The wind whipped from between the skyscrapers, tugging her hair with it and the bodies insisting they get past her to wherever they were going nudged her forward into the little clearing they had made, only a few feet away from each other. When he met her eyes he looked ashamed as if expecting her to be angry, to say something harsh to her for going behind her back, but Phoenix made it the last extra inches to close their distance, throwing her arms around his neck and squeezing.
“You left the newspaper on our bed you dunce,” she murmured into his crisp shirt, pulling away at arms length and matching his grin as she saw him light up at her praise. The circles under his eyes were hidden by the glow and his hands did not shake, he looked healthy and alive and so young. Her heart swelled up in her chest, nose crinkling at the strong smell of the gel in his hair. “You were so good! You’ve been holding out on my Mister Cooke if I knew you could do something like that I would’ve pushed you onto a stage years ago!” How could she deny him something that he was so gifted at? That made him so disputably happy?
She watched his smile stretch wider and her own wavered slightly but only for a second, sacrifices would have to be made, more shifts to be taken on until this Broadway thing went through. Sleepless nights and sore backs but maybe this was what love really was, she couldn’t say no to him even if she wanted to, the way he carried himself on that stage as if he was born to do it. Love was making sure the other person didn’t miss the boat and right now Adam’s boat was setting sail and if he didn’t catch it it would be gone forever and he would be stuck thinking about that one audition for the rest of his life. Her own calling was still out there and when it was her time she had full faith he would be there for her, but his had arrived and it never looked so good on him.
Phoenix held her chin higher and looked at him. “I’m so proud of you.” she told him, truth ringing in every word. His family never supported him, he was dead weight to them and didn’t quite live up to their expectations but she’d never been more proud of him than at this moment, that he was willing to follow his dream to the ends of the earth with everything at stake. “Just don’t forget me when you’re famous alright hotshot?” and with triumph bright in his eyes she stood on her toes and kissed him, their warmth lighting up the dingy gray of the city, undeterred by the grumpy pedestrians all around them.
Adam nearly expected Phoenix to choke him with her bare hands but instead she pulled him close into a hug. He barely heard what she had said but he managed to hear the word newspaper and he remembered he had a bunch of clippings that he hadn’t thrown out this morning in his excitement. He felt his heart doing leaps and bounds in his chest at her pride towards him and he just wanted to fly to the moon and back. “I just - I mean I had no idea! There was high school but that was on a small scale and I had no clue this would feel so amazing.” he said and let in a huge breath of air that he didn’t know he was suffocating on. He knew this wouldn’t be the easiest road taken - he was thinking of picking up a late night job but the only place he could imagine of finding a job like that was a bar. That was a risk he wasn’t sure he was ready to mess with just yet.
When she admitted how proud she was of him he felt his chest tighten and he felt like he had to choke back what he imagined were tears. “That’s all that matters to me, is that you’re proud.” he murmured, pulling her close to him. “What? Phoenix who?” he teased her but then smiled at her. “How could I forget you, and after a moment like this?” he smiled at her, and looked over her head at the oncoming pedestrians and the bustling street before the both of them. “I want to thank you, for believing in my and never quitting on my dreams and for letting me follow them. There isn’t anyone else I know that would do that for me, and I want you to know that I will do anything for you. Whatever you need.” he said and kissed the soft skin of her forehead and he smiled at this perfect moment.
“Let’s go to breakfast.” he said and checked his phone to see it was still pretty early in the morning. “Wherever you wanna go, you pick and I pay, no questions and you can get as much as you want. Get one of everything for all I care.” he said and smiled down at the brunette, his happiness nowhere close to evading him. “Then we can go to the park and maybe Coney Island and I don’t care, whatever makes you happy.” he said, speaking a million miles a minute but he just wanted her to feel his happiness.
