I wrote this for the Fandom4LLS compilation. Though I have no immediate plans to make this a full-length story, I may add to it now and then.
Thanks to Regina and Josh for beta-ing.
The Patron Saint of Lost Causes
M seeks responsible roommate to share 2 bedroom apt in Wrigleyville. N/S, no pets, M or F ok.
$500/month plus utilities. Avail. immed. Call Carlisle 555-0308.
My life has come to this. At an age when most of my friends are finally starting to make enough money to live alone, I'm advertising for a roommate. I tell myself it's a temporary step backward, that once I have enough in the bank to open my own restaurant I'll be able to justify the expense of having my place to myself again, that sharing space with someone won't be as bad as I think. Then again, that's not saying much.
It's not that I'm anti-social. As sous-chef for Chicago's current It-restaurant, I'm surrounded by people who work hard and play harder. Of course, there are perks to my profession. I learned in culinary school this hand washes the other, and experience tells me this is true. The right table for the right patron will grant me access to even the most exclusive parties and clubs, but I've seen enough of the scene to know that as much as I enjoy it, I like how quiet my apartment is just as much.
At least, I liked how quiet my apartment was. Then my phone started ringing off the hook with annoying questions regarding my classified ad. When it rings for what is probably the tenth time this hour, I figure I'm in for more of the same.
After a pause, a female voice mutters, "Pre-cum leaking ass munch."
"Uh, wow. This is by far the most creative crank call I've ever gotten. Just for that, I won't *69 you."
"Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean...I mean...I thought I'd get a machine or something. I've been making phone calls about apartments for an hour now, and this is the first I've gotten a live person. Anyway, now that I've ruined any chance I may have had to discuss coming to see your apartment, I'll let you go–"
"You haven't ruined your chances. If anything, you've given me the best laugh I've had all week. So about the apartment..." I pause when I realize she hasn't told me her name. "I'm Carlisle, by the way."
"When would you like to come take a look at it? I imagine you'd want to bring a friend with you, to be safe."
"That's not really possible. I'm new in town and don't know anyone yet. Would you be terribly inconvenienced if I asked you to meet me for coffee first? Just to make sure you're not an axe murderer or something. I mean, I'm sure you're not. It's just–"
"That's fine; I understand. There's a Starbucks around the corner from me. We can meet there."
"Perfect," she says. "Are you free an hour from now?"
Once at Starbucks, I scan the tables. On the phone earlier, Isabella described herself as "a nondescript brunette". There's a brown-haired girl sitting by the window, but she's too pretty to possibly refer to herself as "nondescript". Then I notice her foot twitching violently under the table. Given how nervous she seemed when she called me, I'm thinking this is her.
I walk over to her. "Isabella? Hello, I'm Carlisle."
She falls off her stool. For a second, she has a look of amazement on her face, like she's surprised she landed on her feet.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
"You didn't," she says, extending her hand to me.
Not wanting her to think I'm checking out her tits, I keep my eyes glued to her face while we shake hands.
"What will it be?" She angles her head toward the counter. "My treat."
"You don't have to buy me coffee."
"You didn't have to meet me in public."
"Thank you. In that case, I'll have an espresso."
"Just give me a sec," she says.
She turns her back to me as she hurries off to order. No longer hindered by the need to maintain eye-contact, I lower my eyes and check out her ass. It's as nice as her smile.
A few minutes later, she slides back onto her stool. "I'm glad you were okay with meeting me here before looking at your apartment. I mean, I know if I move in I'll be alone with you all the time. It's just I've never been out on my own before and—"
"No, it's kind of a pain in the ass—that's why I appreciate it so much." She pauses, taking a sip of her coffee. "Anyway, it's not like I'm paranoid or anything, but my dad is a cop, and for as long as I can remember, I've been told never to go anywhere with strange men—not that I think I you're strange. I mean, in the ten minutes I've known you, several adjectives have gone through my head, but strange isn't one of them. Handsome and charming have, but then again, they're equally applicable to the average serial killer."
It takes everything in me not to laugh. "I'm not sure how to take that."
"Fuck." She closes her eyes and sighs. "I can't believe I just did that."
"Likened me to a serial killer?"
"No—that I said you were charming. Not that you aren't, but I'm kind of surprised I noticed—not that there's anything wrong with noticing guys. It's totally normal, right?"
"I wouldn't know." I shrug my shoulders. "I'm not into guys."
All of a sudden, I don't care how much she parties. If she brings girls home and lets me watch, she can live in my apartment rent-free.
"So do you have a girlfriend?" I ask.
