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The Pretender Next Door

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They say that moving is one of the big causes of stress. You would agree, indeed, standing in the corridor and keeping the door open for the guys from relocation service. Now they were carrying your white drawer chest, and the moment you felt pity for them, sweaty and tired. You didn’t look any better, though.

Sometimes you still wondered why you decided to move to New York, of all places. You couldn’t stay a day more in Key West, but there were many more locations you could choose. Why New York? You had always hated huge cities, the terrible noise from busy streets, subway trains stuffed with people, and dirty fast food restaurants with rats in the kitchens. Yes, this job you were offered looked nice and was well-paid, but you could find the other one. Why New York?

Maybe because you craved to change your life so much you didn’t want any half measures. Anyway, you were free to move again if anything would not go as you expected it to, right?

“Thank you,” you said awkwardly when the guys put the drawer where you showed them.

“So, we’re almost done.” One of them wiped the sweat from his brow and tilted his head. “There’s just one bookcase left.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

They went into the corridor while you stayed inside your new apartment, looking on the white walls and a big open window in your living room. In fact, this window was the reason you chose this place, full of light and fresh air. The building wasn’t new, and the neighborhood didn’t look very pretty but it was more or less safe. Besides, subway was relatively close meaning it would not be hard to get to your new job. You sighed. What were you doing with your life? Where were you going? Did you actually want to have a new job? Could you handle being away from the place you loved and hated the most? The place you called home for more than 20 years.

You stepped into the corridor again and opened greyish door, thinking about scrubbing and washing it with a soap right after moving the furniture. Maybe then you would go and have a bath yourself: you looked awful, tired after a long trip, no makeup, your hair in a loose bun. Not that you cared, anyway. You were not expecting any guests today or, in fact, in any other day. You did not know a soul in New York.

Apparently, you forgot there were still people around you. When you snapped out of your thoughts, you suddenly saw a tall guy with blonde hair and a breathtaking smile. He had probably said something that you missed, but the only thing you did in return was bumping your back against that greyish door of yours. Damn. He wasn’t even intimidating or scary – on the contrary, the stranger looked like that pretty boy from a typical romcom – yet you backed away like a coward instead of introducing yourself.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” The guy apologized immediately, obviously concerned with making you uncomfortable. “Did I startle you? I’m really sorry!”

“No, no, it’s alright.” You felt deeply ashamed. The stranger belonged to the type of guys you never talked to; to be honest, he was the type you never even looked upon, too handsome and glowing like a giant sun. “I’m sorry for spacing out like that. It’s my fault. Please don’t mind me, I’m probably gonna be your weirdest neighbor.

”Your weirdest neighbor? Is this what you were really ought to say to a guy like him? Like, seriously, girl?

“Ah, I doubt it. We have a guy who sing songs from Bridget Jones Diary every Friday and a woman who wants to marry a tree.” God, his smile was contagious, and you involuntarily grinned when he let out laugh. “I’m Steve. I live right next door to you.”

“My name is Y/N. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Steve.” You finally relaxed a bit and tried to be friendly with the first person you met in New York. “Sorry about this, I’m not very social and I can be a bit awkward. But I don’t know any songs from Bridget Jones and I only have platonic feelings for trees.”

“Then I’m sorry to say you lost your chance to be the weirdest! Didn’t expect a competition here, did you?”

Now you were really laughing loud at his words. Steve had a nice sense of humor, and he was seemingly enjoying your reaction. Well, maybe moving here wasn’t as bad as you thought? You had at least one very good-looking neighbor who was friendly enough to go and have a small chat with you.

Oh, who you were trying to kid? A pretty guy living next door probably meant you were going to have many sleepless nights because of all the girls he would fuck right behind the wall of your room. Steve looked like a movie star with his broad shoulders, tout body and that gleaming white smile of his. He was literally radiating disarming masculinity in his white t-shirt and simple blue jeans as you stared at him, now feeling a bit bashful.

You were ready to kiss two guys carrying your bookshelf once they broke the silence with their heavy panting. Both Steve and you hurriedly moved to the sides of the corridor to give them more space.

“I wanted to ask if you need any help.” Your neighbor was smiling again. “You know, if you decide to move your bed or drawer from one wall to another, anything like that.”

“Oh, thank you, but I’m ok, guys are almost d…”

With that you heard a loud bang and an instant cursing: the bookshelf they were holding suddenly slipped from the arms of one of the guys, and the second one was forced to drop the bookshelf too. Horrified, you watched how it fell to the floor and broke down with several shelves flying to the carpet in your hallway. God, something just had to go wrong.

“Shit.” One of the guys groaned. “My hand slipped. I’m sorry, miss.”

“I’m gonna fucking kill you, Jake!” The other one was nearly screaming at him. “What the Hell?! Slipped? Do you know you practically threw this thing at me?!”

“Pat, I’m sorry, I mean… Dammit, what are we gonna do now?

”You bit down on your lip and came closer to look at the damage. Apparently, you would need to find someone who could repair your bookshelf now or go straight to Ikea. More expenses. Great.

“Well, at least you’re unharmed.” You sighed and tried to smile, still thinking of who you should even call for fixing furniture. “As for the bookshelf, it’s ok, I’ll think of something. I’m not going to call the company, don’t worry.”

They were gone in five minutes after numerous awkward apologies and many thank you’s, and then you realized Steve was still there, standing silently on the very same spot. For some reason you felt guilty. Did he feel obliged to stay because of your little incident? Did you have to say something? Well, as a matter of fact, you did, but what there was to say? “Sorry, man, please come back when I’ll get my shit together?”

When you spaced out again, your handsome neighbor came closer and squatted down near your unfortunate bookshelf, taking one of the pieces of the wood into his hands. “You know, I think it’s really easy to fix these ones. If you want, I can grab my tools and do it right now.”

God, now you really hoped Steve would bring tons of girls to his apartment. He got to have some flaws, didn’t he?