“Everything alright?” inquired Avi. His expression communicated the self-awareness of what a dumb question that was.
“Fantastic. Let’s get this over with.” Mitch unbuckled his seatbelt without issue, but the passenger side door was still a challenge with his limited range of motion.
“Do you want some hel-” Avi started to ask, but Mitch cut him off.
“No, I’m fine.” After a few more attempts and a bit of pivoting later, he successfully opened the door. Once he was freed from the confines, he led Avi to the elevators and pressed the button for the 12th floor. Aside from the whirring of machinery, it was uncomfortably quiet for the ride up; he managed to puncture it by asking, “So are you regretting this yet?”
“I think at this point, morbid curiosity is outweighing any discomfort,” Avi answered, making Mitch bark out a sharp laugh. He grinned ear-to-ear, the grip on his sanity clearly slipping.
“You know what? Same!” The elevator chimed and the doors opened. The moment they stepped off, a shiver went down Mitch’s spine shot down into his gut, pooling and then solidifying. He stood fixed in place, feet glued to the ornate red carpet runner that lined the hallway. His voice quaking, Mitch declared, “Just kidding! I hate this and I don’t want to be here.”
Avi rubbed his beard as he visibly ran some mental calculations. “If you can’t do this, we can go? You know that’s an option, right?” Mitch blinked at him. The thought crossed his mind over a countless times since Avi first volunteered to do, but never in a million years would he have considered bailing and wasting someone’s time like that. Not now, not when they’d gotten this far. “Might never get your things back, but. It is an option, regardless.”
“Oh no it’s not! We just drove 3 hours through Connecticut to get here,” Mitch countered with newfound determination, marching forward despite his body’s protests. Whether it was pure vitriol that spurred him on, or the new concept of having a choice in the matter, he couldn’t tell. But Avi’s merciful offer clung to him, both adding fuel to the fire while also giving him the strength to walk over the burning coals ahead.
Regardless, he wasn’t going to try to decode his bad brain and the spite urges that it tended to produce during moments like this, where fight or flight responses were provoked. “I’ve taken on opponents twice my size, I can handle my twink ex. I’m getting my shit. Now.” Yanking the keys from out of his pocket, Mitch sought out the one for the apartment. “God, it’s gonna suck if he changed the lock already,” he mused as he stood in front of door with a brass 05 placard nailed to it.
“Would he do that?” Avi’s brows knit in concern. Much to Mitch’s surprise, the key still worked.
“He did it a few times when we were together, so.” Mitch grimaced, turning the handle, and somehow kept it together when he caught the “what the fuck” that Avi muttered.
Up until that moment, Mitch spent days contemplating how he could sneak in to grab as much stuff before being noticed. But there he was, at the very last stretch of this godforsaken trial. He was going to walk through Hell’s threshold with the scarce amount of pride that he preserved and clung to, and he was going to make both his arrival and his exit known. Opening the door, he announced “I’m here!” in a much more timid than he wanted. Oh well.
There was no response, which suited him fine. The door swung open into the kitchen, and he motioned for Avi to follow.