Anna strolled into the kitchen with bed-head and dark half-moon hollows under her eyes like she’d been up for a hundred nights running. C.C.’s oversized T-shirt hung low across her shoulders revealing a faded brown tattoo on her collar bone. The tattoo was homemade, just two little birds, the one on top larger than the one below it. C.C., the third roommate, had left for class earlier, so it was just the two of us. Coffee hissed in the pot.
“What do you do in his bed?” I asked. I was sitting at the breakfast nook, not smiling.
“God, not this again. I told you his bed is very comfortable,” she stared at me, arms akimbo.
“Why don’t you sleep in your own room? You have a bed.”
“His is more comfortable than mine,” she moved across the room and poured herself a cup of coffee.
“Don’t give me that. Seriously, what do you do in his bed?”
“Stop it, Tommy. Just stop it,” she sat down across from me. The coffee cup steamed in front of her. She spooned in some sugar, stirred, then stared down into its blackness.
“Do you fuck? Tell me you don’t fuck him.”
“No we don’t fuck. It’s just a comfortable bed. I sleep.”
“Well, you have to touch each other or something. Come on, you can tell me you touch him a little.”
“No. I don’t touch him.”
“Do you let him touch you? I mean it’s OK if you do, I really don’t care.”
“We are just friends, Tommy. We are all friends in this house, right? I knew moving back here would never work. You get so paranoid.”
I ran my finger along the rim of my cup. I looked at her, then I looked at the coffee, then I looked at her again. The gates to her weary eyes were open.
“You want a bagel or something?” she asked and walked over to the toaster. Bagels were the mainstay of her diet. Add a naturally small appetite and her face became hollowed over the months, as do the faces of anyone whose main sources of caloric intake are bagels, caffeine, and nicotine.
“No, I don’t want a bagel. I’m not hungry,” my tone was corrosive. I stood up from the breakfast nook and stormed out into the hall.
“I don’t understand why you are all fired up,” she called after me.
At the end of the hall I stood in front of C.C.’s door and stared at it with the intensity of a police investigator. Mysteries waited behind. I threw the door open and it crashed against the wall. From somewhere behind me I heard screaming. It was nothing but white noise, static in the chaos of my own mind.
I jumped on his bed, my knees weak with fury. I tore at the blankets, ripped the disheveled bedding and stripped it bare. I flung myself down on all fours and looked for something, anything that would give me back my sanity.
About the Author: T.C. Jones lives and writes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the fiction editor at LimeHawk Literary Arts Collective, a NYC based magazine. His fiction has appeared in the Monarch Review, The April Reader, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, and others. T.C. is an avid Pittsburgh Pirates fan and tries never to miss a game.
Story Song: "It Still Moves" by My Morning Jacket
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone