Hello from the outside Who: Obed and Carver What: Carver moves in Where: Apt 1001 and beyond When: Tuesday, March 28, mid-morning
Ray Carver squinted at the well-folded piece of paper in his hand, and then looked up at the building in front of him. A faint hint of a scowl played about his mouth and brow. “Thought you said nothing too fancy,” he muttered under his breath. At his feet were an awkward looking, pot-bellied lamp, and an overstuffed duffel bag, and he hefted them up, the lamp under one arm and the bag over one shoulder, as he made his way towards the front door.
Obed met him just inside. He pushed open the door, holding it as though his friend's burden was more than it was. His smile and welcome were so atypically bright they made Stephan Waters look up from the concierge desk, though wisely, he said nothing in answer.
"Is this all you've got?" Obed teased, leaning out to peer into the street beyond. He reached out the moment he could, plucking the lamp from Carver's hands. "Or did you actually spring for a moving service?"
Carver grinned back, his smile as honest and full of pleasure as Obed’s. “My truck’s pulled up ‘round back. Guy said I had to go through the loading dock or whatever. Ain’t much though. The futon, and that fancy folding table you gave me way back when, and a few boxes. Don’t mean to put you to work unless you got nothing better to do though, boss.”
Obed waved off the concern. "I've certainly got nothing better to do than help an old friend," he said. "And anyway, it can count as cardio and weights for today. Right?"
“Don't tell me you're still buying into that P1900 or whatever bullshit,” Carver snorted, but he was laughing as he said it.
As they moved across the lobby Obed waved hello to the concierge. The man looked up from yet another absurdly thick book, waving back with perfectly French manicured nails. His gold eyeshadow caught the light, bright spangles glittering bright. "That's Stephan," he explained, once they had reached the elevator. As the doors opened for them, he looked to Carver over one shoulder. "Keep him on your good side and you can do or get just about anything you want."
“I'll keep that in mind.” Carver shifted the weight of the duffel bag against his shoulder. “Can't say I was planning on living in a place with a door man and all.” He arched an eyebrow at Obed before reaching past him to punch the number ten button. “When the fuck did you move into this fancy ass place? Last time I saw you you were in that little loft. This seems rich even for your blood.”
Chuckling, Obed shrugged. "It was time for an upgrade," he said. "I like to think I know a deal when I see one, and this place has a lot to offer at a good price. You can't beat this view, either." The elevator car whirred upward. Obed watched the numbers pass for a moment. "This has gotten stuck a few times, though. Fair warning."
“Oh goody,” Carver mock-groaned, “Now you tell me.”
Obed leaned against the back of the car, gently cradling the lamp in his hands. He seemed to be weighing various ways of saying something; ultimately, he opted for blunt honesty. "More than that, though… I thought it was time Isobel and I had a place that was ours. I've always thought it was ridiculous to get married before you even know if you can live together without turning homicidal. This seemed as good a place to test that out as any." He cleared this throat, one blonde brow arching slightly. "I'd like you to meet her when you're settled in. Maybe come over for dinner."
An awkward silence fell between them for a moment. Carver's expression hid nothing of the surprise he felt. “Woah woah woah,” he said, tone carefully light, the smile on his lips fading to something less honest. “Did you just say married? What the hell happened to ‘don’t worry, Carver, I know it’s not a good idea to mix business and pleasure, but sometimes deals do come with more… pleasant side benefits.’” Carver laughed at his own shoddy impression of Obed, but his amusement was tinged with something else.
Obed laughed, but it rang less true than before. "I know I said that…" He looked up to the numbers on the elevator, as though he might will the tenth floor to arrive sooner. They were close, but not close enough, and after a moment he looked back to his oldest friend. "I suppose this time the benefits ended up being a bit more than I'd expected. We keep our business relatively separate, but... " He shrugged. The elevator doors opened at last, and Obed gestured Carver out of the car ahead of him. "Things happened quickly, and I'm glad of it. I may have avoided telling you because I know what you'll say when I tell you she proposed to me. Technically."
Carver raised both brows but stepped out of the elevator wordlessly. He produced the folded paper again, glanced at the apartment number, and headed down the hall for 1001. Obed could see the muscles working in Carver’s jaw, faintly jumping, as if he were literally chewing on what to say next. But the words didn’t come as Carver dug out his shiny new keys and turned them in the lock of his new home; they came a moment after, as he pushed open the door and stood between the apartment and Obed, suddenly taking the position of gatekeeper, complete with riddles for his old friend.
