The first thing i did after i unlocked the door walked into the store was help myslef to the pizza that my parents had left out on one of the tables. They can make a cake the size of a small elephant, but ask them to cook something that isn't penut butter sandwiches or Spagetti-O's and you have a small-scale disaster on your hands. It's for this reason that we usually eat at Ellie and Ben's apartment (they're the caterers and my parent's best friends because they're European too and all). They make enough food for five hundred, let alone five.
But it was almost two days until the Baum thing, and no one had time for anything but horse-head-shaped appetizers and the fire-engine-colored, five layer cake that was driving my parents crazy.
Pizza in hand, I took the key out of my pocket and walked over to the door that led up into our apartment. It's always locked, not because my parents are worried about getting robbed (the store has an alarm system, and as if that's even necesary in a town like this except for that one time), but becasue some of the stupider customers are given the wrong idea from the evil photography people and think that every store has turned their apartment into an extension.
And when there are strange people randomly showing up in your living room, you get a lock.
I flicked on my stereo once i got into my room, catching Karen O in mid-wail. My parents were gone, probably at Ellie's, so i could listen this loud, this late.
My room was small. I liked it that way, unlike my mom, who repeatedly told me that just looking in the doorway made her claustrophobic. I had managed to back in two beds, a dresser, a desk, a bookshelf and a stereo, not to mention all of my CD's. To get out of or into the room, you had to climb over the beds, and even from there, you couldn't really GO anywhere. The desk was across from the dorr, the stereo and CD's were behind the beds, and the dresser was sort of on the side. The bookshelf was bolted around the entire perameter of the ceiling. It's small and cozy and warm into the winter without being suffocating, but it's air-conditioned in the summer without being too freezing. And with the little stereo that i saved up for all last summer, you can fill the entire room with music.
I love music. I listen to it, i sing it (badly), i get high off of it, i just float on top of it. I love it for the same reason that i love my room: When it's just right, i can turn it up loud and drown out my own silence and get swallowed up in the beat and feel totally safe.
I don't beleive in iTunes or riipping music. I buy the CD, period. I have an iPod, but i've never joined the iTunes conspiracy. And every CD that i've ever owned is on that rack in alphabetical order, no matter if it was a gift (classical, The BeeGees) or how young i was when i bought it and if i am now ashamed of it (Dream Street, Britney Spears, Aaron Carter, from my elementary school days). And no matter how weird it may seem to have all of Hillary Duff's albums (my aunt persists in thinking that i am four, and that "Duffy Hills" is THE latest thing) on the same shelf as Hellogoodbye, it's principle
That month i was determined to listen to every one of my CD's in order (I was still on A, Aretha Franklins Greatest Hits. A hand-me-down from my mom, and you would think that it would suck, but it's strangley addicting, and thank God that Aaron was behind me), but I had made an exception for the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs CD.
I sat down at my desk, ignoring the fact that Mom was so going to lecture me on having pizza in my room, and turned on the computer. It's a piece of crap, but it's decently fast and it IS in my room (my parents are cluesless about any sort of technology, but i get paid extra to do all the math-y stuff that they would usually need the computer for. As soon as i logged on, i got an IM from Melissa.
Gilmoregirls23: That party was stupid.
No duh. And you're the one who took ME.
Audiophile80: It's was alright.
Gilmoregirls23: Yeah, well, you got to meet someone. All I got to do was talk to some girl about what "I need some space" means.
Audiophile80: Oh, she wasnt your type?
Gilmoregirls23: Ha. Ha. I'm laughing so hard that my hand just *accidentally* flew out and punched you in the face.
Audiophile80: Who did i meet?
Gilmoregirls23: Duh, the guy on the wall. Sounds like a Dr. Suesse book.
Audiophile80: I knew him already though. Sort of.
Gilmoregirls23: But you were TALKING. That NEVER happens!
The phone started ringing at that exact second, so i didnt get to defend myself. Who would be calling this late? It was probably, I though, Mom and Dad, telling me to set the alarm system. Which, duh, i did already. Who did they think i was, anyways? One of my pseudo-perfect, party-happy, forgetting-to-turn-the-alarm-on-and-getting-the-store-broken-into, totally blonde-
"Um, Emmalee, is that...is that you?" I tried hard to sound happy.
"Don't forget me, silly!"
"Yup!" Laughter. Shrill, insane laughter that sent chills down my spine. It didnt usually do that over the phone. Today it sounded closer.
"Uh," I said, walking out of my room, through the living room, and down the stairs. "This is really...surprising! you don't usually call me."
"Oh, of course we do!" Well, if you say so, then it must be true. I tripped out of the back room and into the front of the store. I didnt look out of the big picture windows because i didnt want it to be true. Instead, I headed straight for the door.
