Alex arranges the succulents absentmindedly. His tanned fingers roam over the leaves, adjusting the pots ever so slightly. The blue-green veins extending from the back of his hands up his arms swell as he squeezes his fists. His grey eyes dart across the room, anxiously searching for anything out of place, anything to straighten, anything to keep his mind from imploding.
Sam should be here any moment now.
His hands pause as a portrait of her flashes arrestingly in his mind. Her long blond locks, creamy freckled skin, straight pearly whites and lighter-than-his grey eyes hold him in limbo, until he feels a pinprick of pain in his left index finger.
“Shit,” he mumbles. He must’ve brushed his hand over the cactus. There is a line of crimson making its way down his finger, with the help of the nervous moisture collecting there over the past few hours. The salt is making the wound sting and Alex hisses as he debates getting a plaster. He jogs to the kitchen to find the first-aid kit, and locates the bandage just as the doorbell rings. “Shit!”
Alex fumbles and drops the now-blood-streaked plaster, forgoing it completely as the doorbell rings a second time. “Coming!” He runs his hand under the tap to wash off the blood, flicking his wrist and patting the water off on his khakis. He gets to the door, messes with his hair with shaky hands and pulls open the door.
“Hey!” Sam smiles, before noticing his grimace. “Are you okay?”
“What? Yeah, I’m fine! What do you mean?”
Her eyes land on his hand holding the door open, and the tiny line of scarlet. “Oh my god, you’re bleeding!”
“Yeah, I got a cut from my cactus. Talk about ungrateful, huh?” Alex tries to laugh it off, but the blood drains from Sam’s face. “So, uh, take a seat on the couch, make yourself comfortable, I’ll take care of this.” She nods and perches on the mustard sofa.
The room is bright, with white walls and a floor-to-ceiling window. A maroon shelf sat perpendicular to the window, holding a row of succulents. That must be how he got that cut.The beige curtains flutter in the breeze, brushing against the backrest of a moss-green armchair. Sam’s eyes land on the mahogany coffee table, with its stack of photography magazines and interior design books.
Alex fumbles with the plaster, his left-handedness working against him. With a jolt he realizes he hasn’t offered Sam a drink. Stupid! “Do you want anything to drink?” Alex calls from the kitchen, cringing with embarrassment.
“Yeah, do you have any Earl Grey?” comes the reply. Alex heaves a sigh of relief. “Yeah! I’ll brew some up,” he grins, but only because Sam can’t see. Earl Grey is her favourite – of course he bought a box.
Alex puts the kettle on and finally gets the plaster on – at this point he isn’t sure if there even was a point putting it on anyway. He places the two ceramic mugs – one black, one blue (it’s her favourite colour) – a pot of sugar, and a little jug of milk on a metal tray and brings it out to the living room.
“Sorry it took so long,” he smiles sheepishly as he sets the tray down on the coffee table.
“Hey! It’s okay. Thanks for this,” she says as she takes a sip. “Did you design this place yourself?” He rubs a hand along the back of his neck as he mumbles his assent.
They spend the rest of the afternoon on that couch, and as the sun sets Sam gathers up her jacket and her bag, ready to leave. She steps over the threshold, Alex helping her into her jacket, and before she shrugs it on fully she tiptoes, placing her hands on his shoulders and pressing her lips onto his. He turns ruby, frozen, eyes fluttering open slowly after she pulls away. She smiles, those lighter-than-his grey eyes shining, and he slides his hands up to cup her face, and then into her bright golden locks, pressing his lips to hers. Her arms wrap around his neck, and his around her waist, before they let go, and he yells “text me when you get home safe” down the corridor, to where she waits at the lift landing.
He parts the curtains when she disappears into the elevator, and he watches her walk down the street to her car, until she drives off, and then he watches the people and traffic go by until his phone buzzes.