Thursday, June 2, 2016

Chapter 19 (6/2/16)

I got ready for my date with Mike with Erica sitting on my closet island watching me.  “You should really wear red lipstick with that dress,” she advised me.
I wrinkled my nose.  “You know I hate red lipstick,” I complained. 
“You hate all lipstick,” she pointed out.  “Just put some on.  If you hate it, take it off.  Easy!”  So I put some on.  And I hated it and promptly took it off while Erica rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. 
Erica left shortly before 7.  Mike had insisted on picking me up, even though I had warned him I wasn’t interested in anything remotely serious.  He opened my car door, opened the restaurant door, and even pulled my chair out for me.  Unused to this, I felt a little awkward but appreciated the gesture. 
Once we got settled, I realized he knew a lot more about me than I did about him.  I asked him a few basic questions, and the conversation quickly got rolling.  As it turned out, Mike actually wasn’t boring at all.  I could see how he could come off that way, compared to Kelly and her husband, Darrin, who were both on the boisterous side.  But Mike was smart, witty, and had a great dry sense of humor that I loved.  His random one-liners had tears rolling down my cheeks more than once during the meal.  I’m pretty sure our server thought we were insane, but I didn’t care at all. 
After dinner, we moved to the restaurant’s bar area and sat for awhile longer, talking for what felt like maybe an hour, but was probably more.  Finally, Mike said, “I should probably be a proper gentleman and get you home.”
“I guess, if being a gentleman is important to you,” I replied with a shrug and a raised eyebrow.  He laughed and dropped some cash on the bar for our drinks, then held out a hand to help me off the barstool. 
When we got back to my house, I invited him inside.  “I’d really love see the place with furniture in it,” he said, smirking at me, “but I have an open house in the morning and if I don’t go home now I’m going to be really sorry.  In fact, I probably already will be really sorry.”  He leaned forward and gently but deliberately pressed his lips to my cheek.  “I will take you up on that offer next time though, if it still stands.”
“That’s awfully presumptuous of you,” I replied.  “You assume that there will be a next time.”
“No,” he corrected me.  “I hope there will be a next time.”
I grinned.  “I’d like there to be a next time.”
Reluctantly, we said goodnight and I headed inside.  I went straight up to my room and washed my face, brushed my teeth, and changed into my pajamas.  Then I remembered I had a load of laundry in the washer that needed to go in the dryer before I had to re-wash it.
I went down into the basement to switch it.  I opened the door to the utility room and immediately stepped in a puddle.  “Goddamn it!” I yelped, flipping on the lights.  I looked down and saw a half-inch of standing water covering most of the utility room floor.  My first assumption was the washer, but it seemed to be coming from the water heater.  “Oh shit,” I groaned.  “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”  I stood there helplessly for almost a minute before I turned off the light, stepped out of the room, and shut the door firmly.  I ran upstairs, pulling off my wet sock as I went, and grabbed my phone.  Without thinking of the time, I called my parents. 
The phone rang 5 times, and then their voicemail picked up.  I hung up and dialed again.  This time, on the third ring, my dad answered, sounding sleepy and worried.  “Jenna?  Jenna, what’s wrong?”
“My water heater is leaking,” I said, suddenly feeling a little silly.
My dad was silent for several seconds, then I heard muffled talking.  “Jesus Christ, Jenna, we thought something was wrong.  Do you know what time it is?”
“No, I don’t,” I admitted ruefully.  I pulled my phone away from my head and saw it was almost 1am.  “Oh my god, I am so sorry,” I told them.  “I just saw the water and panicked.  I’m so sorry, go back to bed.”
I heard my dad take a deep breath, then he said, “How bad is it?”
“There’s about a half-inch of water covering most of the utility room floor.”
“Is your water heater gas or electric?”
“I…” I paused.  I had no idea.  This was a thing I should know.  “I don’t know.”
“Okay, well if it’s gas, it should have an on/off switch or lever or something on the actual heater somewhere.  You need to turn that off.  If it’s electric, you need to flip the breaker for it to turn off the power to it.” 
I ran back downstairs and tugged off my other sock before stepping into the puddle.  “I don’t see a switch on it,” I reported. 
“Open your breaker box,” my dad instructed.  I did, and of course nothing was labeled.  I told him this.  “You’ll have to try them until you find the one for the heater.”
“How will I know?”
“Jenna, this is really hard when I’m not there and have never seen your set up.  Is there someone there that can help you?  Or can you look up one of those YouTuber videos or something?”
“I don’t know,” I said hopelessly.  I was near tears.  My dad tried to help me troubleshoot for a few more minutes, but we both became increasingly frustrated by my fumbling around and his inability to see the problem.  Meanwhile, the water kept coming.  Finally, dejected, I accepted his good luck wish and hung up.  Then I called the only person I knew who would be awake at this hour.
