The tired wood floors screamed under his heavy footsteps. Rising slowly, her skin peeled away from the chair’s Naugahyde upholstery. Unfinished and forlorn, the charcoal flannel fabric dropped from the sewing table and joined discarded scraps on the floor. As she passed the box fan, her white mini skirt blustered madly in the fan’s wind. Too hot to resist, Nora paused, leaned over and let the fan attempt to cool her. Nigel entered the living room and stopping immediately, watched the skirt teasingly rise and fall against the back of her tan thighs. With the back of his hand, he wiped the tiny beads of sweat that were gathering onto his forehead and continued to spy on her. The creaking board alerted her – she was not alone. While her skirt fought against the fan’s wind, she smiled and apologized. Confused by her apology, he laughed awkwardly and ran his large hands through his thick black hair and asked if Sara was home.
Nora shook her head and continued to battle the fan’s effective blades. Realizing he was a strange man in her home, Nigel stepped towards her, hand extended and introduced himself.
“Nora,” she said taking his hand.
“You’re American?” he asked noticing her black eyes staring though him.
“Yeah, I came to London to study design,” she told him, “please try not to hold that against me.”
Nigel smiled a wide grin and assured her that he was by no means a hater of the Americans. Charmed, she noticed that his teeth were quite nice for an Englishman.
“I am so sorry, can I offer you something cold to drink? I’ve been working all day in this blasted heat, I think it’s starting to affect my brain,” she apologized again and gestured him to follow her.
He desperately tried to ignore his girlfriend’s roommate’s flitting mini skirt as it danced to and fro, barely covering her. In a futile attempt to be a gentleman, he tried to listen to her chatter about a school project, which apparently, she had been working on since the early spring. He learned that at the last-minute, for her final project, she had decided to design a men’s clothing line. Tackling an innovative men’s line, according to her instructor, she gushed, would give her an edge over the rest of the class. Eager to please her mentor, she jumped at the challenge. In hindsight, however, the enormous undertaking, coupled with the heat wave, she mused that she should give up and like Sara, spend all of her time at the pub. He laughed in earnest at her anecdotes but couldn’t help but wonder whether or not he had been stood up.
“My God, it’s wicked hot in here,” she accused and flung open the back door.
“So you attend the institute with Sara, then?” he asked.
“Yep! Actually if it weren’t for her I don’t know how I would afford to live in this city.”
She offered him a cold beer, poured herself some water and suggested that they have their libations on the shaded patio. As the white skirt fluttered gingerly in the tiny breeze, he couldn’t help but wonder if she wore knickers. With moss around its edges, they sat around the cracking wood table on wobbly wire chairs. A small vegetable and flower garden climbed up wood trellises against an ancient stone structure – in another time it had served as a very cramped servant quarters. Presently, Sara, and mostly Nora, used it to store gardening tools and at one time, Sara’s old sewing machines.
“So any idea where she is? We were to meet about 20 minutes ago,” Nigel asked.
Nora sipped her water and recalled the early morning, and informed him that Sara was still in class and would not be home for at least another two hours. And that depended, she added, if she didn’t stop at the pub. Nigel leaned back in his chair carefully, looked up at the blue sky and sighed.
“Shit,” he said flatly, “I’m sorry, it’s just that, I live in Kent and at this time of day, the traffic will be a state.”
Nora made apologies for her housemate and insisted that she needed to take a break so why not spend the afternoon together, at least until Sara returned. Although, tempted by her attractive offer and his need to know if she wore underwear, Nigel insisted that he should go and asked Nora to tell Sara of his visit. He pushed himself up from the miniature patio furniture, thanked her for the beer and walked back into the house. She placed their drinks into the sink and rinsed them thoroughly. She turned to him and suggested that if he liked they could go out for some ice cream. Standing next to Sara’s Aunt Mimi’s French country dining table his eyes wandered away from the skirt and explored her pouty red lips. She scratched her shoulder and smiled.
“Well?” she asked uncomfortably.
Unable to resist watching that mouth eat ice cream, he agreed that a spontaneous outing would be much more pleasant than riding in his hot car. She clapped her hands, like a little girl, then lied that Sara too had been working on a project and with all that she was doing, his visit surely just slipped her mind. She pulled another beer from the fridge and tried to hand it to her guest. With one hand, he took her by the wrist and kissed her mouth.
Surprised, she pushed him, “What are you doing?”
He wiped the kiss from his mouth, “I’m sorry, it’s just that…my God you are gorgeous!” he insisted.
“I know!” she blurted, “My God, that sounded snotty. I mean, you’re gorgeous or handsome…or…No, no I owe Sara my life.”
“She just stood me up and you’re covering for her,” he accused.
She begged him to lay off the dramatics and to join her in some frozen custard or whatever it was that the English called ice cream. Nigel laughed and assured her that the British, as he corrected her, also referred to the frozen treat as ice cream. Whatever, she murmured half smiling.
“Do you have any of your men’s designs finished?” he asked, “if so, I’d love to see them.”
Nora’s entire body shook when she laughed. Determined to solve the knickers mystery, he insisted that he was very sincere and curious about her work. Still laughing, she told him to stop fucking with her and started for the front door. Managing to get hold of her thin arm, he pulled her back, lifted the white skirt and touched her bare skin. He buried his face into her hair and breathed in coconut. Feeling her breath quicken, he quickly ran his hand up her thighs and entered her slowly.
“My designs are upstairs,” she managed to say and lead him by the hand up the narrow staircase.