Madeleine hated Wednesdays.
You’ve got the people who hated Mondays and those people who hated Sundays because it’s too close to Mondays, but she just hated Wednesdays. It felt like an in-between day, stuck somewhere between the boundaries of sober and drunk. The only consolation she could find in a Wednesday was half-days at the office and a steaming cup of coffee that dulled the feeling of absolute boredom that accompanied the usual board meetings and annoying assistants.
And the fire escape that protruded out onto the alley that fronted her beautiful, down town, Brooklyn apartment.
There was something oddly comforting about the fire escape, the way that it was just her little space, barely enough to fit even her and her book and her coffee. Occasionally a blanket, when she was cold and intending on maybe napping in the cool, spring air that fell over NYC with a good book.
But of course, like all good things and bad things, Wednesdays don’t last past the usual twenty-four hours, and she could go back to enjoying the rest of her life in this existence she had chosen for herself when she left behind the beautiful landscapes of Nevada for towering buildings that didn’t match the sky, that gave off weird vibes of existing on some sort of plane other than a human one.
Her fire escape was the only place that felt like home.
Someone new had moved into the apartment above hers. Madeleine had no idea who this new person was, this new presence that might possibly lighten the dreary apartment life. Probably definitely better than the last person below her – an idiot who thought that flushing drugs down the drain and blocking off everyone’s water was a great idea.
She wanted to leave them a letter or a bottle of wine or something – ‘welcome to the apartment, your balcony is the fire escape’ – but she wasn’t so nice. Not to people she didn’t know yet, anyway.
The new neighbour was a blonde named Adam who liked to smoke and who spoke with an Irish accent. She’d only met him twice so far – once on the stairs as she rushed to her hell of a job, once at the door to the apartment as they were both going in.
The second time they met, Adam had given Madeleine a wide grin and quick wink as he sidled through the door towards the mail box, before muttering a hoarse ‘Hiya’ at her.
Madeleine didn’t know if the feeling in her chest was new or not.
There was a lot of noise coming from outside the apartment, which, Madeleine remembered on days like these, was conveniently placed somewhere between the police station and the night clubs. She couldn’t sleep – who could, when all those people out there where having fun and she wasn’t? – so she did the next best thing, and brewed herself a cup of coffee.
She sat there, watching the water boil in her kettle, feeling her weariness edge further and further into her vision (this always happened, she’d fall asleep before she even finished her first sip of coffee), a sound outside her window rattled her back to alertness.
She jolted up, almost knocking the kettle off her counter, and froze in place, watching the space outside her window, the one that led to the fire escape. There was nobody – nothing – there, but the noise had surely happened…
She edged closer to the window sill, reaching for her table top lamp as she did, holding it tightly in her hands until her knuckles went white and hurt with the effort. Breathing, like a bull, through her nose and out again in quick breaths, she pulled the window open.
On her fire escape, clear as day, was a book, lying face down.
Confused, Madeleine reached for it and turned it over, frowning at the title.
“Uh, excuse me?”
She started at the voice, dropping the book with a loud clang back onto the fire escape and holding the lamp above her head, at where the voice had come from.
“Sorry,” Adam mumbled, giving her a shy smile through his own fire escape and shrugging. “I dropped the book. Couldn’t sleep, too much noise, and it landed…well…there.”
“It’s…it’s OK,” Madeleine said, lowering the lamp slightly and reaching down to grab the book again. “Shall I…bring it up?”
“No need,” Adam grinned, and in two seconds he was gone, and five seconds later Madeleine swore she heard a knock at the door. She stumbled out the window and rushed to the door – not as if either of them had anywhere to be or where in a hurry – and opened the door on Adam in flannel pyjama pants and a white t shirt, a purple blanket thrown over his shoulders and trailing slightly behind him.
“Thanks,” he said, taking the book from Madeleine’s hands, and pausing to look at her. “Are you gonna offer me a reading light too?”
Realizing that she still held the light in her hand, Madeleine hurriedly put it down by her feet and shook her head. “No, no, sorry, the book…it startled me.”
“It’s fine, you absolute dork,” Adam grinned, and made to walk away. “Good night, now.”
Madeleine watched him walk away, muttering ‘good night’ behind his retreating figure, classifying the feeling in her chest as definitely something new.
Madeleine had no idea how Adam could be so clumsy with his books, but he was, and the next thing she knew, she was answering a knock on the door after another loud clang on her fire escape.
“I’m lucky it lands on your fire escape and not, I dunno, the street,” Adam grinned, taking the book from her again, and sneaking a look around Madeleine’s shoulder.
“Do I smell coffee?”
“Uh, yeah,” Madeleine smiled, edging slightly to the right, making space for Adam to move over her threshold and into her apartment. “You’re welcome for a cup, if you’d like.”
She had barely finished the sentence, Adam had already stepped into her apartment and taken off the blanket that he had taken for a shawl, wrapping it over one of her kitchen chairs and sitting down at it, smiling expectantly up at Madeleine.
“So, Madeleine, tell me about yourself.”
Adam was a character. He had moved to New York to pursue his lifelong dream of being an editor, or as he put it, “The job every critic in the world excels in – killing other people’s dreams and keeping yours intact.” He actually did get a job for a few magazines on the side, while he worked for some major publishing house. The way Madeleine saw it, he was doing pretty well for himself.
Adam talked a lot about himself, but ultimately always tried to turn the conversation back to Madeleine. Where was she from? How did she get to New York? What did she do for a living? Did she even like her job? Was she dating anybody?
Madeleine hated that question, it was always thrown at her and she never had a real way to respond. I’m not interested in dating. Risk being called a prude. I just don’t see the point. But what’s wrong with you? Well, I don’t really enjoy sex. That’s a laugh! Probably just haven’t found the right guy yet. No, thanks. I just don’t like sex. It’s a thing you know. You’re weird. Yeah well, I don’t need you telling me that.
The way Adam was looking at her, though, made her think that maybe she wouldn’t regret really telling him.
“I don’t see the point in relationships.”
“Not one for commitment?”
“You could say that,” she mumbled as she leaned against her counter, Adam sitting at the kitchen table and watching her intently.
“What else could I say instead?” Adam asked, sipping casually from his coffee mug, as if this was just a normal conversation that you could have with anyone, including your flat neighbour.
“I guess I just don’t have a sex drive, really.”
Madeleine looked up at him and watched the look of recognition and understanding flash across Adam’s mind before he shrugged and gave a short “Kay,” before changing the conversation so quickly, Madeleine was still confused by the ease of acceptance.
This hadn’t happened before.
“What about you?” she blurted out, mid way through Adam trying to explain something to her about coffee beans and the way certain places ground them, and he froze, eyes wide and mouth half-way around forming a word.
“What about me?”
“Are you dating anyone?”
There was a pregnant silence that filled the room when that question landed, skirting around the table and the kitchen and drowning itself in the coffee mugs as Madeleine waited for an answer.
“I’m not at the moment.”
Madeleine found herself measuring her weeks in Wednesdays and their passing long before Adam, but Wednesdays suddenly became a bit more bearable when she remembered that they were close to Fridays, and Fridays meant that Adam would pop by with his latest project to read and an empty mug for Madeleine to fill.
The warmer the nights, the stuffier her apartment became, and soon they were sitting on her fire escape – Madeleine balancing a cheap novel and a mug of chocolate milk on her knees, Adam reading out excerpts from aspiring writers’ latest creations and stopping only to correct or to drink from his own mug (strawberry milk, he said the chocolate was too overwhelming).
Madeleine was really enjoying the company.
“Jared asked me out.”
“Again?” Adam groaned, rolling his eyes and looking away from the laptop to look at Madeleine, who was handing her a mug of coffee and a packet of cigarettes. They were up past their usual time, but Adam had been complaining about the deadline he was trying to reach, and how he worked better when Madeleine was around, and she hadn’t the heart to ask him to leave. It was three in the morning, the stars were shining and there was a very light breeze, and both of them were struggling to stay awake.
“Yeah, he doesn’t get the hint.”
“Maybe you should just tell him you’re taken,” Adam mumbled, lighting the cigarette with one hand and pocketing the lighter. “I mean, really now, sometimes that’s the only way men will listen.” He brandished the packet at Madeleine, who shook her head like she always did.
“Yeah, but I’m not.”
“Nothing wrong with lying when it’s a total asshole, is there?”
“He’s not that bad.”
“Then why don’t you date him?”
I dunno I dunno I dunno stop making me think like this you’re too handsome for me to be thinking about this
Madeleine shrugged, and Adam shrugged back.
“Just tell him you have a really hot, buff boyfriend who’ll kick him to the curb. Or, I dunno, a really great guy you’re dating who sits out on your fire escape every Friday night with you.”
The silence was palpable, but Madeleine didn’t dare try to brush past it.
Or maybe she did.
Adam didn’t look up from his laptop; the glow from his screen didn’t even make him look human.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought we were…I don’t know…like, dating.”
He finally did look up, and Madeleine wasn’t sure she’d ever seen uncertainty on Adam’s face until now.
“Well, yeah. Isn’t this what this is?”
Madeleine hadn’t thought about it that way.
Truth was, it just sort of made sense.
Their first kiss happened when Madeleine rushed into Adam’s apartment, grocery bags bursting with food for a big dinner she was going to cook, and a large grin plastered on her face. Before Adam could say anything, Madeleine had thrown the groceries onto the nearest surface – the sofa – and swept him into her arms, hugging him to her once before planting a simple, fluttering kiss on his lips.
Adam, eyes wide open and lips slightly parted, could do nothing in response but raise his eyebrows quizzically.
“I got the job at that other firm!” Madeleine yelled, and Adam laughed, wrapping his arms around Madeleine’s waist and spinning around the room with her, only stopping so he could hesitantly place a kiss on Madeleine’s forehead.
Scoffing, she pulled Adam’s face to her lips and kissed him again.
Maybe movies didn’t actually lie as much as people thought they did.
Her new job didn’t remove her hatred of Wednesdays at all. They still were a terribly addition to her week – if it wasn’t one thing, it was another, and all bad things seemed to centre around Wednesdays.
But at least they had finally settled things with their landlord and had moved into the same apartment now.
Adam looked up from the vegetables he was chopping to frown at his girlfriend, who was shuffling nervously in her pajamas near the entrance to the kitchen.
“What are you apologizing for?”
“I’m sorry about the whole…asexual thing.”
Adam placed the knife on the chopping board, wiping his hands on his jeans (a habit Madeleine was still trying to break him of) and putting his hands on his girlfriend’s hips, nuzzling his face into hers.
“Hey, no, it’s fine. You know it’s fine. A relationship doesn’t need sex to be functional. You know this, I know this. We’re fine.”
“But it’s important in a relationship.”
She heard Adam laugh softly before saying, “Not in ours.”
She admitted, Wednesdays never became easier to deal with, and the world would always be a little bit tough on accepting the fact that people like her existed.
But at the end of the day, she did wake up to a gorgeous blonde who loved the smell of burnt coffee in the morning, and a job that he called ‘crushing other people’s dreams while keeping his intact’, so maybe the middle of the week wasn’t such a bad place to be sometimes.