“What do you mean you’re running late?” Lakshmi shrieked into her headset. She was running up the stairs, juggling 3 brown paper bags from the LCBO, and was not prepared to be hearing this. “Naomi, you said you were going to be home an hour ago! Are you telling me that when I get upstairs, the apartment will have no decorations at all? Not even a festive cherub shooting an arrow at a skeleton?” She shuffled her way up the last flight, suddenly only too aware of the fact that she was still wearing the heels from the morning.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Taylor left early and all these files that he had never made it to my department, and if I don’t get them finished…” Lakshmi heard Naomi rustling through papers and the whir of the printer, realizing that not only was this an actual issue on her end, but that she was still at work and not even on her way home.
“Ok, I get it. But your work friend Taylor sounds like a giant bag of dicks. Be careful on the ice. And please don’t forget the custom candy hearts when you come home,” Lakshmi hung up by gracefully pushing her face against the wall and nudging the headset button with her nose. “Hello, Mrs. Mayberry! Happy Valentine’s Day,” she said meekly, acknowledging her septuagenarian neighbour. Finally at her door, she prayed Grace was home as she knocked on the door. With her head. She head-butted the door. It was a long, long Friday. The door opened and mercifully, it was Grace, not an axe murderer.
“Lakshmi? What are you… why are you wearing the heels? Did you the Sex God visit today?” Grace asked, taking one of the bags out of her arms. Lakshmi saw that she was dressed to go outside.
“No, it has to do with Kali and her leg. Long story; did you hear yet? And are you leaving now? Because Naomi is running late and she didn’t decorate and … did you cook?” She took off her outer layers and peeled off her shoes, pants, and her jewellery before noticing the aroma of food, actual food. She couldn’t remember the last time she had smelled such wonderful smells.
“Yeah, I heard about Kali. I’m taking her Naomi’s crutches and then bringing her here from her photo shoot. I’m leaving right now. I made all the food for tonight, and the shots are in the fridge. And is the Sex God coming tonight? I need to have some words with him,” Grace didn’t miss a beat and somehow had learned to match Lakshmi’s frantic, syncopated pace. Even though she hadn’t met Lakshmi in university like she had her best friend Vishnu, they had fallen into step somewhere in the years that they’d lived together. Naomi was Kali’s ex, and Kali and Lakshmi had been best friends since The Incident.
“Oh my gosh, I forgot about Kali actually getting here. Ok, yes, you go do that, and I’ll decorate and set up the bar, and I can’t believe you made all the food! Thank you so much, I did not want to actually cook when I could spend that time getting cute instead. And yes, he is coming tonight, and he’s bringing his roommate. I’ve never met him before, but Naomi works with him. He sounds like an ass, but… okay, there is no but. He sounds like an ass. Make sure to be Graceful out there! You know it’ll ruin Kali’s mood if she’s not the centre of attention, so don’t break any limbs! And you’re gone. And I’m still talking to myself. Hello again, Mrs. Mayberry. Yes, I’ll have a good night. You too….” Lakshmi had talked Grace out the door and continued talking long after she went into the stairway. ‘When did I lose her? Was it the ass-butt?’ she thought, waving at her disgruntled neighbour as she closed the door and went to work.
This was the first real party she was throwing since moving into the apartment, and she wanted everything perfect. There just hadn’t been time to throw a party before Lizzie left the first time, or the second time, or the time after that, she thought to herself while she hung streamers and stacked plastic cups. Honestly, the last time all 4 roommates had been together was that time at Lizzie’s parent’s cottage. She couldn’t make it this time, either. She had sent her love from Russia, where she was enjoying weather a few degrees warmer than Toronto. “That bitch,” Lakshmi seethed productively to herself.
With time to spare, Lakshmi had pulled together the absolutely chic and in no way pathetic Anti-Valentine’s Day “I Hate Love Stories” themed decorations (which were actually a mixture of Halloween remnants and 2 year old Valentine’s decorations, with a mixture of angry music and Bollywood playing in the background). Grace’s snacks were set up in the kitchen, and the booze was sitting in buckets of snow on the balcony. She could actually take a moment and focus on getting ready to see the Sex Go-
“Wait; if the elevator is broken, how the hell will Kali get upstairs?” Lakshmi shouted out, midway through gluing on false eyelashes. Autopilot had taken over and, with the apartment decorated and herself only halfway coiffed, she had let it slip from her mind. She had 45 minutes before people were supposed to start showing up, and no way to get them upstairs. “Of all the days…. why, Zoidberg Jesus, why?” she cried out, eternally grateful for the condo’s sturdy, soundproof construction sheltering her neighbours from her outer inner dialogue. She pouted her way down 13 flights of stairs to argue with security about letting her use the freight elevator. As she waited impatiently for the security guard to return to their post, she nervously checked her phone. Lizzie sent a Snapgram from Russia, which looked suspiciously warm and cheery compared to Toronto; Vishnu tagged his roommate Taylor in a pre-gaming picture, that was just a bottle of Jäger and empty cans of some vile new purple energy drink; James was Twatting about how tacky costume parties were, and then he posted a Snapgram of himself dressed as Beetlejuice (or Robin Thicke, whichever was more horrifying); Kali posted a picture of Grace goofing off on her photo shoot, which seemed to be underwater; and Naomi updated her Bookface status to say she was finally on her way home from the office, finally. A shrill, girlish scream broke her concentration on her phone’s screen. Looking up, Lakshmi saw the usual weekend security guard clutching at his chest, staring at her like she was a ghost.
“What’s wrong? Mi- oh. Sorry,” she apologized, remembering that her costume was a succubus and she was wearing a very lovely white dress that she had stained in blood, and she had covered her mouth in blood, and paled her skin and made her face gaunt and basically she looked terrifying. “I’m so sorry, Mike. I’m having a theme party tonight, an Anti-Valentine’s Party so… that’s why the costume…” she explained, ignoring his face, which was only slowly regaining colour. “I know the elevators are out and I took the stairs today but one of my friends broke her leg so… could we use the freight elevator? Please? She’s coming up with Grace so you won’t even have to unlock it…” She was fairly sure that he would have given her anything she had asked for, looking the way she did. She thought she saw him make the sign of the cross as she headed back to the stairs, again.