When we arrived at the house, Lena's car was already parked at the front. Buddy carried the shopping bags and followed me through the front door.
"Hey," I called out to Lena. My heart was thumping erratically in my chest, dreading the moment I'd have to explain my sudden boyfriend. But I spoke naturally, hiding my nerves in a kind of cheerful bravado.
"Hey," I heard her respond from another room.
Buddy began putting away the shopping, leaving out the ingredients we would need for the recipe we'd agreed to cook.
We started working side by side, chopping the vegetables and meat and sauteing them with hot oil in the fry pan. Every movement felt natural and normal: Buddy reaching across in front of me for the salt, arm brushing intentionally against mine; laughing together when an errant piece of pak choi flew out of the pan and across the room; popping pieces of food into each other's open mouths like a mother bird feeding her hungry baby.
I'd relaxed into the evening, completely forgetting my earlier apprehension, when Lena came springing out of her room abruptly.
"Oh, who's this?" She asked, stopping in front of us. We had been laughing together, and both looked up guiltily like children caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
I glanced across to Buddy, as if double checking that we were really doing this. His eyes told me in no uncertain terms that we were. I took a deep breath.
"Buddy, this is my housemate, Lena." I looked over to Lena. "This is my boyfriend, Buddy."
"You sly dog!" Her mouth gaped open at Buddy, disbelieving eyes darting back and forth between us. I felt a burst of pride surging through me. "You've been out getting boyfriends and not telling me!"
I laughed and shrugged.
"I mean, it kind of just... happened," I looked at Buddy, smiling. At least that much was true.
"Nice to meet you, Lena." Buddy sounded natural, comfortable. She had no reason to guess she wasn't being addressed by a human.
"You too Buddy," she said, shaking her head in disbelief. "Who needs a drink? I need a drink."
"Yes please," I said, relief flooding over me that we'd passed the first checkpoint. She returned holding two cans and a beer bottle, which she offered to Buddy.
"Cheers," he said nonchalantly as he accepted the beer from her.
I took my can and pulled back the tab. The crack-hiss was echoed by Lena's, and we all raised our drinks in a casual toast. Lena took a few sips, face thoughtful.
"So where did you find him then?" She asked.
"Work," I said quickly, running over our story in my head. "We met a few months back at an art gallery when I was doing a story, and kind of kept in touch, and then bumped into each other again just recently." I realised I was babbling, getting the story out as quickly as possible. I stopped and waited for her to become suspicious, work out I was lying.
"Huh, nice." There wasn't any hint of disbelief. "So the next question is, do you have any brothers?" She grinned widely at Buddy. I winced at the jealousy that flooded me then. Lena was easily the more beautiful of the two of us. Her long, sun bleached hair hung in beachy waves over her shoulders, and her green eyes were startlingly magnetic. She had all the right curves in all the right places, and the bubbly and bright personality to match. I had always felt insignificant next to Lena, but I'd been okay with that until now. I didn't want the limelight. She could have that, and the trail of ex-boyfriends she left in her wake. It had never bothered me before, it had just been the way it was. But now I had something of my own to protect, something I was fiercely jealous of. I found myself wanting to get rid of Lena. I didn't want her leaning over the counter, smiling her broad, warm smile at Buddy, flashing her much more ample cleavage at him. I didn't want her to notice how attractive he was. But most of all, I realised in a rising panic, I didn't want him to notice her. I turned to look at Buddy, anxiously searching his face for any hint of attraction, of lust, of desire. I was painfully aware of how obsessive I'd just become in the last thirty seconds, but I couldn't push the feeling away.
"Nope, sorry, no brothers," Buddy was replying easily. He caught my gaze and put his arm around my shoulder. "There's only one of me, and I'm all hers," he added, smiling down at me. My heart swelled. I still couldn't believe my luck.
"Yikes, laying it on a bit thick aren't we," Lena joked with mock disgust, tipping up her can for another sip, then smiling at us. "I'm happy for you guys. It's really exciting."
Buddy flicked off the gas stove, announcing that dinner was ready.
"You eating with us?" I asked Lena as I opened the cupboard to retrieve plates.
"Sure, if there's enough," she said, then added quickly, "and if I'm not interrupting a special date night?"
"Not at all," Buddy replied.
We all sat down together, chatting easily like old friends. The atmosphere was warm, comfortable. We laughed and ate and drank, and I almost could have forgotten that my boyfriend wasn't human and we were both deceiving my roommate.
Lena even offered to help clean up after dinner, putting on the gloves for the first time in months and standing at the sink washing the dishes carelessly. Buddy was drying, looking perfectly domesticated with a tea towel in his hands, so I slipped out to the bathroom. After I finished on the toilet, I stood in front of the mirror, staring at myself, wondering for the hundredth time that day how my life had managed to turn inside out and upside down like this so suddenly. It was a good kind of upside down though.
Looking into the mirror, I remembered the night the light - Buddy, I corrected myself - had appeared here. What was it, two nights ago? Three? It felt like a lifetime ago. I remembered with a jolt how I had pressed my finger against the light, and how the feeling of warmth and electricity had spread through me. But Buddy had said we'd never touched - did that time not count? And what had the surge of energy meant? I resolved to ask him about it later, when we were alone. That reminded me that I'd left the other two alone in the kitchen, and although we'd passed an enjoyable evening together, and Lena had behaved herself, the new, unfamiliar worm of jealousy in my stomach told me to go back out. I didn't want to give Lena any chance to show Buddy that she was a far better catch than me. And I didn't want to give Buddy a chance to let it slip that he was not, in fact, even human.
Music flowed through the house as I opened the bathroom door, and I emerged to find them singing along to 80s classics, dish brush in Lena's gloved hands acting as a karaoke microphone. Buddy had the tea towel tied around his head like a ridiculous plaid dorag. I froze in amused disbelief, then laughed as they pulled me in, and we all roared the chorus together like drunks at the pub on open mic night. We sang loudly, purposefully out of tune, each trying to outdo the others with our garish singing. When the song finished, we all collapsed into laughter, gasping for air between hysterical guffaws. Lena was making pathetic attempts at finishing the dishes, but kept having to pause to snort out another chuckle. Buddy removed the tea towel and went back to drying, still grinning widely. I stared at them, filled with a sudden and unexpected feeling of contentment and fondness. Here were the two people I was closest to right now, having fun and laughing together. It occurred to me that this was the most fun I'd had with Lena in ages - maybe ever. She'd always been here, but we'd never really spent this much time together, never just had fun together. Tonight had been one of the best nights I could remember in months, if not years. I'd been living in some kind of fog-obscured wasteland, and it felt like Buddy had arrived like the sun, evaporating the clouds and painting my world with colours I had somehow forgotten existed. I might need him now more than he needed me, I realised. I would have to find a way to keep him here. I had to give him an identity, help him integrate into the world. I knew now, looking at him smiling in my kitchen, that I couldn't risk losing the miracle that had crash landed in my life.