“Is that all of it?” My mom asked from the entrance of our new apartment building.
“Almost, just a few more,” My step dad, Tom, replied from behind the mini-van. He leaned in through the back door, examining the remaining pile of cardboard boxes.
“Let’s see…dish towels,” He said, reading the side of the box, “Tammy, you can carry this one.”
He handed the box to my little sister; since it was one of the few things she was capable of lifting.
“Silverware….dishes…” he mumbled, grabbing two more boxes, “And…it looks like the rest is Travis’ stuff.”
He turned to look at me condescendingly.
“You can grab the rest, right bud?” He said, and without waiting for a respond, made his way towards the apartment where my mom held the door open for him and Tammy.
“Yeah, sure, no problem,” I said to the back of the van, “Because God forbid anyone help me with my boxes after I just carried theirs up 8 flights of stairs."
It would be my luck that the day we moved in, the elevator was broken. However, as of today, my step dad Tom was the new Head Maintenance Worker for this building, meaning it would be HIS job to fix the elevator, or anything else that might happen to break. His employment here was the only reason we were able to afford living in a 3 bedroom apartment in the first place, since his new position came with a few cool perks, like free parking and discounted rent. Which made me ridiculously happy since now, for the first time in 6 years, I would have my own bedroom.
I grabbed as many boxes as I could (which only happened to be two) and began my journey back up the stairs. Just as I was about to reach the 4th floor, I tripped over a bunched up piece of carpet and slid down, landing on one knee, barely catching myself by grabbing into the railing, as my boxes toppled over my shoulder, falling down the stairs, opening up and spilling my clothes as they fell.
“Fuck me!” I cursed, throwing my head back dramatically. I sighed as my made my way back down the stairs, picking up my clothes as I went. I reached the third floor, where most of my clothes had landed and began throwing them back in the box, when someone opened their apartment door. I didn’t bother looking up until they spoke.
“You need some help?” He asked from the doorway.
“Yeah, actually, that would-“
I stopped speaking as soon as I looked up at him. He was about 5’8, jet black hair, wearing a black jeans and a white t-shirt, which allowed me to see the multitude of tattoos he was covered it. He was cute, but menacing looking, like the kind of guy who might help an old lady cross the street right before stealing her purse.
He closed the door of his apartment and bent over to pick up some of my clothes.
“Did you fall or did your foot get caught on that bull shit piece of carpet up there?” he asked.
“Carpet," I sighed.
“If I had a dollar for every time I tripped over that fucking thing, I could afford to move into a nicer apartment,” he joked, “You really picked a great day to move in, too, that elevator’s been broken for a month.”
“I noticed,” I said, throwing the last of my clothes into the box and folding the flaps shut.
“You know,” He said, picking up the other box, “Most people tape the tops of their boxes shut so that things like this don’t happen.”
“I’ll remember that for the future,” I replied, reaching my hand out to take the other box.
“No, that’s cool, I’ll carry it,” He said, swatting my hand away, “You just need be careful going up those stairs this time.”
I was in no position to deny help, so I agreed. As we reached the top of the stairs, carefully stepping over the tangled mess of carpet that I previously tripped over, he asked,
“What floor are we taking these to?”
“The eighth,” I replied.
“Shit,” he sighed
“You don’t have to keep carrying it…” I tried to tell him.
“No, that’s fine, I’ve made a commitment to this box and I intend to honor it,” He said, continuing up the stairs. We walked up to the fifth floor in silence.
“I’m Noah, b y the way,” he said finally.
“Travis,” I replied, as we made our way up the stairs.
“How old are you, Travis?” He asked.
“18 years , 1 month and 8 days old,” I replied.
“Oh!” he chirped, sounding half excited and half surprised.
“You?” I questioned.
“22 years and an undetermined number of days old,” he answered.
“Cool,” I said.
By the time we finally reached the eighth floor I was sweating through my tennis shirt. Noah set the boxes down outside the door, not a drop of sweat on him, then looked at me and asked,
“How many we got left?”
I stared back at him, panting.
“How many more boxes are there?” He stated calmly.
“Oh…” I exhaled, “Um…five, but…”
“Okay, let’s go,” He said quickly, walking right back down stairs.
