This winter, when she bought a new condo downtown, Janine sent an email: I’m throwing a housewarming party. Just for us. Come at eight, stay till late. It was the coldest night in February, steam swirling on top of Lake Ontario because the air was so much colder than the water. When I blinked, my eyelashes stuck together, frozen. We arrived with housewarming gifts: a bottle of Tanqueray Ten, a jar of vermouth-soaked olives, a shiny silver martini shaker.
Janine opened the door and there was a gush of warm air in the hallway. The entranceway was a bright lacquer red. All along her wall, a line of tea lights glowing in glass saucers. She wore a short sequined cape on top of a black dress. It fell just above the elbows. A capelet. I felt the air melt around my body, my face defrosting. Janine had sparkles brushed along her cheekbones.
You brought cocktails! she said. She took the tall bottle out of my arms.
You look gorgeous, I said. I’ll have a virgin cosmo.
Virgin my ass, she said.
Great paint job, I told her.
Like it? It’s the same shade as Love That Red by Revlon. I had it specially blended and shipped from this place in Oregon.
It’s hot, Sanderson said.
Inside, Flip and Shona were already drinking, sitting on chrome bar stools. Shona stirred pink juice in a glass with her finger. They were talking about the ways people learn. Shona had just come from class. She said, There are three ways that we all learn: we’re either auditory, visual, or kinesthetic.
I’m visual. I know I’m visual, Janine said.
Shona said, We learn in all three ways, but we lean one way most of the time.
I went over it in my head: It’s hot, Sanderson had said. He didn’t say to her, You’re hot. But that’s what I heard. I had just come off the pill at that point. My hormones were still stabilizing.
I walked to the back window. There was a good view of the Gardiner Expressway. A string of red tail lights curved away from me, and the cars made small movements as they braked and accelerated. From this distance they looked like I imagined blood cells would look, moving through a capillary.
Flip came up behind me and said in my ear: Hello, I’m kinesthetic. What are you?
Sanderson was at the bar looking for a shot glass. Janine had filled the martini shaker with ice cubes. The bottom half of the shaker was already cold grey, frosting from the inside out. Her sequined cape, the martini shaker, the bar stools, Sanderson’s hair: I turned around and saw everything in silver.
Janine said, You’re visual too, Sandy. She flickered her fingers on his chest to illustrate her point. He wore a white T-shirt with a silk-screened drawing of a swing set on it.
I think I’m all three of them, I said. I can’t just pick one.
Now Flip, he’s auditory, Sanderson said.
And how would you know? Flip asked from across the room.
Because you talk so much.
Fuck you, said Flip.
Then, in a soft voice, Flip said to me, How are you doing.
I leaned into him. Ooh, I said. Is that velour?
Touch it, he said. I petted his sleeve like it was a puppy. His arm felt warm through the plush. I stopped at his wrist and held it with both of my hands.
Don’t be mad at Sanderson, I said. He’s just wired that way.
With the girls, you mean.
It’s not serious with Brianna.
Well, good. As long as it’s not serious.
I looked at him. We’re human beings, I said. It’s normal to flirt. We can’t help being attracted.
Flip took his arm out of my hands. You don’t have to explain it to me, he said.
I just love Weimaraners, I know, Janine was saying. She had brought a dog book out to the bar. She pressed the spine open with the palm of her hand. But my space is so small, she said. What do you guys think about this one? Is he too cute? Would you laugh at me if I got a terrier?
We’ll always laugh at you, darling, said Shona.
What kind of terrier? Flip asked.
It’s called a Cairn terrier. And it’s oh-my-god cute. But then I would be one of those women, wouldn’t I? Janine made a face. She held a fresh Tanqueray martini. The glass caught the light from the halogens overhead. It glimmered in her hand. There were three olives speared on a silver pick.
Shona said, Janine, you’re already one of those women. Don’t fight it.
If you see me with a Burberry dog coat, okay? You have permission to smack me.
Can you make me one of those, I asked Sanderson. With onions if she’s got them.
On the fridge door, middle shelf, Janine said. She smiled at me. Virgin.
You want one too, Flip? Sanderson said. I’m pouring.
Flip looked at him. I’m kinesthetic, he said. Read my body language.
That night in the cottage I dream about a blizzard. Janine and her dog Winnie are trying to dig something out of a snowdrift. When I wake up, it’s still dark out, and Sanderson has stolen all of the covers. I’m freezing. I lean over, grab the pile of comforters and blankets on the floor beside him, and pull them over the bed evenly again. He’s wearing the blue boxers I gave him for his birthday last year. He sleeps on his side, one arm under the pillow, the other stretched out in a straight line away from me, his hand almost touching the night table. His hand is curled as though it could be holding something very small, like a pinch of salt.
I flatten myself against him, wrap my body around his lower half. I lift up my T-shirt and press my breasts into his skin. Tease my hand over the front of his boxers. The skin on Sanderson’s neck is damp and bristly against my lips. I promise God, the Universe, the baby itself: Please let me have you. I will love you like nothing else has been loved before. Sanderson exhales a sour cloud of undigested wine.
There’s a sound downstairs. Outside, on the deck: soft thumps, like falling potatoes. I stop the prayer and hold myself perfectly still. A rustling against the glass, a bump against the kitchen doors. It sounds like someone is trying to break in.
I whisper Sanderson’s name, grip his hip and shake it so that his whole body rocks the mattress. He makes a noise like he’s slurping something through his mouth.
I wrap a fleece blanket around my shoulders and shuffle across the hallway and peek into Flip and Shona’s doorway. Flip is sleeping on his stomach, face pushed into the pillow, facing Shona. Shona is splayed on her side like a pressed flower, arms and legs draped over Flip’s body in the effortlessness of sleep. Now that I am fully awake, I can hear the thumping sound for what it is: paws, jumping on the wood of the deck.
I go down the stairs slowly, starting on tiptoe and rolling to my heels so I won’t scare them away. A family of raccoons. Three small ones rolling like bear cubs on top of one another. Close to the glass doors, a large raccoon— the mother, naturally I think it’s the mother— sorts through the remains of the plastic Dominion bag that we used for garbage. The leftover spaghetti noodles seem to emit moonlight, making an elaborate pattern of loops and curls. I fold myself into the armchair and watch the little family make a huge mess. I look for letters in the patterns of noodles, try to spell out the letters in my name.
When Flip comes down, he sees me bent over in the chair with my face in my hands staring out the window.
Anne, he says. What’s wrong? What’s happening?
I look up at him. He has a T-shirt on, boxer shorts. His hair like a pile of twigs.
The raccoons got into our garbage.
He follows my gaze to the window. Shit, he says.
It’s our own fault. We should have thought.
Flip rubs his head. You couldn’t sleep either?
I just saw you. You were sound asleep.
I need a snack, he says, and goes into the kitchen.
The mother raccoon stops what she’s doing for a moment and stands on her hind legs, her paws held in front of her. It looks like she’s watching me. But I haven’t turned any lights on. It’s perfectly dark, we’re concealed in here.
To be continued…