vera unwrapped two sticks of wrigley’s double mint and sighed. wrigley’s was too sweet, and the flavour ran out easily, like an unexperienced kid running the mile for the first time. a sprint that reverts back to a panicked jog, basically. vera preferred big league chew or at the very least orbit. she began tapping her foot. the elevator was arriving slower than she could’ve ever imagined, and she was naturally not a patient girl. in her hands she held the fourth book in the paragoned series, one of those installments that continued the story of an already trite plot. it was the way that suburban moms read books with the words passion and fire in the title and a shirtless man on the cover only her overused shirtless man was in fact a dark-haired teenage boy living in purgatory who had supernatural powers and was destined to save the real world all while falling in love with a mortal girl. she knew that the story was worn out, but there was something relaxing in having the same kind of storyline and cover on basically every book she read. of course, her mom didn’t see that. all vera’s mom saw was a waste of time that could be better used studying vocabulary words or attending luncheons with her real estate mogul mother. vera could practically feel her disdain, even without looking. she knew that her mom would be caked with makeup, so much that it almost made her look older than she was. she would be looking down at her phone, scrolling through client messages and checking dates, and vera knew this with the same certainty that she knew her dad would be standing uncomfortably, hands in his pockets and eyes wandering. the day was unbelievably hot, and everything seemed thick and slow. she wouldn’t have been surprised if the fake smile melted off of her mom’s face. all that was going on around the silence of vera’s family were buzzes from insects, and even those seemed slow. the only person she had seen was a boy her age, strolling around the courtyard. he looked so natural walking around, and vera could almost imagine living there and exercising in the complementary gym. the elevator finally dinged, and the woman showing vera’s family around the complex seemed relieved. vera couldn’t help but feel bad for her, sweating her makeup off and onto her clothes that may have been from the 90’s. on the ride up, she gabbed about the amenities that awaited any resident of the apartments (a mini post office, two cafes and of course, the gym). it was almost like a creepy little town. the woman also apologized for the lack of empty apartments (apparently everyone just wanted to live there) but divulged a little about the family living in the floor that vera’s family was looking at. apparently they had two sons, but one was in college at durham and the other was in high school (just like me! she chirped). as they walked into the apartment, vera took notice of the family portraits on the walls. they were color-themed, almost boasting the togetherness of the family. in a younger photo, one of the kids looked familiar, in a way more than someone she must have encountered on the street. maybe she went to camp with him, or attended the same church (but there were more than three hundred people each week, so no one could recognize them all). she turned around, and there he was, standing behind her, taller and a little more muscular. the same guy from the courtyard, but more importantly, she realized, from her childhood. it was craig conrad. the same craig conrad who everyone liked when she was a fourth grader. the same craig who was her reading partner for all of fifth grade because they read faster than anyone else. the same craig conrad who she hadn’t seen in years.