A Romance, In Pieces Ch. 02

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Andre set his laptop on the desk next to the window and slumped against the mullion, squinting into the sunlight. From his desk on the 39th floor he had a crystal-clear view of Lake Ontario. From here he had a semi-obstructed view of the construction site next door.

“Why are we down here again,” he asked no one in particular.

Across the divider a co-worker looked up from unpacking a box of portable hard drives. “Because our office has no power,” he said, “remember? They’re rewiring the entire floor this week.”

Andre nodded. “Right. Three hundred-million-dollar building fucked up by a raccoon.” He slumped into his chair and flipped open the computer. The model of the condo tower he was working on materialized on the screen, toolbars and menus on the monitor next to it. He took a sip of coffee from the paper cup near the edge of the desk and got to work.

Two hours later, he leaned back in the chair and sighed, rubbing his eyes. The glare on his screens from the unshaded windows made it impossible to concentrate on the fine colored latticework of lines defining the model. He shifted in several directions, attempting to block the light, but nothing worked. To make matters worse, the drone of the pneumatic hammers next door had been constant for the last 40 minutes. Snapping the laptop shut he shoved himself away from the desk and headed to the break room for a drink.

He popped open the refrigerator, frowned. All the shelves were empty, save for someone’s plastic-wrapped peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a small tub of Greek yogurt set on top. He shut the door and surveyed his remaining options; one vending machine loaded with soda and another with juice and tea. He dug a credit card out of his pocket and swiped it through the reader. Two-fifty seemed like a lot for lemonade, but whatever.

He tossed the lid into the recycling bin and leaned back against the counter, taking several swigs of the liquid refreshment. He sighed. Considered returning to his desk. But decided against it for the moment, instead distracting himself with the construction underway on the other side of the glass.

The skeleton was taking shape. The structural columns were already up and the concrete floor plates in place. Near the elevator towers a worker cut steel studs to size with a chop saw. Two guys lugged rolls of vapor barrier to a pile of material off to the right. And at the edge of the floor nearest Andre’s window a worker in jeans and a tee shirt with a full sleeve tattoo over one arm nailed steel track to the concrete with something resembling a large elongated handgun.

Andre paused. That tattoo looked familiar. Like an H. R. Giger drawing. “No way,” he muttered, disbelieving his eyes. He rapped his knuckles on the window. The worker looked up. Then around. Then away. The reflective coating on the glass probably made it difficult for anyone to see in from outside. Setting the lemonade on the counter he dashed out of the breakroom into the stairwell, down to the lobby and out to the street.

Rounding the corner of the building he sprinted across the narrow plaza and up to the orange construction fence surrounding the neighboring site. He searched the edge of the second floor for the person he’d seen through the window. Directly above him a tattooed arm appeared, then disappeared beyond the edge of the concrete. “Lucy!” he shouted over the buzz of the chop saw. He waited a moment, then called out again. A white hard hat appeared over the edge, followed by a familiar face. Her eyes narrowed, squinting in the sun.

“Andre?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “So…what are you doing here?”

Lucy shed the hard hat and rested a knee on the floor. Her hair cascaded over her shoulder as she pointed to the scene behind her.

“Working,” she replied. “What um…what are you doing here?”

Andre pointed to the building behind him. “Working.” They smiled at each other. He opened his mouth to speak but stopped when she did the same. They laughed. She motioned for him to continue. He shrugged. “How have you been?”

“Good,” she said, “I’ve been good. How about you?”

Andre’s reply was interrupted by a voice from above them both. “Larsson!” it shouted. “Where do you want these strap anchors?”

“Be right up,” Lucy shouted back. She looked down at Andre, rolling her eyes. “I have to go,” she said, “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, no, I understand. Do you um…do you get lunch?”

She smiled, seeming suddenly, inexplicably shy. “11:30,” she answered.

He nodded. “See you at 11:30 then?”

She nodded, rising to her feet. “11:30.” She lingered a moment, watching him, before disappearing beyond the edge of the floor. Andre nodded, smiling to himself. He slipped his hands into his pockets and headed back inside.

The next 90 minutes flew by, and before he could accomplish anything productive, Andre found himself back outside, leaning on the corner of the fence, waiting for Lucy. It was warmer now — at least it felt that way. He unzipped his sweater a quarter of the way, the April breeze cool on his neck. As he watched the traffic roll by, he felt a gaziantep escort tap on his shoulder. He turned to find Lucy, now in a white knit Maple Leafs beanie and a light jacket, pulling off her gloves and stuffing them into the back pockets of her jeans.

