Play Me(9)

By: Katie McCoy




After a lunch of hearing how my parents were distraught because I hadn’t stayed at home longer, Nina dragged me to her favorite thrift store. She piled clothes I would never wear into my arms, and I tried to ignore her as she insisted our parents were worried about me and how I was taking the break-up with Mark. They didn’t want me to be alone. But she hadn’t wanted me to move, either, so I took everything she said with a grain of salt and ignored the guilt pangs it gave me. I didn’t want to admit it, but it was nice to have some space from her. Even though I was the older one by two years, I always felt like I had been in her shadow. She was the one who had followed my parents’ ambitions, becoming the free spirit they wanted us to be. Everything about her was free and wild and exciting. I loved her, but sometimes she exhausted me. “What about this?” Nina asked, holding up a bright red dress. Although loud in color, the shape was pretty simple, a basic form fitting sheath, which wasn’t really her style. It was a beautiful dress, though. And it was hard to find something that my sister didn’t look amazing in.

“Sure.” I waved a hand at it. “You’d look great in it.”

“Not for me,” she said, shoving it into my arms. “For you.”

I shoved it back. “I told you,” I said, “I don’t need any more clothes.”

After two hours of shopping I was itching to get back to my apartment and finally finish this morning’s practice. Surely Jake was up and about by now and wouldn’t be bothered by my playing. I absentmindedly ran my fingers over a rack of clothes, wondering what kind of dresses the women he dated wore. Not that I cared. Because I didn’t. Really.

Nina hung the dress back up and came up behind me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders, enveloping me. I felt my frustration with her melt away. She was always good with hugs. She turned me towards a mirror and I looked at the two of us, at first glance so different, but the longer one looked, the more our similarities became evident. The same ski slope nose and large eyes, the same pale skin and long necks. In bare feet, I was taller, but she was wearing her usual funky heels and I was in my favorite black flats so we were about the same height. She was curvier, but we were sisters, no doubt about that. Guess I could forget my theory about getting left on my parents’ doorstep.

“I just want you to be happy,” Nina said, squeezing me tight. “You know that, right?”

“I know that.” I squeezed her back before giving her a big sister stare in the mirror. “But I’m still not buying that red dress.”





Chapter 5




Jake



“And who moves a whole fucking piano into their studio apartment? And then yells at me for having the nerve to want to sleep in past ten?” I fumed to Dakota over dinner prep, my knife flying furiously. “Who plays piano all day?”

“A piano player?”

I looked up from the onions I was chopping and found her staring at me, arms crossed. “What? You don’t think something’s a little weird about her?”

“Like I said the first three times you asked me, she seems a little intense,” Dakota said, raising one eyebrow. She was really good at being unimpressed with me. “Kind of like someone else I know.”

“Oh, no.” I put down my knife and wiped my hands, outraged. “You cannot be comparing my ambition to her lunacy.”

“It’s a short trip between the two,” Dakota said with a shrug. “And you know it.”

I hated when she was right. But that didn’t mean Ella was any less of an annoyance. Sure she had stopped playing after my visit, but I still hadn’t been able to go back to sleep. Instead, I had gone back to my apartment and been annoyed, but awake until it was time to head to work. Now I was in my kitchen—MY kitchen, that I had worked so hard for—and grumpy as fuck.

“Remind me why I hired you?” I muttered at Dakota.

“Because I’m the best sous chef you know,” she informed me, calmly returning to her own prep. And she was right about that too. After we met in culinary school, we had gotten into the habit of hiring each other whenever we had the chance. We worked really well together—so well, in fact, that most people assumed we had a romantic history, which we didn’t. We both understood that nothing ruined a good working relationship like a romantic one.

We returned to our work in companionable silence, until I got the sense I was being watched. Without even looking up—I could tell when Dakota wanted to say something—I let out a deep sigh. “What?” I asked.