Just to set the stage on this one, Ross is 25 and has just finished grad school. Rachel, in continuity with the show, is a year younger than him, finished college almost 3 years previously and is working as a paid intern at Prada.
They both live a few blocks away from each other in the Village but with roommates that I created. There will be illusions to Monica, as she IS still Ross's sister and did go to high school with Rachel, but they are no longer close friends and she will not be integral to the story. The other 3 don't exist. Sorry folks, but I feel like I'd neglect them if I did include them.
I'm admitting it now, as lame as it is, that the idea for this piece DID spring from watching "40 Days And 40 Nights" the other day. So sue me. :-)
"I'm going out," she informed from the top of the stairs, mucking through her purse for her lipstick.
"Okay," Rachel noted, looking up from the living room at the catwalk that her roommate was standing on. She rolled her eyes. That's all Erica ever did- go out. She was always either "going out" or was, in fact, already out, and it never ceased to amaze Rachel that Erica could leave at 1 am and come back at 6 with 10 new phone numbers and a brand new pair of boots. Once, she was even donning a new jacket. What clothing stores are open at fucking 1 in the morning?
"You know," Erica suggested, sauntering down the stairs in her leather mini skirt and hot pink sweater. "You COULD always get off your ass and come with me." She smiled smugly for emphasis. Rachel smiled back with an equal amount of phoniness.
"And YOU could always show up to work on time."
"Ah, but I don't," Erica quipped, winking and walking to the couch where Rachel was sitting. She leaned over and kissed her roommate's head. "I get laid." She patted Rachel's hair quickly and turned on her heels to leave. "I'll be back before you leave for work. Night, baby doll!" With that, she was gone.
"Oy," Rachel exclaimed exasperatedly, settling more comfortably in on the white comfy couch. She closed the laptop that was resting in her lap, removed her reading glasses and sighed deeply. Closing her eyes, she shook her head and bartered aloud with herself. "Go with her next time, idiot."
"Don't make plans for tonight!" he yelled, slamming the front door behind him. He dropped the Army green canvas messenger bag he had slung over his shoulder by the coat rack and spring briskly to the kitchen table where his roommate was sitting.
"What?" Ross asked through a full mouth of Frosted Flakes.
"Remember those two hot Australian chicks we met in White Plains? They're in town for one night. They want to meet us!" Carver shouted excitedly with a facial expression that told Ross even he couldn't believe what he was saying.
"Come again?" Ross asked, honestly having no recollection of any hot White Plains Australian chicks. Carver rolled his eyes exasperatedly, shaking Ross by the shoulders.
"Dude, if you have EVER needed to come out with me, the time is now! I told them we'd meet them tonight for drinks. You CANNOT bail on me!" Ross put down his spoon and got up to wash out his bowl, the story still not having struck any memory or interest in him at all.
"Why not? If I don't go, you get both of them," he reasoned. Carver stopped to seriously consider this but then declined.
"No, man, come on! You have to! They'll be insulted if you don't show up. You don't want to insult the hot Australians, now, do you?"
"Look," Ross stated, turning from the sink to face his overly exuberant roommate. "I'm sure these girls are hot and I'm SURE they are willing and ready to give you some, but I've got things to do tonight." With that, he brushed passed him and headed for the 5 stairs of their flat that lead up to the living room and bedrooms.
"What!?" Carver exclaimed in disbelief, running after Ross and stepping in front of him. "What do you POSSIBLY have to do tonight that's more important than getting some hot Australian ass? Build a model airplane? Brush off some of your fossils? Do your laundry?" With the last suggestion, Ross touched his nose to signify a correct answer.
"Bingo. Gotta keep it clean," he stated simply, brushing past him again.
"Ross!" Carver yelled, stopping Ross and causing him to turn back, frustrated. "Come on, dude. You're 25 and still doing your laundry on Friday night. You know, I thought Carol dumping you would be a good thing- give you a chance to start over. You're just throwing it all away, man."
Carol. There hadn't been a mention of her in months. Carol had been Ross' first love and last girlfriend. They'd met their first year in college and started dating immediately. After a year, there were serious talks about getting engaged. All of Ross' friends told him he was crazy, of course- he was 19 and had his whole life ahead of him. More importantly, though, he had every girl on this side of Manhattan to experience. After 5 years, she'd thrown it all away, announcing her lesbianism and moving directly in with her lover, Susan. That's when Carver had moved in, and had been living there for almost a year.
Carver. The poster boy for horny, misguided collegiate boys everywhere. Ross was sure there wasn't one decision or thought that floated through his mind that wasn't in some way directed or influenced by his penis. Girls. If the average male thought about girls and sex once every seven seconds, Carver thought about them for more seconds that the average person spends alive. His room was littered with porn magazines and videos. Since he'd moved in with Ross 9 months ago, he'd had over a hundred girls up to the apartment.
