Living with Mr. Reed

When Ellie's best friend decides to move in with her boyfriend, Ellie has no choice but to find another place to live. But Alex Reed is hardly the roommate she was looking for, and the last person she expects to get along with. He's rude, entitled, and an overall ass. Still, as time goes on, Ellie begins to see that there's another side to the jerk she shares a house with. And learning more about his troubled past may be enough to change her mind about him. Perhaps, even enough to make her fall in love...

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6. Of Coffee Spills and Meatballs

Chapter Six

        I had gotten so used to Alex being gone most days, that when he spent all day at home Saturday, I wasn't expecting it. In fact, I didn't even know it at first.


        I woke up that morning around nine-thirty. Alex was usually gone by then, and I had started making myself more at home. I flung the covers off of me, stretching as my bare feet squished into the recently vacuumed carpet, and let out a yawn before standing. I adjusted my oversized t-shirt, and padded into my bathroom to relieve my bladder before heading into the kitchen. Coffee was calling my name.


        I stood leaning against the counter looking at my phone as I waited for the coffee to finish brewing, the coffee maker spitting and buzzing loudly. The rich smell of the warm drink I was dying to get my hands on, wafted up to my nose, and I looked at the coffee maker impatiently, willing it to go faster. When it finally sputtered it's last bit of coffee, I snatched the pot out, pouring coffee into my mug haphazardly. A bit of it splashed out of the cup, and I took a long sip of my long awaited beverage before reaching for a paper towel to clean up my mess. I had to stand on my tiptoes to reach the top of the cabinet where Alex insisted on storing them, though he knew very well I had trouble reaching them. But after a couple of tries, I finally got the damn things down.


        When I cleaned up the small spill, I spun around to the throw the paper towel in the garbage. But the large, looming figure standing at the edge of the kitchen, near the refrigerator, was unexpected, and I nearly jumped out of my skin.


        "Shit, you scared me," I said, looking up at Alex. He looked like he, himself, hadn't woken up too long ago – his hair was matted on one side, and he was still in his pajamas. "Damn it, I spilled more coffee." I looked down at the small puddle of wasted coffee at my feet, and frowned.


        Alex cleared his throat, and I immediately looked back up at him. "I, uh, apologize for startling you," his stuttered out, and I noticed his hazel eyes were looking anywhere but at me. "I just came for some orange juice." His words spewed out quickly, and I gave him a hard look.


        "It's fine," I waved him off, and reached into the cabinet for a cup. "Here," I said, handing it to him. I offered him a smile, my first small step in fulfilling my promise to Olivia, and trying to smooth things over between my new roommate and me.


        He snatched the cup from my hand, but still stood there awkwardly without making any eye contact. "Thank you," he said, after a long moment of silence.


        "You're welcome." I sipped my coffee, waiting for him to do something, anything.


        "Miss Graves?"


        "Alex."


        He met my eyes then, letting them scan over my body, before stopping at my legs. "Perhaps you should – ahem – put on some pants."


        I followed his gaze to my bare legs, and dropped my coffee in both horror and surprise. Everything suddenly made much more sense. Alex's strange behavior wasn't strange at all – it was perfectly fitting for someone who'd just walked in on his roommate drinking coffee casually with no damn pants on. And the t-shirt I was wearing was just long enough to barely cover my ass if I was standing normal – I couldn't imagine what all he'd seen when I was reaching for those loathsome, hateful, paper towels.


         I hadn't even thought about the fact that I wasn't wearing pants – it was habit at this point to just walk out into the kitchen as soon as I got up, get some coffee, and then get dressed. It was a habit I had formed living with Olivia, and carried over when I moved in with Alex because he was never home.


        I was frozen. I couldn't make my legs move as I stood in front of Alex, my legs splattered with coffee, and my feet covered. Plus, I'd broken my favorite mug, though that didn't seem as important at the time.


        "Shit. Fuck! Shit." I wasn't sure what to do first: clean up the mess I'd made, or lock myself in my bedroom and never ever come out as long as Alex was home. My eyes flicked between the spill that was slowly creeping across the hardwood floor, making its way toward Alex's socked feet, and Alex's face. He was still refusing to look at me, orange juice in one hand, plastic cup in the other, but his cheeks were flushed a bright red.


        "Miss Graves?" His voice sounded strange - husky, and rough. "I'll clean this up, if you want to, um, get dressed."


        "Right." I suddenly found the will to jump over the spill, and I ran across the house in a hurry.


        Once I was in my bedroom, I shut the door, leaning against it for a moment as I waited for my heartbeat to slow back down to a normal pace. I was absolutely mortified. My face and ears were on fire, and I could only imagine how red they were. Lucy looked up from the spot she'd been sleeping on – a nice sunny place at the foot of the bed – and her gray eyes stared at me sleepily.


        "Oh, don't you judge me," I snapped, and she yawned, curling back into a ball, and going back to sleep.


        I let out a deep, heavy sigh, pushing myself away from the door. I made my way to the bathroom on jello legs, turning on a warm shower when I finally reached it. I was eager to wash away the sticky coffee from my legs and feet. Even more eager to wash away the memory of everything that had just taken place, but no amount of soap in the world would get that out of my head. It was burned into my brain.


        I let out a loud groan, stepping into the shower, and letting the warm water wash over me.


        So much for smoothing things over.


