Before finally going to sleep Friday night, they promised one another they would be productive with the rest of their time in New York City that weekend.
Of course, Shelby had to nearly drag Santana out of bed as she grumbled and groaned about being on vacation and wanting to sleep late. But eventually they made it through showers and dressing and down to the breakfast room.
"So how are do we do this?" Santana asked over a toasted bagel with cream cheese. "Walk around and look for FOR RENT signs?"
"Not exactly," Shelby answered as she pulled a yellow legal pad out of her purse. "I took the liberty of doing some research last week."
Santana watched her flip through it to a list of addresses. "You did? Let me see," she asked, reaching for it. It was meticulously formatted with not just the addresses, but details about available lease options, utilities, amenities, schools, parks, area businesses, and, of course, the rents.
"I didn't tell you because I didn't want to jinx anything. And I really tried to do it like we would have together and took into consideration things I thought you would."
Santana read down the list. "Oh?"
"Well, they all have law firms nearby. Not that law firms are in short supply here, but these are smaller ones that might not require a paralegal to be an assistant. Maybe it will help make finding a job easier."
Santana nodded and flipped through the notes slowly. She didn't know if she particularly wanted to find another legal assistant job. This impending move could be an opportunity to really start her life over – a partner, a daughter, a new home in the city in which she could be anything she wanted to be if she had enough drive. And luck. And talent. And connections. She had a connection now, in Shelby, who would be making waves as Broadway's brightest newcomer that came out of nowhere. She had Rachel, too, who was assuredly networking like crazy the moment she stepped off the train. Santana felt the gears of her mind start turning.
"Looks like you have it all figured out."
"You aren't upset, are you? I was thinking of you the entire time, I swear. I just needed to do it to settle my brain. There wasn't any part of this that I was self-centered about. Except not wanting to talk about it and jinx it."
"I believe you," Santana answered. She did believe her, but she was a tad miffed she hadn't been included. Granted, she knew nothing about real estate or New York City and Shelby had actually lived there, but it would have been nice to discuss.
"Okay. We're starting at the top. I mapped them all so we'll just make a big loop around the city. Well, two loops. We'll do everything north today and everything south tomorrow. Essentially."
"Whatever you say, Boss."
Shelby smiled around her sip of coffee.
"Or should I call you Ms. Corcoran?"
Shelby nearly spat out her coffee but managed to refrain. It took a moment for her to compose herself. "Maybe later."
"Nice," Santana said with a smug little smile.
Apartment hunting was physically exhausting and mentally taxing, all walking and the rare subway ride if they had too far to go in the cold weather and waiting for the lessor to let them in or, in a couple cases, show up at all. Shelby had constructed a strict itinerary – not that Santana was surprised – to pack in as much as possible into the last day and a half in the city. It was Extreme Apartment Hunters: New York. Thirty-six hours to find and secure a new home.
Their loop began and ended in Chelsea. Santana didn't know all the neighborhoods in Manhattan, but she was pretty sure they went through every single one of them that day. And both she and Shelby had definitive opinions about the apartments they viewed. If Shelby loved the natural light, Santana hated the too-small closet. If Santana loved the exposed brick, Shelby hated the floor plan. Eastern-facing windows versus western. Proximity to a park versus proximity to a subway stop. In-building laundry versus an elevator.
"I'm not hauling three people's worth of laundry two blocks every week."
"I'm the one that's going to be home during the day once previews start. I think I'm the one that gets to decide about laundry because you're going to be at work all day."
"Where do you think all your clothes are going to fit?"
"All my clothes?"
They bickered and negotiated the entire day, until Santana couldn't listen to one more asinine piece of Shelby's reasoning.
"Fine! Pick your favorite one and we'll live there. I don't care anymore!" She quickened her steps, making Shelby hurry to catch up with her.
"No, this is our new home. Tell me what you want!"
Santana stopped short. "Tell you what I want? I have told you at least fifteen things I wanted and liked and every single time, you found something wrong with what I liked or something that was so bad it overruled me."
"That's not true!"
"Yes it is!" Santana yanked the notepad out of Shelby's purse, perhaps a tad more roughly than necessary. "Show me. Show me in your perfect Danny Tanner notes where you didn't X it when I'd starred it. Go on." She shoved the notepad at Shelby and waited.
"You're making a scene."
"So what? Show me. Show me, oh gracious one, who has taken my one meager request to not have to use a Laundromat, where it hasn't been cancelled out by your need to have hardwood floors."
