“And that’s the last one.” I say, releasing a lengthy sigh of relief.
“Fantastic!” she says merrily. “Could I get you something to drink?”
I ask her for a glass of water. While she’s in the kitchen, my attention is caught by a box labelled ‘Vinyls’. I reach into the box and retrieve the vinyl record on top. A copy of Eric Dolphy’s ‘Out to Lunch!’
“Here you are.” she says, handing me a chilled glass of water.
“Thanks.” I gulp down half its contents.
“I’m making supper. It’ll be ready in a little while. You’re not in a rush, are you?”
I shake my head. “I’ve got time.” I say with a smile.
“Great. I know there’s not a lot to do, but feel free to rummage through whatever. Or have a look at the rest of the house if ya like. The garden’s pretty decent, too.”
The afternoon summer sun spills its rays through the Venetian blinds and smears a handsome orangey hue about the almost empty living room. All the room encompasses is two small mahogany sofas, a coffee table, and in one corner, a stockpile of hefty boxes filled with her belongings.
I was introduced to her two days ago. She works for the same company as me, but I’d never met her until then, as she’s much further up the employee hierarchy than myself. The company produces high-quality household furniture and products, and sells them to luxury brands. I began working there almost four months ago as a Sales Administrator. She, on the other hand, is one of the supervisors, and is in the process of moving out of her old apartment to this one. My supervisor, Hector, was helping her with the heavy lifting and transporting, but could no longer do so when his sister was hospitalised two days earlier. I’m sorry to bail out on you like this so suddenly, but hey, you know what? he said, I’ve got someone on my team – a youthful and pleasant fella who I’m sure wouldn’t mind giving you a hand. I’ll introduce you to him at the end of his shift.
She asked extremely politely and even said she would pay me; I couldn’t bring myself to say no – I had no reason to, even. And besides, I find her very beautiful. She must be in her early thirties but she could pass for twenty-five. Clear skin glazed with a natural tan, a longish but nicely chiselled face, silky black hair trickling down to her shoulders, and a comely build. Her eyes are an unmissable stark green. Gorgeous, beguiling eyes. She has this pleasantly jubilant air about her. She immediately appealed to me when I was first introduced to her.
The smell of her cooking begins to waft in from the kitchen like a friendly ghost, and only is it then when I realise how hungry I really am. She opens up a box and pulls out a painting of a tiger crouched majestically by a tree. Her eyes slowly pan around the room as she looks for a suitable place to hang the painting.
Once the food is cooked, she serves us both and invites me to the table. The kitchen is on the small side, and she has all her furniture installed already. A little but very opulent, contemporary-style dinner table rests in one corner with two matching chairs.
Grilled bonito, spiced potatoes with peppers and caramelised onions. It tastes just as good as it looks. “Feel free to help yourself to more if you’d like. I know how much boys your age eat. Besides, I’ve made you lift my heavy stuff all day, you must be starved.” she says.
“This,” I confess to her. “is delicious!” She laughs and thanks me.
“Oh! How could I forget?” she says suddenly, rising to her feet. “Drinks.” she pulls out a bottle of red wine from the fridge and pours us a glass each, then places the bottle on the dinner table.
A brief silence dawdles between us.
“So, Lance, right? – Tell me about yourself! You know, other than that you work for HCS, too.” she says, then laughs a little. I’ve never been any good at answering this question. For a moment I feel to lie about some things to try make myself sound like a remotely interesting character, but I don’t.
“Well, I’m 20 years old. Dropped out of university after my first year.”
“Really? What course were you doing?”
“I was doing Law in Journalism.”
“Journalism, eh? How come you dropped out, wasn’t for you?” she sips at her wine.
“Nah. Far too much law involved. I don’t know what I was expecting, really.” I guess I just wanted to do a course which made me sound somewhat clever, I almost say aloud. She lets out a small, monosyllabic laugh and says nothing.
“After that, I managed to hitch a job in a Turkish restaurant, but I got fired within two months of working there.” No, I didn’t get fired, I quit. That’s basically what I am, a quitter. When things get a little hectic or heavy, I run away and find something else to give up on. Again, I don’t say this out loud (for fairly obvious reasons).
“Oh, darn. That’s a shame.” she utters whilst covering her mouth, chews, then says, “Then?”
“Then I did virtually nothing for a few months. I tried to learn how to play the flute. My uncle owns one. But I was no good at it, and I figured what’s the point of learning to play with no one to play to, you know?” I take in a mouthful.
She smiles. “You shouldn’t have quit! I would’ve listen to you play. I like the flute. It’s relaxing.”
“I guess so.” I say, glass in hand. “I also started teaching myself Spanish.”
“Ooh, no way!” she interjects with a degree of elation. “Teach me some, too.”
“Wait, let me guess – you gave up on that, too, right?” she laughs.
Her turn. She tells me about her fairly ordinary upbringing, and how she moved to New Zealand and lived with her sister for a year after she’d finished university. I hated it, so I came back, she says. Everything’s all different over there but in a subtle way. If I’m gonna go live abroad, I would prefer a tremendous change, so that way I could adjust to the difference in culture, climate, language and such. Somewhere I could basically start over. In New Zealand, though, I wasn’t quite sure what I was meant to adjust to or how to react to anything. It was like being invited to the house of a friend of a friend. Weird, I know. I can’t explain it all that well.
We sit at the dining table for a while longer, drinking wine and sharing a conversation about nothing in particular. We talk about various things; work, family, TV, books and life in general. It comes to a little after nine in the evening yet still the pair of us have not moved from the table. She gyrates the remaining sip or two of wine in her glass and says, “I’d better stop myself there if I’m going to be driving you home.”
I laugh a little. Peering at my watch, I tell her I can catch a taxi back. “It’s not far from here, and on a Thursday evening it shouldn’t be expensive. It’ll spare you the inconvenience of having to get out, too.”
“No, no, no! It’s no problem at all. Besides, I owe you.”