit or did she do it as her mind drifted off?
“You know you’re more than welcome to stay.”
“Well,” she began as she dragged out the word.
He saw her fold in the corner of her bottom lip; her eyes darted around the empty space surrounding him, avoiding his hopeful gaze. His pulse quickened. He felt his nervous habit kick in; he scratched his tongue to the groves of his teeth.
She inhaled as she began to formulate her answer. But she was distracted by the clatter coming from the front hall. She heard the voices of his two jolly, drunk flatmates entering. She could imagine the scene just beyond the walls: they stumbled in, both a bit chubby, one short, one tall. One, if not both bumped into a large piece of furniture or so it seemed due to the clacking and grinding sound on the wooden floor.
His eyes closed as he sucked in air; he knew they ruined the moment. His body stiffened in frustration as they called to him, asking if she was still there, not using appropriate language however. Their eyes met, and she changed her answer in her mind. He glanced down and placed his hands deep in his pockets, as though trying to hide himself from the shame of his friends’ foul mouths.
She exhaled and felt the disappointment creep onto her face.
“You have an early flight tomorrow, I should go.”
He nodded in regretful agreement. They were quiet as she zipped up her bright orange jacket and slid her hands into her floral, knit-fingerless gloves. He wanted to flip on the mittens; he always did enjoy doing that for her, but he withheld his urge. They glanced at each other but both turned away awkwardly. She wished to reach out and touch his shirt, to have one more feeling of comfort with him before she left and before his flight in the morning. He wanted her touch too; both hesitated and the moment was lost.
He walked her to the front door as they tried to ignore his flatmates holler inappropriate taunts. She said hello to them sweetly as they passed through the frat-boy feeling living room; she seemed to brush off their comments. The flat felt like two different spaces, his room was masculine and sophisticated; the area the three shared was messy and smelled of rotting fruit and beer. It was bright with Christmas lights hanging around the walls and posters of cult-classic college films. Clearly they were not his personal touches; maybe it once was but not anymore. She wondered the few times she had been there how the three of them could live together.
He opened the door for her, she stepped out and turned. She was over the threshold. She wrapped her navy knit scarf around her neck. Her collar was tucked in awkwardly and he fixed it for her. His hand brushed against her cheek, he felt the warmth from her blush. They caught each other’s eyes, waiting silently for their apprehensive but satisfied smiles to appear…
And there they were.Holly Williams is a senior at Suffolk University studying Communications and Public Relations. She spent an entire year in London where she found inspiration from the city and the dynamic people. She enjoys traveling, trying new things and obviously a great book! She hopes to find a great job after graduation, to continue to write and to be happy in life. She is currently planning new stories and another European Adventure!