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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(4) by Samantha Young|
“I’m sorry.” I meant it. I understood what that was like. It was one of the reasons I had decided to leave Virginia behind and start over in Scotland.
As if sensing my utter sincerity, Ellie relaxed. I would never understand how someone could lay themselves out like that to a friend, never mind a stranger, but for once I wasn’t scared of Ellie’s openness. Yeah, it might cause her to expect me to reciprocate the sharing, but once she got to know me, I’m sure she’d understand that wasn’t going to happen.
To my surprise, an extremely comfortable silence had fallen between us. As if just realizing that too, Ellie smiled softly at me. “What are you doing in Edinburgh?”
“I live here now. Dual citizenship. It feels more like home here.”
She liked that answer.
“Are you a student?”
I shook my head. “I just graduated. I work Thursday and Friday nights at Club 39 on George Street. But I’m really just trying to focus on my writing at the moment.”
Ellie seemed thrilled by my confession. “That’s brilliant! I’ve always wanted to be friends with a writer. And that’s so brave to go for what you really want. My brother thinks being a PhD student is a waste of my time because I could work for him, but I love it. I’m a tutor at the university as well. It’s just… well it makes me happy. And I’m one of these awful people who can get away with doing what they enjoy even if it doesn’t pay much.” She grimaced. “That sounds terrible, doesn’t it?”
I wasn’t really the judging kind. “It’s your life, Ellie. You’ve been blessed financially. That doesn’t make you a terrible person.” I had a therapist in high school. I could hear her nasally voice in my head, ‘Now why can’t you apply the same thought process to yourself, Joss. Accepting your inheritance doesn’t make you a terrible person. It’s what your parents wanted for you.’
From the ages of fourteen to eighteen, I’d lived with two foster families in my hometown in Virginia. Neither families had a lot of money and I’d gone from a big, fancy house and expensive food and clothes, to eating a lot of SpaghettiO’s and sharing clothes with a younger foster ‘sister’ who happened to be the same height. With the approach of my eighteenth year, and the public knowledge that I would be receiving a substantial inheritance, I’d been approached by a number of business people in our town looking for investment and to take advantage of what they assumed was a naïve kid, as well as a classmate who wanted me to invest in his website. I guess living how the ‘other half’ lived during my formative years and then being sucked up to by fake people more interested in my deep pockets than in me were two of the reasons I was reluctant to touch the money I had.
Sitting there with Ellie, someone in a similar financial situation and dealing with guilt (although a different kind), made me feel a surprising connection to her.
“The room is yours,” Ellie suddenly announced.
Her abrupt bubbliness brought laughter to my lips. “Just like that?”
Seeming serious all of a sudden, Ellie nodded. “I have a good feeling about you.”
I have a good feeling about you, too. I gave her a relieved smile. “Then I’d love to move in.”
A week later I’d moved into the luxury apartment on Dublin Street.
Unlike Ellie and her clutter, I liked everything to be organized around me just so, and that meant immediately diving into unpacking.
“Are you sure you don’t want to sit and have a cup of tea with me?” Ellie asked from the doorway as I stood in my room surrounded by boxes and a couple of suitcases.
“I really want to get this all unpacked so I can just relax.” I smiled reassuringly so she wouldn’t think I was blowing her off. I always hated this part of a burgeoning friendship–the exhausting hedging of one another’s personality, trying to work out how a person would react to a certain tone, or attitude.
Ellie just nodded her understanding. “Okay. Well, I’ve got to tutor in an hour, so I think I’ll walk instead of grabbing a cab, which means heading off now. That’ll give you some space, some time to get to know the place.”
I’m liking you more already. “Have a fun class.”
“Have fun unpacking.”
I grunted and waved her away as she flashed me a pretty smile and headed out.
As soon as the front door slammed shut, I flopped down on my incredibly comfortable new bed. “Welcome to Dublin Street,” I murmured, staring up at the ceiling.
Kings of Leon sang ‘your sex is on fire’ really loudly at me. I grumbled at the fact that my solitude was being so quickly intruded upon. With a tilt of my hip, I slipped my phone out of my pocket and smiled at the caller I.D.
“Hey you,” I answered warmly.
“So have you moved into your exorbitantly, overindulgent, pretentious new flat yet?” Rhian asked without preamble.
“Is that bitter envy I hear?”
