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For Jina, the morning always seems to be begin with the near giddy struggle to do her best not to pop her jaw yawning. Jina stretches her arms out diagonally, crucified on a crooked cross, as she kicks open the bedroom door with her foot. Blinking bleary sleep out of her eyes, she stops for a second, her eyes perceiving three versions of their small living room. Jina blinks a few more times to make the picture resolve itself. Satisfied that she hasn't gone blind in her sleep, she yawns again and makes her way into the living room.
Someone's already sitting on the couch. Lena's flipping idly through a magazine, too fast to even be reading it properly, not even enough for the photographs to register. She's got one leg crossed over the other and Jina can see she's gotten dressed already.
"How long have you been up?" Jina asks, padding over to the couch and plopping herself down. Unobtrusively she glances at a clock on the wall, noting with an inward grin that it's definitely later than she thought. How the hell long is she going to sleep this party off?
Lena seems to start in surprise at the sound of her friend's voice, but doesn't take her eyes off the magazine. It's in her lap now, and she's spending more time on the pages, holding a slick paper delicately between her two fingers before over violently flipping it over. For a few seconds the only sound in the room is the whiplash crack of glossy pulp turning.
"A little while, I guess," Lena replies somewhat evasively. Almost as an afterthought she adds, "I couldn't sleep."
Jina waits a second for Lena to elaborate further but isn't surprised when details aren't more forthcoming. For the last few days, Lena's been doing this. Ever since she came back from the hospital. Waking up early and going to bed late. Just the other night Jina could swear she heard her friend muttering in her sleep, something she's never done before. But Lena was relatively cheerful, though quiet, over breakfast that morning, so Jina didn't press her. She might not even know she was doing it. No need to worry her.
"Oh," Lena mentions, closing the magazine, though keeping her thumb hooked in the page to save her spot, "I forgot . . . I made coffee . . . there's some there for you. I'm pretty sure it's still warm."
"Damn you're good to me . . ." Jina only half kids, using both hands to lever herself off the sofa. She finds the pot easily enough it's still in the coffeemaker. The smell is strong, Jina's surprised she didn't notice it when she walked into the room. God, she must really be tired. Good thing she doesn't have to go to work today, she'd definitely be a shambling wreck.
"Someone has to be," Lena quips almost automatically, flashing a quick smile. A friendly ritual, almost. She sounds like she's about to say something else but when Jina glances back, Lena's back to reading the magazine. Almost absentmindedly she tucks a lock of her hair behind her ear, playing with it idly.
Shrugging to herself, Jina slides the pot out and opens a cabinet to find herself a cup. She chooses one Brian gave her, something he won at one of those cheesy boardwalk stands. It'll probably crack before too long, but then she can always try to convince him to get her a better one. It has a seagull and an oddly yellow sun garishly splashed on the side. Jina reminds herself that it's the thought that counts. The coffee smells strong and bitter as she pours it. Just inhaling it is waking her up. She never saw herself as someone who would wind up dependent on coffee, but she has to admit, if it's a bad habit it's one she can live with.
"Hey, there's plenty here," she calls over to Lena, "did you get some for yourself?"
"Hm . . .?" Lena answers, momentarily distracted. "Oh, yeah, I had some already, thanks."
"Oh," Jina responds. "Want anymore then?" she holds the pot up, feeling like one of those showgirls trapped in an endless informercial. Our coffee will not only give you energy to burn but will make your teeth whiter and give your hair that all important bounce!
"No, I'm good," Lena replies without even glancing up from her reading. Another page flips.
"Okay then," Jina murmurs to herself, replacing the pot where she found it. She leans against the counter and tests the coffee. Mm. Decently warm, but not scalding. Lena may not be talkative but she can make coffee. Actually Jina's a bit worried the way the morning is going so far. This isn't like them. Granted, the two of them aren't wired up chatterboxes in the morning but generally their conversations are more lively than this. At least they're both speaking in sentences today, two days ago it was caveman grunts. After twenty minutes of "Mmhm" and "Uh-huh" Jina wanted to throw something heavy at Lena, just to hear something different.
