SECOND FAVORITE GIRL IN BROOKLYN


Julia stood scanning the room, looking for her friend, whom she had momentarily misplaced.

“Hey! Robert! Hey. How are you?”

“Good. You?”

Robert made a hilarious face. Julia laughed for a bit at the face.

“I did a ton of coke this weekend.”

Robert did not approve of this behavior, Julia knew as soon as she said it. As they talked at the bar, Julia thought to herself “people like you better when you are just nice. just be nice.”

Julia thought about going home and slitting her wrists. Not in a serious way, just to distract herself from the mounting anxiety of the evening. Julia has never been one to keep many friends. Generally, Julia prefers to be alone, with occasional lovers.

Robert told Julia all about his weekend. He spent it with a new friend name Evelyn. Evelyn was very pretty and closer to Robert’s age than Julia. Julia was a few years older than Robert.

“Yeah, I think you’re now my second favorite girl in Brooklyn.”

Julia faked a laugh and stared at the floor. The conversation continued.

“my friends are assholes,” Julia thought to herself.

“my friends are assholes,” Julia thought again.

“my friends are assholes, my friends are assholes,” Julia continued to think.

Julia looked at Robert’s face. It was young and sweet. Robert pet Julia on the arm with his elbow, because he did not feel like setting down his drink, but sensed he was being an asshole. Julia liked that Robert had been very affectionate with her since they very first met. Often Robert head butts Julia, and they can be seen stepping on each other’s toes at subway stations regularly.

“my friends are assholes,” Julia continued to think.

Julia had recently had a falling out with a girl friend. There had been some noticeable tenseness for a while, then one day there was a trivial argument about whether or not it was creepy that a mutual friend shaved his arm pits, which snowballed into the end of a short but very close friendship. Julia’s girl friend had a history of doing this to people close to her, she assumed it was going to happen to her as well eventually. Julia does not enjoy making a scene about things, so she let the friendship go without much of a fight. No fuss at all. Even still, Julia felt confused and rejected and often thought about texting her now ex-friend, whom she missed a little. But the stress of dealing with another high maintenance relationship kept her from ever hitting ‘send.’

Robert and Julia greeted a few friends who were also at the bar. The two got up from their seats and found a table to sit at that was close to the stage, where a few poets were reading that night. They sat and talked and waited for their friend Joe. The reading started shortly. Joe had not arrived and Julia worried a bit that he might not be coming at all. Julia was very fond of Joe, but never really felt that he was fond of her. Their friendship was enjoyable for her, but she frequently questioned why he wanted to be friends with her.

Joe arrived and sat with Julia and Robert. Julia and Robert ate cashews and played footsie under the table. Joe sat close to Julia. She felt his arm against her arm. Julia subtly moved closer to Joe, pressing her warm arm into his a little more. Julia then put her leg up on Robert’s lap. Julia had a near constant craving for physical contact. Many people avoided Julia because she was prone to reaching out and touching heads for no reason.

“my friends are assholes.”

After the reading was over, Joe and Julia introduced themselves to a writer they enjoyed listening to. It went well as it usually does between Joe and Julia, because Joe was talented and famous, and Julia was pretty and aggressive. Julia was not actually so pretty, but had gotten very good at applying makeup, and dressing in such a way that it was not visible that she was no longer skinny.

“second favorite girl in brooklyn, my friends are assholes,” Julia thought.

After the reading Julia, Robert, Joe and Joe’s roommate, Mike, went to get food. Julia talked to Mike and stared at the ground while they walked around Manhattan. Julia wanted very badly to go home, be alone, and masturbate before she went to sleep.

Julia was a lot of people’s second favorite girl in Brooklyn.

*

No alarm went off in the morning. Julia was on a two-week break from her job as a postproduction manager at a reality TV production company. She slept as late as her body would allow, pushing sleep to the limit of being so sleepless in bed that anxiety was a natural second. Other than anxiety, the only thing that woke Julia up in the late afternoon was her cat, Delores, gently reminding Julia of her existence.

Around two o’clock Julia woke up and laid on her back. Delores crawled up to her face and purred affectionately. Julia thrust the comforter off of her body in an attempt to coax herself out of bed. The effort was not as effective as Julia had hoped. She laid there for twenty more minutes, covered in goose bumps, wondering why she opened her window before she fell asleep the previous evening. Eventually, Julia did get out of bed, slowly. Right foot, then left foot.

