The Boy Upstairs
Written by Jill Annette
I noticed him the day he moved in upstairs. He was tall and lean with shaggy black hair and blue eyes that beat the sky with radiance. From behind the wheel of my car I could see the bite of the color that made him stand out tremendously from the other men I have seen in the twenty-one years I have been alive. Sometimes waiting for the gate to open can take a small eternity and I watched him come out of the apartment and pause a moment in front of his door.
He looked my way a moment as I pulled my vehicle slowly into the parking lot of the apartments before he descended the stairs and continued to unpack things from his truck. My own blue eyes flared up, rage took over my body as I realized just exactly where he parked.
Now, that day had been frustrating. I had to wake up early for work at the quaint little restraint twenty minutes away after working the late shift the night before. With only a few hours of sleep on my plate, horrendous customers and their lousy tips is a bad enough excuse for my next action but to top it off, Mother Nature decided to present me with her lovely monthly gift a week early. I had to pay for a crappy tampon out of the crappy dispenser in the restroom. Then I wasn't able to get off work until forty-five minutes after my shift was supposed to be over only to come home to a new neighbor (who would probably make too much noise) who parked in my spot!
I did the only thing I could think of to show not only him, but the very day itself, just how unhappy I was: I slammed my hand down on my horn for a good fifteen seconds and shot him the bird. After finding a free parking spot about ten doors down (my apartments do not have assigned parking—which they should—and everyone seems to live in the same building) I get out of my car and stomp to my apartment, steam shooting from my ears.
Because my apartment was directly below his, I had to walk across the parking lot and passed him. It took me longer than it should for me to unlock the door because I shook with anger and a little embarrassment because already I started to realize my outburst was childish. Out of the corner of my eye I could see as he stood by his truck still, arms filled with boxes and a dumbfounded expression on his face.
I looked at him dead on, my own blue eyes battling his, daring him to say something to me. He never said anything though, just shook his head and a grin that could kill broke across his face. With a scoff I slipped into my apartment and slammed my door shut as he continued to laugh outside. For the rest of the evening and well into the night I could hear him moving things around upstairs.
It was cold outside the night my gate key stopped working. I was shivering in my car with the window rolled down as I tried to swipe the card to get it to work again and again. The only person I knew to call who would let me in was gone for the weekend and the office was closed. All of a sudden I heard him clear his throat and I jumped because he was standing right outside of my car. My hand froze in mid-swipe as I looked up at him questioningly.
Gently, because I didn't move my arm on my own, he took hold of my wrist and placed my hand back inside the vehicle and on my lap. Without a word he swiped his own key and with a beep from the machine the gate started its slow process to open. He winked at me and that damn smirk was on his face before he strolled back to his truck that was idling behind my car.
I gave a pathetic little moan along with rolling my eyes before I shot through the gate and into the space closest to my apartment door and darted inside before he was even out of his truck. Sadly, I kept running into him in embarrassing kinds of situations and it was starting to wear thin on me.
As I changed into my comfy pajama bottoms and a tight t-shirt, I contemplated why it bothered me so much that these situations made me uncomfortable. I decided on the fact that it was because he was gorgeous and how much it sucked that the only thing I could do to catch his eye was something ridiculous. He must think I'm just a dumb blonde.
There was a knock on my door not even five minutes after I threw my hair up into a pony-tail. Shocked because no one I knew was home this weekend, I threw open my door to reveal the boy who lived upstairs standing in the freezing cold with a post-it note stuck on his finger. He held it out for me and I read a pound sign followed by a five digit number in a neat manly script.
When I didn't take the post-it from him he came closer, the note inches from my face. "You know, in case you need to get in," he prompted. "You can call me, I'll open the gate."
I jerked the yellow paper off his finger, "Right, thank you."
He shoved his hands in the pockets of his hoodie and nodded. "Anytime."
Another couple beats of time went by as we just looked at each other before I thanked him again slammed the door in his face.
That was mature, I thought to myself as I glanced down at the number once again and placed the slip of paper in my wallet just in case. I sat down on my couch and put my head on my knees ashamed of myself for not asking his name or inviting him in. It was when I sighed noisily and brought my head back up from its resting place that I noticed the bright pink pants I was wearing which sported white cartoon bunnies with gold tiaras. Slowly I looked down at my shirt, though I knew exactly which shirt I was wearing. It was a lighter pink than my bottoms and a cute little bunny with a fuzzy tail placed front and center with the words "do it like a pro" underneath.
The shirt had been a prank gift from my one of my best friends, Minako. Since my nickname in grade school had been Bunny (the American translation of my name), Minako found it too perfect for me and that I had to have it. While the shirt was too embarrassing for me to wear out in public, it was too cute for me to just throw away and I often wore it to bed. Only my closest of friends know about the shirt because they were there when I opened it and now the man upstairs I barely know.
