Kevin chivalrously opened the front door of Esther’s house for her and nearly fell through it and flat onto the floor. His legs ached, his back ached, and his feet felt like they were barely supporting his weight. And speaking of weight, he felt like he’d probably lost 20 pounds in sweat alone.
“Thanks,” said Esther, heading inside with what looked deceptively like a bounce in her step.
Kevin stumbled after her and wobbled into the living room, where he collapsed onto a couch and tried to breathe the pain away.
“Well that was a long afternoon,” said Esther, sipping at a glass of water.
“Mmuurgh,” said Kevin.
“People around here don’t much like picking up hitchhikers, do they?”
“Blaaargh,” said Kevin.
“How far did we walk in total, do you think? Fourteen kilometres, maybe more? Up and down hills for a lot of it, though… I think I’ll put it in my exercise log as fifteen. Could’ve been twenty if we hadn’t bussed back here from Andy’s after dropping his car off. But that’s okay. I’ll make it up tomorrow at the gym.”
With strenuous effort, Kevin was able to look up from the couch and study Esther’s face through his weary eyes. It was possible he was misreading her, but no, she didn’t appear to be joking… He shook his head slowly. “You’re insane.”
“Oh, not really,” said Esther. “If you did something like this a couple of times a week it would seem like nothing after a month or two. I usually try to avoid eating half a pound of bacon for lunch, too.”
“Hey, you had the carrots to offset them,” said Kevin.
Esther laughed. “Yeah, that’s not really how nutrition works.”
They sat quietly for a minute. Kevin sat up and stretched his legs out. More exercise like this would be good for him. Maybe Esther would be interested in going on “walking dates” with him or something. As he had the thought, some rarely used muscle in Kevin’s leg twinged sharply. Okay, maybe he’d shelve that idea for a while. Right now the pain was still too fresh.
“I’m really sorry about all of this,” he said, when the pain in his leg began to subside.
“About what?” said Esther.
“Wasting your whole afternoon, stuffing you with bacon… You know.”
“You don’t have to apologize. Honestly I enjoyed it. I didn’t have much else to do today, so I probably would have just sat around and watched TV or done something equally unproductive. It was nice to have something to do, and someone to do it with, even just to take my mind off of Caleb and Max and that whole mess.”
“Well,” said Kevin, “then I guess I was happy to help, even if most of my body disagrees with that sentiment right now.” He chuckled. “I was pretty annoyed at having to borrow Andy’s car, but I guess it worked out okay in the end. Don’t tell him I said that, though. He’ll want to take the credit for it.”
“He totally would, wouldn’t he? What a character…”
“That’s Andy Button for you.”
“You know,” said Esther, “I really wanted to ask him how he managed to lock his arm inside the trunk of his car and completely forget it was there.”
Kevin smirked. “I doubt he knows himself. He’s… Well, sure, call him ‘a character’. But he’s my friend, despite it all. Sometimes I’m not sure why.”
“Even ‘characters’ need friends. I think it’s great that you guys hang out. You’re probably a good influence on him.”
“I dunno. Maybe.”
“How did you two meet, originally?”
“At work,” said Kevin. “Sort of. We both went to work for the same boss, and ended up on a few jobs together, and it developed from there.”
“What kind of work?”
“Just, uh…” Kevin hesitated. He’d never told her about the work he occasionally did for Ian Innis. It wasn’t something he usually told anyone about, really. The kinds of things he did for Innis were, well, “under the table,” at best, and moderately criminal, at worst. Innis gave him work because he was a special. As far as Kevin knew, Innis only employed specials. And Kevin generally preferred the company of other specials. They understood him, understood the kinds of reactions he sometimes got from normals when they learned what he could do. That was one reason he’d been so thrilled to learn about Esther’s own abilities, her incredible toughness and resiliency.
But he couldn’t tell her about Innis, not yet. She might think he was some kind of hardened criminal. It wasn’t like that, but how could he explain it? Besides, he was trying to cut back. He hardly ever went on calls for Innis these days. He only tagged along when Andy pushed him to join in.
“It’s just… general labour,” said Kevin. “You know, some random construction here, a bit of landscaping there, maybe dig a ditch or two. I still do a bit of it here and there, when Andy calls me and says they need an extra body, but I prefer my job at the café.”
“Hey, speaking of cafés,” said Esther, “I was thinking…”
“We’ve never actually finished that date we started. Remember we went to Jim’s Place after you asked me out at the gym? And then I ran out halfway through because I saw my brother Caleb outside…”
“Oh, that was why you left? You never told me.”
“I probably never apologized then, either, did I? I’m sorry,” said Esther. “I don’t normally do that kind of thing, but… Well, you know what the circumstances were, and how it all played out.”
“Yeah,” said Kevin. “It’s fine, really. I’m over it.”
“Tell you what,” said Esther. “To make it up to you, why don’t I take you out to dinner?”
“Dinner?” said Kevin. Fireworks went off inside his head. If his legs hadn’t still been so sore, he would have imagined himself doing a happy little jig. As casually as he could, he said, “Sure. Why not?”