We decided to stay in Muncie that summer. Ethan was taking classes and I got a job at Sears in the mall. We moved into neighboring studio apartments in the basement of a columned colonial on University Avenue. The landlady, a gruff old bird named Mrs. Blix, claimed that David Letterman lived there when he was a student at Ball State. She'd tell anyone who'd listen about what a slob he'd been.
Although we had two studios next to each other, Ethan and I shared his, which was nicer and bigger. We filled our days with giddy, young love, shared a twin bed and didn’t mind so much. We got addicted to reruns of Hogan’s Heroes and M.A.S.H. and when those shows weren’t on, we played a computer version of Monopoly on his Commodore 64.
We were playing house and it was lovely.
******Someone was knocking on the door. Ethan and I lay paralyzed for a moment. What if it was Mrs. Blix? We'd assured her that slept in our own beds. She’d been adamant that unmarried people would not be “fucking in her house.”
Ethan sat up, not sure what to do. I climbed over him. “I’ll hide in the bathroom,” I scampered across the room, and shut the door behind me. I pressed my ear to it to hear. I could hear a woman, but it didn’t sound like Mrs. Blix’s gravelly voice. I pushed my ear harder against the door. My heart pounded and I was annoyed that I couldn’t make out the words.
I cracked the door a little and peeked out. I couldn’t see Ethan, but I could hear him. He sounded nervous. No, he sounded really nervous. I opened the door a bit more and leaned out. He was there, leaning against the wall, the door partially opened in front of him. His bare chest stood out in stark contrast to his navy blue sweatpants. He ran his fingers through his dark hair and smiled at the person in the doorway.
The door blocked my view so I couldn’t see to whom he spoke, but I heard the voice clearly enough. It belonged to a young woman – and she sounded cute. I decided to make my presence known. I swung the bathroom door open and sauntered across the room to sit on the bed so that the person in the doorway could see me.
Ethan swung around. I saw a cloud of fear pass over his face, his smile frozen. I gave him a stony look. My heart beat double time and my pulse assisted by drumming in my ears.
Ethan turned slowly back to the young woman at the door. She stood there smiling with her open, friendly face. Her dark eyes were muted by her glasses. She wore her shiny brown hair in a chin-length bob and had decked herself out in a navy blue slicker with matching rain boots. Little ducks dotted the ensemble. I hated her.
Ethan still didn’t react. I cleared my throat and waited. The young woman looked from him to me. We were waiting for him to make the next move.
“Um, right. Um, um……,” It was painful to watch. “Um, this is Cynthia,” he stammered, gesturing to the slicker chick whose smile grew wider as she nodded my way.
“Ah, uh, um…..Cynthia is in my photography class. She just stopped by to say hi.” It came out in a rush. He cast his eyes to the floor.
I tried to smile. I waited, my eyebrows raised, my eyes snapping shut and open, shut and open. Ethan turned back to Cynthia. My mind was already racing with questions. How did she know where he lived? How did she find the exact apartment? What the hell was she doing here at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday? In the rain? And what was she wearing under that slicker with its little duckies and matching rain boots?
Ethan shook himself, as if to try to deflect the angry vibes shooting in his direction. He finally found his footing, sort of. “Um, heh, um, Cynthia, this is, is…….is um The Girlfriend,” he managed. The second the words were out of his mouth, he winced.
“Actually, my name is Lisa,” I said quietly from the bed.
********I paced the room while Ethan escorted Cynthia out. My mind was whirling with invectives and questions, but mostly invectives. I’d already made up my mind what was going on. Cynthia was what Ethan did while I worked.
I heard the door open behind me. I wrapped my fingers around the first object I could find on the bar that separated the kitchen from the living area. Ethan moved fast, but not fast enough. The Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup can connected with his forehead before he could speak.