"You live here?" I didn't know where to look first – there was stuff everywhere. T-shirts on top of the television, which was crammed in the corner of the room and flanked by dozens of obscure books and DVDs; a blanket on top of the refrigerator; dirty socks and underwear all over the floor.

Duncan lifted an eyebrow deviously. It was all the answer I needed.

"You've got to be kidding me," I said, walking over to the couch and pushing a pile of unidentifiable objects out of my way to sit down. "And I'm supposed to be able to deal with this?"

"Well, there's always moving in with your parents," Duncan teased, knowing perfectly well that what he was suggesting was in no way even possible. I refused to let my parents know that they'd been right. Christ, I still hadn't told them what my job was, much less that I was kind-of-sort-of-homeless because my landlord was a complete hypocritical jerk-off.

"My God Duncan, how can one person own this much crap?" I asked, surveying the room with exasperation. The apartment wasn't small, but it was absolutely jam-packed with stuff, most of which appeared to be absolutely useless. I could even spot a tricycle hiding behind an overflowing laundry basket beside the computer.

"Um, about that… Amberleigh, I kind of didn't tell you something when I offered to let you live with me," Duncan said, sitting down beside me on top of the pile of stuff. I was pretty sure I could identify a couple of shag pillows in the mess. What kind of person kept shag pillows past the seventies? Duncan wasn't even born in the seventies.

"Yeah, sure, what?" I asked, still scanning the room and not really paying much attention to the words Duncan was fumbling over. Was that a stuffed skunk on the stove?

"I kind of don't live by myself," Duncan said, wincing at me and fiddling with the fringe on a pillow that he'd pulled onto his lap.

"You have a roommate?" I asked, giving Duncan some attention.

"Well, yeah. Actually, I kind of have two."

"You have two roommates. And you want another. Correct?" I said, looking Duncan straight in the eyes, knowing not to back down. You can never get a straight answer that way.


"Who are they?"

"Who are who?" What a moron. His little male brain must be about the size of a pea to not comprehend such a simple question.

"Who are your roommates, idiot," I'm allowed to call Duncan an idiot. Or a moron. Or basically whatever I want. He doesn't think so, but he deserves it. He just doesn't quite realize it yet.

"Oh. I don't think you know them. Todd Flowers and Spencer Bates." Duncan said nonchalantly. He was such a liar! How could he possibly think I'd gone twelve years as his sometimes-best-friend and always-personal-slave without going through the torture that is Todd Flowers and Spencer Bates? Also known as Duncan's so-called 'best friends'. Anyone with half a brain would know that that position is already filled – by me.

I don't really mind Spencer that much. He's an okay guy, I suppose. He's bearable. Stupid as all get-go, but bearable. But Todd Flowers and I have never seen eye-to-eye. Well, basically, he just doesn't like me, and because he doesn't like me, I don't like him. I don't know why he doesn't like me, but I have a justifiable reason to dislike him, so I'm in the clear.

"You're kidding? Please say you're kidding," I deadpanned, giving Duncan my best evil glare.

"Um, no. They really do live here."

"So Todd Flowers and Spencer Bates live here. In your two-bedroom apartment. Which I have been coerced into moving into. Why, God, why? What did I ever do to you?" I would have dropped to my knees in a theatrical plea, but who knows what would get stuck to me down there. I happen to like these jeans. My aunt bought them for me in California last time I visited her. They're Guess.

Duncan rolled his eyes at me, and stood up, kicking a couple of pillows and a magazine out of his way. "You know, we could use a little bit of femininity in here," He said to me, a begging tone blatant in his voice.

"Fine," I pressed my lips together and glared at him. "But I want my own bedroom," I told him, holding my head high. I could at least pretend like I had a choice here.

"B-but, I can't!" Duncan exclaimed. "I can't share a room with Spencer and Todd! That would be hell!" He whimpered. Immediately a wave of disgust washed over me. I felt like I'd suddenly become the little boy who bullies everyone and kicks puppies. I don't kick puppies! I like puppies!

"Fine, fine, I'll share a room with you." I said, giving in to Duncan.

He looked down at his feet and crossed the room. Opening the refrigerator door and hiding behind it, he told me something I really did not want to hear: "IkindofalreadysharearoomwithSpencersoyougetTodd'sroom." He said from behind the door, as quickly as he possibly could.

I could feel my face going pink. And going right through the shades of pink, all the way to fire truck red.

