Sitting down at the grey piano bench in the school music room two days later, Lynne dabbled her fingers over the keyboard, picking out the theme song to “The Twilight Zone” before setting on a song she hadn’t sung since her angsty teenage years.
“There’s a moment you know...you’re fucked.” She sang out in her deep alto voice, fingers dancing over the keyboard. “Not an inch more room, to self-destruct. No more moves oh yeaahh, the dead end zone. Man, you just can’t call your soul your own.” She stopped moving and singing as Ava entered the practice room, loudly slamming the door closed.
“Wow, this is a deviation from your normal, “I’ve Got to Break Free” rage-singing when one of your cohort gets on your nerves. Care to explain the deviation that has you “Totally Fucked,” which you shouldn’t be singing when the students can walk in on you and report you to someone for foul language, by the way.” She added the last bit, crossing her arms over her chest.
“Uggh!!” Lynne let out a frustrated sigh, leaning forward, placing her elbows on her knees. “I--I. You take your lunch break yet? I have forty-five minutes left of mine and I can’t give you an answer to your question within the confines of the campus.”
“I still have fifty-five minutes left of my lunch break.”
’Alright, grab your bag, I’m driving us to the diner. I need a cheeseburger deluxe and maybe a chocolate milkshake for this conversation.”
Ten minutes later, seated at a back corner booth, Ava and Lynne had placed their order and were thanking the waitress, Gertie, for their lemonades. As the wizened woman walked away to her next table Ava turned her attention back to Lynne. Cocking an eyebrow up she questioned her friend, “so what’s going on with you? What has you totally fucked?”
Lynne shifted uncomfortably on her cushioned booth seat before meeting Ava’s gaze. “Well...you remember when you and Keith went out with me for Huan’s birthday in the city a couple of months ago?”
“Yeah. We first went to that lounge with the awful DJ, gave up and then Keith got us a table at Marquee and we attempted to drink Dr. Birthday Boy’s weight in whiskey and tequila?”
“That would be the night. Still need to thank Keith for that. Your husband is a saint. Please remind me to do that. Well, if you can recall I stopped drinking about three hours into the night because someone needed to be sober enough to navigate transportation back to the birthday boy’s apartment. Leaving my favorite lushes to continually imbibe.”
“Yes, because you are ridiculously responsible at all times when you should just lighten up and enjoy yourself.”
“Yeah, so Huan had been going through a rough few weeks at work, plus his girlfriend of two years had dumped him not long before his birthday, and he was way past down in the dumps. That birthday celebration was supposed to take his mind off of everything and we did just that. As his designated buddy for the night, I made sure once he passed the point of maintaining the ability to balance that he made it home safely.” She paused to nervously rub the back of her neck. “I got his six foot four ass home, up the stairs and into his apartment with minimal obstacles despite being almost a full foot shorter than him. And then...” She looked down intently into her lemonade and swirled the straw absent-mindedly as she recalled the night in question.
Roughly two months earlier
“Lyndy! We got to keep this party going! Wait, where did all the other people go?” Huan asked Lynne from his supine position on the edge of his bed. Lynne had deposited him there after strong-arming him to prevent him from opening a bottle of wine he had made a beeline for once they arrived at his apartment.
“Everyone went home Huan. It’s 3 in the morning; they wanted to reacquaint themselves with their own feather mattresses,” she told him as she pulled his shoes and then socks off his feet. “Take your pants off,” she instructed him as she placed his shoes in front of his closet and deposited his socks in his laundry basket. Having been close to him for nearly twenty-two years, she knew how particular he was about keeping things organized. Sober Huan would not be happy at drunken Huan’s antics if he woke up to clothes strewn about.
“You are so bossy.” He told her, sticking out his tongue and wagging it in her direction.
“Yes, I’m bossy and you need to get in bed. So sit up, take your shirt and pants off, and put on these.” Placing a pair of grey sweatpants and a blue t-shirt next to him she added a stern, “now!”
“Urrgghh! Fine! Bossy-pants!” He complained, pulling his shirt off and tossing it at her face. “Catch!”
