Photos by Arvida Byström

'Derek Jeter,' a Story by Thessaly La Force

Two young women in the fashion industry try to keep their heads above water, whether it's by dating rich guys or stealing clothes from the magazine where they work.

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Dec 20 2016, 12:45pm

Photos by Arvida Byström

This story appeared in the December Fiction Issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

In the fashion closet, the rack buckles with the clothes. Jessica takes five hangers, with dresses dripping to the floor, and considers what to do. Isabel sits on the plastic chair, inspecting her nails.

"You've heard this story, right?" Isabel asks.

"I don't know, have I?" Jessica rolls another rack over.

"They're at some party, you know, and he goes up to her—she's in PR—and he says, 'Hey, baby, what are your hopes, what are your dreams?"'

"Dumb line."

"Right, dumb line. But why not sleep with Derek Jeter?"

"Plenty of reasons."

"So she says something stupid, like, you know: Build my brand, live my life, don't be afraid."

Jessica laughs. She hooks the hangers onto the new rack, and shifts everything over so it's even. She fingers one of the dresses, with a lace collar, sequins prettily embroidered down the bodice. A printout of the runway shot is taped to the top of the hanger. f/w dolce & gabbana.

"He gives her a number to call. Later that night she calls it. A car comes and picks her up, takes her to his apartment. He's waiting for her in his boxers. It's all very vanilla. Missionary. One, two, three—you know?" Isabel swats away an imaginary fly with her hand. "He's totally nice, the next day, he asks her if she needs a coffee, but she's like, it's cool, and then she leaves."

"Fine." Now it's onto the shoes. Jessica sits down on the floor and starts to unpack them from their plastic bags, removing the tissue paper. She lines them up by color, then realizes maybe better to do it by size, and starts over.

"OK, so get this. It's maybe a year later? It's been a while. She's at a party. And what do you know, Derek Jeter is there."

"Right."

"And he comes up to her. She thinks he's being nice, gentlemanly, saying hello."

"OK."

"But he goes, 'Hey, baby, what are your hopes, what are your dreams?'"

"Hah. No fucking way."

"Yes way. And she's like, why not give it another shot?" Isabel stands up and looks at herself in the mirror. "So she says something different—live life to the fullest, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, motherhood—I dunno, whatever you say. And they sleep together again. It's exactly the same. Exactly. Like, if she could time it. Next morning, he offers her a coffee. She says no, she leaves."

"So? What's the point?" Jessica stands back and appraises her work, makes sure everything is lined up, orderly.

"Don't you get it?" Isabel says, looking at her through the mirror. "He likes the routine."

***

They are two fashion assistants. Jessica stuck in the closet. Isabel assisting one of the magazine's stylists. Most days, for Jessica at least, are insane, she works from morning to midnight, hanging clothes for the run-throughs, the fittings, and then packing everything into the trunks again for the shoots. It never stops. In her dreams, it is only clothes now. Not in a covetous sort of way. Just, the materiality of them. Silk and chiffon and rayon and tulle and cashmere and embroidered sequins and graphic prints and color blocks. Under the fluorescent light, what costs thousands looks cheap.

Then there are days where there is nothing to do, no one is in, and that's when they like to sit in the closet until it's time to leave—they talk, they gossip. They have big plans for life. Isabel wants to style her own shoots. But what she really desires is fame, money, attention. Jessica wants to—well, the problem is Jessica doesn't know what she wants to do. They chase parties, celebrities, boys. Boys chase them back. They borrow from the closet, wearing clothes they could never afford. They look at pictures of themselves online the next day, and mentally adjust for the next time—stand a little bit taller, suck it in, arms out, thrust the chin.

Isabel is prettier than Jessica. She has ivory skin, beautiful chestnut-colored hair, perky breasts, and slender ankles. Jessica is like Isabel, only a little bit more. Her skin is more blemished, her hair is thicker, her legs are stockier, her breasts bigger. Her sturdiness gives her an air of trustworthiness that she doesn't quite deserve. Editors stop in, bitch and moan about other editors. Assistants reveal information they shouldn't. If Isabel is prettier, Jessica knows she's more likable. She can live with it.

When Isabel finally lands a boyfriend, things are, at first, fine. The money is obvious. Owns a big apartment in Chinatown. Isabel is very pleased with herself. "I gave him a blowjob—because of the apartment," she announced the afternoon after they first hooked up. "I'm attracted to money. Like physically, I find it attractive."

