“Harden Handy,” I announce, holding out a hand to introduce
myself. The woman who answers the door is built like a pinup girl—hourglass
shape, pert breasts, and eyeglasses—but the tightness of her smile gives away
her age as do the stripes of gray in her hair. I’d place her just above forty
“Nice place you have,” I say, noting the open-concept layout
as I follow her. Clean lines, water-tone colors, a real beach house minus the
beach. It’s Florida but not every home is on the coast. This is an older
neighborhood, meaning the majority of the residents are old. I’m talking
retirees and geriatrics, but not her.
“The issue’s in the bathroom,” she states, leading me down a
hallway. I’m not a plumber by trade. I was formerly in construction, but the
market in southern Florida is either feast or famine. To make ends meet, I
began working odd jobs, handyman style.
I’m here as a favor, and I can see I’ve walked in on a
mess—sink cabinet open and faucet handle missing.
“I was able to shut the water off myself yesterday,” she
“Looks good,” I lie. It looks like she broke the
faucet. As I begin assessing the damage, she leans against the doorjamb.
“You know, I was surprised when Lana told me about you. You
really are a legit handyman.”
I try not to flinch. I’d like to say I don’t know what she
means, but I do. I helped a friend of mine a time or two and met Lana
Blasen, her friend. Is she accusing me of something?
“I’m the real deal,” I tease, lowering for the base cabinet.
My knees crack with the effort.
“So you’re a gigolo?”
I pause, the term startling, but I’ve been called worse.
“The sixties called. They want their word back,” I
tease. She’s silent a second, and when I look up, I feel bad, as if I insulted
her instead of her insulting me.
“I was just curious,” she says quietly, and now I feel extra
bad. Slowly, I stand to my full height. I’m taller than her by half a foot at
least. She’s barefoot but still dressed in a tight skirt and fancy blouse.
“It isn’t called that, or maybe it still is, if I were a
male hooker or a player, or whatever, but I’m not like that.” I don’t know why
I’m defending myself to this woman I don’t know, even if she is a friend of
Lana’s. Maybe it’s been the most recent events. I’d been with the same couple a
few times. They called me. James warned me to take on only the
most stable of married couples or recommendations from others, and this couple
was on shaky ground at best.
I’m a swinger. The third party at the table set for a
threesome. But recently, I’ve been in a funk. The last scene broke me a
bit, especially after the guy broke my nose. I don’t blame him. No husband
wants his wife to say the other guy in the bedroom is better than him.
“I didn’t mean to offend you.” She pauses, reflecting on
something near her feet, and then her expression changes as though she’s
changed her mind about what she would say next. “I’ll be down the hall, if you
need anything. My son is at his father’s tonight, so there’s no rush here. Take
I watch her walk away in that hip-hugging skirt and loose
blouse, open an extra button close to her cleavage. Curious, she said.
I’m curious about her, but she didn’t call for the handyman
special, only this plumbing disaster.
An hour later, I have things temporarily fixed, but she
needs a new faucet. “If I could show you what I did,” I suggest, interrupting
her once I find her sitting at her dining room table. She nods, removing her
glasses and I gaze down at them.
“Getting older sucks,” she teases. “They say the eyesight is
the first thing to go.”
“You aren’t old.”
“I wasn’t fishing for a compliment,” she states, good
natured but still self-deprecating.
“So if I tell you you’re beautiful, you’ll take it?”
She tilts her head as she stands to follow me to the
bathroom. “If you aren’t a player, you are charming.”
Once back inside the bathroom, I explain, “You’ll need to
turn the handle only this far or it will snap again. If you pick out a new
faucet, I can come back and install it another day.”
She reaches for the handle to test it, and without thinking,
I reach for her hand as well, covering it as we collectively twist the knob.
Like a toaster dropped in a full tub, electricity ripples up my arm, the
connection stronger than anything I’ve ever felt. We look at one another at the
same time, and I’m certain she felt it as well, but she draws back, resting her
body on the doorjamb again.
Her eyes search mine, and I know that look. The hungry
curiosity of the forbidden. “Tell me how it works.” She doesn’t mean the
“This isn’t why I’m here,” I remind her.
“I know.” The sadness in her eyes squeezes at my chest.
“And Lana told you?” I question. I’m not upset Lana shared
with others what I did for her and James, but it also isn’t friendly conversation.
“She only mentioned the basics. No details.”
“And you aren’t married? Boyfriend who can kick my ass?” Her
eyes widen, taking in my size. I’m six feet one, solid and stocky, or so I’m
told. I’d hold my own in a fight. The broken nose caught me off guard. “Are you
upgrading to the handyman special?” I ask.
“Does it cost more?”
“Not a thing.” I laugh. “And that’s the first difference,” I
She slowly smiles. The melancholy still in her eyes and her
“I start with an assessment of your needs. As this is a
plumbing job, we can use this as the scenario.” My voice lowers, but I wink to
relax her. “I’m going to ask you some questions, and you answer with your
comfort level, guiding how far we go.”
“I need you to verbally agree.” I typically have consent
forms for legalese and understanding on both sides, but I’m making an exception
here. She isn’t a regular at this.
“Yes, Mr. Harden.”
I smile at the formality. “You can just call me Andrew.”
You must be logged in to post a comment.