Vanessa dragged Tiffany by the hand through the lobby into the front vestibule, leaving Chad and Brad alone. She threw her wrist away and stood back. “How could you do this to me? He’s my ex-boyfriend. How dare you flaunt him in my face—”
Tiffany put her sunglasses back on. “How could I know he was your ex-boyfriend? I was away at boarding school when you were in high school. You should have written to me and sent me pictures of you and him. Then I would have known.”
“Take your stupid sunglasses off! This isn’t funny anymore. What did you do with my—my—ritual—stuff?”
“Who told you it was missing?”
“Um, well, let’s see—I couldn’t find them! You went in my closet without my permission, as usual!”
“I would never do something like go in your closet uninvited. Anyways, don’t you want to go to your new apartment? Let’s just forget this. Why don’t we unpack your stuff and then the four of us can go out?”
Vanessa pulled down her lip with her long artificial nail. “Okay, maybe you’re right. This is pretty dumb. I’ll tell Brad to bring my stuff up…”
Brad rolled the five Louis Vuitton suitcases past the security desk to the hallway. Chad remained seated in his threadbare chair and turned his head all the way around to watch him go.
“Chad looks a little down in the dumps,” Tiffany said. “I don’t want to bother him—he’s very sensitive—but I need to get a couple of things out of my car. Can you help me?”
Vanessa reluctantly followed her outside. “My goodness, isn’t it dark outside?” Tiffany took off her sunglasses with one hand. “I think the stuff slid under the seat. You have longer arms than I do. Can you check?”
Vanessa rolled her eyes and climbed into the front of the car. She put her arm all the way under the seat and felt around. “I don’t feel anything—are you sure it’s on this side? If my nails break you’re going to be sorry!”
Tiffany stood back with her arms crossed. “Why don’t you try the driver’s side?”
Vanessa knelt on the seat and reached under. “Wait a second—there IS something here. It feels like a bunch of rocks—” and she pulled out a handful of irregularly shaped garden stones which now had offensive symbols that would get someone sent to a reeducation camp scrawled all over them. “What the hell—these are my—what’d you do to them?”
Tiffany started laughing. “Why, you weren’t hiding them in your closet after all! You had them in my car the whole time, you silly goose!”
Vanessa stared at the rock that Tiffany drew all over. She threw it back under the seat and ran to the building, pulling open the broken doors herself. She ran past Chad (who was slumped over with his chin in his hands) to the elevator and pushed the button repeatedly, but it did not light up. The elevator was out of order. Her attention was caught by a door that opened a little distance away, as Brad emerged from the stairwell.
“What are you doing?” she screamed. “You just left my stuff up there by itself?”
Before he could point out that he just hauled five suitcases up seven flights of stairs, she tore past him and ran up those seven flights. She slipped and lost her footing a few times as she grabbed the post at each landing to propel herself around the turn. A few lights were burned out in the stairwell and there were missing banisters in some sections. The open well in the center of the flights of stairs was rather large.
It wasn’t until she got to the door of 7B that she realized she didn’t have the key. She wiped her damp bangs off her forehead and bent over to try to breathe through the stitch in her side.
The elevator down the hall dinged and Vanessa jumped. Tiffany exited and strolled down the hall towards her. In between gasps of breath, Vanessa said, “Tiffany, you need help or something. I don’t even care if you marry Chad. Just leave me alone.”
“Why would I want to leave you alone? You’re my sister.” She continued to approach Vanessa. “How come you don’t go inside your new apartment?”
Vanessa staggered along the wall to the stairwell door and pushed it open. “Leave me alone!” Tiffany followed in her measured, gliding pace.
Vanessa climbed nearly backwards down the stairs with her eyes fixed on Tiffany, who stood above her on the second landing, laughing and pulling her own hair out of its style. She began to walk down the stairs and then raised her hand.
“Don’t follow me!” Vanessa yelled and stepped down and reached for the banister. But the banister was absent. Her high heel went sideways and she slid off the steps into the open well through which she dropped five flights to the bottom.