The house had an inventory of visitors. Visitors were not considered guests until every house resident (Katelyn, Jodie and Pam) knew them by name or address. Once visitors left – after dinner parties or movie marathons – the residents would discuss the inventory and establish mutual acquaintances:
“Lisa moved here last week, right? I saw her at Starbucks yesterday,” said Katelyn as she circled Lisa’s printed name on the list.
“You don’t like her, do you? You didn’t even invite her,” Jodie snapped.
“Jodie’s right! Lisa came with Hannah, who I invited!” Pam, who was pouring herself a cup of tea, glared at Katelyn.
“I can’t ask about her?” Katelyn folded the list and put it in her back pocket.
That weekend, the girls hosted a pool party and invited everyone on the block. Strangers with smile-plastered faces and artificial twangs in their voice, walked in one-by-one and huddled in the living room. Women decked out in lavender and yellow dresses wore their bathing suits underneath. Men wore white or blue v-neck t-shirts, swimming trunks and flip flops. Jodie and Pam stood like gargoyles, separately, on either side of the back door that led to the pool. They gazed out at their visitors (only guests were allowed in the pool).
Katelyn paced the front porch, smoking a cigarette. Visitors came up the steps, acknowledged Katelyn, waved, smiled and shook her ash-free hand. She just smiled – without showing teeth – and continued to tease her taste buds with tobacco.
A few moments later, Katelyn saw Lisa leave one of the apartment complexes from across the street. Her dirty blonde hair was tied back; she was wearing jeans and a red tank top. Before stepping off the sidewalk, she quickly looked both ways, slipped her hand in her pocket, and began walking across the street towards Katelyn’s townhouse.
“Hey.” Katelyn whispered.
Lisa looked down at her watch.
“Hey,” Katelyn put out her cigarette and started to walk down the steps.
Lisa stepped up on the sidewalk and turned left.
“Hey!” Katelyn jumped off the last step.
Lisa stepped back. “Oh, hey.”
“What are you up to?” Katelyn slipped her hand in her back pocket. She felt the inventory list.
“I’m about to get some coffee. Want to -?”
“Nice. Yeah, people are over for a pool party.”
Lisa nodded her head and smiled.
“Want to come in?” Katelyn slouched forward.
“I’m not really dressed to swim -”
“No one is in the pool! We are all just talking.”
Lisa laughed. “Whose ‘we?’ Shouldn’t you go in there and speak to your guests?”
“If they were my guests, they’d be in the pool.” Katelyn paused. “Do you want to come in or not -”
Katelyn and Lisa looked over. There stood Pam in the doorway. She was wearing a black shawl over her shoulders. She had knotted the ends of her shawl across her chest, conveniently covering her cleavage. Her bathing suit top – overwhelmed by her bust – was two sizes too small. “Some of our guests are ready to swim, will you be joining us?” She smiled at Katelyn. Her eyes shifted to Lisa, who retrieved her cellphone from back pocket. Turning away from Katelyn, Lisa answered her phone.
“Yeah. I’ll-I’ll be in soon.” Katelyn looked over at Lisa who was slowly walking down the sidewalk, with her head down.
“You can smoke by the pool, Kate.” Pam removed her shawl. Pink lines traced her bathing suit’s straps. Her breasts were packed tight into her top yet, the skin beneath her arms look puffed. If Pam were to raise her arms above her head, the townhouse would be visitor-free at least until Winter.
Lisa swiveled to face Katelyn. “Sorry about that, I actually have to run. I’m meeting my-”
“Yeah. Yeah! Go. It’s okay.” Katelyn lit another cigarette.
“You weren’t invited anyway,” Pam mumbled.
Katelyn glared at her. Pam rolled her eyes and walked back into the house.
“Are you doing anything tomorrow night?” Katelyn asked. “I’m making lasagna.” Jitters, down her shoulder to her wrist’s base, enveloped her right arm. Each inhale of tobacco gave the anxiety a pulse; the more she smoked, the more jitters came. With the more jitters came patches of goosebumps that spread up her arm – from the wrist’s base – down her back and circled her abdomen. The taste of tobacco was light, almost like the cigarette was never lit. Her habit was broken by conversation.
