“Hello?” A voice called out. A voice that sounded as if angels were singing if Eli thought about it. He rolled out from under the truck he was working on, wiped his hands, and made his way to the front of the garage.
Marv was washing his hands already. Eli patted his friend. “I got this, Marv.”
Marv smirked. “Oh you do, do you? You’re just lucky I’m married.”
Eli shrugged and returned the smirk before going through the door. In truth, Marv had been teasing Eli the last couple of months, and the fact Eli hadn’t even tried to score a date. Eli took the ribbing with a good laugh and a smile. In all honesty, Eli just wasn’t ready to date—not when he couldn’t take a woman back to his place. And there was absolutely no way in hell he’d let any person inside his shitty hell-hole he called home currently.
Eli stopped momentarily in his tracks. In front of the counter stood the most gorgeous woman Eli’s ever laid his eyes on, even with disheveled hair and a worried expression on her face. He took a deep breath, and reminded himself that he needed to be professional.
“Can I help you?”
Tears sprung from her eyes. Uh oh. “My car broke down a block away. It-it won’t start.”
Eli gave her a nod. “Okay.” He moved from around the corner towards the door, motioning her to follow. “Let’s go take a look at it, and I’ll see what I can do.”
Eli motioned her to lead. “I’ll follow you, ma’am.” Eli waited and took a long look at the petite girl, and appreciated her entire form. Eli followed quickly, however. He asked her more about the vehicle. “Have you been having troubles with the car lately?”
She shook her head. “No. My dad, he just got the oil change and an all around tune-up on it.” Tears once again sprang from her eyes. “I don’t understand. Why is this happening to me today of all days?”
Eli was so out of his depth, he could only shrug. He never knew how to deal with emotional women. They stopped next to a nice white Galaxy Aura. Eli whistled. “Now, that is a beauty.”
“Thanks,” the woman sniffled.
Eli opened the door after she unlocked it. He climbed in and held out his hand. Without a word the woman handed him her keys. Eli went to start it and listened to it not ever try. He glanced at the glowing gas light. “Well, I think I know what the problem is. You’ve run out of gas.”
“What?” she pushed her head inside to look. “Oh man. Dad’s going to kill me.”
Eli chuckled. “I take it this isn’t a first?”
She shook her head. “No. More like third in the last two years. I’m sorry.”
Eli climbed out of the car and locked it for the distressed woman. He handed her the keys back. Another round of tears had Eli doing something he never thought he’d do to anyone, he wiped her tears away.
“Don’t cry. There’s nothing to cry over.” He wiped his wet hand on his oily pants, and gave her the most reassuring smile he could muster. “Look, we’ll go back to the shop and get you a can of gas. We’ll fill her up with just enough for you to drive over and fill her the rest of the way.”
“Sound like a plan?”
She nodded with a sniff. “Thanks.”
After helping the young woman out he went back to behind the counter. She immediately came back into the shop. Thinking there might be something else wrong, he waited. “How much do I owe you?”
Eli shook his head and held out his hand. “Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“I took you from your work, because I was an idiot. Please, let me make it up to you.” She glanced around. “Have you had lunch?”
With that, Eli’s stomach made it known that no, he did not have lunch yet.
Her grin could melt Eli in a heart beat. “Let me take you to lunch.”
“Er…” he rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t–”
How could he resist those eyes, or that smile? Eli knew he should not be getting involved with anyone, but what was the harm in a lunch? “Okay. Nothing fancy. Maybe we could go just grab something from the lunch carts across the street at the basketball park?”
“Okay.” She held out her hand as he came back around the counter. “I’m Sam, by the way.”
“Eli.” He shook her hand and then dropped it. What he wouldn’t do to have kept holding it while they headed back out of the shop.
Eli and Sam stood in line at the burrito cart. “So, what was so important about today that you were freaking out about the car?” Eli asked.
“I have a job interview at two.” She sighed and checked her watch. “I’ll have to eat and run to make it. I was just about to go grab lunch quickly and head over to Myshuno Memorial.”
“You a doctor?”
She laughed and patted Eli’s arm. “Oh no. No, no, no. I just got my nursing license.” They ordered quickly at the cart and Eli followed Sam to a picnic table. “So, how long have you been a mechanic?”
Eli squirmed and swallowed his bite. How much did he tell her? Be honest. His inner voice, which sound annoyingly like Roy, was right. He needed to be honest if he wanted to even try to have a relationship with anyone. “Six months,” he answered. “Marv was the only one that would hire someone like me…a…um…an ex-con.”
She tilted her head. “You’re a bad-boy aren’t you?”
He chuckled. “In my youth, yeah. I was a pretty bad kid. Did some crazy shit and ruined my life because of it. Why, you like the bad-boy type?”
