Wade says, “I’ll let you know when I’m finished and yes, it will be pretty soon.”
Really dwells on his consonants, Rose notices, letting Terry know how difficult it is to remain patient with him. Terry puts his hands in his pockets and does what looks like a potty dance, twirls over to the window in a jittery pirouette and peeks out the blinds.
Wade says, “Did you check the garage and make sure Julie’s not out there doing some yard work or something?”
“No, she’s definitely at work,” Terry says, but he leaves the room in short, hurried steps anyway.
Rose becomes suddenly, acutely aware of James’ breath against her hair. She gets the feeling he’s smelling it, and has to battle another intense urge to squirm, like an itch the size of her entire body that she can’t scratch.
Wade gets out a notebook and starts copying the passwords down from the cord, while Terry’s footsteps thump out to the kitchen, where the garage door creaks open then after a moment creaks shut again. A few more footsteps and then they end abruptly – he must have gone out back to look around.
Rose thinks about the woman gardening a couple of houses down. Does he know her? Will he ask her if she’s seen anyone hanging around?
She watches Wade’s Captain Crunch shirt as he returns his belongings to his tool box, the room seeming suddenly very quiet without Terry in the house. She holds her breath. The remaining sound of James breathing in her hair seems like a lawnmower.
Rose tries to pick up the sound of Wade’s breathing, to gauge whether or not her can hear James and is startled by how moist and loud it is – how did she miss it earlier?
Leather creaks beneath them, a distinct pop like a twig snapping the forest at night. Rose closes her eyes, and when she opens them, Wade is on his feet, hefting his tool box with a sigh, and then he returns the wheeled office chair to its spot in front of the desk, and then he’s gone.
As his footsteps recede to the kitchen, Rose squirms away from James and glares at him, hissing, “Think you can do something about your stupid boner, James?”
“I can’t help it,” he replies, whispering into her hair. “It’s not something you can just stop thinking about.”
“Think about dead puppies or something.”
Wade’s voice from the kitchen is faint; he’s speaking out the back door. “I’m serious, Terry, you can’t leave it open so just pull it shut and let’s go. Everybody lives here knows where the key is anyway. Let’s go.”
Terry starts talking from the patio and they can’t hear him all of what he says. “…effort getting a key made just to come here and find the back door open.”
“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.”
So they go. Right out the front door, the deadbolt clicking behind them, then two bobbing shapes pass the window, casting shadows through the slats on them. Rose opens the closet door and rolls forward on to the carpeted floor of the office, pushing herself to her feet and then turning to grab James’ outstretched hand, pulling him up as well.
He looks out the blinds for a moment while Rose tugs at her clothes in various places, straightening her bra, taking care of a bit of a wedgie, fluffing out her sweatshirt like a pillow in the middle of the night.
“There they go,” James says to the blinds, then turns to her, cracking a grin. “Dead puppies?”
“You’re gross. Sitting there talking to me with a boner.”
“I think I’ve been pretty well-behaved for a guy with a boner.”
Rose blinks at that for a moment; that’s actually quite true. She shrugs and says, “We should get out of here, right?”
James looks at his phone and scrolls through a menu. Beep, beep, beep.
“Well,” he says. “I’ll offer the same thing as yesterday, but you have to make up your mind now. You have a place to stay tonight?”
Looking right at her now, right into her eyes. Rose looks back, cocking an eyebrow at him.
“I heard you last night, Rose,” he adds. “We’re friends and I’m just trying to be your friend. The truth is I’m lonely. I can keep you safe and help you and not be lonely. That’s all. I’m your friend, Rose.”
She aches a little, looking at him. His face is so healthy and honest and frightened and hurt. So much familiarity mixed with something hard to name it’s been so long since she’s encountered it. Something she trusted once, and lost. It hurts to look at him because she knows that it’s only a matter of time before the earnestness fades.