Sharing Space (The Complete Series)

BOOK: Sharing Space (The Complete Series)
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Sharing Space – The Complete Series

 

by

 

Nina Perez

 

Copyright © 2014 Nina Perez

All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

 

 

Book One
: Roommate Wanted

 

Book Two
: Family Ties

 

Book Three
: Slow Burn

 

Book Four
: Taking Chances

 

Book Five
: Winter Wishes

 

Book Six
: Before Forever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roommate Wanted
Book One

 

Chapter One

 

What You Get For Chicken Noodle Soup and Good Intentions

 

Chloe

 

 

What am I going to do with all this soup?

 

That was the first thought that leapt into my head upon finding my boyfriend of eight months in bed with another woman.

 

What am I going to do with all this soup? 

 

I suppose I could have reacted as if I were in a soap opera and flung the door open, my lower lip trembling, and asked, "What is the meaning of this?  What's going on here?" From the moaning, groaning, and absence of clothing, it was obvious what was going on.

 

As Myra calls it, I could have gotten a little ghetto on him. "Oh no you didn’t!” Reminding Lawrence that I did grow up in Brooklyn and was capable of all kinds of shadiness: putting sugar in his gas tank, slashing his tires, and leaving dog poop in the mailbox. 

 

My first response should have been an indication of where my priorities were.  Sure, I was upset that a man I thought to be true was now sweating and panting over another woman on a bedspread I’d purchased, but I was more concerned with who was going to eat the six-dollar bowl of soup I’d bought for him. I hated chicken noodle soup and I didn’t have money to waste. My credit card payment was not only due, it was late.

 

It seemed my problems, like celebrity deaths, were rolling in threes. The cheating boyfriend was just the proverbial straw on my already-overburdened camel’s back, and before the maxed-out credit bill arrived there’d been the bombshell from my roommate. An aspiring actress, Grace had suddenly decided that Los Angeles was “the place to be” and left me with two weeks to find another roommate or come up with her half of the rent. So you can see where someone in my situation might be heartbroken, but also a little financially stressed over this betrayal.

 

"How about I swing by your office today and take you to lunch?" That was
me, earlier in the day, playing the role of the thoughtful girlfriend. 

 

"Uh, nah babe, not today. I think I'm coming down with something. I’ll just stay home today and get some rest.” That was Lawrence, coughing and sneezing, playing the role of the flu-ridden boyfriend.

 

Taking my thoughtfulness a step further I decided to take a long lunch, pick up a large chicken noodle vegetable soup for my ailing man and a chunky chicken Caesar salad for myself, hop in a cab, and surprise Lawrence with lunch. I learned it was not the flu that had kept my man home from work that day. As I stood there with my surprise lunch and good intentions, Lawrence panted over a big-booty sister with a busty chest.

 

Had the fool forgotten he'd given me a key?

 

I fumed as I strode through the lobby of his building, head held high
à la
Angela Bassett in
What's Love Got To Do With It.
Of course, I did so minus the fierce white pant suit and busted face. I hailed another cab to take me back to my office and considered watching the movie that night. I thought it might be exactly what I needed to remind myself that I was a proud black woman who didn’t have to take mess from anybody—or, at the very least, remind myself that it could always be a lot worse.  

 

Coughing and sneezing my ass.

 

***

 

"No he didn't!” exclaimed Myra Landon, slurping down a spoonful of soup.

 

Myra and I were marketing assistants at Braxton and Lloyd Consulting Agency, and she was my best friend. Where I was tall and thin, she was short and thick with a behind to rival Serena Williams’. I wore my hair a little longer than shoulder length and Myra kept her unprocessed hair in a short cut. We were exact opposites in almost every way imaginable, yet she remained my girl. We'd seen each other through all kinds of drama. There were plenty of times when I had been the one yelling, "No he didn't!” Although, never while sucking down a bowl of soup that cost six bucks. Manhattan was too damn expensive. 

 

"Yes, he did.” I replied for the third time. 

 

"I told you his ass was no good.”

 

I wanted so badly to tell her to shut up, to tell her she had told me no such thing, but I couldn't. She had, and she was right. Lawrence Baldwin was a marketing executive at a flash sales site for urban apparel. We met eight months ago when his company hired our firm to take over their social media advertising. Myra took one look at him and said he looked like he had the word
playa
stamped on his drawers. I’d thought so, too, but working lunches turned to dinners, turned to bona-fide dates, and I’d discovered a sensitive man under the handsome and confident exterior.

 

Coughing and sneezing my ass.

 

I stabbed at the salad from behind my desk. My boss, Lila Monroe, was in Australia for the whole week. Myra was the assistant to Mr. Hampton Lloyd himself, the Lloyd in Braxton & Lloyd—who also happened to be in Australia. Myra suspected that Lila and old Hamp were "getting down" down under. To that I’d naively replied, "They're both married." Myra, having an answer for everything, said, "So what? People cheat, that's what they do, holy vows or not."  I didn't care if Lila and Hamp were doing the horizontal tango all over Australia with koala bears and kangaroos to boot. Lila being gone had lightened my workload and allowed me to focus on the other things I had going on—like my dwindling finances.

