-- Chapter 2 --
The last time the Nilsson sisters had lived under the same roof for any extended period of time had been thirteen years before, when Katie was ten years old. Having experience living with a roommate or a boyfriend, Kristy found the current situation unsettlingly without precedent. Though she had the firm conviction that she and her sister must have some sort of relationship, the passing days made that whatever this relationship was it was not one of similar habits, preferences or aspirations. Rather than a younger version of herself, with variations only large enough to add interest, she found herself living with someone who looked very much like her younger self, right down to her painfully familiar college cafeteria pudge, but who was in nearly every respect a stranger. Roommates and boyfriends were, however poorly, chosen. That she should find herself in an unseverably close relationship with someone not chosen seemed simultaneously unfair and intriguing. Was this how Uma at work had felt when she flew back to India last year to marry a man from her village of whom she had known only that he had fit the two criteria she had given her mother: he must have a college degree and he must not smoke? The idea of moving in with, much less marrying, someone about whom one knew so little and expecting happiness had seemed, to Kristy, utterly mad. And yet what, really, did she know of Katie, other than that they shared genetic code?
Kristy was not sure whether to conclude that Starbucks was hard up for workers, or that a midwestern Religious Studies major was exactly what they had been searching for, but Katie’s Monday morning interview had ended with the question, “When can you start?” This had not decreased the likelihood of Kristy returning home to find Katie recumbent on the couch, because answering the application question, “When are you available?” with “Any time” had landed Katie with the opening shift Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
“5AM!” Katie wailed from the couch on Friday evening. “This is worse than 8AM classes. I’ll never get to sleep in again.”
“Welcome to adulthood. Beer is in the fridge,” Kristy responded without sympathy.
“They’ve only scheduled you for thirty-two hours a week. Do you know how many hours I worked last week?”
“But you make lots of money. I make eight bucks an hour.”
“That is an excellent reason to find your way out of the service sector.”
As the launch meeting loomed it came to take up an ever larger share of Kristy’s mind. The weekend before she spent half of each day in the office, the other half the the kitchen table with her laptop, endlessly fiddling, rearranging and considering.
In the shower she recited, “Our market study has suggested a domestic first year market for this product of over three million units, and a significant secondary revenue stream through monetizing the online user community experience.” At night she awoke in terror from dreams in which she recited those words to the leadership team dressed as if for a shower.
Wednesday night she called Katie into her room to inspect the potential outfits for the presentation she had laid out on the bed.
“Your presentation isn’t till Friday,” objected Katie.
“That,” explained Kristy, “is why I’m making this decision tonight. Tomorrow night I’m going to be all prepared and go to bed early so I’ll be fresh. You’re an objective set of eyes: Dress, skirt or pants? What do you think?”
“I think it’s pathetic that the only choices I have for my evening are planning your business wardrobe or watching The Expendables on FX. What’s a girl have to do to get a date around here?”
“Write your phone number on some guy’s latte.”
“I did, but he never called me!”
“Wait, you wrote your phone number on some guy’s latte? Really?”
“No. Sheesh, where’s the sense of humor?”
Kristy had a momentary flash of annoyance with herself; after three weeks she should at least be able to tell when Katie was scamming. But Katie had disappeared into the closet and Kristy returned to contemplating her clothing options. The skirt and blouse were her favorite, but the COO was a leg watcher and although she didn’t mind holding his attention she wanted him to hear what she was saying as well. The dress was slightly longer, and would perhaps look less out of place on a Friday, which would see even most of the executives in jeans. The dress and her good luck pumps.
Katie emerged from the closet. “How about if you wear these shoes?” she asked, holding up a pair of five inch platform heels which Kristy recalled, with sudden irritation towards her younger self, wearing to a Halloween party with Kevin.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’d never wear something like that in the office.”
“What do you have them for?”
“I don’t know. It’s been years since I’ve worn those.”
“Can I borrow them?”
“Sure, sure. You can have them.”
On Thursday Kristy’s diligence caught up with her. Everything was ready for the launch, and so there was nothing at all left to do but worry. She stalked the halls and dropped by other people’s cubes, but there was no update to be had on her project and no room in her mind for anything else.
