The Chicago winter makes her new apartment look much like her old one, small and grey and cold. She doesn’t know why she’d even entertained the idea that new would be different, or better. It’s all the same in one way or another and it’s been harder lately not to hate just about everything.
She’s been having dreams about the past too. She never used to do that, before she moved here, anyway. She supposes that’s different, at least. She’s not going to think about them though. Dreams don’t matter and nightmares are hyperbole. It’s all in her head and her head she can control.
It’s her body she’s having a harder time with.
He likes his place in the winter time. In his old apartment, when he was in law school, he and his dick roommate would have to put plastic on the windows, literally barricade themselves in from the cold. Here, he can see outside when the temperatures drop. He can see the snow falling. He can hear the wind and not have to feel it.
The State’s Attorney’s office doesn’t pay him as much as he’d like, but it does pay for that much comfort. The rest he can get from his parents out of garnered sympathy. They like to think he has it rough, working a government job. He likes to let them think so.
His place is full of warm tones and he likes the contrast with the cold, gray outside. It makes him feel more at home than he has anywhere else. But it doesn’t stop the loneliness from creeping in.
And it doesn’t stop him from thinking about her on the nights that seem especially cold.
She never brings anyone to her place. She’s not even really sure why she sent those change of address cards, because she doesn’t actually want anyone to come over. She feels like her surroundings, the ones she lives in, echo back around her somehow and would expose her if anyone ever saw them.
She could never risk that. So, she lives in her place, her cold, gray rooms, and keeps them as neutral, as unidentifiable as possible, in case anyone ever does decide to come. Not that she would let them in, anyway.
Sometimes she thinks about what pictures she would hang on the walls. She thinks about it for hours. Just so she doesn’t have to think about him, when he was downstairs.
She could have invited him up.
He asks Sofia up to his place once, after after-work drinks. But, somehow, she doesn’t fit there. She’s a fierce presence, a bold one, but she’s icy, too. Her color doesn’t compliment the warmth of his orangey sofa and his wooden floors. Her flashing blue eyes skip over the red and brown throw pillows, the photographs he took and had framed of his hiking trip through the southwest. She sees it as a curiosity, not for what it really is.
He realizes, as she turns back to him and takes the Irish coffee from his hand, that he’s only interested because of Kalinda and it’s probably the same for her, definitely the same for her. So, he smiles and lets her finish her night-cap. He tells her he’s beat, has court in the morning, which is true, and lets her take the hint. She’s kind about it and he likes that a lot. They don’t talk about it again.
It’s like he left the window open and she just blew in like snow flurries, immaterial, melting to nothing. But every time he sees Sofia, he thinks about Kalinda.
He cuts through the crowd after court is adjourned to grab her arm as she’s walking through the doorway. She lets him steer her off to the side, but she shakes him off as soon as they halt by one of the benches. He knows this won’t be easy. It never is with her.
“I don’t see you enough,” he says, tilting his head, just so, to speak near her ear. “When can I see you?”
“You can’t,” she answers, hard and cold, but she likes that he doesn’t pussyfoot it. She’s always liked his directness. “You see me when you see me.”
She knows he’s watching her as she walks away. He knows she won’t look back.
She hadn’t been sure before, but she’s certain he’s been following her when she finds a note attached to her mailbox, just inside her building. It’s scrawled on a receipt for a sushi lunch special from a restaurant next to the court house and reads, I see you. She’s rather impressed. He’s better at it than she would have given him credit for.
She goes to his place when she knows he’s at work. She breaks the lock, but not the deadbolt. She doesn’t need to go in or take anything He’ll know she was there when he sees it.
She’s trying to rustle up some leads from Sofia when he pulls her into his office the next week. He looks like he’s trying not to look pissed. She smiles, her small, victorious smile.
“You owe me a new lock,” he says quietly, looking straight into her eyes, knowing she thinks she’s winning.
He loves it when she’s being contrary, but he doesn’t let himself show it as she evades, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He realizes, has realized, that she thinks he’ll quit before things get risky for her. She thinks he’s a rich kid with too much time and an over-inflated ego, an only-child who’s never had anyone say no to him. She’s thinking like he wasn’t the one who lost to Alicia, like he hasn’t been working in the SA’s office where you have to take the legs out from under a colleague before you can get a worthwhile case.
His Grandmother Laura, who worked in the shipping yards during the war and played poker for thirty years with her husband’s friends, used to call him a scrapper. Matan once called him a pure-bred pit bull, because he bore down hard and he wouldn’t let go until he had the kill.
He crosses his arms over his chest and leans against the door, blocking her exit. “I hope I’m not giving you the impression that we’re going to continue to dance around each other like this forever. I’ll play your game, Kalinda, but sooner or later it will end.”
She’d thought he’d push on for a quickie after spouting his cliched threat, finally make a move, but he’s just looking at her. There’s something in his eyes that she isn’t sure about. He moves aside, suddenly, so she can leave if she wants to. He‘s surprised her again.
She works her jaw in annoyance before she realizes it and stops. She doesn’t like this at all, but she’s not sure she wants to go just yet.
He smiles and she hates that he thinks he knows her so well, that he can push her buttons. She walks towards him, leading with her hand and pressing her palm against his crotch. She pushes back on his shoulder with her other hand, bracing him against the door, but without any real force.
He feels her hands on him and hears himself release a shuddering gasp. His head bumps against the door and he slides it down, tipping back his chin and closing his eyes involuntarily. She cups her hand around him. He’s lost all train of thought.
“Maybe we’ll have to change the rules then, Cary,” she says. She likes this face on him, his mouth open, just slightly with baited breath. It’s almost a surrender. She feels him hardening and she lets her hand waver, brush back and forth across the fabric of his pants.
“Jesus, Kalinda,” he says and she feels him gather himself to react, to do something more. His eyes slit open and he’s looking at her like she’s the most beautiful and dangerous thing he’s ever seen.
She lets him go, taking a slow breath. He takes a few more, relaxing back against the door. He leans his hand on the knob.
The look on her face tells him he doesn’t need to push anymore today. He swings the door open and walks causally back to his desk. He’s turned on as all hell, but he’s not going to let it fluster him.
Kalinda doesn’t turn back, but before she takes a step out the door, he says, “The rules have changed, then.”
She works her jaw again and walks out.
The next day he sends her flowers. It’s not roses, thank god, but an arrangement of red orchids and purple calla lilies in an expensive looking crystal vase. Attached to the vase is a small note card that reads, I’m not playing by your rules anymore.