Love in 24 Frames
Routine Spontaneity Coda
Shota sat on the couch, legs draped over my lap. He was intensely focused on needle and thread as he hand-sewed a cloth puppet. His expressive brows were pulled together and his hyperfocused concentration provided me an opportunity to stare at his face without being noticed. We’d been dating for six months now. Six months of quiet bliss and joy and… contentment. Every day we were together was the greatest day of my life.
Shota glanced up, caught my dopey expression, then focused on the matter at hand again. “What?” he murmured after a beat.
“You’re staring at me.”
“Oh.” I cleared my throat, shrugged, and left it at that.
Shota leaned forward and held out the puppet. “Should I leave this part of the leg open to put the stuffing in?”
“I’d suggest the inside—so the stitching isn’t seen.”
“Ah. Got it.” He relaxed against the armrest once more. “So?”
“So?” I repeated. I stroked his jean-clad legs absently.
“Something wrong? You’re kind of quiet.”
“I usually am.”
“You’re a preoccupied quiet,” Shota corrected.
I wasn’t sure what I’d done to make him think something was bothering me. Nothing had happened at work. Nothing troublesome, anyway. In fact, my longtime boss Mr. Barnes had retired and the woman hired to replace him was smart, funny, and personable. She was a needed breath of fresh air for the stuffy offices of Harrison & Cooper. The art studio I’d been renting uptown since mid-January was working out fine. Maybe I didn’t get the pleasure of seeing Shota’s beautiful face at seven o’clock every evening, but he came to my apartment a few nights a week after his shift at Wandering Artist. And we’d long since established a wonderful Saturday routine of spontaneity.
That was an odd statement of course. Routine spontaneity.
But we’d sleep late, have a cup of coffee between showering and dressing, then we’d walk around the neighborhood and have brunch at a randomly chosen restaurant every weekend.
As far as impulsive behavior went for me—for Shota too—this was about our hard limit. But it worked for us.
It made us happy.
“You could move in,” I said. The words sort of fell out of my mouth before my brain had a chance to mull them over, chew the thought up, and bury it deep in a hole of past regrets, embarrassments, and shame.
Shota’s hand stopped moving. He raised his head. Stared. “Declan… you know I can’t afford the rent of a high-rise.”
“I mean, you’ve got a gym on the first floor. And a doorman. Laundry in building. I have that Russian drug dealer who tries to sell weed from my doorstep and I use the Laundromat six blocks away.”
“N-no,” I started, raising my hand from his leg and waving it. “I’m not asking—no. I don’t—you wouldn’t pay rent. I don’t need you to pay rent. Not like—you’re not a roommate. I want you to….” I fumbled my way to a dead-end, let out a shaky breath, and rubbed my bristly chin.
Shota leaned to the side and set the puppet on the coffee table. He pulled his legs from my lap, crossed them under himself, and threaded his fingers together. “You want me to live with you?”
I considered the question for half a second.
Of course I did.
In fact, I couldn’t believe the stupid comment hadn’t been blurted out months ago.
I nodded in response.
Shota was quiet.
I turned my head and looked at him. “I’m sorry. It hasn’t been long enough. I understand. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Shota reached out and took my hand. “Stop. Don’t apologize when you’ve done nothing wrong.” He smiled a little. “I think it’d be nice. Really nice. But I can’t live rent-free. I just can’t, Declan. I know you probably think it’s ridiculous to turn down an offer like that, or I’m too egotistical to ask for help—”
I quickly shook my head. “I don’t think that.”
“I don’t ever want to take advantage of you.”
“Now you’re being silly. You worked really hard to reach this,” Shota said, letting go briefly to motion at the room around us. “I’m the one who answers phones for a living.”
I shifted on the couch, caught his hand between my own, and held tight. “You do honest work. Hard work.”
“If we lived together, I’d want everything to be split evenly.”
“It has to be,” Shota insisted. He pulled his hand from between mine, but then gave one a squeeze. “I actually meant to tell you yesterday….” He laughed nervously. “The Wandering Artist main office is advertising a fulltime position for Community Manager. I thought… never mind. It sounds so stupid when I say it.” But Shota quickly added, like he didn’t want to never mind it one bit, “maybe I’ll apply. I probably don’t have a chance in Hell. I don’t have a four year degree, which they want, but I… maybe my practical experience would make up for it.”
“Apply.” I quickly got off the couch. “Do you have a resumé?”
Shota blinked up at me. “Er, yeah, but it’s like ten years old. You don’t really need a resumé to get a job bussing tables at a coffee shop.”
“I’ll help you write a new one.”
“Would you move in if you got the job?” I asked.
Shota stumbled over his words. “I mean, it pays a lot more. More than I’ve ever made. Comes with benefits too.” He got to his feet. “I probably won’t even get an interview though.”
I cupped his face in both my hands. “Do you want this job?”
He nodded. “A lot,” he whispered.
“Then we’ll do our best to make it happen. Forget moving in. It was—just forget it. Let’s focus on this.”
Shota laughed lightly. “If I got this job, yes. I’d move in. I could afford it. Financially and emotionally.”
He nodded a second time.
I closed the distance and kissed Shota’s mouth.
He tasted like hope. And happiness.