I shouldn't have taken her bait, much less let her play with my pride by refusing my apology. I should not have wiped the box thoroughly with an antiseptic wipe despite her eye roll, or sit beside her, or answer her questions about my childhood.
But I did. I told her about the nights I spent, wide awake and waiting for mum to come home from work, or how I find comfort in cleaning my apartment. She inquired about my need to clean and control my life, especially after my mum died, but I didn't have an answer. She asked about the funeral, and I confessed that I couldn't break away from my routine to go.
We are silent for a couple of minutes before she speaks. "I'm actually studying to be a psychologist," she confesses, "And I have been watching you tap and clean everything before you touch anything for a little over a week now. I only got this job because I wanted to figure you out." She bows her head, her face flustered and red. "I'm kind of your stalker."
I tap? I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say so I stay silent. Now what? Okay, so I was sort of her psychology experiment. Her head is still and I watch the shine of her blonde hair send tiny sparkles of gold shine around her, like an aura or something similarly unnatural. A tear slides down the tanned skin of her jaw and her delicate chin shakes and quivers.
Brilliant, I made a girl cry. "It's okay, I'm not bothered," I say, and wait for her to lift her head, but she doesn't. "At all," I add, and when she still doesn't react, I start to panic. What should I be doing?
"See, you're tapping," she says, and I stare at her confused. She wipes at her face with the hem of her green apron and I try not to succumb to the slow drop of my heart when I see her eyes dangerously close to a dried blood stain. She raises her apron away from her face to inspect the object of my fright. She scoffs. "It's dried. And it's no where near my face. Just look at your hand, Oliver. You're spazzing over something so trivial."
I twist my face away and I'm sure I'm blushing. I am tapping on the box and I'm surprised that I've never noticed it before. Have I really been tapping without even knowing it? I watch my left hand, wrapped in protective latex, tap against the cardboard box in a fleeting flutter and I have to make myself physically stop with my other hand.
"Don't worry about it," she says, and I'm not sure what she is indicating because at the moment I'm worrying and flustered and embarrassed, and I'm usually calm, collected and sane. Or I believed I was. Am I such an anomaly that I'd entice a psychology stalker?
The emotions are too much for me and I am suddenly embracing panic when she leans into my shoulder and places a hand on the pile of my own. Her cool hand is touching my cold, exposed hand. There is skin touching skin and I lose control.