Lisa didn’t need to think about what was for dinner. Every Thursday she had a green salad with smoked salmon. Her life had settled into a comfortable routine, and dreams she’d once had of sharing her life had faded.
She shut down her computer and arranged the papers on her desk.
“Lisa, my friend and I are going out for dinner and drinks. Want to come along?” Elsa extended the same invitation almost every week.
“Not tonight. Thanks, though.”
Elsa cocked her head. “It could be fun.”
“I don’t know.” Lisa had grown accustomed to the mundane.
“Break out of your rut, and”—Elsa snapped her fingers—“everything could be different.”
“Another time.” Lisa hooked her purse on her shoulder and hurried to the door, not wanting to get caught in the next wave of traffic. She planned her commutes to the minute.
At precisely six o’clock, she pushed open her apartment door and paused. She couldn’t see the inside of her apartment. A tiny room with two other doors sat where her living room was before.
She closed the door again and check the number affixed to the wood. It was her apartment.
Shaking her head, she opened it again. The same tiny room awaited her. Lisa stepped in. Both doors had her apartment number on the frame, but one door was labeled Is, the other Could Be. She glanced from door to door. Nothing made sense. Reaching for the Is door, she glanced over, half-expecting the other to disappear as soon as she touched the knob.
The Is door creaked as she pushed it open, only a sliver. Peering through the gap, she spotted her table, her couch, her cat. What stopped her from slipping in and pretending none of the weirdness had ever happened was the mystery behind the Could Be door.
She wrung her hands, her gaze glued to the label. Summoning courage, she touched the knob and pulled in a deep breath. No strange mist appeared. No creepy music played. So, she twisted the handle, and the door swing open.
The savory scent of spices and cheese filled her senses.
“That you, love? Dinner’s in the oven.” A husky voice called from somewhere out of sight.
Excitement danced in her chest, and she tiptoed toward the voice. Peeking around the corner into the kitchen, she stifled a gasp.
A man wearing only a pair of well-fitted jeans stood in the kitchen, his bare, chiseled back inviting a stare.
She leaned back against the wall, convinced she’d gone crazy.
Footsteps drew closer. “Lisa?”
“Hey.” In a mild panic, she scanned the room searching for any hint of his name. A mechanic’s shirt draped over the chair rescued her. “Thanks for making dinner, Blake.”
He wrapped her in a hug and kissed her forehead. “It should be ready in just a few minutes.” After another quick kiss on the forehead, he stepped away and pulled wine glasses out of the cabinet. “Red okay?”
“Perfect.” Wine sounded good, too.
He motioned toward the living room. “Let’s sit.”
She followed him into the other room, lagging just enough to admire all six feet of him. “How was your day?”
“Pretty good.” He leaned close, brushing his lips on hers. Gentle and tender, the kiss deepened, begging for more.
She pulled back, trying to catch her breath. “Wow.”
He twisted the ring on her finger. “Have you given more thought to what we talked about?”
The timer sounded in the kitchen.
“Hold that thought.” He teased her with a quick peck before disappearing into the kitchen. “Why don’t you set the plates out?”
Lisa wandered into the kitchen, hoping the plates were in the same place as in her other reality. She opened the cabinet and smiled, glad some things were still the same.
Once they were seated and eating, she deliberated about whether or not to bring up the conversation. She’d been holding the thought, and the mystery was eating at her, but bringing it up felt like wandering into a field of landmines blindfolded.
“How’d work go today?” He dragged a slice of garlic bread through the red sauce on his plate.
“Same as always. You? Oh, I already asked you that.”
“Did I tell you about Mango?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Orange tabby that likes to hang out at the garage. No tags but looks fed. Anyway, we get into the shop yesterday morning, and he’s not there. Didn’t show up at all. Today, when Lando gets to work, he comes in holding the cat.”
“It’s his cat?”
“I think it is now. That cat snuck into his car and hitched a ride home. Lando was off yesterday. Said he almost kept the cat at home but worried his dogs might be too rough on the poor thing.”
“I guess the cat wanted a home.” Lisa pushed her empty plate toward the middle of the table, not quite sure how to explain that she had no idea what he’d asked. “About what we talked about—”
Blake set his fork down. “Look, I know you love this apartment, but with the baby coming, I’d like for us to get a house with a yard and—”
“A white-picket fence?” She rubbed her belly
He flashed a sappy smile. “Maybe.”
She reached for his hand, her head still spinning from walking into her dreams. “Call a realtor, so we can find a home.”
Lisa nodded. If she’d learned anything in the last hour, it was that breaking out of her comfort zone paid off. “I’m sure.”
A second later, she was in his arms, being carried down the hall. He laid her down on the crisp, cotton sheets and stretched out next to her. Goosebumps rose to meet his fingertips where he brushed her skin.
“What changed your mind?”
Lisa pulled him to her lips, tasting a happiness she’d never known. “We can talk about that tomorrow.”
“What should we do tonight?” His sultry grin could’ve melted the polar ice cap.
Cold, Lisa rolled over and snuggled next to Blake. How had she ever slept without him next to her? When birds started their incessant chirping, she hesitated before opening her eyes. Had it all been a dream?
Whiskers pressed against her shoulder. “Morning. I need a shower. Mind grabbing the paper?”
“Wait.” Lisa pushed him onto his back and slid on top of him. “I thought last night was a dream.”
He drew hearts on her back with a rough and calloused finger. “A good one, I hope.”
“The best.” She pressed a kiss to his stubble before slipping out of bed and pulling on her robe. “I’ll be right back.”
The paper had landed a few feet from the door, so she stepped into the hall, glad that she was alone. Leaving her apartment in only a robe was not something she’d ever done before. After picking up the paper, she pushed open the door and froze.
Flipping a fluffy tail, her silver tabby meowed, welcoming Lisa back to her old life.
Her taste of what could be had vanished.
Swiping at tears, Lisa ran for her phone. Did she have Elsa’s number? She scrolled through her contacts and found it. After a few deep breaths, she dialed, trying to decide what she could say without sounding absolutely crazy.
“Hey, Lisa. What’s up?”
“Do you know a guy named Blake? Is he a friend of yours or anything?”
“I don’t sorry. Are you okay?” Elsa probably thought Lisa was nuts.
“No … Yes. I’m not sure yet. Sorry to bother you.” Lisa hung up before sobs made talking impossible.
She ran back to the bedroom and threw herself on the bed. Curled into a ball, hand on her stomach, she cried for what she’d lost and for what she’d never had.
After an hour of sobbing, she forced herself out of bed. She yanked on sweats and a t-shirt before trudging into the kitchen to make coffee. When she dropped into a chair, she bumped her purse hanging on the back—in the same place Blake’s shirt had been.
Lisa pictured the pinstriped mechanic’s shirt.
She searched up a list of automotive shops and dialed. Waiting for someone to answer, she gulped her coffee.
“Acme Auto Repair. How can I help you?”
“Hi. My car’s making a funny noise. I wanted Blake to look at it.”
“We don’t have anyone named Blake working here.”
“Sorry. Wrong number.” Lisa made her way down the list, repeating the same request until the guy who answered didn’t sound confused.
“Blake’s under car right now. Can I leave him a message? Or do you just want to bring your car in? We’re open until noon on Saturdays.”
She needed to know she had the right Blake. “Um, is Lando working today?”
“Yeah. So, do you want me to leave a message for Blake or Lando?”
“Neither. I’ll just drive over. Thanks!” Lisa grabbed her keys and ran out the door. Was she crazy? Probably. Did that stop her from driving to the shop? No.
She mulled one question as she drove—what would she say to Blake?