I stood there for a moment, catching my breath and trying to figure out if this guy was:
A) Being really nice because he thought I was cute
B) Just a genuinely nice guy who was really friendly to everyone
C) A serial killer
Inhaled deeply and hoped it wasn't C as I descended the staircase, nearly killing myself once more on that mother fucking ball of fabric.
We kept making small talk as we made the trip.
I told him I’d be starting school next week and he replied that he hadn’t been to school in “a really long time”. I asked him what his job was and replied that his career was “inconsistently, undecidedly, here and there”, whatever the hell that meant. I asked him about his family and he gave me the exact same response. He asked me to guess what ethnicity I thought he was and after multiple failed attempts, he divulged that his father was from France and his mother was from Spain, which as far as he knew, was where she still resided. He said his parents divorced when he was 6 and he moved with his dad to the U.S, then to Canada.
“How did we even get on this topic?” he said finally.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged as we reached my floor. As we did, I felt kind of sad. I liked talking to Noah. Hearing about him talk about his life so unabashedly made me feel good for some reason. It was like he trusted me or something.
“Hey, thanks a lot, eh,” I said, placing my boxes on top of the others.
“Don’t mention it,” he said with a smile.
“Travis?” I heard my mom say from inside the apartment door.
“Yes?” I called back. She opened the door and her eyes definitely widened when she saw Noah, but her face soften just as quickly and she stepped outside to join us.
“Hello!” she chirped enthusiastically, “Are you our new neighbour?”
“Yes ma’am, welcome to the building, I’m Noah Loveless,” He said, extending his hand. I looked at him, unable to hide my grin.
“That’s your last name?” I scoffed. He stared daggers back at me.
“Travis, hush, it’s a fine name. I’m Tiffany Rhodes-Charles . So what are you two doing out here?” She asked.
“I was just helping your brother bring his stuff up,” Noah replied smoothly. My mom’s jaw could have broken through into the basement if she didn’t clasp both of her hands over her mouth, before a stream of giggles spilled out.
“Oh my gosh,” she said, fanning her blushing cheeks, “I am actually Travis’ mother, dear. But you’re not the first person to make that mistake.”
“Oh, my bad,” Noah grinned.
“Hey, did the pizza guy come yet?” My mom asked me.
“Do you see a pizza in my hands?” I answered.
“Don’t be a wise guy!” she said, swatting my elbow, “Hey, Noah, why don’t you stay for dinner?”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t…”
“Of course you can! Don’t be silly,” my mom insisted, picking up one of my boxes, “Bring the rest of that stuff inside, you can start un-packing while we wait for the food.”
Noah looked at me and shrugged.
“I guess I’m staying for dinner,” he said, bending down to pick up the boxes again, “Your mom seems really nice.”
“Don’t you mean my sister?” I said sarcastically, picking up two boxes of my own. Noah chuckles as we enter my new apartment.
“Older women love it when you say things like that,” he says as we walk through my living room. Thankfully, Tom was doing something in the kitchen and didn’t see us come in. I was slightly nervous about what his reaction to Noah would be, considered how narrow minded and judgemental he could be, especially towards people with tattoos. We loaded the boxes into my nearly empty bedroom, which consisted of a book shelf, a mattress and the pieces required to assemble my bed. Even though our living room furniture had been delivered, we’d have to wait until tomorrow for the moving truck to bring in my dresser and night stand, along with most of the furniture for Tammy and my mom’s rooms.
“You wanna start putting these away?” I asked, pushing a box labeled ‘Books’ towards him with my foot.
“Yeah, no problem,” he said, bending over and un-folding the cardboard flaps, “Wait…I’m not gonna find anything embarrassing in here, am I?”
“No, of course not. All of my double ended, black, vibrating dildos are in THAT box,” I said, gesturing to a box of clothes.
“Oh, thank god,” he said, relieved.
He shelved my books in record time, and then turned around to look at my bed.
“We should put that together,” he said, pointing to the bed frame, “I could probably knock that out in like, 30 minutes.”
“Oh, um…that’s okay,” I said, putting some of my dvd’s on a shelf above my books, “My step-dad said he would put it together tomorrow.”
“And what about tonight? He just expects you to sleep on a mattress on the floor?” Noah scoffed.
