Chapter 2: The Romance Novelist meets Mr. Eggman
Several days passed with Emily spending most of her nights in several men's apartments looking for her next victim – I mean boyfriend. It's her persistent attitude that makes her great at her job and great at finding guys. I guess I shouldn't complain since she didn't give Aaron – let alone any other guy – anytime for her tears. She has too much pride for that. I did, however, disapprove of her sleeping around.
Especially with random guys she'd bring to our apartment.
When the sex sessions get too overly loud, I end up waiting outside the balcony or going for a walk, hoping that it'll be done by the time I come back. Also the weird atmosphere at having to make polite conversation with a guy who just said, "Who's your daddy?" the next morning was too much to bear! Lucky for me, Emily had to leave on a flight somewhere in Europe, leaving me free to have the apartment for myself.
At least, that's what I thought of before she left.
I crawl towards the fridge even after knowing full well that nothing inside is waiting for me. My hands open the pantry door as my eyes trail over the food with a depressing gaze. If there is one thing Emily is good for as a roommate, it is cooking. I end up heating a TV dinner, watching the thing turn on itself in the microwave. I can already feel my stomach miss her by its steady growling. I should be able to survive on TV dinners and chips alone. Oh, what a lonely life it is without my friend here providing me proper sustenance!
After I finished eating, I walk back over to my work station to type my manuscript. I'm a writer and not just any writer but a romance novelist.
It's basically porn for women.
Intellectually stimulating porn and not like those seen on those degrading online sites!
The industry overflows with new writers and books every minute, so imagine my surprise when I learned that my books had a following of readers, no matter how small. It brought me inexplicable happiness and several more published books after that. Unfortunately, it never does get easier writing as the wall keeps appearing during the most crucial of all writing stages. This situation was no different.
I snap the chip with my teeth, grinding it through my molars. Did I need another conflict or a new character? My thoughts race fast to figure out the solution to my dilemma.
All of a sudden, there was knock on my door. I walk over and take a peek at the peephole. A towering black man stood by the door waiting patiently for me to open it. I bite my lip trying to remember if he is one of Emily's guys since I don't know him. Then I touch my face remembering I hadn't take a bath for a few days now! I angrily curse at my stupid deadline for making me neglect myself and at fate for sending a guy to my door when I look like some ugly grease monkey! I scan the mirror, awakening myself to the horror. My eyes are all crusty with bags upon bags signaling my lack of sleep. The curls of my hair stuck out unevenly with little care at all to looking prim and proper. With a slight use of my fingers, I try puckering my face up with color. I then comb over my frizzy yet greasy hair through my hands as I run to the bathroom to snag a robe to cover my indecent teddy bear pajamas and disgusting body odor.
The knock came again. This time a bit louder with added urgency. Pushing aside my girlish insecurities, I open the door but a crack to poke my head out.
"Yes. How may I help you?" I said with a polite smile, hoping I have nothing on my teeth.
"Uh, Hello! I'm your new neighbor." He points to the apartment next door and continues on, "I was wondering, if it's not too much, may I borrow some eggs and salt?"
Eggs and salt? Really? I was just about to ask him to consider a grocery store when he starts talking again.
"It's just... I'm in the middle of cooking and everything is already backing up in the stove so I would really appreciate it if – " I stop him there with a firm hand recalling how Emily freaked when she was missing ingredients in the middle of cooking.
I totally understand the poor man's situation.
"Just wait here, please," I tell him before closing the door and getting what he needed.
After I hand him the whole carton of a dozen eggs that I won't use this month and a package of salt, he goes off his merry little way, promising to repay me for my kindness. I smile delightfully at having helped a man in need. He wasn't that bad of a looker either which bothered me a bit. It seems like I've seen him before but couldn't figure out where. Shaking my head at the silly idea, I go back to writing my story.
Whenever I write, I get so absorbed in the plot that everything else around me shuts off. I lose all sense of time and fall into a mode where reality is obsolete. Time just speeds up and before I know it, I'm halfway through the day. Almost nothing can break me up from this meditative stupor.
Well... almost nothing.
It's always the weirdest noise that brings me back to reality and this one was no different. The noise is steady like someone playing a deep drum going thud,
I rose up, perking my ears to locate the disturbance. It leads me to my room and I suspiciously thought of rats. Nasty little vermin. While inspecting the floor, I notice that the sound didn't originate there and that it wasn't rats. The sound reverberates off the wall to bring the pitch louder. With my ear close, I can hear the moans and murmurs of words form through the tough cement encasing.
"Yes! H-harder! Harder! Yes! Oh. My. Loooord! Ah~! T-there! Unnhh."
They're really doing it!
Despite my guilty conscience tugging at me to stop listening, I can't tear myself from the wall. The woman's moans hold pleasure and ecstasy through her indecipherable words. Emily's had been the same too, but I could always tell when she was faking it. This woman wasn't. I feel sweat start to peek on my forehead as she starts to reach her climax. A gasp escapes from her mouth, making me jealously thirst for the experience. With a couple more swooping moans, she yells a passionate plea, signaling the end of their exercise. I slump down hard against the carpet, feeling alone for the first time in a while. I make my way outside taking my $100 jacket for a walk to relieve my anxiousness.
