Envy Adams – the Canadian Taylor Swift
“The what?” hisses Envy. She drops her tablet, furious.
“The Canadian – She's like five years younger than me! We're not even in the same genre for fuck's sake!”
“You tell 'em, babe,” mumbles Andrew, her current boyfriend and twenty-one year old boy band sensation.
Envy squints at him. They're in his New York penthouse, Envy still curled in a fortress of blankets and pillows, and Andrew sprawled out on the floor on a – frankly – hideous white faux fur rug. He's playing FIFA and wearing a pair of socks pulled up to midcalf and the black boxer-briefs that he thinks make him look like David Beckham.
His back muscles are very nice.
His hair is getting long.
Envy huffs delicately. She'll get no attention, let alone sympathy, from that corner. She digs her tablet (gold-case, a present from Fabula Rasa, thank you, for her last birthday) out from where she dropped it and turns the screen back on. It's still open to the article.
She knows she shouldn't be offended by a dig from a listicle on Smashfeed, and she knows she shouldn't have been self-goggling in the first place. But, really, some things just cannot stand. She scrolls up to the top of the article, wanting to know just what desperate “journalist” is using Envy's name for hits.
The author's name rings a dim and distant bell.
"I'm going to Montreal," she announces to Andrew, twenty-seven minutes later. She’s found Knives’ address and cleared her calendar for the next two days.
They’re in the kitchen. Envy is drinking wine and Andrew and his bandmates are… She’s not exactly sure what they’re doing. Baking a cake, she thinks. It involves a lot of flour, and three of them are shirtless.
She does a quick head count of Andrew’s bandmates – Handsome, Sleepy, Smirky, and Lump. She's missing one. And then she remembers that, despite being called 6 Minutes, there are only five of them.
"Yeah?” says Andrew, shaggy head snapping up. He looks at the other four. “We should all go to Montreal! We can take our jet!"
Envy opens her mouth to protest. She doesn’t need an entourage of barely post-pubescent boys to watch her flay an old acquaintance – if Knives even qualifies as that – alive. But then Handsome smiles at her.
"Sure," he says. "I love Montreal."
Envy smiles back.
They leave the next day. Neither her nor 6 Minutes are touring, so they both have the time for short flight from New York to Montreal. Andrew and his bandmates spend it rolling around like puppies on the floor. It’s all a bit over-compensatory for Envy, so she retires to the curtained off back section of the plane, where there’s a bottle of Malbec just for her.
Envy knows she should be working on her next album, but Knives Chau, as it turns out, has a whole blog devoted to music, and Envy reads that instead. Knives has been published in a few places – one or two of higher quality than fucking Smashfeed, but it’s pretty clear to Envy that she’s still struggling to get her foot through the door of the burning building that is music journalism. Good, she thinks. She can use that against her.
Some of her writing is pretty funny though. Envy finds herself snorting at Knives’ article on 6 Minutes –“which is about as long as their careers will last.” Though she disagrees that their names are “helpfully alphabetical in order of hotness.” Andrew’s the most charismatic, certainly. But he’s outclassed on a purely aesthetic level.
Knives is also not at home. But her roommate – a mousy looking girl who could use an eyebrow-threading – is. She blinks at Envy rather than responding to her perfectly reasonable demand to tell her where Knives is.
“Are those…” she says, looking around Envy.
“6 Minutes?” says Envy, irritated. “Yes.”
“Wow,” says the roommate. Her eyes land on Smirky and get very wide. Envy laughs in disdain – Smirky has a face like a rabbit. But there’s no accounting for taste. Smirky, true to his designation, smirks back at the girl.
“Do you know where she is?” prods Envy. People can be so unhelpful.
“Uh,” the girl’s eyes dart back to Envy. She frowns like she’s trying to place where she knows Envy. “She usually likes to write at Tease & Leaves if she’s not at work.”
“Thank you,” says Envy stiffly, and she sweeps away. 6 Minutes can follow her if they like, and leave their usual string of screaming, fainting girls in their wake.
The café is only a couple blocks from Knives’ apartment building. Envy checks herself out in the window before she strides inside. Her heels are six inches high and she’s wearing a blood-red leather jacket. She nods at herself. She looks appropriately terrifying.
The café goes silent as she walks in. It’s full of bearded grad students and twenty-something freelancers in leggings, sitting at mismatched wooden tables and in armchairs that look like they were dragged off the street. The walls are hung with overpriced, abstract art from local artists. It’s exactly kind of crowd that has paid Envy’s bills for close to the last decade. It both rankles and thrills – she loves her iron grip on the demographic, but seethes that she’s never been able to expand much beyond pretentious white urbanite.
