I'm going to pick up from the previous paragraph because I think I posted (I know I wrote, at least) the wrong last name for Clara's character.
“My office hours are almost over, actually, so if you’ll come back later, I can…” Kristina trailed off when she saw who was at the door. A smile crept across her face. “Clara. Clara Eddowes.”
The blonde lady standing in her doorway smiled warmly. “It’s actually Clara Dukane now.”
“Wow,” Kristina marveled. “You’re joining the ranks of wedded bliss, eh? That’s exciting. I expect you’ll be farting out a couple of kids pretty soon.”
“I’m actually planning on having them the old fashioned way, with my lady parts,” Clara said with a smile. “I came up for a conference and thought I’d come visit you. I knew you still lived in Devlin but I didn’t know you worked here now.”
“Yup, go Angels,” Kristina said. She’d always loved the irony of the team name for her college. It had almost coaxed her into playing a sport, almost. “If I was going to work anywhere, I’d rather it be for Professor Atkinson.”
“What else can you do with a Bachelor’s in mythology?”
“Quite a bit, actually,” Kristina said. “I’m studying to get my Doctorate in Mythology. Hopefully, I can become a museum curator and run my own wing someday.”
“That sounds very exciting,” Clara said with a grin. “Listen, the reason I came up to say hello is because my husband and I are in town, Liz and Aiden are in the next town over visiting relatives – his I think – and Mark lives just an hour or so south of here. I thought it might be high time to resurrect the Fab Five. How would you feel about that?” Kristina tried not to let her eyes light up. She hadn’t seen the Fab Five since they parted ways at the end of high school.
Kristina was the Lancer in her high school clique, the Fab Five, to which she later applied the concept of a Five Man Band (Kristina would never admit it aloud, but she spent too much time browsing TVTropes). Clara was the popular one, the Leader, the one who everyone knew and got along with. She was in marching band, jazz band, honor roll, graduated in the top one percent of her class, and everyone who was anyone wanted to work with her. Kristina was the Lancer, the second-in-command, and Clara’s best friend as well as her polar opposite. Liz was the Smart Guy, the one who aced every test and came up with every plan. Mark was definitely the Big Guy, the muscular one, the one who stood up to most of their physical challenges, and Aiden fell squarely into the role of the Chick, the heart of the team. If only he got a monkey for a sidekick, he might have been remembered as a major member of the group by others instead of that weird kid who hangs out around someone else’s clique.
“I haven’t seen them in such a long time,” Kristina mused. “What are they up to now?”
“Well, Liz and Aiden got married, to the earth-shattering surprise of absolutely no one, and Mark is… well, you’d probably do better to see for yourself when you come out with us tonight.”
“Oh, I’m coming out with you tonight, am I?” Kristina asked, raising an eyebrow. “Were you planning on telling me that?”
“I’m telling you now, slowpoke,” Clara said, snapping her fingers. “Catch up.”
“Oh I can’t, see, I have very important plans tonight,” Kristina said. She threw her hands up in the air in a mock gesture of hopelessness. “I’ve got very important plans to stay inside with Rigel. We’re going to be watching a movie and eating ice cream together off the same spoon.”
“Is Rigel your boyfriend?”
“He’s my cat.”
“So he’s a substitute for a boyfriend.”
“I’ll have you know I’m in a happy, stable relationship with two different women,” Kristina said. “We’re all three of us okay with it, and there’s probably still room for more.”
“I should have known you’d never be able to share,” Clara replied warmly. “Maybe you’ll meet a nice new gal when you come out to the bars with us tonight.”
“I haven’t been out drinking in quite some time,” Kristina said. “I don’t know if I have any cash on me either. In fact, why don’t you ask me again next weekend? I get paid next Thursday, so I’ll be more able to do something then.”
“Yes, but you’re missing the part where I won’t be here then,” Clara said. “You won’t get to meet my husband, you won’t get to see Mark for the first time in almost a decade, Liz and Aiden will have to get rid of their babysitter-”
“Liz has kids.” Kristina could not believe what she was hearing. Liz Pryce would never in her life have had any patience for children.
“Liz and Aiden have two boys,” Clara clarified. “Roan and Kurt. They’re absolutely adorable, though you probably wouldn’t want anything to do with them. If I recall, the only person less likely to have a gaggle of rugrats was you, Kristina.”
“Elizabeth Susanna Pryce has children,” Kristina repeated. “I’m still not over that. Are you sure she hasn’t been replaced with a pod person or something?”
“It’s highly likely,” Clara said. “But then her kids would be pod people as well. I think that’s how pod people work. You’ll have to ask her when you go out with us tonight.”
“You’re really dead set on my coming aren’t you?”
“Almost as dead set as you are on not coming.”
“I would like to see the gang again,” Kristina said wistfully. “It’s been way too long.
