Chapter 19Mature

Ok? What the hell do I do now?

He and Mike sat together for maybe fifteen minutes after his little pep talk. The entire time, she held onto his arm, laying her head quietly on his shoulder. If he attempted to move, she gave a gentle squeeze, letting him know she wasn't ready to part. Being that close to her, he was made keenly aware of her newly acquired womanly qualities. He tried to avoid thinking of the way her breasts felt pressed against his arm.

Dammit! What was she thinking? I've gotta find a way to make her aware that she can't be so grabby like that! I'm only human...

She smelled of jasmine. It seemed like every time he took a deep breath, he could almost catch her scent. It was an elusive feeling, which only added to his frustration. In her own way, she was developing at a frightening rate when it came to her femininity. It was one of the things he admired most about her. Where anyone else might have spend years coming to terms with what happened, Mike seemed to grasp and adapt to her new life while making it look like she was a natural.

"I said is this right?"

Apparently, he'd been so absorbed in thought that he'd completely missed the framing carpenter's first attempt to get his attention. Tom was a tall, wiry Dutch-Irish man in his early twenties from Pittsburgh, who was a recent transplant to the Sunshine State. He looked up to see the young apprentice carpenter waiting for him to check over some of his joins.

"I'm sorry..." He said, shrugging his shoulders. "I totally spaced out a second."
He scanned the ceiling joists, letting his eyes track from one side of the house to the other along the beams.

"The second one from the end is about three degrees too far forward this way. The other ones look great."

He turned back to what he was doing. Tom worked for Habitat in order to get enough hours to qualify for his journeyman's certification. Habitat had developed a program a long time ago that recorded qualified work times for apprentice builders in exchange for work on their projects. Workers got time for their qualifications while Habitat received free labor. It wasn't the best of ways, but it worked well enough.

"You gotta be shittin' me! You can tell that just by lookin at it?"

Steve Argent, one of the charity's first professionals and a retired home builder from Santa Monica, enthusiastically chimed in.

"Man, if Paris says it's off --you can bet your ass it is. That boy's eye is like a laser measuring tool and level all rolled into one! It's part of the reason why they let him run the crew here-- he can eyeball cuts and angles and reproduce them without having to break out a t-square. I've never seen anything like it..."

"You're exaggerating slightly, Steve..." He replied.

"Exaggerating, my ass..." The older man joked.

Paris spied a couple of bags of grout in the corner of the living room, that he knew were meant for the terra cotta tiles in the back bathroom. It looked as though someone had been using them to prop up a ladder or something, and just forgot to take them back to the back bathroom. Left where they were, they'd probably get kicked open or stepped on by the guys preparing to do the drywall, so he picked them both up and headed towards the back of the house.

He entered the narrow hallway leading to the bedroom just as Mike was getting up from pulling an electrical cable to the plug that was going to be in the hallway. He'd been walking fast because the bags were heavy, and stopped short behind her. With her back to him, she hadn't noticed him until they were virtually on top of one another. He stopped in time to avoid bumping her, but she unknowingly took a step back into him.

She's really soft...!

"Oh!" She chirped, spinning around.

He managed to cock an eyebrow as he tried to stifle an embarrassed look. Mike looked directly at into his eyes, having realized who it was. He felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment and prayed to the gods that his darker complexion kept it from being obvious. Mike looked unfazed by their collision, until his eyes locked with hers.

"Coming through!"

One of the drywall guys swung a four by eight section of drywall into the hallway just behind the two of them. He quickly scooted forward, bumping into her to avoid getting hit, forcing her back sandwiching them against the wall. Mike barely had time to put her arms up between them before being accidentally pressed into the framing. Right after the first guy passed them, he was followed by another and then another drywaller, all carrying the drywall sheets past in a procession of organized chaos.

They're doing this on purpose!

Every inch of her pressed against him while the workers made their way back into the back. With the bags of grout in his hands, he could do little more than lean into her and the wall to avoid losing his balance. Mike had to turn her head to the side to avoid him, while keeping her hands pressed against his chest to help keep him from going off balance.
As the last drywaller passed, the two of them parted in embarrassment. As he took a step back, it felt as though for a moment, her hands followed him.

"Ah. Sorry about that..." He offered half heartedly.

Mike hesitated to turn in his direction for a moment before saying anything. As she turned to face him, it almost looked as though she thought he'd planned it --until she met his eyes. In an instant the look of ire disappeared into a smile.

Paris set down the bags of grout, scratching his head. "Sorry about that. I think the guys are fucking with me. You're the first girl they've seen me with... I think they got the wrong idea."

Mike turned to look down the hallway, letting her hand drop to his waist. It rested just above his belt loop, and lingered.

"You know... I think they're not the only ones. I guess it would be kind of weird to think of each other like that, huh?" she chuckled.

Ooooookayyyyyy.... I guess that means I'm safely tucked away in the friend zone, then....
"Yeah... I guess I could see where they'd get the wrong idea. I'm usually pretty focused."

Mike frowned, cocking her eyebrow.

"So what you're saying is that I unfocus you?"

He literally backpedaled upon hearing her say that, throwing up his hands to wave off her verbal assault.

"Noooo..... That's not what I meant."

She leaned forward with her hands on her hips. As she dipped forward, his eyes were drawn to ample bosom. Mike traced the line of his gaze and glared even harder at him.

"What did you mean then?"

He was completely on the defensive and he couldn't think of any way to halt her verbal advance. After a moment he sighed in defeat, finally allowing himself to look away from her chest. He knew that by now, his cheeks were uncontrollably reddened.

"Just that you're the first person I've brought with me."

Mike's expression softened as she realized his genuine embarrassment. At first he thought she might actually take pity on him, but it was a false hope. She grinned cruelly at him with a glint of evil glee in her eye.

"So this is your idea of a date?"

He shook his head vigorously while waving his hands back and forth to wave off the idea that she floated.

"No. It isn't a date. It's not a date."

She finally pulled herself back, looking away like she was mulling it over. While she gave it more thought, she crossed her arms in front, tapping her chin with her finger and biting her lower lip.

"It's a date. It's a horrible date --but it's a date." She grinned.

He let out a groan.

"You're killin' me, Mike..."

Mike shrugged nonchalantly. It seemed that she picked up on his unease and seized the advantage, almost as though it came naturally to her.

"I hope you have something better planned than just this. I'd hate to think you brought me out here just to be slave labor. Do I at least get a meal?"

"Hey, what about lunch?" He replied.

She huffed, letting him know that his answer was far from acceptable.

"I'm working. You have to compensate me with food. I'm talking about after this is all over. I don't wanna go straight home."

"No... No... We all go to Mission bay for a bonfire later on. I mean --it's nothing spectacular, but you get to see the fireworks show from Sea World."

Her wicked smile softened as she let him off the hook. "Relax, Paris... I know you wouldn't be so ungentlemanly to end a date like that."

"You're not gonna let that go, eh?"

"Not a chance..." She smiled.

The End

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