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Laurie Simmons name tag Natasha Stagg name tag

Sparkle House

By laurie simmons

Nowhere to sit

By Natasha Stagg

blue line
Sparkle House Bedroom
Sparkle House Fireplace

The couch was so unlike the image when it arrived. All of the roommates looked at it, delivered and out of the box, the first new piece of furniture they had bought as a group. It was supposed to be what brought the room together, a luxurious blue velvet thing. They should have known, they all thought, that cheap velvet would look it, giving away more than what their second-hand or inherited furniture did.

“It looks shaved,” said Jack.

“It’s less blue than I thought,” said Beatrice.

“It looks like a miniature that’s been blown up,” said Hugh.

They decided to return it, which meant losing the delivery fee and all of that time.

“A good couch is expensive,” said Hugh’s mom on the phone.

He told himself to take a breath. “It was a good deal,” he said. “It just wasn’t exactly what we all wanted.”

“You were trying to cut corners. That doesn’t work out your whole life, you know.”

Everyone was home for dinner that night, which wasn’t common. They decided to order Peruvian and eat it on the floor. It was a good deal when they bought a whole rotisserie chicken with four sides. “What if we spent more than…” started Hugh, and then he stopped.

“Because that’s an option for everyone,” said Beatrice, for whom it was an option.

“I don’t think the blue couch was that bad,” said Selina, who was working when it was delivered and again when it was picked up. She had missed the living room’s air getting filled with its bluish fuzz and its hollow weight when it was lifted or set down. “We could have put a blanket on it if it wasn’t that soft.”

“Then what is the point of getting it?” asked Jack.

Sparkle House Couch

“To have a couch.” Selina gestured at the way they were sitting.

They all argued some old points about what they wanted the couch to be. It had to be big enough for guests to sleep on or it shouldn’t be too big in case guests would assume they could sleep over. It had to be nice, so when their parents visited there was something different, something more adult about the place. It had to go with some other things. They had to get a coffee table next. Maybe they should have gotten that first. Maybe there was a way to get the whole apartment to match. What if they started with the place settings that were there when they moved in, leftover from the person who told Jack she was moving out? The place settings were that nineties style of abstract patterns framed in industrial white. Everyone hated them.

On the desktop computer they used mostly as a television, a reality show about weight loss streamed. No one was paying that much attention to it until some dramatic music started and they each realized that someone on the show had died during a routine surgery.

“I didn’t know that happened.”

“It happens all the time.”

“No, that shows like this show someone dying. It’s morbid.”

“It’s realistic.”

Theirs was a generation that wanted less because they were taught that excess was the worst. Minimal decoration, sans serif, hardy houseplants with no flowers. It was difficult enough that they all had to share this place, with their differing tastes and goals. Communal living was never really that unless everything was shared, and instead there were three kinds of coffee in the freezer at all times, spilling out of their bags and leaving a dark dust on the ice trays. There was a constant joke about suspended adolescence sewn into every conversation: we should get a dog as a household, we should write a TV show about our lives, we should ask my newly divorced dad to move in with us. None of them would have chosen this life, they openly told one another, even though they all had, and could leave it at any time.

Before they even looked for another couch, they threw a party. Better to have less furniture for that, they decided, since a more open room would encourage people to dance. Right before people started arriving, the apartment looked like the set of a chamber drama, with only the floor lamps on and a few candles creating soft movement in the darkened halls. There was nowhere for anyone to sit down. They stood against walls, sipping punch like they were shy kids at a school dance in their own home. Selina was working late again and wasn’t there yet. They talked about how great she was, never complaining about the long hours she put in at the restaurant. Maybe she liked it there better than here, though. Come to think of it, she didn’t give any of them discounts anymore, they agreed. It was her home away from home, away from all of them. They looked at the floor in exasperation. The buzzer sounded.

“You’re the first one here,” said Hugh as he opened the door. “I’m Hugh. We haven’t met, have we?”

“No, I don’t think so. I know Selina.”

Hugh took the guest’s coat. She walked into the living room and stood In its center. Jack accidentally leaned on the light switch, and it blinked on, then off again. Trembling patches of color in the shapes of the whitest parts of unevenly painted walls floated on everyone’s pupils.

