Aruna and Rebecca Pt. 01byLenaLena©
This is an edited version. Tall_Poppy was awesome enough to help me with tackling the spelling and grammar of this piece.
With a thud the movers put the last box down against the wall of my new living room. I signed their papers, gave them a tip and then they left. I sighed happily when I heard them close my front door. Finally alone. No more parents, brothers, or screaming nieces. Just me, the silence and a lot of space to myself.
I moved a box from the couch so there was place to sit and plopped down. Closing my eyes for a while, I listened to the sounds of my new home. It was slowly getting dark and I could hear other people in the building getting home and talking on the communal staircase. There were also faint noises of cars in the street and a rumble of the pipes as somebody turned on a faucet for a bath, the dishes or something else. In the apartment above me I heard somebody walking around in heels. Aaaah peace, quiet...
When I woke up it was pitch-black in the room. There was an annoying buzz in my ears and it took me a while to figure out it was the doorbell. I shot up. "I'm coming!" I stumbled through the room, badly crashing my hip against my still empty bookcase near the hallway. "Ah, bugger!" I cursed. "Stupid bookcase!" I opened the door, still rubbing the sore place on my hip. "What?"
I looked up and saw a pretty woman with a stone dish in her hands. Uh, hi." She said with a soft voice and a stunning smile. "I'm Rebecca, your upstairs neighbour. Welcome to the building."
"Oh, so you are the one with the heels!" I blabbed before I realized what I'd said. I felt the blood rushing to my face. "Sorry, shouldn't have said that."
She smiled even wider and lifted her pants so I could see her shoes better. "Do you like them? They're new. I normally don't wear heels."
I looked at them and blushed some more. "They are nice."
She held out the dish. "Here, I hope you like lasagne." I regained my good manners and thanked her.
"Would you like to come in?" I asked. "Most of my things aren't unpacked yet, but there's always place to sit on the couch and I have wine or fresh fruit juice in the fridge if you want." I grinned and stuck my hand out, balancing the dish on my other hand. "I'm Aruna."
She shook it and followed me inside. "What a beautiful name."
"It's Indian." I shrugged while switching on the light with my elbow.
"My apartment has the same layout as yours." she said as the light came on. I walked to the small kitchen and put the dish in the oven.
"I'm going to paint it tomorrow." I explained when I saw her looking at the peeling wallpaper left by the previous occupant. "What do you want to drink? I also have tea or coffee."
"Wine is fine."
Unpacking two glasses, I saw my reflection in one of the pots on the counter and was shocked to see what a mess I was. My black hair was one big tangle, and I still had some sleep in my eyes! I quickly used my hands as comb to brush it out a bit and rubbed my eyes. Then I poured some wine in the glasses and went back to the living room.
Rebecca stood by the open window and turned around. Her red curls shone in the street light behind her and gave her an almost magical appearance. I held my breath while I gave her one of the glasses I held.
"Do you live here alone?" she asked, breaking the spell.
I nodded. "For now. I plan to adopt a cat from the shelter opposite where I work."
"I have a cat too." She answered, after taking a first sip. I went to the couch and put all the boxes on the ground.
In the meantime the apartment started filling with a divine lasagne aroma. "Do you want to stay for dinner?" I asked. "It smells delicious!"
She walked towards me and sat down. "OK."
She put her glass down on the ground and helped me build a make-shift table out of a pile of big boxes. We draped a table-cloth over it and put two cushions on the ground to serve as chairs.
I searched in the kitchen for plates and cutlery, while she emptied her glass and sat down on one of the two cushions. By the time we were ready to eat, I had even found a packet of colourful napkins to dress our improvised table.
We didn't talk much during dinner, but I started to feel more and more at ease with her. When she went back to her own apartment almost an hour later I thought I had a really nice neighbour with whom I could perhaps even become friends. I had no idea what was still to come.
A week later when my brothers came to help me move my piano into my apartment, we bumped into her on the stairs. She'd just arrived back from shopping and sent a dazzling grin in my direction.
"Aruna, look what I bought." She said. She stopped halfway up and pulled a pair of pink slippers out one of the many plastic bags on her arm. "From now on the clacking of my high heels won't bother you ever again."
My brothers stared at her and I felt myself blush again. I'd actually kind of grown to like the sound as it always made me think of her. "You shouldn't have. They never bothered me." I said softly.
