Every Friday, The Gloss is publishing a chapter of Andrea Dunlop’s novel, The Summer of Small Accidents. Catch up with Chapter 1 and if you decide you simply can’t wait for next week’s installment, you can buy the ebook here. Happy reading!
On the Sunday after the roof-deck party Leigh met her friend Lulu for drinks at the Cornelia Street Cafe. Someone named Samuel whom Lulu had gone to college with was reading his poetry as part of a showcase. Leigh had met him once or twice and instinctively disliked him. He was a skinny, angry, overgrown boy whose face was always pulled tightly into a kind of glower, ready to go on the defensive at any second. He was snarling and abrasively political about issues that she knew nothing about but wasn’t convinced that he did either. He was the kind of person who would spit out statistics like the gross national product of Azerbaijan or the infant mortality rate of Namibia with the fervor of the devoted and she would find herself just dying to be able to triumphantly correct him, but he seemed to stick to obscure enough factoids to negate the possibility of this. Leigh didn’t want to endure this kind of assault in the form of poetry and thus, agreed to meet Lulu only afterwards.
Lulu and Leigh had lunch most days at Heighton House but still seemed to find plenty to talk outside of that. It was the kind of friendship Leigh had not had since she was much younger and something she had never expected to find in New York. When Leigh arrived Lulu was already sitting at a table in the window with a glass of white wine in front of her. One of Leigh’s favorite things about summer was the way that the restaurants opened their walls like flower petals, suddenly taking over the sidewalk with chairs and tables and displaying their attractive patrons in their sundresses and linen pants. It made her constantly envious of people in restaurants, even if she had just come from one.
“Hello,” Lulu said.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” Leigh said squeezing into the chair next to her. She indicated to the hovering waiter that she would like a glass of whatever white wine Lulu was drinking. Lulu’s hair was wet and pulled back away from her face, her eyes were an unusual shade of light chestnut brown that gave her face a slightly exotic look and in the waning sunlight they seemed to almost glow. Lulu was very slender in a way that women were very envious of but, as she was quick to point out, was not the thing that really got the boys drooling. It was true that she was not everyone’s cup of tea and somehow Leigh thought that men must expect when they saw her coming that she would be a little quiet and unassuming, which predisposed them for a shock the first time she opened her mouth. The men who liked her however, were completely crazy for her which Leigh thought was actually preferable to having a more universal appeal.
Leigh had first met Lulu at a special breakfast meeting with Randal Pierce that all new hires were invited to at some point or another during their first six months at Heighton House. A pack of mostly twenty-somethings, all over-dressed with the exception of Lulu, who was wore jeans and fitted blazer with leather patches on the elbows, had been seated around the large conference table on the top floor. They had grazed on fresh fruit and a mediocre selection of pastries, taking surreptitious looks at the company’s legendary CEO who was chatting amiably with the person to his left, waiting until everyone was settled in to address the group. Leigh had been seated to the left of Lulu but hadn’t particularly taken notice of her. She was anxiously rearranging her skirt under her haunches where it was sticking to her skin in a maddening and uncomfortable way when Lulu startled her by suddenly leaning over to say something.
“I like the vest,” Lulu had whispered to Leigh in a way that made it seem like they’d already met, that is to say without an ounce of the reticence with which strangers usually address each other.
“Do you think he always wears a three piece suit?” she’d asked. Lulu had chin length dark hair and a pleasant face, made more interesting by its expression, a slightly mischievous but welcoming smile. It was the face of a person who is up to something, but probably nothing bad.
Leigh had shrugged, “Every time I’ve seen him.”
“That’s nice,” Lulu had said, “handsome older man in a bespoke suit. I like that, it’s…dapper. Not enough men can really pull off dapper.”
Lulu had peered at the nametag that was propped up in front of Leigh.
“Leigh,” she’d said, “spelled the long way, I like that. I’m a big fan of having a few unnecessary letters in names; it’s so boring when they’re purely phonetic.”
Leigh thought for a moment that she was being sarcastic but then decided she wasn’t. She didn’t seem that way which Leigh was glad about; too often people used badly thought-out sarcasm as an excuse for humor.
“Mine doesn’t have any extras, just the ‘E’ but like, everybody has a useless ‘e’ in their name. Fucking ubiquitous E right?”
Leigh peered at her name tag which plainly said Lulu, no e.
“Oh yeah sorry, my full name is Luanne, with an ‘e’. I know, it’s awful right? It’s all ‘Luanne you got a hitch in your giddalong? Baby needs feedin’!’ or something, so I go by Lulu though my mother won’t call me by that since I’m named after some really mean dead relative who I think everyone is still afraid of,” she’d paused thoughtfully, “The superfluous ‘igh’ –that’s awesome, that’s special. Except when it’s used instead of a ‘y’, like Ashleigh? That’s just retarded.”
Leigh had laughed though she wasn’t sure she understood the exact distinction. “You’re very particular about it, huh?” she’d asked. Lulu had grinned at her.
The girls had had lunch together in the cafeteria later that day and almost every day after that for the past two years. Lulu lived in an apartment with two roommates in the far reaches of Harlem, one of the only neighborhoods anyone living on an assistant’s salary could afford. She was from Illinois and she had the occasional charming flourish of a Midwestern accent, particularly when incensed- which never made it a good time to point it out or, as Leigh was always tempted to do, just go ahead and laugh out loud.