Monday, September 26, 2011
Shady sat at the top of the stairs as Cody mounted the steps. He mewed a greeting; his glowing eyes reflected Cody’s flashlight.
“Hey, cat,” Cody said, leaning forward to scratch the kitten’s head. Shady responded by grabbing Cody’s hand and wrapping his back legs around Cody’s wrist. Cody grinned and picked him up as Shady gently chewed on his fingers and purred. Cody thought for a moment: Tina and Kelly were in… “oh yeah, two in #202.” He walked past his own unit, #207, and tapped on Tina’s door.
“Cody, what —” Tina began — “oh, there he is!” She looked over her shoulder. “Kelly! Cody has your kitten!”
Kelly ran to the front door, looking relieved. “Whew! He bolted out the door when we came in this evening — where did you find him?”
“He was at the top of the steps,” Cody said, stretching his arm toward Kelly. She unwrapped a reluctant Shady, who mewed in protest and swatted at her as she took possession.
“Huh,” Tina smiled. “He likes you.”
“We understand each other,” Cody grinned. “Hey, I gotta get back. I ran a bit late this evening. Bye.”
Sondra was cocooned in a robe and blanket against the damp chill, reading on the love seat by candlelight and flashlight. One of the candles was scented, something that smelled like cinnamon, and it helped with the last of the refrigerator smell. They got their first choice of townhouse — an upstairs, one-bedroom unit directly across from the clubhouse, and Sondra loved the furnishings — but Saturday and Sunday brought steady rain, the first since the Truckalypse, and they had to wait for drier weather to move their belongings. Cody offered to set up his Playstation in the clubhouse, for everyone to use, and the offer was well-received.
“What did you do, play through an entire game?” she asked.
“Well, I had to test it!” he laughed. “No, we had it in the big Laurel Room, but there were card games going on, and people talking, and the game was making too much noise. I guess we should have thought of that earlier. We had to carry it all downstairs, clean out one of the rooms, run extension cords to the gennie, all that. It didn’t take as long as it could’ve — there were people lining up to play and everyone was like ‘what can we do to get this done?’. We can go by Breakbeat tomorrow to clean out the game rack when we’re at the mall. I guess we’ll rip up some carpet out of one of the houses for the floor, it’s cold in there. Then Kelly’s cat was on the steps coming up, so I took him home.”
“That was nice. So did we forget anything at the house?”
“Nah… nothing we need right away. We got the food, the Playstation, music, Dad’s laptop, and the books. If we decide we need anything else, we can always go back for it.”
“Can I ask you something?” Cody said.
“Why were you so pissed about not being able to move on Saturday? This is nice, but we had everything we needed at my place.”
Sondra put her book down and stood, wrapping herself and the blanket around Cody. “That’s just it. It was your place. It was at the back of the subdivision, away from everyone else, but that didn’t bother me so much. But I wanted it to be our place, and I just couldn’t make it happen. Now we’re in our place.”
“I can see that,” Cody said, stroking her back. “I just wish I saw it before. I guess I was just so happy, having you with me, that I didn’t notice you weren’t… I’m not sure what the word is. But now — our place.” He tested the words, said them again.
“It was a place I was staying,” Sondra said, “because you were there. Here, I’ll be living. We’ll be living.” She kissed him.
“What’s important is that you’re with me. I — I love you.” He shook his head. “Why is that so hard to say?”
“I know you do, but it helps to hear you say it. I love you too, Cody. You’ve been hurt before, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, a few years ago. She wanted to change me, make me wear different clothes, cut my hair, and I let her. And then she laughed at me. I swore I’d rather be alone forever than let that happen again. But I think I was in love the minute I saw you.”
Sondra hugged him tighter. “You don’t have to worry about that now. I love you the way you are. You’ve been so helpful, so giving. Lots of people get so cynical when they get hurt, and don’t want to help anyone.”
“I was like that,” Cody admitted. “But then the trucks came and Kelly and Tina were the only people left here besides me. They didn’t know how to be self-sufficient, but Tina was trying. They weren’t rude, they needed help, and what was I going to do with stuff they needed and I didn’t? Just hang onto it? Besides, it’s too easy to be alone now. All you have to do is walk down the street.”
“Yeah.” She grinned. “Wow, I didn’t mean for us to have such a serious discussion tonight! I want to celebrate. C'mon, we’re gonna have a housewarming party.” She led him to the dining nook off the kitchen, where a bottle of wine and two glasses waited on the table.
“Housewarming? I should have brought some firewood, then.” They laughed; Sondra filled their glasses and they clinked them.
“I can’t think of a toast,” Cody said. “I haven’t had a lot of practice.”
“That’s okay,” Sondra said. “To our place. To our love. To the new world we’ll help make.”
“Together,” Cody said. “I’ll drink to that… ahh. That’s where the warming comes from.”
After they finished their first glass, Sondra wrapped the blanket and her arms around Cody again. “Some of the warming, anyway. Now you can open your present.”
“But I didn’t get you anything.”
Sondra fished a foil packet out of her pocket and pressed it into his hand. “It’s more like what we’re giving each other,” she whispered.
Cody’s eyes grew wide. “Uhh —”
“It’s time. I think so, anyway. What about you?”
“I — I’ve been ready all along. But yeah, this is the right time.” He hugged her tight. “Now?”
“In a minute. Let’s drink another toast first. Then we’ll go to the bedroom and you can unwrap your present. And I’ll unwrap mine.”
“I hope… I hope it works for us both.” Cody shivered, not from the chill.
“It’s our first time. Let’s take it easy and not expect a lot right away. We’ll practice.” She laughed.
As it turned out, third time was the charm. And fourth time. They were both worn out by the fifth time, and drifted off to sleep in the middle of things, wrapped around each other. Their house was quite warm by then.