A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – December 2019
A short story by Lynn Miclea
Jenny stared at her kitchen cabinet. No matter what she did or how she tried to fix it, the door to that one cabinet still hung crooked. Frustrated, after working at it for weeks, she finally broke down and called a handyman. She hoped it was worth it and the cabinet door would finally be fixed.
The handyman was due to arrive any minute. She made sure the kitchen was reasonably clean, and she hoped the worker, whoever he was, did not have a short shirt and show a plumber’s crack. Other than that, she hoped he just did a good job.
Ten minutes later, the doorbell rang, and when she opened the door, she felt her eyes open wide. A young, handsome man stood there, dirty-blond hair falling over his forehead. Deep blue eyes gazed back at her. There had to be a mistake. Maybe he was at the wrong house, and the real handyman, an old, fat, hairy guy, would still show up.
The young man looked up at her. “Jenny? I’m Chris, the handyman.” He smiled and the warmth reached his eyes. “Can I come in?”
Jenny swallowed hard. “Yes, of course, I was just not expecting someone… um, so young.”
Chris laughed. “I get that a lot. I’m 28, ma’am. And I’m licensed and have been doing this for over ten years. My dad was a great handyman. He did everything — electrical, plumbing, remodeling, repairs… He was really good. And I worked alongside him for years, so I learned a lot.” He smiled again. “I promise I’ll do a good job.”
Jenny laughed nervously and pulled at her long hair. “Yes, of course, come in.” She led him to the kitchen and pointed to the cabinet, where the door hung at an odd angle. “That’s it. I’ve tried to fix it myself, but it would never stay right. So I finally called an expert.” She looked at Chris. “That’s you.”
“I’d be happy to fix this — I’m sure it won’t take long. Let me just take a look at it first.” He examined the door latches and attachments. “Ah, I can see the problem. The latch here is loose because it was not attached to the door correctly when it was installed. It’s in the wrong place, and it’s weak right there. I’ll fix it for you.” He opened his tool kit and searched through his tools.
He looked up at Jenny, a pink flush rising to his cheeks. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. For some reason, my Phillips-head screwdriver was not put back in my kit. I always have it with me, and I’m so embarrassed. Would you have a screwdriver here I could borrow?”
Jenny nodded. “Yes, of course.” She opened her supply drawer and handed him both a Phillips-head and a flat-head screwdriver. “Are these good?”
Chris reached for them and let out his breath, a look of relief flashing across his face. “Yes, perfect, thank you so much. I’m so sorry. This is not like me. I think my nephew had gotten into my tool box and taken it out. I’m usually so careful with my tools. I can’t believe—”
Jenny interrupted him. “It’s okay.” She was touched that he cared so much about it. “It’s fine, I’m glad I had them here.”
“Me too.” He laughed. “Thank you again. This won’t take long.” He took the Phillips-head screwdriver and got to work on the cabinet door. Jenny sat at the kitchen table and watched him work. She was mesmerized as his movements were careful and precise, and his eyes closely examined everything he did. It was like watching an artist at work, someone who loved what he did and took pride in every movement.
Fifteen minutes later, Chris turned and looked at her. “All finished. How’s that?” He smiled and opened and closed the cabinet door, showing that it worked perfectly and hung straight.
Jenny was impressed. “That is great — you do good work. Thank you.”
“My pleasure, ma’am.” He bent over his tool kit, his muscles flexing, and then stood up with a piece of paper. “Let me just write up the bill. I’ll give you a discount because it was an easy job and you’ve been so nice to me.”
Jenny felt herself blush. “Thank you,” she said softly, wondering if he had a girlfriend. She smiled and handed him a check, a little sorry that it was over so fast. As he took the check, his fingers brushed over her hand, and she felt a tingle rise through her arm. She bit her lip as she felt heat rushing into her cheeks.
“Thank you so much, ma’am,” he said, turning to leave.
“Jenny. Please call me Jenny.”
“Yes, ma’am. I mean Jenny. Well, it’s been a pleasure. If you need anything else, please call me again. Have a good day, Jenny.”
