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Across The Hall

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Rhett usually liked moving. He enjoyed the process of gathering up his life and placing it somewhere else, arranging everything in a way that felt familiar but still like something completely new. The change of scenery invigorated him.

This time was different. This time he was running, running like he was being chased. And in a way, he was. He hadn’t wanted to move. He’d loved his cozy, little apartment. The neighbors had been nice and quiet. There had been a few good restaurants within walking distance and a movie theatre only a few blocks away. Rhett would have happily stayed there. But he couldn’t, and it ate at him.

It was him who’d had to pick up his life and skitter away with it, even though he’d done nothing wrong. It was unfair and unreasonable and, sadly, unavoidable. To make matters worse, the moving company he’d hired seemed to be a bunch of buffoons. They’d arrived late and worked in an annoyingly uncoordinated fashion, even by Rhett’s very loose standards. He cursed himself for choosing the budget option.

Luckily, the new building seemed nice. The hallway was clean and stylish: all muted earth tones and lovely little light fixtures on the walls. The elevator moved smoothly, and the lobby even had a little seating area. His apartment was a bit bigger than his old one, afforded by the fact the he’d chosen a not-so-central location. The living room was spacious, and the kitchen was big enough to entertain guests if he ever wanted to do that. The bedroom could have been bigger, but he could live with it. Because by far, his favorite feature of his new home was the big-ass bathtub. That was what had sold him on this apartment in the first place. The thing was huge. He could sit in it with his legs stretched all the way out and there was even a little bit room left. Rhett couldn’t wait to get in a good soak.

Right now he had no time for that, though. He was frantically going through his things, trying to find his clothes. It was dawning on him that the two boxes containing his everyday clothes were nowhere to be seen. He cursed under his breath. It was late; there was no way anyone would answer if he called the moving company. He just had to go to work in the clothes he’d been wearing all day. Not that it mattered much, he’d take them off anyway, but it was still annoying. He took a sniff at himself and grimaced. It was very unprofessional to go to set smelling like this. If he left right now though, he’d have time to shower at the studio.

He grabbed his keys and rushed out of his apartment, stopping when he saw that there were a man and a woman in the hallway. They turned at the sound of Rhett’s door opening. The woman had a short bob and the blond of it was obviously from a bottle. Her features were sharp and angled. She smiled at Rhett, but he noticed that her smile didn’t reach her eyes. She was thin in an L.A. way, as in too thin for her own good, but she still probably thought she needed to lose a few pounds. Something about the way her hand instantly grabbed the man’s possessively made Rhett’s lips twitch.

His attention switched to the man who’d stopped mid-move, keys jangling from his fingers. He stared at Rhett, lips slightly parted, eyes shining bright. It was the latter that almost made Rhett’s knees buckle. He felt like clutching his chest, they were so beautiful. Partly hidden behind black and brown spectacles and the longest eyelashes Rhett had ever seen on a man. They were intensely blue and reminded Rhett of glacial pools. Despite the freezing color, the man’s gaze dripped with warmth. It made him all the more beautiful. His hair was dark brown but there were a few silver strands here and there. His skin was so smooth, though, that Rhett decided that he couldn’t be much older than himself. Brave of him to let the early streaks of gray show. The man’s features were sharp, but in a totally different way than the woman’s; where she was jagged, he was sculpted. She looked like her skin had been haphazardly stretched over her sharp bones. He, on the other hand, looked like someone had taken the time and care to lovingly mold something that was at the same time masculine and strong, but also feminine and soft. Rhett instantly trusted him. He quickly realized he’d stopped breathing. After conjuring a pleasant smile on his face Rhett offered his hand to the man.

“Oh, hello. You must be my new neighbors,” he said hoping his voice didn’t betray the storm of feelings he was experiencing. The man just stared. The woman frowned at him and took Rhett’s offered hand. Hers was bony and cool. Rhett turned his smile to her and shook their grip.

“Hello, there. I’m Catherine. This is Charles,” she said, still smiling her non-smile.

“Nice to meet you, Catherine. Charles. I’m Rhett,” he introduced himself. He was still hoping to get a handshake from the man. Charles continued to stare at Rhett, but his expression had changed. His gaze was now curious and searching. A flicker of hope lit inside of Rhett. Could he be…? Suddenly, Charles seemed to awaken from his contemplations.

“I’m sorry. I was just trying to figure out where I know you from,” Charles said with a small smile and a sound that had to be the most beautiful laugh Rhett had ever heard. He finally took Rhett’s hand, and Rhett shook it with purpose. He wanted to leave an impression. Then Charles’ words hit him. The corner of his lips hitched up and he cheered in his head. Charles had definitely seen him before.

“Oh, I get that a lot. I guess I just have one of those faces,” Rhett said. He felt victorious. Nowadays, being recognized wasn’t that rare of an occurrence. Sometimes men actually came up to him, sometimes he took selfies and signed a pec or two, and sometimes they just shyly said they enjoyed his work. It felt nice, and Rhett was always sweet and courteous. Most of the time he would notice someone staring at him and blushing when they were caught. He liked that, too. It was an ego boost for sure. But there was a faint blush creeping up Link’s neck now that thrilled Rhett more than these encounters usually did.

Catherine coughed. It made Rhett realize their hands were still together. They dropped their grip at the same time.

“Um, anyway. Welcome to the building. Maybe we’ll see each other around?” Charles said, rubbing his neck awkwardly. Rhett smiled at him. He would like nothing more than to spend some time with him.

“I’m sure we will. It was nice to meet you guys. Excuse me, I have an appointment I need to get to.”

He was in a hurry, otherwise he would have gladly stayed and chatted. Maybe try and figure out a way to invite Charles over some other night, without that woman hanging on his arm. Rhett wondered what had brought the two together. His first impression was that they seemed wholly incompatible. He stepped into the elevator and turned, hoping to catch one last glimpse of Charles. He was in luck; Charles stood at his door looking at Rhett with puppy dog eyes. Rhett couldn’t help winking at him. The widened eyes before the elevator doors closed made Rhett’s heart flutter.