First Installment: Man Voice and the Water Heater
Previous Installment: The Zero-eth Date
Previous Installment: The Zero-eth Date
My sleep schedule can’t be a very healthy one, thought Lia, especially considering the fact that I don’t get any sleep. Those were her last thoughts as she slipped into the cozy warmness of the blanket, and a loud voice shouted, “I’m not a witch, I’m your wife!” in the back of her mind.
Although she was no longer conscious of this fact, Lia was lying on a couch in a boy’s apartment. It had been a long week. Finals were next week, and all of the big papers and projects were coming to be due. She had only been able to catch a grand total of nine hours of sleep over that past three days. It was becoming a bit of a health hazard since she was in danger of falling asleep every time she sat down.
Finding it impossible to focus on writing her paper, Lia had walked down over to apartment 9. Brandon opened the door. He looked rather disappointed with her physical appearance, and the fact that her stomach was growling loudly. Oops. She had forgotten to eat again too. Brandon thought that was a very horrible habit of hers. She needed to eat more. He pulled her inside and sat her down on the couch and covered her with Joey’s school blanket (Warm!). He warmed up some leftover pasta for her (Pasta!) and made her sit and eat while watching The Princess Bride (INCONCEIVABLE!). It was the only girl-approved movie in his collection. Brandon is the nicest person in this whole apartment building!
Lia was finding that sleep was sneaking up on her. Her old, neglected friend sleep. She missed him. She missed sleep like she would miss warm water for showers. Man Voice….she thought. Lia hadn’t thought of him in quite some time. She heard Brandon’s voice talking, saying something. I don’t think he’s Man Voice. He doesn’t sound the same. A door opened somewhere, then closed. Lia stopped paying attention to the noises. Sleep is good. Beauty sleep is important. What if I meet Man Voice and I look like a sleep deprived, book obsessed girl? Sleep. Sleep is good.
The doorknob was jiggling. Lia stirred on the couch. Why was someone trying to get into her apartment? She ignored the sound and cuddled further into the blue and gold blanket. It was warm in here.
The door opened. She groggily looked up to see Joey confusedly looking back at her. Why was he confused?
“What are you doing in here?” she mumbled out.
“What am I doing here? I live here! What are you doing here?” Joey was still standing in the open doorway, right next to the couch where she was all curled up and comfy in his favored fuzzy school blanket, staring at her.
Lia was more awake, more confused, and more self-conscious by this point. What if she had mascara smudged across her face? “Oh. You do?”
“Yes, actually, I do.”
Trying hard to think of something to say, Lia started surveying the room, taking in her surroundings. “Oh, hmm, I guess you do. It certainly looks like your apartment.”
“Indeed. It doesn’t look very different from when I left this morning.”
“Anything out of place?”
“Just a girl sleeping on my couch while none of my roommates are home and the door is locked.”
“That is out of place.” More looking around. Then looking up at Joey to ask ,“How did I get here?”
“That I couldn’t tell you, Lia,” said Joey with a crooked expression on his face.
That’s kind of a cute facial display. It was as if he couldn’t decide whether to be amused or confused. “At least they rhyme.”
“What?” Now it was just confusion.
“Oh. Amused and confused. Don’t worry about it.”
Lia had never made it any secret that she couldn’t do squat with technology, or that she was like kryptonite to electronics. It wasn’t her fault. It just happened. A lot. Her laptop was one such victim. Though with the way Lia was banging her head on the keyboard in frustration, who knew whether Lia or the laptop was feeling more victimized at the moment. Lia felt that she had a pretty solid case on her side, however, with plenty of evidence against the laptop. Exhibit A, the computer kept freezing and wouldn’t open Microsoft Word. How the Dickens was she supposed to write her papers if she couldn’t open Word? What in Wordsworth’s name was the worth of a computer if it didn’t have Word? Exhibit B, the freezing became even worse when Lia tried to open the internet browser to do some research for her papers. As the laptop of an English major, this kind of insubordination was intolerable, nigh unto high treason!
Feeling a slight headache coming on, Lia decided to take a break from harassing and being harassed by the evil laptop. Yes, enough of this nonsense for now. Lia would just go over to apartment 9 for a little breather. Her boys could always make her feel better. After that catastrophic date, Amber had lessened her interest in Joey, and decreased her visits to both Lia and Joey. Lia, however, had increased her attendance at the boys’ place because if its happy, drama-free atmosphere and occupants. The boys, led by Brandon, and Lia had rather adopted each other to the mutual satisfaction of all.
