A Good Neighbor is Hard to Findbyfeelin_randy©
Lena didn't realize her air conditioner had stopped running until she found herself kicking off sweat-soaked blankets off and pulling at her night shirt.
She had awoken with a jolt of claustrophic fear to find that the air was thick with humidity. She could feel the sweat coursing down her body, feel the strands of her short dark hair sticking to her face and neck. It was like being trapped in a sauna.
She noted that her apartment was deathly quiet, and that's when panic set in.
Lena's air conditioner was noisy. It was big and old and so loud that it sounded like a MAC truck was bearing down on you, but it had kept her apartments reliably chilly for the past four years.
Now it wasn't making a sound.
"Fuck," she whispered as she peeled herself off of the damp bed sheets and padded across her small studio to see what was wrong.
Lena's apartment was on the top floor of an old three-family house, which meant it was like living inside of a kiln during the summer if she didn't turn on her air conditioner full blast. On top of this, a heat wave had held the Boston area hostage for the last few days. Lena didn't pay attention when the weather man spoke of pressure systems and the jet stream; all she knew was that it was hot as hell and everyone in Boston claimed that they had never experienced anything like it before. She had only moved to the city a month ago, so she took their word for it.
Sweat poured from her body as she hunkered over the air conditioner. For five minutes she unplugged and replugged it, jabbed at the power button, tested the electrical socket, and finally, in an effort borne of supreme frustration, battered the unit with a hammer.
Lena was eventually forced to accept the inevitable: her air conditioner was dead.
She lay beneath the window in resignation, her skin sticking uncomfortably to the hardwood floor and beads of sweat pooling on her stomach. The heat pushed down on her oppressively and simultaneously radiated from the ground beneath her. She touched the wall, and then stretched out and placed her hand on the coffee table. Both were warm to the touch.
There goes any chance of sleep tonight, she thought bitterly. She looked over at her alarm clock and saw that it was only 11:30. She had been feeling sorry for herself when she found herself with nothing to do but go to bed early on a Friday night, but now she could legitimately wallow in self-pity.
There were no friends in town that she could call or hang out with. The only people she had met in Boston were her co-workers, and she was still at the "polite conversation" phase with them. There were no cafes or restaurants or even supermarkets in close proximity, and she didn't want to travel too far this late at night.
With a sigh she peeled herself off of the floor and walked to her bathroom. She turned on the cold water spigot and stepped into the shower, letting the cool water slide over her skin until she was shivering. She gave herself a cursory glance in the mirror as she toweled off afterward: short, slim, brown, average looking. It was too hot to care what anyone would think if they saw her. She threw on a tank top, shorts, and flip flops and grabbed her keys and a bottle of water from the fridge. No point in sitting in her apartment and slowly roasting to death. There was a swing on the porch of the house where she could sit until she was tired enough to come back inside and deal with the stifling heat.
It was still disgustingly hot, but nowhere near the hellish conditions in her apartment. There was a faint breeze and if she died of heat stroke at least someone would find her.
Joseph was tired.
Half of his day had been spent running around like a madman at the office, and the other had been spent stuck on the T. There had been massive delays caused by people passing out, track fires, and other heat-related malfunctions, and he was ready to head home, ditch his business casual attire and veg out in front of the TV. His friends had wanted him to come out on their usual Friday night bar crawl, but he just wasn't in the mood. He also questioned the sanity of people who voluntarily exposed themselves to this weather for any reason other than avoiding getting fired from their jobs.
As he walked down the street toward his apartment he saw someone sitting on the porch swing. The neighborhood was relatively safe, but it was a little past midnight and not many people were around so it gave him pause. Was this some junkie who had wandered over, or some drunken college girl who had gotten lost?
As he got closer he saw that it was neither. It was the new woman who had moved in upstairs, Lena. The latest ad campaign had been keeping him at work until crazy hours and he hadn't been at home much, so he had only seen her a couple of times and exchanged pleasant hellos.
She didn't move and for a second he wondered if she was drunk or hurt, but then he realized she was asleep.
