1.5 Your place or mine?
This chapter is Rated R for adult language.
After the blowout with Zoe, It hit me like a bolt out of the blue that I needed a new place to live if I was ever going to have any sort of semblance of a normal life. The very next day I began looking for an apartment that I could afford. I quickly found out that city living wasn’t something one could afford while working at a bookstore for minimum wage unless you didn’t mind cockroaches and mice for house guests…
“So what do you think?” The realtor asked me once we stepped inside the apartment, the last apartment on our list. I had nixed the other ones, they were just too expensive. I was beginning to think I would be living on the streets in a cardboard box before the week was up.
I looked around the small living room, taking in the ugly orange threadbare carpet. Orange? Was the previous tenant color blind? Not to mention the totally 70’s style wallpaper in the kitchen. And what was that smell? I had the urge to kick one of the empty beer bottles left from the previous tenant, and walk out, but I swallowed my pride and thought of living with Zoe. I’d rather live with a cockroach, I thought sourly as I stared at the hideous chipped walls that could have been yellow, or a dirty aged beige, who could be sure anymore?
“I know this isn’t what you expected. I’ll be honest with you. The guy who lived here was a bit of a slob, and really let the place go, but honestly, with your um…budget, this is as good as it gets.” The realtor said, looking out-of-place in the shabby apartment, with her nice tweed suit and sensible heels.
If this is as good as it gets, I’m in a lot of trouble, I thought staring around the room with a look of disgust, feeling very sorry for myself. I thought about the house I shared with Zoe, and even though we couldn’t stand each other, and it was on the small side, at least it was clean and rodent free.
I tried to keep the disappointment out of my eyes and swallowed back the pity I felt for myself. This truly was the end of the line for me, but was this better than living with Zoe? I thought for a moment, quickly weighing in the pro’s and con’s. Yes, it was worth it, if nothing for having my privacy again, and not to have to listen to the sounds of Zoe having sex every night. She was a screamer. Sometimes I thought she did it on purpose.
“Can I see the bedroom?” I asked finally, my eyes downcast.
The realtor’s eyes brightened, sensing my desperation for a new place to live. She reminded me of a shark, sensing blood in the water and was moving in for the kill. “absolutely. You’re going to love it. Right this way.”
More ugly walls, and the same orange carpet awaited me in the bedroom, but at least it wasn’t littered with beer bottles. I had to be thankful for the little things.
The realtor faced me with a big grin standing next to the window. “You really can’t beat this view.” She said smiling a big fake smile, her bright white teeth flashed in the sunlight that streamed in through the window.
It was a view, but I wouldn’t call it a great view. All I could think about was getting dressed every morning in front of these windows. Plus this wasn’t exactly the nice part of town, which reminded me of my disastrous night undercover with the hookers, and the look of complete shock and horror on Riley’s face.
“Yeah, great view.” I said finally, my voice sounded very flat. Emotionless.
If I craned my neck, I could see the warehouse the prostitutes gathered every night, in search of their next target. Hey, I thought a little giddily. Maybe you’ll be able to see dear old mom working her corner from here! I let out a bitter little laugh. After all, gotta be happy about the little things, I reminded myself, wanting to cry.
“I’ll take it.” I said finally, my voice devoid of all emotion.
The realtor sighed in relief. I could only imagine she was happy to unload this place off on anyone. “With a little TLC this place could really be homey.” She smiled that megawatt smile at me again.
“I think it’s going to need a little bit more than TLC.” I mumbled, under my breath.
“Well let’s go do the paperwork.” The realtor said quickly, probably so I wouldn’t change my mind.
I followed her down the tiny hall. “Is that the bathroom?” I asked as we passed a door.
“I wouldn’t go in there!” She warned me sharply, looking panic-stricken. Wonderful.
I followed her out to the kitchen, and signed the papers, instantly having regrets. Even though this place was a complete dump, it was still expensive, and I was really going to have to start picking up more shifts, just so I could afford to keep the lights on over my head.
After I signed my name on the line, she handed me a pair of keys, and with that she disappeared, her relief was evident, all that lingered was the smell of expensive perfume.
I threw myself onto the ugly couch left over from the previous tenant and sighed. I had a lot of work to do to make this dump livable. I looked down at the beer bottles, and the trash that littered the carpet, then into the kitchen with the old fridge that probably didn’t work anymore, not to mention the broken leaky sink. I really admired the use of the newspaper rug to sop up the water that leaked from the pipe. It was a nice touch. I laughed bitterly and rubbed my eyes….I had a lot of work to do, and if I was going to be able to sleep here tonight, I’d better get started now….