Ross sat down at his laptop to check his mail before he left.
"You've got 3 unread message," the robotic woman's voice announced.
Hi. I know we haven't really had a chance to talk since I moved out. Things have been pretty crazy- at least for me. I tried calling a few times but realized I had no idea what I would say. You have to know I didn't plan this. I never knew, so you couldn't have known. Don't waste any more time wondering if it was something you did or if you could have prevented it. I know that's what you've been thinking, but it wasn't and you couldn't have. You're a wonderful person, Ross, and I still love you so much. That hasn't changed. If you don't want to talk to me ever again, I'll understand. Thank you for everything.
He exhaled deeply, immediately closing out his inbox after reading it and shutting his laptop. He thumbed his fingers against the table nervously and tapped his foot. Write back? Call? Think about it later.
He grabbed his laundry bag and keys and headed out the door.
The streets of the Village were relatively quiet that evening, with a cool breeze blowing and orange, red and yellow leaves falling from the trees that lined the streets. The road was sparsely populated with cars and kids were playing on their front stoops. All in all, it was a time to be outside.
Ross strolled along briskly, his laundry bag slung over his shoulder and his earphones covering his ears. The sounds of a random compilation of '20s jazz artists rang out through the speakers and created a melodious beat for him to walk to.
The storefront of the generic Laundromat was drab looking, having been long faded by the elements and in bad need of a paint job and new electrical circuiting. The lights on the inside were dismal, some flickering to their inevitable deaths and some already sent to the grave. The machines rumbled and tumbled in unison, drowning out the lonesome elevator music that was being coughed from the speakers. Lonesome. That was exactly what the institution was, in its entirety, from the aged man sleeping behind the front desk to the water stains on the ceiling in the back corners. Ross was rather used to it, though. He spent a few hours there once a week, catching up on work on his laptop, listening to music and watching the world and its inhabitants pass by.
For some reason, he was drawn to it. And, for some reason, more so on this day than usual.
For the 3rd Friday night in a row, Rachel was watching her 'delicates' spin around inside an avocado green drier from the early 70's, while the rest of New York City's 20's-something population was dancing the night away to generic techno beats and ecstasy at underground clubs and hooking up with mysterious strangers in dimly lit bars. She was 24, single, beautiful and already simi-successful. Yet, here she was, counting down the number of seconds until she had to switch her darks over to the drier and remove the underwear. Yippie-Yeye-Fucking-Kiyay.
She crossed her legs in the plastic chair she was sitting in and opened her laptop. Sometimes she felt like this thing was as much a part of her as her own sanity. Maybe more. She looked down at what she was wearing. Ripped, faded jeans and a plain white shirt. Shocker. Her hair was thrown up in a messy bun and her reading glasses her perched on the edge of her nose. I look like a fucking charity case, she thought. None of the passers by or co-inhabitants of the Laundromat would ever guess that this awkward-looking Long Island girl actually worked for one of the biggest, most high profile fashion agencies in the world.
Why couldn't she just get it together? Was it really so hard to put on some make-up, fix her hair up, buy a new skirt and some "come get me" pumps and hit the town on the weekend? Was it really so hard to even HAVE a weekend? Was this what her life had become only 3 years removed from college? Most people didn't experience such incessant tediousness until at least one divorce, one vice, and one sports car away from her. Her life was caught in this groove- this seemingly irrevocable sedation. She hadn't been truly intrigued by anything since her last boyfriend, and that was over a year ago.
"This seat taken?"
Her introspection session was interrupted by a velvety, masculine voice. She looked up into the deepest, darkest eyes she'd ever seen. Her breath literally left her lungs for a few seconds. Once she got it back, she had to ask him to repeat what he'd said.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Are you using this chair?" he restated, pointing to the orange one sitting beside hers.
"Oh, no, go ahead," she insisted, waving her hand unflappably at it and halfway smiling. He smiled back and nodded.
He sat his bag down, plopping himself beside it and sighing deeply as he removed a stack of mail from his coat pocket. He shuffled through it, waiting for someone to vacate a machine. As he shuffled, however, he cocked his head sideways and gazed peripherally at the girl who'd waved her hand so detachedly. The way she sat so stilly, almost oblivious to the world around her or its perception or acceptance of her, was unique to a girl so beautiful. He'd never seen a girl as pretty as her seem so unaware of herself. In this city, you didn't get many woman like that.
