I’m lying on my couch, holding my phone above my face. My eyes are glued to the little “Saved” counter on my profile on the Fantastik Comics website. In the time since I got home, the number had gone above 1,000.
The front door opens and closes as Kara gets home from work. The unique jangling of her keys tells me she’s carrying something in her hands.
“Jules! I bought food!” She yells out, probably assuming I’m in my room.
“I also used the money from your account to do it…” she says more quietly, not realizing I’m on the couch.
I don’t react to this though. I’m still too focused on the rising number on my profile. I have an audience now. There are going to be people looking at my art just because a stupid, haughty, well dressed stranger told them to. That’s pressure I don’t need.
“JULES!” Kara yells up the stairs.
“I’m over here.”
She pops her head in the living room, holding what looks to be takeout. We probably should have just got groceries, but I’m not exactly complaining either.
“What are you doing in here? I figured you’d be obsessing over your computer.”
“I didn’t make it that far. I got caught on my phone here.”
She sits down next to me, setting the bag of food on the table. She holds out her hand, and I place my phone in it.
The light shines and flickers across her face as she flicks down to refresh the page.
“A lot of people have been looking at your profile…”
She jumps off the couch, eyes glimmering with energy.
“This is amazing! See, you have a following now! I told you your art would be good enough!”
I snatch the phone out of her hand. I tap the screen, perform a quick search, and hand it back to her.
“It wasn’t me. It was him.”
Kara takes the phone and sifts through the artwork Tobias had submitted. She seems impressed, but her face contorts with furrowed brow.
“I don’t understand.”
I explain everything that happened at Michael’s shop while we eat. When I mention that Tobias has comic strips that go viral online, her face lights up with understanding.
“Oh! I think I’ve seen one of those. Never really thought about who drew it though.”
She pulls out her phone and starts scrolling through it likely, to show me.
“Yeah, it’s just, I don’t know how to feel about this. On one hand, this is likely the only way I was going to move forward in the contest. On the other, it feels wrong that I only got by on a chance encounter.”
Kara finishes finding the comic and hands me her phone. It looks like someone else edited the word bubbles to make a funny meme, but I don’t think I get it.
“You gotta relax, buddy. Successful people often work hard, but they all got a lucky break somewhere along the way. Maybe this is yours?”
I finish scrolling through the comic and set her phone down.
“But is this a lucky break, or is it just cheating?”
Kara throws her hands in the air.
“I give up. You’re completely hopeless.”
“Hey!” I exclaim.
Kara stands and walks away, taking her takeout box with her.
“You’re hopeless. You catch a lucky break, and decide to sit there, over analyzing it. Do you know how badly some people would love to be you right now?!”
“But I didn’t get there on my own! What kind of man am I if-”
“What are you even talking about?! ‘What kind of man are you?’” She mocks. “You’re the kind who doesn’t know what he wants, and is too afraid to go for it when he does, and when he’s forced to have what he wants, he asks if he deserves it.”
“I mean, you don’t need to say it like that.”
She sets the takeout on a counter, and turns to face me.
“What was the name of the last guy I tried going out with?”
“It was Rodrigo, right?”
I’m not sure what just happened here? What is her point?
“His name was Rodney.” Her voice is low. Quiet.
“Why does this matter? You shut him down because you thought he was boring, didn’t you?”
“Yes! But you don’t care enough about me to ask why I haven’t tried finding someone since. You haven’t asked why I started picking up more shifts.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. I’ve been sitting here worried sick about this art contest and Michael and I couldn’t tell you what my best friend was doing the last few weeks outside of work and talking me through my shit.
“Jules, my mom cut me off.”
“She wasn’t exactly happy that I dropped out of college. We’ve been going back and forth for months, but she finally pulled the trigger.”
“Kara, I’m so sor-”
“I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear how sorry you are. I just want you to stop being so damn sorry for yourself.”