The staggering clicks of the metal lock grinded as Gwen impatiently tried to twist the key back and forth to gain access to the apartment. Her jaw clenched in frustration at the faulty contraption and with each jamming twist of the key the torque became more powerful until a click sounded followed by a crack.
She breathed expletives under her breath while shoving the door open angrily with the force of her shoulder. She dropped everything at the entrance just inside and closed the door behind her.
The musty scent of the warping hardwood and years of neglected repairs riddled the apartment barely inhabitable by even her lowest standards. However, with the nearly stagnant income flow being a rag reviewer, it left quite a gap in what she could afford. But with any lofty dream there were sacrifices to be made.
Looking at the place from a distance she had a hard time seeing it as a home she so desperately tried to make it. This was it and there was no way she was running back home to her parents. She was sure even if she did they would have been more than willing to take her back, but she knew there were many watching her and placing bets if she could make it on her own or not.
Gwen knew there were many that were staking money on her success with the notion that a pretty face like hers wouldn’t make it more than a few months- tops.
Gwen drew a breath of confidence and tried to take some relief in all the potted plants she had placed around the dingy apartment to instill some life in the place. It kinda helped to diffuse the tension in her mind of how far she had yet to go..
Being momentarily calmed she swiftly climbed the creaking staircase and swiveled in the chair before the monitor that displayed an unfinished draft of all the notes she had already collected from some interviews she had done a few weeks prior. Now all her time was devoted to finishing the move and the newfound to-do’s that came with being on her own.
Suddenly there was a knocking at the door, causing her heart to flutter anxiously. She began to panic that it could be her family leaving her to imagine how upset that they could have been right about now. It was one thing to drop out of school, but to hide from her parents… This was a new low.
Hesitantly, she walked towards the door where she opened it a sliver and peered out apprehensively.
“Hello…?” Gwen asked hesitantly.
A young man sporting a red dirt stained shirt turned towards her and locked eyes, the creases of them exaggerated with a large smile that stretched across his face.
“Sorry to bother you. I’m Paolo-”
He chuckled nervously under his breath. “I just swung by to inspect your apartment, but if now isn’t a good time-”
“You’re the maintenance worker?”
“Heh. Kinda. Robert has been out sick for the past week. I’m your landlords nephew. I can take a look and if there are any problems I can try my luck at it.”
She looked over his handsome and chiseled features despite his worn attire, almost oblivious to the amount of time that had passed between them.
“Can I come in?”
“Um, yeah.” Gwen opened the door fully and took a step outside in the natural light. “There are some things inside that you can look at, but if you can take a look at this door…”
“Okay. Let’s start here then.” He shot a smile at her and caused Gwen to melt on the spot. Paolo bent over and inspected the knob, twisting it to feel for any resistances. “Anything else about the door that you’ve noticed? Is it not closing properly? Rubbing on any surfaces?”
“It’s mainly the deadbolt. It jams all the time and I always worry about either getting robbed or being locked out of my house.” She stood behind him watching him tinker while taking note of the fresh beads of sweat that formed at the nape of his neck.
“Well,” Paolo got to his feet, his hands resting on his hips. “It looks like it is compromised. However, this is an easy fix to replace.” He pulled out a small notepad from his chest pocket and jotted down some notes. He replaced it back into his pocket and crossed the threshold inside..
Gwen followed behind him as he inspected every nook and cranny of the apartment while every few moments pulling out that notepad and scribbling something.
“So, Miss…” He cleared his throat uncomfortably while skimming its pages, his eyes every so often catching ahold of hers before looking away quickly. “…Keenan.
“Please, call me Gwen.” she insisted.
“Gwen.” He repeated awkwardly, as if he was curious how it felt as it rolled off his tongue. “…So in addition to the new lock, there is some mildew in the upstairs bathroom that will need to be cleaned, a few holes in the drywall as well as the water furnace that is in need of a tuneup… As well as many other things… But don’t worry, Gwen!” He shot her a smile that made her legs sway. “Consider this your move-in inspection. I’ll waive the costs.”
“Oh, thanks. So it’s not going to cost me?”
Paolo chuckled. “Not unless you want to buy me a coffee.”
A nervous lump lodged itself in my throat as Gwen stared at him almost absently.
“Gwen. I’m kidding. Try not to take me so seriously.” He looked over his shoulder towards her.
“Well- um… I suppose I do owe you for-” She stammered uncontrollably as her jaw quivered.
“Thank you,” he said smoothly, obviously aware to how messed up she was. “But no. I obviously should be leaving. I shouldn’t stay any longer than needed. You should hear back when I can come back to make the repairs.” He nodded his head and dismissed himself. The door closed behind him with a heavy thud leaving her alone in her thoughts as they stirred up many feelings into confusion.