Last week, you all were asked how Kate and Eli’s paths would cross again. Unlike previous weeks, the suggestions started to sound a little like votes. One camp wanted Kate and Eli to meet at a party, preferably one thrown by Anton, with hopes of an embarassing moment or two taking place. The other camp liked the idea of running into Eli near Red’s apartment, giving Kate an extra reason to consider moving in to the downtown loft.
T: I think that while Kate is walking to the new apartment to let Red know whether or not she’s signing the lease (she’s leaning towards staying with Meera a bit longer), she runs into Eli working in the neighborhood… Hmmm. That makes signing the lease that much more interesting, doesn’t it?
E: For the run in scene, I lean more toward the chance meeting in Red’s neighborhood. I like that the setting give you lots of room for adding your own details. And like Tiffany said, adds more intrigue to the lease question.
Don’t give up, party fans. I think there may be a party in her future.
I stood on the corner, hands shoved into the pockets of my pea coat, looking from left to right. The misty, frigid air pressured me to make a choice.
A few blocks to the left would take me to Red’s loft. A few blocks to the right would take me to the market, where expensive, fresh ingredients for a new dish I’d been dying to try awaited me.
Ingredients I could afford, so long as I still lived virtually rent free with Meera, a luxury I’d have to forgo if I moved in with Red.
Of course, if I lived with Red, I would be living downtown, rather than driving into it whenever I wanted something special. The money saved in parking alone could go towards the occasional smelly cheese or fresh seafood.
I turned to the left, stepping into the crosswalk.
Then again, that money would probably go towards gas, now that I’d be commuting in and out of downtown every day. Sitting in traffic was going to eat up fuel in my ancient gas guzzler.
With a quick spin, I headed back to the sidewalk, nearly taking out an oncoming pedestrian. The jarring hit left me stumbling, only saving myself by landing elbow first against a parked car. My already tattered messenger bag was not so fortunate, finding itself on the damp, dirty ground.
I was relieved to hear a few choice words fade behind me, as the victim of my inattention kept moving. I held my elbow for a moment before leaning down to scoop up my bag, only to find it already on its way up.
“Are you alright?”
Eli stood there, my bag in hand.
“Umm, yeah.” I grabbed the bag and stepped up on to the sidewalk. “Sorry, you just saw how much of that?”
“’That’ being the sudden turn, crash, and stumble into the parked car?”
“Just a bit of it.”
“Awesome. I’m usually not so…” I closed my eyes and scrunched up my nose, desperately searching for a word. I sighed and motioned to the lack of vocabulary coming out of my mouth. “I’m not whatever you want to call this.”
Eli smiled. “It happens to the best of us, Kate.”
I looked at Eli standing there in his gray wool coat, dark hair perfectly out of place, collar turned up slightly revealing a cobalt scarf, no doubt carefully selected to highlight his eyes.
“Somehow, I doubt that,” I mumbled.
“Not important. Your bruise seems to have healed nicely.”
He lifted a hand to his face where just the slightest remnant of his encounter with a hockey stick remained. “Thanks. The secret is applying heat. Clears away the pooled blood that makes for a nasty bruise.”
“Good to know. I may need that advice.” I held up my arm, rubbing my elbow and continued, “Thanks again for the help, but I don’t want to hold you up.”
“Actually, I was just headed across the street for a coffee. I’d love company if you aren’t expected somewhere.”
I started to say no, feeling the need to flee and end my embarrassment as soon as possible. But the combination of sitting down to something warm and caffeinated while listening to Eli talk was too tempting.
“Sure. Coffee sounds like a great idea.”
We quickly made our way across the street and into the café. It was one of those independent joints, the kind with overstuffed couches, local art on the walls, and only the hippest music playing in the background. I looked up at the wall in dismay, seeing no sign of a menu outlining my choices.
Eli leaned in. “Pretentious lot, but their coffee is excellent. Why don’t you grab us a seat and I’ll take care of ordering. How do you take yours?”
“Light and sweet.”
I headed over to an empty couch in the corner, setting my bag down on the floor and unbuttoning my coat. I flopped on to the couch and closed my eyes for a moment, happy to have a momentary reprieve from decision making.
“Here we are.”
Eli set two enormous mugs on the table in front of us. I leaned forward, holding mine in both hands, letting it warm them for a bit before taking a sip.