A whole week later, my little shabby apartment was now livable. Gone were the ugly yellow walls, with a new layer of wallpaper to cover up the ugly chipped walls. I had never applied wallpaper before, and I was amazed at the amount of work I had been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. If you looked closely you could see the flaws, I was in no way a professional, but it was much better than it had been. I also applied new carpeting, found at a discount carpet store because of the flaws in the manufacturing. I didn’t care. It was better than burnt orange, and didn’t have cigarette burn holes in it.
The furniture was nothing fancy, and was pretty beat up if you looked close enough, but I was living on a tight budget, considering I was only making minimum wage at the bookstore, and blowing through my college money quickly. I had hit up garage sales, and second-hand stores. I had discovered the act of bartering, and was amazed how quickly I could talk people down on the price of furniture they didn’t no longer need. Most people were happy to just get rid of the stuff.
I looked around my tiny apartment. It wasn’t much, but it was now mine, and I was proud of what I was able to accomplish. And best of all, I was now free of Zoe. If only the rest of my crappy problems would start working themselves out as easily.
Speaking of Zoe, I still had to swing by her house to pick up the last of my stuff. Something I wasn’t looking forward too. Once she found out I was moving she went from being a bitch, to being a mega bitch, and it was clear that any friendly feelings Zoe may have had for me in the past, were long gone.
As I walked out of my apartment and into the elevator that thumped and hummed so loudly I worried it would get stuck in between floors, I realized I just didn’t care. Once I had collected the last of my pitiful few belongings, I would never have to see Zoe Conner’s again.
I smiled as I exited the dark lobby and out into the bright midday sunshine. It was a beautiful day and filled me with hope that things were going to start getting better. First things first, fix things with Riley no matter what I had to do. I hated the thought of him thinking I was a prostitute and a liar, even if he hated me after this, at least he would know the truth. I had to hope he was able to forgive. I should have been honest with him from the beginning and told him the story from the start.
Once the cab dropped me off, I looked up at the house, seeing a strange SUV in the driveway. definitely not Zoe’s beat up station wagon. Great, she had company, maybe it would keep her busy long enough to let me gather my things and get the hell out as fast as I could without incident.
As I pushed open the door I felt the blood drain from my face, and my stomach slam down into my shoes. Riley. What was he doing here? My heart began to race, and my palms started to sweat. I wiped them on my khakis. My tongue felt glued to the roof of my mouth, and for a few agonizing seconds, I was unable to form words. Was he looking for me?
“What are you doing here?” I squeaked pitifully, my voice sounded so small. I frowned at Zoe. Was that one of my dresses? I took in her outfit, down to the shoes on her feet, the outfit did indeed belong to me. Revenge for stealing her clothes, or did she want to look nice for Riley?
“I came to talk. Zoe was kind of enough to fill me in with what’s been going on with you.” Riley said as Zoe looked on smugly.
“Oh I just bet she has.” I spit out feeling my eyes flash angrily. “Zoe’s a cunt.” I swore, instantly feeling my face flush hot. I’d never used that word before, and by the look on Riley’s face, I could see he wasn’t impressed with my vocabulary. I felt my eyes burn with angry tears. “Riley, Zoe lies.” I begged searching his eyes desperately.
“Madeline, you’re the one who has been lying.” Zoe said quietly from the couch, her hands in her lap. She spoke softly, and didn’t even sound like herself. What a fake, I thought wanting to scream.
“What the hell are you doing in my clothes!” I yelled turning my anger on Zoe who smiled at me smugly when Riley looked away.
“What do you mean your clothes?” Zoe looked puzzled looking down at my dress. And the award for best dramatic performance goes too….I thought amazed at her talent for lying. “Madeline, I don’t know what you are talking about. You need help.” Zoe looked up at me, her big grey eyes soft and limpid. Riley fell for it, hook line and sinker.
“Madeline, Zoe isn’t the problem, she cares about you and wants to help. Let us help you.” Riley said. I closed my eyes and counted to 10, letting out my breath in one big whoosh. This sounded like a bad after school special, only I couldn’t change the channel.
“The only one who is going to need help is Zoe, when I kick her ass.” I yelled. “Riley, listen to me, she’s lying. Remember when you found me passed out in the bathroom, at the club. Zoe was the one who left me there. The other night, when you found me on the street corner, those were Zoe’s clothes. I only wore them because I needed information.” I began my eyes pleading for him to believe me.
