CH.1: HEATHER & RACHEL
Crumpled shirts lay scattered across the pink carpet, strewn over the unmade bed, and hanging out of open dresser drawers. Heather stomps over them, kicking aside toppled books on her way toward her desk. She rummages through the perfumes and body sprays claiming space next to stuffed pigs, bears, and sock monkeys; their expressions vacant and unblinking.
“Rachel!” Heather’s voice carries down the hall, permeating the apartment with its shrill neediness. “Rachel have you seen my Cherry Blossom body spray!?”
Rachel appears in the doorway, looking down at her phone. “What’s going on?” she asks, looking up.
Heather trudges to her full-length mirror, grunting loudly at the sight of herself. Spinning around, she tears the cream blouse from her body. Her belly jiggles with the force she expends flinging the garment across her room. “Nothing looks right, and I can’t find my Cherry Blossom body spray!” She squeezes her eyes shut, her lips stretching tightly along her face in an unattractive grimace. “Do you have anything I could wear?”
Rachel forces a smile. “Lucky for you, we’re still the same size.” She motions for Heather to follow as she moves to the adjacent bedroom. “You might want to start this diet with me if you want to keep borrowing my clothes,” she teases.
Heather rolls her eyes, following at her heels. “Not this again,” she drones. “You know how I feel about diet culture.” She trudges over to Rachel’s haphazardly made bed and throws herself down, sinking into it. She pushes down on the mattress. “How do you sleep on this thing?”
Rachel glances over her shoulder and smiles. “Not a fan of plush bedding?”
“Not this soft,” she murmurs. “You’re going to wreck your back.” She glances at the collection of penguin ornaments on the shelf on her wall, remembering how Rachel made her watch Happy Feet on repeat for the first month of its release.
She eyes the clumsy stacks of books against the wall, squinting and biting her lip. Are any of these new? She hasn’t been reading as much as she used to. Has Rachel? It would be embarrassing if she couldn’t say she’s read more than her.
“How’s this?” Rachel says, spinning around with a gold short-sleeved shirt. She holds it out to her.
Heather peels her eyes away from the books, shaking her insecurities away. “Won’t that show my belly?”
Rachel brings the shirt closer to herself and examines it. “Uhm, yeah a bit.” She shrugs. “That’s sort of the point, though.” She tosses the shirt to her.
She glares at Rachel for a long second before conceding. “Fine.”
Rachel bites her lip, taking in Heather’s form. Large amble breasts pushed upward by her snug bra complimented by her pooling belly hanging over her slacks.
Their eyes meet and Rachel averts her gaze. “Sorry,” she blurts, tugging on the bottom of her black misfits shirt, looking anywhere but at Heather.
“What? What’s wrong?” she asks. “Do I look like I’ve gained weight or something?”
“No!” cries Rachel. She scoffs. “I can’t believe you.”
“Then what?” she asks, pulling the shirt downward.
“You’re perfect...” she trails, looking at her bedpost, still avoiding Heather’s eye.
Heather tenses, her cheeks and chest splotchy and red.
“Well,” Rachel says quickly, “Move your arms, let’s see it.”
Heather pulls down on the shirt, her breasts tugging it forward.
“Stop pulling on it like that,” she scolds.
“Oh, what the hell!” Heather shrieks.
“It’s fine. You look great.” She walks toward her. “I wish you could see how sexy you are,” she murmurs, her eyes dancing across Heather’s chest, finding their way to her midsection. She smiles. “You look way better than I ever could.”
Heather scoffs. “Please. You’re the sexy one here, not me. I can’t even dress myself without help.” She laughs, turning away.
Aware of Rachel’s breath on her neck and face, she twists away and plucks a book from the stack she’d been eyeing. “Do you mind if I borrow this?” she asks, abruptly thrusting it forward.
For a moment, Rachel says nothing. “Uhm, sure. Whatever.”
Slowly, Rachel looks down, the tip of her tongue lightly gliding across her upper-lip. Her hands rest on her sides, and she sways gently from side to side. She looks up at Heather as she scrutinizes her stomach and thighs in the mirror.
She approaches her, carefully reaching out, taking Heather by the crook of her arm. Heather stiffens, wide-eyed and thin-lipped.
“Relax,” Rachel whispers, moving in closer, her lips almost grazing Heather’s.
“Rachel...” she responds in little more than a whisper.
Heavy lidded, she says nothing. She stands there, holding Heather’s arms, looking at her lips. “You know how I feel about you, don’t you?” she asks, her tone almost a plea.
“Oh god,” she blurts.
Rachel releases her grip and steps back.
“I’m sorry,” says Heather. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just, I thought you were passed this.”
“How do I move passed something like this?” she asks. “I… love you.”
“That makes this so much worse.” She pauses a moment, flattening her hair with her hands. “I’m not..” She rolls her eyes and exhales. “I’m not gay.”
“Neither am I,” Rachel says, flashing a toothy smile.
Heather’s eyes narrow, her lips still pulled into a tight line.
“I’m not,” she says louder. “Your gender doesn’t play a role in this, it’s you I—”
“We were drunk,” Heather interrupts, her tone cold and clipped.
Rachel takes another step back, giving Heather room to push past. Her pale complexion reddens. She brushes thick, black curls from her face, wiping quickly at her eyes. Heather disappears from the room, taking a sharp right into her own.
She looks around, stopping when she notices the book Heather asked to borrow still lying on her bed.
From her window, Heather watches Rachel’s cobalt blue Ford Fiesta hustle down the street and take a right.
She shakes her head, letting the curtain fall shut. She opens her Goodreads app and quickly finds Rachel’s profile. “Fuck,” she whispers aloud to herself, turning back to her mirror. It’s obvious she wants me to look bad, she reasons. She peels the shirt off over her head, tossing it away.
Why does Rachel insist on doing this to me? How many times have we gone over this?
She’s always careful not to call what they did a mistake, Rachel is too sensitive for that, but that’s exactly what she believes it was. For fuck’s sake, it was just a kiss.
She slams the top dresser drawer shut and storms back into Rachel’s room. She opens the closet door, shoving the life-size cardboard cutout of Pierce Brown aside.
They’d gone to a book signing that day, and Rachel had droned on about how badly she’d love to have one just like it in her room. Heather had teased her and asked if she was going to masturbate while Pierce stared at her with his cardboard eyes. As they’d made their way out, signed copies of Morning Star in hand, Heather had grabbed it and made a mad dash to her jeep, laughing hysterically, Rachel at her heels.
She pushes the memory from her mind, furrowing her brow.
She holds out a svelte black blouse with a twisted knot in the center. This would show her cleavage off and hide her belly all at once.
She quickly does a one over of her pale-faced, red-lipped reflection in the mirror. “Good enough,” she mutters, shifting her hair to the left.