She threw her keys on the ground and yanked her wavy, dark hair, kneading it with her hands.
Dammit. She paced, her feet stuttering every few steps. Her blue toenail polish glinted a sea-green in the golden sunlight that poured in the narrow window. She turned toward the bed and twirled a strand of hair with her left pointer finger. She bit the skin on the tip of the same finger on her left hand. The comforter lay in a wrinkled, brightly colored mass, folding to reveal the light blue sheets stretched across the queen-sized mattress. She overturned the comforter with her right hand. It wasn’t there either.
The phone rang in the other room. Her eyes blinked in its direction, but she did not move, she merely shifted her weight to her left leg. She looked down at the ink-stained papers and technicolor array of T-shirts that covered the beige carpet so its color remained unknown to anyone who did not already know its shade.
Dammit. Her keys were lost. She kneeled down, her knees knocking together, tugging stray clumps of hair behind her ears. She dug through the piles of clothes. Shit. Where had they gone? She dug her fingers into her forehead, pushing the loose skin into her scalp. She pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, reaching, but unable to grasp her shoulders. Breathe. Just breathe. The phone rang again. She didn’t care who it was. She didn’t want to talk to anybody. She had so much to say, but she didn’t know what, or how, to say it.
He was her best friend, right? So why was it so hard?
She let go of her knees and cascaded, vertebra by vertebra to the floor, her head gently resting on the four-inch pile of blue, white, and yellow yearbooks from high school. High school. Her eyelids fell closed, covering her bright blue eyes. Bright eyes.
“Ali? Aliii?” his voice sang softly in her ear.
She sat up with a start and brushed her hair from her forehead. She blinked a few times, squinting. His arms closed around her and pulled her onto his knees. He sat on his right foot, his left pushed out from under. She lay on his lap, tracing spiral patterns onto his faded jeans. Her hair cascaded over his legs and swirled in heaps on the floor. It had gotten long. His right arm draped over her hips, his left supported his upper body weight, bracing his back. He looked down at her glazed, distant eyes.
“Happy Birthday, Ali,” he whispered.
She laughed hysterically, her diaphragm sharply contracting, air rushing in and out of her lungs. It was her silent laugh, the air rushed out in high-pitched squawks. She rolled off his lap and wrenched on the ground like a dying cockroach. Tears streamed from her eyes. She sat up, grinning from ear to ear. She pushed him over and straddled him on her knees. He looked up, his eyes boring into her skull. His mouth twitched a smile.
“Happy Birthday, Frank,” she whispered.
The front door clicked open, ending the moment.
“Found your keys, An, want me to leave ‘em on the counter?” Kate’s voice rang from the front room. She peeked around the hall and found her roommates pretzeled on the floor.
“I’m going to the store after class, you guys need anything?” she asked, her voice absent of any suspicion.
Ali craned her neck so her eyes met Kate’s. Her answer echoed Frank’s.
“Nah, I’m good.”
Kate’s left eyebrow raised and her lips pursed into a slant.
“Alrighty then, I’ll see you guys later.”
She turned around to leave then lurched back into the doorway, her eyes narrow and a strand of light brown hair wisping over her forehead.
“I’ll grab an extra box of condoms, just for you two.”
Ali and Frank suppressed their laughter until they heard the door click shut again.