But a second, to Bert, was too long. All night he’d been obsessing about how he needed to be home by ten at the very latest in order to see Update: Armageddon, a show that covered, in his words, “all the latest doings in doomsday theory.” But the party had run long, and even though we’d rushed as much as we could, time was clearly running out, not only for the world, but for Bert as well.
“I’m coming too,” Kristy said now, unlocking the side door. “Every time I tried to use the bathroom at that party someone was in it.”
“My show comes on in five minutes!” Bert said.
“Bert,” Wes said, pointing at the dashboard clock, which said 9:54, “it’s over. You’re not going to make it.”
“Update: it’s too late,” Kristy added.
Bert glared at both of them, then slumped in his seat, looking out the window. For a second it was quiet, except for Delia grunting as she lowered herself onto the grass by the sidewalk. I looked at my dark house, looming up in front of us: my mother was at an overnight meeting in Greensboro, not due back until morning.
“You can come in and watch it here,” I said. “I mean, if you want to.”
“Really?” Bert looked at me, surprised. “You mean it?”
“Macy,” Kristy moaned, knocking me with her elbow, “what are you thinking?”
“She’s thinking that she’s kind and considerate,” Bert said as he quickly slid down the seat to the open door, “unlike some people I could mention.”
“I’m sorry,” Delia said, putting her hand on my arm, “but I’m really bordering on emergency status with my bladder here.”
“Oh, right,” I said. “Come on, it’s just inside.”
“So we’re all going in?” Wes asked, cutting the engine.
“Yep,” Kristy said. “Looks that way.”
As we approached the front steps, Delia waddling, Kristy eyeing the house, with Bert and Wes and Monica bringing up the rear, I told myself that even if my mother had been home, I could have done this, invited my friends in. But the truth was, ever since her talk with me about concerns for my priorities, I’d stopped talking about my job at Wish, or Kristy, or anything related to either. It just seemed smarter, as well as safer.
I unlocked the front door, then pointed Delia to the powder room. She moved across the foyer faster than I’d seen her go in weeks, the door shutting swiftly behind her. “Oh, sweet Jesus,” we heard her say. Kristy laughed, the sound sudden and loud, bouncing off the high ceiling above us, and we all looked up at once, following it.
“See,” Bert said to her, “I told you this place was huge.”
“It’s a palace.” Kristy peered in the dining room, eyeing my sister’s wedding portrait, which was hanging over the sideboard. “How many bedrooms are there?”
“I don’t know, five?” I said, walking to the bottom of the stairs and glancing up at the second floor. There were no lights on, and the rest of the house was dark.
“Is the TV this way?” Bert asked me, poking his head into the living room. Wes reached up and popped him on the back of his head, reminding him of his manners. “I mean, is it okay if I find the TV?”
“It’s in here,” I said, starting down the hallway to the kitchen, hitting light switches as I came upon them. I pointed to the right, to the family room. “The remote should be on the table.”
“Thanks,” Bert said, crossing quickly to the couch. “Oh, wow, this TV is huge!” Monica followed him, flopping down on the leather recliner, and a second later I heard the set click on.
I walked into the kitchen, pulling open the fridge. “Does anybody want anything to drink?”
“Do you have Dr. Pepper?” Bert called out. I saw Wes shoot him a look. “I mean, no thanks.”
Kristy smiled, running her finger along the top of the island. “Look at this, it’s so cool. Like it has little diamonds in it. What’s this called?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Corian,” Wes told her, peering over her shoulder.
“Everything here is so nice,” Kristy said emphatically, looking around the kitchen. “If Stella ever gets her fill of me, I’m moving in with Macy. She’s got five bedrooms. I’d even sleep in that powder room. I bet it’s nicer than my whole doublewide.”
“It’s not,” I said.
From the living room, I could hear an announcer on the TV, speaking in a deep, important-sounding voice: “This is the future. This is our fate. This is Update: Armageddon.”
“Come on you guys, it’s on!” Bert yelled.
“Bert, use your inside voice,” Kristy told him, turning on her stool to look out the sliding glass doors at the backyard. “Wow! Monica, are you seeing this deck out here? And the pool?”
“Umm-hmm,” Monica replied.
“Monica loves pools,” Kristy told me. “She’s like a freaking fish, you can’t get her out of the water. Me, I’m more of a lie-by-the-pool-drinking-something-with-an-umbrella-in-it kind of girl.”
I took a few cans of Coke out of the fridge, then pulled some glasses out of the cabinet, filling them with ice. Kristy was now flipping through a Southern Living my sister had left behind during her last stay, while Wes stood at the back glass doors, checking out the backyard. With the noise from the TV, and everyone there, I was suddenly aware of how quiet and still my house was normally. Just the addition of so many people breathing gave it a totally different feel, some sort of palpable energy that was never there otherwise.
“I,” Delia announced as she came down the hallway, her flip-flops smacking the tile floor, “feel so much better. Never would I have imagined that peeing could make me so happy.”
From the TV, the announcer bellowed, “What do you think will bring . . . the end of the world?”
“From the looks of it,” Kristy said, flipping a page, “I’d put my money on this room decorated entirely in gingham. I mean, it’s just hideous.”
I jumped, startled. It was my mother, pulling a gotcha all her own. As I turned around, my heart thumping in my chest, I saw her standing in the open archway that led to the hallway to her office, file folder in hand. She’d been here the entire time.
“Mom,” I said, too quickly. “Hi.”
“Hi,” she replied, but she wasn’t looking at me, her eyes instead moving across the room to take in Bert and Monica in front of the TV, Wes by the back doors, Delia making her way over to the couch and, finally, Kristy, her head still bent over the magazine. “I thought I heard voices.”