Celine is sitting on the floor with her legs crossed: yellow sock, blue sock. She is chewing gum, blows it into a bubble, pops it with her tongue. Her hair is cut short, overturned bowl. Mary is lying on her back, her long hair spilling over the edge of the bed and onto the floor like a heap of black sand. Celine runs her fingers through it, tugs a little. Sara looks at her watch and then out the window. The late afternoon sun is turning the blinds warm pink, bleeding onto the wooden floor of Sara’s room like a glass of something spilled.
They argue about shipping and cards and express and who gets to pull of the tape and keep the box and have the seventh of the seven when it comes–that is, if it comes. The sun slips lower over the ripped hem of rooftops. I have to go soon, Celine is saying. Mike is going to be annoyed if I don’t call him before 8:30. Mary rolls her eyes. Sara tells them to be quiet. It’s near. It’s rounding the corner, riding on the back of a man with an electric blue helmet. It is wrapped in silver under brown under postage stamps.
Sara hears it first: the faint blue ring of the doorbell rippling through the hum of the air-conditioner and the music and the argument. She gets up and the whole bed shifts like an ocean in a storm. Mary sits up. Celine stops chewing. They hold their breath as Sara runs down the stairs, a light hand on the rail.
The package is bigger, heftier than they’d all expected. Sara puts it in the middle of the bed and it settles onto the mattress like a ship easing into a breeze. Celine has the scissors so they let her cut. They all close their eyes, savoring the sound of plastic giving under metal. Mary takes it out of the box, lifting it lightly enough not to leave prints on the clear facade under which the cover is set in resin: a bright mosaic made out of tiny polaroids that form the image of a tower at the foot of which the seven boys stand in various poses. They are all wearing suits in different shades of blue. L-R, light to dark.
Sara undoes the small, brass latch that’s made to look the like the clasp on an old jewelry box. All the other albums they’d opened in the past had been made of cardboard. Inside, the record is encased in a slender, cloud-patterned sleeve against which the silhouette of an astronaut floats: a pocket of sky. 12 tracks.Celine takes it and slips the disc out, holds it between two fingers before slipping it into the old boombox they’ve been using since they were twelve.
Mary opens the small envelope embossed with the album’s name: K R O N I C L E, subtitle: Adventures in Time & Space. Inside are the polaroids they’ve been fighting over for the past month since they placed the pre-order. Sara leans over: did we get Time or Space?
Celine crosses her fingers, hugs a pillow to her chest. She is hoping they get the nebulae and the silver suits and the slicked back hair. She knows they want Time so she holds her breath, wishes harder. Mary lays them out carefully face down in a triangle: 4, 2, 1. The autographs are stark in black against the white photo paper. She glances at Celine, asks what time she needs to be home.
Soon, Celine says without looking up. She presses play. The first track starts playing. They will all be here for hours.
The division of the first six is done quick as clockwork. Celine disassembles the pyramid, careful not to overturn any of the photos: Lynx and Mingkyu for her, Ree and Gin for Mary, James and DH for Sara. They set the last photo in the middle. His signature was big, loopy like a roller coaster or an epitaph. Toyun–brown eyes, hair like honey: the point from which their friendship ran, the card, the game that divided them and brought them together. The rules they abided by were simple–three stories and then a vote: they were not allowed to vote for themselves, only each other. Celine, who had won the last two rounds, touches the edge of the photo. Sara holds her thumb poised over a pink stopwatch. Mary’s hand twitches. When she speaks, she tries to keep the anxiety out of her voice. Let’s begin.