He hated his roommates, but they were not a problem on week-ends. Both Jerry and Bobby went home to their families when school was out, and they could both afford to drive home to have home-cooked meals and fresh laundry. Saturday and Sundays were clear. Dan would not see them until Monday, so…
Their place was a mess.
How could two guys with girlfriends get away with being such slobs?
He started in the bathroom, getting the sink, tub and toilet to some level of decency that he could take; the kitchen was harder and the dishes and floor took at least one hour, as he also decided to clean the fridge and reorder the dishes and cups in the cupboards; the other rooms were not his business, except his own (a few little touches and it would be fine). And that was that…
…Until the front doorbell rang.
This was unusual. They all used the door leading out back from the kitchen onto a balcony and a spiral staircase that dropped them off right on the corner near the garage and the bus stop where the line passed every half hour. No one used the front doorbell, not even the landlord when she was chewing out the other two about their rents being late or not keeping the place clean (not you Dan, she always said). She also took that staircase, or sent up her niece to do the dirty work. They all left the front door alone.
That must be a stranger.
One advantage of the front door in a moment like this was that it was a very long and very narrow pathway down a flight of stairs. You did not see clearly who it was through the three panels of frosted glass below, even when the sun was out (not a cloud in the sky today; just perfect).
The doorbell rang again.
It took him a few moments to step carefully down the stairs (they made him feel like he was in the wrong spot).
She was a young girl, maybe two to five years younger than he or any of his roommates. She had her dirty blonde hair tied up in a red rubber band and was dressed in shorts and a team jersey he did not recognize. Dan looked past her at the field with other girls similarly dressed idling with soccer balls.
She was grinning now, looking down out of some sort of embarrassment that he could not name.
“I’m really sorry to bother you, but do you have any ice?”
“Ice? I’m not sure…”
“We had an accident and someone just hurt themselves with…anyway, if you have some…”
He looked past her at the other girls on the field. It was hard to tell what was going on out there. Dan ran there a few times a week and knew about the separate soccer fields (one roommate tossed Frisbees there with him once; not a pleasant day).
“Just a minute.”
He walked back up the stairs, closing the door gently behind him and thinking about what she needed. They had plenty of ice (damn Jerry and his stupid margarita machine); the fridge could make its own and he would make sure to refill it when this day was over. Also, he found a plastic bag for the pieces now cracking and steaming in front of him (how else did she want it?)
“Here you go.”
She was beaming again. “Thank you, sir! Thanks!” She hopped down the front stairwell, quickly running across the street to join her teammates.
“Nice girl.” He walked back up, wondering why this was happening. It was now spring and they would all be finishing up their semester soon. Would they still be roommates? Dan wondered about moving.
It was an interesting day. At least he could say that as he cleaned up and finished the kitchen and bathroom.
He was reading a novel when the doorbell rang again an hour later.
A different girl was behind the frosted glass. Same look; different hair; another hoodie (he knew this company).
“Sorry, I know that Laura already bothered you…”
Was that her name?
“Great! And sorry again, but do you have any water?”
“Yeah, we did not bring any and we thought that this place would have a fountain. Nothing around. So, if you have, like, a spare bottle…”
He was already thinking about this.
“We have a few empty bottles I can fill…”
“Great! Um, should I wait here?” Was she trying to step inside?
“Yeah, just wait here.”
Dan walked up the stairs again, feeling her eyes on him as he made it to the top and quietly closed the last door. The recycling was still on the balcony (thanks Bobby). Two large jugs of natural spring water were easy to fill up using their shared jug in the fridge. Dan made sure that they were clean and cold enough for all of them (he counted about fourteen on the field). It only took him a few minutes to get them all ready.
She smiled as soon as she saw him open the upper door.
“Wow! You filled two of them?”
“We had some bottles left over and I cleaned them up, so…”
“Thanks!” She ran up halfway and grabbed both of the jugs and brought them down to the landing. “Thanks so much!” The hug was a real surprise.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have…hey, what is your name, anyway?”
“Umdan. Terrible name.”
He had to laugh about that. She was at least listening to him. “And you are?”
“Linda and Laura…”
“Yeah. Strange, right?”
“No, I have two roommates called Bobby and Jerry. Sounds like a cartoon.”
Linda laughed again. “Yeah, you’re right.” She picked up the bottles and stepped down before turning one more time. Some of the other girls were now standing out on the edge of the field, staring at both of them.
“You have roommates…”
“Yeah, they go home on the weekends.”
She was smiling and there was a look in her eyes. “Interesting…”
Everyone seemed to be staring at him now.
“Well, enjoy your game.”
He closed the door without watching her cross the road.
Dan thought that was it. He had started rereading a different novel that he had not looked at since high school and wanted to just order a pizza, take out the recycling, and then see if he had anything worth watching on a subscription web site. For an hour, it was perfect. No pizza, but that could wait. The book was an old sci-fi novel about the world coming to an end (Dan had to laugh at it). And there really wasn’t anything available online (he was thankful for keeping those old DVDs). It was getting late and he could hear some of the traffic in the street getting a little louder (always on a weekend; same people leaving and getting out of the town).
It was a good day.
And then the bell rang again.
Had he remembered to lock the front door? Dan had only used the front entrance to move in and a few other times when ordering food (the delivery people never understood how to use the side stairwell). He opened the top door and looked down.
There were several figures behind the frosted glass, now shifting and pacing in the dim light.
It was a very long walk down the narrow stairwell this time. Dan looked at the time and wondered if he was being pranked by his roommates (Jerry had the nerve to try this; damn Frisbee lover).
It was Laura and Linda on the main landing, but on the sidewalk were the rest of the team. As he had guessed, they were not all dressed in the same uniform, but they were all in shorts, tank tops with shirts (safe combination, he thought), and hoodies. Some had their hair done up, others used towels and bandannas to keep everything in place. They were all smiles when he opened the door. Laura and Linda must have been the captains (was that how it worked?).
They had the bottles and bag in their hands.
“Oh, listen, I don’t need them…”
Laura stepped forward. “We just wanted to thank you for helping us out with all of this.” She put the bag down. “You really helped us out today.”
Linda glanced at her and smiled. The others around them were all grinning and seemed to be waiting for something to happen.
“It’s…no problem. I’m home on weekends.”
“No roommates. Told ya.” Linda almost hopped with her words. “Nobody else around.”
“Yes, um, well, I hope you had a good time at the park.”
Now, many of the girls below began to laugh as well.
“Oh, we had a great time at the park.”
“It was a real education!”
He did not know the others, and was afraid that he might have to introduce himself.
‘‘Well, thanks again.” Laura smiled and walked past Linda, giving her a strange frown. “Are you here next weekend?”
“I…I work on things at home…for school. So, I guess so…”
“Right, told ya.” Linda was still smiling. There was something in her eyes that glinted hard and clear in the late afternoon light. She was also waiting for something. “So, next weekend…”
Laura waited for Linda on the steps, sharing a secret he could not hear. Then they joined the rest of the team and walked toward the nearest metro, giggling, bouncing their soccer balls, and occasionally looking back as Dan waited for them to disappear.
“It’s not fair.” He said it as he walked up the steps, locked the top door (he did not care if the bottom one was secure), and pretended to study for a bit. “It’s not fair.” He looked out the back kitchen window, wondering if they were really going to come back. “It’s not fair.” Dan did not want to take out the recycling or clean up after his roommates anymore. The weekend was his and there was too much to think about.