The days that followed were pretty weird, and that's putting it lightly.
After Liza swore up and down she was getting rid of Max since he backed out of the engagement the night we caught a flick at the Theaters, she came crawling back to the apartment on her knees begging him to reconsider. I didn’t get it, but she didn’t get my life either. I suppose separating yourself from the situation really comes in handy when you need it to. Which is exactly what I’d been doing. Pulling doubles at work, getting lost in any task involving bathing, drying, and primping up dogs for their doting owners. Katie was constantly blowing my phone up, and ignoring her was getting to be a massive pain in my ass.
We hadn't spoken much since the last time we fucked, and I wasn't looking forward to exchanging words. Couldn't she just leave me alone? That'd be worlds easier than having to dodge her constantly.
“Any plans this weekend, Franie?” My co-worker, Mikayla, asked with that artificially sweet voice she always used while I was straightening up my station. I hated when she called me that, and she knew it too. Gritting my teeth, I didn’t respond as I yanked dog hair out of my steel bristled brush and threw the white clump into the nearest trashcan.
“She’s too good for us, Kay. Don’t bother.” The Salon Manager, Priscilla laughed and tied a loose black bow around a copper spaniel's pink studded collar. Her work was prestigious and sought after, but that attitude needed much more than a simple makeover. She ran an exclusive posse consisting of three other girls, all with their own individual bitchy complexes. The smartest thing I ever chose to do after transferring from my Texas location was not buy into their antagonizing ways.
“I’ve got work to do.” I eyed both of them in irritation before excusing myself to the back, where their childish gossip couldn’t be heard over the dryers and hoses. I actually enjoyed closing time. I got to spend a few extra minutes with the dogs as they patiently waited behind their cages to be picked up. “Don’t listen to those idiots”, I cooed softly to my favorite client, a large German Shepard named Norman. “Your daddy’s coming.” I could hear my co-workers laughing to themselves about abandoned pets, which made me wonder why they chose this profession in the first place. I didn't catch all of it, but I didn't have to. Dogs hear better than we do, so I always like covering my bases when they start looking worried. True to my word, Norman’s owner came by to scoop him up a moment later. After I got Norm into his brown braided leash and collar, I breezed past my co-workers and checked him out. Robert slipped me a twenty dollar tip during the exchange, just like he always did. Great guy.
“Top notch as usual Francine, thanks for taking care of my pal here.” Bob’s thick New York accent boomed, and I shook his hand firmly.
“My pleasure. Bye Norman!” I smiled as they left the store happily, Norman’s big bushy tail wagging in excitement. I loved dogs to death, just always preferred cats myself. Working with dogs wasn’t the worst job in the world.
SMS: I miss you.
SMS: Please write when you can.
SMS: Where the hell are you? I’m waiting for you!
SMS: Detka? (((
SMS: Fine. I’m going to sleep. Fuck you.
I rubbed my head with confusion.
So I’m not the only one who felt a shift in our friendship.
Since basically admitting I’m still sleeping with Katie, Vasha had been avoiding me at every turn. I tried to pretend like it wasn’t affecting me, but that shit hurt. Even though she was cursing me out and acting insecure, I secretly preferred it over complete silence. I stopped walking and typed out a response with a shake of my head.
SMS: ...Vasha, I was at work. Where do you think I am when we don’t talk? Let’s Skype later.
I watched as the “read” notification popped up beside my message. It didn't take her long to write back.
SMS: Probably fucking your Katie. ) When can we Skype? Can it be now? I think we should talk, Don’t you?
I rolled my eyes at her accusation. I could tell if I didn’t agree, it’d be at least a few more days before I heard from her. That’s how it always worked.
SMS: I wasn't with her, but I was busy at work Vasilisa. Give me thirty minutes. I’ll call you.
With way more urgency than I normally had, I sprinted all the way back to Liza’s. My friend's wild jealousy was throwing me for a loop, but I'd be lying if I said some tiny part of me didn't secretly enjoy it. It was for this reason especially that I doubled my efforts to try and talk this out with her as soon as possible.
A half hour later, I arrived home and had a quick shower. Vasha would give me shit for being late, but I wasn’t about to sit in my wet bather’s uniform. You’ve smelt wet dog before, right? It’s disgusting. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. I’d just rushed back to a place I didn’t even want to be, to talk to someone who basically told me to go fuck myself while I was working all day.
I towel dried my chin length brown hair and shook the stray strands out of my eyes before logging into my Skype account. Initiated the call.
