I took in the small living room as David locked the door behind me. It was surprisingly tidy for a man living alone. The furnishings were simple but tasteful with few decorations of any kind. The
floor was hardwood with a little area rug between the flatscreen television and the cozy looking dark blue couch. A bookshelf sat between the curtained windows, cluttered with what looked like old
textbooks, comic books, and a few novels. There was a phone on the lone end table, an outdated desktop computer on a simple table in the corner, and a chest of some kind to my left against the
I wondered if David didn't care to have much else or if he was just rarely home to aquire it.
"Living room," he said from beside me. "The kitchen and bathroom are that way." He pointed down the hallway to the left. "Bedroom, and that's a closet." He indicated the two doors to the right.
"I know it's not much but..."
"No, it's great," I said sincerely. "Thank you. You really don't have to do this."
I still wasn't sure I'd made the right decision. I only met David about an hour ago and I struggled with trusting him. So long as I was conscious, I wasn't very concerned. Even taking into account my bum ankle and the fact that David probably outweighed me by a good fifty pounds of muscle, I was confident I could take care of myself, should the need arise. It was the idea of allowing myself to go to sleep that bothered me.
I wanted to trust him. He seemed like a really decent person and a big part of me was sure he never would have made such an offer if he wasn't. Still, Wescott had effectively gifted me with security issues and I wondered if I would ever feel safe again.
But I suppose, this was the best situation I could hope for. David might wind up turning on me. Not that he would know who to go to. But the probability of being found was much greater otherwise. It was pretty much a given, just leaving the question of when it would happen. Which didn't give me much of a choice.
I'd taken as much precaution as possible when leaving the pizza place to ensure that no camera would be able to identify me if the wrong people were watching. I asked David to wait while I went to the bathroom to change into an outfit I hadn't yet worn and donned my Yankees cap again, tucking my hair up under it. I did my best to hide my limp as we walked the streets, even allowing David to slip an arm around my waist to steady me. I wasn't wild about the contact, carrying those trust issues. But strategically, David's chivalry was too much to pass up since anyone seeing us together, on camera or otherwise, wouldn't notice me traveling that way. To their knowledge I was totally alone, and not close enough to anyone to be walking so intimately.
David even helped set the stage for us appearing as actual friends when he started needling me for picking the wrong baseball team. In his opinion, the Mets were far superior to the Yankees. He about had an apoplexy when I told him I was actually a White Sox fan.
I was having so much fun debating him on which city's team was obviously better, deriving the most pleasure by purposely failing to see his brilliant logic solely to frustrate him, that I almost forgot to be paranoid about actually being out on the street.
I only realized how relaxed I'd been once David pulled me toward his apartment building, ending our short walk.
"Don't start that." He gave me a mildly exasperated look. "I don't say things I don't mean. And I don't do the whole polite reassurance thing well."
"Well, what if I still turn out to be a serial killer or something?" I said, unable to help myself. "Wouldn't you feel silly."
David smirked, no doubt making the same judgement about me that guys had my entire life - that I was an average sized girl and therefore a weakling by comparision. "I think I can handle myself."
"Oh, you think so, huh?" I grinned picturing the outcome if we ever got the chance to spar.
He gave me an evaluating look. "Well, maybe..." he said thoughtfully. "You can eat a shockingly large amount of food for someone your size. It's concievable that you might surprise me."
That was the first time in my life that I didn't have to prove myself to someone in David's position, to make him acknowledge anything but what he assumed to be obvious. Despite the extremely slim chance that I wasn't actually bluffing, he opted to consider me to be capable. Or at least possibly not a pushover. Either way, it was a first.
"But I think I'm safe from your potential neurosis. I'll be sure to lock up the kitchen knives."
A small giggle slipped out and I promptly felt my cheeks warm. I did not giggle like some mindless cheerleader.
I cleared my throat and changed the subject. "So, how does this work?" I took a few steps and put my hand on the couch.
"You just got home from deployment, right? Do you have to pay a holding fee to your landlord or something?"
"Actually, my brother owns the building," he said. "So he lets me stay even when I'm gone a year or more. Which is why it's so small. I didn't want him wasting one of the good apartments on me when I wouldn't be here half the time. But he's great. He'll usually shut off the water and stuff while I'm gone and then get it all ready again before I come home."
"That's nice," I said. "I don't have any siblings." I had no idea why I threw that little bit of information out there. But hearing about his relationship with his brother triggered a small amount of jealousy for me.
Fitting with what I knew about David, he followed my train of thought easily. We stood awkwardly for a few seconds before he took off his jacket, stashed it in the closet, and then stowed the small duffle bag he'd been carrying.
"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm beat," he said. "I'll just need a minute in my room and then you can have it."
"Don't be stupid," I said, before he could get through the door. "I can't take your room."
"Of course you can." He shrugged before disappearing into the room, apparently planning to ignore my protest.
Clearly David didn't know how stubborn I could be. I disgarded my bag and went to sit on the couch, intending to stay put. He had already done far more than I ever would have expected or thought to ask for. I wasn't about to take his bed from him as well.
I had my back to him so I didn't know what all the shuffling was that I was hearing, but after a few minutes, he came to join me on the couch. He was bare foot and wearing a t-shirt and cotton pants, looking infinitely more comfortable than he had in his uniform.
