By Elizabeth Lister
The brass numbers stared back at me from the door to his apartment, down the hall from mine. I’d already been inside, about a week ago. He’d helped me out in an awkward situation and we’d shared a coffee.
Only now I knew. I knew who he was and what he did. I’m pretty sure I knew what he wanted with me.
I raised my hand very slowly and knocked three times, trying to quell the panic that began to rise. I wanted this. I wanted this so bad and I wouldn’t let fear derail me. Not this time.
One week earlier
Where the hell were my keys?
I groped in my pocket frantically for them, not believing they weren’t there. They were always there. I needed them to get into the building, out of this cold night. I checked the other pocket, to no avail. I put down my messenger bag and went through every nook and crevice. Nothing.
What the hell did I do with them?
Standing up slowly, my mind whirled over the possibilities. Maybe I’d dropped them in the parking lot when I’d left this morning. I did a quick sweep of the lot, not seeing anything. They could be anywhere between here and the bus station.
They could have fallen from my pocket at any point during the day— at my morning call centre job, the restaurant this afternoon, or at school, from where I’d just returned. Did I drop them when I took the dogs out at lunchtime? God only knew.
I heard footsteps behind me.
“Having some trouble?”
I turned to see an attractive older man with a smile that made my eyes widen and cock twitch. I liked his face. He was tall, so I had to look up slightly, which I also found pleasant.
“I can’t find my keys,” I muttered, blushing with embarrassment. This was so humiliating. What was I, sixteen?
“I’ve seen you before. In fact, I think you live down the hall from me,” he said casually, fishing his own keys from his pocket. He kept his gaze on mine as he reached past me, inserting his key in the door. “Excuse me.”
I seemed locked in place. For a moment, we stared at each other as some silent communication passed between us. We recognized each other in more ways than just acknowledging another tenant. In those few seconds, it became obvious that we knew seemingly private things about each other. My gaydar went off like gangbusters and I felt his interest in me as if he’d spoken it. Or perhaps that was wishful thinking? Out of my peripheral vision I saw someone approaching, which ended the moment. I stepped aside.
The older man pushed the door open and beckoned me to follow.
I did, without question. I really wanted to know his name.
“Thank you. I don’t know what I did with them,” I said lamely. “I can’t get into my apartment.”
“Well, I can feed you and give you a cup of coffee while you figure out what to do,” he said, holding out his hand. “Ryan Holloway. I’m in 1209.”
I shook his hand firmly, enjoying the warmth of his skin and feeling… something . “Thanks, that would be great.”
We stepped into the elevator.
“You’re in 1203, aren’t you?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“How do you like it?”
I shrugged. “It’s okay. Small. It’s all I can afford right now.”
Huh? What a weird question. “Um… well, I’m single… yeah.”
He laughed. “No, I mean, do you have a bachelor apartment?”
Oh my God. I blushed, feeling like an idiot. “Yeah.”
“Mine’s a bit larger. A one bedroom. I like it.” He grinned. “You haven’t told me your name.”
The elevator doors opened as I stuttered an apology. “S-sorry.” What the fuck is wrong with me? “I’m Henry Crocket.”
He stopped, offering me his hand again in the middle of the hall. “Well, it’s nice to finally meet you, Henry Crocket.”
I shook his hand again, wondering if it was just an excuse for physical contact. I didn’t care.
“Sure.” I didn’t really know what to say because I didn’t remember ever seeing him before.
We walked to 1209 and he keyed the door open. “Come on in. Make yourself at home, Henry.”
His apartment, like mine, was on the small side, but he had decorated and furnished it so that this was hardly an issue. Although the walls remained the neutral “apartment white”, modern artwork in vibrant hues of blue and yellow hung on the walls, giving the room a sophisticated, cheerful feel.
I toed off my boots and put down my bag, suddenly feeling exhausted after my long day. Thank God I
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