|Percy I. Chapman | Ἑρμης (polytropus) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-04-03 07:35:00
|Entry tags:||hermes, hestia|
But I might be gone a long old time;
Who: Esther and Percy
What: A leaky pipe, a helping hand
When: [Backdated to] March 26th
Where: Esther’s humble abode.
The third floor of Pax Letale was never too eventful when Percy was actually home, which was why the loud, metallic banging sound startled him out of a pleasant re-watch of Stage Fright, a mostly enjoyable comedic horror flick. And if anything, the metallic banging sound fit perfectly with the mood of the film--but it was not something Percy wanted to hear for the entirety of the movie. He waited a minute, two minutes, five minutes; but when the sound did not stop, he paused the movie, listening carefully.
After a beat, he was convinced the sound was definitely not coming from his apartment. That left only two options: either maintenance was in the hallway doing unprecedented and odd repairs, or one of his neighbors was potentially participating in an unsavory act of robotic indulgences.
Yes, on a Sunday.
Curious about the origin of the sound, while also deciding he very much wanted it to stop sooner rather than later, Percy stepped out of his apartment, shutting the door with a soft click behind him. Although he walked to the end of the hallway, looking for a possible repairman (a strange lull in the sound occurred when he left his home), there was no repair man in sight. Furthermore, when the sound started up again, it seemed to actually be coming from a neighbor’s apartment--number 306, to be exact.
Not willing to let the sound continue interrupting his otherwise pleasant afternoon, Percy knocked on his unknown neighbor’s door, waiting for an answer.
The tap was loose on the kitchen sink, and it was becoming a serious distraction. She had tried to ignore it, like most people would she imagined, but the harder she tried to ignore it, the more of a distraction it became. It finally became too much, like things always did, and out came the toolbox. It was pink and covered with stickers of kittens and bunnies wearing sun hats.
She took out an impossibly shiny wrench and went to work. She’d never repaired a faucet before, but it couldn’t be that hard. She couldn’t tell you what any part of the faucet was called, but she knew what she needed to do to make them all work together. It was a weird sort of instinct she had. That was the only real explanation she could think of for it. She’d tried to research her weird talent, but it was hard to search for knowing how to fix things without getting a million results that were step by step guides on how to fix things.
A knock at the door interrupted her work. She blew a loose strand of hair out of her face and pulled a bleach wipe out of the packet that she kept on the counter. She started to wipe down her wrench as she approached the door nervously. When she wasn’t expecting company, unexpected knocks caused a lot of anxiety. She pressed her forehead against the door and peered through the peephole. Her brow furrowed when she saw the strange man standing outside of her door.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
She made no move to unlock the three chain locks she’d installed when she moved in, or undo the deadbolt she had also installed. They could converse through the door before a short amount of time before she’d be overcome with the need to be polite and communicate with the stranger face to face, and she was going to use every second of that time to hurry this along.
Strange, the door didn’t open when he knocked, although it was clear from the disembodied voice that someone was looking out from within the apartment. It wasn’t as if Percy hadn’t met some of his other neighbors in odder situations, so with a mental shrug, he figured this was one of the more normal examples of a meet-and-greet. Possibly. Or maybe he just had a hermit for a neighbor.
“Hey there!” he said cheerfully enough, although The Voice hadn’t sounded like she was in the best of moods. “Listen, my name’s Percy, and I live just down the hall. I couldn’t help but hear that you have some kind of a situation on your hands? It’s actually a pretty loud situation, and I’ll be honest, ma’am, I’m trying to relax before Monday gets here.” There, that summed up the problem quite nicely.
“I can help you, if you need the help,” Percy added, feeling as if his offer was the cherry on top--and maybe the solution to a return to blissful neighborly silence.
She didn’t answer, but she made quick work of the lock, the deadbolt, and the three chain locks so she could open the door. She was barefoot, her braid was falling out, she had a long, spotless apron over her light sweater and dress while looking extremely apologetic and gesturing with the wrench she had in her hand.
“I’m so sorry! I didn’t realize I was being loud, please come in. There’s a bin by the door for your shoes, no shoes beyond the entry,” she told him as she turned her back on him to return to the kitchen. Her apartment was impeccably clean, and all the furniture was lined up for precise symmetry and decorated with more throw pillows than were necessary for optimum comfort.
“Just let me finish this and wash my hands, then I can get you something to eat, I believe I have some muffins. Do you prefer coffee or tea? Or water? I can have any of those in just one minute, I have to finish what I was doing.”
The tap was sitting beside the sink on a pile of paper towels, shining brightly now that it had been polished and cleaned, and she went back to tightening whatever this bit of the sink was.
“The tap was loose, which could have been very unsanitary if it caused a leak. Mold would start to grow and the clean up would be very time consuming and intensive, but I’ll have it fixed straight away.”
She hadn’t so much as spared him a glance beyond the original cursory one that came with her apology.
