I thought I could picture the worst scenarios. Missing an important meeting or appointment because you slept through your alarm, a root canal, or spending time with my overbearing thought there was nothing worse than visiting the dentist. But I stand corrected... There is something much worse. As if finishing up my latest novel wasn’t stressful enough, having to be short on time, the deadline being Saturday, only three days away, my new and boisterous neighbors will not let me work in peace.
They moved into the apartment above me on Monday. Everything seemed to be fine until the racket started. The scraping of the heavy furniture moving around the rooms, the loud conversations between the two, the oddly potent smell of food, and the unnecessary slamming of doors. I don’t see how Mrs. Hayden from next door hasn’t complained. The old hag had no trouble whining about my “loud printer” to the landlord, yet she seems content with the noisy couple.
Rainbow, my editor, has been hounding me via email, calls, and text, reminding me that she needs the draft ready by Saturday. With this being my second extension, I am sure that a third extension is a big fat no way in hell.
With that, I sip on the fourth? No, fifth? Oh, whatever numbered coffee of the day. All I know is that without caffeine, I wouldn’t be able to be sitting upright in my chair right now while I stare at the Word page before me, shining empty, mocking me.
“Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the donkey!” I yelled as the abrupt loud explosion sound made me jump and spill my scalding coffee all over my exposed bare legs. I was only wearing boy shorts and my long cactus t-shirt. Who knew comfortable could be dangerous? I ran towards the kitchen, directly towards the sink, grabbing my beet-colored kitchen towel to wet it with cold water.
I gently wiped my burned legs, hissing a little. “Damn crappy neighbors.”
Every blast was more obnoxious than the other. And it made my already accelerating heart race even more. It was clear the neighbors were watching an action movie but does everyone have to hear it? Or better yet, how is no one hearing this? The witch next door nearly had a fit when she heard Oliver, my orange tabby meow. The chubby slob hardly ever does, more like snores all day, but the rare time he does, Mrs. Hayden would not let me hear the end of it.
I feel warm fur press against my legs as I look down at the culprit. “I guess they disturb your nap, your majesty.”
Oliver looked at me for a second before he stretched his massive body with a groan, patting away, forgetting that I even exist.
“Always a pleasure, Oliver.” I sighed.
Will I ever finish? I look back at my laptop that rested on the tv tray. Thankfully it wasn’t on my lap. I shuddered at the thought of what it meant if the coffee would have fallen all over the machine. I know a particular editor who would pull her hair out if I told her I was laptopless.
I can already hear her, “Emily, please tell me you’re joking. I beg of you. I know you’re a klutz but come the fuck on!”
I dragged my right palm harshly across my face in frustration. I need quiet, but how can I when the lovely upstairs neighbors won’t shut it? If it weren’t for the pandemic, I could be sitting at my favorite coffee shop, sipping on my soy vanilla latte and typing away in harmony.
Reluctantly, I drew my body away from the kitchen and grabbed my computer. I made sure to sit on the other side, avoid the wet area, and type.
James’ mind wandered out beyond the horizon. He can’t seem to get the girl from the bakery out of his head: Nirvana, such a beautiful name. It suited her well. He pictured those emerald eyes, growing old along with his average brown ones. You would think he was a fool for falling so quickly, for imagining a future with someone he barely knows. But James, he knew, he was positive, after their hands touched when Emily offered him that pastry sample...
It was past dinner time. I had barely written anything substantial. The noises. The never-ending sounds. I had tried to get in touch with the landlord, even knocked on his door, but nothing. I was ignored, like usual. He doesn’t give two shits about the tenants, and I am too chicken to face the neighbors on my own.
I sighed for what has seemed to be the ten-thousandth time today. Leaning against the counter, eating mac and cheese I had made from the pot while Oliver snores next to his food bowl.
Halfway through the pot of delicious cheesy goodness, my cellphone started to ring. I didn’t even have to glance at the screen to know who it was. “Yes, Rainbow?”
“Emily the Great, what’s up?” She answered with exaggerated enthusiasm. Rainbow could pretend all she wants; we both know she’s squeezing that yellow stress ball to the point of having it burst in her hand.
But, I might as well entertain her intensity. “I am doing amazing, lady! You will never believe it. I am done with the novel, and I even started on the sequel.”
A tiny desperate whimper played through the phone, “Are you kidding, Em? Are you even close to being done? I can’t extend the deadline anymore. Otherwise, I’m dead!”
“I’ll be sure to bury you with your favorite stuffed sloth and the sloth blanket.”
“Leave Moe out of this!” Rainbow hollered. Then she started to rant on how she was going to die a slow and painful death.
Drama queen much?
After a few minutes, Rainbow seemed to calm down, and she exhaled roughly before saying, “Em, you need to get this done. Your last book didn’t do so good, and you have a lot riding on this one. I just...”
I cut her off, “Hey, I know. I am not going to let you down. You’ll have it on Saturday. Relax and trust me.”
“Okay. Night, Em.”
I closed my eyes, just begging for my anxiety not to take over. I can’t let Rainbow down. I can’t let myself down. We both need this... bad.
Thursday. Only two days away from my deadline. I could do this. I can and will. It was past nine in the morning, and so far, no disturbances. I was actually on a roll. With only fifteen thousand words to go to reach my limit, my fingers were flying across the keyboard.
Nirvana swept a stray curl behind her ear shyly. He was back, the man with a smile that made you go weak in the knees. Those chocolate brown eyes hypnotize you. And his presence, he was a man that commanded attention, yet he was so sweet and kind.
He held the door open for an old lady; she smiled gratefully. The woman even blushed when James returned the smile. Who could blame her? He was just so awe-worthy.
Nirvana’s heart quickened as his eyes locked in with hers. James held his breath at the sight of her. Could it be possible she has gotten more beautiful in a day? He thought to himself. If only his mother could see him now. He would never hear the end of it.
Coming into the bakery every morning has become a habit. Sometimes even around lunch, James would stop by. He just had to see her again. And again.
The beautiful baker attended to the older woman, preparing her order with care while hearing about how her grandchildren adore the chocolate chip cookies she prepares. Nirvana closed the top of the box and tied a teal ribbon before coming around the counter to hand the box filled with cookies to her. “Here you are, Mrs. Olivero. I threw in a few extras for you.”
“Oh, my dear. That is sweet of you.” Mrs. Olivero said appreciatively, and she gently patted the baker's cheek.
They said their goodbyes. The older woman was sure to praise her once more before heading her way back home. It was then that they realized they were the only ones in the store.
Nirvana tugged nervously at her apron. James rubbed his neck anxiously. They both would look away, blushing, not knowing what to say.
He knew it was now or never. With a deep breath and a few steps forward. James began to say, “Nirvana, I...”
“Yes?” She asked, sounding a little more eager than she wished.
James stuttered a bit, “I thought that maybe you would want...”
“Want to?” Nirvana was hoping to hear the words she’s been dying to hear all week. She begged the Lord it was those words.
Another step closer.
Till they were merely less than a foot away from each other, Nirvana hoped he couldn’t hear her heart beating so loud as if it were a drum.
James gulped anxiously and spoke again, “Will you go on a...
A stereo came on, blasting loud dance music. Oliver jolted awake from the couch with a yowl. I didn’t bother a twitch. My face was now resting in my hands; the urge to cry from frustration was so tempting. Don’t these people even have the slightest bit of compassion?
I tried to power through it. I tried to continue James and Nirvana’s story. But how can anyone get any work done, let alone craft a romance with so much fucking noise!
It was as if something within snapped—the cable that transferred all my fears and anxiety throughout my body broke, malfunctioning. I had had it.
With a burst of adrenaline, I grabbed the nearest pair of pants I had lying in my room, and without missing a beat, I was dressed and out the door.
The torture is about to be over, the lack of decency the audacity. Finito!
In recorded time, I was at my landlord’s door. Without any hesitation, I banged on his door repeatedly till he had no choice but to come out.
The old door swung open, and a middle-aged man in an old tank top, sweats, beer gut, and scowl stood.
“What the hell, Emily? Why the fuck are you banging my door like a lunatic?” He spat at me. His eyes were raging. The hand that held the doorknob grew paler by how tight he held on to it.
And I was off, “Lunatic? No, lunacy is the neighbors from hell you rented an apartment to!”
“What are you talking about?”
I laughed sarcastically; clearly, everyone is deaf. “The people above me. They move heavy furniture, slam doors, play obnoxiously loud music when they aren’t loud by themselves. The smell of their cooking takes over my apartment. And it’s all day, all night. If anyone should be pissed off, it should be me! Now could you please, control your fucking tenants!”
My landlord looked at me like I was insane. He would blink a few times to make sure what he had just witnessed was true.
Carefully he questioned, “What tenants?”
I was exasperated. “The ones above me, the apartment that resides on top of mine. I can’t be anymore more straightforward than that.
“There’s no one there.”
Now, it was my turn to blink. “What?”
He continued, beyond annoyed and done with this conversation, “There is no one living there; there are tenants above you. I can’t be anymore more straightforward than that."
He's crackers! Of course, there are people up there. I heard it! "There's fucking people living there, I am telling you!"
A few unpleasant minutes later, my landlord dragged me up the stairs towards the apartment that housed the neighbors. Hot on his heels, I was determined to show him he was wrong. There are people in there. There has to be.
My adrenaline from before was fading, and the anxiety was taking over. Was I wrong? But I heard it, smelled it, even Oliver felt it. I wasn't wrong.
We were standing in front of the apartment, and no noise was coming out of it, nothing. My landlord took out his keyring and took his sweet time finding the one that would open the door. I bit on my nail nervously. I was tasting the blood from pulling the now-bitten-off nail off the skin.
He grumbled as he inserted the key. Everything seemed in slow motion and so quiet. You could probably hear me shaking. I jumped slightly when I heard the click of the lock. I watched as he turned the knob and pushed the door open. It creaked as an old door would that hasn't been used in a significant amount of time. He pushed it all the way open before he gestured me to go in.
Slowly, I made my way inside the apartment. It was then that I stood frozen when I witness the scene before me.
The apartment was empty.
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