She sat on one side of the swing, her head with its halo of dark curls leaning against the back of it. Her legs were crossed, and a bottle of water rested in her lap. She looked young as she slept, but he figured she was thirty or so, around the same age as him.
She was thin, but not startlingly so like the woman who passed out on his subway and contributed to his delays. Lena had smallish breasts and hips, but her body was still shapely. She had been wearing band t-shirts matched with black jeans the few times he had seen her, so it was interesting to see her in her pajamas. Definitely more revealing. A sheen of sweat covered her nut brown skin, and he wondered what would drive her outside into this heat.
Joseph deliberately stomped up the porch steps and Lena bolted upright in her seat, gripping her water bottle.
Her large brown eyes darted to him standing near the front door, and then she relaxed.
"Oh. Hello Joseph," she said, and then looked away.
Joseph couldn't help feeling pleasantly surprised that she remembered his name.
He moved to open the front door and then stopped.
"I don't mean to pry," he said as he turned toward her, "but why are you sleeping out here? It's really not safe."
Great, I sound like her dad or something, he thought.
Lena looked at her neighbor and wondered weather she should confide in him or tell him it was none of her business and she could sleep on the porch if she wanted to.
Joseph wore a white Oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up and gray slacks, and she couldn't help but notice how they seemed tailored to his tall, lean frame. So he hadn't changed after work. Happy hour? He didn't seem drunk. He did seem concerned though. His short brown hair was sweaty and stuck out at odd angles, and his amber-colored eyes were fixed on her.
"My air conditioner just crapped out on me and my apartment is hotter than the bowels of Hades. So I thought I'd come out here, where it's marginally cooler. I guess this is like the first circle of hell, hot, but not dead center of the inferno. Or maybe the second circle?"
She stopped, realizing she was babbling. Were the early stages of heat stroke affecting her speech or something?
Joseph tried to follow what she was talking about, but it was hard. Her voice was low and husky, and her face was...perfect. Large dark brown eyes framed with thick black lashes. A small, wide nose and a luscious bow-shaped mouth. He realized that he was openly gawking, and that he should say something to indicate that he had been listening.
"Man, that's terrible."
What! Joseph thought with a groan. You're a copywriter and that's the best line you could come up with?
"Yeah. Now I know how Joan of Arc felt."
He smiled. He had heard The Smiths emanating from someone's apartment once or twice when he left for work later than usual. It seemed fitting that it was Lena.
"Do you want me to come check it out?" he volunteered.
She seemed a little taken aback, but then shrugged.
"I would usually pass on letting a strange man into my apartment, but I don't have too many options here since I don't know anyone else. It's too hot to wonder what my mother would think."
Lena made for the stairs and Joseph followed.
It was noticeably hotter as soon as they stepped inside. By the time they hit the third floor, they were both perspiring and Joseph had removed his work shirt. He considered removing the white tee he wore underneath, but that he knew that would just be creepy.
When they entered her apartment, he was reminded of the steam room at the gym. It was torturously hot.
"You were not kidding! Jesus, Lena, how long was your AC out?"
"I don't know, I was asleep when it died, but I gave up working on it around 11:30. And in case you're wondering, the fuse hasn't blown out. Everything else works when plugged into that socket."
He glanced around her studio, which was a smaller version of his one bedroom apartment. It was nicely decorated. The furniture looked sturdy and finely crafted, and a variety of beautiful prints were framed and hung around the space, giving it a sophisticated, but cozy feel. In one corner he spotted a vintage turntable and records stored in milk crates that had been painted in bright colors and designs that somehow meshed when they were stacked together.
He dropped his shirt on what looked like an Eames chair and busied himself inspecting the AC.
Lena sat on her couch and watched him as he worked, seeing if he did anything differently than her. She hoped Joseph could do something because he had been right; it was dangerous sleeping outside. She hadn't even realized that she had fallen asleep until she heard him come up the stairs. She didn't want to imagine what would have happened if it was some degenerate instead. There was no way she could stay out there and stay awake all night.
Lena couldn't help checking him out as he fiddled with her AC. He was interesting looking. His nose was on the larger side, but it was so straight and perfectly formed that she felt compelled to run her fingers down the bridge and to it's tip, then down to his trace his thin, wide mouth...
