“We can afford something better than this, can’t we?” Joel spoke quietly through the side of his mouth. “What did you tell her our budget was?” Joel tried not to gag at the smell in the hallway of the apartment complex, somewhere in the depths of which there was a cat who didn’t know where its litter box was located.
“I didn’t tell her a budget,” Winnie mumbled. “I told her that we just graduated college and were coming here to interview at dance companies. She said this is where all the newbies come to live.”
“I cannot live here, Edwina. I can’t. I’m seriously not able to breathe.” Joel didn’t wait for Winnie to take a step further. “Ma’am, with all due respect. We need to be shown a different apartment complex.”
“This is the only apartment available in your price range.” The apartment manager stuck her chin in the air.
“What exactly is our price range?” he baited her, knowing they hadn’t given her one.
“Unemployed college graduates with degrees in dance?” She snickered. “You’re all the same. The best I can find for the least amount of money.”
“Thank you, we’ll see ourselves out,” Joel said, taking his wife’s hand. “We’ll get a hotel room for the night.”
“Don’t you want to see if she has anything else?” Winnie tugged his arm so that he had to stop and turn back around.
“She said that’s the only apartment available.”
“In our price range.” Winnie raised her eyebrows.
“But she doesn’t even know our price range.” Joel pointed back toward the annoying apartment manager.
“Exactly.” Winnie turned around and spoke directly to the woman. “Ma’am, we have plenty of money. We need to live in a cleaner environment.”
“You think you’re too good for this apartment complex?” the snooty woman asked, her high heels clicking on the cheap linoleum floor of the dank hallway.
“In this condition?” Joel asked with rhetoric sarcasm as they followed her down the long hallway to the exit door. “Yes. Everyone is too good for this place. No one should have to live like this.”
“Well good luck finding something this close to the theatres.” She strode over to the front door of the complex and held open the door for them.
“Thank you for the tour,” Winnie said politely, nodding to the woman on their way out. Joel didn’t bother. When they were out on the street, Winnie look around. “Now what?”
They were both still dragging a wheeled suitcase and wearing backpacks they’d used as carry-ons on the plane. Joel took out his cell phone and pulled up Google Maps. “There’s a Fairfield Inn just around the corner. Let’s go there for tonight and do some research.”
“Good thing we’re both athletes.” Winnie was breathing heavy and Joel slowed his pace. “This place is further away when dragging a suitcase.”
“Oh, sweetheart, I’m sorry. I’ll drag both of ours.” With ease he took the handle from her and kept walking, one behind each arm. He was already cranky after a long delay on the tarmac in Detroit Metro, the lack of first-class seats available on the plane, plus the annoying and smelly apartment. What was a little more discomfort?
The Fairfield Inn turned out to be a decent choice. Their room was clean and comfortable and the clerk at the main desk was generous with her time explaining some of the nearby possibilities for housing. They collapsed in the bed to take a quick nap before venturing out to find dinner and conducting more research.
Lying there in the coolness of the air-conditioned room, Joel opened his eyes and chuckled at Winnie curled up in the near darkness from the closed curtains. “This reminds me of when we were first married.”
“Why?” Winnie mumbled without opening her eyes.
“Exhausted and too tired and worn out to make love.”
“Speak fer yerself… I’m wide awake.” Her soft snore moments later confirmed Joel’s assessment. They slept through the dinner hours and ordered room service at almost midnight.
The following morning, they made some phone calls and found luxury apartments practically next door to the Lincoln Center. They would need to purchase all new furniture again, but Joel didn’t care. If he was going to be stuck in this concrete jungle for the summer, at the very least he didn’t want to live in the slums. If his wife did stay here into the fall season, he wouldn’t be worried for her safety. He’d miss her. But not worried.
In a sadistic and selfish way, he secretly hoped she didn’t find a job at a theatre.