Alison finished singing the last bars of the song blaring on the radio before she switched off the ignition.
“Was that what I think it was?” asked Megan, Alison’s neighbor and current couch landlord. “Were you just singing Country music?”
“No! I don’t like--” Alison stopped. How many times had she caught herself listening to Country in the past weeks? She had always sworn she hated it. She laughed. “Fine, you’re right.” She jumped out of her Jeep. “I officially do not dislike Country. In fact…”
She stopped at the sight of Chris Turner, the contractor running the renovations on her condo, walking towards them.
“Your sudden interest in Country music doesn’t have anything to do with the cowboy coming our way, now does it?” Megan giggled.
Alison swallowed before admitting, “It might.”
Alison had gotten to know her contractor as her renovations had progressed. Chris was efficient. Honest. Attractive. Single. She hadn’t once regretted hiring him. He was also kind, generous and good-humored.
“Ask him out.”
“Because… technically, I’m his boss. And I don’t want to blur the lines before he finishes tiling my bathroom.”
“Coward,” Megan said under her breath.
Alison took a deep breath. She wanted to maintain a level of professionalism, even if her heart beat at irregular paces whenever he was near.
“Are you sick of her crashing on your couch yet?” he asked Megan as he got closer.
“Oh yes, tell me her place is done!” Megan joked.
“She’s that bad?”
“Country. She swore to me she hated it when I agreed to let her stay at my place, but that’s all she’s been listening to for weeks!”
He laughed, tucking his thumbs through the belt loops of his jeans.
Alison tried to regain control of the conversation. “Are we near the end?” she said. “Please give me some good news. I’m ready to sleep in my own bed.”
“Ah. Yes. I have the guys finishing the subway tiles in the bathroom today. They’re looking great. It’s been a few days since you stopped by. Maybe you could come take a look?”
“You’re just fishing for compliments. I’ve seen your work; I know it’s going to look amazing. That’s why I hired you!”
He grinned, obviously pleased with her faith in his work.
“You’ve already finished tiling?” Megan asked, waggling her eyebrows at Alison. “It sounds like we need to celebrate. Dinner?”
“Megan, please, he’s too busy to eat your tofu and egg whites.”
Chris pulled a face.
“I take it you’re a carnivore?” Megan laughed.
“Meat and potatoes kind of guy,” he admitted.
“Alison is sort of a grilling master,” Megan suggested. “I’m sure we could do steaks. I’m not strictly vegetarian.”
“I’m sure he–“
“—that’d be great,” Chris said. “Unless it seems unprofessional...”
“No. No! Of course not; it’s fine. Is six o’ clock a good time?”
“I’ll have the guys clean up a little early.”
“Great,” he agreed. He smiled and then sauntered back to the job site, whistling the country song Alison had been singing.
Alison was struggling with excitement and dread, she cast a look over to Megan who smiled benignly.
“I guess we should pick up some steaks.”
“What are you thinking? You know we don’t grill!”
Proof of Alison’s last statement was pouring out of the inherited grill when Chris arrived.
“Looks like you’ve got a good start,” he said, trying not to laugh at the smoke. “You haven’t put all the steaks on have you?”
“Is chicken supposed to be this greenish-gray color?” Alison asked, coming in from the patio. “Oh! Chris! Hi.”
Alison looked mortified and Chris gave in to a chuckle.
“You’re not really a grill master, are you?” His eyes sparkled as he headed out to inspect the grill. “The coals aren’t even ready. They’re still black.”
“Oh…oops,” Alison giggled. “No wonder the chicken’s still raw.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll let you cook the steaks,” Megan said. “And while you’re doing that, I’m going to run to that bakery and get dessert.”
“Domestic goddesses, the both of you,” he commented.
Alison grinned. “You were under the impression we actually knew how to cook? There’s a reason that Megan sticks to tofu.”
“I see. And what exactly are you planning on doing with those updated appliances I just installed?”
She shrugged, “Maybe I’ll take a class.”
A slow grin spread across Chris’ face. “I’ll teach you,” he said as he took a step towards her. “I’m actually a very good cook.” Chris reached out a hand to Alison. “I’d be happy to start that first lesson right now.”
Alison took Chris’ hand as he led her to the patio. “You build things and you cook? You are the best of Country, come to life.”
rejected by Woman's World Magazine, November 2012