"You – how could you do that? You're making me share a bedroom with that – that PIG!" My face was contorted with disgust and agony at just the idea of the reality that Duncan had presented to me. And I had no alternative. I didn't have any friends in New York. Duncan was the only person from my high school who had decided to go to college here; that I knew of.

"You'll hardly see him!" Duncan protested. "Don't you have classes in the mornings? And work at the coffeehouse after school?" He pleaded.

"Well, I – I'd still have to sleep in the same room as him! You know how disgusting and lecherous and – Ugh! I don't think I'd be able to resist killing him!" I whined.

"He has stuff with the band all the time anyway! He's hardly even home at night! You haven't even seen him since we were seventeen, you don't know whether or not he's changed."

"Has he? You'd know, you live with him," I retorted.

"Well, not really, but he could have!" Duncan grimaced.

"I rest my case. But I suppose I could manage if I picked up an extra shift or two." I'm a creative writing major at Columbia University, and work at a coffee house a few blocks away from Duncan's apartment. It's called Antevorte, after the Roman goddess of the future. The boss is a big mythology junkie. Well, technically he's just a junkie. But he does like Roman mythology, so I guess it works.

"Thank you Amber! I'm eternally in your debt." Duncan cried, throwing his arms around me overenthusiastically.

"You bet you are. You and those other little boys you – er, we – live with," I said, attempting to cackle like a witch from some Disney movie or another.

"We hail your presence, Goddess of night," Duncan said, actually getting on his knees on the floor and bowing before me.

"That is disgusting. Get up." I said, grimacing at the thought of what might be in the sea of crap on the floor. "First order of action: We're cleaning this place up."

"Amberleigh, why? There's no point, it'll just be dirty again like this in a few weeks anyway."

"And that's why it needs cleaning. I can't live in this place the way it is. I'd be constantly afraid of breathing, in case I catch some deadly messy-boy disease."

"Amber, d'you wants see your room?" Duncan asked, eager like a small child or a youthful lab puppy, changing the subject on purpose.

"Sure. Just so long as it isn't as messy as it is out here," I complied, following Duncan down a narrow hallway and into a small, dimly lit bedroom. Duncan thrust his arm out in a 'ta-da' motion when he turned the light on.

I stepped into the room, taking in the indie rock and movie posters plastered on the walls, the two twin beds pushed up against opposite walls, the worn gray carpet.

"Well, it's definitely… cozy," I said, at a lack of words. I strode over to the unmade bed, on my right, and sat down on it. "I assume this one's going to be mine?" Looking at the threadbare navy blue comforter on the other bed was oddly comforting, knowing that, even though so much had changed in the year since high school graduation, some things – namely Todd Flowers – had remained the same.

"So, when am I going to have to greet my other roomies?" I asked, patting the bare mattress for Duncan to sit with me, which he did reluctantly.

"They should be home soon. They're at rehearsal. Oh, about that. Once or twice a month they hold rehearsal here. The neighbors don't mind, they asked before we even moved in, so I just thought I'd tell you. It gets kind of noisy once they get going. Sometimes they get a bit rowdy." Duncan said, staring at his fingernails intently before standing back up and crossing the room to the doorway. "Make yourself comfortable. Rachel's going to be here in about fifteen minutes, so you'll be on your own till Todd and Spence get home. I guess you can get all your stuff put together in your room." He said, disappearing around the corner. I frowned. He was leaving me on my first night in the apartment? How rude. Especially considering I don't even like the memories I have of my other two roommates. Cocky, arrogant sons of bitches the both of them. One more so than the other.

Sighing, I exited the room after him, walking back to the living room to lug my four bags into my bedroom one by one. Stupid, over-packed girl. Right that moment I wished like hell that I didn't have so much god damned stuff. Immediately after thinking it, though, I took it back. I liked my stuff.

The next hour passed quickly, with me pulling clothing out of suitcases and putting it in the nearly-empty closet at the foot of my bed, and putting sheets and pillows and blankets on my bed, and putting my things on my bedside table, and putting up my portable shelves in the corner opposite to my bed and on the diagonal from Todd's. One acquires quite a bit of stuff in nineteen years. Especially girls like me, who have troubles letting go, and always have. The more malicious of our kind might even call me a pack rat.

I sat down on my bed and surveyed my quick work. It was satisfying, seeing my things in a new room, one that I could actually afford. It kind of felt like my heart was up in my throat somewhere. I laid back and closed my eyes, reveling in the newness of this place.

"Who are you?" I was shaken from my sanctuary by a rude rather masculine voice shattering my dreams. I bolted upright on the bed to find my face inches away from a rather attractive, rather male face.