I was cooking dinner for myself when the doorbell rang. “Hi Jonathan!” I said, after looking through the peephole.
“Hey, Jenny,” he smiled and entered. “It smells good in here,” he commented.
I ran back to the kitchen, “Thank you, I have chicken on the stovetop.” I quickly stirred the garlic sauce and turned down the flame. “Thank you for doing this. How did it go by my sisters yesterday?” I hoped she hadn’t embarrassed me further and said something stupid again to get Jonathan to ask me out.
“Oh, it was fine, it’s a pretty easy system to install. Won’t take me but an hour or so here,” he explained as he began sorting through his toolbag.
My kitchen was open to the dining and living room areas so we were able to chit chat as he worked and I continued to chop vegetables.
He commented, “This is really nice Jenny, I love these old buildings.”
“Thank you, I’ve remodeled it a bit.”
“This storage area here under the staircase, I never seen that done before, did you do it?”he asked.
“I did.” I had hung assorted sized shelves and made cubby’s to store my old records and books. I put a few artificial plants and nick nack items up and had installed overhead lighting. “I’m addicted to the home remodeling shows on TV. Jonathan, please sit and eat with me, I have made plenty.” I started setting the table for the two of us.
“If you are sure you have enough?”
“Absolutely! Come sit,” I smiled.
He said, “I have to admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a home cooked meal.” He took a bite and grinned at me, “This is delicious, thank you.”
“You are welcome. May I ask...how is your wife doing?” I said cautiously.
“We took her over to the Anderson House yesterday. It seems like a real nice place,” he said.
“I don’t know if you remember me telling you a while back, that’s where I work.”
“She will be in good hands there, Jonathan.”
“Yeah... “ He tried to change the subject. “The store will be closed for a few more weeks. I’ve decided to do a major remodel.”
“Yeah, if I can get it all done on schedule. I’ve been spending 24/7 there now that Linda is settled in the nursing home and I don’t have to be home as much.”
I could tell he was choosing his words and not completely comfortable talking about his wife.
“Do you have children?” I blurted out.
“No, we hadn’t gotten to that point.”
“I think I owe you an apology Jonathan. I totally forgot to mention it to my little sister that you are married. I hope she didn’t…”
He interrupted, laughing slightly. “She seems like a nice girl.”
I was a bit embarrassed myself for flirting with him so much. “Jonathan, I..I should apologize for myself too, I had no idea you were married. You never...Well, I..I know now.” I couldn’t get the words out without laughing at myself.
“You have nothing to apologize for. I never mentioned her. It’s been complicated.”
“Ok,” I could see he was uncomfortable talking about it. “So, tell me what changes are going to be made at the store?”
He explained, “I’m not going to change the name of the place out of respect for my father in law. I think it would break his heart, but I am changing a lot of things now that the business will officially be mine. I think I can attract a lot more customers by making the place more modern and adding hardware items as well. I plan on hiring several other employees too.”
“That’s great Jonathan! I think you’re right and I think a lot of people will be glad to have the hardware items close by, I hate having to go to WalMart.”
He smiled, “Well, I should get back to installing this system. I have a full night ahead of me at the store still. You are a great cook, I really appreciate you offering to feed me.” He brought his plate to the sink and then headed back to the living room.
As I cleaned up from dinner we continued to chit chat from a distance. “I feel lucky to be the first to know what’s happening with the store.
“I’m going to do a grand opening, maybe have free hot dogs and soda or something.”
“I will be there for sure,” I smiled.
“You have been a faithful customer, Jenny, I appreciate it,” he grinned at me. He had a bit of a southern draw when he spoke.
“I really like this side of town, I was lucky to find my condo last year. They don’t seem to come up for sale very often.”
“You’re right, they don’t. Linda had originally wanted to buy one when we first got married. I got tired of waiting and convinced her to move out of town, we bought five acres with an old farmhouse and had planned on knocking it down and building a new house, but then she had the stroke ...and life changed drastically. It just became too much work with the store and caring for her. I fixed up the farmhouse enough to make it work for a while longer. Maybe someday I will get to build what I want.”
“I’m sure it’s been really hard on all of you. I can assure you, she will get good rehab at the Anderson and maybe soon she will be able to come home and…”
“No Jenny, she won’t be coming home again. The doctors have made that very clear.”
“Oh,” I hesitated. “I’m sorry, she is so young.” I didn’t know what else to say to him.
He smiled, “Thank you, It’s taking me awhile but I have come to terms with it. You are really easy to talk to, Jenny. I didn’t mean to talk your ear off about my problems.”
“No, really I don’t mind at all,” I said genuinely.
He gathered his tools and said, “Well, looks like you are now safe and secure. Let me show you how to work this.”
I thanked him for coming, I had enjoyed our time together.
“Jenny, would you like to see the store in progress?” he raised his one eyebrow up slightly.
Without hesitation I said, “Yes! When?”
“I’m going right now, if you had no plans tonight?”
“Ok, I’m not doing anything, I’d love to see what you’ve done so far!”
We walked down the cobblestone sidewalk a few blocks till we reached the store. He had covered all the windows with brown paper and no one could see inside any longer. We entered into the dark building and as Jonathan hit the light switch I instantly saw the massive changes.
