Scott was still asleep in bed when Josie came in the next afternoon. He had already been woken up once when the furniture delivery people arrived with Clarice’s bedroom suite, so, needless to say, he was less than thrilled to see Josie several hours ahead of schedule.
“What are you doing here?” he muttered, face down in his pillow.
“I thought I’d get everything ready for Clarice.”
“It’s not like she’s staying the night tonight.”
“So? I still want her to see it all finished.”
“Uhn,” was all the response Scott could muster.
Josie seemed content to work by herself, but that didn’t mean Scott was free to go back to sleep. The walls in his new apartment had no insulation in them—what was the point? The basement was like a cave with a fairly constant temperature year-round—which meant that Scott could hear Josie dragging furniture around in Clarice’s room. Loudly.
He had almost dozed off again when she started hammering.
“For the love of God,” Scott groaned, pulling the pillow over his head. He tried to stuff it into his ears as much as possible, turning the loud banging into a medium thumping.
He wasn’t sure if he went back to sleep or not. It didn’t feel like he had, but then, he was pretty sure he hadn’t intentionally been thinking about what it would be like if Jim Rutherford gave up the practice of law to become an ostrich farmer.
After a while, he decided to just give up trying to sleep, so he slipped on a pair of lounge pants and his favorite pair of worn-out leather house shoes—the ones Clarice had gotten for him the last Christmas they had been together—and he shuffled groggily into the living room.
He opened his eyes wider when he saw the transformation. There was a white tablecloth on the battered old kitchen table and the vase of flowers Mrs. Stanley had sent him. The peace lily from Judge Smithwick had been brought down, too, and placed next to the television. There was a blue oriental rug spread out in front of the couch and a couple of soft-looking blue pillows on the couch to match.
There was a print of a sailing ship—closer inspection revealed it was the USS Constitution—hanging on the wall. A green, silk potted plant was perched on top of the bookcase—beside the picture of him and Clarice and Blondie—with a couple of vines artistically trailing down the sides.
The entire space looked less like a random assortment of furniture in some college kid’s first apartment and more like a home an actual adult lived in.
Josie emerged from the bathroom a moment later. She was probably the best decoration in the room, with her cut-off jeans bordering on Daisy Duke length and a fitted white tank top hugging her curves.
“Oh, you’re up.” She had the audacity to sound genuinely surprised.
Before Scott could say anything, she gestured for him to follow her back into the bathroom. “I just finished,” she said.
“Perfect timing,” he muttered, following her.
The last of his irritation faded, though, when he stood in the doorway of the bathroom, looking around. Josie had put up a wallpaper border of red and gold paisley along the top and middle of the walls. It went quite well with the red brick wall in the shower—not to mention the new red shower curtain.
There was a wicker, 3-shelf rack above the toilet with some dark red towels. There was yet another silk potted plant—this one on the toilet—and a large picture on the opposite wall of a narrow, twisting, cobbled lane between brick and stone houses somewhere in Europe.
“It looks nice,” Scott said, nodding his approval. While he had been content with the bathroom plain, he had to admit that it looked better with a little decoration.
“Wait until you see Clarice’s room,” Josie said with delight, gently pushing him in that direction.
The white bedroom suite he bought had been the cheapest model on the showroom floor and was plain, but practical; it was something that Clarice could keep as she grew older.
But the furniture in the room didn’t look like what he had bought. There was a canopy of pink tulle attached to the rafters and it hung in light, graceful folds around the bed like an African mosquito net. It was made up with the pink-and-purple comforter and frilly pillows Clarice had picked out in the JCPenny catalog.
The dresser and desk had pink and purple sprays of flowers painted on the drawers and the decorative cuts in the wood were detailed with gold paint.
“Is this what they delivered?” Scott asking, looking confused.
“Yeah, it’s what you ordered.”
“No, I ordered it plain. They must have sent this by mistake.”
She laughed, giving him a playful shove. “I decorated it, dumbass.”
“Really?” he asked, shocked.
“With paint.” She didn’t add “duh,” but you could hear it in her voice.
“I meant… how did you get the flowers on there?”
She looked at him as if he really was a dumbass. “I told you: I painted them.”
“Without a stencil or pattern or anything?” he asked, amazed. Scott, lacking any form of artistic talent, had trouble grasping that people—outside of professional artists—could create something attractive.
“Yeah. It’s called a loaded-brush technique. It’s really simple. I learned it from a book.”
Scott looked at the rest of the room. Josie had put up a border of pink and purple ballerinas along the top of the white walls. And there were white Christmas lights all around the edges of the room.
Josie followed his gaze upwards. “I thought she might like to leave the twinkle lights on—like a nightlight, you know. It can be kind of scary being in a basement.”
“I think she will like them,” Scott said, nodding. Then he smiled a little. “Do I get some, too?”
She grinned at him. “Do you want some?”
She put her arms around his neck and he wrapped his around her waist. “You want some red lights in your room? For ambiance?” she said in a low, seductive voice.
“Mmm, I might like that.” He gave her a little kiss.
“Well, I’ll have to wait until you get money again,” she said, looking just a tiny bit guilty. “I was going to do your room up, too, but I did run out of money.”
“You got a lot for $100.”
“I went yard saleing this morning, then stopped at the Goodwill, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General.”
“When did you sleep?”
“I had a nap around lunch.” She smiled winningly. “I was hoping you might give me part of the night off, especially since we don’t have any appointments until nearly dawn.”
He sighed dramatically, sounding very put out. He was tempted to tell her ‘no,’ just because she woke him up early, but she had had even less sleep than he, and it wasn’t her apartment or her kid.
“Oh, alright,” he said grudgingly.
“You’re such a hard-ass, Scott,” she said with a smile.
He feigned surprise. “I thought having a hard ass was a good thing?”
She laughed. “Having one and being one are two entirely different things.”
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee