An elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Silver, lived in the other ground floor apartment, some dude I rarely saw had just moved into the apartment above me a few months back, and James, a guy who worked at the local insurance place lived in the other apartment with his girlfriend, Miriam.
My phone dinged, drawing my attention to where I’d left my cell on the arm of the couch when I got home from the bar. I saw it was a text.
I winced and almost hid behind the couch. It was from Dean and all it said was: Love to see u again.
Yikes, I suddenly felt spazzy. I didn’t even want to touch my phone.
Last week, when I brought Dean home—the guy from Olive Garden who had peach fuzz according to Melvin—things hadn’t gone as I’d hoped.
The night had ended with some kissing. Kissing in a good location, out on the small deck, under the stars, but nothing more. Probably had to do with Mr. Silver hobbling out on the deck shared with the apartment next door. The elderly man looked like he was going to beat the poor guy with his cane.
But even if we hadn’t been interrupted, nothing else was going to happen between Dean and me. He was a nice guy, if not a wee bit overcommunicative, but when I thought about him, I didn’t feel anything.
Maybe had to do with . . . God, was I going to finish the thought? That the kiss I shared with Dean was lackluster because it was nothing like when Reece had kissed me—crap! I’d finished the stupid thought.
Funny thing was, I wasn’t in the business of looking to feel anything in the first place, so in a way, Dean was safe. He was fun to hang out with and there was absolutely no chance in holy hell of my heart getting involved, but that wasn’t fair to him.
I sighed as I passed the couch, leaving my cell phone where it was. Dean was nice, but there was going to be no second date. I had to find my lady balls and tell him that, but I needed a nap before I did that. Maybe a bowl of chips and—
My stomach flopped as I came to a stop in the dining area, facing the kitchen. Movement outside of the small window above the sink caught my attention. It was quick—a flash of gray or dark brown, but it was gone too quickly for my craptastic eyesight, even with glasses, to register what I saw. When I made it to the window, I clutched the edge of the cool steel of the sink and stretched up on the tips of my toes. Peering out the window, the only thing I saw was the basket of pink flowers I’d bought from the market last week, sitting on the wrought-iron bistro set that had seen better days, petals swaying in the breeze. I thought I heard a door shut, but as I settled on my feet, I shook my head.
Now I was seeing things.
Turning around, I leaned against the sink and drew in a deep breath as I moved my neck from one side to the other. Closing down Mona’s last night meant I hadn’t gotten home until after three in the morning and I’d woken up way too early.
Woken up with that feeling in the pit of my stomach, that . . . that horrible emptiness that had no real cause behind it. Just there, making me restless and itchy in my own skin. It had lingered until I picked up the paintbrush, and I knew it would come back again.
It always did.
Pushing off the sink, I grabbed a banana from the sad fruit basket that was mostly filled with pieces of chocolate just as a knock came from the front door. One look at the clock near the fridge told me who it was.
Every Saturday, since I’d moved out when I was eighteen, four years ago, my mom and sometimes my entire family stopped by at noon. Just like every Friday I visited Charlie.
Thank God I’d closed the studio door, because the last thing I needed was anyone in my family—Mom, Dad, or my two brothers, to see paintings of Reece. They knew who he was.
Everyone knew who he was.
Unlocking the door, I threw it open to have a wave of heat smack into me and a gallon of brown liquid shoved in the general direction of my face. I stumbled back. “What the . . . ?”
“I made you sweet tea,” Mom announced, thrusting the still warm plastic container in my arms. “Figured you’d be out.”
I could make any drink at the bar known to man, but I couldn’t make sweet tea to save my life. For some reason, I couldn’t get the sugar to tea bags to water ratio correct. It was beyond me.
“Thanks.” I cuddled the jug close to my chest as Mom blew into the house like a five-foot-and-three-inch tornado with short, spiky brown hair. “It’s just you today?”
She closed the door in a whirl and adjusted her red-rimmed glasses. Not only did I get my lack of height from Mom, I also got her crappy eyesight. Yay, genetics! “Your father is golfing with your brother.”
I assumed “your brother” meant my older brother, Gordon, because my younger brother, Thomas, was going through some kind of goth stage and wouldn’t get within five miles of a golf course.
“He’s going to have a heart attack in this heat, you know? It’s absolutely ridiculous that he’s out there. Same with Gordon,” she carried on, making her way to the secondhand couch I bought when I moved into the apartment four years ago. She dropped down. “He needs to be more responsible—your brother, since he has my grandbaby on the way.”
I had no idea how playing golf in August had anything to do with his wife being three months pregnant, but I let that slide as I carried the jug to the fridge. “Want anything to drink?”
“I drank so much coffee that I’m surprised I didn’t float my way here.”
My nose wrinkled as I opened the door. Taking a startled step back, I stared into the fridge, my fingers tightening around the handle on the jug. “What the . . . ?” I muttered.
“What are you doing, honey?”
Unsettled, I stared in the fridge. On the top shelf, next to the case of soda, was the remote control to the TV. I’d never in my life ever accidentally put the remote or any other non-consumable goods in the fridge. I didn’t know anyone in real life who’d even done that, but there it was, sitting on the shelf like a tarantula perched to attack.
I glanced at the sink window, stomach tumbling as I thought of the blur of movement I’d seen outside earlier. It was nothing, and I had to be a lot more tired than I thought I was, but still it was weird—very weird.
I shook my head as I snatched the remote from what I was beginning to think was the fridge in Ghostbusters II, and put the tea in to cool.
Twisting on the couch, Mom patted the cushion next to her. “Sit with me, Roxanne. We haven’t talked in a while.”
“We talked on the phone yesterday,” I reminded her as I closed the door and brought the remote back to where it needed to stay, on the coffee table, like a good little remote.