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Old 06-16-2014, 10:31 PM   #1
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Through the Fog (Closed for SweetAsSuga)

Jeff Hawkins caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window, pausing for a minute to evaluate it. Only a few weeks past his 45th birthday, his dark, short brown hair was showing a bit more than the dotting of grey that had creeped across his temples in recent years. He stroked two fingers of his left hand down his cheek, scratching at the two days’ worth of stubble that dotted his face. More grey there, he noted.

The hiss of his Kuerig, perched on the black granite countertop to his right, dragged his wandering mind back into focus. Jeff had company that drizzly Saturday morning, and he needed to at least pretend to be happy that he had it. Hoisting a mug of steaming Colombian roast in each hand-one with faded lettering that read ‘World’s #1 Dad’ and the other with an outline of the Space Needle-Jeff turned to his twenty-two year old son, Alan, and handed him one.

“So, son, what is it you wanted to stop by and chat about?” In Jeff’s mind, there was no point in being anything but direct at 8:45AM on a Saturday. He motioned to the kitchen table, where two weeks worth of The New York Times, and The Seattle Post Intelligencer needed to be moved aside to allow them to set their mugs down.

Jeff was already sitting when Alan, in the motion of settling in across from him, hit a familiar note.

“Dad, I wanted to talk to you about the house, again.”

“Again with this? The house is fine.”

“No, Dad, it isn’t-look,” a variation of this conversation had occurred at least six times in the last 18 months, and Alan basically started on exasperated at this point, “just because you don’t have dishes piling up and rodents crawling around, doesn’t mean that things are ‘fine’. When’s the last time you even stepped foot above the garage?”

Jeff took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He hated to admit it, but Alan was far and away correct. If the stacks of newsprint didn’t give it away, the clutter that had taken over his study, and especially his treasured record collection, most certainly did so. Drumming his fingers along the rim of the #1 Dad mug, Jeff took stock of his situation, and why he was even having this conversation.

‘Above the garage’ meant the one-bedroom loft that Jeff’s father, Jim inhabited for the last five years of his life. He’d moved in shortly after the family purchased the home, Jeff having selected property specifically for that space. In reality, Jeff knew he should have sent his father to live in a place where he’d get the attention an elderly widower needed, but Jim was fiercely independent, even over his son’s objections.

It was that independent streak that eventually caused Jim to fall down the stairs of that very loft five years ago, leading to the broken hip that led to the hospital stay that led to the infection that killed the elder Hawkins man. On the day Jim was buried, Jeff came back to the loft, cleared out all of his father’s personal effects, placed a padlock on the door, and considered himself done with the space forever.

Still, knowing Alan was right and admitting it out loud were vastly different things.

Jeff fixed his narrow gaze on his son, “You know I’ve not been up there in years-I’ve no reason to go up there, son.” His tone was more severe-he did not appreciate his son pushing him like this.

“Fine, Dad, fine.” Alan wasn’t done. “What about all….this?” He waved at the stacks of papers with his free hand. “It’s been like this for the last two years, ever since…”

Jeff cut him off. Harshly.

“Ever since your mother and your sister died? Since a drunk driver stole their lives?” His voice was cold. “Yes, I suppose I’ve let a few things get out of order since then. I guess maybe I’ve had a few other things on my mind.” The tone had switched to sarcasm now, a move with which Alan had great familiarity.

“Dad, look, I know. I’m not saying that you have to go out and remarry, or make some drastic change. I just want to be able to go back to school in a few weeks knowing that you’re not going to drown under a mountain of junk here.” Alan was due to head back to UCLA for his senior year in just three short weeks.

“Just, just let me see if I can’t help you find someone to help you take care of the place. You can afford the help, and if you let some struggling college student use the loft, you can probably get off pretty cheap in exchange for the room and board. I’ll hang some flyers up at a couple of the coffee shops near campus, and see what we come up with.”

Jeff considered the proposal, rubbing his right hand over his dark green eyes. It was the second time Alan had made this exact pitch. The house was only a few miles from the main campus of the University of Washington, so it seemed practical enough, once Jeff could bring himself to open up part of his home, even the detached part, to a stranger.

He smiled weakly, staring down at his mug. “Fine, son. You win. Let’s see what you can come up with.”
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Old 06-18-2014, 05:24 PM   #2
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Cool, wet clay seeped through nimble fingers as the pottery wheel spun. Specks of gray, dry clay caked fingernails that were cracked and torn from day after day after day of working in the clay. Beneath those skilled hands, hands that were covered in a rainbow of paint and clay as the artist could never settle on her medium, the clay yielded, forming to a perfect bowl as the young artisan worked. The tip of her pale pink tongue sticking out of her cupid's bow lips in concentration. Her eyes never leaving the lump of clay as she molded it to her match her vision.

Unchained Melody wove a melodic trance through the air. A cliche, she knew, but one that she was willing to indulge in nonetheless. She had always had the vision of working the clay with another, the sensuous movements of their hands mirroring each other as they molded the clay together in a metaphor for their sexual desire. Alas, it was a fantasy that was never to be. At least not any time soon.

Sometimes being single sucked.

Being homeless wasn't all that awesome either, but somehow Ryan survived. It had only been a few weeks, anyway, and the art studio had more than enough space for her sleeping bag and duffel bag. One benefit to the gypsy lifestyle: you could carry all your worldly possessions in one bag. Two if you wanted to count her art supplies. But sleeping on the studio's concrete floor was quickly becoming, ironically, tiring. Ryan would have killed to sleep on a real bed, to feel a mattress give way beneath her body, molding to her form and cocooning her in its delicious coziness. And an extra quilt, or insulated walls even, would not go unappreciated. Washington was a great place to live, but with the weather getting colder, and the art studios at U Wash not much more than metal walls and cement floors, it was getting to be quite uncomfortable at night.

The pottery wheel slowed to a stop and Ryan wiped her hands on the dingy green smock she wore. The clay was stubborn, though, and she had to scrape the toffee-colored clay from beneath her fingernails. She sat back and surveyed the bowl she'd been working on. Pottery was a new medium for her to experiment with and, though she'd only been doing it a few months, Ryan was loving working with the clay. While painting was rewarding, pottery allowed you an almost immediate satisfaction in seeing your work come to life.

Art was amazing and Ryan honestly could not imagine doing anything else with her life. But art was also a bitch who didn't pay the bills. And the bills were steadily piling up. Hence Ryan's current situation. When the choice had been between her education and a roof over her head it had been an easy one. Ryan had lived half her life in a tent, tagging along with her parents as they moved from Renaissance fairs to festivals peddling their wares. Such was her life until Ryan set off for college at the ripe age of twenty-one. Her education had been delayed due to the unconventional upbringing she'd had, and, until she finally decided she wanted more from life than a nomadic lifestyle, school had not been a priority. Now, at twenty-four, it was her number one priority and she did not want to let it slip through her fingers.

The things one suffered for one's art.

Carrying the unfinished bowl to the shelf, Ryan sighed and contemplated her situation. She needed to find some place to live, preferably cheap, and soon. The college did not look kindly on people bunking in its academic buildings and Ryan knew that she would get caught sooner or later.

Her stomach rumbled, echoing in the vast, nearly empty space. With a chuckle, Ryan tucked her sleeping bag and duffel under the work bench and, after double checking to make sure they were hidden from sight, she grabbed her purse - the tan one with fringe that her mom had made her when Ryan was fifteen - and swung it over her shoulder before heading out in search of food.

The past few nights she had made a meal out of whatever she could get from the vending machine. Tonight, however, her stomach would not be happy unless it had a fresh salad and some type of meat - preferably deep-fried and dripping with grease.

Stepping out into the fresh air, Ryan pulled the blue bandanna from her hair, the wild curls springing free and framing her face in a mass of tight corkscrew spirals. The quad was alive with the hum of students going about their lives. Many rushed to evening classes, food stolen from the cafeteria clutched in their hands. Ryan moved as if in her own world. She'd been a student at University of Washington for three years, but she didn't have many friends. Being older than the majority of students had its downsides. But Ryan was used to being on her own and, honestly, it didn't bother her to move through her college career as a free agent, drifting from one set of acquaintances to another.

As she made her way across the quad, she paused at the billboard in the center. As she did every night, she perused the mass of fliers that fluttered in the chilly breeze, searching for any advertising rooms for rent. So far, though, nothing had come of her search. She would meet with the occasional student that advertised, but personalities never seemed to mesh. For many, Ryan was too much of a free spirit. People didn't want their things to become covered in paint and clay, as so many of Ryan's things were. They didn't want a roommate who kept sporadic hours, often coming home in the dead of night reeking of turpentine.

Tonight, however, one lone flier stood out. Logically, the plain white paper with bold black letters shouldn't have given anyone reason to glance at it a second time. Especially when the fliers surrounding it were bright and colorful with creative fonts that made you squint in the effort to read what they said. No, this flier was subtle, the wallflower among the loud cheerleaders that surrounded it. But it was that subtly, that plainness that called to Ryan.

Resident needed. It read, the language straight to the point. Loft apartment available 10 minutes from campus. Room and board in exchange for housekeeping and some cooking.

Okay, so Ryan wasn't the world's greatest housekeeper, but for a practically free place to stay she would shave her head and call herself Mr. Clean. Plucking one of the tabs off the bottom of the flier, Ryan pulled her cellphone - a cheap pay-by-the-minute thing that was always dying on her - and dialed the number.
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Old 06-26-2014, 10:53 PM   #3
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In the more than two weeks since he’d allowed Alan to post the flyers around campus, Jeff had gotten three responses. The first kid showed up all in tie-dye and tattered cargo pants and gave the very distinct feeling that he saw the space as more of a grow house than a place to crash while providing anything back in the proposed exchange. The other two were co-eds, maybe 19 years old, bleach blonde, and neither of them seemed like they knew a thing about cooking or cleaning. Clearly, they’d come looking for a place to have a party, away from campus and the prying of campus police.

In fact, the phone hadn’t read in regards to the ad in over a week, and Jeff thought that, with just a few more days left until Alan left to go back to California, he’d be free and clear of having to invite someone to live in the loft. Were Jeff being honest with himself, he’d realize that he was at least a bit uneasy about being alone again.

In fact, he’d spent a small amount of time getting the loft to a state of at least livability again. In the week after Alan had posted the flyer, Jeff finally forced himself to take the heavy padlock off the door for the first time since clearing the space after his father’s passing. It was an arduous task, as the years of Pacific rain had partially rusted the mechanism. Snapping the lock free, and un-wedging the door, Jeff found himself taken by the musty aroma of the space. Fortunately, save for an old area rug, the floor was hardwood and tile throughout, meaning that he didn’t have to worry about replacing carpet.

Pushing through the door, Jeff took stock of the space. In the entry way, a small tiled space that passed as a foyer clearly needed a scrubbing. To the right, the hardwood covered living room and dining area could easily stand a thorough dusting. Passing across the foyer, and through the galley-sytle kitchen, Jeff could hear the click of his shoes on the tile. He pushed past the open doors of the refrigerator-freezer combo, the unit having been unplugged and left to dry long ago. The small bathroom was through the hall to the left, with the unit’s only bedroom to the right.

Then, the back door. His father had insisted on the space off the back half of the garage-maybe 500 square feet, to be left with a bare, linoleum floor-a space for him to do his wood working. Jeff had long sold off his equipment, but the smell of sawdust and stain hung in the air.

However, today, more than a week after that visit, Jeff was questioning why he’d bothered with it. His part of the residence was still a cluttered mess, and Alan was still on his case about it.

In fact, when his phone rang on that cool Thursday night, he was a bit surprised to find a reasonably mature-sounding female voice on the other end. He found himself nodding through the conversation. She wanted to see the place-she said she was a student, but she didn’t sound like the flighty co-eds he’d expected.

Saturday morning? Sure, he’d be home. She could come by and see it then. Sight unseen, Jeff wasn’t willing to put much stock in the newest candidate, but when he talked with Alan about it later that night, he was prodded again to be open-minded.
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Old 06-29-2014, 01:57 PM   #4
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What did one wear to meet a future housemate/employer? The question had popped into Ryan's mind over the past couple days. It wasn't that she was nervous about meeting Mr. Hawkins, the man seemed perfectly pleasant over the phone if not a little bit churlish and brisk in manner. Rather, Ryan was worried that she would soon be found bunking in the art studio. She was already skating on thin ice with the university's security after they found her painting a mural on one of the sidewalks. The security guards and Ryan had differing views on what was art and what was vandalism. One more infraction and the young woman knew that they would be taking her before the administration. Already she had had a few close calls with the night guards. She couldn't risk it again.

So, when Saturday morning dawned, Ryan had her paltry wardrobe laid out on the concrete floor. With her wild curls flying about her face, Ryan ran a weary hand through them, wincing as her fingers caught a particularly stubborn curl. It was no use. Everything she owned had bits of dried paint or clay on them and Ryan knew she would never make a good impression on Mr. Hawkins looking like a homeless bum...even if that was what she was.

Biting her lip, Ryan pulled the paint-smeared white tank top she slept in over her head and, not bothering with a bra - Ryan didn't understand spending good money on two slinky bits of fabric when her perky, yet small breasts barely warranted a B cup - picked up her cleanest outfit. The purple dress, dotted with little flowers that blended together in a swirl that helped to hide the paint, was light and airy, floating over the subtle curve of Ryan's hips, the hem brushing against her ankles. The day wasn't too cold, so she could get away with wearing the dress, which she paired with a pair of scuffed cowboy boots, tan leather soft and supple from years of use. A worn jean jacket, the elbows of which had been patched numerous times over the years, completed her ensemble.

Running another hand through her hair, Ryan sighed. This was as good as it was going to get. She would simply have to wow Mr. Hawkins with her interpersonal skills and domestic capabilities...she was screwed.


****
Arriving at the house fifteen minutes late for the appointment. But what was a girl to do when she had to hoof it all the way from campus. It wasn't like she had a car she could drive over. Knocking on the door, Ryan drew in a deep breath, nerves settling into her stomach and knocking around like drunken butterflies. She waited with baited breath for Mr. Hawkins to answer the door, all too aware of the image she must present.

After what seemed like forever the door finally opened and Ryan pasted on her brightest smile.