Julia made various phone calls, did a little worthless writing, entertained her two cats with a feather on a stick, made coffee and read three books in intervals for most of the day. In the evening Julia showered, got dressed and headed into the city to run some errands that felt very important until they were completed, as it always seems to go with Julia.

*

Connor was coming to visit Julia in three days. It was supposed to be two days, but Connor fucked up his plans. He did however promise to stay an extra day for Julia as a compromise. Julia felt incredibly ambivalent to how long Connor was coming to visit for. Julia does not have a regular appetite for sex and affection. Hers tends to waver, most often surfacing in a misanthropic way. But even a woman like Julia needed the comforts of spooning someone to sleep every now and again. That was exactly what was so very nice about Connor. He was an excellent spooner.

With her visitor pending, Julia found it very hard to concentrate. She did things listlessly. When she washed the dishes, she let pots and pans bang carelessly. As she filled the cat food bowls, she spilled a few pieces of food, and did not pick it up. She wore mismatching socks. Also, she knocked over several glasses of tea, coffee, juice and wine throughout the three-day wait.

*

Julia knew what was probably going to happen when Robert suggested she just sleep over at his house, but Julia felt comfortable enough with Robert that she felt whatever situations might arise could be easily dealt with.

On the train ride home, Robert and Julia each wore one headphone from his ipod. He would occasionally let her choose a song and they would both smile when it played, but it wasn’t necessary because Robert and Julia seemed to like most of the same songs. So much so, that they had already found the same song was on both of their minds at the same time one day and since then they referred to it as “our song.”

Robert was drunk. They sat in the corner singing the words out loud even though that annoys people on the train. Julia had very soft feelings for Robert just then.

Upon arriving home Julia followed Robert into his bedroom, where they usually hang out because Robert is stand off-ish and doesn’t like to socialize with his roommates. They sat on his bed, which took up most of his small room, and drank organic beers Robert bought on the way home. Many of Julia’s friends were keen on being healthy and tried to only eat organic things. This was confusing and funny to Julia because many of these same people drank and smoked and had casual sex now and again. To her these things seemed like they would give you cancer and sores a lot faster than eating banana bread made with commercially pasteurized eggs and butter. Julia also could not fathom not craving a philly cheese steak sandwich at least once a week. Julia could also not fathom not craving cigarettes, alcohol and causal sex nearly everyday.

Robert and Julia laid down and tried to watch an episode of Robert’s favorite TV show. They were too drunk to concentrate so they put on music instead and laid on their backs.

“What’s your favorite TV show?” Robert asked.

“Lost.”

Robert laughed and Julia wished she had said something more subversive. Robert put his arm under Julia and his hand cradled her small shoulder.

“You’re cute,” he said.

Julia thought Robert was making fun of her. They laid like that for a while.

“I don’t know what you want right now,” Robert said.

Julia remained silent. She did not want that sentence to be said.

“I want to kiss you right now,” Robert said.

“No you don’t, you’re just drunk.”

Julia patted Robert’s stomach hard, in a friendly asexual gesture. Julia was sure of what she just said. She buried her face in his armpit, which smelled strong, but Julia has always liked the way men’s armpits smelled. She liked how different they smelled from her. Robert stopped talking and wrapped his arms tight around Julia’s head. They fell asleep this way.

It was around 6:30 am when Julia awoke panicked. Her heart felt erratic and she was filled with that dream-state terror that one can awake to from time to time. She was unsure of her surroundings and needed water badly. Julia got up and went to the bathroom, sure she would collapse of a heart attack sometime during her route. After she left the bathroom she went to the kitchen and fumbled around until she found a glass to fill with water and drain into her mouth several times. Julia turned around to see Shirley, Robert’s beautiful cat whom she had come to adore recently, when she was cat sitting for him. Julia carried Shirley back to bed with Robert. The three were soon again sleeping soundly.

Julia spooned Robert’s body. They both lay facing the open window. It was overly warm in Robert’s bedroom, and about every 45 seconds a gust of wind would come in and would make the room momentarily more bearable. Between the gusts, Julia found it very hard to breathe. The wind felt very soft on her face.