“Glad you approve. It’s good and close.”
“You live near here?”
He nodded. “Just a few blocks away.”
“How do you like it?”
“Well enough. The gray winters remind me a bit of home, although I wouldn’t mind seeing some sun now and again. But I hear it’s beautiful when the spring begins.”
“You haven’t been here long?”
“No, just a few months.” He paused to take a sip before continuing, “So, what has you so out of sorts this morning? If that’s not too personal.”
I shifted in my seat, suddenly feeling very boring.
“Oh, it’s nothing huge. I just need to make a decision about my living arrangements today. And it appears that I am nearly incapable of doing so.”
“Yeah. My roommate is moving away, but not for a few months. I found this amazing place right here in the city, but it means a tighter budget and a new roommate. I have to sign the lease by today if I want it.”
He sipped his coffee and stayed silent.
“So, I’m torn. I could wait it out a little longer, but that could mean missing out on this place.”
He continued sipping quietly.
“And…this is the part where I welcome words of wisdom or advice.”
One corner of his mouth turned up as he leaned forward, placing his mug on the coffee table.
“Your friend is moving in a few months?”
“So, you’ll have to find a place, whether it’s now or then. There are no guarantees that future roommates won’t be just as odd, or worse, and no guarantees that the apartments you find will be as nice or more affordable, correct?”
I nodded again. What was it about his accent that made him sound twenty IQ points smarter than most people?
“Then, what is it that is really holding you back? And don’t say fear. Because I can tell that’s not it.”
He was right. I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t know how he knew that, but it was true. I took a breath and let the answer out in a big exhale.
“Money. I mean, you’ve seen where I work. I’m not exactly a screaming success in that department.”
Eli sat back into the couch, his head tilted to one side, eyes narrowed, looking me in the eye. I stared back, not sure what else to do.
“It seems to me, then, that we need to fix your money problem.”
“Just like that?”
“Well, not quite ‘just like that’, but yes, I think I have a fairly simple solution.”
I sat quietly, eyebrows raised, signaling him to continue.
He responded with a full smile. “You can work for me.”
“Like, fetch your coffee and dry cleaning?”
“Not exactly. I’m not saying that won’t ever be one of your duties, but there will be plenty else for you to do. Researching clients and potential candidates is a lot of work, as is the wooing process. I could use the help.”
I wanted to say something smart and coy about his ability to afford me, something witty and confident, but knowing the last decade of my work experience was sadly lacking, I opted to save the clever quips for another time.
“I mean, so long as it pays better than the rink, I don’t see why I should say no.”
“I could see plenty of reasons. But the pay will definitely be better than the rink. And if you tire of working for me, I can at least find you work elsewhere and recommend you in good conscience.”
I bit the inside of my lower lip. It all seemed too easy. But who said life had to be hard?
I took a deep breath and put on a smile. “Then, pending the details of ‘where, when, and how much’, I guess I look forward to working with you?”
“Fantastic. My office is nearby, you can start as soon as possible, and we can discuss pay, but I’m thinking $25 an hour would be fair, to start.”
I instantly regretted sipping my coffee as he spoke, choking as he finished his sentence, sending me into a less than attractive coughing fit.
“Are you alright?”
I gave Eli a thumbs up as I continued coughing. He leaned forward and grabbed my phone from the coffee table, taking his from his front coat pocket. He made a few motions, then handed my phone to me as my fit subsided.
“You have my contact information now, and I have yours. Let me know when you’re ready to start.” Eli looked at his phone and frowned. “I hate to cut this short, but I have an appointment I need to get to. I will hear from you, yes?”
I nodded and watched as he stood up, smoothing his coat and placing the phone back in his pocket.
“Thank you, Eli. For the coffee and, well, everything.”
“Don’t mention it.”
He turned toward the door, pausing for a moment to look back and wave, before heading out and disappearing down the block.
I sunk back into my corner of the couch, hardly believing my morning. Grabbing my bag off the ground, I yanked the lease agreement from the inside, rummaged around for a pen, and signed it.
How does Meera react to Kate’s decision?
BONUS ROUND: I’ll be conducting some character interviews in the weeks to come. In the comments, vote for the character you would like interviewed and submit your questions. I can’t guarantee what they’ll say in the interview, but I do know they won’t give away any spoilers.
Maybe a hint or two, though.