"Hi, Mr. Hawkins." She said, holding out a work roughened hand. She had spent nearly half an hour trying to clean all the clay and paint from her fingernails to no avail and could only pray that he didn't hold the unkempt appearance of her hands against her. "I'm Ryan Cauldin. I'm very sorry I'm late, but I don't have a car and had to walk here and I'm very sorry to have kept you waiting. I can assure you that I am a very prompt person...most of the time, but that will in no way hinder the work that I can do for you."

When she was stressed, Ryan had a tendency towards word vomit and she cringed as the words tumbled from her lips faster than she could think. Dammit, only three seconds into their meeting and she was already making a great impression.
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Old 07-01-2014, 10:49 PM   #5
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The sun hung low in the sky as Jeff gingerly drew the mug of coffee to his lips. Bare feet falling on the cool tile, he strode across the room, settling in at the same well-worn kitchen table he and Alan had conversed at exactly three weeks ago about the arrangement about which the girl was coming to inquire.

Ryan. An odd name for a girl, he mused. He hoped that this one wouldn't be a waste of his time, like the other college students had been. On the phone, she seemed coherent, and grounded. At a minimum, that put her miles ahead of the less stellar folks that had come through so far. Further, this working out meant that Alan wouldn't harass him long distance about 'getting some help' around the house.

Staring at the stacks of newspapers, the piles of mail, and the general clutter around the kitchen, he even had to admit to himself that the help was likely necessary. Between long hours, depression, and a long held lack of interest in the kind of organization of the house that everyone else in the family seemed to have, the situation truly had spiraled.

And so, wearing faded jeans and an old, plain gray t-shirt, and sipping his coffee, Jeff waited. Then, he waited some more. Glancing at the clock, he realized that she was running almost 15 minutes late. It didn't surprise him, per say-she was a college kid, after all, but still, it was keeping him from getting engrossed in a book for the day. Hell, he'd even shaved for the occasion, a rarity for him on a Saturday.

He was stewing on this thought when the knock came at the door. Striding across the tile, then onto the hardwood that lead to the front door, he put on his best professional, welcome-to-my home smile.

Taking Ryan's hand in his, he could feel her slightly calloused skin-a sensation that surprised him, though, it shouldn't have. Standing before him was less a college girl, and more a young woman. She had the look of a person who knew a bit about life, and hardship. Still, she was quite pretty, even if a bit harried. Her slender form set well under what looked to be a comfortable dress. Her hair was a bit wild for his taste, but he imagined that to be a generational thing more than anything.

"Hi Ryan, I'm Jeff, pleasure to meet you. Please, come on in," he offered as Ryan closed her rather run-on sentence. It amused him slightly that she seemed so amped up. Clearly, this was about more than finding a place to party for this young woman. Having struggled during the years after college himself, to the point where he and Annie had to do a fair amount of couch surfing and bumming off of family members to survive, Jeff was at least sympathetic to the possibility that this was what caused this young lady to be on 11 for a conversation that likely required about a four.

"It's okay, don't worry too much about it. It's a Saturday morning, no reason to be in a rush." The white lie didn't hurt anyone, and he didn't have anything to gain by being hard on the poor girl.

As she followed him through the center hall of the older colonial, he motioned through the kitchen.

"Let's do this first-I'll take you out, show you the loft, and if you think it's a space that works for you, we can sort out the rest from there. Sound good? Follow me." With that, he pivoted on his heel and led her out the back door of the kitchen, out to the detached garage, and up the side stairs to the loft he'd been in precisely twice since his father passed away.
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Old 07-05-2014, 01:18 PM   #6
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"Holy shit," Ryan breathed as she followed Jeff into the kitchen. It looked like a bomb had exploded inside. Newspapers lay on every flat surface, the pages curling at the corners and yellowing with age. Dirty dishes, clothes, and any number of unmentionable items were scattered throughout the room and seemed to spill through the rest of the house if the front hall was any indication.

The whole place reminded Ryan of one of those hoarders shows. She supposed she should be thankful he wasn't hording pets on top of everything else.

What have I gotten myself into? Ryan couldn't help wondering as she followed Jeff through his trash heap of a home, each room getting steadily worse as they progressed. She feared for what her own lodgings would look like.

She followed Jeff up wooden stairs that shook slightly as they climbed. Her lips pursed, wondering if she could get him to at least fix the railing on the stairs as she had no inclination to go tumbling down to the ground when the wood got slick with rain, as it was want to do in Washington.

An uneasy silence settled over the pair, as if neither wanted to bring up the subject of the desperate state the house was in, and Ryan, who usually could talk the ear off a deaf man, found herself at a rare loss for words.

Ryan had grown up in the nomadic style. Her family never stayed in one place for long and everything they owned could fit into the back of their 1975 Gremlin with room to spare. Even now Ryan didn't own more than what she could carry in her duffle bag. Seeing so much stuff crammed into one place overwhelmed her and rendered the young woman speechless. She prayed that the loft was not in the same state as the home as there was no way she could possibly live in such a place. Not only was it unsanitary, but so much junk could stifle her creativity.

Finally Jeff unlocked the door to the loft apartment and Ryan followed him inside. The air was thick with dust and disuse, but it was nothing that a good dusting and some open windows couldn't cure. She breathed a sigh of relief at seeing that the junk of the main house had not traveled into the loft.

"This is perfect." Ryan couldn't stop the words from escaping her lips as she walked around the loft. It wasn't big, but Ryan didn't need a lot of space. And the small workroom in the back was perfect for her easel and a pottery wheel. The mess of the house disappeared from her mind as Ryan knew that she would do anything to make this place her own.

With a big grin she turned to face Jeff, who had stood silently while she looked around. "I'll take it." She said. "I don't care what I have to do, this place is just what I was looking for."
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Old 07-06-2014, 10:13 PM   #7
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"I don't care what I have to do, this place is just what I was looking for."


In the week following Ryan’s utterance, life at the Hawkins residence had been more than a little busy.

At first, he was taken aback by her eagerness. She was maybe a little too in a hurry to move in-a trait that Jeff mistrusted on its face. Still, Jeff wasn’t in a position to reject someone based on his own neurosis, especially if she was willing to help him deal with the clutter that had taken over the space.

Her reaction on that Saturday told him just how bad he’d let it become. While Ryan didn’t seem a mess, she didn’t seem the overly meticulous type, either, and the way she seemed taken so aback at his mess was enough to force him to reconsider his objections to help on the spot. Newly motivated, he set about at least getting the loft ready for the new tennant.

Jeff had a contractor out on Tuesday to deal with the railing, which had rotted away in the years of salt air and, again, disinterest by the owner. Several hundred dollars later, the contractor had come back on Wednesday to bolt in an entirely new staircase, with grip strips across them and a solid, heavy wood railing.

Inside, however, was a much tougher hill to climb. There’d been nearly two years of dust, clutter and stuff accumulating throughout the residence, and, even if Jeff was eager to get his new, young ******t squared away, he was less eager to do anything for himself.

It was a theme of his existence in the 25 months since Allison had passed away. He felt responsible. It was he who was supposed to pick up Macy from her gymnastics meet, and a late night at work had left Allison with no choice but to play driver on that fateful night.

The guilt he’d felt in the days, weeks and months since had nearly crippled him. It was only through the grace of his boss that he’d been able to stay employed, though in the last 12 months, he’d become more able to go through the motions of being his old self-driving, strong-willed and thoughtful.

That effort, though, left him drained of the energy needed to do anything useful around his home.

