“Don’t throw them away!” Stacie cried. ”They were so young! Life hadn’t burned them out yet!”
She dropped to her knees, pleading for her lost cigarettes.
Karen, holding a small trash bin in her hand, was not moved. “You mean you were going to burn them out!”
Stacie’s angelic pleas turned to devilish grin. “Tee hee.”
“Pfft. Don’t ‘tee hee’ me! You told me you were going to quit!”
Stacie countered her patented puppy dog eyes and kitten pout. “But I needs ‘em! Puh-leez don’ take mah baybees away! I wud jus’ die.”
“Guh! You’re awful, Stace. Tell you what…” Karen took the bin to the fire escape, dumping its contents to the dumpster below. Stacie clutched at Karen’s clothes, screaming for her to give her back her babies, that she was an awful, horrible woman for taking them away, an unrepentant murderer of innocent lives. A man having a smoke in the alley below looked both worried and disturbed.
“Hi!” They chimed, retreating back into the apartment. Stacie began giggling to the point where Karen thought she wouldn’t stop, so she beat her over the head one good one with the trash bin.
“Ow! Hey, Kare bear! That hurt!”
“Yeah, well that wasn’t funny! I have to live here, you know!”
“I live here, too!”
“You squat here, you mean.” Karen rubbed her temples, afflicted by her frequent migraines. “Gah. I need a drink.”
Stacie, eager to get back on her friend’s good side, went scurrying in to the kitchen.
“I’ll open us up some wine!”
“Yeah, like you need it.”
“I do! I’ll be going through nicotine withdrawals any minute now! Need something to keep the edge off.”
“Just trading one addiction for another.”
“Look who’s talking, drunkie. Here.” She handed Karen a glass. The red wine sloshed to the brim.
“What kind is this?”
“Dunno.” She turned the bottle and squinted. “Something with a French name.”
“Ah.” Karen took a liberal first sip. She didn’t actually care what it was, but it seemed the right thing to ask. Careful not to spill her good mood, Karen slumped into the couch. Stacie remained standing, pacing around with her wine. Her constant energy made Karen agitated. “Well, they do make good wine.”
“I don’t know if I like the French,” Stacie paused to keep her wine from sloshing about. “I mean, they’re so hoity toity, you know?”
“Hmph. That’s what they want you to think, Stacie my love.”
“Well, they’re doing a good job, then.”
“They’re just putting up a face to keep everyone from moving in and drinking up all their wine without paying to extra to import it.”
Stacie put out her lower lip and crossed her eyebrows. She did that when she was thinking hard. Karen thought it looked ridiculous. “I guess that makes sense,” Stacie nodded. “Maybe that’s why they can sell it to us for so much money.”
“Amen to that, sister.” Karen took another big swig and stared at the glass for a while. “You know, I really like drinking out of a wine glass. It makes me feel like I’m delicately choking a tiny person.”
“Hey!” Karen regretted showing her vulnerable side and began confiding in her wine. “She’s so mean to me, isn’t she?” she said, stroking the top of her glasses head. It sang a high tune back to her.
“Oh, come on, Kare Bear. I was just bein’ silly! Here. My little man’s empty. Want me to fill yours up?”
“Yes, please,” she said, watching Stacie prance into the kitchen.
“I wonder if it will always be like this?” Karen mumbled to herself. When Stacie came back with her glass, Karen drank deep and graciously.
“A toast to good friends!” Stacie smiled, her teeth stained with wine.
“Salut,” Karen replied, and they delicately clinked their glasses together.