Romantic Comedy Short Story: Life is Temporary, Love is Forever

 Life is Temporary, Love is Forever
                                                                Melissa R. Mendelson

Xena Connon stared at the monologue in her hands.  She glanced up into the rearview mirror, staring into her clear, blue eyes.  Satisfied with her lines, she folded the paper up and placed it into the glove compartment.  Then, she pushed a strand of dark blonde hair behind her ear, and she stared out at the one-level house in front of her.  She did not want to be here, but she did not want to get stuck in retail or fast food. She got lucky at the diner when reading through the classified ads, finding this one: Need Care Taker for Disabled Adult. Would require cooking and cleaning. Must be good with people.  Must be willing to reside at the house.  Call for more information.
“Come on, Xena.  Be a warrior princess.”  Xena hated that television show, but her mother loved it.  Hence, the name.  “Can’t be that bad,” and Xena took the key out of the ignition.  “The ad agency will call you at the end of the week, tell you that you got the job, and then they will have to look for someone else.  It’s just a job.  You didn’t come to New York to be someone’s maid,” and again, she looked at herself in the rearview mirror.  “Step up, Xena.  This is your first role,” and she got out of the car.
“Thought you were going to take off?”  The brother was tall, had short brown hair and a beard.  “You were in your car for awhile, and you were talking to someone?”
“Rehearsing actually for an ad.”
“Right?  You want to be an actress?”
“Yes.”  Xena shifted her weight from one foot to the other.  “So, about the ad…”
“Are you still interested?  If it’s short-term, it’s fine.  I can find someone else afterward.”
“I am interested, and it maybe short-term.”
“I love the accent.  British?”
“No.  I’m from New Zealand,” Xena replied.
“Where are my manners?  I’m Brian. Come inside,” and he stepped aside for Xena.
“Thank you,” and Xena walked into the house.  “Where’s your brother?”
“Shredding.”  Brian laughed at the quizzical look on Xena’s face.  “He likes to shred things before he throws them out.”
“Oh,” and again, Xena shifted her weight from one foot to the other.  She knew Brian was watching her, and she didn’t want to seem nervous.  But she was. The only other person that she took care of was her mother, and Xena had lost her last year.  Her mother’s last wish was for Xena to be happy.  That’s why she left New Zealand to chase her dream of acting.
“Can I ask how old you are?”
“Sure.  Thirty-two,” Xena said.  “And your brother?”
“Thirty-nine, and he’s not been in the best mood about turning forty.  I told him that it was no big deal.  I’m turning forty-one this year.”
“Oh, so you’re close in age.  Any other siblings?”
“No,” Brian said.
“And your parents?”
“They’re both retired and are now traveling cross-country.  They asked me to look after my brother while they were gone.”
“Can I ask why he is not staying with you?”
“Because his wife’s a bitch,” his brother shouted from the kitchen.
Brian sighed and looked at Xena.  Xena tried to hide her smile, but he saw it.  She turned away, avoiding his stare and looked around the hallway.  It led straight down into the kitchen, and Brian started walking towards where they had heard him.  That’s when Xena heard the shredding.
“Linden, do you want to stop shredding for a moment?”
Linden was tall, also very thin, and he was kind of bent forward.  He kept his back towards them, and Xena noticed that he had the same dark brown hair as Brian.  He refused to turn around but continued to shred the paper in his hands.
“One more piece,” and Linden shredded the paper into several pieces.
“It’s usually best not to interrupt him when he is shredding,” and Brian checked his watch.  “How about a tour?”  He looked at Xena.  “Unless you’ve seen enough?”
“No.  A tour would be good,” Xena said, but she continued to watch Linden shred.
“Well, this is the kitchen.  Every Saturday, I will be here, and I will take Linden food shopping.  Sometimes, to the mall, so most Saturdays will be your day off.  To the right is the family room with the television set, and we passed the bathroom.”
“We did?”  Xena looked back down the hallway.  She stared at the front door for a moment.  Then, she saw that the bathroom was on the right side of the hallway. “Small bathroom.”
“Yeah.  About that. Linden’s bedroom is large, and he’s got a bathroom attached to it.  And that bathroom has the shower.  If you’re not comfortable with that, I would completely understand.  The last care taker that was here had an issue with it.”
