A/N- Check out the prologue in my Featured Writing, "I'm bound to pack it up and go away"
Honey, this mirror isn’t big enough for the two of us
Although the rain was pouring heavily, the air was still steamy and hot. She wasn’t used to what that amount of humidity could do to her natural waves, but she wouldn’t admit she didn’t like it, because after all, she was escaping California’s weather.
Newark Liberty International Airport was so crowded it was suffocating despite the air conditioner. Right after getting her luggage, she queued for a cab and waited impatiently until it was her turn to get into a yellow car. The driver helped her put her baggage on the backseat and then he returned to the driver’s seat to wait for her instructions.
She told him the address and then sighed. She could never get much sleep on airplanes and this was no exception; she was exhausted.
“We’re here, kid.” The taxi driver startled her a while after. It hadn’t been a long ride.
“Is this Newark?” She asked vibrantly as she looked for a bill in her wallet.
“This is Irvington. Newark is across 17th Ave,” He explained as she handed him the money, and once he’d given her the change, she opened the door and took out her luggage by herself.
“Thanks, bye!” She smiled.
“Night, kid.” He said dryly before taking the curb and disappearing. The rain was soaking her clothes and bags, so she rushed to the 226th apartment; the one on the corner. It was a one floor house, with another apartment above it but they didn’t share the entrance.
“Who is it?” He said as the door opened after she knocked loudly. He was frowning; of course he didn’t expect her.
“Hey,” She smiled brightly, unconsciously arching her eyebrows at the surprise. He’d changed a lot in eight years. And so did she.
“Um… hey,” It sounded more like a question. “Can I help you?”
Okay, not expected, she thought but rolled her eyes.
“It’s me,” She let out a short laugh of disbelief. “Rome.”
He had to think for a while before his brain made synapses.
“Am I being Punk’d or something?” He frowned again. Confidently, Rome walked past him through the door, carrying her luggage with some effort.
“That’s so 2003,” She giggled. “You seriously don’t recognize me?”
“Rome; as Blake’s ten year old sister, Rome?”
She could tell he still didn’t believe those words. As she nodded, his big eyes widened in amazement. “How old are you?”
“Um… eighteen?” Rome smiled. “How old are you?”
Hunter gulped and cleared his throat before answering. “Twenty-six.”
Right. She should’ve remembered he was as old as her brother. “So, how’ve you been?”
Hunter shook his head in disbelief and approached her after closing the door behind him. “Are you seriously Rome?”
“C’mon, it’s me!” She grinned. “I must look older, but that’s good, right?”
He dithered while his eyes flicked over her body and finally responded looking into her eyes. “You… um, you look good.” Hunter gulped.
“Yeah, you don’t look that bad yourself.” Rome rolled her eyes again.
“Does Blake know you’re here?” His eyes narrowed suspiciously all of a sudden. “Do your parents know…?”
“Well… they must know already.” She replied diverting her gaze to the furniture, guilt written all over her face but a cheeky smile still playing on her lips.
“So you just ran away?”
She realized his voice didn’t seem to be scolding her; it was pure curiosity. Rome nodded and stared at him blankly. He certainly looked older, yet sexy. His light blond hair was shorter, but still messy as always, and his stunning light blue eyes hadn’t aged either. “That’s… something.”
“Look, I know I shouldn’t have come. It’s just… you are the only person I know in Jersey, and I’m only asking you to lemme crash here for a week or two… until I get a job or something…” She was trying to explain when he cut her off, making her look up again.
“Why did you come to Jersey, Rome?” He reasoned.
“Because…” Rome had to question herself before answering. “I’ve always wanted to leave Los Angeles. I’ve always wanted to see the snow,” Was all she managed to explain briefly.
“That’s a poor excuse,” He smiled crookedly. Now that she was at his place, everything seemed odder than she’d thought. After not talking to her brother’s best friend for eight years, she appeared at his door after flying across the country to do so, and had no reasonable explanation.
“Okay, well…” She’d have to do better if she wanted him not to send her away on the next plane to California. “To sum up, I’m done being babysat by my parents… I’m a grown-up. And, um… well, I hate Los Angeles and its never ending summer, and I hate my ex-sort-of-boyfriend, and…” She slurred the last word and he smiled crookedly again. “I don’t know anybody in NYC.” Rome finished and grinned childishly again.
