Italian Heart

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Chapter 4

I woke up early, which was unusual, but my body felt so well rested that I didn’t even consider rolling over and sleeping until my alarm. Sunlight streamed through the small slit in my curtains that had of course landed on my pillow, but it didn’t matter. Today was already better than yesterday because my alarm wasn’t blaring, and I could smell fresh pancakes being whipped up in the kitchen. The only strange part was that Katie was never up before 7. Josh must have called.

I stretched, rolled over, and tried to find my phone, but something else caught my attention. The bold red lines on my alarm clock were gone.

As in black.

As in not working.

And neither was my phone.

“Katie! What time is it?” I screamed as I ninja-jumped out of bed and rushed to the kitchen. My roommate’s back was turned to me, but I couldn’t help but notice the shake in her shoulders, presumably from laughter.

“Surprise! You’re off work today.”

My eyes jumped to the clock about the oven. 10:34. She was in so much trouble!

“Dear god, woman, why do I want to both kiss and kill you right now?” I demanded. “I’m in so much trouble right now.”

“Look, I emailed Marjorie and cc’d your uncle saying your roommate’s cooking gave you food poisoning and that you’d be in tomorrow no matter what. The bitch-lady replied saying that you should rest up. It’s funny what people do when they know their response is being read by the boss.”

“Seriously? I never would’ve copied Uncle Oscar in an email,” I said as I pulled up a chair, my heartbeat skyrocketing. “She’s going to kill me. She’s probably etching my name on her blacklist as we speak.”

“Oh wait,” Katie said, looking me in the eye. “Shit, you’re mad.”

“Katie, this isn’t just some campus job. This is crunch time, and I had four days,” I paused, counting. “Three days. Damn.”

“No, please don’t get mad. You needed a break, and let’s be real. Marjorie deserves it after last night.”

“Yes, she does, but you can’t do shit like this.”

“I know, I know, sorry. But I love you, and I was trying to help. Now, I hope you won’t be mad at me forever, but just remember that I made you some yummy pancakes and when I get back, take-out’s on me.”

I just shrugged, trying to figure out how bad tomorrow was going to be on a scale from 1 to of-course-it-will-be.

“Oh, and I hope you don’t mind, but Josh is in town Saturday. Do you care if he stays here?”

“So that’s why I’m getting pancakes this morning,” I said, cracking a smile. “You’re buttering me up.”

“Psh, no. It’s roommate appreciation day,” she said, as she piled more pancakes onto an already full plate. “I can’t believe you forgot. That’s three years in a row now.”

I smiled before digging into my plate, enjoying the fact that my day, while unprecedented and probably bad, was actually going to be enjoyable.

“Yeah yeah, shouldn’t you be at work?”

“Nah, I don’t start till 11 on Tuesdays. The partners are out to their hangover brunch. I swear people actually go out on Mondays here. It’s weird.”

“Tell me about it,” I said before devouring the rest of my pancakes and excusing myself for a much-needed shower and Netflix session. She left a good hour before her shift, leaving me with the apartment to myself.

Unfortunately, by the time one o’clock rolled around, I was bored out of my mind, but that’s usually what happened when I was idle. For a while, I paced my bedroom, trying to come up with a master plan for restarting the job application process. Everyone and their mother wanted to work in L.A., especially at Bane, and I really liked living near the city, but trying to find a job here was like trying to fit into my high school jeans; I might get lucky, but even then, it was a fat chance in hell that I’d find something that fit.

So there I sat for a while, staring out the window with my tea and pretending that I would actually find something that was going to make me happy. After another hour of my pity-party-for-one, I realized I wasn’t ready to apply. Even though I knew I was leaving, every time I went to submit, I had a gut feeling not to. It was like the universe wanted me to live with my mom and be one of those creepy basement children who never leave the nest. Granted, it was a beautiful house in Napa Valley, but still. I wasn’t ready to give up on actually living a life of my own, even if it meant living off of my savings for a while.

My phone lit up, alerting me that Katie was bored at work already, so I set down my tea and tried to figure out what could possibly be wrong today. I had been sending her Candy Crush lives all day, so she couldn’t be that bored.

Katie: Josh is pissing me off. He won’t stop texting his arrival time for Saturday. Like I get it. 5 pm LAX Terminal C. It’s not rocket science. Ugh, sometimes he acts like such a nag.

Me: You know it means he loves you, right? Give him a break. He hasn’t seen you in a month, and he’s probably really excited.

Katie: Yeah I guess. Ugh, sorry. It’s just weird between us sometimes. I just wish he was around more.

Me: I know, but it’s good you have him in your life. He loves you.