"Are you coming over tomorrow?" She asked. "To see how they fit me?"
My face grew even redder as I saw how my youngest brother Daman stared at me in disbelief for not introducing her to him. "OK."
She giggled in the cutest way and said: "See you tomorrow then!" before she turned around and disappeared into her own apartment.
"Who was that?!" asked Daman immediately.
"My upstairs neighbour. Rebecca."
I unlocked the door and let them see the place. I had given the kitchen a total makeover, painted the living-room and bedroom yellow and unpacked almost everything. To be honest, I was really proud of the result.
I opened the windows in the front as far as they could go and looked down, where my beloved piano still stood in the body of Madesh's pick-up truck, wrapped in blankets and firmly tied down with duct tape and rope. "I am afraid that this is the only way to get the piano up." I said. "The door is too small, I already measured."
"Luckily you live on the first floor and not on the fifth." Answered Saras laughing. He leaned out the window and spat down on to the pavement.
"Saras don't! I still have to live here you know!" I said, elbowing him.
He pulled my hair teasingly and spat again. "That was the last time, I promise."
Saras was my twin brother who still lived at home with our parents and I highly suspected him of being jealous of me for moving out before him, me being a girl and all.
Nadeem and Madesh also came to the window. "Does anyone have an idea on how to handle this?" asked Madesh, "In two hours Cynthia needs the car to pick up the kids from their swim class."
Madesh was the only one of us who had children so far. He was also the first of my brothers to have a girlfriend as a teenager. When Cynthia became pregnant when they were both only 19, father threatened to kick Madesh out of the family if he didn't live up to his responsibilities and marry her. Nadeem is 27 and the eldest of our bunch, then came Madesh, then me and Saras, and Daman is the youngest.
"If we put the piano on the side walk, at least we don't need the car any more." I suggested.
"Aren't you happy now that father didn't give you that wing after all?" joked Daman while the five of us went down the stairs again.
I laughed, but I really saw no humour in the situation. Getting the piano onto the truck had already been a hellish task. How were we ever to get the piano up, in one piece and undamaged? "If you have two ladders and strong ropes, maybe we can make some kind of pulley system and hoist it up." Nadeem suggested.
I shook my head and stared at my open windows while I knocked the rear door of the pick-up down. "That's way too dangerous. Imagine if we drop it." I didn't even dare to think about my precious piano smashing to pieces on the pavement, or worse, if somebody would walk under it at that exact moment.
With a lot of trouble we eventually got the piano on to the side walk and while Nadeem drove the truck back to Cynthia, the remaining four of us argued for almost 20 minutes about what would be the best and safest way to get the piano upstairs. I started to panic a little, thinking that I would have to leave my piano in the street, when suddenly Rebecca's windows opened.
"Hey, Aruna! My uncle has a moving firm! Shall I ask him if he can lend you one of those lifts? I think my cousin Igor can operate them!"
"I'd love that!" I yelled back. "But wait, I'm coming up!" Without minding my brothers, I left them and ran up the stairs to her apartment.
Rebecca stood in her doorway and waited patiently until I was upstairs and caught my breath again.
"I really have to get in shape." I panted. I saw a faint smile around her full lips and felt myself flush. Again. Jeez, what was it with me around her! Couldn't my body behave itself?
"Are you sure about what you said?" I asked. "I don't have any money to pay him."
"If you had money you'd have arranged a lift ages ago." she said simply. "You can pay by giving all of us a concert. Are you any good?"
Her smile fully broke through and before I knew what I was doing I hugged her. "Thank you so much!"
Rebecca shyly broke loose out of our hug. I didn't dare to breathe. For four delicious seconds our eyes locked into each other, before she turned hers down. She took a step back and pulled a mobile phone out of her pants pocket. "Zdravstvuite Igor! Boris tam?"
"So that's where her accent comes from!" I thought as I walked down the stairs back to my own apartment. "She's Russian!"
My brothers still stood outside, I could hear them through the window. "Do you want to come up? I have cold coca cola in the fridge if you want!" I called down. I put a bit of music on and some glasses on the coffee table before going back upstairs.
Rebecca's front door was still open, but I knocked anyway. She stood in front of the window, looking outside, and turned around as soon as she heard me. "Hey, you." She said.