“I mean…yeah,” I shrugged.
“Not happening. I’ll put it together for you after we eat; I just need a drill to use,” he said. Just then, there was a loud knock at the front door.
“Pizza!” I heard Tammy scream as she ran through the living room. We opened the door and made our way outside, where my mom was paying the pizza guy and Tammy was happily sauntering over to the coffee table, which would be the dining spot this evening since our dining room table hadn’t arrived yet. She nearly dropped the pizzas when she spotted Noah.
“Stranger danger!” she screamed, running into the kitchen, “Daddy, help!”
“What are you shouting about?!” I heard Tom exclaim. He emerged from the kitchen with Tammy cowering behind him and stared at Noah like he was a literal cockroach.
“Who’s this?” he asked me.
“This is Noah, he lives downstairs,” I said quickly, “He was just helping me move some of my stuff in and mom invited him to stay for dinner.”
“She did?” Tom glares, just as my mom entered the room carrying a bag of pop cans.
“I did!” she says enthusiastically, “Love thy neighbour, right? That’s what He says. Now someone bring that pizza in here, I’m famished.”
Tammy and Tom entered the living room carrying the pizza and plates, both looking equally suspicious of our guest as we all sat down around the coffee table.
“Has everyone been introduced?” My mom asked, spreading a napkin across her lap. Tom reached his hand across the table.
“Tom Rhodes,” he said, shaking Noahs hand, “And Travis said your name was…Noel?”
“Noah,” he corrected politely.
“And this adorable little muffin is Travis’ ACTUAL sister, Tammy,” my mom smiled.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Noah smiled down at her. She continued to stare at him like he was made of pure evil, much like the way Tom was looking at him.
“Wow, this looks great,” Tom said, opening the pizza box, “Alright, time for grace.”
“Who’s Grace?” Noah asked, completely serious. Tom cleared this throat and furrowed his brow, folding his hands together on the table, as did my mother and sister.
“We have to say grace before we eat,” I whispered.
“Oh…” he said, as we both folded our hands, my family began to say the prayer that each of us had memorized by this point.
“Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
“Amen,” Noah said, out of synch with everyone else.
“And thank the Lord for our new apartment!” Tammy chirped.
“And for my new job in our new apartment,” Tom added, grabbing a slice from the pie.
“Oh, you work here now?” Noah asked.
“I don’t just work here,” Tom scoffed, “I am the new Head Maintenance Man for this building. Which means that I am responsible for the entire mechanical welfare of this place and anything that people like you may need repaired.”
“Ah,” Noah nodded, “So, that means I should probably stay on your good side, right?”
“Yes. You should,” Tom agreed, but it sounded more like a warning. Noah smiled politely again as he took a slice of pizza.
“Oh…um…” He said, scratching the back of his neck, “I know this is going to sound weird, but do you have a fork and a knife I could borrow?”
“Absolutely not!” My mom exclaimed dramatically, “We don’t use utensils around here; we eat everything with our hands. Even soup.”
Noah stared at her, bewildered, unsure of whether or not she was joking.
“I’m just goofing around,” My mom chuckled, standing up and heading to the kitchen, returning with a fork and a knife.
“Here you are, dear,” she said, handing him the cutlery before ripping into the bag filled with pop cans, “What would you like to drink? We’ve got 2 diet Cokes, 2 regular Cokes, 2 Ginger ales, a Cream Soda and an orange Crush.”
“I’d love a Diet Coke,” Noah requested. I could see Tom shaking his head out of the corner of my eye.
“I’ve never met a man who drinks Diet Coke,” he mumbled in between bites, “That’s usually something only women drink.”
Noah either didn’t hear him or was choosing to ignore him as he began to literally dissect his food. He started by taking off the pepperoni and placing them in the far corner of his plate, then peeling off the cheese and placing it in the other corner, then pulling the crust off and cutting each piece of the triangular, sauce covered bread into equal portions. Tom couldn’t help but ask,
“Do you always eat like that?”
“Eat like what?” Noah said before putting a piece of pepperoni into his mouth.
“So, Noah,” my mom intervened, “What do you do for a living?”
“Oh,” Noh said, covering house mouth before swallowing and continuing, “I do a lot of things. Mostly commission work, you know, here and there, this and that.”
“So, in other words, you’re unemployed,” Tom said rudely. The room was filled with a tense silence.
“I get by,” Noah said finally.
“Maybe you’d have better luck finding a job if you weren’t covered in so many tattoos,” Tom said. I had been waiting for his obligatory stupid comment about tattoos, and there it was.
“Why do you have so many?” Tammy asked, speaking to Noah directly for the first time since he arrived. Noah looked down at his left arm, which was covered with an array of words, and pictures including roses, skulls, spiders and their webs, a clock and what appeared to be a woman’s legs peeking out from the sleeve of his shirt.
“Because I think they’re beautiful,” he said softly, “I like looking at beautiful things. Don’t you?”
“Well…yeah,” Tammy said, appearing to have some sort of epiphany.
“I think that rose on your hand is really lovely,” my mother said, “My sister has one just like that.”
“When I grow up, I’m gonna get lots of pretty tattoos!” Tammy exclaimed.
“No, you’re not,” Tom said firmly.
“Awwww, please?” Tammy whined.
“No. I would never let you ruin your body like that,” Tom barked.
Noah and I both exchanged uncomfortable looks.
“And those goes for you, too,” Tom said, turning his attention to me, “Don’t think that just because you’re 18 now that you can go get a cupcake tattooed on your forehead or something.”
Noah looked like he was fighting the urge to flip the table.
“Tom, relax,” my mother urged.
“Don’t even worry about it, dad,” I said, dipping my pizza in some garlic sauce, “The cupcake is gonna go on my neck, I’m reserving my forehead for a portrait of Darth Vader.”
My mom, sister and Noah chuckled but Tom just stared at me. The shock of me calling him ‘dad’ seemed to have dazed him, just like I thought it would.
“By the way,” I continued, “I wanted to ask if we can borrow your drill.”
“What for?” My mom asked.
“Travis and I are going to assemble his bed after dinner,” Noah said. Tom frowned at him.
“I’m going to put Travis’ bed together tomorrow; you don’t need to worry about that,” he said.
“Oh, honey, let him help!” My mom protested, “We’ve got enough to do around this place as it is.”
“Tiffany, I can do it myself,” Tom said, growing more agitated.
“It’s really not a problem, I like building things,” Noah smiled.
“Honey, just let him help, I’m sure Travis would rather sleep in a fully assembled bed tonight anyways, right?” My mom said, cracking open her Ginger Ale.
Tom rolled his eyes.
“Okay, fine, go ahead. My drill is in the toolbox outside the bathroom, knock yourself out,” he said, munching down on his pizza.
After dinner, Noah and I grabbed the drill from the tool box and headed to my room. After sorting through all the pieces, I quickly realized that I had literally no idea HOW to use a drill or assemble a bed, so I pretty much just stood there and watched him the entire time. Unbelievably, he had the entire thing set up in 26 minutes.
“Not bad, huh?” He grinning, picking my pillows up off the floor and throwing them on the bed.
“Wow,” I said, genuinely amazed, “You’re incredible.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Noah smiled, “So, do you want to test it out?”
“What, the bed? Do I want to test the bed out?” I asked with my eye brow raised.
“Yeah,” Noah replied with no hesitation. I stared back at him, wide eyed.
“And…how do you suggest we do that?” I asked nervously.
“Just sit on it to make sure it doesn’t break. If we apply our weight to it and it collapses, I obviously fucked up somewhere,” He stated simply.
“Right, of course,” I said, my cheeks slightly pink. I felt like a complete idiot for thinking he meant it in a sexual way. Maybe this guy WAS just really, really nice.
We both sat down on opposite sides of the bed carefully, then gradually began applying our weight to it.
“So far so good,” I said as we moved in closer. My bed was a single, so there wasn’t really a whole lot of room for two people, so by the time we felt confident enough to lift our legs on to the bed, we were basically hip to hip.
“Oh yeah,” Noah sighed, laying back to rest his head on the pillow, “Yeah, that’s comfy as hell. Okay, I think I’m done for the day, goodnight.”
He closed his eyes and rolled onto his side, facing me.
“Okay, goodnight,” I said, jokingly, laying my head down on the pillow beside him, holding my hand under my cheek to keep my glasses from getting smashed against my face. He opened his eyes and stared into mine.
