Sisterhood, by Deirdre Coles
Rina glared at me across the table, putting down a forkful of enchiladas.
“Of all the stupid ideas you’ve ever had, and there have been a lot, this has got to be the stupidest,” she said.
“What would be stupid is ignoring it,” I said. “This is our chance, for both of us. Think about how our lives could change.”
“First of all, I don’t believe you,” she said. “I mean, I think you got close to the right number, and you’ve probably convinced yourself that you got it, but you didn’t. Do I have to go over the statistics with you again?”
I rolled my eyes. Every time I bought a Mega Millions ticket, which was maybe once a month, Rina launched into the same lecture. This from somebody who throws salt over her shoulder and moped for two days last Thanksgiving because she got the smaller half of the wishbone.
“No, you don’t,” I said. “But I know that I’m right. Because, this is embarrassing, but I picked the dates of when the thing with Jake
started as my middle three numbers, 11-4-12.”
“And that is a perfect illustration of my next point,” she said. “This whole thing is just about you not being over Jake.”
“Are you kidding me? Jake is the worst.”
“I’m not going to argue with you there,” she said. “You know how I feel about him. But this is just an excuse to get back in his life
“No it’s not! The whole point of going over there today is because he won’t be there. We just go in, grab my stuff and get out.”
“I can’t believe I’m even asking this, because I still don’t believe that you actually won, but why don’t you just ask him for your stuff?”
“Because, here’s the thing. I remember exactly where my jeans were, on the floor in the corner of his room, and I’m pretty sure the
paper sticking out of the pocket just a little was the ticket. And I’m sure he hasn’t picked them up yet.”
“That’s one way you guys were compatible, at least,” Rina said.
I took the high road and ignored that.
“First of all, if I ask, he might just throw my clothes and stuff in the garbage out of spite. But what would be even worse is if he picked them up and found the ticket. Imagine if he cashed it in himself. Seriously. He would absolutely do that. Even a good person would be tempted, and you know Jake.”
Rina gave a little shudder. “That would suck, all right.”
I grinned. I knew I’d hooked her now.
“Stop smiling,” she scowled at me. “How sure are you about having the right number, exactly?”
I stared into her eyes. “Ninety-five percent sure.”
She raised one eyebrow, saying nothing.
“Ninety percent sure,” I amended.
She sighed. “And I suppose you’re going to tell me you searched your apartment? Really, this time?”
“I did,” I said. “I looked absolutely everywhere.”
“Like you did last weekend with the missing library book that I ended up finding in the bag next to the door?”
“Why do you even have to bring that up?” I said. “Of course I did. The library book was worth, like, twenty dollars. This is like, a thousand times more.”
“Twenty times a thousand does not equal $25 million,” she said. “Jesus, you suck at math.”
“The point is, I searched every inch of my apartment. Every pocket of every piece of clothing. It’s not there. I know it has to be at
Jake’s. And the longer we wait, the more likely he is to find it himself.”
“Crap,” she said. “With you springing this on me at lunch, I didn’t even have a chance to lay the groundwork by acting sick this morning. I was all chipper and peppy. They’re going to think I went and got drunk at lunch or something.”
Rina was in.
I had hoped that Rina would be less mad at me once we got to Jake’s place, but that turned out not to be the case. That was partly because I’d insisted we had to take her car, just to be on the safe side, in case any of the neighbors remembered mine. And
partly because to get into his backyard, we’d had to crawl through a hedge that was a lot denser and pricklier than it looked, and it had started raining, and we both had a lot of scratches and muddy hands and knees. And the other part was probably because I was explaining to her how the chair that was usually out in the backyard was missing, so she was going to have to crouch down and let me stand on her back to reach the empty bird feeder, where Jake hid his extra key.
“Why don’t I stand on your back?” she argued.
“You’re way too short. This is no job for a hobbit,” I said.
“And besides, you have terrible balance. Take it from somebody who’s done yoga with you and was dumb enough to set up next to you last time. You’re like a drunken sailor. Pathetic.”
“But why can’t you just step in my clasped hands or something?”
“Because the birdhouse is in the middle of the yard. I’d have nothing to grab onto, and in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a ninja.”
