Second, Jayden informed me that I’m getting a raise. She said she’s been impressed by how many of the membership coordinator duties I’ve taken over while Stephanie is on maternity leave.
And lastly, I’m moving in with Trick after work today.
Trick is great. She’s a few years older than me, but looks like a teenager with her petite but muscular frame and her flat chest and boyish figure. She has piercings in both her lip and her eyebrow and she tends to favor neon hair colors. This week’s color is green.
I’ve learned a lot about Trick since agreeing to become her roommate this morning. Mostly, that her real name is Sally. She warned me of that because she hasn’t yet changed it legally and all the mail will be addressed to her with that name. I had my suspicions that she was technically a girl, but now I know she prefers to be considered transgender.
“Murphy,” a familiar male voice calls out from behind me. I finish putting a load of folded towels on the shelf and turn around to say hello.
“Hi, Corey. How are you today?”
He gives me a crooked smile. Corey is a frequent patron of the gym. He comes in four or five times a week to run and swim. Based on the brief conversations we’ve had over the past weeks, I’ve pieced together that he’s in his upper-twenties, divorced, and works in security. He’s built like a Mack truck and is easy on the eyes.
“Better now that I’m talking to you,” he says with a wink.
Corey has been flirting with me since I started working here. I’m nice to him, but I don’t flirt back. I don’t flirt with anyone these days.
“How’s the foot?” I ask, knowing he’d suffered a sprain a while ago and is just recently able to get back into running.
“It’s good. My doc cleared me of all restrictions this morning.”
“That’s good to hear. Same for me,” I say.
“You had restrictions?” he asks.
I point to my face. “Yeah, after my face was injured, I couldn’t do any heavy lifting and I wasn’t supposed to bend over too far.”
“Oh, wow. What happened?” he asks.
I don’t like to get into it with people I don’t know. I tend to keep to myself. I’m not even sure why I mentioned it. I guess because of the comment he made about his doctor. Maybe Corey and I have things in common. Maybe I’m ready to date again. I mean, it has been six weeks. I study him. I take in the sharp angles of his face. The thick veins corded around his biceps. Surely his good looks would have me breathing heavily if I were ready.
But, no. I realize being in his presence does nothing to me. I might as well be standing here talking to Trick.
I guess I just need more time.
“Well, maybe you’ll tell me your story over dinner sometime,” he says, with a raised brow.
I shrug. “I just got out of a bad relationship, Corey,” I explain. “I’m not quite ready to jump back into anything yet.”
He laughs. “Dinner doesn’t have to mean jumping into anything, Murphy. But, I get it. I’ve been there.” He leans around me and grabs one of the towels off the shelf. “The invitation stands. Whenever you’re ready.”
I watch him walk away, trying my best to urge my subconscious to increase my heart rate over his swoon-worthy backside.
Working the front desk allows me to talk to a lot of patrons. I get to observe how they interact with others. I see who the players are and I know who is here to further their social games versus their physical ones.
Corey isn’t a player. I don’t see him hitting on every girl in the gym like some of the other guys. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen him hit on anyone other than me since I’ve worked here. He’s nice. He’s good looking. He’s fit. Maybe I should give him a chance.
My eyes close briefly and my pulse quickens when I hear his voice. See – this is the reaction I want when I talk to Corey.
“Caden, hi.” I turn around and paste on a friendly smile. Because that is what I am to him. His friend. Or his charity case, I’m still not sure which.
I will my autonomic nervous system to get out of overdrive.
Trick comes up behind Caden and wraps him into a hug. “If it isn’t my favorite client,” she says.
He laughs. “I’ll bet you say that to all your clients. That’s why you make the big bucks.”
She winks at him. “You talking to my roomie?”
Caden looks between Trick and me, furrowing his brow. “Roomie?” he asks me.
“Moving in tonight,” I tell him.
“That’s great, Murphy. I’m happy for you. What did your old roommates say when you told them?”
I look at Trick and smile. She heard the whole story from me this morning. “It’s not so much I told them as I threw the key at Kirsten and stormed out.”
“You what?” he says, smiling. He’s been wanting me to move out of that place since he met me.
