If you skipped the last episode because of 18+ content, check out the episode summary first.
I closed the car door behind me and inched a few steps onto the sidewalk. He pulled away from the curb and as he eased toward the traffic light, gave me a nod goodbye, before picking up speed and joining the others at the end of the street. I waited a few minutes — long enough for him to disappear from my sight and a few extra just in case he double-backed to try and catch a glimpse of my anonymous associate. When I was sure he was gone, like on-the-highway-headed-to-wherever-he-was-going gone, I walked down to my real destination.
I drew in a deep breath as I pulled open the glass door, preparing myself for the foolishness that was sure to unfold. I stepped inside, giving a quick look to my left, followed by another to my right. At a small table, in the center of the dining room, motioned an enthusiastic hand in my direction. Pandora was her name. The final applicant in this weeklong saga. She was an industrial engineer for the largest manufacturing plant in the city. She had like four degrees, which for a 25-year-old, well, anyone really, was pretty impressive and according to findajob.com, made bank in that position. Her profile was normal, for the most part; no obvious red flags, but there was this one thing I didn’t get — this whole situation, actually. Her, a single person, with no kids and her income, needing a roommate. I mean, I wasn’t in her pockets or anything, but I was pretty sure she didn’t need to live with anyone, especially in a rundown apartment on the southside, so there had to be something, and all of the awful possibilities that ran through my mind of what that something could be was exactly why I was expecting the ab-so-lute worst.
“Camilla!” she shouted as if the flailing of her arms wasn’t enough to garner my attention, “Over here!”
A small group of customers looked in my direction; discontent on their faces like I was the reason she left her inside voice at home. I lowered my head as I walked past them, my fingers clenching the bottoms of my sleeves; feelings of dread intensifying with each and every step.
“OH-MY-GOSH! You’re even prettier in person!” she blurted out as soon as I arrived at the table. “I knew you would be.”
Her smile was wide and her eyes, as bright as a girl’s in the presence of her crush. It could’ve been my nerves getting the best of me, but that greeting, especially the last part, felt more appropriate for a blind date than a roommate interview.
I seated myself across from her trying to ignore the uneasiness that was attempting to overthrow me. “Thanks…”
“No, seriously,” she continued on, “but you get that all the time, right? I’m sure you do. I know you do. And your hair!” she reached across the napkin holder that sat between us and caressed one of my curls, “It’s soooo—”
Before she could even get the rest of her words out, I jerked away from the table, my chair flying back an inch or two, earning a few snickers from that earlier group of customers.
“Is everything okay?” she leapt from her chair; regret plastered all over her face, “I’m sorry, I—”
My entire body stiffened as I backed away from her. “I need coffee!” I spat out the first excuse that came to mind, “I’ll… be back.”
See, this is exactly what I was worried about. Being in my space, touching my things. I hadn’t even considered touching me being a reason for concern, but within the 60 seconds we had known each other, she had already managed to commit the cardinal sin. How am I supposed to handle living with her? And the compliments— what’s with all the compliments? I mean, they’re not inherently bad; most of the time, they’re welcome even, but it’s a whole other thing when you’re drowning in them. I can’t. There was no way this was going to work.
I glanced over at the table where she sat with her chin propped against her hand. The light in her eyes had dimmed and the smile that nearly covered the entire width of her face was nonexistent. She was… sad? How does she get to be sad when I was the one violated? If anything, I should have been the one sulking, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was standing near the counter, pretending to order a coffee, with money I didn’t have, just to create some distance between us. I took another look over there and could’ve sworn I saw her wipe away a tear. She’s crying now too? Seriously? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!
I wanted to ignore her; pretend like I didn’t see any of that, but I did see it, and the stupid conscious my mom’s been warning me about my entire fucking life kicked in, dragging me back to the table to give her another chance.
She lifted her head with hopeful eyes. “You’re back?”
“Yeah…” I slid into my seat, “the line’s kind of long. I don’t need coffee that bad.”
“Here!” she eagerly offered me her half-drunken latte, “Have mine! I don’t need it.”
“I’m good,” I declined her gross, but generous, offer, “but thanks.”
She sat the cup down and pulled it close to her chest; her fingertips tapping away at its sides. “Yeah– of course…” her eyes wandered away from the table, “I shouldn’t have offered…”
The finger tapping, the eye roaming. I’d recognize those signs anywhere. She was nervous and that made her awkward introduction make a little more sense.
I steered the conversation in a more comfortable direction; one that, judging from her profile, was something she loved to talk about. “So you’re an engineer, right?”
I listened as she told me about her office, her boss, her projects and goals. She was passionate, ambitious and slightly obsessed with every aspect of work. As she spoke, her demeanor calmed and so did her hands, which stayed on her side of the table. From what I could tell, her only real issues were excessive flattery, long-winded sentences, and having no interests outside of work. Compared to the other six weirdos I met with, she was the closest to normal.
There was still that one question though…
“So why did you leave your last apartment? North Atwood’s way nicer than the south.”
“Oh…” she wrapped her hands around her cup as her fingertips resumed their nervous dance, “My roommate moved out of state and I saw your ad and thought, why not? South Atwood’s way closer to my job and with the cheaper rent, I could… I don’t know,” she gave a nervous chuckle, “save up for a jet ski or something…”
A large purchase? I guess that would explain the need for cheaper rent. Better than what I was thinking…
After hearing, what felt like, her entire life’s story, I had all the info I needed. I offered her the room and just as I was about to leave to kick off my last few days of privacy, she said–
“I know your ad said Monday but… is it possible I could move in tonight?”
TONIGHT?! Nooooooo! I’m not ready! I was supposed to have two more nights alone! Two! And now she–
“It’s short notice, I know,” she apologized, “but it would really help me out and I can pay! Double the deposit,” she pulled out her phone, “I’ll send everything to you right now. Is CashPay okay?”
Did she say… double… the deposit? I guess it wouldn’t kill me to change up my plans.
I texted her my CashPay info and with a much healthier bank account balance, handed over my spare key. “I guess I’ll see you tonight.”
“I. Can’t. Wait!”
Credits: This lot is a slightly edited version of Rise&Grind Coffee House by littledica.
If you enjoyed this episode of Camilla – Vol One: Impulse, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one!