I walked over and went to stand beside her. "Hey, you." I said back. I was afraid that I would blush again if I looked at her, so I looked outside, like her.
"Your brothers resemble you." she said.
"I know." I answered.
"When did you start playing the piano?" She asked.
"When I was 7. Do you have any brothers?"
"No, I had a little sister."
Dead, missing, or simply out of contact, that word 'had' was not a slip, but I didn't dare to ask what had happened. We kept silent for a while, on the lookout for her cousin and uncle. After what seemed a century she finally said: "There he is."
A yellow van drove around the corner of our street with a folded ladder on its roof. On the side of the van was the company name, Vertical Movers, their logo and a phone number. She grabbed my hand and pulled me away. "Come on."
When we made it outside, her cousin had already parked beside the piano. He was busy expanding the ladder, and hardly paid any attention when Rebecca introduced me to him. My brothers helped him to get the piano on to the loading platform of the hydraulic ladder and a mere 15 minutes later the piano finally stood in its' place in my living room.
As promised, I played a concert for everyone. I put my hands on the keys and felt the familiar tingle course through my fingers. I only hoped that the move didn't force the piano too off-key. I waited three or four counts in which I decided what I was going to play and made myself ready for it and then I took off.
I played one of Bach's minuets because it was relatively easy and still one of my favourites. An added bonus was that I didn't have to look for sheet music for it, as I knew all of them by heart. When it was done everyone clapped.
I saw the admiring looks from Rebecca and became red again. I quickly hid in the next piece. When that was also finished my brothers wanted to go home. It was already 5:30. The afternoon had flown past.
"Hey, Madesh never came back!" I suddenly noticed.
Nadeem chuckled. "Cynthia probably didn't allow him. That boy is seriously whipped." I laughed along with my other brothers.
"Do we take the bus then? Do you have any idea where the nearest bus stop is around here?" Asked Daman.
Rebecca said something in Russian to Igor and he mumbled back, nodding. "Where do you have to go to?" she asked the boys. "Igor just agreed to give you a ride if you want."
Nadeems face brightened. "Thank you very much but I live a long way from here, on the other side of town. Daman and Saras live in the city centre."
"That's OK." laughed Igor. "But we have to leave now then."
I shook Igor's hand, thanked him a final time, gave my brothers each a hug, and before I knew it Rebecca and I were alone again.
"Your place has changed a lot since I last saw it." was the first thing she said. "That yellow fits here. I like it."
"I'm glad at least somebody likes it." I said. "My brothers didn't really care."
Rebecca shrugged. "Men."
"The kitchen changed a lot more." I said proudly. "Do you want to see?"
In an attempt to make the kitchen look bigger I had glued the cabinets full of broken mirror pieces and I had sprayed all the handles and the doorknob silver. I also painted the ceiling and the remaining wall surfaces a very faint light blue. "It looks almost like a mirror palace on a fair!" She exclaimed.
"Do you like it?" I asked.
"Like it? It's a work of art!"
I started to blush and she giggled that cute giggle from on the stairs. "Are you blushing again?"
Of course that made me blush even harder and that in turn made her laugh harder.
She put her hand on my cheek and kissed me so softly that I hardly felt her lips on mine. For a few seconds I kissed back, unable to think of what I was doing, but then my brain kicked in again and I shrank back.
"Shouldn't I have done that?" She asked, suddenly insecure. "Did I read you wrong?" I tried to smile and went back to my piano, completely freaked out.
'For god's sake, she's a woman, you shouldn't be reacting like this. You aren't gay!' my mind screamed at my body. I knew I should answer her, or at least acknowledge that I heard her, but my body didn't listen to my commands any more. My lips wanted more, my hands wanted to touch her, stroke her, feel her, and my body wanted nothing more than to press itself against hers. What was happening to me?
"What is your favourite piece of music?" she asked, seeing my distress.
I moved a bit to the side so she could sit next to me and straightened my back before touching the keys. "This." I said with a shaky voice before beginning to play.
I played a few bars of Chopin, then I strung some Mozart onto it, some Tchaikovsky, and from then on I improvised the rest. By the time I stopped my face had regained its normal colour and I felt a lot calmer inside. "Do you want to stay for dinner?" I asked impulsively.
