Julie never thought of herself as being a terribly pretty girl, not since elementary school when her father would still compliment her on one of the frilly dresses he bought her, not since junior high and high school dragged the last vestiges of her self-worth out kicking and screaming, not since college, when the lays she managed were boys she later convinced herself were only bored or too drunk to care. No, she wasn’t pretty, but in the years since college ended anticlimactically, she had developed several important coping measures which allowed her to get by day to day.
First off she was a first-class smart-ass. This had been a fault in school, when her lip would get her scoldings from listening adults, but now that she was an adult herself, Julie found that a well-placed comment or quick response would earn her respect among her peers. She’d stay up more nights than she’d like to admit rolling turns of phrase around in her head like stones in a smoother, grinding out hard edges until only a jewel of a biting comment emerged, ready to be thrown as if casually when an opportunity presented itself. And she could dress too: she was well-regarded in her social circles as one who knew the latest fashions—and when to ignore them. She had a website where she shot videos of herself after shopping sprees, and the views registered in the high thousands. She wasn’t sure how many viewers were eager girls looking to be directed to a cute outfit, or boys shopping for a quick voyeuristic thrill, but given her low opinions of her physical appearance, she estimated that the latter were quite in the minority.
And so Julie Marster, 23, was a minor web celebrity, biting wit, and pathological under-eater. She lived in the very bottom floor of an extremely ugly apartment building in New York City, next to a ramen shop she ate at almost nightly and a coffee shop which she tried—and often failed—to avoid. Her rent was too high, and so she shared the tiny space with two other girls who were also being mostly supported by their parents until they landed an actual career. Patty Ono, 22, was a drunk and a flirt but at least she was mostly harmless. Audrey Mellon, 26, considered herself the big sister of the apartment and thus considered it her supreme duty to enforce curfews and codes of conduct and other sorts of lists which she would make and would be immediately ignored by the two younger girls. Nine months of living together had as of yet included six of harmony, interspersed by screaming and glaring and tearful calls home to parents and nights spent with boyfriends far, far away from offending females.
Not that Julie had a boyfriend, mind you. Not since moving to New York. Not that it was a priority. Those were work, her blog, and staying somewhat sane. And these priorities, such as they were, had quite a way of coming into conflict.