Chapter 1 – The Big Move
I make it to the top of the landing before I drop the box in my arms onto the floor. My chest hurts as I try to suck as much air as I can into my desperately struggling lungs. I’m out of shape, I think to myself and make a mental goal to start going to the gym. Hands on my knees, I take a step back and allow the hallway wall to support me.
“Christ,” I hear as I see Amber Sanchez, my best friend and current moving partner struggling with a box as well. The staircase claiming yet another victim. “Why couldn’t this condo be on the first floor?”
“Why couldn’t the condo complex spring for an elevator?” I respond, watching her place the box down on the ground beside mine and take a seat on it.
We’re silent for a few minutes, each of us trying to regain our composure. The trip to the fourth-floor condo had been our sixth. I hadn’t realized how much stuff I had actually brought with me, or how heavy I had packed the boxes.
“You seriously have too much shit,” Amber complained, stretching her legs out in front of her with a pained expression on her face. She begins to rub her thighs, then down to her kneecaps. I roll my eyes. If anyone should have been complaining, it should have been me.
Amber woke up every morning at five a.m. and hit the gym. She did yoga on the weekends and was a certified Zumba instructor. I wanted to say I envied her, but I knew I wasn’t a morning or a gym person. I enjoyed donuts and sugar in my coffee, brunch with friends and sleeping in until noon. We were entirely different people who despite being odd, had been able to stay friends since we were children.
Now at twenty-seven, Amber’s red pigtails had grown into luscious long red beach curls while my dirty blonde hair was now a deadly jet black. She is tall and slim; I am average height and a few pounds overweight. She is engaged and I am newly single.
She is engaged. ENGAGED!
My jaw drops to the ground as I notice the sparkling hunk of jewelry on her left hand. Amber grins as she continues to rub her legs, now down to her shins.
“Is that what I think it is?”
I’m back in motion and practically flying across the hallway, scooping up her hand and eyeing what had to be a three-carat diamond ring. Shocked by the size of it and feeling a bit nauseated by the thought of the price, I can’t help but scream at the top of my lungs.
“Shh, you have neighbors!” Amber squeals standing up from the box and jumping into my arms. We’re crushing each other with excitement, pulling away so we can both look at the ring again before slamming back into another hug.
“Well, look who finally noticed.”
We hear the sound of Shaun Minx, my mover and Ambers now fiancé behind us. He’s carrying two boxes stacked onto each other and wearing a mischievous smile. Walking past our disposed boxes and us loitering fangirls, he manages to push the condo’s door open with his foot before heading inside.
He looked to breathing perfectly. His back is straight as he holds on to both boxes like a pro. At six foot, Shaun played a lot of basketball when he wasn’t working and even mentored local high school kids in the sport. I always wondered but never asked why he hadn’t gone pro when he had the chance before college. It always seemed like a sore subject that I couldn’t bear to bring up. But just like Amber, they’d work out together and then separately to each enjoy their own activities. They were a genuine power couple.
“Finally noticed? How long has this rock been sitting on your hand?”
I’m burdened by guilt as I look back down at my friend’s hand and wonder how many times I’ve seen and dismissed it just as quickly. With packing, moving and utterly disappointing my parents I had to admit to being a selfish friend who had the moment, had only been worried about herself.
“Oh, don’t worry. It’s only been a few days and I know we haven’t really had time to discuss anything, but we were going to announce it tonight at dinner.”
Shaun returns to the hallway, wrapping his arms around Amber’s waist and gives her a big sweaty kiss on the cheek. He might have been able to handle the staircases better than we did, but perspiration still rolled down his hazelnut skin. I’m overwhelmed with excitement for both of them and disappointed in myself for not having seen the glow on both of their faces, which is so obvious now. They’ve been together since freshman year of college; Amber had been an art major and Shaun had been interested in finance. Neither one of them took me seriously when I said they would be perfect together, not until they managed to find a way to each other months later and decided to take a chance.
“I’m so happy for you two. Seriously Shaun, about fucking time!”
I slap him playfully on the arm and he laughs, holding Amber tighter.
“I know, I know. Give me a break, you know how hard it was to find the perfect ring for the perfect girl?”
I pretend to gag, “Now I’m going to be sick.”
We all laugh before there is a long a pregnant pause. I’m ashamed to recognize that it’s for me and try to make a quick exit out of it.
“Guess these stairs will help me get in shape for my bridesmaids’ dress.”
They both chuckle awkwardly before Shaun releases Amber and heads toward the two boxes sitting on the floor. He’s not making eye contact anymore and I know the both of them have just realized how hard this situation must be for me. Amber’s milky skin is red, hot from embarrassment.
“Oh stop, both of you. I’m fine.” I had lied to myself for weeks with the phrase and even a little to them. Three months ago, I hadn’t been fine at all when I first uttered the bluff but today, I felt like a completely different person. “Forget about all that and let’s get inside and put our feet up for a bit. In one of these boxes, there’s food.”
I didn’t have to say food twice before we were all in the condo ripping open boxes to find the hidden treasure. We had been moving items into the condo since the early morning and lunch had flown by without anyone noticing.
“Found it!” Amber screams in triumph as she lifts a bag plastic grocery bag victoriously.
