Lisa burst into the room. “I am king!”
Morgan looked up from her laptop, where her English essay sat mocking her. Lisa was holding bulging plastic bags aloft in both hands. “Why are you king?” she asked.
“Because,” Lisa said as she moved into the studio flat, “I’ve brought us a feast.”
A heavy savoury smell drifted from the bags. Morgan peered into the closest one; it was full of disposable tin containers and radiated warmth. “You got take-out?”
Lisa leaned in and whispered, “From the Golden Palace.”
That got Morgan’s attention. Chinese take-out was a guilty pleasure of hers. “I thought we couldn’t afford to splurge.”
Slowly, Lisa laid out the multitude of food containers across their secondhand table. Morgan’s mouth watered. Fried rice, spring rolls, szechuan beef: all mass-produced and unhealthy and fulfilling.
“I got a job tutoring math to rich high school kids,” Lisa said.
Morgan pushed off her desk and scooted her wheeled chair across to the table. Regency-era literature could wait. “You shouldn’t be spending your money on me,” she said even as she opened the closest container. Pork gyoza. Jackpot.
Lisa shrugged off the objection. “You’re my roommate. Doesn’t seem fair to treat myself and leave you out.”
Morgan was obscenely grateful that Lisa was her roommate. Not only did Lisa have a keen eye for repurposing furniture—hence the moderately sturdy table they were eating on—but she had helped Morgan pass her freshman stats class last year. The girl had a gift with numbers. She would make a killing as a tutor.
They ate directly out of the containers. No point in dirtying dishes that neither of them would touch for two days. For the first ten minutes, they were silent, allowing themselves to put aside finals and professors and tuition.
“It’s a sad life,” Morgan said as she sopped up the last of her soy sauce with a spring roll, “when crappy take-out is the highlight of the month.”
“It isn’t crappy,” Lisa argued. “It’s Golden Palace.” She picked up the last shrimp dumpling with her chopsticks. She emphasised her words while waving them around, never losing the dumpling caught in between. “It’s the best in town!”
Morgan pointed her fork at Lisa with a smile. “That was never in question.” She paused and added, “Thank you.”
“Oh, shut up.” Lisa chucked her one of the fortune cookies. “Read your fortune.”
Morgan felt content for the first time in weeks as she cracked open the cookie. The combination of the feast and Lisa’s enthusiasm let her relax. “You know that fortune cookies aren’t Chinese, right? They were invented in San Francisco.”
“Oh yeah, take the fun out of everything.” But Lisa smiled as she said it. She was used to Morgan’s esoteric knowledge. She opened her cookie and read, “‘Choose carefully the company you keep on the difficult road ahead.’”
Morgan raised an eyebrow as she read out hers. “‘Financial gains come with wisdom.’ Well, that’ll be nice.”
The mood shifted as a beat passed.
“Your life isn’t sad, Morgan,” Lisa said.
Morgan blinked. It was such a departure from Lisa’s usual approach that she took a moment to respond. “What?”
“I mean that if take-out food makes you happy, then it doesn’t matter that it’s take-out. You shouldn’t feel bad about things that make you feel good.” Lisa’s eyebrows were drawn together; Morgan didn’t think she had ever seen that expression on her face before.
“Did you enrol in a philosophy class without telling me?”
Lisa tossed the crumpled fortune at her, breaking the spell. “Fine, don’t listen to my worldly advice. Good luck getting those financial gains without it.”
“I’ll get you to doctor my accounts,” Morgan said, “in exchange for my epic poetry.” She gathered some of the empty cartons when a thought struck her. “What makes you happy?”
Lisa smiled as if she was proud that Morgan thought to ask. “I like puzzles. I like exploring secret codes. It’s why I like math and formulas. You can change one tiny element and get a completely new result,” she said.
Morgan frowned this time. It felt more comfortable on her. “Is someone making you feel bad about it?”
Lisa rolled her eyes. “Oh, you know, there are a few bros afraid of a girl doing numbers, but I can handle them.” She winked as she threw the cartons into the bin. “Don’t worry about me.”
She said it with such self-assuredness that Morgan believed her.
This story is the last among the first volume of the Binge food fiction series. To know why Morgan and Lisa ended up here, read the first four.