I smiled as I headed down the stairs. In a couple of minutes, I’d be knocking on Maggie’s door so we could head out on our date. It had been almost a year since I’d first moved in here, and Maggie and I had been dating for most of that time.
I grabbed my keys and headed out the door then turned and knocked on Maggie’s. It was pretty convenient having your neighbor for a girlfriend, I had to say.
Maggie flew down the stairs a few minutes later and threw the door open. “Sorry! Sorry, I’m late. It’s been one of those days.”
“Oh, you know,” she responded, “just one of those can’t-remember-anything days. I kept forgetting where I’d put my keys or my wallet. And then I couldn’t find the right shoes.” She laughed softly and shook her head. “I’m ready now. All put together.”
I smiled. I loved that bookish forgetfulness that she had. She could remember every plot of a book she’d read, but she had to spend twenty minutes looking for her house keys. “Let’s go, then.”
I leaned back in my seat at the movie theater, my arm wrapped around Maggie. I wasn’t super into the movie – it was a little too cerebral for my taste – but she’d been dying to see it and seemed to be enjoying it. And I was enjoying being with her. I’d always enjoyed hanging out with Alison, even sitting with her and not talking, but it was different with Maggie. Not just because our relationship was more intimate; my relationship with Brittney had been physical, too, but I had never particularly enjoyed her company. It was nice to just feel close to someone. To sit with them and hold them without talking.
I smiled ruefully at the movie screen. That’s some damned adult-like thinking there. Inwardly, I shook my head at myself. Date night wasn’t exactly the time for reflection.
When the movie was over, we walked outside into the muggy evening. “Where do you want to eat?” I asked.
Maggie pursed her lips, looking around us thoughtfully. “Why don’t we just go home? I can cook something.”
I leaned down and kissed her. “Anybody ever tell you that you have the best ideas?”
We took a cab back to the duplex, and she let us into her side. “What are you in the mood for? I think I could put together some fish tacos or BLT’s.” She opened the refrigerator and peered inside. “Oh, or – “
I smiled. She could go on for a while, given how fully stocked she kept her fridge. “BLT’s would be great.” I sat down at the bar. Ever since I’d met Maggie and started coming over here, I’d felt like this place wasn’t quite “her.” It was too cool. Almost antiseptic. She said she liked it well enough, though. I still wasn’t a fan. Sometimes I felt like I needed sunglasses to walk in here.
“So I talked to Mom yesterday,” she said as she got out the cutting board. “She asked – again – when we’re moving in together.”
“Hasn’t she asked that every time you’ve talked for the last six months?”
“Yes.” She rolled her eyes. “When she and my step-dad moved to Windenburg, I’d thought I’d have a little less nagging in my life. I was wrong”
I laughed softly. “Well, we could always do it, you know. Move in together.” Wait – no – what had just come out of my mouth?
She put down the knife she was using to slice the slice and turned to look at me. “What? You want to move in together?”
“I – well – I don’t know. Would you like to? We do spend a lot of time together.” I hadn’t actually given it any thought before now.
Maggie smiled softly. She finished putting the sandwiches together and walked over to sit next to me. “I might like it someday, but we both really like having our own space.”
I got up and slid my arms around her waist, leaning my cheek against her hair. “We do. And,” I pointed out, “we do technically live in the same house.”
She grinned and twisted around to kiss me. “I’m all for a technicality.”
“Hey! Nora! Where are you?”
I rolled my eyes and put my book down – I was just getting to the good part! I walked out of my room to find Josh and his girlfriend in the living room. “You knew I’d be in my room, Josh,” I said with some irritation.
He just grinned and pulled me into a hug. “I have to bother you. It’s my responsibility as a brother.”
“Or you could be a good brother and let me read.” I was mostly kidding. It was nice when he’d come over. Part of me wished he’d come over more often without his girlfriend, but that was probably just my inner loner talking. She’d always seemed very nice. We both liked to read, but somehow I still didn’t know what to talk to her about.
“Josh!” My seven-year-old brother, Nathan, exclaimed as he came upstairs. The twins both acted like they hadn’t seen Josh in years whenever he came around.
My older brother ate it up, dropping down onto one knee so the kid could hug his neck. “Hey, Nate.”
I was just about to go back into my room when Mom came out of the kitchen. “Lunch is ready. Nora, would you go find Theresa before you come eat?”
How had I known that was coming? “Yes, Mom.” I went downstairs and rounded up my little sister then headed back upstairs.
The kitchen was packed. It made me feel a little claustrophobic, but I grabbed a plate and sat down anyway. There were worse things than eating lunch with my family. And my brother’s girlfriend.
Mom couldn’t stop smiling. She was always like that whenever Maggie was over. After that phase Josh had gone through in high school, I could understand it. I thought it might be more than that, though. I think she had visions of grandbabies in her future even though she joked that she was too young to be a grandparent whenever I teased her about it. Yeah, okay, sure Mom.
“So, Josh, how is work,” Mom asked.
“Actually, I left the company. It wasn’t right for me. I’m working at a law enforcement agency. Dad has a few connections there and got me a low-level spot.”
She smiled. “Really? Lawn enforcement? You think you might want to do that?”
“I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. “I just started there. We’ll see how it goes.”
I tuned out after that. I wasn’t that interested in Josh’s career choice, to be perfectly honest. He’d probably have a new one next year anyway.
When lunch was over, I retreated back to my room and picked up my book. It was one I’d read several times. The pages had pencil marks in the margins, and the spine opened easily from use. Some people had security blankets; I had books.
Josh was always telling me to get out more. Actually, most people were these days. Because I was fifteen, they thought I should have more of a social life. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to be left alone to read and, sometimes, even write, though I didn’t think I was any good.
I scanned my eyes over the page. Now, where was I…