Prologue - Julia
My roommate was unusually quiet that day, which was odd. It was Wednesday, and Charlie and I had just shared the largest jug of homemade cocktails she had ever made.
She and I had had a long-standing agreement for what happened after the weekly visit to the gym. We would sit ourselves up, sore and consistently exhausted, grab some margarita mix, a blender, a pinch of chili, her bag of special ingredients that no one was ever allowed to discover the secret behind, and a box of crushed ice.
The cold floors would excite our bare toes as we would gossip and whisper, in hushed tones, about the strangest things to have happened to both of us during the preceding week.
That day the topic had been boys.
‘Did you call him?’
‘No,’ I shrugged. The glass in my hands was numbing my fingers, so I set it down on the floor beside my knee. ‘He should call me first.’
‘Here we go, on and on again with your ego and pride.’
She sat flat on her bottom and crossed her ankles over each other and dunked a chunk of chocolate cookie into her tumbler. She sucked on a piece of it and went on.
‘Some day you will be that lady down the corner with a load of gerbils for pets.’
I pinched my nose up and smirked.
‘No way. They would know me as that lady with the doves.’
‘That doesn’t change the fact that you didn’t call the third man asking you out on a date and giving you his number in a month.’
‘If they wanted to badly enough, they would call me.’
‘I bet you told them about your scar.’
‘I did not!’ It felt necessary to get defensive. ‘Who gets that intimate on the first date?’
Charlie rolled her eyes and pushed her bra’s left cup to the side.
‘You do. You are such a sucker for the romantic. Maybe that’s why they don’t call back. You scare them off.’
I threw down a block of ice and bit it. It cracked at the top, then slowly, as I licked around it with my tongue, it melted sweetly down my throat.
‘I’m gonna be in my room. You should take your time to reflect upon the strength of your bra cups.’
‘Or I could just get my wand out and get freaky right here.’
‘Gross,’ I laughed, as I went to my room. ‘Do that on your own time. In your room. Or at Cedric’s.’
I could hear her scoff from my bedroom door.
‘If he ever did see me doing that, I would have so much explaining to do.’
‘Then just don’t,’ I shouted over the blast of music from my speakers. I turned the dial down and leaned against the door. ‘Seriously, don’t. You can thank me later.’
I shut myself in and fell into the brown bean bag in the corner of my room. My mind was in a state of disarray, and I was worried.
It had been three months with no response from all the resumes I had sent out. Three months with no work. Making money as a temp was ideal when I landed headfirst in the middle of New York. The flair and flamboyance of the city lights and the simmering street food made a maudlin life feel exceptional.
It took me some time, but I got there. The lights faded and reality set in. Making less than minimum wage while stuck in a basement office was not good for me. I had saved up.
The well was still drying up, though. I chose dog walking as a thin, emaciated weekend cash cow. It kept some of the lights on, at least.
My phone blinked. I picked it up and scrolled once.
It was an email. I went through it and ran fast, on my knees first, then up on my feet. I burst through my door and ran to my red-faced and sweaty-cheeked roommate.
‘Charlotte, I got the job!’
‘Congratulations,’ she said, deflated.
I saw the object behind her back and winced. The blanket was covering her lap.
‘Oh, gosh, I am so sorry.’
‘No, it’s fine.’
‘If I knew, then I would have...’
‘It’s okay, Julia. Please. Just… I’ll be out in a minute, okay?’
I leaned against the wall and laughed heavily. I felt my ribs. I heard my bones crack. I was happy.
The job of a lifetime had just come to me, right when I needed it. Julia Cast was going to be the next best thing!
I briskly walked away after the sound of overworking batteries behind her door hit my ears.
It was April, I can best think, when I walked through those doors for the seventh time. Charlie had dressed me up, well, overdressed was more like it, for my fifth day on the job. The pink and white-hemmed skirt hugged my toned thighs.
There was a soft touch to the cotton blouse I wore; it had just the right amount of cut under my collarbone to be decent and subtly sexy.