Trick starts laughing and then regurgitates the entire story, even winding up and miming throwing a baseball and using shattered-glass noises to give him the best visual experience.
Caden’s jaw falls open. Then he doubles over laughing. Then, just like friends do, he puts his fist out for me to bump. “Somehow it’s satisfying for me to know that the same ball I hit you with was used to break the window.”
“You have no idea just how satisfying,” I say. “But it was kind of disturbing to know he saw me on TV with you at the Yankees game.”
He shakes his head. “Don’t worry about that. I saw it too. With you wearing my hat, only people who know you well would recognize you.”
“Good.” I breathe a sigh of relief.
He draws his brows at me. “Why does it bother you so much to be seen with me?”
“I don’t know,” I say with a shrug. “I just don’t think whom I choose to hang out with is anyone’s business.”
He smiles. “Couldn’t have said it better myself. Hey, if you need any help moving in, I’m free.”
I nod to my large suitcase behind the main counter. “I think I can handle it.”
“No furniture? No … stuff?”
“I didn’t know how long I’d be able to stay in New York at first. I knew if I didn’t find work, I’d have to go back to Iowa. And I didn’t want to move twice, so I packed light. My old place was furnished. And Trick owns her apartment and is renting me her second bedroom.”
“That’s great. But do you know Trick hates to cook?” He turns to her. “I’ll bet you only have takeout menus and paper plates in your kitchen.”
“And a blender.” She laughs. “I love protein smoothies. But Caden’s right. I’ve got two left feet in the kitchen. Wait, do you cook, Murphy?”
“I do,” I tell her, impressed that Caden would remember a small detail that we only talked about once.
“Well, I like you even better now,” Trick says. “Except that you won’t be able to cook squat unless you can do it on the one cookie sheet I have for reheating pizza.”
“That’s okay. I can hit a flea market this weekend and pick up everything I need.” I wrinkle my nose and look between them. “Uh, do they even have those here?”
“Do they have flea markets in the city?” Trick asks, sarcastically. “Wait until you see my eclectic furniture. Then you tell me.”
“I don’t want you going by yourself,” Caden says. “Those places can be dangerous. I’ll go with you.”
I roll my eyes. “Flea markets are not dangerous. Have you ever been to one?”
“No. But they sound shady.”
“Well, they’re not.”
“I still think I should go with you. You never know.”
“I can take care of myself, Caden.”
He shakes his head and blows out a frustrated breath. I can see he’s about to argue with me, but I get saved by a gym patron who has a question.
Good. Because I don’t need Caden Kessler wasting any more of his pity on me.
Trick pulls on my arm. “Come on, big guy, let’s go do your workout. Can’t let you get soft in the off season, now can we?”
“Catch you later, Murph. Enjoy your new place.”
“I plan to,” she says smiling.
As Trick drags me away, I call out to Murphy, “We’re still on for a double date on Saturday, aren’t we?”
“Caden—” She blows out a regretful sigh.
“I bet you thought I forgot all about it.” I pull away from Trick and jog back over to the front desk. “Come on, Murphy’s Law, you said you would.”
“I said I’d think about it, Caden.”
“Is your date with that Laney again?” she asks.
“What? No. Laney is history.” It was our third date.
“I thought you said you weren’t a player,” she says, narrowing her eyes at me.
“I’m not. Hell, I didn’t even sleep with her if you must know the truth. She just wasn’t for me. I’m not sure anyone is, but I can’t just not date.”
“I’m not dating,” she says with a stern look.
“For a whole six weeks, Murphy. That’s not not dating, it’s just taking a break because that bastard broke your heart.”
“I wouldn’t say broke it,” she tells me. “He might have chipped it a little maybe, but he definitely didn’t break it.”
I’m relieved to hear that Tony didn’t devastate her. She seems okay on the outside, but I’ve always wondered about what lies beneath her strong exterior.
“Caden!” Trick calls impatiently.
Without looking away from Murphy, I hold up a finger to my trainer to make her wait. “I date to be social. And I’ve told you before, I don’t date much. Mostly just in the off season. I don’t like distractions when I’m playing. Come on, Murph. It would mean a lot to me.”