The night my story ran in the paper we had dinner at Justine’s, by far the classiest place in my neighborhood. I wore a dress and he said that I was beautiful. Walking back to my apartment after dinner, I reached out impulsively and linked my arm with his so that we walked the remaining four blocks pressed closed together. It was late when we left Justine’s and I was generally uncomfortable walking those streets at night. With Bobby, though, it felt fine—I told myself it was the gun holstered at his shoulder and his utter lack of reluctance to pull it, but it was more than that. At my front door he bent down and kissed me on the forehead, told me he’d had a nice time and then stepped back to watch me let myself in. He declined my offer to come inside and instead kissed me again, on the cheek, and went off down the hallway.
I sat up for hours that night, in the semi darkness of my tiny apartment, trying to decipher the mixed signals he’d been giving. I started dating when I was fifteen and had not, prior to that night, ever been out with someone who didn’t try to screw me senseless on the first date. He hadn’t even kissed me, really. And, yet, he’d complimented me on my appearance, the dress and my hair, and the story—his review of my work had bordered on fawning, actually, and he’d thanked me for it. I wondered if I would see him again, if I would call him or him me.
For a few days—three, I was counting—I didn’t hear from him. Then there was a knock on my door at eleven o’clock Thursday night. Standing on the tips of my toes to peer out of the peep-hole, I smiled and pulled open the door.
“Hi,” was all he said. He stood there in the doorway, slightly rumpled in a charcoal colored suit and blood red tie that had doubtlessly been pristine at the start of his day. He smiled and produced a file folder from behind his back.
“Last time I got a rose,” I teased. “Come in.”
He sat on the couch and I took my seat on the chair arm. He motioned for me to sit beside him, when I did he tossed the folder into my lap.
“What is this?”
“Photo’s. I need an id on these pages.”
I looked at the pictures in my lap, held one up to the light and studied it for a moment. “It’s a Neil Gaiman novel.”
“I tried every line in Google—no hits.”
“Because there aren’t any character names on this page. Here,” I walked across the room to one of my taller bookshelves and ran my finger along a shelf until I found what I wanted. I brought it back to him—as he took it from me our fingers touched and I grinned like a little girl who’s just been given a new toy. “You can take it.”
“Thank you.” As I resumed my seat beside him, he turned it over in his hands, then tossed it and the folder onto the coffee table and sat with his hands in his lap, looking at me.
“Was that it?”
Bobby was a fan of the awkward silence. He instinctively created one whenever he needed to gain the upper hand in a conversation. Of course, I didn’t know that then, and he made me nervous. His dark brown eyes were looking into my face and I felt myself flush.
“What else, then?” I stammered, rather annoyed that he had such a power to unsettle me.
“Just… this.” He leaned in close to me and kissed me. One hand was on my face, the other touching my thigh where he was leaning on the couch; his lips were strong and hot and I was, again, flushed and unsettled. When he was finished he sat back, smiling slightly.
“I meant to do that,” he said,” when I brought you home.”
“Why didn’t you?” I put a fingertip absently to my lip imagining I could still feel him there.
“Wasn’t sure it was appropriate.”
“Why is it appropriate now?”
“Because you let me in after I didn’t call you for three days. Sorry about that, by the way; I’ve been insanely busy.”
We talked for over an hour about his present case. We sat close together on my couch, I rested my head on his shoulder. When I started to yawn he kissed me again, then told me goodbye. At my door he stood for a moment with his big hand on my cheek, looking down at me and smiling sweetly. After he left I spent another night mostly awake, mostly thinking about him.
He appeared unannounced every few days that month, eventually dropping the ruse of seeking literary information. He took me to dinner, to art galleries and concerts, once to the zoo. It was one night during the second month of our acquaintance that he made his move; he did it just before I had given up and resigned myself eternally to friendship. We were sitting on the edge of a fountain on the south side of downtown, watching the college kids milling around in the streets in their summer-induced frenzy. We’d been laughing at one of them, a tipsy girl in heels too high for her to manage; I was watching him laugh out of the corner of my eye, marveling at the way the creases at the sides of his eyes made his smile seem brighter, at how straight his teeth were and the fact that he didn’t seem to know how gorgeous he was. He turned abruptly to face me and put his hands on the sides of my face, leaned in close so that I could feel his breath, and closed his mouth over mine. We kissed on that fountain ledge like high-school kids on a first date, then practically ran the six blocks to his apartment.