Mortified, I dove under the covers of my bed to hide from the memory of the last ten minutes and begged for sleep to rescue me.
The next night, once I arrived home well past midnight from work, I tried my gate key first in hopes that the stupid thing would work. Without luck, I prayed a car would show up in the next couple minutes. Again, with my wishes denied, I finally extracted the yellow slip of paper from my purse and with shaky hands I dialed his number. It buzzed a few times before he finally answered.
"Yeah?" he said rather grumpily.
"H-hi!" I stammered rather loudly. "C-could you let me in?"
There was a long pause before he replied, "Who is this?"
"The girl from eight-seventeen, you gave me your number." Again, when he didn't reply for another moment I continued, "My gate key doesn't work."
I feared he ignored me and I about screamed bloody murder when my passenger door opened and he slipped into my car with tousled hair and only gray sweat pants to keep him warm. It slipped my mind that our apartments were ancient and the only way for someone else to get in was for the person who was allowing entry to use the small side gate to exit the complex and swipe the key themselves, only to enter again.
He handed me his key to swipe and as we waited for the gate to open he asked, "Do you always drive with your doors unlocked? It could be dangerous."
My only response to that was, "Do you always open strangers' car doors and hop in for a free ride?"
He smirked and rubbed some sleep out of his eyes. We stepped out of the car and he made sure I locked my doors before he ran up the stairs to get out of the cold. The door barely latched itself on its hinges before I heard him outside my door.
"Hey, let me in, it's freezing out here!" There was a light tap on my door before I had time to open the door again.
"Well, if you would have been smart enough to throw a jacket on or shoes it wouldn't be so bad." I moved out of his way.
"If you hadn't woken me up from a dead sleep maybe I would have thought about it." He slid past me and sat on my couch.
As I seem to do these days, I slammed my door shut and faced him. "So why are you here?"
He laughed, "I'll need to get an extra key made and give you one to keep down here just incase I get locked out again. You might want to do the same just in case."
"You locked yourself out?"
He shrugged, "I was asleep."
I sighed in response.
"So why are you getting home so late?"
Because it was cold outside and I now had company, I went into the kitchen and decided to make hot cocoa. He moved from the couch to the bar and watched as I heated milk in the microwave.
"I just got off work." He folded his arms in front of him and leaned forward as I poured the contents of the cocoa packets into a couple of mugs. "I waitress at High Moon about four days a week during school but since it's the holidays my boss is working me like a dog."
He nodded silently, allowing me to place one of the steaming mugs in front of him. I couldn't take my eyes off of him as he blew into the cup a minute before he took his first sip. He had nice lips, full enough for a man but not too puffy where there was more lip than face: just enough to nip playfully in the middle of a kiss. His body was tanned evenly throughout and very attractive according to my standard. Why I noticed it at that particular moment I'll never know. I should have realized how perfect his looks were the moment I saw him step outside his door the first day of his arrival. Although he had a scar along his left collar bone, I couldn't deny his beauty.
I don't know how long I stood there with my own mug cupped in my hands before I was brought back to reality with the raising of his eyebrows and the simultaneous burning of my hands.
The curse was through my mouth before I could stop it and the cup dropped to the bar with a solid thunk. Miraculously, it did not tip over, though a little bit of hot chocolate did slosh out of the cup. Almost immediately he was by my side and had my hands held under cool water.
My body, however, was still burning as the expanse of his chest was pressed against my back. His arms running the length of mine as he held onto my wrists to make sure I didn't move my hands from the running water. I focused every bit of thought I could (which wasn't much) on breathing.
"What's your name?" My voice was barely a murmur and had to keep myself from rolling my eyes at the timing of the question.
The pads of his thumbs massaged my palms as he answered and I could feel the smile that formed on his face. "Mamoru."
He turned off the water and grabbed a towel from the counter and patted my hands dry. I bit my lip as I watched him work, my hands were pinker than normal but I wasn't worried about them at all.
"I'm Usagi," I said stupidly, not knowing anything else to say to him at that moment. Besides I knew his name he should know mine too.
I dropped my hands from his and took the towel to wipe up the drink from the counter. I couldn't stand still because I was afraid of what might happen and afraid of the look I saw in his eyes as he dried my hands. With the contents of my drink poured down the sink I made my way to the room.
"You can sleep on the couch as long as you promise to stay there."
I didn't wait for a response as I shut the door to my room and readied myself for bed.
That afternoon when we both were up, Mamoru went to the office to be let into his apartment. I put on a pot of coffee and sat at the bar impatiently waiting for the dark liquid to be ready to drink. Mamoru was back inside my apartment with a sweater on and flip-flops before the last drop of coffee hit the pool of liquid below.
