The hazel eyes that I met were friendly and, paired with the beaming smile spread across the young man’s face, all of the embarrassment that had built in my stomach drained away. The warmness that exuded from his care-free expression reassured me that I wasn’t in trouble.
“Hi,” he spoke with an equally kind voice, “I was walking by and heard the music so assumed that you’d just moved in; this apartment has been vacant for weeks, you see.” I felt myself begin to blush and the embarrassment began to bubble again. I must have been pretty loud if it had been heard from the hallway.
“Oh, well I apologize for the damage caused to your ears thanks to my terrible rendition of Somebody to Love. Freddy Mercury would be turning in his grave if he could hear.” I answered, giggling a little to myself. I’d never really been brilliant at talking to new people and it didn’t really help the fact that the man stood before me wasn’t all that bad looking either, only adding to the awkwardness I felt.
“Well, I’d disagree. I didn’t think it was all that bad actually. A little fine tuning and it’d be perfect. I’m Lee, by the way, I live upstairs.” He outstretched his hand, gesturing for it to be shaken. I smiled weakly, taking his hand a firmly, but not too tightly, and shook it.
“Hannah,” I replied, “and I live here.”
“I’d guessed that.”
“I guess you did,” We both laughed and released our hand shake, Lee placing both of his into his jeans pockets and one of mine leaning against to door and the other folded behind my back. I admired the chiselled bone structure of his face and how the olive tone to his skin complimented his Chestnut coloured hair. His body, though concealed under loose fitting clothes, was athletic and his dress style was modern but casual. In fact, his whole demeanour appeared very casual and laid back, characteristics very different to that which I’d experienced with Malcolm, whom had always been a buttoned-up kind of person and both dressed and acted in a very sophisticated manner, far behind his years, “did you want to come in? I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to or if you have other plans, that is.”
“No, I’ve not got any other plans, I’ve just come back from work, is all. Did you still have things to unpack? I could help you?” he answered, taking a small step into the apartment. I backed into the living area the slightest bit, so not to get in his way. I felt a little strange inviting a man I’d only just met into my apartment, especially as I’d just moved in, but the company he would provide would be sanctuary and it would be nice to know at least one person who lived in the same building.
“I do, but I’d hate to burden you with it, especially if you’re just coming home from work.”
“You wouldn’t be burdening me at all. Heck, I’d have killed to have had someone offering to help me unpack when I first moved in. I’d be glad to help.” He smiled sweetly and moved further into the apartment. I paused briefly at the front door, not completely knowing what to make of it all. I’d never met a man who was so… forward. Malcolm had always done things by the book and lacked any kind of spontaneity. With Lee, this was new and interesting. I closed the front door and found Lee admiring the contents of one of the boxes on the dining table. It was the box that contained the records I’ve scavenged from various places, including the likes of Mum and Dad, over the years. They really were my pride and joy. He began to flick through the various packets and came across the Hungry Like The Wolf single.
“That’s one of my favourites,” I stated crossing over to the table and admiring the original cover the vinyl was protected by. It was slightly torn and had probably seen better days, but it I didn’t mind, “I know its a little cliché or predictable, but it’s probably my favourite Duran Duran song.”
“You wouldn’t even have been born when this came out.” He added, removing it from the box and turning it onto its flip side, “then again, neither would I. It is a pretty good song though. I never would have put you down as a girl who would be into good old vinyl.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me.” I blushed at the slight hint of flirtation and instead, began to flip through the remainder of the records in the box, in an attempt to hide my face. Lee chuckled to himself and spied the record player that Dad had already set up for me by the television. He crossed the room and removed the vinyl from the sleeve, placing it delicately in place and adjusting the needle to the beginning of the track. I was impressed. Not many people I knew, other than my parents, knew how to use that record player. The classic crackly tunes of Duran Duran began to fill the flat and a smile spread across my face.
“You can’t beat vinyl,” Lee stated, returning to the table, “Where did you want to put them all?”
“I’ve got some boxes to put them in which will go in the space under the record player itself. And all of my CDs and cassettes can go on the shelves by the television.” I handed him over one of the many boxes containing years’ worth of collecting of CDs from throughout my child and teen years, as well as the ones I’d snuck out from my parents’ own personal collection over the years.
“Wow, it’s like your own personal library of music. You could own your own shop.”
“Oh, I could never sell them. I’m far too fond of them all and couldn’t bear to part with them. I love music far too much, but my real passion is to write.”
“You’re a writer?” Lee asked, beginning to place the previously alphabetically organized rows of CD cases along the shelving units, “Professionally?”
“So, what got you into writing?”
“Well I’d always enjoyed writing short stories when I was a kid but I think the thing that got me the most into writing was this,” I edged around the dining table and brought a heavy brown case to the desk next to where Lee was kneeling down at the shelves. I placed the case on the desktop and unfastened the worn leather buckles that held it together. Once unfastened, I lifted the large case off and placed it at my feet to reveal my most prized possession. Lee’s eyes widened, taking a break from stacking CDs and admiring the beauty that sat on my desk, “it’s an original, one of the first ones ever made, in 1896.”