 

"This is turning into the week from hell." I dumped the rest of my salad in the trashcan. 

 

"When does Grace leave?” Myra asked. 

 

"She left." 

 

"What?” Myra finished the last of the soup. "I thought she was here till the end of the month." 

 

“That's what I thought too, but then she tells me she got an audition for
General Hospital
or some other soap and said she had to leave immediately." 

 

"Shady.”

 

"Uh huh. Funny how with this last minute decision, she still managed to have all of her stuff packed and gone the next day. I just hope someone answers my ad soon. If not, I'll have to come up with next month's rent on my own and then wait while Mr. Tucci finds someone." I shot Myra a quick glance. "You sure you won't reconsider moving in with me?"

 

"Girl, you know I love you but two divas in one apartment is not a good idea."

 

"Grace and I managed okay."

 

"That's because Grace was always laid up in some guy's bed at his apartment. No. Our wonderful friendship will last longer if we make it a point to never live together. Besides, I can’t break my lease."

 

"Well, then I definitely need to find a roommate, like yesterday.  I cannot afford to pay that rent on my own and I really don't want to see who Mr. Tucci finds."

 

"People will call. You live in a rent-controlled midtown apartment. It's a dream. Now I have to get back to work. I have six meetings to set up and I wanted to leave early today."

 

"Big plans?” I asked. 

 

"I don't know how big it is. We've only been out twice.” Myra flashed a wicked smile. 

 

"You are so nasty."

 

"I know."

 

With a wave of her hand Myra was gone. I gazed out the window; from my thirtieth floor office every one of the bustling New Yorkers below looked like they were ants of various colors. As I watched, the ants began to blur. I didn't cry often and was ashamed that the past week's events were having such an effect on me. 

 

I should have been relieved that Lawrence had shown his true colors before I’d fallen totally in love with him. I wasn't quite there, but I was close. Lawrence knew where all my buttons were and he knew how to push them. It was more than just his lovemaking skills. There were times when Lawrence was funny, tender, and generous, and times when I felt he had really been there for me, especially when it came to my job.

 

There was a lot of jealousy from the other assistants when I’d landed a job working alongside Lila Monroe who, as rumor had it, was to be made partner soon. Lila managed three teams solely devoted to social media accounts. It was surprising how many companies had not yet embraced the benefits of onIine marketing and, even worse, the many that had but were doing it all wrong. We were in high demand, so much so that Lila was looking to compile a fourth team and she’d need someone to lead it. I was hoping that someone would be me.

 

That meant more than late nights and working on the weekends. It meant staying on top of the latest social media trends and figuring out ways our clients could use them to connect with their customers. I’d already had my work recognized in several team meetings, doing nothing to raise my popularity with the other assistants. I told myself that they were just intimidated by my hard work, but Myra suspected it was because of my race. It didn’t matter to me what was behind it, I didn’t let it stop me. Lila and I had hit it off immediately. She knew what it was like to work harder just to get the same rewards given so easily to male executives. She didn’t let the inequality stop her from getting what she wanted, and recognized that I didn't either.

 

Lawrence had made a nice sounding board to come home to, and I would miss that: someone there at the end of the day who would listen to you, sympathize, rub your back, and then make love to you until your toes curled.

 

Snap out of it, Chloe.

 

Inner-self pep talks kept me sane.

 

Pull yourself together, Ms. Brooks. You will get through this, even if it is the worst week ever.

 

***

 

I considered staying in bed all day Saturday. It didn’t seem like such a bad idea to pull the covers over my head, cocoon myself in the new comforter from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and lie there until my mind realized that my body wasn’t moving and resigned itself to sleep again. Then I remembered that I had charged that comforter to my overdue VISA card. One thought led to another and they all seemed to lead to my financial situation.

 

I wasn't poor, but I wasn't exactly living like a Kardashian either. The savings I had tucked away were nothing to get excited over. There was no way I could afford to pay the next month’s rent on my own, at least not without making some sacrifices—like food—and I’d become accustomed to eating regularly. If I were forced to pay for the apartment alone on a long-term basis, I’d quickly deplete my modest savings. My top priority had to be finding a new roommate even though I wasn’t looking forward to living with a stranger.  

 

Grace had been a temp for B&L when I learned the rent was being raised on my Greenwich Village studio. She came to my rescue and told me she was looking for a roommate. A rent-controlled midtown apartment was damn near impossible to find anymore. The landlord, Mr. Tucci, was a nice enough man with clear rules: one person per bedroom (that meant don't even think about having three grown-ass folks living in a two-bedroom apartment), no loud music after ten at night (weekends included), and he expected the rent in full the first of each month.  If your roommate moved out, well boo-freakin'-hoo, rent in full on the first, please. 

 

I was allowed to find my own replacement as long as he was able to meet them and check their references. If you were over twenty-one, had a job, and weren’t wanted for any crimes, you were basically in. I placed an ad in a few papers and on Craig’s List, hoping for quick responses. It had only been a few days since the ad first ran, but I was getting a little discouraged; I hadn’t received any inquiries.

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