By: Terinas Tiger
(Due to strong personal convictions, the writer of this storywishes to state ahead of time that the roommates presented within arenot meant to be iconic or representative of any real life person,culture, religious affiliation, or nationality.)
The prospective roommate who was supposed to ride to the apartmentwith us rescheduled, so it was just Xavier and I cramming into therusty old blue truck Xavier insisted on driving, even after theincident with the engine not starting for a full week. I'd tried sohard to convince him to trade up, but he had to bring up finances.Life is a lot less glamorous when that pesky reality comes into play.
"You still haven't told me what Samson came here for."Xavier flipped the turn signal on before shifting one lane to theright.
"We were just talking!" I blurted out, wanting to kickmyself. Normally I'm not that awkward, but the whole Samson affairhad thrown me off. I was still trying to figure out how I felt aboutthat squirrel. Seeing Samson had stirred up a lot of feelings I wasstill sorting out. Not to mention what we did...
I thought that I had meant what I said when I told Samson we weren’tgetting back together. But after thinking about it for a littlewhile… Ugh, my feelings kept going in circles.
"I wasn't wondering what you two were DOING. I was wondering whyhe came here." Thankfully, my embarrassment went over theskunk's head. "He deliberately came to see an ex, and I can'twrap my head around that. Why make the effort? Did he apologize orsomething?"
I let out a long, pronounced sigh while looking away. "Let'stalk about something interesting." I pointed ahead at thebuilding we were parking in front of. Our new apartment complex, justa few blocks away from campus. "Like who's going to be sharingthat roof once it's over our heads. Did you let slip earlier that acertain muscular husky was in the running?" I frowned, thesentence calling Kristoph to mind. He was the one who got away: agorgeous white-furred canine with pale blue eyes, a sculpted body anda keen mind. I'd almost started dating Kristoph, and then... well,I'd fucked things up and hurt him. We hadn't seen each other since. Ihadn't made the effort.
"Yeaaah. I wasn't really gonna mention that until he got there,but yeah." Xavier rolled his eyes, looking away from me as heshifted the car into park. "I mentioned we were moving out, andhe asked if we had a third room. Seemed like a decent fit, he’sa pretty stable guy, right?”
“Him being stable isn’t the issue!” I blurted out."You know I wouldn’t be comfortable with it after how badI treated him. I’m a lit flame too close to a leaky gas line,and I don't want to burn him again, Tuxedo." My ears drooped.Even using the nickname I gave Xavier didn’t cheer me up.
Xavier folded his arms and turned to glare at me. “So becauseyou messed up with him as a romantic prospect, you can’tco-exist with him?” He frowned. “We aren’t scopingout potential boyfriends for you, we’re looking for roomies.And we don’t have a LOT of other options, Teri. If he seemsfine with living with you after everything you did, why are youfreaking out about it?”
I was freaking out because just thinking about Kristoph made me feelguilty. He’d seen me at my lowest, and I remembered the look ofdisgust he gave me when he hit me. I wasn’t afraid he was gonnado it again; when I’m not drunk off my ass I’m not aneasy target for fists. But more importantly… Kristoph waskind. Even when he had no reason to help me, he’d come back andtried to look after me. My ears drooped. "Look, let's just bepolite, but say no. I can deal with any other roommate, but not him."I sighed. I wasn’t sure I could look Kristoph in the eyeswithout being reminded of my own failures. I whimpered, crossing mylegs and staring out the window, watching life pass us by. “Sowho else do we got?”
Xavier clicked his tongue as his arms worked, spinning the wheel aswe turned right. “Let’s see… a llama who isstudying philosophy, a zebra guy here on a basketball scholarship, acougar here to study economics, and a racoon looking for a place tostay while he works on his graduate work in linguistics.
“Any of them hot?” I allowed myself a moment offantasizing about my prospective roommates, all shirtless.
My tediously dull actual roommate scoffed. “You WOULD askthat.” Xavier barked back at me, but I could see a faint smileon his face. “Anyways, I’m not so sure I’d be agood judge.” He pulled into the parking lot. I’d openedmy mouth to reply, but he beat me to the punch. “Anyways,you’ll have a chance to tell for yourself, soon enough.”He gripped the stick of his car and pushed it into park. “We’rehere and our first interview happens in thirty minutes. Grab somethings and follow me up.”
