Look - Zan Romanoff
LULU ARRANGES THE image before she turns the camera on herself. Patrick’s mother is kind of a monster, but at least she’s the kind who makes sure all of the lighting in her house is flattering, even in rarely used guest bathrooms. You have to give her credit for that, Lulu thinks.
The light in here is so even that it almost seems sourceless. The shell pink of the wall is suede-soft, and it makes Lulu’s hard-earned winter tan glow golden in contrast. Everyone who’s not at the party will wonder where the hell she is when they see this.
So will the people who are here, actually. She didn’t tell anyone that she was going upstairs, and most of them don’t know the house well enough to recognize this room without context. The image will pop up on their screens at some point tonight, and they won’t be able to identify where she was when she took it.
They won’t ask. That’s a thirsty move, and they’re all supposed to be better than that. The idea of parties like this one is that you only get invited if you act like the invitation doesn’t matter to you.
Lulu explained this to her older sister once.
“Doesn’t it gross you out?” Naomi asked. “Treating your life like it’s a game?”
“Don’t you like to know the rules?” Lulu asked her in return.
Lulu was fifteen then, spending her afternoons riding around in Kingsley Adams’s BMW, learning how to smoke weed and how to drive stick, and how to tell if a boy liked you or just liked the way you looked next to him, stoned and pliant, riding shotgun.
She was wrong about how much King liked her, as it turned out, but right about the rules in general. There were rewards for knowing what they were and following them carefully. Rewards like when Lulu leaves a party to be alone for a little while, people assume that it’s because there’s something wrong with the party, instead of thinking there’s something wrong with her.
Lulu is pleased when her image blinks onto the screen. It looks like she imagined it: Her long dark hair is caught up in a messy topknot, pinned in place by a slash of gold. Bea made her laugh so hard she cried earlier, when the sun was still up and the world still seemed interesting, so her eye makeup is a little smudged in a way that suggests she’s been having too much fun to bother fixing it. She gave Owen his ring back but kept the chain she wore it on. Its empty curve dangles below the frame, where it won’t give too much away.
Lulu closes her eyes, opens them, and snaps herself in the act of looking up, so that the picture looks like it’s been taken by someone standing over her, catching the edge of her attention. Then she takes a movie: her looking at the camera, and then laughing, and then looking away. She thinks maybe she should be embarrassed—it’s kind of cheap, just her flirting with herself—but whatever, because it will also work.
She posts the files and then settles on the stool at the edge of the bathtub to thumb through the rest of her Flash timeline. She can probably kill at least another fifteen minutes before anyone thinks to come looking for her, and hopefully that someone will be Owen or Bea. If it’s Bea, she can talk her into leaving—going home and going to sleep.
If it’s Owen, she won’t have to work very hard to give everyone something new to wonder about.
When the bathroom door opens, though, Lulu doesn’t recognize the girl who walks through it.
“Shit,” the girl says, even though Lulu is fully clothed and sitting like four feet from the toilet. “I’m so sorry. Shit, shit, shit, sorry.”
Her hair is curly and copper red, and she’s milk pale, freckle-sprinkled, very thin. She flushes pink and takes a step backward, knocking into the open door. “Ow,” she says, and then, again, “Sorry.”
Lulu can’t help but be charmed. “It’s fine,” she says. “I mean, I’m not, like, using it. The room. I’m just taking a break. You can—” She starts to stand.
“No!” the girl says. “No, honestly, I’m—I was going to do the same thing.”
She’s still flushed, but smiling now too. Lulu, who endured years of middle school orthodontia, admires the almost aggressive evenness of her teeth.
“Kind of sucks down there, huh,” Lulu says. She sits again. “But Patrick’s parties are always like this, don’t you think?