He left, and she stood at the doorway watching his slim but muscular body stride down the walkway to his truck, his dirty-blond hair curling around his collar.
He glanced back once to her, waved, and then got into his pickup and drove off.
She shut the door, feeling an emptiness settle in the house. She didn’t realize how much she liked having him in her home, even for the short time he was there. For the rest of the day, her thoughts kept drifting back to him. Something about his easy manner, his honesty, and his integrity touched her. She wished she could know him better. But what was she doing? It was absurd. She was in her mid-thirties, too old for him. She was probably just too lonely, that was all. He would never be interested in her. She needed to stop these ridiculous thoughts and let him go. But somehow the longing persisted.
For the rest of the day she looked around the house trying to find something else she could call him to come back and fix. There must be something that needed fixing. She chuckled to herself as she considered breaking something to have him come back and fix it. Nah, she needed to let it go. She needed to let him go.
The following day the phone rang. “Hi, Jenny? This is Chris, the handyman from yesterday.”
“Hi, Chris. What is it?”
“I’m sorry to bother you. I just realized that I still have your screwdriver — I took it home by mistake. I’m so sorry. I was just so used to having one, and I automatically dropped it into my tool kit. Can I come by and drop it off?”
“Of course, yes. Come by any time. I’ll be here all afternoon.”
“Wonderful. I’ll be there in twenty minutes. And again, I’m so sorry.”
After she hung up, Jenny wiped her damp hands on her jeans. She felt giddy and nervous. She kept telling herself he was simply returning the tool, he was not interested in her. But she couldn’t stop smiling and she couldn’t wait to see him again.
When the doorbell rang, she jumped up, nervous and jittery. Feeling slightly breathless, she opened the door.
Chris stood there, a sheepish grin on his face. “I have your screwdriver,” he said, shrugging.
“Come in, please.” Jenny led the way to the kitchen. “Would you like some iced tea? I know it’s really hot outside.” Her mouth was dry, and her words sounded foolish and desperate to her ears.
He smiled. “I’d really like that. Thank you.” His voice was soft and tentative.
She placed two glasses and a pitcher of iced tea on the table. “Sit, please, make yourself comfortable.” She silently berated herself for sounding like a desperate teenager.
“Thank you, you are very kind.” He sipped the iced tea. “This is really good.” He licked his lips and then took a few large gulps.
“You’re very good at fixing things.” She hoped that didn’t sound too lame.
“Thank you, that’s very nice of you to say. I love what I do. I used to think I should do something more professional or impressive or something. You know, like go to college and learn some fancy profession.” He shook his head. “But I really love this work. It’s fun for me. It’s both challenging and rewarding. It’s like figuring out a puzzle and creating something.” He seemed to glow when he talked about his work.
“It sounds perfect for you. It suits you.” Something about him was so sincere, open, and honest. She didn’t want the conversation to end. Gazing into his blue eyes, she wished she could spend more time with him and get to know him better. But no, that was not appropriate.
He tapped his fingers on the table. “You have to love what you do. When you really enjoy it, it’s not work, it’s play.” He finished the iced tea and put his glass down. “Well, I’m really sorry about the screwdriver. That was totally my fault.” He fumbled in his kit and brought out the tool and placed it on the table in front of him.
“It’s okay, I understand. It was an easy mistake to make.” She wondered if he was going to hand it to her or if she should just take it.
He looked at her for a few moments and then pushed the screwdriver toward her. “Here you go. Sorry for the mistake, and thank you for the iced tea. I really enjoyed that.” He stood up to go.
She wanted to ask him to stay, but she knew that would be wrong. Standing up, she walked him to the door. After saying their good-byes, she closed the door, and silence filled the room.
Again, the house felt empty. There was something so warm, fun, and wonderful when he was there. There was no way around it — she would have to find something to call him to fix so he would come back. After walking around the house a few more times, she finally found it — a door that squeaked.