                                                                                              *

        Alex was gone by the time I got out of the shower and dressed. Not that I blamed him. This week had to be one of the most awkward, embarrassing first weeks of any two people that ever moved in together. If it was any sign of how the rest of our year living together was going to go, I might as well have moved out immediately.


        I let out a heavy sigh, carrying my laundry basket to the laundry room. I separated the clothes, only halfway paying attention, as I racked my brain for ways to fix this. Now, it wasn't just a matter of smoothing things over between Alex and me because our personalities clashed; I had to also prove that I really wasn't the roommate from Hell that he undoubtedly thought I was. He'd already caught me reading through the trash he'd left in the hallway, and now I was strutting through his house half naked as if I didn't care that he was living there as well? I was sure none of this was what he had in mind when I moved in. It certainly wasn't what I had been expecting. I had never been so awkward before, and I didn't like it.


        Perhaps I can do something for him, I thought, dumping a cup of detergent into the washer, and slamming down the lid. I turned, leaning against the washer thoughtfully as it began shaking and whirring with life. But what?


        I'd offer to do the cleaning around the apartment, but the only messes that were ever there were mine, and I always cleaned those up, (except for my coffee spill). I thought about asking if he wanted me to be in charge of the household laundry, but I shook that thought away – Alex wouldn't want me handling his clothes, especially his underwear. So what could I do for a man who was hardly ever home, and didn't really want for anything?


        Cook. The idea popped into my head as if it was the most obvious answer there could be, and I was the idiot that only just figured it out. Mr. Brooding Writer may not have needed anything, but everyone has to eat. And, not to brag, but I was well aware of how good my cooking skills were. I'd learned everything from my mother, and she was known around my hometown for her amazing food. And I never saw Alex cooking for himself. I bet he lived on takeout, or food Maggie sent over.


        I smiled, my mind working a mile a minute as I began planning a meal in my head. Spaghetti and meatballs were simple and easy to cook, but my mom's mozzarella stuffed meatballs were to die for, especially when smothered in her homemade sauce. I grabbed my keys and my purse, sliding on my beat up converses. I'd need to buy most of the ingredients – our fridge and cabinets were nearly bare – but this could work. It wouldn't solve all of our problems, it was only one meal. But it would be a good start, maybe give us a chance to talk. Perhaps it would show Alex that I wasn't shoved up my own ass – that I was still very aware of his presence in the house, and that I hadn't just thought to take over it myself.


        Yes, this could work, I thought as I made my way down to the bus stop to wait for the next bus.


                                                                                              *


        I had forgotten how expensive cooking a decent meal could be. When I finally left the grocery store – three bags in one hand, and two in the other – I had spent almost $150. Granted, some of it was personal things I needed – more laundry detergent, deodorant, and cat food for Lucy, etc. – but a lot of it had been the food I would need to cook dinner that night. I carried the five bags from the bus stop, up the sidewalk, and towards the house, my breathing turning to panting by the time I reached the door. The bags were heavy, and there were a lot of them. Once I was inside, I put everything away, leaving out the things I'd need to make dinner, and began working on the food immediately.


        I was surprised when Alex got home around five-thirty. In the entire week I'd been there, he hadn't been home before seven any of those days. He had perfect timing, too. I was just pulling out the homemade garlic bread from the oven when I heard him push open the door.


        "Good, you're home," I said as he was walking past the kitchen to his bedroom. He stopped for a moment and looked up at me, surprised. "Thank you for cleaning up my mess earlier." I offered him a smile, a genuine one this time, hoping it showed how grateful I really was.


        "I wasn't going let the coffee seep into the floorboards," he replied stiffly. He adjusted the computer bag that was slung over his shoulder.


        "Oh. Right." Of course. All business with Alex, I knew he hadn't done it to help me. An awkward silence fell over both of us, and when I Alex turned to leave, I said, "Well, I hope you're hungry. Dinner is ready."


        I offered another smile, but Alex just stared at me blankly. Then, he muttered, "I already ate." And he was down the hall before I could answer.


        I stood in the kitchen for a long moment, not able to say or doing anything. Lucy came up and rubbed her head against my legs, and I glanced down at her, but that was all I could manage to do. A strange mixture of anger and disappointment fell over me as I looked around at all of the food I had cooked. The meatballs were perfect, the garlic bread smelled amazing, and the spaghetti noodles had just reached the right amount of softness. I let out a frustrated sigh. I suppose, I should have let Alex know ahead of time that I was making dinner so he wouldn't eat while he was out – That was my mistake. Still, nothing about this week had gone right.


        I ate my dinner in front of the TV, flipping through the channels before finally settling on a thriller. I'd seen the movie a thousand times already, and really, the plot was predictable – guy falls in love with girl only to find out she's in a lot of deadly trouble, and by the end of the movie it's revealed that she's been behind everything the whole time. It was trite and tired out, but it was better than anything else I'd seen on the other channels. I let the movie pull me away from my own thoughts for a while, and when it was over I felt a little better.


        I packed up all of the leftovers, sticking them in the fridge. When I reached my bedroom, I grabbed my phone off of my bed, and sent Alex a text, not wanting to bother or distract him by knocking on his office door.


        To Alex: Leftovers are in the fridge for your lunch tomorrow.


        I waited a little while to see if he was going to answer.


        He didn't.

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