April was currently landlady to two painters, a mopey guitarist, and Liana. The painters were gregarious, laughing at inside jokes as they helped me haul my futon frame up the stairs. The guitarist merely grunted in my general direction. And Liana darted about in my peripheral vision, never quite there. Never there enough for me to talk to.
The room was small, but bigger than my narrow sliver of crashspace at Dave’s had been. It was the first room I’d been able to really call home in years. It had room for bookshelves, and I hauled my books out of storage, filling the room with still more boxes to unpack.
April stopped by on the second day. She sat on the bed, watched me shelve books. “So did you find what you were looking for, out there in the world?”
I shrugged. “Found a lot of things. I still don’t really know what I’m looking for.”
“Did you produce deathless prose?”
I couldn’t stifle a self-mocking laugh. “No. I… I haven’t been writing. Not since… you know. Julie.”
“Nothing at all?”
I waved toward the studio, and she hopped off the bed and investigated. The studio was nearly bare, holding only an L-shaped desk - on one side, my antique typewriter; on the other, my laptop. A neat little shrine to a lost gift. “It’s just… not there anymore. My muse fled the scene. Maybe Julie took her.”
April leaned against the door that bisected my living space, chewing the corner of her bottom lip. “Looks like you want to be writing again.”
“I guess so.” I didn’t just guess - I knew so. Not-writing was slowly driving me mad. I felt the loss of it daily.
She looked up, vulnerable. “How much do you want it?”
“What do you mean?”
She pushed off the door and wandered over to the bookshelves. “Never mind.”
Movement at the corner of my eye, at the door to the hallway. The girl, on my threshold. Undine, Liana, delicate barely-there sylph. “Hello,” I said hesitantly.
She smiled at me, and I was entranced. She pushed her dark hair behind her ear. “You’re April’s childhood friend.”
April took my hand and squeezed in gently, breaking the spell. “I’ll see you later,” she said. “But think. How much do you want it?”
Liana entered as April left. She drifted about the room, trailing fingers along the spines of books. “April says you were travelling.”
“I was. Backpacking around Europe, mostly, with a side trip to India.”
I shrugged. “It seemed like the thing to do. I was pretty directionless for most of it. Just ricocheting off experiences, trying to figure myself out.”
“And did you?” She looked up at me for that, large deep blue eyes.
“Mmm.” She nodded and walked into the studio. “It’s so sparse in here.”
“I haven’t really started using it yet.”
“Oh-” She laughed, low and musical, and I blushed deep red as I realized what she was laughing at. The desktop picture on my open laptop. The photo of her. I rushed to her side and started to close the laptop, but she stopped me, her cool small hand on mine. “No, please.”
“I’m - Peter sent me some of the shots, and-”
“That’s my favorite, too.”
“I swear I’m not a stalker.”
“I know.” Her hand hadn’t left mine. She looked up at me, half-smiling, and I wanted to kiss her but did not dare - and so she kissed me, rising to her tiptoes to do it, and the world tilted. When we parted, I was dizzy. We did not part for long.