He needs me!
Vivian paced herself as she walked up the stairs of the student residence. Though she was put at ease by the surprising fact that Darrion lived on campus, and in a dormitory with other students no less, Vivian could not help but feel under-dressed.
She had changed since returning from the club, to let herself relax as she studied in a carefree manner. And later, when Darrion had called requesting her opinion on something 'perplexing', she had given little thought to her appearance. Her low-heeled shoes sent footsteps echoing down behind her, around a bend and beyond.
There, a door opened. She heard it from above, and suddenly felt out of place.
Just keep going, Viv, she told herself.
A taller student, a young man with gel in his hair and glasses on his nose, came rushing up from the ground floor where he'd entered.
Vivian stopped and leaned against the railing as he neared.
He bounded up the stairs two at a time and passed her with nothing but a quick "Excuse me!" as the wind of his passing brushed against her long wrap-around dress.
Then the young man stopped suddenly on the landing of the third floor, spinning on his heel while not yet at the door. What Vivian thought was a look of recognition crossed his face as he took in her countenance. And then, everything about him seemed to relax a little.
However, Vivian herself had no idea who he was.
"Vivian Oliver?" he asked.
She nodded. "And--" who might you be?
He seemed puzzled. "You just got here too?"
"Yes, but, umm...-"
The gangly student interrupted her again, "Huh. So, umm... is he seeing somebody?"
"Is who seeing somebody?!" said Vivian. "And just who are you, may I ask?"
"Darrion," he said simply, to change the subject rather than to identify himself. "Is he seeing someone?"
The curtains of her shoulder length dark brown hair, almost black, were poised on either side of her face like the folded wings of a bird. And when she frowned the way she was at this moment, her nose became pointed and her eyes narrowed. Knowing how inquisitive she could look, Vivian tried to use it to her advantage. She waited, but he didn't answer her second question. So she didn't answer his, though she was fairly certain Darrion was single. "Are you paparazzi?"
"Oh. uhh... no," he said. "Just a confused friend."
Vivian saw that his face had become red with embarrassment. "Confused how?"
"We never had this conversation, okay?" he proposed.
"Sure," she muttered. "Not much of a conversation anyways." Jerk.
Then, the door beside him opened, and a young woman entered from the hallway of the third floor of dormitories. Her skin looked damaged by acne, past and present. There was a silver piercing behind the right nostril of her large nose. And her hair, though healthy, was a wild mess of curls. Though perhaps ugly, she seemed very ordinary to Vivian, who was sure she'd seen her before, perhaps in some of her classes.
"Oh, it's you," said the tall man. "That explains something."
"Hey, now," replied the newcomer. "No name-calling, Gavin."
Vivian walked past her and into the hall. However, after the door was closed behind her, she looked over her shoulder.
Through the door, she could hear the student addressed Gavin still talking, "I dunno, it certainly looks like you've been interfering where you shouldn't be. This time... in bed."
The curly-haired scoffed and then turned up toward the surveillance camera in the stairwell, while touching her own face momentarily with one hand. "As always, not everything is as it seems with me."
Vivian kept herself hidden from their view, around the corner. She could hear every word of their not-so-quiet conversation.
Resentment was etched into Gavin's voice, "For your sake, let's hope so."
"What can I say? Getting between a man's arms helps get me in character." And with that, she began to walk downstairs.
"Not his legs?"
"You really don't know much about me, do you?" she projected, raising her voice without missing a step. "I'm as big a project to them as he is. And a showmance is a far step from what I represent."
"Who said showmance?"
"Oh, right, love and sex don't go hand in hand for your type," she snickered.
Fleeting, furious footsteps.
"Misanthrope!" he yelled.
Vivian could barely hear the door that slammed behind Darrion's co-star as she left the building. She knew she had intruded too much, and ran down the hall as quietly as she could manage.
The numbers on the doors told her that Darrion's room was too far down the hall to provide cover soon enough. So, Vivian stowed herself in an open bathroom.
However, Gavin never entered the third floor to check on Darrion personally. After a while, Vivian peeked out of the bathroom and saw nobody in the direction of the stairs.
