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“You know what,” Jay said, “I honestly am pretty hungry. If it’s no trouble, I’d love to come in.”
Mask or not, Louis was clearly being polite, and Jay could do the same. Besides, if he wanted to get to know the neighbors, it’d be better to spend a little time getting to know each one rather than running around, just barely making introductions. Even if the other neighbors went out, he could talk to them later today, or tomorrow—or whenever, really. He was going to be here a while, after all.
As for inviting the guy over right away… yeah, naw. Not until he got to know him better, at least. He did seem nice—maybe they’d hit it off. And if they did, who knew if, later on, he’d want to invite Louis over anyway.
Louis seemed to smile, eyes crinkling behind the mask, and stepped aside more fully. “Come in, then.”
Jay stepped inside, glancing around. A second impression confirmed his first; the entryway was tidy, decked out with an old console table of scraped varnished wood, decorative paintings, and a cubbyhole shoe rack with only two sets of shoes in them. He took his own shoes off, putting them inside, and heard Louis make a faint hum of approval.
“The dining room’s this way,” Louis said. He lead the way down the corridor to a heavy mahogany table under a slightly-dusty chandelier. “Please take a seat. Any food restrictions?”
“Can’t really manage milk. Cheese is the biggest problem with breakfast foods for me,” Jay said. “Is that okay?”
“I’m inventive,” Louis said. He seemed to wink. “Do get comfortable.”
Jay sat, watching as Louis headed into the kitchen, where he could only just see Louis’s back as he moved around, taking things from the fridge, fiddling around on the counter.
Louis didn’t seem inclined to talk as he worked, and after a few moments of looking around at the room—a painting on the wall of a half-clothed artist’s model, the large china cabinet on another wall—Jay cleared his throat. “Can you direct me to the bathroom?”
“Up the stairs, second door from the end,” Louis called back over his shoulder.
“Be right back.”
Jay headed back to the entrance, then up the stairs. He was being just a little nosy, he knew, taking the time that Louis was busy to look around just a little—though he supposed that Louis had done the same to him as well, if outside.
As he reached the second landing, he realized that the layout of this house was the same as his; they must have been made around the same time. So, that closed door was the office, that one would be a closet, that to the attic stairs, then the bathroom, and the bedroom.
The bedroom door was open, and he glanced into it as he headed into the bathroom. With the lights out, it was hard to see in there. What he could tell was only that the walls were painted black, and the room was dominated by an enormous bed with an intricate metal headboard.
He felt his cheeks heat a little and headed into the bathroom. It, too, had the same style: claw-foot bathtub, freestanding sink, and so on. Slightly water-stained lace curtains fell over the bathroom window; from here, he saw, he could see right his own house’s office, where he could make out the rough shape of the desk.
No wonder Louis had got curious, then, if he’d seen him working in there. Feeling a little more reassured, Jay finished up his business, washed his hands, and came back downstairs.
Louis was just carrying a platter into the dining room as he returned. “Toast and honey,” he said. “A small bowl of oats. Jam. No milk or cheese. Tea?”
“Uh, please,” Jay said. It seemed like the entirety of breakfast was going to be slightly sweet, so the tea would cut the sugar flavor. “Thanks.”
“Of course. It’s my pleasure,” Louis said. He headed back into the kitchen. “I already started the water.”
“Great.” The food did look very good, arranged neatly on the platter. Jay was getting the impression that Louis cared for his aesthetics—and, almost certainly, also his manners. Although he’d found himself suddenly starving, he folded his hands on either side of the platter, waiting for Louis to return.
When he did, carrying a cup of tea, he paused in the doorway, apparently surprised to see Jay waiting. “I’m sorry—feel free to start.”
“Uh.” The single cup of tea, the single platter… “I didn’t want to start before you. Aren’t you joining me?” Jay asked.
“I ate already,” Louis said. He put the cup down at Jay’s elbow, then went around the table, sitting. Folding his hands under his masked chin, he seemed to smile at Jay again. “So, what do you want to ask me about?”
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