Sylvia leaned over the arm of the couch and stretched. “Oh my god, you guys, I am so hungover today. Like, seriously, I was up ALL night. That party was banging.” She licked her lips and smiled smugly. “For real – everyone was there.”
“Yeah, we could hear,” Olevander grumbled from where he lay stretched out on the carpet. “I’m sure the whole neighborhood heard you and your stupid friends.”
Sylvia sat up and glared. “Don’t be jealous just because you’re bald and ugly and no one likes you.”
Olevander rolled his eyes. “I’m not jealous that you went out and partied again. I’m just wondering why you think you’re so special, that you don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else.”
“Um, Chelsea never said I had to stay inside while she was gone.” Sylvia gestured around the room at everyone else. “That rule is for you chumps.”
“Hey, I’m not a chump,” said Freddie. “I just prefer to follow the rules. It keeps me safe. I don’t know what’s happening out there and I don’t want to know. I am perfectly happy to stay right here in my little castle. For the rest of my life, if need be.”
A violent ripping sound caused everyone to look across the room, where Barry was angrily ripping apart an old cardboard box. “Well I am SICK and TIRED of being cooped up in here! This place is a prison!”
Sylvia lazily scratched an itch on her belly. “Geez, Barry, get a grip.”
“She said she’d be back in a couple of days. You all heard her, right? A COUPLE of DAYS. It’s been almost a week! I’m going out of my mind here! There’s nothing left to do in this stinking place!” He flung the remains of the box away. “Sylvia, next time you go out to one of your parties, I’m coming, too.”
Sylvia laughed. “Oh, Barry, please. You know you wouldn’t last a minute with all my friends. They’d eat you alive, baby doll. Look, everyone just needs to calm down, ok? Chelsea said she’d be back, so she’ll be back. Not that I even care.”
“Oh, get over yourself,” Olevander said, scooching closer to Sylvia. “I’ve seen the way you look at her when she gets home after she’s been gone all day. Finding little excuses to follow her to her bedroom or bump up against her while she’s making dinner.”
“What are y’all talkin’ ‘bout out here?” said Mike, emerging from his bedroom.
“Ugh, nothing. Mind your own business.”
Olevander smirked. “Sylvia’s just worried about Chelsea, although she’s pretending not to be.”
Mike shrugged. “Hey, we’re all worried about Chelsea. She’s been gone a while, but she’ll be back. She always comes back.”
“She better be back with some snacks and some new toys!” shouted Barry, who was back to ripping the cardboard box into confetti.
“Hey, you want some snacks? I got snacks,” Mike offered. “I got snacks all over the place. You want some crackers? I got all kinds of crackers. I got dried fruit – mostly mangoes, but there might be some other stuff. Uh, let’s see, what else do I got?”
“Gross, Mike, nobody wants your old prepper’s stash,” Sylvia said as she chewed on a nail. “Do you even know where all that stuff is? Do you even keep any sort of inventory?”
Mike looked offended. “Of course I do! I keep the perishables with my bed stuff and the non-perishables with my bathroom stuff.”
Sylvia rolled her eyes. “See? Gross. You’re better off just waiting, Barry.”
There was a tapping sound at the window that opened onto the fire escape. Sylvia sat up straight. “Is that her?”
Freddie, who was over in the kitchen, had the best view. “It’s just Frank, you guys,” he whispered.
Everyone groaned. “Stay quiet and maybe he’ll go away,” Olevander said as he tried to make himself as small as possible.
“Guys? Hey guys?” Frank said, tapping at the glass again. “I know you’re in there, guys. Come on, don’t do me like this. Let me in!”
Sylvia rolled her eyes. “Forget it, Frank! We’re not taking any chances with you.”
“Last time we let you in, you wrecked the entire place and Chelsea got mad and blamed us!” said Barry.
“Come on, guys,” Frank begged. “It’s so lonely out here. Everyone stays inside all the time now. There’s nothing to do.”
“Why don’t you go trash someone else’s apartment?” said Olevander.
“I promise I won’t do it again!” Frank said. “And look, I’m even wearing a mask. I came prepared. Please?”
Sylvia sauntered over to the window and frowned. “Masks only work if you wear them right, stupid. That’s barely covering your face at all.”
“It’s the best I can do, all right?”
Frank stretched his neck to look past Sylvia. “Barry? Olevander? Buddies? Come on, I want to hang out with you.”
Olevander peeked his head out. “Sylvia said she’s going to another party tonight. Maybe you could join her.” He smirked and retreated back behind the coffee table.
“Is that true, Sylvia?”
She stamped her foot and scowled. “Damnit, Ollie—”
But just then, the front door opened and there, finally, was Chelsea.
“Shit,” cursed Frank and he ran back down the fire escape.
She stood there looking hungry, bedraggled, and exhausted, but to Sylvia, she had never looked better. She leaped into Chelsea’s arms and rubbed her face against her neck. “I missed you, I missed you, I missed you,” she purred.
“I’m so sorry, my babies,” Chelsea moaned, dropping to her knees. Holding Sylvia in one arm, she scooped up Olevander with the other. “Aw, don’t hide, Ollie,” she said, peeking into his shell. “I couldn’t help it. I got trapped in Minneapolis. I got here as soon as I could, I swear. I’m just glad you guys are ok.”
She tapped some fresh flakes into Freddie’s bowl and put Mike in his ball to roll around for a bit. She took Barry out of his cage and let him fly around the apartment for the rest of the day. She even took pity on Frank and threw some leftover fried chicken off the fire escape and down into the alley, where he nervously crouched on top of a dumpster, waiting for someone to play with him.