His neighbor, was, it seemed, not expecting company whatsoever. This was evident by her state of disarray, in firm contrast with how impeccably clean her apartment looked. Percy was privately impressed; perhaps she simply spent her Sunday afternoons doing thorough cleaning of her home. It wasn’t his idea of a particularly fun day, but surely the world needed neat freaks as much as it needed...well, less than exceptionally tidy people.
Stepping into his neighbor’s apartment, Percy stopped to kick off his tennis shoes, placing them in the aforementioned shoe bin. Lest the noise of the pipe fixing reach the other inhabitants of Pax Letale, Percy shut the door behind him before advancing further into the apartment.
“Coffee, if you don’t mind,” he replied with a tinge of humor, unsure if his response would be buried beneath the mountain of questions he’d just been asked. She seemed almost frantic to ascertain he was at home, and yet entirely distracted at the same time. It was, admittedly, fascinating.
“You’re sure you don’t need help? That looks like trouble,” Percy added, sauntering over to the kitchen area his neighbor was currently dominating.
The humor went unnoticed while Esther continued her work. She didn’t bother to check to see if he’d followed directions. It was such a simple request, and not a wholly uncommon one, either, so it shouldn’t strike anyone as bizarre. She made it so easy, after all, with the shoe bins and the shelves.
She gave the wrench a tight twist and nodded her head to acknowledge she’d heard him. “Of course I don’t mind, just give me one second.”
She put as much effort as she could into the twist, determined to make sure this was not a problem ever again. Since he was standing nearby she decided it wouldn’t hurt to actually take a moment to look at him. He seemed friendly enough. Some of his symmetry was off. He needed a tug here and a push there, but it wasn’t overbearing.
“How are you going to help me?”
Her expression was curious. She genuinely had no idea what he thought he was going to do to help her. She could turn a wrench just as well as anyone else, and this was a one wrench project.
Percy was slightly taken back by her frankness. To be fair, she did seem to have everything under control now. But it certainly hadn’t seemed so in the past, oh, ten minutes of loud pipe banging he’d been subjected to during his movie. Not one to stumble over his own words, Percy quickly amended whatever bewilderment may have briefly crossed his features. “I think I’ll hand you the tap when you’re ready. It seems like it’s the least I can do.” He was, admittedly, becoming keenly aware that he may have insulted her sense of pride.
“But you’re in charge here,” Percy quickly amended, feeling somewhat sheepish. “I don’t want to overstep any boundaries, seeing that we just met. I’ve got three older sisters, and they’re all perfectly capable women. It’s clear that you are, too.” He leaned against the kitchen counter, fingers tapping restlessly on its edge. The tap was in reach, but he left it alone for the time being.
Pride still intact, Esther considered him. He seemed affable. She didn’t use that word to describe just anyone. She like the way it felt on her tongue and how it looked on paper, so she savored words like affable and kept them until the situation truly called for it. Sure, they had just met, and true, he wasn’t exactly here for a friendly call, but that was the word that came to mind. It was interesting, as she usually did not pass judgment about people immediately. This seemed to be right, though.
She gave one shoulder a gentle shrug, using it to both answer her internal question and to acknowledge him. “Would helping with the tap make you feel less anxious? If so, then you can hand me the tap, just make sure you keep fingerprints off of it. I just polished it when I was cleaning the wrench.”
She had no real way of knowing if he was feeling anxious or not, but the restless tapping of the fingers was something she recognized because she did that herself when she was feeling scattered and antsy.
“Are you a plumber?”
He couldn’t hold back his laughter; it was destined to escape, regardless if it meant altering the first impression he’d made on her. “A plumber?” Percy asked her incredulously, blue eyes lit up with pure amusement. “No, I write for the paper. Well, one of them. It’s a hard knock life.” Reaching for the tap, devoid of anxiety, he wondered briefly how--without gloves--he wouldn’t manage to get fingerprints on the device.
The way he saw it, fingerprints were bound to happen one way or another. It was just a simple fact of life.
“Hey, I never asked your name. Since you’ve already offered me at least twelve different drinks and muffins, it only seems fair I know who to thank.” Percy held the tap out to the slightly disheveled woman, studying her face. Despite her abundance of nervous energy and clear talent for offering every pastry and breakfast drink in the books, she nonetheless seemed inexplicably welcoming. This was, he thought, a nice buffer to the otherwise loud commotion she’d made.
She shrugged a shoulder and held her hand out for the tap. “Then you couldn’t really help me fix the sink, though that was nice of you to offer. Writing for the paper doesn’t teach you to fix sinks.”
She screwed the tap back on, polishing the fingerprints off of it after she was satisfied with her work. She left him by the sink as she gathered a mug and a plated muffin, then started a pot of coffee. Once it was ready, she poured him a cup, then brought him her offerings.
“I’m Esther. I’m not a plumber, either. I just know how to fix sinks.”
