Glancing at his phone again, the time reading what he thought it would, Rhys slipped it back into his back pocket, sighing. He leaned up against the door of the vacant building, dubbed Ragdoll Refurb by the locals, a converted pet food cannery right by the Brindleton Bay harbor, and before it was remodeled into a home back before Rhys was even born, it sat empty for many years after the company had moved elsewhere, stray cats used it as shelter, hence the nickname. The felines were long gone now, but the name stuck. About a year ago the building had been bought up by one of those flipping companies, modernized and updated into a small, industrial-style but modern two-bedroom home and just recently come back on the market when the previous renters moved. A bargain for what it was. Especially for the location – and the killer views, all at a fairly humble price for Brindleton Bay where real estate was a rare, and usually very pricey commodity.
Rhys had high hopes to be calling this place ‘home’ soon, a perfect location, about 20 minutes from his childhood home and his parents, the rest of his family all nearby, but all far enough to make it inconvenient for everyone to constantly swing by.
And it would get his stepsister off his back. He liked Meaghan, they got along fine, but they just were like night and day. Meaning, they clashed with frequency. Just as Meaghan clashed with her own mother – Rhys’ stepmom – sometimes. His dad told him it was the female hormones. Whatever it was, Rhys needed a break without being too far away from his beloved family and the security they gave him.
For his 18th birthday, followed by high school graduation only a few weeks ago now, Rhys had wanted to move out into the old cannery, but without a real job yet, hence lacking funds, he needed his parents’ financial help until he had a job and earned his own money. Unwilling to just bankroll him moving out what they felt was a little too premature, but also not wanting to stand in Rhys’ way, his dad and stepmom had agreed to help pay the rent until he had enough income to pay his own way, if he promised to stay on track with the plan, but since it was a two-bedroom place, they made him find a roommate to help pay the bills. He had to do it all by himself, not only to prove he was mature enough to live on his own, even though they reserved the right to veto whatever roommate he may find.
Sounded easy enough, as previously mentioned, real estate in Brindleton Bay was sparse and in high demand, but unfortunately for Rhys usually by families, not single people, who normally didn’t have much desire to move to a sleepy town like this one and AWAY from the action you would find in placed like San Myshuno.
So far over the past two weeks Rhys had met with 6 potential roommates, one crazier than the next, none of which he would want to share a home with. His parents were about to pull the plug on the whole thing if this one last attempt, his Hail Mary meeting, failed as well. The last interested person was meeting him here today, aside from him, nobody else had responded to the ad. In Rhys’ book this meant that no matter how much of a weirdo this Sam Mellencamp dude would turn out to be, Rhys would have him co-sign the damn lease. No way would he come so close to having his own place, only to lose out at the last minute, crawling back into his room at home, tail tucked. He already had to do that with vet school. His stepmom, Lana, had been so right about the gruesome side of it, she just knew him too well, just like a biological mom would. But Rhys didn’t listen, signed up anyway. The first classes on general animal anatomy of the most common pets were great, but then they started in on the gross stuff. Rhys freaked out, then quit vet school, too humiliated by the laughter of his classmates at him literally getting sick and woozy in the middle of class in front of everyone. He wasn’t the only one, but the only boy that happened to.
So instead, now he went with the old plan, the one from when he was a little boy, when his dad used to be his idol, his super-hero, and in a way, still was even though Rhys wouldn’t admit it now. So Rhys had joined the police academy, to hopefully get hired on with the department his dad had worked at since before he was born, and one day he would become a detective like his dad Eric. Police work wasn’t normally for the faint of heart either, obviously, unless it was in a sleepy little town like Brindleton Bay. Literally nothing ever happened here, nobody alive nowadays could even recall the last murder here, and if something happened it was stuff like shoplifting, graffiti, underage drinking … the worst were property crimes, like car thefts and break-ins. From Rhys’ standpoint as the son of a man who had been a policeman all his life, and whom he had sometimes accompanied to work, this translated into fun investigative stuff, mostly outdoors, which Rhys loved being outdoors, then some paperwork and computer research at the station. All cool by Rhys. Definitely a far cry from oozing boils, terrifying tumors and worse things on cute puppies and kittens. Oh, hell no!
With a groan he checked the time on his phone again. That goddamn Sam seemed to be a no-show. Over 30 minutes late. Yeah, he probably wasn’t coming. What a dick!
With a sigh Rhys pushed away from the door, turned and unlocked it, then went inside. His stepmom knew the people who owned it, many years ago they were clients of Lana’s, who was an attorney, so they had given a key to her as an exception, even though no contract had been signed yet. Lana had hired a cleaning lady too, confident that Rhys would be moving into this place, and it needed a good scrub first. So, adding insult to injury, even though that Sam-guy stood him up, he still had to hang around here looking at what could have been his new home, because of the damn cleaning lady. Man, this place was so awesome! Rhys could see himself lounging here and having parties with his friends there. So close, yet so far out of reach still. Dammit. DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT!
A knock on the door now, a quick glance through the window showed a young woman. Cleaning lady. Great. Waste of money, since he wouldn’t be living here, but his stepmom had insited, so whatever.
