Vanessa was tidying up when the door chime sounded. She put down the duster and answered the door.
Outside was a young woman with a hopeful smile. “I’m Caroline. We spoke earlier, about the room.”
“Oh yes. Come on in,” Vanessa said, smiling as well. “How about I show you around a bit, see if you’re still interested.”
Caroline nodded and followed Vanessa’s lead, looking around the apartment.
“So, uh, if you don’t mind me asking, why haven’t you found someone yet?” she asked, as Vanessa led her through the living room and past the kitchen and dining area.
“I suppose that I’m a little bit too picky,” Vanessa admitted. “But, if it were your apartment, would you want to let out the spare room to just anyone?”
“No, I suppose that I wouldn’t,” Caroline said.
The spare room was at the other end of the apartment. It comfortably housed a double bed, a desk, an armchair and a dresser.
“Oh, there’s a bit of storage here,” Vanessa said, opening a door to show her a walk-in cupboard with empty shelves. “And, over here is an en suite bathroom.”
“This is amazing!” Caroline enthused. “Believe me, I’ve been turned down for rooms with little more than a bed and a clothes rack.”
“Did they happen to tell you why they turned you down?”
“Oh. Yes. They wanted someone quieter and less outspoken,” Caroline said with a shrug.
“I see.” Vanessa didn’t think Caroline was especially outspoken, although she didn’t really know her that well yet. “So in other words, they wanted someone they could push around,” she guessed.
“Yes, that’s probably it.”
“So where are you living currently?” Vanessa asked.
“With my girlfriend. Sorry, ex-girlfriend,” Caroline answered.
“Oh. Sorry to hear that you broke up.”
Caroline sighed and shook her head. “She’s not really the woman I fell in love with anymore. I’ve been in the process of trying to move out for over a month now.”
“You really do need to move out,” Vanessa thought out loud.
“Well, yeah,” Caroline said. “Please don’t tell me that you’re going to jack up the price for the room because I’m desperate.”
“What? No,” Vanessa answered with an emphatic shake of her head. “Actually, I was going to offer to help you get your things. That, after I told you that you can move in.”
“Thank you,” Caroline said. “I don’t know what to say except, thank you, Vanessa.”
“It’s quite alright, Besides, I don’t suppose your ex will be happy to see you – or me, for that matter. Don’t thank me yet.”
“She’s not like that. No, she’s really not.” Caroline seemed insistent. “But maybe, when I’m out of her hair, we can both begin to move on.”
“Let’s go, then. Unless you’d like to hang out here for a little while.”
Caroline seemed to consider Vanessa’s offer. “I’d rather get it over with and then hang out here.”
“Fair enough. You lead, I’ll follow.”
Vanessa and Caroline left the apartment and took a lift up to the air deck. It was a bright sunny day and they had to shield their eyes against the glare. Still, Vanessa could see Caroline’s hovercar docked and waiting.
“Nice ride,” Vanessa commented dryly.
“They don’t build them like this any more,” Caroline remarked, turning with a hint of a smile. “No, really, the company went bust a couple of decades ago.”
“I know only too well. Over there,” Vanessa replied, pointing out her own hovercar, which was the same make and a similar model, although it looked to be in slightly better condition.
“I somehow pictured you being the owner of a leaner and meaner aero machine,” Caroline said, laughing at the stark difference between that and reality.
“Can’t have everything,” Vanessa said with a shrug, “besides, it gets me from here to there, it doesn’t need to be mean or lean, or even particularly new.”
“Right. If it isn’t broken, don’t trade it in for a newer model.”
They made ready to undock. Caroline tried to put her excitement and expectations to one side as she went through her pre-flight checks. She didn’t want to blow her chance for a fresh start by accidentally skipping a step, after all.
As Caroline’s old hovercar took flight, Vanessa followed suit and stayed a safe distance behind. At this time of day, the skies weren’t very busy, but she didn’t fly very often – if she let Caroline fly too far ahead she might end up following someone else by mistake.
Caroline’s current digs weren’t far away. The nearby air deck that they touched down on offered a view of a lovely, leafy-green neighbourhood.
Caroline was already docked and out of her vehicle, waiting for Vanessa. She looked like she could use more than just a pair of hands to help her move, Vanessa thought.
