"You're not getting away with this, you know. This isn't your world, this is just your apartment."
"Oh, believe me, this is my world. I really don't go out much, so these walls are my horizons." She went into her room to change as Starla looked around. The phone rang and a familiar terror snaked down her spine. It stopped mid-ring, but her sigh of relief was cut short as she listened.
"You've reached the Mills residence, this is your friendly call screener Starla, how can I help you on this fine day?"
Starla danced around the kitchen, laughing silently. She waved to Emmabelle through the doorway, then returned her attention to the phone, "I'm afraid she's unavailable at the moment, can I take a message? ... Sounds lovely, will do. Have a fabulous day... Oh, I will, thank you. Bye!"
Setting the phone back in its cradle, she relayed, "Your aunt Melanie called, she wants to do lunch sometime so she'd appreciate a call back. I've never done lunch, only eaten it. I suppose it's a proper sort of thing."
Emmabelle clomped out of the bedroom in impractically fashionable shoes and a tight skirt, "Thank you. I'll call her after shopping."
"You look tremendously uncomfortable. and a tad cold. I thought you didn't like your family, or vice versa. You're going shopping?"
"WE are going. You and I. And my family doesn't like me, except my aunt Melanie, who is the only one of my parents' five siblings who sided with me. She's a tremendously wealthy businesswoman and she made a deal with me to pay for my break to 'enjoy life' on the condition that it lasts no more than two years. During those two years, however, she'll fund whatever I need."
Starla shook her head, "I wish I were that lucky... How many years have you been on break then?"
"One and a half." Emmabelle squirmed in heels, trying to adjust to their fit.
"Time's running o--" Starla broke off and started laughing. At Emmabelle's questioning glare, she explained, "You look so dreadfully uncomfortable but so determined to make it all work."
"We're going into my world, and my world is about appearing like nothing is the matter when everything is wrong. The first step is dressing in pain and pretending you love it."
Starla muttered, "Somehow I prefer being lost in a bookstore."
Emmabelle linked arms with Starla and led the way out of the house. Her world, as she explained at the curb, would not have been her choice, had she had a say. However, it was the world she'd been born into, the world she'd been raised in, and the world she could not seem to escape. She didn't add how she could somehow escape when Starla was around.
They started out in a restaurant. The place was semi-formal and Starla felt drastically out of place.
"You could have told me we were going out somewhere like this."
Emmabelle shrugged, "I had planned on talking you out of doing anything but you did seem to go for it."
"So talk me out of it now. I can't pronounce a single thing on this menu. There's more silverware on this table that there is in my entire house!"
"Do you want to try some other aspect of my world?"
Starla nodded, strangely weak and vulnerable. She wasn't confident of herself here.
Shopping was the next attempt. Starla gazed around the store wide-eyed.
"Emmabelle," she waved the girl over urgently, "This hideous jacket is work four months of books! It isn't even good looking or flattering or anything."
"It's very fashionable." They both glanced towards the voice. Her name tag noted her as the manager, "If you need assistance, please ask."
"No thank you." Starla's voice was flippant and confident. She cut her eyes to Emmabelle, pleading.
Emmabelle stole them out and had the cab drive to an ice cream parlor. Both were relieved as they sat eating, Starla working on a banana split and Emmabelle slowly sipping a milkshake.
They started talking at the same time.
"You might as well go first." Emmabelle nodded at Starla.
"Okay. I told you to take me through your world until me head spun and while I know I owed you, I couldn't stand it. I spent no more than maybe half an hour total in those places. I hated them. Sure, I guess my head was spinning, but more than anything they made me desperately want to escape. I didn't even know why. It was just one of those gut feelings, you know."
Emmabelle placed her cold hands over Starla's, "I'm so sorry. I know exactly what you mean. That is the world I was raised in, how I grew up, where I learned how to live. The thing is, I never felt any more comfortable. The things that everyone around me made look effortless were so difficult and strange to me. I hated it too. The problem was that it was the only life I knew. I hide away from the world now because I don't know what else to do. Until very recently, when I met you, I would have done anything to trade lives with someone from another class or place or anything. Just so I wouldn't have to be me."
"Let's just go back to your place, okay? I liked it."
Starla immediately dominated the couch, sprawling out and snuggling herself under a blanket. Emmabelle changed into flannel pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.
"I'll play you Scrabble, Starla?"
"Now that, I can do."
They played for an hour, slowly filling the board with pointless words. Emmabelle set down "cake" after "pan" and was tallying her score when there was a knock at the door. She looked up, alarmed. Nobody should be there. Nobody even knew where she was, at least nobody who would come here.
"Starla," her voice was tiny, "Would you mind answering my door?"
"Of course, darlin'. Anything at all." Starla grinned, showing her old self again. Confidently, she swaggered to the door and swung it open, "Well, hello, can I help you?"
"Yes, I'm looking for an Emmabelle Mills. I believe she lives here?"
Emmabelle froze at the sound of her brother's voice, but Starla didn't even blink, "I'm sorry, you must have the wrong address. I'm the only one who lives here, and I've been here four years. You may be looking for Grand Oak Apartments, that's down the street just one block."
"Are you sure there's no Emmabelle Mills here?"
"I'm very positive. I'm sure I would know if anyone else lived with me."
"Alright. Down one block, you said?"
"That's right. It'll be on your left."
"Thank you very much, Miss..."
"Oh, I don't throw my name out to strangers. You're very welcome though. Good luck finding your lady friend." She waved him off, then shut and bolted the door, giggling.
Emmabelle nearly tackled her, "Oh my goodness, Starla! You are amazing! You should be an actress or something. I think you nearly convinced me I didn't live here, or even know you."
"Thank you very much. I'll be here all day, and happy to sign autographs. Don't tell me you got twenty-eight points by adding the word 'cake' to that."
Starla punched her in the arm gently, "You are a terrible person! I'll never play a game with you ever again."
"Aw, you're just jealous all you have all your books and still not a single great word."
Grabbing a pillow, Starla hit Emmabelle on the side. Laughing, Emmabelle fought back with her own pillow.