Shelby didn't take the notepad. She just stared at Santana, eyes hard.
"Exactly. Half these places have laundry and none of them are acceptable to you. You keep saying this is about us and our life and being partners but you only care if the place fits your specifications.
"Santana – "
"No. You promised me you would try. You promised you wouldn't make this all about you. But you are. So finish this without me. I'm going back to the hotel."
Santana was pissed. It had been brewing all day, from the moment Shelby had pulled out that damn notepad. She knew Shelby had no ill intentions when she made that list but when added to the mountain of dissenting opinions, it was too much.
This was her life, too. She was willing to pack up and move to an entirely new state, leaving behind her family and many of her friends so her girlfriend could chase her dream. And what was she getting in return? No say in what she would be signing her name to.
She didn't really know what she wanted. Her entire life had been upheaved less than twenty-four hours earlier and she was being forced to decide on something that she wanted time to consider.
Santana threw her coat on the chair and fell face-first into bed. She had the urge to kick and scream and throw a tantrum to rival one of Beth's. Instead she groaned and pulled a pillow over her head and counted back from twenty.
Shelby hadn't followed her to the hotel, and while unsurprised that she elected to stick to the schedule to accomplish what really was a very important task, Santana took it personally. She wanted Shelby to have chased after her and gotten on her knees to beg forgiveness for her inconsideration. However, enough time passed that she was able to decompress and let her brain talk sense back into her.
Shelby was stubborn. She had her reasons for what she wanted, as did Santana. Santana had blown up and left before they had even made a decision, so who was to say she would be the one to compromise? Maybe Shelby would be willing to if they actually sat down and discussed everything. They needed to do that, and soon.
Santana fell asleep grouchy, but when she woke up a couple hours later by fingernails tickling her back underneath her shirt, it was hard to be upset.
"'m still mad at you," she mumbled, refusing to open her eyes but unable to stop the shiver than ran through her. She felt the pillow over her head disappear, the cool air refreshing.
"I found a place for us," Shelby said quietly, continuing to tickle Santana's back from her seat next to her on the bed.
"With hardwood floors and a doorman?" Santana grumped.
"And a walk-in closet in the master bedroom and washer/dryer hookups in the apartment."
"And a park across the street. And the 1-2-3 stops two blocks up."
"Next you're going to tell me it has an elevator."
"It's on the sixth floor."
"And has an elevator."
"Where is it?" Santana was trying really hard to not get excited about something that sounded too good to be true.
"Not too far from here. It was the last one on the list."
Santana cracked one eye open to look up at Shelby, who seemed awfully smug. "What's the catch?"
"No short-term leases. If we're in, we're in for eighteen months."
"$4,500, including utilities."
"God damn," Santana said, sticker-shocked, as she sat up.
"It's really nice. I think we should go see it together in the morning."
"But it's eighteen months. What happens after the first six when your show's over? We can't afford that."
"We'd be gambling. Six months is a standard initial offer. It could be extended, if I'm lucky. Maybe I can get another show, or do audition coaching. And we can put money aside in the meantime."
"We can put money aside? Just how much are you going to get paid?" Santana hadn't even realized until that moment they hadn't discussed it, and she had no idea how much Broadway performers earned.
Shelby shrugged. "I'm going to have my old agent work it out. Though I guess they aren't really my old agent anymore. I suppose I should address that…"
"Shelby, how much?"
"Right now, it's $3,500."
"Per month?" That didn't add up. Even with Santana working full-time, they would barely be able to afford that apartment let alone put money into savings.
The air went out of Santana's lungs as she did the math. $3,500 per week. $14,000 per month. $168,000 per year.
"Shh," Shelby said, laughing a little. "Don't underestimate how expensive it is to live here. We aren't going to be living like rock stars. Everything is at least twice as expensive here as it is in Lima."
Even so, they would be living comfortably. The possibility that she wouldn't have to be working a job she really didn't want only to contribute less than a quarter of what Shelby would be bringing home was exciting. Maybe she really could restart her life there. She forgot about being angry and left out and grabbed Shelby to pull her down on top of her and kiss her thoroughly.
"What, you think you found yourself a sugar mama now?" Shelby said with a smile when they parted.
"In my defense, I found you a long time ago. This is just an added perk."
"Are you still upset with me?"
"Not really," Santana said, feeling sheepish. "I just don't like being left out of things. You're my girlfriend, not my mother –"
"- and I don't like it when it seems like I'm just…following you around, doing what you say."
