When I woke up, in Christine’s bed, with Maggie sleeping on my shoulder, a whisper of gray light framed the bedroom window shade. It took me a minute to recall Maggie and me waking up in a tangle on the sofa during the night. I’d slipped my boots off and she’d led me by the hand into the pitch black bedroom. When we reached the bed we were both already half asleep again, or had never quite awakened.
I wriggled out of bed, taking pains to not wake Maggie, pulled on my jeans, and, gripping my shirt in my hand, slipped out of the bedroom. Maggie never stirred. As I turned from the bedroom door after carefully pulling it closed, I was jolted by the sight of Christine, simultaneously turning from her front door, her keys in hand, and her eyes widening with surprise when she saw me.
“You’re here!” we exclaimed in unison.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“I came with Maggie,” I stammered. “We came to see you. She said it would be okay.”
“Where is she?”
I jerked my head toward the bedroom door. “Sleeping,” I whispered.
She looked at the bedroom door, then back at me, then turned and hung her keys on a hook by the door. It took her a couple of tries to slip the key ring over the hook. Turning back to face me, she put her hands on her hips and looked me up and down. “You sure Maggie’s in there?”
I nodded enthusiastically, stepping away from the bedroom door, so she could open it and look in, if she wished.
“How’d you get in?”
“Through the window. Maggie said you’d understand.”
“I’m thinking about screaming. Just so you know.”
“You’ll wake Maggie.”
She stifled a smile. “Well, you look pretty harmless. Everyone was wondering where you were,” she added, without explanation, as she crossed the room toward her sofa.
She stopped and turned in front of me, losing her balance slightly as she turned. “I’ve been at your place all night.”
“You’ve been at my place?”
“I’d heard there was a party there. I was bored out of my mind, so I went.” She shrugged, swayed a little, and blinked slowly. “I certainly didn’t expect to find you here, in my living room. Shirtless. With your jeans unbuttoned. Not that I was looking for you.”
I could feel my face reddening. I changed the subject. “I thought you were purifying.”
She smiled at my befuddlement, and then her smile faded. “That ended at midnight. Purification is a lonely business.” She glanced darkly at the photo of her and the bearded man on the mountaintop.
I shook my head in disbelief. “We each spent the night at the other’s house. And we don’t even really know each other. Crazy. So, how was my party?”
She shrugged again. “Loud and long. Lots of boring, intoxicated people. I include myself in that estimation. That Cliff fellow is a train-wreck. Not a happy person, I think. I’d hoped Jacques might be there, stroking his guitar affectionately.”
“Jacques was at Maggie’s.”
She cackled. “That is too much!” She covered her mouth, remembering that Maggie was asleep.
“Well, I was on my way out,” I said, after an awkward pause.
“Uh, huh. I need to sit.” She lowered herself onto the sofa, and let out a long sigh, followed by a yawn. She closed her eyes.
“I’m just going to get my boots, okay?” They were in front of the sofa, right next to her feet.
“Don’t worry. I won’t bite.” She opened her eyes and regarded me with an amused smirk.
“No, I know, I just—“ I knelt, grabbed my boots, and sprang back up to my feet. I was standing close in front of her. “Hey, would you do me a favor?” I blurted, surprising myself.
“What do you have in mind?” Her dark eyes were puffy, and she didn’t blink as she stared up at me, waiting. I smelled alcohol wafting up on her breath. She was not the Christine I’d expected to meet. I stepped back.