She says nothing, just stands framed in the doorway, one hand on her hip, her eyes sweeping across the room. She’s good at making a scene. She spots Knives finally, sitting cross-legged on a bench of seats that look like they were once in an airplane, earphones in, hunched over her laptop. She seems completely oblivious to Envy’s presence.
Envy stalks over and yanks one of the earphones out of Knives’ ear. She hears the tinny strains of Caligula and the Croquettes’ new single.
Knives’ mouth pops open.
“The Canadian Taylor Swift?” sneers Envy.
Knives stares at her, and then she tilts her head and stares around Envy, at 6 Minutes. Slowly, her gaze returns to Envy.
“What – what are you doing here?”
Envy makes a curt, angry gesture. “I’m here about that libelous article you wrote.”
“The one – the one in Smashfeed?” Knives blinks rapidly.
“What else would I be referring to?”
“Envy,” says Knives, puzzled. “That was like a compliment. Taylor Swift is, like, super cool now. Did you even read the rest of the article?”
Envy pauses. No, she realizes. She did not.
“I don’t see why that’s relevant,” she says coolly.
Knives looks baffled. “You don’t… see… why…context is relevant?”
“I don’t see what you’re doing comparing women to each other in the first place. It’s all very male-gaze.”
Knives throws her hands up.
“Oh my God! But whatever! I'm sorry! You're clearly way cooler than Taylor Swift."
"Yeah," says Andrew, behind Envy. "Way cooler, babe."
"Thank you," says Envy, but she's still not satisfied. She stares down at Knives, mouth pursed. Knives squirms.
"But if you're here…” says Knives, and she suddenly gets a sharp, curious look. That’s new. Envy doesn’t have many memories of Knives, but those that she does have don’t make her think Knives has it in her to be conniving.
“But what?” says Envy.
Knives’ eyes get very wide, very hopeful.
“But if you’re here, can I interview you?”
“Now! Or soon! Since you’re here! Since you came all this way to, like, yell at me.”
Envy considers the request. It’s not like she needs the press from Knives’ tiny music blog, but Knives has an open, beseeching look that tugs at the crueler parts of Envy’s heart. It’s not always fun to say no right away.
And she is already in Montreal. She also is, deep down, a little bit embarrassed.
“I guess…” she says, and she sinks down into the threadbare blue armchair that’s catty-corner to Knives’ bench. “I should at least give you the opportunity to redeem yourself.”
“Really?” squeaks Knives. “I thought for sure you were gonna say no!”
Envy hums noncommitally. She turns towards 6 Minutes.
“Boy band.” Envy claps her hands at them. “Leave.”
“Sure, babe,” says Andrew. He leans down and kisses her, a little sloppily. Envy wrinkles her nose. “We’ll see ya later, yeah?”
“Text me our hotel address,” says Envy, and she turns back to Knives and waves for the barista.
"This isn't – " says Knives, but one of the baristas immediately ducks out from behind the counter and scurries to Envy.
"Yes?" says the barista. "What can I get you?"
"Tea. Gunpowder green."
The barista hurries away, and Envy redirects her attention to Knives. She lounges in the chair as best she can and smiles.
“So go ahead. What do you want to ask?”
“Er…Are you. You’re not touring right now. So are you working on anything?”
Envy looks at her manicure. She has a slight chip on her left ring finger.
“Sure,” she says.
“Oooh, what? A new album?”
It continues like that. Knives is clearly unprepared for an impromptu interview, and she seems painfully aware of the eagerly eavesdropping hipsters around them. One approaches Envy for an autograph and she bares her teeth at him.
“Oh, no, sorry… I’m kind of busy right now?”
Knives peers at her apprehensively once the fan slinks away.
“Are you this famous in New York?” she asks.
Envy frowns at her. She doesn’t like the implication.
“People in New York usually know not to bother me for autographs.”
“Because they know better?” says Knives, completely blandly.
Envy stares hard. It might just be her paranoia that heard the barb there.
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing!” says Knives quickly. She clears her throat. “When was the last time you were in Montreal?”
“A couple years ago,” says Envy, suddenly bored and sulky.
“Do you miss it?”
Envy doesn’t answer. Missing places is complicated. Missing people is complicated. She guesses she misses what it was like to be ten years old and best friends with Todd, when her life felt simple. She misses that.
“Do you miss anything?”
“That’s kind of personal.”
“It’s an interview.”
“I don’t want to talk about that. It’s boring.”
