Episode Eight: In Public

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Floating. Just floating. The sky is a dull blue haze. Her body, mercifully weightless. Brie watches a white butterfly pump past like a carefree fool and land on a sparse branch of bougainvillea. She spits a fountain of pool water skyward and lets it land back on her face. That butterfly doesn't know shit about life, about disappointment. Every day is morning dew, shaded groves, delicious bugs, and that fabulous biological success story: the courage of the caterpillar, the trial of the cocoon, the triumph of emergence—all grown up and pristine in flowing white, flapping her brand new wings like a hopeful bride over a cool blue pond (it's a swimming pool, you idiot!) without a care in the small green world.

Oh to be a butterfly... or a cat, living a life of principle and simplicity and 83% unconsciousness. Maybe she should rescue fifteen cats in one fell swoop and live among them, go crepuscular, hunt for food, respect the rhythms of the earth. She could take a course on astral travel. That's got to be what they're doing when they lay there for hours like the Sphinx with their eyes closed.

"Brie, are you planning on taking a shower before the party?"

Cats don't have parties. They feel no urge to celebrate.

"Come on, Honey. Your cousins'll be here soon. I know you don't want to be in your bikini when Vinnie comes. And I need help with the antipasti platters. You're so good at arranging them."

This is her mother speaking. Trish. Cats leave their mothers at something like eight weeks. Humans, at least this one floating in her parents' swimming pool an hour before her grandmother's 90th birthday party, is trending towards forever.

For the record, he's been trying to reach her. He left her a voicemail, which she has memorized through repetitive listening and will now recite to you sotto voce so her mother doesn't hear:

Brie, this is Danny. I'm not letting this go. Because... well, from the moment I met you I haven't been able to get you out of my head. I don't know, I just... really like you and I want to see you and I don't totally understand why I can't. Please call me, okay? So we can talk. All right, thanks for listening. Hope you're good. Bye.

Cats also don't have voicemail. All right, enough with the cats. Here's the deal: Brie Marie Baggio is trying to act like a grownup. She is trying, under the guidance of her wise astrologer, to break unhealthy patterns. And if there's an unhealthy pattern that gives her more of a twitch than being made to share a man with another woman, go ahead and shout it out because Brie is not aware.

She was somewhere in the middle of her twenties. Body of a woman, brain of an imbecile. Drinking way too much come sundown, her pockets full of money to spend from a decent job and zero responsibilities except a pittance paid in shared rent. Too much accidental cocaine use in the bathrooms at parties. Too much postponement of ethical and moral reckoning. One's twenties is the decade of mistake making, and vodka tonic with a twist of lime, did she do a bang-up job.

His name was Andrew, a handsome Irish Catholic who identified as Boston-bred, but in reality his entire family lived in The Valley. His father owned a sturdy chain of successful McDonald's franchises and Andrew liked to say that every time someone ate a Big Mac between Burbank and Calabasas, his trust fund got its wings. And she would laugh! But only within the confines of his apartment, or hers, because Andrew had a girlfriend, whom he somehow was able to convince Brie was just some scag he was banging, when in truth it was the other way around.

So no. No matter how badly she wants to call Danny back, she cannot. For the shame of the past, for the sanity of the future, Brie can say in all confidence that she is worth enough to deserve a mate devoted solely to her. At least in the beginning.

"Hey Cuz," a familiar voice says.

Brie comes to, still in the swimming pool, her mother nowhere in sight. Her cousin Vincent stands at the edge of the pool looking like a forty-year-old version of his childhood self, which is what he is. Brie plunges down and pushes off the bottom of the pool to swim the length underwater like a Navy Seal. When she resurfaces, he's right in front of her.

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