Holy Cow By D.I. Jolly
The last thing Douglas expected to find when he opened his front door, was someone looming in the darkness on the other side. His apartment had an unfortunate design feature that meant you either had to switch off the lights and walk down the hall in the dark. Or open the door, switch on the light in the stairwell and walk back into the flat to hit the switches and then leave. Neither were ideal, but after living there for a few years he was more than comfortable walking around his home in the dark. This time however when he opened his door a dark figure stood waiting for him, and like any brave man would, he leapt backwards, yelled.
And his arse hit the ground. To further the great evening he was having, the stairwell lights clicked on to reveal his very attractive neighbour as the dark figure. Her face was red and covered by her hands as tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks, gasping said.
“D….d…did you say… ha ha ha… holy cow?”
For an instant, he considered the possibility of spontaneous combustion but realising that wasn’t on the cards he managed to find a thread of sanity.
“What were you doing hiding in the dark outside my door?”
The laughter stopped but the blush remained.
“Sorry, I’m so used to taking the stairs in the dark. I was just walking past when I heard the click of your door and panic froze.”
She smiled, which made him feel a lot better, and offered him a hand up.
“Are you ok?”
He took the assist and standing put his hand on his heart.
“I probably won’t live as long, but I think I’m alright now.”
His comment drew another smile, but the conversation slipped between them with neither managing to catch it before it hit the ground, leaving behind an awkward silence. In the same moment that they realised she was just quietly standing in his doorway, the stairwell lights clicked off, and Douglas proving his fortitude once again jumped and said.
Which got another audible laugh from the woman he’d had a low-key crush on since the day she moved into the building. She took a few steps out and once again switched on the lights, revealing bright red cheeks as she pushed her lips together desperate to hold back her giggles.
“Why do you keep saying that?”
Douglas groaned as his shoulders sank a little.
“I got called into my manager’s office the other day for swearing, it apparently has always been bad but somehow got worse and some people complained, so now I’m trying to substitute in other words.”
A carefully styled eyebrow went up quizzically.
“Do you work in a school?”
“Then how bad is your language?”
In an attempt to save some sort of face in his situation he smiled, squared his shoulders and said.
“I know you might find this hard to believe, but under this rough manly exterior, I’m actually a fairly jumpy guy. And I do a lot of work with sound so I wear earphones constantly. And people come up to me and I jump and I yell and I spend most of my working day in a state of anticipation and mild panic.”
Though he started with confidence, as more words kept slipping from his face, his voice lost its charm and drifted into an awkward smile, and a few beads of stress sweat.
“Oh, that sounds like a fairly intensely unpleasant working environment. Wouldn’t it make more sense for your manager to find a way to not have you permanently terrified at work, instead of giving you a warning for it?”
“You’d think, but that would require him to be good at his job. And I’m not really a religious man so miracles are out.”
Her smile returned and Douglas both really liked it and wished that it didn’t have such a massive effect on him. But it did, so he smiled back.
“I’m Doug, by the way.”
He reached out his hand and she took it gently.
“Sarah, it’s nice to meet you, Doug.”
“Yeah you too, I’m, I mean, I’ve seen you around, but I don’t know, just never had the chance to say hi.”
Her smile persisted and Doug tried to ignore the stir he was feeling in what he now considered to be the incorrect choice of trousers.
“Yeah, it’s weird I know the faces of most of the people here, but I think you might be the first I’ve actually met.”
He didn’t want to, but thinking that she’d noticed him around made him blush and he lost the thread of the conversation, leaving them once again in a slightly awkward silence. When the lights clicked off again, Doug still jumped but managed to not say anything, Sarah still laughed though. Again she switched on the lights and said.
“I think that’s probably my cue, it was nice to meet you, Doug, I hope you have a good time where ever you’re going, and I guess I’ll see you around.”
This time he had to laugh too, of the many, many ways he’d thought their first meeting might go, this one had never crossed his mind.
“Nice to meet you too, and yeah, see you around.”
He racked his mind for some joke or charming thing to say about her lurking in the dark outside his door, but couldn’t think of anything in time so just watched her trot off up the stairs and away. For a long moment he stood thinking about how many things he’d like to have done differently when he remembered that he was actually on his way to a date, and hurried off down the stairs.