Morning came way too early as far as I was concerned. I laid in bed for a couple minutes after the alarm on my cell sounded, snuggling against the comforter. Sunlight poured through the window, casting its warm glow over the apartment. Everything pointed to it being a wonderful day for a drive. A beautiful day to begin a new adventure.
Yawning, I threw back the bedspread and swung my feet to the floor. I padded past the boxes that held most of my kitchenware in my bare feet on my way to the coffeemaker. I still had about an hour to get ready before I needed to leave.
The appointment to look at my potential new home was thankfully not until one in the afternoon. That had been good thinking on my part. Of course, when I had answered the ad online, I had no way of knowing how the previous night would have ended up unfolding. I had been thinking more logically at that moment. Never a real early riser on the weekends, I didn’t expect myself to spring out of bed for a two hour drive to Fort Wayne, no matter how good a deal the rent seemed. Fortunately, my potential landlord hadn’t balked at my suggested time. In fact, she’d also seemed relieved.
As I drank my coffee, I studied the map I had printed out at work. I smoothed the creases out of the paper and committed as much as possible to memory. The route seemed easy enough, if rather boring. I really didn’t need direction until I reached my exit. Before today, Fort Wayne hadn’t been a destination spot; merely a pass-through on the way to Michigan.
True to form, I had done my due diligence prior to selecting an area of the city in which to look for rentals. I had mapped the location of my new office, looking in a radius of about ten miles either way. This would make for a reasonable commute. I had searched for information on demographics, school systems and property values. My research had led me to select the southwest side of the city. Of course, I checked into apartment complexes, finding several worthy contenders. If today didn’t go well, those would be my back-up plan.
I had been inexplicably drawn to an online posting seeking a female to rent a room. Normally I would have passed, preferring something of my own. However, it seemed like an opportunity to find a comrade in a new place. We didn’t have to end up best friends, but if we could tolerate each other it would be helpful to have someone local around until I gathered my bearings. I didn’t want to depend on maps or GPS for an extended period of time.
With a cup of coffee in me, I was motivated enough to hop in the shower. I let the water trickle over me until it ran cold, closing my eyes. Relaxed, I wrapped myself in my plush bathrobe and set to work picking out my clothes. For whatever reason, I wanted to take time with my appearance today. Probably something to do with the fact that I didn’t want to make a bad first impression.
I settled on my favorite pair of jeans and a tight, long sleeved black and white striped cotton shirt. A fairly classic look: stylish, but not trying too hard. Plus, it wouldn’t wrinkle too badly during the drive and end up looking like I had slept in it. I slipped on my worn black boots and set to work on hair and makeup.
As I blow-dried my short, choppy cut I smiled to myself. Eric hated my hair. I loved it. All throughout high school I had worn my hair past my shoulders, nearly to my waist. During college I had cut it all off on a whim. When he had first seen it, the disappointment in his eyes was apparent. Since then, it had always been various lengths of short, though it never again reached my shoulders.
Quite contrary to the usual stereotype of an accounting major, I was fascinated by hair and makeup. If I hadn’t have been on the fast track to graduating with honors, I might have considered beauty school instead of traditional college. Unfortunately, I had been too concerned with what other people thought to choose my own destiny. Smart people weren’t supposed to be creative, right?
So I lived vicariously through experimentation on myself with various beauty products. My arsenal of hair care items and makeup would rival that of a professional. Getting ready in the morning for me was a release. It was pretty fun.
Today, I settled for my favorite look: an understated smoky eye with pale lips. Framed by my dark tousled locks, I was a friendlier version of Goth. A little dark and mysterious, though not unapproachable. My short gray nails completed the look. Perfect.
“Here goes nothing,” I whispered to myself as I grabbed my map and purse and headed out the door.
Nervousness entered my stomach as I climbed into the Honda and started it up. I took a deep breath and clutched the steering wheel, trying to will it away. What if this didn’t work out? I shook my head, reminding myself of the back-up plan. No matter what happened, I would be okay.
My new job didn’t start for another two weeks. I had cashed in vacation time so that I could give myself ample opportunity to search for a new residence and tie up loose ends in Indy. Hopefully, I could get everything accomplished quickly and have some free time as well. I had no indication of when I would be able to sneak away and take time off again, so I wanted to enjoy the freedom while I could.
As expected, the weather was perfect for a drive. I cranked up the CD player and sang along as I cruised down the interstate. My singing left much to be desired, but it kept my mind in the present and off of what I was leaving behind.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t upset at the argument that had occurred between myself and Eric hours before. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. He played recklessly with my emotions and typically got what he wanted as a result. I was sick of it.
Gracie would be proud of me and how I had stood up to him. I made a note to give her a call tonight and recap the fight. Though it had been brief, and I was sure we would kiss and make up later, for now it was liberating. I still hadn’t heard a peep out of him since he left. He was probably licking his wounds. I vowed not to make the first contact. It would be his turn to come crawling back with an apology. I deserved that much, bare minimum.
Traffic was light and I made excellent time to my exit. I pulled off the interstate, glancing at the clock on the dashboard. Thirty minutes until my appointment. Per the directions on the printout, my destination was about ten minutes away. Just enough time to do a little exploring and still be punctual.
I had choices. Turning right at the light would take me to my new office and the downtown area. Left would lead to my potential rental home and who knew what else. I signaled left, deciding to get a feel for the neighborhood.
The usual fast food places and retail storefronts greeted me immediately past the interstate. Very typical and expected. A drugstore, a grocery store, two gas stations-one on each side of the road, surely for convenience. Nice. As a life-long city girl, this I appreciated.
I continued driving. Once I drove through the next light, the landscape quickly changed from retail to residential. Housing additions surrounded me. As I drove further, the houses on either side appeared to me to get even more spacious and impressive. I wondered what the house that I was going to view looked like. I realized I had no idea.
I had committed the remainder of the driving directions to heart. I quickly found the street that I was to turn on and continued in the path that the mapping program had spelled out. The addition that I turned into was marked by two large brick signs on either side of the entrance, proudly displaying the community name. I let out a sigh of relief as I realized that though the neighborhood was decidedly middle to upper-middle class, I doubted that anyone would look down their nose at my car and tell me I didn’t belong. No gates or security guards here. Just lot after lot of homes that practically screamed pride of ownership.
Once I pulled in, I slowed the car to a stop and consulted my map for the exact address. The home wasn’t on the main street that led into the addition, and I had to make a series of turns that I would have problems remembering later. I would probably get turned around and hopelessly lost on my way back out of here. I wasn’t used to living in the suburbs, that was for sure.
The home was nestled on a cul-de-sac lot toward the back of the addition. It, like all the others, was well-maintained on the outside and impeccably landscaped. It appeared from a quick onceover to be a one and a half story, probably with a loft on the second floor. The siding was a soft yellow, the trim a crisp white. I smiled just looking at it.
I parked the Honda in the driveway, wondering briefly if I would be allowed one of the spots in the two car garage. Nothing like getting ahead of myself. I grabbed my purse, my list of references and my confidence and exited the vehicle. I was about ten minutes early. Hopefully not a problem.
I strode up the winding sidewalk to the front porch, then rang the doorbell. I heard the happy melody of the chimes inside the home announce my presence. Seconds later, the deadbolt lock clicked open. The lock on the actual doorknob followed suit, and the front door opened.
“Damn it,” the blonde on the other side of the door whispered under her breath.
Genre – Romance / Chick Lit
Rating – PG13
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