But then she always remembers why Lena might not be so talkative and instantly begins to berate herself for not being more supportive. Same damn pattern almost every morning. The party's been relegated to the "recent past" file but it's lingering like radioactivity. In the dark you can see their bones, skeletal markers. The night can see right through you. But Jina is at a loss for what to do. Lena's barely brought up the party since she got out of the hospital and Jina is afraid to ask her anything about it, unsure of what her friend remembers clearly. If there's any justice she hopefully will remember everything but what Carl did . . . but Jina's not so sure. Because maybe Lena wants to talk but feels awkward about bringing it up with Jina. But she should know. They're supposed to be there for each other. That's the whole point of friendship, right? To prop each other up when all you want to do is sit down and cry. But Lena isn't even crying, she's not doing anything at all. Or if she is, she's not doing it around Jina. If Lena would just have an outburst or something, start screaming, at least that would be something to work with, at least they could start talking about it.
Dammit. Jina hates not knowing what to do. Especially here, in this case. Because she prides herself on being a good friend and yet she might as well not be here at all. It's damn frustration. The cup starts to burn her fingers and Jina has to set it down, rubbing her hands together to cure the tingling erupting there from the sudden heat.
Lena hasn't said anything at all. Jina steals a glance at her, picking the mug up gingerly and taking a sip from it. Steam bends her vision. Lena's staring at some gaudy layout, all bright colors and vacant, endlessly smiling people but she's not seeing it. Her eyes aren't focused, Lena's staring at a spot so far past the magazine that it might as well be inward. Her mouth is drawn ever so slightly in a tight line, and a muscle keeps throbbing in her jaw. Her hands seem to be clutching the pages awfully hard, Jina can see them crinkling under her touch.
Say something! Jina wants to scream at her. Put the goddamn magazine down and say something! But that works both ways too and Jina is stricken with the same acute speechlessness. So nothing gets said. Nothing gets done. Just watching each other through sideways glances, secretly resenting the other for not taking the first step to open the windows and vacuum out the fog from the air.
Jina could stare at her friend for hours and it won't tell her a damn thing. Whatever Lena is thinking, she has locked up tight in her head and Jina's lost the keys. Lost the hidden decoder that pulls the nonsense letters out and makes it all readable. Damn. This tells her nothing.
Taking another sip of coffee to hide her frustration, Jina paces across the room, heading for the windows on the other side. Her knee nearly bumps the coffee table, where Lena's foot is resting, balanced on the edge. Near her sneaker is a mug of coffee, a plain white one with her name and a galloping horse forever frozen in place featured on it. A gift from her parents, probably. Or some relative. Jina can see that the cup is mostly full and the coffee has that limp texture that cooled off drinks can get. No wonder she didn't want another.
Morning light is wafting through the gauzy curtains on the windows. Those curtains are drawn now, giving the outside world a hazy bright yellow quality, half seen houses glimpsed through a pastel lens. Jina uses one hand to push the curtain aside, while the other lifts the cup to her lips. That's talent right there. The fabric drifts away from the window, revealing a brightness that causes Jina to blink and glance away, spots flaring before her eyes.
"Oh . . ." she exclaims, pushing the curtain away to give her a better view, almost stepping behind and letting the curtain drape over her. "It's snowing . . ."
And it is. Coming down like a salt shaker barrage, flakes dance madly in the air, switching partners a dozen times before lazily taking their place with their comrades. Jina stares into the reflected maelstrom, squinting and trying to see how much it's snowed. Splatters of snow hit the window, white flakes spreading into clear Rorschach blots of water. In the air, each one is different but when they hit the ground, they join the breadline to form a unified front. The roads look fairly clear, the blacktop pavement glistening wetly but the plows must have came through already. Oh yeah, they must have, there's snow piled all around her car. She'll be digging that out later. Figures.