“Thank God, I’m starving.”
Shaun is laid out in the living room across the sofa and flipping through TV channels. I’m surprised that there cable, just as surprised as I was to open a cabinet only two weeks earlier and find canned food and boxed pasta.
My new condo came fully furnished, thanks to Shaun’s brother Cole who actually lived here. A truck driver, Cole spent more time on the road than in his actual condo. Only spending about two months out of the twelve for the year between its four walls. When I decided to get out of my small hometown and try to make it in the big city; Shaun and Amber had been more than supportive. They struck up a deal with Cole to let me stay in the condo the months he would be gone until I was able to find myself a place of my own.
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo there was plenty of enough space for me to live without ever having to touch any of Cole’s personal items in his own room and bathroom. The living room and kitchen would be the only common parts of the condo and I intended on leaving them exactly as I had found them.
“So, what are you going to whip up?” Shaun turns around and asks, his eyebrows wiggling up and down mischievously.
I force a laugh at the thought of doing anything but dialing the number of a pizza place leaves me exhausted. When I went grocery shopping the night before, ideas of making my friends a home cooked meal sounded as promising as a thank you as anything but at the moment, my weak arms and legs wanted nothing to do with the kitchen.
“Pizza?” I reply, holding my phone up for my friends to see. They both laugh hysterically and as we wait for the delivery boy to arrive, Amber and I continue to unpack boxes in my new bedroom while Shaun heads downstairs to park his truck correctly and avoid a ticket.
“I can’t really thank you and Shaun enough for this, well and his brother.”
Amber stops midstride with a few hangers in her hand, she takes a deep breath and attempts to say something when Shaun busts into the bedroom.
“Food is here!”
Without another word, Amber and I are out of the room our noses practically carrying us across the apartment. Two large pizza boxes sit on the counter, one already missing three slices. Amber giggles as she only see’s one slice on Shaun’s plate.
“Man’s gotta eat.” He jokes as Amber and I settle onto the barstools at the center of the kitchens island.
Stuffing a slice into my mouth, I really take a look around the kitchen. It’s modern and sleek, much different than any of the apartments I had looked at when I was searching for a place of my own. Stainless steel appliances and granite countertops were over my budget, not to mention islands that didn’t exist even in my dreams. As I take another bite, my eyes roam to the cherry wood cabinets then down to the hard hardwood floors. Everything seemed so well chosen and crafted, the entire condo flowed with the same style and color scheme making it hard for me to believe it came this way.
“Your brother has great taste.” I blurt out without context.
Amber and Shaun begin laughing, “Yeah, he does. I’ve always been jealous of it and also the fact that he did all this work himself.”
My jaw drops, “himself?”
“Oh, Cole is a handyman,” Shaun says matter of fact. “He’s got a great physic because of it if you’re into that kind of guy.”
Amber giggles before hopping off of her stool and wrapping her arms around her fiancé. “Those dirty bitches, I like my men built just like you in fact.” She jokes.
“So, with a great physic?” I shoot back at both of them and we all laugh at the irony.
Two empty pizza boxes and forty minutes later, I wave to the Dodge pickup truck taking Amber and Shaun across town and home. I’m glad to be alone to unpack my personal items but most importantly; rest.
Between the moving of all my boxes, the anxiety of actually having my items out of the apartment I shared with my ex has been weighing heavily on my mind. It’s amazing how stress can affect you physically. I turn and head back up the flights of stairs I hope to see for the last time today. Ready to shower and relax, I made it up to number 402 and step inside.
Seeing a few of my items just from the threshold makes me feel better. The condo is beginning to feel like home rather than an expensive hotel. I turn and lock the door behind me, I can’t allow myself to get too comfortable; after all, the condo isn’t mine. But the reasons I am in New Jersey and no longer in New York can’t be forgotten.
Taking a deep breath, I try to forget the past few weeks and push deeper into the condo toward my newly decorated room. Amber and I didn’t think we would make such a dent, but we had managed to put all my clothes away and even throw up some easy to remove decorations. All that was left was my intimate items and some bathroom products that were all too tedious to ask someone else to do.
Grabbing the box labeled bathroom, I make my way to it and open the vanity door. The double vanity’s cabinet is empty and spacious enough for all my products and more. I’m amazed at how thoughtful everything in the condo is. The items chosen for not only their look, but their functionality is something I hadn’t expected from a bachelor pad. From Shaun’s description, I had imagined I’d be rooming in his sister’s place and not his brother’s.
Finishing up, I close the vanity and begin to take the box apart. For the first time, I’m realizing how quiet the condo is without my friends. Being alone in the condo has been depressing without them or anyone. Now without friends, without my ex, and without his dog, I’ve never realized just how much I hate being in silence. I reach for my phone lying on the bed and decide to play some music.
With my eyes glued to the screen, I walk through the condo searching for the perfect playlist to enthuse my mood. Satisfied with a party mix, I press the cardboard box down into the trashcan as much as I can and head back into the bathroom to shower. Showering the sweat and anxiety away, I spend the rest of the evening putting the final touches to my room before turning the music off and heading to bed.
Copyright © 2019 by Elly V
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