"You sure seemed to like doing what I said yesterday."
"Stop it," Santana said, blushing a little as she remembered their little foray into role play. "I'm serious. We keep saying we're partners. We need to act like it. Don't keep something from me because you think you might jinx something. I mean, email me, or text me or send it via singing telegram if you don't want to say it out loud, but don't leave me out of things. It's driving me crazy."
Shelby sighed. "Why do I feel like we keep having the same argument?"
"Because you keep messing the same things up." She rapped her knuckles against Shelby's head like it was a door. "Your thick skull can't seem to let it through to your brain that I want us to be equals."
"I really am trying. I swear I am."
"Try harder," Santana replied, eyes narrowing a little. She wasn't angry anymore, but she really needed Shelby to knock off the bullshit.
"I don't know if I should believe you again."
"Please forgive me."
Santana's breath caught. Shelby's hand was suddenly between her legs, pressing against her body insistently. She was still wearing jeans, but the intent and effect was clear.
"Quit trying to win me over with sex."
"Who said I was trying to win you over?" Shelby was grinning, her hand moving ever so slightly, just enough to make Santana twitch.
"Your actions imply otherwise." Santana tried not to react.
"My actions," Shelby said as she unbuttoned Santana's jeans and pushed her hand into them, "simply imply that I want to make love to you."
To be continued...(I promise!)
Chapter 20: If I Can Make It Here, Part II
A/N: Super short. Trying hard to not let y'all down and wait for weeks and weeks between updates.
Having accepted the fact that Shelby might really have found the perfect Manhattan apartment for their new home – a bitter pride pill to swallow – Santana accompanied her to their potential new home Sunday morning to meet with the broker and have a walkthrough. While she didn't necessarily think Shelby had lied about how great it was, she did question whether or not it might be too good to be true and was excited to see it for herself.
Maybe she was a little nervous, too. This was a big investment, and not just financially. Shelby and Beth would move, there was no doubt about that. But Santana was on the verge of signing away the next eighteen months of her life. She wanted New York. She wanted Shelby. She wanted Beth. She wanted a family. But that didn't make it any less scary.
"This is it," Shelby said as she led them through a non-descript glass door, only to stop at a second identical door. Shelby pressed a button on an intercom system to the right and Santana saw a man in a suit at a desk just inside pick up a phone to answer it.
"Couldn't stay away! We're meeting Janet here in a bit but she said we could come early?"
It was quiet for a moment and Santana saw the man shift a few things on his desk before nodding and responding. "Come on in."
The door buzzed and Shelby pulled, leading them into a nicely decorated lobby area.
"She left this for you," the man said, sliding a key onto the higher ledge of the desk.
"Thank you," Shelby said sweetly as she plucked the key from the counter. "James, this is my partner, Santana Lopez. Santana, this is James, the building's day doorman."
James stood and extended his hand, which Santana accepted and shook in greeting. "Nice to meet you, Miss Lopez. Will you be a resident here as well?"
"We'll see," Santana replied with a glance at Shelby.
"What do you think so far?" Shelby asked when they stepped into an elevator around the corner from the lobby.
"Too soon to tell," Santana said. She wasn't ready to let Shelby win quite so soon. She knew she would, though.
"There's a doorman."
"And an elevator."
"Noticed that, too."
"More than one. Three, actually."
"So why is this Janet person not here yet?" Santana quipped, changing the subject slightly.
"I thought it might be nice to experience the place together for the first time alone, so we don't feel pressured by someone wanting their commission. I asked her if it would be possible, and while it isn't normal practice for security reasons, she made an exception for me."
"And why is that?"
"We used to work together here, a long time ago. We still keep in touch on Facebook and I remembered she's an apartment broker here now. She's doing me a favor and cutting us a deal on a lot of the up-front costs. And letting us view the apartment by ourselves."
The elevator floated to a stop on the sixth floor and Santana allowed Shelby off first, following her to the right and down a short hallway that only had two doors in it; Shelby stopped at the door to the left.
Santana had to concede that Shelby's preparedness and attention to detail did seem to be working strongly in her (their) favor. "Let's see it."
Shelby unlocked a pair of deadbolts and pushed the door open, stepping aside to let Santana pass first.
