Actions

Work Header

The Things We Built

Chapter Text

Shaw slowed her motorbike and turned off the main road, following a sign for a Texaco. Reese had told her that this was the last gas station before his house, so she should stop to fill up. It was hard to believe that Reese owned a house, much less in one of the new suburbs so far from the city. He had turned into a real businessman. She spotted the Texaco up ahead and slowed even further.

The gas station was almost empty and Shaw stopped at the pump closest to the store. It was a cool March day, and Shaw was glad for her leather jacket. The elbows were a little worn, it had been her father’s, but it was still a relief from the cutting wind.

Kicking her stand down, she turned her bike off and stuck the keys in her jean pocket. As she lifted her leg over the bike, Shaw unbuckled her helmet and took it off, hanging it off a handlebar. A breeze tousled her short hair. The area around them was nice, Shaw thought, looking across the station out onto the street. An attendant walked out of the small garage attached to the store to pump Shaw’s gas.

“Hello, sir,” he greeted her, assuming she was a man because of her short hair and masculine clothing. He wiped his hand on his coveralls and offered her a hand. “Nice to meet you.”

She shook his hand. It didn’t bother Shaw that people mistook her for a man. Most of the time, it helped her blend in and she’d gotten some work on the road because of it. Besides, it saved her from mothers who wanted her to marry their sons. Mother’s didn’t usually push their daughters at strange men on motorcycles.

“Sky Chief or Fire Chief?” he asked her. When she just gazed at him blankly, he chuckled. “It’s all gotten so fancy hasn’t it? Premium or Regular?”

“Regular’s fine.”

The attendant opened her tank and Shaw took a few steps away, pulling out a pack of Camels and tapping it on her hand. She wanted to smoke one, but she only had a few left and she was almost out of money. If she smoked them now, she didn’t know when she’d get more. She let out a sharp breath and tucked the pack back into her pocket.

Coming out to New York had been a gamble, but it would have been worse to stay where she was. At least out here she could get a job in the city and blend in. It was a clean slate.Well, except for Reese. Shaw sighed and pulled out her Camels again, flipping open the top flap and pulling one out. She rolled it in her fingers, taking comfort in just the feel.

The gas station was on the edge of the new suburb, a mile or so away from the homes. Around it were a few restaurants and stores. If the area had gotten a new mall, like the other suburbs had, then it wasn’t at this end. She sighed and stuck the cigarette into her mouth and pulled her lighter out of the pack.

“You from out of town?”

Shaw looked at the attendant as she lit her cigarette. He gestured with his free hand to the duffelbag tied to the back of her bike. She sucked in, filling her mouth with smoke and shoved the lighter back into her pack.

“Yeah,” she said stiffly before releasing her breath and the smoke. “California.”

He adjusted his grip on the pump he was holding in her tank. “That’s a long way to go on a bike. How long did it take?”

She shrugged, taking another drag. “About a week.”

He whistled and she turned her back on him again, smoking quickly so she could leave as soon as he was done. Shaw had enjoyed her solitary roadtrip, even if she’d only taken it to escape. It didn’t surprise her how little she missed her hometown. She’d never been very happy there and it had been beyond boring since Reese had left just over twenty years ago.

When she realized how long it had been, she took a deep breath. Where had her life gone? She was 35 and had no career, no home, one friend. At least she was alive, she thought bitterly, taking another long suck of her Camel. That’s better than she had expected.

A click behind her told her that the attendant was done. Shaw reached into her jacket to pull out her wallet.

“It’s $2.70,” the attendant told her, smiling.

She stared into her wallet. There was only a $10. Pulling it out, she spoke around her cigarette.
“Change?”

“Inside.” He put the pump back in its place and closed her tank. “Go ahead. I’ll meet you in there.”

Nodding, she headed into the store. Her wallet in one hand and her Camel between the fingers of her other, she pushed into the small store, the bell above her head chiming loudly. It looked like every other gas station she’d been in on her trip, except for the fact that it was incredibly clean. She took the last puff of her cigarette and walked to the counter.

As the door opened, bell ringing, she stuck her cigarette into the small dish on the counter. The attendant walked around her to the other side. Shaw leaned her elbows on the counter and watched him click away at his register. When he held his hand out, she put her $10 in it.

