The world showed signs of summer’s death. People walked past Mike Waters with their heads down against the wind. No more pleasant talk. No more social events. People only left their homes when they had to. Night’s tendrils touched the daylight hours and infected the warmth, making people want to pull out their souls and scrub it.
The Fountain, Mike’s apartment building, did not reflect these changes. The grass was still green, the path to the front door was lined with red, purple, yellow and white flowers and the trees showed no signs of giving up their leaves to fall. The city wanted this place with blind desperation but the gate was a shield. If The Fountain didn’t want it, it wasn’t getting in.
The landscape was a legion of greenery emitting delightful fragrances, inducing an almost muscle weakening euphoria when inhaled. His neighbors milled around, smiled and greeted each other as though they’d been long time friends. Mike turned and jumped off the cobblestone path as two children raced past and further into the garden. Their parents, two people Mike never met but knew by face, smiled their apology. Mike smiled back and walked through the front door.
Along the walls and ceilings were shadows of the past refusing to be suppressed by this modern world. Dozens of paintings had been put up at The Fountain’s construction and they still occupied the lobby. They thwarted any attempt to be removed. Any modern art put on those walls was wiped clean in minutes.
The elevator moaned under the stress of constant use. It was past its prime and, like the building, looked like it hadn’t been change since its installation. The elevator opened on his floor. Mike's breath steamed but he ignored it as he greeted his neighbors in passing. The rent was right, the amenities were amazing and the location was convenient; why would they complain about a draft or an old elevator? It was easy to ignore the eighteenth century theme and if no one put new decoration in public spaces, they could forget the building was alive. But they knew, somehow, The Fountain protected them and for this they were grateful and forgiving.
“Good Afternoon Mike,” his neighbor Loraine Allen said.
She stopped so Mike stopped. Ameren wasn’t dying for caffeine.
“Good Afternoon Loraine.”
“I hear Ameren is as vocal as ever.”
Mike smiled. It was his turn to get coffee, he knew it despite Ameren's loud reminders but he really hadn’t wanted to go. He chuckled.
“It's amazing though, The Fountain lets her stay here. She doesn’t go home often does she?”
Mike shook her head. It was amazing and something he and Ameren discussed often. The only people staying in The Fountain were those paying rent and their children. Anyone else couldn’t get through the gate. The guard at the front desk had to go to the street to get the mail.
“I don’t see how you of all people could hold your own against her. It seems she has such a fiery spirit that even this place recognizes and likes.”
She looked up at the ceiling and waved her hands dramatically.
He liked Loraine well enough but sometimes she listened too much. Ameren practically lived with him but she never had a conversation with Loraine. Something about the woman made her itch, she said often. Mike had to admit although she was pleasant; the air Loraine carried made his lips chap.
Not knowing how to respond, he smiled and walked past her. Balancing the two coffees in one hand, he uprooted the door key from his pocket. He kicked the door closed behind him as he moved the second coffee to his other hand.
“Oh darn, darn, darn, darn.”
He shook his head. Ameren Smith was on her hands and knees in front of the DVD player. Her butt was in the air and was wrapped in pair of shorts made to tease. Mike stared at the round work of art and almost missed the glass table by the door when he released the coffee. He pulled his eyes away in time and managed to save them. To avoid any more accidents, he put the cups down and removed his coat. He couldn’t stop staring.
“Like what you see?”
He met her eyes.
“Even for you that line's pedestrian.”
“Even for me… what the hell does that mean?”
She clamped her hand over her mouth and glared at Mike. He smiled. It was a game he always won.