AUTHOR'S NOTE: I don't think I can apologize enough for my absence. My mom passed away around the same time I had my first (and so far only) child, and things have been difficult to say the least. Please try to forgive me. Here's the next installment.
So, crazily enough, I settled on a place not too far from work. And, get this! The roomie? She was a Lesson from high school; Carine, her name is. Weird, right? I know! I was surprised when she didn't toss me out on my ass after she opened the door and realized who I was. She was treated pretty harshly by my friends. I never did anything, like I said before, but I sure as hell never helped her either. Poor girl. She was one of those skinny, wiry chicks with mousy brown hair. If only my former pals could see her now. She must have been one of those late bloomers! She's a waitress slash actress-in-training. I wouldn't be surprised if I saw her on the big screen soon. She's definitely got the looks!
We had a long, air-clearing talk, the two of us. She admitted to me that she mentally plotted how she would greet my old clique at an upcoming high school reunion, all dressed up and with a hot model hunk on her arm. She already had the hunk, too. She'd been dating him since college. He has a degree in psychology and a terminal six-pack stomach. Yeah, I'm sure he feels better knowing he has that BA to fall back on! Not that I don't value education, but if I was his patient, no way would I be able to "open up" as they say. I apologized for my behavior profusely. In no time, though, we were cracking up over some "where are they now" gossip. I caught her up to speed on her old nemeses. She delighted in the fact that they hadn't changed a bit, knowing that reunion would be all the sweeter, I guess.
Anyway, like I said, she was looking for a roommate to share her loft. That's N.Y. fancy-talk for one big room with a kitchenette in one corner and a closet-sized bathroom in another. Close quarters and I basically lived out of my suitcase and boxes while I slept on the pullout couch, but the rent was affordable and I away from Mother Hen. Oh! You should have seen her face when I started packing! Priceless! She was in denial all the way up until I loaded Denise's car. I couldn't take everything, since it was a loft, but I took what I needed and left as much of my past behind. Sal was there, too … which, I admit, was an added bonus on my part.
"You'll be back," my mother muttered before she shut the door in my face. Nice, mom. Very nice.
This would be the first time Sal and Denise would be meeting my roommate. I'd told them about high school and how we talked. After she found out about what my mother said when I told her about us, Sal tried to apologize for making me do it. But I wouldn't hear it. No way. I felt liberated and no one was raining on my parade. We played loud '80s tunes all the way to my new place. When we got there, I was relieved to find that Denise had no trouble finding a space. We piled out and grabbed as much as we could carry, then walked the half-block to my building and trudged up three flights of stairs. Okay, the walk-up took some getting used to, but I loved that place! It was my own declaration of independence! My new place is bigger and there's an elevator, but I'll always have a place in my heart for that loft.
Carine opened the door with a huge grin and flicked back her artfully styled hair. I made a face, a little jealous that she'd gotten the free haircut from that fancy salon that one of her patrons offered her as a tip. It was a $300 cut, after all!
"You got the haircut, huh?" I grinned as I passed her through the doorway to deposit my load. Sal and Denise followed behind me, giving Carine small smiles on the way.
"How's it look?"
"You'll be raking in the ad spots in no time," I laughed then hugged her briefly and turned to my moving helpers, who had also placed their burdens down. "This is my girlfriend, Sal, and our friend, Denise."
Sal's smile widened at her introduction.
"Ah ha," Carine nodded, shaking hands with each of them. "Alex and I talked a lot about you two. It's great to finally meet you.
"Well, make yourselves at home, since this is Alex's home," Carine said brightly. She handed me a key for the front door and another, smaller one for the mailbox. "That's for your key ring, before I forget. Now, can I help with anything?"
"Um … is there a closet where I can hang my dresses and skirts?" I asked.
"I moved out half my stuff in this one," she replied, walking over to one of the two closets in the place. This one was for clothes. The other one was more like a small larder and was in the kitchenette.
"I hope you didn't have to get ride o anything on my account," I said ruefully.
"Nah, just stuff I hadn't worn in years and had no plans to ever wear again. You get the rest of your things and I'll hang your dresses." She picked up a plastic clothing carrier. "This it?"
"Oh no!" Denise chuckled. "She has two more of those yet to come up."
"I think it should fit," Carine said thoughtfully.
"Yeah, no sweat," Sal added, winking at me.
I shrugged as I headed back toward the door.
"She's real nice," Sal said quietly when we got back to the car.
"Yeah," Denise cut in. "Are we sure she's on the up and up?"
"Huh?" I asked, startled.
"I mean, are we sure she doesn't still hold a grudge against you," she clarified. "I'm getting a weird vibe from her."
"Really?" I was surprised. No warning bells had gone off for me, and we'd had a long conversation that night. I'd even met Evan, her boyfriend. "I felt pretty comfortable with her when we discussed things. I even told her all about my mom and her reaction to Sal and I. She didn't bat an eye."
"Hmm," my dark-haired friend replied. "Okay then." She suddenly frowned and slanted me a protective glance. "We're also sure she's not queer, right?"
I must have looked affronted, because she hastily added, "No, I'm not asking you if you find her attractive."
"You better not be," Sal grunted, putting her arm around my shoulder.
"I'm not!" Denise rolled her eyes. "I'm just not sure I like her being around our girl. We don't know her. Now," she looked at me. "You're sure she's not gay or bi?"
"Positive. She has a college boyfriend," I said smugly.
"Oh," Denise muttered. "Good."
"You relieved or disappointed?" Sal asked with a laugh.
Denise flipped her off before grabbing another load of bags.
"Want to order pizza?" Denise asked after we deposited the last of my things on my side of the loft.
"How about sushi?" Carine, suggested. "I gotta watch my diet what with working in an Italian restaurant and all."
"Sushi's fine with me," Denise shrugged. "You two?"
Sal and I nodded, and I didn't miss the twinkle in my girlfriend's eye as she regarded our mutual friend with amusement. Denise was acting a little off. Come to think of it, I'd been so wrapped up in my own self-discoveries to wonder about her. And I hadn't ever heard her mention any guys she'd been dating … or girls or that matter. She was keeping things pretty close to the vest. I made a mental note to pursue that line of questioning come Monday.
"I know a great place that delivers!" my new roommate said, reaching for the phone. "Is a mix of rolls and pieces okay with everyone?"
We nodded and she headed off to the kitchenette or the menu.
"Gee, Dee," Sal laughed. "Drool much?"
"Very funny," she replied through gritted teeth. She turned back to me. "Are you sure she's straight?"
I shrugged helpfully and smirked. "She's been dating the same guy for almost four years."
"Just my luck!"
Well that answered my question. Who knew? But now a lot of things made sense to me, especially her friendship with Sal and her interest in protecting the two of us.
I just shook my head and chuckled. "She has hot friends," I offered.
"How hot?" Denise whined.
"And they're lesbians?"
"Gay Pride Parade out, she says."
"She has the pictures to prove it," I added, sharing a knowing look with Sal. I wanted Denise to find someone, too, since she helped me so much. And now that I knew her preference, this would be the perfect opportunity to see that happen. As Carine hung up the phone and turned back to us, I practically cackled with glee.