“Shit,” he grumbled. “I need to remember to tell the landlord to fix the lock.”
I could see him glance down and quickly crouch, rising once again into view with the plate of muffins I’d left on the floor. A bewildered expression painted his face as he inspected the goods. To my utter surprise and absolute delight, Edgar smiled. He looked down the hall toward my door, forcing me to cover my mouth with hand to trap a heated gasp. My heart lurched in my chest. It was the most dazzling smile I’d ever seen. There was nothing forced about it, the corners of his eyes crinkling with genuine sweetness that I simply couldn’t describe.
For some weird reason, a part of me wanted to capture his smile on paper. It was simply too handsome not to be recorded anywhere, and I had a feeling that such an event was a rare occurrence when it came to my grumpy neighbor. I picked up my sketchbook from off the rickety coffee table I’d constructed and plopped myself down on the couch, crisscrossing my legs. Creativity tended to strike at the oddest of times, but I was an artist through and through. There was no way I was going to deny myself the chance to draw what I felt.
And right then, I felt brilliantly thrilled.
After a full week of back to back surgeries, I was actually relieved to have the Sunday off. The arches of my feet hurt like hell, and the muscles in my neck and upper back were tense and sluggish. I’d put in more than the necessary number of hours at work, and I’d overheard in the breakroom that the Board of Directors had dropped my name in their latest meeting concerning the Chief of Surgery position. Nothing was set in stone yet, but I had a sneaking suspicion the odds were slowly starting to stack up in my favor. In the meantime, there really wasn’t any need to worry. Their decision wouldn’t be finalized for another month, so any more effort outside the norm on my part would risk making me look like a brownnoser.
For the first time in what must have been months, I went to the farmer’s market. When I arrived at the open-air market, stalls full of fresh produce and artisanal goods, I couldn’t help but smirk. I wondered what Daliah would say if she found me in a place like this. Sunday morning market runs definitely weren’t going to help ease up on the old man jokes, but I honestly didn’t care. In a strange way, I liked the teasing. Daliah had a playfulness about her, a lightness in her words that erased any doubt of maliciousness. She was flirty and carefree, which I’ll admit was the source of our initial friction, but I could tell she was a gentle soul. This point was made especially obvious with the delivery of what I could only assume were some type of brownie that she’d left at my front door. She hadn’t left a note, but it wasn’t difficult for me to put two and two together.
I didn’t end up eating them, but it was the thought that counted.
Browsing through the numerous stalls, I wound up picking up an assortment of delicious vegetables, a couple of freshly baked croissants for tomorrow’s breakfast, and two jars of locally sourced honey. I was about to leave and return home with my tote bag full of goods when a familiar, light giggle caught my attention. My stomach flipped when I turned and caught a glimpse of beautiful, bright red hair. Beneath the rays of the warm summer sun, it looked like liquid fire, burning almost golden when the light hit the strands of ruby just so. My feet froze to the ground –a freak accident considering the scorching summer heat– and allowed my eyes to trace her form.
Daliah was stood next to an artist’s stall, admiring a few of the original paintings the vendor had for sale. She was dressed in a pair of light blue jeans, leather sandals, and a pink halter top that exposed her midriff, and a light knight cardigan that looked to be made by hand. The faintest twinge of jealousy plucked at my chest when I noticed a passerby eyeing her up and down, looking at her like a piece of meat for sale. I had half a mind to stomp on over and shoo him away, but thought better of it when he moved on without a word.
“These are beautiful,” she said to the vendor, smiling sweetly at one of the paintings on a large canvas.
It was a simple landscape portrait of the beach, the blue of the sky melting effortlessly into the dark of the sea. I knew enough about art to know that the painting wasn’t anything special. Michelangelo could paint circles around this guy. But if Daliah liked it, then I liked it, too. Mainly because it could make her smile, nothing but adoration in her eyes.