“What am I gonna say, then, boss?” His dimples flashed, but his eyes were less than warm.
Obed canted his head, his smile flagging at the expression on Carver's face, the subtle challenge in his posture. His fingers tightened on the base of the lamp. He knew well that every answer might reveal more about himself than the one he intended to mimic, but he could not justify giving no answers at all. "That it isn't like me," he said. "That it's too thoughtless. Too fast." He shrugged. "All of the above."
Carver touched his nose in a faintly-old-fashioned “bingo” gesture, and then stepped aside to allow Obed access to the apartment. Sunlight poured through the huge windows onto the hardwood floor, emphasizing the emptiness of the place.
“It isn’t like you though, boss. Well - no, wind that back a sec. You wouldn’t be where you are if you didn’t go after the shit that caught your eye like a starving dog after a bone. You got that passion thing going, I get it. Good for that whole go-get-em, high-powered, CEO thing, sure.” Carver ducked into the bedroom, glancing at even more space he hardly had furniture for, and half-tossed the duffel bag in front of the closet. He met Obed back in the living room area and held out his hands for the lamp. “But usually you got the smarts to keep that shit in check when it’s about to get you in trouble.” He squinted his eyes at Obed slightly. “Then again, you know what they say about guys using their brains when a good fuck comes into the picture….”
"Watch it." Obed's jaw tightened. He held the lamp out to Carver, the beginnings of a frown tugging at one corner of his mouth. "There's a lot more to it than that. I'd say it's her story to tell, but God only knows how you'd go about asking her for it." He raked a hand through his short hair. "Jesus, you need whisky and a place to sit. Let's go get that futon."
He turned to leave, ready to give his hands something to do. Carver followed him without comment.
In the privacy of the elevator, Obed at last seemed to find words he hoped would suffice. "I know it hasn't been long, but we've been through a lot together. Her place wasn't safe anymore. Her ex put her in the fucking hospital, Ray. I've already had to think about what it'd be like to lose her. Are you really going to blame me for not risking that again?"
“Damsel in distress, huh? Of course she is.” Carver crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the side of the elevator as it carried them down to the basement/parking garage access. “Look, boss, I’m --.” He stopped and sighed. “If this is really ‘love’ or whatever, then I’m happy for you. But you can’t blame a guy for having doubts. I…” He shook his head. “Whatever. I think I’ve still got half a bottle of Jameson Black Barrel in one of the boxes on the truck.”
"We'd better get into it, then," Obed muttered. "This is why I want you to meet her. Get to know her for yourself. I know you're just looking out for me, but you need to trust me on this."
He shook his head, writing off a fruitless line of conversation. "Enough about me," he said. "I'm glad you'll be so nearby. I really need to go with you and get some furniture. I suspect if you're left to your own devices it'll be futon and folding table forever."
The elevator opened up to the basement level; not so far off, Carver’s slightly battered Ford truck was parked, the bed loaded up with the aforementioned futon, table and boxes, all lashed down with bungee cords. Someone had left a handcart nearby, perhaps in helpful suggestion that he move the eyesore as quickly as possible.
“Speaking of business,” Carver said, releasing the nearest cord, “Your folks are starting to grumble about your ‘hands off’ approach again. I know that ain’t actually how it is, but they won’t take my word for it. Maybe time for you to put in another Big Bad appearance.”
Obed made a small sound of discontent, though he nodded all the same as he lifted the cord closest to him from its moorings. He let down the tailgate of the truck, then wheeled the handcart where it could be easily loaded up with boxes. He clambered up into the bed and carefully made his way toward the first few boxes.
"Past time, I'm sure," he said. He placed each box close to the edge of the tailgate, where Carver could easily move them where he chose. "You and I should head up there sometime soon, then. Maybe seeing us there together will help them understand that neither of us is blowing smoke up their asses. That place basically runs itself. None of you need any more micromanagement than I already subject you to."
Carver nodded, stacking all four boxes and then the futon on the handcart with a lazy ease belied by the faint flush that had bloomed over his honey-colored skin when he was done. “And what do they think of your whirlwind romance?”
