Chapter tune: Fiona Apple – Paper bag
It didn’t take long for Raina to move into Andrew’s apartment. In fact, she was so excited at the news, that she somehow managed to overcome her slow tendencies and arranged for the move to be complete in just two days time.
“Hi there!” she chirped as soon as entered the living room and saw Andrew there, looking all serious while reading a book on the couch. “I think this is my last box of stuff, at last! Again, thank you so much for letting me stay here! I really appreciate it.”
“Again, I didn’t exactly have a choice on the matter.” he replied, not once raising his eyes to look at her.
“I kind of got that, yeah… I swear, I wouldn’t bother you if I had any alternative. But I was desperate so… thank you for your help anyway!”
Andrew grunted instead of giving an answer. “So, the rules are all within the contract, but in case you haven’t made the effort to read them – as most people do – I can sum up the essentials for you. Your share of the rent will be due every 15th of each month. The amount you’ll pay will cover expenses like power and water. Smoking is not allowed in here, and neither are pets of any kind. Are we on the same page until this point?”
“Okay yeah, that’s fair enough. I think I read the rent thing somewhere. But… I met the landlord before downstairs – he’s so sweet, by the way – and he said that pets are, in fact-”
Andrew finally raised his eyes off his book, his cold gaze sending chills on Raina’s face. “In case you didn’t realize this, I am your landlord now, Raina. And I say that pets are strictly forbidden. So, is everything clear?”
Raina placed her right hand, fingers together, on her temple – in some sort of poorly executed military salutation. “Yes sir!”
His scowl got even bigger at her admittedly poor attempt to make a joke. “Look, I see you’re getting all… excited about us being roommies or whatever this is, but I would really appreciate it if we had the minimum amount of contact for as long as you stay here.”
“Um… okay? B-but… can I ask why?”
“Because I’m used to living in a certain way and I don’t intend to change that, just because my apartment’s spare bedroom is suddenly occupied.”
“But you said you liked my company! When we were outside my old apartment..! I remember that perfectly well.”
“Then I suspect you can also remember that I had a little too much to drink that night – a mistake I don’t intend on making again anytime soon. So whatever I said that night can be interpreted as insignificant.”
Raina’s smile immediately dropped. “So what, you want me to shut up and go to my room whenever I see you?”
“Please. That would be ideal, but I can’t stop you from using the living room or the kitchen whenever you feel like it. But if you could just roam around the house as quietly as possible, I would really appreciate that.”
Raina suddenly felt her insides boiling – whether it was from anger or embarrassment, little did it matter. Okay, the guy did her a huge favor, but he didn’t have to go so all high and mighty about it. She was just trying to have a normal conversation with him, like normal human beings. It was as if they took a step forward that night at her house, and now he was taking two… no, a hundred steps back.
But if Andrew could play the ice prince role so well, so could she. Or, at least she could give it a try. “Noted. You don’t have to worry about me bothering you. In fact, I’m willing to go the extra mile; just for you. I’ll not only not make a peep, b-but I’ll try to not even breathe whenever I see you around. Let’s just hope I won’t die in front of you, that would b-be rather inconvenient, right?”
Yeah, that was super mature, Raina. And now she was also pissed about her stammering.
Andrew sighed and finally got up from the couch. “Don’t make me change my mind about this, Raina. Let me remind you that the contract isn’t signed yet.”
“What, and you’re not happy about this? You still have the chance to just k-kick me out right now, then!” she said, her face both challenging and pleading.
He didn’t take the bait. “I have to work. I’ll see you around.”
The next weeks passed uneventfully. Andrew was either at work or at the gym or holed in his room (working or working out – which was hardly surprising), and Raina tried to do her best not to disturb him. She still didn’t quite get why Andrew was so adamant on keeping this distance between them. But most of all, she sure as heck didn’t understand why this bothered her so much.
Still, she kept trying to avoid him too. She was tired of his grunting instead of a proper greeting, plus she had her fair share of work to do anyway; like read the books she was supposed to, or try to get her novel finished – which, unfortunately, demanded more effort and attention than she was willing to give. After the first moth passed, she started feeling stuck and restless.
So, on a chilly Friday, she decided to make another effort to get closer to her stubborn roommate. She had learned his schedule by heart now – Andrew was all about a tidy and strict schedule – so she decided to cook dinner for both of them. She knew he was a picky eater, usually making his own healthy, high protein/low carb meals or ordering in from the same two or three places. But she wanted to make something more special than his usual lentils-quinoa salad. So after thorough research online, she had decided on the menu: steak in pepper sauce, with mashed potatoes and green peas on the side (even though she hated green peas, anything green really), and salted caramel ice cream for dessert – a store bought one, because no way she was going to make an attempt at making ice cream; ice cream was sacred.