"I would love to, but I can't." she answered.
We moved over to the couch and I poured us each another drink. We kept chatting and totally lost track of time. We only stopped when the street light outside my window came on.
"Oh Shit!" shouted Rebecca when she saw the time, "I have to get upstairs! I hope I'm not already too late!" She looked really worried and jumped up from the couch. "I have to go!" She grabbed my shoulders and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. "See you around, OK?"
Before I could blink she was out the door, stumbling on the stairs in her haste to get home. Her hands and lips still burned on my shoulders and cheek as I turned the TV on.
An hour later I walked into the kitchen to make some sandwiches for dinner when I faintly heard someone's argument rising above the noise from the TV. I quickly turned down the volume and listened more, concentrating hard. Who would it be? My right neighbour? My left? Or below me?
No dammit! That was upstairs! At Rebecca's!
I turned the TV off and listened even more intently. I tried to hear each word, but it wasn't easy. I could catch a word here and there, a name: Nick, and a whole lot of swearwords and name-calling.
I turned the TV back on because I felt that it wasn't my business and started to make my sandwiches. I switched from channel to channel, but couldn't concentrate. As the row grew louder and louder, I became more and more concerned. I couldn't go upstairs to check because that would probably only make things worse for her. I really hoped she was OK.
After almost half an hour of name-calling, I suddenly heard smashing noises as if someone was throwing plates, and a loud bang. I jumped up and ran to the door. It couldn't get worse than this anyway. I raced upstairs and slammed my fists against the door. "Rebecca!"
I felt a big crash into the door and immediately after that it opened and she stormed past me down the stairs into my own apartment. "Aruna! Come here! Quickly!" She screamed in a high-pitched voice. She slammed the door shut right after I entered and burst into tears. A struggling cat escaped her arms and shot under the TV cabinet.
I was shocked to see her face. Her right eye already started to swell and her bottom lip bled. I directed her to a chair and pushed her down. "Rebecca, what happened to you?" I whispered. I sat in the chair next to her and pulled her against me, rubbing her back until she stopped crying so hard. When she only sobbed without answering, I said: "Wait here, I'll get you some ice and a towel."
I dived in the freezer for a pack of frozen vegetables while my blood boiled. How could he do that to her? I would kill him! With my bare hands! I grabbed a clean kitchen towel and put one half under the tap before wringing it out.
"Here." I said softly while I sat down next to her, handing over the frozen peas. "Press that against your eye. I'll try to stop your lip from bleeding with the towel."
She looked up in my face. "There is blood on your shirt." She said.
I looked down. "Oh."
She smiled and grimaced. "Thanks for rescuing me."
I took hold of her chin and started to gently dab away at the dried blood. Her lip had stopped bleeding by itself, luckily. "I was worried." I answered. "I should have knocked on your door a lot sooner, but I was afraid to make it worse."
"I'm glad you did." she said. "You gave me a way out."
"What happened?" I asked a second time.
Suddenly we heard a loud banging against my door. "Becca! Don't you dare think you are safe now! I will find you when you come out! I'll be waiting right here!" Rebecca winced and I stared at the door, stunned. He had a lot of guts!
"Go away dumb-ass!" I shouted. "Unless you want to meet the police!"
"Did you really call the police?" Rebecca squeaked.
"No, but I can if you want me to. I just said that so he would go away."
She sighed with relief. "Oh, good. Please don't."
"Bitch!" we heard through the door before he stomped up the stairs again.
"What did you do to make him this angry?"
Rebecca stared at the floor. "I tried to break up with her."
"That monster above us is a woman?" I asked incredulously.
Then it dawned on me. "And you were in a relationship and you still kissed me?"
She quickly looked up at me. "Sorry. Please don't be mad at me too."
"I'm not mad."
I saw the relief in her one eye that wasn't covered with frozen peas and she continued. "I don't know what it is...when I'm around you, I just,...you're gorgeous, you know that, right? You..."
"Did you already eat?" I interrupted her. She shook her head and grimaced as if she had a big headache, probably a small concussion. "Do you want some soup?" She nodded and I stood up to make some.
I tried not to act like it, but my mind was racing again. Whatever it was that I was feeling for her, she felt the same way! And she was gay! She was so girlie, not at all what I pictured a lesbian would be like. She wore high heels for god's sake!