Annie twirls across the stage, and August can’t stop thinking how much Jane would love to be here. Jane deserves to be here. She deserves to see it, to feel the bass in her chest and know it’s the result of her work, to have a beer in her hand and a twenty between her teeth. She’d be free, lit up by stage lights, dug up from underground and dancing until she can’t breathe, loving it. Living.
Jane would love this.
Jane would love this. It keeps coming back and back and back, Jane tossing her head and laughing up at the disco ball, pulling August into a dark corner and kissing her dizzy. She’d love this, specifically, slotted right into place in August’s family of moody misfits, tucked against August’s side.
The second August lets herself really picture it is the second she can’t pretend any longer—she wants Jane to stay.
She wants to solve the case and get Jane out from underground because she wants Jane to stay here with her.
She’d promised herself—she’d promised Jane—she was doing this to get Jane back where she belonged. But it’s as blazing and unforgiving as the spotlight on the stage, nothing left in August’s sloshy drunk brain to hold it back. She wants to keep Jane. She wants to take her home and buy her a new record collection and wake up next to her every stupid morning. She wants Jane here in full-on, split-the-pizza-bill-five-ways, new-toothbrush-holder, violate-the-terms-of-the-lease permanence.
And not a single part of her is prepared to handle any other outcome.
She turns to her right, and Wes is standing there watching the show, mouth agape. The grip on his cup has gone slack, and his drink is slowly dribbling down the front of his shirt.
August gets it. He’s in love. August is in love too.
[ariana voice] yuh @chelssss_
UMMMM on the Q this morning this little kid was getting picked on by two older kids and before i could do anything this hot butch girl jumped in and the bullies SCATTERED hello 911 how am i supposed to work now that i’ve seen an angel irl????
7:42 AM · 8 Nov 2018
Myla’s hair smells like Cajun fries.
August’s nose is buried in it, upside down behind Myla’s ear, sucking curls into her nostrils.
There’s something wrapped around her, something too warm and slightly itchy and, if her stomach doesn’t subside soon, in imminent peril of being puked on.
She tries to pull her arm free, but Wes has a freaky death grip on her wrist as he white-knuckles through REMs. There’s something lumpy with weird corners crushed between August’s arm and one of Niko’s shoulder blades. She cracks one eye open—a Popeyes box. Which churns up: one, a hazy memory of Niko putting on his soberest face at the Popeyes register downstairs, and two, the too-many apple cider margaritas in her stomach.
As far as August can tell, the four of them collapsed into a pile on the couch as soon as they stumbled through the door last night. Niko and Myla are on one side, tangled up in each other, Myla’s jean jacket thrown over their bodies like a blanket. Wes has spilled halfway off the couch, his shoulders digging into the floor where one of the rugs should be.
The rug that’s … wrapped around her?
Noodles trots over and starts cheerfully licking Myla’s face.
“Wes,” August croaks. She nudges one of Wes’s knees with her foot. He must have liberated himself of his pants at some point before they passed out. “Wes.”
“No,” Wes grunts. He doesn’t relinquish her wrist.
“Wes,” she says. “I’m gonna throw up on you.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I literally am,” she says. “My mouth tastes like hot ass.”
“Sounds like a you problem,” he says. He cracks one eye halfway open, smacks his dry lips. “Where are my pants?”
“I’m wearing a shirt and no pants,” he says. “I’m Winnie the Pooh-ing it.”
“Your pants are in the window by the TV,” says a voice, much too clear and much too loud for the hangover bog. August looks up, and there’s Lucie, glitter lingering around her eyes, glowering into the cabinets. “You said, ‘They need to get some air.’”
“Why,” August says. “Here. Why are you. Here?”
“You really don’t remember inviting me to Popeyes,” Lucie says flatly. “You are lucky Isaiah knows about the service elevator. Would have left you there.”
“Anyway,” she says. “Winfield helped me get you home.”
“Yes, but.” August finally manages to dislodge her arm from Wes’s and gingerly begins to de-crumple herself into an upright position she immediately regrets. “Why are you here? Why didn’t you leave with him?”
“Because,” she says, emerging triumphant with a skillet, “it was funny. I love to watch people with hangovers. Half the reason to stay at Billy’s.” She points the pan at August. “Slept in your room.”
She turns to the fridge and withdraws a carton of eggs, and August remembers her first week at Billy’s, when Lucie made sure she’d eaten. There’s another pinched smile in the corner of her mouth, like the one she saw last night.
“Making breakfast,” Lucie says. “Thankless job, being your boss, but someone has to do it.”
Another memory comes back at that: Wes, three drinks deep, lipstick marks on his cheek, Isaiah in his full Annie glory, wig and all, saving him from slipping in a puddle of vodka on the bar floor, and Lucie laughing. It was supposed to be Niko’s birthday thing but ended up a five-drinks-and-where’s-my-pants thing. Apparently only Lucie made it through intact.
At least August’s stomach has stopped threatening an Exorcist live show. She rolls onto the floor, and Myla and Niko start to stir.
She runs through everything she can remember: Lucie’s fur shrug, eggnog, water falling from the ceiling, being in love with Jane, Myla’s lipstick, Niko’s bandana—
She’s in love with Jane.
Shit, no, it’s worse than that. She’s in love with Jane, and she wants Jane to stay, and what she thought was her emergency emotional escape hatch for when Jane goes merrily back to the 1970s is just a trick door into more feelings.
Niko’s voice echoes in the back of her head from the first time she kissed Jane, Oh, you fucked up.
She fucked up. She fucked up bad.
She feels around inside her chest like it’s the bottom of her jeans pocket, grasping for anything less life-ruining than this. The harsh light of a sober morning should dull it, turn it back into a crush.
It was never a crush, if she’s being honest, not since she started planning her mornings around a girl she didn’t even know. Her last shred of self-preservation was pretending it was enough to have Jane temporarily, and she shoved that like a twenty-dollar bill down Annie Depressant’s tits last night.
“I wish I were never born,” August moans into the floor.
“Retweet,” Wes says solemnly.
It takes twenty minutes, but eventually they extricate themselves from the couch. Myla, who slithered across the floor to the bathroom and threw up twice before army crawling back out, looks half-dead and altogether unlikely to partake in the scrambled eggs. Niko has already chugged a full bottle of kombucha in an impressive show of faith in his intestines to work things out on their own. And Wes has dislodged his pants from the window.