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Here is the next chapter.
The Next Morning
"Hmmmm." Brad mumbled sleepily, turning on his pillow. He could see brightness behind his closed eyelids and was happy he didn't have to leap out of bed this morning. Vacation-it was a beautiful thing. A smile crossed his face as he felt Maria's silky hair as she shifted next to him. The strands fell across his cheek and tickled his nose.
"That feels nice." He murmured. Suddenly there was a movement and then-whack! Maria's hair slammed him in the face. Immediately he began to sneeze.
"Maria!" Brad sat up abruptly. "Achoo-what are you-achoo!" He wiped his watering eyes and finally realized that it wasn't Maria next to him. Peppermint was sitting on Maria's pillow and had been there for quite some time by the looks of the loose hair littering it. And from the multiple hairs that Brad wiped off of his face, Peppermint had smacked him in the face with his huge tail. Brad started to swear as he shoved Peppermint off the bed, then looked guiltily around for his girlfriend. He didn't want to start off their first morning in the new house with a fight over the stupid cat.
To his relief, Maria was not anywhere in sight, but there was a note taped to the dresser mirror.
I forgot to tell you that my parents gave us a housewarming surprise yesterday-an Ikea gift card! Mama wanted to go shopping with me today-hope you don't mind. I'll be back by noon. Tom called and said he has a box of stuff you forgot and wants you to come by around 10 and pick it up. Love you! M."
Brad looked at the clock. 9:18, it flashed in bright red numbers. He was going to have to move if he wanted to make it to his brother's place by 10. Quickly, he grabbed some clothes from the dresser, sneezing a couple of times as he did so. He'd have to put in a call to his doctor and get an allergy prescription too. The thought made him annoyed all over again, and he shot Peppermint, who was sitting in the corner glaring, a glare of his own in return. Tossing the clothes on his bed, he hurried into the bathroom. A quick shower was definitely needed to get all the cat hair off of him.
By the time Brad was out of the shower, his mood was quite improved, and he found himself whistling as he wrapped a towel around his waist. Maria had thoughtfully found his electric razor and left it out for him, and as he lathered up, he heard music coming from the open window. One of the neighbors had a radio turned on and the sound of a Beach Boys classic reached his ear.
"And we'll have fun, fun, fun until her daddy takes her T-Bird away!" Brad found himself singing along as he shaved, his toes tapping to the beat. "Yeah, we'll have fun, fun, fun, until-gargh!!" The razor fell out of Brad's fingers and into the sink with a clank as he reached for his foot, the sharp pain jolting him. "Dammit!"
Peppermint had crept into the bathroom behind him, unnoticed, and had jumped on his bare, tapping foot with claws out. Brad lifted his foot and gritted his teeth as he saw the crimson dots splashing the sparkling tile floor. He pulled open the medicine cabinet, but aside from his shaving cream and Maria's deodorant, it was empty. She hadn't unpacked the bathroom supplies yet. Hurriedly, Brad wrapped his bleeding foot with toilet paper and limped out of the bathroom and back into the bedroom, impatiently looking through the stacked cardboard boxes. "First aid kit, where are you?" He mumbled, reading Maria's neat labels on each box. Peppermint slunk into the room behind him, and as Brad saw the cat, his temper flared. He grabbed the nearest item-one of his shoes-and threw it. Almost casually, Peppermint ducked out of the way and the shoe hit the wall, leaving a black mark.
"Fur covered abomination, that's what you are!" Brad snapped as he tore open a box labelled 'Bathroom' and dumped it on the floor. The first aid kit wasn't in it. Two boxes later, Brad finally found it. He slapped on some Neosporin-who knew what kind of diseases that foul creature had-and a large bandage, resigning himself to the fact that he was definitely going to be late. Finally ready, he stood up to limp out the door only to find Peppermint had returned to the bedroom and was watching him again with those eerie, nearly glowing green eyes.
"Get out of my room!" Brad looked around for something heavier to throw but Peppermint seemed to get the hint. With a disdainful lift of his tail, he turned and regally swished out of the room as Brad fumed behind him.
"You're late." Tom's voice was amused as he stood in the doorway of the condo he and Brad had shared until recently, gazing at his older brother.
"Shut up." Brad sighed heavily. "Aren't you going to let me in?"
Tom moved aside, still looking smug. "Thirty eight minutes late, actually. I mean, it's not like we had an appointment set in stone but somehow, the memory of a million lectures is floating back to me." He adopted a nasal, holier than thou tone. " 'Timeliness shows respect and maturity, Tom.' Sound familiar? I mean, I could have had plans. Where's my respect?"
Brad gave him an exasperated look. "Look, I had a bad morning, ok? Lay off."
At his tone, Tom's face changed from mocking to mildly concerned. "What's wrong, big bro? You and Maria have a fight?"
Brad shook his head, his face lightening. "No, no, nothing like that. It's just her stupid cat."
Tom snickered. "Maria has a cat? Since when?"
"Since about three years ago, apparently. Her parents were keeping it for her but now it's in our new place. You should see this thing, Tom. It's huge, white, and sheds enough fur for Maria to sew clothing for a whole third world nation. Not to mention it has the temperament of a rabid gargoyle. It shredded my foot this morning-that's why I'm late."
Tom flopped down on the couch, looking entirely amused and a little too unsympathetic for Brad's liking. "Aw, is Braddy Waddy scared of the widdle puddy tat?"
Brad gave him a dirty look. "I'm not scared of it. I just hate cats. You know I have, ever since I was a kid, even before I could remember."
Tom started to laugh outright. "You may not remember, but I do. I was six, you were nine. We were outside playing with a bunch of kids when you saw old Mrs. Henderson's cat and decided to mess with it. Next thing we knew, you were running home crying with a nice long claw mark across your face. I think it was the fact that every kid in the neighborhood saw you boohooing over it that burned you more than anything else."
Brad groaned. "Thank you for the flashback, Tom." He shook his head. "Enough about the cat. As long as I'm here, I want you to listen to something." He pulled a wrinkled, much read piece of notebook paper out of his pocket. "You know I'm going to propose to Maria during her birthday party next week. Well, I had this idea that I should do it in Spanish. You know, show that I care about her heritage and that our kids will grow up in both cultures, all that. So Luis at work translated my speech for me, but I have to practice my pronounciation."
"Nice idea, but since you don't habla the espanol, how do you know that this Luis is on the up and up? I mean, it's a great opportunity for the prank of the century." Tom grinned wickedly. "I mean, picture yourself, standing there in front of all Maria's friends and family, thinking that you're praising her beauty and pledging your eternal love when what you're really doing is telling her she smells like a donkey's butt."
Brad lowered the paper and sighed. "Tom, are you trying to psych me out? Besides, Luis wouldn't do something like that. He's nothing like you."
Tom shrugged. "More's the pity." He laughed at Brad's expression. "C'mon, man, lighten up. You know I'm just messing with you. I'm happy for you and Maria, really. Go ahead and practice. I promise I'll listen with a straight face."
"Thank you." Brad smiled for the first time in an hour. "It's going to be perfect, Tom. It has to be. Nothing is going to mess this up, absolutely nothing." Smiling, he began to read.
Next chapter-Peppermint causes trouble for Brad and Maria.