“Jenna?” I had never been so relieved to hear Kevin’s voice.  At least, not in the last several months.  It meant not only was he awake, but he also wasn’t at work.
“Hi,” I started.  “I’m sorry to call so late, but my water heater is leaking pretty badly and my dad couldn’t help me over the phone, and I have no idea what to do.  And I didn’t know who else to call.”
I heard him sigh heavily, and then he said, “Give me the address.”  I did, and for the first time since I’d moved out, he knew where I lived.  “I’ll be there in 20 minutes,” he assured me before we hung up.
Of course, 20 minutes passed, then 30.  Then 45.  Finally, nearly an hour after we’d hung up, there was a knock at the door.  He came in without apology for his lateness, but I wasn’t complaining.  It was 2 in the morning and he was here to help me.  “Jenna, this is where you live?” he asked.  “This is…”
“It’s fine,” I snapped back.  “I didn’t ask you to come here to judge my house and my neighborhood.  I asked you to come help me.  So please, help first and lecture later.”
“Okay,” he said, holding up his hands in surrender.  “Where’s this water heater?”
I led him down into the basement and opened the utility room door.  I flipped the light on and he surveyed the mess.  “Well, at least your floor is concrete,” he muttered.  He stepped carefully into the room and then asked the same question my dad had.  “Is this gas or electric?” 
“I have no idea,” I admitted, "but I think it's electric."
He turned and looked me, and sighed again.  “Maybe you should just go upstairs.  I’ll call you if I need you.”  I was more than happy to comply, and I went upstairs.  I stayed there through his swearing, through the kitchen lights briefly shutting off and then going back on, and through a huge crash that concerned me greatly.  But if there was one thing I’d learned in the 10 years I’d spent with him, it was that all those things meant it was far better for me to stay put unless directed otherwise. 
30 minutes later, he came upstairs.  “You’re going to need a new water heater,” he informed me.  “I’ve got the power to it off and the water shut off.  That will be all your water, so you might want to try to get someone here tomorrow if you can.  Also,” he continued, fixing me with the condescending look he wore so well, “you should take some time to figure out your breaker switches and label them.”
“Okay,” I said, despondent. 
“You need to learn some basic maintenance and make a collection of numbers to call if something like this happens again.  I also saw that your water softener is almost empty, and I didn’t see any salt for it.”
“Salt?” I asked, completely confused.  I clearly wasn’t cut out for home ownership. 
“Oh, Jenna,” he muttered.  “What were you thinking, buying a house?”  Good question. 
“Thanks for coming over,” I said, hoping he’d get the hint and get out of here.
“You’re welcome.  But I can’t do this for you every time something happens.  And you know, this isn’t a very good neighborhood.  You should think about getting a security system, or something.” 
Pushed to my breaking point, my mouth was open because I could stop myself, and I muttered, “What do you care about my safety?”
His eyes narrowed and he rubbed his hand over his short hair.  “Believe it or not, Jenna, I care about you a great deal.  I know I’ve been pretty shitty at showing it, but if something happened to you because of where you live…and you live here because of what I did--”
“You’d blame yourself?” I snapped, incredulous.  “This is about you, isn’t it?  It has nothing to do with my safety, and everything to do with how bad you’d feel about how the choices you made indirectly caused something bad to happen to me.”  There was venom in my voice as I spat the words out, no longer concerned about being polite.
He laughed bitterly.  “I see very little has changed in the last couple months.  Goodnight, Jenna.”  He walked towards the door, pretending—as always—that he was right and I was wrong.  That he was the adult and I was the child.  That he was the kind and benevolent helper, and I was an ungrateful brat.  In that moment, I hated him more than I ever had.


  1. Oh, man. I think I would have rather called ANYBODY else before calling an ex-cheating-dirtbag husband, like Kevin. lol. Rookie mistake, I bet she won't make the same one again. lol

    And I feel uneasy now that Kevin knows where she lives for some reason!!

  2. I really felt like she was going to call Mike back over. Kevin is absolutely the LAST person she should have called, and I'm shocked her dad wasn't more understanding given all that she's been through. Ughhhhhhh this was frustrating for sure!!!!

  3. Oh man, never, never call Kevin. I called an ex once, right after we broke up and something bad happened, on reflex and I regretted it IMMEDIATELY. Delete his number, Jenna!

  4. I would have totally called Mike back before Kevin. Hopefully since she just moved in, the repairs will be covered under some agreement, but a hot water heater can go at any time. Jenna's a hot mess. She does crack me up. mum

  5. I would have even called an emergency plumber before Kevin! But I think because of the blogs story, Kevin needs to know where Jenna lives lol