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Chris Holmes (25 years), Emma McCarthy (22 years)
(Nicole McCarthy – 40 years, Hazel McCarthy – 31 years, Grace Andersen – 23 years, Lorelei Goss – 22 years, )
narrated by: Emma
Chris loves fried chicken. And he knows how to prepare it, so he can make it whenever he wants. I have the cooking skills of a toddler, but it doesn’t matter to Chris.
He makes chicken whenever he has the night off. I don’t like anything enough to eat that often, especially Chris’ famous chicken.
I duck out to the diner to hang out with Lorelei, she’s only in town to spend time with her brother, Zeke and his new wife, Morgan. The wedding was so intimate that she wasn’t invited to attend, instead she had to stay back to babysit Dean.
I come here often, but Aunt Hazel still insists on hugging me when she sees me. I suck in my stomach and arch my back to avoid touching her grotesque, bulging uterus.
Rebecca has an issue with a customer over the phone, and calls Hazel away. I’m horrible at idle chatter, and really, know one wants to know how I’m really doing, not even Lorelei, my supposed best friend.
It’s not her fault, that we don’t share our deepest secrets anymore. She just doesn’t get it, real life, men, bills. Unfortunately, she arrives with my mother on her tail. I know she dines here, it’s close to Zoe-Gen; she grabs some food when everyone else is out of the house for dinner. Really, I think she should be picking up Lily from Grace’s house, instead of abandoning her there all the time. Grace doesn’t complain, and tells me I shouldn’t ether.
I haven’t talked to my mother since Grace got married, and still, she tries to hug me with a big plastic smile. She tries too hard to look perfect, I wish she wasn’t here, and I know she wishes I wasn’t too.
Embarrassed she looks at Lorelei, and asks how she’s doing.
Nicole doesn’t know anything about my life, unless Grace tells her behind my back. I don’t ask. Grace is a good girl, and there’s just somethings people can’t help about themselves.
“Shouldn’t we ask your Mom to sit with us?” Lorelei is sympathetic towards my Mom, probably because she gets along with her own mother.
“Nicole is fine, she prefers it this way.”
“Gotta be kidding.” I curse under my breath, standing by the hostess table, just inches from me is Chuck. I point slyly toward him to answer Lorelei’s questioning gaze, and mouth, “Chuck.”
“Thee Chuck?” she whispers, too loudly for my taste.
“Stop staring at him.” I growl under my breath. I want to kick her, but I know she’d cry if I did. I really need to find a new place to hang out.
Service is horrible, takes forever for Hazel to stop blabbing to Nicole and finally take our order. They weren’t sly talking about me, they both took turns to look back at me, and Hazel even pointed out Chuck. Just the story I need Nicole to know about.
The entire dinner is a wash, I would have done better to try and swallow more fried chicken. I couldn’t hold any conversation with Nicole glaring at me over Lorelei’s short stature, and Lorelei didn’t have anything she felt comfortable dishing ether.
Apartment 1A is really loud when I get back to the apartment, I assume that Chris is hanging out with Colin and Luca like usual. I avoid that place ever since I accepted a drunken proposal, bad memories.
Problem is, I’m still wearing the damn thing. My hand has never felt heavier or more feminine than it does these days. I just couldn’t tell Chris what a horrific idea marriage is to me. Instead, I conned him into a long engagement, I’m only twenty-two, what the heck do I know about marriage? I’m entirely too selfish to learn how to make his lame chicken, or wash his dirty boxers.
He comes upstairs after midnight, it’s earlier than normal. I wish I had known, then I would have already gone to bed instead of watching “North by Northwest” on the classic station.
“Have a good time?”
No. Actually I didn’t. “It was fine.” I can’t tell him that a man I screwed showed up, and Hazel pointed him out to my mom, and that Lorelei gaped at him like an idiot. “Hazel is so fat now.” I can’t help but shudder.
“Wanna play a game?”
“Didn’t you just play games downstairs for the past five hours?”
He shrugs, “Guess I’ll just go to bed.” He mopes into the bedroom, this is where a good wife, would go and coddle him back to the living room. Or maybe a good wife would have just played the dumb game.
I let him go to bed, and finish watching the movie.
Chris works third shift, so even on his days off he tends to sleep late. I’ve learned how to sneak around real quiet to not wake him up. After I shower, I get out of dodge. Feels suffocating to stay home all day, especially if I have to watch my every noise.
This summer I got into a bad habit, gambling. At least that was my cover.
The real reason was him. Grace used to work at Peanuts, and I never paid any attention to him until this summer. I came in for a beer to kick back, at the time I needed to wash away the horror of the ring on my hand. He was bartending that night, and I’ve been hooked since then. I could never tend bar, I don’t care enough about strangers problems, and I rarely tell my problems to anyone, but I told him. Not all of them, a girl has to have her secrets. But he knows of this fake engagement, he knows I hate my parents, how I spent a weekend in jail, and he noticed on his own, that I don’t like being touched much.
I laughed when he had told me that, I told him I have plenty of sex. “That’s not the same,” he said, “You can have ‘plenty of sex’ it doesn’t mean you are intimate.”