“Okay…” says Knives slowly. She fidgets. “What do you want to talk about?”
Envy puzzles over that. Knives is a link to a past she hasn’t thought about in years. Ever since Gideon, she’s tried to put most of Canada behind her.
“Are you still in touch with Scott?” she asks.
“Scott Pilgrim?” says Knives, clearly surprised. “Yeah. Why?” She makes a face. “You don’t really want to talk about him?”
“No. Yes. I guess I’m just curious. Are he and Ramona still…?”
Knives nods. “Yeah. They’re still together and in Toronto. He’s like a cook, I think, and she does marketing. It’s sort of weird.” She pauses. “And they have a kid.”
“A kid?” says Envy, though after a second of thought, she’s not really surprised. Scott was never much more mature than a child himself and always got on well with them, and Ramona always struck her as the kind of person who needed something entirely their own to love.
Knives nods again and digs out her phone. She shows Envy a picture of an androgynous, grubby child grinning hugely and holding a clump of weeds. The child is pink-cheeked with wispy, fair hair going in every direction. It’s wearing bright green rain boots and an old t-shirt that says Taco Palace that goes to its knees.
It looks exactly like how she would expect Scott Pilgrim’s spawn to look.
“That’s Zelda,” says Knives. “She’s three? Scott finally learned how to use his cellphone camera and he sends like a million pictures of her a week.”
“Oh,” says Envy. She sips her tea. She thinks about the prospect of being married with a child to Scott Pilgrim. About working in marketing. In Toronto. Honestly, she thinks, she’d rather be dead. Whatever pain she may have caused Scott in their twenties, it almost definitely saved them a lot more pain down the line.
“You didn’t keep up with anyone?” asks Knives. “I thought you and Scott had, like, closure?”
“How many of your friends from college are you still in touch with?” snaps back Envy.
“A lot of them,” says Knives. “And a lot of high school friends, too.” She waves her phone at Envy, the picture of Zelda still pulled up on it. “Scott and I are still in touch even! And I don’t think Scott even knows where I live!”
“So tell me what they’re doing!” says Envy. She really doesn’t know. She only has an official UrFace fanpage. She doesn’t ever wonder what people are doing. She doesn’t send Christmas cards or go to reunions. She and Scott finally put a clean ending on their relationship, but it was an ending. And she doesn’t look back.
She never looks back.
But suddenly she’s hungry to know. She wants to know all the paths she could have taken, the lives she could have been a part of. She’s felt isolated lately, Andrew only a fun distraction, looking backwards at thirty and successful but not quite famous, not a household name, the burning inside her that has propelled her forward still not banked.
“I don’t know that we know the same people,” says Knives. “It’s not like you and I ever hung out together.”
There’s an accusatory edge to Knives’ tone. Envy frowns at her.
“I’m sorry. Should I have been spending my time with sixteen-year-old fangirls?”
“You almost smashed me to death with a hammer! And I was seventeen! You were such a bitch!”
Envy smiles crookedly.
“I still am.”
Knives surprises her by laughing.
“All right. So what do you want to know?”
Envy checks her follower count on Flutter that night. It’s up, she thinks, with a little thrill. She checks her mentions next. A teenager in Melbourne has called her an old slag because she’s dating Andrew. Envy smiles without humor and scrolls through her phone for pictures. She finds one she made Handsome take of them, then flits it to the world and adds, “Having a great time in Montreal w/ @AndrewEEOfficial xoxo!” Take that, she thinks savagely at omgandrewww16. If nothing else, 6 Minutes’ fans are good for the hate-following.
Then something catches her eye, the name of one of her newest followers – knivestoagunfight. The profile picture, the size of Envy’s thumbail on her phone, is recognizably Knives. A small part of Envy is a little miffed Knives wasn’t following her before – she is a music journalist; Envy is a well-known musician. But she goes to Knives’ page anyway. There’s a lot of capslocking about the fact that Partisan Juice Hut is back on tour AFTER FIFTEEN YEARS OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.
It startles Envy. She loves Partisan Juice Hut. She was sixteen when they were last on tour, and she had wanted desperately to go. She begged her older brother to take her to see see them. But the show had been a school night and her parents had nixed the idea completely out of hand. And then the band had broken up while she was still in college.
6 Minutes has to be back in New York the next evening to play a set on a talk show, but Envy decides to stay in Montreal. At least for a couple days. Andrew slobbers on her before he leaves, and she winks at Handsome from over Andrew’s shoulder.
It’s strange being back in Montreal. She didn’t stay long after college, not after Todd broke her heart and Clash at Demonhead fell apart. She’s spent most of her time in New York, LA, London… Montreal is smaller and grittier than she remembers. Walking around makes her feel like a ghost. The city has moved on without her.