Phoenix watched him step off the stage, chest heaving and his eyes brighter than she’d seen in a long while. All the things she was going to tell him about how this wasn’t the time to be pursuing a broadway career crumbled to dust and blew away into the proverbial sunset as she stood up and debated revealing herself to him or just finding her way back home.
The way he had seemed so completely at ease, it was like the last few months had never happened, and while they were indeed at a point where they couldn’t afford for him to go chasing these dreams she wanted to see him on that stage more, it was something he was truly born to do.
Her legs were carrying her towards him while she was busy mulling it over and by the time she was aware of what she was doing she was following Adam out into the busy streets of Broadway, one hand clutching at her purse as she watched his back retreating to hail a cab. “Adam.” she called, waiting for him to turn around. Seeing him up close just further locked in that this was what she wanted for him, his smile from the stage was still lingering on his features as he met her eyes and she grinned back. God he was so beautiful.
“You were fantastic!” she exclaimed, pushing through a few people to get to him.
Adam nearly ripped the door clean off the front of the building when he bound out onto the street, and he stood there a moment - breathing in softly. This was everything he had ever imagined, he would run straight into Times Square and shout his joy from the streets if it meant coming down from this high. Then again - he wasn’t sure he wanted to. He began to head back to the apartment, wishing to get that rock hard gel out of his hair as soon as possible without raising any flags with Phoenix. For some reason he felt like something wasn’t how he thought it should have been, this high he was running on was pushing it to the side but he knew something was up.
Then he heard his name just as he went to get a cab and he felt like his heart fell straight to his feet. He turned on the ball of his heel and saw Phe pushing through the crowd and waving her arm to catch his eye and he felt like if there was a trap door he wanted it to be right beneath him. As if hoping there was one, he looked down at his shoes then back up and she looked happy. Ecstatic, almost. “Phoenix?” he called out, watching her still as she came just a few feet in front of him and he couldn’t help but to feel the smile still on his face. “You think -” he cut himself off when he realized she wasn’t supposed to know. “Wait, what? Were you back there?” he questioned, his eyes wide at the fact that she caught on to what he had been doing and that she was happy. “Do you really think so?!” he exclaimed, unable to contain his excitement.
She knew from the way he came out of the bedroom dressed that morning that something was up, with his shaky hands shoved in his pockets and his hair all smoothed down like he was going to a wedding. Phoenix had noticed the extra amount of time he had been spending up on the roof lately but hadn’t chosen to comment on it, he hadn’t been drinking and she didn’t want to mess with whatever kept his mind off of it. Adam had claimed it was for a job interview, she had looked up from her laptop and raised an eyebrow but said nothing, giving him an absentminded wave and a mumbled ‘good luck’ as she went back to whatever she had been doing.
In the end it was the newspaper that confirmed her suspicions, she had gotten up off the couch to start laundry, heading into the bedroom to collect clothes when she spotted the paper stretched out across their bed. Haphazard sharpie circles were around certain ads and she figured he had just decided to start looking around for more jobs and without thinking too much of it grabbed the paper to put on the table and get it out of the way, until her eye caught the words ‘AUDITION’. After reading through all the circled advertisements Phoenix’s heart sank as they all were of a similar nature, broadway auditions for extras, backups, and maybe even a few major roles.
Adam was a dreamer, this was one of the qualities she loved about him but with where they were financially being a dreamer wasn’t a practical stance to have on life. Jobs made money, and once they had enough of it she could care less if he spent weeks at a time doing nothing but performing in these shows, but even someone who knew as little about the stage as she did knew show business was a fickle one. Trailing her finger up and down she noticed they were all for the same few productions at one of the theaters lining broadway.
She didn’t want to be the one to tell him no, what right did she have? He loved to sing and dance and was certainly amazing especially considered he’d had no formal training, she was proud of him for this but broadway didn’t pay like a job with benefits did. Phoenix huffed, checking the address and then her watch, he’d only left about half an hour ago, maybe she could go down there and see if there was still something to discuss or if he really had his heart set. Abandoning the clothes and stuffing a piece of paper with the theater name into her pocket Phoenix hailed a cab and gave her directions to the driver, settling into the back seat with a pit in her stomach.