I denied it. But it’s true. I liked Chris in in the beginning because he didn’t pry. He’s patient. He claims he wasn’t always, and that he had rough years with alcohol and stealing as a teenager, and it taught him patience. I can’t see him that way though.
Eric doesn’t pry ether, but he’s observant.
He doesn’t flirt. He asks about Grace, he misses her work ethics he says.
He loses miserably. But then he pulls a really awesome game, and I wonder if he just loses to me on purpose.
After winning all his money, I lose more than I brought with and now owe him. He tries to be a gentleman about it, says it’s no big deal. I’d never take anything for free, even from him. I told him to come by my place to pick up the money after closing hour, I expected for him to deny it immediately. He’s quiet for a moment, before he agrees, his mood is serious, and I feel stupid for even suggesting it.
That night, Colin and Luca are over to play Chris’ games. Colin has a crush on me, he hovers and asks silly questions about the computer. He has his own, I know he can use it. He’s probably heard rumors about me, thinks I’ll lay him. I wouldn’t. It’s Chris’ bud, as odd as that is, seeing as these twins are just kids.
I chat online with Lorelei, she made it back to campus, and is bored. If I was in college, I’d be tearing up the town, but Lorelei sits in her dorm room most nights. My stomach almost hurts as the time ticks on, 2am rolls around, and I casually head downstairs to pay the bills I say. Chris isn’t drinking tonight, but he’s still absorbed in the game to notice much.
Fifteen minutes past the hour and I see his truck pull around the corner. This was a mistake, I say in one breath. I’m being ridicilous, it’s not like we are going to get it on in his pick up with Chris upstairs. I’m just paying a debt, it’s as simple as that.
I slide onto the seat. “Hey. Here’s your cash.” I hand him a folded envelope, I want him to count it, but he just slides it into a little pocket of his dashboard. Then he sits quietly, hands on the steering wheel, and I feel foolish. “Well, I guess I’ll be..”
“Emma.” He interrupts me. “I can’t. Your great, believe me. But I can’t.”
“Right.” I bite my lip, and scold myself. I never cry, and I won’t start now in the cab of his truck. It smells like his cologne, and I want to cry harder because of it.
I move to get out of the car, and he turns to me. “Fuck Emma, you’re engaged.” I’ve never heard him swear, and I find myself focusing on this fact.
I look down at the big shiny, disgusting rock on my hand. I twist it around my fingers. “I know.” I can’t forget this thing is on my finger, I can’t not know that I’m engaged. It’s always there, glaring at me, showing me my bleak future.
“Sorry kid.” He whispers, and turns back to the road. A last look and I slip out. He drives off, no hesitation. My gambling addiction is officially cured.
I can hear the party in my apartment from here, there’s no where to go. Benjamin isn’t working at the fire station tonight, Grace is occupied, Lorelei is hours away. I go to the little park behind the building and sit on a cold bench.
It’s cold after the sun sets, the wind finds the small holes in the building and whips through them, whistling all through the night. Shivers go down my spine, and my arms are covered in goosebumps. I don’t know why, but I like it. The street light bounces slightly from the wind, and the play equipment shadows dance on the damp ground.
I stay here, without moving until a distant police siren wakes me from my trance. I went to pay the bills and fell asleep on a bench, and Chris never noticed. I drag myself up the three flights of stairs to find him on the floor playing a game alone. He’s in an online match and in first place.
I plop on the sofa behind him and watch him rack up a killing spree.
He doesn’t pry. I liked that. But now it just seems like he doesn’t care. If I told him about Matthew or Chuck, or any of the other half dozen men, would he bat an eye? Would he still want me here? But, what if he didn’t? I storm off, without conscious effort, and decide to take a bath to warm the chill away.
I can’t shake the question from my mind now, would he still want me if he knew? If he really knew me, would he kick me out? I close my eyes in the tub, and the words flash before my eyes. I pinch my leg, twice in one night I’ve almost cried, and I can’t let that happen.
A bath was a horrible idea, I just need to sleep, then in the morning I can find a new habit. He startles me, when I open the bathroom door, he’s just standing there. I didn’t notice that his shouting at the game had desisted.
“Where were you?” He isn’t accusing, just seems sad.
“Fell asleep on the bench.” My voice cracks, I quietly clear my throat.
He stands there, just staring at my face. His brow crinkles in, and his mouth opens a little but he doesn’t speak. He looks like he’s changed his mind on what he wanted to say when he says, “I got three killing sprees.”
It’s my turn to say it. “Oh.”
I don’t know if it was me that made the first move to close the space between us, or if we moved simultaneously.
I just know where it ended.
Notes: When I loaded the lot, Emma had the want to “play with” and “entertain” Eric. She’s known him for years, but they weren’t friends, she met him while Grace worked at the bar after college. They have high chemistry, but neither seemed to notice one another, that is until this play session. So I sent her to gamble some money, and they both had wants for one another, all platonic. Due to note that Emma has high chemistry with a lot of men, including Chris. So chemistry with her doesn’t mean that she’s suddenly in love and in it for the long haul.
At one point Emma rolled to learn couple counseling. which made me giggle. She’s the last person I would seek if I were having couple issues. 😉