Raffa comes to live with you in December, during school break.
You and Jess have a two-bedroom on a quiet street. You’ve gotten used to Jess’s half-hung Freddy Mercury posters and dirty laundry, splitting toilet paper but not toothpaste. You and Jess have never been in one fight. At night, she plays you Paolo Nutini from her laptop and lets you read her father’s love letters from Ukraine.
You and Jess carry Raffa’s new Ikea bed up through the snow. Jess looks at you like Raffa is draped across it.
The three of you crack Budweisers as Raffa folds jeans into a dresser she sticks in the front hall, holding pairs up by your hips, tossing them to you for trying on. Raffa wants to paint the kitchen electric purple and buy a fruit basket. Jess guzzles her beer too fast and it gushes out her nose like a science project. The neighbors next door have kids and knock softly, asking you to please keep it down.
The three of you fall asleep together in the living room, for months. Raffa doesn’t step away to take phone calls and talks loudly in her sleep. Every cabinet is crammed. Every wall is covered. At Summit, there is both less and more space.
Everybody gets fat in one day. Raffa’s friends from school come to your place on Griggs Street and your kitchen is always bumbling. You run out, like gypsies across the train tracks on Comm. Ave, in peasant skirts with your hair tied up at the top.
At 7-Eleven you infiltrate aisles, cackling by the freezer. You line up to dump Doritos, Ramen noodles, Boston cream doughnuts in cellophane baggies, sunflower seeds, Mini Wheats, and a gallon of milk onto the counter in front of Manny, who watches you shop from the surveillance with a toothpick in his teeth. Alissa always needs two more dollars, so you fish for quarters at the bottom of your backpack, careful not to look up at Manny.
When you get home, you let Raffa comb her fingers through your hair, mixing up a box of Nice N’ Easy and smoothing out tinfoil. You don’t care when your hair fries to wisps and she cuts it, or how big you are. You will all lose weight by the fall. In the apartment, there is both more and less of you.
You finally move to a place with a porch behind an elementary school and it’s like a clubhouse. Raffa’s leaving to go abroad in a month, and just in time, her ex-boyfriend Gabe gets her pregnant. She stays inside all month like a housecat you can only pet or observe. She cries over the sink, rinsing bowls. On your new porch, painting her nails intently, listening for the soundtrack of a distant recess. Or she is resting, facing the wall in her Ikea bed that starts to look like a wrought-iron crib.
After her abortion it barely becomes spring. You go out to the porch. It’s wet from icicles dripping fast and smells like paper floating in a river. Inside you had scrawled wishes onto torn sheets of notebook paper. Jess throws a match into a red bucket and you toss them in. The apartment makes you itchy. The spring is superstitious. Raffa’s flicking her perpetual cigarette. She tells you the nurse who gave her an ultrasound traced the screen with her finger and said “twins.”
In Allston, you hear they call September first “Christmas” and now you know why. You sit on a collapsing box, surveying all the furniture you found on the sidewalk, airing your stomach out with your tee shirt. “It’s hotter than outside,” Jess says, her cheeks a secret pink.
“Get in here,” Raffa says, from the bathroom where she is running water.
You sit on the edge as Raffa and Jess undress. The tub sways slowly like it knows something as they dip their toes in, climbing in below. Raffa stops the drain, her hair half-soaked around her shoulders.
She reaches up at the sink and lights a cigarette. You watch from above. Next year, Jess will marry a chef from Clio, and Raffa will move to San Francisco for a job in advertising. You will talk on the phone.
You let your fingers skim the water.
“When we have kids,” Raffa says, dangling her wrist, “you’ll be aunties.” She places the cigarette in Jess’s lips. Jess extends her neck to exhale, blowing smoke away from you. You watch ashes fall to the surface, blackening to wet bits of lace.
“And when we get divorced,” Raffa finishes, “we’ll all move back in.” You smile at her as she winks back. For now, you are pool balls, in your triangular lifetime, waiting to be shot out and whirled, rebounding against your own color.