Later that day, I was lying on the dusty coverlet of my bed, thinking about nothing, when a cat jumped up onto my legs. Even though it was commonplace in Lexi’s house, the sudden flurry of motion startled me, and I looked over my shoulder to see. It was Amy-Ann. She regarded my legs, ass, and back as part of the bed, and began walking slowly up my thighs, orange eyes on me the whole time. I lay still. I didn’t want her to jump off. A free cat-massage was a good thing. I put my chin back on my arms and closed my eyes. Paws pressed carefully against my butt, then the small of my back, and then Amy-Ann sat down just north of my kidneys. Perfect. I hummed in pleasure. The cat shifted once, twice, then settled in and warmed my spine.
The stairs creaked as someone (other than Lexi, obviously) came up. I followed their progress up the hall. They paused at my door. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that it was Martin. He leaned in the doorway. “Comfy?” he asked.
“The cat feels good there,” I said, “so I’m not moving until she does.”
“You’re braver than I thought. I hate cats. How did you break your back?”
“I’d rather not talk about it,” I replied.
“Sorry. Did you lose someone?”
He was more perceptive than I liked in a stranger. “I think said I’d rather not talk about it. I’m pretty sure I said it in plain, sixth-grade level English.”
Martin came in and stood next to the bed. I turned my head enough so I could see him. He was wearing his coat. “Guess that’s my cue to change the subject.”
“Oh-kay then, how long have you and the doctor been stuck up here? All winter?”
Had Eddie told him different? I wagered that he hadn’t. “No, just a few weeks. We’re the relief care team,” I said. “Is this unscheduled stop going to mess up your job?”
“Nah. I called my manager, and told him what’s going on. Gray called her boss, too. We’re just taking the good with the bad. Extending our vacation. Do you think we should give Lexi some money, for letting us stay here?”
He didn’t sound remotely sincere. I wanted to ask him what Gray did, to see what kind of job he made up for her, but I didn’t.
“Sort of a blessing in disguise,” he continued when I didn’t say anything. “Too bad Gray doesn’t like the house much. She’s not really into old drafty houses. Gray’s more the condo type, you know? Plumbing, Jacuzzis in the bathroom, track lights, et cetera.”
I raised my eyebrows as a response. The idea of Taiisha taking time to enjoy a hot tub was almost funny.
“I think she grew up in a big old house, so it’s nothing special to her.”
“I guess it wouldn’t be,” I said absently. I wondered again how old Taiisha really was. Maybe she had grown up in a house this old.
Martin reached for my back suddenly. I flinched, but he was just petting Amy-Ann. I felt the cat’s purr against my back. “Sorry,” he said.
“Didn’t know what you were going to do,” I said, putting my head back down. “Lack of human contact makes me edgy.” I realized as the words came out of my mouth that he was going to take it as flirtation. Fuck.
“You sure you don’t want a back rub? I promise to be gentle.”
“So, where are you from?”
“I’m not from anywhere,” I said.
“Your family from nowhere, too?”
“I didn’t say I was from nowhere, I said I wasn’t from anywhere.” I thought of how Lexi might answer the question. “My family is from Czechoslovakia, though.”
Martin didn’t take hints easily. He shrugged, making his coat crinkle. “So are you and the doctor, you know, hooked up?”
I turned my head to look at him. “What kind of a question is that? I don’t know you.”
He took a step back, probably unconsciously. “Sorry. I was just asking. No offense.”
“No, we’re not.” I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea, anyway. “We’re not sleeping in the same room, are we?”
“That doesn’t mean anything.”
“He’s a little too old for me.” Irritation laced my voice.
“Some people might say you’re protesting too much,” he said with a smile that was supposed to be charming.
“Some would say you’re being an asshole.” He was reminding me of Eddie in his more annoying moments. And I only needed one Eddie in my life. “You ask too many questions, and crack wise like you know me well enough to make jokes of the answers. Lexi’s doing you a favor by letting you stay here. Don’t insult her hospitality by pissing off her other guests, okay?”
“Well, pardon me–“
“Get out of my room, please,” I said, and put my head back down. I turned my face away from him. He said something else as he was leaving, but I didn’t pay any attention to it. I wanted to tell him I knew who Taiisha was, and to ask him if he knew. I didn’t think he did; Taiisha seemed to prefer working with exceedingly stupid men, and Martin wasn’t. Since he likely wasn’t a friend of hers (not more than a few days’ acquaintance, anyhow) I held my tongue. Better to play clueless.
Thinking of playing dumb made me think of Lexi again. It wasn’t a big jump to wonder how much of her flighty silliness was real. Eddie had given up acting like a doctor around her. She might as well have been the absentee proprietor of a somewhat run-down bed and breakfast. I wondered again if I could trust her with my secrets.