Neighbor Dearest - Penelope Ward Page 0,1

some papayas for an afternoon smoothie she planned to make back at my apartment. We also ended up getting two coffees to go.

I bent back the opening on my coffee lid as we walked. “So, little sis, I never thought we would be in the same predicament at the same time.”

Jade had recently been dumped by her musician boyfriend.

“Yes. But the difference is, I feel like I have way more distractions in my life than you do. It’s not that I don’t think about Justin. It’s not that I don’t get sad, but my performances keep me so busy that it’s almost like I don’t have time to wallow in it, you know?”

“I told you I’ve been doing these phone therapy sessions, right?”

Jade took a sip then shook her head. “No.”

“Yeah. I found this psychologist who specializes in trauma from failed relationships, but she’s in Canada. Anyway, we do phone sessions one night a week.”

“Is it helping?”

“It always helps to talk things out.”

“Yeah. But no offense, you don’t seem any better for it. Anyway, you can talk things out with Claire or me. You don’t need to pay big bucks to talk to a stranger.”

“Nighttime is really my only time to talk to anyone. You’re performing at night, and Claire is too wrapped up in being a blissful newlywed. Besides, she’s never had her heart broken. She listens, but she doesn’t get it.”

Our older sister, Claire, married her high school sweetheart. Even though the three of us were close growing up in nearby Sausalito, I’d always felt more comfortable opening up to Jade.

When we arrived at my building, my sister stopped to sit on one of the benches in the corner of the fenced-in courtyard. “Let’s sit for a bit, finish our coffees.” Her gaze wandered across the grass to my shirtless neighbor. “Okay…who’s the hottie in the beanie defacing the property?”

“What is it with you and beanies?”

“Justin used to wear one. That’s why I love them. Isn’t that sad?”

“That is sad.”

“This from the girl who still sleeps in her ex’s shirt.”

“It’s comfortable. It has nothing to do with Elec,” I lied. It was the one thing I allowed myself from him. It made me sad, but I wore it anyway.

“So…who is that guy?”

I didn’t know my neighbor’s name, but I’d see him once in a while doing spray paint art along the wrap-around concrete wall that surrounded the property. It served as a vast canvas. His spray painting was true art, definitely not what would be considered simple graffiti. It was an elaborate mix of celestial and geographical images. This guy just kept adding different artwork to the wall gradually. It was a work in progress. I could only assume he planned to paint the entire circumference of the property, as much as the wall space would allow.

“He lives in the building, next door to me, actually.”

“What is he doing? They allow him to do that here?”

“I don’t know. The first time I saw him out here, I thought he was vandalizing the property. But no one seems to care or stop him. Every day, he adds to the mural. It’s actually quite beautiful. But it doesn’t match his personality.”

Jade blew on her coffee. “What do you mean?”

“He’s not very nice.”

“You’ve talked to him?”

“No. He’s just not friendly. I’ve tried to make eye contact, but he walks right by me. He has these two big dogs, and they’re pretty mean. They bark all of the time. He walks them every morning.”

“Maybe he’s like a savant. You know, really good with art. Or maybe he’s a genius but with limited social skills. What do they call that…Asperger’s?”

“No. He communicates just fine. I’ve seen him yelling at a few people. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have that. This guy is just not friendly. He doesn’t have Asperger’s. He’s just an ass.”

Jade chuckled. “I think you should totally stop by his place with some warm muffins wrapped up in a basket. It’s the neighborly thing to do. Maybe he’ll loosen up…or loosen you up.”

“Muffins, huh? What’s that code for?”

“Muff…muffins. Same thing. If I lived here, I’d be all over that. But I don’t live here. You do. And you totally need a distraction. I say…he’s it.”

I admired the guy’s broad shoulders and tanned muscular back as his arm moved the spray can up and down. “God, doesn’t he remind you of Elec, though? Arm tattoo…dark hair. Artistic. Basically, that’s the last type of guy I’m going for at this point.”

“So, if someone