Elizabeth unlocked the door, though why she bothered locking it at all was anyone’s guess: you could pop it open by slamming a perfectly-formed, no-longer-tanned shoulder against it. Not to mention that her landlady lived just downstairs, and any intruder would have given up the effort by the time they’d run that gauntlet of gossip, questions, and efforts to marry them off.
What did it matter, anyway? This was Toronto, after all.
The phone started ringing as she opened the door. She winced, knowing that any midnight call was likely coming from the coast.
If she hurried inside she could answer it, but Elizabeth had no intention of picking up. Let the ridiculous landline/answering machine combo deal with it.
“You going to get that?” Joey Jeremiah, the middle-aged man standing next to her, asked as he reached his arm over her head to hold the door open. At one point seven meters to her five feet six inches, she had no goddamned idea how tall he was, which was just one of many problems with living in Canada.
“No,” she said shortly, hoping that would be enough. She turned aside, taking an elaborate amount of time dealing with some douche bag of a pork chop she’d brought home for no good reason whatsoever, hoping the padded word count would afford her a chance to blink back the tears that had flooded her perfect, ocean-blue eyes. Like, Pacific Ocean blue, the kind that shades away into turquoise and even green, not the grey-blue Atlantic kind.
She flung a cheap purse at an armchair in a fit of teenager-like pique.
The owner of Jeremiah Motors was looking at her in alarm. “Uh, maybe I should go,” he offered. She shook her head and led the way inside.
The voice on the answering machine was painfully familiar. “Liz, pick up,” it implored, speaking slowly, thickly, almost seductively. “Li – iz, pick up. Please, Liz – zie. I really need to talk to you.”
By now Joey looked on the verge of bolting back out the door, or through a window if necessary. “That was weird,” he said awkwardly.
“Oh, I know,” Elizabeth said, and sighed heavily. “It must seem so mysterious. A voice just like mine. I’m sure nobody could come up with any reasonable explanation for that whatsoever.”
“I just meant it seemed weird that your sister or whoever was speaking so slowly,” he said, backing up until he ended up sitting on the edge of the love seat. “Unusually slowly. And with a strange amount of heavy breathing, really. Unless that wasn’t your sister at all, just a girlfriend maybe?”
Elizabeth dropped into the seat next to him, sitting so close their knees touched. So now he was wondering if she and Jessica were lovers? She supposed he couldn’t help it. At twenty-one, Elizabeth hardly looked a day older than she had in high school, and the combination of a perfect size-four (six without vanity sizing figure), shimmering blonde hair cascading to her shoulders, and those eyes…well, what man could help having his thoughts turn instantly to sex?
“I don’t have a lover,” she told him.
Well. There had been one since she moved to the city. But since Jessica’s betrayal, Elizabeth’s sense of abandonment had led to her burst into tears every single time she had sex. Perfect crystalline tears had rolled down her cheeks in slow motion after each orgasm.
Joey had the uncomfortable expression of someone who’d stumbled into something personal and wanted nothing more than to change the subject. “I wasn’t asking,” he assured her, but Elizabeth ignored him.
“Do you want to make love?” she asked, despondent but feeling it only fair to offer.
When he raced from her apartment, stammering his apologies, she reflected that she only respected him more for making the honorable decision, however hard it must have been for him. After all, he was her boss, and she barely knew him.
She’d applied for the position as one of three full-time writers for his struggling weekly magazine, a free print-edition review of Canadian television and theatre. She’d seen a copy in the hostel where she’d spent her twenty-first birthday, the most dismal birthday of her life, with nary a lavaliere or pool party to make it bearable. She’d been all alone in the city, and desperate for a job. Grabbing a copy from the hostel’s front desk had been a fortuitous impulse, one that in the end had provided her with not just a means of supporting herself but also a legitimate claim to call herself a journalist.
It meant a lot to her, since the humiliation of dropping out of university after completing only two years of her degree.
Maybe someday she’d go back. Back to Sweet Valley University, back to her studies, back to the life she’d been meant to have.
But for now, Elizabeth’s number one priority was avoiding Jessica until the memory of catching her sister in an act of ultimate betrayal had faded, or at least become less painful.
Not to mention how much it hurt to think of Todd. How could he have done such a thing? How had he ended up on his back in the first place, being straddled by Elizabeth’s twin sister, who was bent over him, obviously kissing him?
Oh, sure, so she hadn’t technically been going out with Todd at the time. She’d been dating Tom Watts for the first two years of university.
But hadn’t Todd known that that was just another throwaway, temporary thing, like all the various guys she’d briefly dated through her high school career? And dating Tom was practically the same as staying with Todd anyway: they were both star football players with broad shoulders and aspirations toward a career in sports journalism, right?
It’s not like THAT could possibly count as infidelity.
Anyway, it had been her intention all along to wind up with Todd in the end, when they were ready to settle down. It was what everyone had expected. It was what she’d always wanted.
But Jessica had ruined all that in one pelvic-grindingly heated moment atop Todd. Elizabeth had spun on her heels and fled the scene as if her life depended on it, hopping a plane to somewhere exotic and far away.
She had said goodbye to love.
She hadn’t bothered to say goodbye to Jessica and Todd.