We walked almost all the way in silence, except for Kiddo's occasional melodic humming. Whether he did this because he was just comfortable or rather nervous, I couldn't tell. Most likely, he wasn't even aware I could hear it.
"Here we are," I said when we turned into 'Old Avenue'. "It's the second house on this side, No 4. See the balcony up there? That's it."
The humming stopped. "Looks like an expensive place."
"It is," I confirmed.
I rented the attic flat of that old mansion four years ago when Beatrice moved me up to vice chief editor. It cost me a fortune each month; just two rooms with a kitchenette and a bathroom - and it took me a while to get accustomed to the slanting walls - but I loved it. The rooms flooded with light from the huge roof windows during daytime, and on top of it all, there was a complete walk-through balcony surrounding the house on all four sides.
We stopped at the front door and I opened my bag to get the keys out. Kiddo leaned against the wall with one shoulder and crossed his arms in front of him.
"Do you live alone here?" he asked.
"No, I... oh, fuck! This bloody..." My arm was up to my shoulder in my ridiculous big bag, rummaging for the keys. "Sorry, I can never find my keys in this... er... no, there are two other tenants."
"I rather meant, do you live with someone?" He cleared his throat. "Are you married, or...?"
A little late to start worrying about that, Kiddo, don't you think?
I looked up at him. "What if I am?"
He shrugged. "No idea. Are you?"
I got fed up with the rummaging; I could hear the bunch of keys tinkle somewhere, but couldn't get my hands on the little suckers - there was but one remedy. I pulled the thick office folder out first and held it out to Kiddo. "Could you please hold this for a second? Or else we'll be still standing here at midnight, before I can get my fucking keys out."
He stepped forward and reached both his forearms out, palms upturned, forming a shelf-like space of sorts; and bit by bit, I started to deposit the content of my monster bag on it. The folder was followed by a few magazines, a sweater, my makeup purse, Eclipse, my cell phone power cord... I didn't really pay attention to the stuff I moved in Kiddo's direction.
"So, are you?" he asked.
"...What?" Totally absorbed in my key hunt, I had no idea what he was talking about.
"Married?" I heard him say, while I enlarged the heap on his arms with yet more artifacts from Planet Bag - among others, the red hair barrette I'd been missing for weeks. And then, finally...
"Gotcha!" With a triumphant grin I held up the keys and turned to Kiddo.
He was silently staring down at the vendor's tray I had loaded onto him. There on top of it lay last Friday's forgotten white cotton panties. Apparently, their sight had a numbing effect on my guest.
I rattled the keys in front of his face. "Edward?"
Headline: Young man hypnotized by women's undies – shrinks are clueless!
He raised his head as if in slow motion; unspoken questions written all over his face. I grabbed my bag by both its straps, opened it wide and held it under his hands. "Just let it all drop back into it, will you?"
He didn't budge. Without moving his head, his eyes wandered down to my hips; he was obviously checking for a hint of a visible panty line underneath my skirt. It seemed I had given the poor boy quite a traumatic event that night in the park...
"Edward," I couldn't help but chuckle, "I assure you, I'm wearing panties right now, and I usually do. These here," I let go of one bag strap and grabbed exhibit A, "are the ones I was wearing Friday. Before I took them off in the train toilet, that is." With that, I dropped said object in the bag. "Ok?"
He blushed and his green eyes widened. "You were planning to have... to seduce someone that night?" The thought seemed to intrigue him.
Nicely worded, Kiddo.
I sighed. "Edward – my feet hurt, I'm thirsty and Carlisle is waiting upstairs. I suggest you help me get this shit back into my bag, so we can go inside, and I will answer all your questions. Deal?"
I held the bag open once more.
He didn't answer, but stepped forward and slowly lowered his arms to carefully let the load slide down into the bag. During this procedure, we were standing very close to each other, and as usual, my body reacted in an instant.
You will not jump him in front of the house! You will not jump him in front...
Eventually he handed me the folder and took a step back. His hands went into his pockets, and the familiar frown appeared. Meanwhile I knew this meant he was about to say something I was probably not going to like...
"What is it?" I asked.
His gaze went up the house front as if the answer was written somewhere there, and then he said,
"I think I should go now."
What? No, no, no, no, no...!
He continued, looking into my eyes again, "When I said I'd walk you home, I really didn't mean to invite myself in. You are tired and I don't want to bug you."
"You're not bugging me. And I invited you!"
It surprised me how much the thought of him leaving hurt me. My stomach clenched. Once again, he looked up to the balcony. Mechanically I did the same, though there was nothing to see, of course.
"Do you want me to say the words?" I said, trying to hide the mild panic I felt welling up. "No problem," I paused, looking him straight in the eye, "Edward, would you like to come in for a drink? How's that?"
One corner of his mouth twitched, a faint indication of a smile.
Go one better, Portman, quick!
"Will you come if I say the words AND answer one question right here?"
Full smile. With closed lips, but still... Score!
"Try me," he said.
