THIS IS A WORK OF ORIGINAL FICTION.
It will be serialized in sections over the next few days and its ending will traditionally be marked with, ‘The End.’
Scott settled onto his sofa with his laptop and entered ‘custom cabinets, local vendors’ into his preferred internet search engine. He momentarily stared at his hand. The cut he’d gotten three days earlier had already healed enough to forgo protective covering, and he was fairly sure it wouldn’t even leave a scar. And then he thought of the woman that saved him from that scar, and being indefinitely stranded on the riverside, and maybe from a severe infection. He shook his head, returning to his present task, and disregarded the sponsored links at the top of the results, advertising chain offerings he knew he was already frustrated with, and bargain priced (and likely bargain quality) outlets, and scrolled for the establishment with the highest satisfaction rating: Davidson Woodworking and Custom Carpentry. He liked the idea of a family owed business, and he liked the idea of supporting one in addition to getting ‘personally catered, polite service and the finest wood detail work money can buy.’ He called the contact number after reading several raving online reviews.
“Davidson Woodworking. This is Jack Davidson.”
“I’m interested in getting some cabinetry made for my kitchen.”
“Yeah, we can help you there! That’s Jordan’s specialty. Lemme pull up our calendar to schedule a time to come out to measure and bring some wood samples for ya. Talk about whatcha want.”
“How ’bout Tuesday evening? You available evenings?”
“Anytime after four.”
“I gotcha down for Tuesday at four thirty. We’ll getcha all set up. Depending on whatcha pick out and how big yer kitchen is, bet we can have you ready to go in a few weeks. Two months, tops, even if it’s labor intensive stuff. Jordan does excellent work…usually pretty quick, too…focused…considers custom jobs ‘missions.’ Good deal?”
“Absolutely! See you Tuesday at four thirty then?”
“Well, you’ll be seein’ Jordan, not me, but we’ll take good care o’ ya.”
“Thanks a lot!”
“Our pleasure! Thank you for the business!”
Jordan lugged her case of wood samples from the hatchback of her Jeep and rolled it along the neat concrete walk up to the front door of a stylish townhouse. She always felt a bit nervous, meeting with new clients, despite her exemplary work. She felt more comfortable in the serenity and flow of creating than she did ‘selling’ to people. “This client called asking for custom work. You don’t have to ‘sell.’ Just show what you have, and he’ll…she’ll…they’ll pick something” she told herself. “Is it Mr. or Ms. Messer, I wonder…or maybe a family…nah…not a family in this townhouse, but you never know I guess…a family could live here…or could be a couple…yeah…I’m guessing a couple,” she privately continued as she rang the doorbell.
Scott opened the door to a surprisingly familiar face. Jordan, too, was pleasantly taken aback. “Hello again!” he marveled.
“Yes! Hello again, Mr. Messer,” she giggled.
“It’s Scott. For sure. Someone doctors me when I’m wounded, they get the first name.”
“How is your hand?”
“Much better now! See? Not even a Bandaid.”
“I’m glad things are improving nicely for you, Mister…um…I mean S-Scott. I’m…”
“Jordan. I know,” he affirmed, but then looked sharply dismayed. He remembered a man answered his call to their business and kept using the pronoun ‘we’ when he spoke of ‘Jordan,’ whom Scott had mistaken for another man, sight-unseen, without further information. He assumed ‘co-workers,’ or maybe ‘business partners,’ but now that he’d invited a woman into his house to discuss redoing his kitchen, his presumptions shifted to ‘married couple,’ and he was noticeably disappointed; not that she was a woman, but that she was married, and that he’d made a such a chauvinistic leap. He prided himself on how open-minded he was about gender roles. She saw his downtrodden look and matched it. Now she’d have to ‘sell,’ which she hated.
“Changing your mind about changing your kitchen around? I’ll getcha a good price. You can do affordable custom work unless you’re gonna ask for intricate, hand-carved cherry…”
“No. I’m in. It’s my stupid f-face. Shit. I’m sorry…your husband said…I don’t know why I expected a man to show up to… My bias is showing. I’m kinda embarrassed about it.”
“Oh, don’t be. It is unexpected. Woman showing up to do heavy manual labor for you. And my husband? What?”
“The guy that answered the phone when I called. Jack, right?”
