The begonias winced when they heard the shrill clack of her stiletto boots, but she paid them no mind and marched straight for the doorbell. “Open up, ma chérie,” Reed Whittingham trilled. Two medium-sized Chinese takeout boxes rested on her arm, converting part of her frayed sweatshirt into a heating pad. “Hey, you know who charmed the owners so thoroughly that she scored an extra egg roll?”
“Mmmph?” She could hear short clicks, then a genteel but irritated grunt. Unlike the landlord’s promises to fix it, Makeda’s door had recently acquired an unfortunate tendency to stick.
“This girl!,” Reed crowed, shooting her spare thumb towards her chest. She paused. “Oh. You know, that probably would’ve been more dramatic if you could actually see my thumb. Well, I’m, uh, pointing at myself. And now I’m…narrating my own subtitles, I guess?”
The wood squawked its approval and Makeda’s diamond face appeared, wearing the perpetually-bashful expression Reed found unreasonably charming. “Thanks,” Reed said quietly, her voice coated in smile as she stepped inside. “I’ll just set these down on the counter. Would you like me to grab drinks and maybe some napkins? I don’t remember the exact address where the napkins live, but–“
Makeda watched her words trail away and tried to imagine what Reed’s ideal romantic weekend might look like. Her own version involved reorganizing her bookshelves and binge-watching every special feature on the Lord of the Rings DVDs–the extended editions, of course. Her attraction to Reed, a vivacious metal vocalist currently wearing a violet gothic minidress with a flower body harness, confused her. Reed certainly appeared to be similarly smitten, though Makeda couldn’t determine why. She believed they could be mismatched puzzle pieces, their uneven edges somehow fitting together despite probability or physics.
“You picked up dinner. The least I can do is handle auxiliary meal stuff in my own apartment,” Makeda said. “You go on–I’ll be there in a moment.”
“All right.” Reed squeezed the other woman’s elbow lightly with her free hand and ambled towards the kitchen.
Once she’d disappeared, the faint worry lines that had been chasing Makeda’s forehead began to resurface. Two nights ago, she woke abruptly, lay sprawled out on her creaky king-sized mattress and tunneled through Wikipedia rabbit holes. She wondered whether or not things ever improved for Alanis. She discovered she’d finally crafted the perfect retort to Stephanie Haynes–whom she’d last encountered in the fourth grade. Approximately thirty minutes into its spin cycle, her newly-awakened brain slammed to a stop and she realized that whenever Reed spoke, some of her neurons frowned. She concentrated, attempting to remember the conversations she’d had during a week-long vacation in Melbourne five years before, shortly after she graduated. She opened YouTube and hazily watched a few brief accent tutorials. Mostly, she simply felt the weight of the thought on her chest. Reed exuded charm like a small, stylish supernova and had introduced herself as a native Melbournian, but the faux Aussie drawl that leapt from her mouth was still too stressed and exaggerated to be authentic.
“Keda?” The word meandered through the hallway, floating atop the sharp crack of Reed’s boots attacking a hardwood floor. “Everything OK?”
Why won’t you say my name in your natural voice? And why am I so reluctant to spark a confrontation over it when we’re not even officially together yet?
“Y-Yes. Sorry. I’m a little distracted,” Makeda blathered into the hallway. “I’m coming to you. I’ll sort everything out tonight.”
She hoped it was true.