Our new apartment complex loomed over us, the shadow it caststretching all over the parking lot where we had parked. Sedate tanwalls, studded with glass windows, all arranged in a rectangularfashion. The North Hills apartments were the only off-campus studenthousing on the south side of the city, and although the building wasrather drab by my tastes, they were also the most modern off-campusapartments we could afford. Back during winter when we’ddiscussed moving out, Xavier had made a huge stink about wanting togo with something cheaper. He hadn’t wanted a third roommate,and some of the older housing was cheap enough that the two of uscould afford it by ourselves. He’d argued we didn’t needto pay for the luxury of North Hills, with individual private showersand air conditioning. And he’d asserted it’d be less of afight, since they gave out rooms on a lottery system and we’dhave to compete with other students to get it. At the time I hadn’tprotested. I’d just smiled and nodded, complimenting him on histhick, lustrous black fur that helped keep him warm in the wind andsnow. But I entered us into the lottery anyway, behind his back. Once spring came around, that same lustrous black fur resulted in alot of sweating, panting, and overheating. Even once his summer coathad grown in, he wasn’t safe. When he’d expressed hisfrustration over the temperatures we were dealing with, I at lastbrought the subject up again. He’d quickly conceded the point.The memory made me smile. It’d been a simple victory for luxuryover cost, and all I’d had to do was give him time.
“So our apartment’s on the sixth floor, right?” Iasked, shading my eyes from the sun with my left paw, as I looked up.
“Yup.” Xavier walked around to the back of the truck,undoing the hatch on the carrier cover. His tail curled up as he letthe hatch drop open with a loud thud.
“So we’ll be moving UP as well as moving IN, huh?”I swallowed. “This place has elevators, right? Please tell methey’ve got elevators.”
“Come on.” Xavier chuckled and poked my side. “Climbinga few flights of stairs back and forth will do you good. Grab a boxand let’s get going.”
I let my tail thrash. “Ugh, manual labor.” I looked atthe back of the truck, loaded with offensive boxes.
“Oh, I’m sorry, princess.” Xavier grinned at me, ashe got out of the car. “I forgot you used to have people forthis sort of thing.”
I stuck my tongue out at him and got out on the passenger’sside. “You’re never going to let me live what I told youdown, are you?”
“No.” he said, stating a simple fact. “But if itgets you working any harder, all the lifting and climbing will likelyget us both hot and sweaty.”
I felt my cock twitch as I thought about how my roommate would lookafter a fair bit of exertion. Xavier was a metaphorical white whale:a tantalizing goal that too impossible to attain. Sadly, he persistedin maintaining he was straight. “Well, what do you know? I’msuddenly motivated.” I purred, as we opened the trunk of thetruck and reached for a few boxes.
After a whole school year making do in a tiny dorm room, our newthree bedroom apartment seemed like a mansion. One one side, we had akitchenette that even came with its own shining steel oven. Along theother side there was a white carpeted expanse, begging to befurnished and used as a proper living room. Lastly, we had a hallwaygoing out with two doors on either side, offering three bedrooms andone bathroom. In spite of how heavy our boxes felt, we had nowherenear enough stuff to fill all the added room. I felt myself grinningas I scanned each bedroom, trying to decide which one to lay claimto. The sole bedroom on the right had the cutest purple walls, but itwas right next to the bathroom, which I worried might be noisy when-
“Hey Teri! The first guy we’re interviewing arrived!”Xavier called out from out in the kitchennette, calling me away frommy fun. With a soft sigh, I pulled away from the bedrooms to saunterback out into the entryway. Our ratty green couch had been one of thefirst things we hauled up from Xavier’s truck. After all, wehad to have something to quietly judge each applicant from, didn’twe?
“This is Lou, the llama that was going to ride over with us.”Xavier waved a hand at our guest as I took a seat to his right on thecouch.
Our guest had bright blue eyes that went well with his sandy brownfur. He had a slight, warm smile as he waved in front of us. “Hey.”He stood in front of both of us. “How’re yah doing?”The tan jacket he was wearing rustled as he shifted his weight.