“She said that I watched her.”  Linden finished shredding, but he still kept his back towards them.  “But she was ugly and fat.  I didn’t want to see her naked.”
“Linden, stop,” Brian said.  “Anyway, your bedroom is smaller than Linden’s, but not too small.  And it’s right next to his.  Again, if that’s an issue, I need to know.”
“No issue,” Xena said, but her voice shook a little.  “Is there a phone that I could use?”
“It’s in the family room on the table near the television set, and you can call anyone as long as it is reasonable.  And you can receive calls.  Do you have a cell phone?”
“I do.”
“Don’t let Linden near it,” and Brian heard a loud huff behind them.  
“I only used her phone once, and it wasn’t for porn.”
“Do you want to see your room?”
“Sure,” and Xena followed Brian through the kitchen and down another hallway.
There were two rooms next to each other at the end of the hallway.  Both doors were closed, and Brian opened the door on the left.  The room was small but not terribly small.  There was a bed and dresser.  There was also a closet for her things, and Xena did not need that much room.  She wasn’t planning on staying long.
“So?”  Brian checked his watch.  “I need an answer.  I have to let my job know, if I’m coming in today.”
“Okay,” and Xena shifted her weight again.
“I can tell that you’re nervous, and my brother needs someone that can take care of him.  He can’t cook.  He doesn’t do dishes, and you don’t want him doing the laundry.”
“Why not?”  Xena suddenly jumped as something wrapped around her legs.  She looked down and saw a cat.  “You have a cat?”
“He has a cat.  He calls it, Fluffy, and most of the time, it’s in his room, where the litterbox is. Linden, I told you not to let Fluffy out.”
“She was hungry,” Linden called back from the kitchen.
“It’s fine.  I like cats,” and Xena knelt down to pat the cat. 
“Are you okay with this?”
“I am, and you’re okay with me being here short-term?”
“Just give me a week’s notice.  Now, would you like to meet him?”
“I thought I did,” Xena said.
“I mean really meet him.  Linden, come here.  I have to leave soon.”
Linden walked towards them.  He kept his head down.  “Nice to meet you,” but he did not look at Xena.
“Linden, eye contact,” Brian said.
“It’s okay.  Hi, Linden. I’m Xena.”
“Like the warrior princess?”
“Yeah.  Like the warrior princess.”
“He’s shy about his appearance,” Brian said.  “Linden, look at her.”
Linden slowly raised his head upward.  His face was narrow.  His nose was slightly crooked.  He flinched as he stared at Xena, but then he looked at her.  There was something in his eyes, something that made her heart twitch, but Xena quickly shrugged it off.  And Linden noticed that, now staring down at his feet.  “The last care taker told me that I was ugly,” he said.
“You’re not ugly,” and Xena reached for his hand.  But Linden moved away.
“He’s got a thing about being touched,” Brian said, and he watched Linden walk back into the kitchen.  “So, what’s your answer?”
“It hasn’t changed.”
“Great.  Your things are in the car?”
“I can get them later.”
“Okay.  Let’s walk back into the kitchen then.  I’ll give you the spare key.  I will give you a list of things to do and not do.  Linden has his routine, and it’s better, if you just let him do his things. Also, every morning with his breakfast, he gets a multivitamin, aspirin and a Fluoxetine.”
“What’s that for?”
“O.C.D.  So, here’s everything.”  Brian opened a kitchen drawer and pulled out a piece of paper and a spare key.  “Is it safe for me to go to work?  Oh, and my cell number is on the fridge.  Call anytime except late at night.”
“When he’s fucking his wife,” Linden said as he played with the cat.
“He doesn’t like my wife.”
“I don’t like Asian women,” Linden replied.
“I’m glad I’m not Asian,” Xena said.  “Okay.  I think we’ll be fine.”
“Good.  Oh, and when he watches his Wrestling, don’t disturb him.  It might upset him.”
“Don’t interrupt Wrestling.  Got it.”
“I’ll leave you to it.  Linden, I’m leaving now.”
“Good,” Linden said.
“I’ll see you on Saturday,” Brian said.
“Today’s Monday,” Linden replied.
“Yes, and I will see you next Saturday.  Do I get a hug good-bye?”
“No,” Linden said.
“Okay,” and Brian turned towards Xena.  “Good luck,” and he left the house.