"Gross," said Jessica. His name is Adam, and he's hot in an offhand way. All the pieces fit together, there's symmetry to his face, but when Jessica stares at him across the table when they're out at a nightclub, the music thumping overhead, and she feels like she could be on another planet, she knows in her gut that Isabel wouldn't have gone for him.

He doesn't really work, that's the problem. He likes to throw his money around, that's the other problem. He invests in projects, like his ex-girlfriend's yoga studio. "We can never go there," Isabel vows, furiously. They look at her Instagram some afternoons, and say mean things about her pictures. Once, Jessica accidently liked a photo, and they almost died, they sank into the floor of the closet and laughed and moaned like idiots. Still, Jessica still can't help but feel slightly on guard around him. His best friend is the uninspiring Bradley, an actor who takes himself a little too seriously.

And so when they start doing drugs together, it's not really a big deal. Isabel has taken to doing whatever Adam says. He tells her she should lose ten pounds, she does it. He tells her to grow out her bangs, she does it. He tells her she should only wear heels, she obeys. He carries around little vials of cocaine and they party the night away, it's absolutely obscene, the nights that turn into mornings, the way something sad thuds in her heart when she can hear the birds chirping as dawn comes too quickly, and Isabel and Adam are high out of their minds, yammering away about the future, and his life, and his goals, and—well, she can't believe she's saying this—his hopes and his dreams.

The closet is her home away from home. It is, in fact, bigger than her apartment. It's nothing cozy—a windowless cube in the center of the building, all white plywood with shelves upon shelves, racks upon racks. But it brings her comfort. There's no clock on the walls. Here, she is insulated from the outside. She can close her eyes, and see the colors of the shoes bleeding into one another. She can see their shapes. Sling-backs, mules, kitten heels, platforms, wedges, peep-toes, mary janes, ballet slippers, gladiators, pumps. On the north wall are the rain boots; the sneakers tucked into one another, head to toe. Farther left, the hats piled into stacks, like upside-down soup bowls, some leaning a little to the left, some to the right. The south wall is a grid of plastic drawers with the sticker labels, each filled with the minutia of dressing someone for a photograph: belts, underwear, thongs, hosiery, white T-shirts, unitards, leggings, Spanx, and socks from tube to knee-high to ankle to sport. There's space for the luggage, the tote bags, the purses, the clutches. Denim is always folded and stacked, dark to light. Lately, she's begun to think of everything in here as hers, partly because she has to check things out to the other girls. She takes a photo, she writes down who and what in a spreadsheet, and when it's returned, she checks it against the picture, crosses it off the list. There are, of course, girls who never bother. Jessica has to email them. "Hey Anna, checking in about those black S Weitzman pumps, size 7.5!" She sends three emails, usually it comes back. If it's nothing special, no one goes looking after a certain amount of time. There's always more coming in, from pre-fall to fall to resort to pre-spring to spring to cruise to back all over again.

Late in the afternoon, another assistant stops by. She works in events, is pretty in a suburban way. But she's always been nice, and she helped Jessica out her first week, when Jessica didn't know how to do anything in the closet. She thumbs through the racks, and picks up a pair of stilettos with two fingers, returning them gently to their place.

Isabel is in Rome for a shoot, and she's been texting Jessica nonstop. First selfies of herself in the hotel room, then pictures of the models in the dresses that just the other day had been here, in the closet, looking forlorn and desultory on the plastic hangers, now sparkling in the Italian sun. Pretty, Jessica responds, halfheartedly. "What," Isabel is texting back, "Don't be jealous."

She looks up, Sara is lingering. "Can I help you with anything?"

"No," says Sara. "Not really." She moves across the room. "Is it true Isabel is dating Adam?"

Jessica considers the upside of lying, finds nothing. "Yeah," she says. "It is."

"He dated my friend Mim for a little bit."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

She waits for the other shoe to drop. "You know," says Sara, "he's not a good guy."

"What do you care?" Jessica says a little too quickly. Her phone is lighting up, Isabel hasn't stopped texting her.

Sara looks at the screen, looks at Jessica, looks around the closet. She shrugs. "I guess I don't. I used to work in here. You start to go a little nuts without natural light."

"I know," Jessica says. "It's awful."

"Well, just, be careful," Sara says. "He needs you two as much as you need him." Sara walks out, and Jessica, without wasting a beat, relays the whole conversation to Isabel on text. "Ugh," Isabel writes back, the little dots dancing. "Look, everyone knows she used to be bulimic."

