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Across the Street

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Tony Stark pushed aside the curtain a little bit to peer through the window. Morning sunlight seeped through. He curiously studied the house across the street. There was a U-Haul parked by it and a guy was unloading boxes.

He bit into his apple. “Do we have a new neighbor?”

“Yes, dad, we do.” It was Harley’s brief answer, his eyes focused on the television. A bowl of cereal was balanced on his stomach as he was half-lying on the couch with his feet propped on the living room table. He was still in his bright yellow Beauty and the Beast pajamas.

“We told you about that the other day, don’t you remember?” Tony’s other son, Peter piped in, holding his own bowl with the exact same type of cereal, and sitting beside his twin, Harley. Similar to his twin, he was sporting bright pink Hello Kitty pajamas.

“I don’t remember,” Tony answered, still peering through the window. Then he turned his attention towards his sons. “Why don’t I remember you telling me that?”

“Because that was probably when you were busy scolding DUM-E when he accidentally spilled motor oil all over your garage.” Peter stood up from the couch and started to head to their kitchen.

“Oh, that makes sense.” Tony nodded.  He bit once more into his apple.

“Hey! Don’t you dare drink all the orange juice!” Harley suddenly shouted, bolting up from the couch and running towards the kitchen. Milk sloshed from his bowl, leaving droplets of milk on their carpet.

“Hey, look what you did on the carpet you little-!” Tony tried to say, but Harley was gone before he could finish his sentence.

He looked back out the window. His apple was almost forgotten in his hand. There, outside, a woman was talking to the guy he had seen earlier. Her back was facing him, so all he could see was her blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, her white blouse tucked into black jeans, and some deadly looking stilettos.

Well, if he was stuck with a new neighbor, hopefully, she wouldn’t be like Mrs. Johnson, the previous occupant of that house. The plump widow and gossiper nagged the three almost every morning with a freshly made jar of jam. Over the years, they had ended up with every type of homemade jam known to mankind. His twins had jokingly informed him that Mrs. Johnson was just doing that because she was into him. Tony shuddered at the mere thought, gossiping, plump ladies who made jam really weren’t his type.

His new neighbors seemed to be a couple, so hopefully, there wouldn’t be any new neighbors going after him. He may have kids, but he was a bachelor.

He was pulled from his thoughts when he heard yelling in the kitchen. The twins. He sighed and turned around.

“I swear!” Tony called out, heading towards the kitchen. “If you’re at each other’s throats again because of a carton of orange juice, I’m gonna ban orange juice in this house forever!”

Virginia Potts admitted that it was a whim and a spur of decision to ditch the nice apartment in Los Angeles for a house in the suburbs of San Diego. Though, it had been long decided that she would not renew her contract lease when it expired. She had had enough bad experiences in that apartment building that she had started a list of new apartments she could move into months ago. And suburbs had definitely not been on her list.

But then, she’d woken up one morning and felt like she was drowning in the city’s lights and noise, that the skyscrapers around her were making her smaller and fragile every minute. She had consulted a therapist once and the therapist said it was because of stress-induced anxiety. A nice change of scenery was prescribed to help her alleviate it.

That’s how Virginia had found herself browsing for houses in the suburbs. One, in particular, had caught her attention, and now she was standing on one of the many front lawns of that said suburban area. As she looked around, she couldn’t help but feel proud with her choice. The street was lined up with nice houses and there was a general feeling of a serene atmosphere. She just hoped that she had nice neighbors too. That would be icing on the cake.

“Ginny,” A voice from behind her startled her from her reverie. She turned to see her friend, Ryan, coming to her. She had first met him at work, and ever since then, he had become a great friend to her.

“You okay there?” Ryan asked, his blue eyes scrutinizing her with worry. His blond locks looked more golden under the warm sunlight.

“Yeah, I was fine, just thinking . . .” She trailed off.

“What?” His lips quirked up in a smile. “Regretting already that you refused my offer of being my next door neighbor?”

Virginia laughed. Ryan many times had suggested she move in next to him, bribing her with top of the line security and he himself as an instant personal bodyguard. He had a nice apartment too. Virginia was incredibly tempted to accept the offer. But she was just too dead set on her decision to move into an entirely different place, one that didn’t consist of apartments.

“Unfortunately no. I was just marveling my great taste. Choosing a suburban area was a wise decision,” Virginia answered.

Ryan hooked his thumbs on his faded blue jeans as he also looked around. “Yeah, I admit that this is a nice neighborhood.”

“Yup, but as much as it’s nice to stand here and admire the houses around, we should start working.” She looked down at the pile of boxes sitting on the front lawn. The U-Haul had left a while ago after unloading all her boxes.

