I really hadn’t thought I had much stuff, but apparently things had accumulated over the last few years. I’d just stowed the last of my movies in one of the many boxes scattered around the house when someone knocked on the front door.
“Come in.” I pushed myself to my feet and turned to greet Josh as he opened the door and walked in.
“You do realize it’s fucking eight o’clock on a Saturday morning, right?” Josh shut the door and stepped further into the room. He nearly tripped over a box and froze. He glanced around and his gaze finally landed on me. “What the fuck? Why are there boxes everywhere?”
“Reece, I’m done with the kitchen.” Dave walked into the room and smiled at Josh. “Hey Josh.” He turned to me. “You want help in here or would you rather I start hauling boxes out to the truck?”
“You can start taking boxes out.” I peeked at Josh out of the corner of my eye and grinned. His gaze swung back and forth between us. After some discussion, Dave and I had decided to wait to drop the news of my move on Josh. We were still getting used to the idea ourselves. Plus, it was more fun, for us, to have him come by on moving day and spill the beans then. Hopefully he’d agree to help with the move, but if not, that was fine too. It would just take us a little longer than we hoped.
“Wait a minute! Would someone like to tell me what the hell is going on?”
“Mr. Ranier has Alzheimer’s and is going to live with Jeff. They’re selling the house and so I have to move.” I shrugged. “It’s as simple as that.”
“Simple, huh? How long have you known about this?” Josh looked flustered, which didn’t happen very often.
I glanced at Dave and raised my eyebrows. “How long has it been? A week?”
“Sounds about right.” Dave walked over to me and slid an arm around my waist.
Despite the stress of having to move, it had been a good week. Dave had been over every night helping me pack things into boxes he’d brought over. There were a few odds and ends to finish packing and I’d be out of the house by late morning or early afternoon.
“You know, I should be pissed that I’m just now hearing about this.” Josh flopped down on my couch and glared at me. “Why didn’t you call me? You know I’d have been over here helping.” I was surprised that he sounded more hurt than anything.
“We know you would have.” Dave tightened his grip on me. I could see the question in his eyes and nodded. “I think we were both still wrapping our heads around moving to the next step and wanted to keep it to ourselves a bit longer.”
“The next step?” Josh frowned. Realization must have dawned on him, because his mouth dropped open and he stared at us, I think in disbelief. “You’re shitting me, right? You two are moving in together?”
“Yep.” I grinned at Josh. “Jeff was still here when Dave showed up. After Jeff left, we got to talking and Dave asked me to move in with him.”
“Have you told your parents yet?”
“Nope. It’s none of their business.” I was barely on speaking terms with my parents and I was in no hurry to talk to them. My mother would spend her time chastising me for not attending the family dinners and my father would rant at me about upsetting my mother. It was a no win situation and one I wasn’t in any hurry to have. “You’re the first person, outside of me and Dave of course, to know.”
“Actually”—Dave’s voice was barely more than a whisper—“my parents know.”
I whirled to face him and tried to come up with something coherent to say, but failed. I swallowed—hard–and tried again. “They do?”
“Yeah. I told them a couple of days ago.” Dave seemed uncertain and took a step back. “Mom can’t wait to meet you. Dad questioned if we were moving too fast, but he’s happy for us and wants to meet you, too.”
“You’re moving in together and you haven’t met his parents yet?” Josh poked me. “How’d that happen?”
“It’s just never came up. He hasn’t met mine either.” I glared at Josh, hoping he’d take the hint and back off. To be honest, I’d never gotten to the meet the parents stage and the idea was enough to make me nervous. What if they thought I wasn’t good enough for their son?
“Not officially, but your parents suck anyways. Dave’s parents are awesome.”
“Can we table this discussion for now and just work on getting me moved?” I wasn’t sure what to think about Dave telling his parents about me moving in. It made sense, since they’d find out the next time they came to visit, but a part of me wished he had waited. Which made no sense, since it seemed like they were fine with it. It probably had something to do with the fact that I knew my own parents would go ape shit when they found out.
“Fine, but can’t we get some more help?” Josh pointed to all the boxes. “This is a lot of shit. I didn’t even know this much stuff could fit in here.”
“Who would you suggest we call?”
“I’ll take care of it.” Josh grinned. “I’ll even spring for pizza and beer when we’re done.”
“Don’t worry about the pizza and beer. It’ll be my treat.” Dave picked up one of the boxes and headed for the door. “Once we get some of this loaded up, I’ll head to the house and pick up beer on my way. Then when everything’s moved, I’ll call and order the pizzas.”
It stung a bit that neither of them asked me to pitch in, considering I was the one moving. They probably assumed I couldn’t afford it. Unfortunately, they were right. Until I got my deposit and part of the month’s rent back, I was very nearly broke. Not for the first time, I wondered if I was being fair to Dave. His house wasn’t huge, and I planned to pay my share of everything, but at the same time I wondered if I’d be able to afford it. When I’d brought it up to Dave, he’d just kissed me and told me I was more worried about it than he was. I think that was his way to politely tell me I worried too much.