I gave him a smile back. “Not bad at all.” My tail curledbehind me. He seemed like a sweetheart. I already liked him. Xavierhad already spoke with him, so I decided to take the reins. “Alright,handsome. I want to ask, what year are you, what are some of yourhobbies and interests, and how do you feel about living with a gayguy?”
“Whose also a relentless stereotype.” Xavier said,earning a playful swat from me.
Lou chuckled. “Well, I’m a sophomore, which I understandis the same as both of you. I’m like studying other languages,and I’m a bit of a reader. I read a lot, and I’m prettyquiet. I won’t keep anyone up at night with loud music, and inwhat time I have left, I occasionally play some video games.”He put his hands in his pockets. “I have nothing against gaypeople, by the way. Being bi myself, that’d be sortahypocritical, right?”
My ears perked up. “You go both ways, huh?” I foundmyself licking my lips. Now, I’d had a moment with Samson, andI still was working out how I felt about that. And Kristoph wasshowing up sooner or later, and I still wasn’t sure how I wasgoing to bear seeing him again. So while I wasn’t really in anyhurry to date anyone new. But a cute guy who seemed sane andtemperate? I’ll admit he was a tempting little morsel.Especially because he was really cute! “So next question, whichI need to know for, uh, roommate purposes. Are you seeing anyone?”
My comment provoked a chuckle, as those pretty azure eyes of hisshimmered. “Uh, no? I mean, I’m single right now, but younever know what might happen during the year, right?” He leanedforward, looking me straight in the eyes. “Maybe Mr. or Mrs.Right is literally just someone a door away.” I felt my heartracing, just a little bit.
I turned to Xavier. “Oh, I like him, Tuxedo.” Iwhispered, just loud enough for both of them to hear. This provokedan eyeroll and a scoff from the skunk.
“Regardless of my roommate’s overly amorous demeanor-”I stuck my tongue out at Xavier as he spoke. “-I’minclined to agree. You seem like you’d be a perfect fit forliving with us for the semester.”
“Great!” Lou said, turning to look out the window. “I’dreally like that. I think we could get along well together.”And then, without missing a beat, he continued. “By the way,can you guys handle rent for a few months? I really need to save mymoney. See, my brother Alphonso has this plan, see, and-”
We couldn’t shoo Lou out of our apartment fast enough. Ascharming and friendly as he’d been, we weren’t a charity.
“So have either of you bros heard the Good News?” saidZebulon, the zebra who was next on our list of potential roommates.Several of the stripes around his neck and arms were dyed a paleyellow, which I kept wondering about. It would have taken a lot ofbleaching and dying to turn black to sandy yellow, yet he’ddone it for just a few stripes, without even any discernable patternto it. There were probably more under his leather pants, which clungaround his thighs with an almost supernatural fit. Staring at thosethighs, however, was a bit distracting. He was a very attractiveungulate!
“Er, I’m sorry. what was the question?” I’dbeen staring at his thighs so much I’d tuned him out. In mydefense, he had to be used to a few stares.
He stared at me, tilting his head ever so slightly towards his leftshoulder. “The Gate has opened! He is the Gate and He has come!Let me tell you bros about Yogg Sothoth!”
My ears fell flat against my head and I raised an eyebrow. He wasgoing to our school on a basketball scholarship, so I hadn’treally expected the conversation to go outside of sports. I blinked afew times as I tried to make sense of what I was hearing. “Er,ok. Who is he? Some kind of basketball star or-mmmph!”
Xavier had put a paw over my face. He gave our prospective roommate aplastic smile. “I’m sorry, but the room has been filled.”
“Before we begin, are either of you virgins? I am seeking tolive with virgin in this housing arrangement.” The zebra’seyes widened, a bloodshot expression on his face. “The master,you see bros, is a congeries of iridescent globes, yet-”
Xavier had sprung up and was shoving him to the door. “THANKYOU FOR YOUR TIME!” he shouted, as he pushed with all his mightagainst the hooved, stripey man in the black basketball hoodie
“Bro! Bro! I understand your hesitation, but it’smisplaced.” Zebulon pushed back against my skunk of a roommate.“If you would just take a moment to hear the singing of theelder ones as-” Xavier grit his teeth and renewed his efforts,pushing the zebra as he broke down into gibbering. The skunk slammedthe door behind him, locking and bolting it.