Things were normal at the boys’ place when she arrived over there a few minutes later. Ricky was doing his homework on the couch, probably something mathy or sciencey. Joey was working away on his trusty old laptop at the table, ever the responsible engineering student. Brandon bellowed a greeting from the kitchen and Lia responded while looking around. The boys had a very nice set up of television, sound system, and gaming devices right next to her. She pulled a face and took a large sidestep to the left, away from that expensive pile of technology.
That same step brought her closer to Joey. “Hello, Joey,” she said. “How goes the homework?”
“No, I need a break,” Joey responded as he snapped his fully functioning laptop closed. “That neutron flux simulation for my nuclear class is killing me.” He rubbed his eyes.
Brandon came in from the kitchen. “Kinda makes ya just wanna fix something, huh?”
Joey agreed, “It’s nice to do something not for a class.”
Brandon gave Lia a snack. Brandon always fed Lia. She didn’t mind. He made excellent food. Especially these chicken plop things. Culinary brilliance. As she munched on her food, Brandon asked, “And how are things going for ya, Lia?”
Lia lowered her head to inspect the small edible specimen on her plate. She was trying to figure out what was in it it to make it so scrumptious. “Oh, I’ve been trying to work on my papers, but can’t because my computer keeps freezing.”
“Did that just start today?” asked Joey.
Head still down, Lia said, “No, it’s been deteriorating in speed and usability over the past two weeks.”
“Lia!” Brandon shouted incredulously.
She lifted her head to see Brandon, Joey, and Ricky all staring at her in disbelief. “What?” she demanded defensively.
“Young lady, you do realize that all of us are computer whizzes, don’t you?” Brandon asked.
Lia looked around at the boys. Ricky and Micah were both in computer science majors. Joey was in mechanical engineering, and Brandon was enrolled in the same major for when he started school again after a break. Lia looked then at the stack of entertainment equipment she had dodged earlier, and acknowledged its complexity.
“Why yes, I suppose you are,” Lia conceded.
“Why didn’t you ask us for help?” Ricky asked. “Didn’t think we could do it?”
“People ask us to fix stuff for them all the time,” added Joey. “Just a few days ago we fixed some old VCR for the girls down the hall.”
“I know you did. I remember,” Lia said.
“Then why didn’t you say anything?” Brandon demanded.
“Honestly, it didn’t occur to me,” Lia admitted. She decided by the looks on their faces that she would not share the fact that even if that option had occurred to her, she still might not have asked. Lia really didn’t like inconveniencing or bothering other people, so much so that a problem which could have been solved easily with some help could escalate into something harder to handle.
Joey stood and said, “Up. Come on.”
“Where are we going?” inquired Lia as she rose to join him.
“To your place to see what we can do about that computer.”
And with that she was frog-marched back down the hall to her apartment. Lia wondered about the boys’ reaction to her suffering in silence. She figured that she must have struck some kind of primal man need to fix things to prove manliness, worth, and capability to provide for a cave-full of children. She should tread carefully to not further incite this strange offended behavior any more than she had already done. No further aggravation needed.
As they entered her place, Joey asked, “Where is the computer?”
They sat on the couch Lia had vacated not that long ago, and she handed him her ornery laptop. He began poking around and calling up little black windows with fat blinking cursors, in which he then typed some kind of foreign language. More screens with the same strange hieroglyphics appeared in response. Lia was glad that the symbols meant something to Joey. Maybe it hearkened back to those early days of cave painting. Maybe she couldn’t comprehend what those symbols meant because she had no lurking cavemen deep within the confines of her soul.
Lia gave Joey a look out of the corner of her eye. It was a bit of a stretch imagining him having any caveman tendencies or roots. Except for that time he had frantically shoved a paper in her face, she had never seen him out of control. And while, yes, that was a rather caveman like thing to do, shoving and grunting and all, he was generally well read and well spoken. She liked speaking with him because he was excellent in the witty banter category. He could make it in the Olympics if the higher-ups would bother making a proper sport of it.
