It had gotten a lot colder today than she had anticipated. She climbed out of her car into the crisp autumn air and wished she had brought a jacket. She looked up at the little house – surrounded by a wide expanse of grass, shrubs, flowers and trees – and thought, Well, it’s certainly pretty from the outside.
She had been looking for a place to live for several months, couch-surfing with generous friends and relations, saving up every penny at her entry-level job, and scouring the newspapers for any viable apartment. This house had been for a surprisingly low rent, given the size of the property, so she was inclined to think there must be something wrong with it. But as she walked up the neatly manicured walk to the freshly-painted porch, she couldn’t immediately see any cause for concern.
“Maybe it’s haunted,” a voice said to her left, and she jumped, startled. “Sorry,” the voice continued with a trace of laughter. “I was going around the back to see what it looked like.” The voice belonged to a young man – Asian, speaking with the smallest hint of an accent. He was jovial and full of energy, and she felt at once as though he were already a friend.
“How did it look?” she asked.
“It looked as nice as the front,” he said. “So … yeah, it’s probably haunted.”
They both laughed, and Heidi extended her hand to him. “I’m Heidi,” she said.
“Satoshi,” he said, shaking her hand.
A car pulled up at the curb, and a middle-aged woman got out and came toward the house. “Hello!” she called, waving. “Are you my two o’clock?”
At the same time, Heidi and Satoshi replied, “Yes,” and then looked perplexed at one another.
“Great!” the woman said. She indicated the house. “It’s even nicer inside,” she told them as she walked with them up the steps to the porch. “Lots of renovations, new appliances, new carpet. Solid foundation.” She dug out a key and unlocked the front door. “The owners have really taken care of this place.”
Heidi and Satoshi once more exchanged glances. “Ma’am,” Heidi said. “Satoshi and I aren’t together. We each wanted this place just for ourselves.”
The woman gave her a strange look. “Okay,” she said. “Is it okay if I show it to both of you?”
“Of course,” Heidi said. “I just wanted you to know. In case it, I don’t know, affected something.”
“Well, I don’t think you’ll be able to afford it by yourself,” the woman said, leading the way into the spacious living room.
Satoshi frowned. “It said it was six-twenty-five a month?”
The woman nodded. “For you,” she explained. She looked at Heidi. “And six-twenty-five for you.”
Heidi frowned now too. “But,” she protested. “He and I just met two minutes ago! The paper didn’t say it needed to be a shared house. I thought it was a single-family dwelling.”
“It is,” the woman said. She blinked at them. “Why don’t you look around?” she suggested, and stepped back toward the foyer. “If you don’t want it, you don’t have to take it. But I think you’ll want it.”
Heidi and Satoshi stood for a moment after she had gone, each staring at the other in absolute bewilderment. “It is nice,” Heidi said, gazing around the living room and the connected dining room and kitchen.
From where he stood, Satoshi could see down the hall to the two bedrooms and the bathroom. “It’s as nice as it sounded in the paper.” He laughed. “But I had thought the price was for the whole thing,” he added. “I can’t afford twice that amount!”
Heidi laughed too. “I can’t, either!” she said. The windows are so big and pretty, she thought. The colours on the walls make the rooms so cheerful. The whole atmosphere was light and airy. “But it’s just way too expensive.” She sighed. “I’ll go tell her I can’t do it.”
“No,” Satoshi said, holding up his hand. “You look so happy here, even after just a few minutes. You take this place. I’ll tell her that I don’t want it.”
“But you do want it,” Heidi objected. “You look like you’ve been waiting for this place!” It was true: he seemed as though he had already been living contentedly here, as though she had walked into his house … but at the same time, it felt as though it were her home, as though she had been waiting for this exact place. The strangest notion occurred to then – a notion so bizarre that she was uncertain how it got into her head, and later she could never really account for it. She was surprised, in fact, to hear her own voice saying, “Maybe … maybe we could … share it?”
She imagined that Satoshi would be baffled at best by such a ridiculous suggestion, but the look on his face was more one of relief. “I was about to say that,” he said in wonder. “But I … I don’t know how …” He paused. “I’m not a psycho or anything,” he went on. “I just thought that, since there are two rooms, maybe we could each take one, and share the house.”
They looked at each other for a long, long moment. Heidi didn’t have a bad feeling about this man – this total stranger – but it made no sense to her that she was even considering moving into this house with him. But …
It made no sense to walk away from him either. The longer she looked at him, and he looked back at her, the more it didn’t make sense to walk away.
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s do this.”
She and Satoshi went then onto the porch, where the woman stood waiting for them.
“Did you like the house?” she asked them eagerly. “Are you going to take it?”
Heidi glanced at Satoshi before answering. “Yes,” she said finally, chuckling at her own words.
“Excellent!” the woman exclaimed. “I’ll get copies of the lease for you to read.” She bustled off to her car, leaving Satoshi and Heidi to contemplate their unusual decision.
“I’m happy about this,” Satoshi said. “I can’t explain why, but I’m happy.”
“Me too,” Heidi said. She smiled at him, and held her hand out once more to shake his. He took it, and shook it, but for some reason did not let it go until the woman had come back from her car.