Ultimately, the state of the house would fall into Ryan’s calloused hands. They’d made a three month agreement-to begin on this day-for her to take on the care of the home, perhaps do some light cooking, and take up residence in the loft over the garage.

Privately, Jeff admitted to himself that he was nervous. This girl may not be moving in with him, and he was pretty certain that with a University schedule matched up to his work, he’d be able to avoid having too much interpersonal contact with her. Chances are, he reminded himself, she wasn’t going to be too terribly interested in getting to know a man 20 years her senior who just happened to be renting her a room, anyway.

Filling his coffee mug from the Kuerig again, he smoothed his hands over a worn pair of jeans, and looked out the back window at the loft that would soon be occupied again for the first time in five years. And, he waited.
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Old 07-11-2014, 02:10 PM   #8
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Bright sunlight filtered through the fluffy clouds, which floated across the rich blue sky on a light breeze. The weather couldn't have reflected Ryan's mood more perfectly. Finally, it seemed like things were going her way. The past few days had passed with no incident, no more close calls with the University security, and now it was time to finally move into her own apartment. Okay, so the situation wasn't completely ideal what with the complete wreck that Mr. Hawkins' home was in, but beggars can't be choosers. And, at this point, Ryan was definitely a beggar. Despite the less than ideal state of the home and regardless of Ryan's slight lack of domesticity, she was looking forward to moving forward with her life and, finally, having a permanent roof over her head.

As she made her way towards Jeff Hawkins' home, Ryan's steps were light, bouncy even. Oh hell, she was practically skipping as she reminded herself that she would be sleeping in a real bed that night and not on a cold concrete slab with only her sleeping bag for a cushion. There was even a cheerful tune emitting in a low hum from her lips, a tune that was quickly carried away on the crisp fall breeze that kept her skirt fluttering about her legs.

Ryan could not have arrived at her new residence in a joyful mood one that couldn't be dampened even if the heaven's opened up at that moment and drenched her from head to toe; which, thankfully, they did not. She gave a quick and succinct knock on the front door - she had yet to receive a key - and waited for Mr. Hawkins to answer.

"Good morning," she greeted him, a smile bright enough to rival the sun on her lips as he opened the door for her. She moved inside the congested hallway, feeling claustrophobic as the door closed behind her, effectively shutting out the sun. Why was it so damn dark inside? A quick glance around showed that her employer had left the blinds tightly closed over every window in sight.

Well that will soon change, Ryan thought with a brief nod of her head.

"Mind if I drop my stuff in the apartment before we go over the particulars?" She asked, already making her way through the kitchen and towards the back stairs. Ryan had a knack for making herself at home wherever she went, a trait inherited from her parents who regularly helped themselves to whatever their neighbors had be it food, clothing or money. Ryan had far more boundaries than her parents, but she figured if she was going to live here she might as well start acting like it. Moving quickly, the heels of her cowboy boots tap tapping across the kitchen floor, Ryan did a quick survey of the room. Some of the dishes had been cleared away, as if in an attempt to spruce up a bit before her arrival, but the rest of the mess remained stubbornly in place.

I'll certainly earn my keep here, Ryan couldn't help smirking as she opened the backdoor. The breeze rustled her mass of curls and she closed her eyes, inhaling the rich scent of fall. The day was warm enough that she could get away with opening the windows, which was exactly what this house needed: a good airing out that would rid the place of the musky and stale air.

After settling her things into the loft, which basically consisted of her throwing her bag through the door and not bothering to check where it landed, Ryan set herself down at kitchen table. With the tips of her fingers she picked up a discarded cup, which had some sort of fungus growing at the bottom in what looked like the sludge of left over coffee, and set it aside to throw out later. She sat, Indian style in the chair, her skirt clinging to her legs, and surveyed Jeff Hawkins as he sat down across from her.

"Alrighty, Boss," she said with a teasing smirk, "let's pound out these details."
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Old 07-23-2014, 10:12 PM   #9
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Jeff watched through the window as Ryan climbed the stairs to the loft, canvas bag slung over her shoulder. She looked almost hobo-like, given the relatively limited amount of possessions that she brought with her. He leaned against the counter, hanging over the sink, as she threw her bag through the door and pivoted back toward the house.

This is the girl that’s going to take care of my home-clean it up, get it organized for me? What’s she going to do, throw it all into a couple of knapsacks? Well, it’s only three months. If she can make a modicum of improvement around here, it’ll be worth it.

He settled into the empty chair across the table from her, folding his arms on the table top. In front of him was the simple two page lease, freshly printed from his home office, the paper still a bit warm to the touch. Cooly, he turned the papers 180 degrees, allowing Ryan to see where Jeff had already initialed next to the word ‘lessor’- the document was in a bit more lawyer speak than he’d intended, but it felt less patriarchal than ‘landlord’.

A small smile, not warm, but, not wry, crossed his lips. “It’s relatively simple, as we discussed last week. Ninety days, provisional, to make sure this works for both of us, with thirty days notice for either of us to call ‘over’. Then, a mutual option to extend for a year. In exchange for room and board, you agree to keep the main house clean and orderly. That includes the decluttering of all of….this.” Jeff waved his hand, acknowledging the mess he’d accumulated.

He reached into his pocket, pulling out a pair of brass keys on a ring. They were worn and tarnished, and attached to an old rubber University of Washington key tag. He pushed them across the table, letting them slide the last foot or so to settle next to the pages.

“I just need you to sign this, and then you can, well, unpack, I suppose.” He smirked as he said this, referencing her light load.

“Also, please, call me Jeff. I get enough of the ‘boss’ stuff at work. You’ve keys to both the loft and the house there-but I’d rather not think of you as ‘the help’.” His right hand came up and he made little quotes with his fingers.

Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on the table, smiling. “Fair enough? Go ahead and sign, and feel free to get started.”

With that, Jeff rose, nodded, and grabbed the newspaper. “I’ll be out on the deck, reading, if you need anything.”
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Old 07-29-2014, 09:15 PM   #10
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"Aye, aye, Captain Jeff." Ryan replied with a stern scowl no her lips and a salute, but she couldn't keep the teasing glint from her eyes as Jeff stood and moved out to the deck. With everything signed and all official like, Ryan finally felt that she finally had a touch of stability in her life. Now whether that stability remained was yet to be seen, but at least it was something.

The backdoor closed tightly behind Jeff and, for the first time, Ryan was alone in the house. There was something strange about being alone in another person's home. Something almost voyeuristic about looking at and touching another person's things. Even though Jeff had signed on to having Ryan riffle through his things, it still felt taboo to be doing so.

"Alrighty then." Ryan cast a wary eye around the kitchen before moving into the living room then down the hall and through each bedroom and bathroom, forming a plan of attack as she traveled.

Pulling her mass of curls up into a messy bun, Ryan dug through the pantry in the kitchen until she had located a box of garbage bags. From there she found a pair of powder blue gloves with daisies around the wrist - the type of gloves used for washing dishes - and pulled them on. Armed with the garbage bags and gloves, Ryan attacked. First the kitchen then the living room, gathering what newspapers and other odds and ends she could and shoving them into the bags. On her first pass through the house, she had opened all the windows and a cool breeze, tinged with the sharpness of fall, drifted through the house, cooling the sweat that was beginning to bead on her forehead.

The silence was starting to get to Ryan as she worked. Never one who could deal with quiet, she began searching for a CD player or radio or something that would alleviate the quiet.