The lamps lights up the lovely garden. It was one of the reasons I love this complex. The buildings formed a half circle and inside it contains a patch of nature taken care of by some skilled landscapers paid naturally by the tenants. It is one of my favorite places in the world. Though I shouldn't rule it as such since I've barely been outside the state let alone another country. It is as it is.
Rain drizzles from above, but it was too light to bother me. The slight wind on the other hand makes me grasp my jacket tight, trying to keep the warmth from escaping. I take in the beauty surrounding me, forgetting my anxiousness and depression.
So what if the Egg guy from next door is banging another woman? Was it any of my business? No and it shouldn't be! It's his apartment now. He can do whatever he wants in it. It's just weird that I happen to be the one to hear their... lovemaking. I shouldn't let it get to me. I have more pressing matters that need attending to, and if I don't face it head on, I might lose my job!
Sometimes all I need is a nice walk outside to remind me where my goals are at. I then confirm my life to my writing as I start making my way back to my apartment.
Walking back, I stop as an overwhelming sense of paranoia overcomes me. Someone is watching. Looking around the complex, I spot Mr. Jenkins at his balcony with what looks like a stack of laundry he picked off the line. I wave politely and he waves back.
"Heather! Where is your friend, dear?" he calls out.
I hide a knowing smile and reply to the old man, "Emily's in Europe. She'll be back in a month!"
"Oh. Well, take care of yourself!" he said, losing interest as he enters back inside.
"I will," I said but he was already inside.
As I go back, I instinctively look at my balcony only to stray my eyes to the one next to it. Eggman has left his door clearly open for the wind to play tug-a-war with his curtains.
Was he outside looking at me?
I mentally punch my annoying ego. Why would he be on his balcony when he has a sexy woman on his bed? I'm so obnoxious sometimes.
The next morning brings with it the annoying birds chirping out of my window. I stumble out of my bed towards the bathroom to properly groom myself. After a few days of strenuous writing night and day, even I don't want to be around myself in all my stinking glory.
Feeling refreshed and brand new, I decide to go out to the grocery store. I need more than just chips and TV dinners to sustain me. Fruit sounds healthy. I tug open my closet and take out a dark pencil skirt along with a sleeveless, flowy peach top that buttons behind the neck. It also has this nice lace detail that goes well with a pair of black flowered stockings in my drawer. As for the piece-de-resistance, I top off my outfit with my black heels and a flower headband. I pose in front of the mirror, proud of my clothes before leaving out the door.
As I go through the aisle of the supermarket, I notice quite a few stares directed towards me. Indignantly, I choose to ignore it fully aware that I am overdressed for a trip at the market and that I didn't care. I'm just a girl that likes to look good in public, even if social confrontations scare me. After picking out my favorite choice fruits and a few snacks, I head to the check-out line to pay. Unfortunately for once, there's an actual line that I really had to wait on, so I impatiently tap my nails against the rim of the basket to wait. It was then that I notice someone is trying to get my attention from behind me and I turn around to find that it's Mr. Eggman!
I really need to stop calling him that.
"Hey! You're here too?" He flashes me a smile. A smile that looks way too familiar for me to ignore.
"Y-yeah. Getting food," I reply with a smile but avoid the eye-contact.
"Well here, why don't I pay for them?" He kindly outstretches his hand as if to take the basket away from me. "For letting me have some of your groceries last night."
"N-no! I mean if anything, you should only pay for the eggs and salt! Paying for all my groceries would be too much," I said, hoping he'd take the hint, "Besides if you did that, then I'd be in your debt and you wouldn't want that."
I saw him be taken aback by my comment only to recover too soon to respond, "But you don't have any eggs or salt in your basket."
To this I saw what he said is true, so I make a motion to have him save my spot as I quickly grab those two items exactly just as it was my turn in line.
"H-here," I pant for air from the work-out and hand out the items he needs.
He issues a loud laugh as I scowl at his rudeness.
"You know, I would have gladly paid for all of your groceries with or without the eggs."
"No, because if you do that then I would have to repay you whether you want it or not!" I blow out a retort as I cross my arms over my chest to show him I meant business.
"Next!" the cashier calls out.
I hop my way to the belt as I start lining up my things appropriately. Little did I know, Mr. Eggman put his stuff directly next to mine with no separation bar in-between.
"That'll be $186.33," she says.
I look at the total on the card screen in confusion. "T-there must be a mistake."
"I'll handle it," Eggman said and volunteers to swipe his card, paying for everything without a protest from me.
I stand there surprised and flabbergasted as he picks up all the groceries and puts them in his cart.
Blinking myself back to reality, I walk forward to join his side.
This man has just deliberately forced his kindness on me like some altruistic kidnapper! It's frustratingly insane!
Who does he think he is?
The pout on my face deepens with each residing step as my annoyance level rises. Now this incident is going to hang over my head until I fully repay this man. What a great day this has turned into!
"Thank you," I sigh in frustration, "I'll make sure to repay you in the near future."