There was a student down the other way, sitting in a chair where the hall branched.
For a moment, she considered asking the girl for directions to Darrion's room, but thought better of it after she recalled the trouble he'd been having with fans and paparazzi alike. After all, she hadn't entered from the main entrance because she'd assumed he'd be unlisted.
And after some walking, there it was: room 313.
Hanging on the door was a marker board.
"DS: OUT IN
shiki wuz here"
Upon seeing the sideways happy face, Vivian Oliver cocked her head to one side and smiled. Then she unVelcro'd the marker and scribbled, "Viv was kinda here".
Thrmp-thrmp. Vivian knocked twice.
Darrion opened the door with a tight t-shirt and a flash of white teeth. There was no butler or fancy entranceway. The room was exactly as small as every other one in the dormitory, and he obviously didn't have it all to himself.
In the half of the room they were standing in, there was a poster for the band The Secret Handshake, another for Bright Eyes, and a pin-up of actress Eliza Dushku and the red-headed lead singer of Paramore. A red electric guitar was sitting on stand next to an amplifier.
"Hey there! Welcome. Come on in, Vivian."
The carpeted floor was immaculate. The walls were an unvibrant light blue. A stark beige curtain divided the room like something out of a hospital. On the desk, all the papers and books were organized except for one sheet of notes beside an empty styrofoam container that smelled fainly of Thai food.
At eye level on the desk, there was a picture of a striped ginger cat clinging to a tree branch and a caption: hang in there, little LOLcat!
There was a printer and a laptop. On the desk chair, a thin zippered hoody of pale green hung like a corn husk.
"This is my roommate's. We're just past the curtain," he told her, as he lead her by the hand. His was very warm.
There was a window, yet that was not what made Vivian feel like she was being watched. She was surrounded by expensive post-modern decour and a lava lamp in the corner. The whole building suddenly felt surreal to her.
One panel of the window was broken, covered instead by blue duct tape and a blank piece of bristol board.
"What happened to your window?" Vivian asked, though she was firmly convinced, before she'd finished speaking, that she knew the answer.
"Guess," he told her.
She rolled her eyes with a playful smile. Her body language said she knew.
He had music posters too: Owl City, The Black Kids, A Rocket To The Moon. They were similar to his roommate's, but Vivian was surprisingly well versed in the subtle differences between indie pop bands, especially the boy bands. She liked his taste better than his roommate's. To her, it seemed more optimistic, rather mellow, wittier, and less shallow. It didn't reflect the troubled Darrion she'd met in The Pan.
There was also a very large poster for Po' Mo' Vogue, a men's jewelery company. A life-sized, air-brushed image of Darrion himself modeled in the poster; wearing a skintight translucent white fishnet tee, a pair of jeans toned with accentuating gradients, a magnetic-clasp choker of hematite, silverly studded black leather half-gloves and a matching black belt covered in intersecting silver patches of sharp, gothic crescent moons. There was one pinky ring, a thin band of cold, shining gold. His eyes in the poster seemed to follow her above a predatory grin. Under the titled logo for Po' Mo' Vogue, there was a provocative caption in a stylized script:
-if y'know what that means-
Much to her chagrin, this all put a smile upon Vivian's lips, where there had at least been time for lipstick. This gave Vivian a glimpse of a wilder, more daring side of Darrion.
And yet, she was relieved to see a full motorcycle helmet at the foot of his arctic blue lava lamp. It was a shiny burgundy with a scratch mark down the side, and looked odd next to the iceberg framework of his lamp.
"Sit," Darrion said, tilting his head toward the padded rocking chair in the corner as he sat on the edge of his bed. "I'm glad you came. I need a therapist off the record. You seem to care, and you've got a BA in psychology, right?"
"A little more than that," Vivian told him. "But my specialty is... err... parapsychology."
"Seriously?!" his exasperation was so vibrant to her. "Is that what I think it is?"
Vivian nodded shyly.
"Woah. That's intriguing. And, heh, it might even apply."
"Oh?" Vivian raised an eyebrow. Her gaze came to rest on the little arrowhead of facial hair below his lips.
