Noelle lounged lazily over her couch that evening. Mostly everything had been unpacked by now. Except for a few more things that needed to be washed, she was almost completely moved in now.
She had found time that afternoon to put her homemade fabric curtains over the windows, and now marvelled at her own success. The fabrics looked nearly shear with that bright sun shining through them, though they were dark enough to paint the room with the rainbow of colors. So much color now really made her feel at home, for back in Charlotte, her mother had painted each room of their house a different color. Noelle grew up around the rainbow, it seemed.
The minutes were counting down to when she expected Leslie and the other girls to come by. Noelle wasn't quite sure what to pick up at the grocery store for them to eat, knowing that diet was very important to ballerinas, especially those who were as competitive as Leslie. So, Noelle settled on snacks she allowed herself to eat from time to time: cheese and crackers, fruit, vegetables with dip, soda, and fruit drinks. That seemed balanced enough to satisfy anyone's particular desires.
Noelle, herself, did not strain herself too hard on being religious to a diet. She grew up eating healthier foods than most and did not care for many gross junk food snacks. Her father grew his own vegetable patch in their back yard, and her family delighted themselves with the delicious fresh tastes. Eating fatty foods was so rare for her normal routine that she did not usually feel guilty and degrade herself when she did do it. For Noelle, such things were not sinful delights.
There was a knock on her door, and Noelle swung her knees over the side of the couch and stood up. She opened the door, and it was Jena, Patty, and Michelle who stood waiting there. "Hi!" they all chimed.
Noelle smiled and greeted them, but her smile did not last long when her eyes suddenly fell upon Pauli too. He was standing there, leaning against the banister sipping a beer which he cradled over his chest. He smiled at her and looked away.
"Noelle, we met your neighbor as we were walking up the stairs," Jena told her, a girly smile that was obviously overjoyed across her face. It was a common thing to see on any girl that had the chance meeting of an incredible looking man. Foolish and hooked already, probably before ten words were even spoken between them yet.
"Oh, I'm so sorry for you," Noelle answered Jena, who in turn gave Noelle a curious look. Pauli giggled silently behind them.
"Can he come in and join us?" Jena asked. "I... kind of already invited him."
"Oh," Noelle said, her eyes widening with her new dilemma. She caught Patty and Michelle nodding their heads vigorously with excited approval. Noelle knew these girls were her new co-workers at the Ballet Company, faces that she'd have to see and deal with every single day from now on. If Pauli insulted them, they could very well turn on her too and make her new life a living hell. Though, if she refused now, they would not understand why and STILL hate her. Oh well. She shrugged her shoulders. If that was destiny, then bring it on. "Sure," she finally said with a concluding nod.
The girls giggled their stupid giggles and skipped past Noelle and into her apartment. Pauli brushed past her, eyeing her with a special smile.
"Leslie will be here shortly," Michelle said. "She's picking George up."
All three girls fell right into some routine of congregating around Pauli immediately. He was surrounded by the smiling, giggling faces of the ballerinas, seeming to love it as he flirted right back with them. Noelle kept her distance, watching protectively, making sure no rude comments were being exchanged. No, Pauli was effectively charming them with just talking normally. Then again, his flock was easily impressed, and he did not need to awe them by showing off any quick wit or intelligence in any way. His presence and smile were enough to snag them already.
Soon, another knock fell upon the door, and when Noelle opened it, she found Leslie and a new face greeting her. "This is George," Leslie introduced them.
"Nice to meet you," Noelle said, extending her hand and shaking the offered one of the other. "Come on in."
"Thank you," George nodded with a handsome smile. His hair was a dark brown color, short, clean cut, and he wore a rich black coat. His face was chiseled and handsome with dark, kind eyes. Noelle was impressed from the beginning with this guy, feeling a comfortable air of benevolence and polite consideration from him.
As they entered her apartment, Noelle caught sight of Benny walking by. Their eyes met and he smiled and nodded a hello as he continued by, heading for his apartment door. "Oh," he said suddenly, coming to a complete halt for a moment. "Noelle, have you seen Pauli at all? You know, coming or leaving?"
