She did get sick – full on sore throat, coughing up a lung, nose running five miles type of sick. I was determined not to get it, since colds seem to last extra long with me, but I dropped off the essentials everyday after work; a care package of soup, tissues, medicine, and tea all bundled up and dropped on the doorstep with a ring of the doorbell so we wouldn’t exchange germs.
Despite our issues with Mandy and the lack of wiggle room, I missed her intensely for the few days she was out. Gwen’s absence made my hurt fade, until all my emotions were used up by missing her, but the space apart from her forced me painfully back into reality.
I realized that I had no food of my own at my house. My roommate and I hadn’t talked in weeks and she was pissed about it. Apparently she’d been trying to talk to me about lowering the electricity bill for months. (Obviously not my fault since I was never there.) My best friends were feeling neglected and I hadn’t cared to spend any time one-on-one with any of them since Gwen arrived on the scene.
I was invited out for a game night by a group of some of my closest friends and eagerly accepted, hoping to fill some of the painful, gaping hole that had appeared since Gwen locked herself in her room with a bottle of Robitussin. It was an odd mix, as Shelly and Di were both my very good friends but didn’t really like each other. Di and Liz were both trying to date John, and Beth I didn’t know very well. Anyway, I paired up with Di, which hurt Shelly’s feelings but we made an awesome team and kicked serious ass. It was a fun night and there were lots of laughs to be had, even if the atmosphere was a little awkward. Eventually the others left and Shelly asked me to stay behind.
“I feel like I haven’t hung out with you in forever,” Shelly complained. I laughed her off.
“We’ve just spent four hours together.”
“I mean before that. You spend all your time with Gwen nowadays. I miss my best friend, you know?”
“Yeah,” I fiddled with my hair, feeling a little guilt. “I know. It’s just – It’s so new. She makes me feel all these things I never thought I -” I remembered my failed conversation with my mom. “She’s different than anyone I’ve ever known,” I tried instead.
“What, so I’m not cool enough for you now?” she asked, affronted.
“What? She’s – Do you want to be my girlfriend or something?” I was totally confused. She was acting like I’d dumped her.
“No, I’m not a lezzie or anything, God. She’s just bad fucking news. You’re my friend, I don’t want to see you get hurt. And it sucks that I mean so little to you that some butch slut shows up and struts her stuff, and then I don’t see you for months. You don’t have time for me, ever.”
I wasn’t sure what to do. Was Gwen ‘butch?’ Was it an insult? It certainly sounded like one, the way she spat it out. “She didn’t just show up, snap her fingers, and have me drop to my knees, okay? She’s my friend, a really great friend, and she’s been there for me while I’ve been dealing with some stuff you can’t begin to understand or help me with. She’s not a bad person. I’m sorry if you feel like I dropped you, and maybe I did, but I sort of got caught up exploring this whole new world and this other side of myself, so a little understanding would be great.”
“The world didn’t stop turning while you were figuring out that you like licking pussy, Tabby. I’m going through shit too. Brandon and I are having serious issues and I don’t know what to do and I wanted someone to talk to, but you were over in la-la land being a selfish bitch.”
My ears were burning. I didn’t want to fight with her, but I couldn’t stay or I was going to say things I’d regret. “Look, I’m going to go. I hope you find someone to talk to. I’m sorry everything’s going to hell in a hand-basket for you,” I said, thinking of my own life crumbling into pieces, of the attempt to tell my mother about Gwen. Yeah, she was going through stuff. So the boyfriend she hated 89% of the time might break up with her. She could move on and find someone way better.
“You walk out and I don’t want to talk to you anymore,” she threatened. I laced up my shoes and reached for my bag.
“See you tomorrow, Shell,” I said, and closed the door behind me. She shrieked and the door thudded as if it had been struck by something hard. I knew Shelly, she’d calm down and beg for me to talk to her again in a few days.
I clambered into my car and sat with my phone in my hands for several long minutes. It was late, but I wanted to text first:girl. I wanted to know she was okay. I wanted to see her. I missed her. There was an empty spot in my chest that ached when she wasn’t around, and the longer I went without seeing her, the more the dull ache turned into a painful, hot throbbing. You feeling okay? I decided to send, and sat in the cold waiting for a reply. Five minutes, ten – nothing.
I started the car and drove slowly back to my house, hoping she’d respond before I got there. I unlocked the sticky door and crept through the darkness to my room, changing in the moonlight and slipping into bed. I kept my phone cradled in my hand as I began to drift off, watching the fuzzy stars out the window. I woke around 2 am to a bright glow – the phone’s vibrate must have woken me. Feeling a little better. Will be at work tomorrow. I smiled, but didn’t want to text back, afraid I’d seem like a creeper. I tucked the phone under my pillow, a warm, sweet feeling spreading through my veins, and drifted into dreamland.
I ran into Di and John the next day and immediately my hackles were raised. “Hey, guys,” I threw out cautiously.
“Good game last night, Tabby,” John grinned at me flirtatiously. He was a flirt with absolutely everyone, but a very loyal friend and a great guy. His team won the game last night, while Di and I came in close second.
“Thanks, Di and I make a good team,” I smiled, nudging her hip with mine. She laughed and her eyes shone too brightly. Something must have happened between them after they left the night before.
“Yeah, we do,” she answered. “It was good seeing you. We should hang out more often, I missed you.”
“Yeah,” I started, seeing a similar pattern to last night’s conversation with Shelly. “Sorry about that-”
“It’s cool,” Di cut in, “you are doing your own thing or whatever you need to do. I totally get it. But game night was fun, so we should do it again sometime.”
She was grinning at me and I was so relieved. I pulled her into the biggest hug I could manage. “Yeah, we should. It was fun, really fun. You up for another one?” I asked John.
“Sure, I had a blast,” he shrugged and slung an arm over Di and my shoulders. “Plus, who am I to say no to hanging out with such lovely ladies?” I laughed but saw first:girl in the parking lot.
“Hey, I’ll see you guys later?” I asked, shrugging John’s arm off. They nodded and I beamed at them. “Text me!” I yelled behind me, running for her car. I tried to cool my jets and walk the last 20 feet, but it was pointless. She already seen me running.
“Hey,” I smiled breathlessly. “You’re up and out. How are you holding up?”
“Okay,” her voice was a little husky. “Thanks for all the soup and medicine and everything. I think you kept me alive,” she grinned wryly at me.
“It was nothing,” I blushed, kicking the asphalt. She put her hand on my arm. It was warm, stable, firm, but gentle.
“It was everything,” she said, and when I glanced up, her eyes were locked on mine. There was a lump in my throat so I could only nod. She grinned and bent down to retrieve a sweatshirt from the backseat. “Let’s do this!”
I threaded my arm through hers and couldn’t stop my smile as the ache in my chest was replaced by a warm feeling of being whole. We weaved into the building as she filled me in on all the movies she’d been watching while she was sick and I laughed and leaned my head on her shoulder and was so very glad I no longer had to be parted from her.