“What brings you to New York?” the attendant asked her.

“Friends.”

“It’s always good to see friends, right?” He opened the register drawer and started counting her change. “All my friends have moved away from New York. I’ve thought about moving away, too, but I get so much business now with the commuters!”

“The what?”

“Commuters!” He grinned as he handed her the change. “That’s what you call people who work in the city, but live outside it. Fancy, right?”

She nodded, trying to pretend to be impressed. “Yeah.” Putting her change away, Shaw looked up at the attendant and smiled as nicely as she could. “You wouldn’t happen to be hiring, would you?”

He frowned, apologetically. “No, sorry. Maybe in the summer! When the kids are out of school, we always get more business.”

“Thanks,” she muttered.

She started for the door, stuffing her wallet back into her jacket pocket. If she didn’t find work within the week, she’d be out of money. Reese had told her she didn’t have to pay rent and that he made more than enough money to cover them both, but Shaw had no interest in mooching off her friend. It would be fine for a couple days, but then she would start paying him back.

She took her helmet off the handlebar and stuck it back on her head, buckling it with expert fingers. It was just past noon and she was getting hungry. Kicking her stand up, she took the keys from her jacket and started her motorbike. It rumbled to life and she drove out of the gas station, back onto the street.

The road to Reese’s house was just one long straightway, an open road with grass on either side. In a few years, the empty space would probably be filled by new houses, but for now it seemed like developers were trying to emphasize the distance from the city. Shaw wondered if busses came out this far or if she’d always have to ride her bike the whole way in and out.

She reached the first house, racing past it and into the neighborhood. Even though she’d never been to Reese’s house before, she knew where it was. He’d drawn her a map in one of their recent letters. She turned a corner, blowing through a stop sign, her empty stomach spurring her on.

On either side of her, children played in front lawns. Seeing them, she slowed down. She might not like children, but she didn’t want to run any over. That would make for awkward picnics. She wondered if Reese participated in the neighborhood activities. It was almost impossible for her to reconcile her image of Reese with the fathers she saw playing catch with their sons.

Shaw slowed to a crawl, keeping an eye on the house numbers around her. When she got to Reese’s, she pulled her bike to the curb, parking it in front of his lawn. The silence as she turned her bike off seemed deafening and she turned to find everyone on their lawns staring at her. She glared at the gawking neighbors until they looked away.

Quickly untying her duffel from the bike, she frowned to herself. If she thought Reese didn’t fit in, what about her? Who was she to try and live here? Sighing, she pulled her bag off its seat and stepped over the curb onto the sidewalk. It only took her a second to hurry up his walkway and jump the three steps onto his porch.

It was a big house, she could already see that from the outside. Whatever misgivings she had, she couldn’t ignore the fact that Reese had done well for himself. Very few people from their town did and she was glad that he’d been one. She knocked on the door.

0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Root walked slowly through the produce section of the A&P, her small basket grasped lightly in her recently manicured hand. She stopped beside a display of peaches and picked one up, lifting it to her face. It was velvety and firm, smelling sweet and fresh. Four of them went into her basket and she started toward the dessert counter.

John’s best friend, and new roommate, arrived today and Root wanted to make a good impression. Normally, she would have prepared this meal ahead of time, but she’d been overwhelmed with work the whole week. She loved her job, thankful to have the opportunity to work on the cutting edge of computer technology and help propel their society into the future. It was her coworkers that she had trouble with.

Root stepped to the side, allowing a pregnant woman to push her cart past. Other than the secretaries, Root was the only woman in the office. The men looked down on her and the secretaries thought she looked down on them. She often ate lunch alone.

So, when John had told her that his best friend was a woman and would need friends to help make her transition to New York easier, Root was thrilled. She loved John, but he wasn’t always interesting conversation and he spent a good deal of a time with his boss, climbing the social ladder. Root was incredibly excited to have some female companionship.

The dessert counter was busy, as it always was on a Saturday afternoon, and Root took her place at the end of the winding line of women waiting to be helped. It was convenient to have a supermarket close to John’s house, but the bevy of wives tested Root’s patience. She was transferring her basket from one hand to another when someone bumped into her.

