Ven’s new apartment was on the seventh floor of a building that, while hardly new, had the benefit of being equipped with elevators. Ven drove to the rear lot, then backed the vehicle near a wide service door which lead to the building’s freight elevator. The Richardson children found more ways to assist (holding doors, using a cart provided by maintenance to transport heavy boxes), and unloading the van proved to run more smoothly and swiftly than had loading. After sending the final cartload up the freight elevator with Nicholas and Bonnie-B, Ven went back to the van and parked on the street outside the building. Exiting the vehicle, he glanced at the time on his phone — three minutes past one. Not too late to order out for lunch, and far too early to accept the Richardson’s dinner invitation.
Quentin and Hannah were inside the building’s glass-enclosed entry hall as Ven approached. Hannah was sitting quietly on a wooden bench, while Quentin stood tall, hands on his hips, his face beaming with satisfaction. He showed no sign of fatigue, which Ven found frustrating because the move had been physically taxing for him, despite taking less time than expected. Ven had been a cross-country runner in high school, and had retained his cardio-vascular endurance, but he also had the lithe upper body of a long-distance runner, which made lifting heavy boxes and bulky furniture a challenge for the young man. As he opened the building’s front door to Quentin’s effortless smile, Ven realized the armpits and collar of his t-shirt were damp with sweat, and his lower back ached.
“Your efficiency is admirable.” As usual, there was no hint of irony in Quentn’s voice.
Ven pointed at Hannah. “You and your brother made it look easy!”
“It was.” Hannah bounced up from the bench as Ven and Quentin shared a laugh. The three then entered an elevator car, headed for the seventh floor.
From the corner of his vision, Ven saw Quentin tap Hannah’s upper arm, then nod as she looked up at him. Ven kept his eyes forward, pretending not to see their subtle exchange. The girl then turned to Ven — “Can you come to our house for lunch?”
Ven acted surprised. “Oh — thank you, that’s very sweet. But as you’re well aware, I’ve gotta whole lotta unpacking ahead of me.”
“The boxes can wait.” Quentin’s commanding voice reverberated in the small compartment, and Ven could feel his cold glare bearing down on him. He looked over, then up, to catch Quentin’s eyes.
“But I choose not to.”
The elevator door opened, but for a moment none of its occupants moved. Ven and Quentin stared at each other, refusing to blink, as Hannah remained still. The doors began to close, and Ven shot his arm forward without breaking his stare. Then, smiling softly, he looked down at Hannah. “After you.”