And not only was he smart in his ability to learn and converse, he was also smart in his appearance and manners. Lia had never seen Joey without a collared shirt, which was usually a nice button-up, and she honestly doubted whether he owned any t-shirts. With his gentlemanly manners, he never failed to open a door for a girl. No, Joey wasn’t very Neanderthalish in his tendencies. So what was it about technology that brought out this deeper side of him?
Lia realized that while she had carried out her analysis, Joey had been narrating what he was doing and why. She blinked. “Wait, you’re doing what?”
“Your computer needs defragmenting,” Joey repeated.
“I didn’t realize that it was in fragments. Silly me.”
Joey smiled at her and began to explain, “When there are lots of files that are constantly accessed--”
A knock on the door interrupted the computer lesson. It was Lia’s friend Andrea, come bearing gifts in the form of miniature banana cream pies. After a quick chat with Andrea, Lia was on the couch again by Joey, and the two munched happily on the tasty bite-sized morsels.
As the computer was “defragging,” Lia insisted on showing Joey some golden YouTube videos that she knew would make him laugh. While a longer video was playing, Lia felt her body beginning to shut down for the evening. Her mind was wandering as Joey explained the different technical steps he was undertaking with her enemy, erm, nemesis, erm, laptop. Her eyes drooped. Her muscles relaxed. She wondered what time it was. Though she had been doing better lately at getting some sleep, Lia was still prone to nodding off when she was in a comfortable position.
Joey’s voice was suddenly a bit deeper, and her right side was a bit warmer. Lia wondered why these things were so, but then became focused on the happy fact that she had stopped drooping further down. She definitely didn’t want to squash the remaining pies.
Squash. Squash and pie don’t belong together, Lia mused. Unless pumpkins were actually considered a member of the Squash Collectorate. If that were the case, the squash and pie definitely did belong together. In fact, they should be married. But wait. Were any other squash acceptable pie associates? Sweet potato pie was orange, like pumpkin pie. But sweet potatoes could hardly be a part of the Squash Collectorate since they had potatoes as part of the name. But maybe-
“So, did you fix the problem?” came Brandon’s booming voice through Lia’s reverie.
She gasped and sat up straight. “The pies!” she cried. “Potato or not, they deserve life!”
Brandon was giving Joey and Lia a strange look, and for some reason he had stopped short on his way into the apartment. He raised an eyebrow and asked, “Getting cozy, were we?”
Lia searched about for the plate of remaining mini-pies while touching her face and hair. “Oh no! Did I snuggle with the poor little pies? Are their innards all over me?” She turned to Joey for an answer, but he was just looking at her. She could tell he was trying to assess something, and she was rather certain it was herself. “What? For a pie, being snuggled to death is a pretty ignominious way to go, don’t you think?”
Joey put his hand on Lia’s arm and said, “Calm down. No pies were slaughtered except the ones we ate before you nodded off.”
Lia furrowed her brow. “Did I fall asleep? I thought I had just zoned out a minute.”
Joey and Brandon both stared at her. Joey stood up. He was still wearing that same expression, like he was attempting to solve a complicated problem, or putting a puzzle together. He said, “Your computer is working now, but you should probably go to bed.”
“Thank you for your help, Joseph. You’re splendid,” Lia said sincerely.
The boys let themselves out. Lia tried to pull herself back together. After struggling in vain for a few moments, she gave up and decided that Joseph was right. She should just go to bed. She got up from the couch, pondering. Why had the boys looked confused? While not an uncommon sensation to experience when they were together, Lia thought this one felt different. Oh well. She must have said something truly bizarre while waking up.
Lia climbed upstairs to her room. Ally was out, so it was just her and her thoughts. Maybe she had drooled, but they were too nice to say anything. Or maybe- she paused. Maybe she had fallen against Joseph’s shoulder. That would explain the warmth, and his voice being so close. And that would also make for potential awkwardness the next time she saw him. This could create problems.
She sighed while jumping inelegantly into bed. She couldn’t do anything about it now. Oh well. He had brown eyes, but he had rather nice resting shoulders. If she had cared for a crush or a boyfriend, that may have been a point in his favor. But she didn’t want a crush, and she definitely didn’t want a boyfriend. After that last dating fiasco, she was content being single for a while. No, all she wanted was sleep, finals to be over, and to go home.Besides. His eyes were brown.