Two Steps Back


Ariana Cimino

In “Two Steps Forward,” the third part of “Slow Burn,” Jody tries to face her own issues as she works out the move to Los Angeles with her friend Marceline. The view outside of Marceline’s apartment was based off of a real apartment complex in San Pedro, California, and the view from the fire escape.

Ariana Cimino, Staff Writer

Marceline gazed around the room with eyes half-awake, trying to gauge what time it was and take in the comfortable feeling of the warm fuzzy blanket wrapped tightly around her. Waking up in Jody’s apartment wasn’t a strange occurrence when Marceline had lived in San Pedro – at some point, impromptu surprise dinners and sleepovers became expected, to be quite frank – but waking up in her own apartment with the blonde next to her was a new experience and slightly reminiscent of their innocence as middle schoolers having slumber parties at Marceline’s mother’s house. She could feel Jody’s back pressed against her own for the remainder of her feigned sleep, Jody eventually getting up and going through her own daily routine.  

She sat up, stretched and took in the warmth of the sun through blinds on her bare skin. Slow mornings like these made her feel wistful, wishing for Jody to live closer or for Marceline to not have left in the first place. Sure, the drive to Los Angeles from San Pedro wasn’t overwhelmingly far, Marceline supposed, but the 24 miles between the duo was enough to build a reasonably sized wall between them. The smell of slow-cooking breakfast jolted Marceline out of her thoughts and alerted her to the lack of Jody pressed against her, the crisp air on her skin suddenly becoming more noticeable. She stood up, lazily threw on some weird Yeezy 2020 shirt that had been on the floor and shuffled out of Jody’s bedroom. From the kitchen, Jody nodded a hello to Marceline and gestured to come look at what she was making. 

“Since you offered to let me stick around instead of making me get a hotel,” Jody mused, raising her eyebrows at Marceline, “you get breakfast. I don’t trust my cooking skills much, but hopefully this’ll make up for any hard feelings?” 

Marceline shook her head rapidly. “There aren’t any,” she said, pouring herself a mug of coffee and offering Jody some. “Hard feelings, I mean. It’s all good.” 

Jody scoffed and looked back down at her meal prep after grabbing the mug from Marceline. “Whatever.” They sat in the somewhat-silence for a few moments, the ambience of California streets and civilian chatter in the background. “Do you want pancakes? I found a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for chocolate chip ones,” Jody smiled, looking back up at Marceline.  

“Okay,” Marcie nodded, picking up her coffee mug and heading to sit at the dining table. The view from the window in the kitchen wasn’t stellar, but Marceline liked it anyways. It looked out onto the street and the lot next door, with the bustle of Sunset Boulevard and city life not too far off in the distance. You could see the port, too, and the bridge from the window. Shops lined the walkway leading up to the apartment complex alongside various restaurants that Marceline knew Jody liked to frequent when she visited.  


“Okay. But not too much.” 

“Yeah, I know.” 

Marceline nodded to herself, propping up her face with her hand and continuing to gaze out the window.  

“Fruit? You’ve got blueberries, bananas and strawberries.” 

“Sure. We have powdered sugar?” 


Marceline turned back to Jody for a moment as the blonde brought over Marceline’s pancakes, trying to catch her eyes. “Are you going to eat?” 

Silence. Jody shrugged and sat down in the seat across Marceline, playing with the tasseled tablecloth. 

Marceline’s sigh broke the silence, her contemplating for a moment before shrugging as well. “You should,” she argued, crossing her arms, “just ‘cuz I’m here.” 

“I always eat when you’re around,” Jody argued back. 

“No, not really,” Marcie retorted, taking a sip of her coffee before continuing. “If you’re not hungry I won’t push you. But it’s just kind of awkward.” 

Jody shrugged again. “You’re not my Mom. Don’t make me regret making you breakfast.” 

Marceline faked an offended look and pulled her plate closer, eliciting a laugh from Jody. The pair sat in silence for a few moments. “Are you planning on looking for a place today? Not that you have to rush or anything.” 

“I wasn’t planning on it, but I can,” Jody offered, drumming her fingers against the table. “Have you seen any places nearby that look like there’s any chance of them being within my broke-college-kid budget?” 

Marceline shrugged, taking a moment to think and eat a few bites of her notably delicious – Jody’s cooking had improved – pancakes before answering. “There might be a place a few blocks down – a studio apartment. Asked the landlord about it a few weeks ago in case you were serious about moving. It’s a lot like mine,” she added. “The layout, I mean. But I don’t know how much it is. It’s a lot more expensive here than San Pedro. I’ve got my parents to thank for this place.” 

Jody gave a displeased grunt as an answer, not saying much else on the matter. Marceline didn’t push it, because way too much time had been spent in the past saying accidentally offensive things and cleaning up after her own words for weeks on end as an attempt at an apology, and she was well aware of Jody’s financial status. Marceline was lucky enough to still have her parents talking to her after she moved out, and even more lucky that they’d wholeheartedly agreed to pay for half of her housing costs; Jody, on the other hand, was not as fortunate, in terms of familial communication or otherwise. Marceline had sometimes considered asking Jody to just move in with her, because honestly, they were already together for most of the time anyways, but she figured Jody needed her space and had the intention to give her just that. 

“Do you want to go do something today or stay in?” Marceline asked with a full mouth, earning a mock-disgusted face from Jody. Marceline held up a finger, swallowed and repeated the question. “We could go shopping or see a movie,” she offered, not even bothering to mention getting food. 

“Mm … I dunno. I kind of would prefer to stay in. I got here pretty late last night.” 

Marceline hummed in response. “True,” she conceded, turning her head to look out the 

window. “I might go grocery shopping later. Do you need anything?” 

Jody shrugged. She received an agitated sigh as an answer while Marceline got up to put her plate in the sink, afterwards briefly thanking Jody for cooking. The brunette didn’t say another word to Jody as she went to take a shower, leaving Jody sitting at the dining table and staring through the window.  

The winter break hadn’t even been on for a week yet and Jody was already concerned about going back to school. She couldn’t quite discern what made her hate it so much; maybe it was a side effect of “major depressive disorder,” as her newly-found psychiatrist had called it, or maybe it was having to socialize with people she could feel judging her no matter what she did. She figured it was normal for people to hate going to school, because after all, nobody ever hears about students being excited to return after a long break. Her parents – her mother in particular, despite being a sorry excuse for one – cared more about her own grades than she did, going as far to launch it into every conversation albeit in an off-topic and condescending manner. Jody couldn’t bring herself to get caught up, but she honestly wasn’t even sure if she was behind in her work. Maybe she just didn’t care enough to try.  

Jody drummed her fingers on the table, observing a blackbird perched on a tree nearby. Her thoughts shifted to her overdue work, and the anxiety dwelling inside her grew. Even in small quantities, it was too much, and she’d had many more stress-induced breakdowns than she’d care to admit. She was a “gifted kid” in elementary and middle school, the name being attributed to her parents; straight As and smiles, she would go headfirst into schoolwork and come out like she’d just won the world. It was funny to her how much she’d ruined her own life. It was funny to her that now, all she ever wanted to do was lie in bed and disappear. There was schoolwork waiting for her when she got back. There were teachers disappointed in her and grades that needed to be brought up. There was a project and math homework and a study guide and more assignments – she needed to stop. She could feel a migraine coming on. Those were usual, too, alongside the overdue or perfunctory work. Jody had gotten used to the stress headaches a long time ago.  

She wondered at what point feeling sorry for herself would become an unshakable habit, and her nihilism would turn into something that screwed her over in the long run. Too bad that it already had.