Fred was on his way to apartment 2E. He was holding the paper shopping bag in one hand, the unfamiliar keys in the other. He was just two doors away when the old lady emerged from 2C. She did not say anything until he reached his destination.
“Well, hello,” said the lady, “Are you a new tennant here? Perhaps Gloria’s boyfriend?”
Fred was all red in the face as he turned around. “Ah, yes, I am,” he stumbled around, looking for foothold in the suddenly-alien world of smalltalk. “Hello, how are you. My name is Fred.”
“Nice to meet you, Fred,” the old lady’s smile was sweet and innocent, “I see you’re quite the man of the house by now, bringing home the bacon.”
He laughed at the tired cliche, uneasy about the encounter. But the lady did not seem indignant or judgmental, very much unlike the previous neighbor in the previous apartment building, so he considered relaxing. Except he was never good at that, not in the previous building, not with the previous girl. “Well, I hope to see more of you, ma’am.”
“Oh,” she smiled encouragingly, “I bet Gloria will keep you around. You’re cute. Please, call me Edna. And let me know if you need anything.”
“Thank you, Edna,” he said as she was walking away nonchalantly.
Alone now, he slipped the key into the lock and the door yielded tenderly. The air inside was still warm and electric from last night. Would it be love that greets him?