When she returned to the couch, Aliss had suggested it was time for Miller to leave, and he wasn’t happy about it. He began his ‘man pout’, furrowing his brow and squinting strongly in her direction, while his jaw moved ever so slightly. As she lifted her bare foot to rest its ankle across her opposite knee, it grazed the overhanging corner of the flat wide box that sat empty and precariously perched on her coffee table. She turned her gaze away from him, toward the task of unrolling the fluffy wool socks she held in her hand. Her feet were cold.
“So,” Miller said, “You only invited me over because you needed someone to fix your surround sound.”
She saw the pale grey of his intricately cabled sweater, and the deep charcoal of his jeans from the corner of her eye, and wondered why his fashion sense and the burnished pools of mahogany hair curling around his eyes and at his nape — as well as his handiness — weren’t enough to keep him on her couch. Unable to suppress her sigh before it reached his ears, she felt the slightest twinge of guilt at her own impatience, then finished slipping on the socks. She thought she saw him wince at the sigh, as if cold air had been blown onto an ailing eardrum. She imagined seeing him clap a hand over his ear to protect it, and almost laughed before pursing her lips to stop it. She turned and did him the honor of looking him squarely in the eye as she said, “I was right beside you while you were working, handing you the right screwdriver, and asking which wire was which, and why you were doing each little thing.” She wanted to be nice. She tried to smile. “I didn’t invite you over so you could fix my surround sound. I invited you over so I could learn how to fix my surround sound.” His expression faltered, then faded away. She thought she saw a slight tremble, and felt it necessary to add, “I did order the pizza.”
Miller lifted himself off her couch with great effort, lingering in front of it for a moment rubbing his hands together as if they were suddenly as cold as her feet. He said a low, almost inaudible, goodbye before going to the door of her apartment, taking his jacket off the hook and letting himself out. She tried not to feel sorry for him. It wasn’t his fault that he had known her so long, tried so long, and yet this was still the wrong night for things to get past dinner. Aliss didn’t have many friends, but one of them had felt comfortable telling her that she was crazy not to thoroughly check out a guy who was that interested in her. What would her friend have said if she’d really known what he looked like. Aliss thought it was funny how often good looks get in the way of the things we intend to do in our lives.
As soon as he left, she went to get the big ceramic bowl from the kitchen cabinet, and filled it with an entire bag of organic cheddar popcorn. Then, in the living room, she put in the DVD of “The Dark Knight,” and said out loud to herself as she curled up in her squashy ruby colored chair, with the popcorn and the remote control in her lap, “There’s something important for me, hidden in here — and this time I’m going to find it.”
Story Copyright © By Kathleen (Ré) Harris 2011. All Rights Reserved.