The second Vasha’s face materialized on my screen, my anger melted away. She smiled sheepishly and said she missed me with attentive, glowing green eyes. Just then, I understood something. I liked her as much as she liked me. We lived on the opposite side of the world, and I certainly wasn’t ready to deal with this. I just got out of something serious.
Fuck. FUCK. This was bound to be a fun conversation...unless...I didn’t need to have it? Maybe I’d just let her talk for a change. Yeah, what was the worst that could happen? Don't open your big fat mouth, Francine.
I watched Vasha twist the silver rings on her slender fingers. She always wore three on each hand...on her thumbs, forefingers and middle ones. She was flashy and out there with her style, but I thought it was cool.
“I missed you too. Sorry I had to end our call the other day, my friend was going through something.” I tried to sound casual, instead I sounded like a tool. Like I was blowing her off, when all I wanted to do was talk to her day and night.
Her eyes brightened at my apology as she smirked. I knew better though, I was safe.
“Everything is fine with us, just don’t do it again.” She laughed in a teasing way, but her expression let me know she was serious. Vasilisa didn't like sharing her time with me, and made it obvious on more than one occasion. I swallowed hard and took a mental note.
Looks like you're on your own if I'm Skying Vasha and Max is acting like his usual moronic self, Liza.
“So, what did you want to talk about? It’s 11 P.M here.” I tried to sound annoyed, but I was smiling. She looked so small sitting cross legged on her black couch. I think she loved the color black more than I did. Vasha poured herself a cup of tea, squeezing a lemon directly over the steaming liquid. Not taking her eyes off the task she retorted, “When are you going to tell your former girlfriend things are over between you?”
Her blunt nature never ceased to shock me. Americans just don’t come right out with what we want. Culturally, we’re politer than our Russian counterparts. Less direct, because we're always thinking about the other person's feelings. Vasha would probably laugh at me if I acted as offended as I felt.
“We’re not together.” I said flatly, hoping she’d just let it GO.
No such luck. She leaned into the camera and replied smugly, “You’re fucking her. Am I mistaken? It means there’s something lingering between you. Why would you fuck someone you don't care about anymore?” While I couldn’t argue her point, I didn’t want to think about the fact I kept going to Katie for physical comfort. Not even that. It was just sex, I never stayed over. It really didn’t mean anything except shallow pleasure, but Vasha wasn’t buying it.
“I’ve been trying to let it go...” I began cautiously, tasting my words before spitting anything else out. “But she has this control...this power. Who knows, maybe I’m just lonely.”
At this point, Vasha’s expression softened considerably the more she listened to me talk. Pity? No. She wouldn’t pity me.
“I can give you time if you're lonely, Detka. What do you need the former for? Tell me. Do you want to be with her?” Her tone was breathy, and I'd even go as far as to say she was heavily dreading the answer. She rubbed her face with one hand and peered at me through her little fingers.
“No.” Fuck no. Go back to that abusive piece of shit? Never in a million years.
“Good. Then let it go. If you don’t want to be alone, don’t be. There are options. The former is poison. You told me yourself. You said this, remember? Now, let her know the same or she'll never leave you be.” Vasha ran a hand over her glossy black hair and sighed, taking a long sip of tea before continuing her rant. “I want you to be happy. How can you be, when you hold onto the past?” She raised her gaze to meet mine. I nodded. Regardless of what was happening between Vasha and I, this thing with Katie...it had to end. Prolonging the inevitable wasn't being fair to anyone.
I sighed and cracked my knuckles. “Alright. I’ll talk to her tomorrow.” While part of me was relieved to be doing this, I couldn't help but feel the dread pool in the pit of my stomach at the thought of actually going through with it. Katarina was ruthless, and I had no idea what to expect.
"Mmm. Oh, and Detka?" Vasha sounded much happier as she finished off her tea and sat back against the large black couch. I glanced back at her with a sleepy grin.
"The moment Katie hurt you, she stopped deserving the happiness you brought to her life. Don't feel badly, just tell yourself it's the right thing." Vasha wrapped her arms around herself and let out a soft laugh. I cocked my head to the side and struggled to keep from squealing out loud from glee.
"Really? Wow...thanks a lot, seriously. But hey, what's with the face?"
"Have you looked at your reflection while you're smiling, Detka?" Vasha shifted around and started pouring another cup of tea. My eyes narrowed, wondering what she was getting at.
"I don't think so, no."
"You should try it sometime. It's the most beautiful smile I've-" She stopped suddenly and her cheeks burned bright red. Before I could say anything, she cut me off. "Let's Skype again soon, I should go now."
Just like that, she was gone. Leaving me with a bubbling mixture of bewilderment and newly found exhilaration.
She said my smile was beautiful.