***

There's an awards dinner that everyone has to work. They're assigned dresses, instructed to wear their hair back. Before the event, some poor assistant is responsible for taking pictures of everyone against a white wall. These photos are compiled into a notebook, given to the editor-in-chief. If you're pretty, you are placed in the front, greeting the guests. If not, you're in the back. It's an unspoken, but obvious, rule.

Jessica is assigned to usher guests to their table, not quite the back, but Isabel is by the corridors at the entrance, very much the front. The guests won't arrive for a little bit, and the girls are milling about. The air is chilly, the lights not yet dimmed. Isabel finds Jessica in the dining hall.

"What's that?" Jessica asks, instantly noticing her earrings. Sparkly, with enamel, they are the latest craze. They almost graze Isabel's shoulders. "Did you borrow those?"

"No," says Isabel coyly. "Adam gave them to me."

"Oh," says Jessica. Something sinks inside of her, but why should she feel disappointed? "They're nice," she offers instead, reaching deep inside for the right thing to say.

"I think so," Isabel says, satisfied, touching the right one with her hand.

His body looks like it only metabolizes drugs. It is incredibly unattractive.

Jessica watches her friend. It's that moment before an event starts, the way the night starts to hum. The waiters are moving more quickly, the bartenders stand at attention, faint music trickles through the speakers. Isabel always looks beautiful. Tonight, she is sheathed in a peach silk dress, the front cupping her little breasts, her collarbones jutting out. The beauty is how it clings to Isabel's body, how it makes her look almost naked, and yet, there's barely any skin. She has always been in awe of Isabel's beauty, it was like something she could never have, never come close to touching, but it's only right now that she understands that she has always treated—and Isabel has never done anything to stop this—being around Isabel as a kind of privilege.

She looks down at her own dress, navy, in a much heavier synthetic blend of fabric, decidedly less flattering. She swallows the despair she feels. It's just for a moment, and then she feels foolish and embarrassed. Isabel is allowed to be pretty, she tells herself. There's room for everybody in the world. I don't want what she has, anyway. The exercise of articulating this is as childish as her feelings, but soon enough someone tells her to stand by the corridor—she's in the back, of course—and if any of the guests need help finding the second bathroom, she can tell them where it is, and then a very famous actor drifts by, and she's distracted by her proximity to him, the strange sensation of realizing that they are the same, made both out of blood, skin, sweat. He smiles at her, he has to, any person, celebrity or not, would smile at a girl standing by herself in the corridor, outside of the party, waiting to tell you where the bathroom was when you already knew it was down the hall—but it makes her feel pretty, too.

Isabel becomes even more stunning. Not more beautiful, just... exotic. Adam is right about all of it. She looks good with her brown hair severely parted down the middle, cut at a bob. She looks good scrawnier, with a little bit of her stomach showing with a crop top, her arms birdlike, her legs little sticks. She has started to wear only red lipstick, nothing else, her skin is luminous, she swears by a facialist, and the only other adornment she allows is having her nails done at this Japanese nail salon, where they put intricate designs on them with a gel paint. It's chic.

It's also not exactly a surprise when Adam asks Isabel to move in with him. She was there all the time anyway. She tells Jessica how much she loves living in Chinatown as if Jessica hasn't ever been. And she's getting attention from people for dating Adam. At parties, she's not just another girl, she's Adam's girl, and it helps, it's easier to get tables and into clubs. It starts to get to Isabel's head, she doesn't mean it, but she bosses Jessica around. When they get photographed, they ask Isabel to stand alone.

And Adam, he enjoys it. It makes him feel powerful. They end up at his apartment one night after a gallery opening, and as usual he lays out the lines of cocaine. Isabel obediently brings her head down, and Jessica has a quick image of the two of them fucking, Jessica's tiny little body split in two. She shivers.

"What?" asks Isabel, running her finger under her nose.

Adam hands the mirror to Jessica. She does one quick. "Nothing. I just had a vision of you guys having sex."

"What was that like?" Adam says.

"You want us," says Isabel, her tone accusatory.

"No. Disgusting," Jessica says. She blew her last two paychecks on a new Saint Laurent bag, and she raised the straps so it sits across her stomach. She strums the chains.

"Have you two ever—" Adam begins.

"No," Isabel and Jessica say at the same time.

He leans over and snorts the biggest line. A slight film covers his face, he glistens in the light, and Jessica wonders if this will ever happen to her, to Isabel. His body looks like it only metabolizes drugs. It is incredibly unattractive.

