About twenty-fives minutes later, we’re on the other side of the city and a ways away from campus, pulling into a bound parking lot. I take a quick scan of the apartment complex through my slightly foggy window. It looks really nice; clean and fairly quiet, with great lighting from tall street lamps generously scattered all over the sidewalks.
The engine dies and its motoring sound is replaced by those of screaming crickets, croaking frogs, and other typical nightlife as we reluctantly embrace the cold air once again.
“This way,” she says, pointing toward a wide brick pavement that stretches and bends into a semi-circle.
As we follow its path, the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz comes to mind, and I can’t help but find my comparison of it to this pavement ironic and quite fitting at the same time.
If there’s one thing that movie taught me, it’s that brick roads only lead to trouble, and I can only imagine the kind of trouble this particular one is going to land me in. This may not be Kansas, but it’s still the frickin’ Midwest.
We walk up to a door—presumably hers—and I immediately notice the mat below it reads ‘WELCOME, BITCHES!‘
I smile and shake my head. That’s definitely Nicole for you. On some level, I actually admire her carefree attitude and sense of humor. She’s kind of like Trixie in that aspect. Sometimes, I really wish I could be that way; I wish I didn’t always care so much about what people think.
Nicole pulls out a plastic key card from her extra-large designer purse. She slips the rectangular card into the slot, and the bar beeps open with a blinking green light, audibly releasing the lock.
She pushes the door open and I walk in after her, still feeling a bit of apprehension and disbelief that I’m actually going through with this.
I’ve never been to Nicole’s place before. I’ve never even hung out with her outside the bar, and I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be doing so under the current circumstances.
We walk right into her living room, and she immediately kicks off her shoes and carelessly flings her purse onto the nearest couch, releasing her hair from its ponytail as she heads toward a corridor.
“Make yourself at home, babe,” she says. “There’s wine and beer in the fridge, and some leftover pizza from yesterday. I’ll be back in a minute with something for you to wear.”
I whip my head in her direction. “Oh, I already brought some clothes with me,” I say.
She turns to face me again with her hand on her hip and her brow arched in curiosity. “Yeah? Let’s see what you got.”
I fish out my grey one-piece pencil dress from my backpack and hold it up for her to see, feeling silently proud of the sophisticated cut and color of the attire. It’s one of the best outfits I have.
Nicole cocks her head to the side, her recently freed hair moving with it right before she arches her brow again, but this time it’s not because she’s curious.
“Yeaaah…no,” she says bluntly, making no attempt to veil her disapproval.
“What?! What do you mean, ‘no’? This is like one of the best outfits I own!” I admonish, looking at it again as if I’m trying to convince myself of what I’m saying.
“Yeah, and we’re attending a multi-millionaire’s birthday party, not trying to give a PowerPoint presentation at a multi-millionaire’s business deal meeting,” she scolds sarcastically, using her usual animated hand gestures for added effect.
I can’t help but scoff incredulously. “So what exactly do you guys wear to these things?” I ask, feeling a bit irritated that my poor dress just got shot down without so much as a second glance.
“Sit tight, Roni. I’ll find you something. We’re like the same size so I’m sure you’ll be able to fit into my stuff,” she says before walking away again, presumably to her bedroom.
“Wait, how are we the same size?” I call after her, my tone still incredulous, but I get no response. Knowing Nicole’s typical style, I don’t even want to think about what she’s going to pull out of that closet of hers. I seriously have a bad feeling about this. About all of this.
“Oh lord, what kind of mess have I gotten myself into this time?” I mumble, resigning myself to whatever this surreal night brings with a sigh.
I look around, and my eyes excitedly drink in the sight of the spacious sitting area. I can’t help but feel jealous of how chic and put-together it looks; with picture frames and flower-filled vases lining a glass coffee table and cream white countertops, and beautiful oil paintings hanging on the equally cream-white walls.
Her place really does look amazing, and I can’t stop myself from comparing my owned cramped space of an apartment to this college student haven.
I head over to her fridge and take out a piece of cold anchovy pizza from its extra-large box. I’m surprised at how delicious it is, and before I know, I’ve had two more pieces.
I hadn’t realized how hungry I was.
Come to think of it, I barely had anything all day with all the rehearsing we had to do, and all the anxiety I’ve been feeling lately only makes me hungrier.
I pop open a can of beer and drain half of it in one long slurp. The malty liquid is deliciously cool against my throat and easily washes down the tasty pizza in the best way. My eyelids flutter shut at the gratifying sensation.
The combo seriously feels like heaven right now. I can’t help but groan in satisfaction.
“Glad I can help.”
My eyes fly open as Nicole’s voice comes through out of the blue, startling me so much that I almost drop the beer can.
I smile sheepishly, suddenly feeling like a little glutton for almost finishing her leftovers and drinking her beer like I don’t have a care in the world.
She holds up a hanger, and my eyes travel to what’s hanging from it.
She sports a wicked grin. “Try it on.”