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An excerpt from Untethered by Ruth Rakoff

Liberation from months of built-up stress had left Petal with a tension-release migraine that throbbed so hard behind her left eye she knew she was about to vomit. She made the obligatory pass to shake hands with each member of her thesis committee and excused herself. Three steps down the echoey hallway of nyu, Petal barfed in the miraculously convenient garbage can.

Celebration’s never been my strong suit, she thought.

Benjamin was waiting in her lobby with a bottle of chilled champagne and a bouquet of flowers. Petal squinted her left eye and pointed to her temple.

“Dr. Wolffe, I presume?” Benjamin said, handing her his gifts.

Petal kissed him on the cheek, muttered a barely audible, “Thanks,” and took the elevator up to her apartment to sleep off her good-news migraine. Tomorrow, she would revel in her success. Tomorrow, she would call Der.

Petal woke feeling human. She pulled on her jeans, sniffed the armpits of the closest T-shirt, brushed the night off her teeth, and headed out to meet Benjamin. Her phone purred inside the kanga- roo pocket of her oversized hoodie as she locked the door behind her. , she thought, placing the key on top of the doorframe. Ben- jamin had warned her against this reckless practice in New York City, but she prided herself on having nothing worth stealing in her five hundred square feet other than the two-ton Murphy bed he had forced her to buy. Petal wasn’t good at ownership.

“You cannot continue to live in this place!” Benjamin had decreed the first time he’d visited her previous apartment, a dingy studio with a bathtub in the kitchen. “This ‘Joad abode’ is a straight shot to razor blade land! I must find you something better!” He’d made it his mission. He’d practically camped out in the lobby of the building across the street from his Tudor City apartment when he heard about a vacancy, accosting the building manager and forcing a cash deposit into his fist.

Petal moved in with nothing but her two duffel bags of old clothes and books. Benjamin was appalled. “A bed! A chair! A plate that doesn’t come from the thrift store, complete with some- one else’s scars and stains!”

He took her shopping. Petal hated shopping.

They lay side by side on the Princess and the Pea model at Manhattan Murphy Beds.

“You need to live like an adult. You need to believe you are worthy of owning two thousand pounds of stuff! And you can’t underestimate the importance of back support,” Benjamin encouraged.

Petal sighed deeply. The salesman rolled his eyes. “It comes in white and grey. Glossy or matte.”

“We’ll take it,” Benjamin said.

“We’ll?” Petal said. “Does that mean you’re going to pay the ridiculous price for this bed?”

“You know I would give you anything, Pet, but I’m afraid that would defeat the purpose of this particular purchase. Don’t think of it as paying for a bed. Think of it as buying roots.”

Petal bought the Murphy bed, spending endless wakeful hours between the time of purchase and delivery contemplating how she could have so much inherited proverbial baggage but no actual baggage.

Untethered is available for preorder in Canada at Amazon

Untethered is available for preorder in the US at Barnes and Nobel

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