I made a step towards him and lowered my voice, "I wasn't planning anything last Friday until I saw you on the train. And then I wasn't planning to seduce someone. I was planning to seduce you. Would you perhaps like to come in for a drink, Edward?"
The smile remained, but he still looked a little wary. Glancing up to my apartment once again, he asked, "What about Carlisle?"
Carlisle? THAT'S his problem? God...
"I promise he will like you." It was hard not to laugh." Are you coming now or what?"
"Yes," he answered, "I'd love to."
When Kiddo had crossed the threshold to my apartment and I closed the door behind us, I was so incredibly thrilled, I almost shouted 'Gotcha!' again. I felt the silly urge to bolt the door from the inside, just to make sure he wouldn't run, but I managed to resist. It would probably freak him out.
When I turned around, I saw him standing at the window where Carlisle's cage was placed. The light from the small table lamp on the sill, which I left switched on permanently for the bird, emphasized the lean silhouette of Kiddo's body. His backside was just as delicious as the rest of him. I delighted in his small hips as I walked across the room to join him, trying to edit out the polka dot backpack on his shoulder. I just couldn't get used to that thing.
"I see you met Carlisle already." I giggled. Gesturing between Kiddo and the cage, I added, "Carlisle – Edward, Edward – Carlisle." Obviously, neither of them got the joke.
Kiddo was staring intently at the little bird, the inauspicious frown back on his forehead. Even Carlisle was untypically mute; he had ruffled his feathers and his delicate eyelids were half closed.
"This bird is sad," Kiddo stated, matter-of-factly.
"No, he isn't." I was slightly irritated. "I really do take good care of him. Usually, Carlisle is quite verbose at this hour. Maybe you're intimidating him?"
Kiddo shook his head. "No. He is lonely, he's longing for a partner. It's... torturing him."
"Oh come on," I snorted. "How would you know?" Carlisle made a single chirp, as if to second my question.
"I can see his..." Kiddo answered, faltering, "it's his... he tells me so. Sort of." His frown had deepened as if he was in pain, and he blinked a few times, vehemently. He was absolutely serious.
Uh... that bad?
I bent forward until my nose touched the small bars to take a closer look at my feathered roommate. "Hey, what's up, little daddy, huh?" I clicked my tongue, making little chirping noises, and was instantly rewarded; Carlisle turned from a fluffy ball into a slim bird again and quickly scurried along his perch towards my face where he started to tenderly nibble at my nose – quite happily, as it appeared to me.
"Ok, Dr. Doolittle," I said as I straightened myself. "I think you should reconsider your diagnosis. In the meantime you can add to Carlisle's happiness by serving as his playground." I opened the cage and reached into it, stretching out my index finger. "He will definitely love your hair."
...but not as much as I do!
Carlisle wasted no time. He hopped on my finger, and darted all the way up to my shoulder before I had even pulled my hand out of the cage. From there he gave the compelling tousled landscape on Kiddo's head an appraising one-eyed bird-look and released an enthusiastic twitter.
Kiddo looked down at the little fellow on my shoulder and smiled. I was glad to see the frown had disappeared. Performing a half knee bend, he bowed his head invitingly. I clenched my hands into fists to prevent them from reaching into that sexy blond mess.
Fuck... so inviting! Carlisle, can I be you?
My lucky budgie hopped over the small distance into the Promised Land and instantly started nibbling at the soft streaks. Kiddo straightened himself to full height and squinted his eyes at the sensation of the busy bird on his scalp, snickering. I just watched, rapturously.
Could he be any more adorable?
I swallowed, as my throat felt incredibly dry. "Alright... while you guys are becoming acquainted, I'll fetch us the promised drinks." I motioned towards the big black leather couch in the middle of the room. "Just make yourself at home."
I hadn't lied about the content of my fridge. "Is a Diet Coke ok? Sorry, there's really nothing else. But I can make coffee or tea if you like." Looking back over my shoulder, I saw Kiddo settling himself on the carpet, cross-legged. The pink and yellow backpack disaster lay in a corner on the couch, ruining its elegant look. "Coke is fine," he answered.
I opened two cans and handed him one, briefly wondering where I should sit down myself. "Is there something wrong with the couch?" I asked him.
Kiddo turned his head to look at the object in question behind him. "No, it's just... I don't like to sit on leather seats. The noises they make drive me nuts."
Note to self: Don't try to seduce Kiddo on the couch.
"Really? Never heard anything like that before." I took a sip of my coke, still standing.
Kiddo seemed to see my distress; supporting himself on his hands, he did a 180 and pointed to the couch. "You should take you shoes off before you sit down," he said.
"Why?" I laughed, lowering myself onto the leather cushions. I noticed for the first time that, in fact, it did make weird noises. "What's wrong with my shoes?" I looked at my black suede high heels.
Kiddo bent forward - eliciting an irritated chirp from Carlisle - and took my right ankle, slowly stretching my leg, until my foot rested on his crossed legs. He removed my shoe and laid it on the carpet. I held my breath.
"These shoes hurt you," he said. "I'll make it go away."