A few grumbled curses later, David stepped through the front door, Richard following a few feet behind, overnight bag slung over his shoulder.
"At least do me the courtesy of wiping your feet," David mumbled, whipping his slippers off his feet with a couple light kicks.
"The lack of faith in your fellow man is startling," Richard replied as he trod through the foyer and into the living room, mud-stained New Balances still clinging to his feet. "Good morning, Alex."
Alexis Merrick, professional grad student and David's better half, was stretched out over a pair of bean bag chairs in front of the TV, stirring the contents of her own cup of tea with a measure of disinterest and leafing through a European history textbook. She wasn't expecting the sight of a partially-unshaven Irishman heading her way with arms spread in expectation of embrace at any point in her day, this implying the opposite of a do-nothing Saturday, and so her response was less than enthusiastic.
"Oh, Jesus," she sighed.
"Ah, I'm just joshing. Don't get up for me, please," he said.
"Well, thanks. Once you lie down on these things gravity kind of takes over and, well, you get the picture." Demonstrating this fact, she gave up any remaining muscle control in her neck and let her head sink back onto the bean bag.
Richard put his hands on his hips and cast a disapproving look in David's direction. "So, does the municipal government pump barbiturates into your neighbourhood water or what?" He wrenched the sneakers off his feet and threw them in the general vicinity of the shoe mat, leaving two splotches of dirt on the wall.
David bit his lip and forced a smile. "Can I grab anything for you before you destroy the house? Coffee, tea, another low-powered stimulant?" he asked.
"Nah, coffee will do just fine. You two need it more by the looks of it. I swear, I know sloths with more pep." He strolled toward the basement door, swung it open, and started his descent. "Couch is still downstairs, right? Thanks." It swung shut behind him.
David turned to Alex. "I love you. You know that, right?" he said, bending down to run a hand through her hair.
"Stop it, you ass, I just combed that," she grumbled, shrugging him off.
He slid down, resting his back against the bean bag couch and starting to rub her stomach. "I love you, and I would be forever indebted to you if you put up with this jackass for the next 24 hours."
"Or so. This is Richard Costello we're talking about."
"Very true, very true. And I'm very sorry, but there's obviously something up and I think we should hear him out before we kick him to the curb. Just give me five minutes to find out what's going on."
"My guess, he locked himself out of his apartment again and he's either too stupid or too hungover to call a locksmith."
David rolled his eyes. "And he calls me a cynic..."
"What was that?" she mock-snarled, lightly smacking him against the head.
"Ouch. Bitch," he groaned.
"Again, what was that?" Her eyebrows popped up inquisitively as she prepared for another backhand.
"Fine, fine. Love you, owe you," he said, getting to his feet but not before giving her a peck on the forehead.
"Damn right you do," she remarked with a smirk.
The Merrick household, affectionately referred to as the Firetrap, was an old foursquare dating back to the 30s and with wiring nearly as old. While David and Alex had done their fair share of remodeling and repainting since acquiring the residence from one of Alex's relatives a few years back they had left the basement in basically the same condition as they had found it--partly out of laziness, but mostly because David wanted a workspace with some measure of character.
As a result, the basement-cum-office remained a dingy, mouldy cave, with a bare, concrete floor cold as ice during the winter and air so stale and thick it bordered on being a solid. In other words, David's favourite room in the house. He took in the familiar smell as he descended the basement steps, housed within a steep, narrow stairwell that wouldn't have seemed out of place in some forgotten, Lovecraftian temple.
Richard waited below, pulling various items out of his bag and chucking them haphazardly in every direction. A t-shirt, pair of socks and a patched pair of jeans were strewn about the floor behind him.
"Settling in?" David asked, evading a rolled-up pair of boxers as they sailed through the air.
"Sure, why not. Need new clothes, what with my shower and all. Hope you don't mind if I take one," he jabbered, slinging a belt onto the ground, its buckle clattering against the concrete.
"Looks like there's no stopping you now. Hey, Rick," David began, deciding to shift gears without a clutch, "is there any reason why you're here?"
"I told you, I was just stopping by," Richard replied, shuffling about to pick up his clothes.
"More like moving in. Really, why are you here? I don't want to start making assumptions but I don't think it's a stretch to suggest there might be some bad blood between you and Cara." He eyed Richard as the other man paced back and forth, a quizzical look on his face. "Shorts are on the steps."
"Ah, much obliged, sir," Richard said. "Yeah, that's about right. Some shit about space or needs that she expected me to pick up on with psychic powers."
"But this happens every other week. If you don't want to break up with her you could at least sleep on your own couch."
"Dude, you weren't there!" he exclaimed, dropping onto the couch. "We were this close to a restraining order!"
"Really. This close?" David held his thumb and index finger a centimetre apart.
"Fuck off, you know how she goes into bitch-mode. I don't feel safe being in the same neighbourhood as her when that goes down, let alone the same house." His rant finished, Richard exhaled and he leaned back against the chesterfield. "What was I doing?"
"Getting ready to shower."
"Right, thanks," Richard said, jumping to his feet. "Give me a day and a half, even a day, and I can go back and try to smooth things over."
"I just think there are other places you could go. I mean, Alex and I were having company this weekend, and as you might guess by looking around the place I might need to pick up a little."
"Alex's sisters, why?"
David found the speed at which Richard's eyebrows shot up simply alarming. "You didn't tell me she had sisters."
"Oh for Christ's sake, they were bridesmaids at the wedding. You danced with one of them!"
"Heh, thought she looked familiar. Nice girl, good figure."
"See, this is why I don't need you here," David groaned.
"Relax, I'll be out of your hair before you know it," Richard assured him, patting him on the head as he moved past him towards the stairs. "We'll talk more, but shower comes first."
David slowly closed his eyes in defeat and pinched the bridge of his nose. "By Darwin's beard." He turned and shouted up the staircase, "And keep the window open!--"
Somewhere above, the door slammed shut.
"...or else the mirror fogs." He paused, saw one of Rick's orphaned socks onto the ground, kicked it, and said to himself, "Well, that accomplished nothing."
Continuing next Saturday. Part one can be found here.