Peter stood to the side, his fists shoved down into his hoodie pockets and his gaze wandering over the closest wall of the stairwell. June fumbled with the keys and the jangling muted as they hit the floor. She cussed under her breath, bent over to retrieve them, stood, and searched through them for the right key, again. Peter’s gaze roved the fine cracks in the plaster, the grime built up in the wood trim over years and years of occupancy. It was bright in here, wide, and from somewhere overhead came light, from underneath a rush of air. Better than most of the stairwells of Urbania. So claustrophobic, usually.
The doorknob finally clunked to the side, the keys gave a dying shiver, and June pushed the white door open into the apartment. Gold light shifted in through the open window sashes around the long, gauzy curtains which spilled onto the ground around low couches and chairs and piles and piles of mismatched books. Dust flitted drunkenly in the golden shafts. A bass beat pumped through the floor and into all the colorful, shivering dishes on the counter and in the sink. Crooning floated, muffled.
“Sorry about the mess!” June yelled over her shoulder as she thunked a brown paper grocery bag down on the sea green kitchen island counter—a sanded wood that reminded Peter of the beach—and then crossed the room to shift her batik bag off her shoulder and on to the tiny, Pepto-formica kitchen table.
“What?!” he yelled back.
“Oh! Hold on!” June turned and rushed right, down a hallway and, opting not to stand around with nothing to do, Peter loped after her. The bass got louder, the melody and the singing as well. Indian music? Something from Bollywood? June opened a door and the music washed out at Peter in waves that he could feel.
Whereas the hallway was dim from lack of windows, the bedroom June now entered was awash in bright light. Around the straight edge of the door, Peter could see a sliver of someone across the room; she had not yet noticed that the door was open or that June was walking toward her, out of frame. She swung her head side to side, a long, black, braid whipping around her shoulders. She twirled so that she was almost invisible to him behind the door, but he caught a line of her profile which froze itself for an instant: heavily lashed eye in profile with her strong nose; lips parted over straight teeth; that braid whipped to the side so that with her back twisted toward him he could see her slender back, the spine curved along the nakedness revealed by a backless haltertop; the spine a brilliant blue which faded outward into her smooth, olive skin; around her waist coiled a blue tail.
Peter moved forward and leaned on the door frame, the door only partly concealing him in its shadows. June picked up an discarded blouse from a messy chair and threw it a few feet at the girl’s head. She startled and jumped around to face June.
June exaggerated a pantomime. “Turn! Down! Your! Music!” She ended by pointing at a stereo teetering on a chest-high dresser swathed in variously-patterned material. Several bottles of jewel-toned nailpolish teetered in front of the radio and Peter’s gaze fell to the floor where the blast of the music had already jolted a few to the floor, where they lay on their side, one jumping in circles.
The music cut off suddenly, leaving emptiness and a steady, low, ring in the air.
“What? You know him?”
“No. I mean his type, June. What is his type doing here?”
Peter glanced over at June’s blank face. “She means this.” He removed a hand from his pockets to point at his red hoodie.
“Exactly, June. Not that I would have expected one of them to be so observant.”
“You’ll find we can be very surprising,” Peter offered with a winning smile. It was not lost on June, but Una’s acidity was palpable.
“Una, that’s so rude!” June was surprised and irked. Peter thought she must have never brought someone of his type home, before. Really, it wasn’t surprising. They weren’t exactly thick as cement in Urbania.
“Oh, fine,” Una sighed. “Just don’t try proselytizing me or anything.”
“Wasn’t planning on it.” Peter hadn’t removed his eyes from her and his placid demeanor was slowly making Una uneasy. June realized she had very much lost Peter’s attention.
“Well—“ she interjected into the staring contest, “We were just going to make dinner. Peter is working with me on a levitation project.”
Una scoffed. “Yeah. Good luck with that.”