"Well, welcome to Ypsilanti," he says as he pulls his hand from mine and puts it in his jacket pocket. "Where are you guys moving here from?"
"Texas?" I reply. I'm not sure why the tail end of my reply comes out like a question. I'm not sure why I'm even analyzing why it came out like a question. I'm not sure why I'm analyzing the reason why I'm analyzing-I'm flustered. It must be the lack of sleep I've gotten over the past three days.
"Texas, huh?" he says. He's rocking back and forth on his heels. The awkwardness intensifies as I fail to respond. He glances down at his brother and bends over, grabbing him by the ankles. "I've got to get this little guy to school," he says as he swings his brother up and over his shoulders. "There’s a cold front coming through tonight. You should try to get as much unloaded today as you can. It’s supposed to last a few days so if you guys need help unloading this afternoon, let me know. We should be home around four."
"Sure, thanks," I say as they head across the street. I'm still watching them when Kel stabs me in my lower back. I drop to my knees and clutch at my stomach, crouching forward as Kel climbs on top of me and finishes me off. I glance across the street again and see Will watching us as he shuts his brother's door then walks around to the driver's side door. He waves goodbye as he climbs inside the car.
It takes us most of the day to unload all of the boxes and furniture. Our landlord helps move the larger items that mom and I can't lift on our own. We're too tired to get to the boxes inside the jeep and agree to put it off until tomorrow. I'm a little disappointed when the U-Haul is finally empty; I no longer have an excuse to solicit Will's help.
As soon as my bed is put together, I start grabbing boxes labeled with my name on them from the hallway. I get most of them unpacked and my bed made when I notice the furniture in my bedroom casting shadows across the walls. I look out my window and the sun is setting. Either the days are a lot shorter here, or I've lost track of time.
In the kitchen, I find Mom and Kel unloading dishes into the cabinets. I climb into one of the six tall chairs at the bar, which also doubles as the dining room table due to the lack of dining room. There isn't much to this house. When you walk through the front door, there's a small entryway followed by the living room. The living room is separated from the kitchen by nothing more than a hallway to the left and a window to the right. The living room's beige carpet is edged by hard wood that leads throughout the rest of the house.
"Everything is so clean here,” my mother says as she continues putting away dishes. "I haven't seen a single insect."
Texas has more insects than blades of grass. If you aren't swatting flies, you're killing wasps.
"That's one good thing about Michigan, I guess,” I reply. I open up a box of pizza in front of me and eye the selection.
"One good thing?" she says as she winks at me. She leans across the bar, grabs a pepperoni and pops it in her mouth. "I’d think that would be at least two good things."
I pretend I’m not following.
"I saw you talking to that boy this morning," she says with a smile.
"Oh, please Mom," I reply as indifferently as I can get away with. "I'm pretty positive we'll find it no surprise that Texas isn't the only state inhabited by the male species." I walk to the refrigerator and grab a soda.
"What’s anabited?" Kel asks.
"Inhabited," I correct him. "It means to occupy, dwell, reside, populate, squat, live." My SAT prep courses are paying off.
"Oh, kinda like how we anabited Ypsilanti?" he says.
"Inhabited," I correct him again. I finish my slice of pizza and take another sip of the soda. "I'm beat, guys. I'm going to bed."
"You mean you’re going to inhabit your bedroom?" Kel says.
"You're a quick learner, young grasshopper." I bend and kiss the top of his head and retreat to my room.
It feels so good to crawl under the covers. At least my bed is familiar. I close my eyes and try to imagine that I'm in my old bedroom. My old,warm bedroom. My sheets and pillow are ice cold, so I pull the covers over my head to generate some heat. Note to self: locate the thermostat first thing in the morning.
And that's exactly what I set out to do as soon as I crawl out of bed and my bare feet meet the ice cold floor beneath them. I grab a sweater out of my closet and throw it on over my sweats and tank top while I search for socks. It’s a futile attempt. I quietly tiptoe down the hallway, trying not to wake anyone while at the same time attempting to expose the least amount of foot as possible to the coldness of the hard wood. As I pass Kel's room, I spot his Darth Vader house shoes on the floor. I sneak in and slip them on, finally finding some relief as I head into the kitchen.
I look around for the coffee pot, but don't find it. I remember packing it in the jeep, which is unfortunate since the jeep is parked outside. Outside in this absurdly cold weather.
The jackets are nowhere to be found. Septembers in Texas rarely call for jackets. I grab the keys and decide I'll just have to make a mad dash to the jeep. I open the front door and some sort of white substance is all over the yard. It takes me a second to realize what it is. Snow? In September? I bend down and scoop some up in my hands and examine it. It doesn't snow that often in Texas, but when it does it isn't this kind of snow. Texas snow is more like miniscule pieces of rock-hard hail. Michigan snow is just how I imagined real snow would be: fluffy, soft, and cold! I quickly drop the snow and dry my hands on my sweatshirt as I head toward the jeep.