Still it's with a sense of wonder she marvels at the weather. The sidewalks are pristine white, not even any footprints to mar its smooth surface. The trees are frozen, bare branches shining as the sun strikes their burden of crystals, limbs bent as their winter weight settles in. The snowfall seems endless, coming steadily but not heavily. A few inches, at most, at the rate it's going. Jina likes snow, but from the inside, watching it in the warmth of her climate controlled living room, having her morning coffee and just observing. It really is beautiful, she thinks. When she was a kid she used to near pull her back out trying to see where it all came from. She'd stare up into the sky, trying to find the cloud that must have been the source of all this snow. But it eluded her each time and all she got for her efforts was a dizzying vision of a meteorological anarchy set against a monotone grey sky and a faceful of wet snow. Before she would lose her balance and fall backwards and get the rest of her body soaked.
Years later she'd discover just where snow came from and how it was formed but none of the explanations really ever captured the magic she's seeing now. The window is piercingly cold under her fingertips, and she's glad she's not outside at the moment. It's pretty but no doubt it's bitter.
Still, this is no fun by herself. Time to get a friend into the act. If she can. "Hey, did you know it was snowing out here . . ." Jina asks, leaning one shoulder against the window as she turns to face the back of her friend's head. The joint almost instantly goes numb. God, it must be freezing out there.
"What . . . really?" Lena asks, throwing her arm around the back of the couch. "I didn't even look out the window when I got up . . ." the edge of her mouth twitches up in barely disguised amusement. "How bad is that?" Her voice is quiet, almost inverted but the spark that's been submerged the last few days, as if afraid to show its face, finally pokes through. Just for a second. But that's enough. To know that it's still there.
"That's bad, Lena," Jina responds, clicking her tongue and shaking her head in an exaggerated fashion. "I don't know what we're going to do with you."
"I don't know either," Lena admits, giving a dismissive shrug. You can almost hear the deadened tone taking back over. Jina turns away just in time to avoid seeing the tiny light in her eyes blink out again. They're not even making eye contact anymore, Lena's glanced down at the floor and looks ready to go back to her magazine.
"You should see this . . ." Jina implores, shooting over words out over the dark and empty spaces separating them. The steam draining into her face is making her eyes tear. At least she keeps telling herself that's what's causing it. But she keeps her voice cheerful. That's right, follow the same tactics, don't pretend anything is wrong, use your life as a cloaked metaphor and hope the other person will understand. But we never tell each other the code, and so we're reduced to blind guessing, interpreting body language where the tense conjugations vary with the person, trying to find the core when everything else is just coarse dialect. Variations on a theme but everyone has forgotten what they're varying from. What was wrong with the theme to begin with? Just our contrary desire to screw up everything and anything, no matter how well it works, no matter how much it helps us. Now we stare at each other and don't know what we're saying, what we're thinking. The tower has fallen and we're trapped in the rubble, babbling our nonsense and wondering why nobody understands.
"A little later . . ." Lena mutters, head already buried in her useless magazine. There's nothing real there. Jina wants to scream at her. It's just fake flashbulb people, paper dolls stitched onto shiny paper, as substantial as the pulp they've been smashed onto. It's not an escape because you're not going anywhere.
"But it looks like it's going to stop soon . . ." Jina objects, throwing the right amount of impish mischievousness into her voice. But the undercurrents are terrible, there's a riptide that will tear that surface away. Keep control.
"I doubt that," Lena notes, almost flatly.
"Come on, it really is nice . . ."
"Don't you have to go back to bed or something?" Lena asks, sarcastically, an irritated shiver coursing through her head for a second. The snap of a page flipping angrily cracks the air in the room. "Or get dressed?"
"You're just trying to get rid of me," Jina points out.
"Hm . . . you're catching on," Lena replies, with a streak of nastiness there that's very much unlike her. Jina feels a flash of anger but reminds herself that it's not Lena's fault. Maybe she really doesn't want to talk, maybe she's not ready yet. Or perhaps she wants to talk to someone else.
