|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life.||Rowena Tries To Help Her Sister, Part 5|
Rowena settled back in her chair, the phone on her shoulder. “Favor?” she asked. “What kind of favor?”
“I need you to help me move,” said Maralynne. “The landlord is kicking me out.”
“Kicking you out? What for?”
“I forgot to pay the rent a few times. He is such a—”
“I haven't found a place yet and I already asked my friends and none of them have room for me so I'll have to move in with you.”
Rowena jerked upright. “With me?” she demanded. “What about Mom and Dad? They—”
“Ugh, no. Not them.”
“Maralynne, you'd have to sleep on the couch. And I don't have room for your stuff or anything. Mom and Dad have a guest room—”
“Yeah, I know. Used to be my room. It's like they're expecting me to fail in life and have to move back in. I ain't gonna.”
“Maralynne, just because—”
“When you moved out Mom turned your room into a sewing room. Like she knew you were gonna be okay and everything.”
“If she'd done that to your room you'd be telling me she didn't want you back. My room became her sewing room because I moved out first, and she wanted a sewing room more than she wanted a guest room.”
“Because she didn't need a guest room. Until I moved out.”
“Maralynne, we're going in circles. Listen. Mom would love to have you. It would make her feel needed and anyway she—”
“She drives me crazy!” Maralynne yelled.
There was a pause. “I can understand that,” Rowena said.
“Listen, they're my last resort. Got that? My second-to-last resort is hari-kari.”
“Okay,” Rowena said. “You've made your point.”
“You'll have to come get me. I think my car is broken.”
Rowena took a breath. “What about your stuff?”
“It's a furnished apartment, remember? I don't have that much stuff. Anyway, it's only until I can find a new place. A couple of days. I've got enough money. I can show you my checkbook. You'll see. All you have to do is balance it.”
Rowena sank into her chair. She felt as if a giant marshmallow were squishing her down. Just what I need, she thought. Just exactly what I need.
Rowena looked at her friend Terese. “Why do you think she got evicted? She was in her landlord's office, trying to charm him into accepting a very late payment without charging her a fee, and there she was with her charm hanging out all over the place when his wife walked in.”
“Bad timing,” said Terese, between giggles.
“She's hogging my phone line. She's gobbling my food. She wants me to run errands for her, despite the fact that she's the one taking time off work. Her car's in the shop until Friday, but somehow I doubt that's the whole reason.” Rowena paused for a sip of water. “She's already driving me nuts. One of the reasons I'm sitting in this restaurant with you now is I'm afraid to go home.” She speared some hapless broccoli as if her fork were a harpoon. “At least I was there when she tried to feed Linus a piece of chocolate. Isn't chocolate toxic to dogs?”
“Can't be good for 'em.”
“I'm losing my mind,” Rowena said.
“Why don't you move in with Sammy for the next few days? Or with me, if you're not ready for that?”
“Thanks, but—would you leave her all alone in your place?”
“I see your point.” Terese picked up her coffee cup.
“Of course Maralynne won't do housework at my place either, so I'm getting more housework to do but less time to do it in because I'm spending just about every minute I can out with my friends. What makes it all worse is all of her so-called friends seem to have abandoned her.”
“So I'm here with you now and I'm seeing Sammy tomorrow night and so on and so forth hoping nobody runs out of pocket money. I'd invite you over,” Rowena continued, “except I value your friendship. But she practically goes into spasms when I mention your name, which makes it just a little bit tempting.”
Terese giggled again. “Don't ever change,” she said.
“What the hell are you doing?” Rowena yelled. Her sister looked at her blankly.
“What?” she shouted back. Rowena zigzagged around Maralynne's scattered laundry and the boxes of miscellany stacked here and there, got to her stereo, turned the volume down a few dozen decibels, and went back to finish locking the door. One of the walls continued to shake briefly under an aggravated pounding, then stopped.
“Shit,” Maralynne said, and started back for the stereo. Rowena jumped in front of it.
“Don't you dare,” she said. “Are you trying to get us both kicked out?” Maralynne started to speak, but Rowena interrupted her. “Where's Linus?”
“I dunno. Someplace. I didn't let him out or anything.”
Rowena found him trembling under the bed. She half-pulled, half-coaxed him out and scooped him into her arms. “Poor Linus,” she said. “Poor pooch. It's okay now. It's okay. The nasty noise is gone.”
“What is this?” Maralynne was saying. “A funeral home? You gotta learn to live.”
Rowena walked deliberately back into her living room, her dog still in her arms. “How did the apartment-hunting go?” she asked.
“Lousy. Just lousy. First place had this little old lady landlord; I hate women landlords. You can't talk to 'em.”
“You mean you can't soften their brains and get the better of them,” Rowena said. “You mean landladies are not impressed by prostitution or cock-teasing.”
“Rowena! That's not—”
“I calls 'em like I sees 'em,” Rowena said. “Listen. Ground rules. One: stay away from my landlord. Two: be nice to my landlady. Three—”
“Some hostess you are.”
“There is such a thing as a good guest. There is also such a thing as a pain in the ass. Don't provoke me, okay?” She scratched Linus between the ears. “Rule Three: no loud music. Rule Four: no feeding Linus.”
“I already said I—”
“Rowena! Give me a break!”