The theater wasn’t all that big, not compared to some, the doors weren’t locked and she entered tentatively, sure someone would be there to tell her she wasn’t allowed in. To her surprise she found a few stragglers like herself sitting in the red felt seats, watching the stage or hunched over their phones. The house lights were on and so she took a seat towards the back, turning her attention to the person that was on the stage. People were milling about behind the curtains, it wasn’t hard to notice the noise and the people gathered around in clumps talking while directors bickered from the front row over who sounded like what or who would be best suited for which role.
The performer wasn’t on the stage long, the song only about two minutes, they finished and bowed, flitting off stage and the men in the chairs up front seemed unimpressed despite Phoenix’s fascination at how nimbly they moved. The next person who came up looked uneasy, as if they were having second thoughts, their gelled down hair shining in the light and their nice polo shirt crisp. She leaned forward in her seat as Adam introduced himself and his song before opening his mouth and beginning to sing.
She was not stranger to his voice, she heard him sing every day but something about his presence on stage made it sound so much more different. His voice carried with authority, she recognized the song from West Side Story (Phoenix had little patience for theater, Idaho wasn’t big on the arts, but Adam had exposed her to enough that she had a basic understanding) and tried her best to fight the grin on her face as his nervousness melted away and he assumed the role. Even the men had ceased bickering and were watching with avid interest, the small flame of pride in her chest turned into a roaring fire.
The performance was done but Adam hardly knew it when he hit his last step on the stage and was breathing heavily from the exertion. It was a high he was unfamiliar with since he was in high school. Flashes of the performance went through his mind and he forgot where he was until the one man thumped against the mic he had. Adam stood up straight and the lights beaming on him dimmed just a bit. “So Mr. Cooke, no experience?” he questioned him and Adam took a step forward to the end of the stage to see better. “Yeah - I mean yes, sir.” he corrected, wondering if his nerves showed throughout the whole performance and if it affected it. He heard the man tapping his pen against the counter and his anxiety went up, “Uh, is there something wrong?” he questioned after a moment too long of silence.
“Oh, yes.” the man called out and Adam’s heart sank, like this whole thing was terrible and the people up there could tell he had never done it before and that he was making a mockery of this profession. “The problem is that you haven’t been doing this longer.” and at that Adam’s heart nearly jumped out of his chest and onto the floor to do a dance right there. He caught himself about to stumble and he listened to the man continue on. “Of course you only auditioned for a small part so I’ll have to let you know when to come for the call back.” he said and waved the boy off stage and Adam nodded, holding his chest as to keep his heart from throwing itself out. He walked down the stairs, slowly walking to the back as he reveled in his first audition.
Over the last couple of weeks, Adam had been doing his best to keep his nose clean. He hadn’t had a drink since he fixed up the apartment and even then, he had made sure to occupy himself when the urge became too much. Then he found an ad in the paper for auditions on Broadway, and while he chuckled at the thought and threw the paper away at the end of the day - he still found himself eyeing them the next morning when he got the paper again. He couldn’t quite understand why he was interested but then one day he ripped it out of the paper and put it in his pocket as if to remind himself that maybe it was possible. Then one night when his shakes were bad and he had himself curled up in a ball in the bathroom he knew something had to give. The next morning he went to the roof and began to practice singing, first show tunes and stupid stuff that made him want to jump off the cliff but then he did original songs. He was keeping it from Phoenix, he didn’t want to get her hopes up or even his own in case it turned out he couldn’t do it.
