“Sunlight shines into the q-quiet tomb
He rolls out of bed; he walks past his shoes
He crawls out the door, he climbs down the stairs
He knows it’s not right, but he doesn’t seem to care…
He doesn’t care.”
I often dream I’m flying. That I’m going somewhere important, somewhere far and somewhere special. When I daydream, though, I’m drowning. I’m reminded of the fact that when my eyes are open, I can barely keep my head above water.
That’s why it irks me when the sound of doorbells and happiness wakes me from my nap. I felt myself drifting into a dream— into a good one— and suddenly I’m not.
I pull the headphones out of my ears and sit up in an agitated stupor. I’ve only been out for thirty minutes, but grogginess has turned me into a monster. Probably should’ve shut the door before I laid down for a nap.
The sound of Bailey’s voice adds thunder to the storm raging within me. “Glad you made it, Sahara,” she’s saying. I swing my legs over the bed, ready to kill.
I make out the other person’s less familiar voice as I stomp, stomp, stomp, wait—hold up down the hallway.
“Glad to be invited!” Sahara replies in an all-too-realistic British accent. There’s some shuffling, giggling, and even more movement before Sahara continues, “You know you owe me this, though, since you came to see me last year and ‘haven’t had time to entertain anyone’ ever since…” She says the words, mockingly and Bailey’s feathers ruffle. Go, Sahara, I think as I sneak a bit closer, forgetting my anger for a millisecond long enough to let curiosity take over.
“Yes, well, I’ve said I’m sorry,” Bailey defends once she regains composure. “And lucky Mr. Williams’ grandson dragged him down South for the summer…”
“Yes, well, lucky I still have my Visa. I could kill you for all this last minute business. Posting a ‘Help Wanted’ advert on Facebook? Really, Bee, where’s your dignity?”
“I know, I know, I’m desperate.”
“Anyone could’ve answered it.”
“I know, I know, I know.”
“You’re lucky I’m so popular. So loving. So thoughtful. Thoughtful enough to reach out to my other American friends. I have those, I hope you know. Ones who call me, as it were.”
They move into the kitchen and like a ninja, I follow, keeping to the shadows. Oh, Sahara. You may just be my new favorite person in the entire state of California. What, though, ever possessed you to become friends with Bailey? My inner monologue rages as I creep closer, closer, closer to get a better look.
Sahara unwraps the mustard yellow scarf from around her neck, revealing her dark complexion and, if I’m not mistaken, beads of sweat. I know she’s not from around here, but summer is summer anywhere you go, isn’t it? Apparently she didn’t get the memo judging by her dark leggings, knee-high boots, and long baggy shirt made from some sort of wooly fabric. I can’t make out whether or not she’s melting from my post behind the grandfather clock.
As Bailey pulls a few things out of the fridge, Sahara cuts her a look. “So that Mr. Williams… he the bloke who owns the place?”
“Yes ma’am,” Bailey answers putting a rotisserie chicken out onto the counter. She checks the fridge for other ingredients she might have missed before slamming the stainless steel door shut and turning to her company. “He’s the one I’ve been telling you about. Such a fascinating life that man’s had.” She shrugs as if to toss away the subject. “Anyway, since I’ve been writing his biography since Christmas, he pretty much figured he could trust me to keep an eye on the house. For some reason, he seemed really excited about lending his place to a bunch of wayward—”
“—and inspirationless writers.” As Bailey laughs, Sahara picks up a tomato and takes it to the cutting board. “Oh yes,” the girl goes on. “God bless his soul.”
And suddenly, I’m in a movie. I’m the stupid girl who takes a step backwards as if to retreat, but the floor creaks alerting everyone of her presence, begging them to look.
So I step, floor creaks, Sahara looks, Bailey glares.
And Sahara exclaims, “Oh!” breaking the short, but still awkward silence. “Didn’t see you there!” She smiles at Bailey, but nods toward me. “New recruit?”
If Bailey thinks it’s good to see me up and about, she doesn’t show it. “Yep,” she says in robot. Then her mouth sets in a straight line as she fights so hard! to look like she’s a decent human being, capable of smiling in spite of my presence. “Alright, Ellie, this is Sahara Gold.”
“Troublemaker extraordinaire,” Sahara interrupts with a wink.
“And pretentious songwriter desperate for something new to whine about,” Bailey adds cutting her a disapproving, but amused look. Then, Coz looks at me. “You two would get along, I think.”
She is so lucky Sahara beams and cuts in before I can choke her.
“Is that what you’re here for? You’re a writer, too? That can’t be it, though, ‘cause… hold on, give me a second…” Confusion floods her features. “I didn’t send the ad to any Ellie, did I? Did I?” She drops into a slump as she struggles to remember. “I know I didn’t,” she mumbles. Her eyebrows knit together and a hand goes to her hip. “I doubt I even know an Ellie...”
Bailey’s eyelids flutter as she pats her friend’s shoulder and mutters, “No, no, Sweetie, I invited her…” Sahara’s mouth forms an “Oooooohhhhhh” and Bailey snorts, laughs into her friend’s wooly shoulder, looks almost human. Almost. Until she speaks again.
“Elena,” Bailey assures her friend, “is an expert in the art of whining. That’s what I was referring to, Dear, and you’d better catch up ‘cause—” She prods her phone; it springs to life. “—she’s been here for a whole hour and thirty minutes so she’s already getting some great material.”
Sahara snickers, smiles at me, and I rage, rage, rage, hiding it all behind a smile that shouts, Idon’tcareIwon’tcareIwon’t…
Bailey tilts her head toward me. I cringe inside, but smile, smile, smile, as I hear the emphasis on the first word of her bland, blank, “That’s”—bold, italics, underline, underline— “my cousin.”
From Sahara, another, but louder, “Oooooooohhhhhh!”
“Ellie!” she repeats. “Ellie, oh Ellie, yes! I just up and forgot about you for a sec, didn’t I?”
“Mm.” I swallow. “Funny how that happens.”
My eyes find my cousin’s and I don’t care. I won’t. But it comes out.
“You think I can talk to you super quick?”
I turn and take one step (don’t care), two steps (won’t care), five steps (won’t) toward the hall before she can say no.