The first apartment that Mike and El move into is on the top floor of a four-story walk-up. It’s on the days that they go to the grocery store that Mike is most relieved to have a telekinetic girlfriend. It makes lugging twelve bags and two cases of pop up the stairs far easier.
There are books everywhere. Literally everywhere. The two tall bookshelves pressed up against the living room walls are not nearly enough to contain all of their college textbooks as well as an assortment of their favourite novels and comic books. Stacks of books rest atop the television stand and the kitchen counter. They litter the bedroom floor and pile up next to the small desk they share. El likes the clutter—it’s so much warmer than the cool sterility of the Lab and the empty darkness of the In-Between; so much more of a home.
El loves to bake, so there’s almost always a sweet scent lingering in the air and a platter of freshly baked chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies on the counter. She also keeps a garden on the sill of their large bedroom window and tends to it with the utmost care. Fresh tulips appear on the living room coffee table every Thursday evening when Mike returns from his late class and El takes meticulous care of those as well.
Candles and picture frames filled with their favourite memories are spattered throughout the apartment. Pinned to the fridge with heart-shaped magnets is a picture Jonathan took the previous summer in Hawkins. El and Mike sit shoulder-to-shoulder, perched in a low branch of the large oak that grows at the edge of the Byers’s property, their bare feet swinging through the air and strawberry ice cream cones in their hands.
Their bedroom is lined with shelves on which Mike’s action figures and El’s music boxes sit. Every Lego model they build together also earns a spot on those shelves. Their bed has a soft and airy canopy over it and they regularly joke that it’s their new blanket fort. But that doesn’t stop them from making “old-school” blanket forts in the living room every weekend, gathering every pillow and blanket from the apartment for the job.
It’s a short jaunt up one more flight of stairs to reach the roof of their building and on Saturday nights, Mike and El can often be found sprawled atop a thick-knit blue blanket, counting stars or reading by flashlight, a warm thermos of cocoa shared between them.