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Room for the Basics (A Novel)

Room for the Basics (A Novel)

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He's a jaded Australian newcomer with a cynical outlook on love. She's a dedicated dreamer harboring a reluctant crush. When he extends an offer that seems too good to be true, can she keep her wits about her and her heart intact? Prepare to be swept away in a heartwarming tale of unexpected connections and budding romance in "Room for the Basics."

    This is a love story featuring Small Town dynamics, a Guaranteed HEA and multi-racial couple (bwpim black woman pacific islander man). Includes discussions of faith by main characters who are Christian or are struggling with faith in Christ.

    Main Tropes

    • Small Town
    • Neighbors/Roommates
    • Unrequited Love
    • Friends-to-Lovers
    • Sworn off relationships
    • She falls first but he falls harder

    Please Read:

    There are no sex scenes.

    This story is a bit spicier than general Clean & Wholesome.

    Content references purposeful instances of strong language.


    Brenee's heart has a weakness – it belongs to a man who's not just a critic but a thief too.

    A serendipitous meeting unveils her long-time crush, Noa Fuimaono, as the mysterious new neighbor who not only snatched her dream home but is also the reason she's burning the midnight oil.

    When circumstances nudge them under the same roof as temporary roommates, Brenee resolves to shield her heart from Noa's frustratingly platonic charms.

    Noa, fresh from Australia to the United States, finds solace in the town of Fated, where he encounters a familiar face - Brenee. Their burgeoning friendship ignites a friendly rivalry, and unexpectedly challenges Noa's cynical stance on "Happily Ever Afters."

    From the aisles of their local store to the grounds of their workplace, their journey unfolds amidst misunderstandings and mixed signals, putting these almost-strangers on an unexpected collision course with love.

    Can they bridge the gap between them and discover a common ground that leads to a love story they never saw coming?

    Intro Into Chapter 1

    Chapter 1

    Slowing her car to a stop and placing it in park, Brenee glances up at the rearview mirror and smirks.

    At the very least, she won’t have a thing to be ashamed of when she sees a certain gentleman this evening—if he sees her back, that is.

    She’d been meticulous with the application of her makeup, highlighting her high cheeks and chestnut skin with a hint of iridescence, just like the YouTube tutorial had taught her. If it wasn’t for that pimple that had the nerve to show up on her chin yesterday, Brene’s look would be flawless. But overall, her wine-red lips, individually placed lashes and contouring were accomplishing the exact look she’d practiced and perfected night after night.

    As she angles her head from side to side, she indulges the thrill of spying her streaks of blonde, magenta, and silvery white locks, flowing freely. They’re a pain to upkeep, what with the regular dying, but they make her feel like…her.

    Despite all of the changes and compromises and “settling down” she’s managed to give in to over the past six years…her hair reminds her that she’s still herself—just a little older and much more responsible. A little more grown-up.

    Bearing down on the latter half of her forties, well, she guesses she’s due to grow up a little.

    “The next twenty or so years will probably go as fast as the last, Girl.” Her cousin had said. “I don’t want to see you struggling in your sixties, Ney.”

    Brenee sighs.

    Working at the senior community has been a constant, good reminder to Brenee of those words. But as the community’s office manager, she needs to look respectable. Professional.


    So she styles her dredlocks accordingly: careful to hide the multi-colored ones as she attends to her professional duties. 

    Outside of business hours, however, she revels in the burst of colors surrounding her face.

    Angling her head to the side, Brenee takes one last look in the rearview mirror, watching her locks swing with the movement.

    Yep, the make-up, the hair—this will be her go to look for nights out from now on.

    “Hey Girl, how you doing?” she jokes in a bad, faux New York accent, winking at her reflection.

    Swiping her purse from the passenger’s seat, she finds herself wrestling the strap from a hanger she’d left in the seat, along with a myriad of other items sprawled upon its upholstery.

    She’d just tidied up a week ago, and already odd and random items have found their way back into different areas of the vehicle's interior.

    She rolls her eyes, pushing herself from her vehicle.

    That’s a problem for future Brenee.

    The evening sky is already descending into a denim blue but, thankfully, the lights flooding through the venue’s expansive windows ease her walk to the entrance. She watches as others make their way toward the building, as well. Many of them are couples, causing Brenee to feel even more aware of accompanying herself to this momentous occasion.

