Tension

Raffaela flipped the CD jewel case over to squint disapprovingly at the back. “I don’t see why you can’t just keep them in the right cases. It’s not like I’m suggesting that you institute some sort of draconian alphebetising system. Just put Bowie in the Bowie cases and Depeche Mode in Depeche Mode.” She cracked her gum and put the jewel case back onto the shelf. “Hell, you don’t even have to match albums. I’d just like to see something approaching what I expect.”

“Is something bothering you?”

“No. I just hate your flat. Nothing makes any sense in this place, it’s like fucking Wonderland.”

“Did Gia call you?”

Eyes narrowed, Raffaela snatched another jewel case from the shelf. “And this one is empty. I’m telling you, Gunther, people do not live like this.”

He did not look up from his magazine. “At least my carpet is visible.”

“I don’t have carpet, so there.” It was true. All of the floors in Raffaela’s loft were hardwood. They were also as invisible as the paint beneath her art-covered walls. She set the empty jewel case lying flat atop the other cases, then pushed herself away from the disorganised shelves.

There were several places to sit in the flat. A loveseat, scattered chairs. Raffaela lifted Gunther’s legs up from the coffee table and pushed them towards him so that she could sit on the floor on the other side of his chair. He drew his knees up and balanced his magazine on top of them.

He turned a page. “She called me, too. Why do you think I told you to come over?”

“I dunno. Maybe you needed someone to watch you beat yourself at chess.” Raffaela kicked at the coffee, causing the chessboard and its pieces to shudder.

The black bishop teetered, then toppled, taking down its king and a white knight with it. Gunther raised an eyebrow at this chaos, then shot a disapproving glance at his friend. “I’m not okay, either.”

“That is not my fault. She did all of it. I don’t know why she thinks she can come back here and put us through this. Again.”

“Raffi…”

“Don’t. Don’t you fucking dare tell me she won’t. It’s what she does, Gunther.”

“Maybe this time–”

“What, you think this time might be different?”

Paper rustled as Gunther closed the magazine. He took off his glasses and pinched his nose, shutting his eyes. “I don’t know. I wasn’t there for all of it. But it’s been three years. Even if Gia is the same, we aren’t.”

The coffee table received another kick. This one was slightly less savage. Almost a bump. “Damn straight. I don’t have a fiancé this time.”

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