"But you know," Erin/Emmalee siad, "we havent visited in a while..."
"...and we wanted to..."
"...but Harvard is just SO damanding and SO far away..." Feel free to gloat.
"...but now that we're out for the summer, we thought--"
I pulled open the door.
"Aww, you caught us," Erin whined, flipping back her perfectly straightened hair.
"She probably heard you shreiking," Emmalee muttered.
I stopped breathing. The phone was still clamped to my ear.
"Uhh, gonna invite us in anytime soon?" she (Emmalee) sneered.
They were back. WHY were they back? Last summer they hadn't come home. They'd gotten internships at God knows where and came down for a week. Christmas, Easter, Mom's birthday. And that was IT. That was all i had to see of them all year.
"Earth to Catie. Hello. Hi. Still here, still have stuff."
Stuff. They had stuff, bags, luggage, more than you'd need for a week. More than you'd need for a lifetime, actually, but for them it was traveling light.
And the bags. Louis Vuitton. When did we get money for designer suitcases? Hell, we couldnt even afford a computer that wasn't circa Whenever Dinasours Roamed The Earth. What, they had a mob connection or something?
And they couldnt have even CALLED? Given us, given ME a few weeks, ONE week, a DAY to mentally prepare for being assulted by their blonde-ness (Mom's evil Sweedish side come to work) and to get the five hundred miniature bags of Jordan almonds out of their room, where they (the almonds) were currently stacked on every available square inch of space?
By this time they had pushed by me and were headed upstairs, two huge bags in each hand. Their stregnth was amazing for girls who looked like you could probably break them in half if you threw something at them. Don't tempt me.
That was when i saw the remaining three bags. Oh God.
When i finally got up the stairs, they were standing there with identcial expressions of anger on their perfect faces.
"What the hell is wrong with our room?" Emmalee started it up, as usual. Erin just followed her lead. It had always been that way, like not only did they share a room and a birthday and chromosomes but a brain as well. Erin alone was useless. Emmalee was the mastermind. All she had to do was say "I want to go to Harvard" and Erin mimicked her studying, her extracurriculars, her everything, as usual.
"Yeah!" Erin piped up. I thought that that would be all she had to add, but Harvard must have been doing something to her. "Like, there's these little...these little...THINGS all over the place!!" She gave a self-satisfied grin, then scowled, then smirked, then frowned, then settled on her usual expression of "confused and extremely lost".
"Well," I spoke for the first time since they'd walked in, very slowly, very calmly, like if i didnt i would spontaniously combust, "we didn't know that you were coming. You sort of didn't call..."
They gave me an identical hair flip and a "Hah!" Amazing. "That's total B.S. You should never have even put them in there in the first place! It's summer, we're college students, we come home for the summer," Emmalee continued, only she didnt say the initials.
"Yeah, and we DID call! We called just a couple of minutes ago!" Erin said triumphantly. Poor her. You could tell that she totally thought she had a point, despite Emmalee's obvious eye-roll.
I knew that I wouldnt be able to argue with Erin. It wouldnt be fair, really, just like it wouldnt be fair to kick a small animal for not being able to read the newspaper. It was just how things were. But Emmalee. Emmalee, I could yell at.
"Oh really? We're supposed to just totally drop everything on the off chance that you might deign to come back this year? What makes now different?" I totally got up in Emmalee's face, realizing that I was almost as tall as her now.
And then I saw it. A flicker of something close to fear in her eyes.
But then it was gone again, and she was back to being a snob.
"Anyways, that's SO not the point," she (Emmalee) said. "The POINT is, where are we going to sleep?"
Oh, I'll tell you where you can sleep, I thought. And then i stopped and thought. Mom and Dad would be happy that they were here. Not thrilled that they didnt call, but they would be happy that they had shown. I remembered Mom crying because they didnt send mail, E or otherwise, and they didnt call. I remembered Dad looking sad because all that they DID do on Father's Day was call. And I realized that ruining this was bigger than I realized.
So I dropped it. And thought about where they would sleep, so they didnt up and leave. "Well, I have two beds, so one of you could sleep on the couch or the floor or something," I suggested.
"Oh, that'd be--" Erin started brightly, but Emmalee cut her off with an incredulous look. Plus the arm to the stomach was a not-so-subtle conversation stopper. Then Erin looked at Emmalee's face and pasted the expression on her own.
I raised my eyebrows. Emmalee increased the disgust factor, but I so wasn't going to bite.
"What?" I asked.
More disgust. Great.
And that was how, a half-hour later, I was trying to get to sleep on the couch in the small living room, all the while listening to my sisters giggle over my music collection and feeling a million miles away.