Thursday, February 05, 2009


Part One

Her heel broke, having stepped in a crack on the pavement. A perfect way to end a lousy day. Disoriented, she almost stepped off the sidewalk, the blaring horn of a red car close enough her skirts swooshed. She bent to take off her shoes and stashed them in her oversized bag full of stuff she usually didn’t need. Toothbrush and toothpaste, pens of different colors, nail clipper, a book or two. The Chinese deli ought to still be open.

Just in time, the cute little button-nose waitress was starting to clear the tables. “A little late for dinner isn’t it?” A familiar face. He wasn’t usually so talky. A nod or a smile was the extent of their exchanges, her neighbor of six months. “I was late in a meeting.” He smelled nice, she thought. A soapy, just out of the shower man smell. She didn’t realize he was so tall when his head bent all the way down to peek at her naked toes. “I didn’t figure you for a red toenail polish kind of woman.” Beet red. Her cheeks must be aflame by now. Red flags of embarrassment unfurling for him to clearly see.

“I broke my heel.” Quickly he bent on his right knee. “Which one?” She felt his fingers gingerly stroke first her left, then her right ankle. A not unpleasant sensation, his skin on hers. Rough, his fingers. Maybe he worked with his hands. She always figured him to be an indoor nine to five kind of guy. Guess not. “My shoes!” she screamed in chagrin. Pantene. His hair smelled of her shampoo. She didn't remember it to be this heady. A low rumble of laughter did funny things to her tummy. Hungry. She must really be hungry. His eyes crinkled in amusement, his head so uncomfortably close to her chest. She breathed in deep. This was making her woozy. They certainly broke some physical barriers today, after six months of nothing but awkward smiles and nods.

“We’re closing in twenty minutes, you guys wanna order?” The button-nose waitress looked dead on her feet. “Oh yeah, you know. My usual.” Spring chicken and fried rice. If ever she needed her comfort food, it was today.

After inspecting her ankles one last time, and making a big show out of it, he finally stood on his feet. “Damn, and here I thought I was rescuing a real damsel in distress.” Big grin. His teeth were too straight, she thought. But not movie star white. Never in her wildest imagination would she have thought him to be so cheeky. When not smiling or nodding at her, he usually had his head bowed in deep thought, his eyebrows permanently furrowed. She thought him to be an accountant. Or some other boring, soul-numbing profession. Guess not.

“Here you go.” The button-nose waitress handed us our little take-away bags. His smelled of garlic and soy. Must be the steamed halibut with leeks. “You sure you can walk back? I could go and get the car and come back for you.” She really wasn’t in the mood to be rescued, least of all this day. “No, no. I’m fine. Its just a two blocks away.” His eyes positively gleamed in delight. What was up with her neighbor today? “Well. I guess I’m walking with my shoeless red-toe neighbor then.”

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