    “Not the first time,” she mutters softly to herself, forcing her lips to curve into a soft, resigned smile as she steps up the curb.

    Well, at least she enjoys her own company. Not everyone can say as much.

    Making her way into the chapel, she stops at the threshold, standing to the side to allow those behind her to file in and find their seats. There’s no signage for “Bride” or “Groom” sides of the aisle, just as the wedding invitation had said.

    Didn’t Zahara say that the Lucas’ had done the same thing at the wedding they’d had in town? Way back when they were kids? 

    Brenee hates that she’d missed it, being that she’d only visited Fated during the summers at that time.

    Still, the memory of the tale Zahara had spun for Brenee brings a smile to her lips. 

    Brenee couldn’t have been more than ten at the time; but even so she recalls Zahara sharing how it’d felt like the Lucas’ had welcomed the entire town, as one group of people equally supporting the couple—just like now. 

    But that was before Raf was even born so he and Dominique must have decided this arrangement on their own.

    The sense completely falls in line with Rafael’s “arms open wide” personality. But it’s also a way of declaring the community as one big family—a family Brenee now considers her firmly a part of.

    Brenee blinks, dashing away both the sudden wetness in her eyes and the stray thought that she’d want to do the same at her own wedding, one day.

    Just cuz she’s at a wedding doesn’t mean she needs to get all romantic. 

    Pushing herself up from where she’d been leaning on the threshold, she looks around and spots a mass of shoulder-length black curls.

    Zahara. And seated beside her Brenee spies Gavin’s profile as he turns to speak with her cousin.

    On the other side of her cousin is the empty space that Zahara promised she’d save for Brenee.

    Sucking in her breath, Brenee attempts to dismiss the cynicism rising up in her; but the thought wriggles its way past her defenses, all the same:

    Lovely. Brenee will be attending a wedding, alone, and seated next to newlyweds.

    “Oh well,” she grumbles beneath her breath, resigning herself to her after-wedding fate: In her mind looms the image of herself, lounging on her couch as she watches some sappy romantic comedy.

    Moving forward to the row in which her cousin and Gavin are settled, Brenee scoots into the designated pew, careful to avoid bumping the knees of the row’s other occupants. Arriving at the space reserved for her, she settles into her seat, leaning in to give Zahara a cozy side hug. Reaching over, she accepts Gavin’s offered hand with a warm smile.

    Brenee has to admit: Zahara looks very happy—as does her husband of only a few months.

    The way Gavin’s looking at her cousin she’s surprised they made it out of the bedroom, let alone Los Angeles.

    Turning her attention from the beaming newlyweds, Brenee looks around the room at the different people, smiling to herself at the many different personalities, shades and economic levels represented. 

    Feels like the whole town’s decided to attend. Not surprising given Rafeal’s personable nature; not to mention the fact that he’s the former publisher of the town newspaper and is the mayor’s son.

    The reputation he’d gained as “uncatchable” by the women in town doesn’t hurt, either.

    Brenee chuckles inwardly. 

    She bets there are a lot of unhappy ladies here, as well.

    She wouldn’t typically consider herself the cynic. But weddings always have her mind spiraling downward to the point where two people sit across from one another accompanied by their lawyers.

    Either that or lifelong purgatory in an unhappy union.

    Besides her grandmother and her aunt, the Johnson family track record for marriages is pretty dismal.

    It’s not until she’d moved to Fated to live with Zahara and her aunt that she’d seen so many families proving that marriage could look otherwise. And then her aunt had gone and found herself a hubby here, too! And nearly thirty years later the pair still seem just as satisfied and healthy together as the day they’d married.

    Brenee glances over at her cousin who’s busy wiping something off of Gavin’s chin. 

    Zahara—the real cynic of the pair of them who had had the love of her life neatly dropped in her lap.

    For Zahara’s sake, Brenee really, really hopes she’s the next exception to the Johnson family rule.

    And then, who knows…maybe Brenee could have a shot at that, as well.


    Maybe now that she’s gotten her act together—now that she’s got a stable job, is working to save up for her own home and pay off her debt…well, maybe she, too, could wake up in thirty years next to a good man who deserves her and who she deserves.


    Maybe if she can figure out a godly way to have a man with all the benefits and none of the issues.

    A soft chuckle escapes her just as a click behind her causes her twist around to view its source.