Adam found himself in front of the infamous Broadway stage and he wondered what the hell he was doing. He dressed himself in a polo and dress pants, something he hardly ever did and he felt like he looked out of place there to begin with. His hands were shaky, but this time with nerves. Out of all the times he performed in front of an audience, this was an entirely different situation. He made up some story to Phoenix of how he was looking for a new job, explaining his strange attire but she didn’t seem too convinced - with gelled hair he seemed to throw her off. He stepped inside and his steps echoed, and he watched as someone came on stage and did their performance and he felt stupid. He could never do what they were doing, dancing, singing, projecting like that. He felt like walking out when the girl finished up and he heard his name.
“Adam Cooke, up next.” A man shouted from the middle of the theater seats and he nearly choked on his voice, but he came up to the front. “I’m here.” he said, stepping onto the stage and feeling the lights beating down on him as he squinted to look at the people in the seats. “This here says you have no stage experience.” the same man called out, although Adam couldn’t see him. “Uh, not professionally.” he responded, recalling his days on stage in high school but he doubted that would count as experience. “Right well, whenever you’re ready.” The man said with a condescending tone. Adam cleared his throat and nodded his head. “My name is Adam Cooke and I’ll be performing Something’s Coming from West Side Story.” Then with that, he began.
Phoenix sat on one of the flimsy lawn chairs on the roof, the breeze stirring her hair watching the city buzz in front of her, people yelling and laughing mixing together into one unintelligible hum. It was soothing to her, the sun was setting behind her towards the west, her shadow was long and fell right off the ledge to plummet to the ground below. It had been a few days since the disaster at the apartment viewing, it was like her and Adam were strangers again but not in a bad way. They were rebuilding, being tentative and considerate, they were working themselves and it showed now in the way they were around each other. Each gesture held a little more tenderness to it and it settled in Phoenix’s stomach like a warm light that flowed all through her and filled her to the brim with love for him.
She often climbed up the fire escape for quiet time, they had been on damage control but the last of the mess they had caused was finally picked up, minus the crack in their bedroom door. It was all the same, it helped air circulate and as summer set in she was grateful for it. Adam was somewhere in the apartment doing something, on evenings like this it wasn’t uncommon for them to float like ships passing in the night, in harmony but retracted into their own heads. She was glad that they had opted to stay where they were, this place was her home.
Standing up from her chair she moved over to sit on the smooth but worn bench of Adam’s piano, the keys as pristine as ever. She was not musically gifted, never had been, but pressing them to make a simple melody was as therapeutic to her as it was to Adam (well maybe not but it still felt good). Trailing her fingers over the black and white she settled on middle C, pushing down and listening to the note ring aloud only to be carried off with the wind. She made a mental note to have Adam teach her a few songs, something to keep her busy when she retreated up here.
Adam was hard at work to fix up their apartment like new. He had gone out and bought paint to go over chipped parts where his head had taken bits and pieces due to his stumbling through the night. Light bulbs for lamps gone unnoticed throughout the weeks, a mop to clean up the residue of his drunken stupor and a kit to fix a hole in their bedroom wall. He promised Phoenix he would do this all on his own, he didn’t want her to help him because he didn’t deserve it - but he caught her doing things here and there. Doing dishes that had piled up, cleaning out the fridge that had old food that was beginning to smell up the apartment whenever someone opened the door. Which he appreciated, because part of him felt like the simplest of tasks was draining him of everything he had.
It was late in the day and Adam had just barely realized that the sun was beginning to set. He had paint splotches on his hands and arms, even a spot or two on his face, and his hands were even more calloused than normal from the work. The awkwardness between the couple returned but it was a new type of still air, something that he was familiar with when they first moved in. Unsure of how to act around the other, taking in their movements to see how to live their everyday life. This was almost exactly the same, but a relearning process. Adam felt he had gotten too comfortable with Phoenix, as if she was supposed to sweep him up when he crumbled each time, and when each time got worse she grew weaker. It was his fault, and he was looking for something to help him. AA was a possibility but he had a hard time believing in higher powers and things like that. It was an option open to him, however. Either that or finding something to channel his emotions and anger in, other than alcohol.