At that second, there was big uproar within Noelle's apartment, and it could clearly be heard the laughter of many, Pauli's voice overpowering the rest easily. Benny's eyebrows curved upward almost immediately.
Noelle sighed. "Yeah, he weaseled his way into getting invited inside somehow," she admitted.
"By you?" he asked in disbelief.
"Hell, no," she answered plainly. "But I figured a truce was in order for the time when my new company members were here."
"I see," Benny smiled.
"You can come in, too, if you like," Noelle sighed, defeated, standing to the side to let him pass if he wanted.
"Really?" Benny sounded surprised. "I'd like that."
"Just remember, please," she lowered her voice as he passed, "that every girl in here is a ballerina too, so please watch what you say."
Benny laughed quietly and nodded. "Sure."
Everyone was finally there, it seemed. Noelle's plans of having a quiet, casual, social gathering to get to know her new company members turned into a small scale party where very few people actually talked to her, for all attention was completely directed toward her two handsome, male neighbors.
"So," Leslie was saying to Pauli. "How do you know Noelle?" She, too, seemed captivated with his smile and charm. George had suddenly been cast aside, and he uncomfortably wandered over to the food on the coffee table.
"We're neighbors," he answered. "We just met."
"I see, and what do you do for a living?"
"Benny and I work in construction together," he answered.
"Oh." Leslie's smile faded to a humorous expression of sudden disgust. It made Noelle cover her laugh with her hand when she saw Pauli's eyes widen with surprise. "That's very unfortunate," she said as she turned and walked away toward the drinks.
Pauli's eyebrow raised as he turned his head toward Noelle with her shoulders shaking and her hand over her mouth, laughing.
"You don't call that snobby?" he whispered with slanted, angry eyes.
"I call that karma," Noelle laughed and backed away.
"What?" Leslie spoke surprisedly by the collection of soda bottles on the kitchen bar counter, catching Noelle's attention again. "You don't have diet?"
Ah, crap, Noelle thought. That's what she forgot. Of course it would be Leslie who complained about this. "Sorry," Noelle told her, shaking her head.
Leslie rolled her eyes. "I'll just have water, I guess."
"This is your drink selection?" Pauli asked when he came over to investigate the trouble. "Where's the beer?" He winked in Noelle's direction.
Noelle and Leslie both gave him dirty looks. "Ballerina's can't be so reckless with their bodies," Leslie told him. "We DON'T drink."
"Aw, where's the fun in that?" he asked, innocently avoiding the vicious glare Leslie was giving him. "We have some in our apartment. Benny, why don't you get us a case?"
Benny stood and left, all ballerina eyes falling upon him warily. He returned and handed a bottle out to each person. The girls looked at them like little foreign creatures they didn't understand the use of.
"Sorry," Benny said when he handed Leslie a bottle. "We don't have light beer."
"We have auditions next week," Leslie snorted, handing her bottle back.
Noelle took her bottle, opened it and drank a heavy swig immediately. Benny and Pauli smiled at her. For some reason, Noelle cared little for Leslie's words. She knew herself well, and knew a beer or two tonight would not affect her performance the coming week. Following her lead, Patty, Michelle, and Jena did the same. Leslie criticized them with her normal condescending, lecturing tone when surprisingly enough, it was sweet, happy Patty who turned to her and said, "Leslie, please, you are not my mother."
The words hit Leslie hard, insulting her to complete silence, (for once). She scowled, leaned back, and crossed her arms, but still said nothing. Huffing, she sat down, miserably popping green grapes messily into her mouth. Noelle giggled to herself and took another swig of her beer.
The night continued on, then, in the same way it had begun. All the girls, except Leslie, were content with giving Pauli and Benny all their attention. Leslie repelled any social activity with her venomous attitude over there in the corner.
Noelle thought all hope of having fun was lost when she took a seat on the couch alone until it was George of all people who came to join her. He, too, seemed turned off by Leslie's unapproachable attitude. He started a conversation of small talk with Noelle innocently. "This is a nice apartment," he said. "I love the curtains."
