When I finally get home I park my car in the garage and hustle in through the side door. I tromp into the living room and spot Gwen and Everest sprawled out on the carpet with what looks like a fancy deck of cards.
“Hey,” I greet them as I peel off my coat and hang it up. “What’re you up to?”
“I’m giving Everest a tarot reading,” Gwen snorts like I just asked the dumbest question in the world.
Everest smiles and gives me a little wave, but he seems pretty enthralled in whatever they’re doing.
Gwen is Everest’s girlfriend. She’s our age, 22, and moved in when I was a sophomore. My old roommate dropped out and I needed someone on short notice. Everest ended up moving in the following year. He wanted to get out of the town we grew up in. We were friends in high school, so I told him to stay with me. The townhouse is a three-bedroom, so I had space. Besides, it’s such a chore searching for roommates, so it was pretty perfect that he decided to move to the city. I couldn’t have chosen a better roommate than my best friend. He and Gwen started dancing around one another shortly afterward. I thought it would just be a hookup, but here they are, five months later. I guess things are working out for them well enough.
I move into the kitchen and pull some of last night’s leftovers out of the refrigerator. It’s lasagna. I’m not much of a cook, but those two are, so I tend to just piggyback off their meals. It does make me feel a little guilty because Everest buys most of the groceries, but he’s also the only one of us who works full time and doesn’t go to school. He works at a supermarket too, so he gets a pretty decent discount.
Using a fork, I scoop some of the food from the pan onto a plate, sticking it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. When it’s done I pull it out and stand at the kitchen counter to eat, not bothering to sit down at the dining table. I take my time, flipping through the notifications on my phone. Nothing that interesting is happening on Facebook. This guy I was pals with in high school got some girl pregnant I guess. Again. Now they’re engaged. I wonder if I’ll get a wedding invite.
When I’m finished eating, I wash the dish and then head upstairs to my room. I can hear Gwen giggling on my way up. She’s always doing this stuff: burning incense, using essential oils, whatever else. She tries to get Everest into it, but I don’t think he cares much. I think he just goes along with it because he likes her. Maybe he loves her. I don’t know. We don’t really talk about her when we hang out.
I move to the end of the hallway and open my bedroom door. I stop and glance at the shelf I have holding a few textbooks, old yearbooks, and some family portraits of me and my mom. There are also a few of me and Everest as teenagers. He hates those photos, but sometimes I miss those days. His family owns a farm. He always found it boring, but I thought it was cool. There was so much space to run around.
Everest has a ton of siblings. Three sisters and one brother who are all younger than him. They’re pretty close in age...his youngest sister just started her second year of high school, but about four years ago his mom had a surprise pregnancy and baby number five was born. Now they have this tiny little toddler always running around and chasing the chickens.
In my opinion, Everest is a really good older brother. He did everything for his sisters growing up and never seemed to mind. I think it’s the mentality of his entire family. They’re all friendly and accommodating. Every time I drive home to visit my mom and grandparents, his family insists on having me over for dinner regardless of whether or not Everest is even with me. His mom even has me call her Margaret.
I pull one of my textbooks off my bookshelf and lay on my bed, studying this week’s chapter lazily. I only make it a few pages in before Everest appears in my doorway.
“Hey,” he says, closing the door behind himself.
“Hey,” I echo. “What’ve you been up to all day?”
“Worked,” he tells me with a shrug. “Then Gwen and I just dicked around.”
He nears my bed and flops down next to me, lying sideways. “What did you do?”
“Weight class,” I say. “Nothing exciting.”
I pause for a moment and then decide to ask, “What’s tarot reading?”
“Dunno,” he admits with a laugh. “Like, some fortune-telling shit, I guess?”
Just like that, Gwen pushes my door open and says, “No, it’s not! You’re completely missing the point of it.”
“Calm down, Gwen,” Everest says, unphased.
“The whole idea is that all future events are subject to change,” she explains in a hurry. “You get these signs and then you decide how to act accordingly!”
“Sorry, I haven’t done it before. I didn’t know how to describe it.”
“Well, you could have asked if you actually listened, or cared!” Gwen exclaims.
“Of course I care,” Everest insists, “I love that you show me all this cool new stuff. You’re just better at explaining it than me.”
Gwen huffs and leaves the room. I give Everest a look but he doesn’t say anything. He would never in a million years talk badly about her.
“You okay?” I ask, mostly just to be polite. He seems pretty fine. He has little disagreements like this with Gwen often. They seem to get over it pretty fast.
“Oh, yeah,” he says dismissively. “I’ll go talk to her later.”
“All right,” I relent. I don’t bother saying anything else about it. I feel like it wouldn’t matter if I did.
Everest continues to lie there like a lump. I let him, not saying much as I try to get some of my homework done. I glance at him and he closes his eyes. I don’t bother shaking him. He can sleep here if he wants to.
I continue to stare at him. Everest is sort of plush. Everything about him is so soft. He's got this light brown hair, round face, and big, blue eyes. He has freckles on his nose and his chin is a little stubbly, especially on days he doesn’t bother to shave. Gwen always complains that it feels rough when they kiss.
I look away and down at my textbook pages, trying to keep focus, but it’s hard. It’s hard with him lying there.
I pull my knees up to my chest and try my best to ignore him, turning to the next chapter of my book.