Mystery Man

As a kid, I've never had an attic, and in hindsight my parents made healthy decisions by restricting my access to one. Every time I'd go to Grandma's house, I'd run up and down the stairs, and I've hurt myself many times by being careless. The house is now dusty and falling apart, but that unique sense of it being my own is contenting. Besides, I kind of like the way the scratched-up floorboards creak when the wind blows up against my eroded windows at night. I am young, but I am possessive. The house is old, but it is welcoming.

I kept the furniture. It's dusty; it's seventies; it's got rips-but I like it and prefer to use the term historically distressed to describe it. The holes in the threadbare cushions have that certain visual appeal that pin-ripped tights give when you do it correctly. The day I moved in, the sun just hit my knees as they swung from a beat-up desk like it knew that I had pin-ripped tights on myself. The universe is funny like that, sometimes, and I'm certain that it laughs back at us as it throws photons through our frizzy little hairs-my frizzy blonde dreads know all too well.
I jerked at the sound of the telephone clattering its bell next to me atop the desk. With its tarnished metal parts I had figured that it was solely decorative when I first walked in, but that assumption had just been falsified. I pulled the little shot glass receiver off of the hook and held it under my lips.


"He-hello?" a faint voice sounded down by my chin. Evidently, that's where the sound comes out, so I pushed it up against my ear instead and leaned toward the body of the phone.

"Hello," the voice declared.


"You do not know me," it kindly started, male, "but we are connected by our associates."

I scanned the bright, dirty room around me. "Alright."

"Do not be alarmed," the fuzzy voice in my ear assured.

The front door creaked open and allowed a guy to step across the threshold with an angelic sunlight behind him.

In the movies, this is terribly romantic, to have someone bust though your door like a celestial body, cell-phone in hand, and teeth smiling. But no, I'd have to say that it is, if anything, creepy. So I screamed and dropped the receiver.

And he screamed back. And we laughed.

"Who are you?!"

He wagged his flip phone in the air and said brightly, "I'm your mystery man!"
My eyes widened at the thought. Mystery man? Shyeah, right. He probably was some crazy homeless guy. The first way people learn about others is to look at them, so noted his jeans and designer tee under his jacket. He had shaggy jet-black hair on his head, and, indeed, looked way too good to be homeless. And I've never heard of dangerous Asian boys-Yakuza?-ah, crap.

"What are you doing here?!"

He smiled boyishly. "You left the front door partway open." He paused and jerked in remembrance. "Uh, hey, I'm, uh, Holden."

"Jill," I replied smugly, crossing my arms over my chest as I sat on the desk.

"I'm your neighbor. From what I'm told, your grandma used to live here, correct? I knew her and helped her out around the place."

"Oh, so sweet."

"Don't be sarcastic! I'm serious!" Holden cried, with the sun blasting behind him. "And besides, I figured you needed some help with some of those huge boxes in the back of your truck."

I hopped off the desk, walked past him, and went right out the door barefoot toward the truck. I could see his puzzled face from inside the house. "If you're going to help, come on!"

It only took about a half hour to get all my things from the truck to inside the house. However, after looking at all of the extra furniture which had been pushed into place, the room was simply too crowded.

"Could you help me drag this armchair up to the attic?"

He jerked around from the wall where he was staring at framed photos. "Oh, yeah, no problem."
We dragged the chair up the rickety stairs and put it in the corner of the wood-paneled attic. Its hardwood floors were carpeted with dust. I plopped myself in the relocated armchair and found myself drawing pictures in the dust with my toes. Holden smiled, took off his socks, and did the same thing, seated upon the armrest next to me. I glanced at his work of art.

"What is that?" I asked.

"A bumblebee!"

I gasped and laughed. "It looks like an elephant without ears!"

I took my foot and scribbled all over his bumblephant. He protested and scribbled all over my flower.

"There," he said, wiping the dust from the bottom of his foot on the top of mine. "That's what you get."

I slowly dragged my sole atop his foot in return. "My parents hated it when we would come over and I'd go up here. Know why?"

He shook his head. "Why."

I leaned in toward him and smelled his cologne. "I'd always be getting into trouble."

Holden leaned over, pressed his forehead against mine, and whispered, "Well, I don't want any trouble."

I felt my arm tingle as his hand moved down my forearm and grabbed my hand. He stood up and pulled me off the couch. Still holding his hand, I followed him down the stairs. He turned around and closed the door to the attic. He let go of my hand, which then felt empty. He smiled gently and looked at me.

"No trouble here, Jill." He kissed my forehead. "Perhaps later."

He took his shoes and walked back to his house a little ways across the lot. I followed him out to the porch and listened to the wind blowing through the chimes in the dusk air. I wanted to grab him and touch his lips. I knew that I couldn't, so I just watched him walk away. He stopped and turned around.

"See you tomorrow?" he called out.

I grinned a wide, wide smile. "See you."

It turned out that we would just be friends, but that's okay with me. Since then we've learned more about each other, and maybe we would run up and fling the attic door back open again, maybe just for a minute, just for one kiss. He comes over now and again, but I'm too scared to bring up the first time we met. Maybe he feels the same way, too.


The End

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