One Step Forward Two Steps Back
He could barely open his eyes as the sun shone through the window. It pierced through the comforting darkness so suddenly that it took him a while to figure out what was happening. When he finally managed to steal a glance at the source of the sudden intrusion on his sense of sight, he found a woman pulling the shades up before she turned to face him.
“Rise and shine, Lang,” the sound of a certain obnoxious redhead chirped cheerfully.
He could not help but mutter a string of swear words as he covered his eyes with his hands. The redhead continued to draw the shades away from the other window in the living room as if she was enjoying the torture she was putting him through. When she was done, she threw a towel at him while walking back into the kitchen.
“If you wanna be able to make it to work on time, you better get up now.”
He gave her a menacing stare, but she was grinning mischievously, “You remember where the bathroom is. You can take a shower and join me for breakfast. Lesly already had your clothes cleaned and folded on the couch.”
Alec began rubbing his eyes in frustration. He was not amused one bit by her antics this early in the morning. “Where is she?”
“Long story,” Michaela responded. “You’re gonna need to be fully awake for this. Just go take that shower and we’ll talk.”
He was about to comply with her suggestion, but then he noticed that the only thing covering his body was the thin grey knitted throw that was lying on the couch the night before. As such, he wrapped the towel she threw at him earlier around his waist, grabbed his clothes and shuffled towards the bathroom. When he was done with his shower, he walked towards the counter and took a seat. Michaela poured him a steaming cup of coffee instantly, and pushed a plate of appetizing scrambled eggs towards him.
“Are you gonna tell me now where Lesly is?” He asked as he grabbed the fork she just handed to him.
“She told me she had to get to her office early.”
“She didn’t say. I guess it has something to do with you.”
“Did she say anything else?” He asked with a hint of hope in his voice.
“Not much,” the redhead shook her head. “She was locking the apartment’s door when I arrived. I asked her why she was leaving so early, and she quickly told me that there was a matter that required her attention. Just as she was walking down the stairs, she hastily announced that you were here. She didn’t even give me a chance to ask her anything.”
Alec did not like what he was hearing one bit. He sighed loudly before he dug his fork into his food. Michaela eyed him with interest. Her elbows were resting on the counter and her hands were securely wrapped around a warm coffee mug.
“Wanna tell me what happened last night?”
“Why should I?” He muttered before he grabbed the milk and poured some into his mug.
“Because I might be able to help you figure out what’s going on inside her head.”
He stared at her, not knowing whether he indeed needed her help or not, but he was desperate. “She had a work problem last night and I came to check on her.”
“What kind of problem?”
“Nothing you need to worry about. I took care of it.”
“And?” Michaela asked encouragingly.
“I offered to keep her company until you made it back.”
“She agreed to that?”
He sighed, “I guess you know what happened next.”
“I see.” Michaela placed her mug on the counter. “Did she send you a text?”
“What?” He seemed confused.
“A text?” she clarified. “You should check your phone.”
Alec could not believe his ears. “Michaela, what happened between us last night is not the sort of thing that she could address with a text!”
“She will,” the redhead confirmed. “Lesly doesn’t usually have a problem with confrontations. However, when it comes to relationships, she does try to avoid them at all costs. Go check your phone. See if she sent you anything.”
He complied hesitantly and went to fetch his phone from where he left it the night before. His heart sank when he found that Michaela was right. She did send him a text, a heartless cruel one.
I had to leave early because I have an important matter to attend to. Thanks again for checking on me.
About last night, I think it’s better if we just pretend nothing happened.
Alec walked back to the counter with a frown plastered to his face as he kept his eyes fixed on the screen. He took a seat at the counter in silence and directed his attention to his food which was becoming more and more tasteless the longer this conversation went.
“Well?” Michaela asked.
He silently grabbed the phone, clicked on the text and handed it to her. Michaela read it and sighed loudly. “Typical.”
“Any insights?” He asked with a lack of interest.
“Let her be for now,” the redhead advised.
“That’s it? That’s your advice?” He asked with a hint of sarcasm.
Michaela gave him a not-so-amused look, but she explained the rationale behind leaving her stubborn friend alone, “I know you’re tempted to just walk out of here and into her office to talk it out with her, but trust me, she won’t budge. She’ll continue to push you away.”
“What do you suggest I do then?”
“Give her time.”
Alec began rubbing his temples in exasperation, “I have given her time.”
“You’re not gonna lose her,” Michaela tried to reassure him. “She’s still hung up on you. Whatever happened between you two last night is proof that she’s not over you yet. Just be patient, Lang. She’s still hurt.”
When she saw that he was still not convinced, Michaela carried on, “Listen, Lesly can be a bit dense when it comes to these matters. Add her stubbornness to that, and you got yourself one tough nut to crack. Just give her a couple of days until everything sinks in. I’ll talk to her if you want.”
“Don’t. I’ll deal with it myself,” he said discouragingly before he stood up, grabbed his phone and went towards the couch to get his jacket.
Michaela eyed the plate of scrambled eggs he barely touched and the coffee he did not finish. Then she stood up and walked behind him with her arms crossed over her chest.
“Yes, I wanna be able to get to my apartment and change before traffic hits.”
“You’re not thinking of calling her or dropping by, are you?”
He still kept his back turned to her as he stashed his phone into his pocket, “You said to wait a couple of days. We’ll see what happens then. I’ll drop by your place on Friday and see if I can talk to her.”
“She won’t be here on Friday.”
Alec was confounded. He turned around and asked, “Do you guys have plans or something?”
Michaela eyed him for a few seconds as she thought about how she was going to break the news to him when he was this agitated. Then she sighed and told him the truth, “She’s moving out in two days.”
“Moving out as in…she found a new place to live?” He tried to confirm in confusion.
“Great,” he muttered in exasperation.
Michaela immediately rushed to put his worries to rest, “Listen, it doesn’t mean that she has moved on. She told you she needed space and getting her own place is part of the process. You guys never had a chance to slow things down and figure out what you wanted out of this relationship. This should help you out.”
Alec was not convinced, “I don’t see how.”
“Pay her a visit in a couple of days. Talk to her. Ease her back in slowly,” Michaela advised. “Sure, you will be doing things backwards. After all, you did the living together part before the dating part, but I promise you she’ll come around.”
Alec gave her an inexplicable look, but he eventually nodded, “I’ll take your word for it.”
He fished his car keys out of his pocket and attempted to leave. However, as if remembering something, he turned around and asked, “By the way, can you send me her new address?”
Michaela grinned. “Why send it to you when I can show you?”
Feeling perplexed, Alec narrowed his eyes at her. She walked towards the door and asked him to follow her. He did. Once they were out in the hallway, she pointed to the apartment next door.
“This is it.”
“She moved in next to you?!” He asked in disbelief. The frown of confusion was still plastered to his face.
“Can you blame her for jumping on the opportunity now? The building is in a good condition. The apartment is more spacious than her old one. The rent is affordable, and the area is relatively safer. Plus, there’s the added bonus of having yours truly as a neighbor.”
He shook his head slowly, “I don’t think I’m okay with this.”
He was still frowning at the door. “I feel like I’m in direct competition with you.”
She patted him on the back a couple of times. “Well, you better show her what she’s missing.”
He looked at her then as if trying to confirm whether she meant what he thought she meant. The redhead winked to drive her point home and walked back to her apartment. “Good luck, Lang. You’ll need it.”
Thank you dear Farzana Begum for suggesting a well-put title for this chapter <3