“So,” she said, tucking hair behind her ear, “what is there to eat around here?”

“Well,” Andre replied, “on this block we’ve got tacos and burgers. You have a preference?”

“Mmm. I would kill for a taco about now.”

Andre laughed. “Fortunately, you won’t have to,” he replied. “Luis will make you as many as you want.”

Ten minutes later they were seated on the patio of Taqueria Mexicano, each with a soft drink and a basket of tacos. She had shed her jacket over the back of her chair, hung her beanie over a finial of the wrought iron fence between them and the sidewalk. Andre pulled his sleeves up over his forearms, set his phone face down next to his cup. The midday sun danced across the metal table, reflecting pools of light up onto their faces and warming their arms. The traffic provided a white noise background for their conversation.

“Okay, help me out here,” Andre began, midway through his first taco. “How does one go from selling guitars to framing condos in ten weeks?”

She laughed. “Right, soooo that was a temp job. This is my real job.”

“You’re a carpenter.” His disbelief was evident in his tone.

Lucy shrugged. “I don’t look like a carpenter?”

Andre laughed. “I’ve met hundreds of carpenters. None of them look like you.”

“All right,” she conceded. “How does one go from shredding metal riffs in a sound booth at a music store to…standing on a street corner catcalling construction workers.”

He raised a hand in protest. “That is not what happened.”

“I know,” she admitted, “but I have no idea what you do now so I made something up.”

Andre shook his head, smiling. “Music is my weekend gig,” he said with a certain resignation. “Monday through Friday I’m an architect. It’s not as cool as the weekender, but, it pays the bills.”

Lucy shrugged. “I know plenty of…cool…architects.”

He frowned. “No you don’t.”

“You’re right,” she nodded, “I don’t.” They laughed together before she added, “Well, maybe one.”

Andre sipped his drink while Lucy finished her taco. He watched, admiring her. She’d been a fixture in his memory since their previous encounter. He’d returned to the music store several times, hoping to run into her. But he had long since accepted he would never see her again and filed the event away as one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments some people are just lucky enough to experience. Now she was here. Across from him. Smiling in the sun.

She gulped her soda and set it at the edge of the table, clearing the space between them. “So,” she said, cocking her head. “Tell me something people don’t know about you.”

Andre considered the directive. There wasn’t much he kept secret. Certainly nothing he considered interesting. He shrugged. “I played college hockey.”

She laughed. Not the reaction he expected. “You can’t just make it up,” she said, “that ruins the fun.”

“Seriously,” he insisted. “Michigan Wolverines, number 12, left wing, three years.” She shook her head. “What,” he challenged, “I don’t look like a hockey player?”

She shook her head, pointing to her mouth. “You still have all your teeth.”

He frowned. Then chuckled. Not at all where he thought she was going with that. “Point taken,” he conceded, “I did play though, I swear.”

“Okay,” she said, still sounding unconvinced. “Tell me something else.”

“I wanted to be a writer,” he said finally, his tone far more reflective than he had intended. He was surprised the words even left his mouth. Of the things he didn’t talk about, that one was tucked away at the back of the vault. Lucy, however, seemed intrigued.

“Then why aren’t you a writer?”

He sighed, uncomfortable. “I guess I wasn’t very good at it. I wrote a novel, some short stories, a few screenplays. I shopped them around, entered some competitions. No one was interested.”

She frowned. “So you became an architect instead.”

Andre shrugged. “I was already an architect. I just…stopped trying to get out of it I guess.”

“Huh.” she replied. Her voice sounded flat. Wounded even. “That’s kind of a downer.”

“It’s not all bad,” he countered. “I can draw a perfectly straight line without a ruler, bet you can’t do that.”

She laughed. Andre bit into his last taco. “What about you,” he said. “What do you not like to talk about?”

Lucy drummed her fingers on the tabletop, mulling over the question. “I have a theoretical mathematics degree from Princeton.”

Andre’s eyebrows leapt up. “Wut?”

“Magna cum laude. Minor in Astronomy.”

“Astronomy,” he repeated, floored by the revelation, “and theoretical mathematics. So…you’re basically like…a genius.” He kicked himself under the table for sounding like a drunken frat boy. She shook her head.

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“Why aren’t you sipping wine at dinner hatay escort party with the other academics theorizing about orbits and the origins of the universe?”