Dinner should be ready by eight o’clock, which was exactly the time he returned home from the gym. Raina had taken care of everything: the table setting, the relaxing music and, of course, the wine (it was the exact one Andrew had brought her at her apartment – she remembered him mentioning it went great with steak).
“Uh… hi. What is that smell?” Andrew muttered as soon as he set his foot in the living room, and seeing Raina standing awkwardly between the kitchen and the entrance door.
“I cooked dinner for us! I hope you don’t mind! It’s steak, and if you count the mashed potatoes out, it’s completely healthy too! And look, I got that wine you liked so much, you said it pairs very well with steak, right?”
“And don’t worry about the rest of the mess, I will clean everything after we eat!”
“I believe that goes without saying. I am impressed, however, by the fact that the place is almost entirely clean already.”
“You’re welcome. And… I have to say it smells quite nicely.”
“Does that mean you’ll have dinner with me?”
“You seem surprised.”
“Yeah well… I wasn’t sure if me cooking all afternoon was enough to convince you to stay.”
“Believe it or nor, Raina, I am capable of common courtesy. It would be extremely rude to decline an invitation to a dinner you obviously spent so much time preparing.”
Raina beamed as they both sat at the table. “I hope you’ll like it.”
He immediately raised his glass towards Raina, making her notice once more how he really had a strong weakness for fine wine. “Cheers. So, is there a special occasion for all this?”
“Special occasion? Like… what?”
“I don’t know… a promotion? A new job offer?”
“Oh… no, no, nothing like that. I just… I wanted to do something nice for you. You know, for letting me stay here and all that…”
“Well. In that case there was truly no need for dinner, Raina. I told you, if you pay your rent on time and respect the rules -”
“Will you just let me do something nice for you?!” she shouted in dismay, interrupting him.
He remained stunned for a while, while their eyes locked. For a minute there, Raina thought he was going to get up and leave, but he just smirked. A smirk is good. It was the closest to a smile she’d ever gotten from him.
“Very well. Thanks again.”
“So… come on, dig in! I want you to tell me how it tastes!”
Andrew took a bite, while Raina looked at him eagerly. But he didnt speak. He just stayed silent, while placing a napkin in front of his mouth and coughing. Raina noticed something shiny at the edge of his eye. Was that… a tear?
“…I am very sorry to say this, but that food is terrible.”
“What? Let me try…. oh my god, you’re right!” Raina exclaimed between coughs. “I am so sorry!! I thought I had it right this time! Oh man, it’s so salty!”
“It’s not just the salt, those steaks are nearly burned! And there’s too much pepper in those mashed potatoes!”
Raina was on the verge off crying her eyes out. If the tears came from the realization that she’d just destroyed dinner and that would probably be the case always, or from tasting the actual horror that was said dinner, was of little importance. “I’m sorry..! Man, I can’t do anything right – I’m useless..!”
“What are you talking about? Just because you burned a couple of steaks doesn’t make you useless.”
Raina looked at Andrew stunned. “I think that’s one of the nicest things you’ve ever said to me.”
“Well… you made me dinner. Or at least, tried to.”
“Yeah… but I’m sure you’re starving now… I know I am. Do you want me to make you a salad? Or order something? Or -”
“No need.” he interrupted her. “You did something nice for me, now it’s my turn to do something nice for you. Go get dressed; I’m taking you out.”
Raina could not believe what she was hearing. Andrew would go out with her… no, take her out. That could only happen once in a lifetime. Of course she waisted no time and rushed to her bedroom to get changed.
“So… how do I look?”
“Is that bear shaped scarf really necessary?”
“…You look utterly ridiculous.”
Feeling cockier than usual, she narrowed her eyes studying him. “Nah… I don’t buy it. You like it!”
He didn’t reply, and made his way towards the door instead. But Raina could swear that for just one second, she saw him smile.
A/N: Hey guys! I know… so late, again! Sorry about that! I was feeling really uninspired, blah blah blah… you all know how it is, lol! I hope I’ll have the next chapter way sooner than though! It will be from Andrew’s pov, so I hope it will shed some more light on his character and maybe make things more interesting? Let’s hope so! 😉
I wanted to give a huge shoutout to Bee for her awesome poses, they are truly story-savers! I think almost every pose in this chapter is hers, mostly the emotional ones (which are so awesome and adjustable by the way!)
Also, if you are on tumblr you’ve probably noticed me being completely silent there. That’s because no matter how hard I tried, I hate that freaking thing! 😛 The only reason I’m not deleting the account is because of the ability to PM. That’s the only reason, lol!
Last but not least, I wish everyone happy holidays and a happy new year!! 🎉🎉 Thank you so much for reading!! ❤ ❤