She finds out Knives works part-time at a boutique when she’s not writing, and she stalks in sometime after lunch. She’s bored.
Knives is leaning against the counter, nodding along as her coworker prattles. Both of them snap to attention when Envy walks through the door. Coworker’s eyes open wide, and Knives’ eyebrows fly up.
“Knives,” Envy says with a grin. “It's so awesome to see you again.”
She spends an hour making Knives hurry back and forth with armfuls of clothing and shoes, until she finally decides to pay for the lot of it.
“I’m sure you could use the commission,” explains Envy sweetly while she pays.
Knives gives her a disjointed look, the kind of look that means she can’t decide if Envy is being nice or if Envy is being a bitch. It’s the kind of look Envy’s an expert at provoking. It’s the kind of look that means she’s hooked someone.
“Well…Thanks,” says Knives slowly. “I guess that’s the second favor I owe you now.”
“Is it? How is the write-up going?”
“Uh. I’m still… I’ve just barely started it. And you kind of… We kind of spent most of it with me telling you about Stephen Stills living in Iceland or whatever.”
“Right. Great.” Envy collects her bag and then hands it back to Knives. “We can talk more while you walk me to my hotel.”
Knives flaps her hands at Envy.
“What? No! I have another hour here. I have to…”
Envy looks around. “You’re not exactly busy. I’m sure your coworker can cover the rest of your shift.”
“Yes!” says the coworker, and then mouths, “Envy, I love you.”
Envy ignores her and smiles at Knives.
“Okay,” says Knives, worrying at her bottom lip. She gets out from behind the counter. “Let me just grab my stuff.”
Envy waits impatiently and two minutes later she’s striding down the street, Knives scurrying to keep up.
“So I’m sure you’ve had time to think of all the questions you wish you’d asked me,” says Envy.
“Not really,” says Knives. “I had a deadline last night.”
“Oh,” says Envy icily. She quickens her pace.
“Though! I guess! I guess.” Knives is breathing hard and her voice is a bit high. “I don’t know much about what you were like before you were famous…What were you like in college?”
Envy looks at her suspiciously. “Is this about Scott?” she demands.
“What? No.” She frowns at Envy. “Really. But, yeah, I guess I don’t get why you guys dated.”
“I was a lot less sure of myself,” says Envy, after a moment. She hasn’t thought about that old self in a long time – awkward and quiet and burning with the need to be bigger, to be better, resenting the easy charm and success of other girls.
“I was like a total nerd. I was really into anime. Scott was kind of a loser, too.”
"You were a weeaboo?" says Knives.
Envy glares, defensive. "I was not! I just really appreciated anime as an art form!"
Knives laughs, incredulous.
“Oh my God. You were a nerd. You’re a nerd!”
“I was not!”
“You were!” cries Knives, beaming. “What were your favorites? Oh my God – were you like those weird boys at school who tried to speak Japanese to me?”
Knives grins hugely.
“I don’t believe youuu,” she sing-songs.
Envy scowls and stomps her feet, but she realizes she wants to laugh, too. Knives is just so giddy with the knowledge.
“It’s okay,” says Knives, with a solemnity that’s totally undercut by her giant, manic grin. “I think it’s cool you were such a nerd. It’s like totally inspiring.”
“I still watch my favorites sometimes,” admits Envy, and then freezes. Nobody knows that.
“Oh, yeah?” Knives gives her a curious look. “Which ones are your favorites?”
Envy stands still for a moment, and Knives trips forward several feet before gaining control of her momentum and turning around. She floats a question mark to Envy.
“I guess I could show you,” says Envy, finally settling on a decision.
The question mark becomes an exclamation mark.
“Oh,” says Knives. “Okay.”
They go back to the hotel together.
There's an immense weirdness to watching Neon Genesis Evangelion and eating pizza on a Tuesday night in a Montreal hotel suite with Scott Pilgrim's high school girlfriend, even if said girlfriend is no longer in high school nor dating Scott.
But it’s also kind of nice. Envy doesn’t have a lot of friends.
She works off the pizza by kickboxing the next day and invites Knives to come join her. The hotel provides her with a personal trainer. Knives participates for the first fifteen minutes and then collapses in a heap in the corner.
"That's so hard," she whines breathlessly. "That's so hard. Why would you do this to yourself? Do you do this every day?"
Envy just laughs at her. She lets Knives use the hotel room shower afterwards and then pays for her taxi. Knives lingers before getting in.