“Excuse me,” the woman gasped as Root stumbled forward. “Are you alright?”

Righting herself, one hand on a small stand of bread rolls, Root frowned and looked towards her assailant. It was Grace, Mr. Finch’s wife. Instantly, Root smiled disarmingly, turning on the charm for her boss’ wife.

“Mrs. Finch,” Root said cheerfully, “I’m so sorry! I wasn’t paying attention.”

“No, no, it was my fault.” Grace waved one hand dismissively. She took her place behind Root in line. “I’m not used to this store yet. It’s so large! I might keep going to Corey’s until this all settles down.”

Nodding congenially, Root faced forward again, taking a step forward in the line. Grace was a nice woman, impressively adept at throwing dinner parties and neighborhood cookouts, but she seemed to only talk about domestic life. Root only had so much to say about the new 7/11 or the latest Frigidaire. If Grace would like to talk about Drum Memory or Integrated Circuits, Root was more than willing to host.

“Have you heard about Mr. Reese’s new roommate?” Grace asked, getting Root’s attention with a tap on her shoulder. “I supposed that’s a silly question. You’ve been together for so long. How long has it been now?”

“Almost four years,” Root said over her shoulder. “Since your Christmas party in ’52.”

Grace chuckled, following Root a few steps forward. “I’m so glad to be involved! You two are a beautiful couple.”

“Thank you.”

Only two women left in front of her, Root briefly considered abandoning dessert and starting for home. Surely John’s friend would understand that it was busy around here and Root was too eager to meet her to wait for a carrot cake. Root moved up a place in line and decided to stay.

As much as this was about meeting Sameen, it was about impressing John, too. They’d been together for so long now and Root figured that marriage was on the horizon. It was for the best, she supposed, marrying him would give her some stability and let her quit her job and work on personal projects. She just wasn’t sure if she wanted to quit her job.

If she truly loved him, and she did, then it shouldn’t be a difficult decision, but it was. Root had worked so hard and it felt foolish to throw it all away on a man. Not for the first time, she wondered if she should call it off with John. She did love him, but there wasn’t the spark she’d always imagined. It just felt safe and comfortable.

Maybe she was being silly thinking about ending a safe and stable relationship with a good, hard-working man, but sometimes she felt like she wanted more, like something was missing. The woman in front of her walked to the counter, and then Root was next. Behind her, Grace hummed idly, her foot tapping along to the beat in her head.

It would do Root some good to have another woman in her life, someone she’d be closer to than a coworker or her boss’ wife. Perhaps Sameen had a beau of her own and Root could confide in her some of her worries. Then again, Root thought, Sameen might have her eye on John, too.
The baker behind the dessert counter waved Root forward and she closed the distance between them in a few quick steps.

“A carrot cake, please,” Root requested, smiling. “Just a small one.”

The baker nodded and turned away to his shelves of cakes. Root ran her hand along the glass display case in front of her, taking in the beautiful holiday cakes. What if Sameen was better than Root was? Not with computers or math, of course, but with womanly work. If Sameen could bake, clean, mend, cook, then what good would Root be to John?

Had Sameen moved out here to replace her? What had happened in California that she had had to come all this way? John had been quick to accept her request and offer her a room in his house. Root felt her stomach churn with anxiety. She had just been lamenting the static nature of her relationship, but now she was afraid she might lose it altogether and have to find another man who gave her as much freedom and respect as John did.

“Here you go,” the baker said to her, lifting the carrot cake over the counter. “Have a good evening.”

“Thank you.”

Gently placing the cake into her basket, Root started away from the counter, smiling at Grace as she walked past. Before she could get too far, Grace called out to her.

“Oh, Root!”

Keeping herself from sighing loudly and giving away her impatience, Root glanced back. “Yes?”

“Harold’s out waiting in the car, if you’d like a ride home.” Grace smiled kindly, making Root feel bad for being annoyed. “I know it’s a long walk.”

Root relaxed a bit, happy to have a distraction from her worries about John and Sameen. She would have spent the entire walk seething. At least Grace’s idle chatter would keep her mind from wandering.

“I would appreciate that,” Root said, moving out of the aisle and leaning against a shelf to wait. “Thank you.”

