29: Napalm in the Morning

Dori spent the night partly awake.  Once the Advil wore off for good, she didn’t sleep much, and instead looked around her darkened room, feeling like it wasn’t really hers.

She thought about Smile a lot.  He had either been bailed out by Khalid, in which case he was probably getting the tongue-lashing of a lifetime and dying inside, or he was sitting in jail and hopefully not being gang-raped by the other prisoners.  Rationally Dori doubted that the Ypsilanti lock-up was that bad, but you never knew.  She was worried about him regardless.  If her head didn’t hurt so much, she might be feeling good enough to try to get out there and find out if he was okay.  She was pretty sure that he had punched her for something that had nothing to do with her at all.  Which didn’t absolve him, of course, but she could forgive and forget.  Smile just wasn’t abusive.

Oh, but he is, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Clover’s said.  They all are.  You can never trust him again.  If they hit you once, they can hit you again.  It’s the first time that’s the hardest!

Dori had an inkling that some of that was true, but it didn’t change her desire to talk to Smile again.  Clover wasn’t a hundred percent right, and she didn’t like Smile anyway.  Actually, she had liked him well enough when they were going out, but like Daniel and everyone else it seemed that all of a sudden they had to hate Smile, because he and Dori weren’t dating any more.  She wondered if Smile’s friends (many of their friends were mutual, but not all of them) would treat her like dirt now too.

Slowly, slowly, slowly dawn came.  She didn’t notice at first; it got easier to see the stuff on the walls, but that could have just been her eyes turning nocturnal.  When she could see the individual lizards on the MC Escher print that, incidentally, had been hanging on that wall for way too goddamn long, Dori knew the sun was coming up for real, and felt relief.  She watched the sky grow slowly lighter, and wondered when Andrea and Carl would wake up.

She dozed off, bringing her total sleep tally to two and a half hours, and suddenly Clover was there, stroking her hair gently.  “How do you feel, Dorito?” she asked.

“Ow,” Dori said, sleep-addled.  Was she at home?  Of course she was.  So why was Clover here?  One of her eyes didn’t open all the way.  It didn’t hurt that much; actually it was kind of an interesting sensation.  “I wish things would quit hitting me in the head.”

Clover took her hand away.  “Sorry.  I didn’t think.  I came down as soon as I got up, so I could be here when you woke up.  Your aunt left at eleven, so you won’t have to face her yet.”

Dori didn’t point out that she’d have rather dealt with Aunt Andrea than Clover to begin with.  “I’m fine.  I need to go do some stuff, if you don’t mind tagging along.”  Words Clover couldn’t possibly refuse, especially since she was in Save Dori From Evil mode.  Dori wondered if being aware of this was sufficiently devious for her to be accused of taking advantage of Clover.

“Come to the kitchen, and name it,” Clover said, clearly meaning it.

Dori shuffled down the hall to the kitchen and explained the Taylor situation, and the need to find the girl.  Clover bustled around the kitchen, making coffee and–ugh–oatmeal, and when Dori was done she looked disapproving.

“I agree, it’s best we find her,” she said.  “If something happens to the stupid little bitch, her parents are going to find a way to nail you for it.”

“That’s sort of what I was afraid of.”  Actually, she was honestly worried about Taylor’s well-being, too, but that didn’t bear mentioning to Clover.  It seemed like there were only two kinds of people to her: those who were With her or her friends, and those who were Against them.  It was hard to cross over from one group to the other, too.  “I thought I’d go to a few places and show her picture around, in case she got it into her head that she ought to find a dyke bar and look for me.”

“She obviously didn’t know you that well.”

Dori shrugged.  “She’s fifteen, she doesn’t know anybody that well.  Not even herself.  Give her a break.”

“She knows better than to accuse you of being a pedophile, I think.  She’s an idiot if she doesn’t realize how bad that could be for you.”

“Feel free to tell her that, if we find her,” Dori said.  “Anyway, that’ll be fun, playing private eye and shit.  I also have to go apartment shopping.”

“Your aunt said you were going to get your own place,” Clover said, nodding.  “Are you sure it’s safe, with Smile out there?  I’m sure they’ve cut him loose by now.”

Dori rolled her eyes.  “He’s not a serial killer, dude.  Besides, my friend Nikki is moving in with me.”

“Do I know Nikki?”

“You will.  She’s coming with, as soon as I call her.  What time is it?”

“Almost noon.”

“Shit.  I need to take a shower and get dressed.”

Since it was silly to go to a bar at one in the afternoon and expect anyone to be there, they apartment-shopped first.  Nikki drove, because she’d rented an insanely large sport-utility vehicle to get around snowy metro Detroit in.

“You look really funny at the wheel of this thing,” Clover said after they’d been introduced.

“I bet I do.”

“Can you even see over the hood?”

“Well enough,” Nikki said softly, then turned to Dori.  “I have four places we can look at this afternoon, and then we can go find your friend.”

“See,” Dori said to Clover, grinning ear to ear, “it’ll be good, me living with Nikki.  She’s the most organized person I ever met.  She can handle any crisis.”

“Getting your own apartment isn’t exactly a crisis,” Clover said.

“Sure it is.  I don’t have any furniture.”

“What do we need to get?” Nikki said, aware of why Dori and Clover laughed but not smiling.  She had an air of flipping open a mental notepad.

“Pretty much everything.  I think I have a bed.  My TV and VCR belong to Uncle Carl and they’re about five hundred years old anyway.  Should we pool our money and go in together on a TV and stuff, or what?”

“Let’s discuss that shit over dinner,” Nikki said.  “Apartment first.  Fill it second.”

The apartments were looked at quickly, one after the other.  Clover couldn’t resist putting her fifteen cents in on every one that they saw, and Dori could tell after a while that Nikki’s refusal to pay any attention to her was making her mad.  Clover couldn’t even intimidate Nikki by towering over her (looming was one of Clover’s psychological tactics); Nikki was literally only a third her size, but wouldn’t budge.  All of the decisions that Dori thought would be difficult were dispatched quickly:  two bedrooms or three?  (Two–if Liz was going to move in, they could get a larger place later.)  What floor?  (First–Nikki didn’t like heights and wasn’t interested in a balcony.)  Covered parking?  (No.)  Washer and dryer?  (Yes.)  Cable?  (Nikki barely watched TV, but Dori watched enough for both of them, so yes.)  By twilight, Dori and Nikki had a lease drawn up and ready to be signed at a nice complex on Ford Lake in Ypsilanti.  They celebrated with dinner at Olive Garden, Clover’s treat.  She insisted.

“That was impressive,” Clover said.  “It took Ari and I forever to find our first apartment.  I think we had to live with my parents for four months before we found a place.”

“Big decisions are only as overwhelming as you let them be,” Nikki said.

“As long as you’re willing to live with the consequences of a bad one.”

“If you know what you want and stand by it, there won’t be any bad decisions,” was Nikki’s response.  She didn’t even look at Clover.

“So…if you decided to buy a car, and the brakes failed and it crashed and killed someone, you wouldn’t call that a bad decision?”

Nikki didn’t hesitate.  “Not if the car was what I wanted.  The brake problem has nothing to do with my choosing the car, obviously, because I didn’t fucking know about it at the time.  I try not to beat myself up over shit like that.”

“Very noble,” Clover said sarcastically, aware that she was losing the argument but not sure how.

“Hardly.  I didn’t say I didn’t do it, I said I tried not to.  I fail.  A lot.”  Nikki said no more on the subject, despite Clover’s attempts to engage first her and then Dori in a continuance.  She got the feeling Nikki was going to go off on Clover, but it didn’t happen.