“This was nice,” she says. “And really weird. But nice. You’re pretty cool.”
Envy smiles. “People change a lot between twenty-four and thirty. Sorry I was such a bitch to you.”
Knives nods. She starts to duck into the taxi and then stops. She’s full of jerky, half-completed movements, like she can never let herself decide what she wants to do. The taxi driver looks annoyed.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Why did you break up with Scott?”
Envy has to think about it. It’s been a long time.
“I don’t know if you noticed,” she says eventually, “but Scott isn’t very good at paying attention to people who aren’t him.”
“And you are?” says Knives.
“I didn’t say I was. But it wasn’t much of a relationship if we were both obsessed with ourselves, was it?”
Andrew catches her making out with Handsome on Sunday, and the press knows they’re over by Monday. (Though not why.) Envy’s relieved. She’d been increasingly obvious about her indiscretions, but Andrew is a remarkably unobservant boy. That seems to be an unfortunate trend with the men Envy dates. Handsome looks pained at being found out and promises to call her once he’s sorted things out with Andrew, but Envy waves him off. She’s over it. It was fun, but it’ll be significantly less so if they’re not sneaking around. And not dating a member of 6 Minutes means she can spend more time in Montreal. She hadn’t realized how much she missed the city.
She starts splitting her time between Montreal and New York, and she looks up Knives half the time she's in town. She’s surprised by how much she enjoys her company. She’s a little less doting than Envy’s usual entourage. But only a little. Knives’ interview with her shows up in Spin, under a headline with the words “Prodigal Daughter” in it. Envy reads the article out loud to Knives while they make margaritas in the chrome and slate kitchen of Envy’s rented townhouse.
“Stop it!” shouts Knives, throwing an ice cube at Envy.
“It’s not bad,” says Envy, finally setting down the paper. “I didn’t realize you were getting it published-published.”
Knives shrugs. “You’re still really popular in Canada, especially Montreal. People want to know what you’re up to.”
Envy narrows her eyes.
“Oh, don’t,” says Knives peevishly. She thrusts a margarita at Envy. “You know what I mean. Still, like, continuously, like you haven’t stopped, not still like surprisingly, or whatever.”
“I’m still popular in the states, too,” says Envy, but she takes the margarita and holds it delicately by the stem.
Knives sits on the counter and rolls her eyes at her.
“I am not.”
“It’s okay,” says Knives. She scrunches her nose in a grin, and then says something that startles Envy far more than it should: “I think it’s cute.”
Envy sticks out her tongue and takes a sip of her margarita.
“At least you didn’t compare me to Taylor Swift this time.”
“That really wasn’t meant as an insult.”
“Sure. I just don’t get why you did it?”
Knives looks suddenly uncomfortable.
“I don’t know. It was a throwaway line. There wasn’t a lot to it – just, like, haha they’ve both dated a lot of guys. But also, you know, you both write all your own songs, and you’ve got, like, great style and cross-genre appeal. Except, you’re coming into pop from different genres. I don’t know. The editor liked it. They like… those kinds of comparisons.” Her voice gets small. “And I really wanted to get a piece published on Smashfeed.”
“Why? They’re trash.”
“Yeah, I know. But they’re trash that everyone reads. And they pay more than posting on my blog.” Knives looks at her drink, frowning. “You don’t get it. You were, like, totally famous at my age. Everyone was crazy about Clash at Demonhead. You didn’t have to fight for living on your, like, art or whatever.”
Envy frowns. She had to totally recreate herself to become famous. She spent every day of college fighting for it. It’s a hunger that’s raging still, and she’s always aware of how fragile her success is, how easy it would be to slip into the abyss of has-beens.
“That’s not really true at all,” she says. “Just because it came earlier for me doesn’t mean it was easier.”
Knives looks at her, eyes soft, her smile wry.
“But you make it look easy.”
“I got you an interview,” announces Envy proudly the next time she’s in Montreal
Knives looks confused. “An interview with who?”
“With…” Envy pauses for dramatic effect. “Madame O! She’s going to be here next week with her boyfriend.”
Madame O has been quiet lately, trading in the ostentatious make-up and pirate-ship shaped outfits for a stint on Broadway. She is apparently an excellent Fantine. But she’s still a Big Name and Envy had gotten along relatively well with her when she opened for her on Madame O’s last European tour.
“Ooooh,” says Knives, voice dropping like a barometer after a storm. She blinks rapidly. “Why?”
“Why?” says Envy. “For your little, your blog, of course. Why else?”
Knives frowns at her.
“Stephen Stills says you like to give out favors."
