Livi was alone in the apartment until she met Anastasia. It was almost love at first sight. In fact, it almost turned into a lesbian thing, but when it came down to it, neither of them was really prepared to go there. In the end, they both chickened out.
It had happened at a party. Livi was alone, as usual, not talking to anyone. Then this girl who kind of looked goth with dark eyeliner and a tattered black widow shirt started a conversation.
Why aren't you talking to anyone here?
Livi shrugged, I'm talking to you, I guess, right?
And that's how simply they'd become friends. They started going everywhere together. Not at first, though. At the beginning, there was still this push-pull thing between them that gave Livi a mini thrill whenever she pictured Anastasia in her mind. And she could feel that the feeling was mutual.
A few weeks later – and that's really how short it took – Livi asked Anastasia to move into the apartment.
Anastasia wasn't sure at first, but Livi pressed her.
Come on, she said, it'll help me with the rent.
Anastasia rolled her eyes, And how's that supposed to work?
It was true. She never paid a penny, and Livi never really asked. It was a sprawling, spacious though decrepit apartment with high ceilings, a massive kitchen, and extra rooms tucked all over the place, and Anastasia fit in there perfectly.
Instead of becoming lesbians, they did girly stuff that neither of them would ever have done alone: Livi because she was too shy, and Anastasia because she was too tough.
Let me braid your hair when it's wet, Anastasia suggested.
Seriously, you hate your straight hair, right? If you braid it wet every day for a month, it's like getting a perm. Better. Natural.
As usual, Anastasia got her way. She did Livi's makeup in a way she would never in a million years have done for herself: straight-up model attractive, alluring.
Livi looked in the mirror whenever Anastasia wasn't around. She liked what she saw.
Livi knew Mark from work, admiring him from afar. He had tats of two snakes coiling down the length of his muscular arm.
The caduceus, he told her one day, when he caught her staring. That was the first time he'd ever really talked to her.
Ca-du-shus, he pronounced slowly, while he watched her watch his mouth. I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger, he explained, as if that explained anything.
Mark asked her out, and she asked Anastasia to join.
I thought this was a date, Anastasia said.
It is but it isn't, Livi explained. Come on, it'll be fun.
For you, maybe.
This time, it was Livi who got her way. Mark didn't seem to mind the extra attention. In the clutch, Livi could never think of enough interesting things to say, and that's where Anastasia saved her every time. So Mark may have minded, but in any case he kept it to himself.
They met in the ladies room, and Anastasia said, You know, he thinks we're giving him a 3-way.
He does not, Livi said, which proves that in certain ways she knew more about what was going on with them than Anastasia did.
He did take her home (Anastasia had promised to disappear, and she did), and he did kiss her, and could have gotten further, probably. But he played the gentleman, which Livi appreciated, and a few weeks later he, too, had moved in. Livi gave him his own room, which he stacked stuff in but otherwise hardly used. They slept together from the first night on.
They weren't supposed to get a dog, but none of them could resist Cap. Short for Capricorn. He was a droopy beagle mutt with soulful eyes that went straight to your heart and made Livi question every day whether she was living right. He never begged for scraps, and that's how he got so many.
Livi would smush his face with her hands and say, You're not really a dog, are you, Cap?
And sometimes, Cap would say, No, not really. But only when Livi was alone with him.
Exeter's parents owned a villa, or an estate, or probably both. Weirdly, Anastasia was the one who brought her home for the first time, saying simply, She's totally not a bitch.
High praise for Anastasia.
They seemed to get along great, and now that Livi had Mark, it was only fair. But who the fuck's parents name their daughter Exeter? It stretched plausibility.
Livi told Anastasia, If she moves in, you watch, she'll have nothing but hatboxes.
Round ones. Octagonal ones. All different sizes and patterns. Just wait.
Seriously, Anastasia said, biting her lip till it bled, I'm so hurt.
Mark walked in and said, You, seriously, don't do that! I'm a doctor, remember? He pulled her lip down and it was actually pouring out blood. You've got scurvy, he diagnosed.
Then Cap walked by and asked, That's not contagious, right?
Shouldn't be, Mark answered. Turning to Anastasia, he added, I'm sure you've heard this before, but go suck a lemon.
You know it. Exeter had already moved in, hatboxes and all, before Livi had time to really question this decision. She had always thought of herself as the prime leaseholder. Now, the changes were happening so fast, it was hard to keep up.
Truthfully, she never disliked Exeter, but she could never find anything to say to her. But this hardly mattered, because when Anastasia wasn't around, Exeter stayed behind a closed door that literally never opened: Sealed shut, this door required her to climb through Anastasia's window, out onto the fire escape, and pull herself precipitously up into the adjoining room.
Isn't that dangerous? Livi had asked Anastasia.
She was a gymnast, Anastasia informed her, and that ended that.
Livi knew for sure that it was all about to fall apart when she brought Douglas home for the first time. By then, she and Mark had both figured out that it had been over between them for a long time, though they still slept in the same bed out of habit and comfort.
You live here alone? Douglas wanted to know.
Un-huh, Livi told him. And then, to partially come back from the lie, added, Well, I have a dog.
Then, adding to the contrivance: In fact, I need to feed him now.
What's his name? Douglas asked.
We call him Cap. She opened a can of food and placed it in a bowl next to the garbage can.
Where is he? Douglas asked.
He'll be here, Livi told him.
A dog that doesn't bark when you come home, Douglas asked, And doesn't come running when you feed him? I'd like to meet this dog.
Don't worry, Livi said. You will. Someday.