0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

A shadow passed on the other side of the three glass panes set into the front door. It opened to reveal Reese like Shaw had never seen him before. He was wearing khakis, clean pressed and pristine. His button down shirt was hidden behind a light blue sweater vest and his hair was impeccably neat.

Shaw snorted loudly, tossing him her bag and smirking when he stumbled backwards under the weight. “You look like our high school principal.”

“Nice to see you again, too,” Reese replied wryly. He stepped back into the house, opening the door wider. “You look like James Dean.”

“It’s too soon to joke about that,” Shaw chastised him, pointing a finger in his face as she walked into the house. “It was a tragedy.”

She stepped out of the entrance way and into the living room. Taking in the house, she whistled, impressed. His house was much larger than the ones they’d grown up in. The living room was bi-level, the bottom level had couches and the television and the upper level, two steps up, had a dining table, fresh flowers in a vase set up neatly. She could see the archway to the kitchen across the living room.

“Nice pad,” Shaw said, looking back at him. “You own this place?”

He straightened up, pleased with himself. “Paid in cash. Not too bad, huh?”

“Not bad at all.” She spread her hands. “Where’s my room?”

“Upstairs.”

Shaw looked around, but didn’t see any stairs. Reese pulled open a door that she’d assumed was a hall closet. He ducked through the doorframe and start up the staircase. Frowning, she followed him. It seemed odd to hide the stairs away, but Shaw held her tongue and left the door open behind them.

Reese had to duck the whole way up, his stiff hair brushing the roof of the small staircase. When they reached the second floor, he turned left and disappeared. Shaw jogged up the last few steps and into the hallway. There were four doors up here, the one at the end of the hall open.

She headed that way, assuming that was where Reese had gone. Outside, in front of the house, Shaw had felt out of place. Inside the house didn’t feel much better, but hopefully it would feel like a home later. Shaking her head, she reminded herself that she was only staying here until she got a place of her own in the city. She wasn’t going to mooch.

Walking into her bedroom, Shaw froze. “Wow. It’s…”

Reese sighed loudly, placing her bag on the floor by her bed. “It’s very feminine. I know.”

Shaw’s bedroom looked like it had been designed for the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. The walls were a soft lilac, with white linen curtains and a large white rug covering the wooden floor. Her bed, with one of the newer ‘Queen’ mattresses, had a soft lilac bedspread that matched the walls. White and blue flowers covered the decorative pillows that took up half the bed. Her desk and dressers were light wood, looking new and unused, too.

“Did…you buy all of this?” Shaw asked, shoving her hands into her jacket pockets. “New?”

Reese grinned. “Yes, ma’am. Delivered by Sears. I wasn’t going to saddle you with hand-me-downs.”

She strolled casually into the room, pretending to take it all in. Reese had been a lawyer for years now, but this was the first time Shaw really saw how much money he made. He owned a house with all new furniture. She owned her motorcycle, which she had built herself, and the clothing in her duffelbag. It made her angry to see how dependent she was.

“You didn’t have to,” she almost sneered. “I could have bought my own things.” Reese looked hurt and she rolled her eyes. “Thanks.”

“I don’t think Root would have given up the opportunity to prepare your room for you.”

Suddenly, Shaw remembered Reese’s girlfriend. They had never met and now Shaw was dreading their inevitable forced friendship. Reese had described Root in his letters as gorgeous and intelligent, but Shaw wasn’t sure she bought it. When they were younger, Reese would let girls walk all over him; if they wanted to date him, he would date them until they got sick of him. He wasn’t a great judge of character.

She also knew that Root worked with computers, but Reese had never given many details. He honestly, probably, had no idea what Root did. Shaw decided it didn’t really matter. She could play nice with Reese’s girlfriend without having to be her best friend. Shaw planned to spend most of her time in the city anyway.

“Alright,” Shaw breathed, “show me the rest so we can eat.”

Reese nodded and walked past her out of the room. “Root is picking food up from the A&P. She’ll be here soon.”

“I’ll eat anything she puts in front of me.”

Chuckling, Reese opened the door to the left of Shaw’s. There was another bedroom inside, bigger than Shaw’s. It had a smaller bed and a large desk that faced the window. She walked closer to take a look. The desk was a dream. There was a standing magnifying glass and a table vice. A soldering iron sat on a small stand, plug coiled next to it.