“Earth to Reece.” Josh waved his hand in front of my face. I jumped at the movement and stared at my cousin. “I was asking where you want me to start. The rest of the crew will be here shortly.”
“Who’d you call?”
“You’ll see.” Josh smirked, and I decided I didn’t really want to know just yet. “Now, did you want me to help you pack, or help Dave get the boxes out?”
“Help Dave. I’ve just got a few things in the bathroom to box up and then finish in the bedroom and I’ll be done.”
I found out a few minutes later exactly who else Josh had called.
“I couldn’t believe it when Josh called me and told me you were moving!” Alice swept through the open front door and flung herself at me. I hugged her back as a couple of my other cousins followed her in.
“Thanks for coming to help.” I stepped back and motioned around the room. “As you can see, everything is pretty much packed. We just need to get it over to Dave’s.”
“Well, we brought a couple of trucks, so”–Alice moved through the small house, talking as she went—“we should be able to get everything over in one trip.” Alice cackled. “You should have seen my mom’s face when I told her I had to go, that you needed help moving in with your boyfriend. I wish I’d had a camera.”
I froze at the mention of Leslie. If Alice had told her mom, then it was only a matter of time before she called my mom, if she hadn’t already. Dave came in right as Alice dropped her bombshell on me and I’m sure he could see the panic in my eyes. He didn’t say anything, but I saw a flash of uncertainty on his face. I forced myself to smile and motioned to my cousins.
“Josh called in the cavalry to help with the move.”
“I see that.” Dave greeted each one, but when he got to Alice and held his hand out, she ignored it and pulled him into a hug. When she released him, Dave turned to me. “The first load is ready to go. I’m going to get headed out now so I can stop and get the beer.” He dug in his pocket. “On the off chance you get there first, here’s your key.” He pressed something into my palm and brushed his lips against mine. “I’ll see you at home.”
I watched him turn and walk out the door and then looked at the key I held in my hand. I couldn’t stop grinning as I pulled out my keys, worked the old house key off, and slipped the newest one on in it’s place. I turned to my cousins and grinned.
“Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?”
It didn’t take long to get everything loaded up after I finished with the odds and ends in the bathroom and my bedroom. Just like Alice predicted, we would only have to make a single trip. After the last box was loaded and April and I did a quick clean, I did a final walkthrough to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I hadn’t. The house sat empty, just as it had when I moved in. Josh and the rest of my cousins headed out, Josh leading the way, while I turned in my key.
I rang the doorbell of my landlords place and waited. It took a minute, but then the door opened and Jeff stepped out on the porch.
“Reece, what can I do for ya?”
I held up my key. “I’ve got everything moved out, so it should be ready for whatever you need to do. I don’t think I forgot anything, but if I did, you have my number, just give me a call.”
“That was fast.” Jeff took the key. “I’d do a walkthrough, but I was just there the other day, so I know there’s no major damage.” Jeff stepped towards the door. “If you give me just a minute, I’ll get you a check for your deposit and rent.”
I nodded and watched him open the door and disappear inside the house. I was kind of surprised he didn’t want to do a walkthrough. I guess it was lucky for him that I wasn’t the type of person to destroy the house once I had my stuff out. Within minutes, Jeff was stepping back onto the porch. He held the check out and I took it, only glancing briefly at the amount.
“You’ve got your full deposit and the full amount of this month’s rent back.” Jeff motioned to the check I now held. “It only seems fair since you weren’t given much notice, and you moved out quicker than I ever expected. Besides, it’s only a few days into the month.”
“Thanks, Jeff, I appreciate it.” I held out my hand. “I hope things work out for your dad, he’s a good guy and I’ll miss him.”
Jeff took the offered hand and shook it. “I hope things work out for you as well. Take care of yourself.”
“Will do.” I stepped back and headed down the steps. I paused briefly at the bottom but didn’t glance back. There was no point to it. Nothing would change and I wasn’t sure I wanted it to. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and headed to my car. No sooner had I gotten in and started the car than my phone rang. A quick glance at the screen showed it was my mom. No doubt calling after she had talked to Leslie. I wasn’t about to let her ruin my day and the only way I could prevent it was to ignore her calls. I’d call her tomorrow and get it out of the way. Today was for me and Dave.
I dodged three more calls from my mom throughout the day. I’d see Dave look at me expectantly each time the phone rang, only to frown each time I hit ignore. I knew from his actions that he wanted me to tell my parents, but I just wasn’t ready to deal with my mom.
Finally, everything was moved in and after lots of pizza and beer, my cousins had cleared out. Josh had left only after making sure we knew he’d be stopping by on Sunday so that we could catch him up on what had been going on. Personally, I figured he wanted to gloat some more about his matchmaking skills.
“I think it’s going to be an early night tonight.” Dave flipped through the channels, but so far hadn’t seemed to find anything he wanted to watch.
