“Where is she? I’ve been waiting out here for hours.” I can’t believe I took two trains and a bus to sit out here. This hallway smells like rat milk… Not that I know what that smells like, but I imagine it being unpleasant.
Is this even the right apartment number? Every time I visit, I can never remember. Guess I have to keep waiting until she comes out… or I die of boredom. “What are you doing in there? Hurry up.”
“Stop yelling at me!” Starla screams, her voice burrowing under the heavy iron door. “Give me a minute, I’m still getting ready.”
“Hurry up. This place smells.”
“You smell!” This girl is lucky she has what I need. If she didn’t, I would’ve sown her mouth shut by now. I take a deep breath and brush off her comment, digging deep, remembering why I came here in the first place.
“Starla, am I allowed to smoke in the hallway?”
“No! No smoking in the hallway. You’ll only make the smell worse.” I’m not even surprised by that response. It was still worth a shot though.
I sit myself up on the wall, trying to make myself not look too homeless while I wait on Starla. Suddenly, I hear the sounds of clanging banging in my eardrums. The door flies open and I rise to my feet, to be greeted by the girl herself. “Wow. I didn’t know kids could shrink, what happened the last couple months?”
“Hurry up and get in here.” Stella grabs my arm and pulls me into her apartment. She shuts the door with a boom and starts locking the locks as quick as she can.
“Starla, I know it’s not the safest here, but there’s no way it’s that bad.” Starla doesn’t say anything, or even bother to turn her head my way, she’s too busy clanking away at the locks. In return, I put my attention elsewhere.
I’m always amazed by how small this place is. I take one step in and the kitchen is right in front of me, and the living room is direct to my left., then to the right is Starla’s room, and the bathroom along with it. Having a bathroom in your own room is probably one of the most convenient things ever. Unless… You’re living with two other people, and that bathroom is the only bathroom in the place.
Huh… Why have I never given this any thought before? So, if people are living with their families, they have to smell—”
“Leslie, get out of the way!”
“O—Oh, sorry.” Before I can move, she shoves past me and darts off into the kitchen. “So, how has life been, Starla?”
“I’m breathing… somehow.”
“Oh, don’t give me that. Everything that’s happening to you, you brought onto yourself.”
“I know! I know I’m not going to give up though, even if I really want to—but I can’t! If I give up, then a whole year of my life would’ve been for nothing. An entire year! Do you know how long that is Leslie!? Do you!?” Starla’s face starts turning bright red, and she’s pulling the ends of her hair with more force than she should, even if she’s seconds away from a breakdown.
“You need to relax, Starla. If you ask me, you should give up. You’re getting way too stressed, especially for a girl your age.”
“But then nothing will change. If I leave now, all I’ll be doing is proving my dad right, and if I prove him right, he’ll never let it go.”
“I know. You’ve told me already, but you’re sixteen and I can already see gray hairs in your head. Your hair is short to boot. If you keep this up, you’ll look like my grandma in no time.”
“I don’t care about my hair. I’m living here until he does what I asked him!” There’s never any use arguing with this woman. She’s far too stubborn, but at least she knows what she wants.
“Alright. Alright, calm down, but when your back gives out in your twenties, don’t come crying to me.”
“I’ll be fine. Now here, I know you came a long way for this.” Starla reaches for the countertop and grabs an aluminum baking pan, covered with aluminum at the top. I grab it with open arms, remembering why I go out of my way to make trips out here. “There’s a gym bag in my living that you can carry that in. Also, you’re going to have to reheat it by the time you get home, just put it in the oven for five to ten minutes at three hundred degrees.”
“Thanks, Starla. You know I’d kill for your lasagna any day.”
“I know, that’s why I keep making them for you. In case I need a… job done in the future… If you know what I mean. Also, this is the only thing I know how to cook.” Me and Starla both let out a good laugh from her failure of a sentence. I’m surprised she can even have a sense of humor with how stressed she is.