"Sweet." Ryan whistled as she unearthed a record player and a pretty decent collection of records. Choosing an album at random, Ryan set it on the turntable and closed her eyes, drinking in the gentle scratch as the needle hit the album. Soon she was dancing away to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," singing along when she knew the words in a voice that was so off-key it was comical.

With Dylan jamming away in the background the cleaning took no time at all and, pretty soon, Ryan had a collection of trash bags setting next to the front door ready to go out to the curb. It wasn't until her stomach started to rumble that Ryan glanced at the clock. Hoping that Jeff had something in the fridge other than those horrible frozen meals, she wandered into the kitchen and set about digging through the fridge.

"Processed. Processed. Crap. Moldy. Expired." Ryan threw containers of food onto the counter. The fridge was too obviously a bachelor's, filled with out of date and processed foods and alcohol. Typical man. Ryan shook her head.

"Don't you have anything edible in this house?" She called out, hoping her voice carried through the open window and out to where Jeff sat on the deck.
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Old 08-09-2014, 11:08 PM   #11
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Jeff let out a breath through his nose, silently scoffing at Ryan’s salute. He gave a small smirk, then turned on his heel, being sure to pull the door tightly shut behind him. The glass in the window rattled a bit as he yanked it shut, a nod to the fact that the panes needed to be sealed again and that the frame had swelled quite a bit with the heavy fall rains, causing the door to stick.

Resting in a metal framed chair, Jeff unfurled the newspaper, thumbing idly through the front section for something that appealed, finding mostly more unrest in the Middle East, more gridlock in DC, and some celebrity news that seemed trivial and out of place in the hard news portion of the paper. Whatever sells subscriptions, I guess, he thought.

He heard the kitchen window open as Ryan got to work, and picked his head up as he heard the Dylan tunes drift out onto the deck. He’d not touched the record player in some time, having joined most of the world in enjoying his music digitally in recent years. However, Jeff found himself taken by the purity of the sound coming from the turntable, though less so by the sound of Ryan’s voice. While no one would ever claim Dylan to be a gifted singer, Ryan’s rendition was brutal.

This was more difficult for him than he’d realized. Firstly, having a complete stranger in his house was difficult. That it was a young woman that he seemed to have little in common with compounded this. He was unsure-how often did he need to interact with Ryan? They had a professional agreement, but she felt like a guest. Was he supposed to entertain her?

While he ruminated on this, he hear Ryan going through his possessions. Every time he heard the crinkle of the garbage bags, Jeff knew that he was losing something he’d been afraid to throw away himself. It was hard for him to handle, and caused him to focus harder on the newspaper.

His concentration was broken by the question that was thrown out the kitchen window. Lifting himself out of the chair, Jeff slowly made his way to the window, flipping the paper back onto the table, hoping the wind wouldn’t catch it. The sun was starting to peek out from behind the clouds, and it was becoming at least a bit warm outside.

Jeff mustered up a smile, though he didn’t appreciate his new tenant giving him such a hard time. “Well, by your standards, most likely not. But, if you promise to spare me anymore of your vocal stylings, I’d be happy to order in.”
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Old 08-18-2014, 02:33 PM   #12
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Tapping a contemplative finger against her chin, Ryan considered his proposal.

"So you're saying that if I promise not to serenade you again for the foreseeable future that you will consent to feed me something other than a moldy bologna and cheese sandwich?" She cocked her head, one eyebrow quirking upwards. "You've got yourself a deal, Captain." Her lips pulled up at one corner in a crooked grin as she leaned back against the counter top.

"But I've got one condition." Ryan held up a finger as Jeff grabbed for the phone that hung on the wall by her head. "I get to choose the restaurant." She plucked the phone from the wall before he could respond and quickly dialed.

"Hey, Margo, it's Ryan. Can I get two of the usuals plus..." Ryan's nose scrunched as she mentally calculated the order, "four of the number seven." She quickly rattled off the address and hung up before Jeff could say anything.

"Lunch will be here in fifteen minutes." She said with a bright smile. Never one to stand on formality, Ryan had no qualms with making herself right at home. Moving past Jeff, Ryan bent down and ruffled through the cupboard under the sink, searching for some type of spray to use on the counter tops.

"Ugh, do you know how many toxins are in this stuff?" She asked, holding up a bottle of disinfectant spray. "You should get some all natural cleaners, they're much better for the environment and your health."

Moving swiftly around the kitchen, Ryan continued to rattle out all the statistics she knew about harm to the ozone and toxins in a person's system. And Ryan knew a lot courtesy of her hippie parents and the numerous protests and rallies they dragged her to as a kid. But even as she lectured Jeff on the importance of using green products, she sprayed down the counters and scrubbed them until her arm ached.

The ring of the doorbell cut her off mid-sentence.

"Oh good, foods here." Ryan flung the rag she'd been cleaning with into the sink and quickly washed her hands. "You grab the food and I'll set the table."
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Old 08-31-2014, 03:08 PM   #13
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Jeff bristled at the long form critique coming his way from practically every sentence that came from Ryan’s mouth. A few hours in, and he was already questioning the three month lease he’d agreed to with the young woman. He admired her spirit, but she was being a bit too forward with commandeering his space. Jeff had been a recluse for several years-if Ryan was trying to draw him out of his shell with snide remarks, she was looking at a long road.

He watched as she bent over to rifle through the cabinets, noticing the female-ness of her form for the first time. That he noticed at all was a rarity, and he dismissed any thoughts from his mind. Besides, she was still carrying on.

To her remark about the cleaners, he huffed, “Sure-make a list of what you’d prefer, and I’ll be sure to pick it up.”. He wasn’t even sure if she’d heard him-she was prattling on with facts and figures that he was both aware of and sympathetic to, but not terribly concerned about in his own day-to-day life.

He was still brooding when the doorbell interrupted her screed. For a pretty girl who claimed to be a free-spirit, she certainly seemed to be wound a bit tight. Letting out a breath, Jeff turned for the front hall, pulling some free bills from his front pocket as he made his way. The hardwood was cold on his bare feet-the fall was near, this much was sure.

Pulling the door open, he squinted at the sunlight and found himself face to face with a teen-ager grasping a hefty paper sack. They traded greetings, Jeff taking the bag and forking over payment.

Closing the door behind him, he caught himself surprised by the smell. It wasn’t something that he readily recognized. It didn’t offend, but, from the first scent of it, he didn’t get the impression that what Ryan had ordered would be his first choice.

Stepping back into the kitchen, he held the bag up over his head. “Your feast awaits, young lady.”
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Old 09-05-2014, 02:28 PM   #14
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Ryan moved about the kitchen, oblivious to Jeff's annoyance as she set the table and began to unpack the food. Opening the paper delivery bags, Ryan groaned in pleasure as the steam escaped and filled the room with the heavenly scent of fresh Thai food.

"Mmmm," she all but purred as she lay the feast out on the table, "delicious."

Settling herself down Ryan glanced up at Jeff, who seemed to tower above her. Finally, his stony silence registered and Ryan had the decency to blush.

"Sorry," she said sheepishly, "I tend to make myself at home wherever I am. Kind of a byproduct of the years I spent on the road. Not to mention the commune my folks and I lived at when I was fifteen. They didn't believe in personal possessions there, everything was pretty much free game. If I overstep just let me know."