Lucy slurped her soda. “I don’t drink wine, I suck at dinner parties, and I hate academics.”

Andre laughed. “So you’re a brilliant, yet disaffected mathematician, distracting herself from professional morose by framing condos…and occasionally selling guitars.”

“More or less,” she shrugged, smiling. “Seriously though? I like this better. I’m outside, I’m exercising, and it pays better than math. I can theorize on my own time.”

“Okay,” Andre nodded, “I can respect that.”

He finished his drink as she popped the lid from her cup and crunched on several pieces of crushed ice. She mesmerized him. Her hair was different now. Longer, and symmetrical, but still glossy black and slightly curled. Her eyes sparkled like sapphires in the early spring light. The cool lake breeze drew goosebumps up all over her arms, and her nipples strained against the heathered fabric of her shirt. Suddenly, something she mentioned earlier registered in his brain.

“Wait a minute,” he started, creasing his forehead, “the music store was a temp job?” Lucy nodded, crunching another ice cube. “So, you didn’t…need to sell me that guitar? Or offer me…the discount?”

Lucy smiled, her eyes falling to the table, cheeks a deepening shade of pink. She bit her lip, then looked up. “Can I be honest with you,” she asked, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

“Sure,” Andre puzzled.

Lucy glanced around, noting a family seating at the table closest to them. She leaned forward, across the table. He followed suit, turning an ear toward her lips. She took a deep breath and held it a moment, then whispered, “I just really wanted to suck your cock.”

Andre froze, waiting for his heart to beat, uncertain he heard what he thought he did. He turned toward her. She shrugged, her eyes wide and bright. Slowly she settled back in her chair, tipping the last of her ice into her mouth. Andre straightened up, rubbed his chin. He opened his mouth to speak, but sighed instead, a shy smile creasing his lips. “I’m uh…flattered,” he said finally, keenly aware of the stirring in his khakis.

“What time is it,” Lucy crunched.

Andre flipped his phone over. “About noon,” he replied. “Do you have to go?”

She shook her head. “Half-an-hour.” She twisted in her seat, looking back toward the construction site. “So, you work in that building, huh.”

“I do,” he replied, “thirty-ninth floor. Great view of the lake.” She craned her neck to look up, then turned back to him, subtly shifting her eyes away. Another thought flashed through his head. “You want to see it?”

They stepped off the elevator together onto a dim, empty thirty-ninth floor. Stacks of ceiling tiles leaned against every vertical surface. Ladders obstructed many of the walkways, poking through the open ceiling grid, spools of wire set on their top steps. Above, mesh cable trays conveyed miles of bundled wire from one end of the room to the other in both directions.

“What happened here,” Lucy wondered, glancing around.

“Raccoon,” Andre replied. “They have to rewire the whole floor.”

“Damn,” Lucy laughed, “little bastard.”

He led her around a corner to a large frosted glass wall. Etched on the door in the center in a stylized technical font were the words “DHC Architecture — Toronto.Chicago.Vancouver.” Gripping the pull bar, he swung it open and ushered her inside.

Lucy stood in awe in the center of the reception space, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling renderings of the firm’s projects printed on glass plates near the walls. A glossy white reception desk swept off to the right, leading into a spacious lounge surrounded by swooping wood and metal desks and tables — separated by glass dividers. The lights hung from the ceiling like blades, neatly bundled cables branching out high above. She drifted further into the lounge, Andre following behind her.

Bending a corner, they came to a long narrow light table featuring 3D-printed models of more buildings. Lucy gravitated to a slender, angular one with an elliptical curve at one end. She leaned over it, studying it closely, smiling. “You designed this?” she asked.

“I worked on it,” he replied. “Can’t say I designed it. Why?”

“My crew framed all the condo units. Do you know how many times we cursed out the asshole who designed an elliptical curtain wall?”

Andre laughed. “I tried to talk them out of that.” he protested. “But Diana told me to shut the fuck up and get back to drafting.”

“Well fuck that bitch,” Lucy quipped, “what the hell does she know!”

“Well, she’s the managing partner, so…I shut the fuck up and got back to drafting.”

Lucy laughed. Their arms brushed each other as they turned. Andre caught her fingers in his and she curled them to hold on. She was warm, her grip strong. They lingered together a moment before finally breaking away. He thought he detected a smile crease her lips.

“Soooo,” she wondered, gesturing hatay escort at the desks, “which one is you?”