We had decided on brunch since we were both had nothing to do today. He had store bought pastries filled with raspberries he brought down from his apartment since I had nothing but the coffee I now poured into mugs; something bitter to go along with the sweet.
Our conversation was mostly small talk. Questions asked were things like what we were going to school for, what our families were like and what our hobbies were and how in the world I ended up with my ridiculously cute bunny shirt. Eventually the questioning somehow got on the subject of past relationships, if either of us had ever been in love.
Brunch eventually turned into a movie which turned into us snuggled on the couch. By the time he finally went back upstairs my emotions were frazzled because of the close proximity of him all day. The new knowledge of him and actually the feeling that I knew him now, only made my attraction to him that much stronger.
The next time I saw him was at High Moon. He deliberately sat at one of the tables I worked at the very end of my shift. Ami, one of the hostesses, ran up to me after she sat him down to tell me the news. She beamed as she explained to me how the extremely handsome man asked specifically for me. Then she admonished me because I kept such a secret from her. When I told her that he just lived above me and we barely knew each other, Ami rolled her eyes and waved her hands to shoo me off.
"Hey Mamoru," I greeted him with a smile because I had to.
"Can I get you anything to drink?"
His smile was broad as he replied, "I'd prefer a hot cocoa but there's a rumor going around that you burn yourself with it. So instead, I'll just take water."
I took in a deep breath to control my emotions because I know he was just picking on me, I turned to fetch his drink without a reply. When I returned with his drink he was looking up at me with his boyish grin that made me nervous and giddy like I was a teenager again but I hoped my face didn't betray my emotions too much because I didn't want him thinking me an airhead more than he probably already did.
"Are you ready to order now?" I asked after I set the glass on the table.
He nodded and his smile faltered the slightest bit.
"Okay," I said. Pencil and pad ready I asked, "What would you like?"
Without the slightest hesitation he responded, "You."
Because my shift was practically over when he walked in the door anyway, I plopped down in the chair across from him with a blank look on my face. I tried to figure out what would make him want a person like me just by the expression on his face.
As if he could read my mind he said, "You're quirky and fun. Of course, you're a little clumsy and irritable at times I find that more irresistible about you. I really like you and I was just wondering if you felt the same."
I couldn't respond to that because my boss appeared out of no where and stood over us and glared at me. "Usagi, you are still on the clock, you work! There will be no romances while you are supposed to be working. Up-up-up-up-up!"
Forced up from my seat and practically pushed to the back, I barely had the chance to glance back to Mamoru at the table with his head bowed and his fingers in his hair. I grumbled incoherent words to the manager and clocked out, gathered my things and walked back out to the restaurant. Mamoru was not where I left him, nor was he outside.
It was late and I was agitated. How could a person be so cruel? The trip home was not long at all and there was a space right next to Mamoru's truck for me to park. I could see it through the gate. Quickly I dialed his number since I still had not received a new card key for the gate. He didn't answer the call instead he was inside my car before I could blink. I swiped his card and we silently waited for the gate to open.
Once parked he took his key back and hurried up to his apartment without so much as a look in my direction. I slammed the car door shut and stomped up the stairs to his apartment. I knocked on my door and not waiting for him to open the door I started to yell.
"Why are you acting like a child? It's stupid and idiotic and do you even want to hear what I have to say because I didn't get the chance to say anything much less process what you said to me! Then you just left! Who does that?"
He opened the door and I continued to yell at him as I walked in and turned to face him. Once I stopped he just shrugged.
"You get worked up so easily."
"That's all you have to say?" I scoffed and started to leave his apartment, I did not have to deal with what he was doing to me.
He grabbed my wrist and pulled me back to him, "I didn't want to get you in trouble and I knew you couldn't avoid me for too long because you'd have to get into the complex somehow. As for the silence, I was simply waiting for you to respond."
"Then why did you rush all the way up here as fast as you could to get away from me?"
"I wasn't getting away from you." He laughed as he ran his fingers through my hair. Something about the look in his eyes changed and he pulled me even closer, "I just had to figure out a way to get you where I wanted you."
I stepped away from him, shaking slightly until my back was pressed against the wall and I could go no further. "And where is that?" I asked shakily.
"Almost exactly where you are right now," he replied.
He lifted me up so that our faces were even and kissed me. My legs wrapped themselves around his waist for better balance, though I wouldn't be going too far seeing that I was sandwiched between Mamoru and the wall. His tongue explored my mouth and I returned the gesture. It was the first of many kisses and a long, solid relationship.
Later that first night as we lay together in his bed, I asked him if he really wanted to know what I thought about him because he never gave me the moment to answer him. Mamoru just smiled and shook his head and told me that he bet he could guess.