Piling a plate high with the steamy hot Phat Thai and Sai ua she held it out to Jeff as a peace offering.

"I promise no tofu." She said with a teasing grin as he glanced at the plate suspiciously. "Never could stomach the stuff myself," she continued as she heaped a pile of food on her own plate, "but my parents would never let me eat anything else. Most kids buy cigarettes or lottery tickets when they turn eighteen, me, I bought a hamburger." Using her fork, Ryan pushed a good size bite onto her spoon. Taking her time to savor the dish, Ryan let the food sit on her tongue before chewing and swallowing that first delectable bite with a moan.

Content now that her stomach was being filled, Ryan sat back in her chair, head cocked and surveyed her new employer.

"So other than the fact that you have a kick ass record collection I don't know anything about you. If we're gonna be living together, even if I'm in my own little space and what not, I guess we really should get to know each other. So tell me something, anything at all."
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Old 09-15-2014, 10:19 PM   #15
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Jeff evaluated her words as she fluttered about the kitchen. He had to confess-having light in the house again was nice, but he’d be perfectly happy if she’d taken a bit more time about making herself right at home.

The perils of introversion, he told himself-never, ever wanting anyone strange in your space, ever. As he gazed around the space, he’d had to admit to himself that Ryan had done a pretty good job with the space to this point. He could actually see counter space for the first time in many months.

Taking the plate Ryan had filled for him, Jeff eyed it suspiciously. It didn’t smell bad, persay, but Thai would never have been his first choice. Still, Ryan had been kind enough to place the order, though he was quite certain that she’d taken money off the kitchen table to pay for it-money that was his from a trip to the ATM after work yesterday.

Processing her statements, he smirked as he sat down opposite her. “Well, anytime you want to order in burgers, please know you won’t get an argument from me.”

Pondering her question, Jeff pushed a hand lightly through his hair, noting to himself that he was overdue to have it cut. Chewing through a forkful of food, he contemplated her question. Certainly it was innocent enough, but Jeff had gone some time since talking much about himself. His co-workers knew him well, and his kids had long given up trying to draw anything out of him.

Still, Ryan had a point as regarded their arrangement, and it being at least a little bit fair that he share something. Taking a deep breath, he divulged, “Well, I think you know some of the stuff- I work in software, live here alone, and I am” Jeff sighed, “45 years old.”

He knew this wouldn’t placate Ryan, and her look said it. “My oldest, Alan, attends UCLA-he’ll probably graduate next year. We’ll see though-his motivation is questionable. I think he enjoys college a bit too much sometimes.”

Jeff paused-this was the part that was always hard for him to talk about. For those who’d never been through a loss like his, it was a hard thing to which to react. This many years beyond it, despite the pain, Jeff had reached a point where he simply pressed through and addressed it.

“And my wife, and my youngest, our daughter-died a few years ago in a car accident. Drunk driver. Kind of changed my out look on a lot of things, and kind of why the house fell into a bit of a state of disrepair, if you can believe it.”
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Old 09-27-2014, 04:38 PM   #16
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"Well shit." Ryan breathed as Jeff revealed the death of his wife and daughter. Taking a swig of water she studied him over the rim of the glass. "No wonder you're house is fucked up. Sorry." A sheepish look crossed over her face as she realized that she probably just put her foot in her mouth...again.

Focusing her attention on the food in front of her, Ryan poked at the Pad Thai with her fork. "I mean," she said, unable to meet Jeff's eye, "that really sucks. I'm sorry for your loss."

Ryan had never lost someone she was close to. Growing up she had learned to never form a permanent attachment with anyone or any thing as she would, undoubtedly, have to say goodbye to them within a short time. Such was the fate of a nomadic child. So, when faced with someone who had lost those most precious to them, Ryan had no clue what to say or how to handle the situation.

Running a hand through her tangle of hair she glanced at Jeff, trying to read his mood. "How long were you and your wife married?" She asked. "I mean, if you don't mind me asking. I'm not trying to pry or anything, just curious. I like to know a person's story, helps me to see the world through their eyes."

She cocked her head, studying Jeff as he sat there silently. She didn't want to push him, but she had known enough therapists (or pseudo-therapists) to know that talking about things often helped with the grieving process.
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Old 10-06-2014, 09:59 AM   #17
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Jeff took a draw from his glass, trying his best to figure out how to respond to Ryan's question. He'd spent a lot of time with grief counselors in the wake of his wife's accident, but he'd still never been quite comfortable talking about it.

He pushed a hand through his hair, gathering himself. "Seventeen years. We were married seventeen pretty good years." His hand went bak to his fork, and he pushed some flat noodles around on his plate. It was hard for Jeff to understand her interest in this. The naïveté of youth, he supposed.

The older man gave a weak smile. "Sorry, that was a bit terse. She was my whole world, and to have that taken away so suddenly, it really pushed me into my shell, and I was an introvert to begin with."

Henley out a deep sigh, settling back into his chair. He didn't like to talk about the tragedy, and was skeptical about the effect of talking about it. It was interesting that Ryan, a virtual stranger, was able to pull it out of him, even if what he offered wasn't much.

"So. That's that story, or at least the stuff that matters. What about you? Seems like you must have had an interesting up bringing."

He stuffed a forkful of food in his mouth, turning his eyes back up at her, making it clear that he was done offering personal information.
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Old 10-14-2014, 04:07 PM   #18
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Ryan knew when she had crossed the line, but Jeff's stern expression gave another clue that he was done talking about himself. Okay, no problem, Ryan could deal. Besides, she didn't want to piss him off too much the first night lest he decide back out of their agreement.

"I think 'interesting' might be a bit light of a term for it." She chuckled as he asked about her life. "Well you already know I lived in a commune for awhile," she tapped her chin thoughtfully, "let's see, what else to say."

Over the course of lunch Ryan told Jeff all about her parents, two new age hippes who had met at a protest rally. They'd never officially been married, rather they had been "united" by a shaman in New Mexico two weeks later. Ryan was born thirty-four weeks later in the back of their refurbished VW van and delivered by a doula. From her very first moments on the planet, Ryan had lived a life filled with a cast of characters that one had to see to believe. Living in their van, Ryan's family had traveled from one end of the country to the other, never staying in one place more than three months tops. Her parents had raised her to speak her mind, to fight for what she believed in, and to never give in to "the man." Often surrounded by the stench of incense and weed, Ryan had grown up weaving bracelets and crafting necklaces from whatever odds and ends she found laying around, items that her parents could then sell at festivals. The money had been meant for food but was often spent on weed and beer. So, Ryan had learned at a young age to fend for herself.

She had barely finished telling Jeff about those years when she glanced at the clock.

"Wow, I need to get moving." She said, gathering up the left overs and dirty dishes. "I need to be on campus soon. I've got two classes this afternoon."

Shoving the dirty dishes into the already full dishwasher, Ryan glanced about the kitchen and nodded, satisfied that she'd gotten a good bit done for that day.

After gathering her messanger bag from her little apartment, Ryan met Jeff back in the house.

"I'll be back around six to get dinner ready." She said. "Is there anything specific you want me to make since I kinda dictated our lunch?"

At Jeff's reply Ryan nodded and headed out the door.