Rina grumbled a lot more, but she was getting increasingly nervous about hanging out in Jake’s yard, and eventually she hunched down on the ground.
I probably should have taken my shoes off first, but I only realized that when I saw the muddy footprint I’d left on the pale blue fabric. I stepped up with the other foot. I was definitely going to have to buy Rina a new shirt. At least if the footprints didn’t come off after I hand-washed this one. Even on Rina’s back, I had to strain to reach the bird feeder, which Jake had never once filled with birdseed since he’d moved in. Unfortunately this time it was empty of the key as well. I stepped down slowly.
Still on the ground, Rina glared at me. I had to admire her ability to maintain a dignified scowl even while crouching down with muddy footprints on her back.
“Let me guess…” she started to say.
“Maybe he left the back door unlocked,” I interrupted. “I’m just going to go check.”
Rina sighed again. “Why do you always have to date guys who live in the crappiest neighborhoods? Of course he didn’t leave his back door unlocked. Or his windows open.”
I stared at the back of the house for a minute before inspiration struck.
“I can just break one of those small panes in the laundry room window,” I said. “I’ll be able to pay him back.”
“No, Kim, you won’t,” Rina said. “Because then he would know it was you that broke in.”
“He’s going to know it’s me anyway when I take my jeans and backpack.”
“You can’t take your jeans! Because then he will know for sure! We’re just here for the ticket, remember?”
“Those are my favorite jeans,” I said. “Do you know how long it took me to find them? I can’t leave them here. Maybe… maybe we could take a few other things too. Just so it looks like we’re just regular burglars.”
Rina shook her head more vigorously while I took a closer look at the laundry room window. It was an old window, with six small panes of glass. It didn’t look particularly sturdy. I poked at it with a finger.
“That’s not going to break it,” Rina said. She looked around, and handed me a lump of concrete that looked like it had come from one of the broken pavers.
“There’s just one problem,” I said. “I’m going to need your shirt. I can’t just break it with my bare hands. I’ll get all cut up.”
“Forget it! Use your shirt then!”
“You’re wearing some kind of sports bra tank top thingy,” I pointed out. “I can see the straps. I’m wearing just a regular bra. Besides, the fabric on mine is too thin. No protection from broken glass.”
“No way. Let’s get out of here. Time for Plan B.”
“Come on, Rina, there is no Plan B,” I said. “Besides, your shirt’s all muddy anyway…”
I trailed off as I finished that sentence, realizing it had probably been a tactical mistake. But despite her glare, Rina actually did peel her shirt off, and then stood there shivering in her black sports bra, arms crossed over her stomach. It took a few whacks, but I broke the pane, and then pushed the broken fragment inside. In less than a minute I reached an arm in, opened the latch, climbed on top of the dryer, and let Rina in through the back door.
This was going to be easier than I thought.
“I don’t know who you bastards are, but I already called the cops and I’m in here with a gun,” said a woman’s voice from the bedroom.
This was actually going to be much, much harder than I thought.
“Oh crap,” I whispered.
“We come in peace!” Rina shouted.
“Oh my God, Rina, we are not aliens in 50s movie,” I said.
“No names!” she hissed to me.
A blonde curly head poked out of the bedroom, staring at us.
“Lucy?” Rina said, sounding shocked. “What are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here? You’ve got to be kidding me,” Lucy said, stepping all the way out of the bedroom. I sighed with envy. Her gray tank top showed off perfectly toned arms. I had been struggling with the wretched weight machines in my gym for months now and my arms looked nothing like that.
“You two know each other?” I said, snapping out of my momentary haze.
“Lucy tends bar at the Green Tree,” Rina said.
“Look, nice to meet you and all, and I can explain why we’re here, but can I just promise to tell you later?” I said. “Because I think we should probably get out of here if the cops are coming.”
“Oh, I think you have time to explain to me,” Lucy said. “In fact, I think you’d better if you don’t want me telling them about you.”
“Lucy, this is my friend Kim,” Rina said. “We’re here because she broke up with Jake a little while ago and we came to get her stuff
“Oh, I heard about you,” Lucy said, facing me. “The crazy ex. The one who keeps calling in the middle of the night.”
