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As I look at his arms, I almost feel guilty. Like I have seen something that was supposed to be private. Intimate even. I only see them for a few brief moments, but they tell me more about David than I suspect he wants me to know. Anyone can see his arms of course, but I feel like I have exposed him somehow. Like my looking at them might make him embarrassed. Vulnerable even. But I know thousands of people have probably seen his tattoos and didn't think twice about it.
Maybe it's me that feels embarrassed.
The two of us together in my very small, and very demolished, kitchen is suddenly awkward, and I want to get out. I have to pass him sideways to fit between his body and the wall, and I take care not to touch him as I go by. I put the rest of the food on the table and divvy it all up. He comes around the corner drying his hands with a paper towel.
"How long ago did you move in?" he asks. "I haven't really seen you around so it must have been pretty recently." I want to make a smart aleck comment about all the moving boxes sitting around, but I decide that I'd better not.
"I've only been here a few days," I answer as we both sit down. "I start my new job on Monday."
"Oh yeah?" he asks with what might be a hint of pride in his voice. "Good for you. What's the job?"
"It's for the FBI," I say. "I'm going to be investigating a con-man who swindles women into paying for remodeling projects they didn't ask for."
And there it is. His smile. It's not big, and he doesn't show his teeth, but still, it's a smile. And I smile back.
"Wow. Now that sounds like an interesting case, Emma," he says. "I bet he's a good-looking bastard."
"They say he's a conceited son-of-a-bitch, too," I add.
"Don't worry. You won't be paying for a single penny of your new kitchen."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I play poker with Carl every Tuesday night, and I have already won you your new kitchen. You want a new bathroom too? I can have that for you by Wednesday morning."
"Ahhh. It appears that the con-man is indeed a conceited son-of-a-bitch," I say. "But I'm glad he's spending his winnings so smartly. I didn't know philanthropic con-men even existed. How unexpected."
"Con-men are notorious for the unexpected," he says, and I feel a lump in my throat. The whole time we have been talking I have been watching the birds on his arms in my peripheral vision. I suddenly feel remorseful for taking what could have been a normal conversation and turning it into a series of jokes. He is still smiling, though, which tells me he likes it.
"Unexpected is nice," I say. Nice? That's the best I can do? The word seems wrong.
We sit there eating without saying another word. I am looking at my food and not at him. When I glance up a few minutes later, he is looking right at me, and he's still smiling, even as he eats.
"What?" I ask.
"Are you going to tell me what your new job really is?"
"I'm going to work for a company that designs telecommunication systems for office buildings. I'm an electrical engineer." He actually looks pleased, and it surprises the hell out of me. "Welcome to Geek-ville," I add as I shrug my shoulders. Oh God.
"Geek-ville?" he asks, half laughing. "I think that shit is awesome." I must look shocked at his reply because he shrugs his shoulders too.
"And how long have you worked for Carl?"
"Almost two years. He owns a couple of apartment buildings, and I do all the maintenance for them in exchange for my rent." Oh. David lives here? In this building? "It's a pretty good deal. I just do some odd side jobs to pay for food and stuff, and I usually end up kicking ass on poker night so I'm good. I'm really a carpenter, but I'll do whatever the hell he needs just so I don't have to get some nine to five shit union job."
"I'm not looking forward to nine to five myself, but I think it will treat me pretty well."
"I'm sure it will," he says as he gets up from the table. "I'm going to get a few more things done in here, and then I'll get going."
He goes back into the kitchen, and I follow behind him carrying our plates. As I drop them into the sink, he hooks his tool belt around his waist and nestles it down onto his hips. I glance at the birds again, knowing that his eyes are on the belt clip and not me. They are breathtaking.
"Do you live in this building?" Really, Emma? Do you really want to go there? I curse my curiosity and tell it to go fuck itself.
"Yes," he says. "Right above you, but two floors up." That explains how he knew which apartment was mine and exactly where the kitchen was. It doesn't explain why he used the door buzzer.
"Oh. Then why did you use the door buzzer this morning?" I ask.
"Because intercom introductions are my thing." He holds his arms out in front of him and adds, "If you saw me through the peephole in your door, would you open it?"
"Yes...but only because of the tool belt." I mean it as a joke, but I'm not sure he's going to take it that way.
He chuckles and says, "Works every time."