I honestly couldn’t remember how I got roped into this. There’d been some discussion about Max buying me a pizza in exchange for my help, and I sort of stopped paying attention after that. It wasn’t like I was opposed to helping his little sister move into the building next to mine. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was kind of known in the area as the go-to guy if you ever needed access to good moving vans for cheap. It was one of the many perks of owning a garage.
Need to buy a set of winter tires? Interested in buying a second-hand car at a reasonable price? Need an oil change? Come see me, Joe Mantaglio, car mechanic extraordinaire by day and used car salesman by later day. I was always happy to help out where I could, and the promise of free food was something I’d never pass up. The real issue that I took with the whole thing wasn’t the fact that I’d set aside a whole day to move heavy furniture when I could have been working, but who I was helping.
I hadn’t seen Terri Cato in almost five years. I used to always think of her as Max’s annoying little sister who followed him around everywhere he went. We grew up in the same neighborhood, so I’d occasionally see little Terri hanging out with friends at the playground or just boarding the school bus. There was no denying she was a cute kid, but she was far too energetic for my liking. You know, the shrieky loud kind that could run their mouths at a million miles a minute.
If it weren’t for the fact that Max and I were in a lot of the same classes in high school, I probably wouldn’t have paid Terri much thought. The last time I saw her was the day of graduation, where she sheepishly gave me a kiss on the cheek to congratulate me. A couple of months after that, I moved out of my parents’ and started up my garage, never to return to that corner of suburbia ever again.
“Heads up,” said Max as he tossed the little box into the air for me to catch. I caught it against my chest, something ceramic clinking loudly inside. Across the top, huge bold letters read: FRAGILE.
“Can’t you read?” I snorted.
“It’s fine. It’s full of glassware.”
“All the more reason not to throw it, dumbass. I don’t want your sister getting mad at me if all her shit’s broken.”
Max chuckled as he shrugged nonchalantly. “We have to keep the pace up. I want her to get settled as soon as possible. If stuff breaks, it was all in the name of progress.”
I groaned. “You better give me a five-star review on Yelp.”
“And a free pizza? I had no idea you were so cheap.”
“Man, fuck off,” I scoffed, but there was no heat behind my words. Max and I liked to pick on each other, but we always knew where to draw the line. It was one of the things I liked about him. Max had a gruff exterior and suffered from an unfortunate case of resting bitchface, but he was surprisingly easy going once you got to know him.
We spent the next few minutes unloading the back of the white moving van, stacking cardboard boxes up five-high along the sidewalk. It was a hot summer day in the middle of June, so it wasn’t very long before I started to break into a sweat. He’d borrowed the van from me early yesterday evening and drove it home, returning first thing the next day with all of his sister’s belongings. With the van now empty, I turned to Max, unsure why we were waiting around. I wanted to get the job done quickly, anxious to get back to the garage to get started on my latest project.
“When’s Terri supposed to get here?”
“I texted her a few minutes ago. She’s just grabbing the last little bit and putting it in her car.”
“Do you think she’s excited to be back?” I asked, making polite conversation.
Max set his jaw as he leaned against the back doors of the van, crossing his arms over his chest. The dude was pretty jacked –something to be expected of a firefighter– so the subtle shift in his posture came off more intimidating than I think he intended. He cast his eyes to the ground and kicked a pebble near the tip of his shoe. “Maybe,” he muttered. “I don’t really know.”
“Wasn’t she off at college?”
“Yeah. Studying journalism. Didn’t get to finish, though.”
I was about to ask him why this was, but a white Honda Civic pulled up to the curb a yard or so behind the moving van. Time seemed to slow as I set eyes on the woman exiting the vehicle. She was probably the most gorgeous woman I’d ever seen. She was incredibly curvaceous, with large breasts hidden away beneath a form-fitting crop top with a flora design. She also had an incredibly round ass, accented by the low-cut of her light blue jean shorts. Worst of all, she had legs for days, smooth tanned skin practically bronze beneath the hot summer rays. Over top of her ensemble she wore a light pink windbreaker, and she wore an adorable pair of white sneakers. Her long blonde hair had an elegant curl to them, streaming past her shoulders like streamers of liquid gold. I wasn’t able to get a good look at her face because she had on a pair of dark sunglasses that obstructed most of my view.