The Thousandth Floor

Page 45

Eris moved quickly past. She hated seeing her mom like this. But she wasn’t ready to go in there and hug her either. She hadn’t yet forgiven her for everything that had happened. It was like her dad—Everett, she reminded herself—had said. I just need more time, okay?

Eris sighed and opened the refrigerator. She wasn’t even hungry; it was a hollow and aimless gesture, because she wasn’t sure what else to do. For the first time in years Eris had no plans on a Saturday night. Instead she would be here, alone, in a smelly apartment while all her friends did something fabulous that she could no longer afford.

At least she’d managed to go upTower earlier today. She’d spent the afternoon shopping with Avery and the girls—not that she bought anything, but she’d been desperate to escape the lower-floor claustrophobia. They’d all gone out for icefruit afterward, and Eris had ended up spending some of her rapidly dwindling bitbanc balance on a lemon freeze, just so she wouldn’t be the only girl without one. She’d practically had to restrain herself from licking the bright pink compostable cup when she was done. She couldn’t believe she used to buy stuff like that, eat two bites, and throw the rest away without another thought.

Now the rest of the girls were all headed out, to dinner at Amuse-Bouche and then the new tiki bar Painkiller. Eris had heard that the bar looked out on a simulated ocean, where the sun set repeatedly all night long, over and over every forty minutes. In her old life Eris would be getting dressed right now. She let herself briefly fantasize about it, planning her outfit—her white crocheted halter top and the flowy skirt with the slit up the side. And a big, expensive hibiscus flower in her hair, which she would have to special order from the florist, but which would be totally worth it when all the other girls saw it and wished they’d had the same idea.

They’d all been shocked when she said she couldn’t come tonight. “Are you sure?” Avery had begged, and Eris almost blurted out the truth right then and there. But she knew the moment she did, everything would change, and she couldn’t handle that yet. None of the girls would be mean about it, of course; but they would feel awkward and uncomfortable around her, and the invitations would slowly stop coming. No one would want to make Eris feel bad by asking her to expensive dinners or yoga classes she couldn’t afford. And she needed that pretense of normalcy. It was the only thing keeping her stable right now.

Instead she’d told everyone that her parents were forcing her to come home for family dinner. Family dinner, ha. In an attempt to be nice, the girls had insisted on walking her “home” to the Nuage. Eris ended up waving good-bye and getting in the elevator, then wandered the halls upstairs for fifteen minutes before she dared come back down. It was getting exhausting, keeping up with her lies.

She started toward her bedroom but paused at the sound of commotion out in the hall, the voices traveling clearly through the doorway, which was still propped wide-open. “I know, I know, I’ll tell her!” It sounded like Mariel.

Eris glanced out and sure enough, there was Mariel, rolling her eyes as she shut the apartment door behind her. “Going out?” Eris said without thinking. Mariel was wearing a tight dress with an uneven hem, red heels, and a compact chrome bag.

“Staying in?” Mariel answered.

“Guess so. Not much to do around here, is there?”

Mariel raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, our parties aren’t all champagne flutes and lame music.”

“You’re going to a party?” Eris wasn’t sure why she was doing this, except that she didn’t want to go inside and be alone again.

Mariel stared at her for a moment in evident disbelief. “You want to come?”

“Yes,” Eris breathed, sounding pathetically eager.

Mariel walked over to Eris, her lips pursed. Then, in a single dramatic gesture, she ripped all the buttons from Eris’s silk button-down, revealing the white camisole beneath.

“What the hell?” Eris stepped back, but Mariel was laughing. For someone so brusque, her laugh was surprisingly soft, floating lazily upward like rings of halluci-lighter smoke. Eris found herself wanting to hear it again.

“Sorry,” Mariel said cheerfully, “but it’s not a costume party, so you can’t go as an uptight highlier bitch. Here.” She pulled one of the long chain necklaces from around her neck and handed it to Eris. “That’ll help.”

“Thanks.” Eris glanced down at her outfit, jeans and sand-colored wedges and the white undershirt, which was way too low-cut to be worn as an actual top. The necklace drew attention to her cleavage in a slutty way. Whatever, it didn’t matter how she looked down here. And her spirits had lifted a bit, in spite of everything, at the mention of a party.

“Where are we going?” Eris trotted to catch up with Mariel, who was already moving down the hall.

“Have you ever taken the monorail?”

Only once, on a field trip in elementary school, but Mariel didn’t need to know that. Eris wondered with some trepidation where they were headed. The monorails were commuter trains, leading only to dismal places like New Jersey or Queens. Everyone upTower just took copters instead.

“Of course I have,” she said, more confidently than she felt.

* * *

“Welcome to Brooklyn,” Mariel announced when they finally disembarked. They started down a street lined with shops, a few stubbornly open despite the lack of foot traffic, the halogen lights out front flickering halfheartedly. Mariel pulled out her tablet and began texting, her brow furrowed. Eris said nothing.

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