“Wow! Jonathan, my gosh! It’s so much bigger!” I exclaimed as I looked up at the ceiling.
“Yeah, it’s a big difference right? There was an upstairs attic that was never used so I decided to take it out. I think I’m going to leave it rustic and not cover up the vents and pipes. What do you think?”
“I agree, for sure. It looks industrial, it’s very trendy right now. I love all the exposed brick and wood you see up there. I would just add some more overhead lighting.” I started walking around the store. “I wouldn’t paint it or anything, leave it natural. These old buildings have such great architectural features.”
“I’m thinking of adding more registers and moving them here,” he pointed to the left side near the exit. “And this wall is going to come down too. Here look..” I followed him through a door that led to a large storage room filled with shelves and boxes of supplies as I listened to him explain more details about his renovations. “This is going to be a small office for me here and then I’m going to get larger industrial storage shelves with a small forklift to allow for more storage.”
“I had no idea you had so many plans for this place, it’s going to be a drastic change,” I said excited for him.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet about what to do for the hardware side, I want something different that stands out. I’m not trying to be Home Depot.”
“I agree, you shouldn’t just line the isles with floor to ceiling shelves. I like charm and novelty things. I don’t know, you could hang some old time tools from the ceiling rafters for decoration maybe?”
“I love that idea Jenny,” he smiled wide.
“Absolutely! That’s exactly what’s needed. I’m going to do it for sure. You have a great eye for design,” he complimented.
“Thank you,” I smiled at him.
“I could go to some of those old antique places or even the flea markets and pick up some really cool things.”
“I love those places, you just never know what you might find! It’s like going on a treasure hunt,” I said excited.
He leaned against the doorway grinning at me and said, “Well, maybe we could go together one day and see what treasures we find.”
“I would love to!” I said without hesitation.
“Ok,” he shook his head. “I should get to work, I need to get this area ready to install the new floor tomorrow.”
“Thank you for showing me the place Jonathan.”
“Thank you for the great ideas Jenny,” he said as he walked me to the front door and then took out his keys to lock up again.
“I thought you were staying?” I asked.
“Yes, but I’ll walk you back first.”
“Oh, I’ll be fine. It’s only two blocks.”
“I insist,” he said and closed the door behind us.
He waited at the bottom of my staircase until I unlocked the door and entered the house.
Minutes after entering, I heard my cell phone go off.
“Jenny, you busy? Why don’t you come over?” I heard Ben’s voice.
“Hi! Are you feeling ok? I asked.
“Yes, I’m fine. Come over.”
I hesitated looking at the time. “I was just going to get in my pajamas and head into bed. It’s late.”
“Hmm, how about you head over here in your pajamas?”
I giggled, “I think we are going to have to wait for another day, I’m exhausted, sorry.”
“What have you been doing all night?” he asked.
“I had my alarm system installed.”
“Alarm? Good thing you told me, I might have tried to come surprise you one night and woke up the whole neighborhood!”
I laughed, “Yes, you’d better call first.”
“Damn it!” I heard him shout and heard the sound of breaking glass.
“You ok?” I asked.
He grumbled, “I just made a huge mess and cut my foot too.”
“Fuck, do you have any bandages?”
“Yes, of course, I will be right there!”
When Ben opened the door I could see blood on a paper towel wrapped around his big toe. I said, “What did you do?”
“Hell, I dropped a glass from the countertop and then stepped on a piece of it.”
“Sit down, let me look and make sure it’s all out.” I guided him to the table and lifted his leg. “It’s not so bad, just needs to be cleaned and bandaged. I can clean up this mess for you too.”
“My sweet Jenny, come here.” He grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me towards his lips. “You are so good to me.”
I could smell the alcohol on his breath when he said, “Now that you’re here, you should stay awhile,” he slurred and kissed me hard.
“Not tonight Ben, sorry.” I felt his hands wander up my blouse as I stood straddled over his legs.
“But, I miss you,” he grinned.
“How many beers have you had already Ben?”
“I don’t know, I wasn’t counting,” he said, a bit irritated.
“I think you should go to bed.”
“Yes, let’s do that, you and me,” he laughed and stood up.
“Ben, I’m not staying tonight, maybe tomorrow?” I said as I picked up my purse.
“Have you already had sex tonight?” he said in a nasty tone.
“What?” I was startled.
“Just tell me, is that it? I saw you had a guy over there.”
“That guy, installed my alarm, not that it’s any of your business Ben.” I was getting a bit angry.
“I guess it’s not my business… and I guess I got my answer then too.”
“You’re drunk Ben, I’m leaving.” I felt him grab my arm tight.
“So, you’re not going to deny it then?”
“I’m not going to play this game Ben, seriously, you’ve had too much to drink. Let go of me,” I said sternly and pulled away.
He didn’t let go. He stared in my eyes with anger in his. When he took his other hand and pushed my head hard against his, kissing me rough and sloppy.
“Stop it, Ben!” I yanked away from his grasp and quickly went to the front door, slamming it behind me. I was angry! How dare he! I stormed back into my house slamming that door as well. I undressed and lay in bed, my mind racing with anger over Bens behavior. When I calmed myself down, my thoughts changed to the store and all that could become of it. I imagined scenarios over and over in my head as if I, myself were on one of my favorite remodel shows taking control of its outcome. It had so much potential. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep.