“Mr. Lebedev,” Lisa sang, tiptoeing toward the bedroom. She unbuttoned her blouse and let it fall to the floor. One hand pushed on a door handle while she unhooked her bra with the other.
“Mr.—” her voice went mute at the horrifying sight.
Her boyfriend of two months was swinging his genitals into a curly haired blondie with tiny boobs. His big hands, pulling her rear toward him.
“I’m coming!” yelled blondie.
All of the veins in Mr. Lebedev’s arms were engorged. He’d been doing this for the last hour and he could last longer if she’d let him.
“Lisa,” the man pushed his jaw-length hair away from his face.
Blondie frowned, bringing a pillow over her lemons.
Lisa held her bra, reached for her blouse and ran out of the bedroom and into her bathroom before a cascade of shame and tears ruined her face.
“Baby, can we talk about this?” The doorknob wiggled.
The girl looked into the mirror, then saw a g-string laying on the counter. She didn’t wear g-strings. She thought those were uncomfortable. But they did inspire her anger.
“Fuck you!” She swung the door open and slapped the naked man on the face with the undergarment.
He barely moved.
“Can we talk?” He asked.
Blondie had disappeared.
"Let’s move in together,” she cried, buttoning up her shirt. ”I can’t stop thinking about you, Lisa. Those were your words three weeks ago. You’re a fucking liar, Joel Lebedev.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“I don’t want your apology. Where’d you meet her? At the gym, where you met me? No, it doesn’t matter. You have one hour to get the fuck out of my apartment.”
“Are you serious?” Joel followed Lisa toward the living room. “Do you know how hard it is to find a place right now? Baby, you’re overreacting. That stuff I was doing in there meant nothing to me. I don’t even know her name.”
“Oh, and what we do means something to you,” Lisa crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows.
“Yes,” he rubbed her arms.
“I was being sarcastic. Find yourself a place with that Roommate Finder app and get the fuck out,” she pointed at the door.
“Fine, if this is what you want, let it be it, but don’t come crawling back to me because I don’t give out second chances.”
“Second chances? Your head is so fucking up your ass that you think you’re the victim here?”
“I never said I was the victim here.”
“Get out!” Lisa screamed.
Hagen looked at his computer screen, scrolling down a list of names. He hugged his biceps and sat back on the chair.
“Maybe I should ask for my job back,” he sighed.
Alden moved the laptop to one side and put a plate of pork and avocados in front of him.
“Hogs, you need to stop saying that. I can afford all the bills with my current salary and if we can’t find someone to rent the guest room, I’ll do overtime on Wednesdays and Fridays and I’ll take the morning shift on Saturdays.”
“No, Ali, that’s crazy,” Hagen finished chewing. “I can’t let you burn off like that.”
“Then we find somebody,” Alden sat beside him. “The good thing is that we live near the university so we have a lot of applicants already.”
“Quantity means nothing. Did you see that guy who came to check out the place yesterday? He looked like a member of a Satanic cult.”
“I know. Does he always wear black? And was that eyeliner or did he get punched in the eyes?”
Hagen laughed, remembering the creepy boy. Alden chuckled as she punched her chest trying not to choke on her food.
A popup window appeared in the computer screen. You have a new viewing request.
“Alright,” Alden put her fork down, “let’s see what kind of weirdo wants to live with us.”
Hagen clicked on the applicant’s profile.
“Joel Lebedev. No picture. Red flag number one.”
“But look, he’s a Health Science major like you.”
“Twenty-two years old. Fitness enthusiast. No pets. Okay, that’s not a lot of information. What do you think?”
Alden held Hagen’s hand. “Hey, we don’t have to do this. You let me worry about the—”
Hagen looked down at Ali’s hand, noticing two band-aids around her ring and middle fingers. She’d cut herself the day before, slicing zucchini squash for a salad he had asked her to make. That same morning she’d pinched her hand using scissors at work.
He stroke her long and brown curly hair with a half smile, then clicked on the Accept button on his laptop.
“Mama, mama,” Joel spoke to his car’s radio as his turned on the steering wheel. “Can I—?” The woman yelling through the speakers wouldn’t let him finish a sentence, so he asked her to pass the phone to his father in Russian.
“Why do you want to talk to your father and not me?” The woman rolled her r’s with a strong Russian accent.
“Because I called his phone number and you’re yelling at me,” Joel rolled his eyes.
“How can I not be upset? I haeve not seen my son in three yars. I send you money, I don’t know if your alive.”
“Mama, poshauluysta. You’re overreacting. I talk to you all the time.” He stopped at a red light.
“Come back to Lubbock for Christmas, for God’s sake.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
The woman huffed and yelled in Russian again. This time, she added a bit of crying. An older male voice was heard in the background until it was clear.
“Jo, don’t tell your mother those things. You know how sensitive she is to this whole situation.” The man spoke in a neutral American accent. Anyone who heard him would have said he had a radio voice.
“Dad, you know that nothing I say will make her better,” replied Joel.
“Why don’t you just come over one weekend? That will make her happy.”
“Sure, is you-know-who gonna be there?”
“Well,” Joel’s father paused, “I can’t promise your mother won’t call him to talk about what happened between you two.”
“Then no. I don’t wanna go back to Lubbock.”
“Jo, you can’t avoid them forever, you know that, right?”
“Anyways,” Joel pretended not to listen, “I’m calling to let you know I’m moving and I’m not sure if I’ll have to pay extra to secure the rent.”
“Sure, son. Just text me how much you’ll need later and I’ll wire you the money.”
“Okay. I’ll let you go now. I’m checking out a place.” He stopped the engine in front of a townhome.
The place seemed so small from the outside, it made him think of a doll house. The neighborhood was full of cookie cutter houses but this one had a small garden of vibrant yellow roses outside. As it was the start of Fall, some were already dying, nevertheless, the grass looked alive.
He pushed the doorbell twice beside the mahogany door with triangle carvings. A man, about two inches smaller than him, answered the door.
“Hello, are you Hagen Douglas?”
“Joel?” Hagen extended his arm for a handshake.
“That’s me.” Joel shook his hand.
“I don’t know any Russians under six feet tall.”
“Actually, I’m quarter Mexican,” Joel smiled. He was always excited to watch people’s jaws drop as a six feet two inches tall, blond man with hazel eyes told them he was quarter Mexican; sometimes even in perfect Spanish.
“Ah,” Hagen just nodded and let him in. “So wanna see the room?”
Inside, it was bigger than what he imagined although it was still smaller than the average house.
Joel had expected a bachelor pad but the place was adorned with picture frames and vases with flowers. A pleasant scent of marshmallow filled his nostrils. There was a TV to his left with an L shaped sofa and a coffee table in front of it. Behind it, a modern orange abstract painting became the focal point on a dark blue accent wall.
Right past the living room he could see a big kitchen illuminated by natural light, which sifted through the windows over the granite counters. Toward the right, there was a plain white door.
“Sure,” Joel tried to spot any signs of dust.
Hagen walked in front of him toward the dark blue wall, which continued to the left into a hallway.
“This is the bathroom,” Hagen opened one door, “and this door in front of it is my bedroom. And if you were to move in,” he opened a door at the end of the hallway, “this would be your bedroom.”
The room was empty, but Joel imagined a queen sized bed fitting perfectly in it.
“How much are you asking for again?” He said. “I was in a hurry and saw the address was near my school, so I forgot about the price.”
“Five hundred dollars a month?”
“That over your budget?”
“Not at all. I was paying a thousand for my apartment and before that I was paying fourteen hundred to live in a college dorm.”
“Alright, I just have some questions for you then. Do you drink or party a lot?”
“Not really. I go to clubs from time to time but with the amount of homework I have to do, I don’t have time for those things. Do you mind if I have a friend over from time to time? You know what I mean?” Joel winked.
“You mean, like, girls?” Hagen sniggered. “Na, I don’t mind that as long as you keep that stuff on the down low. The reason why me and my sister moved here was because this is a quiet neighborhood and it’s close to Harris U. We wanna live life as normal as possible.”
“Hey, man, I get it,” Joel raised his hands. “You’re talking to someone with a strict diet and fitness schedule. Also, I wasn’t aware we’d be living with your sister.”
“Yes. I didn’t add that detail on the website. She’s at work right now but if you’re cool with me, you’ll be okay with her. Usually, if someone doesn’t like me, they don’t like her either.”
“Cool. Do you have any other questions?”
“No, we like healthy living in this household too so I don’t think we’ll have issues with that. When do you wanna move in?”
“Right now, okay?”