What The Actual Heck (1.11)

There were definite advantages to the co-op housing situation, places where things like shared purchasing power and economies of scale worked out to the mutual benefit of everybody in the extended household.

Then there was laundry. The big house’s laundry room was a retrofit to begin with, and while the board had looked at the feasibility of getting more machines in, there just wasn’t the infrastructure needed for the hookups. In better weather, a lot of the inhabitants took advantage of the roomy yard to line dry their clothes, often after handwashing them, but no one wanted to do that in November.

J.J., as the newest resident, was way more self-conscious about taking up time and space in the laundry room than she was about re-wearing clothes that weren’t too visibly stained or uncomfortably smelly. Her hygiene was still way improved from her days of living out of a duffel bag and backpack, crashing on couches, floors, and the occasional friend’s futon. She could shower every day easily now, and she had a closet and dresser for changes of clothes.

Her outfit from the day before still seemed decent. It hadn’t even been scuffed in the… whatever. Explosion. Burst.

She hadn’t been kidding about layers: underwear and sports bra, then the bodysuit, once part of a scarily effective Halloween costume as a living shadow and now her armor against the world.

Over that went a pair of legwarmers, then jeans, and on top a pair of t-shirts, a sweater, and then her denim jacket.

One of these days she would have to buy an actual winter coat. She was optimistic she’d have enough spare cash for a decent new one before any actual snow arrived, but she wouldn’t turn up her nose at a thrift store. Ever.

That was where she’d found most of her current clothes, after all, and most of them were not more than gently used.

Actually, as she looked at her jeans, she found they looked less worn than they had the day before. There had been a slightly thread patch on the left knee she’d been keeping an eye on that she couldn’t find now.

“Well, that’s weird?” she said. “Maybe I hit my head harder than I thought.”

She still couldn’t afford a hospital, though.

J.J. looked at the window, trying to decide if she needed to bundle up any thicker than usual. It was a bright, sunny day, but she knew there was no liar on earth like a winter sun. She opened the window—the sash shrieked like a banshee but stuck a lot less than it usually did—to get the only measurement she trusted: the bite of the air on her skin.

It was cool, definitely, but comfortably so. She would be walking an almost ten-mile round trip to and from work, but with no museum trip planned, she’d be heading home as the sun set.

She leaned out the window, feeling the feeble heat of the sun and the cool caress of the air, waiting to see how long it would take for the cold to win out. It didn’t, and finally she gave up and accepted that it was an unseasonably pleasant day.

She didn’t trust it to stay that way, though. She opened the weather app on her phone to see what the hour-by-hour forecast was.

She stopped when the current temperature popped up: 40 degrees.

“The dang you say!” J.J. said. She thumbed the refresh and watched it cycle. 40 degrees again. Below it: last updated at 8:07 AM.

She went back to the window, opened it again, stuck her head out, and let out a deep breath. It puffed out as a visible cloud.

“What the actual heck?”

Out on the street, a black SUV with tinted windows rolled slowly past. J.J. shuddered despite not feeling the cold, pulled her head in, and closed her window.