He put the paint up on the counter, picking at some of it on his fingers before he realized that he hadn’t seen Phoenix for about an hour. He was so caught up in his thoughts and trying his hardest to steady his hands that he didn’t notice she had disappeared. He went around the apartment before ending up in their bedroom to find the window open and he climbed onto the familiar fire escape. It was a breezy night, the air was warming up which meant summer was right around the corner. This was the best time, Spring, just before it got unbearably hot but warm enough to shed the layers and enjoy the weather. He clambered up to the roof where he found the brunette at his piano, a finger on the key and he caught just the last remnants of the note. He smiled, walking slowly behind her to keep from startling her. “Are you a closet musician?” he teased, crossing his arms across his chest as he looked down at her.
Phoenix had to acknowledge that Adam was in a difficult place, forcing yourself into sobriety after you were accustomed to drinking an entire bar’s worth of alcohol every night couldn’t possibly be easy, and he was still upright at that. But for all her patience she was wearing thin. He had wanted to move, she had looked at listings despite the fact that she wanted to remain where they were living, and now it looked as though he would keel over from a stress induced heart attack from looking at this math lab of a dwelling space. He had an unrealistic view of what would happen if they moved. The piano would have to go, in all actuality about thirty percent of their furniture would have to go, sacrifices would be made on all sides.
When he asked her to talk to him outside she reluctantly followed, shooting the real estate agent an apologetic glance and joining him. “What is your problem?” she asked him, her voice staying low. “I’m trying to make this work here, we have zero money! We really can’t be choosy about where we settle back down, this place is going to be about the same as all the other apartments we look at. Cheap, close to my work, and realistic for what we’re making right now.” her voice got a little sharp and she sighed, toning it down because she saw that he looked like he was in genuine distress. “Just, tell me what you want, in your dream scenario how would this whole moving thing go down? I’m trying to help here and you’re completely wigging out on me.”
The last few days had been tense, Phoenix and Adam spoke but the usual warmth was gone from their words. They slept side by side but she had never recalled feeling more far away from him, and things were reaching desperate levels. Her attempts to reconnect with him had been awkward and half-assed but she had been thinking things over and really wanted to keep trying. The way her mother had always said seeing if the relationship was worth keeping was visualizing yourself without them, what would your life be like if they weren’t in it anymore. She had sat down by herself during her breaks and done just that and the mere notion made her stomach churn, no matter how many fights or times she had to drag Adam in from the front steps she could never leave him. This feeling was one unique only to him, and when she thought of the future she only saw his face. The relationship was worth it because Adam was the One, and staring at him now freaking out in a hallway of a shitty apartment complex while remembering all the thinking she had done over the past few days the frustration she had felt prior evaporated out of her system.
Setting a hand on his arm she looked up at him. “We don’t have to.” Phoenix told him. “We don’t have to do a single thing, we can literally leave and go back home and sit on the roof and I can listen to you play your piano until your fingers bleed. There is nothing making us move into this piece of shit building or forcing us to live the shitty life we’re living right now.” she spoke the words smoother than anything she had said in days to him. She said it because that was all she wanted to do, to go back to their place and talk until they couldn’t talk anymore. She had so many things to tell him that she had lost sight of during this past week and Phoenix felt she might explode if she didn’t get them out soon.
Adam stared at Phoenix, his hands shaking as he did his best to keep his breathing at a normal pace. He could tell she was getting irritated with him and he felt terrible, he wanted to be everything to her and in this state of mind and life there was no way he could even handle himself. When she asked about what he wanted, he knew that he wanted to stay where they were. He sighed, rubbing his face and trying to forget his migraine was pounding against the front of his skull. He knew things were tense between the both of them, and he wanted nothing more but to feel like things used to be but it wasn’t happening. He knew it was his blame to take, but he felt like his plate was so full at this point he didn’t know how it was holding everything.