I looked up from where I was lying with my head pillowed on his thighs. “An early night sounds good to me. It’s been a long few days.”
“Yeah.” He looked down at me. “Do you have to work tomorrow?”
“Nope. I was supposed to have Friday off, but I switched with someone else so that I’d have the whole weekend to get moved.” My phone rang yet again and I glanced at the screen only to hit ignore when I saw it was Mom again.
“You’re going to have to talk to her eventually.” Dave stroked his fingers through my hair.
“Yeah, I know. Just not ready to deal with her yet.”
Dave nodded, but I could tell he wasn’t happy about it. He didn’t say anything more about it though, for which I was grateful. I decided to try and change the subject. Not only didn’t I want to talk to my parents, but I didn’t want to talk about them either.
“So, do you have anything planned for tomorrow?” I kind of hoped not. I really just wanted to spend the day together at home.
“No, not really.” Dave focused on the television. “I figured we’d probably want to work on unpacking anything that you’re going to need in the near future. Then we can work on everything else when we have time.”
I nodded. “I’ll stop by the bank after work on Monday, then I can give you my part of this month’s rent. You never did tell me how much my part of the rent would be.”
“About that….” Dave glanced at me briefly before turning his attention back to the television.
I sat up and turned to face him. He looked at me in surprise.
“I’m going to pay my share.” I needed him to understand. “I didn’t move in with you so that I could mooch off you.”
“I know all that.” Dave turned sideways on the couch, putting us face to face. “It’s just, I don’t have rent.”
“You don’t have rent?” I raised an eyebrow at him.
He shook his head. “No, I wanted a place that was truly my own. What I do have is a mortgage.”
“Okay, so I’ll pay half of the mortgage.” It seemed simple enough to me. Mortgage or rent made no difference, I wanted to pay my own way.
“I want you to pay what you can afford, without having to live paycheck to paycheck.” He must have sensed I would argue, and held up his hand to stop me. “Just listen to me for a minute. As much as I want us to, there’s no guarantee that we’re going to work out. I’m going to be paying the same amount on my mortgage whether you’re here or not.”
“I don’t want to be a freeloader.” If that’s how he saw it working out, I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. We should have had this discussion before I ever moved in. As much as I wanted us to live together, if Dave refused to let me pay my share of things, I might have to find somewhere else to live.
“You won’t be. You can help with half the main utilities, half the cable and internet, and half of the groceries.” Dave raked his hands through his hair. “Down the road, maybe we can even look at having a household account, with both of our names on it. We could each put money into it and pay all the bills from that. But I think it’s too early for that just yet.”
“I don’t know.” What he said made sense, but it didn’t make me like it any better.
“Couples help each other out. I hate to point it out, but right now I’m the more financially stable out of us.” Dave reached out and laced our fingers together. “You’re trying to juggle school with work and you’re barely scraping by. This way, you could even get some money put away.”
“I’m not sure I see what you get out of the deal.” I could tell this was something he really wanted me to agree to, but it seemed very one-sided, and that made me uncomfortable.
“I get to have you to come home to, go to bed with, wake up with, and spend my evenings with. I’ll save a little on the utilities. I’m also hoping to occasionally get home cooked meals.” Dave chuckled. “If you haven’t been able to tell, I don’t cook much. In fact, I don’t cook at all.”
I thought about it. The only time we ate in was when we had been at my place. Otherwise, we either ordered delivery or went out. I found myself nodding as I went over things in my head. If I took over the cooking, then I’d at least feel like I was contributing something. That on top of the utilities, and the groceries, might just make it doable.
“What are you thinking?” Dave squeezed my hands and drew my attention back to him.
“That I think I’m okay with that. As long as you let me pay for all of the groceries.” I could set a grocery budget, stick within it, eat a lot better, and still be paying less than I had at my old place.
“Okay, but if we go out to eat, it’s my treat.”
I nodded. I felt like maybe I’d caved too quickly, but at least we’d come up with something we both could live with. Besides, I didn’t see us going out to eat very often. I was actually a pretty decent cook when I had the right ingredients to work with.
“Glad we got that figured out.” Dave pulled on my hands and sent me tumbling into his lap.
I laughed as I pushed myself up, but my laughter abruptly ended when Dave captured my mouth with his. I was careful not to break our lip lock and moved to straddle his lap. I kind of felt like we were sealing the deal with a kiss. I wasn’t about to complain, especially when I felt his tongue stroking against my own. I reached between us and undid the button on his jeans so I could slip my hand inside. I groaned when I encountered hot, hard, flesh. I broke the kiss and grinned.
“When did you start going commando?”
Dave smiled back and leaned forward to nip my lower lip with his teeth. “Since I knew tonight I’d get to have you in our bed.”
I fake yawned. “You know, I think I’m ready for bed.”
“Told you it was going to be an early night.” Dave smirked.
Yeah, he had. I just hoped he didn’t plan to do much sleeping, because I sure didn’t. Turned out, neither did he.