Illusions: Returning home


photo by Alex Schroeder

Nicole Schroeder

Illusions is a novella written by Nicole Schroeder and Ashley Tanner, about a girl named Gemma who has the ability to see people’s true character at a single glance. Each post in the following blog series is one chapter of Illusions. 
It was late that night when Gemma finally returned to her apartment, a soft smile still visible on her cheeks. Padding up the stairs to her room, she paused to rap softly on the door, hoping her roommate, Irene, was home like she’d said she would be. Just as Gemma was resolving to dig through her bag and attempt to find her keys, however, the door swung open.
“You’d better have a juicy story to tell me, Missy. Since when do you stay out on the town at all hours?”
Gemma rolled her eyes, shifting her backpack up farther onto her shoulder. “Fine, fine. Just be quieter, for goodness sake.” Irene grinned, stepping aside and letting her in.
She headed into their living room/kitchen, tossing her backpack on a nearby chair before heading to make some tea. Irene flipped the deadbolt on the door and headed over to the couch, flopping down and looking up expectantly at Gemma, who shared a naive look of her own.
Lively. Friendly. Introverted.
“Geez, you are so impatient,” she groaned, but a hint of a smile played across her lips. “Okay, do you remember Elijah Beckett? He was on the paper my sophomore year, so your … junior year, I guess.”
“Yeah, I remember him. He was on staff during my sophomore year, too.” Irene had been a writer for two years for their high school’s newspaper, working alongside both Gemma and Elijah. She wasn’t able to take the class her senior year because of sports, but nevertheless she and Gemma had kept in touch after graduation. “Don’t tell me you guys hooked up?” She wriggled her eyebrows, and Gemma sighed as she popped a mug of water into the microwave to heat.
“We did not hook-up. We just ran into each other this morning and got to talking is all.”
“Uh-huh.” Irene stared skeptically at her roommate for a moment. “And this ‘talking’ just so happened to last until 9:30 at night?”
“No,” she admitted, blushing a little. The microwave dinged, and she took her time taking out her mug and starting to steep her tea before answering. “He showed me the law firm where he works this morning, and then we ran into each other again on our way back home. We started talking again and lost track of time.”
At this, Irene squealed, hugging a nearby throw pillow close to her chest. “That’s actually adorable. What were you guys gushing to each other about now?”
“Okay, hang on a second,” Gemma said, moving to sit on the couch next to her. “First of all, there was no gushing. There was never any gushing, and there will never be any gushing.”
At this, Irene faked a cough. “You’re blushing,” she pointed out in between fits of hacking. Gemma’s hand drifted to her cheek, feeling the warmth beneath them.
“Whatever,” she said, waving her off. “Secondly, what do you mean ‘now’? As opposed to when, exactly?”
“C’mon,” Irene said. “Everyone on staff could tell you guys liked each other. Remember convention, and how you guys were always taking the same workshops?”
“That is so not true,” Gemma argued. “We did plenty of stuff separately. And anyways, you were always off with the EICs working on the news package. Who else was I supposed to hang with?”
Irene sighed. “I’ll give you that one. But you still didn’t answer my question.”
Gemma shrugged. “We didn’t talk about anything in particular, really. We talked about how college was for both of us and what we were doing now, if we were still doing anything with journalism and stuff like that. I don’t know, we just … talked.”
“Well, okay,” Irene said, nodding eagerly. “Are you guys going to talk anymore?”
This time, she noticed her cheeks growing warm, and she sipped at her tea to hide it from Irene. “Yeah. He invited me to have lunch with him tomorrow.”
Irene squealed again, though this time she muffled it with her pillow. “You have no idea how happy this makes me,” she said, a huge grin stretching across her face. “Please tell me you’re going to Simon’s?”
“No, we are not going to Simon’s, especially if you’re going to act like this the entire time,” Gemma said, smiling playfully. Simon’s Bar and Grill was the restaurant Irene worked at, and one that Gemma thoroughly tried to avoid. Too many people and, more importantly, too many Labels.
“Okay. Well, you’d better at least tell me everything tomorrow. I’m not kidding, pretend you have to interview someone for an infographic or something and sneak out of the office and call me.”
Gemma groaned. “Fine,” she said, trying to hide her own smile. As she lay in bed that night, however, her grin was much harder to hide. Even as she drifted off to sleep, she couldn’t stop smiling, instead falling asleep while feeling happier and more eager for the coming day than she had in a long time.
by Nicole Schroeder