The desk also had a stack of notebooks, pages crinkled from frequent use. A toolbox sat open on one side and Shaw could see spools of copper wire, various hand tools, and a small box of nuts, bolts, and gears. A few projects sat out and Shaw could tell that someone was putting together a small self-powered car.

She turned to Reese, eyebrows raised in surprise. “When did you get into building? I didn’t know you even knew what a soldering iron was.”

“I don’t,” Reese answered as he leaned against the doorframe. “That’s Root’s workstation. She does,” he waved a hand at the desk, “that.”

“Wow,” Shaw muttered to herself. She shrugged, trying not to be too impressed. A lot of people could tinker. “Next room.”

Reese smiled and pivoted around the doorframe. “The bathroom is next.”

“Oh good,” Shaw snorted. “You can just point to the door.”

She followed him down to hall, watching him point to the right at the closed bathroom door. After that, they headed back downstairs. As Reese walked back into the living room, Shaw took her jacket off, hanging it on a hook by the door. Reese’s house had central air, something Shaw knew she’d be grateful for in a couple of months.

“The kitchen is through there,” Reese said, pointing through the doorway Shaw had seen before. He pointed the other way. “My room is right there, so don’t stomp too hard on the stairs if you come in late.”

“No promises,” she joked. Her stomach grumbled and she pressed a hand against her abs. “Can we eat something before Root gets here? I’m starving.”

“How about a beer?”

00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Root leaned close to the window to look out as Mr. Finch turned the corner onto their street. There was a motorcycle in front of John’s house. She’d never been this close to one in person before. It had always been a dream of hers to ride one, to feel a little wild, but she hadn’t known someone who owned one.

Mr. Finch slowed as he passed it. “I don’t recognize the model,” he said thoughtfully. “I’d say it was an Indian Chief, but they stopped making those years ago. It must be made from parts.”

Root sighed dreamily. She would pay anything to learn how to make a motorcycle by hand. When one drove by her in the city, she always thought they sounded primal, roaring and growling. Mr. Finch pulled into his driveway and Root turned to glance at it out of the back window. Did John know who made that?

The car stopped and Root faced forward again, unbuckling her seatbelt and picking up the two grocery bags beside her. Mr. Finch climbed out of his seat and started around the car. He took a moment to walk around the front, his war injury slowing him down. Stopping beside Grace, he opened her door.

Once she was out and he’d closed the door, he moved to Root’s door and pulled it open.

“Thank you,” Root said, picking up the cake in her lap with her free hand.

She lifted her knees and moved her feet out of the car, trying to maintain as much dignity as possible. Since the weather was warming, she’d started wearing shorter skirts, but when she climbed out of the car, her skirt tended to rise almost above her knees. Thankfully, her silk stockings breathed and she could wear them in warm weather to stay modest.

Mr. Finch smiled at her as she stood on the sidewalk. “Say hello to John for me.”

“I will, Mr. Finch. Thank you again for the ride.”

“Not a problem.”

They waved and Root started down the sidewalk towards John’s house. It had been weird at first, to have the same boss as her boyfriend, but she and John would never have met otherwise. Mr. Finch had thrown a Christmas party and invited the employees of his Law Office, where John worked, and his Computer Lab where Root worked. He’d been the reason that John had bought this house.

Root reached the motorcycle and stopped for a moment to admire it closely. It was dirty, the leather seat patched and worn, and the tires muddy. The motorcycle was well-loved and that made Root even more interested. This wasn’t a show piece; it was someone’s companion.

Rolling her eyes at herself, she pulled herself out of her romantic fog and started up the walkway to the front door. It was always unlocked, so Root just let herself in, her grocery bags bumping lightly against the doorframe as she reached for the handle. As soon as she opened it and stepped into the entrance way, she heard laughter from the kitchen.

It made her smile to hear John laughing. He could be serious, prone to brooding and stoic introspection, and Root was pleasantly surprised to her him being carefree. It did bring back her nervousness about Sameen and her new place in their life. She stepped out of her high heels, leaving them neatly beside their small table, and started toward the kitchen.