Turning back to the window, she watches the popcorn drift of the snow falling endlessly downward. Silent. Peaceful. The world's just one of those globes with the white confetti inside. You shake it up and the crap just flies about. Get all over everything.
"Fine then," Jina pouts, taking a long sip of her coffee as if in revenge, "don't come see it. Here I am, trying to show you the wonders of nature . . ."
"I said I'd look," Lena protests, her voice stumbling at the intersection between frustration and laughter. "Just not now, okay? Later."
"I remember . . ." Jina muses, giving no sign she heard Lena, her voice faraway, speaking strictly to herself, "when we first met . . . you'd never seen a real snowflake, didn't even know what snow was . . ."
"Come on," Lena sniffs, a bit exasperated. She twists on the couch again, fixing Jina with a spirited glare. "I wasn't that bad."
"And we'd all conspire to get you outside when it was snowing . . . remember that, Lena, you'd just stand there without even moving, that's how much of an effect it had on you . . ."
"Hey, that never happened . . ." Lena rotates herself even farther, like she's going to try to reach out and restrain Jina from there.
"But now . . . now, you're so used to snow that you can't even bother sparing it a second glance . . ." Jina takes another sip from the mug, wincing a little as she drinks it too quickly, "you've finally adapted . . . I'm so proud, but still . . ." and her voices waxes wistful, "sometimes I just miss the old days-"
"Oh God, just shut up!" Lena laughs, mockingly covering her ears for a second. There's a swatted paper sound as the magazine is tossed aside. Lena's up a second later, stalking toward Jina. For a second she fears she's pushed her friend too far and Lena is coming to toss her out the window.
"You want me to take a look outside . . . fine, I'll do anything if it'll keep you quiet . . ." Lena fumes, nearly hitting the window she's moving so far. One hand smacks the curtain out of the way and suddenly it's like they're both trapped under a gauzy tent.
"Now was that so hard?" Jina asks, smiling angelically. Lena looks about ready to hit her, though her eyes flicker back to the window a second later.
"Quiet you," she fires back offhandedly. "Geez, it's coming down pretty good, isn't it?" Lena observes, her fingernails tapping the glass in rhymthic time.
Now that she's got her here, Jina isn't sure what to do next. Unfortunately her plans didn't spring that far ahead. Perhaps she was stupidly hoping that the sight of the snow taken in together would bring about some epiphany of emotions. But it doesn't work that way. Still, she got Lena over here. Snapped her briefly out of her stalled temperament. It has to mean something. Even the little steps have to carry along some meaning.
"Yeah, it is," Jina replies. Oh this is a lot better, from talking about nothing at all to debating the weather. Heart to heart conversations can only naturally progress from there. God, this is the best she could think of? The smell of coffee injects itself into her nostrils again and a sudden thought occurs to her. Before she can stop herself, she's saying, "The road's look fairly clear though . . . that reminds me, do we have any milk?" Even better, they'll discuss food shopping. Jina can't even speak of how many deep thoughts have sprang from those weighty matters. How many times she's cried from a particularly poetic turn of phrase borne of going over the receipts.
"Half a quart, I think," Lena murmurs, still staring out the window. Her eyes are half closed and Jina can see the driving static of the snowfall reflected in those eyes.
"Guess we'll have to get some later," Jina mutters, still unable to believe that they're discussing this. Of all times. God, and to think she's been told she's good with people. Bull.
"Yeah, I guess . . ." comes the faded reply. Lena seems to give a sigh and something appears to press down on her shoulders. She leans toward the window, as if trying to find a person in the swirling weather, her forehead almost touching the glass.
Nobody says anything for a while. But nobody moves either.
"It really is pretty, isn't it?" Lena ventures quietly, almost in stark wonderment. The silent spectacle forges on, suddenly shifting direction, twisting with the whim of the invisible wind.
