Tossing scenario after scenario out in her mind, potential conversation after potential conversation, Leah realized that she didn’t have a clue as to how to approach an older man. Her parents kept her under such tight wraps that she didn’t socialize much outside of school; whatever friends she made, didn’t last long; and her one attempt at having a boyfriend ended in a jealous, abusive disaster, that almost made her swear off guys entirely, except she kept getting these weird butterflies in her stomach whenever she saw young actors on TV and in the movies, so she knew she liked guys. She just didn’t know how to deal with them. Noone helped explain it to her either, though there were some of her male classmates that were willing to ‘show’ her what it was all about. Leah was smart enough to know what they were after, and politely brushed them away. But the more she thought about this older engineer and the possibility of the knowledge he had, the more strangely infatuated she became about the whole situation. Leah tossed the feelings aside, focusing more on the technological gold mine she wanted to continue to dig into. She needed help.
The weekend started off dull, the punishment had arrived. Her mom was supervising with cleaning utensils and chemicals as needed, and Leah’s mind wavered from figuring out how to start a conversation, to cleaning the gunk out of the bathroom sink. How does this place get so dirty, she wondered, as she attacked a particularly stubborn stain. Her mom was again typing away furiously on her phone to someone. As Leah scrubbed and washed, her mind floated into that limbo where no thought resides, and in that time popped a revelation so profound that she was surprised she hadn’t thought of it before.
“Mother?” Leah called conversationally. “How did you and father meet?”
“What now, Leah? How did I meet your father? Why do you want to know?”
Leah thought fast. “I-I was looking at your wedding photos in the bedroom, and just thought of it.”
“Well, it was a very interesting story, now that you mention it,” her mother started, and launched into the story, that Leah only half listened to. She was mining it for clues on how to talk to men, and as her mom droned on about something to do with matchmaking and horoscopes and interviews, she realized that her parents’ meeting was not full of the information she sought. Leah continued cleaning, a little frustrated, but she tried again. “Mother, if you and father were arranged, how will I meet a guy?”
“Leah! You’re too young to be thinking about guys! You focus on school, let us handle the guys.”
Further frustrated, she splashed water everywhere when she slammed the rag into the bucket of water she had nearby. This was getting nowhere. Spurned on by the whole situation, Leah tackled cleaning in a frenzy, perspiring slightly, her mocha skin taking on an attractive sheen. Her slender arms scrubbed and swept, moved and repositioned, room after room. She blew by lunch, instead focusing on finishing early. She had had another idea during the bedroom vacuuming. Time was of the essence. Finally early evening rolled around, the fall sun starting to shed its sunlight more and more each day in the evening. Leah put the cleaning supplies away and called out to her mom, “I’m done, I’m taking a shower and going outside for a walk.”
Before Leah left her bedroom, now fantastically clean and organized, she looked herself in the mirror again; touched up her hair, her lipstick, smoothed her skinny jeans and her ribbed cotton top before throwing on her jean jacket and pocketing the card. Out the door she went before her mom knew when or where she was, and she strode purposefully down to the MDK house and her next meeting with the older engineer. Her plan? Wing it.
Soon she arrived at the house. It looked the same, except after Halloween, it didn’t look nearly as bad for some reason. Leah approached the front door timidly, recalling how it was unlocked before. Her feet managed to find the creaky boards on the deck again. She reached for the doorknob and gave it a timid twist. It refused to turn. Oh no, no no no, she thought. She didn’t imagine all of these scenarios and conversations just to be denied by a simple lock! But what did that mean? Why was it open before, and not open now? Leah’s thoughts came back to the conversation with her teacher, about how he had fights with his new wife. And now he was obviously alone. She started to piece together what could, and probably did happen. A pang of sadness made her heart quiver.
Leah knocked at the door.
There was no response.
Leah knocked again, a little harder. Maybe he didn’t hear.
“H-Hello?” she asked aloud. “Is anyone home?”
The wind was not as strong as it was the day that she fell through the floor, so this time, she heard shuffling, and felt the floorboards bounce slightly under her ballerina flats, that indicated someone – he – was indeed home. The bouncing stopped as the presence arrived at the door. There was a pause, the lock indicated it was being undone, and the door opened to the same wild-haired man, bearded, sad, tired looking vampire-green eyes.
“You again,” he grumbled. “Why are you here?”
Leah’s gaze was locked with this man. She stood there, frozen in time.
“If you are just going to stand there and stare, yes, I’m alive, I’m human, I’m real; no, I didn’t kill anyone, now if you’ll excuse me, you should leave,” and the man started to slam the door.
Her black-clad, tiny foot, wedged itself in the doorframe, stopping the door. Unfortunately, her foot being small, and the door being in the process of being slammed shut in her face, caused her foot to be severely pinched between the door and frame, and she let out a yelp that caused the engineer to gasp in sympathy. “You crazy girl, what do you think you’re doing?”
Leah retracted her foot and gingerly balanced on the other. Suddenly words came to her mind again. “I wanted to return this.” She held out the card.
The man looked at Leah, wincing in pain, hobbling while keeping her balance, arm outstretched with his property. The gruff exterior softened slightly. Very slightly. “Well, at least you’re honest.” He opened the door fully and took the card from her hand, stuffing it into a housecoat pocket. “Since you were kind enough to actually return my stuff, the least I could do is tend to your foot.” With that, he swept Leah literally off of her feet and carried her inside the dusty, unkempt house, and closed the door with a flick of his foot.