Are You Adaptable (conclusion)
“Oh. I had the impression Arnold was still in the house.”
“The house is big enough for us to be separated.”
Nola put a hand on Beloye’s arm. “It’s not like I can afford to move out. It’s not like he’s gonna move.”
“Sorry, it’s not my business.”
She thought about Nola and Arnold, tried to picture them avoiding each other, camping in rooms, waiting at the door for a durable silence before venturing out.
Beloye discarded the fry box, tossing it guiltily into the back of a garbage truck. Maybe this wasn’t wrong…if she remembered, she’d look it up. Or maybe the people in the penthouse were watching, and she’d get a ticket in the mail. She put her hands in her pockets, Stenner’s pockets. She found a card.
The card said: Stenner, with a phone number. No photo, no corporate logo, nothing on the back. What did she know about Stenner? He’d approached Nola, dated her a little…decided Nola wasn’t right. Nola, in Beloye’s private opinion, didn’t make enough of an effort. And that had nothing to do with Arnold. As long as they’d had the Tolhursts in common, Nola had said to Beloye, about clothes, career…even about Dan, “Oh, I envy you…”
When Beloye offered to help, or teach, or give outright (not Dan), Nola shrugged, and said, “On you, not me”, or, “No, I’m just complaining.”
Stenner had, at any rate, switched his attentions. And was he fun, or was he a jerk? Mostly, he talked about himself. He told Beloye things, watched her react. He backed off, or stepped sideways, claimed he hadn’t said what she’d thought. Dan might be right, but she didn’t think Stenner had made up the ghost story. He implied some connection with the high rise developers, but wouldn’t say so himself.
Did he want Beloye to make up her own story?
Towards what end? And then what line did you draw between looking out for yourself, and letting yourself get paranoid?
She opened the apartment door, crossed to the sofa, flopped to a sit, let her purse fall, dropped her keys in. Dan stirred in the recliner. Boz spread on his lap stretching claws. Dan’s attitude regarding her cat, when speaking to Beloye, was hostile…yet she caught him now and then. The television was going…it was always going.
“How are you guys? Did you have lunch?”
The expression on Dan’s face reminded her of Nola’s. He dragged himself up, kneeing Boz to the floor. He nearly spoke, stopped, looked Beloye up and down, waited as though he expected her to speak. Finally, he said, “Your jacket doesn’t fit.”
Are You Adaptable
(2015, 2018, Stephanie Foster)