I folded my arms and gave a slight huff. “That was a bitextreme, don’t you think?”
Xavier lay against the door, holding it shut, as if locking it wasn’tenough. “Nope.”
I sighed. “He looked hot in leather, and he actually seemedinteresting. A bit manic, sure, but he had an air of danger thatseemed enticing.” There was loud cackling from just outside ourdoor.
“Nope. No danger.” The skunk’s tail was bristling.“No peril, no weirdness, and nothing that involves two g’sin its name.” He walked away from the door after the cacklingdied down.
I curled my lower lip. “Aw, maybe just a bit of peril?”
“Nope. No peril. Too perilous.” Xavier walked over to therefrigerator, looking through it.
“I always listen to swedish death metal blaring on my speakerswhile I’m doing economic homework.” The cougar said. “IHAVE to. It’s a habit.” For an economics major, he’dbeen entirely unlike what I’d expected: Tall, with burlyshoulders and a shaggy blonde dyejob that covered both his eyes andbounced whenever he so much as moved his head. He wore black leatherpants and a matching vest, on top of black fur, and had ridden hereon a motorcycle. “That isn’t going to be a problem, isit?” As he paced about in front of the couch, some of thesilver jewelry he had just clipped to his jacket jingled. I ground myteeth at the sound.
I was trying not to growl at him. “That… would violate afew noise rules they have here.” My striped, monochrome partnerresponded. “But get some headphones and we should be fine. Soyou can pay in advance, right Carl?”
“Yeah.” The cougar nodded. “But actually, it’sNyx, not Carl. That’s just the name I put on my tax forms.”He frowned. “So anymore questions?”
I bit my tongue. I really really needed one of these people to workout. Otherwise, Kristoph was our best bet. Even if this guy was sucha… I shook my head and grit my teeth.
“Yeah, I have one.” Xavier nodded. “Source ofincome. How are you going to be paying rent every month?”
“Nyx” chuckled. “Well, I work in an old recordstore, but I’m really just filling time there. I’m inthis band, you see, and we’re gonna be big. Still, record storepays most of the bills right now.” I rolled my eyes. And he wasin a band, too. Of course he was..
“A band?” Xavier raised an eyebrow. “Huh. What kindof music do you play?”
The cougar stared at his claws, smirking. “Oh, it’sreally novel stuff… I dunno if you’d be into it, it’skinda experimental.” I felt my paw clenching into a fist.
“Uh… ok?” Xavier turned to face me. “Howabout you, Teri? You’ve been pretty silent the whole time. Whatdo you think of Nyx?”
And that did it. I couldn’t keep silent. I stood up. “Yeah,I’ve got a question. Why the heck do you insist on wearingmismatching silver things with black leather?” I scowled,standing up. “I mean, I could see like, maybe the ankh or thestar of david or the pentagon, if you had some sort of affiliationwith some religious group, but are you just wearing random silverstuff to seem hardcore? And why silver jewelry on obviously blackdyed fur, anyway? With that blonde hair of yours, gold would havemade you look less like a walking fashion disaster.”
“Oh EXCUSE me, flea bait?” He growled back at me, baringhis fangs. “You have a problem, pretty boy?”
“Teri-” Xavier started, as I spun around and glaredat him.
I narrowed my eyes, putting my hands on my hips. “Uh, yeah. Themismatched accessories, the hipster band attitude, the eclectic tastein music… you are such a pretentious little-”
The interview went about as to be expected from there. After Carl (Irefuse to call him Nyx!) left, Xavier sighed as he looked up at me,while I scowled at him, my hands on my hips. “Teri, you want totell me why you couldn’t tolerate that guy? I’ve seen youhand out makeovers like some people hand out religious pamphlets.”
I looked away. “The just wasn’t room for both of us here,Xavier. That’s all there is to it.”
Xavier covered his face with his paw. “Oh gods, this is a catthing, isn’t it.”
I turned around and hissed at him. “It is NOT a cat thing!Geeze, don’t be speciesist!” It had been a cat thing.