Sparkle House Single Bedroom

“Nice place,” said the guest. Hugh came back from the room he’d designated for coats and offered her a glass of punch. Already, Beatrice was smoking a cigarette out the kitchen window, even though they had agreed it would be best not to smoke during the party since it always led to people smoking everywhere, not just by the window. “I’m Myla,” said the guest, lighting one of her own cigarettes. She gave Beatrice a look that meant something, but it was hard to say what.

More people filtered in, and Myla introduced herself to each of them, Beatrice noticed. She must really only know Selina. Maybe they worked together. She had a startling laugh that set her whole body in a whiplike motion. Some people brought nice, natural wines and they wanted to open them right away to pour glasses for themselves. Others brought tequila or nothing and looked around at what else was there. People were smoking everywhere, ashing on the floor or in empty cans on the kitchen countertop. The garbage can quickly filled up. Hugh kept collecting disposable cups and bottles from the windowsills and floor, putting them into a big bluish bag that he’d then stuff into a closet.

“Stop cleaning, it’s making people nervous,” said Jack, but Hugh couldn’t help it. He liked to stay busy around this many people. “And go get your friends out of the bathroom. They’ve been in there forever and now there’s a line.”

“Why are they all of a sudden my friends?” asked Hugh, but Jack wasn’t listening. “Jack.” Jack had joined a conversation with two women in the kitchen; they were looking for a mixer. “Jack.” Jack pretended not to hear Hugh. “Jack.” Eventually, Hugh left the kitchen to check on the bathroom situation.

Selina came in the front door using her keys and saw Jack right away. Hugh rushed past her. Her eyes bulged in a knowing way. “I’m putting my stuff in my room,” she mouthed, but Jack pushed through the crowd and caught up with her.

“How was work?”

“Work.” She shut her door behind them. “How’s this?”


“Is Hugh okay?”

“Your friend, I think her name is Myra, is here.”


“Mya? Moira?”

“Oh, Myla,” Selina’s eyes got even wider. “Really? Myla?”

“Yeah, probably.”



“She’s—I don’t know. I mean, whatever, she’s fine.”

“I cannot wait to see what that means,” said Jack. “Let’s go out there, come on.”

In the corner of the living room, near another open window, a girl named Sapphire was explaining to Myla that Hugh and Jack had dated, but not seriously. Now they were friends, but not very close friends, for roommates. “It’s fucked up,” said Sapphire, but Myla couldn’t really hear anything she was saying, anyway. The more people she met, the more she thought she might never meet anyone exciting again for the rest of her life. She wasn’t exactly bored, just eager to move on from every conversation she was in. She was often the last person at a gathering, and that wasn’t because she was enjoying herself. Sapphire handed her a half-pint of vodka.

“Do you have any Excedrin?” asked Myla, after taking a sip.


“That works.”

A chorus of cheers erupted from the bathroom, its door still closed.

“Come on,” yelled the first person in line.

Myla slithered through dancing people to get to the action, and Sapphire, who had really just met her, followed. There was something magnetic about Myla, but not because she was engaging or witty or even messy. She was fuzzy, almost like an old TV screen between channels. Sapphire remembered changing the set using the buttons on the edge when she lost the remote, how the static cling would make her arm hairs stand up.

When the bathroom door opened, person after person came out, all of them having been on the fire escape that was accessible through the window. “Why would you lock the door?” asked the first person in line. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” But he was asking an entire group, none of whom appeared cognizant of the problem. They had been smoking outside, like polite guests do, and also setting off small fireworks into the street.

“We made some friends out there,” Hugh’s friend said to him. “We told them to ring the buzzer and come up.”

“You told some neighborhood people about the party?” asked Hugh, wanting to put the words back in his mouth as soon as he said them, hearing the way they sounded. It wasn’t like he didn’t want people from his neighborhood in his apartment based on that they lived in his neighborhood, just that there was now no vetting process. What if they were not even real neighbors, but transients, hoping to be invited in somewhere, anywhere?

“This guy needs to chill, by the way,” the friend said of the guy in line, who was now yelling into the bathroom at some people who had yet to leave it.

“This is the only bathroom,” said Hugh.

“So? Who goes to the bathroom at a party? I always go outside.”

The apartment was suddenly uncomfortably packed, and everyone’s expressions became unhappy. Myla tapped Hugh on the shoulder, her face centimeters away from his. “Can I get past you?” she asked.

“That’s the line for the bathroom over there,” he said.

“I just want to see what’s going on in there, though.”