“Haha! Jack’s my big brother. I don’t have a husband. Jack does the ‘business’ stuff. I make the projects with our dad. He started the business in the late 70s, when Jack was born, and I think he envisioned hanging a shingle: ‘Davidson and Son Woodworking,’ but it didn’t work out that way. Jack’s kind of afraid of power saws and he doesn’t like getting dirty. So there’s no ‘…and Son’ on the sign, but Dad did get me. Don’t wanna brag, but I’m pretty good at it…”
“Oh, no doubts. That’s what I read. That’s why I called you.” The two of them spent the next ninety minutes going over a plan for Scott’s kitchen, and he helped her reload the sample case into her car and shook her hand before she drove away. “It IS a family business, but Jack’s not her husband, he’s her brother…YES! I wonder how long I have to wait for it to be acceptable to ask her out now…”
As Jordan backed out of her parking spot in front of Scott’s house, she mentally noted some casual observations she’d made while inside. “Virtually empty cupboards; no pictures of women visible; don’t think he’s GAY, because I was definitely getting an ‘interested’ feel from him…oh, stop it, Jordan. He’s a client and you’re probably totally misreading everything. He’s just being nice because you’re working for him. And he already said he thinks your hands are gross…which they are…”
Scott sat on the edge of his desk chair, bouncing his knee, waiting for Jordan and her work crew to arrive. He felt torn about taking the day off for the installation. He could tell, when he conveyed his plan to stay home to her on their final check-in phone call, that she felt defeated. She even tried to talk him out of it. “Gonna be loud and kinda dusty…I mean, we’ll totally clean up. I swear, your home will look like we were never there when we’re finished…but until we’re finished…kitchen’s off limits, and the hammering, and the mess…just…sure you wanna sign in for that?” Her overt concern was for his physical comfort, but he heard something else…an underlying tinge of worry about her own emotional comfort. He thought about conceding, and going to work, just to make that tone of her voice disappear. For some intangible reason, he didn’t like the idea he’d let her down in any way, even though he didn’t know what he’d done (or failed to do). But he wanted to see her again so badly (and he had a peculiar interest in seeing her work), that he stood his ground.
Jordan pulled up to park in front of Scott’s townhouse and huffed and puffed to empty and refill her lungs a few times to settle raging nerves. She’d fallen into an ease, working on Scott’s materials, but on that last call to confirm a delivery date, he’d said he planned to supervise the build in. She interpreted this statement to imply she’d done or said something to make him doubt her work or her integrity, perhaps both. He either didn’t trust her to make a quality product for him, or he didn’t trust her and her team alone in his house. She despised being watched while she worked. Beyond her natural inclination to foster others’ faith in her, she worked especially hard to ensure her earnestness in business, and confidence in her capabilities, so no clients would feel the need to look over her in her work; only to inspect her final results. She tried to no avail to convince him to leave her to herself, and now, she’d never been more on edge before entering a job site. Being considered suspect always made her uneasy, but the feeling that Scott, in particular, didn’t trust her, singularly perturbed her. She felt connected to Scott, perhaps because of how they’d met, and some wistful conception that fate had reunited them, and that he’d seemed wholly unmoved by the unorthodoxy of a woman carpenter…excepting, of course, that last unfortunate phone exchange. “Here we go, Jordan,” she said aloud to herself before exiting the car to direct Tony and Miguel to the correct front door.
Scott opened up to the three contractors with an oblivious, gregarious smile on his face. “Good morning!” he almost sang, mostly to Jordan, as he’d locked into eye contact with her.
She eyed him with patent confusion before replying with an inquiring, rather than authoritative, “Good morning?”
“Not a good morning?” he queried back, now moderately alarmed.
“Just…you seem pretty ‘up.’ I’m kinda surprised you’re so into hearing us bang in anchor nails for most of your day.”
“Oh, no problem. I got some ear plugs,” he explained, turning to show off his neon orange foam accessories, accounting for his inordinately high-volume speaking voice, and flashed her another ruddy, childlike smile. “’Cause you said it’d be really loud. I can’t wait to watch you work!”
“Haha! Alright then,” she chuckled, relieved that he simply had a curiosity about custom cabinet fitting, not a deep-seated need to micro-manage her.
“You guys usually go out for lunch at break time or what?” he called, again, modestly louder than normal, which made her involuntarily keep laughing at him.
“Yeah. We at least go eat in the truck. We won’t mess up your place with our lunch trash, or eat out of your fridge or anything…”
“Was gonna get some pizza for everybody. That not a good plan? Least I can do, huh? I know I’m kinda in the way and all…but if it’s like…against the rules to accept lunch, I’ll just shut the hell up now.”
Tony’s and Miguel’s eyes hopefully widened, looking to their job forewoman with pleading eyes, which made her laugh at all of them. They’d never been offered a meal by a client before. “Sure. We’ll all do pizza for lunch. Thank you, Mr. Messer. That’s really generous and kind…”
“Shit, are we back to ‘Mr. Messer?’ Did I mess up?”
“No, I was just trying to be professional…”
“Hell with ‘professional.’ Go back to Scott,” he congenially yelled, forcing a relieved, booming belly laugh out of her.
“You got it…Scott. Let’s get going, fellas. Earn our free lunch,” she said to her workmates.