Saints and Sinners - Eden Butler



Gia Jilani’s niece told her glitter was the herpes of the arts and crafts world.

“It gets everywhere, on every damn thing,” Bianca had announced, as she pulled Gia along the wide aisle of the craft store on Columbus Avenue, muttering something about decorations for the party. “It’s impossible to get rid of once it’s spilled.” She stopped walking, glancing at Gia, head tilted. “I think Annaliese mentioned a sorority sister of hers putting a pound of glitter in the AC vents of some stalker that wouldn’t leave her alone, but… Oh…holy shit! They have champagne glitter!”

Bianca abandoned Gia and the story of her twin, Annaliese’s, Tri Sig sister, somewhere between gold streamers and the clay molds meant for newborn handprints. She’d found her niece scanning the row of glitter bottles, pulling two at a time in her basket. “Silver and gold,” she’d said, waving what looked like an eight-ounce bottle at Gia.

“Arts and crafts herpes?” she reminded her niece, earning a low laugh and a half-attempted shrug.

“What? It’s still shiny. Besides, you kissed that security deposit goodbye after the New Year’s eight years ago.”

Gia smiled remembering the wreck they’d made of her downstairs dining room during an impromptu drinking game—something she reminded herself she’d been far too old for every new year’s after that night. “The flaming shots?”

“And the singed wood floors.”

Bianca’s champagne glitter had ended up in black and gold balloons—the team colors of Gia’s new employer, the New Orleans Steamers. That night, those balloons got popped in the fray of music, drink, and stupid things Bianca talked Gia into during her farewell party.

Bianca promised to help clear away the mess. Instead, Gia’s niece tucked a bottle of Moet under her arm four hours into the party and passed out on the small tufted armchair near the back corner of the living room, after she’d twirled around the equally drunk crowd, popping each balloon as she passed them.

After Gia led the last guest through her door at four a.m. and stumbled to her not-at-all-empty bed, she’d spotted the mass of glitter coating the dark hardwood floors off Gia and Bianca’s rent-controlled Upper Westside apartment. Melted wax fixed to the dozens and dozens of squat, white candles Bianca had insisted on placing along the fireplace mantel and up the small staircase leading to the second floor den. Empty wine glasses and discarded plates and silverware littered around the dining room table and chairs and filled Gia’s kitchen sink and counter.

She left it all for Bianca to manage, something she knew her niece wouldn’t mind. Gia had been the one to buy the apartment and let Bianca continue to live in it until she finished up grad school and landed her first professional job. That might take a while, but Gia didn’t seem able to let the apartment go. Something kept her from letting go of New York completely.

Now it neared nine a.m. Just a few hours before the cab would arrive to bring her to JFK. A few hours to wake Bianca and remind her to meet the UPS driver when he came for the last boxes Gia would need sent to New Orleans. Only a few hours to finish packing up what remained of her decades-long life in New York.

A few hours to make the dead weight laying across her naked body stir and dress and leave.

Problem was, he smelled good. Too good for Gia’s liking.

She gave herself five full minutes to remember the feel of Joe Kupa’s body over her last night and the half a dozen nights before when they’d been together. He was perfect, really. On paper Joe ticked off every proverbial box Gia pretended to require. The same requirements her niece swore she knew were made up.

Joe was a smart, handsome New Zealand expat with beautiful dark skin and black hair. His body was wide and muscular, big, just as Gia preferred. Like Gia, Joe was pushing close to forty, but still managed to look no older than thirty. Unlike Gia, though, he was an analytical CPA with a wild streak who liked to party and travel and do mad things Gia would never attempt like skydiving or taking the subway after midnight.

But Joe, like the men before him, like everyone, would never be enough. New York wasn’t the only thing she couldn’t quite let go of and it was that tight-held grip she couldn’t loosen that kept Joe at a distance. It kept Gia from being more than the occasional convivence most