Author Notes: I am originally writing this story in Spanish, but I have decided to try to translate it into English so that more people can read it. I am not knowledgeable about translations, but I will try to make the chapters understandable. Sorry if you find any errors. I hope this doesn't ruin your experience. If possible, I invite you to read the Spanish version, which also goes through Chapter 28 by the time this translation is published.
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Nicole Gireld got out of the taxi, stood on the sidewalk, and looked amazed at the gorgeous twelve-story building looming before her. It was somewhat impressive because there were definitely no such tall buildings in her hometown, and yet she knew in advance that this was not even close to the tallest one out there.
The young newcomer only managed to snap out of her spasm and avert her gaze from the facade when the taxi driver pulled her suitcase out of the trunk and placed it next to her, lightly hitting her leg with a corner.
"Thank you!" Nicole mumbled absently. The man said goodbye with a murmur, but she couldn't fully understand it because her mind kept wandering to several things simultaneously.
Once alone, Nicole walked into the building, unlocking the separate resident access with one of the keys given to her. She entered the elevator somewhat fearfully and pressed the round and luminous button with the number 10 on its panel. She was expecting, for some reason, to hear one of those catchy waiting tunes, like on TV. However, the journey from the ground floor to the tenth floor was actually relatively silent.
Arriving at her destination, Nicole moved forward, dragging behind her huge and heavy suitcase whose wheels sounded against the corridor floor. She was going to the penultimate apartment on the right, number 80. She stopped in front of the door and took a second to take a deep breath. Then, nervously, she searched among the bunch of keys for the one that corresponded to the main door; she failed twice before hitting the right one.
"Incredible!" she exclaimed to herself as she walked in and flipped on the lights. The building had stupefied her, but the apartment itself left her speechless.
It was even more spacious and beautiful than it had been described. Immediately upon entering, there was a small foyer with a door on the left side that most likely led to the half bath and hooks set into the wall for bags and coats. Advancing just a little through the small corridor, one entered after a few steps a common area composed of the living room with two armchairs, the open kitchen, and a small dining room with six chairs; all connected.
On the right-hand side, past the living room, was a door that Nicole assumed led to the bedroom. The walls of the entire area were white and light blue, giving her a very pleasant feeling as soon as she entered. Everything was furnished and decorated quite tastefully; nothing eccentric, nothing too fancy, but nothing cheap or shabby.
In normal situations, there would be no way she or her family could afford an apartment like that. The opportunity had presented itself to her with a bit of luck, as it belonged to an old friend of her parents who used to live there in New Scintia a long time ago and whom Nicole practically considered her uncle. That apartment was suitable for rent, although it had been vacant for a long time. And because of that friendship of many years with her parents, her uncle agreed to rent it to Nicole at a very affordable price for a young woman who had just finished her studies and gotten her first job.
She moved a little further into that space, inspecting it closely with her curious gaze. Straight ahead, she noticed light gray curtains that covered from just a few inches below the ceiling to the floor. Those must be the balcony doors. From the sidewalk, she had seen that all the apartments facing the front of the building, like this one, had a small balcony or terrace.
What will the view of the city be like from the 10th floor?
She thought curiously. She definitely had to see it with her own eyes.
She left her luggage in the middle of the room and hurried over to the curtains, yanking them sideways. On the other side, two sliding glass doors emerged, through which an intense flare of sunlight illuminated almost the entire apartment interior. She slid one of the doors to the side, peering out almost as if she feared being discovered. The balcony was small and bare except for a small round plastic garden table, accompanied by two folding cloth chairs. But Nicole actually paid little attention to the furniture because her large honey-colored eyes contemplated something else.
Nicole walked carefully outside, admiring the beautiful view, especially the tall buildings that stretched as far as she could see, covering the entire horizon. She approached the balcony railing with her eyes and mouth wide open.
"How impressive it looks!" she shouted at the top of her lungs, drawing a broad smile of emotion that made it radiate as much as the landscape she was contemplating.
Was that really her new home? A part of her refused to believe it at all. And the truth is that everything felt so unreal. Not only would she have her first real job, but she would also have to live alone, in a new city as well, and in an apartment as beautiful and perfect as that one. All of this made her nervous, of course, but also very, very excited…
"Yes, it's impressive the first time," Nicole suddenly heard a voice murmur to her left, making her jump in amazement.
She quickly turned to that side, somewhat alarmed. She had been so impressed by the apartment, the terrace, and the view that she hadn't realized she wasn't alone. On the other balcony, right on the one next to her own, separated only a few centimeters between its railing and the other, she saw a person sitting on a long folding chair, like the ones placed at the edge of a pool. That balcony was more decorated than hers, with a wooden roof covering the sun and a wall with a colorful hanging garden that gave everything an almost fairy-tale appearance.
