My first thought is that the arm across my chest belongs to Hannah. It’s too muscular, though, the skin too dark. The light beaming through the window is offensively bright. I shove the arm back in the direction of its owner and stumble down the hall in search of a bathroom.
The apartment looks ready-to-purchase. There’s no furniture, no pictures, not a speck of dust. Either—Oscar? Odette?—was telling the truth about South Africa or he’s squatting. Thankfully, the bathroom comes equipped with toilet paper.
When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I do a double-take. I don’t see illness. I see a person—maybe a woman—worse for wear and armored with some novel emotion. Maybe it’s desperation. Maybe it’s something better, like insanity or recklessness. My skin’s a canvas of day-old costume makeup. My wig is askew, and I yank on one side to even it out. Beyond that, there’s not much point in trying to improve the look.
He’s sitting up when I return, smiling a sleepy, satisfied kind of smile. “Hey.”
“Hey.” I try to sound like I’m used to waking up in a strange room with nothing but a mattress and a stranger boy, plopped in the centre like one of those cartoons about polar bears and melting icebergs. I pluck my improvised corset from the floor. In the light of day it is obscene.
A hand snakes around my ankle. “Stay,” he murmurs into his pillow.
“I’ve got someone waiting for me.”
“I’ll make breakfast.”
He groans, but it’s amiable enough. “Fine. I’ll call you an Uber.”
Last night’s electric confidence has fizzled out, leaving a creeping stupefaction in its wake. It’s a relief when the taxi pulls up.
As it turns out, my noble consort got me a carpooling discount rate. In the front seat is a guy who looks like he’s en route to his first ever trial case. To my left sits an Asian woman in a bright pink suit, a matching suitcase perched in her lap like a tame animal. I give her my most cheerful finger-wave. She looks startled. “Melrose Hostel,” I say to the thick-browed driver. And make it snappy, man.