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Beside him, Myla is glowing, the piercing in her nose sparkling. Niko’s usually clean-shaven, but tonight there’s stubble on his chin, and Myla scrapes her nails across it, looking wicked. August makes a mental note to find her headphones before bed.

“They’re like,” Wes says to her in a low voice, “gonna get married, probably.”

“They basically already are.”

“Yeah, except they live with us,” he says.

August glances over. Wes is sitting cross-legged in his usual skinny jeans and baggy T-shirt, topped off with an angel halo Myla shoved onto his head on the way out the door. He looks like a pissed-off cherub.

“They’re not gonna leave us if they get married, Wes,” August tells him.

“Maybe,” he says. “Maybe not.”

“What are you making that face about?” Myla half-shouts across the table.

“Wes thinks we’re gonna get married and move out, and he’ll never see us again,” Niko says. Wes glowers. August can’t help laughing.

“Wes. Wes, oh my God,” Myla says, laughing too. “I mean, yes, we’ll probably get married one day. But we would never leave you. Like we could even afford to. Like we’d even want to. Maybe one day we’ll all move out and get our own places with our own people but, like, even then. We’ll be weirdly codependent neighbors. We’ll all move into a compound. Niko was born to be a cult leader.”

“You say that now,” Wes says.

“Yeah, and I’ll say it then, you punk-ass bitch,” Myla says.

“I’m just saying,” Wes says. “I’ve seen, like, ten different engagement announcements on Instagram this month, okay? I know how it goes! We all age out of our parents’ insurance, and all of a sudden your friends stop having time to hang out because they have a person and that’s their best friend now, and they have a kid, and they move to the suburbs and you never see them again because you’re a lonely old spinster—”

“Wes! First of all, we already have two kids.” She gestures significantly across the table at him and August.

“Rude, but fair,” August says.

“Second of all, we would never move to the suburbs. Maybe, like … Queens. But never the suburbs.”

“I don’t think I’m allowed back on Long Island after I dropped that jar of spiders on the LIRR,” Niko says.

“Why did you—” August starts.

“Third of all,” Myla plows on, “there’s nothing wrong with being alone. A lot of people are happier that way. A lot of people are supposed to be that way. But I don’t think you will be.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Actually, despite your best efforts at this whole one-man production of Cask of Amontillado in which you’re both Montresor and Fortunato, I’m pretty sure you’re gonna find love. Like, good love.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Two main reasons. One, because you’re a fucking prize.”

He rolls his eyes. “And the second?”

“He’s walking up behind you.”

Wes whips around, and there is Isaiah, makeup done, wearing a vibrant fuschia scarf around his head and laughing with a couple in matching Pilgrim costumes. He glances over, and August knows the second his eyes lock on Wes’s, because it’s the second Wes starts trying to climb under the table.

“Absolutely not, bruh,” Myla says, throwing a kick. “Stand and face love.”

“I don’t understand why you’re doing this when he literally lives across the hall from us,” August says. “You see him all the time.”

“Says August of the six-month-long gay panic.”

“How did this become a roast of me? Wes is the one under the table!”

“Oh,” Niko says simply, “he’s freaking out because they slept together after the Easter party.”

The top of Wes’s head pops up from under the table, along with one accusatory finger.

“Nobody asked the fucking Long Island Medium.”

Niko smiles. “Lucky guess. My third eye is closed tonight, baby. But thanks for confirming.”

Wes gapes at him. “I hate you.”

“Apartment 6F!” says a silky voice, and there Isaiah is, one foot into Annie, painted for the gods, all devastating cheekbones and dark, glittering eyes. “Whatcha doin’, Wes?”

Wes blinks for a full three seconds before loudly exclaiming, “Oh, here it is!” He waves his phone in front of his face. “Dropped my phone.”

Myla snorts as Wes clambers out from under the table, but Isaiah just smiles. August doesn’t know how he does it.

“Well, glad y’all came out. It’s gonna be a good one!” Isaiah says. He adds ominously: “Hope you brought a poncho.”

He’s gone with a flourish of his robe, flashing a nice, long view of leather leggings and an ass produced by dancing in heels and doing squats to fill out catsuits. Wes makes a sound of profound suffering.

“Hate to see him go, hate to watch him leave,” he mumbles. “It’s all terrible.”

August leans back, looking sideways at Wes as he dedicates himself to picking at the label on his beer and emanating an air of abject misery.

“Wes,” August says. “Have you ever heard of a hairy frog?”

Wes eyes her with suspicion. “Is that, like … a sex act?”

“It’s a kind of frog,” she tells him. He shrugs. She swirls a crumpled lime around her drink and continues. “Also known as a Wolverine frog, or a horror frog. They’re this weird-looking subtropical species that are super defensive of themselves. When they feel attacked or threatened, they’ll break the bones in their own toes and force the fragments through their skin to use as claws.”

“Metal,” Wes says flatly. “Is there a reason you’re telling me this?”

August waves her hands in a come-on, it’s-right-there sort of gesture. He purses his lips and carries on fingering the label of his beer. He looks faintly green in the bar lights. August could strangle him.

“You’re the horror frog.”

“I—” Wes huffs. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“What, being abrasive and emotionally shut off because you’re afraid of wanting something? Yeah, I have no idea what that’s like.”

The night goes on, a blur of cheek kisses, a bathroom with Sharpie and lipstick graffiti that says GENDER IS FAKE and JD MONTERO REARRANGED MY GUTS, people with hairy legs jutting out of pleated skirts, a lipstick-stained joint making the rounds. August drifts into the crowd and lets it buoy her back: this way is the stage, someone flitting around the edges setting up dry ice and confetti cannons, and this way is Lucie, rare smile across her face, and that way is the bar, sticky with spilled shots, and—


She blinks through the flashing lights. There’s Lucie, hair down and smudgy eyeliner shot through with glitter that makes her eyes look crazy blue. August doesn’t even realize how close she is until acrylic nails are digging into her shoulders.

“Lucie!” August shouts.

“Are you lost?” she shouts back. “Are you alone?”