“Wow,” he muttered, “Wouldn’t mind waking up to that every morning.”
I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly or I had just imagined that he said that. Maybe he DID say it but he was just kidding. Or maybe he was being sarcastic. Dammit, I have to say something, I’ve been quiet too long for this not to be awkward.
“Actually,” I said, taking my glasses off, “What you would be waking up to would look a lot more like this.”
I ruffled my hair and laid my head down on the pillow, closing my eyes and opening my mouth to let my tongue hang out. I heard Noah say either “hmmm” or “mmm”, right before something flicked my tongue.
“Hey!” I gasped, opening my eyes. Noah had a shit eating grin on his face.
“Did you just…flick my tongue?” I asked in disbelief.
“No,” Noah replied, still grinning.
“Yes you did!” I said, sitting up.
“Prove it,” he said, staring up at me.
“I don’t need to prove it, I felt it!”
“Did it hurt?” He asked, sitting up.
“A little,” I lied.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “Should I kiss it better?’
Okay, now THAT I definitely heard. He moved about half an inch closer to my face, so I moved half an inch closer to his, still clutching my glasses in my hand. He stared at me, waiting for my reply.
“Sure,” I answered quietly. He put his hand behind my head and pulled me in the rest of the way, kissing me hard. I let my glasses drop onto the bed and put my hand on the back of his head, pulling him in closer. I felt him run his tongue against my bottom lip, apparently asking permission to enter, so I turned my head slightly to the side and opened my mouth, allowing out tongues to meet. He moved his hands down to my waist and gripped my belt tightly, slowing reclining back down onto the bed until I was laying on top of him. We kept making out passionately until we heard my mother shout my name from outside the door. I hopped off of Noah and jumped out of the bed like it was on fire, just as my mom opened the door.
“Wow! Done already?” she smiled.
“Done what? What are you talking about?” I said, sounding incredibly guilty.
“The bed,” she clarified, “I didn’t expect you to finish building it so quickly.”
“Oh, yeah,” I exhaled, “Noah’s a great…carpenter.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty good, aren’t I?” Noah smiled at me.
“Hey! Where are your glasses?” My mother asked, “You didn’t lose them again, did you?”
“Oh, no,” I said, grabbing them off the bed, “They’re right here. They must have fallen off.”
“Okay, well, I need you to come help me set up the TV and the DVD player. I can’t figure it out and Tammy really wants to watch Frozen,” My mother sighed.
“Again?” I replied, putting my glasses back on, “She’s seen that movie a million times.”
“I know, I know,” she sighed again, “So you’ll come help?”
“Yeah, just give me one second to…make my bed,” I said. She nodded and closed the door and Noah erupted into a giggle fit.
“That was close,” He said, getting up off of the bed.
“No kidding,” I said, grabbing my blanket off the floor and throwing it over my bed. Without being asked, Noah grabbed the other side and tucked it under my mattress.
“Are you always this helpful?” I asked, moving around to the side of the bed where he was standing.
“No. Actually, this is the most productive I’ve been in a while, to be honest,” he admitted.
“Well, thank you,” I said, “I really appreciate it.”
“My pleasure,” he said with a smile, “But I should probably get going. There’s somewhere I need to go before it closes.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, unlocking it before handing it to me.
“Are you giving me a free iPhone?” I asked.
“No, smart ass, put your number in it,” he said.
“Oh! Of course,” I said, taking the phone and typing my name and number into it. He took the phone back from me and put it back in his pocket.
“I’ll text you later,” he says, as we make our way towards the door.
“Okay, cool,” I said, trying to act like my heart wasn’t bouncing around in my chest. We walked out into the living room and Noah bid farewell to my family, who all said it was nice meeting him, except Tom who just mumbled something about ‘horrible tattoos’ before walking into his bedroom.
“Thanks again,” I said as we reached the front door. Noah looked around quickly, making sure that no one was looking before planting a quick peck on my lips.
“Don’t mention it,” he smiled, “Later.”
“Later,” I smiled back. I opened the door for him and watched him walk down the hallway before shutting up. I closed the door and leaned up against it, taking a deep breath. Maybe this place wouldn’t so bad after all.