The next morning, I head to the coffee shop I went to with Brendon. I order myself a drink and sit down with my laptop. I always pick a day early in the month to research new design ideas, to look at all the DIY projects and browse images on Pinterest.
A phone call interrupts me, but it's not who I'm hoping it is. No offense to Eric, of course, but his quick inquiry as to where I was and then ending of the conversation wasn't anything compared to what Brendon and I usually share. My friend is so bizarre sometimes.
After a few hours in which I gain several new ideas and themes I want to try if I ever in my life finish Maggie and Jason's project, I go back home. I greet Manny when I enter, and he grins broadly. He looks a little mischievous, as if he knows something I don't, but I don't question him. The man is impossible to get things out of. As I climb up my stairs, something catches my eye.
There's a tiny fake skeleton on my door, little white bones adoring its black form. Right in the center of its chest is a cartoon heart, the red contrasting with the rest of the fabric. It's a small plush decoration, its arms velcroed around the number zero on my door.
Did Eric get me a new one? No, he's been broke because he just spent all his money on that new guitar. But he's the only one the staff would let in to be around me without asking. They've seen him enough times to know he might as well just be a resident. I'm sure that's against some sort of security code, but we're all pretty relaxed about it. I've never told them otherwise, after all.
Oh, wait. There's something attached to its leg. Upon closer inspection, I see it's a note tied on with string.
Opening it up, I see messy letters scrawled across it. It looks like a child's writing, but not in a way it's illegible. This is most definitely not from Eric. His handwriting is beautiful, a graceful script. Funny, I think this is what Eric's should look like. I read the message printed.
I ask that you don't think I'm creepy, but I got this little guy for you. I enlisted Eric to place it on your door, so I'm wishing for it to make its way to you safely. After your "trauma" regarding the last one, I feel it is imperative you begin to heal by bonding with this new one. My name recommendation is Stefan, but it's up to you. I hope you enjoy him.
From, the Pretty Boy
Brendon! A warm joy invades my heart, a giddy laugh bubbling up my throat. He actually listened to me when I talked about my neighbors. Well, this explains Eric's weird behavior this morning. He was tasked with getting the plush to me.
It's inexplicable the ecstatic mood I'm put in just by Brendon's gesture.
There's a gap in the note, and then some more words.
If this happens to be Jenna's neighbors reading, I suggest you put the item back where you found it lest your other plant fall ill due to undesirable circumstances. If you don't understand what I'm saying, let me simplify. Put back the skeleton or your plant is getting killed. Thank you.
I laugh again, amused by his threat. Being with Brendon has to be the most fun I've had in a long time. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed dating until I met him. Actually, he makes me realize a lot of things. Like how I don't really mind bad puns, and that I'm not the only collector of random objects. I understand now that all tea isn't actually that bad, even though it will forever be second to coffee. I smile at the thought, something warm spreading across my chest.
I think Stefan is a good name for the Skelton. I'll keep it that way.
My phone nearly gives me a heart attack as it buzzes in my pocket, and I smile as I pull it out to reveal it’s the man I was just thinking about. I wonder if he's got some sort of psychic vibe. Maybe he sneezed because of it. Or is that only mentioning them? Maybe he felt something and thought he would call me. I'm not sure how that stuff works.
"Hi, Pretty Boy," I greet him once I pick up. "What's up?"
"Just calling to figure out our date," he replies, but he sounds hesitant. "Are you doing anything right now? Can we talk?"
He's wondering if I've seen Stefan yet. This could be fun.
"I'm just sitting at home," I say. "Nothing interesting has happened, so yeah. We can talk."
"O-okay," he stammers. "I'm s-sorry your day is b-boring?"
He's probably trying to decide if some kind of harm has come to the Skelton or if I didn't like it.
"Actually, one thing did happen," I add, trying to stop myself from laughing.
"Oh, yeah?" he asks, voice pepping up. "What?"
"Some weird thing was on my door," I answer, dismissive. "I hate when people leave things in my area, you know? It's just the worst."
There's a moment of silence, and I think I might have gone too far. I sometimes forget how susceptible he is to actual worry when it comes to my teasing.
"I'm sorry I just thought you might want another one but I wasn't trying to-"
Yep. He's panicked now.
"Shh," I hush, cutting him off. "I'm joking, geez. Calm yourself, silly. I should have known you would get all flustered. I like him."
"You do?" he breathes, relieved. "Jenna, please don't ever do that again. Do you know how worried I was? I thought I'd offended you. I wasn't quite sure if it was something you'd like or if you'd feel insulted. I think a lot of things are cute, but I didn't know if you would agree with me on this one."
Is one of those things me? No. I'd rather remove my vocal chords with a blunt tool before saying something like that.