After waiting a couple days so she wouldn’t seem desperate or pushy, she called him again and told him about the squeaky door. His voice was warm and professional, and he promised to be there the following day.
Nervous with anticipation, she kept telling herself to calm down, that this was a professional young man just doing his job, and she was being too presumptuous and ridiculous. What was she, a horny teenager? She had to get over this.
The next day, she opened her door to find Chris there, toolbox in hand. “Hi Chris, come in. Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
He gave a warm smile, which lit up his face. “My pleasure. So you have a squeaky door?”
“Yes. It’s actually squeaked for a long time, and I thought it would be good to take care of it.” She showed him to the bathroom door that squeaked.
Chris checked the door, moving it and looking at the hinges. “I can fix this.” He bent down to his tool kit.
“Need a screwdriver?” She gave a nervous laugh and hoped he didn’t think she was being stupid.
He laughed. “No, I double checked this time. I know I have it. But thank you.” His blue eyes sparkled, and Jenny tried her best to not smile too hard.
Ten minutes later, he turned to her. “All fixed.” He moved the door back and forth. “See? No more squeaking.”
“Thank you,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Half price for you, since you’re such a good customer.”
She felt the heat rise in her cheeks. “You are so kind.”
After she paid him and he left, she again felt let down. She obviously needed to find more things for him to fix.
Over the next few weeks, she called him back four more times. Each time he went there, they chatted and laughed a little more easily with each other.
At the end of the most recent job, they sat at the kitchen table sipping iced teas. He gazed into her eyes. “Um, can I ask you something?” His voice sounded shy and hesitant.
“Yes, of course. Anything.” She wondered why he seemed nervous. Maybe he knew what she was doing and he was tired of being pursued. Maybe she had pushed too hard and he was about to ask her to stop and find a different handyman. That would be understandable.
He hesitated. “Um, well, I know this is not appropriate, and I apologize in advance…”
“What is it? Is everything okay?” Her voice was soft.
“Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?”
Heat flooded through her body. “I would—”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked. I was just hoping… I mean, you are so beautiful and so nice, and it feels so comfortable and easy being with you, and well… I’m sorry. Please forget I even asked.”
“Hey, I would—”
He pursed his lips. “No, I apologize. I’ll leave now. I should not have bothered you. Thank you for the iced tea.”
“Hey, wait a minute.” She touched his arm, gazing into his deep blue eyes. She saw fear, hesitation, and longing mixed in his eyes. She placed her hand over his, feeling the warmth of his skin. She felt an instant connection with him and saw his face grow pink. “C’mere.” She slid her fingers into his hair and pulled his head toward her. His eyes grew wide and he hesitated, then slowly moved forward to meet her, as she pressed her lips to his. She ran her tongue along his lips and then kissed him passionately. Finally, she pulled back and looked into his eyes. “Does that answer your question?”
His face was flushed as he looked back at her. “Yes, I think so.” His voice sounded higher than usual and he cleared his throat. “That does change things.”
“Good. Now that that’s settled, just tell me when to be ready for dinner tomorrow. Oh, and I also got you a small gift.”
“What? A gift? For what?”
She giggled, turned and picked up a small wrapped package and handed it to him. “Here.”
Joy shone on his face as he unwrapped the oddly-shaped package. His mouth fell open and he laughed. “Just what I needed,” he said, a big grin on his face, as he held up a new Phillips-head screwdriver.
“Hey, just in case you need a backup. They’re good to have around.” She reached over and squeezed his hand, sending a jolt of electricity straight into her body.
He laughed. “Thank you, Jenny. That was really nice. I mean, the gift… and everything.”
“You mean this?” She kissed him again, moaning and sucking on his lower lip.
When he pulled back, he looked dazed but happy. “Jenny, you are so beautiful and by far the nicest client I’ve had.” He chuckled. “This has been the best handyman job ever.”
She laughed. “Hey, thanks to that screwdriver. That was the best screwdriver in the world.”
“You’re not kidding.” His voice was husky as he ran his fingers through her long hair, leaned in, and kissed her again.
Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
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