*

Julia sat at her kitchen table with her roommate and her roommate’s mother. Julia vaguely missed her own mother, but also felt relieved that she did not have to talk to her often at all. Julia had a beautiful roommate, Nicole. She enjoyed watching Nicole’s beautiful body move about. Nicole was a little thick, but not excessively so. Julia thought that Nicole looked more female than anyone she had ever seen. Nicole had large breasts, long thin legs, dark skin, long brown hair, a full ass, and a graceful way of walking. Julia had only a very little urge to touch Nicole, mostly she wanted to watch Nicole walk about free spirited.

At the kitchen table Julia did nothing but drink wine and listen. Nicole and her mother were busy comparing schedules and organizing dates for trips between the east coast and the west coast. Julia watched and listened. She felt enamored. It could have been the wine, but it felt to Julia that there was a feminine connection hanging in the air of the room. She felt that for a short period of time everyone at her kitchen table understood one another’s strife and excitement. Julia was a bit drunk.

*

Julia awoke listless. Her reasoning for getting out of bed at all was that in a day a lover of hers was coming from Massachusetts to see her. Books were scattered about the floor, her clothes needed cleaning, the litter box needed changing and there were many cum stains on her comforter that needed to be taken care of. Julia got out of bed at a more reasonable hour than usual to take care of these things, so as not to make a bad impression on her lover.

While folding laundry on her bed, Julia looked at the two sleeping cats buried in the heaps of clothes and was momentarily overcome with tenderness. She leaned forward and kissed them each on the head and in turn they each shut and opened their eyes very slowly at her.

“the cat equivalent of blowing a kiss,” Julia thought.

Julia’s phone rang in the other room. She did not hurry to answer it. She looked at the screen to identify the caller. Julia does not answer unknown or private calls. It was Robert. Julia had not heard from him in nearly a week.

“What up boo?”

“Not much, just walking home from work,” Robert said.

Julia discretely turned up the volume on her phone, as if Robert could see her and would be subsequently offended. Robert was a very soft-spoken boy.

“Do you want to come over and watch the Simpsons?” Robert asked.

“Yeah. I’m so glad you called. I’m bored and lonely. I’ll be over in a minute.”

“No, I am walking from Halsey, so... uh don’t leave right now.”

“Okay, I’ll do my hair.”

Robert hung up.

Julia busied herself for about 10 minutes by changing into something clean and more flattering, then fixing her hair and makeup. Robert had sounded very slightly upset on the phone. Julia had a sense he was going to be a bit cranky with her, and maybe more so as the day went on. Most of Julia’s immediate family was bipolar, and she had a sociopathic brother, so determining people’s moods was a talent of hers. She could easily predict how people were going to feel for several hours after she heard them say only one sentence. Julia was secretly very proud of this skill, but felt uncomfortable telling anyone about it.

It was a four-block walk to Robert’s house. A few weeks prior Julia had helped Robert apartment hunt for no good reason other than she had nothing to do that day and they had slept at Joe’s house the previous night after a party. Robert slept on the couch and Julia in Joe’s very small bed. Julia had been surprised Joe did not make her sleep on the floor. Once or twice in the night, Joe had slapped Julia for snoring. In the morning Julia intended to go home when Joe went to the library to work on his novel, but a small and uninteresting chain of events led her to spend the day with her new friend Robert, looking at places to live. Julia was excited and relieved when Robert decided to move into her neighborhood.

On Robert’s front stoop, Julia called Robert.

“Hey I’m here. Let me in.”

“Why didn’t you bring your keys?” Robert asked.

“I forgot them at home, they are on a different keychain.”

“Okay I’ll be down in a minute.”

Julia fixed her hair in the reflection as she waited for Robert to come down. He still sounded irritated and she thought looking nice might soften him a bit. Robert opened the door.

“Look, I brought you a present!”

Julia presented a screen-printed poster of the alphabet. Robert smiled and they went together up to his room, where they watched the Simpsons and drank smoothies. Robert talked on the phone to someone for 20 minutes and Julia felt bored and wanted to leave. She laid on his bed reading a small fanzine for Duran Duran. She was surprised to find out the drummer was quite the animal lover, but not a vegetarian.

A few hours passed this way before Julia and Robert went into the city to get pizza. Robert was vegan and Julia was on a budget so they needed to stop at two different places to get slices of pizza for each of them. It was tedious, and Robert’s mood was indeed getting worse as the evening went on.

“I want to die. I want to kill myself,” Robert said over and over again.

“No you don’t, stop saying that.”

“Yes I do.”

