Around 6pm, the sound of tires crunching over gravel came while headlights pierced through the kitchen windows. Jodie elbowed Mitch, stating the obvious that it “must be them” while pointing in that direction with a kitchen knife that she’d been chopping cucumbers with. Reaching over to switches next to the door, Mitch flicked on the porchlight despite Jodie retracting her statement. “Could also be murderers!” she yelped.
“The Honda Fit with Mass plates says otherwise.” Mitch rolled his eyes and added lemon juice to the rest of the ingredients in the food processor. After attaching the lid, he pressed the ‘on’ button and briefly observed the hummus take form before turning his attention to the outdoors. The sun started to go down, but it wasn’t quite dark yet so he could still see well enough. Avi got out of the driver’s side, his arms in the air as he stretched. He was talking, the cadence of his voice uplifting as usual, but Mitch couldn’t make out what he was saying. Another door opened then shut, and someone came around from the passenger side to where Avi stood. He reached out, pulled her in by the waist and close to him. With his other hand, he tucked some of her long wavy hair behind her ear, and kissed the side of her head.
She was beautiful. Mitch could see that much. He turned the processor off and moved away from the window, electing to focus on finding a spatula.
There came a knock -which Mitch thought was stupid, since they were expected guests- and then the handle turned and the door was cracked opened. “Hello!” Avi poked his head in before opening it the rest of the way, stepping into the kitchen while Jodie and Mitch overlapped their greetings. The woman stepped in behind him then stood by his side, and her eyes were fixed on the rustic furnishings. Taking her hand into his, Avi motioned towards Mitch and Jodie. “So, Charlie, these are my roommates slash coworkers slash friends, Mitch and Jodie. Guys, this is Charlie, my girlfriend.”
“It’s so great to finally meet you both!” She exclaimed, and hands were eagerly shook. First was Jodie’s, and she expressed her gratitude for finally getting Avi to return to stateside; Jodie clarified that Victor was responsible for that, but also that she couldn’t be happier to have him as part of the Monument Wrestling Academy family. Next was Mitch, who was thrown off by her particularly bright smile. “I have heard so much about you. Thank you for taking him in and being his friend.”
Christ, she was one of those effortlessly gorgeous kinds of people. Her eyes were a vibrant shade of blue, her honey colored hair had a shine to it that shampoo companies would kill to have as a model for their products, and she had the most charming dimples he’d ever seen on anyone.
“Good things, I hope?” Mitch settled on responding with, deciding that it wouldn’t be appropriate to make a witty comment about how he’d never heard anything about her.
“Oh my god, yes. I’m pretty sure he has a mancrush on you,” she mock-whispered, earning a whiny “oh c’mon!” from Avi; but Mitch barely caught any of the exchange because the only thing he heard was white noise. He nodded along, sometimes hearing something like “guitar” or “record”, but otherwise not paying any attention at all to whatever potential compliments she was lavishing. Eventually, she moved on to talk to Jodie, and Mitch breathed easier when the attention was off of him.
“Hey,” Avi’s hand rested between Mitch’s shoulder blades, and he jolted back to full alertness. “What’re we making?”
“Hummus. And a veggie platter,” Mitch answered, on the verge of bursting into shivers. He needed to get it together and fast.
“Excellent,” Avi sounded pleased, giving a heavier pat before moving on, accepting a cucumber slice from Jodie. “By the way, where should we put our stuff?”
“I can show you,” Mitch waved towards the direction of the stairs.
“Alright. Babe, wanna go see our room?” asked Avi, but Charlie had already sidled up to Jodie and was helping arrange the vegetables on a platter while the two of them giggled.
“Jodie can give me the tour later,” Charlie beamed, and Avi shrugged as Jodie shooed him and Mitch away. Blinking furiously, Mitch couldn’t believe the speed at which Jodie worked to turn on the charm. He didn’t know whether he should kiss her for that, or try to kill her while she slept for putting him in this position. Instead of fixating, he picked up Charlie’s luggage from next to the door and led Avi up the stairs. He was caught off guard when he noticed that several of his landscape photographs were framed and hung up along the stairwell; somehow, he failed to see them when he grabbed the Nintendo.
“I took those,” he thought out loud.
“Really?” Avi stayed on the stairs and examined them for a minute. “These are so good. Is there anything you can’t do? What other secret talents do you have?”
“Nothing else, really? I’m not even that good.” Mitch’s face burned, and he changed the subject. “Uh, the master bedroom is just down this hall.”
Eventually, Avi picked up the pace and joined Mitch in the bedroom. He showed off the new fireplace and the private bathroom, while Avi laid back on the bed. “Holy shit, is this memory foam?” he asked, letting out a pleased groan.
“No idea? Probably. They mentioned upgrades, so that’d make sense.” Mitch sat down on the mattress’ edge, wiggling in place a few times. “I think you’re right.”
“This is incredible. Dude, I seriously cannot thank you enough for all of this.” Avi rolled so that he was on his side and propped himself up on his elbow, looking at Mitch with that earnest expression that was the emotional equivalent of taking several chops to the chest.
“Don’t mention it. I used to bring friends up here all of the time, but it’s been a while. Nice to be back.”
“No, like…” Avi trailed off, rolling onto his back again with his arms folded behind his head and he stared up at the ceiling. His tone dropped to something far more quiet and somber, and his eyes occasionally flicked to the door, as though he was concerned with being overheard or someone coming in. “Between you and me, I was kind of in deep shit. Charlie wasn’t exactly thrilled when I proposed the idea of going away with other people since we don’t see one another too much, but it was either this, being holed up in my room at the house, or staying at a cheap hotel because I’m broke and can’t afford anything better.”
“Well, I’m glad to have helped. You guys’ll have fun. Jodie and I will stay out of your hair.” Mitch nodded a little too eagerly.
“No, that’s not necessary. I mean like, we’ll go out tomorrow for a bit. I already looked into a few things to do, we’ll get some lunch and do date stuff, but,” He ran a hand through his hair, appearing more tense than Mitch had ever seen him. “I want her to get to know you guys. It’s more incentive for her to move out here, if there’s people that she likes. And she’s already taken a shine to Jodie, which was alarmingly fast.”
“It sure was,” deadpanned Mitch, then he softened. “But really, you guys should spend whatever time together that you have to, we won’t be offended. That’ll probably win her over more than hanging out with us.”
Avi’s mouth formed a hard line, clearly mulling something over, but it transitioned to a small smile and he finally conceded with “I guess, yeah.”
“Alright, well that’s settled.” Standing up, Mitch stretched then asked. “You want a tour of the place?”
“Aw man, I gotta leave this bed?” Avi fully starfished, although how he was able to spread his legs while wearing skinny jeans was beyond Mitch.
“No? You can keep doing this, but I’m gonna go.” Mitch was about to leave him there, when fingers grazed his forearm as he walked by. He stopped and looked down at Avi.
“Just kidding. Be a bro and help me up?” The option to ignore the request still seemed like the most reasonable one, but Mitch gave in. He grabbed hold of Avi’s wrist, and let himself be used for leverage. Eventually, Avi was able to free himself from the world’s most comfortable imprisonment. “You just saved my life, I think,” he joked.
“From what? A fate worse than death?” Mitch joked back. “Ready?”
Avi insisted that he was, so Mitch led the way; he shut the door behind them, putting the room, its weekend occupants, and whatever Avi’s private concerns that had briefly surfaced, as far from his mind as possible.