“She’s not what I expected.”
His eyes flashed listlessly in the dark of the room as he listened to the thunk of cupboards shuting and clang of pots shifting downstairs. Water lapped softly as he soaked in the copper tub.
“The better man would have let her freeze,” he told the crumbling plaster ceiling.
Nobody else would have bothered with such nonsense. He really was no good when it came to being what others wanted. Kind, cruel, indifferent… What was he being this time?
The smells of cooking food wafted up the stairs. His picture of the domestic home was finally complete. He decided it was time to face what he had started. He stood up in the water and stepped out of the bathtub. Letting the water drip as it pleased, he started to pick up the pieces of clothes left on the floor and pull them on. She had left an old yellow towl for him to dry himself with, but not needing to care about his condition was a strong point of his. Besides, she had managed to heat the tiny house to an uncomfortable temperature with her ancient oven, so he wasn’t exactly worried about catching a chill.
When he got down to the kitchen, he found her tending a pan of fried spaghetti and tomato sauce on the stovetop. The flimsy, white plastic table and chair dining set had been pulled towards the middle of the room and laid with forks and plates.
“I should tell you. I don’t eat,” The Stranger told her.
“Oh, didn’t hear,” she said.
“I don’t eat.”
“Hmm…yes I wouldn’t want to eat after seeing my brains either.”
He signed and went to sit in one of the plastic chairs. It must have been the same as a million other houses, a cracking concrete shell, but by filling it with things white, light, and airy she had made it deceptively inviting. He watched her pick up a spice shaker and wondered where she had learned how to cook.
“I hope this isn’t an elaborate bribe,” he admonished.
“Too bad, but no,” she said putting the spice away.
“Are you joking with me?”
“Can’t you tell?”
“No,” he said simply.
She gave him a look. He focused on his empty plate.
“Why didn’t you take a bath?” he asked in distraction.
“I don’t need it. The stove keeps my hands warm and these clothes are better.”
“Yet, you will die so easily.”
“Of course I would.” She said lifted the pan from the stovetop and reached over to turn off the element.
The pan she held tipped precariously, but she straitened and brought it over to the table. She divided the contents equally between their plates, then sat herself down and set the pan on the floor to free her hands for eating. As he watched her lift forkfuls of spaghetti into her mouth, he decided that she was the most inelegant girl he had ever met. She lifted her head a little higher and caught him staring. She swallowed her mouthful and put down her fork.
“You could look a little happier.”
“I was being thoughtful.”
“I think you know.”
“You want to leave,” she concluded.
They watched one another, each considering whether they really wanted to tell their side of the secret. She pushed back her chair.
“I’ll see you out,” she said.
Finally he thought. He followed her down the hall and past the bedroom to the front door. She took his coat off a peg in the wall and opened the door.
Water dripped off the roof.
“I kept my promise so I’ll see you later,” she told him.
He turned to her.
He lifted the coat from her grasp.
“I doubt that.”