"Hey," Adam says, getting up to turn up the music. He lights a cigarette. The girls only smoke when they're drunk. They each reach for one. "Jessica, have you seen Isabel's closet?" Ever since Adam arrived, he's been buying Isabel clothes, picking out shoes and jackets and dresses, and now, of course, that they live together, she has a little closet of her own.

Isabel looks nervously at Adam, then Jessica. She can be blithely unaware of her vanity, but she isn't blind to Jessica's envy, and she's tried, however indelicately, not to make a big show about the clothes. They've always been slightly competitive when it comes to style, and even if style is how you wear it, having more, and having the latest is always an advantage.

"I haven't," Jessica says.

"Go check it out."

Jessica gets up and walks into the bedroom. There are two closets, and as if he hears her hesitation, Adams calls out, "The second one." She slides the glass mirror door. The clothes are hung perfectly—there's the new Balenciaga skirt that she wanted so badly, she had texted it to Isabel. The pink coat from Rochas. She picks each item up, feels the sleeves, the hems, hangs them back in place. Farther down are Isabel's own clothes. She would feel envious, but she can't even borrow them, they are so small.

"Yeah, what do you think of those?" She jumps. Adam is standing behind her, he's looking at the end of the closet, where the older clothes sit.

"I mean, they are Isabel's clothes," she says.

"I think they're ugly."

Perhaps a little cheaper, a little more worn, but not ugly, Jessica thinks.

"I think she needs to throw them away," Adam says.

"I don't know..." Jessica begins.

"What are you guys doing?" Isabel appears backlit in the doorway.

"We're going through your closet," says Adam. There is a cruel glint in his eye. His arm brushes against Jessica's, and she feels how cold his skin is. The contact makes her shiver.

Jessica feels the high of the drugs, a slight drip in her throat, the urge to do another line, not because she wants it but because she wants to get out of here, this isn't right.

"Here," Adam says, "Jessica, pick the stuff that Isabel should throw away." He holds up a purple dress. "How about this?"

"I like that dress," Isabel says softly.

"She likes it," Jessica says unconvincingly.

"Toss it!" he says, throwing it to the floor.

"What the fuck," Jessica mutters under her breath.

"What's your problem?" Adam says, smiling. "How about this one?" He holds up a pink top. Jessica knows that Isabel loves this top, she wears it every summer. She takes it to a special dry cleaner because she's worried about destroying the fabric.

But Jessica is not in control. She feels the power that Adam has, and she is grateful—pathetic, she knows—that he's giving some of it to her.

"Toss it!" she screams suddenly.

"Oh my God," Isabel says. "What the fuck is your problem?" She moves to grab the shirt from Adam, but he wags his finger at her. "No, no, no," he says.

Jessica all of sudden feels slightly too drunk, she wobbles, and leans against the wall. Adam holds up another item of clothing and without needing her to say it, he nods. "Toss," he says. Isabel's clothes pile onto the floor, and soon it is only what he's gotten Isabel hanging in the closet. "That's so disgusting," Adam comments on a pair of Isabel's shoes. They are beaten lace-up boots.

They carry on like this until Jessica feels a kind of satisfaction she hasn't experienced in a long time. Then they go back into the living room, to Adam's white couches, to the potted palms and the loud music still blasting, and they do lines until the sun comes up. Isabel is silent in her fury, too proud to cry. He's completely humiliated her. Jessica knows that Isabel will throw them all away tomorrow, herself, rather than ever be seen wearing any of it by either of them again.

***

It is inevitable that after a night like that, they stop speaking to each other. In the office, no one notices. When it's necessary for them to be colleagues, they are professional. Oh, could you pass me the—yes, of course—and did you see that she's not using the mules anymore, you can put them back. But now Isabel sits at her desk, even when her boss is away. She never comes into the closet, and Jessica is there all day, talking to whoever stops in, but mostly looking at her phone. She sees the pictures that Isabel posts, nights out partying. Sometimes they run into each other at the same party, this is inevitable, too, and they pretend like they don't even see each other. But when a photographer stops to ask if he can take a picture of them together, because everyone still thinks they are a duo, they gamely pose with their arms slung around each other's shoulders, not smiling—because no one smiles—chins thrust out.

A practiced liar, Jessica understands the fundamentals of this situation. It isn't what you say; it's about holding your ground.

Her life is lonely without her friend. There is no one to direct the manic energy she feels, the restlessness she has, the little snippets of intelligence she overhears. The cover won't be that celebrity anymore, apparently she won't do it, because they wanted to bleach her hair. There's a lot of gossip about a girl no one liked, who used to assist one of the top editors. She's marrying a photographer, and now they're putting her wedding in the magazine, can you believe it, little old Margot who everyone thought was so pointless. No, Jessica just sits there and sits with it.

