“Bye, love you, thanks for helping!” Carla shut the door shut behind her parents and brother as they left her new apartment, cutting her dad’s goodbye off.
Carla turned to face the mountain of boxes she forbade her mom to help unpack. Her mattress leaned against the far wall of the studio apartment next to the purple dresser she took from her childhood bedroom. Next step will be to paint that black. Her mom had placed the boxes to their respective rooms, rather, corners of the apartment.
She was on the fourth floor with a bay window facing the park across the street. Maybe I can get a dog to walk over there. Carla shrugged and opened the bag on her shoulder that held her speaker. She found the closest outlet and plugged in the two speakers and bass unit. She pressed play on her Party Playlist she walked into the small alcove that acted as a kitchen and opened the first box on the linoleum counter. She unwrapped red dishes and matching mugs wrapped in newspaper as Light It Up by Marshmello played through the speakers. There was not much cabinet space but she only had four plates, bowls, and mugs.
Carla moved to the reusable bags on the counter and unloaded the few groceries she had brought with her. Two boxes of Ramen, a taco kit, some apples. Her mom had given her a package of frozen chicken drumsticks that was laid on the bottom of the bag. She held it in her hands and turned it over a few times.
“How do you defrost this?” Carla said to herself.
She fished in her pocket for her phone and pulled up her mother’s number. How do I defrost chicken?
That didn’t take long! We aren’t even home yet. Her mom replied. Put it in the fridge overnight.
“Oh, that’s easy!” Carla’s new fridge was empty besides a jug of milk and a singular beer her dad had sneakily given her. I’ll save that for later.
Halsey came on over the half-blown out bass. “Oh! I love this song,” she turned the volume up and felt the floor vibrate from the noise.
Carla’s socks slid over the hardwood floor as she danced her way to her mattress and let it thud onto the ground in her attempt to set it up. She pushed it against the wall and stood back to see how it looked. After a few seconds, she shook her head and turned it around. There were three walls to choose from, the one that held the door, the one that had the window, and the one opposite to the bathroom. It’s not like I’ll hear anyone else peeing. She shrugged and pushed the headboard against the wall opposite to the bathroom.
A hard knock sounded from the door. Carla slid her way across the floor, kicked the volume knob on the speaker, and opened the door. A middle-aged looking lady was standing with her arms crossed and a frown on her face.
“Well,” she said. “It only took me knocking for five minutes for you to open the door.”
“Excuse me?” Carla stood straight.
“Are you the new neighbor?”
Carla cast a glance over her shoulder to the boxes piled in the apartment. “You tell me.”
The neighbor uncrossed her arms and balled her hands into fists at her side. “Listen, Missy. This is a quiet building, and if you plan on changing that I suggest putting those boxes right back where they came from. Keep your music down.” She turned and huffed down the staircase.
“Thanks for the welcome!” Carla called after her as she slammed the door.
She pulled her phone out of her back pocket and typed a message to her mom.
Been here an hour an apparently my music is already too loud for some people.
Carla walked past the speaker but didn’t turn the volume back up. The box of bed sheets was the lightest on top of the box pile. She ripped it open and made the bed with a marbled pattern sheet and comforter set. Her phone dinged and she pulled it out to read her mom’s reply.
I’ve been telling you this for years lol.
Carla tossed her phone on the bed and fell into it herself. The TV her brother had given her, his old one, was in its box among the piled. She groaned as she pushed herself up and over to the box. It was stuffed in there all wrong, things never go back into the box the same. It blended in with some of the marbling of her comforter as she screwed the base on. It fit nicely under the bay window, and would look even better once she bought a TV stand and whole new TV. It turned on but nothing showed up.
Carla threw her head back and grabbed her phone off the bed.
Mom., how do I get my wifi working so the TV can work?
After a minute or so her brother’s caller ID popped across her screen. “Yeah?” She picked up.
“Is your modem plugged in and working.”
“Well, since I don’t know what that is, I’d say probably not.”
Almost forty minutes later, her brother had walked Carla through setting up her internet and connecting her phone, TV, and laptop. The Netflix home page waited. Carla flopped onto her bed once again. “That was tiring.”
She turned over and saw the pile of boxes staring her down. Instead of tackling it tonight, she turned over, cocooned in a blanket, and started scrolling through Netflix. She watched the street lights outside turn on as the sun set and darkness creeped over this new block in town. She didn’t have the energy to get up and plug in her lamp so she watched the walls as brake lights outside threw faint shadows against them.
Her phone buzzed with a message from her mom. Goodnight! Have fun on your first night in your new place. Love you.
Carla turned off the screen and curled up until she fell asleep.
Carla woke up to the sun in her eyes. Ugh, remind me to get a curtain. She sighed and sat up. The boxes were still unpacked. The speaker was still on. The TV asked her if she was still watching.
She skirted the pile of boxes and walked into the bathroom instead. She unpacked her shampoo and body wash and turned the shower on. It took a good few minutes for the water to turn from cold to lukewarm. Even after she got in and turned the knob to the hottest setting, it still didn’t get remotely warm.
She turned the water off and got out of the tub dripping wet. Her phone buzzed before she could towel off completely. New message from her mom.
How’s the new place looking? Send me a picture.
Carla took a picture of the pile of boxes and sent it.
Oh, Honey. You have to unpack soon. Do you need me to help?
She didn’t respond. She didn’t know how. But, after a few minutes, she picked up the topmost box. This was was filled with shirts that she stuffed into the second drawer of the dresser. She had folded them so diligently when she was packing that they fit nicely together in the drawer. The next box was filled with cleaning supplies. And by cleaning supplies, it was only Clorox wipes and windex. Carla stashed these under the sink.
She sighed but pulled the tape off the next box. Books. Okay. This is a nice box. Without a bookshelf set up yet, the box would live under the bed.
A couple barks sounded outside the window. She put her palms on the sill and leaned into the glass. Two dogs were walking into the park at the same time, and were desperately trying to become friends. A small smile crept across her face and she opened the window. Sounds of the street, sidewalk, and the park washed in with the warm spring breeze.
Carla turned to face her unorganized studio apartment once more. Twelve boxes were left to be unpacked. She didn’t work for another two days. I got this.
By the end of the night she had a near perfect apartment to show her mom. The lamp was set up in the corner, casting a bright light across the living space. Chicken was cooking in the oven with vegetable sides waiting to be warmed up. She hadn’t figured out the warm water situation yet, but she was used to swimming in a cold pool over her summers.
Carla turned to face her apartment and held the camera in front of her. Okay, mom. I hope you’re ready to help me rearrange this place. I already don’t like where I put the bed. And sent the picture.