"Not gonna happen," Joseph said.
"What?" Lena yelped.
Heat suffused through her face and she hoped he would attribute her flush to the heat.
"This thing is a goner," he said, straightening up so he towered over her once more.
"Oh no," she groaned, feeling tears pricking her eyes as the mugginess seemed to clamp around her chest full force. She had known it was dead, but his confidence when he offered to look at it had raised her hopes. Now what was she going to do? She realized how foolish she would look to Joseph if she cried over such a thing and forced herself to keep her composure.
"Well, thanks for giving it a go," she said and stood and walked toward her front door. "I'll figure something out
"I feel bad," he said. "I didn't really help at all."
"But you tried." She smiled at him over her shoulder as she reached for the door knob. "I can survive one sweaty night. It's not the worst thing that could happen."
He ran a hand through his hair, leaving it even more mussed than before. Lena wondered what he would think if she reached up and smoothed it into place.
Damn it, she thought, I really do need to get laid so I don't try to pounce on every nice man who walks into my apartment.
Joseph looked at her, fighting against the arousal coursing through him as he took in the sight of her standing expectantly at the door. He knew what he wanted to do, but he hesitated because he wasn't sure if he was doing it for the right reasons.
"Look, I have a working air conditioner."
Her eyes widened, and he hurried to clarify.
"And a pullout couch! Where I'll sleep. If you want to stay at my place that is."
He ran a hand through his hair again, letting it rest on his neck as he looked at Lena with a hesitant expression, wondering if he had crossed the line.
"I don't know." She said. "I appreciate it, but it just feels..."
"Like the scene in a movie where everyone is yelling 'Don't do it girl!' at the screen?" He suggested with a wry smile.
Lena was so shocked at his words that she was laughing aloud before she realized it.
"Yes, something like that. I'm not picking up serial killer vibes from you though. Although sociopaths are super charming."
She stared at him assessingly.
"Look, I know it's awkward, but I have plenty of room and an air conditioner and I'd feel terrible knowing you were suffering up here."
She raised her hand to her mouth to nervously chew her thumb nail.
"Think of it as a slumber party. Except I won't put your bra in the freezer or make you play truth or dare." Once the words were out of his mouth he noticed she wasn't wearing a bra. He decided that it was in his best interest that his eyes not wander below her neck again, unless he wanted to torture himself.
Lena laughed again, and the finally nodded.
"OK." She said simply.
She still felt weird about it, but he seemed so earnest that she felt dumb sweating it out just to prove she wasn't a hussy.
Once it was decided, they left her apartment as quickly as possible. Both of them were dripping with sweat even though they had only been inside for a few minutes.
Joseph's apartment was on the second floor. As soon as the door opened they were hit with a blast of icy air.
"Oh!" Lena exclaimed as they stepped inside. "This is wonderful!" Never in her life had she appreciated living in modern society more. The cold air felt amazing on her heated skin.
Joseph watched Lena as she stood near his front door with her eyes closed and a wide smile on her face. If he had known it would take so little to get this beautiful woman into his apartment and make her happy, he would have broken that air conditioner himself.
Lena opened her eyes and looked around Joseph's apartment. It looked like hers, but slightly larger, and there was an extra door that she guessed led to his bedroom. The third floor had two studios, while the apartments on the first two floors were larger.
It was a typical guy apartment, with mismatched furniture and minimal effort given to interior design, but it was very neat. He had a couple of framed posters for movies hanging up: one was Bergman's The Seventh Seal and the other was Kurosawa's Dreams. For some reason, she didn't find that pretentious like she usually would.
"Would you like anything to drink?" he asked. The fridge was open and he had ducked down to take inventory.
"I have beer, a bottle of Riesling, a bottle of Chardonnay, and some whiskey."
"Wine sounds good," she replied, "whichever one you like more."
He poured two glasses and they went over to the couch and sat down. There was an awkward moment as both sat shyly and wondered what to say to each other.
