Chapter 11

Jonathan pulled up to the familiar house and made sure Max’s car was not in the driveway before jogging to the door and knocking.

​​​He shouldn’t have been surprised to see it, but still found himself startled at the sight of Charlotte’s black eye.

​​​“Hi, thank you so much for coming to get me on such short notice,” she said. She knew he had been taken back by her appearance, but she decided to ignore it as long as he did.

​​​“Yeah, no problem. Do you have your stuff ready?” He asked, although he saw the large, beat up duffle and two other equally damaged bags.

​​​“Yeah, this is it. I may have over packed a little bit, but it’s better safe than sorry, right?” she said, trying to avoid the all of her belongings, save for her checkbook and credit cards, which were with Max, were stuffed inside those three bags. No wonder they were bursting at the seams.

​​​“Let me take these from you,” he said, taking two of the bags out of her clutches.

​​​​​“I’m really sorry I asked to stay with you but I don’t really have any friends here and my parents are in California so I didn’t really have anyone else to call and I would get a hotel but-,” she mumbled on, only stopping when Jonathan interrupted her.

​​​“It’s fine, Charlotte, really,” he assured with a slight laugh.

​​​She offered a sheepish smile and Jonathan realized it was the first time he had seen her like that.

​​​“Okay, good. But I’ll be out of your hair soon, I promise.”

​​​“Stay as long as you want, I’ve got too much space for just one person. It’ll be nice having company for a bit,” he said.

​​​He wanted to make her feel welcome and as comfortable in his home as possible.

​​​They threw her things in the trunk and got in the car to leave.

​​​“I’m going to the grocery later, is there anything in particular that you want me to pick up?” He asked.

​​​“No, that’s okay. I’ll eat whatever,” she said. Her light and airy mood was gone and as they drove toward the city and Jonathan’s apartment building, Charlotte began to grow anxious. That black car behind them was definitely following them and Max was tracing her phone and she had for sure left something important at the house.

​​​“Charlotte, you okay?” She was jarred from her thoughts by his calming voice.

​​​“Uh, yeah. I’m fine,” she said. She was silent for the rest of the ride.

​​​When they pulled up to the upscale apartment building, Charlotte marveled at the sheer size and grand exterior of the building. She could only imagine the scene on the inside. Jonathan realized her look of awe and chuckled, turning toward her. “It’s a pretty cool building, huh?” he asked. Charlotte only nodded in response, unable to form words.

​​​They pulled into the parking garage and Jonathan opened his door swiftly, jogging around the back of the car to do the same for Charlotte. She couldn’t remember the last time max had even held a door for her.

​​​“Thank you,” she said, smiling as she climbed out.

​​​Once they had gotten Charlotte’s bags out of the back, they headed inside and up to Jonathan’s apartment. Charlotte wondered when the elevator would stop. Finally, when they were three floors from the top, the doors opened into a hallway, in which there were only four doors, all generously spaced. Jonathan walked toward the first one on the left and opened the door, revealing am expansive living room and spacious layout. With a glance around, Charlotte knew that it wouldn’t take long to get comfortable.

​​​“So, this is the living room. Kitchen and bathroom are on the left and your room is down the hall, first door on the right. I’ll put your stuff down in there and you can look around,” he said.

​​​“Charlotte was so caught up in the beauty of the apartment that she didn’t even notice the view from the floor to ceiling windows lining the walls of the living room. She walked over and gazed out, taking in the city and marveling at its vastness.

​​​“Pretty nice view,” Charlotte jumped at the sound of his voice next to her. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”

​​​“No, its fine, I was just taking everything in. I’ve never seen the city like this before,” she said. Charlotte's arms, previously wrapped around her center, dropped to her sides.

​​​“That view sold me on this place,” Jonathan said.

​​​“It’s gorgeous. This whole place is insane,” Charlotte said, though she hadn’t seen much apart from the living room and kitchen, which she had to look at twice to fully appreciate.

​​​The elegant white cabinets and contrasting black and gray sparkling granite countertops made her want to cook a meal, something she hadn’t wanted to do since Max had started demanding it of her.