Dually, Rachel was keeping an eye on this tall, soft-spoken boy who'd taken up residence beside her. The first thing she'd noticed about him, besides his voice, was the intensity of his eyes. She'd literally gotten lost inside them and been rendered breathless in a matter of seconds. After keeping a shallow, stealth watch for a few more minutes, she'd taken in things as meticulous as the way his clothes clung to his body and the way he slouched in his chair as he flipped through his stack of white envelopes. He was wearing mostly dark, heavy clothes- a navy blue sweater with an army green jacket and dark jeans. His canvas laundry bag was almost dwarfing to match the rest of him. Something about him disallowed her to strip her glance from him. He was interesting in the way that only a newly discovered stranger could be, and she watched him as he remained oblivious to her glance.
"I think that machine back there is free," she found herself saying, for no particular reason. The machine was free, though, and if that's what he was waiting for, she was at least being of some assistance. This caused him to look over at her; at first in confusion but then with almost an approving eye. He nodded and smiled.
He had a five o-clock shadow, she noticed. Normally, this was unattractive to her on men. It looked sloppy and unclean. For some reason, though, on this man, it was unbelievably sexy.
She watched as he retrieved a massive pile of white clothes from his bag and waltzed to the back of the store. His strides were big and domineering, like he could take control of any situation just by imposing his presence upon it. Rachel found herself getting sudden waves of chills. Did someone open a window? It was several pregnant minutes before he reclaimed his position in the chair two down from her. For some reason, she felt comforted by his return.
"Your machine's done," he observed, nodding towards the dryer directly in front of her.
"Oh, yeah, thanks." Wow, what an idiot. You were so busy simi-stalking this man that you forgot about your laundry, she thought. She rolled her eyes and mentally kicked herself in the ass for being so unsmooth. Unsmooth? Why was she suddenly so interested in being smooth?
When she was done switching clothes from one machine to the other, she dropped the pile of her underwear onto the few chairs beside her and began folding them into her basket. Suddenly, she became very aware of the fact that this was her underwear that was sitting out in the open. She blushed a bit. He noticed.
"They look nice," she heard him almost whisper, as if he were talking to himself. This alarmed her and caused her to whip her head to the side and shoot him an unsure look.
"Huh?" she asked. He looked up from the magazine he was holding.
"What? Oh, just the couple in this picture," he answered, pointing to a photo of a bride and groom. "They look nice, don't you think?"
Realizing the mistake she'd made, she blushed even more. All she could afford was a simple nod and an awkward, confused "oh...yeah" before she turned her attention back to her folding. She couldn't help but smile a little. Whether it was at her own silliness, his, or a combination of the two, she was unsure of.
Meanwhile, it was all Ross could do to stifle his chuckle. He was having fun playing with this girl. There was something in her unadulterated girlishness- the nature of her femininity- that captivated him and left him unable to leave her alone. He could tell she was completely disillusioned about how pretty she actually was, and that made her all the more adorable. She almost reminded him of his little sister, only in a more provocative, sexual way.
She was sexy. There was no getting around that. Any girl who could look that way and provoke those feelings from him that instantaneously while sitting glued to a laptop in a Laundromat in jeans and a t-shirt had to be a particularly devastating kind of sexy, and she was. He liked the way a few thin pieces of golden hair fell around her face from her loose bun. It made her seem more real. He was surprised at himself when thoughts of how glad he was that he hadn't joined Carver and the two Australians began flooding his mind. Glancing over at the basket she was currently placing her underwear inside, he noticed a name scribbled in Sharpie on the rim.
Rachel K Green.
So the girl had a name. Something occurred to him impulsively, and he decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. He wasn't sure if he'd regret it later or not.
"So, uh, do you have a name?" He didn't know why he asked, really. Maybe just to keep the conversation going. Maybe to see if she'd give him a fake one. This solicited a smile from her. She did not even look up from her folding.
"Unless that name you just read off my basket is someone else's," she replied. He chuckled and rolled his magazine up in his hands nervously.
"Ah, touche." He smiled and waited for her to turn her head and look at him. When she did, their eyes locked for the second time.
"Your machine's done," she quipped, nodding her head towards the back and smiling knowingly. Yes. The ball was in her court again. Two could play at this game. She considered that she hadn't known where all that had come from, as she watched him walk away to retrieve his clothes. She hadn't had the strength for that caliber of conversational exchange in months. Maybe I'd better quit while I'm ahead, she thought.
When Ross returned from the back, he noticed that the pretty girl was gone, as were her basket and laptop. The dryer and machine she'd been using were empty. On his seat, however, was a tiny slip of white paper. He picked it up and unfolded it, reading the words that were written in black ink.
Hope the seat's not taken next time, either. "Rachel K Green"
"Next time," Ross read allowed again. He smiled and tucked the piece of paper into his jacket.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO End Chapter 1. Continued in Chapter 2.