Nick locked himself in the bathroom. Staring at his own face in the mirror was disheartening. There was nothing there that Amanda wanted. Her expensive moisturiser was sitting next to the sink. He squeezed a pale mound of it into the palm of his hand. It was a petty act of revenge. As he rubbed it in, going past his wrists into the hair of his forearms to use it all, the fragrance reached him. It was pure Amanda. Now he smelled like the cow.
“Ew,” he said into the mirror, his falsetto mocking her voice. “You’re like a sister to me, Nick. The only one in this house isolation is sending me hot for is Emily. Mwah, mwah, mwah, Emily.”
He stuck his tongue out and swung it around like a kid getting their first real kiss.
“Pfft, Emily,” he muttered. “Not with a ten-foot pole.”
Emily was the one who started it all. About halfway through week two. Was it Thursday? Suddenly, he couldn’t sit on the couch by himself.
He was using the PlayStation during his special, magic, grudgingly allowed “Nick’s gaming time” and Emily squeezed between him and the arm of the couch with a book. He had to move out of the centre spot, away from the exact middle of the screen, so she wasn’t touching him. Then she straightened her legs and put her feet on him.
“Hey!” he said, turning almost to the point where he could glare at her, but keeping both eyes on the screen.
“Oh, sorry,” she said over the top of her book. “I didn’t realise I was doing that. Does it bother you?”
The rest of the session was like that.
A few days later he’d been in bed, scrolling through his phone, and she knocked on his door. He didn’t say “Come in”. All he said was “What?” and she had taken it as an invitation to open the door and stand there in a t-shirt and whine at him.
“I’m feeling a bit down,” she said.
“And a bit a lonely.”
“In here? No-one’s ever alone.”
“At night I’m lonely. Can I stay in here for a bit?”
“Nah. I was just about to go to sleep.”
He put down his phone for emphasis, wriggled down into the sheets. Oh god, she really was wearing just a t-shirt.
“Can you close the door when you go?”
“Can’t you wait? I’ve got another ten minutes at least,” said Amanda.
“I am totally not rushing you,” said Nick.
“Can’t you wait somewhere else?”
“Amanda’s yoga time” preceded “Nick’s gaming time”. She was trying to follow the instructor on the tv and Nick was pretending to not be following her.
“Emily’s taken over the kitchen and if I spend any more time in my room I will go mad,” he said.
Amanda bent over. Nick bit down on the side of his tongue and tried to look interested in his phone.
“What’s she making? Has she started lunch already?”
“Some kind of cake.”
“Bless that sweet girl. We are so lucky to be stuck in here with someone who loves to cook.”
He pulled open the top drawer of the vanity. It was filled with make-up. The second drawer was packed to the top with boxes of tampons. The third drawer—hair and nail removal equipment. He returned to the top drawer and took out a black lipstick with a red dot on the base.
For tonight’s dinner Emily had produced a bottle of gin, a bottle of dry vermouth, and a jar of olives.
“My emergency stash,” she said.
Amanda had cheered. “You angel! Why didn’t you bring these out days ago? I’ve been dying for a drink.”
Emily made them martinis in wine glasses. Nick could barely sip his. Drinking gin was like licking a stick of deodorant. That was fine with Amanda. She threw down hers, then his, and started a third before the chickpea stew was served.
Amanda was an effusive drunk. She kept grabbing Emily’s hand.
“This is so good. Isn’t this delicious, Nick?”
Emily would have to reach over and pull Amanda’s hand off her own so she could eat.
Afterwards, Amanda, standing behind Emily’s chair, declared she would clean up the kitchen.
“And let you have a break after all your hard work. You’re so tense, Em. You know, I have a certificate in massage.”
Emily shrugged the hands away from her shoulders and started to pile plates and cutlery.
“Was it okay, Nick?” she said.
“Yeah. It was good. Tasty,” he said, standing up. “You’ve done enough tonight. Hey, Amanda, I’ll give you a hand.”
He stacked plates into the dishwasher while Amanda leaned against the counter, drinking another martini, this one with four olives floating in it.
“I really do have a certificate in massage,” she said.
“What kind of massage?”
“I bet she would really, really like a foot massage. Emily! Emily! I’ve got an idea!”
She left the kitchen and the mess with Nick.
The lipstick he was pretty sure also belonged to Amanda. He took the top off and twisted the base. There wasn’t much left. He drew a stripe on the back of his hand, because that’s what you do with lipstick.
After all the bedroom doors had slammed shut, sometime around 11, he tiptoed past Emily’s door to Amanda’s. He was wearing a t-shirt and, after swapping back and forth a couple of times with a pair of plaid boxers, a pair of grey marl trunks, everything within carefully arranged. He knocked lightly on the door. Then harder. Then he opened it, slowly.
“Amanda? Are you awake?”
Oh, she was awake. Awake and hoping he would go away. The whole “you’re like a sister” business had followed. If anyone was like her sister it was Emily. But he didn’t say that.
He made a fist and with the lipstick drew a mouth around the side of his forefinger and the edge of his thumb. He rolled the thumb up and down, making the little over-painted mouth talk.
“Mwah, mwah, mwah,” it said with his falsetto. “You’re like a sister to me. Mwah, mwah, mwah.”
He brought his hand to his mouth. With one eye on himself in the mirror, he kissed it, stuck his tongue in. It tasted like makeup and moisturiser.
There was a tapping at the door.
“Are you okay in there?” said Emily.
His mouth was smudged with lipstick. He looked ridiculous.
“We’ll get through this,” he said to the mirror.