"Perhaps. It is a long story though."
"Well, the night is still young. Kinda," she mused.
He scooted down to the head of his bed and lay back. There was a half-full plastic wine glass on his bedside table, beside a nearly empty one. Vivian spotted a wine cooler of open rosé at the base of his nighstand, beside a discarded theatre mask.
He could tell what she was looking at: "It's rather dry. Would you like some?"
"Certainly," said Vivian. "Thank you."
"Let me wash Rosa's glass for you. I'll be back in a moment," he said as he picked up the finished glass.
"Whose, may I ask?" Vivian ventured.
"A co-star. A rather famous one, too," Darrion told her as he passed the curtain. Then he bent over and picked up a flashy, feathered teal shawl from the floor. "She left this. D'ya want it? It sorta matches your dress. Rosa won't miss it. She's got plenty."
The word Rosa and the image of many feathered scarves ignited a connection in Vivian's mind that didn't quite make sense given the alleged co-star of Darion's that she'd eavesdropped on in the hallway.
"Rosa... Rosa LaChique!? That fresh, breakout multi-genre diva?"
Vivian pictured the singer as she was in her second single's music video, a weepingly willowy redhead with a face of beauty so classical that it could set sail a thousand ships of breath-taken sailors.
Darrion could tell she was a fan, so he flung her the scarf. "She was here just moments ago."
It landed at her feat. She reached for it. "Funny, that's not who I passed in the hall."
Darrion laughed at that; reaching for the doorknob with one hand, wine glass in the other. "Nobody ever passes Rosa LaChique in a hallway." And at that, the door closed behind him as he went to wash the glass in one of the shared kitchenette units.
Sounds like you could learn a thing or two from her, Darrion, she thought to herself as she lay back in the rocking chair, gently swaying as her eyes wandered and her mind wondered.
Above his ceramic headboard, there was a poster of a blue electric motorcycle. Upon each handlebar, a macaw parrot was perched. Both birds gripped firmly with their wings spread in a full flap. There was no tail pipe.
Vivian thought whether Rosa LaChique or the girl she passed in the stairwell might have been the 'shiki' on the marker board. But she had no idea how fresh that message was.
Looking around, there was no third wine glass. However, there was a glass of water beside his MacBook computer. The MacBook was plugged into a large, thin monitor and a shiny, translucent off-white keyboard.
She began to pace. Though the window looked out on the now-dark parking lot and was rather high up, Vivian had the sensation of being intimately watched.
On his nighstand, there was a radio alarm clock, 9:43 PM, and a framed photograph that had fallen over. From the way it was placed, Vivian reckoned that someone had pushed it over deliberately.
Beside it was an elegant origami butterfly, not a simple design, its shiny silver paper marred only by the black pen of a signature
As she waited for him to return, Vivian occupied herself by looking through Darrion's iTunes playlist on his computer. The application had been left open. Nothing needed to be touched, it was all in front of her eyes. She knew it was nosy, but she also knew she likely wouldn't be caught. Not that she thought he'd really care. It was well-intentioned enough. She was simply eager to get to know him.
Some of it was music. Some of it she recognized. Tempted, she scrolled down. Other files appeared to be stand-up comedy recordings, as she recognized names like Kathy Griffin, John Cleese, Wanda Sykes and Demitri Martin. Then the guilt welled up in her, so Vivian scrolled back up and turned away from his computer.
After a moment, she returned to the rocking chair, and eyed the Po' Mo' Vogue ad. Though it seemed to be watching her, she knew it wasn't. Vivian couldn't put her finger on --
The door opened suddenly.
"Sorry!" came Darrion's voice. "Didn't mean to take so long. I ran into my roommate in the hall. He won't bother us. He's busy watching the game on TV."
"What sport?" Vivian asked, because he sounded like he followed.
"I didn't ask," said Darrion. For some reason, he was red in the face. "Hockey. Football. Who knows?"
"I don't really care," she acknowledged.
"Good," he said, as he decanted a clean glass of Rosé for her. "Then let's get started, shall we?"