“Um, and what did he mean by that?”
Knives grimaces. “I don’t know. I just told him we’ve been hanging out and he told me to be careful.”
Envy rolls her eyes. She’s annoyed. It’s not like she’s ever done anything to Stephen to deserve his distrust.
“He always thinks the worst of everything. Besides.” She grins. “You know I’ve changed. I haven’t tried to kill you once.”
The smile Knives gives her in response is tenuous but true.
Knives is a lightweight, and she’s clingy.
“Your skin is so soft,” she tells Envy one Wednesday night when rain is battering the windows.
They’ve been drinking and writing all night, Envy playing bits of new songs and gauging Knives’ reaction. It’s refreshing to work like this again. Envy can appreciate Knives’ enthusiasm at thirty-one in a way she couldn’t at twenty-four, when that earnestness felt too close to all the parts Envy had stripped from herself. Knives isn’t a musician, but she has a sharp ear and Envy is learning to trust her taste.
Less so now, however, that Knives is drunk, and slumped across Envy’s lap. Envy plays with her hair, running her fingers through the blue-black fringe.
“ImadeoutwithKimPineonce,” says Knives, suddenly, staring up at Envy. “Okayitwastwice.”
Envy raises her eyebrows. She stops playing with Knives’ hair. “Can you say with actual spaces between the words?”
Knives takes a deep breath and then holds it. She’s bright pink. She exhales slowly, the sound like a balloon being deflated. Envy half expects a sad womp-womp noise to follow.
“I made out with Kim Pine once,” says Knives. She stares at Envy’s right ear. Her voice gets smaller. “Twice, actually.”
“When was this?” asks Envy incredulously. Not incredulous that Knives made out once (twice) with Kim Pine, but that she’s decided this is something Envy apparently needs to know.
“Seven years ago,” says Knives, still small, still fixated on Envy’s right ear. “The first time. Then again once when I was home from university.”
“Congratulations. Do you want me to write you a love song?” asks Envy. She is suddenly, and unaccountably, annoyed.
“N-nnnno,” says Knives.
“What the hell is Kim Pine even doing nowadays?”
She only vaguely remembers the woman. Drummer, short-hair, moon-faced and mooning.
“Uh.” Knives blinks at her. “She’s a teacher.”
"Teaching?" says Envy. "But she hates children."
She doesn't know if that's true. She doesn't know Kim Pine that well, but Envy always got the impression she was the type of person to hate children. Envy is not very fond of them either.
Knives shrugs and squirms in Envy’s lap. She sticks out her lower lip, and Envy resists the urge to thumb at it.
"She's at a middle school. I don't knoooow. She's good at it. She says kids are okay because they don't hide the fact they're terrible."
“Wow. Totally fascinating.”
Knives looks hurt. Hurt and drunk.
“You asked,” she whined, and she turns so her nose sticks into Envy’s stomach.
Envy sighs and rubs the back of Knives’ neck.
“I guess I did.”
Knives falls asleep on her eventually and Envy slides out from beneath. She leaves Knives on the couch and goes to bed plotting.
She’s been with women before. It’s not like she’s opposed. So she’s surprised it’s taken her so long to realize it: Knives has a crush on her.
“Backstage passes,” says Envy, preening, the next day, “to the Partisan Juice Hut show in Toronto.”
Knives literally lights up.
“Oh my God!” she shrieks. She glows brighter. “Oh my God!”
Envy grins and squeezes Knives’ hand.
The concert isn’t for another three weeks, and Envy spends most of that time in New York. She’s finally generated enough material to make it worth being in the studio. Knives texts her constantly, a string of two-sentence, emoji-laden music reviews and chatter about Knives’ day. Envy should, by all rights, find it completely aggravating. But she finds herself looking forward to them, finds herself laughing when Knives reviews the newest Helios Blue album with three skull emojis and a whale.
One day goes by when Knives doesn’t text at all. Envy spends it feeling needled. She’s irritated and snappish and makes her stylist’s assistant burst into tears at least once. She’s not sure if she’s irritated at Knives for not texting or at herself for caring. Finally, Knives texts her late that night, apologizing because she’d forgotten her phone at home that day.
Envy makes herself wait until the next morning to respond.
When the concert finally comes, they haven’t seen each other for a full week. Knives wants to be at the front of the stage. Envy doesn’t really understand it. They have backstage passes. But she lets Knives grab her by the wrist and drag her to the front, enjoying the murmurs of, “Is that…?” “I think it is!” as she passes.
