‘You know, you Australian’s truly are a bizarre bunch,’ I heard Sarah laugh and my eyes popped open to see her amused face looking at me through the now open window.
‘God,’ I groaned, rubbing my hand along my aching neck. ‘How did you get in?’
‘My key,’ she shrugged as I gingerly got to my feet, rolling out my back and shoulders. This had to be one of the worst ideas I had ever had.
‘You actually remembered it this time?’ I asked, a little surprised as she stepped back from the window leading to our living room and awkwardly climbed inside.
‘I always have my key, it’s just more amusing to wake you up in the middle of the night,’ she smiled mischievously, wrapping her arms around my shoulders and walking with me to the kitchen.
‘That, and I love waking up our neighbours. It’s my goal to get them all to hate us by the end of the year. Think of it as my New Years resolution.’
‘New Years was four months ago.’ I deadpanned opening the fridge to look for something for breakfast. It was Sarah’s week to go shopping.
‘I know and I’m already three neighbours down. Only three more and I will have achieved my first New Years resolution ever.’ She beamed proudly as I slammed the fridge shut. I guess I was going to have to get breakfast on the way to school. Great.
‘What about the landlord?’
‘He’s the bonus round. If I get him mad at us I’m going to buy myself a new dress as a reward. That man has the patience of a saint.’
‘Lucky,’ I grumbled, thinking how terrible it would be if we needed to find a new place to live. Maybe I’d go without a housemate this time.
‘So, what happened to you last night missy?’
‘I came home like I said I would.’
‘So, how did you end up sleeping out on the fire escape?’ She asked curiously as she skipped through the apartment after me. It wasn’t much but it was enough for the two of us. The living area had a beat up old kitchen with a twenty-year-old gas stove and matching fridge. The lounge room consisted of a couch with springs poking out through the cushions and a TV that barely managed to get five channels. Luckily, I was always too busy with work to bother with TV anyway. We also had a rickety old table with three mismatch chairs which were currently covered in my kids’ workbooks and lesson plans.
There were two bedrooms, mine was slightly smaller than Sarah’s but that was okay because I didn’t have nearly as many clothes as her. I opened the door to my own room, my eyes automatically going to the window and smiling as Sarah continued to following in after me.
‘Morning Jake,’ I smiled as the old man from across the alley looked up from his morning paper and beamed at me.
‘Morning Miss Annie, long night?’ He smirked obviously noting my dishevelled appearance.
‘I hope he treated you right, you remember I was in the army and won’t hesitate to call in a few favours.’ I smirk as he started on another of his war stories, I particularly liked the ones he told about when he served with some Australians. I loved listening to his stories but looking at my clock I knew I didn’t have time this morning to sit down and have a cup of tea between our two windows if I wanted to make it to school on time.
‘Sorry Jake, but I have to get a move on if I want to make it to school on time, can we talk tonight?’ I offered, fumbling around my room, looking for something to wear. I needed to change out of my wrinkled dress that held a heavy aroma of alcohol and smoke. Not acceptable for an elementary school teacher.
‘Of course Miss Annie, those little ones aren’t going to teach themselves. You have a lovely day,’ he smiled, turning his attention back to his morning paper.
‘You too Jake.’ I replied before turning back to face an expectant Sarah. I had almost forgotten she was still there.
‘Well?’ She promoted.
‘What happened last night?’
‘Nothing, I caught a cab back and left my purse on the back seat,’ I shrugged pushing past her and heading for the bathroom. Honestly, sometimes I wondered if she was immune to hangovers. If I had drunk as much as she had last night I would be passed out in a gutter somewhere. Yet here she was interrogating me with not even a hint of a headache.
‘Really?’ She asked sceptically and it didn’t take a genius to realise she didn’t believe a word I was saying.
‘Yep, it’s me, Sarah, how exciting do you think my night got after I left you last night?’ It wasn’t like I was followed by some men before running headlong into a mysterious guy who then accused me of being the press and dropped me off outside my ‘apartment’. No, there was no way she’d believe that actually happened to me. I still thought maybe I had been dreaming or at least trapped in some sort of nightmare.
‘Yeah, I guess,’ Sarah agreed but she still didn’t appear convinced as she stood in the doorway of the bathroom preventing me from closing it.
‘Do you mind?’ I prompted impatiently, gesturing to the door. ‘I need to shower before I get to school.’ She moved back, looking lost in thought as I shut the door on her and quickly started the shower. It always took forever to warm up and I was in no mood for a cold shower this morning.
Twenty minutes later I was stuffing books in my bag and racing out the door as Sarah sat sipping her coffee whilst watching one of our only available channels. It seemed like a cruel trick that one of the only channels we got was the entertainment channel.
‘Bye,’ I shouted as I ran for the door.
‘Hey,’ Sarah shouted as I pulled the door open. ‘Come here.’
‘Why?’ I groaned. I did no care who was cheating on who in Hollywood and yet still I found my feet moving back in her direction knowing I’d never hear the end of it if I just walked out on her.