"Sorry," I reply, smiling. "I didn't really think about it. Yes, I like Stefan. He's adorable. Thank you, Pretty Boy. Really. Steve would be proud of his replacement. I liked your note too. I left it on his leg for the warning. So now if my neighbors get twitchy fingers, they'll think twice."
He laughs, and I'm glad to hear he's not anxious anymore.
"You're welcome," he chimes. "I'm happy to know you liked the name too. I saw him last night and couldn't resist. I was a bit concerned he wouldn't make it to you, but I'm pleased he's safe and sound."
I'm wondering how he pulled this off in the first place.
"When did you ask Eric to do it?" I question.
"How? Did you call him? Do you have his number?"
"Um, no," he says, stumbling over his words. "I, uh . . . I saw him around?"
"Brendon, I think we've already established that I know when you're lying. Just like you are right now. When did you get each other's contact information?"
He sighs, and I'm sure it's because he's ashamed he got caught.
"When you were gone the day we played soccer, he made us exchange numbers," he confesses.
"Are you two going out now?" I ask, teasing. "Do you text each other goodnight messages?"
"No," he replies, chuckling. "He said something about needing to find a way to get ahold of me to yell at me if I was impeding him from spending time with you. You're not supposed to know that though, so don't tell him you do."
"Oh my god," I groan, embarrassed by my friend's antics. "I'm so sorry."
"It's okay," he responds, laughing once more. "It's not as if he's tracking me through my phone or something really crazy. I don't think so anyway."
"Brendon, don't go around kidding about stuff like that," I whine. "Nobody needs to give him ideas. Really though, I apologize for him. He cares about me, but it can be too much for others sometimes."
"Honestly, it's fine," he reassures. "Don't get upset. I'm not scared of him or of being with you because of it."
"You might be the first, then," I joke.
Eric's never actually caused anyone to stop dating me. Or at least, not that I know of.
"What an honor to have faced the fiery trials of fear and succeeded," Brendon teases.
"Is it even possible for you to say something normal?"
"Probably not, if I'm going off of what you consider normal. Anyway, so I was thinking we'd-"
"Actually, I, um, kind of had an idea," I interrupt, biting my lip. "If you don't mind switching yours or anything."
I'm worried I'll ruin something he planned for extensively.
"Of course I don't mind," he chirps, and I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding. "Anything you want to do is going to be just as fun as what I would suggest. What's your idea?"
Thank goodness. If Brendon was controlling and I wasn't aware of it yet, this is when it would show. That he seems just as enthusiastic about my plan as he would be about his is a good sign.
"Well, I have a question for you first," I say.
"Have you ever been to the Promenade?"
The beautiful space gives the best views of the city. With a sight like that and well-placed benches everywhere, how can one resist going?
"You mean the place in Brooklyn Heights?" he questions in turn. "Yes. A few years ago my family and I went to spend the day there."
Oh. There goes my idea. I should have known he'd been there anyway. He's not a tourist, he's lived here his whole life.
But I wanted to take him because it's one of my favorite places in New York, not to mention that it's notoriously known for being romantic. I've never walked along it with a boyfriend before.
"Jenna?" he calls, curious as to my lack of response.
"I just . . . Don't worry about it."
"Is that what you wanted to do?" he asks, tone gentle. "Just because I've been there before doesn't mean I wouldn't want to go again. I've been to the mall we were at yesterday lots of times, and I'd say, despite our misunderstanding near the end, we still had a pretty good time."
"Would you want to go then?"
"Sure," he chimes. "It was beautiful the last time I was there, and I'm sure this time will be no different. Besides, I've heard it's, um- I mean when you're with someone it can be, uh, very . . ."
He trails off, almost sounding embarrassed.
"Romantic?" I tease. "It's just a word, Brendon."
"I didn't want to sound too cheesy. But yes, that sounds lovely."
"Really?" I ask, then realize I sound far too excited. "Oh, I mean yeah. Cool. Are you free on Saturday?
"I'm sure it'll be great," he replies, and I can hear the smile in his voice. "And yes, that works for me. What time do you want to go?"
"Well, that's the best part," I respond, giddy. "A lot of people have seen it during the day. The time to go is actually at night, just an hour or two after the sun goes down."
"Oh? Why's that?"
"The city lights are half of what makes the view. The walkway is all lit up so you can still walk around without being disoriented, but they're not so bright you can't see the beauty around you. You have to go at night to really appreciate it."
"I trust you," he says. "You know more about it than I do, obviously. Like I said, that sounds like a great idea. Should I pick you up around six, then?
"Yep!" I reply, elated. "I'll see you soon?"
"Okay. Thanks again for Stefan."
"Of course," he replies, voice light.
"Bye, Pretty Boy."
I hang up, humming. I think I'll go try out some of those new things I researched today, just for fun.
As I head for my computer, I can't help but smile. My life certainly is becoming an adventure.