Knives dances extremely stupidly. She’s like a small, excitable dog – a ceaseless, cheerful bounce. But Envy finds herself jumping around with her. She’s lost to the thrill of the music, her body a flickering beat in the crush of bodies around them. She's just as loud as Knives is when PJH plays her favortie song.
Knives bursts into tears when they meet PJH backstage after the show.
“She’s just a big fan,” explains Envy, rubbing Knives’ back while Knives’ pulls herself together.
A couple months ago she would have been irritated, embarrassed. But there’s something about Knives’ bubbling over emotions that’s starting to feel endearing. That thought worries at the corner of Envy’s mind.
Knives finally recovers and barrages PJH with questions. Envy is impressed. Her interview technique has improved, and PJH are only too happy to talk. Envy says little for once, just stands there with her arm around Knives’ waist, turning over this newfound endearment in her mind. It’s one thing to like someone for the attention, quite another to like someone for their character. Deep down, an alarm starts to go off.
“Thank you,” says Knives at the end of the night, when they're back in Envy's hotel room for a post-concert drink. Knives grabs Envy’s waist and presses her face into Envy’s neck. It’s been a long time since anyone touched Envy with so much joy.
“Thank you thank you thank you thank you.”
Envy pats Knives on the head.
“It was my pleasure,” she says. “Now, let go. You’re wrinkling my dress.”
Knives lets go and takes a step back. She manages a whole second of not-touching before she launches herself at Envy and hugs her again.
“I’m just sooo happy!” she wails. “Tonight was amaaaazing!”
“Good,” says Envy. They’re alone. Envy’s still buzzing from the music. She touches Knives’ face, and Knives looks up, an expression like an open horizon and the sun bursting over it.
They fuck. Knives in Envy’s lap, and Envy’s fingers slipping up inside her, her teeth at Knives’ throat. She likes the sounds that Knives’ make, high and thready, as shameless and as bare as all Knives’ reactions.
“I used to get off thinking about you,” says Knives breathlessly, afterwards.
“Oh?” says Envy. She rolls onto her side and looks down at Knives, interested. Knives’ eyes are still dark and her face is slightly slack. Envy runs her fingers lightly up Knives’ side and watches the resulting tremors, pleased.
“Yeah,” says Knives. She gulps air and nods. There are actual stars in her eyes, pinpricks of spinning light. “I, like, worshiped you.”
Envy hums, and kisses Knives sweetly.
“You had good taste,” she murmurs against her mouth.
“My parents want to see me while I’m here,” Knives tells her the next morning. Her hair is messy and her face is dim from sleep, lines from her pillow cross-hatched into her cheek. She brightens. “And Scott and Ramona and everyone want to hang out tonight. Do you want to come? You could meet Zelda!”
Envy looks at her. She looks very sweet and very young, her smile dopey and hopeful.
“I doubt they’d want to see me,” she says carefully. “And I have to fly back to New York.”
“Oh.” Knives face falls. “Will I, will I see you back in Montreal?”
“Of course.” Envy leans over and kisses her, her palm curled against the back of Knives’ neck.
Envy doesn’t go back to Montreal. She doesn’t text. And she doesn’t call.
She knows that she does this. She likes to collect people and she likes to cast them off, to prove that she can, and she likes to reel them back, to prove that she’s irresistible. If she were to psychoanalyze herself, she would probably say it flows from that old wound of Todd leaving, of an adolescence spent miserable and wanting – boys who thought she was easy, girls who thought she was weird.
If she were to be honest, she’d admit that was just an excuse. People are terrible to other people because it’s easier and it’s safer and it’s a lot more fun.
She’s given Knives enough to write a devastating tell-all. But there’s nothing. Knives’ vague-flits some angry-sad lyrics which Envy eventually places as being from the First Clash at Demonhead EP. Envy winces at the terrible rhyme scheme, and grudgingly thinks, well-played. There’s nothing on Knives’ blog though. Nothing that relates to Envy at least, just a few album reviews and a top-ten list. It makes her feel restless, like she needs to go for a long run.
She favorites the Clash at Demonhead flit, even though it’s from six days ago. So now Knives knows Envy knows Knives is thinking of her.
A week later, Knives has finally stopped texting her and Envy’s written three new songs, one and a half of them maybe something she could use on her next album. She gets papped walking around Chelsea. She’s scowling in the pictures. She looks less than her best. The gossip surrounding it asks whether she’s still mourning her break up with Andrew. As if, she sneers.
She checks Knives’ Flutter. The Clash at Demonhead flit has been deleted.
But Knives is still following her.
She waits another week, and then she flies into Montreal. She has something that could be a new single rolling around in her brain, and she wants to try it out on Knives.