“Sprechen sie deutsche?” Our last prospective roommatestood before us, his fur pattern a mix of grays and blacks. The squatracoon, a black mask of fur plastered over his face, put his handsinto the pockets of his leather jacket, and tilted his head, palehazel eyes looking towards Xavier. He waited a few moments, tailtwitching behind him, before repeating that line for the fourth timesince we’d let him in.
There was a pause of silence. I’d just gotten done asking himif he used any product for the pompadour he walked around wearing.“Yeah, this isn’t going to work.” I said, shiftingmy body over to stare in Xavier’s direction as well. “Ithought you said you had a conversation with all the guys we wereinterviewing today?”
Xavier shrugged. “I did! He seemed fine over the phone, if abit slow to talk. I don’t get it. Maybe he used a phrase book?”He looked back towards the man standing before us. “Richter,are you able to understand us?”
Richter Racoon’s response was to take a few steps forward, nowjust a few inches away from the legs of Xavier and I. “Sprechensie deutsche?” He said again, looking between Xavier and I.
“Um…” I bit my lip. “Non. Je ne parle pas?”I gave him a wide grin, hoping he got the message. “
“What is that? Isn’t that French?” Xavier raised aneyebrow at me.
I folded my arms, letting out a light huff as I narrowed my eyes. “Idon’t speak german, Xavier!” I growled at him.
“That doesn’t answer the question.” Xaviercontinued. “Why would you respond to someone speakingGerman with French?”
The continued staring put me on the defensive. “He’sstudying Linguistics, and I just thought that-” Xaviercontinued giving me a stare with those dead fish eyes of his. I threwmy paws out in front of me. “Look, conventional communicationhas failed us, ok?!? This isn’t going to work. Even if he is acute foreign man, I need a roommate I can have conversations with!”
“Sprechen sie deutsche?” Our would-be housing partnersuddenly leaned in between us, gazing at me with a flat, confusedexpression.
I leaned away from him, ears flat against my forehead. “Uh…Ok, I usually like to know what the hell is going on in someone’smind before I get this close to them.” I scooted all the wayover to the far side of the couch. “U-um, Xavier, our germanfriend doesn’t seem to respect the idea of people's personalspace… or maybe there’s just something kinda off abouthim.”
Xavier had scooched all the way over to the other side of the couch.“Look, just give him a chance, alright? Maybe he’s justbeing, um, friendly or something. I mean, he clearly doesn’tspeak English, in spite of our conversation over the phone. We haveto be culturally sensitive, ri-”
As Xavier was finishing that sentence, Richter Racoon began to climbonto the couch, crawling towards me. “Sprechen sie deutsche?”He said, licking his lips and giving me a hungry gaze as he moved apaw up towards my thigh.
In any other context I might have been into it, but at the moment, Islapped his hand away. “Um, X-Xavier, I’m all for beingculturally sensitive but I don’t think this is how anyone fromGermany would act when meeting someone new.” I felt my facegetting hot. As I started to stand up, Richter reached over again andgrabbed the tip of my tail. An unwelcome shudder ran up my spine.“Ireallythinthere’sjustsomethingoffaboutthisguylet’sgetridofhimplease.”My voice had dropped down to a frantic squeak. It was one of the onlytimes I could remember when I wasn’t happily excited aboutbeing touched by a guy. Our german applicant was staring the tip ofmy tail as it squirmed in his front paw, jerking as I tried to freeit.
“Y-yeah.” Xavier stood up on the other side of the couch,watching as the raccoon as he let go of my tail, getting up on allfours on the couch. “Come on, Mr. Raccoon. I think we need tojust, um, go our separate ways for now. Don’t call us, we’ll,uh, call you. Possibly.” He reached out to grip at Richter’sshoulder, but never actually managed to touch him.
Because the raccoon had pounced, launching himself at me from aposition of being on all fours on the couch. I felt him knock me tothe ground, as he looked into my eyes from on top of me. I cried outin shock. Glazed, vacant irises met my upwards stare, as he gave me alarge, toothy grin. He opened his mouth, and his words were madnesssinging into my very soul.
“Sprechen sie deutsche?”