The next few days passed in much the same rhythm. Ryan cleaned, went to class, and cooked. She and Jeff still had yet to find their rhythm, though, and the young woman often found herself putting her foot in her mouth around him. She tried to avoid the subject of his family, but when such a cloud hung over the house it was hard to ignore.

During her second week with Jeff, the phone rang and Ryan, who was dusting the living room, answered.

"Hawkins' residence." She chirped, "What can I do for ya?"

"Um...who is this?" The distinctly male voice sounded startled. "Is my dad there?"

"Oh, you must be Alan, Jeff's son. Sure, let me get him." Ryan held the phone against her chest as she called out. "Hey, Jeff, Alan's on the phone."
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Old 10-18-2014, 07:14 AM   #19
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Jeff heard the phone ring from the basement, where he’d been searching out some old tools of his father’s that he’d finally decided to clean up. He had one foot on the staircase when he heard Ryan call out to him. At the mention of his son’s name, he paused.

“Fuck.” He sighed. “Damnit.”

He’d not taken the time to tell Alan that the ad his son placed had turned out to surface exactly what had been hoped, by Alan at least.

Trudging up the stairs, Jeff resigned himself to his son’s lecture before it even began. Alan didn’t disappoint, spending a good five minutes haranguing Jeff for not mentioning his tenant. He went on to his father about how typical it was that he’d just keep an important thing like that to himself.

“When was I going to find out about this? Thanksgiving? Jesus.”

Pacing around the island in the kitchen, Jeff offered a sheepish apology, though it annoyed him. He was the putative adult here, and Alan would always be his son-why did he owe the boy an explanation for anything, especially when this was exactly the outcome Alan wanted?

Smoothing it over eventually, Jeff let his son tell him about his classes, the warm California fall and plan to come home potentially over fall break-plans that he proffered every year, but never came through. Jeff could practically set his watch by it, were he being trite about it.
Clicking off the phone, he turned to Ryan, pantomiming throwing the phone back to her before placing it face down on the island.

Letting out a long breath, he smirked. “Sorry, I guess I surprised someone with that one. I know I mentioned my son to you, but apparently I declined to return the favor to him.”

Popping open the fridge, Jeff fished an apple out of the produce drawer. Ryan had done a fair job of reorganizing things, and been more aggressive about populating the fridge and pantry with more fresh and natural foods. She’d not taken away his Cool Ranch Doritos, though-he’d hung on to that little slice of processed heaven with fervor.

Flipping the door closed, he took a look out the window-the clouds were gathering for a typical Pacific Northwest Storm. Turning back to her as she stood on the threshold between the kitchen and the family room, he shrugged. “Such is life, no?”

Not waiting for her answer, he continued-”So, the weather folks are calling for one of those really big storms this evening. If it gets real windy, you might want to think about coming into the house-I really, really need to get some of those trees out there cut back, and they make me a bit nervous.”

It was likely a silly worry-the trees were healthy, and quite sturdy. However, Jeff had become very cautious, and knew that the garage apartment wasn’t on the safest part of the property.
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Old 10-28-2014, 01:50 PM   #20
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Ryan shook her head at Jeff's show of fatherly concern. It was such a rare thing to witness, especially since the only time her own father showed concern was if she had paid too much for his weed.

"You're sweet, Jeff, but I think I'll be alright." She said with a soft chuckle, not wanting to make him feel self-conscious about showing any thought or concern for her. To be honest, it made Ryan feel good to know that someone cared and she offered the older man a gentle smile to show that she appreciated the sentiment. "I promise, though," she added, "if it gets too bad I'll come crash on the couch."

The night passed without much activity and, after cleaning up from dinner, Ryan excused herself and headed back to her little garage apartment. She'd been there barely two weeks, but already it felt like home. It felt nice to have a permanent roof over her head. She had transformed the small space into her own little oasis, fixing up curtains and hanging some of her artwork. It wasn't much, but it was home.

Almost as soon as the door closed behind her, rain began to fall steadily. The soft, steady rain made a soft tat tat tat on the roof and windows, a sound that had Ryan's eyes drifting closed even as she stood there contemplating what to do that evening. It had been ages since she'd done any artwork outside of her school assignments and her fingers were itching to get back into the soft, wet clay. Moving towards the work room, Ryan kicked off her shoes and padded, barefoot, across the cool tiled floor. She turned on her iPod, cranking up the music as loud as she dared before covering the wheel with water and plopping the ball of clay into the center. With The Clash being called by London in the background, Ryan lost herself in the moment, transfixed by the steady spin of the wheel as she cupped the clay and began to mold it.

Outside the wind picked up and the rain spattered against the windows with the ferocity of a woman scorned. Safely cocooned inside her apartment, Ryan worked on, oblivious to the storm that was growing in intensity.

A large gust of wind rattled the windows and a loud crack filled the air just before the electricity cut out and Ryan was plunged into an eerie blackness. A startled shriek poured from her lips before she could get herself focused. Apparently the storm was worse than she had thought.

"Okay, no big deal." Ryan muttered to herself as the storm raged outside. "I'll just grab my jacket and head over to the house. It'll be fine." The pep talk did nothing to calm her racing heart as she gathered up her brown faux leather jacket and slung it over her white t-shirt and clay spattered jeans.

As she opened the door the wind ripped it from her hands, sending it slamming into the wall as rain pelted her fiercely.

"Fuck." She groaned as she was drenched within seconds. After a long struggle to close the door, Ryan moved as quickly as she dared down the steep, rain soaked steps and raced across the lawn to the house.

With a relieved sigh she reached the house and turned the knob of the kitchen door, only to find it locked.

"You've got to be shitting me!" She cried as she pounded on the door. Hey, Jeff had said for her to stay there if she needed to, who was he to complain if she woke him up. "C'mon, Jeff." Ryan clutched her jacket tight around her in a vain attempt to shield herself from the worst of the storm. Finally the door swung open and Ryan fell into the warm, if quite dark, kitchen, her curls drenched and sticking to her face and her clothing completely soaked through.
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Old 11-05-2014, 09:58 PM   #21
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Given Ryan’s dismissal of his concern, Jeff had little reason to expect that the young woman would decide to take him up on the offer. For this reason, even as the thunder started to clap incessantly outside and rain pounded at the windows, Jeff busied himself with a crossword puzzle in his room, far at the other corner of the house, figuring she’d take care of herself.

The loud crack that caused her lights to go out caused a flicker in the main house-enough for Jeff to look up from what he was doing and stroll to the front window. Pulling the curtain back, he could see the trees bending in the howling wind.

“Shit-guess I should at least take a look out back.”

He took a step out into the hallway, intending to merely look out through one of the back bedrooms, but leaving his room exposed his ears to a faint pounding sound that stood out from the rhythmic tap of the rain. It had to be her, coming to her senses, or, at least, looking for light.

Descending the stairs at a brisk pace, the pounding grew louder, more distinct. He could make out Ryan’s stressed voice. For a girl who’d made a habit of crashing in all manner of environs, in her youth, she seemed to have rapidly become a bit more selective. By the time he reached the kitchen, flipping on the lights over the sink, it seemed as though Ryan might kick one of those heavy boots of hers right through the weathered door.

Throwing the lock and yanking the door open, he stepped out of the way as Ryan tumbled through. She was soaked to the bone-the Pacific Northwest storm clearly having got the better of her.

