Early Decision

Early Decision by Lacy Crawford Read Free Book Online

Book: Early Decision by Lacy Crawford Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lacy Crawford
to something more wholesome at supper time, a good red wine, which in turn she only permitted herself if she promised to run the next morning. That was the liquid portion of things. For food, she subsisted on cereal, popcorn, and miniature frozen Snickers bars, the little Fun Size ones. This was a gift of one’s twenties: to live on almost no money and clearly no nutrients and still be thin and fairly healthy, with shiny hair and good fingernails. Anne was aware that it was a bit of a budget boondoggle but not that it would one day begin to disappear.
    Her Diet Coke fizzed just to the top of the glass, no higher—a perfect pour. She sipped before it began to settle and grabbed two Snickers bars from their bag in the freezer, which was lodged right next to poor Old Nassau. Old Nassau was, had been, an elaborate ornamental goldfish Anne and her roommates had bought the summer after college, in almost conscious recognition that now they ought to begin to take care of something. The fish had lived for two impossibly long years in his big round vase with a fake plant and a little bubbling rock. When the roommates had scattered—one to law school, one to an investment bank, one for a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, for God’s sake—Anne had inherited Old Nassau. But her first year in graduate school he’d taken a terrible turn, growing first pale and then ragged, his fins falling away from him in strings. It was clear he wouldn’t make it through Christmas. She didn’t want to just flush him. And indeed an Internet search revealed that flushing was a slow and terribly cruel way to kill a fish. Much better, the site said, to freeze them—gradually reduce their metabolic rate until they just drift to sleep. So she’d poured Old Nassau into a sandwich bag and set him on the shelf in the freezer, next to the Snickers, and then she’d gone home for the holidays and forgotten. A week later he was solid. Encased in ice, his fins suspended gloriously, like a crystal paperweight. She didn’t have the heart to toss him. The defrosting would ruin his perfect little world.
    Soda and candy in hand, she moved to the couch with a book. Downstairs the building’s front door wheezed open and slammed shut behind Stuart, the hot husband from 1B, who’d be leaving in his business suit. Six-thirty in L.A.; Martin would be up pacing, reciting his lines, or doing sit-ups in a sweaty haze on the floor. Whose floor? she wondered. She hadn’t thought to ask. In fact, now that she thought about it, it seemed she was not welcome to ask. He hadn’t thought it made sense for her to go visit yet; he’d come east when he could. Presumably Columbus Day. Besides, as he reminded her, she knew the city. She’d been to L.A. before, to work with the Harvard-Westlake girl; so what that she’d just holed up in the girl’s PCH waterfront home? Anne remembered the sun off the ocean like lightning on the ceiling. Whitewashed walls, and a mute Latina who served delicious salads every afternoon at one. The student would be heading into her junior year at Stanford now. They’d worked on a glass coffee table shaped like a kidney. If one of them leaned too hard, the whole thing threatened to tip up and guillotine their knees. For three days Anne balanced her elbows carefully and sipped iced tea, and then she’d been returned to LAX by stretch sedan.
    The loneliness of that grand ocean room was enough. Anne got up and dialed Mrs. Pfaff.
    â€œSo, tell me,” she said softly.
    â€œOh, Anne,” said Mrs. Pfaff, and she began quietly to cry. “It’s just—I’m sorry. I was so shocked. I mean, let me read this list to you. I have it right here—hold on a sec—” Anne heard shuffling sounds and imagined frantic hands. A dog shook its collar, tink-tink-tink, from a tufted bed. A coffee cup was lifted and set down, and a gulp. Anne briefly entertained the

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