The broom hissed against the floor, clearing the dust from the hardwood, until the doorbell rang. “Who is it?” Lisa called out, the long yellow handle of the broom bright against the deep red of her shirt.
“Delivery, man,” came the response from the other side of the door. Lisa scrunched up her face. She wasn’t expecting any kind of delivery, and couldn’t remember her future husband ordering anything recently. She finally recognised the voice as Mark’s, as he added, “It’s me, Lisa. Come on, open up.”
Crimson with lipstick, Lisa’s lips opened in a wide smile. “Come on in,” she invited, still clutching the broom. Hey eyes lit up as Mark did as she asked, his muscular frame covered in a snug-fitting sweater. “Hey, Mark,” she said bewitchingly.
Ignoring the tone of her voice, Mark stalked around the room, inspecting the small space and dropping a small grocery bag on the coffee table. “Wow, so, uh, you gonna be ready?” he asked as he looked around the room.
“How do you mean that?” Lisa asked perplexingly. “I’m always ready,” she flirted, smirking. “For you,” she clarified, just in case Mark didn’t get it.
“I mean for the party,” Mark replied with a laugh.
“We have plenty of time. All I have to do is put on my…” She paused, letting the suspense build. “Party dress.” Flippantly, she cast the broom into the corner and pulled off her blood-coloured top, exposing the bra, black as her heart, beneath.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Mark stopped her, confused, “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” Lisa answered, rolling Mark’s sweater up to reveal his abs. Raising his arms, Mark obliged, letting her strip the shirt off. She giggled as it nearly got stuck on his head, and they tumbled to the sofa together as it wrapped around his arm.
Now topless, Mark pulled Lisa into his lap. “You’re so beautiful,” he cooed. He ran his fingers through her soft blonde hair, inadvertently hitting her dangling, golden earring. The jewellery, a present from her future husband, swayed back and forth, catching his eye and reminding him of his crimes, but there was no way he could stop now. He’d already gone too far.
Their lips found each other, and they locked, lost in the sensation, the taste of each other. Mark didn’t know how long the kiss went on, but when they parted, all thoughts of his best friend were gone. All he could see was Lisa.
There was a sudden knock at the door. Heavy and insistent, it was powerful enough to make the hinges rattle.
With a gasp, Lisa sprang off the couch, away from Mark. Frantically disentangling the sweater enveloping his arm, Mark stood as Lisa snatched her shirt from the sofa.
“Hurry up,” she directed as she tried to get her shirt right side out. “I have to open the door.”
“Wait, hang on, hang on,” Mark told her, still battling with his shirt.
Watching him, Lisa giggled as she pulled her shirt on over her head. She took a moment to smooth the wrinkles before calling out, “Come on in, it’s open.”
Mark’s face went white as he managed to work one arm into one sleeve. His chest was still bare and the door was already swinging open. Time seemed to stand still, the door seemed to move in slow motion as Mark redoubled his efforts to cover up.
Did Lisa want to get caught? he wondered. Was this how she planned to get out of her impending marriage to her future husband? If that was the case, this was certainly the most dramatic way to go about it, opening cheating on Johnny on his birthday. But, Mark thought, Lisa doesn’t know how dangerous an idea this is if my suspicions about her future husband are correct.
He just managed to pull the neck of the sweater over his head as the door opened all the way. Although he was covered, he knew anyone coming in would know he had just finished getting dressed. Luckily, it was Michelle who was standing in the open doorway. She gave a little gasp and then grinned wickedly as Mark hurriedly tried to neaten his hair.
“Hi!” Michelle chirped brightly. She held out a gift bag printed with large, red flowers. “I brought the stuff.”
“I knew I could count on you,” Lisa giggled.
Grinning, Michelle turned to Mark. “Hi, Mark,” she greeted him. Her eyes flashed downwards. “XYZ.”
“What are you talking about?” Mark asked with a faint smile of confusion.
“Examine Your Zipper,” she explained, giggling.
Lisa burst into helpless laughter in response as Mark looked down, seeing where Lisa had left his pants unzipped. Blushing, he fixed his fly.
“You guys are too much,” Michelle shook her head. “So, what can I do to help?” she offered, holding up the bag she had brought.
Still embarrassed, Mark only laughed. “I gotta go,” he excused himself. As Michelle and Lisa kept snorting with laughter, he headed for the door, quickly exiting the small condo.
Lisa and Michelle fell onto the sofa, giggling. It took them a few moments to recover. “Come on and help me move the coffee table,” Lisa finally said to her friend.