Silence filled the room for a moment, and she listened to the rain drops crash against the windows as Hunter tried to read her mind. But he didn’t have to, because after all, she’d confessed everything she knew.
“Okay,” He finally spoke. His face didn’t seem to be about to tell her to fuck off. “We should call your family and tell them that you’re fine… and that you’re staying here until you get a job, and that…” Hunter looked at Rome inquisitively so she would finish the sentence, and she smirked.
She knew she’d won. “…and that I’m not going back.”
Putting herself in Hunter’s shoes, Rome knew she would have accepted him at her own house if he showed up one day out of the blue. But of course, that was her. She liked being around people and making friends, and as they hadn’t seen each other for eight years, and they hadn’t actually talked much when she was a child, they were practically strangers. And not everybody takes strangers in.
“Drink?” He offered after she left her suitcases beside the couch and sat down.
“Sure.” Rome smiled lightheartedly at his hospitality. Her nerves had calmed down after he’d agreed to let her crash on his couch for a couple of days.
As he left the dark living room, she scrutinized her environment. The color of the walls was somewhere between white and beige, decorated with really cool artwork, and the hardwood floors were clear. The couch she was sitting in at the left of the front door was deep green, and the glass coffee table in front of it was small with an empty, dirty glass, an ashtray, the remote control and a notebook over it. The TV was settled in front of it all, over a small wooden table with some drawers.
She noticed a small wooden bookcase, overflowing with different books and papers on her right, beside the kitchen door, and then a small hall that led to what she supposed was the bathroom and his room. Apart from that, the living had a small table and some chairs, with everything behind the sofa and against the east wall of the front door.
Far from minimalistic, yet modern. A very nice apartment.
“When are you planning to call your parents? They must be freaking out,” He reasoned whilst sitting beside her and leaving two glasses of Coke to join the dirty one on the coffee table.
Rome hadn’t expected to deal with her family for a while. “I don’t know if they wanna talk to me right now,” She avoided eye contact as she took the Coke in her hands, and then sipped a little bit. She hated Diet Coke, so she put it back on the small table and returned her gaze to Blake’s ex best friend.
“Of course they do.” Hunter stated and swallowed half his glass. “I’m gonna call them, then.” He stood up all of a sudden, forcing her to reach for his arm to stop him.
“I don’t think I wanna talk to them… remember I took off?”
He glanced at her with a shocked look after she sat him down strongly, and just when he seemed to have given in, he shook his head stubbornly. “I’ll just tell them you’re okay, Rome.” He explained and she cursed lowly as he walked to the left corner to pick up the phone.
Hunter came back to sit with her and waited for the line to be picked up. An anxious voice answered at the second tone. It was her mom.
Of course Janet didn’t believe a word at first, since Rome had never told anybody about her desire to visit New York. She was excited just about the thought of being so close to the city…
Hunter calmed her down and promised he’d make Rome call back. Before hanging up, he remarked that he couldn’t believe the destination she’d chosen, either, but he assured her mom he didn’t mind having Rome at his house for a week or so. Janet didn’t like the idea of her staying on the other side of the country, and Rome was sure that now that the shock had passed, all her mom would want to do was yell at her. Knowing Rome was with the man who used to be like a second son to her, although a long time ago, seemed to relax Janet a little.
She helped him cook dinner and took the chance to ask for the real reasons of his leaving. She had never completely understood why he’d abandoned his family, her brother, Blake, and his whole life for New Jersey, and it was a good occasion to catch up. She quickly found herself caught up into his version of the story.
Blake had always told Rome that his best friend, the one who spent so much time at home and was like another member of the family, had left to New York because of a scholarship at The School of Visual Arts. Even before graduating he had a saved spot at a Cartoon company that wanted him to work for them. He had traded everything he knew for this great opportunity and some people didn’t understand that, like Blake.
He made it pretty easy to understand. “It was my dream; people do crazy stuff when it comes to their dreams.”
Rome thought about it for a while. She’d traded everything for Jersey as well, though not because of any dream.
A/N- Character pictures of Rome and Hunter are up.
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