“The baseboards can always be painted over.”
The sentence played over and over again in Margaret’s head. The real estate agent had muttered it innocently under her breath, but it stuck... [+]
She’s planned this moment and she doesn’t feel afraid. If she chooses her steps and sets her mind to stick with them, she can tackle almost any challenge without fear.
Even when his hands start to unfasten the buttons of her shirt, she’s not afraid. Though she’s never done this before, she cares for him. They’re together and she’s planned this, so it’s okay. All the buttons are unfastened, but it’s only July and his hands are warm; there are no chills in the air to make her shiver or hesitate.
His mouth over hers and the closeness they share doesn’t scare her in the slightest. She thought she’d be terrified. Though they haven't been with each other all that long, her only shock is at how comfortable she is with this. She did not think she could be such a daring person.
After all, such proximity is new to her, but she prepared and planned this. She’s not afraid.
Months flash by like the street lights she drives past after her late shift at work on the way to go see him. They flash and disappear like the spotlights used by road construction workers when she drives past going faster than the speed limit to get to him sooner. The lights momentarily blind her, again and again, much like the sparks that lull her into an impenetrable calm when she’s with them.
Her work days are trancelike. She holds on to her grand plan of independence, of freedom, of happiness, but she’s so acutely aware of how empty her home is.
When she’s alone, she collapses onto the floor of her studio apartment and searches her soul for the energy to cook and keep working. She looks at the calendar she’d hung on her wall, determined to make the old space that smelled faintly like an attic feel more like home. Yet it’s no wonder it smells like it housed antiquated things; this little nook she found to call her own used to be an attic before it was converted into an apartment outside of the county’s unwatchful eye.
She blinks. She needs to refocus.
October. She can hardly believe it’s already October.
She looks up into the dusty corners of the room, spotting a very large spider. She shudders and springs to action despite her fatigue. That is an unplanned invader into her solitary space that she is very, very afraid of.
All that driving, up and down the state from obligations of work to whims of her heart, she finds a new road opening to herself.
But now, even though she’s planned this, she’s very afraid.
She’s sitting in a leasing office, thinking of reaching out to take his hand. She feels a little too apprehensive since she doesn’t know how quickly the property manager will finish at the copy machine. She doesn’t want to come off like a foolish child and be declined on this lease at a glimmering new apartment building, so far superior to her attic-converted-illegal-studio.
She’d come prepared, she printed all her paystubs and made copies of her social security card like the application asks for, but she’s doing everything she can not to fidget around too much in the chair. She’s normally so much more cheerful with property managers, she was a positive gem to them when looking for a place for herself, but she’s just too anxious to put her best foot forward.
She doesn't take his hand and simply waits for the property manager to come back. She feels like she should have, but his fingers are entangled in his keys as he idly messes with them. The manager comes back and she sees that the woman made copies of their licenses and put them down on the same page. There's something chilling about seeing their information becoming enmeshed.
She's planned this. She's prepared for this.
But even as she signs her name and bids the manager a good day, she's so very afraid.
She fiddles with her hair and the hem of her jacket when they're back in his car. They talk a bit about leasing terms, the referral program for suggesting new residents, and about the apartment complex. The drive by the building where her – rather, their – until will be then set off find the route he'll be taking to work. She's a bit surprised when he starts to put the address in his GPS to save it. This is their plan, but she's somehow forgotten.
There's quiet in the car, but it's not the comfortable kind of silence she's used to feeling when she's with him. He talks about the future, a future she wants too, but that's what scares her most of all.
"Isn't this exciting?" he asks, and he sounds like he means it.
'It's terrifying,' is the thought that passes through her mind. But instead, she smiles and lies.
"Yes, it is," she says, since it's the only response she can say.
She’s doing this. She’s made up her mind.