Book 1: The Roommate
The incessant chiming of the doorbell drags me from the fourth hour of staring blankly at my computer screen waiting for inspiration to grab me on what to write my dissertation on.
“All right, all right! Jeez.”
My already deep voice is even more gravelly from the coffee and cigarettes I’d consumed while bathing in the neon glow of my Acer laptop, and I scowl at the person who is now knocking a little tune on the other side of my door.
My growl freezes the cute little girl standing on my doorstep, her hand still raised mid-knock. Her doe eyes are a clear blue, framed by heavy lashes and some kind of sparkly eye shadow, and her pouty lips are open in surprise as she scans me up and down.
At six feet four I tower over her, and teamed with my long hair, scowling face, and all-black outfit, I guess I do strike a scary sight.
“Um…” The girl visibly shakes her head, trying to gather her thoughts, and I try my hardest to school my face into a less intimidating expression unsuccessfully. “You were, um, loo-looking for a roommate?”
I realize she’s holding out the ad I’d posted in the college paper.
“I also posted my phone number,” I snarl, “so that people wouldn’t just rock up. In fact, how did you even know the address?”
She has the good grace to blush under my glare. “I’ve seen you on campus and recognized your name on the advertisement. It didn’t take long to find someone who knew where you lived.”
She shrugs, flashing me a shy smile. “Plus, when I tried calling the number it went straight to voicemail, and I really really need a place to stay, like, tomorrow.” She giggles a little.
I slide my phone out of my back pocket and look down at it only to find the stupid thing is completely dead. Guess I flaked on charging it the last few days. It’s not like I get a lot of correspondence, so I hadn’t even noticed.
“Fuck it,” I sigh, stepping out of the doorway. “I’ll show you around.”
“Great!” She rocks forward onto her tiptoes and claps a little. I roll my eyes as I turn away from her; I hate the false bubbly persona girls seem to have adopted nowadays. “The house is so pretty.”
I try to stifle the moan which rumbles from my chest. The house is the same as every other on this block—a single-story midcentury house, with terracotta-color stucco and a large stone chimney breast which dominates the front wall.
I guess the rose bushes my brother had planted down the side of the path does make it stand out a little from my neighbors.
“Kitchen. Living room. This would be your room. Shared bathroom.”
I point out all the rooms as I quickly walk her through the house, ignoring her excited oohs and aahs. “You can decorate your room however you want. There are two shelves clear for you in the bathroom cabinet and two cupboards in the kitchen for your shit.”
“So, I’ve got the room?! Oh my gosh! That’s so amazing!”
She spins around on the spot in the middle of the empty room, her eyes looking like they could fall out of her head they are so wide open. “I thought I’d need to go through, like, an interview or something.”
I shake my head, scowling at her again. If more people had shown interest in the room, I might have been bothered enough to ask questions and shit, but she was the only person to respond, and I really just don’t want to have to think about the problem of having to pay the full rent on my own anymore.
“All I need is first and last months’ rent as deposit.”
“Okay, yeah, no problemo!” She grins at me. “Is it cool if I move my stuff in tonight?”
I shrug, really not giving a shit, getting anxious to get back to my computer.
“Oh, and by the way, my name’s Elizabeth. Or Liz. Or Lizzy. Or Beth.”
She giggles, holding her hand out. I stare blankly at it for a second before grasping it with a firm single shake.
She giggles again, and I start to wonder if it’s an annoying habit and whether I can actually live with someone who makes such an annoying sound after every sentence they speak. “I knew that already, silly!”
“From the ad, yeah.” I scowl deeper. Idiot.
“Well, yeah, but like I said, I’ve seen you around campus too. I mean, look at you, you’re kinda hard not to notice!”
I’m so over this conversation now. I start to walk back to the living room, where my laptop and my notes are spread out over the sectional which dominates the small room. I realize as I get to the doorway that I hadn’t given her a door key and turn back around.
“Omph!” Her little body rebounds off my chest and she lands on her butt. Hard. The loud bump makes me wince slightly, and I notice that tears spring to her eyes.
“Fuck! I didn’t even hear you.” I offer her my hand, which she accepts with a watery smile.
“My daddy always said I’d make an excellent cat burglar. Light on my feet.” She gives a slightly apologetic shrug.
“Maybe we’ll put a bell on you.” Her peal of laughter makes me wince again, but I feel a little better that the tears seem to have gone. “You good?”
“Yeah.” She rolls her eyes with a self-deprecating smile. “I’ll be fine. I’ve got lots of padding back there anyway!” She snorts as she slaps her ass. “Well, I guess I’ll go get my stuff!”
I glance at the time on the bottom corner of my laptop and balk slightly when I realize it’s 1 a.m.
Dragging a hand down my face, I yawn and try and stretch out the kink in my neck, scanning over the introduction I’d finally managed to get down.
Five hundred words down, only another ten thousand to go.
I’d been aware of Elizabeth coming and going all evening; her cheery voice and equally cheery music had drifted around the house until a couple of hours ago.
As I’m shutting down the house, ready to go to bed, I hear a crash from the bathroom, followed by some very girly swearing.