The Art of Going With the Flow
Life happens. Roll with it.
Despite her degree in education, Emma Singer doesn’t have the slightest idea of what she wants to do with her life. She had a plan once. That was before. Before she tried teaching and quickly discovered that it wasn’t her calling. Before her longtime boyfriend, Cody, was sleeping with another girl. Before her dad was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Before she started attending group therapy sessions for her “depression.” Before she met Mr. Shizuoka, the perceptive old man that owns the tea shop just below her new apartment flat...
Now, it appears evident to Emma, all she’s got going for her is a part-time job at the Barns & Noble, her major weight loss, and the fact that she gets to pay easy rent just as long as she remains roommates with her older brother’s good friend Ethan.
Will Emma be able to work out the kinks in her life, or will she find that the kinks might actually be blessings in disguise?
I stared blankly at the apartment listings, barley registering anything on the page. I was both sleep deprived and starving, a combination that only served to increase my distraction. I sat at a corner booth by myself, sipping a diet coke while I waited for my brother Jared to show up.
He was always running late.
The summer afternoon sun rays slanted in from the windows, and if it wasn’t for the intense air-conditioning circulating the restaurant and the cool drink in my hands, I would’ve been throughly drenched in sweat. Today it was about a hundred and five degrees, as was the standard August temperature for Texas, and the only people not inside were those walking briskly from their cars to the safe haven of an air-conditioned building. I watched the heat waves ripple outside. Just knowing that I would eventually have to step back out into them made several phantom beads of sweat prickle the back of my neck.
The heat was relentless that summer. The coolest it managed to dip down to was ninety degrees and that was in June. The worst part of it all was that I had to sleep in it. Hence my recent development of insomnia. There was no air-conditioning where I was currently staying, which was at my friend Evelyn’s, so for a hot-blooded woman like myself it was like living in a sauna. There wasn’t even a window unit. Oh sure, there was a celling fan, but it was practically useless. A ceiling fan by itself had no chance of battling this oppressive August heat.
Don’t even get me started on the humidity.
In my previous condominium, the one I shared with my now estranged boyfriend Cody, there was plenty of air-conditioning. I missed it desperately, specifically the air-conditioning part. I would’ve still been living there if it wasn’t for our nasty break up and the unfortunate reality that I couldn’t possibly afford the rent on my own with only a part-time income. Cody and I split up after I found out about him cheating on me with one of my best friends (and now, appropriately, one of my ex-best friends). I say that lightly because, really, there is no other way to divulge that sort of information without sounding pathetic and broken. And I, for one, was determined not to be pathetic about it. I didn’t want to allow them the satisfaction. Instead of moping around eating ice cream and feeling miserable like I normally would’ve done, I bought myself one of those workout DVDs (Jillian Michaels edition) and trimmed down my waistline.
If religiously exercising with Jillian Michaels is not considered productive therapy technique then I don’t know what is.
“I know, I know,” Jared said as he hastily slid into the booth across from me. He had his palms raised up in an apologetic gesture. “I’m late. Before you get all pissed, you should hear what I am about to tell you.”
To my astonishment, my brother wasn’t alone. He’d brought along a friend and that said friend had already slid into the booth next to him.
“Em, you remember Ethan?” Jared explained when he noticed the direction of my gaze.
Jared might have been my older brother and all, but any sibling resemblance between us ended there. Where he had mousy brown hair cropped short, mine was extremely long, semi-wavy, and practically bleach blonde. Where he had deep brown eyes, I had pale blue ones. Where he was six feet tall, I was five-foot-five. Where he was tan, I was not. Where he liked to wear athletic grab, I’d been told on many occasions that I dress like a hipster...
Anyway, you get my point.
“Um, yeah.” I smiled tentatively at Ethan, still a little taken aback. I hadn’t expected him to be joining us. “I remember Ethan.”
Ethan wasn’t an easy person to forget. He, unlike myself, was a total genius. He didn’t flaunt this particular side of him, simply because Ethan wasn’t the kind of guy to flaunt, but you just knew after a certain amount of times hanging out with him that the guy was freakishly smart. For instance, he was a whiz with technology. One time, Jared had like five viruses on his computer, and Ethan managed to expunge them all. I think I remembered him mentioning once that he was especially interested in working with medical and space technology. Although, from what I was aware, he was currently working with Apple pay the bills.
Like my brother, Ethan was tall. He had to be at least two or three inches taller than Jared. He also had the kind of silvery grey eyes incased in thick dark lashes that people, like myself right then, sometimes struggle with looking away from. Ethan kept his dark hair long, but at the same time short enough to where the hairline curved neatly against the top of his neck and his bangs just barely grazed his eyebrows.
I suddenly became awkwardly fascinated with my straw rapper, if only to have an excuse to divert my eyes from his.
“Well, good, because I think I’ve found you a solution to your house-hunting problem.” Jared beamed at me, indicating to Ethan with his thumb. “Ethan needs a roommate.”
