Jenna, it turned out, was going to be a great roommate.
After Lavinia met the missionaries from down the hall, and had learned that her new roommate was a Mormon, she worried that Jenna would be a weirdo who prayed over her constantly.
Instead, Jenna was a dark haired girl with hazel eyes. She worked at a local library, while studying for her degree in library science. She laughed easily, and--best of all--gave Lavinia plenty of space. She was always friendly, and would leave notes on the fridge that said things like "Thanks for doing the dishes. Have a good one." Never any awkward glances on her way out the door, wondering if she should include Lavinia. No forced invitations. Live and let live.
It was the perfect level of roommate commitment for Lavinia. She didn't need a best friend or a pseudo-sister. She just wanted someplace to sleep, read, and think clearly. She felt best when she was able to focus on her casework at a local homeless shelter, comfortable in her professional detachment from the people she worked with every day. A roommate like Jenna was just what she needed.
And, as for being a Mormon, she watched her carefully, trying to figure out the implications of that. She knew that there was never any wine or coffee in the apartment. She never had to worry about her stumbling through the doorway and passing out on the couch, or having men suddenly sleeping over. As far as she could tell, it just meant that Jenna's lifestyle didn't interfere with her own. Maybe, this time, she'd be able to stay in one place a little longer.
Sometimes Lavinia would see the missionaries on their way in or out of the building. They would nod and smile at her, but never said anything.
Unlike Jenna, it began to bother her, just a little, that they never invited her to learn more. Wasn't that their job? From what little she knew, weren't they supposed to be chasing people down? Wasn't she good enough? It annoyed her. She wanted the chance to tell them she wasn't interested, and then remembered, blushing, that she had told them exactly that when they'd come to borrow some sugar. And she wasn't interested.
But, still. Why didn't they ask?
Given their distance, and the space that Jenna always gave her, it surprised her one morning to find a note on the fridge that said "Ice cream tonight? Here. 8:00."
Ice cream? What did that mean? Was it an invitation, or a warning that there would be other people at the apartment? Lavinia didn't know what to make of it. She might have something else to do, at 8:00. She could go see a movie, by herself. There was always something going on, somewhere in this city.
But, deep down, she was surprised to realize that the thought of ice cream and visiting sounded fun. She wished she knew who else was going to be there. She thought about it as she pedaled her mint green bike to the shelter, and again as she pedaled home. She stopped at Ralph's and grabbed a quart of pistachio, her favorite, just in case. When she got home, she shoved it to the back of the freezer, and went to her room.
Her stomach was in knots. She just didn't do well--meeting new people. She corrected that thought, she did fine with meeting new people at work or school. But new people, in her home, made her cringe. She glanced at the clock--there was still enough time to jump on her bike and head to Westwood village for a movie. She could use some air.
Then she heard the door open, and two female voices chattering and rustling plastic bags.
She recognized Jenna's voice, but who was the other one?
Then she heard a third woman's voice. So, three girls. A girl's night in.
A knock at the door, and she froze when she heard some men's voices from the hallway coming in. Not a girl's night, then. A whole party. A lot of people. At least 5, that she could hear. She wanted to panic, but then felt silly. She knew that Jenna wouldn't care if she sauntered past the whole crowd, waved at them, and walked out the door. The part of her that had wanted to join in was growing ever smaller. She just wanted out.
She jumped when there was a light tap at her door, and Jenna's voice "Hey, 'vinia? You want some ice cream?"
Vinia? She had a nickname? No one had ever given her a nickname before. She liked it.
Throwing her shoulders back and plastering a smile on her bewildered face, she opened the door.