Date: January 28, 2002 9:15-10:15

Title: Relocation, Part Two

Song(s): "If I come to New York, can I sleep on your floor?"-The Promise Ring, "Jersey Shore"

"I hope I find my home/hope you're the first one in it. I know it won't be the same, but I'll be there if you need anything…"-The Get Up Kids, "Stay Gold, Ponyboy"

It was almost too easy to knock on the door. I reached up, exhausted, and rapped my knuckles against the wood-she lived in the ritzier part of Manhattan, and I assumed it was real-three times before collapsing against the glossy, cool door frame.

I watched passively as the door was thrown open by a slight fire-haired figure, who looked at me, grinned, and said, "Eli!" in a voice that made me smile past the sleep pulling my face down.

"'Del," I replied, without the energy to pronounce the first syllable. She hugged me tightly, her feet dangling slightly off the ground, and I felt her smile against my neck. Her hair was frizzy and out-of-control, curling tightly to her shoulders, and it smelled like vanilla. I smiled; underneath the vanilla and the fresh, watery scent of her perfume, she smelled like my childhood. She smelled like home.

Suppressing my tired thoughts as she jumped down, I managed a weak grin. "It's great to see you," I said. "Thanks for letting us stay here."

"No problem!" Her omnipresent smile caught onto my own lips. Her blue-green eyes were twinkling, and although she was twenty-six, she didn't look a day over seventeen, or when I'd last seen her at twenty. "Where's Kevin?"

I forgot, for a second, my best friend's location. She laughed at my puzzled expression before I answered, "He's getting the bags."

"All of them? Some friend you are." She started out of the apartment to help him, and I noticed the defined muscles in her arms. I grabbed her hand.

"We only brought like three. The rest are coming. And they're light."

"And you need to sleep," she added, leading me into her apartment.

"God, do I need to sleep." I collapsed onto a chair in her foyer. "I'm sure the place s beautiful, Ads, but forgive me if-"

"No problem. Do you mind sharing a room with Kevin?" She pulled me up and steered me through the hallway, my eyes closed the entire way.

"I've been sharing a room with him for like ten years," I mumbled.

"You should be fine, then. I'll send him in. It's great to see you, Lijiah." She reached up and kissed my cheek lightly, and I fell down.

I didn't hear Kevin come in five minutes later. I was already asleep.

I woke up the next morning to sunlight streaming in through blinds and the familiar sound of Kevin's sleep-talk.

"no, no, I said no zebras, NO!" He thrashed wildly. I jumped out of my bed, noting the smooth silk sheets, and shook him awake. His blue eyes blinked blearily at me, finally clearing and recognizing my face.

"Where are your glasses?" my mumbled through clumsy, sleepy lips.

"Zebras?" I queried. We glanced at each other and cracked up.

Kevin groped around blindly. "I took them off and put them on the bedstand last night," he explained, still looking.

I looked across the room. "My bedstand, dumbass. I retrieved them.

"Yeah, you really need glasses."

I put them on and everything came into clearer focus. "Did you get in okay?"

Kevin sighed in mock-annoyance. "Yes, dear, I can walk up the steps all by myself."

"Screw you." I tossed a look around the room. It was, as I suspected, beautiful, as well as impeccably clean and expensive-looking. "I'd throw something at you, but Adele would kill me."

He laughed. "Could you blame her? The money she must make to live here."

"She's a sweet girl. She deserves it. She works really hard."

"She seems nice. A little…"

I laughed. "High-strung? Excitable? Mercurial? That's Adele."

"Plus, she's really hot."

I turned abruptly. "You so did not just say that."

"She is, man! I know you haven't seen her in five years, but-"

"She still looks exactly the same."

"And you complain you couldn't get a girlfriend in high school?" He stood up and yawned. "Who's the dumbass?"

"That's still you," I said. "You can take a shower first."

