They were all home for the first time since Thursday. Cecilia was tweezing something out of Jacob’s hair as he lay on her, straining her eyes as she did. Sam was hardly awake on the same chair, an uninterrupted tear of dribble had stained the corner of his mouth. Jade and Cleo were at the opposite end of the living room, burrowed into one another so that their limbs could not be told apart. It was a still afternoon atop yesterday’s filth. Everyone had crashed where they’d landed, days and nights of inebriation had scattered them like toys, nobody was around to put them away. There was a funny smell in the room– the taboo scent of unwashed bodies.
Nobody had spoken aloud for hours. What felt unsaid was that this day too would be lived. When someone did speak, it would be talk of the night, and where it should take them. As for the dog, he was merely a pinprick of anxiety in any one of their minds.
‘She, of course, could be dead,’ Jade had found herself able to think, then, ‘I wish it was.’
During their days away, they had visited the house– though, to risk no obstruction to their bender, only one of them was permitted to enter. This person, who was neither Jade nor Cleo on any occasion, would go in with a poorly memorised list of supplies. They’d reemerge with clothes, or, a ‘stash’ from under a pillow in someone’s bedroom. Everything else was purchased at will. Showers, if desired, were taken at other more lowly, hedonistic homes that were included on the trail.
The dog had water in all of this, the orange bowl stuffed into the pet carrier like a thing shut into a cupboard before it can fall. But who knew if the dog had found the strength to bow its head. Who knew if the water had spilled.
They’d really done it this time, though no one cared to suspect this. Jade and Cleo were included in that number. ‘The dog should not have been here to begin with,’ the idea was so palpable to Jade in particular now, that she was sure she’d even said it aloud. ‘It should’ve known better, it should’ve ran away.’
It was not the first time they’d been away for days, though this felt different. Finally, they’d joined in with determining life to be too short. This, for Jade, felt good, like giving up so often does.
“8pm,” said Sam.
His face was lit by the white glow of a phone screen, as people turned heavy heads to consider him.
“Please,” said Jacob, “just say what.”
Sam surveyed the room with an empty face, before exclaiming, as if belting the chorus of a ballad,
Jacob’s face crumpled. He looked up at Cecilia, who instinctively pouted.
Sam held his palms out in wonder, “what?”
“Why dry us out?” Jacob asked genuinely.
“I’ve never found eating all that fun,” said Cecilia.
“We’re not animals,” said Sam, “let us be reminded of our..,” he paused, then, he flicked out his wrist, pouting and squinting as he did.
Jacob let the disappointment drain from his face, replacing it with something a little more like guile.
“But whose dinner is it?” he asked.
Sam’s lip trembled, “someone who knows how to throw one,” he said.
“I–” Cecilia began, but Jacob crushed her fingers with the back of his head, and she didn’t say anymore.
“So let’s get a move on,” said Jacob
Sam turned to look at the sisters instead, insinuating an invitation with a small smile, “girls?”
The bedroom, when they had finally entered it, smelt both stiff and thoroughly living. Little hairs floated in the strip of sunlight that a near shut curtain had given. The carrier sat under the window like an unattended bag. Jade wouldn’t touch it just yet. She did not feel relief, to neither hear nor feel the presence of the dog. Now that it was only her and Cleo, life no longer felt short enough.
In the shower, she counted out all the times she had done right by the dog, where she had proven bigger than herself. She’d once spent hours with it in the garden. It ambled slowly around Jacob’s grounds. Neglect had blunted its desire for a good run around. It had barked uncontrollably at the sun, and she had let it happen. There were the times of a less chaotic feeding system—cheap cans of pink-grey meat shaken into a deep china plate. The day had later come, where it had felt easier to beckon the dog into the carrier without a release date. Jade then wondered when she would start paying for her crimes.
Cleo was sitting on the edge of the bed when Jade re-emerged dripping.
“Is it okay?” she said with a perturbed expression, nodding her head towards the pet carrier.
“I haven’t looked,” said Jade.
“What are you going to wear?” asked Cleo.
“I don’t know. A skirt or something, but I’d wear more makeup.”
“Do you think it’s dead?” Cleo asked.
Jade’s heart started thumping, wanting to break free from her chest now that someone had said it aloud.
Cleo was searching her face.
“Don’t you think it smells a little dead in here?” then she whispered, “it’s been days.”
Jade, still in a towel, made some steps towards the carrier, before Cleo stood up to block her.
“What if it is dead?” she said, “wouldn’t now be the wrong time to discover it?”
It would all be over.
“We don’t have time, see?” Cleo pushed a phone’s clock in Jade’s face.
They’d have to tell everyone, Jade thought. It was a sure thing that the two of them would end the night packing, she knew this, in spite of how everyone thought they felt about the dog.
“After the dinner party,” Jade agreed.