“We’re going out to the Dingy Den in Morhurst,” Clara said. Morhurst was the next town over, and was considerably more like a real city that Devlin’s sheltered little bubble allowed it to be. “We’ll show up around eight. You should meet us there. I’ve never been to a dueling piano bar before. I’m not even sure what it is, really.”
“I may meet you there,” Kristina said. “But I wouldn’t hold your breath. I’ve got to go.” Kristina hurriedly packed her lunch and her laptop into her backpack and stood up. “Thanks for the invite.”
“No problem,” Clara said, but Kristina barely heard her as she pushed past her in an effort to get out the door. “I’ll see you later?” But Kristina was already long gone down the hall.
“I don’t know if I want to go or not.” Kristina was in Morhurst, wrapped in a blanket. The waning light of the Friday afternoon streamed in through the open window of Nikki Carson’s apartment. Kristina’s clothes lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, and the weather was just right so that she could be comfortable naked, not too hot and not too cold. She didn’t typically talk with Nikki about her social life, but with Sarah out of town…
“Fuck ‘em,” Nikki said bluntly. “You should stay here and have sex some more.” Her clothes had also been lost about an hour ago, almost as soon as Kristina walked in her door. They’d turn up eventually. They always did. Fortunately, Nikki and Kristina were about the same size, so they could share clothes, though Kristina didn’t much feel like going out dressed as Nikki Carson. Her clothes all smelled like cigarette smoke, and they were mostly sweaters, which wasn’t exactly her style.
“As much as I enjoy your carnal company,” Kristina began. “I haven’t seen these people in almost a decade. I adored them then, and I’ll probably still adore them now. I at least owe it to them to try, right? These people got me through high school and kept me sane.”
“You don’t owe them anything, Kris,” Nikki told her as she took a long drag from her cigarette. “You’re much cooler than everyone else that works at that college.”
“Please don’t call me Kris,” Kristina replied. “And I know you think Devlin is a scam.”
“All I’m saying is that I can learn all the same things from Wikipedia that you learn from your fancy college,” Nikki rationalized. “Either that or Google.”
“Because of course, the internet never lies.”
“There’s Google Scholar,” Nikki said. “And any normal person knows how to parse information from the internet. It’s a skill everyone is born with.”
“No, honey, I promise it isn’t,” Kristina said. She rubbed her temples and tried not to think of Cadie Harris. “Besides, they pay me. If I had no money, I’d have no home, and I’d have to live regularly with you instead of Sarah, and wouldn’t that be the worst thing in the world?”
“Yeah, probably,” Nikki mused, taking yet another deep drag of her cigarette before it fizzed out and went dark. “I’m not exactly the domestic type.”
“Yeah, me neither,” Kristina replied as she stared out the window. “I’m also not exactly the ‘go out to bars with friends’ type. I’m more the ‘drink scotch alone while watching television’ type.”
“I have some scotch,” Nikki said. “Would you like some? I’ll trade you some for my blanket back.” A mischievous smile crossed her face and she effortlessly flicked her cigarette into the garbage without looking at it. She was quite talented at that. She was still completely naked, and Kristina had trouble focusing on her eyes.
“Do you want to stay?” Nikki asked as she stepped lightly over a discarded pair of jeans with no clear owner and crawled onto the bed. “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. You know that right?”
“I know that,” Kristina answered. “I want to stay. On the other hand, I really should go. Clara and I were practically sisters in high school. We haven’t talked in almost a decade. We should have talked at least once since then. I didn’t go to my high school reunion. Clara and I went to different colleges. She lives and works in California. She’s married now. Liz is married now, with kids. What am I doing with my life?”
“You’re wasting time in that college doing bitch work for Kendra Atkinson,” Nikki responded as she entwined their legs together. “You should spend more of it here with me. Better yet, I’ll get you into the Morhurst PD. You would make a kick-ass detective, and you’d get to do something with your life. How would you like that?”
“It would be nice,” Kristina said noncommittally.
“But?” Nikki added. “You have but face.”
“But I’m not sure if that’s what I want to do,” Kristina finished. “Where am I going to go? What happens when Sarah graduates, and she wants to move?”
“Can we not talk about that?” Nikki said with a sigh. She rolled her eyes. “You said that we wouldn’t have to talk about relationship stuff. You have a whole other girlfriend for that. You and I are pretty much just about the sex. Sarah doesn’t seem like the type to handcuff you to the headboard.”
“I think she would be much more comfortable letting you do it,” Kristina agreed. “But you know what I mean. I don’t know if I want to go work for the Morhurst PD. All the murders there are so generic. They’re all stabbings and shootings for terribly pedestrian reasons. How’s a gal supposed to exercise her brain solving a case where a husband shoots his cheating wife practically in broad daylight?”