"Well, just so you know, I'm happy to do it and you don't have to give me anything in return. However, if you do want to return the favor, I'll happily accept it with open arms," he said with great kindness. His cordiality was digging into my nerves. I don't know if I can stand one more second of this unforgiving niceness!
"You heading home? I can drop you off," he suggests.
I look towards his model of transportation, admiring the shine and curves of the sharp car. I nod in approval and compliment, "Nice car."
"Thanks!" He flashes me one of his debonair smiles as he starts loading the groceries in one by one. I swiftly take mine out before he had a chance into suckering me in for a ride.
"Actually I have somewhere I need to be," I excuse myself.
"You sure? I don't mind dropping you off where you want to go," he offers.
I give a lousy effort of a chuckle, "No, thank you. It's not far from here so you don't have to!"
His gaze strays on me while I made a huge gesture looking at my watch as if I'm in a hurry. He seems to get the point as he enters his car.
"Okay. See you around!" He makes his way and drives off.
I stare for some time, making sure he is out of sight before I walk to the bus stop. I actually do need a ride home, but after having him pay for my groceries, I felt that was asking too much. Anyway, it's nice to take the bus once in a while.
Arriving safely at home, I put the food in its proper places. With a bright red apple, newly washed & on hand, I take a crunchy bite and savor the sweet juice. De~licious! I stroll over to the phone, seeing the blinking light flash brightly at me. Hitting play, I listen in.
"Heather? It's me, Maria! I'm just checking to see how you're doing. Call me!"
I frown. It's my editor/publisher. That's not good.
"Heather? It's me again. On second thought, I'm coming over. I'll be there soon, okay?"
Flying fudgesicles! I grab my laptop and the keys as the third message rings out.
"I forgot to add. If you're running away just know I will be very very angry when I catch you. Well then. Bye bye!"
I sneak a look at the balcony and saw the Latina make her way towards my apartment. It's far too late for an escape unless I want to jump off the second floor. I skim through my manuscript, seeing how little of it was done. It barely touched the half-point of the plot let alone the finale! Maria is going to skewer me alive after she sees this. I take out a blank piece of paper and hastily write the plot so that she'll at least get an idea that the story is going someplace. I'm still not full on the details, but it'll get there.
The bang on the door put me back on alert. Trudging heavily with my heels, I can already feel her aura emanating through the wood, quivering my instinct to run and hide. I straighten my backbone and put on my nicest smile to greet her.
I begin the conversation by offering her something to take her mind off; my newly bought fruits should do the trick. She takes my apple and begins chomping the life out of it. My face flinches with every bite she takes as her intimidating stance and strict manner hovers the atmosphere. She wastes no time to demand my manuscript. When I offer to show her my sloppily written plot, it gets tossed aside as she demands sharply for my book once again. The hairs on my skin stand up in fright. Maria has no patience for dillydallying. Feeling caught and defeated, she gains access to my story through my laptop while I grab a seat safely away from her presence. Her temper isn't to be messed with.
"This is it? Where's the rest?" she accuses hastily. Her eyes turn from brown to black without warning.
"I-I didn't write it yet," I flinch, waiting for a hit.
"And what were you doing that prevented you from writing the rest of the story?" She was now standing threateningly instead of sitting on the couch.
I couldn't look away at her gaze as I reply in stupid, "Looking for – for inspiration?"
"Inspiration? Well, let me give you some inspiration!"
She swiftly pounds one pillow after another right at my face. I can hear her yell and curse through her native tongue as I try to dodge her throws and insults all at once. Frightened, I take refuge behind the sofa away from her whale screeching until she finally subsides and calms down.
"Four days Heather. Four days!" Maria repeats.
"I'll get it done! Trust me!" I said in confidence when I was lacking a lot of it on the inside.
She glares at me giving me the infamous stink-eye. "You better or I'll have your head!"
I gulp hard as my hands touch my neck and head area, unwilling to part with either body part. She looks upon me, going back to the nice woman who first convinced me to publish. With a tired sigh, she heads over to my direction face-to-face.
"But in all seriousness, hija. Please make it happen," she said softly as she pats me on the head and walks out of the apartment.
The silence that she left in her presence occupies me as I remain it in. My ears still ring from the violence that entered my ears. Who knew her voice could even reach that pitch? I almost expected howling dogs to appear or the censor dude to start bleeping off the curse words whether they were in English or Spanish!
My legs walk me back to my piece of writing. Guilt and disappointment rides inside me as I stare deeper into the screen
Maria's right. Finish the story for all romance novels always end with a happy ending. No matter how hopeless and ridiculous the obstacles may seem, love will triumph it all. So it will go as said, my poor servant will end up marrying her rich lord because unlike in real life, happy endings matter in a story, especially a romance one. To write one without it would make the reader feel cheated, turning the writer into a hack! And I will not become one of those sadistic writers because in truth, I secretly yearn for my own happy ending too. It is only through books that I've escaped this harsh cold reality of life; it's a life unforgiving to love.
A. Notes: Our neighbor finally makes an appearance! First impressions are always important, so what was your first impression of him?
Update: If you like what you read and would like to read the rest, I self-published the rest on Amazon titled Kill Em With Kindness. Please check it out. I can use the support!