“I don’t think I am. What time do you want me to come over?”
Katelyn dropped her cigarette. Lisa looked down. “You’re already done with that?” She leaned down and picked it up.
“You can have it.” Katelyn said.
“I don’t smoke, actually.” Lisa dropped the cigarette and stepped on it.
“Yeah. I’m trying to quit.” The jitters slowed down and the shawl of goosebumps had receded back to her shoulder blades.
“Good for you. Does seven work?” Lisa started typing on her phone.
“I’ll be here.” Katelyn smiled, showing teeth.
“It’s a date then.” Walking down the sidewalk, Lisa turned and shouted, “I hope I’ll see your pool before it gets too cold!”
“You’re invited anytime.” Katelyn shouted back.
Katelyn went inside the townhouse and closed the door behind her. She closed her eyes and sighed. Opening her eyes again, she saw that the living room was still packed with people. Each visitor was holding an empty glass and gazed at Katelyn, waiting for service.
“There you are!” Jodie came hustling through the crowd – pushing people, bumping children in the jaw with her heavy-set hips. “Don’t you want to meet our guests?” she asked once she got up to Katelyn.
“Sure.” Katelyn looked at the crowd of people. “Why aren’t they outside?”
Jodie tugged on Katelyn’s arm, brought her mouth to Katelyn’s ear and whispered,”These are our visitors. Hannah and this girl, Amy from my work are in the pool with us.”
Katelyn stood up. “Why won’t you at least talk to these people?”
Jodie pulled her over to the door that led to the pool. “What is going on with you? We have always done this! We must all consent on who we consider guests and who we consider visitors.”
“I didn’t consent about anything! I’ve never spoken to Hannah. I have no idea who Amy is.”
“Then come out and meet them! You’re wasting our time.”
“Your time? You’re wasting their time!” Katelyn gestured towards the people gathered in the living room. “If you don’t want to get to know them, and I never was acquainted with Amy or Hannah, how are they any different?”
“My guests are allowed in the pool! That’s the difference!” Jodie yelled.
The room grew silent. All of the visitors cocked their heads towards Jodie. Jodie looked back at them, then at Katelyn, and then back at the visitors. “If you’re going to eavesdrop, then leave!” She yelled back.
Katelyn pushed Jodie against the door. “Don’t talk to them like that!” She stepped back. “Get to know them.”
“They don’t deserve to know me!” She stood up. “They don’t deserve to be in my house.”
“Then stop inviting them. If someone steps inside my house, they deserve respect.”
“Not if they are on the inventory list!”
Katelyn retrieved the list from her back pocket, “What list?” and ripped it in half.
The rip was heard amongst the visitors, the two guests and the remaining house residents. Pam ran into the living room, towel wrapped around waist and belly-flopped onto the hardwood floor. She grabbed one wrinkled half of the list and cried. Jodie pushed Katelyn, making her trip and slam her back against the wall. The visitors cheered as they stampeded towards the backdoor, stepping on and bruising Pam’s back, which was never suitable for a spine.
Laughing and gossiping was shared amongst the now guests in and by the pool. Jodie scurried upstairs with a pad of paper and pen, hoping to recreate the inventory list. No names or addresses came to mind. She never cared to ask or to remember. Katelyn poured everyone a glass of lemonade and offered finger sandwiches that Pam had made the night before on a plate marked: “For my guests only.”
“Hey again,” said a voice from behind accompanied with a shoulder touch.
Katelyn turned to find Lisa. Her hair was now down, framing her face with curls. She had a yellow shawl over her shoulders that was knotted across her chest; the knot was not necessary.
“Didn’t expect it to be this busy. I had the feeling you guys allowed just V.I.P back here.” She chuckled and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Not anymore,” Katelyn glanced at the ground and then looked back up at Lisa.
They smiled at each other and sighed simultaneously. The goosebumps raced down Katelyn’s spine, but the jitters were long gone.
“Are you hungry? I’d be more than happy to make you something.”
“Oh, no! Just thought I’d stop by. I can still come over for dinner tomorrow, right?” Lisa twirled a lose thread from her shawl around her finger, tugging on it occasionally.
Katelyn smiled, knowing she was nervous too. “Of course.” She said, “You can come over whenever you want.”