Would it be weird to say that? Will I sound like a guy who’s trying too hard?
I choose not to say anything. Comparing her to a shampoo commercial can’t be a normal compliment, and I really don’t need to dredge up any more reasons for her to think I’m lame.
Instead of taking a chance on being a creep, I dive straight into the pile of things I would like to figure out between us.
“I didn’t know you two were roommates,” I begin to explain. “I didn’t know that Dakota would be at the bar. I’m sorry if me leaving there embarrassed you in front of your friends. I really was looking forward”—my throat is dry and I may cough midsentence but keep going—“to spending time with you. I don’t know how much you know about Dakota and me, but—”
Nora holds a hand up. I shut my mouth and pour a splash of milk into the bowl of beaten eggs and open the fridge again. Nora walks over to the stove and turns down the heat. That’s probably a good thing.
She looks at the floor and then up at me. “I know you didn’t know. And I had no fucking idea that you were the guy she was talking about. She never told us anything about you that would even make me begin to think that you knew her at all. She didn’t even mention your name.”
And when she says that, there’s something in her tone that I’m not sure I want to figure out. She lifts herself onto the counter a few feet away from me. Her feet dangle over the wooden cabinets.
“But I’m not mad or anything.” Her tone is flat, paper-lying-under-a-pile-of-books flat. “So don’t worry about it. I get it and it’s fine.”
Nora is being incredibly understanding, but she has that look glazing over her face again, and it’s disconcerting. The one where she looks bored enough to pick at her nail polish.
Oh, and what do you know, there she is, one thumb beginning to pick at the other, trying to chip away her black polish.
“We aren’t back together,” I tell her.
The sting of Dakota’s confession still burns at me, nagging at my mind.
Nora grins, looking up from her hands. “It wouldn’t be any of my business if you were.” She shrugs her shoulders as if I just told her the sky is blue, and I cock my head to the side.
The eggs are cooking now, hissing at me from the steaming pan, and the cheese is nearly melted, so I grab her veggies and a slice of ham from the deli bag.
“Meat.” She makes a disgusted face. “And lunch meat, at that. I was starting to get a little too impressed. Good thing you brought out the Hillshire Farms.”
When she laughs, I realize I don’t think I want to let her change the subject. I want to know why she thinks my relationship is none of her business.
Were we not out together last night? Everything was fine for five minutes, before you-know-what hit the fan. Also, this meat isn’t your typical packaged lunch meat. It’s cut from the deli. I pay an extra three dollars a pound for that difference written in red ink on a yellow sticker—this is worth mentioning.
“That’s how you stay so fit, then?” I point to her body with the spatula that I just used to flip the omelet. “Not eating processed lunch meat?”
She nods, shrugging her shoulders. She scoots a little closer to me.
“No, I don’t eat meat, but I still have to watch what I eat. I could easily gulp down this entire bag of cheese and I may do just that,” she says, pointing to the cheese on the counter.
I finish up her omelet, then drop it onto a paper plate and start cooking up my own. All the while I watch as she mentally adds another demerit to my score sheet, that list that women make inside of their heads when they first meet a guy.
Cuteness: 8 points. (Realistically anywhere between 6 and 10. I would say I’m a solid 7.5.)
Height: 8 points. (For some reason, at five-foot-eleven, I get eight points.)
Cooking skills: 5 points.
Using lunch meat in his omelet: –2.
Paper plates: –1.
I’m electing to ignore the fact that I had to lose at least ten points for last night. More than likely, I’m close to a two-point average right now.
“But I realized as I got older that to stay in shape, I have to work a little harder than most people