“Agreed. ” Ryan was also looking at the boxes. “You’ve got a lot of unpacking to do.”

She shook her head. “No kidding.”

“And I bet ninety percent of those boxes just contain your shoes.”

She playfully hit him in the shoulder. “I won’t deny it.”

They worked in sync. Ryan was the one who did the lifting of heavy objects and pushing the couch where Virginia wanted it to be. He was also in charge of hammering the nails on the wall where she wanted to hang her paintings. He also set up some electrical wiring that was beyond her comprehension. She was in the middle of sorting through her things from one of the opened boxes, when she remembered the cookies that were still in the box outside, and were probably being cooked under the sun.

She immediately stood up and went outside, just in time to see two teens crossing the street towards her house.

“Hello, you must be the new occupant of the house.” The boy with blond hair and blue eyes greeted her politely.

“Why, yes, hello to you too.” She said amicably and approached them.

“HI, we’re your new neighbors, we live across the street.” This time, the other boy who had brown hair and eyes spoke shyly. “I’m Peter and this is my twin Harley– non-identical twin. That’s why we don’t look alike if you’re wondering.”

Harley rolled his eyes at his twin’s rambling. They definitely looked about the same age, and she estimated that they were maybe around fourteen or fifteen years old.

“Nice to meet you all, I’m Virginia Potts.” Virginia smiled at them.

“Nice to meet you too, Mrs. Potts-”

“Oh no, it’s still a Miss.” Virginia laughed at Peter.

“Oh, I am so sorry!” Peter blushed. “It’s just that Dad said our new neighbors were a couple, so I assumed that– nevermind about that.”

“Your dad?” Miss Potts inquired.

“Yeah, he saw you with a guy earlier.” Harley supplied.

“Oh, he’s just a friend who’s helping me move in.” Miss Potts said.

The twins nodded in acknowledgment. Then Peter offered. “Uhm, do you still need help moving these boxes in? We could help.”

Miss Potts was simultaneously surprised and touched by their kindness. Then she winced. “Actually, I’ll say yes to that offer. There are just a lot of things that I haven’t sorted out yet, so a few extra pairs of hands would really be appreciated. Thank you so much.”

“Yeah, sure. No problem,” Harley answered while Peter nodded in agreement. They started to carry the boxes they could lift inside the house.

She gave up arranging her things when the sun set on the horizon. Ryan had gone home by then. Ryan had offered to help her more, but Virginia had refused. She didn’t want to ask for more. She felt so indebted to him already for moving and setting up her new home.

She decided to unwind from all the unpacking she had done, so she took a walk around the neighborhood. It was a good time to get familiar around the area. The breeze was still pleasant and soothing. She spotted an enormous furry brown dog by the park. She stopped by to pet it. Its owner, Leah a mid-thirties woman, informed her it was a Newfoundland breed and her dog, Max, would still grow since it was barely three years old. Virginia was mind-blown by that. It would probably be as big as a bear when it had grown into an adult. They got easily in a short conversation and Virginia told her that she’s new around. Leah talked about the resto-bar by the docks up ahead. The pet owner guaranteed their excellent menu, especially the seafood, and it was a must-try. They bid farewell after that. Out of curiosity, Virginia went to the docks.

By the time she reached the resto-bar by the docks, her feet were a bit sore. The resto-bar was called ‘Mayday!’ The nice jazz music and the aroma of grilled seafood were inviting. Her interest peaked so she went inside. 

Pepper sat down at one of the tables by the window overlooking the docks as she waited for the food to arrive. Her feet were relieved to get a rest from all the walking. She looked around the resto-bar, noting the nice wooden and sailor themed interior. She made a mental note to bring Ryan here some time as payment for his help. As she continued to look around, her eyes landed on the bar counter. There was a guy sitting at the counter alone, but he was laughing at something that the bartender was saying to him. His eyes crinkled when he laughed. He had big Bambi eyes that were actually kind of adorable. Unlike Ryan’s unruly stubble, this guy had a goatee. Strangely enough, it actually looked good on him.

“That’s Tony.” A waitress appeared out of nowhere and put down a plate of Caesar salad on her table.

Virginia jumped from her seat in surprise. “Sorry, what?” She looked up at the waitress. Her dark brown hair was falling in waves over her shoulder.  There was a name tag pinned below her white sailor collar. It read ‘Maya’.

“The guy you’re ogling, his name is Tony.” She shoved her hands in the front pockets of the navy blue apron tied around her waist that also covered her navy blue pencil cut skirt.

“E-excuse me, ogling? I-I’m not ogling him,” Virginia tried to explain. Her cheeks turned red, making her freckles more prominent.