I head into the living room and find the gym bag on the couch. There’s more than enough space for the lasagna in it. I put the lasagna in the bag and hoist it over my shoulder. “I love how you keep going out of your way to decorate this place, Starla. These lights on the wall are such a nice touch.”
“Well, I don’t have much of a choice. I either decorate things myself or watch the paint on the walls chip away. Now I know how college kids feel.” Starla spits out, letting out an awkward chuckle.
“Starla, do you want me to stay here for a little bit? You seem way more stressed than usual. Not that being stressed at all is good, but you get my point.”
“On no! I-I’m fine! You need to get home. It’ll be dark soon; I don’t want to put that burden on you… o-or anything.” She keeps fidgeting with her fingers and bouncing her heels up and down. She’s a tough girl, but I know a nervous wreck when I see one.
“Your piss poor lying skills are telling me that everything isn’t fine.”
“What do you mean, I’m perfectly—”
“Sit down, let’s talk,” I say, dropping myself on her couch. Starla flutters her eyes at me and breathes out a gargantuan sigh. Finally, she lets her guard down and takes a seat beside me.
“Okay, fine. Even though my dad isn’t making me pay bills, working part-time to pay for food has been so difficult! He even comes to check in on me to make sure that I cooked.”
“I’m going to tell you one last time. Call this whole thing off and go back home. You’ve been living in here an entire year. Your dad is probably super proud of you for making it this far.”
“He’s not proud, he’s just mocking me. Plus, what is there to be proud of? I’m still daddy’s little girl with him letting me live rent-free, but it doesn’t matter who my dad is, he’s going to break soon, I just know he will!” Starla declares, thrusting her fist forward.
I can’t decide whether her determination is admirable, or outright idiotic.
“Keep your hands to yourself, Starla. You’ll punch a kid by accident one day.”
“Obviously, you’re not going to budge, but remember, your dad cares about you. Even if he is a selfish old man, at least he cares about the well-being of his daughter.”
“If he cared, then he’ll give this building the funding that it needs. His own daughter is living here and he’s still not batting an eye. Could you imagine an entire family having to live in these conditions? I can leave whenever I want, but not everyone has that choice.” She always brings up this same point, but it’s a damn good one. “All I’m saying is that if you own something, you need to take care of it, especially if people are living in it… Makes me wonder if he really cares. He’s probably happy that I left…”
“Of course, he cares about you. He comes to visit, doesn’t he? And he visits often too. He just has a weird way of showing it.”
“By barely showing it at all?” Starla says, her face melting off with hopelessness.
“I’m not an expert on people, but I need you to remember that some people care for others in strange ways.”
“Uh… huh. Whatever you say.” Starla groans, her head drooping further to the floor.
Uck… It’s moments like these where I wish I were better with people. I guess it’d be best to leave her alone.
“Try and stay positive. It’ll pay off. I promise.” I say, getting up from the couch. “I’ve gotta go now, I really don’t want this lasagna getting too cold.”
“Yeah… later Leslie.” I head for the door and let myself out, but once I find myself on the other side, the weight of my words mixes my brain into a batter.
“Ugh! Me and my stupid surface-level advice. I hope she starts feeling better soon.” The most I can do for her is make her day a little bit brighter when I come to visit, but there’s only so much I can say to her…
I failed miserably at that today, but there’s always next time… Whenever that’ll be. It takes so long for me to get out here, that I end up pretending to be busier than I really am, just to have an excuse to stay home… While Starla gave up all of the conveniences in her life, to fight for a change that she wants to see…
Why am I so pathetic…?
I’d kill for the same attitude that she carries herself with through her day-to-day life.
She’s reckless, but for a strong cause…
I’d kill for a will like Starla’s…
Hi! I post on this website for a chance to share my stories with the world. I’ve been writing for the past 6 years, learning more about creative writing to better my writing skills. My hope is to make a lot of friends here and grow as a writer. Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like.