"Thanks again for doing so much for someone you barely know," she said as she rolled the stem of her wine glass between her thumb and forefinger nervously. "I really appreciate it and I hope I'm not messing up your night."
"Lena, what kind of neighbor, scratch that, what kind of person would I be if I let you stay up there in this weather? Don't worry about it. I just got back from work and was going to watch a little TV and then head to bed. Now I have someone to do that with."
He felt his face flush.
"To watch TV with," he added. And then after an awkward pause. "Yeah."
He looked at her and her expression was neutral, but he thought he detected the hint of a smile on her lips.
"What do you do that requires you to work so late?" she asked, smoothly changing the subject.
"I work for an ad agency, as a copywriter. When we're working on a big project, the hours can get pretty ridiculous. What about you, what do you do?"
"I just started working for a small print design firm over on Newbury Street. It's nice, but only a handful of people work there, and they're older. They're nice, but they have families and mortgages and stuff to worry about, so we haven't found too much common ground yet."
"That sounds cool. Is that job why you moved to Boston?"
"Yup, they liked my stuff, and I was looking for the first ticket out of Pittsburgh so...hear I am!"
"I came to Boston for college and never left. A lot of my friends didn't either. It must be hard not knowing anyone and trying to meet people."
Lena took a sip of the sweet wine, the fruity scent of it filling her nose. He was right. It was hard, and she hadn't quite figured out what to do about it yet.
"Next time my friends and I go do something you can hang out with us. We were thinking of checking out the new exhibit at the aquarium this weekend."
She was startled. What kind of guys would Joseph be friends with? He was obviously nice, and they got along well, but what would his friends think if he showed up with some random black girl?
"Thanks for offering, but I feel bad. I've already intruded on your night, and now to intrude on your time with your friends—"
"Lena, I already told you you're not intruding. I think it would be a fun way for you to meet new people, that's the only reason I offered. I understand if you don't want to go, and you're not obligated to, but don't think I would ask you because I think you're a pity case or something."
She smiled at him and when he smiled back she felt a little thrill go through her. He was very handsome, in an offbeat way. His eyes were such a light shade of brown that they seemed golden, and they were definitely having an effect on her.
"OK. Count me in if you guys go."
They talked for a long while and found that they really had a lot in common besides the fact that they were two thirty year olds who lived in the same building.
Lena was laughing and went to take a sip of her wine and realized it was gone. Joseph noticed and picked up the bottle to pour her some more; only a few drops of wine dribbled into her glass. This was the second bottle they had gone through.
"I guess that means it's bed time, huh?" she said.
Joseph looked at his watch.
"Well, it is nearly 4:30 in the morning," he said.
"What! Yes, it's definitely bed time." She stood and stretched, still amazed they had been talking for hours. It hadn't seemed that long!
Joseph couldn't help but admire her body as she stretched. She was beautiful, interesting, and genuinely nice. He didn't know if anything would ever come of it, but he was glad she had trusted him enough to stay at his place.
As he cleared the glasses and wine bottles away, he saw Lena start removing the pillows and cushions from the couch.
"I'll sleep on the couch, I don't mind," she said.
"Well, the bedroom has a door if you're more comfortable in there," he said as he took over, removing all the pillows and pulling the couch out.
"I think I'll be okay out here. Unless you think otherwise."
He didn't know if her words carried innuendo or not, so he simply nodded before heading to his room to retrieve clean sheets and pillows from the closet.
She helped him put the sheets on the bed, and as she stood across from him he finally allowed himself to look at her chest. He had tried to avoid it since noticing that she was braless, but he was about to go to bed now, so there was no harm.
Her shirt was loose but he could see the peaks of her nipples pressing through the material as she held the other end of the fitted sheet and helped him stretch it around the mattress. His dick immediately hardened and he found he couldn't stop staring, even though he knew it wasn't right. She was at his apartment under duress and he shouldn't...
His thought trailed off as she scampered across the bed to make sure the edge of the sheet was tucked in tightly. Her shorts rode up a little revealing the silken brown of her inner thigh, and he knew he had to get to his bedroom immediately. If he didn't jerk off soon he thought his dick might explode.