"Thanks." She walked into the adjoining bathroom, and I, in my crumpled clothes, strolled out to the kitchen. I saw a digital clock reading 12:37 on my way there.

"I was planning to make you guys a big New York-style breakfast but then you decided to go into comas on me," I heard from the living room.

Adele sat there in a starched white shirt and black dress pants, shiny shoes with zippers, and with her red curls piled on top of her head. "You look nice," I said. "Big meeting today?"

"I'm not allowed to look nice normally? I looked nice last night, but then again, you were about to slop into a coma." She came into the kitchen. "Still want that breakfast?"

"No, it's okay. Let's go out to dinner tonight, my treat." I offered.

"Does that mean Kevin's paying?"

"Half the time." I smiled. "He got in alright?"

She rolled her eyes exasperatedly at me. "Yes, Eli, I think he can climb a flight of stairs without your holding his hand."

I paused. "You sound exactly like him."

Retracting one pale arm from the refrigerator, she faced me, gesturing with orange juice. No pulp, I noted. "That's because we're the only two people on the face of the Earth who voluntarily put up with you."

I smiled wryly. "Thanks a lot. Love you too."

Back to her effervescent self, she grinned. "I missed you."

"I missed you, too." I went to hug her, but she moved away.

"You need a shower," she said, pointing to her bathroom. "You can use mine."

"Okay." I walked out of the room and turned the water so high it almost burned my skin. It reminded me of California. I wondered how Kevin felt, moving with me from his home state to mine, staying for an undetermined amount of time in a house of a girl he'd never met. He'd come to crave routine in the post-Clarice days, and I was happy to provide it. Now it seemed I was happier to shatter it.

I turned the water up higher and stopped thinking at all.

I came out in shorts and a t-shirt. Kevin and Adele sat on the couch, watching television. I stared at them forlornly. "I only have California clothes," I whined.

"Poor baby," drawled Kevin. Adele laughed.

I looked her in the eye. "I've had my shower."

Smirking, she replied, "I'm very proud of you, Elijiah. Tomorrow we tie our shoes."

"What is this, whittle Eli's self-esteem down into little bits of nothing day?" I intoned melodramatically.

"That's been about the last ten years for me, man," Kevin said.

"And the last almost-fourteen of mine," added Adele.

I shook my head. "I just wanted a hug."

"In that case…" Kevin stood up, arms spread wide.

I feigned walking toward the door. "I'll be going back to California now."

Adele was mercurial, I'd always known that, but now she'd acquired a certain form of grace that escaped any classification. She moved like quicksilver and flung two strong, small arms around my neck, feet off the floor again. I held her easily.

We stayed like that for a minute, before being interrupted by Kevin's falsetto sobs. "How sweet," he mocked.

"You're just jealous that I got a hug from the pretty lady," I said, my arm still around Adele.

"You missed a lot when you were in the shower," he said vaguely.

My eyes widened and Adele laughed. "I'm sorry," I said loudly. "Usually Kevin has manners."

"It's okay," Adele replied. "Not everyone can be perfect like you, Li."

"Li? You never told me people would call you that." Kevin looked surprised.

"Not people, only Adele, because she's too lazy to pronounce my full name," I explained.

"You call me Ad, Del, Ads and Addy," she replied. "Do you even know my full name?"

"I just called you Adele. What are you watching?" I asked in a messy segue.

I settled onto the couch in the middle, with Adele on one side and Kevin on the other. A Sports Night rerun flickered across the screen.

"Yes!" I exclaimed.

"I don't like this show," Kevin said.

"You love it. And when you don't, it's because it's too intelligent for you," I remarked.

"And Natalie's hot." I shot him a warning look.

"I love this scene," sighed Adele, leaning into me conformably. I smiled down at her.

"Me too," I said, and it wasn't too warm, it was just right. The air had a biting sense of cold and smelled much cleaner than LA's air. The lighting was less fluorescent and more natural. There were trees outside the window.

Yeah, I thought. This is just right.