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12 floors. 24 flights of stairs. 288 steps. God, I’ve always hated this. Why did he have to live on the 12th floor - and for that matter, why did he have to live in a building that doesn't have an elevator? In fact, why did the a**hole have to leave a bunch of his stuff at my house after breaking up with me? Ugh, this box is heavy. Crap. I lost track of what floor it was. Wait, I think it’s the sixth - yeah, it's definitely the sixth. I can’t believe I have another six more to go.
“I just don’t think we work well together anymore, sorry.”
Accompanying the echoes of my steps as I pound up the stairs, these words play over and over again in my mind, and I continue to climb. Three years, countless memories, all over and tarnished with a sentence. To be honest, this isn’t the end of the world. I just don’t want to see that idiot’s face ever again.
10th floor, my feet are killing me.
11th floor, I can’t believe it’s over.
12th floor, finally.
I lean against the wall, sweat dripping down my face. The landing is silent, with warm soft light radiating from a window above the bench. I’d always felt warm coming to this place, but now I feel nothing. I set the box down, take a deep breath, and start knocking on the door.
“It’s Natalie, I’m here with your stuff.” No answer. I look down the stairs and sigh with frustration. There's no way I’m climbing these stairs ever again.
Sitting down at the top step, I start to sift through the contents of the box. I thought there was a book in there somewhere. I toss aside the carefully-folded sweatshirts and pants, finally feeling something heavier. I pull it out, but it wasn’t a book.
These binoculars. God, I hate these. He was always insisting we go bird watching or wildlife scouting or something like that. Looking closely at them, I see that there was writing on the side. Huh, I never noticed it. In gold lettering it reads, Look at the world around you to find your love. Seriously?
I roll my eyes and go to put it back in the box, but I can’t seem to do it. Shrugging my shoulders, I look around.
“It’s worth a try,” I mutter.
I go over to the window, but I can’t quite get high enough to see out of it. I pull over a chair that is outside the door and stand on top of it. Balancing carefully, I peer out from the binoculars at the town below. There is a small coffee shop, with several older patrons enjoying morning coffee. Several moms are jogging with strollers or walking with their kids, but no luck in the boy department. It was worth a try. I continue to search the buildings.
Turning quickly at the sound I lose my balance and fall off the chair. I close my eyes bracing for impact, but it never comes. Opening my eyes slowly, I realize the owner of the voice caught me. He gently sets me down and I stare at his gorgeous green eyes and curly brown hair for a second too long.
“Who are you? I mean, thank you, I mean, I’m sorry I just was, I’m looking for Alex,” I stutter. “My name’s Natalie.”
He clears his throat. “Nice to meet you. I’m Joe, this is my apartment.”
“Wait, but I thought this was Alex’s apartment - he’s my ex, I was returning his stuff.”
“This is the 13th floor. He lives on the 12th floor. Kind of a jerk though.”
“Tell me about it,” I say. “Well, thank you for catching me. I should probably go.”
“Let me help you,” he says, picking up the box.
“That would be amazing. Maybe we can go for coffee afterward? As a thank you for catching me,” I ask, blushing.
“Sound good to me.” He smiles and heads down the stairs. Pausing a moment, I take a look at the binoculars, and follow him, holding them behind my back. Perhaps I could manage to climb these sets of stairs again.