"They're supportive," Obed allowed, though hesitation colored his voice. "I didn't give them much choice."
Carver took hold of the handcart handle and glanced at Obed. “You think you can handle that one?” He gestured to the folded table with a jerk of his chin.
Obed nodded, hauling the table up from the bed of the truck. He set it at the edge of the tailgate, taking pains not to further scratch already worn paint. Then he hopped down from his perch and retrieved the table once more. He slipped in front of Carver, moving to open and hold the doors for him.
"I think they're just grateful that grandchildren might actually be a possibility now. They don't mention that out loud, of course, but it's obvious."
“Parents,” Carver chuckled, shaking his head. He maneuvered the cart carefully so the folded futon atop the boxes was barely disturbed as he eased it into the elevator. “I'm sure mine would do the same if we still talked.” He snorted that old wounding subject away as Obed released the doors and they slid shut. “Back to business though, the whole reason I introduced you to fancy miss fiancee was to get that B&B idea of yours up and running. Please tell me that in between all your playing house you're getting somewhere on that front. Things are looking good but I've got that feeling again… grow or die.”
"I hear you. And I am." He pressed the button for the tenth floor, then braced the stack of boxes on the cart with one hand. "I prefer the smaller places like that one -- the B&Bs, the boutique hotels, that kind of thing -- but I have been looking at a few more large-scale projects. Multi-family homes haven't quite panned out for me, but I'm thinking a kind of resort, something beachfront, might be an interesting venture." He arched a brow at his friend. "You think you're ready for something like that?"
“You’re trying to distract me.” Carver smiled. “Thought the plan was to get really going in that vein. Or you scared off by all the folks renting out their basements and spare flats on AirBnB these days? They’re not really the competition, you know, we’re looking to the more upscale folks who don’t want a generic Ritz-Carlton highrise hotel when they’re vacationing in Abu Dhabi or wherever… “
"I know, I know." Obed waved him off. "I'm not worried about AirBnB. Most cities are already turning on them, anyway. And they certainly can't do what we do." He gestured to the pair of them, their shapes a watery outline in the shining elevator doors. "Which is exactly why I think we could make it work on a larger scale. You really think it's a bad idea?" For once, his tone voiced an earnest question; he would have asked no other for such an opinion, or even considered their thoughts on the matter.
Carver tilted his head. “Not necessarily, but…” The elevator dinged, and he began the particular task of maneuvering the laden hand cart out of it. “Beachfront resorts mean going up against the established big boys. What’ll we have that they won’t? Or where are you thinking that they haven’t settled into yet?” He frowned as the cart bumped over the edge of the elevator car and reached to re-settle the futon. “And it isn’t like you to abandon one project before you’ve seen it through. This new idea -- it’s not coming from.” He paused, chewing on the word. “Outside influences, is it? Say, maybe, certain ladies who would like to see their prospective children inherit massive business empires?”
Obed's lips thinned to a fine line. "It is not," he said. But it was a fair point, and he could hardly begrudge him the concern. He moved in front of the handcart, walking ahead of Carver to open the apartment door for him. Once they were safely inside and the door shut behind them, he said, "Honestly she acts embarrassed about the money. She's said more than once the apartment is too big, too lavish… I'm not sure how to even begin to deal with that."
With the cart at last in place, Obed set the folding table aside and began the task of carefully unloading the boxes. "I know you're right. I like the idea of expanding, but I suppose I should stick with what I know. At least for now. I'm not saying I'm giving up on the idea, just… putting it off, perhaps."
Carver shrugged. “Hey, if that’s the big dream on your mind, then we’ll make it work for you, boss. I’ve got your back, you know that. Even when I’m kicking and screaming… I’m always on your side in the long view.”
"I've never doubted that for a minute." Obed smiled softly as he set another box carefully down. "Now come on. Let's get this finished and you can come up to my place for a glass of wine or two. We've got some catching up to do."
“Don’t I know it. Oh, and, just for the record--” Carver produced a box cutter and brandished it dramatically at Obed, “--if it means that much to you, fine. Sign me up. I’ll go have dinner with your new princess. Just don’t expect me to call it like it isn’t.”
Obed's smirk was as close to a bright, broad smile as he ever got. He nodded, more pleased than he would admit to his friend. Then, eager to call as little attention to his victory as possible, he returned to his work, lapsing into comfortable silence.