“What took you so long?” Paul said, standing and coming in for a hug as we greeted.
“Sorry, had a little nuisance at home.”
His eyes widened. “Nothing important I hope?”
I grinned a grin that confused Paul. “Nothing important whatsoever.”
Our table was in the middle of a packed restaurant with pounding music that only stroked the heart, not beat it to death like a nightclub. We were surrounded in a single booth after booth after booth; it was lucky Paul snagged a table, or it looked lucky because, well, it looked like there was no hope for someone to take a seat in this place without willingly leaving it to give it up forever. That’s what it’s like in these places; a game of live or die, the restaurant seating area edition.
“So what are you looking for an apartment?” Paul asked.
“Nothing too trashy.”
Paul laughed. “Your first apartment in the Big Apple? Oh, it’s going to be a surprise.”
I slouched. “I just want to love the place I’m living in.”
“Have you thought about roommates?”
I nodded and shrugged. “I have.”
“And I guess it seems like a feasible option.”
“Here’s a question,” Paul leaned back, “why don’t you just live with your hunk of sex boyfriend?”
I blushed. “Because…we agreed we’d just try out living on our own for a while.”
“Seems so stupid, well, come on, I’m just saying. Don’t get mad but, I just think you’re missing out on living with your boyfriend. It’s a totes fun playpen. More fun than taking a chance on the inevitable roomie from hell. There cold cases on this shit you know.”
I threw my head back and laughed up to the ceiling. “It cannot be that bad.”
“Oh I’m afraid it is my friend.”
There was a point where I wanted to live with myself. That I thought Daniel and I weren’t entirely ready to move in. But now I was having second thoughts; there had been so much happening in the last few weeks that made me want to live with Daniel so much, but then at the back of my mind I was thinking about how I needed to stretch my legs out and try new experiences, one of them being that I live on my own.
Johnny appeared out of nowhere and caught Paul’s attention first while I was staring hazily into the distance.
“…and you?” Johnny pointed.
His voice was faraway but it slowly gained momentum in sharpness. “Umm, me what?” I didn’t say the whole sentence was sharp. Just caught the end.
“Oh,” I shook my head and gave him my order, smiling politely and thanking him for getting us drinks.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Paul said, “I invited him over here.”
I shrugged. “Why would I mind?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. Just wondering. Ha-ha…ha.”
“Hey did you—” I started at the exact time Paul said “So what happened—”
We both laughed. “I was going to ask you what happened with the ‘nuisance’ before you came,” Paul said, “but you go first.”
“It’s kind of a funny story, I was proud of telling off someone who’s a pain in my ass. More so Daniel’s ass actually. But, well I just wanted to know, and you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, I don’t want to impose on your private life, but I never actually knew what your test results were.”
Paul furrowed his brows. “My test results?” then he relaxed them immediately after in realisation. “Oh.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” I quickly said so as not to offend him. Why did I ask in the first place? Make a mental note not to ask next time. I was just being caring.
Paul stared at his hands then up at me. “It’s not good.”
My heart dropped and all I could muster was, “Oh?”
“It’s really, really not good, Anna.”
A million thoughts were going through my mind of the severity of the situation. But as I stared at him, deciphering the words and motions of his being, I knew it was the worst possible news. He was will. Paul was ill. Severely. And there was nothing we could do about it; and Johnny doesn’t even know.
“Johnny doesn’t know, please, please, please don’t tell him.” I nodded and then he beamed up straight and tapped me on my hand. “Now tell me the story,” he smiled. “To distract me. And cheer me up. Please?”
I smiled. “Okay.” (He laughed when I told him the ending; and the ringing sweet bell of his laughter made me happy he was happy).
And we never spoke about it again for the rest of the night.
While I was laughing I started closing the door on Tanya’s confused face. I couldn’t help the laughter but I knew I could help the shift in her presence in my eyes; out of sight and behind the door, I stood there, thinking that I should just turn away and get ready for a night out with Paul. As my laughter teetered off into a slight echo of its former self, I took the knob in my hand and turned. Tanya appeared on her side, with her head turned, stopping her in her tracks from walking away. A faux-softness returned to her hard eyes, and even though I didn’t need to see that to know she was faking, it definitely made me bite my lip to keep from laughing again.
Her eyes were hopeful and bleary, all the physical manifestations of the inner workings of a cunning and deceitful mind began pouring out again. She even put her hands up to her chest and clasped them together as if she was prostrating: oh give me the strength to successfully lie to this poor girl and break up her relationship with Daniel. Yup, solid.
There was a strange paused between us, where we both knew it was my time to say something, to comment on her remarks, but I was frozen. My mouth parted, emitting hardly any air. Tanya tilted her head, and for a split second she lost focus in keeping her helpless and sympathetic facial expression in check; the shift of which snapped me out of my reverie.
“You know what you remind me of?” I asked. She shook her head. “A leech.” That took her aback. Her posture straightened and her curved eyebrows dropped suddenly. I smiled. “A leech in the sense that you just attach onto the one thing and suck the life out of it. Daniel doesn’t want you, he wants me; he doesn’t love you, he loves me. And we only recently got back together, so I know you’re lying. There must be something better you can do with your life than waste it on a lost cause. And if you don’t want to hear what I’m saying then heed my warning: you will destroy your life trying and failing miserably to rattle my own. My life is too rich with happiness and love right now that you’re barely a scuff on my designer. Just go home, and don’t come back. Don’t even think about us anymore. We don’t exist to you, and you never even existed to us. Got it?”
“But—but,” she stammered, regaining her voice, “you’re not even going to hear me out?”
I shook my head. “I’ve heard enough. Just let it go.”
“But you can’t—”
“Ugh,” I huffed, rolling my eyes and before slamming the door in her face, said, “Let it go, Elsa!”