Jill wrote in the cafe down the street from her apartment. She shoved her curly red hair underneath an old hoodie and listened to the new Beck album through old headphones. She stared at the screen of her laptop, her chin resting in her right hand. Her left hand rested on her bicep. She picked out a sentence on her keyboard with her index fingers and then immediately erased it. She rested her chin back in her hand and stared at the blinking cursor on the blank page. The blinking slowed down.
Jill didn’t register anyone saying her name. She stared harder and watched the pixels turn on and off, bright white, and then completely dark.
“Jill.” She spoke louder but less confidently and walked closer to the table. She bent sideways at the waist, trying to make eye contact over the screen, and gave a half-hearted wave.
Jill startled awake. Her eyes took a second to focus and then took another second to register who said her name. She dropped her hands into her lap and pulled them inside her sleeves. She played with the stitching with her fingertips.
“Jill, I thought that was you. Oh my god, how are you doing?”
Beth stood tall in front of Jill’s table. She nodded and smiled big and toothy, showing off her gap. She wiped her long black hair behind her ear and extended her arms out.
“Beth. What are you doing here?” Jill stood up slowly as if any quick movement might scare her off. Slowly she slipped in between her open arms and nuzzled into her shoulder. It felt familiar and comfortable. It felt like a memory of a dream she had early in the night. It felt like she had never left Beth’s arms.
Snapping back to the present, Jill stiffened and stood up in the hug and then pulled away completely. She became embarrassed by her familiarity, stepping back and forth between her feet. She wrung her hands over her wrists and looked down at the table.
“I just moved around the corner from here. Thought I would check out the neighborhood. Oh my god.” Beth cocked her head sideways. “How long has it been? Almost 15 years since high school? What are you doing? How are you?”
“You just moved here? I live down the street.” Jill turned and pointed. Her sleave extended in a triangle towards the wall. She turned her head back, a curl fell out of her hood, and she stuffed it back in with her left hand.
“Oh, my god were neighbors. You should show me around. You have to tell me everything about yourself. Mind if I sit?” Beth pulled out the chair and sat down before Jill could react.
“Of course,” Jill said, extending her hands towards the chair as if she were going to help. She shuffled her feet and pulled out her own chair. Sitting with her knees pressed together, she crossed her arms and sat forward, making herself smaller.
Beth was already on another topic. “Are you still writing? I always loved your writing, so vivid so lively so full. I bet my mother still has a copy of that collection.”
“Oh...that was just something for high schoolers...nothing really.”
“What are you writing now? I saw you were published in some magazine recently. I didn’t read it yet, because, you know, who has the time. I’ve just been so busy with work and everything. I’ve been helping this one family get money from this chemical company. Awful stuff. The father was burned.” Beth pointed her fingers at her face and gestured down to her sides. “But the company is saying he wasn’t working at the time.”
Jill closed her laptop, leaving the blank screen for later. They talked for hours, reminiscing about high school, catching up on each other’s lives. They drank their coffee and bought some more. Slowly Jill began to open up, sitting back in her cair. She rolled her sleeves up to her elbows and pulled back her hood. Beth’s eyes grew imperceptibly larger when her hair sprung out.
Beth finished her coffee and sighed. “I don’t think I can drink any more coffee. I’d never get to sleep.”
Jill looked down, sheepish. “Would you want to...have some wine?” She quickened her pace and said, “There’s a nice little wine bar down the street. They know me pretty well.
Beth fell silent for a moment. She sat back in her chair and crossed her legs, and pursed her lips. “Yes.”
Jill couldn’t sleep with a story running around her head. She quietly slipped out of bed, not to disturb Beth, grabbed her laptop and walked naked into the kitchen. Pouring herself a glass of water from the fridge, she sat down at the table. The wine dried out her mouth and gave her a dull ache behind her right eye. The story poured out of her head faster than her fingers could type.
Beth walked quietly into the light of the kitchen. She leaned onto the table, resting on her elbows, pushing out her breasts. She smiled, trying to catch Jill’s eye. “That was fun. Reminds me of when we were young.” She picked up her hand to cradle her chin and looked up and away with just her eyes.
“Yes, that was fun, but I don’t know if we should keep doing this,” Jill spoke without looking up, continuing to type.
Beth sat up straight and put her hands in her lap. “Oh, yeah, of...of...of course.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so direct,” Jill said, looking up. “It’s just that it was too much like when we were young. I’m a new person, and I just don’t want to go back.”
Beth’s face softened, and she gradually smiled. She stared down at the floor. “You are right.” She nodded aggressively. “You are exactly right. Of course you are. I just…I just get caught up sometimes. You know. I mean of all people, you know.” She looked up to meet Jill’s eye.
“Yeah.” Jill smiled. “Not that we shouldn’t hang out. And not that we can’t do this every once in a while. But I just don’t see it going much further.”
Beth turned her face down and looked up with her eyes. “Let’s go back to bed.” She slowly stood up and turned around. She walked one foot in front of the other, lifting her butt, emphasizing it’s peach shape. She walked into the bedroom, pausing at the door. She held her left hand on the molding and her right foot out resting on her toes. She looked at Jill and smiled. Jill closed her laptop.