“If you want, I will push you down the stairs. I will kill you if you want to die. I would rather have to kill you than let you kill yourself,” Julia said very seriously.

“Thank you I think.”

Robert pet Julia’s head as they walked down the subway stairs. Julia was not sure if Robert realized that she had meant what she said. Julia got off the train first, to meet Joe for a movie. As she got off, she looked back at Robert and realized he did indeed look very sad.

Julia sat for 15 minutes reading Jane Eyre before Joe arrived at the movie theatre. She spent a few minutes in the bathroom fixing her hair and lipstick. She liked to look nice for Joe. She could see in Joe’s expressions that he also appreciated when she made attempts to look nice for him. Julia was sure that they both felt very good about this unspoken interaction.

After the movie, Joe and Julia walked to different trains. When it was time to split directions, they stood on a corner and talked for some time about many things. They were honest and candid with each other. Julia wanted to pick up Joe and carry him around, but instead they talked and said goodnight and parted. As she walked away from Joe, Julia felt calm.

*

Julia sat in the doorframe smoking a cigarette while Connor sat on the couch singing and playing guitar. Connor played the guitar funny, with a pick that went over his thumb like a ring. Julia was amused by the way his hand moved while he played. She smoked and mostly looked out toward the street.

Julia wanted everything to be very quiet. Nothing was very quiet. She pulled her pink scarf over her mouth.

*

“Do you ever get sick of people?” Julia asked Joe.

“Mmmm. I don’t know.”

“I can’t stand anyone for more than a day or two in a row,” Julia said. “I feel like a bad person.”

Joe sat on his bed with Julia, typing on his computer. They sat silent for a while. Julia felt okay about everything momentarily.

“I don’t have any friends from more than a year ago,” Joe said.

It was silent again. Julia and Joe rarely acknowledged what each other said. They both seemed to feel okay about it.

“Except for the internet,” Joe added.

Julia pushed her face into the bed. She curled into fetal position next to Joe. Julia felt a wave of nervousness while she thought about what Joe just said and what it inevitably meant. In a year Julia still wanted to be friends with Joe. She felt very tenderly towards Joe. Julia felt her throat swell a little as she thought about Joe being sick of her friendship. Julia thought about how it is pointless to try and break people of their social habits and thought also that she should in some way emotionally prepare to be disliked by Joe within the year.

“my friends are assholes,” Julia thought.

Julia had developed feelings about Joe that were very similar to both her best friend in the Midwest and her retarded brother. Julia had a strong feeling of protective platonic love for Joe. She recently had a sex dream about Joe, that was not particularly alarming or worrisome. Julia had wondered if Joe had ever had a sex dream about her, although it was “neither here nor there” as Julia saw it.

As Julia and Joe sat on his bed, people kept poking their heads into Joe’s bedroom and making asinine conversation. A comment would be said and when Julia and Joe stared at the head without saying anything the head would disappear. After the door had shut Joe and Julia would glance very briefly at each other and laugh. This happened a few times in the evening before Julia decided she should stop ignoring her lover, Connor, who was in the living room with a small group of people, who were waiting for her to watch the movie she demanded they watch.

“I’m going to watch the movie now,” Julia said.

Joe nodded.

“Can I read your personal ad when you are finished?” she asked.

“I stopped writing it. I didn’t know what to say.”

“It’s hard to know what you want. Well, goodnight then Joe.”

“Mmmm. Goodnight.”

Julia walked to the door. She did this very slowly, because she did not want to leave Joe’s room at all. She wanted to continue to lie on his bed and watch him type or stare at the walls while Joe played a mix CD of his favorite songs. While she walked to the door Julia thought about lying in Joe’s bed and listening to those songs and wondering if they sounded good because they reminded her of her first boyfriend who she missed only in theory, or if they sounded good because she knew that Joe loved them, or if they sounded good because they were nice songs.

Julia left the room.

*

When Julia walked into the subway car, they stopped talking until she sat on a bench with two of them, but for the most part away from the mass. There were roughly 20 teenaged boys, all fairly good looking. They were loud and rowdy and had chased most of the passengers to the opposite end of the car.

Julia watched people get on and make furious or terrified faces while they made steady for the safe end of the train. She felt people looking at her. She thought she also felt them thinking “why doesn’t she move?” Julia had just left work. She was tired and did not want to stand, so she remained next to the frightening boys.

