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.’
After six hours and change of hard work and clean up, and forty-five minutes of some hardcore screwing off while eating pizza and drinking bottled root beer, Tony and Miguel drove the delivery truck back to the workshop to clock out, and Jordan sat alone with Scott at his dining room table, detailing his leftover billing information. “Balance is sixteen hundred on the tops and the cabinets,” she matter-of-factly stated.
“Gotcha. Lemme just fill out the amount on this check and we’re good to go. They’re awesome. I mean, I expected…I read all the online reviews and…but your work on the doors…it’s beautiful. Artful. I almost don’t wanna stack plates and canned green beans in ’em.”
“Haha! Wow. High praise. Please load ’em up, though. That’s what they’re made for. They’re functional, not just pretty forms.”
“Form and function is pretty hard to find. Thank you for letting me hang around today.”
“Our pleasure! And thanks for lunch. Tony and Miguel are gonna be let down every install we do for an entire quarter. ‘Townhouse guy bought us lunch…‘ Gonna take a while for that to wear off. You’re a hero now.”
“Pizza and root beer earns me ‘hero?’ Damn. You must be a superhero then. You made this stuff, and put it in, and you fixed my bloody hand six weeks ago when I was a total stranger. Bad ass. You’re not a superhero, are ya?”
“Shit. You blew my cover. I am, in fact, Jigsaw Girl. Able to cut shapes out of wood in a single bound…or something. Pfft. I’m glad you’re happy with the work.”
“Thrilled. Had this house for four years and hated my kitchen so much I never used it.”
“It was pretty dull before…”
“So, Jordan…um…I’ve never really been a ‘smooth’ guy, so this is really…um…blunt…and probably dumb…but would you like to maybe come over sometime? I’d like to make you dinner in my new kitchen.”
“Really?!” she coughed.
“Oh, boy. Stepped in it. Ugh. I’m sorry. I thought you might already be involved with somebody, or just not into extracurricular time with me, but…”
“Oh no! My ‘really’ wasn’t snarky. It was ‘stunned.’ Um…I’d really…like it if you made me dinner. You’re not gonna make me microwave eggrolls and soup out of a can, are you?”
“Ha! No. You making an assumption I can’t cook because I’m a guy? Not nice. Seriously. Feminism goes two ways, you know…”
“Hehehehe! No. Assumed you couldn’t cook because you didn’t have to empty your old cupboards before we started today. Empty kitchen usually means no one knows how to use it.”
“Well, it was an ugly and uninviting place to be before. So I avoided it. Plus cooking for one is an art I’ve not mastered. I’m looking forward to cooking for two. What’s the best evening for you, and what do you want me to make?”
“Any night besides tonight’s fine…”
“Tomorrow then?” She blushed and turned away from him, but smiled. “Am I too thirsty? Yikes. Did I blow it?”
“I like tomorrow,” she reassured him.
“Nice. So I’m going shopping for…?”
“Um…something with meat and cheese in it?”
“Haha! I think I’m in love,” he teased. “Do you like white or red wine? Special kind of beer? Or…?”
“Honestly, the root beer was a hit. Made me a little smitten with you that you got root beer in glass bottles for us today.”
“Yeah?! Root beer in the bottle. Check.”
“So I’ll see you tomorrow night at…?”
“Six too early?”
“Too early for you?”
“Nope. My shift’s up at four.”
“What do you do? I can’t believe I haven’t asked that already…”
“It’s um…a long explanation.”
“I’ve got time.”
He raised his eyebrows at her, and smirked with self-satisfaction that she was so engaged talking to him. “I work for an academic textbook company. College professors order up curriculum packages of online resources and hard cover texts, or sometimes only certain chapters of books or whatever, and I sort those out for them. Make sure the online stuff is ‘up’ and bug free every day. Not the most exciting job in the world, but I get paid.”
“Huh. I’ll be damned. Haven’t been in school for a while, but I never would have guessed that was a job a person could have.”
“I’m a professional middle man. I know. Lame.”
“Not lame. Just a job.”
“Your job isn’t ‘just a job.’ You make things…beautiful things. And you seem like you love it. Like it’s a part of you.”
“It is. And I do love it. But probably, if my dad started a restaurant or something, I’d be doing that instead. How you pay bills isn’t the whole picture of who you are.”
He smiled warmly at her and her philosophy. “Six okay for you?”
“I should be able to call it quits in the shop by five and be on time.”
