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Okay, folks. This is the last excerpt I'll be posting for a while. If I plan to get this thing finished in a timely manner, then I have to exit the real world and immerse myself in Cadence's and Mark's. I don't even know where this chapter will appear in the book yet, and just like the last excerpt, this one is neither finished nor edited.
Chapter ? playing house
Mark strolled through the apartment observing the little messes here and there: Clothes flung over the living room furniture. Stacks of unorganized papers on the floor and tables. Glasses with half-finished soda sitting in random spots. He peeked into the bathroom and groaned. Toiletries. Everywhere. He’d forgotten about women’s toiletries, or maybe it was just that Andy kept hers organized and generally out of sight. Not Cadence. There were bottles all over the place, crowding the sink, stacked on top of the toilet tank, lining the ledge of the garden tub.
“What the hell?” he said to himself. He rubbed his face, then set to work clearing the countertop.
Cadence popped into the bathroom and scanned the sink.
“Where’s my brush?” she asked.
“I put it away.”
“Oh. Thanks. I was gonna do that,” she said, opening the top drawer. She searched around. “Where?”
“The other drawer,” Mark replied, eyeing her.
She pushed the drawer in, and he caught it before it shut fully. He pulled it back out.
“Umm, those nail clippers belong in that basket. See? You moved them while you were looking for your brush.” He paused. “And you didn’t put them back.”
Cadence looked up at him. “Seriously?”
She made a dramatic show of picking up the clippers and holding them up to his face before dropping them in the appropriate basket. “Better?”
“Almost,” Mark replied. Shouldn’t have given me an opening, he thought. “Where do these things go?” He waved his hand over her toiletries.
“Right where they are.”
“No. There’s not enough room for all these bottles on the sink.”
“Then I guess they can go under the sink.”
“So why aren’t you putting them under the sink?” he asked.
“Because I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Cadence replied testily. “And there’s not much room under there anyway.”
“There’s plenty,” Mark said. "And why do you need three hairsprays?"
"They're different strengths, okay? I don't expect you to understand. And you don't need to worry about it anyway. If I want three hairsprays, I can have three hairsprays!"
He had no response for the hairsprays, so he grabbed Cadence’s hand instead and pulled her into the living room. “I don’t get this.”
“This,” he said, waving his hands around. “Look at this place.”
“I’ve been working a lot this week, Mark. I was planning on cleaning tomorrow.”
“You’re not getting it, Cadence,” Mark replied. He paused and took a deep breath. And then he walked over to an end table. He picked up a glass. “I love you, okay? Now explain to me what this is.”
Cadence bristled. “A glass.”
“Uh huh. And where does it go?”
“Don’t talk to me like that.”
“I’m not trying to be an asshole. I’m trying to understand why you can’t ever finish a glass of whatever you put in it, take it to the sink, and rinse it out.”
“Are we seriously gonna do this?”
Mark held out the glass to her. “Please look at this glass, Cadence. You fill it up to the brim, you drink half, and then you just set it wherever. I need to understand why you do this because it’s driving me crazy.”
“So what? I’m a slob?”
“What the hell?!”
“I didn’t say ‘slob’. You did. And I don’t think you’re a slob. I do think you’re messy, though.”
“Because I don’t have my stuff in nice neat places like you? I’m not freaking OCD, okay? Get off my back about it.”
“I don’t need you to be OCD, Cadence. I need you to rinse your fucking glasses out.”
“What. The. Fuck? Did you just say ‘fuck’ to me?”
“I can’t live like this. Shit. Everywhere. I mean, what’s a bra doing in the dining room?”
“You took it off me!” Cadence shouted.
Mark thought for a moment. “Oh wait. Okay, yeah. You’re right. Forget the bra. But what about that stack of shit over there?”
“That ‘shit’ is my clothes. And I don’t have any place to put them!”
“I have closets, Cadence.”
“In the guest bedroom! I don’t wanna hang my clothes there!”
“Please give me more than that,” Mark said.
“Because if I hang them there it’s like I’m only here temporarily!” Cadence said.
Cadence walked over to Mark.
“Give me that,” she snapped, snatching the glass from his hand. She walked to the kitchen.
He stood in the living room listening as she washed all the dirty dishes. When the water stopped running, he waited for her to emerge. But she didn’t, so he went to her.
She was squatting on the floor wiping the cabinet fronts.
“Cadence, what are you doing?” Mark asked. He couldn’t hide the grin and was glad she wasn’t looking at him.
“What does it look like? I’m cleaning,” she said. She continued scrubbing as she watched him in her periphery. He walked to her and knelt beside her.
“You don’t have to do that,” he said gently. He reached for the dishrag, and she reared back. Apparently the argument wasn’t over.
“I’m sick to death of feeling like this isn’t my house!” she screamed. She stood up and threw the dirty dishrag at him. It smacked him in the forehead.
“I know I’m unorganized, okay? I know my clothes are everywhere! I realize I always pour too much in my glasses! I don’t mean to! I don’t know how to live in your ultra clean, orderly apartment, Mark! Okay? And frankly, I think it’s a little weird. You being so clean. Like, fucking chill the fuck out and just put something where it doesn’t belong!”
She stormed out of the kitchen. Mark hesitated, tossing the dishrag in the sink before following her.
He found her in the bathroom throwing bottles under the sink.
“This is your house, too,” he said.
“No, it’s not.”
“It is, Cadence.”
She paused and looked him in the face. “This has never been my house. This is your house with your sink and your bed and your towels and your plates and your glasses and your closets and—”
“It’s true! I don’t know where I belong. I don’t know where my stuff’s supposed to go.”
“Don’t do that. You know you don’t mean it.”
“I do. I mean it. And I’m sorry for getting pissed about the glasses. I am.”
Cadence shrugged. She sat silent for a moment, battling what she knew she needed to do. He was right about the glasses. She knew it. But she was pissed off and didn’t want to concede.
“I’m sorry I leave glasses lying around!” she snapped.
Mark burst out laughing.
“What?” she demanded.
“That was the worst-sounding apology ever,” he said.
“You’re right. It was. And I’m not sorry. Not yet anyway.” She threw another bottle under the sink.
“You don’t have to apologize,” Mark replied. He grabbed her hands. “Stop. Just stop, please. And listen to me. You’re right. I haven’t made room for you here. And I’m sorry for that. You shouldn’t have to use the guest bedroom closet. You’re not a guest. You’re my girlfriend, and you live with me now, and that makes all of this yours.”
Cadence nodded. “But it still doesn't feel that way.”
Mark thought for a moment. “I know. But I have an idea.”
copyright S. Walden, 2013