“I told Layla I can sleep out here,” I told him. “I really don’t mind.”
“The dogs would eat you alive,” he replied.
He smiled at the look on my face. He had a nice smile. Seeing it, I felt like I’d won a prize, because he was so sparing with them. “I’m speaking metaphorically. Although their gas does feel deadly at times.”
“Who’s got gas?” Layla asked, returning from the bathroom.
“The dogs,” I told her.
“Oh, God, no kidding.” She shuddered. “Don’t ever think of letting them under your covers. You’ll dream you’re suffocating. True story. You need another garbage bag?”
Mac nodded, and she padded off to the kitchen to get one. He and I kept cleaning in companionable silence until she returned, and then we all finished the job together. By the time Mac took the other sleeping bag and pillow out to the couch and we turned out the light, it was after one a.m.
Layla insisted I sleep in the bed, even though I told her I was fine on the floor. I knew she was just being a good host. Still, knowing that this was where Mac slept was both weird and thrilling. God, I was such a nerd.
Once the lights were out, she fidgeted around, getting comfortable. “I’m a thrasher,” she’d explained to me at my house before beginning these same adjustments. “But once I’m out, I am out. If you need me for anything, kick me. Hard. Okay?”
“Will do,” I’d said. In contrast, I was lying very still, my hands crossed over my chest. I tried to picture Mac in this same place each night, looking at this same ceiling, where his hybrid alarm clock was projecting the current time very brightly onto the ceiling above us: 1:22 a.m.
“God, I hate that thing,” Layla said. By her voice, I was guessing she was already drifting off. “The last thing I want to be reminded of every single time I wake up is how much longer I have to sleep.”
“Tomorrow’s Sunday, though,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, but I take care of my mom in the mornings.” She yawned outright. “So I’m always up at six, when she is.”
A silence. Then she said, in a flat monotone, “One twenty-three a.m. Get to sleep, you loser. You’re already going to feel terrible tomorrow.”
I laughed, and she moved around a bit more, then told me good night. Moments afterward—but really, three minutes, at 1:26—I heard her breathing go deep and steady.
I, however, felt very awake. So at one forty-five, when someone started talking out in the living room, I heard it right away.
It was a girl’s voice first. I could tell by the tone, although I wasn’t able to make out what she was saying. Then, after a pause, a lower timbre. I rolled over, looking down at Layla, who was sound asleep, knees pulled to her chest.
At 1:50, things had gone quiet, and I was suddenly aware that I really, truly had to pee. It was always weird to navigate someone else’s house, especially at such a late hour. By 1:59, I knew I didn’t have a choice. I slid out of bed, stepping carefully over Layla, and walked to the door, turning the knob as quietly as possible.
The first thing I saw was Lucy, Rosie’s Mariposa friend, sitting on the couch. She was in a tank top and pajama shorts, her hair loose over her shoulders. Mac was beside her, his eyes on the TV, which was showing an infomercial I’d actually seen before, for a product that cut fruit into fun and jazzy shapes. By the intense, focused way he was watching it, though, you would have thought it was breaking news.
They both turned toward me as I stepped out into the hallway. Mac said, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah. Just, um . . .” I nodded to the bathroom, then started toward it, feeling hopelessly awkward. As I shut the door behind me, I heard Lucy say something, then laugh. There was no way of knowing if it had anything to do with me, but still, I felt my face flush.
I did my business, washed my hands, and ran a hand through my hair, which, considering I’d not yet slept, was sporting a serious case of bedhead. Then I opened the door as loudly as I could, announcing myself. I wanted them to know I was coming.
The infomercial was still on—“BUT THERE’S MORE!”—and Mac continued to give it his full attention. Lucy, however, had moved closer to him, and was now resting her head on his shoulder. This time, she didn’t look at me.
“Good night,” I said to Mac, then pushed the bedroom door open. I was just about to slip inside when he spoke.
“Is that bothering you?”
I turned around. “What?”
“The clock,” he said, nodding toward the room. “It’s kind of bright. I can turn it off, if you want.”
Lucy shifted, pressing herself against him. On the TV, a woman was entirely too excited about the prospect of making star-shaped watermelon pieces. I looked at Mac, who was holding my gaze in such a way that I knew, somehow, I should say yes.
“Actually,” I told him, “I was kind of wondering how to—”
Before I could even finish, he was on his feet, startling Lucy, who now did turn, clearly irritated. I stepped back as Mac came into the bedroom. Then, with her still watching me, I slowly shut the door.
It felt very dark, and I stood still for a moment, letting my eyes adjust. Mac, however, walked right over to sit on the bed, pulling the clock toward him. As he hit a button, turning off the projected time, he said, “Thanks. For the save.”
“She’s pretty . . .” I trailed off, not sure what adjective I was going for. “Intense.”