Another floor-shuddering crash came from above and made up her mind for her. Leaving the sandwiches unmade, she crossed the kitchen and climbed the short flight of steps to the small landing that served as a catch-all at the foot of the stairs. With one hand on the railing, she called out again, “Jack? Brandt?”
“We’re fine!” Jack snapped, his gruff voice harried. “If some dumbass would stop dropping shit ...”
“Hey!” Brandt cried. Even though she couldn’t see them, Lori had no problems telling them apart -- his voice was higher than Jack’s and sounded much younger, though they were roughly the same age. Chalk that up to Jack’s dalliance with heavy smoking in his youth. “I know you’re not talking about me.”
Jack spat back, “Who the hell else do you think I’m talking about? Who else is up here?”
Lori hurried up the stairs, hoping to intercede before things went any farther. She loved both men, she did -- and she knew for a fact they loved each other; they’d been together for years before she even came along -- but God, could they fight! Like two kids in the schoolyard, brawling over stupid shit mostly, like which late night talk show comedian was funnier, and whose burgers were better, McDonald’s or Burger King’s?
And she couldn’t forget their earlier argument that day, over what type of backyard barbecue grill produced better food, charcoal or gas -- this while they were at Home Depot to buy the lumber and tools needed to finally turn their third bedroom into a craft room for her. They weren’t even there to buy a grill, for Christ’s sake, so the entire point was moot anyway, but no, they had to bicker about it the whole ride home.
Sometimes Lori thought the guys only chose opposing sides to be ornery. Secretly she suspected they liked fighting, for whatever reason. When she first met up with them, it had even been sort of cute. But two months of living with it day in and day out was getting old, and quick.
At the top of the stairs, she could hear them at it, their voices carrying down the hallway from the small bedroom at the end. The door was only partially shut.
“No, that doesn’t go there,” Jack said, his voice hard, commanding. “Give it to me, will you? You’re not following the plans --”
“What plans?” Brandt tossed back. “There are no plans, Jack. You’re making this up as you go along and you know it. We’re just building a few shelves. It isn’t rocket science.”
“You’re using the wrong wood,” Jack told him. “We got the two-by-fours for the shelves and the longer slats are for the sides, so put down the saw already. We’re not cutting anything yet.”
Brandt muttered darkly, “I’ll cut you.”
That earned him a sharp bark of a laugh. “Yeah, try it and I’ll break your goddamn arm. Just listen to me for once in your life, will you already? I said --”
“I heard what you said! This is your goddamn project, not mine. So you know what? Why don’t you just make the whole fucking thing yourself?”
Something clattered to the floor --Lori hoped it wasn’t the saw, jeez, Brandt knew better than to be throwing tools around, didn’t he? She headed down the hall, hoping to diffuse the situation. “Hey, guys?” she called out, keeping her voice bright and cheery. “I’m making sandwiches for lunch. If you want --”
Suddenly the door surged open and Brandt filled the doorway. He only stood a head taller than Lori did, but he had wide shoulders and a broad chest that tapered down to a narrow waist, and high, firm buttocks she and Jack loved to squeeze with both hands. His blond hair, not easily tamed under the best of circumstances, currently flew out in all directions, probably because he’d been running his hands through it all morning in frustration. His gray-green eyes flashed with anger that dimmed when he saw her, but he was too riled up at Jack to stop.
“Lori,” he said tersely with a nod, then shouldered her aside as gently as he could before he stormed off down the hall. At the end, he swiveled on one foot, holding onto the newel post for balance, and thundered down the stairs.
Two seconds later, she heard the apartment door open then slam shut as he went outside.
She toyed with the idea of running after him, but really, that wasn’t her place. It wasn’t her fault he’d gone off in a huff now, was it? Jack really should go after him ...
From the soon-to-be craft room came the sound of wooden shelves tumbling to the ground, followed by Jack cursing and kicking them out of his way. No, she’d known the two men long enough to know the likelihood of Jack going after Brandt to apologize was about the same as her suddenly getting selected to be America’s Next Top Model. Sure, she was pretty enough to look at, but she wasn’t walking down any runways in her size twelve cutoff jean shorts anytime soon.
Cautiously she placed a hand on the door frame and peered inside the room. Her chipper voice really sounded forced now. “What ‘cha doing?”