One of them pointed at Julia. She turned up the volume on her music. After the boy had pointed her out many of the boys screamed “OooOOOoOOO!” and Julia felt a little nervous. Soon though, the boys didn’t notice she was there anymore.

Julia was watching the teenaged boys, not thinking about much. All at once, they began to stomp and clap a rhythm. It went STOMP STOMP CLAP, then they all screamed “AHHH!” When they all screamed together like that, not much else could be heard. One of the boys stood up in the center of them all and did a funny dance. They all screamed and went back to the rhythm. After that another got up and did a funny dance. This happened over and over again. Julia relaxed and continued to think about nothing.

Very suddenly all the boys stood up at once and rushed to a very small corner of the train. They were all screaming now. Julia thought about Lord Of The Flies, a book she had to read in high school. She was stoned most of the time in high school, so she did not remember much about the book, other than it frightened her. The swarm of teenaged boys made her feel afraid the same way that book had made her afraid. Julia had never seen so many bodies moving so close together in such a small space. She was sure something violent was happening in the middle of it all, but couldn’t see clearly. There were no cries or pleas. A few of the boys held up cameras to take pictures of what was happening in the center of them. The train pulled up to the Pacific/Atlantic stop and the doors opened while the boys were still piled in the corner. Most of them filtered out the door very quickly; only a few stayed on the train. It was suddenly very quiet as the train pulled away and Julia felt her heart beating incredibly fast.

She was on her way to meet Joe at a reading and wanted badly to tell him what she had just experienced, but realized it was probably too difficult and long of a story to bother. She was nearly positive she was not capable of telling him in a way that was interesting. She decided against telling Joe about her train ride.

*

Julia and Robert sat on the steps of the bar that Robert was to be reading at in about an hour. Robert had his computer on his lap and was checking his email, which he checks around 87 times a day. Robert gets very anxious if he cannot check his email for even a small period of time.

Julia was on the phone with John. She was wearing a vintage dress that felt a little too tight, but flattered her figure in a nice way and made her feel confident. Her hair was braided and pinned up in a old fashioned way; a crown of braids encircled her head and soft curls formed at the sides even though she had spent a long time straightening it earlier to avoid this.

“Uh huh... yeah... no, I understand... I get it... alright... uh huh... okay bye,” Julia said quietly, because she was quite embarrassed.

Robert put his hand on Julia’s shoulders while she listened to what she had listened to a few times before from other people. He pushed his hand gently back and fourth over her neck and shoulder blades while her eyes welled up. It happened frequently, but Julia was always very touched when Robert showed her he cared for her. She sniffled and hung up the phone quickly, not wanting to hear any more explanation about “timing.”

“I’m sorry baby,” Robert said.

“Oh shit. It’s fine. We both saw it coming, ya know? So it’s fine, yeah its fine.”

Julia put her head in her knees while Robert rubbed her shoulders some more. A few minutes later Joe arrived, because he was also reading. Julia felt relief because she didn’t feel like talking to anyone just then, and Joe does not do a lot of talking. Joe made a funny face and smiled at Julia. She leapt and fled down the steps to Joe, stopped just before him, and petted his head. He flinched a little, but corrected his instincts and allowed Julia to greet him how she usually does. Robert came down and they walked down the street together.

“I’m on the prowl tonight, I’m going to fuck someone,” Julia told Robert and Joe.

“Why?” Joe said. He sounded irritated with Julia.

“My self-esteem is bad right now. It will make me feel better.”

Joe and Robert wanted to stop in the organic co-op that they walked by. Julia was smoking and stayed outside. As the door shut behind Robert, Julia began to cry uncontrollably. It was not dramatic with sobs and heaving. Her eyes welled quickly and tears were pouring down her face. An old woman with an old poodle walked by and asked if she was okay. Julia nodded and wiped her tears. She touched her scarf to her eyes to be sure that her mascara had not run and that there would be no visible traces of her unfortunate state.