“Wow.” Lee simply stated. The Underwood typewriter truly was an antique but was still in a decent working condition. It had been passed down to my Great-Grandmother, from her mother, and in turn to her daughter and so on.
“I remember when I was really little we’d all go to my grandparents’ house on a Sunday and I would spend hours sat at their desk admiring it and never daring to touch it in case I accidentally broke it. When I was about ten, my grandmother finally let me use it and would give me a sheet of paper to write her a little story on. I guess that’s when I first decided I wanted to be a writer. After both she and my grandfather died, the type writer was passed down to mum, but she knew that I’d always had my eye on it so gave it to me for my twenty-first. It’s the one possession I own that I would literally crumble to pieces if anything happened to it.”
“I would too if I owned one. It must be worth a fortune, if it’s an original. Have you ever checked it out?”
“No, I daren’t. I’d be too scared that the money its worth would outweigh my desire to keep it forever. I could never part with it, particularly as it’s sort of a family heirloom.”
“Hmmm… anyway, here I am blabbing away about my life when I know nothing about you other than your name is Lee and you live upstairs.” I added, tearing away from the previous conversation and steering it towards Lee. He laughed nervously, as though not quite knowing how to begin. I’d just spilled out so much stuff about myself, how hard could it be for him to do the same?
“Well, my name is Lee Harrison; I grew up in Enfield with my Mum, Dad and brother; I was lucky enough to be accepted into the BRIT school at fourteen and remained there until I was nineteen; and since then I’ve been trying to get into the music industry.” I fell silent. Oh.
“The BRIT school?” I asked, just to clarify that I’d heard him correctly.
“Yes, the one and only.” He clarified. The way in which he presented this jealous-worthy information was neither in a smug or cocky fashion but was more matter-of-fact and almost as though it wasn’t that much of a big deal.
“Wow.” I simply mouthed under my breath, mirroring his reaction to the typewriter previously. I was gob-smacked. Here was me completely destroying a classic Queen song no more than ten minutes ago to be overheard by a guy who had previously attended one of the best performance institutes for young individuals in the country. If I hadn’t felt embarrassed before, I sure did at that exact moment, “So, are you any good? Okay, that was a stupid question. Of course you must be; near enough everyone who goes to that school makes it big.”
“Huh, everyone except me. I only said I was trying to get into the music industry, not that I was having any success. Currently, I pay the rent as primarily a wedding singer.” I could hear the disheartening tone in his voice and decided to ease away from the topic so much.
“I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.”
“What?” he asked, almost shocked, “You’ve not offended me at all. I like my job and I get to meet lots of people every week. I may only be a wedding singer, but I’m a darned good one at that.”
“I’ll keep you in mind when my big day comes along then.” I added, lightly. The conversation dropped slightly there and an awkward silence began to arise.
“Your big day, eh?” Lee began, getting up from his crouched position at the shelves and turning to make his way back over towards me, a slightly nervous look spreading across his face.
“I was only speaking metaphorically,” I assured him, “I have no plans on getting married within the next few years. In fact, there’s no one in my life at the moment who I’d even contemplate spending the rest of my life with.”
“So there’s no boyfriend on the scene?” he asked, standing behind the chair on the opposite side of the table from me and placing his hands on the back. I looked him in the eyes and sighed.
“No, there isn’t. There was, but he had other ideas.”
“It’s kind of complicated.”
“Forgive me if I’m asking too much. I’d hate to pry.”
“You’re not. It’s just… we were together for around five years and it turns out that he’d never really loved me and had been seeing people throughout our entire relationship behind my back. I caught him in bed with some floozy on my birthday three months back.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, genuinely sounding sincere, “in my opinion, he’s an idiot for not seeing what a gem he’d picked up. I mean, from what I’ve witnessed of you, you seem little a pretty awesome person to be with. If it were me, I wouldn’t have let go of you without a fight.” I felt my cheeks burning as I began to blush at his kind words. Why had Lee not come into my life before now? He was genuinely one of the nicest people I’d ever met and made me feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to have him in my life. Although I barely knew him, I didn’t want to let him out of my life quite so soon.
“You know, I’m planning on having a house warming party when I’ve settled in a bit here. Maybe you’d like to come?” I asked, smiling sweetly, “Maybe you could spread the word around the building too? It would be lovely to meet some more of my new neighbours.”
“I’d love to.” He simply answered, mirroring a similar smile to the one I’d posed previously.
“Great.” I was glad I’d met Lee. His presence had lightened up my whole experience of moving in by myself and I was grateful for the company and companionship he’d provided. I could tell that this wouldn’t be the last time mine and Lee crossed paths, by no means did I ever plan on losing contact with him the moment he walked out my front door, and I could tell that Lee would forever be part of my future from this moment onwards. I couldn’t afford to lose a friend like him.