Marti blames Savannah. This is clearly her fault. No one else in Cheertown thinks middle school kissing games are fun, or cute, or--especially--innocent. And, okay, watching Dan Patch kiss Darwin had been hilarious, and Marti was never going to stop teasing him about it. But this--this isn't awkwardly pressing their mouths together while everyone watches. Marti has always been convinced that Spin the Bottle is a thing of evil, and now she has proof, because apparently it leads to things like this, this being making out with Alice Verdura in the bathroom while everyone else waits in the common room for Frankie and Lewis to come back from their beer run.
It's an insane thing to be doing, and Marti would stop, honestly she would, if only it didn't feel so good. Every place Alice's fingers touch her skin sparks turns shivery and warm by turns, and Alice's mouth is soft and welcoming and scorchingly hot.
"Shut up," says Alice suddenly, shoving Marti against the tiled wall.
"You're thinking too hard." Alice turns to the mirror and starts patting her hair into place. "That was fun," she adds, in her most deadpan done of voice. "Let's not do it again."
"Yeah," Marti wipes a trace of saliva from the corner of her mouth, feeling suddenly unsure. "This...didn't happen, right?"
"What didn't happen?" says Alice, still sounding totally uninterested. But as she opens the door, she turns and gives Marti a mischievous grin.
Four days later, when Marti is just reaching the point where she'd literally rather tear her hair out than type another sentence of her paper, Alice slips into the room and sits down on Savannah's bed.
"I'm bored," she says.
"Okay," says Marti. "Sucks for you. Can you be bored somewhere else?"
"I think we should have sex," says Alice.
Marti looks at her for a minute and closes her laptop with a decisive click. "Hell yes," she says.
It's entirely Savannah's fault that Marti is sitting here trying to appear sympathetic while Vanessa glares across her to Alice, who is trying to stifle hysterical laughter. Two of the girls trying out are in tears, and yeah, they weren't good, but going into a fit of giggles at the sight of their routine is the meanest thing Marti has ever seen Alice do, and she's seen Alice do a lot of mean things.
Marti didn't think anything could tear Savannah from tryouts, but she's gone with her family to a funeral in Arizona--Savannah hasn't said, but Marti is pretty sure her mother held some kind of threat over her to make her go.
Even with Savannah gone, Marti is not the obvious person to take her place. She'd said as much to Vanessa, but apparently Savannah gets to do pretty much what she wants, including appointing her roommate as her stand in. "I trust your judgement," she'd said, solemnly, “and also you owe me.” And there was nothing Marti could say to that, because obviously she really, really did. Then Savannah had written "insight" on Marti's left forearm and "decision" on the right, which made Marti feel like she should be posing with the scales of justice or something.
Marti isn't sure what she thinks Savannah could do, if she were here. Create a positive atmosphere or something. Really, just sitting at this table so Marti doesn't have to would be enough.
Marti kicks Alice in the ankle, hard, and Alice stops laughing.
"Great," says Marti. "Thank you, that was great. Next!"
The girls go back to the bleachers, and Vanessa gives Marti a thankful look. Alice, not so much.
"Liar," Alice says out of the corner of her mouth as they watch the next girl get ready.
"Bitch," says Marti.
Alice gives her a cool, assessing look, and is on her best behavior for the rest of the morning. Marti doesn't know what to make of it, not when Vanessa thanks her earnestly for her help afterwards, and not when Alice drags her into the janitor's closet to make out just as Marti is getting ready to leave.
Marti’s stress level is pretty high these days, so she’s been avoiding sharing any small enclosed spaces with Alice, but thanks to Savannah, that's exactly where she's been all afternoon. Or, you know, for about half an hour.
Marti's law school applications are kind of freaking her out, and she wants to be in her room, where it's quiet and comfortable, but just after lunch Savannah had come in with Charlotte and said, "Sorry, roomie. Out." And when Marti had pouted and tried to imitate Savannah's favorite puppy dog expression, Savannah had literally pushed her out of their room and down the hall into Alice's.
"What's she doing here?" said Alice, with a dark look.
"Yeah," said Marti. "What am I doing here?"
"You," said Savannah, pointing, "are working on your applications and keeping an eye on Alice so she doesn't procrastinate. You," she said, turning to Alice, "are working on your resume and being quiet so Marti can concentrate. Got it?"
"Yes, Savannah," Marti and Alice said in unison.
They both go quietly back to their work, but Marti can’t concentrate. She keeps thinking about the last time they had sex, and the way Alice had pressed Marti’s hips against the wall while she went down on her, hard enough to keep her still, and hard enough to leave bruises in the shape of her thumbs.
“So, law school,” says Alice.