"Mm . . ." Jina agrees, simply holding her cup in both hands, letting it warm her. None of it penetrates beyond her arms. Now she's the one without anything to say. But she feels nervous, like she should say something and this might be the moment to do so and all she's doing is letting it pass her right by.
Suddenly Lena seems to give a sort of half snorted laugh, almost all air and leans her head on the glass, closing her eyes lightly. Best way to get rid of a fever. Let the cold seep right into your brain and freeze the whole works. Won't feel a goddamn thing then. The sound of her exhaling seems to linger longer than it should.
To Jina it sounds like something else entirely. Reaching an arm out to gently brush her friend's shoulder, she whispers, "Hey . . . you okay?"
"I . . . yeah . . ." Lena replies, pressing a hand to the glass, fingertips going white with pressure, almost peeling herself from the window. Her eyes are still closed. "I was just . . . thinking. That's all. Just thinking."
"Oh," is all Jina says at first. Then, after a pause, "Anything you want to talk about?"
"No, no, nothing," Lena says quickly, "just . . . stupid stuff. Just . . ." with a sigh she presses her fingers to her nose, squeezing it between her two hands, her eyelids almost curling inward she's closing them so tightly. "Stupid."
Seeing her like this almost makes Jina want to cry. But then they'd both start and nothing would get accomplished, the two of them just standing there sobbing. It's not a release, it just bricks the wall up tighter. Until you can't see the day anymore.
"I doubt it's stupid," Jina insists.
"No. It is," Lena argues, her voice level and slightly drained, letting her hands drop to somewhere around her waist, turning around and putting her back against the window. First up against the wall. Her eyes regard the room without seeming to know where she is. Like they're fighting gravity, her lips twitch a fraction upward. "It really is."
Jina's not convinced. Perhaps she's just dense. "Lena, seriously, are you okay?" Lena's not looking at her but Jina tries to stare her down anyway, like she's trying to mentally force the honesty.
"I . . ." Lena draws a hand across her forehead, letting it rest of the opposite shoulder. Glancing down, she murmurs as strong as she's able, "Yeah, I will be. Eventually."
"I meant now."
"Now?" Lena screws her face up in concentration, like she's polling her body. That's how all the big decisions are made, you know. Because if one person knows best, than everyone together must be able to find the right idea somewhere. "I'm . . . okay." There's blistering honesty there, one foot balanced on the knife edge, trying not to get cut. "Not great," and she smiles a little. "But I'll get better. Really."
"I know you will," Jina tells her quietly, touching her on the shoulder again. "But you don't have to do it alone. You know that right?" It's so obvious and so cloying and so cliche but dammit there's no other way to say it. And maybe it's not eloquence and maybe it's not the most original thing to say. But saying you care sometimes doesn't need any kind of flowery verbiage. Sometimes it's best to just come right out and say it. Even if you don't think it'll make any difference. Because sometimes it does. It does.
"Tired of me moping around already?" Lena asks, a thin smile spreading over her face, her voice strangely thick. Her expression seems pinched, like she's got a headache. Like something is trying to escape.
"What I can say," Jina laughs, "I like you better cheerful."
"Yeah, so do I," is her quiet response.
And without another word, Lena suddenly reaches over and catches Jina in a tight hug. Surprised, but at the same time expecting it, Jina returns the gesture. She had been about to do the same thing, like the air is alive with taut signals, wordless gestures.
Neither of the two friends say anything for a long time. Lena's breath seems to rattle all around her, like she's going through the motions of crying without indulging in the physical act. Jina's trying hard not to cry either but the emotions are like tidal waves soaring off her, you get hit with the aftershock and it's hard not to be moved. God, Lena feels so damn bony, all angles and edges, like she hasn't eaten. Not much to insulate her from the outside world, she feels every bit. Every bite. Jina wants to somehow let her know that everything is going to be all right, someone squeeze the sentiment into her. But there's no way. Even Jina's not sure herself. And that's not way to convey anything.
