“You gonna tell me my name?” Michael was crouched in front of the oven, looking as if he was about to attack the turkey with the baster.
“Your name?” Liza stared at the unfrosted cake, waiting for inspiration to strike.
“Yeah, this morning you said to ask you what you nicknamed me,” he said, closing the oven door and leaned against the counter. There was an amused look on his face.
“Oh. Mick. I nicknamed you Mick.” Liza smiled. “You know, Burgess Meredith’s character from the Rocky movies.”
Michael let out a laugh that sounded like it was part cough. “Jesus Christ! Burgess Meredith!” He crouched back down to look at his reflection in the oven door. “Yeah, alright.” He stood up and rubbed a hand over his face. “I guess living outside does that to you. Ya know, when I was young, I looked more like Drago.”
Liza stifled a laugh. He wasn’t kidding. Hmm… Michael had fair skin and light eyes. He’d probably been blond. There was the big square jaw like Dolph Lundgren. He would be a decent height if he wasn’t so stooped. She could kind of see it. Liza tried to imagine what Bruce would look like in ten years if he continued to live this way. “Michael, can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” A little cigar appeared in his mouth. He lit it on the stove.
“Homeless people…do some of them want to live that way? I mean, I know it sounds like a stupid question, but Bruce… I guess what I’m asking is, if someone offered them a place to live, would most of them take it?”
“You’re askin’ if I think Bruce would move in here with you,” said Michael.
Liza nodded. “And you.”
“Me?” Surprise registered on his face, then suspicion. “Why would you want me here?”
Liza shrugged. “Why not? I like you, you’re Bruce’s friend, and I have the space.”
“This wouldn’t bother you?” He puffed hard on the little cigar, creating a grey cloud around his head. “Or this?” He slid the bottle of Bird Dog out from behind the mixer. “Or, how about this?” He smiled wide, showcasing his single tooth.
“No, but it would bother me if you died alone in some alleyway while I lived in a house with empty bedrooms,” said Liza
Michael stared at her. He walked over and whacked her on the back, softer than he had earlier. “I’d…think about it. You have to ask Bruce yourself. I’m not tellin’ you anything you don’t already know by pointing out that he makes enough at his job to buy a place to live if he wanted.” Liza nodded. Michael looked like he was thinking. “Ask ‘em. Make sure he knows that you want him to stay. Make sure he knows how you feel about him.” Michael gave her a wide-eyed, pointed look.
Liza ran her hand over the pocket that held Bruce’s note. She felt guilty for leaving him hanging. He deserved it, but still. Didn’t everyone fear not having a declaration of love met with an immediate reciprocal response? Liza cringed at the thought of telling him that she loved him. Romance novels were a secret pleasure of hers since she was a teenager, but she was no good at real life romance. Public displays of affection, sappy greeting cards, weddings, and all things Valentine’s Day weirded her out. So how was she going to do this? She twirled the frosting knife between her fingers as she stared down at the cake. Maybe she would take a page from Bruce’s book, you know, figuratively this time.