“People are going to the bathroom in there. Peeing, etcetera.”

“It doesn’t sound like it,” said Myla. Disembodied voices were making a single anticipatory sound and then chanting “yeah” or “wow” after an explosion. The door was shut again. Now the next person in line was as upset as the first, if not more so.

“Didn’t you say you’re friends with Selina?” asked Hugh.


“So, have you seen her? She’s here now, you know.”

Sparkle House Kitchen
Sparkle House Dining Area

“I know.” Myla pushed past Hugh and the whole line, looking for an open bedroom or something else. Sapphire gave up following her and went back to the dance floor. Now that it was said aloud, Myla was sure that everyone there was looking at her like she didn’t belong, like she wasn’t invited by any of them. They were all trying to figure out the reason she was there, she was so out of place. She was trying to figure that out, too. She should just leave and go back to her lonely little one-bedroom in Manhattan, to watch bad movies she’d seen before and eat a deli sandwich or a boiled egg. It was stupid Mark who’d told her about the party, Mark who she could not even picture here. He hardly ever went to Brooklyn, for one. But now she wished he was there, if only because he was how she’d met Selina.

“Selina,” called someone else, and Myla instinctively followed the person speaking to the host. There was Selina, again, although she’d changed into a tighter T-shirt. Myla had to pretend to be looking at a text, like it was something so important she couldn’t even move until she was done reading it. She stood there, listening to this person talk to Selina, waiting her turn without letting them know that was what was happening. Selina and this other person were having a whole conversation. They hadn’t seen each other in a while, but wished that this wasn’t always the case, blah, blah, blah. Why don’t they just admit that they will only ever run into each other at things like this, thought Myla. I have.

“Hey,” Selina finally said, but she was trying to say it in passing, dipping her head low as she made for the kitchen.

“Hey,” said Myla. “Hey. How—how’ve you been?”

“Uh, good,” said Selina, nervously laughing. She turned back with only the top half of her body. “Um, how have you been?” She asked the question as if it wasn’t a common one, as if it was being forced of her.

“Okay. Okay. Hey, um, listen,” Myla wasn’t sure what she was going to say. “I know we met through Mark, and you’re not seeing him anymore—”

“Oh, I mean, we were never seeing each other,” interrupted Selina. “Did he say that—or, do you talk to Mark, still?”

Sparkle House Dining Area close up
Sparkle House Bathroom

“Yeah, he’s my friend, but like, he’s so dumb sometimes, you know. You know?”

“Do I know?”

“Yeah, like, he can be really dumb,” said Myla, looking past Selina now, not able to make eye contact.

“I don’t even know, honestly. That was a one-time thing. I mean.”

“Oh,” said Myla, confused a relieved. “You hadn’t hooked up with him before—before we all hooked up, or—”

“No, he was on the app as a duo, but he told me you two just hooked up, too, like he said right away that you weren’t dating.”

“Right. We’re not.”

“Anyway, that wasn’t, like, a thing I look for, it just came up.” Now Selina was looking away, and down, and then up, squinting. “And then Mark followed me, and so we text, but we’re not like—we’re friends now, I guess?”

“Okay, I’m just gonna say it, and then I’m gonna go,” said Myla. “I wanted to come here to see if I could see you again.”

“Oh, um. Oh.”

“I’m gonna go,” Myla said again, but she didn’t move. She just stood there, getting pushed by the people coming and going around her, all of them edging her closer and closer to Selina. It was unbearably hot, even with the icy draft coming into the apartment through the open window every time someone left the bathroom. Hugh and Jack and Beatrice were standing in a line, watching this Myla person talk to their roommate from across the dance floor and inside the kitchen. There was something just too intense about her, they agreed. Her face or the cherry of her cigarette was always too near, her eyes casually darting. What did she want? It was just a party.

“Should one of us rescue Selina?” said Jack. “I feel bad for her.”

“Watch, Selina doesn’t even know her. She’s just some crazy customer that thinks they’re friends now.”

“Wait,” said Beatrice. Someone had blocked their view momentarily, and then moved away, revealing Selina and Myla passionately kissing and groping one another. They spun to avoid others, locked at the lips. “Insane,” muttered Beatrice.

“We’re completely out of booze,” someone in the kitchen said, looking into the fridge and then back at all of them with a look of panic.

“God dammit,” said Jack. “I knew this was going to happen.”

Sparkle House Bed