He found Anna in her apartment, the last of the bags beside her. Her face was somber. She spoke without turning.

“You know,” she said. “I picked every piece that went into this place. It was a point of personal pride for me.”

She turned towards me, a bittersweet smile on lips.

“An old boyfriend told me I’d never be able decorate a space on my own.” She folded her arms across her chest. Annoyance now flickering across face.

Deciding that this was probably about to be story time and he really didn’t want to interrupt her just yet, he closed the door behind him and crossed to where she stood, propping himself on the arm of chair.

“He sounds like an idiot. This place is awesome.” Seth said.

She chuckled and turned from artwork on the wall she’d be studying to look at him.

“Thank you.” She turned in a small circle and sighed.

“These are just things. I know they are. They are just things that could burn up in a fire or get washed in flood…but it meant-means” she sighed and ran a hand over her hair. The thick curls returned to the position as if she hadn’t touched them.

Seth waited. He had a feeling he knew what she was trying to say but he didn’t want to interrupt even as his internal alarm was going off. They needed to go, now. But. But she needed a minute. Just a minute more. This was more than just leaving an apartment for her. She’d poured herself into this place. Proved something to herself and that idiot, even if he’d never know she’d done it.

She sighed again and then laughed. The sound was soft but warm. A touch of red tinged her cheeks and he realized she was blushing. He grinned.

“You know, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a grown woman who wasn’t my mother blush.” He said, giving her a cheeky grin.

Her hands flew up to her cheeks and she huffed. “Shut up. Don’t you start making fun of me. Can’t you see I’m in the middle of inner existential crisis?” She said with a dramatic flourish.

He rose from the chair and grabbed the bags. “I’d love to leave you to your moment but we’ve got to get going.”

Some of the light dimmed in her eyes and he hated it. Hated to see reality slip back in but it was past time. His parents would be worried. He mentally rolled his eyes. Knowing his parents, they’d probably be hoping for a steamy kissing session or some other nonsense.

Anna sighed again. “You’re right.” She said, and he never wished to be more wrong in his life.

He turned to her and said softly, “This place is beautiful. My mom would rave about it all the time. What you did here, is art. Its homey and still sophisticated. You bought classic pieces and somehow blended them seamlessly with modern artwork. You’ve even got some antiques in here.” She blushed again, her eyes bright with pleasure and surprise.  He clicked his tongue.” Ha, you thought I didn’t know my stuff. Think again buddy! My mother didn’t raise no philistine. I know the goods when I see them and you Ms. Anna. You picked the goods.” She laughed again. The sound loud and rolling, lightening up her whole face. He’d never seen a more beautiful sight in all his life.  She slapped his arm lightly, playfully and picked up the last bag.

Still laughing she said, “Well pick up the bags Mr. I’m-not-a-philistine and let’s go.”

He laughed. Picking up he bags he walked to the door. He turned in time to see her cast one last longing look around the room. Mulled it over and then said, “Take one thing.”

She spun around, stunned. “What?”

He leaned against the door frame. “Take one item. Something that can sit on your lap and bring it with you. I saw what you packed. Aside from the frivolous clothes, you left most of this stuff.”

“Yeah, because it’s not practical. Your parents have a fully furnished home. We don’t need my stuff.” She said. He knew, knew deep in gut she didn’t believe that. Knew she wanted at least one thing that reminded her of her own home.

He clicked his tongue again. “You’re wasting time Anna. Pick something.”

She turned to him. Flustered annoyed. “How do I just pick something when everything in this place means something to me!” She snatched up the vase on the coffee table. “This vase is an antique it’s made of leaded crystal and over 100 years old!” She put it back with a snap. “This china set is also an antique, I go it a garage sale. The lady who sold it to me said it belonged to her husband’s grandmother. They were getting divorced and everything had to go.” She huffed out a laugh. “The woman probably didn’t even know what she had.”

He chuckled. “Oh, she knew alright. She knew her soon-to-be ex-husband would throw conniption once he realized that china was gone.” He gave her a wicked grin. “You aided and abetted a criminal act.”

She gapped at him. “I did no such thing!”

He grinned right back at her, “Oh yes you did. Now, go pick something before I pick it for you.”

She glared was sharp as a dagger through threadbare cloth. His grin grew. She made and angry sound that sounded like a mix of growl and grunt and stormed off.

She returned a minute later with two books in her hands. He straightened. Correction one large book and a set of books in a case. It was his turn to glare.

“I said-“

“I know what you said darlin’, I just decide to push it just a tinsy bit.”

She gave him a sugary sweet smile and he growled.

She giggled. Actually giggled.

“Remind me to read you some of this.” She said, gesturing to the collection of books she hand that was in the case.

He angled his head, “Who the heck is Sarah J. Maas and why the heck are her books so thick?”

Anna laughed all the way down the hall and to the garage. She was still laughing when they got into the truck.

“Anna, what on earth is so funny?” His mother said, giving Seth a meaningful look as if he’d done something embarrassing and she just had to know.

Seth glared at Anna. “Hell, if I know. All I said was who was Sarah J. Maas and why did she write so much.”

Seth’s mother looked at Anna. Anna’s face broke into a ridiculously huge grin.

“He growled at me.” Was all Anna said before she and his mother broke into a ruckus burst of laughter.

His father grinned at him. “You’ll never hear the end of this son. Should’ve kept your mouth shut.”

Seth started the engine and drove out of the garage. “It was just a stupid question.” He angrily muttered.

Anna took a breath from laughing to turn around and look at his mother. “Would you say that what Seth just said sounded…guttural?” The women started snickering and when Seth sighed the women burst into laughter once more.

Annoyed though he was, he couldn’t resist as the corners of his mouth tugged upward into a smile.