"Thanks," Noelle smiled delightfully. "Where are you from, George?"
"I'm from Boston," he answered. "I've lived here for the majority of my life."
"What do you do?"
"I'm going to school for my masters in International Business at the University of Boston," he answered.
"Really? That's awesome."
"Oh my God!" Jena's loud voice sang, rising above everyone in the room, catching George's and Noelle's attention. "You are so funny!" She reached out and laid her hands over Pauli's peck muscles of his chest. Hovering there for a few more seconds before she casually removed them, she flashed him a wonderfully flirtatious smile. Then Jena flopped her head of short black hair from side to side, though it looked funny since her stands were too short to really flop in any direction.
Patty and Michelle had taken to standing on each side of Benny, all laughing and giggling the more they drank.
"Light weights," Noelle said in a low voice so only George could hear her. He laughed and nodded his head in agreement. She turned to him, they clinked their bottles together, and downed the rest of the liquid inside.
Conversations with everyone continued to escalate. George and Noelle found themselves falling into fits of laughter the more they made fun of the other ballerinas' actions. "It's like they suddenly change themselves into being very dumb, but by choice," Noelle noticed. "You think they couldn't catch a guy as good looking as that with a connection of their minds?"
"Girls do that," George said. "They underestimate themselves. Now, don't take this the wrong way, Noelle, but why aren't you over there?"
Noelle rolled her eyes. "I've met them before," she answered. "I was impressed at first, but it didn't last long. They are conceited assholes, and they hate ballerinas."
George laughed. "Really? They said that?"
"Yup, and things much worse before they realized I was a ballerina. We haven't spoken since until tonight, when those three invited them back in here."
"Yeah!" Patty giggled loudly across the room. "We're ballerinas!"
"Can you show us some moves?" Pauli asked in an animated voice to match Patty's own tone.
"Oh, God," Noelle rolled her eyes. "Now he's making them humiliate themselves for him. Who does tricks like that for guys?"
"Sure!" all three girls sang. Then, Patty proceeded to stretch her right leg completely vertical into the air and hold it close next to her cheek. Michelle sunk down and did a split at Pauli's and Benny's feet. And Jena raised up onto her toes, flipping around in tight twirls. Faster and faster, she went, until suddenly, she faltered and lost her balance. Scampering around dizzily, she finally fell to the floor, straight on her ass.
Laughter erupted from them all. Noelle swallowed more beer, shaking her head and lowering her gaze. "I'm so embarrassed for all girls, everywhere," she mumbled. George giggled from beside her.
"It's like we're watching the mating ceremony of primitive animals," he commented. Noelle laughed. "I'm not too proud of guys everywhere, either. Especially those two, making the girls act like complete idiots and have all this power and already know that whatever happens with them will be playing and mean absolutely nothing. It's very cruel."
"And it was the girls who gave them this power over them quite willingly from the very beginning. Even before the beginning. All they did was look upon them." Noelle sighed. "They should have more respect in themselves than that. They're convincing themselves at this moment that this is love. It's sad."
"Yeah," George agreed.
The night continued on for a little while longer, and George and Noelle got a little more drunk. Eventually, it was Leslie's turn to get fed up with everything and drag George away and leave for the night. George departed with leaning over and giving Noelle a sweet peck on her cheek.
"Oh, I guess we should get going too," Michelle said apologetically to Benny, whose shoulder she was currently draped on. She had been switching from guy to guy throughout the whole night. "We need to get our rest before Monday starts and the week from hell begins with those damned auditions."
"What a shame," Benny pouted mockingly, though Michelle couldn't tell. "We'll miss you. Please come back and see us anytime."
"Oh, we would love to!" Jena swooned, wrapping her arms around Pauli.
Noelle saw them to her door and said her farewells to them. "Have a good night, girls. See you on Monday."
"Good night, Noelle," they called back. "Thanks!"
"Well, that was fun," Pauli commented when Noelle came back into her apartment. "Thanks for the entertainment, Noelle."
"Thanks for the beer," she answered, taking a final gulp from her last bottle.
"Anytime," they said as they showed themselves out for the night. "Good night."