Louis’ apartment door closed behind him and as he turned, he noticed that Sydney was where he left her this morning. That was unsurprising enough for him not to take notice of it, so he immediately started in with his day as he went for the refrigerator. “Ugh. I hate that place. It’s such a waste of time. I feel like I’m the only person there who’s actually sane. The meetings - what are they about? Nothing. There’s nothing to eat here. What should I eat?”
Sydney had her knees and elbows tucked into an oversize shirt, playing Words With Friends on her phone.
“Should I go get fish?”
“No.” Louis neatly closed the cabinet housing the health bars. “My stomach hurts. I’m tired of food.” He leaned on the kitchen counter. “I just have to remember that I’m doing this job to support myself – and you I guess - until my next gallery show. Josiah called. Things are so stressful over there, but I think it’s because we have bad phone reception.”
Sydney nodded absently.
“What did you do today?” He asked her, voice raised to a childlike tone to indicate that he cared.
“I didn't do anything,” she said.
He moved to his desk with disappointment and wondered how it had come that he’d committed to a life with a deadbeat.
“Did you send your resume out?”
“Are you hungry?”
She shook her head, balancing her butt on one foot now. Her eyes studied his poor posture as he sulked from over the shield of her phone. She stood up, went to the refrigerator and got a Fage 2% to place in front of him.
“Can I have the smaller spoon?” He asked. She acquiesced and went back to her spot on the couch.
Sometimes, when a child runs away, they come back home. They will notice that you’ve kept everything just the same in their room, except changed the sheets. And they’ll hug you hard and tell you that when they were in that Waffle House waiting for some guy from Craigslist, they weren’t really doing that at all, but they were thinking of you, and they missed you, and it wasn’t your fault at all that they left. It was because they were angry but now they’re better. They’ll want to hug you forever.
“How do you pack a dress jacket?” Louis asked.
“You could hang it inside the plastic covers that come from the dry cleaners and then fold it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean the dry cleaners give you back your clothes with a clear plastic over them, and if you can put your coat inside it… Like, the plastic is a hollow tube of plastic I guess, or kind of a long transparent trash bag-“
“And then I fold the blazer on top of it?”
“No,” Sydney said, “You open the bag up,” she mimed, “and lay the coat inside,” she pretended to put something inside her invisible bag, “and-“
“I don't even want to know your idea if you’re going to treat me like an idiot for it.” He threw the empty Fage container.
“I’m sorry,” she said. He didn't respond.
Parents keep the voice of their children on their answering machine even years after they’ve left them behind. The mom and dad watch television, maybe the Grammys, and let the phone ring so when they don’t pick up, their kid’s voice can chime in with their thoughts, and it's like he’s sitting right there with them.
“I really am sorry,” Syndey repeated after a ten-minute silence.
“You and I used to be really good,” he said. “When we worked together, but you… I’m not sexually attracted to unmotivated people.”
“I’ll try harder.” Syndey said, “I remember when we used to have a good time too.”
“I’ve done everything for you. I even let you put that cup that wasn’t white in the bathroom.” His hand swept the apartment to parenthetically emphasize his monochrome white apartment.
“And anyway, it’s not about that. It’s about how you just shut down. I have so much at stake. Never mind.” Louis picked up his yogurt container and threw it out. “Want to go to bed?”
She nodded, took off her shirt, and left for the bedroom. Watching her coltish legs retreat, Louis was proud and tired and followed her in.
There’s nothing wrong with cleaning out someone’s hairbrush and then tossing the strands outside, because birds make nests with it.
Hallie Elizabeth Newton lives in New York where she writes stories, interviews, music reviews, and screenplays. Photography by Magnus Magnusson, Fashion by Robert Rydberg, hair by Dejan Cekanovic@LinkDetails, beauty by Sophia Eriksen@AgentBauer, modeling by Andrea@Nisch Management, photography assistance by Ninja Hanna, Dan Sjölund, fashion assistance by Maria Barsoum, Josefine Skomars and Sara Bidemar.