I don't make it far. The second my Darth Vader house shoes meet the snow dusted concrete, I'm no longer looking at the jeep in front of me. I'm flat on my back, staring up at the clear blue sky. I immediately feel the pain in my right shoulder and realize I've landed on something hard. I reach around and pull a concrete garden gnome out from beneath me, half of his red hat broken off and shattered into pieces. He's smirking at me. I groan and raise the gnome with my good arm and pull it back, preparing to chuck the thing, when someone stops me.
"That's not a good idea!"
I immediately recognize Will’s voice. His voice is smooth and soothing like my father’s was, but at the same time had an authoritative edge to it. I sit upright and see Will walking up the driveway toward me.
"Are you okay?" he laughs.
Oh, no. I haven't even looked in the mirror this morning. I'm immediately embarrassed, but do my best to appear anything but.
"I'll feel a lot better after I bust this damn thing," I say, trying to pull myself up with no success.
"You don't want to do that, gnomes are good luck," he says as he reaches me. He takes the gnome out of my hands and gently places it on the snow covered grass.
"Yeah," I reply sarcastically as I take in the gash on my shoulder that has now formed a bright red circle on my sweater sleeve. "Real good luck."
Will stops laughing when he sees the blood on my shirt. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I wouldn't have laughed if I knew you were hurt." He bends over and takes my uninjured arm and pulls me up. "You need to get a bandage on that."
"I wouldn't have a clue where to find one at this point," I reply, referring to the mounds of unopened boxes we have yet to unpack.
"You'll have to walk with me. There’s some in our kitchen."
He removes his jacket and wraps it around my shoulders, holding onto my arm as he walks me across the street. I feel a little pathetic with him assisting me-I can walk on my own. I don't object though, and I feel hypocritical to the entire feminist movement. I've regressed to the damsel in distress.
I remove his jacket and lay it across the back of the couch as I follow him into the kitchen. It's still dark inside so I assume everyone is still asleep. His house is more spacious than ours. The open floor plans are similar but the living room seems to be a few feet larger. There's a bay window to the left of the living room with a sitting bench and large pillows.
Several family pictures hang along the wall opposite the kitchen. Most of them are of Will and his little brother with a few pictures that include his parents.
I walk over to inspect the pictures as Will looks for a bandage. They must have gotten their genes from their dad. In the most recent picture, which still looks a few years dated, his dad has his arms around the two boys and he's squeezing them together for an impromptu photo. His jet black hair is speckled with gray and a thick black moustache outlines his huge smile. His features are identical to Will's. They both have eyes that smile when they laugh, exposing perfect white teeth.
Will’s mother is breathtaking. She has long blond hair and, from the pictures at least, looks tall. I can’t pick out any facial features of hers that were passed on to her boys. Maybe Will has her personality. All of the pictures on the wall prove one big difference between our houses-this one is a home.
I walk into the kitchen and take a seat at the bar.
"It needs to be cleaned before you put the bandage on it," he says as he rolls up his shirt sleeves and turns on the faucet. He’s wearing a pale yellow button-up collared shirt that is slightly transparent under the kitchen lights, revealing the outline of his undershirt. He has broad shoulders and his sleeves are snug around the muscles in his arms. The top of his head meets the cabinet above him and I estimate from the similarities in our kitchens that he stands about six inches taller than me. I’m staring at the pattern on his black tie that’s flipped over his shoulder in an attempt to avoid getting it wet, when he turns the water off and walks back to the bar. I feel my face flush as I grab the wet napkin out of his hands, not proud of the amount of attention his physique is getting from me.
"It's fine," I say as I pull my sleeve down over my shoulder. "I can get it."
He opens a bandage as I wipe the blood off the wound. "So, what were you doing outside in your pajamas at seven o'clock in the morning?" he asks. "Are you guys still unloading?"
I shake my head and lean over and throw the napkin into the trash can. "Coffee."
"Coffee? I guess you aren't a morning person." Will says this as more of a statement than a question.
As he moves in closer to place the bandage on my shoulder, I can feel his breath on my neck. I rub my arms to hide the chills that are creeping up them. He adheres it to my shoulder and pats it.
"There. Good as new," he says.
"Thanks. And I am a morning person," I say. "After I get my coffee." I stand up and look over my shoulder, pretending to inspect the bandage as I plot my next move. I already thanked him. I could turn and walk out now, but that would seem rude after he just helped me. If I just stand here waiting on him to make more small talk, I might look stupid for not leaving. I don't understand why I'm even contemplating basic actions around him. He's just another inhabitant!
When I turn around, he's at the counter pouring a cup of coffee. He walks toward me and sets it on the counter in front of me. "You want cream or sugar?"
I shake my head. "Black is fine. Thanks," I say as I pick up the cup and take a sip.
He's leaning across the bar watching me as I drink the coffee. His eyes are the exact same hue of deep green as his mothers are from the picture. I guess he did get a feature from her.