I had to admit, he was much more attractive too. Like any red-blooded American girl, a good looking man in uniform earned my feminine appreciation. But the thick material of the uniform didn't do justice to the lean muscles that were quite prominently on display now that he wore short sleeves. They were also easily detectable where the shirt actually covered him across his chest, since the material wasn't all that thick. Add that on top of his Paul Walker type looks, and he was quite the distraction.
My mind went blank for a second and I blinked at him, trying to recall what it was that I'd been set on doing.
He did an awful job of hiding his amusement. That is, if he was even trying. Thankfully, he didn't comment.
"It's all yours." He jerked his chin in the direction of his bedroom.
Oh yeah! Get a grip, Sam.
"I'm not kicking you out of your bed," I said stubbornly.
He gave me an obnoxiously cocky grin. "Why? Would you prefer to share?"
I looked at him flatly. "I'm not stealing your room," I clarified. "I'll sleep on the couch."
"I don't think so," he laughed. "My mother would come beat me for even thinking about allowing that. She wouldn't care about the hour either."
"Well, I won't tell if you won't," I said sarcastically. "I'm not-"
"It's really not a big deal," he interrupted me. "I've been sleeping on the ground for a good portion of the last year. And this is a right comfy couch." He loudly patted the cushion.
"Well good." I sat back and crossed my arms. "I'll be just fine then."
He exhaled loudly and gave me that same semi irritated look as before.
"Yeah, you'll be just fine," he agreed, suddenly serious. "And wide awake, wondering if I'm going to come get you or something."
I dropped my eyes, unable to argue. I almost forgot about his ability to read me so well.
"I know you don't trust me yet," he said. "I'd worry if you did so soon. But there's a nice sturdy lock on that door, and a fire escape out the window. Even though you don't actually need them, I'm positive you'll be much more comfortable in there."
I looked at him again, really hoping he was as perfect as he seemed. He even guessed that to truly be able to relax, I'd need an alternate escape route readily available.
"Aren't you worried about yourself at all?" I wondered. "What if I snoop through your stuff? Make off with your valuables out the window?"
"Well, if you find any valuables in there, be sure to let me know, would you?"
"And as far as privacy goes," he said. "The army pretty much beats that out of you. I couldn't care less if you look through my things. Heck, I wouldn't even have clothes on right now. But I thought you'd be more comfortable if I did." He paused before grinning slyly. "However now I'm wondering if that was the right assumption."
I rolled my eyes exaggeratedly, hoping I didn't create a big-headed monster with my momentary befuddlement.
"See you in the morning?" He tried again, seeming unsure if I was going to put up a fight again.
"Alright." I gave in and pushed off the couch. "Thanks."
"No problem." He grabbed the blanket that was thrown over the back of the couch.
"Oh, and there's an ice pack in the freezer if you want to put it on your ankle," he said when I was almost to the door, bag in hand.
"Good idea," I agreed, quickly switching course. I couldn't see it under my pants, but I was sure my ankle must have at least doubled in size by now, and it was throbbing relentlesly.
It was a short trek to the kitchen, and I didn't waste any time stopping to examine the ambiance. But at a glance, it seemed to reflect the state of the living room - tidy with all practical items and almost no personal ones. Almost like walking into the model apartment for prospective renters.
Grabbing the ice pack, I hobbled back to the bedroom, wanting to get out of the way quickly. David had probably been up since dawn and must be exhausted by now.
"Night." He stopped me before I could get out of sight.
I smiled seeing him peeking over the top of the couch, looking like an imp.
"Night," I answered, shutting the door and flipping the lock. He was right, of course. I felt a million times better with a locked door protecting me, even though I was starting to believe that he was also right about me not needing it.
Just for a little extra piece of mind, I went to check on that fire escape. It was right out the window, just like he said.
Satisfied, I set my bag down next to the bed and looked around. David had the courtesy to leave the light on, so I didn't have to fumble around searching for it.
His bedroom showed a little more personality than the rest of the apartment did, with a couple of framed pictures on the dresser along with deodorant and some other personal items. There were a few posters on the wall, one of which was a scene from Star Trek. That plus the little Enterprise model on the dresser made me smile. David was a Trekkie. Maybe he wasn't super obsessive, but it would still be fun to tease him.
I yawned and sat down on the bed, surprised by how tired I still was. I only woke up a few hours ago, but I suppose it wasn't such great sleep in the first place. Even if it was the best I'd gotten since before I escaped. I also expended quite a bit of energy since then.
First things first, though. Time to check out my ankle.
Kicking off my shoes, I put my feet up on the bed and rolled up the left leg of my pants. Just as I thought, my ankle was grossly enlarged. There was also a haphazard pinkish purple line, running down my foot. Looking at it, I couldn't believe it wasn't broken. But I could still move it, even if it was pretty painful. Another mile or so and it probably would have been broken for sure. David really had saved me.
But I couldn't help but wonder how long he had in mind for me to stay here. One night? Two? He had no way of understanding the situation, of course, but I was going to be in the same position for quite a while. Another few days on the street and I'd be just as desperate again, but I couldn't very well move in. Besides how safe could I be here after more than a few days with that man after me? How long until he figured out I wasn't on the street any longer and narrowed the search down to this building?
Try as I might, I couldn't successfully push those thoughts from my mind, although the pain in my ankle served as a nice distraction for a while.
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