“I don’t want to do this, I’m sorry.” he sighed, looking at her through watery eyes. “I’m so sorry I even mentioned this. The thought of leaving where we are and moving to something like this just makes me want to scream. We can fix what we’ve got, it’ll be cheaper and we’ll be able to get even more than what we already have. We’ll paint, get a new door, put up art and clocks and mirrors, anything you want.” he said and pressed his lips to her forehead gently. “I don’t know what I was thinking when I said we should move. What we need is to work on what we have, not throw it to the wind and get something new.” He stared into her eyes eyes with his own and he breathed out, his trembling less now. “We’ll go to the diner you love and you can tell me everything that you want and I won’t say a word. You can tell me everything you want about how you wanna fix up the apartment and we can do it. Anything your heart wants.” he said and looked to the cracked open door. “All you have to say is just leave. Never look back.”
She gave him a pointed glance because he knew what she wanted. She wanted to stay where they were but that wasn’t an option, if Phoenix was being honest Adam’s piano, while beautiful and fiercely loved by him, would rake in some serious cash that they both needed. However she knew better, the piano would not go, even if it was the one thing left in this whole apartment and it just sat in the middle of this forever soggy carpet. Looking to the perky real estate agent she sighed, shaking her head. “I don’t know if we can afford to be picky.” she told him, shrugging downtrodden.
“It takes very little effort to fix it up I promise.” she had to admire this guy’s gusto, he was devoted to making the sale. He shifted his binder to the other side and shot for a different angle. “The schools are only a few blocks down, this would be a cheap place to maintain, rent is the lowest you’ll find this side of Harlem.” Phoenix tried to look at it the way he saw, if the windows were cleaner there would be better natural lighting and maybe if they saved up new appliances could be bought.
“It would be an adventure.” she admitted. “An awfully… gross adventure. I think we could get a new stove if we sold the couch and maybe one of the nightstands. The smaller room could be your music area, but I don’t know where the piano would go. Maybe storage for the time being?” it was like trying to make the wrong puzzle piece fit into a blank space, you knew it wouldn’t work out but you kept vainly hoping.
“If you’re looking for work you’re only a short taxi from Chinatown-,” Real Estate Man put in, eyeing her and then Adam, trying to sniff out the willingness to buy. “I might even be able to get you a deal on the rent, no down payment if you don’t mention to the contractors that the stove is broken.”
Phoenix looked at Adam over her shoulder. They were being handed this place on a silver platter. “This is your call, we have another place to look at if you say no.”
Adam would have never guessed that Phoenix was thinking of how much money his piano could have been worth. If that were the case, it probably would have broken out another fight between them and that was the last thing they needed. Glancing towards her, he held his breath when she said they couldn’t be picky. Why were they were to begin with? Oh, right - because of Adam. This whole thing was his fault. He made his bed and now he had to lie in it, such a terrible euphemism but that was the best way to look at it.
When Phoenix spoke of adventures and fixing up the place, all he could imagine was comparing it to their old apartment. Although broken and in a less than perfect state, it was where they had grown together. Shared moments, such as him singing to her through the wall when they were just friends, their late night moonlit piano session. This wasn’t right, and he felt sick to his stomach for even suggesting it. Then storing his piano came up and his heart dropped, there was no way. Emotionally, he wasn’t sure he would do it. Financially? She was right, it was hard to place it here and the expenses just weren’t in the works. “I…” he started but then the man with the white teeth spoke about Chinatown and looking for work and his breath hitched, he was panicking. This was becoming all too real and he was having an attack. He began to pace, breathing in slowly through his nose to look at this rationally and not emotionally.
“I-I can’t do this right now.” he said and walked to the door, reaching for the handle and noticing how incredible shaky he was. “Can I speak to you out here, Phoenix.” he said as calmly as he could as he walked through the threshold to the hallway and he continued to pace out there, waiting for her. Why did he even suggest this? This was a terrible, awful idea. He didn’t want to do this but then why was he considering? Chinatown was a place he didn’t want to work and this neighborhood was even scummier than he originally imagined.
