My first day, tomorrow, promises to be the source of my nightmares tonight. I feel sick, but I try to put on a good face. The crew’s last few weeks have not been the kindest, within or without. Cali constantly bickers with Stipple and the topic will never not be E. I’m pushed to distraction wondering just how she pulled him back here. And why.
Tonight, I shut my door to block the noise. That sharpens the cacophony of my mind. My education seems woefully incomplete. Every time I think of the worst case scenario, I end with the horror of being discovered and the looks on my parents’ faces when I am very publicly revealed. Discovery feels certain, no matter what power E has.
A knock. Pye enters without awaiting my response.
“E will take care of you,” she says before dropping to the floor. I move to sit near her. “Think of her resolve. Think of her omniscience. Think of what she’s already done.”
“None of those make me feel better,” I say. My stomach flips again.
“Tomorrow is just a first day, like any first day, you know?”
“No. Too much can go wrong.”
“What could go so wrong in one short day?”
“Why do people say that? ‘What could go wrong?’ Plenty.” I’m not proud of my petulance.
“Come on. Tell me what you think could happen tomorrow. Then it probably won’t happen.”
“First, your uncharacteristic chipperness fools no one. Second, someone could recognize me.” I raise my voice as Pye tries to counter. “Third, E would forsake me faster than a—,” I search for my metaphor.
“A what, girl? E hasn’t invested all this in you, in all of us, just to roll on you. Think! E’s nothing if not practical.”
We fall to silence, picking at the carpet fibers. Finally, Pye punches me lightly on the arm and adds:
“Don’t flatter yourself. Your news cycle wasn’t long enough for anybody to recognize you. I doubt your own mama would recognize you.”
She laughs; I roll my eyes. She has a point.
“Let’s go,” she says, jumping to her feet. I obey because, if nothing else, I don’t feel nearly as sick as I did a few minutes ago.
She puts on her street accent and proceeds to rip on both Cali and Stipple, begging them to reply, which they do. Like moths, the others float to the kitchen where our laughter and derisive joking summons an audience. Otis lays down an excellent burn on Pye, and so begins round two.
Crash and I cackle our way through prepping snacks. For three more hours, we eat and joke until we hit a vein of real stuff, then we trade war stories until half of us cry, then we joke some more.
When I’m finally under covers, the slightest sliver of moon hangs high and I am too wrung out to worry anymore. Instead, I replay my law lessons with E and Stipple and Cali. I remember Pye’s lessons from the fringe of Capitol Hill. I return to the fascinating and wholly unexpected lectures Wicker gives on working for a politician. [Apparently, she interned before falling from grace and becoming a victim of doxxing.]
But the thoughts ferrying me to sleep came from my first mentor in all this, Helen: “You got to buy a ticket to win,” she had said. That’s when I knew I needed the right people to share the right story. If this isn’t buying a ticket, nothing is.