The person in the chair was a woman with long, shaggy dark hair that fell free to her shoulders and back. She wore a light blue dress with purple flowers, short enough to show Nicole her two long pale legs. She also rested what seemed to be a large drawing pad on her thighs, over which she was gracefully moving her hand at the time, holding a blue pencil. The woman's attention was fixed on the pad as she continued speaking. But even if she didn't look at her yet, Nicole knew she was indeed talking to her.
"I guess you're from a small town too, right?" the stranger muttered, but before Nicole answered (if she even thought of doing so), the stranger continued. "I did the same, and I reacted almost in the same way as you the first time I saw the panorama from this balcony. Unfortunately, you get used to it quickly."
That woman finally separated her gaze from her pad and placed it right on Nicole, glancing at her and giving a subtle and delicate smile on her pink lips. Nicole was suddenly intimidated by those large, deep blue eyes peeking out behind a pair of small, elegant black-rimmed glasses.
"Sorry, I think I'm being a bit nosy," the woman whispered slowly, not realizing her profound effect on the newcomer (or maybe she was).
"No, no," Nicole hastened to respond, shaking her hands a little nervously. "I'm sorry. I was the one who went out screaming out loud without realizing that I wasn't alone. I'm sorry," she repeated again effusively. "I'm Nicole; nice to meet you."
"Hello, Nicole," the girl from the other balcony whispered slowly. The way she pronounced her name was a little unusual, though not in a wrong way. "I am Giselle Leblanch. Are you going to move into that apartment?"
"Yes!" Nicole answered quickly, almost like it was an exam question that she didn't want to leave in doubt that she knew the answer. "I just got to town."
"How good. That apartment has been empty for a long time," the raven-haired woman pointed out, sounding almost like a curious tidbit to herself. "Welcome then, Nicole."
She then put her pad and pencil aside on the chair and stood up. When she stood up, Nicole could tell that she was tall, at least taller than her. And her whole appearance, with the sunlight shining on her and that garden behind as a background, seemed almost straight out of some magazine cover. Then the woman approached her railing until her legs almost hit it, and she extended her hand towards her, leaning his body forward a little. Only then did Nicole realize that the separation between the two balconies was so small that one could move to the other with little effort.
"Thank you very much…" Nicole murmured, unable to hide her hesitation. She also approached her respective side and stretched his hand towards her, causing both of them to shake affectionately in the space separating them. "You said… Giselle, right?"
"To serve you," agreed the black-haired girl, smiling at her again.
After a few seconds, Giselle released her, and they both backed away again. A silence formed between them at that moment. Although it wasn't entirely uncomfortable at first, that changed as the seconds passed. Nicole especially had started to feel a little anxious to keep feeling those intense eyes on her, as if she expected her to say or do something else that didn't come to her mind at all.
"I… should go in," Nicole muttered with a nervous smile, jerking her thumbs toward the apartment's interior. "I have a lot to unpack, and..."
"Go ahead," Giselle said quickly, sparing her the need to think of any more excuses. "I'll be here if you need anything."
"Yes, of course," Nicole agreed, slowly backing toward the door. "Thank you very much for the welcome, and…"
Nicole turned quickly at that moment, and as she did so, his nose hit the door she hadn't opened. Her face bounced off the glass, making her take a step back. She brought her fingers to her sore nose and let out a sharp moan. The blow, however, was less painful than hearing just behind her the small, suppressed giggle of the girl from the other balcony.
"How silly," Nicole muttered sadly. "Excuse me…"
Without looking at her new neighbor again, she hurried to make her way, this time through the door that was open, also hurrying to close it behind her.
Once in the safety of her new apartment, she breathed a deep sigh of relief. The first of the residents of the building that she knew and undoubtedly had a terrible impression of her.
Giselle was undoubtedly very attractive. She didn't have any make-up on, her hairdo didn't have any particular arrangement, and her dress was quite simple... And yet she looked almost like a model so stunning that she had even felt a little... intimidated? Nicole didn't know if it was the right word, but it was the only one that came to mind at the moment.
And a woman like her would be her next-door neighbor? She couldn't help but wonder if this was the right place for someone as simple as her from a small town. She felt a little insignificant compared to Giselle (what did she say her last name was?).
But surely, she was exaggerating. She couldn't jump to conclusions after only a few words with a stranger.
So it was better not to think about that and to focus on unpacking and getting settled. After all, just tomorrow would be the first day in her new, and first, job.
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