"What? No. I didn't mean it that way—not that there's anything wrong with that." She laughs when I recite the famous line from Seinfeld with her
Then I realize if she's not a lesbian and she's not used to noticing guys, it can only mean one thing. If she were my girlfriend, I wouldn't be okay with her shacking up with some random dude in a city where she knows no one. And if he's the jealous type, I could be setting myself up for drama.
"In all seriousness, Isabella–"
"Izzy," I repeat. "Is your boyfriend okay with the idea of you having a male roommate?"
"I don't have one. Honestly, I almost feel safer living with a guy, strange as it sounds. So what about you?"
"Anyone I'd go out with wouldn't care."
"No, I meant I wanted to know about you in general. I've been babbling about myself so much we've barely talked about you. And we should, you know, before we go back to your place."
"Back to my place?" I smile. "Well, when you put it like that..."
"Ha ha. You're funny. You know what I mean."
I raise my hand to my chest, faking heartbreak. "You mean you don't want to see my etchings?"
She doesn't appear amused.
"Sorry," I say.
"No, you're not."
"You're right; I'm not."
"Fine, then I'll go first. I'm twenty-two, and I just moved here from Washington."
"State or D.C.?"
"I grew up in Washington State. I went to college in Washington D.C., where I earned a degree that's useless unless I want to teach, which I don't. I mean, I'm sure it pays more than what I was making as a barista, and it would get everyone off my back about my lack of direction, but I don't think I have the patience for it."
"Then you shouldn't do it. Teaching is a hard job—even for those who love it. It's not fair to students to go into education simply because you can't think of anything else you're qualified to do."
"Right." She leans forward onto the table. "Your turn. What do you do?"
"I'm a teacher."
She looks appalled. "Holy fuck."
"Just kidding," I say, laughing. "I do have a degree in music education, though. When I was right out of college, I taught high school for a year."
"You make it sound like it was a long time ago. You can't be that old."
"I'm twenty-eight. Anyway, the funding for the program was cut, and I took a job waiting tables. It didn't take long for me to realize I was more comfortable in the kitchen than I ever was in a classroom, so I went back to school to learn to cook. Now I'm the sous-chef at Jude's."
"Wow." She picks up a paper napkin and starts shredding it. "I like to cook and, though I'm told I'm good at it, I can't imagine doing it for a living."
"Don't like cooking that much, huh?"
"Oh, I love it. It just never occurred to me I could earn a living at it. Then again, I majored in French. Without going to grad school, I can't make a living at that, either." She brushes the bits of paper across the table, knocking over her coffee in the process. "Shit!" After righting the cup, she mops up the spill with the scraps of her napkin. "I'm not usually this clumsy."
"You're nervous. It's fine; I get it."
She squeezes her eyes shut, sighing. "Is it that obvious?"
"I feel like such a tool."
I smile, trying to put her at ease. "You said you've never been out on your own. And moving to a city where you don't know anyone is a huge adjustment for anyone."
"That's only part of it. As much as I hope we hit it off and you let me move in, the prospect of living with someone I don't know is scary. I mean, I did it my freshman year of college, but this is different because...well, you have a...you know. You know what I mean, right?"
I blink several times in quick succession. "Was that English?"
"Don't make fun of me." She folds her arms across her chest.
"You know, you could have just said it's because I'm a guy."
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm a little on edge here!"
"Sorry," I say.
"So have I made it through the preliminary screening?"
"Yes." I already want her to move in with me, though not because she's an ideal candidate. I like her and think we'll get along well together. That I find her extremely attractive isn't a factor—at least, this is what I tell myself. "However, I am concerned that you don't have a job."
"I think any potential landlord would be. I figured I'd have to pay a few months up front as a deposit."
"Would that be a problem?"
When I look up from my espresso, she's staring at me.
"This is going to sound weird, but you remind me of...never mind." She shakes her head as she places her cup back on the table.
"I'm ready to show you the apartment whenever you are."
"Okay." She stand up and pulls on her coat. "Lead the way."
Twenty minutes later, I have my new roommate.
"When would you like to move in?" I ask.
"Tonight, if that's okay with you."
"That's fine, but aren't you forgetting something?"
"What?" She throws up her palms. "It's not like I need to hire movers."
"That's not what I mean." I pull a pen and a piece of paper from the drawer in my kitchen. "You said your dad was a cop, right?"
"This is the address here," I say, writing it down. "My legal name is William Carlisle Crawforth, in case he decides he wants to run a background check on me." I tear off the sheet and hand it to her.
That night, she moves into my apartment with nothing but her purse, the clothes on her back, and a look on her face that says she doesn't want to talk about it. Already, I like her enough to pretend I expected I'd have to provide sheets, towels, and a t-shirt to sleep in to whomever moved in with me. This part is easy. It's when she shuts herself in her room and I have to pretend I don't hear her crying that kills me.