As they walked back down the block they passed a small dark bar. Julia could feel another wave of tears swelling so she quickly said good-bye to Joe and Robert and fled to the little cave that seemed comforting. When she ordered a glass of wine at the bar, she sounded like an idiot, she was sure. She didn’t have it in her to flirt and be charismatic but she tried out of habit anyways. Julia moved to a tiny table in the corner and faced away from the room so she could cry unashamed. It was not often Julia had the urge to weep like this so she wanted badly to indulge in it. She felt extreme, sitting at the table quietly weeping. She hated the idea of Joe and Robert seeing her look so pathetic, being that she tends to think of them like uncontrollable little brothers, especially when together. The relief of being alone made her despair seem endless. Julia drank her wine and was resigned to being overly emotional and indulgent for just a few more minutes. She stared at the wall and wiped her face occasionally with her pink scarf, which was now littered with snot and mascara marks.

Julia had a two-week love affair with John before he realized he was too busy for her. In the last year Julia had many two-week love affairs, none of which she had ended herself. When she met John, Julia had decided to immediately indulge full force in his affections. Normally Julia tries to dissuade people from being too kind to her, but she had been feeling exhausted and weak when she met him and allowed him to dote an unreasonable amount. Julia touched her neck at the table and was very happy to find that for the first time in many days she had not worn the necklace John had given her. Julia was going to take it off if it was indeed there, but since it wasn’t she used her fingertips to feel the jutting outline of her collar bone.

Amanda sat at Julia’s table. Julia was still weeping and hadn’t seen Amanda come in. She looked at Amanda, startled and embarrassed. Amanda had a beautiful soft face and lots of curly brown hair hanging all over it. She was small and Julia had decided she liked Amanda since the first time she met her a few months ago. There was something child-like about the way Amanda moved and talked and it made Julia have irrationally tender feelings for her. Julia wanted everyone she knew to be her little siblings. She thought about babysitting all of her friends and them all adoring her the way children adore a babysitter that was more fun than their parents.

“Joe told me you were sad,” Amanda said.

Julia tried to respond. What was formerly weeping turned into ugly guttural sobs while Julia desperately tried to compose herself to explain that it wasn’t really a big deal, she was just being indulgent. She failed horribly, but Amanda seemed to pick up fragments of what she was saying and occasionally interjected something comforting. Julia slowly felt more and more calm. Soon she was not crying. The two women talked about burning boxes of ex-boyfriends and future ex-husbands gifts and agreed that burning gifts is a right reserved for sixteen year old girls and middle aged divorcees. Julia told Amanda about someone who was going to be at the reading later whom she wanted to fuck. Amanda was supportive of this. They both knew Julia did not have the heart to be aggressive with a man that evening. It was very obvious that she was not going to have sex with anyone. However, they agreed that sleeping around could be good for your self-esteem.

*

Julia came home at six in the morning. She quietly walked to her bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. She looked at the walls, and then spent an indefinite amount of time looking at small objects lying about on shelves and her desk. Julia took speed ten hours previous to arriving home. Her face felt hot. She held her jaw, which was swollen and sore on the right side. Julia lay on her back and began to weep.

She closed her eyes for a moment. Sleep was not coming. Julia looked down at her stomach and saw her heart beat near her belly button. The train ride home was over an hour long and the entire time she told herself repeatedly that things would feel better when she was home. Things were not better. They were worse.

Julia called Robert.

“Hey,” she sobbed, “will you come over?”

Robert sounded sleepy.

“Yeah, one sec babe.”

Robert hung up. Julia walked to the kitchen and lit a cigarette. She began to sob again. She could scarcely touch her back to the chair because of the extensive bruising. She hunched over, protectively, holding her cigarette, but not smoking, until Robert arrived.

Julia stared. She stared and thought about when she was young and used to lay on her back and stare up at the leaves of the very giant oak tree in the backyard in Minnesota. In her mind she saw those leaves look almost translucent and shiny. She saw them sway. Julia kept her mind off how horrific things could be by thinking of the oak leaves. Robert would be over soon, and he would hug her while she cried, and he wouldn’t inquire about details, like where a significant chunk of her hair had gone, or why there was dried blood on her fingertips. She could sob and feel safe with Robert. Soon enough.

*

“What’s wrong?” Nicole asked.

Julia looked startled.

“Nothing, I was just thinking about Tristan, actually,” Julia said.

She tried her best to look extremely happy, because she did not indeed feel very bad at all.

“Sometimes when you stare off thinking, you look very sad.”

“I know, James used to say that too.”

Nicole gave Julia a smile that seemed to say, “I know something is wrong, but I understand if you are not ready to talk about it.” Julia thought very hard for a while about whether or not there was something wrong that she had not yet noticed. Nothing came to mind at the moment.