By Jordan Nishkian,
Rena missed the quiet of the morning—before Charmaine’s uninterrupted stream of consciousness steeped through the kitchen like the sun through the apartment’s east-facing window.
“I had the most stressful dream. You wouldn’t believe it,” her voice ricocheted against the goldenrod-colored walls.
Moments before Charmaine had traipsed in, Rena shared a breath with their bare-bones kitchen, syncing with the creaking floorboards, the light squeals of cupboard hinges, the gurgle of the coffee maker. A soft swish sounded as her hair fell around her shoulders and her bad knee clicked while she placed her quiche in the oven.
“It was a hideous dream, really,” Charmaine continued. “I was closing the store early—I couldn’t tell you why—something to do with a cat or a crow—and I couldn’t find the key to lock up.”
While Rena moved with the kitchen, Charmaine bounced around it like a pinball: directionless, making as much noise as possible.
“There were so many keys on my keyring, I couldn’t keep them straight. I tried each one but none fit.”
Even Charmaine’s feet were loud, as if gravity itself was responsible for her heavy footfall.
“Anyway, this guy jumps out of nowhere and starts chasing me—”
Rena caught herself glaring as Charmaine sat with her at the table and began peeling a hard-boiled egg. The fringed shawl she wore clung to her frame like Spanish moss, emitting a strong smell of cigarettes and patchouli.
“So I’m running, I think I leave the keys behind, but I think to myself that I’ll go back and find them later, then the guy says right in my ear, ‘There won’t be a later.’”
Rena shifted her gaze from her monstera’s waxy gleam upon realizing that her roommate required a response. Her blue eyes were wide with waiting; one hand palm-up and perplexed, the other holding her half-eaten egg.
“Isn’t that creepy?” she asked.
Charmaine sucked her teeth. “You don’t care.”
The timer on the tile counter rang. The cold of the morning sent a pang through Rena’s scarred knee as she swung her legs to the side of her chair and began to stand. She winced as the familiar pop locked her leg into place, lips tightening while she turned the timer off and slipped her hand into an oven glove.
“Your knee really bothers you sometimes, huh?” Charmaine leaned forward onto her elbows, allowing the ends of her hair to drag across the shattered egg shell.
Rena nodded and opened the oven door. The warm smell of pie crust and bacon filled the room as she transferred her quiche onto a trivet, blinking away memories of tripping into some rebar afer running as fast as her breath could carry her, neck craned and twisted to look over her shoulder.
“What’d you say happened again?” Charmaine pressed, gnawing on her curiosity like a termite.
Rena watched the melted layer of cheese bubble, unsatisfied with its color. “I didn’t,” she said before putting the quiche back into the oven.
Jordan Nishkian is an Armenian-Portuguese writer based in California. Her prose and poetry explore themes of duality and have been featured in national and international publications. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Mythos literary magazine and author of Kindred, a novella.