“Hey, Knives,” she says cheerfully, when Knives picks up. She’s gratified that she gambled correctly and Knives does pick up. There’s nothing so disheartening as going to voicemail.
“Envy?” says Knives, voice small and unsteady.
“Yeah… Hey, I’m in town.”
It takes some coaxing, but Knives finally agrees to meet her at Tease & Leaves. She’s sitting at a table this time and she looks mutinous.
“What’s wrong?” Envy asks, voice high with concern. “You look terrible!”
“What do you want, Envy?” snaps Knives. She hugs her arms across her chest and scowls harder.
“Um… I just wanted to see you. I haven’t been in town in a few weeks.”
“You’ve been totally ignoring me!”
“Oh… I’m sorry. I just get so busy, you know? The New Yorker wanted to do a profile and it was Fashion Week. And Claude – my producer – he wanted me to get in the studio.”
Knives doesn’t say anything.
“You’re not mad at me, are you?” says Envy, pitching her voice to incredulity.
“I kind of am,” says Knives. “You were kind of a total bitch.”
“For being in New York? That’s where I live, Knives.”
Knives flushes red with anger.
“You stopped talking to me!”
“I already told you I was busy. It’s not like you have the right to know what I’m doing. Honestly, it’s pretty creepy.”
Knives seethes. “What is wrong with you? You’re so manipulative!”
“Wow. That’s really rude,” says Envy. “After those interviews I got for you? Shouldn’t you be thanking me?”
Knives stands up. She’s bright red with anger.
“You’re awful!” she cries. “And no! I don’t have to thank you! I could have gotten them on my own!”
“Sure,” say Envy, and she is suddenly and unaccountably angry. Knives wasn’t supposed to react this way. Knives was supposed to be confused but amenable. “If that’s what you need to tell yourself.”
Knives reaches for her belt and Envy realizes she’s going for the knives she carries. Fine, if she wants to fight, Envy already knows she has more stamina.
And then Knives stops.
“You know what?” she says, dropping her hands. “You’re not worth it.”
Envy stares after her.
“Uh, Miss Adams,” says the barista, after a long moment in which everyone stares at Envy out of the corner of their eyes. “I think this is the part where you’re supposed to go after her.”
“Shove it,” snaps Envy, but she gets up.
Knives hasn’t gotten very far. Envy finds her sitting at a bus stop, crying.
“You’re a bad person,” says Knives, her hands over her face.
Envy looks down at her.
“I told you I was still a bitch. Did you really expect otherwise?”
“I don’t know,” says Knives, voice cracking. She uncovers her face and she blazes with a fierce, ugly hatred, enough to make Envy take a step back. “Everyone else grows up, Envy. Why don’t you?”
“Sorry. Are we in an after school special?” says Envy, sneering. “Should I allow a stunned moment of silence as that truly cutting quip sinks in?”
“You’re pathetic,” spits Knives.
Envy grabs her wrist and smirks, fingernails digging into the skin around Knives’ veins.
“But you still follow me on Flutter.”
Knives stares at her for one frozen half-second, lips parted, eyes wide, like someone realizing they're about to stumble over a precipice. Then she yanks her arm away.
“Is that what this was all about? Attention? What is wrong with you?”
“You’re overreacting,” says Envy, and she’s starting to feel angry again. The situation is spinning outside her control. She just wanted to prove she could walk back into Knives’ life like she hadn’t been gone. She doesn’t owe Knives anything, she tells herself.
“I thought you were nice,” says Knives, and she stands for the second time. “You know what – you are nice! You can be so nice! But I’m not.” Knives struggles to get the words out. “I’m not, like, your toy. I don’t have to wait around for you to think I’m worth hanging out with.”
Her cheeks flush, like she’s remembering what they did last time they were together. Envy remembers it, too, and it makes her more annoyed. She wouldn’t mind doing it again.
“Thanks for all your help,” says Knives. Her voice is strained but no longer bursting with raw nerve ends of emotion. “Really. But I don’t need it any more. I can figure it out for myself.”
“I went after you,” says Envy.
“I went after you,” repeats Envy. She gestures between them. “Isn’t that what you want? Some stupid, romantic gesture?”
Knives takes a deep breath, and Envy leans forward slightly.
“I want. I want you to figure out what you want. Besides being famous. If you even want anything besides that.”
And then Knives turns and walks away, not quickly, but purposefully.
This time, Envy doesn’t follow. She watches Knives go. She expects to feel satisfied or angry. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t feel anything. Just a surprising and terrible blankness.