Rhys opened, let her in, an awkward moment where she went to shake his hand, by the time he realized that it was too weird. Dammit, part 2.
“Here, I’ll show you the upstairs, you can start with the bathroom, needs a good scrub. Whoever lived here first was raised by monkeys. There is like goo by the windows too, no telling what that’s from. Anyway, at least nobody will say it was me. So, make it sparkle, m’kay?”
“Huh?” the cleaning lady girl looked confused.
“Oh – don’t tell me you don’t speak English. Are you like Russian or something? Ahem … you … scrubby dubby potty and floory, yes?” Rhys made scrubbing motions while talking.
“Were you dropped on your head as a baby?!” she said in perfect English.
“So, you do speak the language. Then what is the hold up? Mom said not to pay you until you finished and only if you did a decent job, so tallyho. Get cleaning or get lost.”
“Cleaning? What? Is this the wrong address? Aren’t you Rhys?”
“All day long. Why?”
“I am here about a roommate ad. Not to clean something. Definitely the wrong girl.” the girl told him.
“Wait … roommate ad?” the penny began to drop with Rhys.
“Yeah, I am Sam Mellencamp. Wasn’t it you I chatted with? Rhys Cameron?”
“You’re a girl!”
“Yah, no shit!” Sam shook her head, annoyed.
“You are NOT a dude!”
“Yeah – may be a shock to you but I actually already knew that. Also: Rude much?!” Sam frowned.
“Sorry, it’s the name. It threw me. I was expecting a dude. I can tell you are a girl when I see you.” Rhys mumbled incoherently, still shocked and confused, then blushed deeply upon realizing how he sounded.
“Imagine my relief.” Sam’s words oozed sarcasm.
“Your name is misleading!” Rhys tried to defend himself.
“Then blame my parents. I just don’t like going by Samantha, sounds pretentious. Why does it matter anyway? Sexist much?” Sam did the same.
“Sorry … I was just .. I thought .. look, I kinda wanted a male roommate.”
“Then you should have put that in the ad. Sorry, but I really kinda need a place I can afford, but I can’t randomly swap genders to suit you.” she shrugged.
“I thought I did put it in! Why didn’t you write that you are a girl?! Or use your full name?”
“Does it matter? Do you have like some sort of phobia of females?” Sam looked disappointed.
“No. Just .. I wanted peace and quiet … not deal with hormone imbalances and bras hanging in the shower and shit.”
“Sorry. It’s my sister. Stepsister. We share a bathroom at home, and she leaves all her crap all over it all the time. I literally don’t want to see any of that, knowing it’s my sister’s. It’s just so weird, but no matter how often I tell her, or how often our parents talk to her, she does it again anyway. Total clutter queen.”
“Okay, I don’t know what to tell you, sounds like a trauma, maybe you should go see a shrink. Can I see the place anyway, since I am already here, and maybe you could give me a chance if I swear to never leave underwear anywhere or does my gender seriously disqualify me right away? Like I told ya, I kinda am a little desperate here or otherwise I would have already run for the hills, cos you are …. yeah.”
Rhys was stuck. He hated being so rude, but he had wanted a male roomie, thinking it would be cool living like bros and a lot easier than living with a girl, but he wanted the house more. No roomie, no home. But then again, if his parents realized his roommate was a girl … Still, that was the only chance he had, so he shrugged.
“Nah, it’s cool. I’ll show you the room. It’s upstairs, furnished, like the ad said, just needs your personal crap – I mean – things in there, to decorate and shit – I mean … to decorate to your taste.” Rhys kept correcting his casual talk, thinking ‘here we go already: if Sam were a dude, I wouldn’t have to feel bad about cursing…’.
By the time Sam left, Rhys felt comfortable around her, she seemed to be pretty cool, simple and down-to-earth, so they both had signed the lease.
But that didn’t mean Rhys’ problems were solved. The hard part would be explaining Sam to his parents. Unless … maybe he could keep it generic, at least for now. Just try to avoid using gender-descript pronouns when telling them about Sam. They’d find out eventually, but by then, hopefully, he and she were all moved in, he had already graduated from the police academy and was hired on at the station permanently, making actual money, so it wouldn’t matter. A risk worth taking. He had to try to get away with this.
While wishing himself good luck his cell phone rang, his eyes got big looking at the Caller ID.
It simply read “Sandy” showing a picture of Rhys with said Sandy.
The girlfriend from the very conservative family.
He had litereally totally forgotten about her.
Sandy was a cool girl, sweet and all, but he KNEW she would NOT be thrilled with him living with another girl. Neither would her parents. They were all up in her business, and ever since she had introduced Rhys to them, in his too. They were the ‘had to be married before living together’ types. They were most definitely NOT the type that would approve of their daughter’s boyfriend living with another girl, even if he could calm Sandy down. Oh boy! This was DEFINITELY an additional hitch in his giddyup.
Oh well, too late now, the contract had been signed, nothing he could do about it, but try to sail through it all.