I stood outside my new home with my single suitcase clasped in my arms. The stiff wind blowing off the lake made me shiver and I wished I’d been able to afford a thicker coat. Minnesota was colder than I thought it would be, I was unprepared for how strong the wind could be, nothing had gone as planned.
Originally I was supposed to be moving into an apartment building right downtown, but when I’d arrived the apartment management hadn’t gotten my deposit, hadn’t reserved my space and had been totally unhelpful. With the majority of my funds having been lost in the check I’d sent the apartment manager I was unable to put a deposit down on another apartment.
Aimlessly wandering around Canal Park, watching idiots feed seagulls and take their pictures in front of a weird fish fountain I’d eventually wound up slouching between the Dewitt Seitz building and a Mexican restaurant; enjoying the smells of tortillas frying from one side and smoked fish and Vietnamese cuisine from the other side.
“Hey, kid.” I jumped at the voice, having been lost in my thoughts. “You got a light?”
I looked at the short man who had exited from a side door, an unlit cigarette held between his lips. He looked like he must be a cook from one of the restaurants, white apron, white pants, white kerchief holding back his mass of blonde curls.
“Yeah.” I fished in the pocket of my jacket and produced a battered Zippo lighter. It was scarred from being used to open beer bottles and from me drunkenly dropping it on more than one occasion but it always lit on the first flick of the wheel.
I took my last precious hand-rolled smoke from my cigarette holder and lit it, then extended the flame to the man sharing the alley with me. He leaned in and lit up and gave me a curious look that took in my suitcase, travel-worn appearance and seemed to pierce through to lay all my troubles bare.
“What you doing out here?” He asked, exhaling smoke through his nostrils.
“Just keeping out of the wind.” I said, trying not to show how uncomfortable I found his piercing green eyes.
“You gotta place tonight?” He asked, pointing his chin at my suitcase. When I didn’t answer he shrugged, “None of my business, but I know of a place that’s up for rent. Landlord really wants to get someone in it and he ain’t too picky about background checks and whatever.”
I shoved my braids back and blew out a cloud of smoke. “What’s this then?”
He pulled an order pad and a pen from his pocket and scribbled a phone number on it. Holding it out he shrugged, “Tell Dave that Jon gave ya his number.” When I took it, he flicked the cherry off his cigarette, tossed the butt in a dumpster and went back inside.
That was how I’d ended up taking a bus a few miles down the narrow strip of land that divided the St Louis River bay and the mighty waters of Lake Superior to a cluster of tiny cabins nestled in a copse of evergreens. The number 7 hung crookedly above the door and I had a feeling foreboding that I just couldn’t shake.
My landlord had said he’d stop by in the morning to, “Talk about my rent and whatever.” He’d also told me the key was under the mat, which didn’t make me think anyone gave a shit about this place, much less him. Still, I needed a place to stay and it was fucking cold.
I found the key as promised in its spot under the mat, unlocked the door and walked inside. The cabin smelled of cedar, candle wax, and wood smoke. I fumbled about for a light switch, found it, flicked it on and winced as the bulb flashed once and died. A flick of my thumb brought the flame of my trusty Zippo to illuminate my surroundings and I lit a few candles that were placed conveniently close to the door.
After looking at the propane heater for a few silent minutes, I decided to make a fire in the woodstove instead. If the light bulb had randomly exploded I didn’t want to tempt fate with my dubious skills with natural gas. Although honestly maybe it would be better if I just blew myself up.
A few tears leaked from the corners of my eyes, as I crumpled newspaper and stacked up kindling. What I really needed was a little food, a nice fire and maybe a beer. My finances were so strained that it was silly to think about it, but I was so hungry and I’d had such a horrible day didn’t I deserve a little treat?
I lit the fire with my zippo and smiled; getting a lift from knowing I could at least build my own fire. A flash of anger at the apartment manager who had cost me my security deposit made my decision for me. I pulled my phone from my pocket and a quick search pulled up a food delivery service. They even offered to stop by Hoops brewing to pick me up a couple of beers.
There were a few dog eared paperbacks on the windowsill, and I picked up a Danielle Steele novel I hadn’t read yet. Trashy romance novels were a guilty pleasure; I don’t know why, but the lurid scenes made me feel better. I wished to be one of those characters swept up in her lover’s arms, just letting him take care of everything.
When the pizza arrived, I ate the entire thing and drank both the 24-ounce beers. I even convinced the delivery boy to give me a couple of cigarettes and sat close to the fireplace smoking and feeling too full, but too lazy to try and walk it off. I leaned back in the chair and stared at the ceiling, already feeling better.
‘Wow, I never would have seen this coming.’ Said Pride, ‘She actually understands.’
‘Hungry enough to stuff herself silly.” Said Gluttony.
‘Giving in to her addiction enough to talk a couple of smokes out of the delivery boy.’ Said Greed.
‘Reading that awful romance novel.’ Said Lust.
‘And wishing to be one of those damsels who doesn’t have to worry about anything.” Said Envy.
‘Angry about those who have wronged her.’ Said Wrath.
‘Too lazy to bother doing anything about it.’ Said Sloth.
‘We’ve kept everyone else from this place without meaning to.’ Pride said, looking down on the girl asleep in the chair before the fireplace.
‘Now one who truly understands us has arrived.’ Greed said, ‘We must help her and make her stay.’