#40 - Krysta's Dinner Date

I'm here early. Reservation for 'Ciccone'
"Of course she arrived early," Krysta said, walking downhill as quickly and carefully as she could on 3-inch heels. Finding parking had taken ten minutes and the walk from the lot to the restaurant was taking nearly as long. Reaching the entrance, Krysta paused to double check her appearance in the tinted glass window. The late-fall breeze had left her hair not-so-stylishly unkempt. One of the earliest fashion tips she'd gotten from her mother came to mind:

If you're going let your breasts hang out like that, be sure your hair is nice so you do not look like a prostitute.

It sounded better in Vietnamese.

While she had a shawl to cover her head, Krysta was not in the mood to spend all of the dinner fussing with a headscarf. Tugging the neckline of her dress up, she draped her shawl over her shoulders and chest, toning down her cleavage from "obscene" to "unseemly," before heading inside.

The hostess led Krysta to a wood-paneled, mostly-empty bar at the rear of the restaurant. Kiana sat at an elevated table in the corner, her attention divided between the menu and her phone. Being Whitley's fraternal twin, Kiana shared a similar facial structure, complexion, and body shape with her sister. Even accounting for their height difference, Kiana was thinner with a narrower face. She wore glasses, a white tube top, black slacks, and minimal makeup.

Krysta stepped up to the table. "Kiana Valentine-Ciccone, yes?"

Kiana glanced over Krysta's figure as she stepped down from her chair, smiled politely, and extended her hand. "I dropped the hyphen. it's just 'Ciccone', as of a month ago."

Krysta accepted the handshake. "Oh, are we celebrating?"

"Sure. Perhaps I'll never have to have my name inconveniently truncated again." Kiana sat down and slid a drink menu over to Krysta. "Thank you so much for driving out to meet me. This is my go-to for business clients, so consider it my gift." Kiana's face had a rehearsed sort of pleasantry that suggested she spent more time in work mode than out of it.

"Whatever your reason, thank you for dinner."

"Order whatever you like," Kiana said. She looked over her menu to see Krysta staring at her expectantly. "What?"

"You called me here. What do you want from me?"

Kiana gave a familiar exasperated sigh—perhaps a genetic trait she shared with her sister—and lowered the menu. "Okay, I suppose between how I've communicated so far and what my sister's said about me, you expect me to be a basket case."

"I honestly have no expectations."

"Thing is, as much of a nightmare as Whitley is, I care about her. Since she doesn't talk to me, I resort to this."

"How did you even know I was your sister's roommate in the first place?"

"Do me a favor, and ask me that again in 20 minutes. Excuse me!" Kiana said, flagging their waiter. "I'd like a gin & tonic, double, with Tanqueray. Krysta?"

"Communion, Pinot Noir."

The waiter headed away, leaving Krysta and Kiana with their awkward silence. "So…" Krysta said. "What is it you do for work?"

"I'm a unit production manager. I micro-manage multi-million dollar film projects. And you…"

"Do essentially the same thing, only replace 'multi-million dollar film projects' with 'my bare breasts on the internet.'"

"How fun."

Both women silently prayed their drinks would arrive soon.


"So," Krysta said, finishing her second glass of wine. "What exactly did you hope to accomplish inviting me here?"

"Honestly, this was a rare occasion when I made a decision without a goal in mind. I knew you would be in the area and—"

"Google Alert?"

"'Krysta Dinh +dreamgirls.' Seriously, how do more people not use those all the time? Anyways, a casting director I used to work with hits up DreamGirls when he needs a conspicuously busty extra."

"Alexis Cheer."

"Yeah, we've used her a few times. If she even had a shred of acting talent, she'd be getting rich off of T&A cameos."

"So how did you know I was your sister's roommate in the first place? I'm unlisted even under my legal name."

"I got Whitley's new address from dad," Kiana said, tossing back the end of her second gin & tonic. I got your name from a private investigator."

Kiana was right. The truth was easier to hear after two glasses of wine and a Maine lobster cocktail appetizer. In fact, Kiana's aggressively type-A brand of love reminded Krysta of her mother. "Given my and Alicia's rather public online identities, that could not have been too difficult an assignment."

"It wasn't, and I was only mildly curious about you two. You're hardly normal, but you seem stable enough. Surprisingly so, actually."

"Wow, I should use that as my LinkedIn tagline."

"In the end, it’s just another several hundred dollars I've dropped to keep tabs on Whitley." Kiana tilted her head back and popped the remainder of a crab cake in her mouth, having finished the appetizer plate by herself. "If only I could write that shit off on my taxes."

Both she and Kiana's phones vibrated on the table. Krysta opened her email to find a "Whitley Valentine" Google Alert came in with twenty-four new results. She tapped the first link, which opened a video. Kiana did the same, and they both watched wordlessly. When the video finished, Krysta sat quietly and blinked several times as she processed what she'd seen. Kiana reached out for the waiter, grabbing him by his arm.

"Another double G&T, please? And go ahead and bring back a bottle of the Pinot Noir. I'm also ready to order dinner. Krysta?"

"I am going to the bathroom," Krysta said, stepping down from her chair. Order me the truffle fries and sauteed brussels sprouts. I can pick off of whatever else you order." On her way, Krysta checked a missed text from Alicia.
DID YOU SEE THAT VIDEO?!?! She's gonna get SO many Instagram followers!

Krysta followed an extended restroom visit with attempts to contact each of her roommates by phone and text. Neither responded. She returned to find all the space on the table filled with appetizers. "Feel free to sample whatever," Kiana said, stuffing a handful of fries into her mouth, followed by a swig of another drink. Krysta skewered a brussels sprout with her fork while grabbing her full glass of wine with the other hand. Kiana frowned as she continued tapping through various links on her phone.