If her doubts weren’t thoroughly voiced before they were when Adam knocked on the door and it creaked open slowly like they were the stars of some obscure indie horror flick where the real estate agents lure unsuspecting people to be murdered in their bait apartment/meth den. On closer inspection it was revealed that the lock was broken, something was jammed into it, maybe crayons? Phoenix straightened up to look at Adam and she felt happy that they were united in their mutual hatred of their poverty. “Uh… hello?” she called into the dusty fog that was their new possible dwelling space.
There was the sound of a scuffle and a man rounded the corner and stood before them in the doorway, smiling with teeth so white she wondered how he could afford to bleach them with a job like this. “Hey, hi, hello, you must be my next appointment-,” he pulled out his little leather binder and glanced at it, looking back to them with a smile. “Mr. and Mrs. Cooke?”
Ah of course, Adam had set the appointment up in his name, Phoenix smiled tightly, shaking her head once. “Oh no, not married, together, but not married.”
Mr. White Teeth blinded them once more before directing them inside. “I’m sorry I’m a replacement, my coworker usually shows apartments out here, I stick to Manhattan.” he apologized. That would explain the level of douchebaggery.
The apartment wasn’t much from the inside either, looping her arm through Adam’s she walked forward, trying to stay positive but finding it so difficult through all these circumstances. “It’s… wow.”
“Mmm yes,” the real estate guy said, not even his salesman voice could spruce this place up. “One and a half bedrooms, the second one could maybe double as storage or possible children’s bedroom. The kitchen works but you will have to sign a waver if you use the gas stove that comes with the set, it hasn’t been certified to be within code. One bathroom and the carpets were just redone five years ago.”
Phoenix felt the very same carpet squish underneath the heel of her shoe right as he said it. She looked up at Adam, this place was worse than the ghetto, people from the ghetto didn’t even want to be here and it all was a huge piece of shit but if not for her sake she put a smile on for Adam and held her head a little higher. “What do you think?” she asked.
Adam looked through the door, not noticing the broken lock in the door as Phoenix had, but noticing the terrible condition of the apartment. She spoke first to see if the man was there, and not bothering to look toward the direction of the peppy voice instead he was inspecting the room they were standing in. He glanced to the man as he opened his appointment book and said his name, assuming they were married but continued to let Phoenix take the reigns from here. Then the man mentioned he usually works Manhattan and he understood his lack of courtesy and of course his inability to play this place up. He probably wouldn’t send his worst enemy to sleep here for a day, let alone live there.
Adam could feel the carpet mush beneath his shoes and he looked down, wondering what had happened to it to make it like that permanently. As if someone tried to clean it but the cheap fabric wasn’t cooperating. Now it just smelled moldy. He looked into the kitchen which was tiny and the tile along the counters was dingy, like every other aspect of it. He knew the man was waiting for Adam’s response but for his own sake, he best keep his mouth shut until prompted. A waiver to use the kitchen? This man was talking about using a room for children, yet they had to sign a waiver for the gas stove. Very impressive sales tactics, he thought. Then Adam turned to Phoenix when she asked what he thought and he saw her smile and he knew it couldn’t possibly be real. This place was dumpier than anything he’d ever seen, and that was saying a lot.
“Uh, well.” he hesitated, trying to find something that was worth being positive about but no such thing was there. “Phe, I’m gonna be honest. This place is shit.” he said, and watched as the man twitched slightly at his bluntly put words.
“Well, I know it’s not ideal but it is cheap and on the third floor, it’s ideal and I know it’s hard to find a safe room on the first floor.” the man explained, trying to salvage his opportunity to make money off the young couple. Adam chuckled at the man with white teeth’s faltering ego, and he shook his head.
