A Fresh Start
I'm writing a short piece of fiction every day for the month of November. Learn more about the project here. November 5th:
The hall was empty when I walked up to the door which was now my home. The box I balanced on my hip felt heavy after the three flights of stairs. I set it on the hard wood floor and reached for the door nob. It was locked. Had I left the key inside? I couldn’t remember. I searched my pockets, but found only my car keys. I wished I had added the new apartment key to my key chain right away when I had gotten it this morning.
Had I thrown the key in the open box when I got it out of the car? I knelt down and dug through the box of nicknacks and keepsakes. Did I really need to keep all this stuff?
Still no keys. Ok. I stood up, took a deep breath, and paced to the window at the end of the hall. Then back again. Is there someone I could call? I remembered the landlord said she had an extra key, maybe she would come back down? I stuck my hand in my pocket again. Shit, my phone was inside too. How could I have forgotten that? I began to go over my options. I could drive back to my parents house and stay there tonight. No, I couldn’t do that. I sunk down onto the floor next to the box and leaned against the wall. I could drive somewhere else, but where? I didn’t know anyone besides my parent’s here. I wouldn’t start my new job until monday and I hadn’t even really met the boss yet, just phone calls and one overly formal lunch interview. I could go to a hotel. That’s when I realized I didn’t have my wallet.
My head sunk into my hands. I could just sit here and cry, I thought. No that won’t do at all. I stood up and began pacing the hall again. There was one other apartment on this floor, maybe I could use their phone to call the landlord? I walked up to the door and knocked firmly three times. No one answered. I knocked again, a little louder this time. Still no answer. They must not be home.
I walked to the end of the hall and stared out the window, wondering what I was going to do. That’s when I saw the fire escape. The fire escape outside my new bedroom wasn’t that far from the hall window. Could I climb onto it? I wasn’t sure, but it felt like it was worth a try. I pulled open the hall window and looked down. The street below wasn’t busy, but it was a lot farther down than I had thought. My head started to spin a little. Maybe I should just go back to my parents for the night. I closed the window, walked back to my door, and picked up my last moving box. I paused and looked back. No, I can do this. I set the box down and went back to the window. This time after pulling the glass up, I didn’t look down. I swung one leg out the window and reached my toes towards the fire escape, while holding onto the window frame with both hands and keeping one foot firmly planted in the hall. If I can get one foot securely on the railing of the fire escape then it shouldn’t be too hard to shift my whole weight over, I thought.
“Hey, what are you doing?” A voice called from behind me. I startled and lost my grip on the window frame for just a moment. I was thankful I had left one foot on the floor inside and quickly reached for balance again. A man was standing at the top of the stairs holding a bag of groceries. His brow was wrinkled and he gave me a quizzical and suspicious look. Did he think I was trying to break in?
“Oh, no, it’s ok. I just moved in this apartment. I left my keys inside and didn’t realize the door was locked. I thought if I could get to the fire escape than I could get in through the open bedroom window.” I spilled the words out quickly and climbed back into the hall. Maybe I could use his phone and avoid falling.
He didn’t say anything, just stood there with the same look on his face. His head tilted to one side.
“Really, I’m ok. I’m Cassie. I just rented this place from Susan.” I walked towards him with my right hand outstretched.
He shuffled his grocery bag to one side and reached his hand out as well. We shook hands. “I’m Connor,” he said.
“Do you think I could use your phone and call Susan? She said she has an extra key, and I thought maybe she’d be willing to come back down and let me in.” I brushed my messy hair out of my face as I spoke.
“Susan has book club Thursday nights. She won’t have her phone on and she’s on the other side of town.” He turned away from me and walked towards his door, pulling a key out of his pocket.
So much for friendly neighbors. It was my turn to look at him quizzically. He looked about my age, but his brown curls had already started to grey at the edges. He was tall and thin, and his grocery bag looked like it was about to explode with greens. I bet there’s ice-cream and chips at the bottom hidden from view, I thought.
“Well…” I paused and scratched at my arm, “I guess I’ll go back to my original plan then.” I turned back toward the still open window.
Connor didn’t say anything, but I could feel his eyes watching me from his open door as I made my way back to the window. When I put my leg over the edge he started to laugh.
“Are you really going to go through with that?”
“What other option do I have?” I asked.
“I can think of a number of better options than climbing out the window of a three story building.” He continued to chuckle softly to himself as he spoke.
I turned and looked at him. He leaned in the door way of his apartment with a smirk on his face, like he knew a secret that he didn’t quite want to tell me.
“Well, I’ve been up here thinking through my options for nearly thirty minutes and this seems like the best of them.” I was beginning to feel annoyed with this smug anti-social neighbor.
“How about you have dinner with me?” He took a step out of the doorway towards me.
“That doesn’t solve my problem.” I pulled my second leg out of the window and wrapping my fingers tight around the window sill I leaned both feet far out towards the fire escape.
Connor rushed over then. “You’re gonna get yourself killed!” He grabbed hold of my arms, “Come on, come back inside.” I glanced down then. Shit, what am I doing! He was right, I was going to get myself killed. I climbed back in the hall.
“I’m not going to have dinner with you though.” I sat down on the floor by the window.
“You’re a stubborn one aren’t you?” He smiled and shook his head. “You don’t have to have dinner with me. I have a key.”
“A key to my apartment? Why didn’t you say so!?” I stood up and took a step towards him.
He shrugged, “I wasn’t ready.”
He walked back to his apartment and disappeared for a moment before returning holding a key.
I took it from him and stuck it in the key hole to my door. It fit, and turned, and opened. I swung the door open and kicked my moving box inside. “I don’t think I should give this back to you.” I raised my eye brows and looked at the key.
“Now, it’s my turn to reassure you that I’m ok. I do maintenance on the apartment units for Susan. I have a key to all of them.” He stuck both hands in his pockets and a smile spread across his dimpled cheeks. “Keep the key till morning and ask Susan.”
“Ok. I will.” I slowly replied. “Well, it was… interesting meeting you Connor.”
Conner laughed, “And you, Cassie.” Then he turned, strolled into his apartment and shut the door.
I closed my door as well and sighed, glad to be inside my new home at last. I felt exhausted from the long day of moving and the ordeal of being locked out. I walked straight for the bedroom and threw myself down on the bed. The sheets were still packed away in a box somewhere and I didn’t want to bother pulling them out. The sun was just starting to sink in the sky and it cast golden light onto the bed. I pulled myself close to the window and hung my head out so I could feel the breeze and look up at the clouds.
A new home, a fresh start. Complete with strange comical neighbors. The sun beat down on my face and I smiled.