When she entered, she saw two people with their backs to her, looking out the window above the breakfast booth. One was John and one was a small man. Root stopped in her tracks. The shorter man was fit, his shoulders pulling the back of his white t-shirt taut against his back. As he lifted a beer bottle to his lips, Root watched back muscles move and she swallowed.

His hair was messy, like he’d gone too long without a haircut and the thick, black hair had started to curl against his head. His firm legs were clad in denim like a worker, and Root’s body started to feel feverish. She put her grocery bags and cake down on the counter and the noise made the men look towards her.

John’s guest had feminine features. His lashes were long and thick and his eyes were deep and dark. Root’s own eyes fluttered as she took in full lips. Her eyes dropped further to his arms and she sucked in a breath through her nose as she took in the way the white sleeves of his t-shirt strained against tan biceps.

Then, the man turned fully and Root caught sight of breasts. This was Sameen, John’s friend. Her face grew hot and she pressed a cool hand to her chest. She wasn’t sure what was happening to her. At the store, she’d felt fine, but now that she was standing in front of Sameen, she felt ill.

She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself down. Glancing at Sameen, she found the new woman staring back at her with those penetrating eyes, slightly wide and slightly wild. Sameen was muscular and handsome in a way Root had never seen in a woman before. She cleared her throat and strode across the room, her hand outstretched.

“Hello! You must be Sameen,” Root greeted.

Sameen put her beer bottle on the table behind her and wiped her hand on her jeans. She shook Root’s hand. “And you must be Root.”

Root almost jumped when Sameen’s hands touched hers. The new woman’s palm was rough and calloused against Root’s smooth skin. It felt like she was burning where they touched. Root dropped Sameen’s hand and took a step back.

“I’m so glad to finally meet you,” Root said, smiling. “John’s told me… Well, he’s told me almost nothing, but I’m still glad you’re here.”

Shaw leaned back against the table, resting her butt against the edge, and picked up her beer again. “Yeah. Nice to meet you, too.”

Turning around, Root took another deep breath. The stress of a new woman in John’s life was really getting to her. She might need to go back to her own apartment in the city and leave the two of them to spend time together. The thought didn’t make her feel better.

“I brought dinner,” Root said, pulling the small tubs she’d bought out of her bags. “Nothing special, but I didn’t have time to cook. I was called into the office this morning.”

“Oh,” Sameen said, frowning, “you shouldn’t have bothered if you were busy. I’m not a special guest.”

Root waved the comment away, moving around the kitchen and pulling down plates and cups. “I don’t mind. I usually cook for John, so this was the least I could do, really.”

“Well…” Sameen toasted her with the beer bottle. “Thanks.”

Root set three plates out on the long counter and pulled a serving spoon from the drawer in front of her. “So, John didn’t tell me what brought you to New York.”

Footsteps told her that Sameen was walking closer, her work boots making heavy steps. “I didn’t have much to do anymore.”

Root spooned mashed potatoes on their plates. “In California?”

“Yeah.” Sameen appeared in her field of vision and leaned against the counter. “Nothing for me there.”

“New York City is full of opportunity!” Root put the container of potatoes down and picked up her green beans. “Do you have any plans?”

Sameen frowned and Root saw that she’d hit a sore spot. Despite what she’d said, John had told her a little bit about Sameen. She’d had a rough life, orphaned young and raised on the streets. Sameen was bright and driven, but she hadn’t done anything with it. Root hoped that New York City would give Sameen what she needed.

“Don’t worry about it,” Root laughed, saving Sameen from answering. “I’m bad at planning, too!” She lifted the green beans she was spooning onto plates as an example. “I’m sure it won’t take you long to figure something out.”

“I saw your desk upstairs,” Sameen said abruptly. “You like building?”

Root looked at her surprised, putting down the container in her hands. “I do. It’s nothing much, but it’s nice to tinker and experiment. Do you build?”

“Mechanics, mostly.” Sameen answered. She tossed her head back, drinking the last of her beer, and set the empty bottle onto the counter. “Cars, motorcycles, even bus-“

“Motorcycles?” Root interrupted. She turned her attention fully to Sameen. “Is the bike out front yours? It’s beautiful.”

Sameen stared at her like she had three heads. “It is. Mine. I put it together.”

