"This is how friends treat you in your hour of desperate need," he scowled as Kylie drove away. "Dump you on somebody else."
Ross's snarling ingratitude pushed Robin's mood over a cliff, and he snapped, "Look, if it wasn't for Kylie, I wouldn't be offering you a place to stay. Maybe you'd like the homeless shelter better."
"Nice," Ross sneered. "I'm burned out of the only home I have and because I'm not all warm fuzziness, I get a lecture from Mr. Minivan."
"Wait til you see the spacious luxury Mr. Minivan lives in," Robin replied hotly. "You'll find out first-hand because that's where you'll be staying: my studio."
"Excellent," Ross said, brightening. "I thought I was being stuck in a spare bedroom."
"No, I'm being stuck in the spare bedroom."
Ross glanced at the dejected face of the younger man and clapped his hand on Robin's shoulder. "Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were putting yourself out for me. Kylie's a good egg, but she didn't tell me anything,"
"She doesn't know anything," Robin said tartly.
"Well, Great Zeus, let's get my collections packed up and get a move-on. If we hurry, maybe we can leave before Vonda comes back from the market."
As the two mounted the steps, Robin asked, "How did you manage on her sofa?"
Ross flashed a wary grin. "I slept like a baby. I woke up every hour and cried my guts out. No, Vonda was very nice. She talked half the night, and her voice was very comforting. It drowned out everything."
With the sharp incentive of avoiding Vonda, the two men made quick work of loading Ross's kitchen appliance collection, plastic-bound magazines and what few items of clothing had been salvaged from the waterlogged remains of his room—his Chinese smoking jacket, a canary-yellow shirt, a pair of black jeans and little else— and headed across the bridge to the big Victorian on Green Street.
"I understand you don't like cats," Robin said as they carried the first load of belongings up the walkway to the stately home's steps.
The gardener had just mowed the tiny patch of sideyard lawn, for the air was scented with freshly cut grass. Setting his boxes down, Ross leaned over to smell the Lady Banks climbing yellow roses which were blooming in mad profusion on the trellis beside the house. "It's not that I don't like them," Ross explained. "I'm allergic to cat hair, and none of the allergy medications help."
Robin swung open the door to his modest studio and Ross nodded favorably. "This is wonderful. About the same size as my room." Robin wanted to add, Without ten tons of junk, but held his tongue. "Hello, Dorothy," he said, and the long-haired black cat emerged from behind his sofa bed to peer in wide-eyed curiosity at the stranger.
"She's very undemanding," Robin said reassuringly, and then returned to his van for another load of Ross's possessions.
Opening his phone, Ross punched a saved number and then sneezed while awaiting the response. "Hi, Kylie," he said. "Guess you're still in the interview. I just wanted to invite you over to see my temporary quarters. It's at Robin's place, the first floor door by the front staircase. You already know the house. Come by this afternoon—it's Friday, let's celebrate. Oh, and bring some wine."
Ross snapped the phone shut and went out to the van to help Robin. As he followed Robin into the studio with another armload of plastic-wrapped collection-quality Liberation magazines, he sneezed again—not once, but again and again in an uncontrollable fit of immune rejection.
Ross withdrew outside and turned in red-eyed misery to Robin. "I'm sorry, but it looks like I am horribly, irrevocably allergic to your dear little cat." As if to emphasize his point, Ross sneezed so violently that the spray caught a thoroughly disgusted Robin full in the face.
"I'm allergic to some things, too," Robin replied, and then thought, well, here we go; this whole misadventure is already bollixed.
"How about if I move into the spare bedroom upstairs, like you originally planned?" Ross asked.
"There's a cat upstairs, too—Hanover. I'm taking care of him while the owner is gone."
"Is Hanover short-haired?"
"If the bedroom has a door, then I'll be fine," Ross declared. "So when does the owner return?"
"In about two weeks," Robin replied glumly, for he was pondering just how furious Alexia would be to discover her toaster tormentor was happily ensconced in her spare bedroom.
"Don't worry, I'll be out in ten days," Ross assured him, and then sneezed with frightening force. "Great Jupiter, I hope I don't bust a rib," he moaned, and Robin cringed, thinking, Yes, by all means, let's add a medical emergency to this disaster. And all to impress a girl who's already dumped me.
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.
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