It builds up, of course it does. There's no way she can keep it together. She gets the idea to steal something when one of the girls neglects to return a very nice pair of shoes. Normally, you can skim a little from the top. Necklaces that are under $800, lipstick from the beauty closet, a pair of black pumps no one was going to bother with in the first place. But there are bigger treasures, and after an assistant doesn't return a pair of fur-lined slippers, Jessica watches to see what happens. Someone might actually need them for a shoot, and Gucci will most certainly ask for them back, but the assistant says over and over again that she's lost them on set, what can she do? "I sort of wonder if they were stolen," the assistant says, implying that the actress took them. What was anyone going to say to that?

For days, Jessica lustfully eyes a Chanel bag. When she's home, she stares at retail pictures of it on her phone. It's obsessive, but it becomes a place to fixate all of this crazy. She takes it out one night, to a concert, and the next day, she dutifully puts it back on the shelf. But then one day, she takes it out to a party, dances until the crowd thins out, and comes home. In the morning, under the guise of exhaustion, she pretends to forget that she's left it on her bed. She'll bring it back in tomorrow, she tells herself as she runs down the five flights of stairs. That night, she sleeps with it splayed on top of the duvet, as if it's a pet. Then it's tomorrow. Then, the day after tomorrow, and soon it's almost been a week, then two. One of the editors scans the racks, and asks in an absentminded way about that black bag, didn't they need it for something, but everyone is scurrying about and no one has an answer, and there is too much anyway, they've already got too much Chanel, perhaps it's been packed or returned, who knows, but nothing happens. Jessica could burst from the tension, but when she doesn't, she finds it excites her, too.

So, then, fine the bag is hers. But the moment she's pulled it off, she no longer desires it. It doesn't go with anything, she didn't even really like it that much to begin with. So she sells it. "This is a nice bag," the woman says at the consignment shop, impressed. They are never impressed. "You're sure you don't want it?" "No," Jessica says causally, "I'm over it." She fans out the cash on her floor that night.

The habit is formed and it grows like a tumor. First bags, then shoes, then clothes. It's the same every time: She's obsessed with her Valentino pumps in the days leading up to stealing them, she can't stop thinking about them, from the pink, sheer lace to the fake gems embroidered across the toes, to the kitten heel that makes what's so kitschy about them slightly demure. Then she steals them, and she wears them once, maybe twice, but they quickly lose their appeal. Upon seeing them in her apartment, she's bored, even revolted, disgusted by them, and with herself.

The phone rings once and she picks it up by instinct. "Hello," she says. "Can I speak with you, Jessica?" It's Paola, the head of accessories, on the phone. "Can you come to my office? Now?"

"Of course," Jessica says. Her heart is racing. She scans herself in the mirror. Tucks the stray strands of hair behind her ears. Does she look too nice? She's wearing a very expensive cashmere sweater that she stole last week. Oh, plus a pair of velvet loafers. It's an ordinary enough outfit, though the loafers are from the upcoming season. And they're $900. She slips them off her feet, and finds a pair of innocuous-looking black flats to replace them, and moves quickly down the hall into the Paola's office.

"Hi Paola," she says quickly, alertly. Important to appear confident. She stands in the doorframe.

"You can close the door," Paola says. She has a view of the city from her office window, and it is glittering and alive, people crossing the street, lights flashing, towers glinting in the distance. Jessica is jolted from the insulation of her life the closet provides. She slides the door shut.

"How are you, Jessica?" Paola says perfunctorily.

"I'm well, thank you," Jessica responds. She knows better than to ask the question in return. It is superfluous.

"Very good," says Paola. She drums a pencil on her desk. "It's come to my attention that there are a number of accessories missing from the closet." Jessica feels Paola's eyes scanning her body. She's very glad right now that she slipped out of the velvet loafers. "Have you noticed anything?"

Jessica knows any editor who has lasted here long enough is smarter than to ask such a naïve question. If she responds no, then she has pure denial on her side. If she responds affirmatively, then this opens another line of questioning that is too incriminating—when, and for how long, and why hasn't she said anything. "Noooo," she responds, slowly, pretending to think about it. "I haven't."

