The carton of oil for the fryer was up on a top shelf, somewhere behind the boxes of napkins and straws. She was sure of it, even though she couldn’t see it. The footstool was too short. Tall enough that she could heft a box up there when it arrived but not to see it and take it down.
She heard steps come through the door. He stopped. “I didn’t know you were back here,” he said.
She shrugged. She suddenly did not want him back there. She wanted to find the box herself and bring it down.
He looked up at the shelves where she stood. “I thought you didn’t bring up the cartons,” he said.
She bristled. Her stupid phobia. “From the basement,” she said. She felt her jaw tighten and her face prickled, flushed. “I don’t like going down in the basement.”
She turned back to the shelf. She heard him shuffling around the other side of the room, opening and closing boxes on the shelf. She wished he would leave. She didn’t want help. Hating having to be helped. She stepped up on the tip of her toes to see.
Then he was right behind her. “Can I help?” he said. “What’re you looking for?”
He was so tall. Even standing on the step she could feel that his head was above her head, his breath on her hair. His breath gently rising and then falling, in and out. Her fingers tingled.
Then she felt him reaching over, his arms stretching above her to the shelf, and the box appearing. “The oil,” he said. “We’re out.”
He swung the box out of the way so it didn’t hang over her head, so it didn’t risk dropping on it. Then he was stepping away. “Needed that,” she heard him say as he walked back toward the door. She stayed frozen, staring ahead at the shelves, her body still tingling, strangely.
“I forgot what I came in to get,” she heard him call from out in the dining room. So had she.