"The only people who can have normal are the ones unaffected by all the fucked-up shit that happens around them." -Ilona Andrews

The fact that his parents would never even dare to so much as look at this apartment complex— probably with the impression that the place was nowhere near worthy of their gazes— was the biggest appeal it had to Lucas.

The only appeal, really.

So far, he had only seen the lobby, and it took all of his willpower to not run straight for the hills. The paint job was awful, the mailboxes were rusty, and the elevator looked like it only had one stop: death. Whoever was in charge of running the place should have been ashamed of himself. Especially for not hiring adequate workers to keep the place looking decent.

For a brief moment, he understood why his parents would never go to a place like this. It looked like it would have been just as nice to live in a shelter. But he pushed the thought out of his mind, angry for thinking about them, nevertheless identifying with them.

This was his new home. Ugly reddish carpet— is that…gum?— and all.

With another look of distaste, surely not the last, Lucas pushed his suitcase into the death-box of an elevator and went up the stairs, not willing to trust it with his life.

He trekked all the way up to the sixth floor, wondering where the apartment workers were to unpack his things. Maddie told them when he was arriving, surely. Although, after seeing the end results of their other work, Lucas was not so sure he wanted them touching any of his stuff. Still, it wasn't as if he would do it on his own.

Though not exactly surprised, Lucas was a bit peeved that the sixth floor was completely deserted. Did these people not own watches or something?

Heaving a sigh, Lucas went to retrieve his luggage from the rickety elevator. He was really starting to get ticked off that there wasn't anyone around to do their job.

He tugged his suitcase to the apartment Maddie told him he would be living in. The door of 6D stood before him in all its glory… or lack thereof. The copper plaque on the door was rusted. The fact that the rest of it was painted a disgustingly tacky brown, and was chipping off to reveal the gray paint underneath wasn't helping its appearance.

Fucking Maddie.

Lucas wished that she could hear him curse her. She was the one that gave him the idea to move to New York when he expressed his anger over being forced into marriage with a woman he had never met who was nearly twice is age. She was the one that went apartment shopping for him since she was already living in New York. She was the one that picked out apartment 6D. And, most importantly was the reason he would be killing her the next time he saw her: she was the one that specifically told him that he would love it when she tossed him the key earlier today.

However, from what he'd seen so far, he highly doubted it. Especially since his cousin loved to make him suffer, though he never thought she would be that cruel. He was supposed to live here for Pete's sake!

But, then again, she was wearing her signature smirk, which never ended well for him. He supposed that after doing a few nice things for his benefit, she had to do something mean or she wouldn't be Madeline Shyer.

Angrily, Lucas stuffed the key into its hold and rattled the door open.

And proceeded to curse his damned cousin a thousand times over.

With a wry smile, he thought of how his parents would react to his less-than-holy thoughts about their precious niece. But looking back into his new home— if one could eve call it that— his grin fell.

Boxes on boxes on boxes. All packed, taking up every inch of space there was… not that that was saying much. He wheeled in his lone suitcase an closed the door with an angry grumble. How was he supposed to make a life for himself in this dump?

Slumping his shoulders, Lucas dragged his feet to the box buried couch situated in the dead middle of the place. If the people weren't here yet to unpack, he was going to lie down and rest while he waited.

He closed his eyes and for the trillionth time wondered if he made the right decision. And for the trillionth time, he told himself that he did. But this time, lying on his new, slightly worn out couch in what was supposed to be his new, more than slightly worn out home, it took a little more convincing. For a moment, he even highly considered just going back home and dealing with the hell that was his life, but he promptly scolding himself for even considering it.

Just as he was starting to drift away from the consciousness and into sleep, the doorbell rang. Finally, he thought indignantly.

He shouted his acknowledgment to the person at the door and heaved himself up off the couch. However much he wanted to yell at whoever was at the door for being so late, he decided not to, as it would have been exactly what his parents would do. Hell if he was going to be anything like them.

After he rolled his eyes in annoyance, he yanked the door open to reveal a girl that looked around his age. He immediately heard his mother's voice in his head, harshly judging the girl in front of him for stepping out of her room dressed in capri sweat pants and a wife beater and for keeping her dirty blonde hair in a messy bum and face void of makeup.

"What kind of girl does not dress herself appropriately before letting others see her?" she would say with her signature haughty sneer he hated oh, so much. He mentally swatted her away like a fly, thinking that the girl was quite pretty… for a maid, that is. And a late one at that.

"Hi," the girl greeted cheerily, grinning at him. He looked down to see a small circular cheesecake in her hands. Was that was she was late? "I'm Holly. Welcome to the building!"

He couldn't believe she was really going to pretend that she wasn't so, so very late.

"Uh, hi. Is it just you?" He looked over her should, but saw no one there, all the while thinking that it was really weird they would only send one person. Granted, she looked quite fit from what he could see, but he doubted she'd be able to lift everything on her own. Even he couldn't, not that he had tried before.

She scrunched her face in confusion. "Just me for what?"

"Tell me you are not being serious," he said, narrowing his eyes at her, quickly losing his patience. He waited for this long and she was going to play games with him?

"I'm being completely serious, dude. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Lucas shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as he felt the last ounce of patience flush out of him, "Then why are you here, dressed like that?" When he looked at the girl, he realized that was he said was not only extraordinarily rude of him, but he could have sworn his mother had said the exact same thing at least once before.

He opened his mouth to apologize, but she cut him off before he could say a single word. "Well I'm sorry if me not wearing a three-thousand dollar outfit to give you a housewarming gift I intentionally bought for you out of the kindness of my heart is good enough for you," she drawled, her words drenched with sarcasm. She even tossed in a nice little eye roll for good measure.

After hearing her snarky remark, Lucas was not so sure he wanted to say sorry anymore. Before he could rethink the fact that he was the one who insulted her first, a retort came tumbling out of his mouth.

"Where I come from, the land of three-thousand dollar clothes, the way a person dresses at all times is a reflection of who they are. If one dresses with sense, they will be treated with sense. If one dresses like a maid, they will be treated like one."

Holly blinked at him once before taking her housewarming present and shoving it in his face.

"What the—!" Lucas shouted, wiping cheesecake off of his eyes with his hands.

"Where I'm from," Holly mocked, "the land of the non-shallow people, if one acts like an asshole, people will treat them like one." And with that, she turned and walked away, her head held high.