Katie: He does, doesn’t he? :)

Another alert popped up on my phone as I flopped down on my bed. It was that unknown number I never programmed into my contacts. My heart fluttered for a moment before I got up enough courage to see what he had to say.

Ari: Hey, how are you?

I looked at the seemingly innocent message, wondering what the proper response was for this. Did I lie and say I was super sick? Would a sick person even answer texts?

Me: I’m ok. Just sleeping off whatever I have.

I looked at the message before I sent it, trying to make sure it was innocent enough. It wasn’t a complete lie. I was sleeping off what I had—if one could sleep off nothing, that is.

I pressed send just in time for Katie’s response to pop up.

Katie: OMG, I know what Josh is doing! He’s trying to surprise me again!

Me: Like that time he took you on that mini-vacay to Washington to meet his parents?

Katie: Well, it wasn’t much of a vacation considering his mom seriously hates me, but yes! He did this time-checky OCD thing last time to throw me off his plans.

Me: Aww, that’s so sweet of him. That’s definitely it! :)

Katie: OMG, my room is a disaster! Please tell me you’re super bored.

Me: Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

Katie: Any chance you’re in the mood to do laundry too? ;)

A knock sounded across the apartment, nearly giving me a mini-heart attack before I returned to my conversation.

Me: Absolutely not! Now get back to work, slacker. ;)

The knock came again, forcing me out of my comfy bed and toward the door. Outside, a deliveryman stood with a white covered box in hand.

“I didn’t order anything,” I said through the door, not sure why I felt so nervous to open it.

“It’s a delivery from ARK Incorporated.” Someone had sent a courier from ARK? The package wasn't big enough to be the contents of my desk, but still, I was highly suspicious.

Just to be safe, I added in a fake cough with my thank you, just incase he was sent as Marjorie’s spy.

My phone buzzed noisily on the counter, reminding me that I missed a message, so I dropped the box onto the counter and stole a quick glance at the message.

That’s not usually the reaction I get when I offer to cook, but I guess there’s a first time for everything, right?

I looked at my phone for a second, trying to figure out how Katie jumped from laundry to dinner, but then horror struck as I looked at the sender. Oh my god, I sent Ari Bellisario a miss-text that was not even remotely comebackable.

Me: Oh my god, sorry. That was meant for my roommate who asked me to do her laundry.

It felt like ages until he responded, but for some reason, it’s arrival didn’t make me feel much better. I honestly didn’t know if he was texting me to be flirty or just kind, but boy did my heart throb when the message alert dinged.

Ari: So you do want me to make you dinner?

I looked over the previous text.

Ari: You know my mom used to make me this special soup when I felt sick. I could bring you some. I have a few things to take care of at the office, but how about 6?

Me: That’s ok. My roommate’s ordering take-out with me.

I looked over the text, realizing how cold I sounded.

Me: But it’s kind of you to offer.

His response was instant.

Ari: How about Wednesday then? You get off early, right? Let me at least buy you a drink. I still feel bad about Saturday.

Me: Fine. One drink, and if you’re lucky, I may agree to an appetizer.

Ari: Done. I’ll find you after the luncheon.

Me: Oh, you’re going too?

Ari: Yes. I’ve got to run to a meeting, but I’ll see you tomorrow.

I sat there for a moment, formulating my response. For some reason, I think he meant this as a date, but Lord knows I used to be the queen of overanalyzing situations like this, so I needed to decide fast on what I wanted it to be.

“Casual but professional meeting that could involve food,” I said to myself as I looked through my closet. I had this one high neckline black dress that could double as work and date wear. Done.

Me: Ok. :)

Yeah, that was the best I could do. All my other responses seemed to have double meanings, so the simple response was the only way to go.

Katie: UH, Earth to Sophie. Are you there?

I looked over Katie’s response for a moment, trying not to laugh. I had four missed texts in the course of five minutes.

Me: Yeah, sorry. Someone was at the door. I think Marjorie sent me a box of poisoned apples

Katie: Seriously grab my pickaxe. It’s time we take the evil queen down!!!

Me: It’s fine but if you want me to clean your room, stop texting!!

Katie: You drive a hard bargain. Fine. I’ll go back to the slave driver while you lounge around in your Eeyore pjs

Me: I’ll have you know these are at the height of fashion

Katie: You know, I thought I saw them in Milan. Must have cost a fortune

Me: Ha ha. You’re hilarious

Katie: I do what I can

Back in the kitchen, the white box glared at me. I hadn’t bothered opening it yet, presumably because it was some sort of jab at me from the she-devil, but the scent of chocolate made me curious as I opened the top carefully.

It was a single slice of chocolate cake with a note.

As promised – Ari

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