I nearly choked on my diet coke. “Oh my God...are you serious?”
“Absolutely.” Jared beamed some more. I glanced over to Ethan for confirmation and he smiled, nodding his consent. “And the rent would be really cheap too. Ethan’s got a great set up.”
Then, as if awakening from a daydream, Jared blinked rapidly at me, tiling his head to the side. It didn’t take long for it to dawn on him since the next words he blurted were, “Wow, Emma, you’re not fat anymore!”
A comment like this would’ve normally offended me if I wasn’t still reeling from the shock of learning that Ethan wanted me to be his roommate.
“Oh, sh*t.” Jared’s eyes went wide. “I didn’t mean to say it like that! I meant that you look noticeably, err...skinnier.”
Shaking his head in disapproval, Ethan chuckled. “You should know better than to comment on a girl’s weight, Jared.”
For reasons I cannot fathom, I found myself narrowing my eyes at Ethan and saying defensively: “I don’t care if people bring up my weight. Why would you assume that I would care if someone mentioned my weight?”
Of course, my snapping at him only further validated that yes, I was insecure about my weight and that no, I did not like when people brought it up.
Ethan raised his eyebrows in amusement. “Ah, is that so?”
“Yes,” I stammered.
Ethan shrugged. If he noticed that I was blushing profusely he didn’t let on. “Sorry then. My mistake.”
Jared cleared his throat sheepishly, and was visibly relieved for the waiter’s interruption just then. We all took this time to order our burgers. Kirk’s was a dinner-style burger joint located just outside the downtown area of Austin, and was also Jared and I’s designated meeting place. Due to conflicting schedules, Jared and I didn’t get together all too often, but when we did it was mostly at Kirk’s.
“So, what do you say, Emma?” Ethan asked a minute later, after the waiter left. His tone was casual but I didn’t miss the tactfulness of it. This was, after all, a serious decision. And even though we were both perfectly mature adults, him being twenty-six and I being twenty-four, I couldn’t just ignore the whole opposite-sex thing. It was one thing to be sharing living courters with my boyfriend, but Ethan? He was one of my brother’s best friends. I’d known him since I was in high school.
I don’t know why, but the prospect of sharing an apartment with him seemed more than a little intimidating. Not that he himself was exactly intimidating. He was just, well, Ethan.
I bit my lip, contemplating. “It depends,” I stalled. “How much would I be paying for rent?”
If Ethan detected the source of my misgivings, he didn’t show it. “Really cheap, like Jared said. Technically you wouldn’t even be paying the rent. I can cover the rent just fine on my own. It’s the extra bills that I would need your help with.”
“You mean to tell me that all I’d need to pay for is the utilities?”
Ethan nodded. “Pretty much.”
“I don’t know if I can accept that.” I frowned, even though I’d already made up my mind on the matter. The promise of air-conditioning was too irresistible. “It seems like you’re getting the short end of the stick.”
Ethan shook his head, smiling at my feeble attempt at being fair. “Are you kidding me? You’d be contributing significantly.”
By that point Jared felt compelled to interject. “God, is this some female independency thing? Because if so you shouldn’t be so damn irrational. Emma, you’ve been complaining for months about needing a place to stay. It really can’t get much sweeter than this.”
I ignored my brother. To Ethan I said, “How much would it be if we split both the cost of rent and the utilities fifty-fifty?”
Ethan scratched the back of his neck, mentally calculating.
“Emma...” he trailed off wearily after a minute or so of mental math. “Honestly, I don’t mind. Don’t feel like you have to split things fifty-fifty with me. I’m happy to carry the slack.”
“You’re dodging the question, Ethan,” I pointed out accusingly.
Ethan sighed. “Truthfully, Emma, you wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
“Aha! I knew it!” I wagged a finger at him. “I’m a charity case aren't I?”
Jared huffed indignantly, taking the liberty of interjecting again. What he had to feel indignant about, I was at a loss to know. “Okay. This is getting ridiculous, Em. So what if Ethan is being charitable? You should be grateful that he’s giving you such a reasonable deal!”
Thanks to Jared’s outburst, his words sank in and I realized with soaring embarrassment that he was right. What was I doing? After all the shitty stuff that had happened to me in the past few months, was I really about to spurn this spot of good luck? I glanced at Ethan—right then he was most likely regretting his offer to have me as a roommate and thinking of a polite way to retract it—and smiled contritely.
Something about the way he smiled back managed to sway me.
“Okay, Ethan, when can I move in?”
Hey, people! I hope you like this new story of mine. I make no promises, but I plan on taking this one far. I know this has to be my billionth story on here, so bear with me. It's not going to be perfect. I'll tell you that right now. It's going to have unnecessary drama and fluff and typos and all kinds of things that it probably shouldn't have. And I think, the perfectionist in me aside, that if I'm ever going to finish something I just have to accept that the first draft is going to suck. That being said, be kind and constructive with your criticism. I'll need it.
Edited by 24moon100, 24 March 2014 - 06:59 PM.