I walked out of the showers, rubbing a brown towel against my hair.Properly drying off and brushing my fur after bathing would take ahalf hour that we didn’t have, so I had just dried off what Icould and slid on a pair of loose blue jeans (I’d prefer not towear long pants, but if it was a choice between them and showingsomeone ungroomed fur, it was a necessary evil), as well as the greensweater I’d been so eager to throw away just hours before. Ididn’t like walking around with wet fur, but after our lastroommate interview, I had needed a shower.
Xavier was looking over a housing agreement as I joined him on thecouch. With a decided pout on my face, I sat down next to him,folding my arms and thrashing my tail along the floor.
His eyes flicked over to stare at me for a moment, before going backto what he was reading. “So-”
“We’re never talking about what just happened again.”I said in a quiet, angry tone, folding my arms. “I don’teven want to think about Richter.” Just mentioning his namesent a shudder up my spine.
Xavier nodded. “Sure. I’m fine with that.” Hefolded over the front sheet of the roommate agreement, with aflourish of paper. One of the things I’d come to rely on withXavier was his willingness to let things drop. He’d seen whathad happened, he wasn’t going to tease me about it. “Feelingbetter?”
I nodded, running a brush through my long brown curls of hair. “Alittle.” I sniffled, looking away from him. “Theseapartments aren’t inexpensive. I thought we’d get somebetter applicants.”
Xavier shrugged. “I dunno what to tell you. We didn’t getto advertising until a lot later than most people do. We got what wegot, and we’re lucky we got this many, when we only startedadvertising a few weeks ago. Plus, these places are pricy. Not manycollege students can afford to live here, even with the rent splitthree ways.”
There was a knocking on the door. Xavier and I both turned up to lookat it. “Hey Teri, go grab that, will you?” Xavier turnedhis head back down to the paperwork.
My ears drooped flat against my head. “Aw, come on! It’sgonna be him, we both know it.” I whimpered. “I… Ineed a moment!”
Xavier shook his head. “Look, I’m busy here. Go get thedoor for our last interview, Teri. Don’t make me ask again.”
“Ugh, fine.” I threw my head against the back cushion ofthe couch, letting tangled tassels of brown hair whip against thebackside of our cushy support. With a long, pronounced, melodramaticsiiiiiigh I stood up and walked over towards the door. I didn’twant to do it, but Xavier was right. We had one last interview togive, and right now we needed this individual to be the one who wepicked. It was especially important now because we really didn’twant to call back any of the guys we’d just rejected. I knewthat, and yet my hand was shaking as I gripped the knob of our newfront door.
Just as I’d predicted, he stood before me. Whitish-gray tuftedaround the neckline of his longsleeve carmine shirt. His abstightened beneath that shirt. It was clinging so tight I could seethem through it. He was looking at the black claws along his left pawas I’d opened the door, only to look at me. For a moment, cool,sky blue eyes gazed into my green ones. I averted my gaze as fast asI could. A moment of silence passed between us, as he reached down topull up one side of his navy jeans. I swallowed, feeling my heartrace as his scent hit my nostrils. Even though I knew it would behim, I couldn’t keep my hands from trembling, or my eyes fromwidening. I had such a hang up about him, it wasn’t even funny.After all, the last time Kristoph had seen me, I had been drunk offmy ass, wanting to die. I’d said horrible things about hisfamily to try and drive him away. And yet he didn’t leave.Kristoph was kind. He was genuine. He was a good person, better thanI’d ever be. And he’d seen me at my absolute worst. Icouldn’t even look him in the eyes. Heck, I’d spent thelast few months deliberately avoiding him, after the way I’dacted.
I felt panic creep up into my mind. I’d been hoping to avoidthis encounter. I gave him a plastic smile and moved to one side ofthe door. “H-hi! Come on in.” I waved him in. “I,um, have to go use the restroom. Xavier will get us all started, andI’ll just jump in once I’m done, ok?”
Kristoph’s kissable lips curled into a frown for a moment. “Yousure, Teri? I think-”
“Oh yes!” I said, backing away. “I really have togo, and no one wants to see that, so I’ll just go, and you guysgo ahead, and I’ll go back to the couch once I’m done.Going.” With that, I darted into the bathroom and locked thedoor.