“I told him everything Maddy.” Zoe butted in, sniffing away a few fake tears that glimmered in her eyes. I think you missed your calling Zoe, I thought. You should have been an actress. “I didn’t want to betray your trust, but he was so worried about you and came looking for you here knowing that their had to be some explanation. I told him about your mother, and how finding out she was a prostitute made you go a little crazy.” She buried her head in her hands and started to cry.
“Riley she’s lying!” I threw up my hands amazed that such a smart caring guy could fall for such a load of bullshit.
“Madeline, its only understandable that finding out something like that about your own mother could cause you to follow in her footsteps. I wouldn’t have believed it at all, if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.”
“We just want to help you Madeline…” Zoe cried from the couch.
“It’s true, my mother is a hooker, I admit that. It’s not something I told you because I didn’t want you to think bad of me. I did dress up, and head down to the docks. I did that so I could get information and find my mother, not because I was hooking myself. Not to mention, what the hell were you doing down there anyways Riley?”
“I volunteer down at the youth shelter, and I thought I recognized you so I followed you.”
He’s a saint. I thought sadly, volunteers his time, just wonderful. Madeline your crazy idea really blew up in your face big time, I thought.
Riley looked at Zoe like he didn’t know what to believe anymore.
I watched as Zoe’s bottom lip began to tremble, and her eye’s filled with tears. He took the bait. “Madeline, your friend is clearly upset and wants to help.”
My head began to pound. I rubbed my forehead and leaned against the wall suddenly feeling very ill. Clearly he believed Zoe, and nothing I was going to say was going to change that fact.
Riley stood up, and touched me on the shoulder. “I’m here for you if you need to talk, so is Zoe. She’s a good friend, and is very hurt that you are moving out. She’s worried about you.”
I closed my eyes tiredly. “I doubt that.” I said softly, more to myself, my voice barely above a whisper.
I looked back and forth between Zoe’s earnest face, and Riley’s sad expression. I had to get out of here. I burst into tears and spun on my heel and left on foot, not bothering to call a cab. I didn’t care if I ever returned to get the rest of my things. From what it looked like, she had claimed my stuff as hers anyways, and it seemed as though Riley was a gullible sucker who would fall for a few tears and a bullshit act. Fuck him, I thought as the tears streamed down my face.
I passed a bar. It looked like the last place on earth I’d be caught dead in, but suddenly I was dying for a drink. I just wanted to forget my problems. Look how well that turned out last time, I thought standing outside the door.
The place looked dead, with only two cars in the parking lot, but then again, it was only the afternoon. Before I could talk myself out of it, I pushed open the door and hurried inside.
I didn’t even look at the bar tender as I sat down at the bar. “A beer.” I said as he approached. I chugged it down, gagging on the taste, but it was cold, and I was thirsty, and I just didn’t give a shit. “Another.” I barked out my order. I tossed that back just as quickly.
Before I knew it, the counter was cluttered with empty beer bottles and my head was starting to swim with thoughts I didn’t care to indulge. I put my head in my hands and stared down at the ugly brown counter top. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a dark-haired guy approaching me.
“Can I buy you a drink?” He asked, his voice was rough and gravely, and kind of sexy, I had to admit to myself. I briefly looked up, then back down at my empty bottle.
“I’ve already had one to many.” I started to laugh, slurring my words a little.
He laughed, a rich sound that felt sent shivers down my spine. “Care for a little bit of company then?”
I looked up, and focused on his handsome face, intense dark eyes under thick brows, and in bad need of a shave. He was definitely hot, but looked like trouble, and I needed more trouble like I needed a hole in the head.
I shifted on my bar stool, and stumbled, he touched my shoulder, his palms were hot on my skin, and I shivered again, this time with desire. What was wrong with me?
“Do you want to get out of here?” He asked leaning close, he smelled of spicy cologne, and a little bit of beer that was on his breath. Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to feel his tongue in my mouth, to taste him to see if he tasted as good as he smelled.
This is a bad idea Madeline, my inner voice whispered. But I was beyond caring.
“Yes, let’s get out of here. Your place or mine?” I whispered as his hot hand closed around my upper forearm, and we walked toward the entrance.
“Yours.” He whispered, his breath tickling my ears as he leaned so close. He licked my ear lobe, and I about melted on the spot.
I closed my eyes and pictured Riley’s face, his golden eyes and warm smile, it was quickly replaced by an image of the complete look of disgust he gave me when he saw me on the streets. He believed Zoe over you, I thought sadly. Fuck Riley.