"I see," Paola says. She is Italian, a former model, she came to New York from Milan in the late 90s, and Jessica has seen many pictures of Paola from the era, with her arm slung around the big designers of the time. She has a long nose, and a mole above her lip. It's a contrast to the American prettiness that Jessica can never escape. Paola looks at Jessica carefully. "You do realize the consequences of theft at this office, right? We have a zero tolerance policy."

"I do," says Jessica. "Of course."

"It reflects poorly on the entire magazine."

"I understand," says Jessica. She tries to say this seriously but lightly. To be too serious would carry the weight of shame. But her heart is racing and she is looking at Paola, and focusing just a little hard on the weave of her Chanel jacket, which is slung across Paola's shoulders. Strands of pearls dangle from her ears. Jessica is suddenly envisioning a mountain of stolen clothes, and she's filled with the strange sensation of having to climb up this never-ending pile of fashion, with spiky heels sticking out here and there, the soft fabric giving way under the pressure of her feet.

Paola licks, ever so slightly, the bottom of her top lip, and she pauses in such a way to suggest that she is thinking of what to say next. Jessica jumps in quickly. "If there's anything I can do to help..." A practiced liar, Jessica understands the fundamentals of this situation. It isn't what you say; it's about holding your ground. If Paola had any evidence, she would have to present it.

Paola smiles. "Of course," she says, a slight smirk appearing at the end of it. "Well, if you notice anything, you can report it to me," Paola says.

"I will," Jessica says obediently. She leans to slide open the door.

"Just one second," says Paola. Jessica pauses. She feels the sweat at her brow, the furious way her heart is pounding. Her palms are clammy, and she can see her handprint on the brass of the doorknob. "I want you to stop stealing." Jessica draws an audible breath. "That's right," Paola continues. "The next time I have to call you into my office and ask you these questions—which, by the way, are a complete waste of my time—I will not be as nice." Paola's face is impassive, she blinks just once. "Do you understand me?"

Jessica hesitates, bewildered at being confronted like this. Paola has absolved her of the past with this, but she doesn't know if it's a trap. "Yes," she finally says, realizing her silence is too incriminating. "I do."

"Go on, then," says Paola with a roll of her eyes, "And leave the door open."

When Isabel and Jessica finally talk—and it really feels like it's been forever—it's early in the morning. Jessica is in the office early, there's a run through in about an hour with all the editors, plus the model, and she's nervous about getting everything ready. It's for a spread inspired by Cinderella, and there are big blue gowns, tweed and tiaras, and white satin trousers. Her soy latte sits on a shelf next to the unpacked clothes. Lanvin. Dior. Sonia Rykiel. Ralph Lauren. She wants to go through all of it without feeling rushed. That's always been the pleasure in doing it alone. Isabel appears at the door.

"Hey," Isabel says.

"Hi," Jessica replies.

"Need help?"

"Sure."

They play it cool. Isabel leans down and pulls apart a stapled bag. It's as if nothing has happened. They hang the clothes on the racks in silence, still sleepy from the morning, the fluorescent lighting unable to beat away the sense of night.

Finally, Isabel speaks: "Did she talk to you, too?"

"Who?"

"Paola. Apparently, she lectured all the girls."

Jessica processes this information. She starts to laugh. "Yeah," she says. "She did."

"Told you she'd wouldn't be as nice the next time?"

Jessica is shaking her head. "Exactly what she said!"

"Waste of her time, etc., etc."

"Yes!"

"Guess we were all little thieves." Isabel shakes her head. "Did you stop?"

"Of course I stopped. I was fucking freaked out."

Isabel laughs hard at this. "Yeah," she says. "Me too."

They continue unpacking. Jessica is lining up the shoes in order of size. She's moving quickly, but she's slow to speak. It's almost as if it's too much. She is bursting with curiosity. There's so much she wants to say. So much she wants to ask her friend. She wants to apologize about that night. And she wants to confess to Isabel each of the thefts, the piles of clothes that are in her apartment, the pairs of shoes she's only worn once, the bags stuffed under her bed. But it doesn't really even matter. It feels exactly the same as before, they're back, and she sinks into the expansiveness that their friendship has always allowed. They'll get there. They'll get back to it all. Already she can feel the weekend approaching, the texts they'll send each other all day,

hungover in bed. She marvels at Paola's managerial skills. She admires the dresses hanging on the racks. She looks at her friend, still beautiful, still completely on the edge of screwing up her life, and as if it's the open back of a dress, she takes it all—the insecurity, the sorrow, the envy—and zips it up. "Tell me again," she says, "about the girl who slept with Derek Jeter."

This story appeared in the December Fiction Issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

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