I frowned at her, confused. “No, that’s not me.”
“It wasn’t!” I protested, in response to Rina’s skeptical look.
“Oh sure,” she said. “Are you going to tell me that wasn’t you who called three times Saturday night?”
“No, it wasn’t,” I said. “Back to this cops thing, though.”
“That really wasn’t her,” Rina said. “She spent the night at my place Saturday, and I know she didn’t call you because she forgot her phone, again, and didn’t call to tell me what time she was coming over, so I was in the shower when she finally showed up, and then she was complaining about that…”
“So the phone calls came from what, a third woman?” Lucy said.
“Cops!” I interrupted. “Coming here! The point is, Jake wouldn’t give me my stuff, we came to get it, let’s leave before we get
“Chill out, I didn’t actually call the cops,” Lucy said. “I would have, but I forgot my phone at home.”
“Jake definitely has a type,” Rina muttered.
“Big talk, coming from somebody who’s wandering around breaking into houses in her bra in the rain,” Lucy said.
“I had to use her shirt for the broken glass,” I explained.
“OK, back to why you’re here. So Jake wouldn’t give you your stuff back? And you thought the logical next step was to break in?”
“Well, they’re my favorite jeans, and I’m going to pay him back for the window. Anonymously.”
“You’re not really disproving this whole crazy ex thing, you know,” Lucy said.
“Can I just ask you something, though?” I said. “Because it will bug me if I don’t ask. I’m just kind of surprised you’re here and Jake’s not here. Not to sound weird, but I don’t think he ever let me hang out here while he was gone, even if I didn’t have to get up early.”
“Oh God, now you’re just embarrassing yourself,” Rina said.
“Actually, she does have a point,” Lucy said. “I don’t get off work until almost four, so the first time I came over straight from work, I had had like two hours of sleep, and Jake practically shoved me out the door the next morning. So last night he was begging me to come over and I finally said I would, but only if he let me sleep in after he left. He said fine, but then this morning he was slamming drawers, tramping in and out, obviously trying to wake me up. I just ignored him and pretended to be asleep. He even turned on the radio in the kitchen and left it blaring after he left.”
“I don’t get it,” Rina said. “I mean, no offense, you guys, but Jake is just the worst. How does he keep getting women like you two? And Mrs. Mysterious Phone Lady?”
“That’s a good question,” Lucy said, sitting down at the kitchen table. “I was wondering that myself, while he was slamming drawers this morning. For me, when you work in a bar like I do, and you’re kind of cute, guys tend to fixate on you and kind of idolize you. And because it’s a bar and a lot of them are drinking way too much, they act like it’s your fault. If you knew how many letters I’ve gotten from men declaring their undying love for me or telling me I ruined their lives because now that they’ve met me they can’t go back to their wives or whatever… Well, Jake is such a jerk, I figured I didn’t have to worry about ruining his life, because he’s way too selfish to ever take me that seriously.”
“That actually makes sense,” Rina said. “But what about you, Kim? What’s your excuse?”
“He asked me out,” I said. “And he’s cute. And then, well, it just never seemed like the right time to end it.”
“This is what I keep telling her, that she’s way too passive,” Rina said to Lucy. “It drives me crazy.”
“Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!” I said.
“How long ago did you buy your car, Kim?” Rina asked.
“Three years ago,” I said warily. “You know that. You came with me.”
“Three years and she still hasn’t changed the radio stations the last owner programmed in,” Rina said, addressing Lucy again.
Lucy looked at me. “She’s right, you know,” she said. “How long were you with Jake anyway?” Lucy asked.
“I don’t know…” I said, but Rina interrupted.
“Four months, and she does know, because that’s what she used for some of the numbers…”
“What numbers?” Lucy asked sharply. I glared over at Rina.
“Numbers for my stupid computer password at work, which I wish I never told you about, Rina,” I said. Saved again by my quick thinking! I smirked.
“Whatever,” Lucy said, walking over to the refrigerator. “But come on, four months? Jake is not four-month material. He’s a jerk. Why would you waste that much time on someone like him? Hey, do you guys want something to drink? A beer, maybe? Looks like Jake’s got Heineken.”
