Beams of sunlight emitted through the blindless windows, casting a spotlight on the dust dancing in the air. The fresh smell of Pine-Sol invaded the noses of anyone who toured the apartment. Freshly painted white walls added to the cleansed ambience but could not hide the slight imperfections caused by the previous owner’s bedframe. Naomi had been looking for an affordable place to rent for ages, and through a good word from her friend Gwen (who worked in a realty office) she was able to skip the waiting list. Like most people, Naomi hated change and in her despise for modification had refused to leave Los Angeles, even if it meant living with four other roommates for much longer than she had wanted. Coordinating events for the local public schools had been socially and spiritually rewarding but the “Game of Life” tokens she was accumulating had yet to transfer to her bank account. Her boyfriend of the last year, or maybe more, (the beginning of their romance was so whirlwind she wasn’t sure when they became “official) had been part of a start-up bought out by Google and had since reiterated the point that they could afford to move in together. Naomi never volunteered for a hand-out and struggled accepting anyone else paying her bills, even if her mom still occasionally helping with the car insurance (admittedly it was attached to her card already, so why go through the hassle of changing it?). Naomi stood in the center of the apartment, trying to picture where the sofa would fit, the perfect spot to mount the T.V. and most importantly, where she could hang her beloved Spider plant. Her daydream was disturbed by the realtor’s heavy heels attacking the linoleum floors in the hallway.

           “So, what do you think of the place? Great ain’t it? Oh, just more lovely in person than on the website, right?” I wonder if she gets paid by the word thought Naomi. Janice seemed like a lovely woman whose attempt to cover the smell of cigarettes with cheap perfume only heightened one’s awareness of the Camel’s odor.

“Yes, it is very nice, better than the pictures, absolutely”.

Janice opened a box of peppermint Altoids and took a smoker’s only amount of five out, holding the tin to Naomi in a polite offering. Naomi only took one because she thought it rude not to, and as soon as she placed it on her tongue, she wondered how on earth someone could comfortably eat five at a time.

“Will your boyfriend be joining us?”, asked Janice, her breath fighting between the smell of menthol and Freon.

“Yes, he should’ve been here already, but as usual he’s running a bit late”. Naomi hated to air any dirty laundry, but the repetition of Logan’s tardiness brought out was her mom described as “her toxic energy”. He really was a good man, just his undying propensity to make people wait forced Naomi into too many uncomfortable conversations. He also wouldn’t wipe his mouth with a napkin when eating his cereal, but just use the spoon to scrape the milk and bits of shredded wheats from his beard. Perhaps that was just a personal aggravation, but she’d pay someone else to sit at her place for breakfast. They had met at one of the fundraisers she organized for the middle school, where his start-up was one of ten companies who ran booths and helped the kids explore possible career options. He was so gentle and patient that she had imagined an entire life, including retirement years, with him, before even sharing a word. Thankfully he had the confidence to approach her, and by the end of the week they had shared their first date and bashfully their first kiss. Their first few months was filled with countless late nights, embodying the typical honeymoon phase. Naomi had only one steady boyfriend before Logan, and her relative naiveite allowed his assertiveness to shine. Conversely, her inexperience had led to many nights waiting up for him and perhaps giving too much freedom at her own expense. If he was not directly benefitting, his attendance would be reflective of his interest. For the untrained eye, or the gaze of a passerby their relationship belonged in an issue of Cosmopolitan, a young, good-looking couple with their futures ahead of them. Both in careers doing what they loved, yet internally the unasked question of an impending proposal or breakup left a black hole where comfort should reside.

           Looking out the window, Naomi could see the edge of the Santa Monica pier, not enough to be pictured on a calendar, but just enough for her to remember the first time she was on that Ferris wheel. Her daydream was interrupted with the warmth of Logan’s hands around her waist.

“Doesn’t this place just give you home-vibes” he asked as we went to kiss her neck. She turned before his lips could make contact and pulled away from his embrace.

“Did your assistant not remind you the showing was at 3? Not . . .  (She looked at the lock screen of her phone to see the large 3:47 covering their laughing faces, a picture encapsulating a moment she wished they could escape back to) 3:50?”

“Relax hun, I’m here now and besides, I love the place, don’t you?”. His sly smile was the cherry on top of the facial symmetry that could not be butchered, even by his uncombed hair.

“Yeah, it’s nice, but a bit pricey don’t you think?”. Her questioning was more defensive than earnest, as the nightmare scenario of them sharing the living space, counting down the days on the lease made her shudder. As much as she dreamed of living in a place of her own, the circumstance sullied her fantastical ideas. Mick Jagger was right she thought, you don’t always get what you want.

“Sweetheart, how many times do I need to tell you, money is not a problem. Besides, we couldn’t find any place this close to my office near the listing price. With your Martha Stewart touch this place will be so great. It’s the emptiness that’s your cause for pause”.

It is the emptiness, she thought.

Again, Janice’s presence haltered Naomi’s thoughts, although this time it was not the sound of heels but the freshly sprayed perfume, masquerading as a coverall for the recent smoke break taken in a car with the windows up.

“Oh, what a lovely couple you are! This is the perfect spot for you two. There’s so many bars and clubs you can shake your tails at. Plus, there was another couple similar aged that just moved in the floor below.”

“I think we’re ready to sign”, Logan said as he gave a nod of encouragement to Naomi.

“Fantastic! Let me get the paperwork and grab a pen from my car.”

Janice scurried out of the room as the sound of her heels grew fainter as she went down the flight of stairs.

“I’ll take your silence as overwhelmed excitement”, Logan said flatly, his voice rang of disappointment in Naomi’s outward ambivalence. His phone buzzed in his front pocket, prompting him to glance down and turn towards the kitchenette.

Excitement was the antithesis of Naomi’s feelings.

She had just signed a lease on her love.