"Dwelling on it will do no good. It will be fine," Krysta said, taking a long drink. "Eat, and quit worrying about Whitley."

Kiana closed her eyes and shook her head. "I just don't want to deal with this."

"You do not have to. Whitley will deal with it, and you can send her weed money like you always do unless you are concerned about that as well."

"Whitley has had a lot of success in spite of her drug habit. Honestly, I'm more afraid of how she'd behave if she didn't have it." Kiana visibly struggled to appear sober. "Believe me I'm thrilled she has a job, though it's hard to imagine it will last, given today's developments. It's like she won't live an ordinary life, even if she could."

"And her moving in with two internet models certainly cannot be helping."

"I didn't say that."

"But, you want to. Whitley is seven-foot-two. She already has that working pretty hard against her."

"Oh no. Don't you try to tell me how 'different' Whitley is, because I got a front row fucking seat to her 'different-ness' all at every goddamned stage. TV interviews? Check. High school super-celebrity? Check. Creeps telling me they wanted to make love to my sister's legs? Fucking check."

"Try living it."

"I did live it."

"No!" Krysta nearly shouted, before dropping to a cutting whisper. "Don't you dare say that. You may have had to live with the repercussions of it, but you did not live it." Krysta dumped the remains of the wine into her glass. "At the end of your day, you go back to your life where you get to disappear and be Kiana Ciccone, Unit Production Manager. You do not deal with the stares, and the insinuations you are asking to be stared at, the literal pain, the expenses, and the reality that unless I take the knife to my body, I will never remotely blend in and be 'normal' or 'ordinary.'" 

Kiana fumed quietly to herself, sniffing several times. "She doesn't care about herself and dad could care less about her, so I have to. I don't want to be the only one."

"Kiana—"

"I can't. I can't lose her too. Not after—"

"Stop!" Krysta said. "I have a good idea of what you are getting at, and I am a bottle of wine past the point where I can deal with it. So, how about we call this a night, you pay our bill and get me a hotel nearby."

"You can crash at my place. It's not far from here."

Krysta inelegantly slid out of the seat onto her shaky feet. "Too drunk to refuse. Fine." After taking a moment to assess her equilibrium, Krysta removed both heels and set them on her chair, before wobbling her way to the bathroom. "I may be a bit."

* * * * * * *
    
"Krysta, you're good," Kiana slurred, hoisting the borderline conscious Krysta from the elevator to her apartment door. "I didn't know what to expect from you, but I'm not disappointed."

"..."

"It’s good to know there's someone else who, against their better judgment, is willing to let my sister's crazy impede on her life." Opening the door, Kiana guided them through the doorway kicking it shut behind her.

"..."

Kiana discarded her shoes as she dragged Krysta to the bedroom. "I feel better having met you."

"..."

"Do you need to use the bathroom?"

"..."

"Okay, then I'm dumping you in the guest bedroom. Bathroom's through the door on your left. Don't piss in my closet." Kiana dropped Krysta onto the bed, tossing a throw blanket over her just as Krysta slipped out of what little of her dress she'd remained in up to that point. As Kiana reached the door, Krysta stirred, mumbling into her pillow. Kiana turned around.

"Did you say something?"

"That was the worst date I have ever been on."

"Noted. Anything else?"

"Both you and Whitley should consider therapy if you have any hope of managing the issues you both are doing a terrible job dealing with."

"You're probably right."

"I puked in a urinal in the men's bathroom at Morton's."

"Good night, Krysta," Kiana said, stumbling out into the living room and collapsing face-first onto the futon.


The next morning, Krysta stepped out of her room at 8:45 wearing a borrowed pair of leggings and an XL production crew t-shirt from "Bad Santa 2." She'd found her dress stuffed into a designer gift bag on the nightstand next to a glass of water and two aspirin, which she took immediately. Kiana sat at the dining room table by a large bay window, furiously tapping away at her laptop. Despite wearing sweatpants and a raggedy t-shirt, she seemed as put-together as she had eight hours ago in the restaurant. If she was hungover, she hid it behind her coffee.

"You can keep the clothes," Kiana, said, "and the tote. I just called you a cab. Should be here in five."

"Thanks," Krysta croaked through her dry throat. She wondered how her huskier voice would play on cam that evening.

"You weren’t expecting to spend the night, so I figured you'd be in a hurry.

"I booked a late start for today. Call is not until three."

"Well, it'll spare us the fun of trying to top the awkwardness of last night."

Krysta picked up the designer bag with her folded dress, praying it included an overlooked Starbucks gift card. "Kiana, it has been...interesting meeting you."

"Sure."

Krysta laughed, which turned into a cough. "Funny, this is the second time I have gotten blackout drunk to avoid hearing about the Valentine family issues."

"Oh God," Kiana said, with a dramatic eye roll. "Let me guess, Whitley told you that eighth grade—"

Krysta put a hand up, silencing Kiana. "No, no. That's enough for one visit. I only consider you a marginal net positive for Whitley, which I would chalk mostly up to the marijuana money. Even taking into account her shortcomings and 'abnormalities,' Whitley is more responsible and capable than you give her credit for."

"You and I watched the same video last night, right?"

"I think your omnipresence in Whitley's life will be detrimental in the long run if you do not start stepping back."

"All right, Doctor Dinh. Your cab's here."

"Food for thought," Krysta said, placing her hand on the door handle and taking another moment to ensure she had full control over her balance. "Kiana?"

"Hm?" Kiana said, not looking up from her work.

"You can go fuck yourself."

Kiana seemed surprised before the faintest trace of a smile appeared at the corner of her lips.

"Tell Whitley she can eat a d—"

"Bye," Krysta said, shutting the door.

◄#39 - My Girlfriend, Alicia