“See you next Saturday,” and Xena flinched as the front door slammed shut.
“I’m going to watch Wrestling,” and Linden picked up the cat and walked into the family room.
“Okay.”  Xena looked down at the paper in her hands.  “Dinner at six p.m.”  Xena glanced at the time on the microwave nearby.  It was a little after three.  “I guess I’ll get my stuff.  Linden, I’ll be right back,” but a grunt was her response.
Six p.m.  Xena made spaghetti with tomato sauce.  She placed a fork and knife beside Linden’s plate, but he never used the knife. Instead, he slurped the spaghetti off his fork, and a small noodle hit him in the face, leaving a tomato stain on his cheek.  She tried not to notice, but Linden looked at her.  And he took his napkin and wiped his face.
“I noticed that the phone never rings.  It’s quiet in the house.”  She heard Linden grunt in response.  “Are you close with your brother?”
“If he and his wife had it their way, I would be in a group home.”  Linden shoved a forkful of spaghetti into his mouth. “The phone never rings.  It’s just me and the cat.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I’m done eating,” and Linden moved away from the kitchen table.  “I know you don’t want to be here,” and he stormed into the family room.
Linden was right.  Xena did not want to be here.  She wanted the ad agency to call her, offering her the job, but what about Linden? Why did leaving him all alone bother her?
“Can I watch Wrestling with you?”  Xena walked into the family room.  There was a couch placed opposite the television set, and Linden sat in the middle of it.  And he shrugged in response.  “I didn’t mean to upset you,” and Xena sat down near him.  “Friends?”
Linden gave her a look that almost broke her heart.  It was as if he was hoping that they would be more than friends. He wasn’t bad looking, but Xena did not have time for love.  She was here to act.  It was what she wanted, but as she met his gaze again, her heart fluttered.  So, she pulled her attention towards the television set and watched two men wrestle with each other.
A few days passed by.  The house remained quiet.  The phone did not ring, and Linden barely spoke to her.  He just watched her, and she gave him his space, watching him play with the cat and shred papers and other things.  He didn’t seem like he was disabled.  He seemed more like a man stuck in prison, and part of her wanted to free him.  But would the price of love cost Xena her freedom?
On Thursday, the phone rang.  Linden didn’t answer it.  He just muted the television set and waited for Xena to answer it.  And she got to the phone just as it reached its last ring. She placed the phone against her ear and smiled, which made Linden’s heart drop.
“Yeah.  Thank you. That would be great.”  Xena hung up the phone and looked at Linden.  She smiled again, but her smile faded when Linden started to cry.  “Linden, I’m sorry,” but Linden hurried out of the family room. 
Linden never came out of his bedroom, and Xena sat against the door, trying to talk to him.  She should’ve been happy.  She got what she wanted, but her heart didn’t feel the same.  And she was angry at herself.  She had grown close to Linden, and now she was throwing him to the side for her dream. 
The next morning, the smoke alarm went off.  Xena jumped out of the bed and ran into the kitchen.  The paper towels were on fire.  Next to them was a skillet over a hot burner with something that looked like eggs, and Linden just stood there, not knowing what to do.  Xena grabbed the paper towels and threw them into the sink.
“I was trying to make you breakfast,” Linden said.
“It’s okay.  I’ll make the eggs, but not those eggs.”
“Can I do the dishes?”
Xena was surprised by that.  Linden hated doing the dishes.  He didn’t even wash his plates or utensils when he put them in the sink.  Then, she realized that he was showered and shaved, and he was dressed nicely.  Her heart fell in her chest.
“I don’t want you to leave,” Linden said. 
A tear ran down Xena’s face, surprising her.  “How about you wash your hands, and then you can do the dishes.  Maybe, I’ll even let you do the laundry, but the towels are not going to smell like cat litter this time.”  She wiped her tear away.  “Linden,” she started to say, and his smile disappeared.  “Do you really want me to stay?”
“It would make me happy,” Linden said, and those words pierced her heart.
“It would make me happy too,” Xena almost cried.  “Now, go wash your hands, and I’ll save the eggs.”  Xena watched Linden disappear into the small bathroom and heard him turn on the sink.  Then, she glanced at her reflection in the kitchen window.  “You got this, Xena.  You’re a warrior princess,” and she laughed.  And her mother got her last wish. 


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