“I feel sorry for her,” Rowena told Sammy. “I mean, I have to; she's so dependent and insecure and—and really most of the things that annoy me come out of that. This business about becoming a Star—I mean, if you knew—if you'd been there—I was older and ahead of her and so much better than she was at school and—and practically everything else except being a floozy—and so here's the younger sister out to show everybody . . . and with our mother it'd almost have to take this form, wouldn't it?”
“And the Astrology and everything—obviously she would want to be told this stuff, all this stuff about how great she is, and to feel she has some kind of inside information or something, finally . . .” Rowena ran a hand through her hair, then began playing with her glass. “I keep reminding myself of all this, and feeling bad for her, and then there she is in front of me doing these things . . . She even tried to guilt me out of my bed. ‘I'm the guest! And I've been through a Terrible Ordeal!’ I do my best, but . . .”
Sammy stroked her face. “Ease up on yourself,” he said. He took her hand and kissed it.
How could she let Maralynne get her so upset?
The living room light was on as Rowena snuck home with Sammy still warm in her mind. Hoping that Maralynne had only fallen asleep in front of the TV she was as quiet as possible, but she'd barely opened the door when Maralynne yelled, “Where have you been?” Rowena took a breath and entered. Her sister was still in street clothes. “Do you know what time it is?” Maralynne demanded. It was after two.
“I told you I'd be late,” Rowena said. “I told you I don't have to be at work tomorrow until—”
“I've been waiting for you! I was—”
“Maralynne, that's entirely unnec—”
“All by myself!” Maralynne wailed. “Lonely and suffering, while you're out committing God knows what sort—”
“Maralynne! For crying out—”
“And my car in the shop,” Maralynne said. “You've got some nerve.”
Rowena had been prepared to apologize. She had been. “Since when are you my boss?” she demanded. “Since when are you the Morality Police?” She found herself waving her arms, and put them back down where they belonged. “You of all people,” she said.
“To spite me or something! Because I'm all—”
“Excuse me for having a boyfriend. I didn't realize I was supposed to—”
“I'm telling Mom!” To Rowena's amazement, Maralynne marched towards the phone.
“If Dad answers, he'll just hang up on you,” Rowena said. “No matter who answers, you'll never hear the end of it, calling at this hour.” Maralynne glared at her, but withdrew. “Sit down,” Rowena said. “Let's talk.” She glanced at her watch and sighed. She suspected she'd have gotten more sleep staying the whole night with Sammy. No matter how much time they spent making love.
Rowena put down her tea—herb tea; no caffeine at 3:45 AM. “I just think it would be better for you to start getting on with your life. You disrupt your schedule and everything—stop going to work and so forth—and everything is different and you have nothing to do but mope.”
“There is nothing to do but mope,” Maralynne said.
“It's not good for you,” Rowena said.
“Mope and eat.”
Rowena thought about the state of her kitchen the last few days but decided not to comment. “It's really hard, when you're unhappy, to—”
“What would you know about that?”
“Oh, come on,” said Rowena irritably. “Half of our conversations you're beating me over the head with Neil or whatever, and the other half you're insisting I've never—”
“Oh, that. At least you dumped him. At least—”
“You're missing the point,” Rowena said. “I dumped him because he was making me miserable.” She stifled a yawn—not the first of the evening—and in the pause decided to change tactics. “You know,” she said, “I was so much happier without him. Just on my own.”
Maralynne stared at her a moment, then relented. “A whole city full of cute guys,” she mused.
“It was a while before I started dating again, of course,” said Rowena, very casually. “I had a little thinking to do first.”
“Thinking?” Maralynne yelped.
“Getting my life in order. Figuring out what I needed, what I wanted, what I'd done wrong—”
“How can you think all by yourself?”
“I think, Maralynne, that you need to learn a little self-reliance.”
“Self-reliance,” Maralynne said. “Let me ask Madame Zelda about that.”
Rowena took a deep breath. “Maralynne,” she began.
“Don't start,” Maralynne said. “It's some sort of campaign to take everything away from me. Isn't it?”
“Maralynne, there is no campaign. But if there were, it'd be to give—”
“Maybe you can live without spiritual enlightenment, but for some of us—”
“Maralynne, I'd be more inclined to listen to you if you acted enlightened. If you—”
“I don't have to sit here and be insulted!”
“Fine,” said Rowena, rising. “Then let me get some sleep.”
“Sit down,” Maralynne said. “Stop being so selfish.”
“Nobody listens to me!” Maralynne wailed. “Nobody understands me!” She threw herself face-down on the couch. Rowena peered at her.
“I remember in high school,” Rowena said, “how you used to argue with Mrs. Porlick about your grades. She thought you should be doing as well as I was—as well as I had, when I took her class—and you tried to tell her you just weren't cut out to be a student, that you had other talents. Remember? And you were so upset and I told you that even though you'd do better to study more you weren't any less a person for getting bad grades? Remember what you told me then? Remember what you said?”
Rowena waited. From the couch came only a faint snore. Rowena got up, tiptoed to the light switch, and clicked the room into darkness. No response. “A couple of days,” she muttered as Maralynne slumbered on. “I can put up with my sister for a couple of days.” She snuck off to her bedroom, leaving her teacup on the end table, and went straight to bed.
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