​​​“Do you want to see your room?” Jonathan asked. She nodded and followed Jonathan’s stride toward the hallway where her room was located.

​​​When he opened the door to her room for the next few days, she was overwhelmed by the size of it. The bed was huge, what looked to be a California King, covered in lavender and gray pillows with a gray comforter nestled underneath and a fur throw draped over the corner of the bed. The materials resembled the texture of a cloud and Charlotte couldn’t wait to sleep on them.
“I hope you’re okay with a memory foam mattress,” he said from behind her.

​​​She laughed at the thought of being wealthy enough that that was a concern. “It’s perfectly fine.”

​​​“So what do you think?”

​​​“It’s great,” she replied.

​​​“Good, I’m glad you like it. Here’s the bathroom,” he said, motioning toward a door at the left of the room.

​​​Inside sat double vanity sinks encased by the same granite that occupied the kitchen counters. The cabinets, though different from the kitchen, were just as gorgeous. Also featured was porcelain, white, jetted tub, which Charlotte couldn’t wait to try. The shower looked just as enticing with a rainforest head that hung from the ceiling and a ledge inside that also functioned as a seat.

​​​She didn’t realize it, but she must not have said anything for a while, because Jonathan cleared his throat before saying, “If you don’t like this room you can stay in the other one, it just doesn’t have as big a bathroom.”

​​​“No, no this is perfect,” she rushed her words out, not wanting to sound ungrateful. She was more pleased with her accommodations than she could have ever imagined, and she wanted to make sure that Jonathan knew that.

​​​“I’ll show you the rest then,” he said, ushering her through the room and out the door.

​​​They walked through the hallway, stopping between two doors. “This is the bathroom,” he said motioning to the first door. He turned toward the second door and pointed to it, “and this is my room. I would show it to you but it’s a mess right now.”

​​​“Its fine, don’t worry about it,” Charlotte said. She knew that she didn’t need to see it. It’s not like she would be spending any time in it.

​​​“Your place is gorgeous,” Charlotte said when they concluded the tour.

​​​“Thanks, I’m glad you like it. Like I said, don’t be afraid to make yourself comfortable here. After all, it gets lonely here by myself,” he said. At the mention of living alone, Charlotte saw Jonathan’s eyes cast downward.

​​​“So, did you grow up in a big family then?” She asked.

​​​“Not necessarily big, just loud and very loving.”

​​​“I know what you mean. I only have one sibling, a brother, but my house was always filled with family and friends, so it was never very lonely. When Jake moved out it got a little quieter, but it was also never really the same after he left,” she revealed, growing embarrassed after telling part of her life story to a man she had met less than four months ago.

​​​“Did you grow up in Chicago?” he asked, growing increasingly interested in her story.

​​​“No, originally I’m from a small town on the Tennessee-Virginia border. The only thing keeping us there was my brother’s racing, so when he left, it was just me and my parents. A few years later I graduated high school and set my sights on going to school in the city, so when I got accepted to Berklee, I jumped at the chance. My parents got a beach house in California and I met Max in my junior year. After I graduated, I moved here with him and I’ve been here ever since,” she said, reliving the years all too vividly.

​​​Jonathan didn’t want to talk about Max, and he figured she didn’t want to either, so he steered the conversation away. “Why California?”

​​​“When a mid-life crisis and menopause run rampant at the same time, palm trees and sunny days offer wonderful solace. So, now that I’ve told you my life story, it’s your turn,” she said.

​​​“Well, I grew up in Canada playing hockey and speaking French with my parents. Eventually, hockey became a very real career option and a huge part of my life, and when I was recruited to Vermont to play college, I was determined to make it to the NHL, so here I am,” he said. Charlotte noticed the passion with which he spoke about hockey.

​​​“You must really love it,” she assumed.

​​​“Yeah, I do, maybe a little too much sometimes,” he chuckled, but Charlotte detected some bitterness in the statement.

​​​She furrowed her brow and said, “Why’s that?”