I took a seat on the toilet, pressing my chin up against my frontpaws. I stayed silent until I heard the muffled sounds of the two ofthem talking. I couldn’t make out their words, but it probablywasn’t anything too important. I needed a moment to get my headback on straight. I closed my eyes and calmed my mind, taking in deepbreathes. “This isn’t you, Teri.” I said, to no onein particular. “You don’t melt into a babbling puddle ofgoo just because you see someone you wronged. That’s not howyou act. That’s not how you were raised.” Thoughts of theperson who raised me popped into my head. He wouldn’thave ran into a bathroom to hide. He’d have seen that as a signof weakness. The expression on my face curled into a snarl. My clawspushed out, purely on instinct. The one good lesson I learned fromgrowing up under his thumb was to never show weakness. I took anotherdeep breath, then stood up to gaze into the mirror.
“You aren’t a scared little kitten.” I said, mostlyto my expression. “You aren’t a weak willed coward to bepushed around. Not even by your own feelings. You’re betterthan that.” I lifted my tail. “You are a tiger. So actlike it. You are bold. Fierce. Daring.” I looked at the mirrorand made a fierce face. “Rawr, right? You control thesituations you enter.” I watched as my reflection clenched afist in front of its chest. “So go out there and handle thesituation.”
Opening the bathroom door, I strolled out, walking into aconversation already in progress.
“-and I can pay first and last month’s rent right now ifyou want.” Kristoph was standing in front of the couch, armsfolded just above his crotch. “I’m pretty quiet, and Ialready know you and I have a bit in common, Xavier. Really, I thinkthe only concern is if Teri-”
“Teri can take care of himself.” I said, sauntering overto the couch and taking a seat.
Xavier looked over towards me. “Feeling better?”
I didn’t look back. I kept staring up at Kristoph, sizing himup. At six foot five, he was a little taller than me while standing.But when I was seated, he was literally towering over me. I didn’tsquirm. “I am. Now then, applicant. I have just three questionsfor you.”
“Applicant?” Kristoph raised an eyebrow.
“First question: Are you willing to agree with the standardrules of the roommate’s agreement? No loud music after ten pm,no large parties without RA approval, keeping our shared space clean,and so on?”
The husky nodded. “Of course, but I think-”
I nodded back. “SECOND, do you have any preexisting medicalconditions we need to be aware of? Asthma, allergies, or anything weneed to take into account as your roommates?”
“No.” Kristoph shook his head. “Nothing like thatat all. But you and I-”
Without a hint of hesitation, I pushed on. “And you alreadytold Xavier you could pay the first and last month's rent. But mythird and final question is this: Are you going to be able to meetthe financial obligations every month?”
“I got a job as a pizza delivery guy, which is covering most ofit. Loans’ll get the rest.” Kristoph said, putting hispaws in his pockets. “So can we talk now, Teri?”
“After this is done.” I folded my arms. “What…you and I… need to talk about is personal. Just between thetwo of us.” I narrowed my eyes. “But this is business,and we get that out of the way first. Xavier and I need a roommate.Regardless of how our discussion goes, my personal feelings shouldn’tmatter about you living here.” I turned to look at Xavier. “Doyou have any objections or concerns?”
“What? No. I was worried you would.” Xavier shook hishead.
I turned back to Kristoph. “Then welcome to the apartment, Mr.Kristoph.” I gave him a plastic smile. “My assistanthere-”
“I’m NOT your assistant!” Xavier scowled at me.
This provoked a dismissive wave of my paw. “We’ll talklater, Xavier.” My legs ached a bit as I stood up. They werestill sore from all the heavy boxes I’d lugged up here. “-myassociate will get you the paperwork to sign. But, with theformalities out of the way…”
Taking Kristoph’s right paw, I started tugging him towards thebedroom I’d claimed. “NOW we talk.” He followed,his eyes wide as dinner plates, as I led him into the room. “We’regoing to resolve this like sensible, rational, adults. Because that'swhat we are.”
Xavier groaned, then cupped a paw around his mouth. “DON’TFORGET TO WEAR CONDOMS, YOU KIDS!”
I scowled at him, hissing silently, before I shut, and locked, thedoor behind us. It was time to work things out with Kristoph once andfor all.