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Locked Out

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It was chucking it down when Clef stood outside his apartment door looking for his keys. He'd searched every one of his pockets - four in his trousers, three in his jacket - at least a half-dozen times, and the fifth rifle through his bag was just a fruitless.

No matter which way you looked at it, he was locked out.

He swore loudly when he pulled out his phone and realised he didn't actually know the building manager's number. It was written on a note stuck to his wall, and not saved to his phone - which would have been sensible.

"Of all the foolish things!" He kicked the door in frustration.

"You're awful noisy for a burglar," said a grumpy voice to his left.

A woman was leaning against the doorframe of the next apartment, looking rather annoyed at him.

"I forgot my key," Clef admitted, sheepishly.

"So, you thought you'd just break the door down?"

"I didn't - I wasn't -"

She just shook her head and stepped to the side. "Come inside before you catch a cold."

"Sorry to disturb you." Clef followed her into her apartment. The label by the door said 'Ryuuzaki'.

"Just shut the door behind you," Ms. Ryuuzaki said, waving a hand at him as she went into the main room and started - so he assumed - tidying some things away.

Clef stepped out of his shoes in the entryway, set his bag down, and followed.

Her shuffling about turned out to have nothing to do with tidying. Clef had barely made it into the main room when she presented him with some dry clothing.

"These should fit," she said. "You should know where the bathroom is."

"Really, you don't have to," he said. "I'll just -"

"Come down with pneumonia?" She looked unimpressed. "Take a hot shower and put on the dry clothes. I'll ring the manager for you. Who knows how long until she'll be around. I think I remember her saying something about going out tonight…" With a glance at the calendar pinned to the wall above the desk, she shook her head. "Just leave your clothes outside the door, and I'll hang them up."

Clef did as he was told. She was right, the bathroom was easy to find since her apartment layout was identical to his. The only marked difference in the bathroom was the different selection of toiletries.

A hot shower warmed him through, and he dressed in the large t-shirt and track bottoms he'd been lent, still towelling off his hair as he walked back out to find his host setting out tea on the low table.

Looking about the room as he sat down - towel around his shoulders - Clef's gaze fell on the unmade bed. He wouldn't have paid it much attention if he didn't then notice the over-sized hoodie that was pulled over cutesy dragon-print pyjamas and the ruffled plait that fell down her back.

"Did I wake you?" he asked, startled. It was a bit late, but not that late. It couldn't even be nine yet.

"Oh, I was out late for a friend's birthday. Didn't get back until this morning. You just disturbed a very long nap. I should have been up hours ago; I'll never go to sleep tonight." She sat down on the floor across from him, setting her phone down to pick up her tea. "I've left a voicemail and sent a message. You're welcome to stay until she gets back. No point getting yourself all wet again."

Clef ended up spending most of the evening with her. She ordered food for them with a comment of 'I'm rubbish at cooking' and Clef had to admit he rather enjoyed himself as they chatted and got to know one another.

He was rather startled to learn that she was only a university student; he'd assumed that she was closer to his age.

"It's not like I'm asking you for sex." She rolled her eyes. "I'm twenty, anyway, so it wouldn't matter if I was."

"But what are you doing letting strange men into your apartment?" His voice cracked a little.

"Would you have rather I left you out in the rain?" And with that, the topic was dropped.

Close to midnight, there was a knock on the door, and Ms. Ryuuzaki opened it to a tall, gangly teenager. "I'm supposed to let Mr. DeCefiro into his apartment." He said and rubbed the back of his neck with the hand not holding onto the umbrella. "Sorry, it took me so long. I didn't see my aunt's message until now."

"Don't worry about it." She laughed. "He's all yours."

Clef gathered up his things and headed for the door. He paused halfway through putting on his shoes and turned back. "Thank you. I'll return your clothes after I wash them?"

"Whenever." Ms. Ryuuzaki shrugged. "But if you wanted to invite me round for dinner sometime to apologise for the disturbance, I wouldn't say no."

Clef stared at her, his heart suddenly beating faster. There was more to a dinner invitation than just an apology. He startled himself by asking "Tomorrow?", only to be rewarded with a bright smile. His heart picked up a fraction more, but he just shoved his other foot into the waiting shoe and went back to his own flat.

Flicking on the light, Clef let out a groan.

He had some serious tidying up he needed to do before tomorrow.