‘Doesn’t that look kind of like the dress you were wearing last night?’ She asked, squinting at a grainy picture that was up on the screen and I immediately felt my heart drop. That couldn’t be right.
‘Maybe someone else has a similar dress,’ I muttered, hoisting my bag higher on my shoulder as Sarah turned the volume up on the TV.
‘Didn’t you say you got it from some boutique back in Melbourne? What are the chances that someone in New York has one just like it?’
‘Shut up,’ I hushed, listening to the story as the overly perky news reader started to speak again.
’It’s been two weeks since Xander Collins’ roller coaster relationship between himself and our Hollywood starlet, Allison Kelly, ended in flames. Could it be that he has found another leading lady?′ The woman speculated as the camera cut from the photo of the girl in my dress and back to her.
’Is it possible that our main man is ready to move on after having his heart broken so publicly?’ She cooed as if it personally affected her as a shot of the guy from last night flashed across the screen, his face crumpled in anger and pain. What happened to him? ‘If so it looks like he’s found someone who is nothing like the stars of Hollywood. There aren’t many photo’s surfacing of the two but there is already speculation on the mystery girl’s identity.’ She went on to list some B-list actresses who the girl could possibly be but I was too busy cringing away from Sarah who had turned her full attention on me.
‘A cab, hey?’ she demanded as I started to edge my way to the door.
‘Such a coincidence that someone has a dress that looks like mine,’ I shrugged, walking a little faster back to the still open door. Who the hell was Xander Collins?
‘Don’t you dare run away from me,’ Sarah threatened but by that point, I was already at the door and I wasn’t hanging around to find out what she was going to do next.
‘Bye Sarah,’ I called, darting out the door and flying down the three flights of stairs as I heard her feet pounding behind me. She was shouting things at me but I couldn’t make them out as I tried to run as fast as I could from her. I did not have time for an interrogation.
‘Annie Felicity Reiner, get your Australian ass back here,’ she shouted from the top of the last flight of stairs as I fumbled with the building’s front door.
‘I believe you meant Australian arse,’ I smirked up at her as I swung the door open. However, when I looked up at her I watched in confusion as her face changed from anger to something between awe, fear and excitement. Not a mix of emotions you expect to see on someone’s face. Reluctantly, I looked behind me to find a mass of people staring back at me. For a moment, there was no movement, no noise except for the regular noise of a New York city street and then chaos erupted.
‘Miss Reiner, Miss Reiner, over here,’ several of them shouted as they raised camera’s to their faces.
‘Miss Reiner, how long have you been dating Xander?’ Another shouted over the top of the others. I couldn’t seem to focus on one thing so instead, I found my eyes darting all over the place wondering what planet I had landed on.
I found myself blinking my eyes several times trying to make them disappear but apparently I didn’t have that superpower. If anything their numbers seemed to multiply as passersby stopped to see what all the commotion was.
I felt my heartbeat increase as my breathing became rapid. I had never been good in front of crowds, especially spontaneous mobs lying in wait outside my apartment building yelling obscenities at me to get my attention.
When several of them started to move closer I felt my eyes widen even further as my mind shouted at my feet to run and I looked down at them accusingly as if they had failed me in some way. Apparently, the message wasn’t getting through because they still refused to move.
‘Hey, back off,’ I heard someone yell beside me and I looked over to see a ferocious Sarah batting people away as she pulled me behind her and managed to slam the door in their faces all in one swift move.
There was a muffled silence in the foyer of our apartment building and I looked up just in time to see the door of nosey Mrs Roberts close, her mousey face disappearing back inside in the blink of an eye. Everyone was watching me.
‘Well, that was intense,’ Sarah mused and I looked back up at her, not sure what thoughts were currently running through my head. ‘Still sticking to the cab story then?’
‘Yeah,’ I muttered, absently brushing back my shoulder-length blonde hair from my face before returning to clutching my bag tightly. What the hell just happened?
‘Why don’t we get you back upstairs?’ Sarah suggested. ‘Then maybe you can tell me the whole story.’
‘What about school?’ I frowned, stopping in her hold at the bottom of the first flight of stairs. ‘I have to get to school.’
‘I think you may have to take a sick day,’ Sarah said gently, patting my arm sympathetically, nudging me up the first step.
‘But, we were making robots today,’ I muttered. We had been planning them for two days now. I really wanted to see what the kids created. ‘Jackson was going to make a cake-bot that ate rubbish and pooped out cake.’
‘As appetising as that sounds, I don’t think you’re going to be able to make it. Not with that riot sitting outside our door.’
‘Oh,’ I muttered, allowing myself to be led up the stairs by Sarah.
‘Yeah, Annie?’ She sighed as we were on the final flight of stairs.
‘What am I going to do?’ I asked helplessly.
‘We’ll figure it out, but first, I want to know how you mixed yourself up with one of Hollywood’s hottest celebrities? I swear Australian’s have all the fun.’ She muttered, punching me lightly in the arm as we walked back inside our apartment.
‘Sarah?’ I said in a weak voice.
‘Who the hell is Xander Collins?’