​​​“It’s gotten in the way of a lot of things. Birthdays, parties, relationships. I’ve never really been able to live a normal life. Most twenty-somethings are going out every night. My nightly routine is a visit to the rink at the rec center or the gym,” he explained.

​​​“Sorry to hear that,” she sympathized.

​​​“Don’t be. It’s the price I pay for being able to live my dream. I just wish other people understood,” he said, almost sounding angry.

​​​“Are you talking about a certain someone?” she asked.

​​​Charlotte knew she was overstepping where she wasn’t invited, but she couldn’t contain her curiosity.

​​​“If I’m being completely honest, yeah. One of my last girlfriends broke things off because I was too attached to hockey,” he said, adding air quotes to the end. “Anyway, I think that’s enough about me for now. What do you want for dinner?”

​​​“Whatever you have, I’m not picky. If you have steak and potatoes I can make something or if
​​​you have chicken, or if you want a sandwich I can whip one up,” he said.

​​​“Charlotte, I didn’t ask what you wanted to make for dinner. I asked what you wanted for dinner,” he said.

​​​Charlotte looked at him sheepishly while he talked, realizing that she had automatically assumed that he would deflect the cooking onto her, just like Max. She felt a twinge of pain when she realized that this was routine for her.

​​​“Sorry, it’s just a habit,” she said quietly, wringing her hands as she spoke.

​​​“Hopefully not for much longer. So, is Chinese takeout okay?” he asked.

​​​​​“Sounds perfect.”

​​​Charlotte stood in the heat of the shower, relishing the feeling of the water droplets on her skin. She knew it was late, late enough in fact that it was morning, but she couldn’t sleep and a shower sounded like a wonderful, much needed way of passing time. She hoped that Jonathan wasn’t disturbed by the sound of the running water, but she also didn’t know if he was awake, and if he was, she didn’t care enough to turn it off.

​​​Charlotte had missed being able to just sit there and soak for more than ten minutes. She half expected to ear Max’s voice yelling for her to turn the water off. That was another restriction Max had set, no showers over ten minutes. For her, at least. She would’ve considered him and environmentalist if he hadn’t taken our long showers twice a day. How anyone could stay in for that long was a wonder to Charlotte. Even she, who adored a good shower, was starting to get pruney and uncomfortable.

​​​Just as she reached for the knob to turn off the water, it crossed her mind that on her tour they hadn’t gone over where towels were located. After tearing through the bathroom whilst dripping wet and finding nothing, she decided to suck it up. Finding a very flimsy and very short bathmat, Charlotte wrapped it around herself and stepped out of the bathroom. She slinked through the bedroom, heading for the door. Upon reaching it, she opened it timidly, peeping her head out and concealing her body behind it. All she could see was a light coming from the kitchen.

​​​“Jonathan?” She said, a few tones above her normal volume, but not completely yelling.

​​​She heard footsteps, followed by, “yeah?”

​​​“Could you get me a towel?” she asked, her cheeks flushing red when he saw her hiding behind the door.

​​​“Shit, I’m sorry; I completely forgot to give you some. If you couldn’t tell I don’t have guests very often,” he laughed nervously as he walked down the hall toward his room. He returned with an armful of the plushest towels she had ever seen.

​​​“Here’s a few. I’ll put more in there in the morning,” he said, handing her the stack.

​​​“Thanks, sorry about that. I probably should’ve showered at a normal time of the day. I get kind of scatterbrained at night,” she laughed.

​​​“Feel free to shower whenever you want, I dot usually go to sleep at a normal time so it’s not keeping me up,” he said. “As for you, you should probably get some sleep. You’ve had a rough day.”

​​​“I could say the same to you, mister,” Charlotte shot back playfully. “But yeah, I should. Goodnight, Jonathan.”

​​​“Please, call me Jon. The only people that call me Jonathan are my grandparents,” he chuckled.

​​​“Okay, then. Goodnight, Jon,” she said with a smile.

​​​“Goodnight, Charlotte.”
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This is probably a little rough because I didn't edit it a whole lot, but I didn't want to delay updating this longer than I already have. As usual, thanks for reading and stay safe.