“Nervous?” Vanessa asked her as they walked.
“I’ll be alright.” Caroline’s expression brightened as she glanced at Vanessa. “You’re here, after all.”
After riding a lift down and walking a short way, they arrived. Caroline called out as she opened the door, “I’m back. I’ve brought someone with me to help me with the moving.”
Vanessa wasn’t sure what she had previously pictured in her mind based on what Caroline had told her of her ex-girlfriend, but the woman who emerged from behind one of the doors in the small apartment didn’t look mean-spirited or spiteful.
“Hello there,” she said with a resigned undercurrent to her words, “I’m Carmen. Everything’s packed so, I’ll just stay out of the way.”
Carmen turned back the way she’d come and closed the door. Afterwards, Vanessa thought she could hear the woman crying.
“Caroline,” she asked, “are you sure you two are broken up? She seems really sad that you’re going.”
With a sigh, Caroline said, “Yes, I’m sure. She is sad – it’s not like we never loved each other – but we’ve grown apart and nothing we can do will change that.”
“Okay then. Just making sure.”
Vanessa joined Caroline in picking up boxed possessions. At one point these things were shared by Carmen and Caroline, and now were as divided as the two women. Perhaps there had even been a heated argument about the division of these memorabilia.
It took them more than an hour to load the two hovercars. When they arrived back at Vanessa’s apartment, both of them were too fatigued to move everything in right away, so Caroline took an overnight bag down with her.
They ended up sitting together on the sofa in the living room, sipping tea.
“So are you working or studying, Caroline?” Vanessa asked.
“Studying. Linguistics. I’m a little way into my first year.”
“How’s that going?”
“It’s great so far. A bit challenging, but I’m staying on top of things.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“And you, Vanessa? What do you do?”
“I’m a holographic artist. It’s a hobby, slash, occupation,” Vanessa answered with a smile.
“Oh really? Any work that I might have seen lately, then?”
“Possibly. I’m a little bit shy of the limelight though.”
Vanessa wondered how Caroline would react, knowing how popular her art was. Then again, since she worked from home when it was possible, it was likely that her new roomie would swiftly put two and two together. “I attribute my work as Vee Cain,” she said eventually.
“Then, I am familiar with your work,” Caroline remarked, nodding and smiling. “I remember visiting the gallery of re-imagined historical figures. I loved how you painstakingly depicted each one as they would have looked in a completely different era than their own.”
“That was a lot of fun to do,” Vanessa said. “I hung out at the showing one time and had to keep my lip buttoned while people were talking about it. As it is, I think I turned bright pink with the high praise given.”
Caroline’s mind turned to a nagging question that had been on her mind since she’d seen the room. “Vanessa, if you don’t mind me asking, have you always lived alone here, or did you have a roomie before?”
Vanessa sighed, and set her cup of tea down. “Well, since you ask, yes. There was someone else who lived with me. A student doctor. Her name was Lily.”
“She moved away?”
“Not exactly. She had to drop out. She didn’t say as much, but I could tell that something was really bothering her. And, you know, we were friends, but I couldn’t get her to open up to me.”
“How did that make you feel?”
Vanessa held both hands out palm-up, fingers slightly curled as she gave an exasperated sigh. “Frustrated. I didn’t even know her family was coming to collect her until they showed up at my door. She was packed and gone, just like that.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Caroline said. “And I guess I’ll stop prying now, since it’s bothering you.”
Vanessa shook her head. “It’s fine. I just really miss her, sometimes.”
“And you never got to say goodbye.”
“I never got to tell her,” Vanessa started, then hesitated and shook her head. “It’s nothing.”
“What did you want to tell her?”
Vanessa sank back on the sofa and sighed. “That I had feelings for her,” she said eventually.
“Would it have been difficult for you to tell her?” Caroline asked.
“I don’t know. Probably. I didn’t get the impression that she felt the same way about me.” Vanessa took the opportunity to escape the current topic of conversation, wondering why Caroline was so interested. “I’m feeling hungry. I think I’ll go start dinner,” she announced.
“Can I help?”
“Sure. Just don’t break anything,” Vanessa said with a half-smile.