“That’s amazing!” Root grinned at her and Sameen shifted awkwardly, leaning away from her. “I’m always in awe of mechanics, working with your hands like that. I work with computers, but punch cards aren’t exactly motor oil.”

A throat cleared and Root and Sameen both looked at John, who had sat in the breakfast booth. He patted his stomach and Root chuckled. She’d stopped getting dinner ready to talk to Sameen and John was hungry. She made a mental note to bring up the motorcycle again later. Maybe she could convince Sameen to give her a ride.

Smiling apologetically at John, she pulled the last Tupperware of food out of the grocery bag.

“Did John show you the backyard?” Root asked Sameen as she finished their dinner plates. “I’m so glad he found a place with a pool.”

Sameen’s head jerked around and she glared at John. “You have a pool and you didn’t tell me?”

“Whoops?”

00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

Shaw lay in her bed, staring up at the ceiling. She never slept well in strange places. Throwing the decorative pillows to the floor had made been satisfying, but even with all the extra room, she couldn’t fall asleep.

Root’s question ran on loop in her mind. Did Shaw have any plans? No, she didn’t. She didn’t have career goals or ideas about what she was going to do. She just wanted to survive and maybe have some fun. First thing Monday morning, Shaw was going to drive into the city and find a job, or she would find a bar and spend the last of her money drowning her anger. Who did Root think she was to ask Shaw about her plans?

Sighing, she sat up, deciding to go to the kitchen for a glass of milk. Her room was dark except for the dim streetlamp streaming through her window. It wasn’t enough to keep her up, or it wouldn’t be when she was comfortable, but it did provide enough light for her to get out of bed and walk to the door.

The wood floor was cold beneath her feet, despite the house being warm enough for her to sleep in just an oversized men’s pajama shirt. It was actually one of Reese’s, left over from their wilder teenage years. Shaw opened the door to her room and tip-toed to the next bedroom.

The door was still open from earlier in the day, and she was surprised to see that the bed was untouched. She had thought that Root would spend the night, but the empty bed told her otherwise. Shaw had gone to bed early, leaving Root and Reese to clean up. They must have called her a taxi.

She continued down the hall to the stairwell. Because it was enclosed, it was dark and Shaw kept one hand along a wall as she carefully walked down. Remembering that Reese slept right under it, she took light steps. She’d let him think she cared about his sleep and lull him into a false sense of safety. Then, she’d pick a night to startle him awake.

Jumping over the last couple of steps, she stepped into the living room, bare feet sinking into the thick carpet. As she walked around the couches, she heard an odd noise. It was coming from the wall of the stairs and, as Shaw climbed the two steps to the second level of the living room, she realized that it was coming from Reese’s bedroom.

She waited, her ear close to the door, until she heard the noise again. A soft moan floated to her ears, and she clapped a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing. Root had spent the night after all, it seemed. Shaw had expected her to be more uptight, demanding separate bedrooms, but it seemed that Root was more progressive than she’d thought..

Another, louder moan, caught her ear and she rolled her eyes. Shaw had had enough bad sex to know when someone was exaggerating. Root’s fake moans reminded Shaw of the teenage boys she used to sleep with, before she learned what her standards were. The fake sound cut through the door again and Shaw hurried away back to the stairs. She wasn’t going to stay downstairs and listen to Reese fail to please Root.

As she climbed the stairs again, she thought about John’s girlfriend. Root had exceeded Shaw’s expectations. She really was intelligent, and her work desk made Shaw jealous. She was also stunning. Her dark hair hung in loose curls just past her shoulders, and her body was perfect. Shaw had been amazed by the long legs that stretched below her skirt.

Shaw stepped out of the staircase and walked down the hall, feeling a little bit better. She wondered if Root ever wore pants and what kind of car she drove. Did she drive at all? It didn’t really matter, Shaw thought as she stepped into her room and closed the door.

Root wasn’t available and so Shaw didn’t even need to think about her. She climbed into bed, pulling the blanket back over herself. Once Shaw got an apartment in the city, she wouldn’t have to spend any time with Root unless she drove out to John’s.

Her traveling finally seemed to be catching up to her, and Shaw closed her eyes, melting into her bed. She would be living in the city soon, sleeping with whoever she wanted and decorating her room however she wanted. It was going to be easy.