I heard the doorbell and slipped the pizza in the oven before going to answer it. The smile died on my lips as instead of Dave, who I’d been expecting, Mr. Ranier’s son stood on the porch of my small house with a grim expression on his face. My heart stuttered in my chest at the thought something had happened to my elderly landlord.
“Hey, Jeff.” I’d met Mr. Ranier’s son a number of times over the years, and he had always insisted I call him by his first name. “What are you doing here? Is your dad okay?”
“Hi Reece, can I come in for a moment?”
Despite the question, it didn’t sound like a request, and I stepped back to allow him entry into the house. I saw him glance around the small living room, but he made no move to sit and my worry escalated even more. His gaze landed on me again and I could see the regret in his eyes as he began to speak.
I heard his voice catch. and I could only imagine how hard it had to be to have his dad sick and yet be so far away. Little things over the past few months started to make sense. Mr. Rainer had seemed a bit out of it a couple of times when I’d dropped my rent off, almost like he didn’t know who I was. He had seemed to snap out of it, so I had just put it down to him being distracted.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I truly meant it too, and I hoped Jeff knew I was being sincere. “What are you going to do?”
“Well, that’s why I’m here. We’re moving Dad back east to live with us for the time being. We really don’t want to put him in a home, and he’s not bad enough it’s our only choice.”
He closed his eyes and when he opened them and looked at me again I got the feeling I really wasn’t going to like what was coming next.
“I’m sorry Reece, but we’re going to be selling the house.”
I could hear the regret in his voice but couldn’t formulate a reply. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t even think of what to say as I stared at my landlord’s son. I held out hope maybe he was just telling me so I knew I’d have a new landlord.
“We hate to kick you out”—there went that hope—“but we need to do any repairs necessary before we get it on the market.”
“How long before I need to be out?” I swallowed hard as I glanced around the place I had called home for the last three years. It wouldn’t be easy to pick up and move, but it seemed as though I didn’t have much of a choice. There was no way I could afford to buy the house, not with what I made.
“The end of next month. If you can be out any earlier then great, we’ll refund part of your rent, but by the end of the month at the latest.”
Wow. That gave me just over a month to find a new place to live. I didn’t know how the hell I was going to make it happen. I didn’t have the money for a deposit on a new place and even if I did, I wouldn’t have enough for the first month’s rent. I was essentially screwed.
“I know this is sudden, and I’m sorry, but there’s no other choice. We can’t oversee the place from back home, and we can’t leave Dad here.”
I knew the words weren’t hollow. Jeff had always treated me as a friend, even going so far as to stop by to share a beer when he was in town. As much as I hated that I was going to have to move, I knew Jeff was doing the best thing for his dad.
“I’ll be out as soon as I can.” I didn’t know what else to say and was saved from saying anything else when the doorbell chimed again.
I pulled open the door to see Dave standing on the other side, a smile curving his lips. It died as soon as he saw my face. He stepped inside and pulled me into his arms, apparently not noticing Jeff standing off to the side.
“What’s wrong?” He pulled back, and I swear he was trying to see into my soul through my eyes.
I saw movement off to the side, and Dave must have seen it too. He stepped back and turned to face Jeff.
“Who are you?”
I would’ve laughed at the hostility in Dave’s voice, but I was still shell-shocked. It took a second of them staring at each other before I shook myself out of it.
“Dave, this is my landlord’s son, Jeff. Jeff, this is my boyfriend, Dave.”
“Nice to meet you.” Jeff stepped forward and held out his hand and Dave took it, still not looking entirely sure about it. When they released, Jeff turned back to me. “I’ll let you get back to your evening. I really am sorry about this, Reece, and I wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for Dad over the years.”
“I was happy to do it. He’s a great man.” It was true. I’d been happy to help the older man with all the little chores such as keeping the lawn mowed. He could do it, but he’d begun feeling his age, and it was hard on him.
“Have a nice evening.” Jeff smiled at both of us and walked out the still open door, shutting it behind him.
“What was that all about?” Dave grasped my hand and led me to the couch, pulling me down next to him. “What was he sorry about? Anything I need to make him pay for in a dark alley?”
I chuckled despite the situation. In the three months we’d been dating, one thing I’d learned about Dave was he was anything but violent.
“What’s so funny? I could take him.” Dave looked affronted I might think otherwise, and I just shook my head.
“I have no doubt about that, but no, you don’t need to make him pay for anything.” I swallowed and tilted my head back against the couch and stared up at the ceiling for a minute before tucking one leg up under me and turning so I was facing Dave. “You could, however, help me find an apartment.”
I knew I wouldn’t be able to find another house I could afford. I had barely been able to afford this place and only because Mr. Ranier had never raised my rent. If he had, I’d have been shit out of luck and had to find a new place way before now.
“What?” I could hear the disbelief in his voice. “They’re kicking you out? For what?”
I sighed and relayed everything Jeff had told me. Dave didn’t say anything while I was talking, just sat and listened. When I was done, he pulled me closer to him and turned me so my back was nestled against his chest. I closed my eyes as his arms wrapped around me, and he rested his chin on my shoulder.
“Would you be against having a roommate?” His breath brushed against my ear and sent shivers down my spine.
“Depends on who it was, I guess. I’m not really sure I’ll have much choice though.” I sighed and tried to relax. Dave knew about my financial issues. It wasn’t something easy to hide long term, and I had finally given up trying after nearly a month of making excuses so he would let me fix us dinner instead of going out.
“How about me?”
He couldn’t be serious, though he sounded like he was. I tried to turn in his arms and, after a few seconds, he finally let me. One look at his face, and I knew without a doubt he wasn’t joking.
“You want me to live with you?” I had to clarify it, make sure I had understood correctly. I hadn’t given much thought to us moving in together. We’d only known each other a couple of months and while everything between us was going great, I hadn’t wanted us to move too fast.
“Sure, why not?”
“Don’t you think it’s a bit soon to be thinking of moving in together?” I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if we broke up. I knew so many couples who had moved in together and then broken up. It tended to get messy as well as leave one person without a place to live.
“Honestly? Not really. I’ve actually been thinking about it for the last couple of weeks and was trying to think of how to bring it up to you. I’ve dated plenty of guys, but after what happened in college, I’ve never wanted to live with any of them. This feels right to me, Reece.”
I didn’t know how to argue against that. I’d dated a few guys, despite not being out to my family, but everything just seemed to click with Dave. We’d had our fair share of arguments, but nothing major, and we’d always managed to work through them. I could see fear in his eyes and just knew he was afraid I was going to reject him. As if. Before I could respond he started talking again.
“At least promise me you’ll think about it. I love you and would really like us to work towards building a life together.”
My mouth dropped open, and I stared at him. He’d never said those words to me, but yet as soon as he said them I knew it was true. What’s more, I knew I felt the same way. My heart was already completely sold on the idea of us living together; it was my head trying to throw up roadblocks. I smiled, my decision already made. I knew there were no guarantees we would work out, but that would be true no matter how long we’d been together.
“I don’t need to think about it.” I saw his expression fall and hurried to reassure him. “I love you too, and if you really want me to move in, we’ll need to call Josh and find out when he can help me move.”
It took a second for my words to sink in, but I knew the moment they did; his smile reached his eyes. He grabbed me and pulled me into a kiss that quickly took my breath away. We still needed to work out the logistics of my move, but we’d have time. If things went like I hoped they would, we’d have nothing but time to work towards building a life together.