Rob hadn't realized it was possible to be homesick for a place that had barely been home before they'd had to move again. For almost five years, and four additional duty-stations he'd managed to tamp down this inexplicable longing for Fort Greene, NY and the friends he'd left behind.
The emotion was almost overwhelming as he maneuvered his car through familiar streets. He was finally home. The few friends Rob had made his senior year of high school thought he was crazy to give up the sunny shores of Florida to move north to New York. As a Navy brat he'd lived in 10 different cities before he'd turned eighteen. When the time had come to apply to college, he was finally free to choose where he wanted to live. And there was no choice to be made, except which college in New York offered him the most opportunity.
His father had been unsurprisingly stoic about his choice. Not that his Dad hadn't left Navy recruitment pamphlets in strategic locations throughout their Base assigned house. Rob loved his Dad, but they were never going to be in agreement over the military issue. Not that Rob had anything but respect for people serving their country, but he didn't want someone else telling him when and where to move. Ironically his biggest problem with the military was with the ridiculous "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which wasn't even applicable to him. He was straight, but he didn't think it was right to force anyone to hide parts of their life in order to keep their career. It was possible he was being overly empathetic. He'd been harassed too often for being the quiet new kid who liked to write.
Rob sighed to himself. He didn't actually date much, preferring to be alone rather than try to forge tenuous connections to other people that could be broken without any notice on a whim of the Navy. But that was all about to change. For the foreseeable future, his home was in the Fort Greene area of New York. He'd found a rent-controlled apartment that was cheap enough to only require one roommate. Rob knew he hadn't just been lucky in finding the apartment, his Dad knew someone with connections, but he was too thrilled at the prospect of not living in a dorm to mind the interference for once. Even the prospect of having to search for a roommate didn't dampen his spirits as he pulled the car into the small parking lot reserved for his apartment building. Finally, home sweet home.
The apartment was furnished, so he only had to unload his clothes, personal items, laptop and books. He'd limited himself to only one box of books, knowing that he wouldn't have time to re-read all of his favorites during his first semester anyway. And if he decided he simply couldn't live without a certain book, all the more reason to spend a Saturday afternoon browsing the numerous old bookshops in the city.
Unpacking took little time or effort, the apartment was small but not claustrophobic, two bedrooms, one bath, a living room and small kitchen. Rob wished for a moment that he could skip finding a roommate, but he realized that sharing the cost of the apartment would leave him more money for books. At least it wasn't a dorm room he'd be sharing. Having earned a full scholarship to the University, the college fund set up by his parents when he was born was going to pay for his living expenses. He'd probably try looking for a part time job in a bookstore, but that was mainly for the discount and early access to new releases.
Rob put the finishing touches on his study area and printed out several copies of the "Roommate Wanted" notice he'd drafted. He grabbed a small notebook as he walked away from the desk, and on impulse grabbed his old Ghostwriter pen and stuck it in his pocket with the notebook. Maybe Alex's dad would let him put up a notice on the bulletin board at their bodega. He hadn't talked to any of his New York friends in months; they didn't even know he was coming back to the city. Over the last five years their e-mails had gotten further apart, but he felt closer to the Ghostwriter team than any other group of friends he'd ever had. He'd missed all of them and he hoped they'd missed him too.
Gaby was bored. It really said something about the quality of her day when the highlight had been baiting Calvin Ferguson when he'd stopped in from the Stationary Shop next door. Her brother claimed that fighting with Calvin was like having a battle of wits with an unarmed man, but Gaby could admit to still being childish enough to think it was fun. For awhile at least.
The bodega had been doing a steady business, but the pace had lulled in the past hour. Gaby would have normally used this as an opportunity to call her boyfriend or best friend, but they were both busy this afternoon. Alex had taken Tina to a mystery movie festival for the day, and Hector was helping Jamal. His sister was moving this weekend, and she'd recruited Jamal to help her. Jamal in return had recruited Hector. Gaby supposed being bored was a batter way to spend her Saturday than lugging boxes across Brooklyn. Especially since the building Danitra was moving from didn't have an elevator.
The door to the bodega opened and she glanced up. Suddenly her boring afternoon behind the register was a lot more interesting. She flashed the customer her brightest smile and called out, "Hi! Let me know if I can help you find anything." Gaby studied the customer for a moment, while she pretended to search for something on the delivery clipboard. People-watching was one of her favorite pastimes. She loved making up stories about people she observed.
He seemed familiar, but she couldn't place him. Maybe he'd been a classmate of Alex's? He looked a few years older than her, she'd guess at least 18, but maybe even in his early twenty's. If Alex did know him it was a shame that he hadn't thought to invite this particular friend over to meet his family. Of course Alex would have reminded her that Hector wouldn't appreciate his girlfriend ogling other boys, but Gaby was just looking. No harm in that. No harm in appreciating the way he filled out that pair of jeans and a not-quite-vintage t-shirt either. Or the way his dark hair was just a little too long to be considered short, and not long enough to be intentionally styled. Hmm, no hair products, he needed a haircut, ultra casual about clothes…he was single, Gaby was sure of that. A girlfriend would have given him a makeover by now.
Rob was standing in front of the cooler trying to decide on a drink. He had been amused that Gaby hadn't recognized him when he'd walked into the bodega. Truthfully, if he didn't know it was Gaby, he probably wouldn't have recognized her either. But now he could see her blatantly checking him out in the reflection of the cooler door. He wasn't sure if he found the thought Gaby checking him out funny, or just disturbing. After thinking about Alex's reaction, Rob quickly decided on disturbing. Very disturbing. He'd better go identify himself, but he was going to have a little fun while he was at it.
He walked up to the counter and set his drink down.
"Did you find everything you need?" asked Gabby.
Rob smiled, "Actually no, I was looking for something in particular."
"Well maybe I can help. What is it you're looking for?"
He could hardly contain his grin as he pulled out his Ghostwriter pen. "A refill for my favorite pen."
Gaby looked at the pen in his hand, and looked back up at his face. Sudden comprehension dawned on her. She let out an ear piercing scream before running around to the front side of the counter and hurling herself at Rob and hugging him.
"Ohmygod! Whendidyougetin? Howlongareyoustaying? Whydidn'tyoutellus…."
"Gaby, slow down. I'm out of practice translating Gabbish to English."