In the past seven days, Zoey has eaten three batches of chocolate chip cookies and seven tubs of ice cream. She started off by making cookies, because she has always believed in the therapeutic power of baking. But this morning, she pulls the newest Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie (now with extra nuts) out of the freezer and rips off the plastic rim around the lid without any hesitation whatsoever. Usually she can make a whole tub last through at least four episodes of Gossip Girl, but she is particularly hungry this morning.
She has just gotten up to return to the freezer when she hears the doorbell ring. Her head jerks up and she very narrowly avoids hitting her head on the fridge door. Her mother shouldn’t be home from work for hours yet. The doorbell rings again, meaning that Zoey can’t pretend she just imagined it anymore, so she sticks the giant soupspoon into the top of her ice cream and walks down the hallway.
“Zoey, I know you’re in there,” the person yells. Zoey’s head jerks again as she recognises the voice. It’s not a surprise, really. In fact, she was expecting this a lot earlier.
“It took a lot of effort to get up here, Zo, I had to bribe an old lady–”
“What old lady?” Zoey asks. It has been seven days since she’s had a proper conversation with an actual human being, so she is easily tempted.
“You know, the one who lives down the hall.”
“You bribed her?”
“How exactly do you bribe an old lady?”
“I’m coming back tomorrow to walk her dogs.”
Zoey unlocks the door.
“That’s almost kind of nice,” Zoey says.
“Well,” Codie says, staring at Zoey’s unwashed hair and butterfly-patterned pyjamas, “I figured that this would take more than one day to fix, so I may as well make my visits worthwhile.”
Zoey goes back to her ice cream.
“Oh, my God, how are you living in here? Seriously Zo, you gotta open some windows in here. It reeks.”
“Gee, thanks,” Zoey groans, getting back into bed.
“No! No bed. Bad Zoey.” Codie tries to drag her out of bed and is surprisingly successful at it. Actually, it isn’t really much of a surprise, given that Zoey hasn’t done anything except sleep and eat ice cream for the last week so her strength isn’t really what it used to be.
“What are you doing?” Zoey complains. “I’m wallowing. It’s normal.”
“It is definitely not normal. You are acting like somebody died.”
“Something did die!”
“Oh, my God, nothing died.”
“My one chance at happiness died.”
“You are the biggest drama queen I know, and that’s saying a lot.”
“You take that back right now, or I swear to God–”
“Or what? You’ll fling your ridiculous utensil at me?”
“It’s a soupspoon, it’s perfectly normal–”
“None of this is normal!”
Zoey collapses back onto her bed.
“Alright then, what is normal? Surely having a mourning period is normal.”
“Yes, a brief mourning period is normal. I will allow that.”
“But it’s been seven days. That’s enough. You need to pick yourself up, get back to normal–”
“God, you keep using that word! Like I wouldn’t give anything—anything!—to be normal right now.”
“A normal person would be out celebrating the end of exams, the end of high school with her lovely, large group of friends and her very cute boyfriend. But I can’t do that, okay?” Zoey glares at Codie, aware of how uncomfortable she suddenly looks. “I can’t do that.”
“I know, Zo.” Codie doesn’t look frustrated with her anymore. Codie looks about as sad as Zoey has felt for the past seven days.
“I feel like I’m falling apart and it’s just pathetic,” Zoey says. “Believe me, I didn’t want to turn into one of those girls who just falls apart along with their relationship.”
“But,” she sobs. “Here I am.”
“So, how are you going to fix me?” Zoey asks after another episode of Suits.
“Fix you?” Codie bats her eyelashes and stares at Zoey with her big brown eyes.
“I know you have a plan. You may as well tell me.”
“It’s a suggestion, not a plan.”
“Like your suggestion to switch from Gossip Girl to Suits? I know what you’re trying to do.”
“Alright, I have a plan. This is phase one.”
“I knew it!” Zoey jumps up triumphantly. “Wait, there are phases? What’s phase two?”
Codie pulls a bright yellow flyer out of her bag.
“Oh, no,” Zoey says. “You are not dragging me along to that theatre of yours. I have resisted for so many summers. Not in a million years.”
“Oh, yes,” Codie says.
“Zoey Tran?” A woman looks up from her clipboard, scanning the waiting room to try and identify Zoey. She stands up and smooths down her yellow dress.
“That’s me.” She hands over her sheet music and looks back at Codie, who squeals and crosses her fingers. Zoey shoots daggers back at her. She walks into the theatre and is greeted by three people sitting at a table. They introduce themselves and ask what she will be singing. Zoey answers their questions and doesn’t think much of it. She wonders how soon she can be home in bed eating ice cream again.
But then the lights shut off and Zoey can’t even see the panel anymore. The accompanist starts playing her song and Zoey feels something other than sadness for the first time in seven days.
Because Zoey doesn’t have to be anything out here. She isn’t the girl who ate nothing but cookies or somebody’s girlfriend or a 99.95 or a 75.05. None of that matters. In fact, nothing matters at all, except her, on the stage, in the spotlight. This is a moment, just for her. And she is finally ready to take it.