He nods once, and then says, “My turn.” He places his hand on the table next to me and leans in a little. “I’m very attracted to you, too. There’s not much about you I don’t like. But I kind of hope we’re never around each other again, because I don’t like how much I think about you. Which isn’t all that much—but it’s more than I’d like. So if you still aren’t going to agree to a one-night stand, then I think it’s best if we do what we can to avoid each other. Because it won’t do either of us any favors.”
I don’t know how he ended up this close to me, but he’s only about a foot away. His proximity makes it hard to pay attention to words that come out of his mouth. His gaze drops briefly to my mouth, but as soon as we hear the front door open, he’s halfway across the room. By the time Allysa and Marshall make it to us, Ryle is busy restacking all the crates that fell. Allysa looks down at my ankle.
“What’s the verdict?” she asks.
I push my bottom lip out. “Your doctor brother says I have to stay off of it for a few days.”
She hands me my water. “Good thing you have me. I can work and do what I can to clean up while you rest.”
I take a drink of the water and then wipe my mouth. “Allysa, I’m declaring you employee of the month.”
She grins and then turns to Marshall. “Did you hear that? I’m the best employee she has!”
He puts his arm around her and kisses the top of her head. “I’m proud of you, Issa.”
I like that he calls her Issa, which I’m assuming is short for Allysa. I think about my own name and if I’ll ever find a guy who could shorten it into a sickeningly cute nickname. Illy.
Nope. Not the same.
“Do you need help getting home?” she asks.
I hop down and test my foot. “Maybe just to my car. It’s my left foot, so I can probably drive just fine.”
She walks over and puts her arm around me. “If you want to leave the keys with me, I’ll lock up and come back tomorrow and start cleaning.”
The three of them walk me to my car, but Ryle allows Allysa to do most of the work. He seems almost scared to touch me now for some reason. When I’m in the driver’s seat, Allysa puts my purse and other things in the floorboard and sits in the passenger seat. She takes my phone out and begins programming her number into it.
Ryle leans into the window. “Make sure to keep ice on it as much as you can for the next few days. Baths help, too.”
I nod. “Thanks for your help.”
Allysa leans over and says, “Ryle? Maybe you should drive her home and take a cab back to the apartment, just to be safe.”
Ryle looks down at me and then shakes his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he says. “She’ll be fine. I’ve had a few beers, probably shouldn’t be driving.”
“You could at least help her home,” Allysa suggests.
Ryle shakes his head and then pats the roof of the car as he turns and walks away.
I’m still watching him when Allysa hands me back my phone and says, “Seriously. I’m really sorry about him. First he hits on you, then he’s a selfish asshole.” She climbs out of the car and closes the door, then leans through the window. “That’s why he’ll be single for the rest of his life.” She points to my phone. “Text me when you get home. And call me if you need anything. I won’t count favors as work-time.”
“Thank you, Allysa.”
She smiles. “No, thank you. I haven’t been this excited about my life since that Paolo Nutini concert I went to last year.” She waves goodbye and walks toward where Marshall and Ryle are standing.
They begin walking down the street and I watch them in my rearview mirror. As they turn the corner, I see Ryle glance over his shoulder and look back in my direction.
I close my eyes and exhale.
The two times I’ve spent with Ryle were on days I’d probably rather forget. My father’s funeral and spraining my ankle. But somehow, him being present made them feel like less of the disasters they were.
I hate that he’s Allysa’s brother. I have a feeling this isn’t the last time I’ll be seeing him.
It takes me half an hour to make it from my car to my apartment. I called Lucy twice to see if she could help me, but she didn’t answer her phone. When I make it inside my apartment, I’m a little irritated to see her lying on the couch with the phone to her ear.
I slam our front door behind me and she glances up. “What happened to you?” she asks.
I use the wall for support as I hop toward the hallway. “Sprained my ankle.”
When I make it to my bedroom door, she yells, “Sorry I didn’t answer the phone! I’m talking to Alex! I was gonna call you back!”
“It’s fine!” I holler back at her, and then slam my bedroom door shut. I go to the bathroom and find some old pain pills I had stuffed into a cabinet. I swallow two of them and then fall onto my bed and stare up at the ceiling.
I can’t believe I’ll be stuck in this apartment for an entire week. I grab my phone and text my mother.
Sprained my ankle. I’m fine, but can I send you a list of things to grab for me at the store?
I drop my phone onto my bed, and for the first time since she moved here, I’m thankful my mother lives fairly close to me. It actually hasn’t been that bad. I think I like her more now that my father has passed away. I know it’s because I held a lot of resentment toward her for never leaving him. Even though a lot of that resentment has faded when it comes to my mother, I still have the same feelings when I think of my father.