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“So what time you gonna be here?” Tyler asked me impatiently, his voice obviously frustrated. “Cause, like, the storm’s gonna hit any second and I wanna get dinner cooked now in case the power goes out.”
I glanced up at the gray sky from underneath my umbrella and saw a large front of ominous looking clouds steadily drifting this way.
“No joke,” I replied loudly as I shouted over the sound of falling rain and thunder. “I’m on the corner of Eldred and Warren now so I’ll be there in like five minutes!”
“Alright, I’ll start the oven now.”
I flinched at a particularly loud crack of thunder and quickened my pace. “What’re we eating anyway?” I asked to keep my mind occupied and help me ignore the squishing of my soaking wet socks.
“Ehh, guess,” Tyler responded and I could imagine his cocky grin.
I sighed knowingly. “Pepperoni pizza with black olives and jalapenos.”
“Pepperoni pizza with black olives and jalapenos! Yes, sir, that is correct,” Tyler began. “It is the ultimate comfort food as you get a little bit of everything. You got your vegetables and your dairy and your wheat and…are you here yet?”
I looked around, confused, in the rain. “No?”
“Oh, never mind then. Thought I heard the doorbell.”
I shook my head. “You don’t even have a doorbell! You complained about it yesterday.”
The rainwater was collecting now, running downs the streets and sidewalks in a rapid torrent. I could see the stream break against my boots, carrying dirt and leaves and little twigs with it. I shivered as the wind blew harder and cast misty spray against my face and neck.
I slipped and caught myself against a fencepost. “Hey, man, I’ll be there in a bit. I’m hanging up before I bust my ass and my new phone. See you.”
I hung up and slid my cell into my pocket. A flash of lightning lit up the sky and I blinked away the afterimages as I trudged along the line of yards where the sidewalk ended. I grimaced as my boots slurped in and out of the mud with sickening wet squelches letting me know I would soon be filthy.
I cursed under my breath and silently berated myself for getting talked into this.
Should’ve stayed home. Walking three miles through the rain with a storm on the way just to hang out was a terrible idea. Should’ve just stayed in bed.
My curmudgeonly conversation with myself continued for several minutes until at long last, sopping wet and freezing, I found myself on the doorstep of TJ’s new house.
It was old and weathered, with faded paint and windows so scratched they looked foggy. The grass, despite the rain this Autumn had brought, was yellow and dead. I walked up the cracked driveway and to the front door. I knocked on it loudly and shivered as I wrapped my arms around myself.
I knocked again, banging my fist against the wooden door so hard flecks of chipped green paint broke off and flittered to the ground.
“Tyler, it’s me! Open the damn door!”
The door swung open with a loud creak and Tyler’s face smiled at me from within.
“Sorry, man, couldn’t hear you over all the noise!”
He waved me inside and I kicked off my boots and threw my jacket in the corner to get the wet chill off of me. He looked me over and laughed, his green eyes crinkling at the corners as he guffawed at my current state.
“So how’d it go?” he asked sarcastically.
I groaned and headed down the hall. “Lovely, now where’s your bathroom?”
“First door on the left. Pizza’s almost done at least!” he called after me as I padded down the wood floors in jeans heavy with rainwater.
The house was bigger than I expected. Sure it was old and needed a lot of work done, but it was good sized. It had that old seventies style layout with lots of little rooms sectioned off into their own areas. As such, I didn’t see much of the place as I walked past closed doors to get to the bathroom.
The door at the end of the hall inched open as I approached then shut a moment later.
Guess his roommates aren’t the chatty type. Works for me.
I toweled off in the bathroom and laid my jeans out to dry, slipping into a pair of sweatpants Tyler had sat on the counter. I flicked the light off and went down the hall toward the kitchen to get some pizza, my stomach growling ravenously.
The door at the end of the hall squeaked open behind me and then the bathroom door closed. I looked over my shoulder and saw the bathroom light on again.
“Here’s your half,” Tyler announced and set four slices of pizza on the table. “TV signal’s out due to the weather, but we can still watch a movie.”
“Sounds good,” I mumbled through a mouthful of piping hot pizza and followed him into the living room.
The house was dark, I noted, in every room.