She considered going home early, but she pictured Katie sprawled on the couch eating snacks and felt no desire to expose her raw nerves to her sister’s jibes. Instead she called the hair salon and wheedled a last minute appointment. Next door to the salon was an auto detailing place, and impulsively she pulled into it and ordered the BMW a full round of pampering while she herself went into the salon. Freshly highlighted, trimmed and blown out, looking at her reflection in the glistening black hood of the car, she told herself she looked like a director already. A director who launched products effortlessly.
Coming up the back stairs from into the kitchen, she found the condo in an unusual state of tumult. Katie had clearly been cooking. The leavings of vegetable chopping and various wrappers were scattered around the counter, and the scents of pizza and microwaved popcorn filled the air.
“What is all this?” Kristy asked, setting her laptop bag in a corner and kicking off her shoes.
“Watch out for the tomato sauce on the floor,” Katie cautioned, a moment too late. “Here’s a paper towel.” Some sort of occasion was clearly in the offing. She had exchanged her usual evening flannel pants and flip flops for a skirt and ballet flats.
Kristy gritted her teeth as she scrubbed at her foot with the paper towel, then put her shoes back on to forestall further accidents, reflecting bitterly that she couldn’t even count of the floor of her own condo staying clean anymore.
Katie pulled a package of popcorn out of the microwave and shook it into a bowl. “I thought you’d need to unwind before your big presentation,” she said. “So I made pizza and popcorn and checked out the original Die Hard. And I got wine coolers. Girls night in. Just what you need.”
“Oh God, Katie,” Kristy said, surveying the kitchen. “My stomach’s already tied in knots thinking about tomorrow. If I start gorging all those carbs I’m going to be sick. I was just going to have something really small and get to bed early so I’ll be rested.”
Katie froze half way through pulling the pizza out of oven. “Oh come on!” She clattered the pizza pan onto the stove top and kicked the oven door closed. “If you can’t drop the uptight business chick act for a night you’re never going to be relaxed for your meeting tomorrow. What you need is pizza and popcorn and and movie violence. I even bought cookies and cream ice cream. That used to be your favorite, didn’t it?”
“Look, Katie, this is nice of you,” Kristy said, trying unsuccessfully to mask the irritation which the dirty kitchen, the greasy smells, and the very presence of anyone else in her home inspired when, of all nights, she wanted nothing out of place. “But this is not some college cram session. I have to get up tomorrow morning in front of my boss and the senior vice presidents and the whole leadership team and give a presentation that’s the culmination of everything I’ve worked on over the last year. I need calm, and… and… Not action movies and junk food.”
Katie was shaking her head. “I thought I’d try to do something nice for you. Something… I didn’t have to be sitting around your place getting yelled at. Abby and Myra from work asked if I wanted to go out with them tonight, but I told them I couldn’t go because I thought you’d need some girl time before your big meeting. And instead you’re just…” Katie reached for words, then pounded the stove top with a satisfying clang instead.
“Sheesh,” said Kristy, the kitchen mess grating on her as much as her sister’s anger. “If you wanted pizza we could have just ordered some. This place is a wreck.”
“Fine, you know what, have your calm,” Katie announced. “I’ll call up Abby and get out of your way for the night.” She stormed into her room and slammed the door. Kristy contemplated going after her but couldn’t decide if she felt the necessity to apologize. A few moments later Katie issued from her room, phone to her ear, evidently talking to her friends from work. She’d traded in her top for a tighter one, and put on the heels that Kristy had given her the night before.
She paused by the front door. “Just a second,” she told the phone, then turning to Kristy she delivered the parting shot she’d evidently been saving up since the first confrontation, “Nice hair. I hope the business bitch look sells your iPhone wannabe.”
The door slammed and she was gone.
Kristy surveyed the wreckage of the kitchen coolly. Then she changed out of her work clothes, cleared the counters — dumping the popcorn in the trash — and mopped the floor. The pizza she left out in case Katie was hungry when she got it. With the kitchen clean, she opened the freezer and found the pint of cookies and cream Katie had bought. With this she retreated to the couch.