So, in the end, all they do is hold each other.
Eventually the embrace ends, the two of them face each other, the silence still stretching out, pulled almost to breaking. Lena is rubbing at the bottom of her eye, like dust got caught in there and it's trying to escape her probing finger. She might sniff again but Jina can't tell, it passes too swiftly.
"Thanks," Lena says after a moment. The word might as well be a rifled gunshot in the strung out stillness. The sincerity is almost too painful to bear.
"Any time . . ." is all Jina finds the energy to say. This is virgin territory for both of them, nothing ever prepares you. When they became friends, the unspoken pact was to be there through guys and breakups and classes and all the things that hammer at your life, trying to beat your sculpted surface into more pleasure shape. Alone, we're too soft. You need someone to hold down the scaffolding. The two of them have been plumbing emotional depths that nobody wanted to admit they had. Even these little gestures mean more than a month of crying together over the ending to a sad movie, or breathlessly exchanging gossip or moaning about how the latest boyfriend never remembers to return your calls. Those are life, real life, but what Lena went through, what Jina is going through with her now, is the part of life that nobody tells you about and nobody wants to talk about. The ungainly leper that was sent away long ago. When it shows its face you don't know whether to call it friend or foe. But if you're not careful it'll devour you inside.
Lena fiddles with her hair for a second, pulling the strands into a tiny ponytail and then releasing the captured fibers. Not directly looking at Jina, she says, "We should probably hit the store today."
"Oh I can go, if you don't want to-"
"No, I'll go. I need to get out," and she gives a self conscious smirk as she says so. "Might as well be doing something mundane and boring."
Jina makes a face. "I don't think I'd want to think about what would entail an exciting shopping trip."
"You have to make your own excitement," Lena replies, her voice still a bit toneless, distant. Her head isn't here, she's thinking about something else.
"Oh. Well, I'd rather not, if that's all right with you." Jina smiles sideways at her friend, stepping from behind the curtain, letting it fall back. For a second Lena's a loosely bandaged mummy, then she throws the curtain aside and steps through before it flutters back into place. There's a glimpse of another scattered white curtain fluttering about outside before the fabric covers it all with its translucent haze. "We can go together though, did you want to go right this second?" Jina's praying for a negative. This is probably their only chance to get out and Jina's damned if she's going to get cabin fever trapped in here all day.
"Um, no, I guess not. No." Lena blinks, as if briefly confused. Jina wonders for a second if Lena had other plans. She studies her friend's face for a second but can't find anything to indicate that. Then her eyes clear and Lena says, "Yeah, what the hell." Her eyes flick toward Jina, smoothly travelling up and down. "Though you might want to make yourself more presentable . . ."
Jina plucks at her night clothing, raising an eyebrow at her friend. "What, now I have to dress up to be seen in public with you? Is that it?"
Lena shares a wicked grin. Still, it doesn't completely touch her eyes. She's not all here. "Low standards are still standards."
"Smartass." But Jina's already moving, heading back into the bedroom. Lena watches her go, already in motion herself, heading back to the couch. Stepping into the bedroom and closing the door behind her with a practiced sweep of her foot, Jina shouts through the door, "Should I make this a rush job or am I allowed to at least take a second to match?"
"Try and take a little less than forever this time . . ." comes the slightly muffled reply. Through the door it's hard to tell if that's exactly what Lena said. Probably close enough. Jina flicks the light on, picking out some clothes, casting a critical eye over them to make sure they meet the standards of her discerning eye. She'll have to do laundry soon as well, the damn party screwed up all their timetables.
Still, Jina muses as she gets dressed, it wasn't a bad night. More or less they survived. More or less. She's sorry that had to happen, how it had to nearly obscure the riches of the party for all of them. But they got through it. Lena had the worst of it and even she's getting better already. That's comforting, Jina really hated to see her friend hurting like that, sitting and staring at nothing for an hour or more, barely articulating her simple thoughts with anything more than a grunt or half formed murmur. Today was the first day they joked with each other, insulted each other and grinned like a bunch of fools while doing it. Almost like old times. No, just like old times. And nothing like old times. Because those are gone and each day is something new. Someone used to tell Jina that, or maybe she read it somewhere. She can almost imagine a voice saying it to her though. Nothing's ever the same. No matter what you do, every day shifts the whole picture. And it's up to you and everyone to put it back together, reshape it to your liking.