The floors were all wood, no carpet, and the walls were painted a deep gray like the thunderclouds overhead. The lights seemed dim despite having new bulbs and made color wash away and fade.
Tyler glanced at me. “Still cold? I got a hoodie you can wear.”
I nodded and he tossed a red pullover my way.
Some comedy I wasn’t really paying attention to played on the television. Tyler laughed here and there, sometimes repeating the jokes and pointing, but I felt detached.
I set my pizza down, appetite diminished, and flinched as one of the bedroom doors in the house slammed shut. I could hear them moving around in their room, possibly rearranging furniture, and glanced at Tyler to see if he had reacted to the noise.
But he hadn’t.
Having lived only on my own since graduation, I wasn’t used to having someone else in the house. My apartment was small, not quite cramped, but certainly on the cozy side. As such, I had everything exactly as I wanted it and not a single thing out of place.
It was quiet and well lit, with thick cushy carpet and central heating. One bedroom, one bath, zero roommates making such a ruckus.
I opened my mouth to voice such concerns then realized it could come off as snobbish. I bit my lip and kept silent, not wanting to offend my friend by insulting his new house and roommate whom I had never met.
“You full already?” Tyler asked me and I shrugged.
“Not really hungry I guess.”
“Well damn,” he reached out and snatched up my remaining slices. “I’ll take that off your hands.”
My mouth felt dry and sticky so I got up and walked over to the kitchen, my mind still wandering as I listened to the commotion going on in the next room. There was a loud scraping like someone dragging a bed or dresser and I could feel the vibrations rumbling through the floor.
I sipped on my tea and looked around the kitchen, noting the lack of appliances and that there were only two chairs at the table.
The scraping stopped suddenly.
The bedroom door creaked open loudly and I looked up from my cup, expecting to see someone coming down the hall. Instead I heard a different door open and shut followed by loud thumping like someone jumping up and down.
What the hell are they doing in there?
Tyler laughed loudly as a series of shouts echoed from the flat screen and into the empty house. I glanced at him and then to the TV when the light in the kitchen went out.
A door slammed in the hall.
The movie continued playing and I could see the light on the microwave still blinking.
Cheap ass bulbs..
I groaned and went to turn the light off before switching the lightbulb out when I paused.
The light switch was down.
I glanced back at Tyler then peered around the hall, the endless knocking and banging around still going strong.
“So what’s the deal with this place?” I asked aloud as I flipped the switch and the light came back on.
“What do you mean?” Tyler asked after a moment’s distraction as he paused the movie.
I sat down in the lumpy chair his dad had given him and gestured to the house as a whole with my hands. “Like, how’d you get it? And from who?”
“Oh. Just some old man. Italian I think. Mr. Scarpino or something like that.”
I waited for him to continue but he just took a bite of pizza.
“And how’d you hear about it?”
He shrugged. “Just saw it posted online. Me and like two other guys came and looked at it, one of them got it, then the old man called me like a week later saying it was available and I moved in.”
I chewed my lip. “Why was it open again?”
“The guy moved out. Just up and left.”
The wall behind me jolted violently and knocked over a bottle of whiskey Tyler had on display. It shattered and splashed across the floor, leaving the house suddenly silent.
Tyler cursed loudly and jumped up to clean it.
Alright, enough of this crap. I don’t care if it’s rude, this is nothing compared to what the douchebag in the other room is doing.
I sighed and sat my tea down as Tyler threw a towel over the spilled liquor.
“Hey, man…seriously. What’s up with your roommate?”
Tyler looked up from the towel and laughed, his eyes staring up at the ceiling before meeting mine.
“That’s how I got the place so cheap.”
I tilted my head to the side, confused. “So what? He just pays a bigger share of rent?”
He laughed again and sat down, looking around for the remote. The commotion in the room escalated suddenly to an all-time high and I grew tense. My fingers dug into the armrests of my chair. The walls rattled and shook as if there were an earthquake, even the windows jostling flimsily.
Tyler pressed play on the remote, the couch beneath him creaking as the impacts against the wall hit it. “No, man.”
He glanced at me out of the corner of his eye.
“I don’t have a roommate.”