It was late afternoon and autumn sunlight filtered into the apartment through big windows. It was a pretty small place, two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and the front door opened into the living room. The living room also doubled as their dining room, hallway and bike storage area but the tall windows made it feel bigger.
Emma heard the door open behind them but didn’t turn to see who it was. She was sitting on the carpet with her back against the sofa, trying to get away from the cops without using the cheat to lower her wanted level.
“Shit, you are smashing up that Stinger, Em” Ruby lay behind her on the sofa. She sat up a second after the door closed.
“If that’s the cops, the pot is medicinal” Emma said, swerving into a side street and killing some people. Her wanted rating went up a star and she swore.
“Oh hey” Ruby sat up properly seeing Lance, Emma’s housemate, had brought someone home.
“Hey” he replied “Ruby, you know Regina right?”
“Yeah, hi” she waved a little and Regina smiled at her.
“Motherfucker” Emma dropped the playstation controller as she watched herself get arrested.
“Hi Emma” Lance said.
She picked up her spliff and climbed onto the sofa. She took a drag before looking up. “Hey Lance”
“You probably know Regina from art class, right?” he asked
“Uh” Emma looked up and almost choked on smoke. Instead she swallowed it uncomfortably. She hadn’t been to class for a few weeks, choosing to use the slides and podcasts instead of physically attend. “Kind of”
She did recognise Regina from the times she had been to class though. She had noticed her on the first day. She noticed that she frowned almost constantly and she liked that immediately. She noticed that her shirt button always strained a little (and she kind of liked that too). She thought she carried herself like a trust fund girl but Regina’s critique was insightful and surprised her.
She was suddenly extremely self conscious of her baggy jeans and the Sick Sad World t-shirt she wore that was actually Ruby’s and at least two sizes too small for both of them.
Regina laughed “You would know me if you ever came to class”
Before she could think of anything to say they disappeared into the kitchen.
“Jesus, Em, close your mouth” Ruby’s eyebrows were raised in amusement.
“Sorry. What? Oh my god. Do you know her?” Emma sank back down into her corner of the sofa. She heard Regina laugh in the kitchen. She hoped it was at least clean in there, if not tidy. Tidy was too much to hope for.
“Yeah, her and her friends always go to the Open Mic Night at the bar” Ruby replied.
“You never said anything!” Emma whispered urgently. Turning to listen to whatever was happening in the kitchen. Lance was talking but she couldn’t hear what he said.
“I didn’t know she was your fucking super-crush”
Emma rubbed her face “shit, is she with Lance? That sucks”
Ruby laughed and picked up the controller “Lucky boy”
Emma flicked the ash of her spliff into the teacup they used for an ashtray, took a drag and passed it to Ruby. She slid it between her lips before she set off into the city to cause havoc.
“Gimmie all your money, punk” She said, mugging the first person she saw, spliff dangling from her mouth. She took a drag without touching it and turned her head for Emma to take it back.
“You got lipstick on it” Emma complained, taking the spliff from her mouth.
Ruby exhaled smoke slowly “It’s about time you got another girl’s lipstick on you, Em”
“Tell me about it” Emma rolled her eyes and watched Ruby, now in a stolen car, take the jump over the river and crash. “You should have used the parking lot to build up speed”
“Yeah well, you should have gone to art class” Ruby said, swapping the controller for the smoke as Emma groaned.
Regina joined them after a while, when Ruby was actually trying to complete a mission instead of aimlessly killing people on the beach to steal their money. She sat on the arm of the chair nearby and crossed her legs.
“So why don’t you come to class?” Regina asked, swirling the last of her coffee in a mug that bore a photo of Emma and Lance pulling monkey faces. Emma made a mental note to dead-arm him later.
“I’m just not good at going I guess. I do the work and catch up online. I’m not lazy” Emma said
“No, just stoned” Regina smiled and took a sip.
“You want some?” Emma held the spliff out
“Not this time, I’m going out, could do without the munchies” Emma nodded and set the spliff down on the saucer of the teacup ashtray. “Your contributions are missed in seminars, you know” Regina continued.
“Har har” Emma replied sarcastically, pretending to watch Ruby start a gang war.
“I mean it. You might be completely wrong about the Dutch Renaissance, but at least you have something to say” Regina set her cup down on the table.
“Oh you are such a snob!” Emma sat up to look at her incredulously. She smirked and Emma wanted to prove her wrong more than anything. Her eyes were dark and sparkled with amusement knowing she had gotten a rise out of her.
“Jan Steen is average” she replied haughtily
“His work is accessible! He was a painter for the people!” Emma was annoyed but she couldn’t help smiling as she watched Regina condescend her.
“He is overrated” Regina shrugged
“Pfft, Rembrandt is overrated” Emma dismissed
“Rembrandt is masterful” Regina’s eyes widened as she answered. It looked like a smile could be starting on her lips. Emma tried not to pay too much attention to them.
“Caravaggio is masterful”
“You can’t disregard Rembrandt’s influence on him” Regina smiled, superiority rolling off her like heat on a car roof on a hot day. It made Emma buzz with adrenaline to argue with someone so imperious, especially when she knew her subject so well.
“I’m not. He was just much better, and he was much more interesting”
Regina’s eyebrows shot up “He was a complete bastard!”
“In fact, he was such a complete bastard that he was exiled from Rome and then tried to gain favour again with influential people by painting flattering portraits of them as people from the bible.”
“See, interesting” Emma said
Regina was smiling as she shook her head “You see, you could be getting credit for your ridiculous arguments” Regina smirked and it was arrogant and cheeky all at once. Emma’s slightly high mind went blank. Regina watched her for a moment longer before checking her watch. She stood and picked up her bag. “I have to go. Lance’s in the shower, will you tell him I said bye?”
“Yep” Ruby replied without looking. She was on the back of a scooter shooting at Haitians who shot back at her from cars. “Are you going to the Open Mic Night tonight?”
“Yes” Regina loitered at the open door.
“Cool. You going with anyone?” Ruby asked.
“With friends” she replied
Emma had sunk a little lower into the sofa cushions and turned to watch her go. Regina’s eyes locked with hers. She was smiling and Emma was glad her blushing cheeks were hidden.
“See you later then, I’m working” Ruby said
“See you” Regina replied though she was still looking at Emma. The closing door broke their eye contact and Emma turned to Ruby.
“What the fuck was that ‘are you going with anyone’?” she demanded immediately.
Ruby smiled at the tv “She’s not dating Lance”
“How do you know?”
“Cause she’s trying to date you. Go get a shower you fucking slob, you’re coming out tonight” Ruby nudged her with her elbow.
“Oh my god” Emma stared into space for a moment before she leapt off the sofa. “Lance hurry up! I need a shower” She knocked on the bathroom door.
“Fuck off!” He replied as the water turned off. She grinned at Ruby who started laughing as she completed her mission in more ways than one.