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Stephanie

What’s cute about it, Stephanie decides, isn’t that he tried to clean, it’s that he wasn’t very good at it. He did try. There are haphazard vacuum lines, and the area around the toilet isn’t bad. Yet he still cleans like a boy: he’s forgotten the blinds, thick with dust, and the scum on the faucet.

But it’s cute, so she leans in, she snakes her arm under his and she aims her face up, and he kisses clumsy like a boy, and this is cute too.

Damon is psyched. He knew cleaning up the pubes in the bathroom would work.

Galbraith

Galbraith’s decided to convince this kid he’s crazy. Not the kid, Galbraith. They’re always at bus stops together, but Galbraith’s bus comes later, so the kid never sees him leave.

The contrast in their appearances gave him the idea: the kid’s twenty-odd, clean, shirt and slacks, still busing it but with Upward all over; Galbraith works construction, with his beard matted and his belly stretching his shirt.

A spot always to the left of his head, muttering, counting fingers. Yesterday as he walked by, Galbraith let the kid hear him say “Cease!” The kid jumped, and Galbraith was filled with glee.

Annabelle

The room has a pulse and Theo doesn’t. Speakers everywhere, but what’s really making things jump are the subs up front: matte black, ominous, omnidirectional. My grandmother, she thinks, would say it’s loud enough to wake…

Annabelle can’t not dance, too grieved to cry, too exhausted to be still. Arms above her head and she’s arched, suddenly, between a big bald man and a small girl with dreadlocks. They move together, sweat light red heat, kick drum thunder, and none of them has to think: this is the right kind of funeral. Fuck off, death, we’re slick on each other’s skin.

Danielle

It’s odd, Danielle thinks, and she herself is odd, frankly. Stupid. She hasn’t even opened it yet. It’s only a note, folded in triangles, corners beginning to round off. But it’s hers now: Annie Deshaun Annie Deshaun Bruce Annie Danielle.

She’s known those three must communicate like this, of course, they’re so tight and so clever. Three years older, too. Are they cool just because she’s a first-year? No. Still, why does her sudden inclusion matter so much?

Because it says You are special, she thinks. You are important. We are what you want to be, and you are like us.

Georgia

It keeps moving, and Georgia’s starting to worry. It’s been there for months, just the old joke that gets stale in every office: big cardboard cutout, ha ha, put a lei on it, stick it in an empty cube.

But it keeps moving, and nobody ever sees it move. Everyone twitches an eyebrow to see it in a new place–everyone. Nobody’s unsurprised. Which means nobody’s doing it. Georgia’s there earlier and later than anyone. She’s been watching, she’d have seen, yet she hasn’t. And those creepy glossy eyes…

Just a cardboard Crocodile Hunter, ha ha. But what’s it hunting now?

Shem

Shem doesn’t even think about it when they scramble in, ski masks around their white eyes, small guns wild in the close atmosphere of the jewelry store. One is yelling, Fill the fucking bag.

Shem’s no hero, but they’re not looking. A zip, a crackle, and the thieves scream and collapse: he’s sent a few thousand taser volts through them and they’re unconscious. The sudden silence is bewildered.

He makes his statement to the police, receives gratitude, walks out still a little dazed.

Halfway to the corner, he realizes he doesn’t own a taser, and never had one in his hand.

Moira

Her money shirt, that’s what it is. She can feel the silk like liquid sex in her fingers. Liquid money.

What was it they used to say about women? That they translated the appearance of wealth into attraction. That they thought they were getting turned on when what they really wanted was a comfortable nest of cash.

It’s the same with men, Moira knows now. It’s this shirt. It hooks them, because it says Money Girl, Hot Girl, the fabric so slick you’re not even sure you’re touching it.

She’s only got the one, but really, how many do you need?

Donner

“You’re not supposed to do that,” says Donner accusingly. “They’ll all want something now.”

“I don’t see any ‘all,’” says Lyra. “He’s the only person who’s asked me for change all day.”

“Still,” Donner mutters. “He probably wasn’t even homeless. He probably doesn’t even need it.”

“When another human being is begging you for something, he needs it.” Lyra’s tone is mild but her eyes have gone hard. “Remember that, Donner. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to beg.”

They keep walking in silence.

“And before you say it,” she says, “who am I to deny a man a drink?”

Jared

Jared wants to buy a bed, an enormous one. Emperor-size. God-size. He wants it framed with walnut-dark wood, postered, its sheets all cold satin and deep midnight blue.

There should be only one pillow. This is important, as is the real-candles chandelier. The sheets are important, their chill and their smoothness: they must be neither flat nor rumpled, but lying in a precise, lazy spiral that draws up tight around the center.

And in the center, the most important part of all: he and Luther, curled tight to each other, very small and warm and alone on their vast midnight plain.

Tori

There’s nobody else in the car. Tori can hardly believe this: it’s absolutely silent but for the hum of the road and the sigh of the AC. She looks out the window and sees a man passing her, whom she immediately names Bruno.

“There’s something oddly poetic,” Tori says aloud, “about the way an old motorcyclist’s arm-flab flaps in the highway wind.” She waits a second, then can’t help but giggle. She sneaks another glance at the man’s big tired arms, sunburned on top, pale underneath. This is great! She thinks. I should have made the kids move out years ago!

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