Page 18

 Kristen Ashley

  • Background:
  • Text Font:
  • Text Size:
  • Line Height:
  • Line Break Height:
  • Frame:
He shook his head and moved to me. “Before the kitchen, babe. Heat and safety. Windows may seem more fragile than boards but some ass**le who wants in will balk at breakin’ a window. He won’t balk at pryin’ open a board.”
I hadn’t thought of that.
“But insulation before that,” he went on to announce.
“I’ll get to it,” I told him.
“When?” he asked.
“When I have the courage to go up in the attic,” I shared, and he stared.
Then he asked, “What?”
“The attic creeps me out. Spending a lot of time up there…” I shook my head then informed him, “This is an old house. It’s seen a lot. There might be ghosts. And ghosts congregate in attics.”
Jacob said nothing but he did this continuing to stare at me, now like he thought he might need to take my temperature.
So I kept talking.
“I’ll give on the windows before the kitchen, which sucks since I’m about saved up for the kitchen and my kitchen sucks and I really was looking forward to a new one. But the insulation, I’ll wait until summer when the days are longer and, incidentally,” I leaned toward him and finished, “brighter. Ghosts don’t like bright.”
Jacob kindly ignored my comment about ghosts and stated as a question, “You’re gonna install insulation in the summer, when you don’t need it, instead of the winter, when you do?”
“I’ve lived here three winters, Jacob, I’ve been fine.”
“And your heating bill has probably been astronomical.”
I couldn’t debate that because it was true, so I shut my mouth.
He watched my mouth close.
“Fuck,” he muttered, shaking his head. “I’m already planning to be here on Sunday. You break up with your moronic dick, I’ll install insulation.”
It was my turn to stare. “Are you serious?”
“Didn’t hear the beat of the drum to announce the end of the joke, babe.”
At his quip, I grinned at him but shook my head. “I couldn’t ask that. That’s a big job. I have a big roof.”
“And I’ll bring Chace. Got some other buds. We’ll see to it.”
I held his gaze.
He actually thought he was going to see to it.
“I don’t know what to say,” I said softly, still holding his eyes.
“Say you’ll be here on Saturday when I’m gonna have the insulation delivered.”
I waved my hand in front of my face. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll order it tomorrow.”
“Installin’, Emme, and payin’,” Jacob declared, and my mouth dropped open. “You need your money to order new windows.”
“I… you… I can’t… you can’t pay for that,” I blathered.
He turned away, mumbling, “Late housewarming present.” Then he started walking toward the back of the house asking, “Do I gotta wait until work’s done Sunday to get a beer?”
I didn’t answer.
I was standing there, speechless, staring at him disappear.
When I got over being speechless, I rushed after him to get him a beer.
* * *
“Leave it to a woman to put a guest room and kitchen before insulation and windows,” Jacob remarked.
It was after dinner. We were in my somewhat-habitable (Jacob’s words) family room at the back of the house. Jacob had started a fire in the fireplace, doing it mumbling under his breath about the state of the chimney and how he hoped he wasn’t creating an eventual smoke out.
Earlier, he’d had beer. I’d had beer. I’d given him a tour of the house. Through this, he’d verbally lamented my choice of dwellings and feared for my safety. He did this teasing so I only got mock upset. We had dinner and conversation, which, as always with Jacob, was titillating. Talking with Jacob, as I remembered and as I again experienced over our back-to-back dinners, was like foreplay except the mental kind.
And way better than any of the real kind I’d ever had.
Now we were in my family room with more beers and Jacob was back to teasing me.
He was lounged in one corner of my couch, his long, long legs stretched out in front of him, his long, long arms curved around the arm and back of the couch, a beer in one hand. I was in the other corner, sitting on a calf I’d folded under me, my chin on my opposite knee that I had bent and I’d wrapped an arm around, my fingers curved around a beer in my other hand.
“Considering the fact that every time I flipped a switch, a fuse blew or sparks flew, I’ve had the entire house rewired too,” I pointed out, trying to be funny but failing when I noticed my words made Jacob’s hazel eyes flash and his jaw go hard. So I hurried on. “And I have a new boiler. Hot water heat can’t be beat. And I redid the master, the master bath.” I reminded him then continued, “And the garden. Honey, in summer… wait until you see. It’s magnificent.”
“Gotta have somewhere to sleep, somewhere to shower,” he replied, his eyes moved the truncated length of me in a way that made my skin feel warm, “and you did a good job with that, babe. Looks phenomenal. But now you gotta stop lookin’ at this as a whole project. You gotta break it down and prioritize.”
“I know that,” I told him.
“Then why do you have the chandelier down in the front room, cleanin’ it, at the same time you’re reskimmin’ the walls in the dining room, at the same time you’re refinishing the floor in the conservatory?”
Unfortunately, he had a point. It seemed I had a schizophrenic style when it came to my restoration efforts.
“I see something, I get the urge to fix it and give in to the urge,” I told him.
“Emme, in this heap, everywhere you turn, you’ll see something to fix. You gotta have a plan. And that plan is, Sunday, insulation. You get contractors in here to give you bids on the windows. Next up, repointing the brick so the place doesn’t fall down around your ears. After that, outside lighting updated so you cut through that dark and give yourself more safety. Then you focus on the inside, one room at a time, starting with that avocado nightmare that’s your kitchen.”
That was the fourth time he called my kitchen “that avocado nightmare.” An apt description that meant that was the fourth time I grinned at him when he said it.
Then I informed him, “The work outside is work I can’t do, Jacob. The work inside is stuff I can do, outside the electrical, which cost a small fortune and I narrowly avoided five years indentured servitude to get it done. If the project is contracted out, it’s a case-by-case basis and you know, those windows are going to cost thousands because it isn’t just the broken ones that need replacing. All of them do.”