Slip of the Tongue(4)

By: Jessica Hawkins

I suppress a smile at his deadpan response. I wouldn’t have believed him if he’d said yes. “I didn’t think so.”

“Good old-fashioned carnivore here. Hunting, gathering, bring it back to the cave—” He puts one foot in the apartment before he enters, as if the floor is water and he’s testing the temperature.

“I get the idea.” Ginger’s happy to have him here, but she’d wag her tail for an axe murderer. I close the door behind him.

“Nice place,” he says when we’re out of the entryway. “Like mine but livable.”

“Thanks.” I point to the couch. “Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.” I go into the bedroom, shut the door, and throw on a bra under my sweatshirt.

When I come out, he’s flipping through Vogue magazine, his long legs spread out in front of him. He wrinkles his forehead. “Some of these outfits . . .”

“I work in fashion and beauty PR,” I explain. “My clients are on the beauty side—make up, skin cream, that kind of thing—but I have to keep up with the trends.”

He shuts the magazine and replaces it under the coffee table. “I won’t pretend to understand it.”

I walk into the kitchen, and he follows. Some of the vegetables in the fridge look questionable. I take out a bag of wilting spinach. He won’t know the difference. “Can I get you some Pinot Noir?”

“Not much of a wine drinker,” he says from behind me. “I wouldn’t turn down one of those, though.” He points to a six-pack of Sorachi Ace on the shelf.

I hesitate a second. They don’t belong to me, but I don’t think it matters. I pull one out and hand it to him. “Opener’s in the drawer left of the sink.”

“Thanks. Never had this kind. Is it good?”

“I wouldn’t know. I don’t drink a lot of beer.” I line up the vegetables and start chopping.

It’s quiet for a few seconds, except for his gulp-gulping as he drinks and the tap-tap of my knife on the cutting board.

“How is it?” I ask.

“Just what I need. My apartment is depressingly alcohol-free at the moment.” He pulls out a chair, but seems to change his mind and stays standing. “I need to make a trip to the grocery store.”

“It’s from Brooklyn Brewery. The beer.” I slide mushrooms from the board into a wok. “What brings you to Gramercy Park anyway?”

He coughs. “Work.”

I don’t ask what he does. I still don’t even know his name. “Are you new to the city?”

“Actually, I went to NYU, just like you.”

I look up from the bell pepper I’m about to julienne. “You did? When?”

He shakes his head. “Don’t make me answer that,” he says, but he does anyway. “I graduated ten years ago.”

“I’m almost there too.” For some reason, his green eyes sparkle, and I have to return to the vegetables to keep from getting flustered. “Then what?”

“Then I did some things. Moved to the ’burbs. Now I’m back.”

“Most people go to the suburbs and stay.”

“I’m aware.” I sense a hint of bitterness, and then it’s gone. “I’m one of those rare birds who’s happy to be back in the chaos.”

“Well, you picked a good neighborhood. I never want to live anywhere else.” I put the vegetables in the wok and get the chicken ready. It might not be enough food for him. One of the only things I really know about this man is that he has a large enough appetite to work his way through an entire meal group. You might guess it by his height and muscular physique, but there doesn’t seem to be an ounce of fat on him.

“So, how do you even order everything on a menu?” I ask, pushing things around the pan with a spatula. I think I would’ve laughed my ass off to see it with my own eyes. “Do you start at the top and have the waitress write each thing down? Or does she just hand the cook a menu?”

When he doesn’t respond, I turn around. He’s wandered over to the desk in the corner. There’s nothing special about it—it holds the typical office items. Neon Post-It notes, a mug of pens, a pile of mail. He isn’t looking at any of that, though.

He picks up a framed photo of my husband and me on our wedding day. Nathan, tall and broad in his tuxedo, gazes down at me while I smile at the camera. Our dark hair and eyes complement each other and contrast my wedding gown.

“Let me guess—your twin sister?” he asks.

I glance at him. His green eyes, sweet and warm up until now, are narrowed on me. I’ve known him less than a day, but I can read the shift in his mood. Because I’m married? He shouldn’t be disappointed, but judging by his closed expression, I think he might be. If so, I’m not wrong that there’s been some strange electric charge between us today. And I wonder if I should’ve invited him in.

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