“Checking him out then?” Maya raised an eyebrow.

Virginia gaped at her, speechless.

But Maya just patted her on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. He’s really quite a catch. But gotta say that he’s not into serious relationships.”

How the waitress knew all of this was beyond Virginia and she didn’t even want to know.

“Enjoy your food.” With that, Maya left.

She dared to look at the guy, Tony. And her heart almost jumped out of her ribcage. Tony was looking back at her. She immediately gazed down at her food. She took a deep breath to calm her nerves.

Relax, Virginia. She chided herself. It’s just a guy.

But later on, she found it hard to concentrate on her food with that guy that was just feet away from her. She could feel his eyes on her from time to time. She finished her food as quickly as possible and asked for the bill. Then she hastily left the place.

It was dark when she got back to her new neighborhood. She hugged her cardigan tightly around her when chilly night air hit her. Virginia looked at each house she passed with curiosity. So far, her neighbors and some locals were nice. The old couple next door, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, were friendly and so were the twins across the street. She felt like she was going to settle easily in this neighborhood.

The guy from Mayday crossed her mind and she wondered if he lived in the same neighborhood. Realizing what she was thinking, she immediately shook her head, rejecting the thought. It was too early to think about those kinds of things.

Virginia faltered in her steps when she felt a presence behind her. She briefly looked behind her. A man in a cap was a few yards away from her. It was dark in the area, so it was hard to see the man. She walked faster. She didn’t like the feeling she was getting. When she rounded a corner, she noticed that the man seemed to follow her.

Her heart started to beat louder. Oh God, not this again, some creepy dude following her. This was supposed to be a new start in a new neighborhood.

She dared to look back and saw that the man was reaching in the inside pocket of his jacket. Her breath hitched. What if it was a gun or a knife or something?

That’s when she started to run.

“Hey-!” The man shouted at her.

And she started screaming for help.

The man caught up with her. He grabbed her arm. Virginia lashed out. She elbowed the man in the gut and pulled off her sandals, then tried to run. The man grabbed her. She started hitting him with her wedged sandals.

“Get off me!” She screamed at him.

“Hey wait-!” The man tried as he shielded himself from her continuous onslaught.

“You pervert! I am going to call the cops!” She managed a solid hit on his head.

“Oww! Goddamnit, what did you just say?” The man tried to shield his head instead. “Why would you call –I’m not –fuck, stop hitting me!”

The ruckus did its job and neighbors started to come out of their houses.

“Help me, there’s a perverted ass-!”

“I am not a pervert for gosh sake!”

“Then why are you following me?” She screamed.

“Because I live right there you-” The man pointed at the house in front of them. The front door of the said house opened. Two teens in pajamas were coming out. Virginia realized that they were the twins who had helped her earlier.

“D-dad?” Peter called out.

“Dad?” Virginia echoed, looking at the man.

The man pulled off his cap and to Virginia’s horror, it was the guy from Mayday, the guy with Bambi eyes. Tony.

“W-what’s going on?” Harley asked. Both boys had confused expressions on their faces. They stepped out off the porch.

“Ask her!” Tony spat. He looked royally pissed off. “She just started hitting me out of nowhere.”

“Y-you grabbed my arm!” Virginia sputtered swallowing hard. “And you were pulling out something from your jacket!”

“It’s because I wanted to give you this!” Tony pulled out something from his jacket. It was a mobile phone. And it was Virginia’s phone. Before she could ask how he got that, Tony beat her to it and spoke. “You left this back at Mayday. I followed you to give it back to you.”

Virginia was mortified.

Tony shoved the phone in her hands. “You’re welcome and by the way, that was assault. What you did was assault. I should be the one who needed to call the cops.”

“I-I’m really sorry-”

But Tony was having none of it. He headed for his house and stalked towards his house. “God, you got killer shoes, be careful with those!” Tony called out, briefly turning to her. His hand was still on his head.

“Come on, kids.” Tony ushered his twins inside.

Virginia was frozen on her spot as the door of Tony’s house slammed closed. She looked around. She had gained a small audience from the spectacular show she had created. From across the street, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews shook their heads pityingly as they went back inside.

When her senses took over and her heart calmed down a bit, she walked towards Tony’s porch and pressed the doorbell.

A moment later, Harley opened the door.

“I need to talk to your dad.” That was the first thing that came out of her mouth.

“Yeah,” Harley seemed to agree immediately, which was a relief to her, after what the twins had witnessed. “Wait a sec.” Then the door closed again.

She exhaled and closed her eyes briefly.

So much for a good first day in her new neighborhood.