Snatching it out of the air before it hit her, she shook her head at him the way a frustrated parent would. “You are such a freaking child when you’re drunk.”
“Hey, you need to be nice to me, it’s my birthday. And you didn’t get me a present, so you need to be extra nice to make up for it.”
“Technically, your birthday was two days ago so I’m not obligated to treat you extra special in any way. And me hanging out with you this weekend is my present. I’ve been with you all day today, well technically yesterday and I’m spending today with you before I go home.”
“Nope, you still owe me a present of magnanimous proportions. Also, I have christened this my birthday weekend. We both worked on my birthday so it was transplanted. SO, be nice Lyndy!”
Over her shoulder she informed him, “I’ll be nice when you put on your sweatpants and get in bed. I’ll be right back,” before picking his shirt up off the ground and depositing it in his laundry basket. Leaving his room, she walked back into the living room and deposited her jacket and flats in the hallway closet next to the front door. Since it was now almost three-thirty in the morning, she was not trekking back home to New Jersey from NYC as she had originally planned, so she grabbed the spare pillow and blanket she often used out of the closet and quickly set up her makeshift bed on the couch.
Walking into his kitchen, she grabbed him a bottle of water. Raiding his cabinets she found a container of almonds and took it before heading into the bathroom to grab the Extra Strength Tylenol. Returning to his bedroom, Lynne found him sitting up on the edge of the bed sans shirt showing off his lean, v-shaped torso, sweatpants on, hanging his head in his hands. His dark, shoulder-length, pin-straight hair was tied in a top-knot on his head. “How are we doing buddy? Talk to me.”
“Lynnnnne! Why did she leave me?” Here we go. “I mean, what more could she want from me. I gave her my everything. I loved her with every fiber of my being. We were together for two years. Why didn’t she love me back?”
“I don’t know buddy. Something must have been going on within her that she couldn’t see how fantastic you are.” Her heart ached for her best friend. It pained her that Veronica had strung him along for two years if she had no intention of making the relationship last. Lynne had gotten the feeling that something was up with their relationship when Huan had been taking Veronica to functions and dinners with his family and friends for months but had never met anyone she was related to. Hell, he even brought her to a couple Prentice Family barbecues. Not wanting to make any waves because her best friend was happier than she had ever seen him before, Lynne never pointed this out to him. Walking over to his bedside table, she placed the water, nuts, and Tylenol on it for him to eat when he woke up. Squeezing his shoulder reassuringly, she smiled warmly at him, “drink the water Huan.”
“You love me, don’t you Lyndy?”
“Yes, I do; and I’ll love you even more after you drink some water.”
Picking up his discarded jeans, she let the next sentence pass her lips in true best friend form, “you know I never liked her right? She always had a stank-face, fake smile plastered to her face and that obviously bottle-blond hair that she swore was au natural. We both know you can do much better in the future. Now, that’s the end of this topic. I am putting my foot down. This is your birthday weekend, so I’m declaring it a Veronica-free weekend. No mention of the harlot that broke your heart. She’s on my permanent shit-list.” Placing his jeans on a hanger and putting them at the back of his closet, she turned around to continue their conversation only to discover that he had nestled himself against his pillows, his eyes were shut and his chest was evenly rising and falling. Looking over at the bedside table she found the water bottle and saw he had downed half of it before passing out. “At least he’s in the recovery position,” she said out loud to herself.
Shaking her head at the sight before her, she walked over to pull the duvet cover over his sleeping form. When she leaned over to tuck it under him, he turned in his sleep and wrapped his arm around her, tugging her firmly to his chest. The action caught her off guard; an audible “Oof” fell out of her lips as she tried to wriggle free, but his alcoholic strength coupled with his own muscled physique made escape impossible for her. “I guess I’m sleeping here tonight...with all the lights on,” she mumbled to herself as she tried to get into a comfortable position. After about fifteen minutes of failed adjustments and attempts to wake the sleeping giant who was using her as a human teddy bear, Lynne succumbed to her own exhaustion.