Santana hoped she hadn't gasped aloud, but from Shelby's quiet laugh behind her, she guessed she had. The apartment was exquisite. Well, not exquisite in the over-the-top indulgent way, but in the way that felt like it was perfect. The door opened into a large main room with ceilings that must have been at least fifteen feet high, if not twenty. Tall windows lined the wall opposite the entry and sunlight poured into the room. The walls were pure white and freshly painted, the floors, a light hardwood.
Santana wandered. There was a fireplace to the left and kitchen to the right. All the appliances were stainless steel. Cabinet space seemed comparable to what they had in Shelby's condo, though it had more counter space.
Past the kitchen was a hallway lined with doors. The first was a guest bathroom. The next, Santana had to open – an empty closet.
"Stacking washer/dryer go here," Shelby said over her shoulder before kissing her cheek.
Exactly opposite it was a linen closet. A few more steps and they were standing in a bedroom.
"Beth's room," Shelby said with a smile. Santana could see her decorating the room in her imagination. Santana hoped they could paint the walls. The white felt so clean, but in a little girl's room, it felt uptight.
Next to Beth's would-be room was a smaller room – too small to be anything but a nursery or an office. "Office," Shelby said, confirming Santana's assumption.
When Santana turned, Shelby was on the other side of the hallway, hand on the doorknob of what she assumed had to be the master bedroom. Santana smiled and joined her.
"Is this where the magic happens?"
"I think that could be arranged," Shelby said as she swung open the door.
"Wow," Santana said, no longer trying to act unimpressed. The room was nearly as big as the main room. She crossed the floor to look out one of the nearly floor-to-ceiling length windows and saw that it overlooked a park. And not one of those all-concrete parks – a real park with grass!
Content with the view, she moved on to another closed door. She opened it without hesitation to find it led to the master bathroom. And it was perfect. In fact, it was surprisingly similar to the bathroom at their fancy cottage at the Michigan ski resort that they had loved so much. It was just more condensed – the walk-in shower was much smaller, though it still had two showerheads. There were even side-by-side sinks and plenty of room for two high-maintenance women like Shelby and Santana to do their hair and make-up simultaneously without getting in one another's way.
Santana turned, seeing Shelby waiting in the center of the room. "This place is amazing."
"Come here," Shelby said, extending her arm and wiggling her fingers. "One more thing to show you."
"What else could possibly be in this place?" Santana asked as she grabbed Shelby's hand to be pulled toward a wall. She hadn't noticed the pocket door in it until Shelby pushed it to the side, revealing a massive walk-in closet.
"Holy shit." Santana exhaled, striding forward into the closet, all but dragging Shelby in behind her.
Shelby chuckled and Santana felt herself embraced from behind. "It's twice as big as the one at home."
"I can tell. I call the right side."
"You want the right side?"
"You can have it, sweetheart," Shelby said, kissing Santana's cheek.
A female voice yelling, "Shelby!" startled them.
"That's Janet," Shelby explained. "In the bedroom!" she called over her shoulder.
"Where? Oh – Shelby, come on out of the closet."
Shelby laughed and turned to greet the listing agent and her long-time friend. "Been there, done that."
"I've been waiting to tell you that for fifteen years. This must be the woman I heard so much about yesterday?"
Santana blushed a little and shook the woman's outstretched hand. "Nice to meet you."
The agent walked them through the details of the rental agreement, and two hours later they were lessors of an upscale Chelsea apartment.
"You should just get it out of the way now," Santana said as they hurriedly packed at the hotel. Their flight was leaving in less than two hours.
"What do you mean?" Shelby asked from the bathroom where she was gathering their toiletries.
"I know you're dying to say, 'I told you so.'" Santana was teasing – though she knew Shelby likely did want to comment on her success – and she hoped her tone was clear.
"Me? Boast about my success in finding us the perfect apartment? I'm offended you think so little of me."
Santana rolled her eyes and zipped their suitcase. "Right."
"But feel free to commend me on my achievement."
Santana ignored the comment. She would be commending Shelby on her achievement that night once they were back in their own bed. They'd both need it after the inevitable discussion they'd be having with Puck in a few short hours. "You got everything?"
"Yeah I think so," Shelby answered as she stuffed her feet into a pair of Uggs.
She had flown into New York City dressed to impress and was returning to Ohio in floppy boots and Santana's sweatpants. As sexy as Santana found Shelby to be when she dressed in tailored pants and flattering blouses and stilettos, she much preferred the sloppy, messy ponytailed Shelby who was swinging a duffle bag and purse onto her shoulder. She was far more real that way.
"After you," Santana said with a smile as she held the hotel room door.