“I need a place to put a piano, I can’t do it in here and could I even put it on the roof? I don’t think that window even has access to a fire escape.” he pointed to the single window in sight in the kitchen, which looked dirty and less like a window and more like part of the wall. “I don’t know, Phoenix. What do you want to do?”
“Three,” she replied back to him, climbing the steps to enter the small area where the elevators were to take them up. The entire area smelt like burned plastic, the lights cast a sickly green hue to everything and Phoenix was already regretting this. Casting a doubtful look to Adam she pressed the up button to summon the elevator before directing her eyes downwards to look at the chipped tile. “Prime real estate,” she told him. “Exclusive, I wonder how we’ll afford it.” the doors creaked open and she stepped in, the little ‘3’ button lighting up under her touch.
Phoenix had low opinions of places that made the local housing projects look like the Ritz, but at this point in time beggars couldn’t be choosers. They had zero money, zero way to get more money, and if they were even going to make rent on this place Adam would have to put his music on hold and get a real job. That was a conversation for another day however, right now she was happy they were united in common loathing of this place.
Adam scrunched up his face when she said the floor, and he hardly wanted to walk further into the place let alone take the elevator up. He took the slight step up into the small area to wait for the elevator and there was a strange smell, and he looked around as if he expected to find it but he knew that wasn’t gonna happen. This scent was here forever, soaked into the walls or floor, maybe even the ceiling. At her jokes he chuckled but the grim truth was making it hard for him to find it funny. In reality, they were broke. Adam had resulted to trying to find an actual job and maybe even two to try and avoid this place but so far they either had to move here or stay where they were. As the elevator came down, he stepped into the dingy lift with a strange wet spot in the left corner.
He watched as she pressed the button and he sighed, crossing his arms over his chest and hanging his head and closing his eyes, thinking about his options. Before they knew it they were at the third floor and he walked out behind her, this floor not better than the first one. “Man this place sucks.” he muttered, following her down the hall to the apartment that they were going to be looking through. “I need somewhere to put my piano, too.” he thought outloud, looking to her as she stopped at the door and he stopped just a half-step behind her. “C’mon.” he said and knocked against the door, wondering if the person showing them the apartment was there already.
He was trying, she heard it in the way his voice got extra gentle with that tint of nervous energy, it made her smile back at him because this was the same way he ordered food over the phone when he didn’t know the restaurant well. It was cute and his effort was appreciated, the sourness of the situation lightened considerably as she looked down at her uniform when he spoke. “I got yelled at by a homeless man for not refilling his drink fast enough, it’s a dangerous life I live Mister Cooke.” Phoenix sighed dramatically, nudging him with her shoulder as she motioned for them to start walking.
The first apartment was only a ways away from where they lived currently. Phoenix had searched in areas that would easily allow for her to navigate to and from her job, the only downside is that in a few short blocks the neighborhood was definitely dingier and less safe. Money was short and in all actuality they had very little funds to go around moving but if Adam wasn’t happy neither was she, despite how much she wanted to stay. As she walked her hand found his and she gave it a squeeze, keeping her eyes fixed on the path ahead of her, searching for the correct number to the place they would be looking at.
“Well I wish I had shown up earlier when this had happened, cause I would have followed him to the bridge he sleeps under.” he chuckled, turning away from the dingy diner and in the general direction of where this apartment should have been. He wasn’t happy with the neighborhood it was in, seeing as he knew most of them due to his long life in this city. His eyes were scanning every number on the doors and the further he walked the less reputable these apartments looked. He scrunched up his nose when eventually they found the apartment complex and he sighed, staring at it for a minute. “Alright, well let’s check it out.” he said and let her go ahead of him into the building.
It was humid, which was saying something since it was May and even in New York on the hottest day, humidity never happened. It made his skin crawl. “What floor?” he questioned, looking at her since she knew the details and who would be there showing them the apartment. So far he was very much not impressed but for their relationships sake, and his life, he was willing to stick it out until he actually saw the inside of their potential new home.