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  “I.. I..” she stammers as she starts stepping back from both the door and the imposing man next to her. Saya had her hands out in front of her, as if to show she had nothing of his, meant nothing by her intrusion. She didn't know this man, was this even his apartment? She had a can of pepper spray in her bag, but could she actually reach it, unlock it, and hit him? He stood only a few feet from her.
  
Saya clenches her fists and finally forces her voice out. “I.. I'm not trying to steal anything, I don't.. My.. MY KEYS!” She reaches behind her and tears the bag around from her side and holds it up as if that explained everything, wide open with both hands towards him. “I don't.. have my keys.. that's.. my apartment, I locked myself out.” Despite herself, her hands shook as the bag acted more of a shield than explanation.
  
He turns, looking at her door – 2E, then back at his own, then to her. Just breathe, she thought to herself, people are generally good.. right? Why isn't he talking?
  
Purely instinctively, she jerks back when he does move, stepping forward, he pauses at her reaction, his hand dropping a little. After a moment, “Right. Keys. I d.. don't..” fishing in his pocket, he holds up a single key, no keyring, no other keys. “It.. this is mine, it wouldn't work..” His hair slaps against his jawline as he looks back at Saya's door, then to her. “The.. old lady, have you talked..”
  
Easing her bag back down to her side, Saya started to examine her neighbor. The boring clothes didn't leave much to the imagination, she had expected someone overweight – to her own shame, but this.. boy, he looked more like a boy to her than anything, was skinny. As he turned she could see his sunken collarbone, sharp shoulder blades. Jeans, black t-shirt, so.. generic.
  
But she frowns a bit, she can't see his face. That dark hair, and straight, a half? maybe? Saya perks back up at mention of the superintendent. “Her? Oh. OH, her. She.. vacation. She didn't even bother to leave anyone else in charge, which I thought was illegal, to not have a landlord in case of emergencies..” She rummages in her bag, finally finding her cell phone as she holds it out to him, again trying to prove a point.. “I even called her and she said she was in Os..” He was staring at her when she looked up from her phone. “..aka. O.. Osaka.” It didn't seem like a malevolent gaze, more just curious, studious - almost like a tall version of her own kids at school. And his eyes were blue. He had to be a mix.
  
“Like I said..” his voice smaller, as he steps to his own apartment door, in front of her, unlocking it. “I can't.. do anything to help you, I don't know anything.”
  
“The balcony!” Saya exclaims, pushing her hand against her neighbor's door which causes him to cringe back a bit from her, confusing her just as much as she pulls her arms around her bag, gripping the strap. “I.. I don't ever really lock my balcony door, so I know I can get in that way.”
  
“And your balcony directly connects to mine, I could get in that way, if you'd let me.” Gazing up with her most pleading eyes – she used that pretty often with Gregg to get her way – and her neighbor's face stares down at her like an inconvenience, nothing more. “I would climb up from the first floor but I'm kinda--”
  
“Alright,” cutting her off, he twists the knob and pulls open the door to a dark hallway beyond, holding the door open for her. “Just.. be quick, alright.”

-

  Jesus, she's tiny. I could rest my arm on her head like sidling up to a bar, Lan thinks as he's stopped dead by the girl apparently trying to break into his apartment. He narrows his eyes and fishes out his key, the units don't have the same keys, do they? Don't be stupid, idiot, of course they don't.
  
The girl keeps talking, she's locked out of her place as he finally stammers out. “I can't help you, I don't know anything.” He inhales sharply through his nose and rears back as she slaps his door. She was so loud, he thought. What do they call people like that? Fireworks, fire.. crackers. Firecrackers. Tiny and explosive. It fit her, he muses, but she wants into his apartment. And that's.. a problem.
  
Not because Lan is embarrassed at his place, it was clean, if not spotless, but he hesitates at the fact that it was that way. What would she think of what equated to an Ikea showroom? Unused furniture and appliances, an almost sterile environment.
  
“Just be quick, alright..” he mumbles, twisting the knob and holding the door open, his arm above her. It's her turn to hesitate as he looks into his own place, a dark and uninviting. “Oh, ah, hang on..” He reaches in around the corner and flicks on the entryway lights, at least lighting the way to the living room, lit by the TV he left on from earlier.
  
She starts her way inside, gripping her messenger bag tight as Lan turns to follow her, the hinge of the door creaking loudly as it starts to close, sending a bristle up her spine. She turns to look at it as it closes. “It's.. that way..” He motions towards the other end of the apartment, tilting his head with his eyes closed, rolling them. Of course it's that way, moron, the places are identical.
  
And she's humming, what is she humming?
  
“There's a lightswitch.. there to your right.” She finds it and clicks on the cold, fluorescent lights overhead. The room looks like a clinic waiting room. She's acting like this is a haunted house. Like you're Dexter. For all she knows you may be. Have you seen yourself?
  
Lan pulls open a closet to tug a towel over himself, starting to rub his hair dry, the clothes can come later. Just get her over to her apartment, it's not a big deal.
  
She gets halfway through the living room before starting quickly towards the balcony's sliding door, tugging on it, then unlocking it and opening the room to the noise of the thunderstorm above them. Without waiting, she heads outside and bends over the railing, peering around the wall that led to her side of the balcony.
  
“YES!” she exclaims. “I can get over here, it wouldn't be that hard.. to..”
  
Before Lan was anywhere near the door, she swings a leg over the railing and scoots her way towards the wall's divider, grunting with effort as she starts swinging her leg up and over her railing.
  
He darts his way out the door and grabs her wrist, to steady her. “WAIT, ARE YOU FUCKING.. crazy.. just..” he sighs, relieved. “Don't do that.. at least I can help..”
  
Lan transfers grip of her wrist to his other hand as he leans out over the railing, meaning to touch.. instead, hovering behind her back.
  
It was strange, talking about himself, his situation was.. impossible. Touching family, friends, and his hands would shake. But strangers in need, a grocery store clerk, a convenience store associate, he could talk. He could be forgettable, they wouldn't remember, and neither would he.
  
The girl starts scooting her way over and grips Lan's hand hard, them up his forearm for a stronger grip, as if realizing that she actually could fall. She twists and straddles her apartment's railing, pulling her leg up to stand her on the balcony proper. She's humming again, in this type of situation. It sounds so familiar, though.
  
Lan releases the grip on her now that she's standing on her own two feet on her side, leaning against the wall that divides their rooms.
  
“Is it open? Your door.”
  
The telltale roll of a glass door opening and a high pitched “YES!” answer his question. There are muted thuds as she runs into her own room and the jingle of keys. She runs back to the railing and leans over, enough that she can see him, the towel draped around his neck.
  
“I got it! I found them, you're a lifesaver. Thank you soooo much. I.. I can't stay, I have a class that I am really late for, we.. we'll talk later, right?” she rambles on, “I'll make it up to you, I'll.. wait, what's your name?”
  
“Lan Sata..” The name catches in his throat, unable to escape. “Lan.” He reaches around and holds the towel out above her head, it was still raining after all, feeling it slide out of his hands. “Just.. you can keep it, don't..” --worry about it..
  
He steps back and stares down at her bending over her railing and peeking at him as best she can. “Saya. It's nice to meet you, Lan, gotta go!” He turns and watches through the wall, where her footsteps echo as she yanks open her apartment's door and slams it shut.
  
What a strange, strange girl.

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About the author

drac

Bio: apologies for everything about me, it might get better.

updates will be once a day for the next seventy days since i am migrating from another platform and have those chapters - and more - ready to go. (from 8/9)

feel free to come hang out in the discord, if you like.

[email protected]

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