Later that evening - outskirts of Miles Cross

Thomas tries to get a grip on his nerves as he pulls his van into the gravel driveway. **Ooookay. Pretty girl who is interested in me and we end up first at her place and then my place all in the same day. Night. Whichever. Deep breaths, Thomas, deep breaths. At least you're away from that creepy girl from the coffee shop!**

"Well, here we are, Fiona." He gestures at the small white bungalow with one hand while taking the keys out of the ignition with the other. "It's not much, but for the past week or so,it's been home. The place is a bit of a mess. Hope you don't mind." Opening the door, he steps down in front of the porch. Turning back to look at her, he still tries to sort out the whirlwind of a day in his mind.

September 28 - On the borders of Miles Cross

Thomas walks up along the gravel road, following Mr. Boroughs. The small white house was nearly hidden by the trees growing around it, but to Thomas it looked like heaven. It had taken him days of searching to find a house to rent that would not bankrupt him but would also let to a minor. Mr. Boroughs, thankfully, had preferred Thomas's written inquiry over any phone calls. "A touch of class," the old widower had commented.

Mr. Boroughs continues to point out the lay of the land. "Now, it don't look it, not leastwise, but your neighbors aren't that far away. You got the Kellys just the other side of the hill, and the Benfields' drive is just a stone throw that-a-ways. Should be good for your studying." The old man is in his late 60's, weathered and beaten, but still carries himself with a rolling gait and a jolly air. He pulls out a small ring of keys as they walk up the narrow grey steps and onto the porch. "Heat and electric all included, like I said earlier, on account of the propane tank. That's out back. Man comes to check it once a month, round about the end. Water is well water, and we had some good rains this year. Still, never hurts to be careful. Phone is hardwired in, so I hope you know how to still use a rotary. You'll have to call them yourself to get it up and running."

"That shouldn't be a problem, sir," Thomas smiles at him, "I'm just glad-"

Mr. Boroughs waves him down. "As you said, as you said. Life like you've had already, you need the quiet, I'll bet." He unlocks the door and pushes it open. Steeping inside, his hand easily flicks the light switch just within. "Something tells me with you I don't have to worry about wild parties or loud music, right?" He gives Thomas the hairy eye over the shoulder.

The young man steps in. "No, sir," he says truthfully. "Don't know anyone here, I don't drink or... do anything else, and... heck... I don't even own a stereo except the one in the van. I just need a quiet place without roommates so I can get my applications out to some colleges and apply for some student loans and scholarships." **And hopefully find a part time job so I can eat. Next month is going to be really tight. But I didn't think anyone was going to rent to me unless I paid out a lot upfront.**

Looking about, the house is small. From what he can see, he sees everything: a tiny living room, a kitchenette, a bathroom that consists of a shower, sink and toliet and a bedroom. No attic or basement, either. Just a one floor bungalow, like the ad had said. Thankfully, there is also a minimum of furnishings: small stove and fridge, a sheet-covered sofa and chair with some small end-tables and a single bed and mattress. A small fireplace occupies a central position against the outside wall of the living room.

"Normally I'd say rent is due on the first of the month, but seeing as how you paid 6 months upfront already, I'll bug your ear about that in half year or so." His new landlord passes him the keys and a copy of the contract. "You were upfront with me, son, about your age and the whole deal. Let me be upfront with you."

Thomas has been expecting this. For some reason, people always seem to want to give him advice. "Yes, sir?"

"Next time, look at a place first before you sign anything. Not all folks are a nice as me. Second thing? I did run a background check on you. It costs but its worth the investment. Keep your nose clean as its been and we'll have no problem. The fact that you also got renters insurance? Even thinking ahead that far? That speaks a lot about a man and sense of his responsibility. Also, something goes wrong with the house or anything, you call me. I'm just over in Ipswitch and get out here in a jiffy." He reaches out to shake the boy's hand. Thomas gives him a firm handshake to seal the deal. With his other hand he motions to the fireplace. "Just don't burn the place down."

"Thanks, again, Mr. Boroughs. I won't let you down, sir." Letting go of the older man's hand, Thomas gives him a sheepish grin. "Guess I better pull the van up the rest of the way and unload."

His landlord nods and turns towards the door. "I'll let myself out and let you get to it, then. Number's on the contract if you need me, and I've got your cell phone number." Mr. Boroughs stops at the door and looks at Thomas queerly. "Are all those books in the van really yours?"

Thomas looks up at him blankly. "Uh... yes, sir... why?"

The old man shakes his head and walks back outside. "Takes all types, they say."

With his landlord gone and they keys cold in his hand, Thomas looks about. The walls are all dirty white plaster and aged wood panelling. Beneath his feet, wooden floors squeak and groan, padded only by the ancient Colonial oval rug. It isn't much, but Thomas revels in the quiet as if hearing it for the first time in his life.

**If I'm lucky, maybe I'll find a local college and can stay here.**