Sam giggled in a sweet way that made Eli squirm in his pants. “You could say that. My Dad’s a cop, and I always gravitated to the wrong guys. Oh he hated my teen years when I’d bring home a date. He had nothing good to say about them.”
Eli grinned. “We would have made quite an impression on the old man.”
“So…how long were you in?”
Eli shrugged. “Ten years. Just got out six months ago. I’m living over at the Reed Project House.”
She cringed and wrinkled her nose. “That place is terrible. They should really tear it down and rebuilt it. Just because you were in prison, does not mean you should live like rats.”
Eli loved her spirit. He agreed. “My prison cell was a hell of a lot cleaner, to be honest. My cellmate had a thing against litter. He would smack me upside the head anytime I left even a candy wrapper anywhere inside our cell doors.” He finished his burrito. “I’ll eventually figure out a way to save up and move into my own place. It’s just going to take a while, and I have to wait until I am cleared to move out.”
Sam tossed her trash into the bag along with Eli’s. “That sounds like a good plan, Eli.” She stood and Eli followed suit. “Thanks for the lunch.”
Eli chuckled. “Shouldn’t I be the one thanking you? I mean, you bought it, right?” He bowed his head. “Thank you.”
They headed back to Sam’s car when he blurted out the words he had been rolling in his head for the last several minutes. “Would you like to do this again?” When she lifted a brow, Eli corrected himself. “I mean, eat again? Like, you know maybe dinner or something?” Eli was so bad at this. He hadn’t talked to a woman, or asked one out since he was sixteen. “I mean…”
“Are you asking me out, Eli?”
He swallowed and nodded his head. “Yeah, I think I am. I’m not exactly the smoothest talker.”
She giggled that sweet giggle Eli was starting to really love. He wanted to hear that sound again. “I’d be honored. Here,” she handed him a card, “That’s my number. Give me a call later tonight, and we’ll set up the date.”
Eli couldn’t believe his day when he got back to his apartment. Marv had teased him all afternoon about his upcoming date. Eli just countered that Marv was jealous Eli could date. “That’s why I get to live vicariously through you,” was Marv’s response. Eli really enjoyed his friendship with his boss. Like Roy, Marv was someone that Eli was starting to look up to.
Eli grabbed a beer and headed to his couch. He took a drink and stared at the card Sam had given him.
With his mind made up. He called. When she didn’t answer, and it went to voice, he decided to text her.
Eli cringed as soon as he sent the text. What kind of guy tells a girl he has a curfew? What respectable adult has a curfew? Eli took a hard pull off of his beer. He knew the answer: the kind that didn’t want to break his parole. He wouldn’t dare break parole. Eli was determined to not go back to prison, and if that meant he needed to stick to a curfew, he would.
The response came back an hour later. Eli couldn’t help but smile at his phone. He was so proud of Sam, and he had only known her a few hours. They continued to text throughout the night, planning their date and getting to know one another for a bit.
That night he slept thinking of Sam, the future, and even woke to the images of him and a very pregnant Sam with their toddler. “Holy fuck,” he whispered to himself, his eyes widen. He wasn’t disturbed by the image. In fact, the image did something else to him. He pined for that future. He wanted that for himself.
Friday, Eli took the subway out to the Fisherman’s Wharf and met Sam just outside a bar and grill place. He couldn’t believe how amazing and more beautiful Sam was dressed in a cocktail dress and high heals. Her hair was up and proper. Eli’s heart sped to the max. She was so out of his league. How did Eli wind up on a date with this woman?
Eli kissed her hand in greeting. “My dear.”
Her giggle was going to send Eli over the edge and make a mess of things. He didn’t care though. He loved it. Hell, he already knew that he jumped down the rabbit hole and was falling so hard for Sam, and they only had a small lunch date. “You ready?” he asked.
He smirked, and took her in hand as they made their way up to the restaurant. He gave his name to the hostess and they sat on a bench to wait for their table to be ready. Sam held his hand. “You smell good.”
He chuckled. “I don’t smell like oil and grease, do I?” He had taken the longest shower to make sure he got the smell of the garage off of him.
“Nope, but even then, that would smell good.”
Eli was charmed. He kissed her forehead. “Glad you think so.”
They got their table and Eli tried hard not to stare at the prices. This date was going to take a good chunk out of his wallet. He didn’t care. This was for Sam, and it was in celebration to her new career…and hopefully in celebration to their new relationship.
The waiter brought over their drinks first. Eli held his glass up. “To your career, Sam.”
“And to us.”
He grinned. “Definitely to us.” Oh, he hoped. He hoped beyond hoped there was going to be an us after this date. The image of him with her and that toddler flashed in front of him. Yes, he wanted that. He really wanted that and he wanted it with Sam, and Sam only. Fuck falling. Eli never believed in it until now, but he really had fallen in love at first sight.