Several Weeks Ago
Warm yellow sunshine bathed the newly moved-into bedroom. Brown cardboard boxes lined the wall next to the door. There was no bed frame yet, so the mattress sat directly on the pale, hardwood floor. Rumpled, snow-white sheets spilled half off the mattress and onto the floor, one of the pillows alongside it, smelling of her perfume. A single, red rose stood in a clear, glass vase on the floor next to where they’d lain, where a bedside table would be at some point. A single rose meant, ‘I love you’. He’d given it to her last night, though it was far from the first time he’d expressed the sentiment. He just liked to do nice things for her as often as he could. He liked making her happy. From outside the window, one could hear sparrows and the sounds of the city coming alive on the streets below the apartment.
Kelli, naked and slightly sweaty, and still breathing hard, gave Arwin one last, passionate kiss, smiled at him and backed up off the bed. “I’m going to go shower. See? You made me late for work.” From the way her eyes twinkled though, their morning activities had obviously been worth it.
Arwin watched her glide towards the door, not a stitch of clothing on as she made her way to the bathroom across the hall. He enjoyed that they were in a place where they were both completely physically comfortable around each other, where there was trust about how the two felt. It was so much nicer than the uncertainty and shyness of being with someone new. Not that Kelli was particularly shy in any case, not with him. Even three years into a relationship, she still left him breathless and he watched her right up until she disappeared around the corner.
Glancing down at the bed, it seemed like the room was a lot more spacious with the mattress down on the ground instead of up on a frame. He liked the feel of it. He wondered if he could talk Kelli into not getting a typical, raised bed frame with all that wasted space underneath. Maybe they could find something low down instead.
Arwin slipped past her into the shower as she was getting out, unable to keep his hands off her whenever she was within reach. The way her lips curled up into a smile at his touch, he knew that she enjoyed receiving the attention as much as he enjoyed giving it to her. They made a good pair.
He watched her do her hair while he washed, drawn to the way she primped and prepared herself for the day. Despite the fact that he had a big day ahead of him, whenever she was around, she was all he could think about. She was his raison d’etre, the colour in his world. After being with her, he now understood that he’d never before known true happiness. Not without her. She was his best friend. He could share anything, be himself, and she still loved him, still kept coming back every day with a smile on her face.
They usually shared a quick breakfast, but today, short on time, Kelli just grabbed a granola bar and headed for the door. She had dressed immaculately in a black and gray skirt-suit, hair in a ponytail, looking professional and stunning both. He followed her, ready to give her a hug and kiss before she left.
She turned back to him at the door and raised an eyebrow and gave him a half smile as he put his arms around her. “So, you’re going to nail the interview, right?”
She raised both eyebrows this time and looked him straight in the eye. “Really?”
He laughed. “You know it’s not exactly my dream job. But I’ll do my best. I promise. I know this will be good for us.”
“Good.” She raised up onto her toes and gave him a kiss. “Your future is important. You need to take care of yourself.”
He gestured to the apartment around them. “We’ve just moved in. We have to pay for it somehow.” He paused. “Well, I’ve moved in. You are going to start bringing boxes over tonight?”
She smiled and kissed him again. “Don’t worry. And don’t forget our lunch date. You can tell me all about how the interview went. Just make sure you get the job.”
“I know. I will,” he assured her. “Love you.”
With one last peck on the lips, she was out the door.
Arwin let the door close and returned to getting ready. Soon, he had everything except his suit jacket. That, he couldn’t find anywhere.
Arwin desperately dug through the pile of moving boxes. “Dammit. Where’s that jacket?” he cursed.
Warily checking the time, he flipped through the boxes of clothes and other items even faster. He tossed them aside, increasingly frustrated. You’d think his jacket would have been with the rest of the suit. Or with the rest of his clothes. What the hell had he done with it? He didn’t have time for this! He moved to the living room and the other boxes there.
The apartment was spacious, a two bedroom with pure white walls and a balcony and large windows everywhere. It was in a newly renovated tower. Arwin had wanted to go with something smaller and therefore cheaper, but Kelli had insisted that they would need the extra room and had stated in no uncertain terms that she wanted to live in a nicer place. As for the second bedroom, she wanted to either make a shared office or add a guest bedroom or use it for storage; she was still deciding.
He opened a box full of books. Arwin was an avid reader of science-fiction, fantasy, adventure, historical fiction, classics and even the occasional horror. He had a full set of Harry Potter, of course, but also books by Wilbur Smith, Piers Anthony, and Jules Verne. There was a copy of Watership Down, which he’d never read more than once because of how much it had made him cry the first time. He wanted two whole walls of the bedroom to be completely lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Well, assuming he could talk Kelli into it.
He was glad that she was paying half the rent. There was no way in hell he’d be able to afford this place on his own. Actually, he could barely afford his half. That’s because, on top of the apartment, Kelli had recently talked him into getting a new car too.
“You’re thirty one,” she’d told him. “You can’t always be getting around on a bike and taking public transit. You need a car.”
“Why? I like biking and public transit. It’s cheaper, healthier, and eco friendly.”
“You need a car. Because that’s what adults do!”
For some reason, that car had needed to be new and nothing too cheap. It came with hefty monthly payments as well as insurance and gas bills. It was a bottomless pit that soaked up a lot of cash. He’d only recently finished paying off his huge student loans. Now here he was taking on all kinds of new debt. Then there were monthly phone, internet, and utility bills. Just thinking about all the money he now owed every month made Arwin feel like he had a sword hanging over his neck.
Was taking on all kinds of debt for material things really being all that responsible? It was a lifestyle that had always felt uncomfortable to him. Why did so many people live this way? Personally, he’d be happy living more simply.
All his new bills and Kelly’s concern for his future was why he was interviewing for new jobs. His current job was being an on-call substitute teacher for the local school board. But it paid less than half what a full-time teacher made and he didn’t get to work every day. Competition for full-time positions was tough and it didn’t look like he was going to be hired on full time anytime soon. The damned conservative government was forever cutting spending to health and education. So, while he loved working with kids, loved having a job that he was proud of and believed in, if he wanted to be able to afford a more expensive lifestyle, then he was going to need a new job.
Running out of boxes to check for his suit jacket, Arwin dove into his sports bags. He tossed through an array of soccer, gym, and volleyball gear, none of which smelled particularly nice, no matter how many times he’d washed it. He simply used it all too often. No suit jacket here either. He growled in frustration, his worries about money compounding his urgent need to get out the door to his interview this morning.
He stood up and stretched his aching back, then glanced again at the clock. He was going to be late. He cursed. One didn’t want to look unprofessional in only a shirt and tie, but it seem that he wouldn’t have much choice. He only owned the one suit, hating the things, thinking they made him look as false as a businessperson or a politician, and avoided wearing them when possible. Giving up, Arwin moved to grab his stuff and left the apartment.
He stopped in the tower garage and glanced at his brand new car: shiny green, with that gross new-car smell he couldn’t believe some people actually liked. He took a step towards the vehicle and paused. He thought about the cost of gas and his thinning bank account and felt wary. He thought about the environmental impact and guilt kicked him in the gut. Turning away, he headed for his bicycle instead. He’d ride to the bus loop instead of driving.