“Okay.” They stood. “What was he doing here?”
“Uh, he just brought by some take-out,” Lisa answered.
“What about his zipper?” Michelle pressed as they paced towards either end of the coffee table.
“What about his zipper?” Lisa echoed, leaning down to grab the two corners nearest her. Together they managed to slide the small table back into place next to the sofa. “Leave him alone. He’s a good guy.”
“Did you tell Johnny yet?” Michelle asked, bringing up her friend’s unfaithfulness to her future husband with a huge grin.
“No,” Lisa sighed, her eyes filled with sorrow. “Mark’s his best friend.”
Lisa accepted the bowl Michelle produced from her bag and put it on the coffee table. “You know, I really loved Johnny at first,” she said wistfully, sitting down. “Everything’s changed. I need more from life than what Johnny can give me,” she continued. “Suddenly my eyes are wide open and I can see everything so clearly. I want it all.”
With a short guffaw, Michelle looked at her friend, surprised she wasn’t satisfied by the tiny condo she shared with a future husband that was about twice her age. “You think you can get it all from Mark?”
“If he can’t give me what I want,” Lisa scrunched up her face, “Someone else will.”
“Lisa,” Michelle chastised, taking a seat next to her friend, “You’re sounding just like your mother. You’re being so manipulative,” she grinned.
“So what?” Lisa shot. “You can learn something from me. You have to take as much as you can. You have to live, live, live.” With a joyous wriggle of her shoulders, Lisa let out another wicked giggle. “Don’t worry about me. I have everything covered.”
“Your point of view is so different from mine,” Michelle pointed out without emotion.
“Look, I don’t want to talk about it,” Lisa told her. She stood, grabbing the broom. “People are going to be getting here soon, and we have to finish.”
“Lisa…” Michelle groaned.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Lisa cut her off, unpacking the brown paper grocery bag Mark had left. “Doesn’t everybody look out for number one?” She continued throwing food onto the coffee table. “Don’t I deserve the best?”
Watching her friend in horror, Michelle scoffed. “I couldn’t do that.” She shook her head, laughing uncomfortably. “You’re too much for me, Lisa.”
“You know, you’re not such an angel yourself,” Lisa smirked, pointing an accusing finger down at Michelle.
“Yeah, but we’re not talking about me,” she retorted, picking up a pillow, “Are we?” With a giggle, she swung the pillow into Lisa’s knee. Shrieking with laughter, Lisa dodged away, shielding herself from the onslaught.
“Stop it!” she laughed, using the broom to swat the pillow away. The two friends both cackled with merriment as they battled. “Are you trying to ruin my party?”
Their sneaker-shod feet throwing up clouds of dirt and clumps of leaves and twigs, Johnny and Mark jogged side by side through Golden Gate Park. “Yeah, that’s the idea,” Johnny was commenting as he ran.
With a surge of energy, Mark bolted forward, slowly gaining a lead on his best friend. “Catch me, come on,” he urged as he thundered forward, wind blowing through his hair. In response, Johnny’s legs and arms pumped harder, cutting through the air with renewed vigour. He chuckled as they raced along the path, surrounded and shaded by tall trees.
As they dashed up a few sets of stairs cut into the side of a hill, Mark told Johnny about his plans to buy a house, asking between gasps for air what interest rates to expect on a mortgage. The friends panted, setting up an appointment to discuss Mark’s finances further.
Later they returned to the apartment building. The brakes of Johnny’s boxy white car squealed as he pulled into his driveway and parked.
Denny slipped the thin chain from around his neck, freeing the key which he always wore under his shirt. It was the only copy of the key that existed, and he kept it hidden against his chest, where he could always feel it, at all times.
Kneeling in front of the open closet, he pushed a pile of laundry out of the way to reveal a locked metal cabinet. He unlocked the door and let it swing open with a shriek. Behind the door, sitting in the small rectangular space, was a styrofoam head and neck on a pedestal next to a hairbrush. On top of the head sat a long, black, stringy wig.
Denny grabbed the hairbrush and lovingly combed it through the wig, keeping the hairpiece perfectly maintained. After a few minutes, he carefully, reverently picked up the wig and placed it on his head, smoothing it out against his scalp.
Still adjusting the hair, making sure it looked like it was his own, Denny stood and stalked over to the full-length mirror standing in his bedroom. He stared himself, admiring his image in the mirror.
“Would you fuck me?” he asked his reflection, imitating Johnny’s impenetrable accent. “I’d fuck me.”