“I can’t lie…kinda hating this is a sign off. I wish I’d gone shopping ahead of time. I’d cook for you right now. I could still take you out, maybe. You have dinner plans tonight?”
“Having dinner with my folks. I’d invite you along, but it’s too soon for that,” she chided.
“Ha! Agreed. I’ll try to be patient for tomorrow then. Jordan…have a good night.”
“You too. Tomorrow.”
Jordan rambled on to her mom and sister-in-law about having a date the following evening. Jack teased her that a client had picked her up. “Like the Shop Guys in high school,” he laughed. Jordan chuckled with him good-naturedly, but inside she cringed. Her brother and most of her friends thought she was popular with guys in high school. She did garner a lot of male attention, and she was a pretty girl, but none of those boys really liked her; really even attempted to get to know her. They were drawn in by her pretty face and fascinated by her skill on the saws and with the tools as the only young woman in shop class with them. Once they got out on dates with her though, they were disappointed that she really was interested in woodworking. They wanted her to talk about something else; something ‘normal’ for a girl. But all Jordan had was woodworking and grunge music and nature hikes and rowing. Despite their seeming common interests, once they spent real time with her, those young men from her high school days didn’t like that she was better in shop class and more skilled in woodworking than them; that she was the expert. And they eventually began to manifest the hostility that came with sexist resentment by picking apart her femininity and sometimes her appearance…especially her worn hands, as there were few other areas of Jordan’s looks to criticize. She looked down at her hands there on her parents’ sofa after dinner and relived high school self consciousness again. She’d thought her hands ugly for more than a decade based on repeated feedback from immature boys in her youth, and she began to think Scott was probably like those guys. She hadn’t really gone out on dates since her high school days, and she blamed her job and her hands. Scott had noticed her hands the first time they met, and he seemed nearly obsessively into her job. It all seemed uncomfortably familiar, and by the time she arrived home, she’d worried herself to near panic. She sent Scott a text.
JD: Hey. It’s Jordan. You sure you wanna do this tomorrow night?
SM: Yes! Glad to hear from you now! How was dinner with your folks?
JD: Good. And also…weird I guess.
SM: What made it weird?
JD: Well…I told them I have a date with you tomorrow night. Because I’m…I was…happy about it, but then my brother brought up high school and I started thinking…I dunno. It was just weird.
SM: What happened in high school? Something bad? Jordan, believe me, I’m…
SM: If you’d rather go out to dinner somewhere with me and not come to my house, or if you’d rather just talk to me longer to get to know me better before we actually do anything together, that’s…I get that. I still want to eventually have a real date, but I’m not…I was maybe a little too eager to see you…socially. I’m sorry.
JD: It’s actually not exactly YOU. You’re…I’m pretty eager to see you ‘socially’ too. It’s just…you were super into me being a cabinet maker and carpenter. And that you know I like to kayak. And I’ve had previous experience with guys who liked me because of those parts of me…or thought they liked those parts of me. Because it was like…the same as them or something. And it’s not been all that great.
SM: Well, I do like those parts of you. But I also think you’re funny. And sweet. And brave. And kind. You fixed my hand on the lake, and I liked you then. I’ll admit part of the initial attraction was that you’re pretty and part of it was that you helped me, and part of it was that you were a girl who would actually do an ‘outdoor’ thing voluntarily…that IS like me. But it was before I knew you were an amazing woodworker. And that’s NOT the same as me, by the way. I’m into that because you’re good at something I don’t know how to do. I’ve always sort of admired and been fascinated by people who are good at things I don’t know how to do. Like…sculpting or gymnastics or playing the violin or solving a Rubik’s cube with a blindfold on or whatever. And I’m kinda looking forward to getting to know more about you than just the obvious things I can find out looking at the surface from a distance.
Jordan considered his latest reply and thought to herself that maybe Scott wasn’t the same as the guys Jack had lumped him together with after all.
SM: Still here?
JD: Yep. Still here. 🙂
SM: What did the other guys from high school do that was shitty? I’ll make sure not to do that. 🙂
JD: They just seemed like they wanted me to like hiking and camping and taking shop, but if I was better at any of it or more enthusiastic about any of it than THEY were, it turned them off. And they’d start insulting my femininity or something.
SM: Morons. 😉
JD: Yeah, I guess. Haha! 🙂
SM: Any of them cook you dinner in their newly remodeled town house?
JD: No. They definitely did not do that.
SM: So then tomorrow night won’t be like those other times. 🙂
JD: No, I suppose it won’t. 🙂