38. Strain

The third floor walk-up had seemed like such a good idea on paper. It was safe, unlike the garden level apartments, and it was stay warm when the either changed: totally ideal. Until trip four from the U-haul, that is. He leaned on the wall to catch his breach, closing his eyes. Sure, the walk-up had been loads cheaper than the building with the elevator. And gym. And wireless internet in each unit as a standard…

Why had he picked this building again? He bent down to pick up the box that he’d gotten this far, groaning as he felt a pull in his lower back. After the two friends that were supposed to assist him cancelled, he probably should have hired movers. But the reasons he was in this building and not the high rise with a view of the lake wasn’t because he preferred the neighborhood.

“Oh, are you moving in?” He could feel his eye twitch when he heard the voice. What other reason would he have to be standing, half hyperventilating, with a box labeled ‘kitchen” in the middle of the hall? He opened his mouth with a witty remark, but he promptly swallowed it.

Long brown hair, freckles ,and huge…Eyes. He could forgive the fact that she was apparently an idiot. He straightened his back, adjusting the box so he could hold out a hand.

“Yeah. Name’s Jake.”

“Mary.” she shook the hand. “Here, go set that down and let me change my shoes. I’ll help!”

“Oh no, that’s-”

“The stairs are awful. It’s not a big deal. I don’t have to go to the gym if I do, right?” she winked before unlocking her door. “I’ll meet you in the lobby.”

He licked his lips as he watched her disappear behind the door. It was probably his fastest trip up the last flight of stairs, that was for sure. He caught his breath again inside of his own door, leaning on the wall again.

As promised, Mary was waiting in the lobby, long brown, hair tied away from her face. She was on her phone, so she didn’t see Jake gawking at first. He cleared his throat awkwardly and she finally looked up. Tucking the phone away, she walked over to him.

“So…Is it just you, or do you have like a roommate?”

“Oh no, just me. I cat sit when my friends go out of town, but that’s about it.’

“Oh you’re moving into one of the studios up there then? I know a few of them were empty. Lack of an elevator tends to turn people off pretty quickly.”

“It’s basically free cardio right?” Jake laughed, trying not to wince at the way it pulled at his sore muscles. “Besides, it’s only two flights. The boxes just make that part hard.”

“That’s true.” Mary followed him to the U-Haul.” I hope you don’t have any like big furniture of anything. You’re best off taking bigger stuff in through the back.”

“Nah. It’s all IKEA crap. Should probably toss most of it, honestly.” he climbed up into the back of the truck. “Pawned most of the decent stuff off on my kid brother going to college.”

“That does make it easier.” she rocked on her heels as he pulled a few of the last boxes down. “What school?”

“Something on the East coast. I didn’t really listen.”

“Spoken like a true brother.” Mary laughed, taking the box that was passed down to her. “Right. Let’s get this done with.”

 

Between the two of them, it certainly went much quicker. She was more than happy to take one of the beer Jake had gotten for his friends.

“A few of us were going to go to the bar to watch the hockey game tonight. Since you’re newer to the area, you should come.” She looked over at him from her spot on his couch.

“Yeah, sounds good. I dunno if I’ve ever watched a hockey game…” he thought about it for a moment before shaking his head. “Nope, never have.”

“What? How?”

“We don’t have a team in Nebraska.”

“Fair.” she laughed.”Here, give me your phone. I’ll give you my number. So I can get a hold of you and let you know when we’re going.”

“Oh. Uh yeah.’ he blinked, handing it over. That was way easier than he thought it would be. “So like, your friends and your boyfriend or what?”

“No boyfriend. Just a bunch of people from work and old school friends. We grew up on the sport.” she punched her number into his phone and handed it back. “Send me a text so I have yours.

He absently licked his lips as she he watched her chug what was left of her the beer. She smacked her lips, setting the bottle down on one of the boxes.

“Anyway, you probably need to get your necessities together. I’ll text you when I have a time.” she stood, walking to the door.

“Yeah, sure.” he waved as she stepped out and closed it behind her.

Maybe the third floor wouldn’t be so-He winced as his back tightened when he stood up…Maybe the third floor walk-up wouldn’t be so bad AFTER a shower. And heating pad.

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