    Hmmm the double doors have been shut. Must be about that time.

    Sure enough, a few minutes later, soft, recorded piano music wafts through the room and the doors open, presenting the crowd with their first view of the groom.

    Rafael is as handsome as ever in his tuxedo, the soft smile on his face and blush upon his cheeks evidence of his excitement.

    He looks like a man who wouldn’t know the definition of “cold feet” even if said feet had the nerve to sidle right up to his calf.

    Smile broad as he strides down the aisle, he greets people on either side of the aisle with a slight upward tilt of his chin, a wink and even at one point a double thumbs-up.

    As he approaches the front pews, he turns and leans down, hugging every member of his and Dominique’s family.

    Grinning, he jogs up to his place before the presiding pastor, vigorously shaking the man’s hand, causing laughter to ripple through both the pastor and those in attendance.

    Settling into the stance— the one with hands clasped in front and legs parted wide—his eyes turn back to the door. His chest seems to rise and fall with greater rapidity. He’s wetting his lips every few seconds, his gaze trained on the portal.

    Brenee turns her gaze back to the doorway, holding in her sigh as she views the first pair to follow Rafael in the processional, and sees the best man standing tall, taking up much of the breadth of the door frame.

    Brenee’s insides all seem to gel, coalesce and become some pointing thing teasing one specific spot in her body.

    Her tongue inadvertently darts out to wet her upper lip, her body shifts upon the hard pew to relieve some of the pressure and she swallows.

    It seems like her body is doing everything it can do to help her out; everything but pull her eyes from their new favorite target.

    Noa Fuimaono.

    She’d seen the man a few times whenever he’d come to visit his parents at the senior community center. He’d even joined in on the Saturday Game On! Brunches and other community activities  if he was present, enjoying the company of both his parents and Rafael.

    Brenee had seen all of this from afar; because she gets desperately and humiliatingly tongue-tied whenever she faces the big ol’ man close up.

    How wavy dark hair, olive skin, light-blue eyes and a jaw that’d put statues to shame could reside in one man is beyond her.

    He should be illegal. Or a fantasy. Or both.

    Noa towers over the woman he accompanies down the aisle. And Brenee finds herself looking at Dominique’s sister with envy.

    Lucky woman. Lucky, lucky woman.

    As the two continue down the aisle, Brenee tries not to focus on the movement of muscles peeking through the fabric of the back of Noa’s tuxedo jacket—she really does. Her eyes look to her right, downward to her lap, but invariably, just before the duo part ways and assume their places, her eyes dart right back up.

    Noa used to play rugby back in Australia, if she remembers correctly—and of course she does because her mind has automatically labeled and stored every tidbit of information Rafael had let slip about Noa as Brenee had begun helping him host the Game On! Brunch…and all of the info she’d gleaned from his parents’ file. 

    Yeah, she’s got it that bad.

    She’d always wondered how in the world anyone would allow Noa on the field? And without padding of any sort? 

    Wouldn’t people be afraid that he’d unwittingly break every bone in the other players’ bodies?

    Her head shakes from side to side, nearly imperceptible, as she regards Noa standing behind his friend.

    Rafael’s no small guy, and yet Noa’s got a good three inches and fifty pounds or so of what Brenee can only assume is pure muscle. The short, silver strands sprinkled along his temples point to the fact that he’s older than Rafael, maybe ten years his senior…so in his forties? 

    So…old enough for her?

    Not that age should make that much of a difference. If Zahara’s recent marriage should tell her anything, it should be that much. But still, Brenee had always imagined herself with someone around her age, maybe slightly older. Maybe someone just like Noa.

    Lord, help her keep her and her thoughts in check. 

    Noa had visited her in her dreams too many times to count. And now she has an image of the man in a tux, too?

    Would it look too conspicuous for Brenee to fan herself with her hand right now?

    And then Noa dares to scan the room with those glowing blue twin pools he calls eyes. When his gaze collides with Brenee’s caught-in-the-headlights stare, the corner of his lips quirks upward and he affords her a slight nod before continuing his scan of the room.

    Brenee prays she hadn’t looked as desperate as she’d felt at that moment when he’d stared right into her soul.

    As the last of the wedding party takes their place, she thanks the good Lord that she only catches glimpses of Noa once or twice a year. 

    She can only imagine the kind of fool she’d make of herself if she were to run into him on the regular.

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