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Home > Unsuitable(8)

Unsuitable(8)
Author: Samantha Towle

Through the windscreen, I glance up at the four-story-high apartment building. It looks really nice. More than I could have hoped for.

Just as we exit the car, the heavens open, so we dash for the building.

Cece opens the main door with a key. “If we have visitors, they have to be buzzed in,” she tells me.

I like that. It’s safe.

We take the stairs up to the second floor where our apartment is.

Cece unlocks the door, letting me inside first.

The first thing I see is the Welcome Home banner hanging from the ceiling in the hallway. I turn, smiling.

“Welcome home!” she says, throwing her hands skyward.

“You’re a total geek.” I laugh.

I walk down the hallway, toward the first door, and find myself in the living room. I take in the beige-painted walls and the furnishings. A big brown leather sofa with fluffy cushions and a matching chair. Glass coffee table. Flat screen TV sitting on a maple oak cabinet.

Turning, I see Cece standing in the doorway.

“It’s amazing, Ce. Did you do all of this?”

She comes over and sits on the arm of the chair. “My dad did the decorating, and Mum helped me pick out the sofa, but the rest was me.”

“How long have you been here?” I run my hand along the soft leather of the sofa.

“I moved in a month ago. It gave me time to get it nice for you and Jesse.”

Jesse.

The reminder that he’s not here with us slices through me.

I know the pain shows on my face because Cece comes over and puts her arm around my shoulders. “Come on, let’s go see your bedroom.”

I follow her out of the living room and down the hallway.

“Bathroom’s there.” She points to a closed door. “And the kitchen’s through here.”

I poke my head through the open door to find a modest-sized kitchen with white gloss cabinets and a small white breakfast table with four black leather chairs.

“Nice,” I say.

“Only the best for us,” she informs me. “And this one is your room.”

I follow Cece into a medium-sized bedroom, complete with a double bed, pale pink duvet cover, nightstand, wardrobe, white walls, and a dressing table in the corner.

“I didn’t do much to it. Thought you’d want to put your own stamp on it.”

“It’s perfect,” I say.

That’s when I spy a gift box sitting on the nightstand. I walk over and pick it up. I turn back to Cece.

“It’s your welcome-home present. It’s not much.”

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I pull the lid off the gift box. Inside is a mobile phone.

I lift my eyes to hers. “You didn’t have to…”

She sits on the bed beside me. “You need a phone, so you can ring Jesse. It’s only a prepaid. I put some credit on it for you—”

“Cece…it’s too much. The apartment…the phone.”

“Bullshit.” The harsh tone in her voice brings my eyes to hers. “It’s the least I can do. You’ve had the worst time, and there wasn’t a fucking thing I could do to help you. The apartment and the phone, I can do, so let me do them.”

My eyes water. I bite my lip and give her a silent nod.

“Good.” She gets to her feet and crosses the room. “I brought all your things from storage. Your clothes and shoes are in here.” She taps the wardrobe that she’s standing beside. “The other stuff, I wasn’t sure what to do with, so I left it boxed. It’s in here, up on the shelf.”

“Thank you.”

“Stop thanking me.” She gives me a soft smile. “Now, do you wanna order in, or I can cook?”

“Pancakes?”

Cece makes the best pancakes ever.

Her smile widens. “Pancakes, it is.”

Stuffed from the mound of pancakes that Cece made for me, I head to bed early. My body clock is still on prison time. It will be for a while, I imagine.

But, now that I’m in bed, I can’t sleep. My eyes are wide open, and I’m staring at the shadows on the ceiling.

I keep expecting to hear the clanging of turning locks and the endless sounds of crying and wailing that echoed throughout the prison at night.

I turn the lamp on and sit on the edge of my bed. Pushing to my feet, I walk over to the wardrobe, open the door, and stare at my clothes hanging in there.

Cece washed and ironed them, and then she hung them up, all ready for me.

Honestly, I couldn’t have wished for a better friend.

I reach up and get one of the boxes down from the shelf.

I sit on the carpeted floor. Legs crossed, I open the box.

Sitting on top of the stuff is my old iPod. I try to turn it on, but it’s dead. I search through the box and find the charger. I go over and plug it in, charging it so that I can use it tomorrow.

I go and sit back down at the box.

There’s a picture frame, upturned. I know which picture it is. The one of me and Jesse that used to sit on the mantel at our old apartment. It was taken when I was sixteen and Jesse was six. It wasn’t long after Mum left.

Picking it up, I turn it over and stare at it.

Cece and I took Jesse out for the day to Brighton. We took the train there. We were so lucky with the weather, as it was glorious that day. We spent most of the day on the beach, eating the picnic we’d packed and messing around in the water. It was a great day.

Just as we were heading back to get our train home, Cece stopped us at the railing that overlooked the beach and took the picture.

My arm is around Jesse, as he’s tucked into my side. We’re smiling. The beach, sea, and sky are in the backdrop.

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