That's what they did, Jina thinks. The night tried to scatter them all, split them into pockets of nothing, meaningless friendships, but nobody fell for it. In their own way, they found a way to conquer it. To overcome. Hell, she even talked to Will a few days ago, tried to explain as best she could what happened. He called her but when she finally hung up after what seemed like hours later, there was a growing feeling of contentment inside of her. Nobody wants to stay mad at anyone. Not forever. Not when time's so short. Joe taught her that, Jina reflects, scraping a brush through her hair in a mirror. Even when you have all the time in the world, there's still no time at all. Even eternity has limits.
She wonders how Tristian is. The man had taken all of it the hardest, another burden shovelled onto him, coupled with the already immense weight he was carrying around. A few nights ago Jina stared into the face of what Tristian must see every second of every day and realized that all of them had it wrong, it was more than just the weird people in his life and the fancy sword and all the other strangeness. None of them could stumble through what he faced every day, what she saw was the definition of his entire life. From the beginning, he was born for it. Raised for it, even. And maybe that was too simple a way of looking at it, but Jina can't help but see it that way. Tristian had twenty some odd years to get prepared for it and it still wears on him like a lead turtle shell, the house you carry but can't live in. If it had dropped on any of them, standing upright would be the least of their worries. Jina just shudders a little thinking about those eyes. Even beyond alien. At least alien minds she would hope you had a prayer of understanding. Not this. Not what she saw. And frankly, it's a walking enigma Jina would rather let Tristian try and penetrate, if even at all. There are some things that just shouldn't be known.
Lena's been quiet in the other room and Jina's been so engrossed in her thoughts and the act of getting ready that she's almost forgotten what she was getting ready for. Damn, how long has she taken. She can imagine Lena either pacing around or simply sitting, tapping her foot against the table impatiently, staring off into space. Jina remembers finding her that way before they left for the party. What was she thinking about then? Did she expect anything that happened that night? Did any of them? Probably not and while that made the bad worse, Jina likes to think it made the good even better.
A sudden thought occurs to her, her musings reminding Jina of something that she's been meaning to ask for the last few days but wasn't sure when the right time would be. The morning's been off to such a good start that she can't resist any longer. Lena'll probably get a laugh out of it. Stepping into her sneakers, hopping on one foot and fixing them in mid step, Jina says through the door, hoping her voice carries, "Hey, Lena, you never told me . . . and I think it's time to spill . . ." grunting as she finally forces the stubborn footwear around her heel, bracing a hand on the door as she does so. There's movement in the next room, a shuffling sort of sound. With her luck Lena's coming to hold the door shut. Girl has a weird sense of humor sometimes.
The shuffling gets louder, then abruptly stops.
A soft click is heard.
"You never told me what the hell happened between you and . . ."
Followed by the fledgling echo of another, almost equally quiet click.
". . . Tristian?" Jina finishes as she opens the door. The room is very quiet, the air is glass. Somewhere she thinks she hears footsteps, descending, rapidly fading. Like snow dripping off a sunlit roof. Taking a step out of the room, her sneakers causing the floor to create muffled creaks in protest, Jina takes a quick look around. There's no one she can see. Nearby the closet door is open. Jina doesn't have to look to see what's missing.
"Lena?" she asks, raising her voice a little, casting out a net to catch her, using questions as hooks, for the purpose of entrapment.
And if her friend was here, Jina's ensnaring tone would halt her almost in mid-step. Yet, unsurprisingly, it has no effect.
Because Lena's not here.
The apartment suddenly reeks of empty presence.