He looked both ways, down each direction of the street, and then back at me. “Well … is there a Laundromat nearby?”
“On Platte Avenue. Just turn left on Platte, off Tejon. It’s just before you get to Institute Street. Right across from the supply store,” Phaedra called.
I spun around to see her pointing in the correct direction. I shot her a look, and she shrugged her shoulders.
“You wanna come?” he asked. “Laundromats are boring as fuck.”
I pressed my lips together and then pulled them to the side, trying not to smile. This is it. I reached over and turned the key that was already in the lock. “Come in.”
“Not really,” he said, walking past me. “Up the stairs, right?”
It had to be fate. Taylor was like a stray puppy that I’d fed once, and now, he wouldn’t go away. He also happened to be from the exact town I’d been saving money to visit all this time.
I closed the door and cranked the key before facing four identical smirks from my coworkers.
“You coming?” Taylor asked from the bottom of the stairs, still hugging his full laundry basket.
“Well,” I said, blowing my bangs from my eyes, “why the hell not?”
I opened the door for Taylor, watching with a glimmer of amusement while he made a show of glancing around. His shorts sat low on his hips, and he turned his white hat backward, taking in every corner of the room. He was a man I would normally stay far away from, and there he was, beautifully sloppy, standing in my apartment.
“Is this a satisfactory location to do your laundry?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Monumentally better than the Laundromat.” He pushed the door close. “Where’s your laundry room?”
I gestured for him to follow and then slid open a set of doors situated in the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom. The washer and dryer, probably purchased the same year I was born, were just barely set inside the shallow rectangular closet.
“Still better than the Laundromat?” I asked.
“Yes, but I can go if you want me to.”
“Just turn it to whatever setting and pull the dial to start it.”
Taylor’s appreciative smile was actually a little—okay, a lot—cute. He followed my directions, turning the dial on the washer and pulling. The water began to pour out from the back of the drum. He bent down, grabbed several pairs of jeans, and threw them in.
I retreated to my bedroom, organizing my tips. I added half to the previous day’s collection in my wallet and the other half to the shoebox. After stashing both, I changed into a pair of sweatpants and an oversized gray T-shirt.
I stopped in my doorway, taken off guard by his strange question. I pointed to my bedroom. “In there on the floor.”
“There’s room in the washer,” he said, pouring in the laundry soap.
“My jeans don’t know your jeans well enough to be washed together.”
He chuckled and shook his head while he watched the basin fill with water and suds. “Did I do something to make you hate me? Or is this some kind of test?” He faced me. “Because I’m not trying to get into your pants, Ivy League. I’m just asking to wash them.”
I retreated to my bedroom, picking up the wad of denim next to my nightstand. Then I crossed the hall and ducked into the bathroom just long enough to pick through the dirty laundry for the other two pairs somewhere inside the pile.
“Here,” I said, handing him the jeans.
“This is it?” he asked, throwing them into the washer.
“Yes, so if you ruin them, I’m screwed.” I backed away from him and fell into the chair.
“I won’t ruin them. I’ve been doing laundry for a long time.”
“Your mom didn’t do it for you?”
“Good. Moms can really screw kids up that way. You’re lucky you never ended up crying over the washing machine because you couldn’t figure out how to turn it on.”
“Sounds like you know from experience.”
“The help did our laundry.” I waited for his reaction.
He had none.
“If your parents are so rich, why are you in this shithole?” he asked, pulling off his sweatshirt and throwing it into the washing machine, leaving him in just a thin, too-small T-shirt that read Eakins Football in faded letters.
I stared at him for a moment, fighting the inevitable smile creeping across my face. “They made bad choices.”
Taylor lumbered to the couch and fell onto it, bouncing a bit, and then he tested the cushions by pushing down on them with his hands. “Like what?”
“What’s with all the tattoos?” I asked, letting my eyes glide over the mishmash of colors and shapes that covered his skin down to his wrist.
“My brothers and me. Well, most of us. Tommy doesn’t.”
He nodded, staring at whatever memory was playing before his eyes. “You have no idea.”
“Where are they? Your brothers.”
I liked this game, all questions and no answers, and he didn’t seem to mind. Taylor’s white T-shirt crumpled in the middle, thin enough to hint at his tan skin and nicely formed abs. Abs—all the assholes had them. Four to six muscles were like a graph chart to show just how big of a douche bag the guy was.
Either he hated women, or he treated them badly enough not to want to think about them as people. No matter which it was, the longer he was in my apartment, the less I worried about guilt being a problem.
“Good,” I said, settling back into my chair. “I don’t have cable.”
“Phaedra has a box of VHS tapes and a VCR in that closet,” I said, casually pointing. “But I haven’t hooked it up yet.”
Taylor stood up, groaning as he did, and then he ambled over to the closet and opened the door. He was well over six feet tall and could see everything on the top shelf just fine. He pulled the string to turn on the light and then reached for the dusty VCR, pulling it out along with a mess of cables.
He blew off the dust and then leaned back, looking disgusted. “Pick a movie. I’m going to get this bad boy hooked up.”
“Are you bored with the stimulating conversation?”
“To death,” he said the words without apology.
Oddly, there was no hint that he was unhappy with the way things were going. He didn’t seem annoyed or even put-off, which was a relief. At least he wasn’t going to require an exorbitant amount of attention and effort.