“OK,” I said. At times like this, it usually seems like a good idea to go with the flow.
“Mind if I put a shirt on first?” Rina said.
“You can grab one of mine from my backpack,” I said.
“Actually, no, he probably cleaned up if Lucy was coming over… oh crap.” Rina’s eyes met mine, realization hitting us both.
“I don’t think he’s cleaned up, like, this year,” Lucy said.
“Your stuff might still be right where you left it.”
I tried to send Rina a “get the ticket now” message with my eyes. But she sucks at any kind of subterfuge, and immediately got her
beady-eyed guilty face on, and unfortunately Lucy was looking at us.
“What is it?” Lucy said. “What’s the deal with you two? What’s in there?”
“My favorite jeans,” I said, getting up and edging toward the hallway. But Rina said “her grandmother’s ring” at the same time, and then flushed.
“What is with you guys? Maybe I should go in there with you to see this ‘ring’,” she said, doing air quotes with her fingers around the word. God, I hate air quotes.
“Run, Kim! I’ll block her!” Rina yelled, and planted herself in the doorway of the kitchen. I shook my head in disgust, but went ahead and ran into the bedroom. It did, as Lucy had said, look like Jake hadn’t cleaned up in a year. It was depressing. Why exactly did I stay with him for so long? Why willingly spend my time with somebody so inconsiderate that he didn’t even bother to pick his ex-girlfriend’s clothes off the floor before his new hook-up came over? I had to hurry, though, because things in the kitchen
doorway were getting tense.
“Are you actually trying to block me?” Lucy said to Rina.
“You are like, half my size. I think you are literally required by law to ride in a booster seat in the car. I could probably step over you if I had my heels on.”
“Look, Lucy, we don’t want a fight or anything,” Rina said.
“You’re goddamn right you don’t. Did you know I’m taking Krav Maga classes? I could break you in half.”
“Probably, but we’ll just be another minute and then we’ll be out of your hair.”
“You guys broke the freaking window,” Lucy said.
Meanwhile, I rummaged frantically through the pile of clothes in the corner. There were my jeans. And there, with just a corner
poking out, was the ticket. I knew I shouldn’t stop to do it then, but I couldn’t help it. I snuck a peek at the numbers. And I was shocked. I was right. They were the right numbers. I’d won. The realization made me so dizzy I doubled over, sure for a
second that I was going to throw up. So I was bent over, with the ticket clutched in my hand, when Lucy got past a squawking Rina and came into the room.
“What’s that?” she asked calmly.
“Nothing,” I said.
The quick thinking I’m so proud of is not a 100 percent of the time kind of thing.
I eyed her nervously. The Krav Maga comment was freaking me out.
“You guys do get that I still could call the police, right?” Lucy said. “I know both of your names now. You could get in a lot of trouble. So why don’t you just hand it over?”
I started walking miserably toward her. I tried to think of what I could say. Should I offer to split the money with her? Why wouldn’t she just take it all? Threaten to report her to the police? But then things got even worse.
“Oh shit oh shit oh shit,” Rina chanted in a fast monotone, then suddenly ducked down below the bedroom window.
“What is it?” I said.
“Jake’s here,” she said. “Home early.”
Lucy drew in a long breath. “Go on, you guys, out the back door,” she said. “I’ll cover for you.”
“What? Why?” I said.
Rina, still half-crouching, grabbed my arm and started dragging me away. “Kim! Gift horse, mouth? Let’s go!”
“Hurry, I’ll stall him,” Lucy said. “Don’t forget your shirt, Rina.”
“Crap!” she said, snatching it and shaking glass fragments out.
“What about the window?” I said. I knew we should be going.
I heard his car door slam.
“I’ll tell him somebody tried to break in and I got so rattled that’s why I cracked open two beers in the middle of the day,” she said.
“Why are you doing this?” I half-whispered as we went out the back door.
“Because Rina’s right,” Lucy said. “Jake really is the worst.”
Deirdre Coles lives in Seattle, Washington, and doesn’t mind the rain. Her stories have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Free Flash Fiction, MicroHorror, and Kazka Press Fantasy Flash Fiction.
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