In a way, it was almost comical, if not for the fact that she seemed on the verge of shivering from the wind and the rain. His temptation was to give the young woman a hard time, but between her dripping all over the kitchen floor and the frustration that was clear on her face, he thought better of it.

“Jesus, Ryan-I didn’t think you’d taken me seriously about the electrical out there. Otherwise, I’d have left the door open.” Pushing the door shut behind her, he stepped around her towards the laundry room. “Here, let me get you a towel so you can dry off, at least. I hope you weren’t out there too long.”
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Old 11-23-2014, 11:05 AM   #22
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"Holy shit it is crazy out there." Ryan sputtered, her wet shoes slipping on the linolium floor, causing Ryan to look like a spastic fool as she caught her balance. "Nah, not too long, just long enough to look like a drowned rat." Her soft chuckle was enough to let Jeff know she was okay. "God, I must look horrible." She pulled at the drenched strands of hair that clung to her face, cringing as she could only imagine the mess that it would dry into.

Vigriously rubbing her hands up and down her arms in an effort to warm herself, Ryan took the towel that Jeff offered her with a thankful smile.

"I really didn't think it would get this bad." She said with a shake of her head as she peeled her jacket off and began to rub the towel over her arms, swiping it across her chest as she moved from one arm to the other. Completely forgetting that she wasn't wearing a bra, and that her white shirt was completely transparent, Ryan lifted her arms over her head, the wet t-shirt molding like a second skin to her body, and ran the towel over her hair.

"Are these kind of storms normal?" She asked, oblivious to Jeff's gaze on her. Outside the wind whipped through the trees and the rain pelted the window with a ferocity unlike anything Ryan had ever seen. She could still feel the impact of the rain, like a million tiny needles jabbing at her skin. The cold was still seeping into her bones, leaving her with goosebumps on her flesh and nipples that were so hard they ached.

"You wouldn't happen to have something dry I could change into, would you?" She asked, catching Jeff's gaze.
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Old 11-29-2014, 11:43 PM   #23
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it wasn’t until Ryan’s gaze lifted to his that Jeff realized that he’d been staring. It’d been months-no, years, since his wife had passed, and in that time, he’d not been remotely in the presence of another woman. At least, not in any nature beyond familial or professional. Ryan was neither of these, of course.

In that moment, as her soaked shirt clung to her skin, Jeff was acutely aware of that fact. While it was certainly unintentional, her nipples strained at the thin cotton of her shirt, making it difficult for him to avert his eyes. The fact that he was staring became even more apparent as he stood before her, silent for an extra beat as her query hung in the air.

Before she looked up, when she asked about the weather, Jeff barely managed to verbalize a response. “Always? No. We get one like this every 3-4 years or so. When we get them though, look out.” It was rote memorization that drove that answer, however, as he often answered it for vendors that came to his company.

Still, his eyes drifted over Ryan’s torso as she posed the question, the content of which barely made it to his brain.

Catching himself, finally, he blurted, “Clothes! Yes, I have clothes. For you to wear.”

He was aware of her femininity now, in a way he hadn’t been before. He felt a long since forgotten twitch between his legs, the reaction to her essentially exposed nipples nearly impossible to restrict.

“Yes, I’ll be right back.” Quickly, he pivoted on his heel, making his way up the stairs. What to give Ryan, though? He’d long gotten rid of his late wife’s clothes-the memories were just too much for him. Walking into one of the spare rooms, he went for an old dresser, where he stored many of his older articles of clothing.

Rifling through the drawers, Jeff finally found an old pair of black, faded gym shorts and a very worn Seattle SuperSonics t-shirt. Leaving the drawers open, he quickly scrambled back downstairs, his feet thumping on the old stairs, the echo filling the house.

Breathing a bit heavy, he made his way back into the kitchen, holding out the clothes. “Here you go-hopefully, this will at least help you warm up a little bit.
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Old 01-01-2015, 01:53 PM   #24
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Taking the clothes from Jeff's outstretched hand Ryan couldn't help but notice the slight flush that colored the older man's face and the way that he kept his gaze fixed just over her shoulder. Ryan had to bite her lip to keep from chuckling as she realized that her shirt had become transparent in the rain and the swell of her breasts, complete with the pinched buds of her dark brown nipples, were on full display beneath the fabric.

"Thanks, these will be great." She said as she moved quickly towards the laundry room that sat just off the kitchen, forcing the smile from her lips before Jeff could see.

Nakedness had never bothered Ryan. Between her upbringing and art classes she had spent more than her fair share of time surrounded by bare flesh. The fact that it could cause someone older than she to blush brought an amused smirk to her lips.

Shedding her wet clothing and shoving it all into the dryer, Ryan couldn't help but wonder what Jeff would do if she walked out of the laundry room clad only in her black panties. The thought of his gaze on her, his eyes moving over her naked body slowly drinking in each curve caused a curious twist in her stomach. A twist that sent a familiar electricity between her legs. Shaking the feeling off, Ryan quickly pulled on the shorts and t-shirt, both of which hung loosely on her lean form.

With the dryer running, filling the room with its familiar thump, thump, thump rhythm, Ryan walked back out into the kitchen.

"Thanks again," Ryan said as she twisted her hair up into a messy bun and secured it with the hair-tie that kept a permanent residence on her wrist. "I'll just grab some blankets and crash on the couch for the night if that's cool."
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Old 01-02-2015, 09:29 PM   #25
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Taking a moment to steady himself as Ryan took the garments and headed down the hall, Jeff tried to clear his head. The rain continued to pound at the windows as a crack of thunder made them rattle just a bit. His eyes adjusted to the light now, Jeff went into the cabinet under the stove and pulled out an old, scuffed tea kettle.

Settling it under the spout, Jeff absently flipped on the water to fill it as he glanced down the hallway to the laundry. Hearing the dryer door shut and the cylinder start to turn, he turned his eyes back to the stream of water, mindful that he didn’t want to get caught staring down the hall at Ryan as she came out.

As the knob creaked in Ryan’s hand, Jeff flipped the water off, turning to set the kettle on the stove. Refusing to look up, trying to stay resolute, he responded to her query about the couch.

“Actually, that couch is older than sin, and I couldn’t imagine anyone sleeping on it. There are two spare rooms upstairs, and linens in the hall closet up there. You’re already booted out of your place and without any of your clothes-no reason for you to be more uncomfortable than that.”

Continuing on, so as to cut off any opportunity for her to be polite and object, he nodded toward the kettle as the heat from the electric range started to warm the metal. “I’m boiling some water for tea-might help you warm up if you’d like some. The tins are right under the microwave-but you know that b/c you put them there.”

It was only then that he finally looked in Ryan’s direction. Even with the clothes loose on her slender form, her small breasts and taut nipples held up the t-shirt, the points of her nipples clear under the ‘S’s’ at the beginning and end of SuperSonics. Her hair was pulled up, sort of-hanging loosely behind her head, still damp from the downpour.

He paused for a moment, taking her in. The twitch between his legs reappeared. In a flash, he could imagine her legs wrapped around him, pinning her against the counter, taking her. It was a set of urges he’d not felt in some time, and in some way, had never really felt before. What was it that this young woman was awakening inside him?

Jeff brought himself back, “But, if you don’t want any, I won’t force it on you.” He went back to minding the kettle, hearing the slightest hint of steam starting to rise from the inside.
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