Marti looks at her. Alice is frequently really, really mean, and a horrible person to be around, but she’s not stupid.
“The same ones every pre-law student in the country wants to get into,” Marti says. “Harvard. Cornell. Columbia.”
“And you think you’re going to get into one of those?” Alice sounds doubtful, but, surprisingly, not snide.
“Probably not,” says Marti. “Hey, do you need help with your resume or anything?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” says Alice.
“It is a tiny, meaningless bump on the road to my glamorous post-college lifestyle.”
“Fine,” says Marti. “I don’t care. I just hope,” she adds, “that you’re going to confine your glamorous post-college lifestyle to, like, the West Coast.”
But it's not long after the raucous, booze-soaked party in celebration of Marti's admittance to Columbia that Alice announces that she's going to be moving to New York, too.
Their moving in together was all Savannah's fault. She was the one who said, "Marti was just saying how hard it was to find a place to live in New York. You guys should totally share!" Alice had been horrified, and so had Marti, despite the obvious economic advantages, but somehow they had ended the conversation by hashing out rental agreements and agreeing with Savannah that yes, roommate contracts are useful for everyone, not just college students.
If only, Marti thinks, they could delegate the decorating to her, too.
"I'm paying more of the rent than you are," says Alice from where she's sprawled across a beige suede sofa.
Marti stares at her. "You're kidding, right? You're not paying any rent at all."
"Well, my dad is paying more rent than you are," Alice amends, comfortably.
"I am the only person paying rent here," says Marti. "But that's not my point."
"You have a point?"
"Of course I have a point."
"You never have a point, as far as I can tell," says Alice, yawning. "Hey, you should try out this couch. It's really comfortable."
"And also beige," says Marti. "Which was my point. I refuse to live in an apartment where everything is beige."
"I know," says Alice, smirking. "You’re hoping for, like, ripped leather and peeling paint, right? But my apartment needs to be classy.”
"Beige isn't classy," says Marti. "Beige is boring. Also," she adds, "really difficult to keep clean."
"Huh," says Alice. She caresses the surface of a sofa cushion wistfully. She looks at Marti, calculating. "I would waive your--well, some of your rent," she amends, "If you wanted to keep the apartment clean all the time."
"I hate you," says Marti. "Also, no. Why don't you use some of the money you're not spending on rent on a cleaning service?"
“You really wouldn’t clean up after me?” asks Alice. “What if I just didn’t clean up after myself, like, ever?”
“I’d report you to the DOB,” says Marti. “Come on. Let’s go look at some furniture I might actually let you buy.”
Being sick is miserable, but at least Marti can blame Savannah for it. Her snotty little brat, as Marti and Alice called it behind her back, had been cute enough that they hadn't really minded the visit, but snotty had definitely been the operative word, and apparently that wasn't its normal baby state so much as a harbinger of flu-like doom.
"I want to die," Marti moans. "Alice, I want to die."
"I heard you the first time," says Alice, coming back into the bedroom.
Marti pokes her head out from under the covers.
"You look like shit," says Alice impassively. she pulls a corset and a translucent white blouse out of the closet--she's trying to trap her boss into a sexual harassment suit, and Marti is half-convinced that it's going to work. "I'll call in sick for you."
"Thanks," says Marti, blearily.
"Don't thank me," says Alice. "I'm stealing your new coat."
"As long as I get to die in peace," says Marti. She retreats back under the covers.
When Marti wakes up again, it’s to the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the windows and onto the bed, and to the feeling that something small and furry has died in her throat. And also to Alice standing by the side of the bed with a wooden expression and a bowl.
"I brought chicken soup," she says, her tone warning Marti not to comment.
"Thanks," says Marti carefully. Her voice comes out as a croak.
"Oh, for--" Alice breaks off, and grabs a several inch thick copy of Vogue from her bedside table. She lays it across Marti's lap like a tray, and rests the bowl on it.
"Apparently everyone in New York is Jewish, or, like, an honorary Jew," she says, "so they think chicken soup cures everything. But in my family, everyone always said that the most important thing was to get as many chilies into you as possible. So," she says, producing a bottle of hot sauce and squirting far, far too much of it into the soup, "I thought we'd try both."
Marti looks at the soup. “You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?” she croaks.
“Well,” says Alice, “you did say you wanted to die.”
“And you always have my best interests at heart.”
“Yeah,” says Alice. She climbs onto the bed, one hand keeping the soup steady, and offers Marti the spoon. “Come on,” she says, curling up next to Marti, her chin on Marti’s shoulder. “You have to get better so we can go get revenge on Savannah’s brat.”
“You’re a horrible person,” says Marti.
“Mmm,” Alice agrees. “That’s why you love me.”
Marti smiles in spite of herself. “Probably, yeah.”