She handed him a napkin that was neatly folded across the middle into a neat triangle where every point met its opposite.
“Have a seat in the other room, it’s more comfortable than eating over the sink.”
Well, she was a practical woman, if anything. Percy felt he could respect this, and as such, he took the offered napkin and plated muffin. The napkin itself looked far too tidy and delicate to be resting in his hand, somehow.
“If she operates like a plumber, but doesn’t look like a plumber…” Percy let his comment trail off, smiling at his new acquaintance. “I should’ve given you a call when my tub was backed up the other week. You could have saved the maintenance guy here a solid hour. Who needs a snake when Esther’s on the case?”
Rather cheerfully, he turned towards what was clearly the living-room, assuming she had meant for him to sit down in there instead. In stockinged feet he moved quietly across the plush carpet, choosing a spot on her throw pillow laden couch. There were ample coasters--clearly, she wasn’t kidding about any kind of fingerprints or coffee stains--on her coffee table, and he selected one for his mug. The muffin plate and napkin rested gingerly on one jeans covered thigh, and he picked at its edges while he waited for her to enter the room.
“You’re an excellent decorator, by the way. I’ve been moved in for a couple of months now and still haven’t completely unpacked.”
She joined him in the other room, sitting primly in one of the two pillow ladened arm chairs that framed the sofa. She hadn’t been sitting down for more than a few seconds before she began fretting with the fringe on a dark blue chenille pillow.
“You called the maintenance man and not a plumber to fix a plumbing issue?” Her expression made it obvious she found that idea preposterous. When professions were dedicated to specific jobs, it only made sense to turn to them first when there was a problem. Those were the rules for most people. Esther tried to be patient enough to follow the rules herself, wanting to make sure she used her money in ways that benefited others, but she struggled with it when the fixes always seemed so obvious and simple to her.
Her incredulous look morphed into one of absolute horror. “You haven’t unpacked? You live with some of your things in boxes? But how can you feel like you’re at home if you haven’t settled?”
She began to twist pieces of fringe around her fingers. Every instinct told her she needed to march right down to his apartment and set it up for him, in a polite and unobtrusive manner, of course.
“You can’t continue to living out of boxes, you and your apartment deserve to live better than that.”
Pleased as punch at Esther’s reactions for reasons he couldn’t quite put his finger on, Percy chewed bites of the muffin, letting his new companion ramble. If she’d made the muffin herself, she wasn’t a half-bad baker. The evidence of his delight at the muffin was on the small plate, crumbs scattered haphazardly upon its otherwise clean surface.
Finally deigning to respond, Percy began with a casual shrug of his shoulders, waving away Esther’s concerns in a laissez-faire manner. “It’s not a problem, Esther. Everything is mostly unpacked. And to tell you the truth, I’m not usually home long enough to really feel at home.” If he wasn’t at work or out chasing another story for work, Percy typically found himself zooming around town in his prized white Scion to nowhere in particular. He’d always return home to sleep at the end of the night, and to feed Stella, but he’d never made it a practice to remain at home for too long.
Esther, in the short time he’d known her, seemed to be entirely the opposite. Every personalized touch to her home displayed the obvious care she had for her surroundings, and the necessity for them to appear just so.
“It’s not as bad as you think it might be,” he added, smiling warmly. “I haven’t tripped over any boxes yet.”
Without thinking Esther stood up and took the muffin from Percy’s hands, replacing it with an armful of random throw pillows.
“We have to take care of this right now, you cannot live out of boxes, even if you haven’t tripped over them. You have shelves and closets and drawers to hold your things, they can’t stay in boxes.”
She grabbed a few pillows herself before she went into the kitchen and grabbed a dish towel (always handy in any situation), and the plate of muffins. If he was living out of boxes, he needed them more than she did.
“Let’s go. Where is your apartment?”
She opened the door and went to usher him out, not letting no be an answer option, then paused.
She rounded back to the kitchen and picked up her tool box, resting it on top of the pile of pillows in her arms.
“Now let’s go.”
Wide-eyed for a split second, Percy lost the muffin he'd been dearly enjoying. Instead, he found himself buried under throw pillows, the plush decorative things taking up the entirety of his lap. It was, he thought, like preparing to make a pillow fort. Or being armed for a pillow fight.
In a flurry of movements, his neighbor moved unexpectedly fast to collect everything else she felt he needed. It took only a few minutes before Percy was outside in the hallway again, clutching the borrowed pillows to his chest.
“I live just down the hall. I'll show you the way.” He grinned at Esther before leading her to his front door. Although this afternoon was going in a completely different direction than he originally planned, he was nonetheless enjoying the journey.
And the company, for that matter. Esther was certainly a unique individual, and she seemed to be highly motivated by the need to organize and dust--two matters which Percy hardly bothered with in his home.
Perhaps they could make a mutually satisfying agreement today. His movie could wait a bit longer.