Andre pointed to a chest high white glass divider behind two large format printers. On the far side of it was a generous space hosting a desk with three large monitors, and a floor-to-ceiling view of Lake Ontario. Lucy’s eyebrows jumped, seeking confirmation. He waved a hand to usher her in. She weaved around the glass and made a beeline for the windows, Andre following behind. Her shoulder resting against the mullion, she gazed out into the blue.

“Holy shit,” she mumbled, scanning the entire vista. “How did you score this spot?”

Andre shrugged. “Apparently, nobody wanted to sit by the printers. It was the only space open when I got here.”

Lucy shook her head. “How do you get any work done?”

He stepped up beside her, his bicep nudging her shoulder. “I guess you get used to it after a while,” he said. Looking out he watched the water, rippling with white caps, gently bobbing small boats escaping their berths early in the season. The piers were peppered with people enjoying the warm rays of sunlight after a dreary wet winter. Aircraft lined up over the lake on approach to the airport. He glanced at Lucy’s face, her eyes still wide, smile broad, and realized that while he looked out this window nine hours a day, five days a week, he hadn’t truly seen through this window for a very long time.

He slipped his arm behind her back, resting his hand on her hip. The shift nudged her toward him, nesting her in the crook of his shoulder. Her head bumped his cheek, surprising him. Her hair smelled like vanilla and he filled his head with the scent in one deep breath. The hand on her hip gave a gentle squeeze and her body slipped in front of his, her shoulders across his chest, her ass against the bulge in his groin.

She leaned into him, sending a shiver up his spine from his cock to his brain. He traced his fingers along a vein up her left arm, cupping his hand around just below her shoulder. The other hand left her hip, crossed behind her head and raked away a swath of that piano black hair. He lowered his head, brushed his lips over her skin, kissing the radiant ivory nape of her neck. She switched her hips, her right arm crossing her chest to hold the one squeezing her shoulder. Her head fell back against him, her eyes closed, a long deep sigh escaping her throat. “Took you long enough,” she breathed.

Andre chuckled into her shoulder, working slowly back up her neck. “Just wanted to be sure we were cool,” he replied. “Didn’t want to be that guy.”

“What guy?” she questioned. “The kind of guy that takes a girl he barely knows up to his office and makes out with her in front of the window for everyone to see?”

He shrugged. “I took you to lunch first.”

Lucy laughed, twisting around to face him, her forehead tipped back, touching his. “You took me to lunch so now I should sleep with you?”

Andre shook his head, the tip of his nose brushing the bridge of hers. “Only if you want to.”

Lucy freed her arms from the embrace, draping them over his neck. She slipped her hands around the back of his head, lacing her fingers together, tugging him toward her. She planted her lips firmly against his, assuring there could be no mistaking her answer. He pulled her in tight, one arm around her waist, the other round her shoulders. She breathed through her nose, refusing to release him. When he finally broke away, they faced each other, nose to nose, panting.

“I’ve been waiting three months for that,” they blurted out together. They laughed, Andre stroking her hair, Lucy stroking his face. He glanced back over his shoulder at the room, then turned back to her. “There’s something else I’ve been waiting for,” he whispered. She cocked her head, curious. He smiled, mischievous.

He gripped her waist with both hands, hoisting her up off her feet. She squeaked in surprise, cupping a hand over her mouth to silence herself. He carried her across the floor, setting her firmly on the end of his desk. Before he could extricate himself from his sweater, she had wriggled free of her jacket and tossed it on the floor.

He kissed her again, a hand behind her head, the other on her shoulder, easing her down onto the desktop. She held tight, arms around his neck, but he slipped through, his eyes fixed on hers as he moved, hands tracing the outline of her shape. Reaching her waist, he flipped up the base of her shirt, exposing her taut abdomen to the sunlight streaming through the windows. Deft musician’s fingers separated the buttons at the waist and fly of her jeans, then curled themselves over the edge of the denim between her underwear and her skin. She understood what he wanted.

She raised her hips slightly as he pulled, and in one fluid motion swept her jeans from her waist down over her ass to the middle of her thighs. She gasped as her skin touched the cool glass, arching her back to escape. But he held her still, his kiss contacting just below her navel, skipping down in tiny jumps toward the furnace between her legs. He veered left at the fork, plotting a path along the top of her thigh down to her knee, where he again gripped the waist of her pants and stripped them down to her ankles. Watching her eyes, he untied her laces, curled her boots off her feet and flung her jeans on top of them in a heap on the floor.

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