“You’ve got that right, you lucky cow. I was almost ill in my cereal this morning at the pictures you sent me. Is that place for real?”
“I take it the apartment in London isn’t living up to your expectations?”
“Expectations? I’m paying through the nose for a bloody glorified cardboard box!”
“Fuck off,” Rhian grumbled half-heartedly. “I miss you and our mice-riddled palace.”
“I miss you and our mice-riddled palace, too.”
“Are you saying that as you stare at your claw-footed bath tub with its gold-plated taps?”
“Nope… as I lie on my five thousand dollar bed.”
“What’s that in pounds?”
“I don’t know. Three thousand?”
“Jesus, you’re sleeping on six week’s rent.”
Groaning, I sat up to pull open the nearest box. “I wish I hadn’t told you how much my rent is.”
“Well, I’d give you a lecture on how you’re pissing that money of yours away on rent when you could have bought a house, but who am I to talk?”
“Yeah, and I don’t need any lectures. That’s the sweetest part of being an orphan. No concerned lectures.”
I don’t know why I said that.
There was no sweet part to being an orphan.
Or having no one be concerned.
Rhian was silent on the other end of the line. We never talked about my parents or hers. It was our no-go area. “Anyway,” I cleared my throat, “I better get back to unpacking.”
“Is your new roommate there?” Rhian picked up the conversation as though I hadn’t said anything about my parentless status.
“She just went out.”
“Have you met any of her friends yet? Any of them guys? Hot guys? Hot enough to haul you out of your four year dry spell?”
The skeptical laughter on my lips died when an image of the Suit popped into my mind. Feeling my skin prickle at the thought of him, I found myself grow quiet. It wasn’t the first time he’d flashed across my thoughts in the last seven days.
“What’s this?” Rhian asked in answer to my silence. “Is one of them a hottie?”
“No,” I brushed her off as I shoveled the Suit out of my thoughts. “I haven’t met any of Ellie’s friends yet.”
Not really. The last thing I need is a guy in my life. “Listen, I’ve got to get this done. Talk to you later?”
“Sure, hon. Talk later.”
We hung up and I sighed, gazing at all my boxes. All I really wanted to do was flop back on the bed and take a long nap.
“Ugh, let’s do this.”
A few hours later, I was completely unpacked. All of my boxes were folded up neatly and stored in the hall closet. My clothes were hung up and folded away. My books were lined up on the bookshelf and my laptop was open on the desk, ready for my words. A photograph of my parents sat on my bedside table, another of Rhian and I at a Halloween party graced the bookshelf, and by my laptop on the desk, sat my favorite photo. It was a picture of me holding Beth, my parents standing behind me. We were sitting out in the backyard at a barbecue the summer before they died. My neighbor had taken the shot.
I knew photos usually invited questions, but I couldn’t bring myself to put those photographs away. They were a painful reminder that loving people only led to heartbreak… but I couldn’t bear to part with them.
I kissed my fingertips and placed them gently against the photo of my parents.
I miss you.
After a moment, a bead of sweat rolling down my nape drew me out of my melancholic fog and I wrinkled my nose. It was a hot day and I had blasted through the unpacking like The Terminator after John Connor.
Time to try out that gorgeous bath tub.
Pouring in some bubble bath and running the hot water, I immediately began to relax at the rich smell of lotus blossoms. Back in my bedroom, I peeled out of my sweaty shirt and shorts and felt a smug liberation as I walked down the hall, na**d in my new apartment.
I smiled, gazing around at it, still not quite believing all ‘the pretty’ was mine for at least the next six months.
With music blasting from my smartphone, I sank deep into the tub and began to doze. It was only the growing chill of the water that nudged me to wakefulness. Feeling soothed and as content as I could be, I clambered inelegantly out of the tub and reached for my phone. As soon as silence reigned around me, I glanced over at the towel rail and froze.
There were no towels. I scowled at the towel rail as if it was its fault. I could have sworn Ellie had towels on there last week. Now I was going to have to drip water all down the hall.
Grumbling under my breath, I wrenched the bathroom door open and stepped out into the airy hallway.
“Uh… hullo,” a deep voice choked out, snapping my eyes up off the puddle I was making on the hardwood flooring.
A squeal of shock got crushed in my windpipe as I gazed into the eyes of the Suit.