"Can I use your shower?" His voice was soft as rain, and he looked at me patiently, as if he expected something. It was a look I would come to know well.
Kale was familiar in the way that only a stranger could be. I hadn't seen him before today, but already I had memorized his face. The thick draw of his brow, the little scar above his eye. It was like I had come across him somewhere or sometime before. Maybe I had seen him in passing, at a store or on the street, on line for a coffee or donut. Or maybe he just had one of those faces that feels familiar. There are people like that.
"Can I?" he asked again.
I fumbled a little. "Um yeah. Of course. Of course you can shower. And maybe you want something to eat? There's not much in there but make yourself at home."
I could tell that Elodie was waiting for Kale to leave the room so she could start talking, but I didn't have time for even five minutes of adorable small talk. I knew my dad and if I was just five minutes late he'd spend twice that time lecturing me. I needed to leave.
"Thanks," Kale muttered and stood up.
He looked so big next to my little leather couch. Actually, he looked so big next to everything in my little house. Even the china cabinet I bought off Craigslist, before I realized how dangerous it was to meet strangers in the back of the Walmart parking lot. I had a lot of stuff in my house, most of it old and previously owned, and I had a thought for a second, an insecure one, about this guy in my home. Did he notice the pile of dirty clothes desperately waiting to be washed, the stack of dirty dishes in the sink?
And why did I care?
"If there's that one pie . . . how do you say . . ." Elodie struggled for the English word. "The one with the little rouge . . ." She held up her fingers and I finished her thought for her.
"Cherries?" Rouge was one of the very few words I remembered from high school French class. Elodie nodded, but she didn't have to. I knew she could eat an entire cherry pie in one sitting—I'd seen her do it. And who could blame her? My dad's wife Estelle was a decent cook. If I liked her more I would admit that I actually loved her food. But I didn't, so I wouldn't.
"Yes, yes! Cherries." Elodie licked her lips. I had to laugh because she was feeding into every stereotype of a pregnant woman I'd ever heard.
I told her goodbye again, and Kale nodded at me, barely looking in my direction before heading down the hallway. I found myself waiting for the bathroom door to shut.
"Is he always this quiet?" I asked Elodie. Then I shouted, "Towels are in the closet behind the bathroom door!" loud enough that he would hear me.
She shrugged. "I don't know . . ." She winced a little.
I sighed. "Yeah, don't remind me."
She chewed on her lip the way she always did, and I gave her somewhat of a reassuring smile. I left before another minute could pass.